15 March, 2009

weekly discussion #5 (anthro 101, class)

Reflect on both the film (Ongka's Big Moka) and the readings from C&C.  Based on these case studies, how did people in small-scale subsistence-based societies make a living?  What advantages and disadvantages are there in these traditional lifeways and economic systems?  How do they differ from our own market-based capitalist system?

What effects are modernization and the global economic system having on these indigenous, traditionally small-scale societies?

In the film, Ongka made his living by selling, trading and attaining pigs. In the book, in chapter 10, the discussion focuses around the fact that most first-world concepts about hunter-gatherer communities are incorrect. The mind-set many people have about "foragers" is that they forage for their food in an unorganized and, because of their lifestyle, savage way. Anything that is not the way WE do it; supermarkets, grocery stores, etc., must be savage. This is untrue, completely.

In fact, most of the tribes, camps and populations who are still hunter-gatherers today, are very organized about how they attain their needs. With certain peoples in the groups collecting, attending different daily tasks, and bringing in to share with the group. As the book says in chapter 10, using the Bushmen as an example, "if the Bushmen were living close to the 'starvation' level, then one would expect them to exploit every available source of nutrition. That their life is well above this level is indicated by the data in Table 3," (Chapter 10, C&C, pg. 93). The data shown in Table 3 basically breaks down the type of foods the Bushmen eat, how many/much and what food class each food holds. It shows that the Bushmen are nowhere near starving, and have a food plan that they follow to eat what they like, as well as what they can attain.

The way in which groups such as the Bushmen and Ongka live are different from our own, and most first world countries, in that they are more for the GROUP and not just for the INDIVIDUAL. They gather what they need to survive and share with the large group, and depend not only on the environment but also one another to survive.

The effects of modernization on these such groups is an interesting one. They almost try and emulate the way we do things. I noticed in the film that during their large gathering Ongka didn’t just want to focus on the collecting of the pigs, but also on the collection of the Australian money that they were attaining and learning to understand would purchase more pigs. It was interesting to see how they had some grasp on how the money was to be used; like the selling and buying of pigs, but they didn’t seem to have much grasp on the concept of the money belonging to any one individual. At least, that was the impression I got. Just by watching how they all splayed the money out in the middle of the ground and were counting it at certain points. It was different to see and hard to understand just what their real grasp on money was.

So, in a way, I think the modernization of such groups is somewhat harmful to the way they understand their world. They almost become stuck in between the way they do things, and used to do things, and the way we seem to do things and their attempts to emulate that. I’m not convinced that Ongka and his group having the ability to use Australian money really helps them any. They almost only use it to pass it around, and don’t really attach as much value to the money as the Australians would. Where they were just fine trading the pigs for pigs, or other materials, I think the money almost hinders them more than helps.


Kim Hedrick said...

Great job discussing the film and the article on the Bushmen. Bringing the Mikito into the discussion would push it to the highest score!

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