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  • Writer's pictureDan Thompson

Blackfoot indigenous vs Large-scale Modern societies

A Comparison of Meaning and Quality of Life in Indigenous vs Contemporary Western societies

There is a lot to say for the convenience and extravagant ways of living that most modern societies offer. Food is accessible and often ‘free’, meaning that if you really, really need it, you can put on your most slovenly clothes and slog on down to the food bank to receive your two or three course meal consumed out of packaging, or maybe even a plate.

But in terms of benefits and the good things in life, soup kitchens are not considered one of them. Rather it is a grocery store, market, restaurant, bar where food is delivered, cooked and served for a modest to equally extravagant price. We can follow this with some sort of show or event before rounding out the day with a drink of alcohol or something comparable to gently knock us down and out.

For some this is sufficient but not necessary for a well-lived life, the necessary part comes with a life well-lived. It is easy to conflate the two until we reach a point where we finally have to get serious about what exactly constitutes a good life. In short, the Blackfoot lived a life of generosity and community organized around a sense of belonging in Place. They did not have homeless shelters or food banks, they did not even have one homeless person. Instead everything was shared and equally acquired. Those who did not contribute were shown the folly and error of their ways and quickly reformed themselves in order to remain in good-standing within their community. Of course they all knew each other, and perhaps that is why their society stayed the way it was, and still is in many ways, until members of the community moved away and in some cases, became homeless. It is the society that they moved into that seems to perpetuate this disease of not belonging which is found nowhere else in nature. From this perspective the absurdity of not belonging is self-evident. No one is born who does not already belong.

the one thing that [Maslow] really missed was the Indigenous relationship to place. Without that, what he’s looking at as self-actualization doesn’t actually happen. There’s a reason people aren’t critical of their tribe: you’ve got to live with them forever. Ravilochan, 2021

The above article, ‘Could the Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow Guide Us Now?’ By Teju Ravilochan, Vidya Ravilochan and Colette Kessler, goes into detail about Abraham Maslow’s study of self-actualization in Blackfoot society from a gestalt psychological perspective.

I do not wish to elaborate on this since it would require further research and reading into the specifics of the study and of gestalt psychology itself. This is only to say that a comparison of traditional societies to the monoculture of modern global society yields useful insights into how we can enrich ourselves, our community and our environment by paying special attention to Place as prescribed by phenomenology and direct experience.

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