kottke.org posts about Baining

The most boring culture on EarthJul 26 2012

The Baining, an indiginous group of Papua New Guinea, shun play and basically don't do anything but work.

According to Fajans, the Baining eschew everything that they see as "natural" and value activities and products that come from "work," which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, "We are human because we work." The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings) through effortful work (cultivation, domestication, and disciplined childrearing).

The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children's play as "splashing in the mud," an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished -- sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child's hand into the fire -- for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.

But maybe Americans are becoming more boring as our children's freedom to explore is curtailed:

In some ways, I fear, we today are trying to emulate the Baining as we increasingly deprive children of opportunities to play and explore freely and, instead, force them to spend ever more time working in school and participating in adult-directed activities outside of school.

Immediately after reading about the Baining, I read this article by Trent Wolbe about his use of Adderall and was struck by a similar theme of a lack of playful creativity.

A subtler but probably much more profound effect permeates my cycle of Adderall use. I'd stopped eating. I'd stopped sleeping. I'd stopped getting horny. I'd stopped getting distracted by habits that I normally reveled in, which all seemed good. One day, about five months in, I noticed that I had stopped paying attention to music. My pleasure receptors, which in their normal state constantly cry out for sex, french fries, naps, and Katy Perry, had all become blunted. As a DJ that last thirst was something that sustained me not only spiritually but financially, and its void scared me almost as much as my flaccid penis. If I wasn't the California Gurl-obsessed snack addict I knew, then what the fuck was I?

(via @juliandibbell/)

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