Batek

From Anarchy In Action
Keluarga suku Bateq 167.jpg

The Batek are an egalitarian, immediate-return foraging society in Malaysia.[1] Anthropologist Ivan Tacey reports:

"In Batek life, personal autonomy is highly valued but alongside mutual sharing. So, it's egalitarianism, gender egalitarianism, there's no chiefs, men are not more powerful than women, there's no corporate groups, there's no age sets. People are equal. You can't even boss your children around [...] They are very much anarchists in the way they have these high, high, high levels of individual autonomy (which is not to be equated with individualism) but also extremely high levels of sharing."[2]

Culture

The Batek believe that someone who is unjustly angry at may cause the target of their anger to catch a disease called ke'oy involving fever, depression, and shortness of breath. The angry person needs to control their emotions to cure the sick person. This belief promotes peacefulness by discouraging extreme anger and grudges.[3]

Batek society treats women and men equally. Marriage is monogamous, and divorce can easily be attained by either partner.[4]

Children are raised with enormous freedom, and their minimal restrictions or discipline have to do with safeguarding them from tigers, strangers, and the thunder god. To teach them the value of sharing, children are often encouraged to deliver food to other families.[5]

Economy

The Batek share all food, including vegetables and meat. They do not have private property.[6]

Environment

The Batek have a taboo on laughing at animals and plants. Anthropologist Alice Rudge writes, "Adhering to these taboos is seen as ethical behaviour, a way that people demonstrate respect for the non-human persons of the forest that provide the Batek with sustenance."[7]

Crime

Interpersonal violence is strictly prohibited and violators may be ostracized. When there's a serious dispute, the community organizes a public discussion to resolve it. If resolution fails, then one of the parties will often leave for a while until emotions dissipate.[8]


  1. James Woodburn, "Egalitarian Societies," Man 17, no. 3 (1982): 433.
  2. Ivan Tacey, "Predation and Monstrosity among Malaysian Indigenous Peoples- history, violence and ontology," Radical Anthropology Group," 1 March 2022, https://vimeo.com/686366082.
  3. "Batek," Peaceful Societies", https://peacefulsocieties.uncg.edu/societies/batek/.
  4. "Batek," Peaceful Societies.
  5. "Batek," Peaceful Societies.
  6. "Batek," Peaceful Societies.
  7. Alice Rudge, "Why We Laugh Even When We Know It Is Wrong," The Print, 1 September 2019, https://theprint.in/features/why-we-laugh-even-when-we-know-it-is-wrong/284403/.
  8. "Batek," Peaceful Societies".