Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Law & Order

"[...] maintaining public order and curbing violence [...] is potentially a big and underappreciated advantage of centralized societies over noncentralized ones. Anthropologists formerly idealized band and tribal societies as gentle and nonviolent, because visiting anthropologists observed no murder in a band of 25 people in the course of a three-year study. Of course they didn't: it's easy to calculate that a band of a dozen adults and a dozen children, subject to the inevitable deaths occuring anyway for the usual reasons other than murder, could not perpetuate itself if in addition one of its dozen adults murdered another adult every three years. Much more extensive long-term information about band and tribal societies reveals that murder is a leading cause of death. For example, I happened to be visiting New Guinea's Iyau people at a time when a woman anthropologist was interviewing Iyau women about their life histories. Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: "My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband, seeking to avenge his murder." Such biographies prove common for so-called gentle tribespeople and contributed to the acceptance of centralized authority as tribal societies grew larger."

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, chapter "From egalitarianism to kleptocracy".

So much for the idealization of tribal societies of ancient times that I have read in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. Too bad, I liked this myth of gentle tribespeople... But can I keep my dream of gentle "civilized" people in an hypothetical future, please ?

1 comment:

danielbroche said...

What about you ?
Now in UK ?