Thursday, August 11, 2011


I would first like to inform you that I have a great interest in Anthropology. Correction, I have a great interest in Biological Anthropology. I am somewhat interested in Cultural Anthropology as it pertains to human development/survival but I don't really care much for learning the subtleties between redware/blackware nor how different dyes were produced to print various types of textiles. In addition, I have great respect for other cultures and their intricacies whether I specifically know what those intricacies are or not. This continent (North America) has learned and can continue to learn great lessons about life and living from other countries and cultures.

One of my more academically successful classes in college was strangely Cultural Anthropology. I think my success had less to do with my knowledge and interest of the topic and more to do with everyone else in the class being borderline brain dead. In every Cultural Anthropology class there is a subtext and that subtext is that America is a greedy, fat, wasteful apathetic country.  While I do not think that America can outright deny any of those claims I'd like to look at the topic a little bit beyond the surface.

A portion of my class was based around a tribe of People called the Baka. From what I recall they are a small tribe of rain forest dwelling people. The live in a pack of of about 30 people comprised of men, women and children. Their entire lives are devoted to community and sharing. The men hunt and trap and the women tend to the children and also build nets for fishing in the river.  One of the videos we watched in class chronicled the arduous yet rewarding task of obtaining honey from high up in the tree tops. It is a task that requires 4-5 men and one or two who are particularly skilled at climbing. The video took special pains to highlight how even though 1 or 2 people do the majority work in retrieving the honey that they make sure that everyone in the tribe gets some. The video also took great pains to show how the men trap animals and pass down their knowledge to the younger children.

The video wants us the entitled, wasteful, greedy American to take pause and consider the idea that we are not as evolved as we think we are. Further, maybe other societies know a little bit more about peaceful living and how to work as a team.  It's like one of those animated films that involves animals who only exhibit a kind and gentle spirit.  Somewhere along the way the dog, fish or polar bear who only has love in his/her heart reveals through the song the inhumanity of humanity.

Here is my rebuttal:

The Baka are comprised of small groups of people who roam the forests together. Their reliance on each other is built in and is necessary to their survival. There is no way that you can compare a small collection of people with an entire continent. If that was the case then I could compare my immediate an extended family to  the Baka. Well, not my family but a family that loves each other.  As a family unit we tend to be more generous and more apt to provide/take care of/ teach each other skills.

Honey also seems to be the greatest and most coveted currency of the Baka tribe. While the video emphasizes how honey is fairly distributed at the same time it is evident the amount of pleasure and excitement that the honey provides. I theorize that you could disrupt their whole sense of community simply by altering the way that they access honey.  If everyone did not have to work together in order to get honey I suspect that no one would. Moreover, if one member of the tribe developed a skill for obtaining honey in a faster, safer more plentiful way then surely he/she would be viewed as a more important if not the most important member of the tribe.

The dominant attitude when making a film or when anthropologically studying a culture is that they (the other culture) have somehow evolved and grown around our greedy and insensitive ways in order to find a better life. The thesis is that tribes like the Baka have perhaps found the true meaning of life and their way is superior to our way. But let's be honest, for the most part it's bullshit. I don't want to live in the forest wearing a speedo made out of leaves. I don't want to dig a hole to poop in, I don't want to catch and prepare my own food. If the vote comes down to popularity, neither does the rest of the world. Even third world countries have embraced the awesomeness of cars, cellphones and laptops. We invented technology because we didn't like the fact that our lives were harsh, brutal and short. Whatever we lack in connection to the earth we have traded for longer lives and a trajectory that will take us into the stars. To infinity and beyond!


  1. And yet, still horribly depressed. Yay technology. I wish honey could make me happy...

  2. That was AWESOME! (seriously) I laughed at the speedo and the pooping. I have always said similar things when people tell me they wish they were born in a previous century. pish. I love indoor plumbing and microwaves.

  3. Oh, and I love the new snazzy logo. Very cool.

  4. But leafy speedos are so in this season!

    Hilarious read!