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An article donated by Alton C. Thompson

"On Treating Others Well"

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Treating others well has not always been an issue. For example, psychologist Peter Gray has stated:

"During the twentieth century, anthropologists discovered and studied dozens of different hunter- gatherer societies, in various remote parts of the world, who had been nearly untouched by modern influences. Wherever they were found -- in Africa, Asia, South America, or elsewhere; in deserts or in jungles -- these societies had many characteristics in common. The people lived in small bands, of about 20 to 50 persons (including children) per band, who moved from camp to camp within a relatively circumscribed area to follow the available game and edible vegetation. The people had friends and relatives in neighboring bands and maintained peaceful relationships with neighboring bands. Warfare was unknown to most of these societies, and where it was known it was the result of interactions with warlike groups of people who were not hunter- gatherers. In each of these societies, the dominant cultural ethos was one that emphasized individual autonomy, non-directive childrearing methods, nonviolence, sharing, cooperation, and consensual decision-making. Their core value, which underlay all of the rest, was that of the equality of individuals." 1

We can presumably infer from the contemporary hunter-gatherers, studied by anthropologists, that our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors had virtually the same characteristics. And because hunter-gatherers live in small groups, and we humans are “designed” 2 to be hunter-gatherers, it’s “natural” for hunter-gatherers—then and now—to treat other members of their group well.

Civilization changed this! A primary feature of civilized societies is that they have social class systems, which implies that some members of a given civilized society are exploiting other members of the society. It’s understandable, then, why a recent book has this title: Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress (2019)! 3

The prophets of ancient Israel — such as Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jesus 4 — were products of civilization, in the sense that they:

(a) recognized the existence of exploitation in their society,

(b) “knew” that that was “wrong” (because it was unnatural!), and

(c) strove to end it by issuing commands, and attributing those commands to God.

They all failed, the evidence for that failure being the fact inequality still exists!

A different approach to changing behavior is given in the “Rabbi’s Gift” story. 5 In that story, a group of individuals, each thinking that another in the group is possibly the Messiah, resulted in each treating the others in the group well. Others outside the group noticed this, and followed suit themselves.

Again, the telling of that story has been a failure: We continue to have inegalitarian societies.

What should be clear -- from what we know now about hunter-gatherer groups, then and now -- is that only by having people living in small groups is it possible for the “love of neighbor” command to be followed by all members of the group. Not that living in a small group will guarantee such behavior, but it makes such behavior possible. The utopians, over the centuries, have sensed this; but their efforts to bring about societal system change have come to nought; and besides, few of them have recognized the need to live in small groups.

As I survey developments here in the United States and elsewhere (including the possible election of Joe Biden in November, as President), I see no evidence of recognition of what is necessary to have the treatment of others well. As a consequence, I see no reason to expect that goal to be achieved in the near future. And, more ominously, there’s the possibility suggested by the title of this article: “Human Extinction by 2026?” 6 What that article suggests is that “soon” treating others well will again become a non-issue (as it was/is with hunter-gatherers) -- for the simple reason that “soon” there will be no one to treat others well, and no others to be treated well!

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References used:

  1. Peter Gray, "How hunter-gatherers maintained their egalitarian ways," Lib Com, at: https://libcom.org/
  2. Alan Barnard, "Hunters and Gatherers: What Can We Learn From Them" (2020), P. 56, Amazon, at: https://www.amazon.com/
  3. Christopher Ryuan, "Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress," Amazon, at: https://www.amazon.com/
  4. St. Paul of Tarsus is not on this list because of pagan influences on his thinking.
  5. M. Scott Peck, "The Rabbi's Gift," at: https://palousemindfulness.com/
  6. Robert J. Burrowes, "Human Extinction by 2026?," 2019-JUN-22, at: https://wsimag.com/

 

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Original posting: 2020-AUG-22
Author: Alton C. Thompson

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