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In today’s The Tao of SKWealthAcademy Podcast, Episode_20, titled, “The Things the Happiest Societies Would Find Abnormal About Modern Life,” I discuss why we have migrated away from many of the elements of hunter-gatherer societies that used to bring humanity great levels of sustainable happiness and why many of us have chosen a lifestyle with almost no sense of community and a heightened sense of isolation from our neighbors in overcrowded urban settings. Forgive the opening of the podcast that states this is Episode_018, as that is an error. This is Episode_020. This podcast could also be titled, “How a return to hunter gatherer society rules would solve modern society’s overfed, malnourished, lack of exercise, sleep deprived, low self-esteem, high anxiety and depressed, inequitable wealth, loneliness, and unhappiness problems.” I believe that this is one of the most important podcasts I have produced in the past year, and as such, it is also one of the longest, clocking in at well over an hour long, so grab a tall cup of coffee and settle in. Furthermore, for all of my friends that have young children, I made this podcast for you as well, as in modern society, we have migrated away from many of the child-rearing practices of hunter-gatherer societies that provided a sense of security and mental well-being to infants. I believe that the goals of social conditioning and production of an obedient labor force that go hand and hand with compulsory schooling today is largely responsible for the loss of community that is directly correlated to happiness among human beings today, as the stronger our acquiescence to authoritative State powers becomes, the greater our loss of community grows. However, this is a topic likely best suited for a series of podcasts about the necessity for the complete overhaul of the schooling system, and I will address this topic in much more detail in future The Tao of SKWealthAcademy podcasts, so please subscribe to our podcast if interested in this topic as well.
Within the body of this audio podcast, I use examples of both American Indian societies in pre-colonial and colonial America as well as examples of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies to explore the rules and characteristics of their societies that once led a French colonialist living in the new America to conclude, “there must be in their social bond something singularly captivating and far superior to anything to be boasted among us.” It is not necessary for any of us to give up the qualities that existed in their social structure that create lasting and sustainable happiness, and even for those of us that live in urbanized environments, we can still adequately re-create many of these qualities in our lives if we so desire. With that said, I don’t want this article to merely restate everything I discuss in the below podcast, so I will just provide a brief taste of the podcast, and for the sake of avoiding redundancy, allow any one interested in listening to a more in-depth discussion of this topic to merely listen to the audio podcast in full.
Indians ran their communities more like a constitutional republic than American colonial settlers ever did, even after the piece of paper was drafted that made America a constitutional republic. Throughout America’s history, practice never quite lived up to the law of being a constitutional republic. American Indian tribes were much more egalitarian in the distribution of power and authority than any American colony, although tribes had a chief and medicine man who were men in elevated positions of power within their patriarchal society. Still, women were not without power in their tribes. Within the societal hierarchy of most American Indian tribes, women held some type of authoritative power that served as a check on the male leadership of that tribe. For example, in the Iroquis nation, only women could nominate men for positions of leadership and even positions of speaking in the Tribal Council and only women could vote these men out of these positions. Within the Cherokee nation, in her book Cherokee Women in Crisis; Trail of Tears, Civil War, and Allotment, 1838-1907, author Carolyn Johnston wrote, “Women had autonomy and sexual freedom, could obtain divorce easily, rarely experienced rape or domestic violence, worked as producers/farmers, owned their own homes and fields, possessed a cosmology that contains female supernatural figures, and had significant political and economic power. Cherokee women’s close association with nature, as mothers and producers, served as a basis of their power within the tribe, not as a basis of oppression. Their position as ‘the other’ led to gender equivalence, not hierarchy.”
Secondly within American Indian nations, individual authority was earned, not seized and certainly not awarded by wealth, a facet of life extremely different than today’s modern societies. Wealth was fairly egalitarian throughout the tribe because tribes were nomadic and one could only own whatever one could carry on horse or on foot so we didn’t have the types of inequality that exist today in which the 8 wealthiest people in the world in 2018 literally owned the same wealth as 3.8 billion people (Source: Oxfam). This type of wealth inequality, impossible among hunter-gatherer societies, translates into the 8 wealthiest people literally have 475 million times more wealth than each of those 3.8 billion people. This inequity of wealth was impossible in tribal communities as a member of the tribe was incapable of lugging around possessions that were worth 10 times more than his fellow tribesman or tribeswoman, let alone possessions worth 100 times, 1,000 times, a million times, or 475 million times more.
Today, the ability of individuals to gather many more material things than their fellow man and woman has increased independence and decreased reliance on the community for survival and enables us to live in greater and greater isolation with almost no reliance upon even our immediate neighbors for survival. However, our greater isolation in life has also resulted in an explosion of psychological problems among urban dwellers with elevated levels of anxiety and depression even despite greater comforts and less physical suffering and struggle on a daily basis. Today people in wealthy countries suffer depression at 8 times the rate as do people living in poor countries. Also across the board in studies in several nations, women that live in rural areas suffer much lower rates of depression than women that live in urban areas with the highest rates of depression in America existing among the most affluent urban women.
In areas poorer rural communities, community members depend on one another for survival at a far greater rate than members of wealthy communities and tend to share resources much more frequently which also forms a strong psychological bond with other community members that is important to happiness. Unfortunately in modern life today, greater rates of anxiety and depression has led to greater rates of self-medication and self-numbing with opiods, and there has been an explosion of opiod use in the form of oxycontin and fentanyl, which can be 5 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
In addition, positions of authority in hunter-gather societies were not passed on generationally but had to be earned again in new generations. Consequently, every member of these tribes had a chance to earn a position of higher ranking and power within a tribe, on a respect, not wealth-based system. Since there were never any huge disparities of wealth among individual tribe members, every person in every generation had the ability to rise to a position of authority, respect and wealth as all of these positions had to be earned and not just taken or seized or granted by lineage as is the case with royalty. There is no doubt that American Indians from back in the day would find our entire political process abnormal and unjust in which positions of authority never have to be earned through past acts of courage that demonstrated a level of self sacrifice to benefit all members of the community. They undoubtedly would be confused as to how money could buy positions of power and how advertising and propaganda could be used to influence winning votes of leadership positions.
When the white man arrived in America and there was flow between the different societies of the British and French and the Indians, the flow was almost completely one way. The flow of human migration was almost always from British and French colonies to the Indian tribes and never the other way around. And even when white men and women were found living among Indians and brought back to white civilization they rarely stayed in their supposedly more modern societies. Instead, they fled back to living in the tribal structure of Ameircan Indians. A French immigrant named Hector de Crevecoeur stated “there must be in their social bond something singularly captivating and far superior to anything to be boasted among us.” However, it’s not like things were idyllic in American Indian life. Tribes often warred with one another and killed each other in horrific ways so it’s not like a life of paradise was responsible for the one-way migration between American Indian and colonial societies. Life was also not easy at times within Indian hunter-gatherer life as it was a nomadic lifestyle that often followed migratory paths of a major food source like the buffalo and depended upon gathering of other vegetables, berries and nuts and daily farming for supplemental food. However, the need to contribute in some way to the lifeline of the group in helping to provide food helped everyone feel needed and the egalitarian nature of tribal life both in power and in wealth led to far greater levels of happiness among both British and French men and women that abandoned their colonial lives to live among the Indians.
Furthermore, there was a connectedness to nature among Indian tribal life that has been completely lost today in which even walking barefoot in the grass and dirt and gathering plants to eat in the forest gave man an important sense of connectedness to mother earth that brought a certain level of life satisfaction. Even the ability to gaze at the infinite realm of the universe above and gaze in wonder at the Milky Way and millions of stars has been lost in modern urban life today due to ambient light at night in cities that makes it impossible to feel connected to the universe.
However, I believe that the number one quality that gave tribal members of hunter-gatherer societies an elevated sense of happiness and life satisfaction was the enforcement of an extremely high level of ethics within tribal nations. Cowardice and murder were often punishable by death, with concurrent high levels of loyalty to the tribe due to the enforcement of basic freedoms for all that lived within tribal communities. Today, cowardice and fraud are often rewarded, and if not rewarded, at a minimum tolerated. The type of cowardice and fraud systemically practiced by the banking industry, for example, would have resulted in violent endings for their perpetrators in any hunter-gatherer society because such fraud would have endangered the future of all members of the tribe. Because we have lost our sense of community and connectedness today, society awards fraudsters and crooks like Jordan Belfort, the infamous Wolf of Wall Street by heaping praise and frame upon him, and for not holding his feet to the fire in promises to reimburse all the people he defrauded. In fact, in London recently, the attending crowd, many of whom had spent hundreds of dollars to hear Belfort speak, many in the crowd of 3.600 people boo’d a journalist that had asked Belfort why he had not paid back his victims more than just a few million dollars out of the $200M he stole from them after promising to pay back at least $100M.
Thus, a man that joyfully admits his fortune came from ripping people off speaks about integrity in business and is boo’d by those in attendance when a journalist reveals he has zero integrity. This is the kind of twisted world in which we live. Furthermore, modern society has made it very easy for those that do very bad things to remain anonymous. Besides Jordan Belfort and Bernie Sanders, and possibly Daniel Plunkett for those that follow banker criminal news very closely, how many names of bankers can you name out of the hundreds that were involved in rigging Forex rates, libor rates, utility rates, creating fraudulent CDOs, opening bank accounts for customers without their knowledge to charge them fraudulent fees, rigging gold and silver prices and on an on? Probably zero, right? However, within hunter-gatherer societies, any significant fraud committed by a tribal member was not only immediately known by all members of the tribe, but it was immediately punished either through ostracization from the tribe, which was a death sentence, or actual execution. Thus, the level of ethics and accountability for unethical actions largely absent in the segment of society that has the most wealth and power has truly led to not only a decreased level of well-being amongst greater society but also a vastly decreased level of happiness.
(Sources for the above information also include the following books: The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late, by Thom Hartmann; and Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger.)
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