[FOUNTAIN]Share game, share power in politics

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[FOUNTAIN]Share game, share power in politics

In the tropical jungle of eastern Paraguay lives a tribe named the Ache. The Ache Indians make their living by hunting and gathering. When one of the tribesmen catches game, the members of the village share it. In contrast, personal ownership of gathered fruits and nuts is recognized, and the fruits can be shared within the family. The range of distribution depends on whether the food was gathered or hunted. That is an age-old tradition among the Ache.
The American anthropologists Hilliard Kaplan and Kim Hill published a landmark paper on that food sharing and distribution behavior in 1985 after observing the Ache.
The anthropologists found the reason for the difference in treatment of hunted and gathered food in the “certainty of resource acquisition.” Gathering is a predictable means of acquiring food, but hunting is not. Despite the hunter’s efforts, he might fail from time to time.
The supply of meat is highly uncertain. Therefore, if hunters repeatedly fail, they don’t have animal protein to eat.
Kaplan and Hill claimed that the Ache began sharing animals from the hunt in order to minimize that risk. By sharing the animal you hunted with others, you can share some of the animals other hunters catch the next time you come back empty-handed from hunting. Sharing today can be insurance for tomorrow.
The sharing of the meat serves the function of distributing the risk of failed hunting to the entire society. Kaplan and Hill’s theory is also referred as the “risk reduction model.”
The paper provided a key to understanding general distribution behavior of humans. After the research by the two anthropologists, other anthropological studies proposed that distribution is a survival strategy, like ideology and philosophy, that mankind had come to understand in the process of evolution. When it is uncertain whether you can acquire what you need, sharing can be more advantageous than monopolizing. One scholar proved that theory mathematically as well.
How about people living in the civilized world? We want to apply standards of distribution to hard-earned food and money, but often compete to monopolize uncertain political power that we might lose any time.
What we need today is the Ache’s wisdom of sharing.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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