Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sharing To Survive

Below is an excerpt from "An Edible History of Humanity" by Tom Standage. He was quoting Elizabeth Marshall Thomas from her book, "The Harmless People." The harmless people were the !Kung Bushmen from Africa's Kalahari Desert. Mrs. Thomas was writing from her experiences during several expeditions to the Kalahari in the early 1950s.
"A Bushman will go to any lengths to avoid making other Bushmen jealous of him, and for this reason the few possessions that Bushmen have are constantly circling among the members of their groups. No one cares to keep a particularly good knife too long, even though he may want it desperately, because he will become the object of envy; as he sits by himself polishing a fine edge on the blade he will hear the soft voices of the other men in his band saying: "Look at him there, admiring his knife while we have nothing." Soon somebody will ask him for his knife, for everybody would like to have it, and he will give it away.

Their culture insists that they share with each other, and it has never happened that a Bushman failed to share objects, food, or water with the other members of his band, for without very rigid cooperation Bushmen could not survive the famines and droughts that the Kalahari offers them."
Photo of !Kung Bushman by John Marshall, Mrs. Thomas' brother. Marshall began his successful filmmaking career photographing the inhabitants of the Kalahari Desert over 50 years ago.

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