I think what you mean is "just our enculturation".
That might work better, if only to highlight that "culture" does not exist. The division of nurture and nature emulates the Cartesian divide of body and mind, with a similar basis in reality. We don't "clothe the world with meaning"--we dwell in the world, and the meanings, rituals, modes of dress and living we use to engage it come from how we dwell in the world. Tim Ingold goes into this at great length in Perception of the Environment
, and it will form one of the primary points we'll go after in Toby's People
, so going much further into this right now would quickly go beyond my ability to really elaborate here.
I know an awful lot of people that I will never convince to move to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and one of the biggest stumbling blocks (after simple enculturation) is the lack of a nearby, living example that disproves said enculturation & preconceptions.
Indeed--which speaks to the need for rewilders to do our thing, and provide that nearby, living example.
Again, it's not as if I'm going to disagree with this (Although, I do hope you can see where "limited wants" plays into ideas and preconceptions of asceticism)
I do, but I synopsized Sahlin's view there because I do
disagree with him. I said that he'd staked out a view that pulled essentially from our ideas about asceticism, a kind of latter-day, secular monasticism that marks out a zen way to happiness by shedding earthly possessions.
I don't know of too many hunter-gatherers who ever agreed with the idea of shedding earthly possessions. They frequently discard things because they weigh too much, but the hunter-gatherers I know of have displayed, first and foremost, a pre-eminent practicality. This conflicts with some of the "noble savage" imagery, particularly if we project onto them our ideas about asceticism and the division between worldly goods and spiritual values, leading to comments about how hypocritical Makah Indians seem when hunting whales with guns and speedboats, or how Indians shouldn't use snowmobiles. When I heard these responses about the Makah on NPR
, it really pissed me off. But at the root of it, these comments judge the Makah according to values derived from our dualist tradition (Plato, Manichaeism and Descartes, principally) that we project onto them. They don't deem material goods "bad" and spiritual values "good" like we do. They don't even separate body and spirit, or body and mind. They want to live the good life, and if a tool can help them do that, they have no qualms about adopting it, and I see no reason why we should criticize them for doing so.
I don't think this classification of hunter-gatherer life as a brand of asceticism gets us any closer to understanding how hunter-gatherers live or see their lives, any closer to helping other people appreciate what hunter-gatherers have to offer us, and certainly, not any closer to rewilding ourselves. Quite the opposite, I see that connection as one of the primary stumbling blocks to all three.
I think the crux of Billy's issue is with saying that this is luxury particularly as defined by people outside "the choir".
Yes, I see that as Billy's issue, too. But I would say they clearly meet all three of the definitions of "luxury" you cited. They indulge frequently, rarely limited to simply necessity; they possess things we consider quite lavish on a regular basis; and they certainly have wealth as evidenced by sumptuous living. I see nothing in there about money or status as such, though. Yes, we associate money with wealth, but definition 3 specifically says, "wealth as evidenced by sumptuous living," and hunter-gatherers certainly live sumptuously. But more to the point, I'd argue that most people do not
necessarily see money and status as an essential part of luxury. I would agree that they see these things as the road to luxury, and very possibly cannot even imagine how you might achieve a life of luxury without them, but the defining elements of luxury remain not money and status, but the things that money and status provide: lots of leisure time, sumptuous food, lavish accommodations, easy living, and everything you want easily available to you.
To see if most people share this idea, let's look at some examples. Ebenezer Scrooge. Certainly has money, and status, but how many people would say he lived in luxury? Quite the opposite; he lived a very spartan lifestyle. On the other hand, your average rap star lives in clear and abundant luxury, though you'll find their ranks sparse on the lists of the world's richest people. I think these illustrate that while our culture sees money and status as related, they do not equate them. Specifically, as I said, we see money and status as the means by which we might achieve luxury, not as part of luxury in and of itself. But I would grant that most of us would have a hard time imagining how one could achieve luxury without money or status. But, that simply fills in why this becomes such an important argument. We can clearly see the luxury involved in the hunter-gatherer life, but it marks out a very different path to achieve that luxury. Most everyone in our civilization pursues money and status because they know no other means of achieving "the good life," i.e., luxury. Hunting and gathering shows a different way there.
So long as we maintain the civilized myth that hunting and gathering entails a life of deprivation and want, we can only make the argument, based on our ascetic tradition, that we should count the sacrifice of worldly goods for such a goal as virtuous. It makes an appeal to conscience, and nothing else. Perhaps you can add that the spiritual fulfillment involved overwhelms the physical deprivation, but even then, you make a very unappealing offer. Worse, you set the course for your own rewilding inside the narrative and logic of domestication. Following that trail, I don't know how much you can actually rewild. That trail leads you less towards a hunter-gatherer, I think, than towards a kind of latter-day, secular, ecological monasticism. I have little interest in become a secular eco-monk, and I don't think such a lifestyle has anything at all to do with hunting & gathering. Certainly no hunter-gatherer tribe I've ever heard from would think so.
I'm less certain of this, but I think Billy's speaking to the gap we, personally, need to fill to develop the new growth native cultures into old growth native cultures, whereas what you point to in the above quote is more of an old growth culture. But again, I could be very mistaken on this, that's just how I read it.
Some things will undoubtedly take a very long time to develop, but the fundamental economics of hunting and gathering come into play as soon as you begin following them. As soon as you rely on wild animals and plants for your food, you become subject to the availability of those things. How much time you spend playing games versus hunting, or how often you need to go hunting, will change very little as a people mature in their relationship with the land, becoming native and eventually old-growth. So no, while my examples come from old growth peoples, I see no reason why we would expect that to come only with the passage of time, particularly since, as above, we've compared the Kalahari to American second-growth here.
I'm quoting this mostly to point out something for later use: that luxurious hunting/gathering living generally requires a close relationship with the land (which we don't particularly have).
In my responses above, I also noted the differences between the Kalahari and American second-growth.
Hmm... So, if, say, "John", has been enculturated to associate things with luxury, where does this put "John" in terms of understanding the luxury of living as a hunter-gatherer?
It puts him in the position of noticing how easily hunter-gatherers get the things he associates with luxury: furs, spiffy hair-do's, big feasts, ornate artwork and so forth.
Another excellent point, but I wonder, how many of us understand this about ourselves?
Why would you need to? You wouldn't begin by saying, "Hunter-gatherers keep few things, but have a wealth of experiences which we really value more." No, you'd begin by saying, "Hunter-gatherers work a few hours a day, when they work at all. Otherwise, they sit around and tell stories or play games. Then at night they have a big feast and dance. Everybody wears furs and preens about their personal appearance. When you do decide to work, you go fishing or hunting, or maybe just go for a walk and pick some berries if you feel like it. Then every few months you go backpacking. You live in a house cleaner and warmer than what you live in now, and wear more comfortable clothes."
I wouldn't try dissecting what someone thinks of luxury, I'd just describe hunter-gatherer life. The luxury becomes self-evident from the description because we do
value experiences over things. You don't need to understand that about yourself in order for it to happen. In fact, if you insist on getting someone to recognize that about themselves first, you'll probably never get to how that relates to hunting and gathering.
Do we have a shortage? No, but, as a nation, we're spending less time doing these activities. Perhaps fewer people think of hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, etc as luxurious activities? I understand that that's hardly the only interpretation, but it's certainly a viable one.
Considering that these activities have become harder and harder to undertake during the same period, I'd say that provides a much more clear interpretation. It hardly seems fair to infer that people have less interest in an activity that's become harder to engage in.
Okay, now think about someone who has never: been hunting, fishing, camping, hiking or backpacking. Someone who, when asked to think about nature, conjures up vague tree's and shrubs and a lot of those cute, funny looking flowers, you know the ones... they're yellow, sometimes white and they got that cone-sort of thing on them... what are they? oh! yeah Daffodils!
Okay, I'm exaggerating, I admit it, still....
Did you exaggerate? I thought you intended to describe me, circa 1995. And you did a good job of it, too! But if someone had told me then about people who lived by fishing, hiking, backpacking and hunting, though I had little experience with such things, I would have called it a very luxurious life even then.
Personally, I completely agree, but, people are most likely to change their preconceptions based on only one thing: direct experience. Want to change someone's mind? Give them a positive experience. Pure and simple.
Agreed. Which again points out why we rewilders need to provide that example. We won't gain much ground until we do. But to maximize those of us in the "first wave," arranging the divorce of asceticism and rewilding would mark a very good first step.
I think it's completely safe and fair to say that many, many folk in our modern culture would have difficulty in understanding the association of "luxury" to: having few possessions, walking everywhere, living in close connection to a number of other-than-human animals (esp bugs), having "limited wants", etc.
Sure, because those things don't describe the experience of hunting and gathering, they describe domesticated perspectives about hunting and gathering. If you wanted to translate the experience of hunting and gathering into modern terms, it would sound more like what I wrote above, "Hunter-gatherers work a few hours a day, when they work at all. Otherwise, they sit around and tell stories or play games. Then at night they have a big feast and dance. Everybody wears furs and preens about their personal appearance. When you do decide to work, you go fishing or hunting, or maybe just go for a walk and pick some berries if you feel like it. Then every few months you go backpacking. You live in a house cleaner and warmer than what you live in now, and wear more comfortable clothes." I can't think of anyone who wouldn't recognize the luxury in that scenario.
Point being that if someone is firmly fixated on things, and there's more than a few floating around the States, the only way you'll ever break down their misconceptions is by providing several positive experiences to the contrary. And that's going to require figuring out how to have a positve experience yourself first.
Certainly to some extent, though that raises another point: what would make you more likely to have that positive experience yourself? Going into the woods to have limited wants and few possessions, to give up worldly goods in the pursuit of sustainability and dedicate yourself to becoming an eco-monk? Or to pursue a life of abundance and plenty, to trade in your boring 9-to-5 and the daily commute for a life of ease and luxury? Personally, again, I have no interest in becoming an eco-monk. I know plenty of people pride themselves on the difficulty of the primitive life, and point to it as evidence of their manliness and skill, but I think that framework also severely limits who would want to pursue that life, and also makes that example limiting, too. Lots of early Christians admired the first monks in the Egyptian desert, but few wanted to emulate them. But we need people to rewild, much more than we need to protect the egos of latter-day ascetics.
I think we need to do more than tell people. I think we need to provide positive experiences to people. Experiences that show direct and quickly-realized benefits. It's the only thing that I have ever seen break down a firmly held, deeply entrenched preconception.
Agreed, but the "first wave" could still get a lot bigger if only we could separate asceticism from rewilding. And moreover, the examples of ascetics do not motivate people to emulate the ascetic. The first monks did little to convince all Christians to follow them into the wilderness, and neither will the ascetic approach to rewilding ever convince most people to rethink their domestication.
Simply in response to your latest, I haven't even gotten to your comment yet. I haven't quoted you or made reference to your words in any way yet. How can I twist what I haven't even mentioned? Wouldn't I have to mention something in order to twist it? I don't know what I've done to offend you like this, nor do I know why you've taken it so personally that I would defend an important position to me rather than simply accept your word as unassailable truth, nor do I understand why you would feel such outrage that I would dare to examine the underlying assumptions of your arguments, but such things occur in your reading, not in my writing. Next, I'll get to respond to the first of your posts in this series. If you've already decided not to listen, then I find that regrettable, but since you deemed it necessary to talk about how I've twisted your words before I've even mentioned, quoted or referenced them, I wanted to respond to that in itself first.