August 2, 2011

An Author's Note

The HI-JACKING of CIVILIZATON is intended to be more popular than scholarly. It contains new, and what will be for some, controversial ideas which may be difficult to reconcile with the standard (2010 A.D.) Western world view. I've included the rather copious notes and references to help you, the reader, distinguish between those controversial notions which spring from my own thinking and those which have research and deeper thought by others behind them. The source of any controversy thus becomes more clear and the reader may be less likely to throw the researched baby out with my more controversial bath water.

I'm counting on you, the reader, to do your own thinking: take the research that's presented, follow the way I stitched it together, then see if you agree or disagree. Double check the research if you have the time and inclination. This will likely be a book many will criticize, and if you have done your own thinking (and checked the research for yourself as well), you'll be better able to judge for yourself the value of the book itself -- and any resultant criticism.

How Do We Get Our Information?

Before we dive headlong into things, I want to make it clear that when we discuss ancestral groups, we're discussing, by modern standards, very small groups indeed. These groups probably were, for most of our pre-history -- up until the beginning of the Great Transitions perhaps 13,000 years ago -- composed of less than 30 individuals, and certainly only rarely of more than perhaps 200.

Further, I would remind you, there weren't any anthropologists or ethnographers on-site 10,000 years ago and before to report on these groups. And there was no writing, no organized symbol systems, for these pre-Great-Transitions ancestors to pass their accounts of what they did, how they did it, and why they did it, along to us.

"Where does our information come from, then?" you may well ask. Some information comes from archaeological digs and such, but unfortunately, relatively little of the solid archaeological work comes directly from the pre-Great Transitions period. Studying the remains of the "great civilizations" -- and even the tribal civilizations -- that evolved over the last 10,000 years or so is much easier than studying earlier humans because, unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the civilizations left ruins, and even in some cases, a few written records. Besides, modern archaeologists are much more modest in their interpretations of even the archaeological record that does exist these days. [1]

The most useful information for our purposes comes instead from relatively "modern" studies by ethnographers, etc. who, beginning in the last quarter of the ninteenth century, lived with and observed small groups and tribes in as yet "uncivilized" (un-citified) parts of the world.

Newer information from such observation is increasingly suspect because most tribes and foragers today have been exposed to various random aspects of modern civilization, and their lifestyles have likely been affected by this exposure in unknowable ways. As a result, more modern observations may reflect, in addition to traditional small-group culture, elements picked up from modern cultures. Here's an easily recognized example from a book originally copyrighted in 1927:

The how of many Indian things is simple and quite reasonable. The how of making fire without matches is a thing that has attracted much attention among youthful groups, especially Boy Scouts, yet matches came into general use so rapidly that few Indians even in remote places know how to make fire as their fathers did a century ago. -Arthur C. Parker, The Indian How Book, (New York, N.Y.: Dover Publications, Inc.) 1973, p. 14

Other effects from modern cultures may not be so easily recognized. There have been, for example, credible allegations that amazingly, at least in the U.S.A., the CIA, FBI, etc. have had corrupting influences on anthropologists and some of their publications. Why? There have also been allegations that anthropologists and ethnographers have deliberately manipulated tribes for the purpose of furthering their academic careers.

In a sense then, the information already collected about small groups and how they operate is an increasingly irreplaceable legacy which becomes harder and harder to supplement as modern communications and "civilization" spread to every nook and cranny of the world. It seems likely that, barring the unlikely experiment of closing off some part of the world as a sanctuary or incubator for small forager groups, [2] -- and keeping the U.S. Intelligence apparatus from fiddling with it -- the ability to add more research will disappear right along with the small-group subjects of that research.

The rate at which this effect is happening is reflected in the rate of decrease in the number of languages in everyday use. See ^^w$"Spoken Here : Travels Among Threatened Languages" by Mark Abley.

It is within this context that Christopher Boehm's work, particularly his ^^w$"Hierarchy in the Forest," is a unique and irreplaceable resource. What Boehm did was to survey the available ethnological literature -- given the volume, quite a task -- and document his unexpected findings. While Professor Boehm is by no means my only source, I'm sure you'll notice that I call very heavily on his work in this presentation. There is, as of present (2002 A.D.) no other equivalently authoritative source, nor, I believe, is there likely to be one for quite some time to come.


[1] "In the 30 years that separated Mellaart's Catalhoyuk [a 10,000 year-old ruin in Turkey] from Hodder's, archeology changed radically. By his last season even Mellaart was out of date: scientific archeology had arrived, and with it a preference for the quantifiable over the symbolic, for testable hypotheses over stories. Then in the 1980s, some archeologists began to question their whole enterprise, to dismiss as naive the view that you could ever know what really happened in the past, and as Eurocentric the interpretations that people like Mellaart had applied to ancient cultures. ...

"The Mellaarts thought those things might tell them what really happened at Catalhoyuk--which is not at all the postmodern spirit. 'Postmodernism is difficult to define,' says Hodder. 'But one definition people use is the "end of grand narrative"--the end of the idea that there is one answer to the world. Postmodernism is much less optimistic, less certain. It focuses much more on 'multivocality': there are many different voices in the world and different perspectives, not just the Western one." --Robert Kunzig, A Tale of Two Archeologists, DISCOVER, MAY 1999, pg. 88 return

[2] As of about 2010, there is at least one area of the world which does have a number of tribes somewhat "protected" from modern contamination - - - --Lost tribe of 200 found in Amazon spotted by satellite | Mail Online return

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