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Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Wisdom of Margaret Mead

Years ago, the great anthropologist Margaret Mead, was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
“A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts”, Mead said.
We are at our best when we serve others. Let's be civilized.

I have been listening to the late Etta James singing Stormy Weather. It's a great song and I find Etta's version as good as or even better than Ella Fitzgerald's. You can hear it here. Go on, treat yourself!


Hels said...

Margaret Mead was a very different kind of professional, in her research and in her personal behaviour. Although her response to the question about the first sign of civilisation in a culture was thoughtful, I bet people questioned her science yet again. Brave woman!!

Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, I have seen feral dogs (as well as pet dogs) with three legs or with a game leg who seem to still get along fine. I get the basic truth of Mead's point, and very recently was reflecting that I have personally known many people with some kind of injury or condition that would have been a death sentence years ago, but who are still alive (or lived for many years) solely thanks to medical science and humanitarian nursing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - I certainly know of Margaret Mead ... but didn't realise she'd put this idea forward ... interesting and obviously started a conversation ... thank you for your thoughts here ... and yes Etta James' rendering of stormy weather is brilliant.

Thank you - cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hels: She should be much more acclaimed than she is. She is well-known in the world of science and sociology but less so otherwise.

bazza said...

Jim: That's true. Her answer makes a good point though: That humans are capable of much more than other animals!

bazza said...

Hilary: She was a very clever person with a great deal of insight and she moved her scientific discipline forward.
Etta James was a wonderful singer!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I agree with Margaret Mitchell's definition. She was one of my heroes when I was a young girl. (Yeah, I was weird even back then... HA)

Love that rendition of Stormy Weather!

Take care, sweet dude.

bazza said...

Susan: It's good to hear from you! I find so few people really know who Margaret Mead was - even if they have heard of her.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Hi-ya. When I was 15 or 16, I wrote a term paper that included info about some of her work in Samoa, so I've got a lot of respect for her.

Lowcarb team member said...

I think Etta James singing stormy weather is so good :)

I think we may have some rain and possible storms this coming weekend.

All the best Jan

bazza said...

Jan: Etta James made some great recordings! I'm by the coast with some friends for a few days next week so hoping for a bit less rain!

Sherry Ellis said...

What an interesting thought for determining if a being is civil. I wonder if elephants would stay with a wounded friend and care for it until it healed.

bazza said...

Sherry: That's a good point! Actually, I'm sure there would be some animals that would care for another if they could.