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How The Pygmies Can Instruct Americans

1339 words - 6 pages

Bianca Singer-Barber
Professor Brook
Cultural Anthropology
24 March 2014
How the Pygmies Can Instruct Americans

Anthropologists study cultures for many different reasons, one of which being to understand differences in the way that societies interpret the same concept. In “The Forest People”, Turnbull discusses several practices in Pygmy society that allow the small community to continue to flourish in spite of, what many of us would consider to be, severe disadvantages. The Pygmy’s basic trust in one another, understanding of the need to accomplish communal goals, and distribution of leadership and responsibility are all examples of aspects that may be present in American ...view middle of the document...

It can be argued that the amount of care presented by each member of the Pygmy society has a strong influence on the trust within the society. This concept, as a whole, is one that should be implemented more heavily into American society because it would improve the holism of our society. As previously described, the amount of care and trust provided by the Pygmy people reduces the amount of child neglect and abuse that occurs, which promotes healthy and stable lifestyles for the growing children and within the community.
Due to the size of the Pygmies, compared to the size of America, a strong sense of communal responsibility is more easily accomplished for them and, therefore, cooperation is the key to the functioning of their society. Pygmies are "the people of the forest," as noted by the name of Turnbull’s ethnography about them. This forest provides them with all the necessities of life. In order to benefit from the bounty the forest can provide, they need to share common goals. For instance, hunting for meat is one of the major survival tasks for this population. Of course, a pygmy can take his bow and arrows and try to shoot a bird or a monkey on his own, which is often done by the naïve, but is not the most effective way of obtaining meat. The most effective way to hunt animals is through the communal action of hunting by driving animals into a net. This form of hunting cannot be done alone; it would impossible for a single hunter to cover sufficient territory to drive the prey, an antelope for example, into a net. Being that it is a cooperative affair, net hunting implies shared interests and a common purpose among the men, women, and children of participating families. This shared purpose encourages teamwork. For example, at the time of a hunt, the nets owned by each family in the group are joined together in a long semi-circle. Usually, the women and children drive the animals into the nets while the men stand behind the nets and kill the animals when they become entangled. Afterward, the meat is shared among the various participants according to a set of very specific rules. In pygmy society, teamwork is ineffective without mutually agreed upon goals and, thus, communication is vital to the process. If a goal is ambiguous or ill defined, the group will lack motivation and commitment to complete the task. Although teamwork and communication are goals among small communities within America, it is important for the country as a whole to understand the concept of common goals. In America, states are given the rights to make their own laws if a situation is presented vaguely, or not at all, within the national constitution. Additionally, the lack of unity between different beliefs and values of the people in the country influences our inability to compromise on topics of importance. The Pygmy society shows us an example of how effective working together can be and that, if we cooperated more with each other, we might be able...

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