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"Observing a prisoner exchange between the Iroquois and the French in upper New York in 1699, Cadwallader Colden is blunt: “ notwithstanding the French Commissioners took all the Pains possible to carry Home the French, that were Prisoners with the Five Nations, and they had full Liberty from the Indians, few of them could be persuaded to return. “Nor, he has to admit, is this merely a reflection on the quality of French colonial life, “for the English had as much Difficulty” in persuading their redeemed to come home, despite what Colden would claim were the obvious superiority of English ways:
No Arguments, no Intreaties, nor Tears of their Friends and Relations, could persuade many of them to leave their new Indian Friends and Acquaintance; several of them that were by the Caressings of their Relations persuaded to come Home, in a little Time grew tired of our Manner of living, and run away again to the Indians, and ended their Days with them. On the other Hand, Indian Children have been carefully educated among the English, cloathed and taught, yet, I think, there is not one Instance, that any of these, after they had Liberty to go among their own People, and were come to Age, would remain with the English, but returned to their own Nations, and became as fond of the Indian Manner of Life as those that knew nothing of a civilized Manner of Living. And, he concludes, what he says of this particular prisoner exchange “has been found true on many other Occasions.”
Benjamin Franklin was even more pointed: When an Indian child is raised in white civilization, he remarks, the civilizing somehow does not stick, and at the first opportunity he will go back to his red relations, from whence there is no hope whatever of redeeming him. But when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and have lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness toprevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the firstgood Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.
There was always the great woods, and the life to be lived within it was, Crevecoeur admits, “singularly captivating,” perhaps even superior to that so boasted of by the transplanted Europeans. For, as many knew to their rueful amazement, “thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become Europeans!”
Almost universally, anthropologists remark on how ridiculously happy hunter gatherers seem to be. Laughter is far more common in their societies.
Of the !Kung: "Bursts of laughter accompany the conversations. Sometimes the !Kung laugh mildly with what we would call a sense of humor about people and events; often they shriek and howl as though laughter were an outlet for tension. They laugh at mishaps that happen to other people, like the lions eating up someone else's meat, and shriek over particularly telling and insulting sexual sallies...(15)".
Laurens van der Post expressed wonder at the exuberant San laugh, which rises "sheer from the stomach, a laugh you never hear among civilized people. (17)."
There's little wonder why. With no stressful work and plenty of time to socialize with friends and family, or engage in other pursuits they enjoy, what's not to be happy about?
Our ignorance of happiness is revealed by the question on everyone's lips: 'Does money make us happy?' The head of a US aid agency in Kenya commented recently that volunteers are predictably dumbstruck and confused by the zest and jubilance of the Africans. It's become a cliche for them to say: 'The people are so poor, they have nothing--and yet they have so much joy and seem so happy.'
I never knew how measly my own happiness was until one day in 1978 when I found myself stranded in a remote western Tanzanian village. I saw real happiness for the first time--since then I have learned that it has vastly more to do with cultural factors than genetics or the trendy notion of personal 'choice'.
So it didn't surprise me that an African nation, Nigeria, was found recently to be the world's happiest country. The study of 'happy societies' is awakening us to the importance of social connectedness, spirituality, simplicity, modesty of expectations, gratitude, patience, touch, music, movement, play and 'down time'.
The small Himalayan nation of Ladakh is one of the best-documented examples of a 'happy society'. As Helena Norberg-Hodge writes in Ancient Futures, Ladakhis were a remarkably joyous and vibrant people who lived in harmony with their harsh environment. Their culture generated mutual respect, community-mindedness, an eagerness to share, reverence for nature, thankfulness and love of life. Their value system bred tenderness, empathy, politeness, spiritual awareness and environmental conservation. Violence, discrimination, avarice and abuse of power were non-existent while depressed, burned-out people were nowhere to be found.
But in 1980 consumer capitalism came knocking with its usual bounty of raised hopes and social diseases. The following year, Ladakh's freshly appointed Development Commissioner announced: 'If Ladakh is ever going to be developed, we have to figure out how to make these people more greedy.' The developers triumphed and a greed economy took root. The issues nowadays are declining mental health, family breakdown, crime, land degradation, unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, pollution and sprawl.
Originally posted by Asktheanimals
Thanks Pei. We need a reminder now and then of how things aught to be.
Some people say you cannot go back and live as aboriginals have before but I disagree. We can.
"Those who haven't been exposed to the hypocrisies of a "civilized" education react to things naturally, as they happen. It is in the here and now that they are either happy or unhappy, joyful or sad, interested or indifferent. The superiority of pure Indians like these Guajiros was striking. They could outdo us in everything: when they adopted someone, everything they had belonged to him; and when anyone showed them the least attention, they were profoundly moved"