Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

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Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Carleas » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:21 am

The Debate:
Wonderer wrote:I will be defending the view that traditional hunter gatherer societies were largely less violent, more enjoyable, more stable and secure and basically better in general than our own modern societies.

I will make the case that living a traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle is a better way of living rather than continuing our technological developments in the persuit of a replacement for the natural world hich currently barely supports us.

vs.
Cyrene wrote:I will be arguing that hunter-gatherer's/tribal groups engage in more violence for their population size, ie; their more violent and the only reason its not apparent is because theres a lot more of *us. that you're more likely to die from violence in plenty of hunter-gatherer societies and the brutality of hunter-gatherer/tribal life.


Three posts each, the first two (1 each) to be posted to be posted by 11:59 tomorrow night (EDT, I guess). Wonderer won the coin flip, so he'll be presenting his rebuttal first, and then debate will alternate. You have 24 hours from the most recent post to reply, so I would suggest subscribing this thread.

Judges:
Xunzian
Tentative
Yours truly

Let's have a good clean fight, nothing below the belt.
Ding ding ding!
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Cyrene » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:50 pm

When we talk about the violence rates among hunter-gatherer and tribal societies theres a lot of important sciences and fields of research to take into consideration. Statistics about contemporary hunter-gatherers and tribal groups is essential but almost as important as hunter-gatherer studies and comparative ethnological studies is the archaeological literature/research on historical hunter-gatherer and tribal violence and societies. I'll like to start there.
However first I'd like to talk about the support of a 'noble savage'. Theres almost some kind of guilt in many academic circles about human nature and the wars of the recent past this makes it easy for isolated sciences to come to absurd pre-conclusions about human violence; we see many true signs of warfare/battle explained away as other things: fortifications and weapons are called ritual/religious tools, mass graves of people cemeteries and so forth and so on. Anthropology, has for a long time, misinterpreted data/evidence for violence, because of pre conclusions. Until recently archaeologists have been a pretty quiet voice on the issue, but as time moves forward, they and many other types of scientists, have been painting a much clearer and unfortunately, bloodier history of humans than was traditionally accepted.
Evidence for violence throughout prehistory is as evident as the twisted abcesses and scar tissue left after infection. In abundant areas of the American South West the settlements of prehistory were razed and they burned; this was quite common during historical stretches in the region. One such battleground in Colorado, Sand Canyon the prehistoric settlement lay in ruins, bodies were strewn around and tools/items of the raided group destroyed/broken. This was all despite efforts by the destroyed group; despite fortifications. People of neolithic times didn't dig ditches with walled fortifications because they enjoyed doing so; archaeologists have reported that some of these settlements, the ditch/walls/entrance to these settlements are littered with thousands of primitive arrow-heads, clearly demonstrating defense against archery attack, and some of these settlements were burned to the ground *during the attacks which left the arrows-heads. In one such fortification/settlement the remains of two adult males were discovered buried beneath collapsing rubble, one man had been carrying an infant in his arms, when he presumably got shot in the back with a arrow, and fell, crushing the child.
A prehistoric site in Vosberg Arizona unveiled the macabre remains of four with evidence of parallel cutting marks characteristic of scalping with prehistoric tools, one such remain had a stone arrow lodged in its chest and other signs demonstrated that it was violent-and not ritual practice.
From around 1275 to 1400 the Anasazi seemed to have been dying out from warfare, as time moves on they're eventually forced into fortress like structures. even earlier than that, in 1200+ many villages in the SW apparently showed some unfavorable ends. Theres also large evidence of cannibalism from about seventy-five archaeological sites that show tell-tale signs of butchering and cooking and other markings that signify being cooked.Remains from Channel Island from California show high ratios of violent-death; between early and late prehistoric the amount of injuries does rise.
In another two very early accounts of prehistoric violence dating back to around 7000 and 5000 years respectively in Cemetery 117 Jebel Sahaba almost half the remains had injuries, some up to 20 distinctive ones, signs of children being executed by being shot close range in the neck with arrows were also apparent; and a cave in Talheim Neckar in Germany, the remains of 35 people, bound and clubbed to death by a well placed blow to the left side of the head; females of breeding age were under-represented and it was likely a raid for females or thats what happened anyway. Genetic testing suggested that they were killed in battle, 5000 years ago, with a rival tribe or group.
A Neanderthal in Shanidar, Iraq, stabbed to death by prehistoric weapon to his side The remains of a prehistoric child was found in Grimaldi, Italy, killed by a spear plunged into his spine. In Rouix, south of France, a mass burial site containing the remains of 100 people, high numbers of them with arrow-head wounds. In South Dakota near crow creek, the remains of 500 women, children included, scalped and mutilated, based on the size of the settlement it was over 50% of the population size. Archaeologists found 35 decapitated skulls, once again including women/children, probably died from blows to the head in a cave near Nordlingen, Bavaria.Between 3590 and 3560BC 14 people were killed, 3 probably by arrow shot in what is now a long barrow in Oxfordshire, one had an arrowhead embedded in bone, others had shown signs of being ravaged by dogs/wolves before burial.
An analyzation of 1353 human remains from various sites by Kohler and Kramer found unexpectedly high female to male ratios in 11th century New Mexico, Chaco Canyon ruins and a related 13th century site to the north, they compared those ratios in the 1200s and elevated death rates among the young people in those areas, painting a picture of raiding of neighboring San Juan societies and warfare, excavations near the sites reveal unusual and non respectful burial and some signs of abuse on some female remains has been noted.
Modern researchers like Arkush and Stanish also support the idea that war in the andes was more consistent/effecting history than what is currently accepted, they conclude that better understanding of archaeological signatures of warfare, based on real world examples, should help elucidate the course of war in the Andes.
Warfare was so widespread and common in prehistory along the north pacific rim that archaeologists and anthropologists claim its fundamental in understanding the development and history of the region. In the South Pacific, The Maori allegedly helped protect themselves from constant warfare by building thousands of fortifications, to protect themselves/livelihoods.

this is only a tiny fraction of the archaeological literature on prehistoric hunter-gatherer/tribal groups violence. One important thing sticks out: IF peace-loving tribes/hunter-gatherers were *common* in prehistory, they didn't leave fossils/remains and left no sign of their existence.

Secondly and almost as importantly is some of the prehistoric art that hunter-gatherers/tribes have left for us to admire: cave paintings at Cougnac in SW France and caves at pech merle contain depictions/paintings of people impaled by arrows, like pin cushions, with one figure such depiction sporting 7 arrows from its body. In Morella La Vella in Castellion, Spain, we see more of this, an execution a line of archers shooting people, on figure is pinned with ten arrows. Italy's paglicci cave, combrel, gourdan and sous-grand-lac in france also have similiar violent paintings. some caves in Australia, shows groups of men locked in fierce battle, boomerangs/spears flying.

Perhaps just as importantly is statistics about modern/ancient violence rates and i'll finally get to those:The classic Yale study by anthropologist Carol Ember, displayed/found that 64% of hunter-gatherers (for who records existed for at the time) engaged in once at least every two years, 26% were at war 'some what less frequently' and only 10% could be classified as 'peaceful' keep in mind though, that this is one study.
Out of 157 Native American societies, only 15% did not engage in yearly raiding and only 13% did not engage in yearly raiding, with only 4.5% of them being classified as 'peaceful' these groups lived in high geographic isolation from other tribes. these conflicts were oftentimes very deadly and often-times genocidal to quote Steven Leblanc "The goal was total annihilation" an example he then gives are the dreaded "Kutchin" who would encircle a village, then kill everyone except for one, dubbed 'the survivor' whose job it was to tell everyone else about them. Though, examples are numerous: The Dogrib Indians of Canada eradicated the rival Yellowknives so well that they ceased to exist, Innuit or Eskimo warfare is also well established in prehistory, and the Iroquois were/are famous for their historical killing/torture and cannibalism. The Apache, the list is endless.
Another good way to make measurements about how violent a society is, is by looking at how much of the male population dies in warfare. And what we get is things like this: 37% for the Yanomami, 59% in the Jivaro, 35% in the mae enga, 28% in Dugum Dani of new guinea and 28% among the murngin of Australia. If you think that this is from guns and the influence from outside I suggest you read the memoirs of Helena Valero about violence living amoung the Yanomami after being kidnapped and force-raised by them. Studies of late 19th century Australian Murngin tribes, also showed a death rate of 25% of all adult males in a 25 year period. These rates are unseen in the developed world.

Image

Helena Valero (living among the Yanomami)

Describing an attack while living among them by a neighboring tribe called the "Karawetari": "Those who had climbed up the hill and were above us began to shoot arrows.... Six or seven arrows fell, but did not hit us. A child trembling with fear, climbed up a tree.... The enemy were coming down from above and climbing up from below. The boy who had climbed a tree shouted at a man who was coming nearer; "Fatjer, don't shoot me!" "I'm not your father," shouted the man... and he shot him. The arrow hit the little boy from behind in the leg and came through in front. The child picked himself up and ran with the arrow still in him." Next the women are gathered with their children being executed before them: "One woman had a baby girl in her arms. the men seized the little child and asked: "Is this a boy or a girl" and they wanted to kill it. The mother wept: "It's a little girl, you musn't kill her." Then one of them said: " Leave her; its a girl we won't kill the females. Let's take the woman away with us and make them give us sons. Let's kill the males instead." Another woman had a baby boy only a few months old in her arms. They snatched him away from her... They took the baby by his feet and bashed him against the rock. His head split open and the little white brains spurted out on the stone. They picked up the tiny body, which had turned purple, and threw it away. I wept with fear... meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured. They all joined us. Then the men began to kill the children; the little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet they beat them against the trees and rocks. The children's eyes trembled. Then the men took the dead bodies and threw them among the rocks saying; "Stay there, so that your fathers can find you and eat you" ... All the women wept."

Theres also the famous Naga tribesmen who seem pretty typical of forest dwelling tribal groups that used to widely exist across the world. Naga culture actually remained untainted for quite some time due to the difficult terrain and the Naga's reputation for the brutality that all naga tribes were known to engage in, some naga tribes in fact entire society and economic structure was actually based around it; the hunting of human heads, or more popularly; head-hunting. Contact was gradual with a lot of opportunity to study them at length. So, their ancient cultural and social traditions were preserved long enough for gradual study. Not only was head-hunting socially important, it was religiously important and defined their societies. Heres the gruesome part: Head-hunting was not gained by honorable battle but by any means necessary, the more deceptive and cunning the better. Anthropologists who studied the naga describe them waiting near rival tribes water sources, for the first, man woman or child to come by before descending on them with a spear. The naga tribesmen knew that going out alone, at any time, in plenty of these areas, the risk was the same. In fact, in plenty of the tribes, you're not considered a man, without the distinctive tattoo markings of a successful headhunt. It is also said, that they weren't considered great mates, without these tapperings. There was also a lot of Naga groups to study. I could get into the ritual importance and some of the religious beliefs concerning head-hunting, but i'll leave it at; they thought it was essential. In fact, it was practiced until very recently when it was banned in 1991, one wouldn't be lying or exaggerating to say that many still living naga tribes-people bear elaborate and excessive tattoo marking from successful hunts. These tribes (well lots of them) live in what is now called naga-land, but in the past parts of north-east India, Assam, etc.

To quote one statement made about the Naga: "All the Naga tribes are, on occasion, head-hunters, and shrink from no treachery in securing these ghastly trophies. Any head counts, be it that of a man, woman, or child, and entitles the man who takes it to wear certain ornaments according to the custom of thew tribe or village. Most heads are taken... not in a fair fight, but by methods most treacherous. As common a method as any was for a man to lurk about the water Ghat of a hostile village, and kill the first woman or child who came out to draw water. Sometimes expeditions on large scales were made, several villages combining
...Every tribe, almost every village is at war with its neighbor, and no Naga of these parts dare leave the territory of his tribe without the probability that his life will be the penalty.
" (Crooke 1907:41-43)
We also have Otzi the iceman found from about 3500 years ago, armed to the teeth covered in other people bloods with clear signs of traumatic head-injury and arrow-wound.

Traditional examples of peaceful societies by anthropologists, like the American South-west have been uncovered by archaeologists to be sites of mass slaughter. Not many people deny that some hunter-gatherers/tribal groups can be peaceful, but the nature of their lives and so forth, tend to generally create brutal and violence filled societies; a lot of factors come into play:
Finally we have anthropologist interaction and translation recording sentiments amoung some of these tribes and hunter-gatherer groups, well, on top of that their own actions in war and etc. For example: A Tahitian warrior would smash a victims corpse to shit with his club, cut the throat and somehow wear the remains. A New Guinean tribal leader within minutes of seeing an airplane, wondering if he could ride in it/drop rocks on a nearby tribe from above, a Maori chief taunting the preserved head of an enemy chief: " You wanted to run away, did you? But my war club overtook you: and after you were cooked, you made food for my mouth. And where is your father? he is cooked:- and where is your brother? he is eaten:- and where is your wife? there she sits, a wife for me:- and where are your children? there they are, with loads on their backs, carrying food, as my slaves." and in the aftermath of fighting between Europeans, some tribal groups do things like mallets to smash/bust all the faces in..

The prevalence and high death rate of prehistoric and 'primitive' warfare when population wide violence statistics are looked at are revealed to be brutally more efficient than modern-warfare with our weaponry. Its been estimated that if we had violence rates similiar to what is observable in the *normal* hunter-gatherer/primitive group, 2 billion people would have died this century, not 100million+ Constant raiding that is, simple and brutally effective. Keeley among others claim that 90-95% of all known societies engaged/engage in warfare, those that didn't were under massive amounts of isolation, shattered peoples, or small groups living under state rulership. tribal warfare produces casuality rates up to 60% unseen in modern wars; on average, its calculated, that hunter-gatherer warfare exceeds modern warfare in deadliness by a factor of 20, and thats likely to be greatly exceeded in some tribes. If we took their statistical death-rates and applied them to our own population sizes, we see, that we're not nearly as violent as hunter-gatherers or tribes. Keeley calculates something like a yearly death rate of 0.5 outside of major wars, that greatly exceeds population death-rates in the civilized world.
Scott Atran whose studied many tribes also claims that warfare among tribes is common and that religion is inseparable from those decisions, theres also a great massive deal of research that showing in-group commitment to religious ideas increases side by side with intolerance for other belief systems. These tribes not only go to war with each other, but waring is highly dictated by complex religious beliefs, they literally portray other tribes as inhumane spirits or in leauge with inhumane spirits. Exploring the religious beliefs of hunter-gatherers and tribal people extensively, we see absolutely nothing to suggest that they were peaceful.
There is no evidence that violence was sui generis among prehistoric tribes and plenty to the contrary.This is not even touching on the amount of violence that existed due to more obvious human sacrafices.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Wonderer » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:16 am

The much anticipated post is finally done... I apologize for the delay as I had to work very strenuous hours recently.

There are 2 videos suggested viewing for my position, they are not required but I think you would all enjoy them and they would be invaluable in terms of an explanation.

You have to download something called "veoh player" but rest assured it isn't spyware or anything but actually a very decent way of watching movies instantly online for free. The download is quick, please consider it.

http://quicksilverscreen.com/watch?video=48934 - the Suri

http://quicksilverscreen.com/watch?video=50938 - the Matis

What is violence?

Violence is generically described as some sort of physical conflict. As is obvious physical conflict exists in this world everywhere. Every society necessarily experiences physical conflict, be it from a violent lightning strike, a violent bar fight, a violent murder, or a violent ceremony or ritual. So before be begin I will try to establish a standard for the type of violence we wish to discuss in this thread (among other things)

Football games are violent, but are they "bad"? What's really only bad is something that upsets people. Based on that we should only consider violence that is not purposeful. Too add to that definition we should only use violence in which one person harms another, and that it is not a mutually agreed upon desired event.

This would absolve football players of being ashamed of their violent ways. Football games generate entertainment for the masses, revenue for the economy, and sport for the players. It's important to note that violence is also one of the major ways by which humans selectively breed strength into the species.

That being established, let's begin.

Before we go passing all sorts of judgments about tribe societies (hunter gather traditional societies), we should endeavor to understand what their lives are like. For this I will use 2 different examples of tribe societies, each with drastically different ways of life. The first tribe, the Matis, is a very peaceful and relatively prosperous tribe, the other, and much more violent by contrast, is the Suri tribe.

The Matis live in the Amazon jungle in Brazil near the border of Peru. Their lands are heavily protected from outside access and it is near impossible to get a permit. They were first contacted in the 1970's and since then have suffered many epidemics of western diseases. Their population has dwindled to just under 100, and they are now dependent of FUNAI, the Brazilian national foundation for Indians. The only real outside influences in their societies consist of dogs for hunting, knives, and the occasional outboard motor. Aside from that the Matis hunt and gather everything they need to survive directly from the jungle. Their area is almost pristine rain forest which gives them a very wide and easily accessible variety of food. A group of hunters might go out one day a week and come back with enough meat ( usually boars, monkeys and jungle foul) to last the entire village a week.

There's not much work needing done except for hunting. As in most tribe societies, if someone needs a house (hut) built, everyone in the village will pitch in and it will be done in under a day. They do not war with any tribe nor are hostile. They lead successful bush lives conflicted with their dependence on protection from outside influence, as well as medical care. Though there are under 100 Matis, I think analyzing their culture will serve as an adequate ideal for a quality of life that currently exceeds our own.

The Matis do not use corporeal punishment on their children aside from the only real violence which takes place in their society...

They like to give their kids a good whipping...

O.K when I say that I am being a bit sarcastic. What they do is cut a skinny whip like stick and give their children a slap on the back. It makes a loud crack and is more or less similar to the experience of getting a needle.

A couple tribe members dress up in sort of scary jungle outfits with red painted masks (called mirowen spirits) and they come into town with a bunch of whips every once in awhile and the kids get a good scaring out of it. Don't get me wrong the children genuinely don't like the experience so as per the definition of "bad violence" this whip crack represents the pinnacle of violence in their entire society. Their reasons for doing this are ritualistic, spiritual and pragmatic. They believe it stimulates an energy called "sho" which cures laziness and increases hunting skill. They also whip pregnant women against their will (for their unborn children).

Like I said before the Matis never strike their children. To my knowledge they rarely even argue. By whipping children they provide control and structure; a desentisation to pain. The children are only afraid, never hurt, and as I said they perform the ritual to motivate them. You could compare it to spanking, but it's done only on occasion for no general reason. It's more of a social control mechanism, no more apparent than a vaccination.

There are very few violent aspects of Matis life, aside from the mirowen spirits there are various hunting rituals which are basically the most extreme "violence" in the entire culture, though it is not done against anyone's will. The first ritual is whipping (surprise). The hunters get whipped abit harder than the children but it is bearable and does not leave a scar. They believe that it motivates increases alertness and hunting skill. They say if you see a leopard in the bush you will not tremble if you've been whipped earlier.

The second ritual is a bit more painful... They drip the juice of a certain root into their eyes, which burns. They claim this helps them see better and run better while hunting. Though I'm not sure of the effectiveness, there very well could be an increase in visual capabilities. In any case it is not something horrible or damaging.

Something I found incredibly interesting about the Matis hunters is that they perform a dance not unlike the lord of the flies fire circle dance, except it is abit less violent.

All the hunters young and old participate in traditional hunting attire in a large hut. Aside from doing this to increase odds, it strengthens the bond between hunters who rely on each other as a team, as well as desensitizing and educating the hunters to the "violence" of the hunt. It's sort of a role play game, comparable to any public education system which merely trains us to be ready for the reality of life.

As for the brutality of hunting goes, there is no contest between the brutality and suffering in the lives of wild versus reared animals. In hunting for survival, as many animals do, yes you are ending the life of a fellow animal and there is no way for me to rebuke that except that it is better than keeping it in it's cage for it's entire life and then slaughtering it on a kill line.

It's the kind of sacrifices like the quality of life of our food versus the efficiency with which we can produce food in order to raise the quality (and or number) of our own lives which causes me to believe technology isn't always an answer. We trade their pain and suffering for ours, which is important to note about modern societies.

The next of the Matis hunting rituals is frog poison. The skin is lightly and quickly burned and a small piece of skin removed and then they insert poison from a tree frog directly into the blood stream. It takes hours but you become very nauseous and eventually your system "evacuates itself". After the poison is washed off the feeling quickly dissipates and the feeling afterwards is described as remarkably pleasant and energetic. They do this as a means to purify and energize. They believe this greatly increases the skill of a hunter.

What is described above is the absolute worst the Matis have to offer. They have no wars or rivalries, being that there is under 100 of them it's a safe bet that they have few or no criminals. Their main concerns currently are health and education. It's the fault of modernity for bringing modern diseases like malaria, diarrhea, happiest which has caused their recent decline.

Traditionally they had a plant remedy for every ailment (most commonly headaches), but after their contact with the outside world many of their shamans died and they lost a great deal of traditional knowledge. You can imagine the feeling of vulnerability they must have. The outboard motor allows the youth to visit nearby modern towns where they are influenced heavily. Instead of practicing hunting the boys play soccer. They even have dances with modern music and dancing...

One Matis remembers when they didn't know how to dance like naowa's (noawa means outsider) but now he says that the youth always copy outsiders.

He says that they were happier before they were contacted, but now that they've seen our world, they can never go back. It's not just because of their medical dependency, they want modern things. They desire houses, medical centers, education, all the great things we seem to be offering.

The English speaking Matis translator often goes to the city, he desires to be a teacher and bring education back to his tribe (where there are no teachers). Intriguingly he says he does not go outside in the towns. He says "there is too much violence and people doing drugs". His desires is to have a house and "all the good things that outsiders have" and for his family to live well.

If we could give the Matis houses, education and medical centers that would be great, but it would come at the cost of the forest that currently supports them. One Matis said "I don't want to go to the town. There is nowhere to plant food, and there is no monkey or tapir to eat. In the city you have to buy things, I don't want to do that. It's better to stay in the jungle". This particular testimony came from a woman of about 40 (give or take 20 years), and it is not shared by the entire tribe. Where once they were content they now desire what we have shown them. One of the driving mechanisms in human brains is that we want what we see, or that is, we measure our success by what we see.

We could argue that living in a centrally heated home with a police force, expensive health care and 2 jobs is better than living in a hut in the jungle and gathering your own food, but I would take the wisdom of the 40 year old Matis over the would be wisdom of my opponent any day (no offense :)).

Despite the entirety of the struggles and negative aspects of Matis life described above, the Matis are a very loving and open minded people. In the documentary provided above a white Englishman joined one of their families for a month to see what it is like to be a Matis. The father of the family gave him his own hammock to sleep in and he was instantly treated like family.

And interesting comparison into our own lives can be made concerning the division of food. In the Matis society the heads of the family are given equal shares and then those shares are divided up amongst family members. You can eat all of what you are given but if you've had enough you can give a nod which signals the rest f the tribe to take a portion if they desire. And they all do this, everybody sharing, in a very communal way. Contrasted that with our own society I can't count the number of awkward moments I've had with people when I start eye-balling the biggest piece of steak.

In all every Matis leads a very relaxing life, certainly more relaxing than our own. Most tribe societies work 3 or 4 hours a day to satisfy all their needs, and the Matis are no exception. The Matis live free of violence except for what is defined above, and whatever position you might take on the violence of the Matis would pale in comparison to the violence displayed in modern society. An adult Matis is more care free than a 7 year old kid trying to learn to read in our public school systems. They must have been incredibly happy before we contacted them, though we've given them knives dogs and guns (they still use more blow darts with poison than guns, especially for monkey), we've also given them a destroyed sense of pride. Their shamans were powerless to fight off the plague of diseases modernity brought with them, and now being dependent on outside care they must have the lowest sense of success or accomplishment they have known in centuries. Yet despite all this, you are more likely to see a smile on the face of a Matis child than on the face of a rich American child. Chances are the rich American child doesn't see his parents and has so much stuff that he becomes spoiled, ironically bitter in a room full of sweets.

It's not the fact that thousands of modern and non modern societies have been violent that I'm debating, it's that the Matis live happier lives than we do now. It's that the environmentally harmonious life of the Matis is far superior to our own large scale modern societies. In comparison and in physical reality, our civilization stinks. The Matis are more innocent with life now than we could ever make them. If given the option to enter into our society (at the bottom of course) many Matis would probably take the deal, but every one of them would regret it.

The typical ideal being established well with the Matis, we can now move on to the Suri.

Suri territory occupies a small corner of Ethiopia, and unlike the Matis, they are well contacted and very numerous.

The first thing to know about the Suri concerning violence is that due to a nearby war (Sudan) they have been flooded with AK-47's. The film crew in the documentary above was protected non-stop by numerous armed guards.

That aside the most dominant and violent aspect of Suri culture is their stickfights. A stickfight can happen at any time thruought the year when each village goes out in large numbers for organized stickfights in a sport like setting. Each contestant brings a sharpened stick and various armor and opponents from opposing villages will pair off at will and begin fighting.

"Violent" doesn't do Suri stickfighting justice. Basically it's anything goes, except that you never strike a man that is on the ground, or that is not fighting. They even use something similar to a referee. In stickfights you can loose eyes, teeth, get gashes on your legs or even a fatal gash in the stomach, but in theory is no different than the extreme sports we play in modern society.

stickfighting strengthens bonds in the village and prepares them for their lifestyle, but the real reasons behind stickfighting are simple: fame, glory and women. Mostly women. The sticks are actually sharpened to resemble the corona of a penis. The winners of the fights are highly praised and like modern sports they keep bitterly accurate scores. There is a sideline where women flirt with resting fighters. Some women even make and sell beer.

Peak stickfight season is after the rainey season when there is lots of food, time and energy. Though the Suri exist in a yearly deadly struggle (as I will elaborate below), they are still able to find happiness and entertainment in stickfighting, you might compare it to going to a baseball game after a hard or even dangerous day of work.

As per the bad violence definition stickfighting doesn't really qualify, being comparable to many of our own dangerous sports. In that the Suri and our own society are on even steads.

The next most violent thing about Suri life is their annual war with a neighbouring tribe called the Bume. This is no innocent war, it is brutal and deadly competition for vital land needed for cattle grazing. Given that, I would be forced to agree with Cyrenes assertion that since so many men die as a result war, our society is less violent, and perhaps better, except for the fact that this war only takes place because of guns.

The bume got guns before the Suri and then invaded a portion of their land, the Suri then also got guns and they now fight a high tension war every year.

In this case it would be better for the Suri if technology didn't exist. Guns have upset the balance between 2 different groups of people and has forever changed the Suri way of life. Guns are now a part of their culture. Shots are fired in the air at stickfights by disgruntled fighters, disturbing the whole process. Armed guards are required for protection. Most well off families have a gun to fend off possible cattle thieves. In reality they have no use for guns, it would be better if they nor the bume had any.

The Suri treat cattle as currency, cows are of incredible importance. Despite drinking their blood without harming them, they actually treat their cows better than any modern farmer. They light fires to keep them warm and give them plenty of water, food and exercise. They just fall short of being as pampered as Hindu cows. (except for the blood part)

The Suri society is very democratic, though they do have spiritual leaders who are highly respected (and protected) they have a strong concept of fairness. There is no police force, naturally it's martial law. People have been known to steal other peoples cattle, which is comparable in our own society to stealing money, though it is much less heard of.

When I think about it, I have stolen more things for no good reason than I can count. Have you? Though the suri do occasionally fight amongst themselves, they are too busy defending themselves from the bume. Perhaps because of this the Suri are a much more cohesive society. People are very respectful.

One aspect of Suri culture which is particularly violent is that the women have their lower incisors removed and a lip plate inserted (yes the famous lip disk). The origin of lip disc is uncertain, one theory says that it was started to discourage slavery. One function it has which is a strong theme in their society is tolerance to pain, a reality in living an uncertain life.

Though they don't know the origin of lip disks, they do have a use. The size of a woman's lip disc determines how many cattle she is worth to the family that the male purchases her from.

No it's not some form of arranged or forced marriage, people choose their own partners and if both are willing, the male must prove his worth by offering cattle. (as much as 60 cattle)
This is a sensible social mechanism to control population growth that is not sustained as only well situated men could afford a family.

But not all women allow their lips to be cut however. One woman interviewed claimed she simply didn't want to do it. "It makes you dribble" she said. When asked if that meant she wouldn't get any cattle she replied, "If a man likes me he'll give cattle, otherwise he can find another girl".

The Suri are a very proud people. Their attitudes are very down to earth, much more so than our own. Despite struggling for survival in terms of a modern war where there once was balance the Suri still are able to lead ambitious and enjoyable lives. What differences is there between the lives of the Suri and our own? If anything can only think of ways in which our own society is worse than theirs.

Our society that brought guns into their world, throwing what was once a violent, yet harmonious society into a trend of brutal violence. Our society has systematically begun consuming the worlds resources, destroying one by one ancient ways of life. Ways of life which were in a state of equilibrium, even if it meant war with their neighbours, there was a balance of power. They were much healthier living off natural diets and still live with much greater ease than we do in our own societies.

In bush societies the people fight for their survival, and they achieve that and are happy. In ours, survival is pretty much guaranteed, except or the high odds that you will die of a terminal illness, die of an accident, get murdered, or go to jail, you don't have to do anything at all per se in order to survive. Shelters will give you food and a place to sleep. Wee take survival for granted and are discontent, we have sought ways to increase our pleasure and have been partially successful.

Why wouldn't a Suri want to play world of warcraft? Of course he would.

More pleasure means more happiness right?

Well in order to get modern stuff, he would have to sell his land and forest to logging companies. After they destroy his home they would leave him with maybe 10,00$ if he is the luckiest Suri or Matis alive. Then he would have to move into the city, as nobody would build a house in the middle of nowhere, he would have to rent or buy a house and maybe have enough left for a computer, he would have to get the worst job in town in order to pay for his power bill and then find out that there is no way for him to get internet in his entire country. 3 weeks later he gets sick and misses work. He loses his apartment and is kicked out. ?He has no money and begins the long long walk home to Suri country with a computer strapped to his back and his trusty ak-47.

Where did society peek? Where did the wave break and people slowly begin to suffer more and more? I say it's when that one jerk society decided that since it was more powerful, should be allowed to flourish at the expense of all others. The fact that our society eats others for breakfast is uncontested. When think of "our society" I think of the word mob. Look at the way discrimination against blacks has become innate in stereotypical American logic (no offense). We shove our suffering out of sight, except for those cute cancer patients who get used by corporations in public relations charity funds (no offense). The poor of our nation are kept stupid with expensive education and are kept unhealthy with expensive healthcare (no offense). Heaven forbid we should reform our government once in awhile. We've got political parties comparable to fraternities which hold a quadra annual propaganda race where they see how many lies they can tell about themselves and others in order to sway as many votes of the population they have assured are stupid through an extreme regiment of social control and oppression. .5 percent of the population control 50% of the wealth. That's an aristocracy. In our society there is no way to be independent, we are born into social contracts. In order to survive we must get jobs to pay for overly expensive houses and food made by other exploited nations. The middle and lower classes are not unlike slaves. Forced to work, the alternative being a homeless vagabond.

The American army has lost 4000 troops in the Iraq war so far, and those numbers are pretty good considering the size of their army and of their population. The odds of you dying for the Iraq are are slim and I guess therefore it is less violent, but how many people died on the opposing side? One hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand? How many were women and children?

In our society we keep violence and suffering out of sight and out of mind. If you're reading this you're rich enough to have the internet and probably haven't experienced what it's like to be at the bottom of society. If you think being middle class is dissatisfying, try being the bottom of the barrel.

In the Matis society they live an easy life with absolutely no problems except for the ones we've given them, they are easily more content with life in general than us, basically more everything. They are a wonderful people. The Suri live violent and unpredictable lives but despite that also have less problems than our own society. Everyone is treated equally and instead of money being power, money is just money (cows).

Asking the question of which is better bush societies our our own ones is a difficult one to answer. Yes and no is mine. Yes there are bush tribes that live happier and perfectly balanced lives in the jungle than we can manage with any and all of our technology, but there are also very brutal and violent cultures in which life is difficult.

If the question is where did society peak we need not consider the worst, only the best. In my mind the best example I can think of is an economically balanced society where all of its members are content with life.

Which society is that? You be the judge.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Cyrene » Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:28 pm

The Matis live in the amazon jungle in brazil near the border of peru. Their lands are heavily protected from outside access and it is near impossible to get a permit. They were first contacted in the 1970's and since then have suffered many epidemics of western diseses. Their population has dwindled to just under 100, and they are now dependant of FUNAI, the Brazilian national foindation for indians The only real outside influences in their societies consist of dogs for huning, knives, and the occasional outboard motor. Aside from that the Matis hunt and gather everything they need to survive directly from the jungle. Their area is almost pristine rain forest which gives them a very wide and easily accessible variety of food. A group of hunters might go out one day a week and come back with enough meat ( usually boars, monkeys and jungle foul) to last the entire village a week.There's not much work needing done except for hunting. As in most tribe societies, if someone needs a house (hut) built, everyone in the village will pitch in and it will be done in under a day.
They do not war with any tribe nor are hostile. They lead successful bush lives conflicted with their dependance on protection from outside influence, aswell as medical care. Though there are under 100 Matis, i think analysing their culture will serve as an adequate ideal for a quality of life that currently exceeds our own.


The biggest problem with the Matis, is that they're not typical of hunter-gatherer/tribal groups. They're a broken/shattered group living under the protection of a nation-state; whether or not their one tribe is more peaceful than our society is largely irrelevant, whether their quality of life exceeds our own is irrelevant whether or not statistically, hunter-gatherer/tribal groups, engage in more or less violence on average for their population sizes, is. The Matis are atypical.

A couple tribe members dress up in sort of scary jungle outfits with red painted masks (called mirowen spirits) and they come into town with a bunch of whips every once in awhile and the kids get a good scaring out of it. Don't get me wrong the children genuinely dont like the experience so as per the definition of "bad violence" this whip crack represents the pinncale of violence in their entire society. Their reasons for doing this are ritualistic are spiritual and pragmatic. They believe it stimulates an energy called "sho" which cures laziness and increases hunting skill. They also whip pregnant women against their will (for their unborn children).


Ritualistic violence.

It's the kind of sacrifices like the quality of life of our food versus the efficiency with which we can produce food in order to raise the quality (and or number) of our own lives. We trade their pain and suffering for ours, which is important to note about modern societies.


We require more food because we have more people. Hunter-gatherers/tribal groups, somtimes raise pigs and animals to slaughter. I don't see the difference between sticking a pig with a spear or cutting its throat as far as violence rates go, either.

Desipte the entirety of the struggles and negative aspect of Matis life described above, the Matis are a very loving and open minded people. In the documentary provided above a white englishman joined one of their families for a month to see what it is like to be a Matis. The father of the family agve him his own hammock to sleep in and he was instantly treated like family.


After you bring them gifts and approach them in the correct way, or it is dangeorus.

In all every Matis leads a very relacing life, certainly more relaxing than our own. Most tribe societies work 3 or 4 hours a day to satisfy all their needs, and the MAtis are no exception.


This is blatant nonsense and not supported by the evidence. You made a lot of interesting points about life among the Matis, but our debate was never that "The Matis are less violent than modern societies" our debate is whether or not hunter-gatherer/tribal groups on average have higher or lower violence rates. Even if its true that they know 'no rivalry' or murder (which I highly doubt) they aren't typical of tribes. We can look at statistics for all known tribes/groups, and when we do, we see that statistically only a small percentage of them are non-violent. The matis are part of a small percentage of people, and its the modern part that holds back their violence. "Modern" means a world in which many tribes have been wiped out, or absorbed into states, where they wouldn't have to deal with the same type of human/environmental pressures.

It's not the fact that thousands of modern and non modern societies have been violent that i'm debating, it's that the Matis live happier lives than we do now. Ir's that the environmentally harmonious live of the Matis is far superior to our own large scale modern societies. In comparison and in physical reality, our civilisation stinks.


This isn't anything but a subjective and emotional statement. What we should be debating is not whether or not the Matis are happier or more peaceful than us, but whether or not this is typical of hunter-gatherer/tribal groups in general, and its not. Like i mentioned in my opening statement, many of the peaceful and nonviolent tribes that exist live under unfavorable circumstances; they are broken/shattered from disease or warfare, they exist under the protection of a nation-state, etc. (whether they are happier isn't the point and thats up to personal opinion)

"Violent" doesn't do Suri stickfighting justice. Basically it's anything goes, except that you never strike a man that is on the ground, or that is not fighting. They even use something similar to a referee. In stickfights you can loose eyes, teeth, get gashes on your legs or even a fatal gash in the stomach, but is this really any different than the extreme sports we play in modern society?


yes it is, because people not only can lose eyes, but its a real and large possibility. Which is why they didn't let the fellow seriously stick-fight with anyone. Its not all that different from extreme boxing, minus y'know, the ability to acceptably gouge someone's eyes out with a stick. Keep in mind too, that we don't have to become brutal boxers in our societies to gain status or look like an acceptable mate, either. Thats a personal choice for glory, its not the accepted norm.

The next most violent thing about Suri life is their annual war with a neibourghing tribe called the Bume. This is no innocent war, it is brutal and deadly competition for vital land needed for cattle grazing. Given that, i would be forced to agree with Cyrenes assertion that since so many men die as a result war, our society is less violent, and perhaps better, except for the fact that this war only takes place because of guns.


What a load of bullshit. It doesn't take place because of the guns, the guns only intensify it. Pretending like the area hasn't been a hotbed of tribal tensions for a long time is just being deceptive. The only reason the Nyangatom (the 'smelly ones' as you call them by calling them Bume) were handed assault rifles, was because of their small population and fight with the Turkana. Doesn't help that they're literally surrounded by unfriendly tribes.

The bume got guns before the Suri and then invaded a portion of their land, the Suri then also got guns and they now fight a high tension war every year.


They've also historically been known as rivals and have caused trouble for each other before they got ahold of guns.

In this case it would be better for the Suri if technology didn't exist.


Yeah, the Suri and the Turkana would be better off, the Nyangaton wouldn't be. And only in this case of gun technology.

Guns have upset the balance between 2 different groups of people and has forever changed the Suri way of life.


They needed the guns or faced slow but sure extinction due to being surrounded by unfriendly tribes, that did fight them before guns. There was no 'balance' to begin with.

The Suri are a very proud people. Their attitudes are very down to earth, much more so than our own. Despite struggling for survival in terms of a modern war where there once was balance the Suri still are able to lead ambitious and enjoyable lives.


One tribe being wittled down to an almsot non-existant population is not a 'balance' of any sort.

What differences is there between the lives of the Suri and our own? If anything can only think of ways in which our own society is worse than theirs.


Its easy through rose-tinted glasses to forget that warfare/raiding existed quite some time before they got guns.

Our society that brought guns into their world, throwing what was once a violent, yet harmonious society into a trend of brutal violence.


Once again, assuming that they didn't kill each other and wittle away the 'bume' to nothing.

Our society has systematically begun consuming the worlds resources, destroing one by one aincient ways of life. ways of life which were in a state of equilibrium, even if it meant war with their neibourghs, there was a balance of power. They were much healthier living off natural diets and still live with much greater ease than we do in our own societies.


No, balance of power. Guns were introduced to make a balance of power. Maybe not a good idea but the point is; they were violent before hand.

Where did society peek? where did the wave break and people slowly begin to suffer more and more? I say it's when that one jerk society decided that since it was more powerful, should be allowed to flourish at the expence of all others.


And I say its when modern warfare is twenty times less deadly and kills substancially less of our population size than what happens in average hunter-gatherer/tribal groups. What is 60% of Canada's population? Thats the type of death-rate we see in all out warfare among the settlements of prehistory, if not total eradication. Whats 0.5% of Canada's population? Which was the common death-rate outside of these major wars. Guess what, that many people aren't dying in Canada, or any other first world country.

The fact that our society eats others for breakfast is uncontested. When think of "our society" i think of the word mob. Look at the way discrimination against blacks has become innate in stereotypical american logic (no offense).


The word Naga has two meanings, one is a tribe, another is 'monster'. Not only are tribes more xenophobic, but they're less tolerant of other tribes/people because they think; oftentimes, that other people are in league with spirits. The word Naga only became to be known as monster, because the Naga tribes people were associated with being supernatural monsters.

The american army has lost 4000 troops in the Iraq war so far, and those numbers are pretty good considering the size of their army and of their population. the odds of you dying for the iraq qar are slim and i guess therefore it is less violent, but how many people died on the opposing side? One hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand? How many were women and children?


In Iraq, half of all recorded suicide bombings in history have taken place in just a few years. One might think that most of those are directed at the coalition troops, but they'd be surprised at the statistical death-rate/attack rate that the sunni/'shiite's inflict upon themselves. Its a civil war, afterall.

I didn't reply to a whole lot that you said in your opening statement because I don't honestly think theres much to reply to. you give an interesting account of Matis lifestyle and cultural practice but as I outlined in my opening statement no one denies that some tribes are peaceful, the relevant idea is that we have statistics for a whole bunch of hunter-gatherers/tribes, and when we look at those statistics we see that the average tribe is quite quite violent. The Matis may indeed live peaceful lives; we know that some prehistoric native americans did, the point was that most of them don't, and I seen absolutely no arguement for statistical violence rates among these groups, other than "the matis are typical" when they're not.

Other than that the stuff you said about the Suri and the tribe you call the 'bume' is a lot of blatant misinformation; The warfare/tension existed long before the guns, they were only given guns to avoid being wiped out by the many neighbouring tribes that hate them.

When we calculate the common violence in hunter-gatherer groups, if you applied that to modern societies, we'd see death-rates so massive that it'd be jaw-dropping. I said it before; 2 billion people this century would be dead if first world countries had violence rates comparable to that of *average* hunter-gatherer/tribal groups.

It might mean somthing that because we have huge populations we can kill more numbers of people, but when making a judgement about how violent a society is, the only sensical measure seems to be how much percent of the population dies in warfare, and that massively, massively exceeds our own.

You didn't even mention prehistory, either, which seems important on whether or not modern/primitive lifestyles produce more war. Taking only examples from a world in which massive amounts of tribes no longer exist, is questionable to how this debate is worded, but perhaps you'll get to that in your rebuttal to my post.[/quote]
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Wonderer » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:21 am

Reccomended reading

http://gis.esri.com/library/userconf/pr ... 7/p527.htm

My good opponent lays out a cumulative case supporting the idea that humans have had an extremely violent history, and recently, through modern society, have been able to achieve relatively low rates of violence...

Sure the statistics of non-violence in our society are pretty good compared to some of our brutal ancestors, but violent acts like rape, murder, theft still exist extensively in our society today. Despite the no tolerance policy random acts of violence make the need for armed law enforcers all the more necessary...

I believe that violence is an expected result of human interaction and that it is hard wired into our instincts and forms patterns in our societies, like the mechanisms for distribution of land used by the bume and suri and the desensitisation rituals of the matis.

In large societies violence is an uncontrollable inevitability, but as the matis show completely non violent and cohesive communities can exist, even if they number under 100. I'm not trying to say that we should separate into small societies, just that living off land that can sustain you in small manageable tribe like communities can and has provided a more enjoyable and less violent lives than we enjoy in modernity.

My good opponent presented us with a graph which depicts the drastic differences in deaths of males due to war. Firstly i would like to point out that it's not statistics that should count, it's numbers.

Consider that the U.S is so big and efficient in its war efforts that it only has to use a small percentage of its population to fight a war. Contrast that with a fair fight between to spear wielding tribes and you can see why there is more casualties on both sides. (yet less deaths)

Hunter gatherer communities ideally exist on moderately populated and uncontested land, with a surplus. Isolated island communities often exhibit peaceful societies (like the Matis) and because they do not have to fight over land due to over population, they thrive.

The Mae Enga are one of the societies that my good opponent pointed out with his bar graph that statistically experience more deaths due to war than the u.s.

There's a background story with them that i think is pertinent. In the past the Mae enga used war as a means to distribute land between large groups. They had reached critical population levels which resulted in the use of war to balance out territory and group sizes.

I have no clue what the death rates of those times were and i don't think they are represented in the bar graph dated 1996. Remember to take into the account that the us and europe have no natural contestants. They are so big that losses always look small from their perspective, but they cause the most amount of violence.

in the 1950's the Mae Enga were "pacified" by the english empire (stopped from warring) but the result was that their society degraded into random acts of violence instead of unified war. Not having the outlet of violence they were used to they began descending into chaos. for that reason i believe that it is small independent groups which can maintain close personal ties which were the happiest in history. If groups of tribes could live in an area peacefully and not over populate human beings could evolve with the earth, exist with it. (by the way, the british empire re-instated their wars...)

Violence is a part of life. Conflict is almost inevitable even if there were only 2 people on earth. I'm not saying violence exists so deal with it, i in fact believe that violence is something that can be encouraged and discouraged, and given different circumstances can express itself differently or potentially not at all.

It's in large gatherings where the most amount of suffering occurs. modern society has a funny way of ignoring its own faults (like poverty, exploitation of third world countries, unjust wars, corrupt government, the slave like tautology of opressed misinformed and manipulated voters that are the working class living under the prospect of an early and grim unhealthy death while in debt)

When you organize large socities and use agricultural systems so complex that they are dependant on the overall success of the economy and are not self managble not only do you have a society so large that violence is a rampant inevitability but once the society fails you can expect violence on a scale and mass which are unrivaled.

Sure in history tribes got over populated and started warring, and since they aren't;t very scientific they sometimes have crazy barbaric religious beliefs (not the norm), but successful bush societies did exist that lived more peaceful, more healthy, longer and in general more satisfying lives.

The people of hunza are a striking example of a paradise like society

http://healthyoutcome.wordpress.com/200 ... the-world/

completely isolated, free from disease and stress it's not uncommon for people to live to the age of 120. there is no need for violence. i would cut my arm off to live there, and it would probably add many years to my life.

Maybe It's better that we should have many humans and therefore should embrace technology and modern society. i agree that it should be embraced, but mostly because going back is not a pleasant option. The crux is that bigger societies beget more and bigger problems. after all if history has taught us anything it's that the most powerful societies never stay that way, and usually end in horror.

As the first article explains if you regement violence you can at least control it, but you have to deal with it, it you don't regement it you can expect it randomly.

As far as quality of life goes, civilizations like the matis type spread out tribe system or the completely isolated and uncontested ultra successful lives of the hunza people, and even the brutal lives of the violent suri tribe, excluding the violence caused by their gun problems take the cake for best violence statistics, best quality of life statistics, and even in teh face of regemented violence the suri are arguably happier than the modern average. the average quality of their lives is only some the best that history has to offer.

The most violent tribe on the chart is the Jivaro. They are composed of small groups that sometimes war.

They are known for shrinking the heads of enemies because of an obscure religion. there is approx 10 000 living in ecuador.

I would note that obscure violent religions are not indicative of potential success, in fact they do it in response to violations of moral codes, suggesting that there is some sort of societal mechanism at work, which supports my assertion that large numbers and uniform control methods cannot eliminate violence. (by nature those societies seek to regement violence)

http://history.howstuffworks.com/south- ... ndians.htm

the second most violent is the Yanomamo...

The Yanomamö refer to themselves as "The Fierce People" - using great displays of ferocity with their masks and dances. But they have developed a wisdom that helps them avoid war by settling their differences with an organized fight between 2 individual tribesmen. The mildest of these is "chest pounding" in which one man stands in the center of the village compound and allows the other to strike him with a blow to the pectoral muscle. Typically the recipient of these blows can take only 3 or 4. Then the man who is struck takes his turn. This all takes place as members of the two tribes look on. A winner is declared and disputes are often settled in this manner. The introduction of guns began to change this method of conflict resolution in some of these tribes.
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/1621

The introduction of guns and other things is currently destroying the Yanomamo culture. It shows how over technology can spoil a society... a once successful society...

Not every ancient society was engaged in war, and today not every society is violent. but is it not inevitable that large cities will have larger rates of suffering and crime? is it not inevitable that they are harder to control and cause problems for their neighbors as well as themselves? Surely the best places to live in modern societies are low key private communities.

The difference between a tribal private community and a modern private community is that the latter is in no way independent, the best of which are still subject to random acts of extreme violence, and most importantly are the exclusive product of a world of slaves.

The dictionary defines freedom as being free from restraints, detentions, opression and slavery...

I say again, where did society peak? which one was the best? you be the judge.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Wonderer » Mon Oct 06, 2008 5:15 am

I'm not going to make a blow by blow response for my final post, this will be a short and sweet rebuke to cyrenes key points.

Firstly the Suri had their land invaded by a tribe with new found gun power. Yes there was tension before but the scale was obviously less. it's easier to defend against spears than it is against guns.

Secondly, there is no evidence that the Suri or the bume would wittle away. it it wasn't for guns it would be a slow process. Maybe one tribe was on the decline but does that justify showing them a whole new way to kill each other?

Instead of giving them guns what if we gave them agriculture? the hitch there is nobody is willing to put up the money, but guns are cheap.

technology clearly only created more problems, and speculating that they were just as violent in the past is groundless

About the matis being "atypical". I would have to disagree. there are a great many peaceful tribes, too many to name. i had a choice of 8 or 9 different great tribes to talk about but it simply would have taken too long.

You go on about ancient atrocities of violence, but i could go on even more so about modern atrocities.

I don't think we are fit to do an anthrolopological comparison to see if hunter gatherers or modern societieswere on average more violent. I said i would defend the view that traditional hunter gatherer societies were largely less violent, more enjoyable, more stable and secure and basically better in general than our own modern societies, but i think we could each find more examples than we have time for.

Some hunter gatherers experience high death rates and high violence rates, and many don't. Cyrene paints a gory picture that most tribes are violent and most have a lesser quality of life... i submit that even if the matis were completely uniqe would they still not represent a peak? aside from the fact that modernity destroyed them?

I'll be darned but it seems like i've seen a heck of alot of smiling faces on one of the many documentaries i would be happy to link you to if you ask. The fact is that success in the bush varies just as much as success in the concrete jungle. Which peak is highest? What about the hunza people? how high is their peak?

I entered into this debate asking myself where society peaked (actually i entered into it with a preconceived opinion :) ), but you came here asking where it peaked, and wether you think it's playing gameboy or playing shoot the monkey with a poisonous blow dart ot farming aprocit trees, you might have a different opinion.

cheers =D>

------------------------------------

p.s sorry for the delay to Cyrene and the judges. i've been working non-stop and my internet got cut off. imma lay off the debates for awhile...
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Cyrene » Mon Oct 06, 2008 12:19 pm

Sure the statistics of non-violence in our society are pretty good compared to some of our brutal ancestors, but violent acts like rape, murder, theft still exist extensively in our society today. Despite the no tolerance policy random acts of violence make the need for armed law enforcers all the more necessary...


The things exist because of psychological mechanisms inherited by our brutal brutal ancestors. Like, the hunter-gatherer's we're talking about.

I believe that violence is an expected result of human interaction and that it is hard wired into our instincts and forms patterns in our societies, like the mechanisms for distribution of land used by the bume and suri and the desensitisation rituals of the matis.


I concur, we're hardwired for violence, at least, we're hardwired to react violently depending on the situation* or environmental input.

In large societies violence is an uncontrollable inevitability, but as the matis show completely non violent and cohesive communities can exist, even if they number under 100.


Exist in shattered tribes wracked by disease or warfare, or under the protection of a nation state, or living in geographic isolation. Besides some pretty rare circumstances, that the tribes don't force on themselves, they're violent.

I'm not trying to say that we should separate into small societies, just that living off land that can sustain you in small manageable tribe like communities can and has provided a more enjoyable and less violent lives than we enjoy in modernity.


Maybe in a few tribes isolated in the cliff-side from the hundreds of others, we do see signs of some kinds of unfriendly things too, like ritualized violence.

My good opponent presented us with a graph which depicts the drastic differences in deaths of males due to war. Firstly i would like to point out that it's not statistics that should count, it's numbers.


Don't get me wrong, 3000 people dead, is 3000 people dead, let alone hundreds of thousands of people. Its horrible and we need to take account that so many people dead, is truly horrifying. But when we talk about which societies are more violent, we can't only* talk about the number of people killed. When the societies envolved are on a different size-scale of the difference between a tribe and say, a country. My point has always been that hunter-gatherer groups are more violent for their population sizes, and if their population sizes were expanded to be the size of ours, the death-rate envolved would not be what we see it is.

Its important, it is important to say that 57% of canadian adult males don't die in warfare like they do in the Yanomami.

Consider that the U.S is so big and efficient in its war efforts that it only has to use a small percentage of its population to fight a war. Contrast that with a fair fight between to spear wielding tribes and you can see why there is more casualties on both sides. (yet less deaths)


Stop making it seem as if theres somthing fair or honorable about hunter-gatherer warfare. Theres nothing fair about Naga hunting the heads of children, theres nothing fair about them doing it in complete ambushes when someone goes to take a drink of water, theres nothing fair about the dogrib's wiping out the yellowknives, and theres absolutely NOTHING FAIR, with almost ANY OF THE EXAMPLES I gave you about prehistoric/tribal/hunter-gatherer warfare. Its definatly not fair when they bash in babies heads against rocks/trees. Theres no fair fight between an infant or a child and an adult with a spear. None.

Hunter gatherer communities ideally exist on moderately populated and uncontested land, with a surplus. Isolated island communities often exhibit peaceful societies (like the Matis) and because they do not have to fight over land due to over population, they thrive.

The Mae Enga are one of the societies that my good opponent pointed out with his bar graph that statistically experience more deaths due to war than the u.s.

There's a background story with them that i think is pertinent. In the past the Mae enga used war as a means to distribute land between large groups. They had reached critical population levels which resulted in the use of war to balance out territory and group sizes.


^ which happens commonly in hunter-gatherer groups who live near other hunter-gatherer groups. The environment often-times puts a strain on both being there, because they can't produce more food with things like advanced agriculture, they turn to killing, slaughter, and superstition instead.

I have no clue what the death rates of those times were and i don't think they are represented in the bar graph dated 1996. Remember to take into the account that the us and europe have no natural contestants. They are so big that losses always look small from their perspective, but they cause the most amount of violence.


I gave example upon example upon example of mass prehistoric violence, in some cases where entire societies were wiped off the map, forever.

in the 1950's the Mae Enga were "pacified" by the english empire (stopped from warring) but the result was that their society degraded into random acts of violence instead of unified war. Not having the outlet of violence they were used to they began descending into chaos. for that reason i believe that it is small independent groups which can maintain close personal ties which were the happiest in history. If groups of tribes could live in an area peacefully and not over populate human beings could evolve with the earth, exist with it. (by the way, the british empire re-instated their wars...)


By independent you mean forced into hiding by the warlike tribes that live all around them?

It's in large gatherings where the most amount of suffering occurs. modern society has a funny way of ignoring its own faults (like poverty, exploitation of third world countries, unjust wars, corrupt government, the slave like tautology of opressed misinformed and manipulated voters that are the working class living under the prospect of an early and grim unhealthy death while in debt)


So you say, but in large groups we don't have violence rates the same as past societies, and given the fact that we have that many more people to contend with, I find it a fairly impressive feat.

Sure in history tribes got over populated and started warring, and since they aren't;t very scientific they sometimes have crazy barbaric religious beliefs (not the norm), but successful bush societies did exist that lived more peaceful, more healthy, longer and in general more satisfying lives.


All tribes engage in warfare and apparently thats their politics are inseperable from their religion, thats almost a direct quote from Scott Atran, so yeah, it is the norm.

The people of hunza are a striking example of a paradise like society

http://healthyoutcome.wordpress.com/200 ... the-world/

completely isolated, free from disease and stress it's not uncommon for people to live to the age of 120. there is no need for violence. i would cut my arm off to live there, and it would probably add many years to my life.


they're not really a primitive tribe in any real sense and that lifespan is usually called a hoax.

Maybe It's better that we should have many humans and therefore should embrace technology and modern society. i agree that it should be embraced, but mostly because going back is not a pleasant option. The crux is that bigger societies beget more and bigger problems. after all if history has taught us anything it's that the most powerful societies never stay that way, and usually end in horror.


On the one hand I can think of things large societies have given humans; ability to support denser populations of smaller amounts of land, medical services, welfare for the poor, that list is near endless, the list which we should be more concerned about is what we escaped from compared to hunter-gatherer societies, and I talked about how less people in our population die from warfare, the important point is that LIVING IN MODERN SOCIETIES, we are LESS LIKELY, to wake up, WITH A SPEAR TO THE THROAT.

The most violent tribe on the chart is the Jivaro. They are composed of small groups that sometimes war.

They are known for shrinking the heads of enemies because of an obscure religion. there is approx 10 000 living in ecuador.

I would note that obscure violent religions are not indicative of potential success, in fact they do it in response to violations of moral codes, suggesting that there is some sort of societal mechanism at work, which supports my assertion that large numbers and uniform control methods cannot eliminate violence. (by nature those societies seek to regement violence)


No, they don't eliminate violence, just lower the amount of the population who dies by warfare, they make populations, societies, less violent. Not just large numbers, but historically the progress that has come with most of them.

The Yanomamö refer to themselves as "The Fierce People" - using great displays of ferocity with their masks and dances. But they have developed a wisdom that helps them avoid war by settling their differences with an organized fight between 2 individual tribesmen. The mildest of these is "chest pounding" in which one man stands in the center of the village compound and allows the other to strike him with a blow to the pectoral muscle. Typically the recipient of these blows can take only 3 or 4. Then the man who is struck takes his turn. This all takes place as members of the two tribes look on. A winner is declared and disputes are often settled in this manner. The introduction of guns began to change this method of conflict resolution in some of these tribes.


Yeah, I imagine you'd need to find a way to mitigate violence/turn it into somthing else of an ingroup tribe member, when 57% of adult males die in warfare against other tribes. Seems like its an issue of plain old survival, because so many of them die, that if they were killing each other in such epic amounts they'd cease to exist.

The introduction of guns and other things is currently destroying the Yanomamo culture. It shows how over technology can spoil a society... a once successful society...


Successful at slaughter is still successful I guess, guns didn't change them, it just gave them a tiny bit of a push, they were already brutally violent in a way that most people have a hard time imagining.

Not every ancient society was engaged in war, and today not every society is violent. but is it not inevitable that large cities will have larger rates of suffering and crime?


No actually, this is what i've been denying the whole time.WE don't have larger rates of suffering/crime if you're talking about violent death of the population or you r chance sof dying. I'll say it again; you're more liking to die by violence living in hunter-gatherer groups, by a huge margin.


Wonderer wrote:I'm not going to make a blow by blow response for my final post, this will be a short and sweet rebuke to cyrenes key points.

Firstly the Suri had their land invaded by a tribe with new found gun power. Yes there was tension before but the scale was obviously less. it's easier to defend against spears than it is against guns.


Less for the Suri, not less for the tribe on the verge of extinction/surrounded by hostile tribes.

Secondly, there is no evidence that the Suri or the bume would wittle away. it it wasn't for guns it would be a slow process. Maybe one tribe was on the decline but does that justify showing them a whole new way to kill each other?


I'm not saying the government was justified in giving guns to the bume. What I am claiming, is that your odd fairy-tale about guns creating the violence, and there 'being no evidence one would wittle away' is just nonsense. 1. the violence existed historically before the guns 2. the *ONLY reason the guns were given, and this is checkable by anyone, is that the bume we're being cut out of existence. They were being WITTLED AWAY. exactly what you claim, didn't happen.

Instead of giving them guns what if we gave them agriculture? the hitch there is nobody is willing to put up the money, but guns are cheap.


Agriculture doesn't protect you from a spear or arrow to the face the same way an ak-47 does. I'm not sure if they engage in agriculture, but they, at least engage in husbandry which would suggest they might.

technology clearly only created more problems, and speculating that they were just as violent in the past is groundless


Its not groundless because theres a rich history of fighting there. Its not anymore groundless than talking about canadian history, or american history, they were attacking each other for a long time. I didn't just make that up y'know, I didn't just come to this site and say that this warfare has been going on long enough that it pre-existed the guns by a long long time.

If i did make it up, sure it'd be groundless, BUT I DIDN't. its just true.

About the matis being "atypical". I would have to disagree. there are a great many peaceful tribes, too many to name. i had a choice of 8 or 9 different great tribes to talk about but it simply would have taken too long.


8 or 9? I could give you 4.5 from native american tribes out of 157, likely there is more than 8/9 'peaceful' tribes in history. THEY"RE JUST AYTPICAL.

You go on about ancient atrocities of violence, but i could go on even more so about modern atrocities.


You haven't shown us/ me some examples where that many people were wiped out in a population or cannibalized. Like in south dakota or the american south-west

I don't think we are fit to do an anthrolopological comparison to see if hunter gatherers or modern societieswere on average more violent. I said i would defend the view that traditional hunter gatherer societies were largely less violent, more enjoyable, more stable and secure and basically better in general than our own modern societies, but i think we could each find more examples than we have time for.


Humans lived for 99.9% of human history in hunter-gatherer groups, traditional hunter-gatherer groups, lived in prehistory. We have some today that apparently closely mimic that lifestyle, and they're usually brutally violent.

Some hunter gatherers experience high death rates and high violence rates, and many don't. Cyrene paints a gory picture that most tribes are violent and most have a lesser quality of life... i submit that even if the matis were completely uniqe would they still not represent a peak? aside from the fact that modernity destroyed them?


you keep saying peace isn't atypical. All I can say is that out of the hundreds of hunter-gatherers/tribal groups that i've attempted to study in the last six years that yeah, it is atypical. The Native American's weren't particularly blood-thirsty tribes and only 4.5 of those, living in conditions of say, geographic isolation, etc, could be classified as 'non-violent'. We see the same rates, not identical but the same lust for warfare, in most groups.

Its not only because they have a lust for violence though, a lot of it is legitimate and complex social structure/politics in which their religious beliefs are often-times all encompassing. When researchers say that all tribal societies engage in warfare, and that this policy is inseperable from religion, its really saying somthing important. Its not only because of lust for violence, but often-times, like I mentioned, these tribal societies don't think of their enemies as ENTIRELY human, but in league with evil spirits, if not monsters themselves. (the naga, for example)

I can't imagine being wracked by disease/etc is any better than living in a small community or even a large one, but thats personal opinion, not a judgement call on violence rates.

I'll be darned but it seems like i've seen a heck of alot of smiling faces on one of the many documentaries i would be happy to link you to if you ask. The fact is that success in the bush varies just as much as success in the concrete jungle. Which peak is highest? What about the hunza people? how high is their peak?


No one said tribal people's didn't knit close together social circles. I'd imagine it'd be a necessity, in-fact. Such good social ties, y'know might be worth somthing to you to see, but the fact that they exist because these people must work together directly to survive, isn't my cup of tea. Forced into social relationships, no matter how good, isn't worth it to me, if its a struggle for survival.

I came into this thread asking myself one question: are modern societies as violent for their population sizes as hunter-gatherers, I honestly think this is the only rational way to compare our societies to theirs, considering the massive population gaps. Otherwise, things like 57% death rates mean nothing, but they should, because we're talking about how violent societies are, and not just an abstract number of people dying. We need to compare statistics about violence, death by violence, and compare them. When we do, the issue is clear-cut in my mind.

I've always known that some tribes are capable of peace, but in most objective scientific research i've come across, the research has stated clearly, that peace in tribal groups is NOT, the norm. I can give a list of researchers names, but I did that in the social science thread and I feel my arguements here are strong enough that I don't need too.

The Huaorani are one of the most violent tribes ever documented, with up to 60% of all deaths being from murder at times. For every peaceful tribe/hunter-gatherer group someone mentions, i'll give you at least another 8violent ones for every peaceful one.

I've stated this arguement clearly i've hoped. Judge away'
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Xunzian » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:37 am

Well, Wonder wants to end it, so I'll start the judging. I'll say Cyrene took it. I think both sides had their positive and negative elements, but I think Cyrene best managed to define what the debate entailed and that aspect was violence. This debate began and ended in violence and Cyrene really dominated on that point. That doesn't mean that Wonder doesn't have points like anomie, the related alienation, contentment, and so on, but those weren't fully explored. Instead it boiled down to the issue of violence and holding up the exceptions as opposed to the rules is insufficient in that case.

So Cyrene managed to present and define the debate in terms of violence and within that framework he was absolutely successful. Wonder played along with how Cyrene defined the debate and lost. That is my vote:

Cyrene.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby tentative » Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:34 pm

My nod goes to Cyrene. I think that the preponderance of the evidence presented was the tipping point. Wonder presented primarily exceptions, and couldn't show the rule as effectively as did Cyrene. Just as an aside, it seems as if violence evolves with the complexity of social structure and technological advance.

Wonder missed an excellent opportunity to point out that while there may be a smaller percentage of deaths in modern society, when violence is used today, the numbers can be horrific. Failing to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes to mind...
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Carleas » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:36 pm

Not that my vote would matter anyway, but I'm going to say it's a push. Neither presenter made a particularly compelling case, but both had their moments.

Cyrene really banged on the percentages, which was pretty effective. But as I understood wonderer's rebuttal, it was to point out that there were ideally peaceful societies then, and, presumably, not now. Cyrene didn't seem to respond to this point, instead repeating that it was the percentages that matter. I agree with that, but if Wonderer is using the point that it's not the percentages that matter, it should have been addressed. I also didn't feel like Cyrene did enough comparing. He made it clear that violence was a rampant in traditional societies, but he could have talked more about modern societies. At the very least, I kept expecting the point to be made that exception exist today, because a huge part of Wonderer's case was that there were peaceful exceptions, and there aren't now.

Wonderer: I love Going Tribal as much as the next earth-goddess-worshipping hippy, and I appreciated the links to sources, but I think some of them actually weakened his argument. In particular, the link supporting claims about the Hunza seemed to be an advertisement for Goji berries. Not trusting marketing, I was compelled to do a little research myself. Now, I probably wouldn't have done this if there were no source at all, and I probably wouldn't have kept searching if the source seemed more believable. In this case, a bade source was worse than no source at all, because I found, as Cyrene later claimed, that the Hunza longevity story is a myth.
A couple of Wonderer's arguments were interesting, such as that tribal violence is more acceptible when it's not using modern technology, or that the exceptions are more important than the rule. The strategy of accepting violence and trying to make it qualitatively different for different societies was interesting. Unfortunately, I found it little more than interesting. Perhaps you could have made these points better, but ultimately I found them wanting.

_________________________________________________________________

So, it looks like Cyrene's the winner according to the judges, with a two votes. Thanks to our participants, and thanks to our judges. This thread will be locked, but discussion and non-judge voting continue in the Discussion Forum. See you there.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Wonderer » Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:31 pm

tentative wrote:My nod goes to Cyrene. I think that the preponderance of the evidence presented was the tipping point. Wonder presented primarily exceptions, and couldn't show the rule as effectively as did Cyrene. Just as an aside, it seems as if violence evolves with the complexity of social structure and technological advance.

Wonder missed an excellent opportunity to point out that while there may be a smaller percentage of deaths in modern society, when violence is used today, the numbers can be horrific. Failing to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes to mind...


Actually i did point out that even though percentages are low, .05 percent of the american people still can cause more violence than a totaly barbaric tribe. Cyrenes rebuke was that in a larger society what matters is you are less likely to exerience violence.

I tried to debate about more than violence, that might have been my undoing in this debate.
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Re: Progress vs. Problem: When Did Society Peak?

Postby Carleas » Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:08 pm

Oops, declaring a topic locked doesn't lock it. Now it's locked. Take it to the the Discussion Forum.
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