Running around New York. (futurebird) wrote in de_ex,
Running around New York.


Okay. I've been in this slightly heated (but cordial and interesting) debate for the past few days over at peak_oil. The person I'm talking to seems to be a primitivist.

Primitivism is a philosophy of ecology that holds that the farming techniques of "civilization" are unsustainable, highly destructive a prone to spread through all human populations like a virus leading to dangerous population growth. This is the part of the idea I have little problem accepting. It's why I'm interested in Peak Oil theory in the first place.

What bothers me is the notion that there are POC regarded as "modern primitives" or people who live as hunter gatherers who are not, in some way, caught up in the "madness of civilization" and thus able to live sustainablly, or at least at such low levels of population that they do not have much impact on the environment. Moreover, the primitivist idea holds that these populations would not take on the tools of civilization even if they had access to those tools, that is, it is not the limitations of a given environment that constrain certain groups from, say, devoting the first 12 years of every humans life to a program of culture eduction and specialization... but, rather, this is a societal choice, to live "at-one-with-nature" or something like that. Lastly, primitivism suggests that the "primitives" have the right idea and we'd be better off living by their example.

Now the particular person I'm having this conversation with has claimed that he's not promoting the idea of "nobel savages" but, at the same time, something in this theory, which holds our salvation to be in a simpler life without the oppression of civilization, makes me uneasy. I think that the idea of the nobel savage is still at the root of this in some way and I'm wondering if some of you good people could take a peek and see if you agree or not.

I may be a bit partial to civilization, I will admit.


To make this more clear at the risk of oversimplification:

As far as primitivism is about "going back to" a simpler way life, doesn't it imply that many (mostly non-white) peoples:

1. have no civilization?
2. are magical and majestic?
3. are less sophisticated?

Now white people have found groups of people "hunting and gathering" and there is this tendency to assume that that is how those people have lived for all time. This idea has been slowly picked apart by more modern anthropologists. But, it lingers.

Moreover, when discovering such people, much of the complexity and depth of their societies is overlooked. The stickiest myth of them all if that there were not many Indians in north America and that they all "lived lightly on the land."

What's starting to come to light, is that people are (surprise) terribly similar all over the world, that civilization seems to develop independently whenever people can muster up the resources for it and it lasts as long as they can keep sight of environmental and social disasters.

Primitivism treats civilization like a like of "white-mans-cancer" and, even though it is an attack on the established ideas and order I think, to justify its ideas, you have to make some eurocentric assumptions about hosts of non-white peoples.
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