A “primitive” attitude towards work

Following is a quote from the book We, The Tikopia by Raymond Firth.  Ethnologist  Firth lived on the Pacific island  for a year in 1928 and 1929.  I haven’t yet finished reading the book and I’m not sure I would want to live my life there but there is something appealing about this approach to work.  Maybe we have something to learn  from the so-called primitive Peoples of this world.

The other feature is the manner in which the provision of food becomes the apex of the day’s work.  In a civilized environment one is apt to look upon a meal as an interval in the real business of life: a pleasant social relaxation, a gastronomic indulgence or a conventional interruption for bodily refueling. In a primitive society it may be, as it is in Tikopia , the main daily business in itself.  To this the work of the fore part of the day leads up, and after it is over, the time of recreation has come.  People in this island community do not arrive home to snatch a meal and return to work;  the attainment of the meal itself  is the fulfillment of their work.  A man may go on with some piece of craftsmanship afterwards, but that is a concession to his personal interest, and is in no way socially dictated.  Only during specific tasks, such as the building of a house or a canoe, is the meal regarded as an interval in labour.


The quote is from page 53 of a Beacon paperback edition.


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