THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EGALITARIANISM IN HG SOCIETIES
An excerpt of the lecture by the anthropologist
Jerome Lewis in the Youtube video Gender Relations UCL RAG »
EQUALITY IS ACHIEVED:
1) through direct individual access to food, water and raw materials needed for tools
If you think about the core political rangling of humanity; it is based on the opposition of some people who seem to legitimate inequality and other people who instinctively resist and dislike and fight against the claims that tries to justify inequality. And its true in religion as well, so religion and politics are supposed to be very close, eternally around the world concerned about justifying inequality or trying to promote inequality and thats the basic game of politics in human societies.
In these places where an equality of outcome is achieved, you have direct access to food (and I will give you examples of how that come into practice later) and water and the raw materials needed for tools. So people have direct unimpeded access to the basics they need for their survival. The idea of private property in these societies is really not approved of(31: 57) and they get really annoyed with any one claiming private properties - even gorillas and will swear and insult any gorillas that will make noice signallig: get away get away this is my forest, JL:s friends will start insulting them, that´s not acceptable; You piss off, aso. They will use the worst words that they know.
In these societies its considered to be a birthright to have a direct access to the things you need.
EQUALITY IS ACHIEVED
2) by MOBILITY:
No-one can stop you from moving away.
Should you desire to leave the group, no-one can stop you. And therefore its quite common in these societies to have no word for goodbye. You just go and there is no-one who has the right to demand an explanation and they don´t indulge in that sort of sentimentality that we are indulging in in our society, the kiss the hug aso. People just go and its their right to go and you must not impede that freedom of movement. If someone is starting hassling you, you just get up and go and you don´t have to tell its because you hassle me; you just go. Its called the strategy of avoidance.
AVOIDANCE STRATEGY is a key strategy in this societies, enabling people to remove themselves from situations that make them depressed or someone who tries to suppress or manipulate them. Or if you have had an argument, you don´t need to sort it out, you can have your argument and then you just leave and go, move elsewhere and then time will probably resolve the problems. So this is a very common way of solving conflicts. When you don´t have a field or a farm or a house to defend, then you have the possibility to move away without sacrificing any of your vital resources.
EQUALITY IS ACHIEVED
3) by procedures that impose sharing and prevent accumulation
Accumulation is of course potentially one way of asserting or influencing other people. If I have got lots of something that somebody else needs, then I can make demands of them, in order for them to get access to the things that I have. So accumulation is seen as a bad thing as immoral, as wickedness and what people should do in these societies is to provide what they have got from the environment to other people on demand.
When you share people in these societies it takes quite another dynamic, than int the societies in which you can make use of the system of delayed return to make demands on people. In these societies you can´t refuse anyone what he or she demands from you and very quickly that is dissipating in the group, that you delivers to it, without you having any control over it, so there is no possibility to use it in order to get any authority power over that flow whatsoever. This is what we call demand sharing in the HG literature.
In DEMAND SHARING IN HG SOCIETIES its crucial to understand that this quite a different economic process from what we are familiar with as “sharing”. One man hunted to much and instead of being celebrated and achieve lots of statues and girls - he was thrown out he was chased away by the women, who said we are not cooking your meat any more. You hunt too much! So the man had to leave Mbedjele and had to go and find a wife among Baduma. And some ten years later I just bumped into him by chance and then he had had to move from the Baluma to the Mikaya, other groups of pygmies, and it was his boasting; he couldn´t control himself he loved hunting, and for some reason he couldn´t figure out that this was causing him so much trouble and he just kept on being kicked out from one community after the other, and its deeply painful to him, because he is really a tragic human being as a result of this.
In these societies each individual is potentially atonomous and can fulfil their basic needs without being dependant on any other individual. Whether you are old and sick you will always obtain your share.
People who do go over the top, get levelled off.
EQUALITY IS ACHIEVED
4) by `leveling mechanisms´such as mockery or avoidance that assert egalitarian values and reject authority.
So the hunter Bena Songo before he was exiled was teased, was insulted, he was made a mockery about by all the people in the camp at various points, and people would leave the camp,they didn´t want to have anything to do with him, because he was hunting so much. People who boast and make themselves big and important, very quickly find themselves all alone, because other peoples don´t want to put up with, it, as it is just considered rude and insulting. And people very explicitly reject authority and will for instance in their relations with their outsiders who are very hierarchical quite often tease and make a public mockery of the attempts to authority that these outsiders are trying to impose on them. Thats these sorts of grounds of what happens in egalitarian societies.
WIDOWS MIMIC WITH CLOWNING HUMOUR
(1:12:46) "The widows have a very special place in this society, because they are the only ones who can openly critisize another, but when they do it, they don´t do it by naming names, but reenacting the foolishness that that person did, and they will do it with great clowning humour. What happens is that the women by gathering need a little break and they put their baskets down and sit down, and by then the two old ladies will get up and start imitatitating the one who did somethíng foolish or stupid.
But they wouldn´t say who it is and just allow people to watch and and soon people start commenting what was stupid and foolish; and it elicits the whole commetry on what appropriate moral is; not from the old ladies, but from the kids and all the other who are watching. And so suddenly people are becoming aware of what moral behaviour is, but without any moral authority telling it. And the old ladies have got these technique that they wouldn´t stop reenacting until the moment suddenly someone realise; - Oh shit that´s me! And everyone is laughing at me. And you then start to feel very ashamed of yourself. But the only way you can stop it is by laughing too.
But when you suddenly realise that you are the center of everybodies mirth, you know its difficult to laugh. But you somehow must come to terms with what you have done, because then its over and thats it.
Sometimes its too much, though, and I often have seen men run off into the forest who cannot take it any longer, embarassed for their kids and their moms and dads and their best mates and everyone else to see what a fool you were last night in bed with your wife. So (maggio?) is really a crucial power that women have.
And if men do it it just causes fights, but when women doing ity its very powerful. So the literal power that women wield in the society is based on their solidarity and their skilled ability to mimic other people. And mimicry; imitating is really crucial to this power. By contrast men´s political power is derived from their brawn, from the strength they use to chase down these big dangerous animals and kill them. And the techniques they use for that is imitation; to mimic the large animals so that they will come out and can be hunted more quickly."
These fundamental requisites for achieving and maintaining an egalitarian society, are identified by James Woodburn
EQUALITY IS ACHIEVED: