Marja-Leena Rathje
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peaceful societies

Last week I made one of my visits to Via Negativa and found a very interesting series of posts that grabbed my own interest in "primitive" cultures. Dave Bonta announces:

"Today marks the inauguration of a new website on Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War. This is truly a ground-breaking site. There is nothing else like it on the web. Granted, I'm a bit biased. The site is largely the work of my father, Bruce D. Bonta, a retired academic librarian and peace scholar whose Peaceful Peoples: An Annotated Bibliography (Scarecrow, 1993) was similarly a pioneering effort.[..] The heart of the website is the Encyclopedia of Peaceful Societies, with twenty-five entries up and more on the way. I want to spend the next three days highlighting brief selections from these entries - things that struck my fancy for one reason or another". So he does on Friday and Saturday, concluding in part: "I should perhaps have made it clear from the outset that none of these societies are intended to serve as models for some ideal utopia. Personally, I think there are always trade-offs, and that some qualities we tend to value positively, such as bravery and personal ambition, may not be all that compatible with true social harmony.[...] And on a much larger scale, countries such as Iceland and Finland might now also satisfy the website's definitions of a peaceful society."

I'm familiar with some names including Inuit, Amish and Hutterites, but there are some unknown to me among the so-called primitives societies. I hope to see the Sámi people included in the list as it develops. One comment about Finland - while it is highly egalitarian and peaceful, it is still not without problems such as domestic violence due to alcohol abuse (that unfortunately common social disease!)

Fascinating, thought-provoking and recommended reading - it will keep me occupied for a while!

Marja-Leena | 24/01/2005 | 4 comments
themes: Culture, Ethnicity


Thanks for covering this.

I believe that the Saami are high on the list of societies to add to the encylclopedia.

Wow, the Peaceful Societies website is excellent. I'm also an academic librarian and member of a local group "Juneau People for Peace and Justice". I go through extreme periods of wanting and trying to change the world, followed by periods of despair and hopelessness (for example, after the last US presidential election)...Seeing sites like your (Dave Bonta's) father's reminds me that the hope for a peaceful society is not completely impossible in the world today.

Hi M-L, I've been reading your posts and am sorry I haven't been commenting so much! Yes, Dave is always well worth reading about primitive societies and his father's site sounds like it will be fascinating. Our neighbors are from Iceland and yes, their society sounds peaceful in general, except for some issues around whaling and other animals. What it doesn't have is diversity, or much immigration at all - and I wonder how much of the relative peacefulness of some isolated cultures is due to that fact?

Elise, I know what you mean about swinging back and forth between despair and hope. It seems that history just repeats itself and the common man is just swept along. Intellectuals, artists and humanitarians must keep speaking up in hopes of changing our world for the better.

Beth, how good to have your voice here! I wonder the same thing, if isolation means more peace. I have read that some groups like the Sami and the Indonesian natives would just retreat in the face of threats from others. The world has gotten smaller so will these peaceful societies prevail? Will they inspire more peaceful societies?