“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”
– Lao Zi, Dao De Jing
The indigenous Piaroa people live in the midst of Venezuelan and Colombian tropical forests on an area equivalent to the size of Belgium. Their total population is around 14,494. The name „Piaroa“ is a term of unknown origin, but they are also known as the De’arua (masters of the forest), Wothuha (knowledgeable people) and De’atʰïhä (people of the forest). The most peculiar thing about them is their strong sense of peace, equality, individual autonomy and anti-authoritarianism. I believe that the western society can learn much from the Piaroa and other so-called „primitive“ indigenous people.
The reason behind their strong need to foster peace and equality is their belief in a mythic past, where angry gods gained power and wealth through competition, aggression and greed. As a result of such behaviour, they have corrupted future relations within and between communities. The goal of the present day Piaroa is to maintain peace. To do that, a shaman chants every day while he makes a potion made from honey and water. The next day, the Piaroa consume the concoction, believing that it will keep them safe from violence for another day. The shaman also works as a mediator who resolves quarrels and instructs both children and adults to behave well, respect others and. The ideal a person should reach is tranqulity and self-control.
However, nothing divine is needed to keep a society peaceful, but rather a healthy dose of common sense. For instance, when comparing the western law enforcement system, which is corrupted, flawed and sometimes unethical with the simple Piaroa system, it’s rather evident which one seems more natural and humane. Rather than having jails and pistol-wielding police officers, the Piaroa enforce group therapy which not only reeducates criminals, but also prevents further incidents from happening. It seems as though the whole society benefits from particular cases. That’s not the case in western societies, where law enforcement systems perhaps raise even more ethical, economical and social questions than they can answer.
On the other hand, it’s vital to keep in mind the small size of the Piaroa society. It would be irrational to compare it to the size of the western society and except the same results, but it wouldn’t be irrational to expect at least some process or inter-cultural learning and communication. The western world most certainly could profit if it gained respect for „primitive“ societies and tried to incorporate their thoughts into its philosophy. It seems like returning to nature would also bring us back to humanity.
Ultimately, it’s clear that the Piaroa value collective coexistence above individuality, but that’s a sacrifice most western people aren’t willing to make. The solution lies in educating people to be more open minded and to think critically. As a result, an individual and the society around him/her would be more receptive to other, alternative ideas. The future generation would be given the great and hard task of gathering more knowledge, accepting different cultures and trying to analyze and incorporate indigenous ideas into the modern world. It would signify a newfound foundation for tolerance and peaceful coexistence which could bring humanity and it’s unrelenting spirit back to it’s full-hearted natural roots.
What is your opinion about the Piaroa people? Do you know any other peaceful societies?
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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