In my quest for physical health and wellbeing through nutrition I am very familiar with the circling arguments that appear online. A common trend on all sides (and not just in regards to nutrition) is this search for the mystical ‘natural man’. Some kind of ultimate tribal man who existed as God or evolution intended him to exist and should therefore be the pinnacle of human actualisation. Apparently (the premise to many arguments), man once existed in this actualised form but since we have deviated due to the modern evils of …well…modern stuff, we should therefore look to our “paleo” or “caveman” instincts to guide us in this confused and mistaken world.
This comes up with parenting arguments often. It usually starts something like, “Apparently African woman…” As if that premise in itself justifies the superiority of a parenting approach. I’ve never been to any part of Africa so I can’t really speak for African women but I’m sure they’re just like women living here in Australia in many ways…human and fallible, just trying to do the best for their child. I think it’s an outdated Eurocentric and patronising (racist even) view to have that somehow African woman are more representative of our ‘caveman’ prehistoric days. I’m sure much of the “simpler” lifestyles lived in the poorer countries of Africa are not by choice. People adapt to survive in the environment they’re given. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s much wrong with the individualism and material culture that’s developed in Australia, but given the issues faced by various African countries financially, politically, socially it’s really not a valid premise to rely on.
Then we get to diet and one can hardly go past the latest “paleo” craze. As an ex-slow carb diet follower I know how convincing internet bloggers and sensationalist authors can be. Pulling out statistics and “facts” and figures to support a diet which allows bacon for breakfast, who wouldn’t want to believe that (and buy the book). That there is ‘one’ perfect way of eating which our bodies were designed for doesn’t sit with me. The lavish variety of foods available has only been since refrigeration was invented and food could be shipped globally. Otherwise diets were largely suited to the environment people were stuck with, and what could be grown in each season. People in Iceland could not eat the same as people in Brazil. Which “paleo” man do we use as the ultimate survivor and guide for how to eat?
That somehow we were once perfect and should strive to return to this place of harmony is not so far removed from my own Christian beliefs in an Eden, or a human harmony and relationship with God that once existed at the creation of the world. There is an understanding among us that humankind is flawed, not quite right. People are searching to get back there again, to live as we were intended to live. There is no perfect diet food, there is no perfect parenting because humankind is not perfect. There are ways to be healthy and wise but we do so in adaption to our surroundings and what we have access to – and gratefully we have access to so much in Australia. Comparing now to “then” doesn’t work because our lifestyle doesn’t match the lifestyle of Og sitting in a cave somewhere 4000 years ago. In fact my lifestyle doesn’t match the lifestyle of many people around the world now either.
We can learn better ways, amalgamating the good from other world views, I love communities that operate collectively, families who live and work together like a traditional village. I find major problems with the loneliness of an Australian suburb. But I’m not going to rely on the argument that just because a caveman did it…it must be how we’re naturally supposed to exist.