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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Mankind will never enjoy the full social, economic and psychological perfection of the Inuit hunting group, as portrayed by First Peoples — but then real Inuit hunting groups don’t enjoy that either.

Martin Hutchinson

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • veryretired

    I’m not sure what this means, but as a tangential connection, I recommend a movie from a few decades ago called “The Savage Innocents” with Anthony Quinn as an Innuit hunter who comes in contact with the Canadien mounties for the first time. I thought it was fascinating to see the two cultures trying to figure each other out.

    Like any movie, I’m sure there’s plenty of “artistic license” involved, but I liked it anyway.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Yes, the myth of the ‘noble’ savage is always with us! Some people here in Australia honestly don’t admit that Aboriginal tribes fought against each other, or that males used to beat their wives simply because they owned them. Why do they think that the men always carried shields? In case the kangaroos threw the spears back at them?
    Perhaps each continent can have a reserved area where all forms of technology are forbidden, and all noble-savage-myth-pushers can be confined there until they come to their senses.

  • monoi

    There is another good movie called Atanarjuat.

    Shows that whatever the setting, human emotions/behaviours always boil down to the basics: love, hate, jealousy, honesty, etc…

  • And then there’s the awful movie called “Avatar”. 2 hrs and 10 bucks I’ll never get back.

  • Snorri Godhi

    At least some barbarian societies were quite libertarian, and probably enjoyed longer, healthier lives than their civilized contemporaries. I am thinking primarily of the Viking Icelanders, of course; but i have a soft spot for the Eskimos and the steppe nomads as well, however little i know about them.

    The 2 problems with “First Peoples” are more specific:
    1. They are advocating a collectivist ideology utterly alien to the Vikings and other _truly noble_ savages.
    2. More importantly, in the last few centuries, civilized societies* have at long last overtaken barbarian societies in quality of life. There is no going back.

    * just a few initially, now most but arguably not all of them

  • Alisa,

    I saw Avatar with my teenage son and a couple of his friends. They liked the spectacle, but were quite entertaining on the way back.

    Avatar II: This time, we remembered the nukes.

  • Natalie, as pure spectacles go, it was rather impressive – too bad it was all wasted on crappy premise, story line and dialogue (Did I say ‘dialogue’? Oh well).

    I’m afraid that the nukes part just went over my head, but I blame the sheer pain of all of it coming back…

  • Tedd

    As a bit of an Inuit-ophile, I’m not the most objective person on this subject. But it seems to me that once a society crosses the technological line into agriculture there’s no going back. Pre-agricultural societies resolve problems of the commons by moving to a new commons. That works pretty well so long as population density remains low (usually not a problem for pre-agricultural societies). Agrarian societies have to develop mechanisms to deal with the commons — property rules of one kind or another. So the relevant question isn’t agrarian or post-agrarian values versus “first nations” values, because “first nations” spans the divide. The relevant question is how best to handle the commons when moving to a new commons is no longer an option.

    It seems as though that question ought to have been settled some time ago, but apparently not.

  • Alisa, all the mention of nukes meant was that my son and his friends felt that the bad humans had been astonishingly incompetent to let themselves get defeated given their superior technology. All they had to do was bomb a fairly fragile tree, so why did they approach it at subsonic speeds with, it seemed, a hastily jury-rigged pile of sticks of dynamite? This is pre World War I technology, let alone pre space-age super evil interstellar corporation technology!

  • Your son has a point, I’m afraid: indeed, the bad humans did too little too late. Two hours too late, in fact…

  • Tedd, on a more serious note, I don’t want to let my firm belief in the extreme undesirability of attempting any mad scheme to live as foolish urban romantics wish to believe the First Peoples* lived lead me to unjustified scorn directed towards a culture which, from the little I know about it, does appear to be plenty nicer than many other hunter societies, and indeed many other societies full stop.

    While I don’t see any reason to believe that all hunter-gatherer societies are the same, but I do see a reason to believe that human – particularly male human – psychology is better adapted to the hunting band than to following the plough or working on the assembly line. We’ll just have to continue to make progress in making our occupations more like hunting and less like work.

    *Silly and vaguely racist name, particularly unworthy of soi disant socialists. I assume they’d denounce talk “First Families” as pernicious hereditarianism.

  • Tedd


    I agree about the name “first nations.” Everyone knows they weren’t the first, in most cases, so it’s such self-evident posturing that I can hardly believe anyone buys into it. But accuracy doesn’t seem to be an important consideration in political labels.