When I was young, I read a magical book. This book told the story of a young boy who apprenticed to one of the last people in North America to be raised in the old, native ways. The book was The Tracker, by Tom Brown Jr, and, for good or ill, it set fire to my imagination and changed the course of my life. I spent much of my youth dreaming of foraging in the forests, free from the constrictions of my civilized life.
In college, my curiosity about hunting and gathering led me to spend long hours reading about Aborigines and bushmen and Amazonian tribes. In my idealism, I began to amass evidence for an argument that primitive living was not just a hobby or escape fantasy, but that it was the blueprint for satisfying human life--that our original human heritage was the key to living better lives today. I found much in the literature of anthropology to suggest that hunters and gatherers were healthier, happier, freer, more leisured, less lonely, and more egalitarian than almost any civilized cultures have ever been.
When I started writing this journal, I imagined that it would be a venue for persuasion, for stating the case that, yes, we should indeed look toward our most ancient cultures for guidance and direction. So many people continue to believe that our ancestors were brutish dullards that live short, nasty lives. Perhaps I could do my small part to correct those errors in the popular version of our history. And, for the most part, I do still believe that we have greatly underestimated the beauty of our common human past. I have read enough and experienced enough to sense something eminently satisfying. But I have also experienced a recent skepticism. I now suspect that the magical book that I read when I was young is full of tall tale and exaggeration. Some of the original anthropology papers on hunters written in the 70s have recieved valid criticism that I could ignore only at the cost of self-deception.
So, now, I am considering a new purpose for this journal. To what extent are my heroic images of cavemen true, and to what extent are they the reflections of my own desires? Maybe it would be a greater service to provide a venue to explore this question with openness and skepticism in equal measure. Whether my dreams are founded in reality or wishfulness, such an investigation can only bring me closer to the truth.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
The following are commonly believed, but not true.
- Cavemen co-existed with dinosaurs.
- Caveman not talk good.
- Cavemen beat women over the head with clubs and drag them home by the hair.
- Cavemen are grumpy.
- Cavemen are ugly.
- Cavemen are dirty and unkempt.
- Cave life is poverty.
- Cavemen are technologically backward.
- Art, culture, and good manners were invented by civilized people.
- Compare with the civilized, cavemen are ignorant.
- Cavemen's lives are warlike and back-stabbing.
- Cavemen are brutes.
- Cavemen don't live very long.
- Cave life is constant toil.
- Cavemen are stupid.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
- Cavemen have no bosses. Bosses (pharaohs, kings, chiefs, and middle managers) are the invention of civilization.
- Cavemen take it easy. Their civilized brethren are resigned to at least eight hours of work for five out of every seven days.
- Cavemen treat women fairly. They have far more egalitarian societies than the civilized.
- Cavemen eat varied, healthful, whole-food diets.
- Cavemen know a freedom of which the civilized can only dream.
- Cavemen have no debt. The civilized have mortgages.
- Nearly every caveman can live a life rich aesthetic life, full of artistry and creativity. The civilized have a class of people they call 'starving artists'.
- Cavemen never have to carve exercise into their schedule.
- Cavemen have extensive networks of friends and family. The civilized get the 'friends and family' network.
- Cavemen are heirs to the only sustainable society that humans have ever created.
- Societies of cavemen have no poverty.
- Cavemen never have to send their children to daycare.
- Cavemen wake up and sleep whenever and wherever they want. The civilized have alarm clocks.
- Cavemen don't have as many imaginary problems (that deadline at work, worried about filing taxes too late, etc.) even if they have more real ones (hunger, danger, cold).
- Cavemen get to interact with loved ones face-to-face where they can touch them and read the subtle expressions of faces and bodies. The civilized ask their cell phones if they can "hear me now".
- Cavemen see more sunrises, sunsets, and stars.
- Cavemen never have to go to school, stand in line, sit in rows, obey the orders of strangers, or respond to bells.
- Cavemen don't get as hung up about sex. The civilized pay for therapy, pornography, or Viagra.
- Cavemen have less guilt. They have not invented sin.
- Cavemen are guaranteed almost daily adventure. The civilized save up for a few days vacation on a cruise ship where the highlight is . . . shuffleboard? shopping? all you can eat buffet?