The Old Way

Sharing was perhaps the most important element of the social fabric.  Fear that others would not share was the constant preoccupation of many people.  I remember a woman talking about sharing: "I am sick," said the woman as if speaking to herself although in fact she was speaking to my mother, who was nearby.  "That is why I don’t go out for plant foods.  I want my mother to give me some and she does not give me any.  I am lying down sick.  I am starving.  If my mother were here, she would give me some plant foods…That place is far…The people who stay there are not people who favor others.  Not sympathetic.  They do not give food.  When they see people from a far place coming to their place, their hearts do not feel good.  I do not want to go to see those people."

That is from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Old Way: A Story of the First People, a fascinating study of a hunter-gatherer society, the Ju/wasi in the Kalahari.


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