Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Todd Michel McComb (
5 Jul 1995 17:06:30 -0700

In article <>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:
>I take it that this is your way of saying that you *do* recognize the
>benefits of competition?

Competition is widespread in human society, at one level or another.
It exists. I do not apply such words as "benefit" to this scenario,
because the converse is outside of my experience.

>>>The perils of the marketplace aren't in the same league with the
>>>realities of the battlefield and the slave block.
>>I suppose.

>I'm not sure I'm catching the proper nuance in your response. Is that
>grudging agrement, or an ironic dismissal?

Although I do not particularly disagree with your statement, there
are many schools of thought in which it is considered superior to
die while actually trying to do something, rather than simply
wasting away as the "unemployable." Even in the case of slavery,
one's fate is taken into another's hands, and as such one need not
listen to the statements of the upper classes to the effect that
you've had "equal opportunity" but merely blown it.

Yes, I do believe I dislike being told that everyone is (or can
be) equal when it is manifestly untrue. I prefer the truth, even
if it serves to calcify the situation.

>Well, first of all, every animal has a built-in energy-minimization
>routine, which motivates it to find the least-energy path for any activity.

I do not believe you.

>Older people get set in their ways. They are less adaptible. They *can't*
>change. The young are still in their plastic phase. They see a better way
>of doing things, they do it.

What does "better" mean?

>I guess you could call it that, but it is a form of stasis which produces
>fundamentally different results. "Progress" has now advanced to the point
>that we have largely conquered disease, and where many people have the
>ability to fully explore their unique capabilities.

We have conquered certain sorts of diseases; others appear. It is
unclear to me that we will ever "largely conquer disease"; perhaps
you can cite a study supporting this position.

The converse of the latter statement is that no one could explore
their unique abilities. My knowledge of history does not support
such a situation; it is only the context of these explorations
which change. I will further suggest that people with frames of mind
analogous to your own, in a few generations, will claim that *now*
people can "fully" explore. And so it goes.

>Have you been following the "science and unemployment" thread, where
>a hare krishna devotee calling himself swamy has extolled the virtues of
>village life in india?

Yes, and I agree with the statements made against him: that he has
apparently not lived there.

In fact, I would suggest that, if he believes that "idylls" are stable,
he has not studied the Mahabharata sufficiently well.

>I am not prepared to simply accept my biases, or throw up my hands and
>declare that all hope to understand others is futile because I'm not them.
>I attempt to understand my biases and thereby expand my perspective beyond

Sounds reasonable.

Todd Michel McComb