Difference between revisions of "Mbuti"

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[[File:Mbuti woman with mushrooms1.jpg|thumbnail|Source: http://www.peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Mbuti.html]]
 
[[File:Mbuti woman with mushrooms1.jpg|thumbnail|Source: http://www.peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Mbuti.html]]
From Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works <ref>[[Anarchy Works]]</ref>:
 
  
<blockquote> The Mbuti hunter-gatherers of the Ituri Forest in central Africa have traditionally lived without government. Accounts by ancient historians suggest the forest-dwellers have lived as stateless hunter-gatherers during the time of the Egyptian pharoahs, and according to the Mbuti themselves they have always lived that way. Contrary to common portrayals by outsiders, groups like the Mbuti are not isolated or primordial. In fact they have frequent interactions with the sedentary Bantu peoples surrounding the forest, and they have had plenty of opportunities to see what supposedly advanced societies are like. Going back at least hundreds of years, Mbuti have developed relationships of exchange and gift-giving with neighboring farmers, while retaining their identity as “the children of the forest.
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The Mbuti hunter-gatherers in the Congo's Ituri Forest have traditionally lived in stateless communities with gift economies and largely egalitarian gender relations. The anthropologist Colin Turnbull, after living with a Mbuti band, remarked, "They were a people who had found in the forest something that made life more than just worth living, something that made it, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, a wonderful thing full of joy and happiness and free of care."<ref>Colin Turbull, ''The Forest People'' (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968) 28.</ref> Today, several thousands Mbuti live in the forest but face threats from the Congo's civil war and environmental devastation from coltan mining, deforestation and hunting.<ref>Peter Gelderloos, [[Anarchy Works]].</ref>
  
Today several thousand Mbuti still live in the Ituri Forest and negotiate dynamic relationships with the changing world of the villagers, while fighting to preserve their traditional way of life. Many other Mbuti live in settlements along the new roads. Coltan mining for cell phones is a chief financial incentive for the civil war and the habitat destruction that is ravaging the region and killing hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The governments of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda all want to control this billion dollar industry, that produces primarily for the US and Europe, while miners seeking employment come from all over Africa to set up camp in the region. The deforestation, population boom, and increase in hunting to provide bush meat for the soldiers and miners have depleted local wildlife. Lacking food and competing for territorial control, soldiers and miners have taken to carrying out atrocities, including cannibalism, against the Mbuti. Some Mbuti are currently demanding an international tribunal against cannibalism and other violations.
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=Culture=
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Mbuti culture trationally emphasized nearly egalitarian gender relations and extensive freedom for children. Men controlled the hunting, while women gathered vegetables and other foods.<ref>"Mbuti", ''Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies'', www.peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Mbuti.html.</ref> Peter Gelderloos, based on Turnbull's work, noted that the Mbuti do not have excessive distinction between genders:
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<blockquote>
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The Mbuti also discouraged competition or even excessive distinction between genders. They did not use gendered pronouns or familial words — e.g., instead of “son” they say “child,” “sibling” instead of “sister” — except in the case of parents, in which there is a functional difference between one who gives birth or provides milk and one who provides other forms of care. An important ritual game played by adult Mbuti worked to undermine gender competition. As Turnbull describes it, the game began like a tug-of-war match, with the women pulling one end of a long rope or vine and the men pulling the other. But as soon as one side started to win, someone from that team would run to the other side, also symbolically changing their gender and becoming a member of the other group. By the end, the participants collapsed in a heap laughing, all having changed their genders multiple times. Neither side “won,” but that seemed to be the point. Group harmony was restored.<ref>Gelderloos, [[Anarchy Works]].</ref>
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</blockquote>
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However, Mbuti appeared to tolerate a degree of domestic abuse. Turnbull writes, that after a wedding ritual a woman is "told she is now her husband's responsibility and must fend for herself and not come running home every time she gets beaten."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 186.</ref>
  
Europeans travelling through central Africa during their colonization of that continent imposed their own moral framework on the Mbuti. Because they only encountered the Mbuti in the villages of the Bantu farmers surrounding the Ituri forest, they assumed the Mbuti were a primitive servant class. In the 1950s, the Mbuti invited Western anthropologist Colin Turnbull to live with them in the forest. They tolerated his rude and ignorant questions, and took the time to teach him about their culture. The stories he recounts describe a society far outside of what a Western worldview considers possible. Around the time that anthropologists, and subsequently, Western anarchists, began to argue about what the Mbuti “meant” for their respective theories, global economic institutions were elaborating a process of genocide that threatens to destroy the Mbuti as a people. Notwithstanding, various Western writers have already idealized or degraded the Mbuti to produce arguments for or against primitivism, veganism, feminism, and other political agendas.
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Children lived almost autonomously. In one game, around six children climbed a young tree, bending it to the ground. Then, they would all jump off, and anyone too slow would be flung into the air by the tree. Turnbull describes the life of Mbuti children as "one long frolic interspersed with a healthy sprinkle of spankings and slappings...And one day they find that the games they have been playing are not games any longer, but the real thing, for they have become adults. Their hunting is now real hunting; their climbing is in earnest search of innacessible honey; their acrobatics on the swings are repeated almost daily, in other forms, in the pursuit of elusive game, or in avoiding the malicious forest buffalo. It happens so gradually that they hardly notice the change at fist, for even when they are still proud and famous hunters their life is still full of fun and laughter."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People,'' 129.</ref>
  
Therefore, perhaps the most important lesson to take from the story of the Mbuti is not that anarchy — a cooperative, free, and relatively healthy society — is possible, but that free societies are not possible so long as governments try to crush any pocket of independence, corporations fund genocide in order to manufacture cell phones, and supposedly sympathetic people are more interested in writing ethnographies than fighting back.
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=Decisions=
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Decisions are made in assemblies composed of the adult men and women. The Mbuti did not have a state, or chiefs or councils. Turnbull explains, "If you ask a Pygmy why his people have no chiefs, no lawmakers, no councils, or no leaders, he will answer with misleading simplicity, 'Because we are the people of the forest.' The forest, the great provider is the one standard by which all deeds and thoughts are judged; it is the chief, the lawgiver, the leader, and the final arbitrator."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 124-5.</ref> According to Gelderloos, ancient historians provided accounts of the Mbuti living as stateless hunter-gatherers during the reign of Egyptian pharohs, and the Mbuti themselves say they always lived that way.<ref>Gelderloos, [[Anarchy Works]].</ref>
  
In Turnbull’s perspective, the Mbuti were resolutely egalitarian, and many of the ways they organized their society reduced competition and promoted cooperation between members. Gathering food was a community affair, and when they hunted often the whole band turned out. One half would beat the bush in the direction of the other half, who waited with nets to snare any animals that had been flushed out. A successful hunt was the result of everyone working together effectively, and the whole community shared in the catch.
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=Economy=
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As hunter-gatherers, the Mbuti practiced extensive mutual aid and gift-giving. Turnbull writes, "Hunting, for a Pygmy group, is a co-operative affair--net-hunting pharicularly."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 97.</ref>  When a man caught and killed an animal, his wife would bring it back to the camp to share with others. Sometimes, people felt that food was distributed unfairly, and they would complain and squabble until the distribution was corrected.<ref><ref>"Mbuti", ''Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies'', www.peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Mbuti.html.</ref> The construction of temporay villages was also a communal affair. The Mbuti lived in mud huts about 7 feet by 5 feet.<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 39, 59.</ref>
  
Mbuti children were given a high degree of autonomy, and spent much of their days in a wing of the camp that was off-limits to adults. One game they frequently played involved a group of small children climbing up a young tree until their combined weight bent the tree towards the earth. Ideally, the children would let go all at once, and the supple tree would shoot upright. But if one child was not in synch and let go too late, the child would be launched through the trees and given a good scare. Such games teach group harmony over individual performance, and provide an early form of socialization into a culture of voluntary cooperation. The war games and individualized competition that characterize play in Western society provide a notably different form of socialization.
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=Environment=
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The Mbuti revered the forest and lived there sustainably for thousands of years. The Mbuti villager Moke told Turnbull, "The forest is a father and mother to us and like a father or mother it gives us everything we need--food, clothing, shelter, warmth...and affection."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 192.</ref> However, Turnbull describes their cruel treatment of animals, "I have seen the Pygmies sieging feathers off birds that were still alive, explaining that the meat is more tender if the death comes slowly. And the hunting dogs, valuable as they are, get kicked around mercilessly from the day they are born to the day they die.<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 101.</ref>
  
The Mbuti also discouraged competition or even excessive distinction between genders. They did not use gendered pronouns or familial words — e.g., instead of “son” they say “child,” “sibling” instead of “sister” — except in the case of parents, in which there is a functional difference between one who gives birth or provides milk and one who provides other forms of care. An important ritual game played by adult Mbuti worked to undermine gender competition. As Turnbull describes it, the game began like a tug-of-war match, with the women pulling one end of a long rope or vine and the men pulling the other. But as soon as one side started to win, someone from that team would run to the other side, also symbolically changing their gender and becoming a member of the other group. By the end, the participants collapsed in a heap laughing, all having changed their genders multiple times. Neither side “won,” but that seemed to be the point. Group harmony was restored.
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=Crime=
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The Mbuti had several methods of punishing crime. For the less serious crimes, the parties themselves solved the matter, by "either arguing out the case, or engaging in a mild fight." For more serious crimes, the village's young men would sound an instrument mimicking an elephant and attack the criminal's hut. Villagers responded to very serious crimes with ostracism and threats of supernatural retribution.<ref>Turbull, ''The Forest People'', 110-111.</ref> Turnbull describes an instance where a hunger put his hunting net before others'. The camp responded by taunting and ridiculing him, refusing to give him a chair, and laughing at him. Eventually, he apologized and gave up the meat he had caught. Turnbull comments, "Cephu had committed what is probably one of the most serious crimes in Pygmy eyes, and one that rarely occurs. Yet the case was settled simply and effectively, without any evident legal system being brought into force. It cannot be said that Cephu went unpunished, because for those few hours when nobody would speak to him he must have suffered the equivalent of as many days solitary confinement for anyone else. To have been refused a chair by a mere youthm not even one fo the great hunters; to have been laughed at by women and children; to have been ignored by men--none of these things would be quickly forgotten. Without any formal process of law Cephu had been firmly put in his place, and it was unlikely he would do the same thing again in a hurry."<ref>Turnbull, ''The Forest People'', 104-110.</ref> In another instance, a man committed incest with his cousin, a very serious crime according to tradition. The youth chased him out of the village. After three days, he returned and the village accepted him back.<ref>Turbull, ''The Forest People'', 111-112.</ref>
  
The Mbuti traditionally viewed conflict or “noise” as a common problem and a threat to the harmony of the group. If the disputants could not resolve things on their own or with the help of friends, the entire band would hold an important ritual that often lasted all night long. Everyone gathered together to discuss, and if the problem still could not be solved, the youth, who often played the role of justice-seekers within their society, would sneak into the night and begin rampaging around the camp, blowing a horn that made a sound like an elephant, symbolizing how the problem threatened the existence of the whole band. For a particularly serious dispute that had disrupted the group’s harmony, the youth might give extra expression to their frustration by crashing through camp itself, kicking out fires and knocking down houses. Meanwhile, the adults would sing a two-part harmony, building up a sense of cooperation and togetherness.
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=Neighboring Societies=
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From Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works <ref>[[Anarchy Works]]</ref>:
 +
<blockquote>
 +
Contrary to common portrayals by outsiders, groups like the Mbuti are not isolated or primordial. In fact they have frequent interactions with the sedentary Bantu peoples surrounding the forest, and they have had plenty of opportunities to see what supposedly advanced societies are like. Going back at least hundreds of years, Mbuti have developed relationships of exchange and gift-giving with neighboring farmers, while retaining their identity as “the children of the forest.”
 +
 
 +
Today several thousand Mbuti still live in the Ituri Forest and negotiate dynamic relationships with the changing world of the villagers, while fighting to preserve their traditional way of life. Many other Mbuti live in settlements along the new roads. Coltan mining for cell phones is a chief financial incentive for the civil war and the habitat destruction that is ravaging the region and killing hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The governments of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda all want to control this billion dollar industry, that produces primarily for the US and Europe, while miners seeking employment come from all over Africa to set up camp in the region. The deforestation, population boom, and increase in hunting to provide bush meat for the soldiers and miners have depleted local wildlife. Lacking food and competing for territorial control, soldiers and miners have taken to carrying out atrocities, including cannibalism, against the Mbuti. Some Mbuti are currently demanding an international tribunal against cannibalism and other violations.
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</blockquote>
  
The Mbuti also underwent a sort of fission and fusion throughout the year. Often motivated by interpersonal conflicts, the band would break up into smaller, more intimate groups. People had the option to take space from one another rather than being forced by the larger community to suppress their problems. After travelling and living separately for a time, the smaller groups joined together again, once there had been time for conflicts to cool down. Eventually the whole band was reunited, and the process started over. It seems the Mbuti synchronized this social fluctuation with their economic activities, so their period of living together as an entire band coincided with the season in which the specific forms of gathering and hunting require the cooperation of a larger group. The period of small, disparate groups coincided with the time of the year when the foods were in season that were best harvested by small groups spread throughout the whole forest, and the period when the whole band came together corresponded with the season in which hunting and gathering activities were better accomplished by big groups working together. </blockquote>
 
  
 
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<references/>
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--[[User:DFischer|DFischer]] ([[User talk:DFischer|talk]]) 16:05, 22 October 2014 (EDT)

Revision as of 12:05, 22 October 2014

The Mbuti hunter-gatherers in the Congo's Ituri Forest have traditionally lived in stateless communities with gift economies and largely egalitarian gender relations. The anthropologist Colin Turnbull, after living with a Mbuti band, remarked, "They were a people who had found in the forest something that made life more than just worth living, something that made it, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, a wonderful thing full of joy and happiness and free of care."[1] Today, several thousands Mbuti live in the forest but face threats from the Congo's civil war and environmental devastation from coltan mining, deforestation and hunting.[2]

Culture

Mbuti culture trationally emphasized nearly egalitarian gender relations and extensive freedom for children. Men controlled the hunting, while women gathered vegetables and other foods.[3] Peter Gelderloos, based on Turnbull's work, noted that the Mbuti do not have excessive distinction between genders:

The Mbuti also discouraged competition or even excessive distinction between genders. They did not use gendered pronouns or familial words — e.g., instead of “son” they say “child,” “sibling” instead of “sister” — except in the case of parents, in which there is a functional difference between one who gives birth or provides milk and one who provides other forms of care. An important ritual game played by adult Mbuti worked to undermine gender competition. As Turnbull describes it, the game began like a tug-of-war match, with the women pulling one end of a long rope or vine and the men pulling the other. But as soon as one side started to win, someone from that team would run to the other side, also symbolically changing their gender and becoming a member of the other group. By the end, the participants collapsed in a heap laughing, all having changed their genders multiple times. Neither side “won,” but that seemed to be the point. Group harmony was restored.[4]

However, Mbuti appeared to tolerate a degree of domestic abuse. Turnbull writes, that after a wedding ritual a woman is "told she is now her husband's responsibility and must fend for herself and not come running home every time she gets beaten."[5]

Children lived almost autonomously. In one game, around six children climbed a young tree, bending it to the ground. Then, they would all jump off, and anyone too slow would be flung into the air by the tree. Turnbull describes the life of Mbuti children as "one long frolic interspersed with a healthy sprinkle of spankings and slappings...And one day they find that the games they have been playing are not games any longer, but the real thing, for they have become adults. Their hunting is now real hunting; their climbing is in earnest search of innacessible honey; their acrobatics on the swings are repeated almost daily, in other forms, in the pursuit of elusive game, or in avoiding the malicious forest buffalo. It happens so gradually that they hardly notice the change at fist, for even when they are still proud and famous hunters their life is still full of fun and laughter."[6]

Decisions

Decisions are made in assemblies composed of the adult men and women. The Mbuti did not have a state, or chiefs or councils. Turnbull explains, "If you ask a Pygmy why his people have no chiefs, no lawmakers, no councils, or no leaders, he will answer with misleading simplicity, 'Because we are the people of the forest.' The forest, the great provider is the one standard by which all deeds and thoughts are judged; it is the chief, the lawgiver, the leader, and the final arbitrator."[7] According to Gelderloos, ancient historians provided accounts of the Mbuti living as stateless hunter-gatherers during the reign of Egyptian pharohs, and the Mbuti themselves say they always lived that way.[8]

Economy

As hunter-gatherers, the Mbuti practiced extensive mutual aid and gift-giving. Turnbull writes, "Hunting, for a Pygmy group, is a co-operative affair--net-hunting pharicularly."[9] When a man caught and killed an animal, his wife would bring it back to the camp to share with others. Sometimes, people felt that food was distributed unfairly, and they would complain and squabble until the distribution was corrected.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag The construction of temporay villages was also a communal affair. The Mbuti lived in mud huts about 7 feet by 5 feet.[10]

Environment

The Mbuti revered the forest and lived there sustainably for thousands of years. The Mbuti villager Moke told Turnbull, "The forest is a father and mother to us and like a father or mother it gives us everything we need--food, clothing, shelter, warmth...and affection."[11] However, Turnbull describes their cruel treatment of animals, "I have seen the Pygmies sieging feathers off birds that were still alive, explaining that the meat is more tender if the death comes slowly. And the hunting dogs, valuable as they are, get kicked around mercilessly from the day they are born to the day they die.[12]

Crime

The Mbuti had several methods of punishing crime. For the less serious crimes, the parties themselves solved the matter, by "either arguing out the case, or engaging in a mild fight." For more serious crimes, the village's young men would sound an instrument mimicking an elephant and attack the criminal's hut. Villagers responded to very serious crimes with ostracism and threats of supernatural retribution.[13] Turnbull describes an instance where a hunger put his hunting net before others'. The camp responded by taunting and ridiculing him, refusing to give him a chair, and laughing at him. Eventually, he apologized and gave up the meat he had caught. Turnbull comments, "Cephu had committed what is probably one of the most serious crimes in Pygmy eyes, and one that rarely occurs. Yet the case was settled simply and effectively, without any evident legal system being brought into force. It cannot be said that Cephu went unpunished, because for those few hours when nobody would speak to him he must have suffered the equivalent of as many days solitary confinement for anyone else. To have been refused a chair by a mere youthm not even one fo the great hunters; to have been laughed at by women and children; to have been ignored by men--none of these things would be quickly forgotten. Without any formal process of law Cephu had been firmly put in his place, and it was unlikely he would do the same thing again in a hurry."[14] In another instance, a man committed incest with his cousin, a very serious crime according to tradition. The youth chased him out of the village. After three days, he returned and the village accepted him back.[15]

Neighboring Societies

From Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works [16]:

Contrary to common portrayals by outsiders, groups like the Mbuti are not isolated or primordial. In fact they have frequent interactions with the sedentary Bantu peoples surrounding the forest, and they have had plenty of opportunities to see what supposedly advanced societies are like. Going back at least hundreds of years, Mbuti have developed relationships of exchange and gift-giving with neighboring farmers, while retaining their identity as “the children of the forest.”

Today several thousand Mbuti still live in the Ituri Forest and negotiate dynamic relationships with the changing world of the villagers, while fighting to preserve their traditional way of life. Many other Mbuti live in settlements along the new roads. Coltan mining for cell phones is a chief financial incentive for the civil war and the habitat destruction that is ravaging the region and killing hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The governments of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda all want to control this billion dollar industry, that produces primarily for the US and Europe, while miners seeking employment come from all over Africa to set up camp in the region. The deforestation, population boom, and increase in hunting to provide bush meat for the soldiers and miners have depleted local wildlife. Lacking food and competing for territorial control, soldiers and miners have taken to carrying out atrocities, including cannibalism, against the Mbuti. Some Mbuti are currently demanding an international tribunal against cannibalism and other violations.


  1. Colin Turbull, The Forest People (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968) 28.
  2. Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works.
  3. "Mbuti", Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies, www.peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Mbuti.html.
  4. Gelderloos, Anarchy Works.
  5. Turnbull, The Forest People, 186.
  6. Turnbull, The Forest People, 129.
  7. Turnbull, The Forest People, 124-5.
  8. Gelderloos, Anarchy Works.
  9. Turnbull, The Forest People, 97.
  10. Turnbull, The Forest People, 39, 59.
  11. Turnbull, The Forest People, 192.
  12. Turnbull, The Forest People, 101.
  13. Turbull, The Forest People, 110-111.
  14. Turnbull, The Forest People, 104-110.
  15. Turbull, The Forest People, 111-112.
  16. Anarchy Works

--DFischer (talk) 16:05, 22 October 2014 (EDT)