Direction in Life – is there a right one? Can one be better than another?

Hunter-gatherer societies live what we might define as rather unsophisticated lives, which could even be said to be “nasty, brutish and short” seen as murder rates are far higher within such communities. Yet those hunter-gatherer societies which exist today do not think of themselves as backwards, weak and unhappy. Take one tribe in the Amazon as an example. I won’t tell you the tribe’s name because I have no idea of how to spell it. But I can tell you a bit about them nonetheless.

They live in the middle of the Amazon. Each person works on average ten to twenty hours a week hunting/gathering and cooking food. The rest of the time they do whatever they want. They are fiercely proud to belong to their tribe, and although they have opportunities to learn Portuguese and enter Brazilian society they tend to think that the reverse should be a more likely story. They do not write or read. Their language has no numbers, and so they have never count. The language has far fewer words than ours. For example the word for skin, grass, cheek and a couple of other things is all the same. And yet scientific observers report that they smile and laugh far more than anyone in a “civilised society”. Indeed they often told the observer from whom I learnt all of this that if we could, then everyone would want to become a part of their tribe and live the way they do.

And they have some things to teach us as well: how to live sustainable lifestyles in keeping with nature; how to rebalance the equation between work and leisure; and also some more specific things. Their language includes a number of prefixes and suffixes, which inform you not only about what the information is that they have, but also where it came from. For instance imagine that you’re at a meeting and you say product X is worse than product Y. In English someone would have to ask you to elaborate. But in their tribal language you would have to structure the sentence so as to say where you got the information i.e. whether it was an opinion, found out from experience, inferred from something else etc.

So my question to you is basically this: is their life better? Or is ours? If you had the choice which would you choose and why?

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