Eating Christmas in the Kalahari
The paper “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari”, written by Richard Lee, it describes his experience living with the Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in south central Africa. The story goes into depth about the experiences and cultural differences that caused him to almost quit his three year study. The study serves as documentation of another instance of how different societies of people distinguish themselves from one another and how they conduct themselves on a daily basis. Lee is a believer in Christmas and therefore feels that it’s a day of friendship and brotherly love.
He decided to buy the largest and meatiest ox that money could buy all for the corporation of the Bushmen for the past year. After purchasing the ox the Bushmen teased him that he purchased a “bag of bones”. They filled his saying that the ox was old and had no fat on it. When “Whitey” went hunting with his friend he was once again teased whether he hit his prey or not. I think that this is a great example of agents of socialization. His peers were teasing him in order to keep him in his place so he doesn’t become arrogant.
In the Bushmen culture arrogance is considered to be a leading factor in killing each other. Lee is a social anthropologist working with the Coon Bushmen. He came to study hunting and gathering substance economy. For Lee it was essential not to provide food or share his food or participate in their gathering. However he could hand out tobacco and medical supply. Often in the story Lee was accused of being stingy and cold hearted. In the Bushmen eyes he was considered to be a miser. They felt this way because he has a two month supply of food yet they don’t even have a days’ worth.
Bushmen live straight off the land. I think all of this is an example of status. The other key term is mechanical and social solidarity. I think the best example of this is the fact that Lee doesn’t have to hunt or grow his food. He is considered to be wealthy since he has two months’ worth of food. The Bushmen have to live day to day hunting for their food. They actually have to work for the food they eat. When the “Whitey” decides that one day out of the whole year he wants to share his food and feed the Bushmen they aren’t necessarily thankful.
The Bushmen share food with each other all year long. Personally I think the Bushmen look at Lee like he is greedy. Gemeinschaft is translated as community and society. The story relates to this term in many ways. Lee is an outsider of the Bushmen community. He is an anthropologist that is there to observe and the only thing he can offer them is cigarettes and medicine. Lee cannot interfere in their food gathering and their way of life. When Lee decides to feed them for the Christmas customer he expects gratitude and praise.
Instead the Bushmen tease him and are somewhat derisive to him. Lee begins to doubt himself because of all the things they have filled his head with. Personally I think that the Bushmen envy Lee; therefore they are sort of cruel to him. It states that he is the only source of tobacco of tobacco in a thousand miles. Because of this I think they hate that they have to rely on him for the supplies he can offer. I think that the Bushmen are grateful for the fact Lee has medicine and tobacco, but they prefer to do things on their own.
Although Lee feels down about himself and is second guessing his ox it is all actually a misunderstanding. Lee being an anthropologist living with an unfamiliar group of people that have much cultural differences misunderstandings are bound to happen. When he is confused about why he isn’t receiving the gratitude that he was expecting for slaughtering the ox it arises a conflict. In our culture when someone presents an act of kindness we are appreciative, but in the Kung Bushmen culture it is completely different. Instead of the gratitude they ridicule and degrade the gift.
The reason they act so for lack of a better word “rude”, is because they don’t want no one man to perceive himself greater than others just because he can bring home food. In the story one of the members of the Kung Bushmen says, “We insult men after they make a kill because of arrogance. ” They feel that when a young man kills so much meat he starts to think of himself of as chief or a big man. Once someone starts feeling like this they begin to think everyone else is beneath them. In conclusion “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” was a great story teaching
us about our culture as well as vividly describing the way the Bushmen culture think. They are a society that strongly holds onto humility. In their culture bragging and boasting leads to killing; therefore taunting will keep everyone in their place. Although they made Lee feel bad about his gift, I think that they truly were appreciative for everything he has provided to them. They just show their appreciation in a completely different way, which Lee later realizes and understands that’s part of the way they live.