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dawn_w

The Noble Savage And The Anti-civ Movement

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hi I am and old / new student of Objectivism

having read a few anti-civilization authors (jensen, quinn) I have a question re: tribes (ie american indians, aboriginies)

(I have included a link to an essay by Jensen down below to get the general idea of where he is coming from if anyone is interested-although it does not address this particular subject)

these authors suggest mankind was happiest in the state of pre-civ - citing things like low incidents of murder, rape, less work hours (3 a day) and more time for play.

Rand on the other hand seems to say (correct me if i am wrong) these people were savages who killed acted violently frequently. Also they felt they had no control over their own world and thought sacrifice and prayer the only small thing they could do to try and influence nature (I agree with this part)

?

Where is the truth? Somewhere in between?

thank you

here is the link to the essay:

http://www.derrickjensen.org/vio.html

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hi I am and old / new student of Objectivism

having read a few anti-civilization authors (jensen, quinn) I have a question re: tribes (ie american indians, aboriginies)

these authors suggest mankind was happiest in the state of pre-civ - citing things like low incidents of murder, rape, less work hours (3 a day) and more time for play.

Yes, in between famine, plague, and war, the noble savage lived a blissful existence.

By the way, what is stopping Jesen, Quinn et al from abandoning their comfy academic positions and moving to the wilds of British Columbia or Bolivia to regain the paradise of pre-civilization?

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Where is the truth?

I have several comments as preliminaries before addressing the issue of the nature of societies that have not yet achieved civilization.

First, I had a lot of trouble reading your post because of the many errors in capitalization (a violation of forum rules).

Second, the question you are asking is not a question about Objectivism, the philosophy Ayn Rand created, but a question about the history of human development.

Third, I am unsure what the context is for your question. How does this issue -- of the nature of uncivilized societies -- arise in your life? Perhaps if you explained, the members of this forum might be better able to help you.

Fourth, you say Ayn Rand has made statements about tribes. This discussion would benefit greatly if you would specify where you found the statements and perhaps quote her to some extent. That would reduce the possibility of misinterpreting her ideas.

Fifth, I am not sure, but I suspect that you are conflating several issues:

1. The meaning of "savage" (regardless of where the savage lives), as Ayn Rand used the term.

2. The meaning of "civilization," as Ayn Rand used the term.

3. The "philosophy" of uncivilized cultures.

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(I have included a link to an essay by Jensen down below to get the general idea of where he is coming from if anyone is interested-although it does not address this particular subject)

The Jensen essay was disgusting. I see that it also appeared in a number of radical environmentalist publications including "The Earth First! Journal" and others. Rand's book, "The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution" deals with these people rather well. This crowd values plant life over human life and their worship of the "Noble Savage" is simply an extension of their anti-intellectual tendencies. :thumbsup:

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I will supply the quotes-they will be from "Philosophy, Who Needs It?"

I am asking because I was interested in the anticivilization movement and an admirer of the work of Jensen, and Quinn among others.

I recently returned to my interest in Rand from my youth, recently re-finishing "The Fountainhead" and now reading the book above as well as "Atlas Shrugged"

Needless to say the 2 realms of thought are VERY different therefor my questio(s) on this subject.

Thank you.

D.

Edited by dawn_w

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Whether the savages had a lower crime rate or not is debatable. Even if they did, that might be the only thing that's tempting about that way of life.

Less work hours? According to Rand, man should work in a field he is truly interested in. At that point increased work hours becomes more tempting.

Edited by The Guru Kid

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PBS has had some television shows where people try to live like people of earlier times. The general result is that even going back to 1900 is unbearably difficult for modern people.

It is not just the lack of modern luxuries, but the enormous amount of work to be done and the lack of medicine and central heating/air-conditioning.

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Lower crime rates? I wonder how accurate ancient police systems and record keepings were back when the savage ruled? It's the Earthquake effect: there are more Earthquakes now than there were in 1950 because technology has become sophisticated enough to the point where we can detect more Earthquakes now than we could in 1950. Same effect with criminology and forensic science. I wonder how many "accident victims" that happen in savage nations are actually foul play victims who have been covered up by a criminal with half a wit.

In the middle ages, they believed in such things as an incubus, which was an evil spirit who would visit young girls in the middle of the night and sleep with them :unsure: Does it really take a specialization in forensic science to see right through that?

The only reason there is more crime now than there was previously is because science has progressed to the point where getting away with murder is extremely difficult, even for the most meticulous murderer.

It's exactly what Eric Mathis said. If life as a savage is so wonderful, why aren't they living their dream? There's still plenty of free space left on the world, lets ship them off to Africa or the Amazon or Polynesia. See how much they like their savage civilization when no one is around to mix cocktail drinks for them.

Edited by the tortured one

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Yes, in between famine, plague, and war, the noble savage lived a blissful existence.

By the way, what is stopping Jesen, Quinn et al from abandoning their comfy academic positions and moving to the wilds of British Columbia or Bolivia to regain the paradise of pre-civilization?

Their argument would most likely be they need to stay here and spread the word that civilization is killing the planet.

D

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Where is the truth? Somewhere in between?
I refer you to Any Rand's essay "Anti-Industrial Revolution", in the non-fiction essay-collection of the same name. Now titled 'Return of the Primitive'

The truth is definitely not "in between". Do you think it is? In what sense?

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Their argument would most likely be they need to stay here and spread the word that civilization is killing the planet.

D

I hope you understand enough about technology to know that a pre-industrial economy could not even begin to support the world’s existing population. It would be highly unlikely that even one-forth of the world’s present inhabitants could survive by means of hunting, gathering or rudimentary farming. So when your Back to Nature advocates speak of returning to man’s “Eden,” what they are really endorsing is the extermination of billions of people on a scale more horrendous than anything in mankind’s bloody past.

I would suggest that those who propose to “save the planet” by depriving man of his tools of survival are hypocritically enjoying the benefits of five millennia of civilization while insulting the very process that provides them with the means to win thousands of gullible followers.

Look, if you have any respect for Ayn Rand, you know that your highest value is your own happiness. So, Dawn, if abandoning civilization is what makes you happy, go for it woman!

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I hope you understand enough about technology to know that a pre-industrial economy could not even begin to support the world’s existing population.  It would be highly unlikely that even one-forth of the world’s present inhabitants could survive by means of hunting, gathering or rudimentary farming.  So when your Back to Nature advocates speak of returning to man’s “Eden,” what they are really endorsing is the extermination of billions of people on a scale more horrendous than anything in mankind’s bloody past.

I would suggest that those who propose to “save the planet” by depriving man of his tools of survival are hypocritically enjoying the benefits of five millennia of civilization while insulting the very process that provides them with the means to win thousands of gullible followers.

I think their point is more that these people are going to die anyway, unless something is done. People like Daniel Quinn dont advocate primitivism purely out of some kind of hatred of technology/capitalism - they do so because they believe the current strategies we are pursuing simply are not going to work. Quinn often makes the claim that the the models of society which we have been pursuing for the last 4000 years do not constitute an evolutionary stable strategy, and that we are not going to survive as a civilised species unless we make radical changes. One of his main arguments in support of his claims is the combinatorial explosion of the world's population - its not a case of 'he wants X billion to die so that he can live in a jungle', its more that he believes these people ARE going to die because the world simply isnt big enough to support them. The population of Earth is increasing exponentially, and unless something drastic happens, there are probably going to be serious population problems 50-100 years down the line.

The other main line of support for his claims are the ever-growing liklihood of nuclear armaggedon, or large-scale chemical warfare. 70 years ago the atom bomb did not exist, yet it is now possible for an isolated group of terrorists to get hold of one. As we move into the future, it seems that it is going to become increasingly easy for a weapon of mass destruction to fall into the wrong hands, and if this starts to become a regular occurence, it is difficult to imagine a disaster being avoided. A nuclear war is certainly not an 'arbitrary proposition', nor does it seem that unlikely.

Our planet has existed for X billion years. Homosapiens have been around for maybe 30,000. Civilisation has been here for 6000 maximum, and 'technological civilisation' for only about 400. A civilisation so advanced that it possesses weapons powerful enough to literally wipe out humanity is only 50 years old. Despite the certain sense of inevitability we feel about our progress forwards, it isnt inconceivable that the whole Western experiment is going to end before its 6000th anniversary. This realisation, this honest facing up to the possibility that things are going to end in tears if we continue along the current path, is what I believe motivates a lot of primitivist standpoints. As Quinn points out, primitivism might not be glamorous, but it WORKS. There is no danger of a society of savages accidentally obliterating the entire planet as a consequence of some stupid war. It isnt about what is 'right' or 'moral', its about what can be realistically be sustained over a long period of time. Maybe high-technological societies just have an expected lifespan of 1000-5000 years maximum, and they only appear in the universe for brief moments before destroying themselves. Hence his invoking Maynard Smith's idea of evolutionary stable strategies.

I certainly dont agree with Quinn and his ilk on most points and I think his viewpoint suffers greatly from a deep-rooted sense of collectivism, but I think its important to see where they are coming from - there are certainly genuine problems which they discuss. Writing them all off as suffering from some pathological hatred of freedom/science/capitalism/mankind/universal love/whatever doesnt seem particularly useful.

Edited by Hal

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I think their point is more that these people are going to die anyway, unless something is done. People like Daniel Quinn dont advocate primitivism purely out of some kind of hatred of technology/capitalism - they do so because they believe the current strategies we are pursuing simply are not going to work.

I certainly dont agree with Quinn and his ilk on most points and I think his viewpoint suffers greatly from a deep-rooted sense of collectivism, but I think its important to see where they are coming from - there are certainly genuine problems which they discuss. Writing them all off as suffering from some pathological hatred of freedom/science/capitalism/mankind/universal love/whatever doesnt seem particularly useful.

Very well, Hal, I’ll try to avoid glibness when dismissing the claims of the anti-technologists. Now just three questions:

1. How is the current population explosion to be addressed if not by birth control technology? Does Quinn propose the rhythm method?

2. And while we are reducing birth rates, how are we going to feed existing hungry mouths? By cultivating corn without the plow and without chemical fertilizer? By using sailing ships to transport grain from Australia to Africa?

3. How are we going to clothe all the naked bodies on the planet? With human-powered looms in factories lighted by candles?

As for nuclear Armageddon, I do not scoff at the dangers. In fact, I’ll willingly grant that thermonuclear warfare is one technical innovation with zero benefits for civilization -- unless one allows for the power to zap incoming asteroids. However, I do not realistically believe that we can put this evil genie back into the bottle. Moreover, I am certain that the knowledge of how to make nukes cannot be erased from all human repositories of data. And to suggest that a return to primitivism will make the menace of radioactive warfare disappear is -- pardon my glibness -- laughable.

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The population of Earth is increasing exponentially, and unless something drastic happens, there are probably going to be serious population problems 50-100 years down the line.
Not sure if you're merely stating the other person's (Quinn's?) argument, or if you're agreeing with him.

Either way, while the earth is more "populated" than it has ever been, it is less "over-populated" than it has ever been. The late Julian Simon has a few books that address the issue.

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Hal,

There is a lot of anti-conceptual thinking going on with the basic premise behind the argument of Quinn et al, at least as you have presented it.

The question of food or population support is entirely laughable as the very thing that made current population growth possible - human thought and technological innovation - along with a free market, will GUARANTEE that there will be no "catastrophe" type situation: so long as both minds and markets remain free. I tell you literally that under free minds and free markets, such a scenario is IMPOSSIBLE.

As for nuclear devastation, I need only ask: what sort of ideology is it that allows the possibility of war, nuclear devastation, etc? The answer: Irrationalism, collectivism, etc. The answer is to wipe out bad philosophy, not to wipe out technology.

In fact, wiping out technology is by definition IMPOSSIBLE unless one wipes it out utterly. What would you do: ban electicity? How would this be done? How could that possibly be enforced? Wouldn't people WITH electricity be more in a position to dictate terms than people WITHOUT it?

No, there is no way to have SOME technology. It is ALL or NOTHING. Either the mind is to be used, or it ISN'T.

So what Quinn et all are proposing, when you eliminate the contradictions, is returning to the state of apes: only without fur, claws, or instincts. Precisely ZERO men could survive in such a state. Not. A. One.

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Look, if you have any respect for Ayn Rand, you know that your highest value is your own happiness.  So, Dawn, if abandoning civilization is what makes you happy, go for it woman!

thanks!

I DO have respect for Ayn Rand believe me.

I also think Quinn and Jensen have their own points to make re: sustainable lifestyles vs nonsustainable but they are mired down in collectivism (see excellent post by HAL in this thread for more on this)

And yes I have had a try at abandoning civilization in my own way - only working PT, cutting back on spending, doing my own cooking etc. The thing is-it is BORING (to me anyway) and I have decided that that isnt where I want to go-not a happy camper doing that stuff.

So that is where I am at right now....

also in the process of looking into going back to school...

d.

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So what Quinn et all are proposing, when you eliminate the contradictions, is returning to the state of apes: only without fur, claws, or instincts. Precisely ZERO men could survive in such a state. Not. A. One.

not true-refer to this part of Hal's post ...

Our planet has existed for X billion years. Homosapiens have been around for maybe 30,000. Civilisation has been here for 6000 maximum, and 'technological civilisation' for only about 400. A civilisation so advanced that it possesses weapons powerful enough to literally wipe out humanity is only 50 years old.

True though, the natural survival instincts may be dormant but they still are there.

D

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not true-refer to this part of Hal's post ...

I have a total non-sequiter as to how that part of Hal's post has anything to do with what I said.

1) Technology cannot be banned partially. Only completely.

2) Technology is the mind. To ban it, one must ban the mind.

Therefore, you would be banning man's sole means of survival, his mind.

The historical exitence of men who had LESS technology does not mean that even ONE man could exist with NO technology.

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You know, it's funny that they would say that man's only hope for survival would be to return to the primitive, because most scientists agree that the only truly reliable method for ensuring the survival of the species is colonizing other planets. The Earth is always avoiding accidents, and not avoiding them. Primitivism didn't save the dinosaurs, why should it save humanity? It seems like every other week someone releases some doomsday prophecy about an asteriod hitting or a supervolcano erupting or the next mass-extinction which geologists and evolutionists agree that the earth is long overdue for one.

And in case they would happen to thing that I am being melodramatic, one would do well to remember that sometime before man became civilized it was reduced to a mere 10,000 members by a supervolcano. Man's best hope for survival rests in technological development.

I find the overpopulation business to be, quite frankly, kaka. There has never been a single serious famine in history under any type of Capitalist system. It always happens under collectivism. The two major famines of the 20th century happened in communist Russia and communist China. Come on, America is having a problem with obesity and over-eating. Regardless, the entire population of America could live very comfortably in an area the size of Texas. There is still plenty of space left on Earth

Edited by the tortured one

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I have a total non-sequiter as to how that part of Hal's post has anything to do with what I said.

I was responding to what you wrote about zero men being able to survive in 'such a state' Hal's post had the years humans DID survive in such a state which was for 30,000 years as opposed to humans living in a civilized state which has been for 6,000 years.

d.

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Here is a quote from "Faith and Force" in "Philosphy: Who Needs It?" which is in keeping with this subject ~d.

If certain centuries are to be identified by their dominant characteristics, like the Age of Reason or the Age of Enlightenment, then ours is the Age of Guilt.

What is it that people dread--and what do they feel guilty of?

They dread the unadmitted knowledge that their culture is bankrupt.  They feel guilty because they know that they have brought it to bankruptcy and that they lack the courage to make a fresh start.

They dread the knowledge that they have reached the dead end of the traditional evasions of the centuries behind them, that the contradictions of Western civilization have caught up with them, that no compromises or middle-of-the-roads will work any longer and that the responsibility of resolving those contradictions by making fundamental choices is theirs, now, today.  They are temporizing, in order to evade the fact that we have to check our basic premises, or pay the price of all unresolved contradictions, which is:  destruction.

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Here is a quote from "Faith and Force" in "Philosphy: Who Needs It?" which is in keeping with this subject ~d.

I do not understand your purpose in providing that quote. Could you make your purpose explicit?

In particular, why do you think Ayn Rand's comments about the contradictions in modern culture are "in keeping with this subject" -- which is the primitivist ideal of the supposedly noble savage?

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