Self-expression in the bush

the idea that living a simplified non-industrial life means swearing off self-expression and things like makeup and body adornment is crazy. you think these guys (tiwi hunter-gatherers) care about your gender roles and strictures pertaining to fashion?

1 Like

They only care about their own cultural norms I would think?

“The supreme importance of monotheism is the concept of the individual. This individualism, the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths. This individualism is the central doctrine and most important contribution of monotheism. This empowerment of individual conscience is the starting point of the great ethical systems of our civilization.” - Chris Hedges

“…individuals [in immediate-return hunter-gatherer bands] develop a unique view of the relation between self and other. It is a view that differs from that in both individualist and collectivist societies. Like those in individualist societies, members of immediate-return societies put a premium on autonomy. Their autonomy, however, does not contrast the individual with the society as it does in individualist cultures. Rather, immediate-return autonomy grows out of repeated, mutually trusting social interactions. Each individual acts with the other person in mind, and can assume that the other person will do the same.”

“Immediate-Return Societies: What Can They Tell Us About the Self and Social Relationships?” Martin and Shirk (also in the group’s “Core Principles” file)


I suspect these guys care very much about gender roles, because I don’t see a woman among them. Although I am not familiar with the specific culture of the Tiwi, usually among Australian Aboriginals, sex-roles are very rigid. Regarding fashion, hehehe I bet they all think they’re fairly hot.

But in general, I agree: non-industrial people shine when it comes to self-expression, not only in makeup and body adornment, but also in intangible culture (music, dance, stories, etc).

I don’t think we should make gender role assumptions based on a photograph. There were likely many shots taken, and this just happened to be chosen by the editors of the particular article it appeared in.

I doubt they do at all. They tell us when under civilization we break into a perennial tripartite system- the priest / warrior / merchant classes. I would bet they are on the radar of certain money / media / and military apparatus desiring to bring them into the fold and make them care.

One of the trademarks of the status quo is the denigration of “primitive” peoples. When I worked for the US Forest Service in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), untold numbers of people, returning from their “successful fight” with nature would invariably say that they were now going to return to civilization (meaning the urban life that they lived). It was insulting, but not unexpected.
I recall a journal entry from the book, Sleeping Island by P.G. Downes, written on his arrival at the HBC post in Winnipeg shortly after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, where he writes that he would rather return to the “land of the Chips and Huskies” were they are civilized.
I also found that the Gaelic (Irish and Scot Highlands/Islands) healers of the 18th century knew that there was some unseen “thing” in the blood that caused disease, but the civilized English Doctors refused that concept well into the late 19th century.
So, in a rather round about way, I am saying that “civilization” is relative, but seems to be used as a club by the dominate/dominating system.

1 Like

Good points and well said @WoodsRunner :+1: