Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's the Opposite of Capitalism?

No, it's not communism.
It's Hadza-ism.
Never heard of it?
Try checking out the Dorobo Fund website (and while you're there, make a contribution).
Or read yesterday's New York Time's piece on what separates men from apes, based on studies of hunter-gatherer societies: collaboration and cooperation.
The Hadza are a tribe of about 1,000 people living in Tanzania as they have for something like 70,000 or more years. As hunter-gatherers.
Every day, the men of the tribe get up with their hand-made bows and hand-carved arrows, some more blunt-tipped for shooting at birds, others with metal-honed arrowheads and shafts carefully covered with poison derived from a rose bush, and go looking for animals to shoot and honey to collect.
Every day, the women get up and collect their digging sticks so they can sit at the base of a large bush and tear away at the ground until they uncover tubers that will feed them, their families, and the tribe.
As hunter-gatherers, the Hadza are constantly on the move. So they have few possessions. The men carry knives and hatchets, bows and arrows, and perhaps a small bag with a few important items. But if a Hadza man already has a knife, for example, and he somehow gets another one, he'll simply give it someone in the tribe who needs a knife. He has no need of another thing to carry. The same applies to the women.
The Hadza are a non-hierarchical society, with no "leaders" and no apparent need for leaders. The men and women are equal; the lack of "stuff" makes it easy for a woman who objects to the way she is being treated or who simply wants a fresh start to go off on her own or join a new camp.
The hunting and gathering part of their lives take up roughly 10% of their time. The rest is spent talking and telling stories, gambling (the men throw pieces of wood against a tree until only one of the wood pieces turns up with the same side as the "guide" piece), and enjoying the company of each other in camp.
The Hadza are remarkably happy and easy going. They laugh a lot (and sometimes argue loudly).
They are a society that operates on immediate gratification: an animal that is killed is eaten immediately, as is honey that is gathered, and tubers that are unearthed. They live in the perpetual present.
They seem to lack for nothing, at least nothing that they actually want or seem to need.
Now you could call them primitive. Or backward. Or maybe even uncivilized.
But none of that is true. Far from it.
They live as emerging humans lived tens of thousands, maybe even millions of years ago.
The live close to nature. They live with a way of life that is deeply connected to the animals they hunt, the honey they collect, the tubers they dig. They don't want to use guns--guns would upset the fragile and sustainable balance that they've learned about over centuries and continue to practice. They don't even use matches--not when they can make fire with a stick and some punk and a knife they can use as a flat surface.
Now I'm not saying I want to swap places with the Hadza. I couldn't make it, for one thing.
But we could learn from them.
We have so much stuff, and we still want more. We get everything we can ask for, one way or another, but it doesn't make us happy. Have you checked out the figures for the number of people in the US who are taking anti-depressants every day?
Having stuff doesn't make you rich, and being rich doesn't make you happy.
Wanting more stuff than you need just fills your life up with things you don't need and can't use, but doesn't do anything to fill the hole that's inside, the one hole that matters when it comes to figuring out what your life is about and what your way of life is worth.
For what it's worth, the Hadza have it figured out.
And we need them around to remind us.
Fact is, we need them a lot more than they need us.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb