Myths About Hunter/Gatherers, Violence, and Outcomes


Lake Juniper at Cheraw State Park, South Carolina

One of the things I find most interesting about our history as a species is the misunderstanding of that history. So many myths abound about life in general; especially life before the era of civilization when the system of hunting and gathering was the way of life. This video from anthropologist Raymond Hames highlights some of these common myths and points out the reality.

Many people who misunderstand this reality then get overly optimistic about potential futures by getting the wrong idea about our past. I've brought up the issue of violence here many times before, and I have pointed to genetic factors which predispose males to aggression, once again implicating the MPP (Maximum Power Principle) as the biological imperative to seek and protect energy sources to the maximum extent possible. Violence itself may or may not necessarily be human nature, but violence erupts when an energy source is threatened or the fear of an energy source being threatened is experienced.

There is a rather unique story around the 45 minute mark in this video about the Yakutat and Sitka Tlingit tribes, who fought over songs that they sang; being an index of allies, with the parallel today of Russia and its allies and NATO countries in the Ukraine war.

For all the talk of peace and discussion about global unity that I frequently see in social media, it is rather apparent that violence is endemic to human society regardless of what system of living is employed, and that climate change and/or resource decline or even just FEAR of resource decline will generally increase the threat of violence, especially in sedentary societies such as the dominant paradigm today (civilization). Surely, we should participate in peaceful cooperation as much as possible, but we need to anticipate that this will probably not go according to plan.

What most everyone really wants for the future is something even better than what we have today, yet for that to be possible requires a paradox - more energy and food and water security which inevitably also requires increased ecological overshoot, which in turn reduces or removes those securities. So, practically every idea that is proposed to make conditions better for us relies on some form of hopium. See this article for more details on how we reached this point in time. 

While I have discussed our energy addiction and also our addiction to technology use, perhaps this article from Joshua Spodek might help shine some light on why it is so difficult to help an addict stop, doubly so when the addict is everyone around us and we are likewise addicted. Some people have objected to my use of the word "addiction" in describing our propensity for technology use. However, the word fits in almost every aspect of our behavior surrounding technology use. Most people are simply in denial of reality when it comes to all of this, unfortunately.

So, what does all this have to do with our current situation and how these predicaments will play out? As I have frequently pointed out the difference between problems and predicaments, we lack solutions because what we are suffering from are not problems. So, we have no choice but to go through these predicaments and understand that sacrifice, adaptability, and resilience is going to be required. We will be required to experience withdrawal symptoms of giving up our addiction to technology use. Noting that war, conflict, and fighting both within countries and between countries is going to become endemic during these upcoming energy and resource (read: food) constraints, we must expect bad times. None of this is comforting or reassuring, but it is reality. While I would very much like to believe that we will collectively begin accepting the fact that we will be required to do far more with far less and operate according to common sense regarding all of this, I am forced to realize that common sense is no longer so common; denial of reality and optimism bias are taking their tolls on cognition of the predicaments we face; and violence and chaos are assured in all of this. A recent video of Antonio Turiel with Nate Hagens provides additional context to all of this. Turiel points out some particularly nasty symptom predicaments of overshoot in that video, so be prepared for the reality check about what will take place later this year with regard to the food supply (drought, flooding, wildfires, the war in Ukraine, lack of fertilizers and herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, and other predicaments affecting agriculture and agricultural products such as interest rates, inflation, and finance).  

Adding to my previous paragraph about the difference between problems and predicaments, I have written quite a bit in the past about pollution loading and have included quite a few articles about it here over time (see this one in particular); especially Shanna Swan's article about pollution loading taking away our ability to reproduce. An article I came upon today paints a pretty grim picture along the same lines, providing more context upon this topic pointing out how this new era needs more than just one name to identify the age of humans (Anthropocene) focusing on other names such as "Eurocene" (who is responsible), and "Capitalocene" (the system that is responsible), and "Toxcene" (the subject of this article). I also noticed how the word "problem" is mentioned rather than "predicament," indicating the typical reductionism of thinking in terms that this issue actually has an answer or solution (second to last paragraph). Proof once again that I continue to underestimate our denial of reality and lack of agency.

The best way for us to go through these predicaments is to be focused on reality. The first decade I studied overshoot, I was focused mainly on climate change and energy and resource decline. I used to be on the lookout for some sort of solution despite my knowledge of the difference between problems and predicaments. As I became more and more aware of the number of symptom predicaments, self-reinforcing positive feedbacks, and other inconvenient truths, I started to realize that not even a partial solution was truly in the works; that this whole idea was based on denial of reality and false beliefs (these myths [hopes] were born out of cultural programming and indoctrination). I began to see that we were on a train track headed down a mountain into a dark, cold tunnel, and what lay on the other side will not only be worse, the further we head down the mountain on this track, the worse conditions will become. Perhaps not all will be bad though. Leave room for some positive aspects to happen, as they inevitably will. The best that we can do is to face all of this with courage and not waste time or energy "hoping" for conditions which simply cannot be. Like I repeated (from Pete Townshend) in a recent article - face the face! Until next time, Live Now!



  1. Thanks for the link to the addiction article.
    With regards to utopian dreams of hunter-gatherers, I think a point is missed. If a people have managed to live in the same place for 40 thousand years without going extinct, poisoning the water, air, and earth, then maybe they are doing something right? Their daily lives could be violent, etc, but so what? We are worse, we just hide the violence from view down cobalt mines, or off the coast of California in leaking steel drums.

    1. Excellent comment. Our overconsuming lifestyles are every bit as cruel as the gas chambers in WWII, except in this instance we are also injuring ourselves.


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