This book is instantly fascinating but really feels like it skips around a lot. I’m not sure I loved the way Jared structured the information but I guess it was always a pleasant surprise to see what the next chapter had in store.
Jared sets out to explore how life in traditional societies compares with that in modern societies. He does this using the topics of boundaries, dispute resolution, warfare, treatment of children and the elderly, danger, religion, language and health.
He is quick to warn against romanticising traditional societies but picks out some of the aspects he thinks have been lost from our modern lives and would be worth resurrecting. His background as an evolutionary biologist gives the book an interesting slant. For most of our history we lived like many of the groups he has studied, as subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers. This is the world in which our bodies have been naturally selected to succeed.
The things he recommends that I am interested in pursuing in my modern life are eating more slowly, less salt and sugar (less hypertension and diabetes!) and bilingualism for very young kids. I’ll soon be speaking Spanish and Te Reo with my niece and nephew to completely confuse them.
“My own outlook on life has been transformed by my years among one set of traditional societies, that of New Guinea. I hope you readers as individuals, and our modern society as a whole, will similarly find much to enjoy and adopt from the huge range of traditional human experience.” – Jared Diamond