March 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm #109784Dave BParticipant
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Darwin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Expression_of_the_Emotions_in_Man_and_AnimalsMarch 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm #109785AnonymousInactive
Hi all, I am new to this forum and thread. I have not read all the contributions on hunter gatherers (HGs). If I have missed a point that has already been covered, please direct me to the relevant post.There are several interesting questions emanating from the discussions. First, can I try to summarise my own position.I believe that we have a human nature, and that this is shaped both by our genes and our environment. I believe we are rational agents, who act in our own best interests, and that this can involve aggressive as well as co-operative acts, depending on the situation and what is at stake.I would like to think that we are able to move towards a saner society, where the means of producing and distributing wealth are no longer controlled by a small elite. I do not think that creating such a society is dependent on showing that HG bands were peaceful.HGsFirstly, we cannot project the behaviour of current hunter gatherers backward in time, whether this behaviour is peaceful or warlike, so the enterprise is doomed from the start. We simply cannot know what their behaviour was like, save inventing a time machine and travelling back a few thousand years.Secondly, the hunter gatherers who lived in bands, I am told, most likely employed the conflict resolution method of moving away from other members of the band they had quarrels with (stating this at least acknowledges that there WOULD be something to have a conflict over, and that doing nothing about it would have had serious consequences). We simply would not be in their situation in a future society; we most likely would not be in a position to strike out into the great unknown with a small family group. Also, the members of a small band would have little to fight over, whether possessions or marriage partners. They needed few possessions; these would be a drag on their way of life in any case. The members in the band would in all likelihood be close family members; so there would be no cause for a young man to jostle with other men for a marriage partner. Therefore, I would contend, we need to think more about what humans are like when they live in larger groups, with many unrelated members of both sexes – and with several possessions. So – HG behaviour seen from this angle is irrelevant.Having said all that, because of the out-and-out dismissal from the right of our potential for reasonable co-existence, I do think it is a good idea to show examples of peaceful current HG societies.ISISI have read that one of the most reliable predictors of a violent and troubled area is the number of disgruntled young men it contains between the ages of 18 and 30. Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East:“In Egypt in 2006, well over 80 percent of the unemployed were below age 30, and 82 percent of the unemployed had never worked before”.http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/egm-adolescents/roudi.pdf“…Skew too young and you get a revolution: an analysis of all the countries which have gone through a revolution, coup attempt or civil war in the recent ‘Arab Spring’ shows that every single one of them had a median age of 24 or younger.“http://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrybowyer/2013/07/18/youth-in-revolt-the-demographics-behind-middle-eastern-uprisings/If you have no income, you cannot secure a wife. Any fraternising between the sexes in these countries before marriage is frowned upon, be they ever so innocent. (Some of you may have seen youtube videos of what happened to a young woman who walked through a Cairo university, wearing a headscarf and tight fitting clothing (but covered) and of one who walked over a bridge in the same city.) The young men in these countries see themselves as nobodies, with no future.Along comes ISIS, promising a cause to fight for, glory, probably some loot – and women (the so-called “jihadi wives” as well as others not so willing).So, yes, you could say an economic question is fuelling these young men. They have no jobs. They have no future. And most seriously of all, not having these things restricts their access to women, or at least, a woman.STEVEN PINKERPinker has been mentioned in earlier posts; mainly because he is of the opinion that the “enlightened” Western type state (I guess he is thinking of Canada and some European states) is the best way humans have found so far of keeping violence at bay. I am still thinking about his arguments, so will not offer any pros and cons at the moment; just add that he does see the ugly side of state power as well:“Armed men are always a menace, so police who are not under tight democratic control can be a far worse calamity than the crime and feuding that go on without them. In the twentieth century, according to the political scientist R. J. Rummel inDeath by Government, 170 million people were killed by their own governments.” (The Blank Slate, p 332).JARED DIAMOND In common with a previous contributor, I do like his books, in particular, I thought “guns, germs and steel” provided a very good explanation of why Europe was the part of the world where the technological, modern world took off; it totally debunks any explanation invoking racial superiority.MeelMarch 15, 2015 at 8:53 pm #109786stuartw2112Participant
Welcome to the forum Meel. I'd love to argue with you, but sadly I found myself in agreement with everything you wrote! Ah well, maybe next time!March 17, 2015 at 7:39 am #109787Meel wrote:I would like to think that we are able to move towards a saner society, where the means of producing and distributing wealth are no longer controlled by a small elite. I do not think that creating such a society is dependent on showing that HG bands were peaceful.HGsFirstly, we cannot project the behaviour of current hunter gatherers backward in time, whether this behaviour is peaceful or warlike, so the enterprise is doomed from the start. We simply cannot know what their behaviour was like, save inventing a time machine and travelling back a few thousand years….. Therefore, I would contend, we need to think more about what humans are like when they live in larger groups, with many unrelated members of both sexes – and with several possessions. So – HG behaviour seen from this angle is irrelevant.
I agree with a great deal of what you say, Meel, though I don't think the question of hunter gatherers is quite so irrelevant as you perhaps suggest. True, there are basic differences between a HG way of life and any conceivable way of life for the majority of us in the world we inhabit today. There is no going back to a prehistoric world in which small nomadic bands of people acquired their means of subsistence in the form of an "immediate return" system of needs satisfaction Today of necessity we live in a "delayed return" system which requires the development of an immense technical infrastructure to support a global population that is now in the region of 7 billion people.All the same , I think the question of how our remote ancestors lived in the past is relevant to socialists today if only because it is inextricably bound up with the question of "human nature" which presents itself as a formidable barrier to the realisation of socialism itself. The human nature argument asserts that the nature of human beings was forged through a process of natural selection over countless millennia and that one aspect of this nature is that we are inherently warlike. If we are inherently warlike that would amount to saying that a united socialist world is an impossibility since such a world would sooner or later fracture into competing entities prepared to wage war against each other as a manifestation of our in built disposition to wage war against each other. Moreover, to wage war effectively requires an authoritarian power structure or chain of command which runs completely conter to social character of a socialist society. One of the ways in which to combat this myth is to argue that our prehistoric hunting and gathering forbears were in fact not warlike at all. There were, quite likely, acts of individual violence but that is not the same thing as war which is by definition a collective enterprise I don't agree that we cannot know anything about what happened in the remote past – short of inventing a time machine – and it should be mentioned that this has not stopped the advocates of the human nature argument saying a lot about what THEY believed happened in the remote past. As socialists we have to confront what they have to say since what they say is at odds with the kind of world we desire. We can know something about what happened in the past even it is based on informed guesswork. The two main sources of information are1) the archaeological record2) contemporary HG groupsNeither of these support the thesis that our prehistoric ancestors were warlike. The conflict avoidance mechanism that you refer to whereby the unrestricted freedom to roam wherever they wished, eliminated any conceivable reason for intergroup conflict is a key intellectual tool in our toolbox of concepts that would allow us to understand how our prehistoric forbears lived. That conflict avoidance mechanism needless to say, is today being increasingly undermined in the modern world as hunter gather groups find themselves hemmed in more and more by farmers, lumber companies , mining corporations and state authorities promoting a propertarian outlook at odds with the basic communistic worldview of the hunter gatherers I should also mention that the claim that human beings are naturally warlike is bound up with the social darwinist perspective of people like William Graham Sumner in the late 19th century. Sumner put forward the thesis that "in-group amity necessitates out-group enmity". In other words, for a community to flourish , it requires an external enemy to unite and fight against – social cohesion calls for conflict directed outwards towards other groups. This is an argument also put forward by people like Samuel Bowles today – that warfare has been a great socialising force amongst human beings. But the findings of anthropologists contradict this view. These findings show that HG bands did not and, even today , largely do not relate to each other antagonistically, that these relationships are often bound together by extensive networks of gift exchange and it should also be said of kinship relationships as well. Hunter gatherers had far more reason to cooperate with each other than go to war with each other and if there is anything to be said about "human nature" it is probably thatMarch 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm #109788AnonymousInactive
Hi Robbo, thanks for a thought provoking reply.“The human nature argument asserts that the nature of human beings was forged through a process of natural selection over countless millennia and that one aspect of this nature is that we are inherently warlike.”I do think that our human nature was forged through a process of natural selection over countless millennia – and that one aspect of this nature is that we are inherently capable of violent behaviour as well as cooperative behaviour. I think this is different from saying we are naturally warlike, and I think it is important to make the distinction.“If we are inherently warlike that would amount to saying that a united socialist world is an impossibility since such a world would sooner or later fracture into competing entities prepared to wage war against each other as a manifestation of our in built disposition to wage war against each other. “I think saying that we are inherently capable of violence as well as cooperation only precludes a perfect socialist world. There are reasons to think that the world is getting more inclined towards peace and I think it is possible that we can use our intelligence and increased self- knowledge to forge a better world (not a perfect one).I watched part of a recent programme about the Second World War, which was about Hitler’s decision to annihilate all opposition in the East; i.e., Poland and Russia. (This was in the early days of the war.) He gave orders to his soldiers to kill everybody, men women and children, old and young. The soldiers had to carry out this order in close combat style, killing a huge number of people at close range. After a while, this was taking such a toll on the psyche of the German soldiers that Hitler and his henchmen had to come up with a more “sanitised” way of killing large numbers of human beings, so they came up with the gas chambers. But here is the crunch; the programme also detailed the incredible cruelty of some of the soldiers and officers who carried out the killings, in the most brutal way possible, without showing any empathy or remorse. The point here is that people vary in their ability to feel empathy; many of the German soldiers had enough of it to make them mentally ill as a result of their experiences, but some had none at all. In a socialist world, what do we do about people without empathy – and others – who commit violent or anti-social acts?The concept of conflict resolution, if I may dwell on this again for a moment – what sort of conflicts might there have been in HG societies in the past? What would have happened if they had not had the option to move away?“These findings show that HG bands did not and, even today, largely do not relate to each other antagonistically, that these relationships are often bound together by extensive networks of gift exchange and it should also be said of kinship relationships as well.”Then I do think that these examples should be emphatically put forward to show what we are capable of, as should other examples of people living peacefully with each other.I cannot comment on the archaeological record of HGs in the past or the peacefulness or not of contemporary groups. I have read some accounts of this, but not enough. I think some authors have been suggested in previous posts which I hope to get around to reading.MeelMarch 18, 2015 at 12:48 am #109789northern lightParticipant
Hi Meel,on the 9th of March this year, the B.B.C. showed ( rather timely as far as this thread is concerned) a documentary entitled,"ARE MURDERERS BORN OR MADE?" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31714853"Jim Fallon, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, has a particularly personal interest in this research. After discovering a surprisingly large number of murderers in his family tree he had himself genetically tested and discovered he had an awful lot of genes that have been linked to violent psychopathic behaviour.As he puts it: "People with far less dangerous genetics become killers and are psychopaths than what I have. I have almost all of them"But Jim isn't a murderer – he's a respected professor." The link is only a short read, but if you can't be bothered to take a look, research indicates that given the right combination of genes, a child who is habitualy abused, fits the profile of a remorseless killer. So it is possible that those murdering German soldiers were created that way by their parents.March 18, 2015 at 5:04 am #109790Meel wrote:I do think that our human nature was forged through a process of natural selection over countless millennia – and that one aspect of this nature is that we are inherently capable of violent behaviour as well as cooperative behaviour. I think this is different from saying we are naturally warlike, and I think it is important to make the distinction.
Hi Meel,Yes I agree. You might say, then, that what we can say about "human nature" is that we are highly adaptable, not that we are either inherently violent or inherently peaceful ("cooperative" is perhaps not quite the right word in this context as an antonym of "violent", since wars themselves can be a very cooperative business!). My main argument was really to warn against the kind of crude sociobiological claim certainly expressed by people like E O Wilson – though I agree, not Stephen Pinker – that war is "embedded" in our nature. This is even weaker than the argument that we are inherently violent since war is a very particular form of violence that entails inter group conflict and there is no evidence that war in this sense existed much before the rise of agriculture 10,000 years ago. That is when territory became an important consideration. With hunter gatherers, being essentially nomadic, the notion of territory simply had no meaning. Can I recommend this link to you and others on this forumhttp://www.nonkilling.org/pdf/nksocieties.pdfI would particularly recommend chapters one and three…March 18, 2015 at 10:15 pm #109791AnonymousInactive
Hi robboI've pasted the link you gave in an email to myself at work; will read it in quiet periods! :)MeelMarch 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm #109792AnonymousInactive
Northern lightI saw the programme you mention.Although the professor had "the right combination of genes" to possibly pre-dispose him to become a killer, he reckoned his very caring upbringing might have saved him from the fate of some of his relatives – ie, the final result equals genes + environment, which is a proposition I agree with.Did you notice the bit where he recounted something he had done which was insensitive to a relative. He then said he knew it was insensitive – he could intellectualise it – but he just did not care! in other words, he realised his emotions (empathy) did not correspond to what he ought to be feeling.People born without a conscience or empathy do exist (in fact, this is a variable trait like most; ie, it's on a sliding scale). They don't always end up killing, but they can have a devastating effect on people they come into contact with none the less, as they view the world totally from their own point of view, and other people are only tools to be used or obstacles in their way. I don't think it's a case that they can always be "rescued from themselves" by a good upbringing. There's lots of research on this personality trait available on the internet and in books.Whether people who commit anti-social acts in a future society are psychopaths or not, socialists have to consider how to handle this, as we say we are going to do without a judicial system (which is tied to the state).MeelApril 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm #109793AnonymousInactive
It is more accurate to describe early humans as scavenger-gatherers, more than hunter-gatherers. Our pride is repelled by this description, but we were scavengers more than anything else. It`s EASIER!April 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm #109794Dave BParticipant
Reply to post 249 from Meel. I think there are two possibilities when it comes to incapacity to feel empathy; and it is probably in most cases a combination of the two. One is the more straightforward ie that it is an innate disability. The other is empathy is an innate potential that can be acquired, following on perhaps, from the recent CAT scan mirror neurone research work etc. Thus it must help to feel sympathy or compassion etc if you can relate others experiences to your own personal experiences of pain, suffering, distress and insecurity etc etc. Thus being wealthy and a member of the ruling class might make you less empathic to others general suffering. In the following talk given by a remarkably left of centre ‘capitalist’ Nick Hanauer. He said that a lot of these billionaire capitalists are sociopaths and gives a succinct description of that condition followed by a; if you don’t know or don’t think sociopaths exist it is probably because you are one. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05ndjm9 Emotional experiences are sensations and you will never be able to describe them or convince people of there existence who are not equipped to sense them. I think it is a mistake to think of sociopaths as sadists who take pleasure from other peoples suffering etc. True sociopaths don’t ‘care’ or feel nothing if people suffer, or not; they are merely pragmatic and rational egotists. The sometimes, and mostly exceptional, more egregious ‘anti-social’ behaviour of sociopaths only manifests itself when they rationally decide to fulfil an overwhelming powerful personal drive or impulse irrespective of consequences it has for another. It is more a matter of whether they can get away with it. However their self serving egotism and rational understanding of legal, and ‘social’, retribution can result in them being law abiding, trustworthy and model citizens as well as even being positively ‘sociable’. There is big difference I think between the feelings of ‘guilt’ and ‘remorse’. Guilt is a fear of being exposed and the potential consequences for the ego both socially re personal relations, and maybe legalistically. Remorse is something different I think; and maybe, according to the trick cyclists, it is just another fear of ones own nagging social empathic conscience attacking ones own ego etc. Guilt and vulgar morality is undoubtedly an ‘aggregate of social relations’; remorse and empathy are social instincts.April 10, 2015 at 6:42 pm #109795
This might be of interest to some and relevant to the theme of HG violence – an assessment of the conflicting worldviews of the optimist, Stephen Pinker and the pessimist , John Gray .https://www.academia.edu/11884097/Human_Nature_Reason_and_Progress_John_Gray_s_Straw_Dogs_and_Steven_Pinker_s_Better_Angels_of_Our_NatureApril 17, 2015 at 10:15 am #109796alanjjohnstoneKeymaster
http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150416-our-ancestors-were-cannibalsOf course cannibalism may not be a result of any violence but simply a utilitarian tactic for survival…why let potential food go to waste.April 17, 2015 at 7:45 pm #109797alanjjohnstone wrote:http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150416-our-ancestors-were-cannibalsOf course cannibalism may not be a result of any violence but simply a utilitarian tactic for survival…why let potential food go to waste.
It probably also has religious significance as seems to be the case for a number tribeshttps://spirituality.knoji.com/ritual-cannibalism-past-and-present/April 19, 2015 at 5:49 pm #109798
More on the subject of ritualistic cannibalism in the Paleolithic period here http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150416093928.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28Latest+Science+News+–+ScienceDaily%29 As article suggests cannibalism may have been "part of a customary mortuary practice that combined intensive processing and consumption of the bodies with the ritual use of skull-cups" A case of waste not, want not , I guess….Anyone for Seconds?
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