Unconscious intelligence

26 Sep

>We just got back from the Masai Mara National Park. We were lucky enough to be there during the great migration when thousands of animals come from the Serengeti park in Tanzania to graze in Kenya. The name Masai Mara means a Masai river. And Masai is a name of the tribe living there. We had a chance to visit their village and to see their traditional pastoral way of life.

What is unique about the Masais is that they are one of the few tribes that have not changed their traditional way of life. They have the same traditions they have had for centuries and while some of them might seem illogical and even funny to us at first sight, they have allowed them to survive until now.

Here are some examples:

Jumping competitions and polygamy.
Masai men often engage in jumping competitions. They do so for two main reasons. Firstly, if there is a pretty girl, more men get together and the one who is able to jump the highest, gets to marry the lady. That is of course providing he has enough cows to give as a dowry (10 cows is a standard). Secondly, if you are a really good jumper and can jump more then approximately 80cm you can pay only 7 cows instead of 10. If you have lot of cows or you are a good jumper you can have more wifes, usually up to five.

Houses with no chimneys
When entering a Masai house, the first impression is that there is almost no light inside and the second one is the heavy smoke that hits you as you go further inside. This is because there is a fireplace in the middle of the hut and only one small window on the side wall, there is no chimney.

When we were discussing these observations with rest of our party over dinner, some people found them illogical and funny indeed. But myself and our friend Klaus from Germany actually appreciated that there must be a reason why they are behaving in this way. Klaus called it the unconscious intelligence.

If you able to jump high, it means you are healthy and physically fit; e.i. you have good genes. If you have lot of cows, you are able to feed your family. It therefore makes sense for such man to have more wifes and kids then man who is weak and will not be able to secure his family (I am not advocating polygamy here, just trying to find logics behind local customs. Also remember, that there is no welfare state in Africa). As for the house, it is able to withstand long periods of heavy rain without any leakage despite being made from wooden branches, grass and cow manure.

I would be the last person to speak against progress and innovation and this article is not meant to defend the traditional ways of doing things. It is to remind us that everything is happening in a certain way for a reason and before trying to change it, we should understand what that reason is. Having understood it, we will be in a better position to judge if there is a better way of doing things and in determining what that way is.

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