“It’s not our way, so it’s the wrong way …”
In the 19th century people living in industrial societies stuck up their noses at tribal peoples, and many of us still do. After all, many still live in tiny villages, don’t use modern conveniences, continue ancient rituals and ignore modern science so, according to us, they’re undeveloped, backward, and primitive. But, guess what, after only 100 years of ‘intensive studying’ many anthropologists have concluded, the only “primitive aspect of tribal societies is their technology.”
David Maybury-Lewis who headed one of the studies, believes tribal peoples adopt technological advances as readily, and as rapidly as we do. The difference, he says, is they keep their traditional life, their teachings, their principles, their morals, and their rituals unchanged.
(He’s surely not implying if they had cars, they’d use cellphones sensibly and not kill themselves driving off the road while ordering a pizza?)
To illustrate he tells of a Xavante man (pronounced sha-van-tee), from a tribe in South America’s Amazonian jungle. This Xavante man moved into Sao Paulo, a city of 13 million people.
A few years later he returned to his village of 300 people. His reason I’ve edited to fit: “People in my village know who they are, people in Sao Paulo, do not. People in the city do not respect women, we do. Women in my village walk unafraid of assault; husbands do not beat their wives. The whole village would know of such violence and would punish the offender. Children, and the elders, are not neglected nor abused here. The children know from birth they’ll fill a role in the society when their time comes, and everyone in the village cares, teaches, and accepts responsibility for them. The elderly are treasured too, for their knowledge, experience and wisdom, and for bringing us to where we are today. Granny dumping doesn’t happen here. ”
How’s that for some astute observing on the part of a “backward, primitive guy,” eh?
Bottom line, according to the Maybury-Lewis and his team: Tribal wisdom teaches us to connect, and to stay connected, to our neighbours, and to our social responsibilities instead of sluffing it off on the “System.”
The mounting complaints about our governing parties, our big business leaders, our justice system, even our sports and entertainment celebrities and the proliferation of chicken soup books, coupled with a growing fascination with ancient ways, tantras, and the like suggests we’re in the market for something — something the Xavante people seem to have.
Time is their friend. They walk from place to place, listening to the music of the Earth.
Time is our enemy; we dash from place to place in magnificent high-speed machines our ears plugged into the sounds of man, convinced they’re better than the sounds of the Earth.
Yet when the machine stops we walk as they walk one step at a time, though we seldom walk slowly. A walk with the Xavante people seems to be in order.
Indeed it’s encouraged — well, indirectly, in a book by Carl Honore. In the United States, it’s title is In Praise of Slowness; in the rest of the English-speaking world it’s In Praise of Slow. Mr. Honore is a leader in something called The Slow Movement.
He quotes a senior manager at IBM who adds a rallying cry to his e-mails: “Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture your life’s time and relearn to dream. Join the Slow E-mail Movement!”
Despite all our backward glances down the tunnels of past times, despite the fact that slow in our world is found only on school zones signs and the like, what we have this day is pretty hard to beat, even tho’ May is giving us the cold shoulder.
A tip of the hat to we who are here, to those who are there, and to the rest of us everywhere. And a tip of the other hat to Today, another to all peoples of all the Yesterdays who brought us to this day, and this time. They were as wise as us, and we are as wise as they. Wisdom is like any good tool in skilled hands; the skill comes not from the hands, but from the head and the heart, and there are a lot of good heads and hearts around this place.
Tomorrow, well that’s between you, me and the gate post I suppose. Have a good spring!