civilization, its definition, purpose, and adequacy

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Re: civilization, its definition, purpose, and adequacy

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:51 pm UTC

It's worth it to note at this point that 'existentialist doubt' as you call it, can still exist in tribal settings. The son of a fisherman could still want to be a hunter, or a medicine man. He might not want to marry a woman either, or at least not the woman he's supposed to marry anyway.

In such cases, the 'doubt' could be much more traumatic, or even fatal, to the individual experiencing it.

EDIT: It could also be fatal to the rest of the tribe, in larger, more complex civilizations, there's lots of redunancy for if individuals don't want to do something. However, in a tribe, if a fisherman doesn't want to be a fisherman, the tribe may starve, likewise if a hunter is exiled or killed for wanting to marry a chief's daughter, or a fisherman.
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Re: civilization, its definition, purpose, and adequacy

Postby Telchar » Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:13 am UTC

coney wrote:I am not sure how "small size" implies a lack of experience. I would instead argue that the stability of a tribe over long periods of time (some even longer than civilization itself) gives them plenty of experience in dealing with mental illness. That is, if mental illness were a problem at all. GoodRudeFun points out correctly that among tribes, mental illness is virtually unheard of and many times completely unheard of, not necessarily because they have no mental illness, but in the way they view it. Case in point:

The author Robert Wolff, in his book Original Wisdom, relates to us a story of the Malay tribe when asked why they did not use the mental health centers that were set up for them by the surrounding civilization. In Malay culture, there are really only two behaviors that could be considered "mental illness": one involves a man suddenly running around with knife in hand, slashing at everyone and everything for a short amount of time; while the other is pretty much standard kleptomania. When asked about the former case, why they did not send him away or lock him up for his behavior, one woman piped up: "He is just not seeing clearly at the moment. Why would we lock him up for being blind?" The kleptomaniac got the same treatment: that's just what he does, he's the "town thief", it's not like he's hurting us or himself at all.

First off, a small size indicates a less people which are statistically less likely to have mental illness. For instance, if mental illness A affects 1 in ever 900 people on the planet, a tribe of 100 people might be 9 generations removed from it's last case. And we are talking about detectable physiologically definite cases, not things like depression.

Secondly, operationally defining mental illness as a guy running around with a knife slashing people and kleptomania of course limits how many instances of "mental illness" there are. Does anyone suffer from a stress disorder, like PTSD, from living in a survival situation all the time? I wouldn't doubt it, but if all you do is take their word for it you'd never know because they have no way of diagnosing it, another invention of civilization.

The third thing, unrelated to the above two, is that tribes generally also have control mechanisms called taboos, which are punishable by death. Don't step in the shadow of the chief, or you are stepping on his sould and shall be sacrificed. Don't use metal to clean or death. If you have a seizure, you are possessed and must be put to death. That sounds like a society I don't want to live in and, coincidently, the deep south 40 years ago.

These taboos serve as pointless and asinine rules, but are neccesary for the group to survive. Any rule, no matter how bad or terrible, is better than none, and so in the face of not having anything more complex to legislate over, they are forced to make these taboos in order to control people, so that the tribe can survive. The idea that if the tribe disbanded there are plenty of others to go to is laughable. Just ask the Tutsis.
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