Monday, May 25, 2009

Being a wild pig :)

“James Averill, a major proponent of social constructivism, describes a behavior pattern, called “being a wild pig”, that is quite unusual by Western standards, but is common and even “normal” among the Gururumba, a horticultural people living in the highlands of New Zealand. The behavior gets its name by analogy. There are no undomesticated pigs in this culture, but occasionally, and for unknown reasons, a domesticated one will go through a temporary condition in which it runs wild. But the pig can, with appropriate measures, be redomesticated and returned to the normal pig life among the villagers.

And, in a similar vein, Gururumba people can act this way, becoming violent and aggressive and looting and stealing, but seldom causing harm or taking anything of importance, and eventually returning to routine life. In some instances, after several days of living in the forest, during which time the stolen objects are destroyed, the person returns to the village spontaneously with no memory of the experience and is never reminded of the event by the villagers. Others, though, have to be captured and treated like a wild pig – held over a smoking fire until the old self returns.

The Gururumba people believe that being a wild pig occurs when one is bitten by the ghost of someone who recently died. As a result, social controls on behavior are lost and primitive impulses are set free. According to Averill, being a wild pig is a social, not a biological or even an individual, condition. Westerners are prone to think of this as psychotic, abnormal behavior, but for the Gururumba it is instead a way of relieving stress and maintaining community mental health in the village.

Averill uses “being a wild pig” to support his claim that “most standard emotional reactions are socially constructed or institutionalized patterns of response” rather than biologically determined events (one wonders, though, where the wild impulses come from) ."

Page 115, ‘The Emotional Brain’ by Joseph Ledoux
Chapter 5: ‘The way we were’

No comments:

Blog Archive