I am currently reading a book about nutrition and it talks a lot about native cultures. Whenever I think of simple living, I think of native cultures. Whether it was the Native Americans who were hunter/gatherers who traveled around living of the land or isolated villages in the Swiss Alps who cultivated crops, milked cows and lived off the land for centuries without external influence. To be honest, I had never really heard about these folks in the Swiss Alps until I read this book, but that is why we read, to learn new stuff.
After I finish the book, I intend to post again on sustainable nutrition, but today I want to address civilization.
I like reading about native cultures, because they truly lived simply. They lived off the land, they didn’t really have jobs, except for hunting for food, cooking and otherwise carrying out the tasks it takes to live. I am not suggesting that because they didn’t have jobs that they had an easy life. I certainly recognize that it was a hard life with a lot of hard work as well as disease, illness and death. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest that before these native cultures were discovered by Westerners they didn’t have a lot of disease, there was a high infant mortality, but if the kids survived, they could generally live relatively long lives. What thy didn’t have were financial stresses, battling for position in the business world, taxes or formal laws.
While I am far from an expert on native cultures, in my reading I have found numerous accounts of natives being known for their trustworthiness, honesty and integrity. Early traders knew that if one of the natives told you that he would pay you later, he would. It was part of their culture to be honest and do what they said. It was how they lived.
I have heard stories about battles between different native tribes where although they were warring, they still showed integrity. The inland natives depended on the coastal natives for seaweed and kelp that provided them with necessary nutrients that they couldn’t get elsewhere. Despite the fact that the tribes were warring, they maintained a peaceful trade because it was required for the survival of the inland natives.
When I step back and look at these cultures, I see a lot of moral standards that are lacking in the world today. Sure, they had some different standards that are foreign to us and may seem weird, but in general they had a culture that emphasized being honest and living good lives.
What happened to the native cultures? Well, Westerners came in and ‘civilized the savages’. The Westerners brought in processed food and alcohol which caused unprecedented disease and alcoholism among the natives. The Westerners brought a principle of owning land rather than sharing it along with manipulation and greed to attain positions of power. Currently, there aren’t many native cultures left, they have all been ‘civilized’ and taught to live in homes aligned nicely on streets with cute little lawns and cars. Unfortunately, when people think of Native Americans, they think of trashy houses with piles of trash and debris on unkempt property. Evidently the transition from ‘not wasting and living as part of the land’ to ‘civilized‘ wasn’t as easy as the Westerners thought it would be for the natives.
As I try to live a simpler life, I aim to be more like the natives. I want to respect the people and nature around me. I want to practice integrity in all that I do. I want to live peacefully with my surroundings and show love to all that I encounter. While I know that the natives are not the perfect examples, I also know that they offer much that I can look to as I seek to become more civilized.