Natural Man

One of the books I’ve read while here in Dean was Robert Allen’s Natural Man, part of a series called The Living Earth. It was published nearly thirty years ago and is thus quite outdated, but it shared much information about historical and modern hunter-gathers and other “natural” humans. The sincerity and respect for so-called natual man presented in the book inpressed me a great deal.

The book dealt with the lives of natural man quite extensively, especially impressive for a book with fewer than one hundred and fifty pages. I respected the coverage of the whole lives of such natural people with honesty and insight into how well formed the societal dynamics are in groups some would consider primitive.

The book began with an evolutionary account of man’s departure from other primates. This section of the book was most dated, with many recent archaeological having shed much light on our evolutionary past, but was still a very interesting part of the book. The focus on our similarities with other primates and probable causes for our changes were presented in a convincing way.

The next section was a case study of the !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari (the exclamation mark represents the clicking sound made with a tongue on the roof of the mouth). This group of natural humans lived remarkably well. They eat far better than most European and North Americans. The men and women average just two to three hours each day gaining food through hunting and gathering, and the rest of the day is reserved for repairing tools, communal work and recreation. The !Kung have a wonderful structure of sharing that promotes nearly absolute egalitatianism. No one goes hungry or is in want of any need, with absolutely all goods shared, and the society is almost exclusively free of violence. Population control is carried out within the society, with contraceptions and other birth control being woven into the fabric of tribal life. Social importance relies on who shares more willingly, who can laugh and tell jokes best, and who can get along with his or her fellows most readily. All this sounds very utopian, like a very advanced civilization, but is in fact a very natural and effective human state. One can assume then, that our own societies are the ones with flaws and abborations that cause many of our hardships.

Mr. Allen moved on to cover natural humanity’s interaction with its environment, the social structure of of natural humanity and the interaction between urban and natural man in the following sections. Each was filled with vivid examples and well grounded explainations for the behaviour and social structure that had been developed.

The final section, “Natural Man Meets Urban Man”, was quite troubling. It’s obvious that our own cultures and ancestors have abused the natural people we have encountered, be they native Americans, tribal Africans or other groups, but it’s easy to ignore the terrible conditions we’ve created for these people that continue to this day. This section highlighted the crimes committed to this day by our governments in dealing with natural peoples. The examples given about the American government’s actions were most haneous, because of the deceit, abuse and murderousness committed in isolating and killing native Americans.

Natural people possess a great deal of knowledge and social richness that we can learn so much from. We need to work to allow these people the freedom to live their lives as they wish, and to unobtrusively learn from them. Natural Man may not have introduced these facts to me, but it certainly helped to enhance my awareness of these people I admire and wish to emulate in many ways.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: