Category Archive 'Aché'

26 Jan 2020

Society and the Old

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Aché Indian, shortly after they were captured and brought out of the forest, 1970s, eastern Paraguay.

With so many geezers in the democrat presidential field this year, Ann Althouse is moved to reflect upon the role of the aged in society:

    “I customarily killed old women. They all died, there by the big river. I didn’t used to wait until they were completely dead to bury them. The women were afraid of me.”

Said “a man from the Aché, an indigenous tribe in eastern Paraguay,” quoted in “What happens when we’re too old to be ‘useful’?” (BBC).

As another anthropologist, Jared Diamond, points out, the Aché are hardly outliers. Among the Kualong, in Papua New Guinea, when a woman’s husband died, it was her son’s solemn duty to strangle her. In the Arctic, the Chukchi encouraged old people to kill themselves with the promise of rewards in the afterlife….

Some think we’ll need a more radical shift in our attitudes to old age. There’s talk of retirement itself being “retired”. Perhaps, like our ancestors, we’ll be expected to work for as long as we’re able. But the varied customs of ancestral societies should give us pause, because they appear to have evolved in response to some discomfortingly hard-nosed trade-offs….

Once we relied on elders to store knowledge and instruct the young. Now, knowledge dates quickly – and who needs Grandma when we have schools and Wikipedia?


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