If we are so wealthy, why do we kick people without wealth off their land and take it and its resources?

January 13, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature

I’ve written about the San bushmen from southern Africa. Lately I’ve been learning about the Hadza, who live in Tanzania. They’ve both lived on the order of 100,000 years gathering and hunting. I’ll write about the Hadza, but it applies to all cultures we drill for oil and mine for resources.

Here’s a trailer for a documentary I recommend to learn about them:

Here is a link to the full documentary, which it doesn’t play here, so you have to click to watch it. I set it to start at a scene that prompts the headline to this post. If you don’t feel like clicking, it shows the territory the Hadza being reduced by agriculture and encroaching by others. Here’s a still from that scene, where the small green area shows all the land they have left. They don’t consider land something a person can own and keep others from, it seems.

They occupied territory over 50,000 years. Now the rest of the world is taking that land. You can point to the proximal people encroaching, but it’s agriculturalists, which includes us.

What is wealth?

It’s easy to start by blaming patterns of colonialism and slavery, but I want to point to something deeper. The Hadza own little to nothing, as best I can tell, besides clothing. They hunt with bows and arrows, so own them, but they make them by hand from trees and animal parts, so if they lose one they can make others.

If they own nothing, by our standards they have no wealth. We have plenty. So why are we taking land from them?

I have to ask what we mean by wealth. Thoreau said “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” This view says they have wealth and we don’t. If we feel we need lithium for electric vehicles, we’re not wealthy with cars, we’re needy. If you fly or buy food from around the world, you are contributing to extinguishing these few people who lived as your ancestors did.

I’m not saying they’re noble savages or other stereotype. I’m saying we’re needy and call that neediness wealth.

Our values are twisted.

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