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Hunter Gatherers, Farmers And The Discovery of ADD And ADHD
A Hunter Gatherer is a person who lives only from what nature provides. He hunts animals and fish for food and clothing and collects plants, insects, honey, juices to meet his dietary needs and in many cases to provide for his medical needs.
Until the last great ice age, all living humans were hunter-gatherers. There were many types of big game for everyone. Hunter-gatherer clans would migrate along their prey to ensure a constant supply.
Man had tamed the wolves by this time, so he would take them with him on his hunts and train them to work in unison with him in a mutually beneficial way. Trained wolves would also help protect him from attacks by dangerous prey and other potential enemies.
Few examples of hunter-gatherer existence survive today. Some bushmen in the Kalahari desert still live in this traditional way, as do some aboriginal tribes in Australia, Africa, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, and some tribes in the Amazon rainforest. There may still be some tribes in Southeast Asia that still cling to a hunter-gatherer existence.
Until one hundred and thirty years ago, there were still tribes in North America living a hunter-gatherer existence. Their culture is perhaps the best documented and most lost of all the hunter gatherers. The injustice of how they were forced to give up their way of life along with the advanced philosophy by which they governed their lives are well documented and studied. Once thought to be a primitive savage, it is now fully understood that the way the American Indian lived in complete harmony and understanding of all aspects of nature was as beautiful as it was complex.
The difference between the civilized culture and their hunter gatherer culture was really only one thing. Agriculture.
Agriculture was a consequence of the last ice age. As the herds of large game species dwindled and gradually disappeared, it became clear that man had to find alternative means of obtaining food.
For this purpose man would begin to concentrate certain types of plants in plots and grow them in order to have some preferred food sources near his home. As this new way of life grew, so did the focused knowledge required to grow plants successfully. This was the dawn of what we call education. Education required one to pay attention for extended periods of time to particular subjects or tasks.
Hunter gatherers, on the other hand, do not require such extended periods of concentration either. it would often take a short period of work per day from each member of the tribe to keep everyone clothed and fed. The rest of the day would be spent enjoying life and sharing information. The knowledge was obtained from the elders and experienced people of the tribe, who would teach the craft of observing nature in a broad and general context in which the main points would be noted.
As education developed for the farmer, various brain functions developed that helped him maintain focus and attention. The hunter gatherer had very little need for this trait.
We today have a name for this lack of attention span that is evident in hunter gatherers. We call it ADD or ADHD. At the dawn of the agricultural age, only the most successful would have been able to survive. On the other hand, everyone was accepted in the society of hunter-gatherers. If you can’t shoot, you can always do something else that you would be more skilled at.
When Christian missionaries herded Indian or Aboriginal children into classrooms to enforce their farmer/Christian education on them, they reported that the children were worthless because all they could do was look out the windows and daydream. Of course, they looked out the windows. They all had ADD or ADHD in our terms. The venerable saints classified this tendency as a craving for savagery, and more often than not generous beatings were dispensed as correction.
Contrary to popular belief, wars were quite rare among hunter-gatherer tribes, and if hostilities did break out, they were more like skirmishes and scare tactics designed to settle borders. Deaths were few and most of the wounded survived. Savage techniques were learned by civilized people. Most of the indigenous tribes felt that flogging, hanging and torture were completely unacceptable. In America, violent methods actually intensified out of fear that unwanted visitors would do the same to them, which they invariably did.
This lens is designed to provide insight into the lives of hunter gatherers in the hopes that we can learn more from these beautiful cultures that lived alongside nature taking only what they needed.
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