The problem with the paleos

Posted by Keith Rennie on December 12, 2004

In Reply to: Yes. It is. posted by Bob on December 11, 2004

: : : : : : Hi again:

: : : : : : Probably this cliche - don't throw the baby out with the bathwater - has already been on the spotlight here, but I simply wonder what origin it has and what the exact meaning is. Can you give an actual example of usage?

: : : : : : Thanks,

: : : : : : Jose Carlos

: : : : Jose--if you use Google,go to Advanced Search and enter ~ in the "exact phrase" box. No doubt you will find thousands of examples--DH

: : : : : The origin is from the German. Maybe someone else who I know with a large collection of books can help you.

: : : : : From a recent personal use I can state that one of my kids asked me to proof read one of her essays for school.

: : : : : After my looking at it and with the resultant cross outs and arrows going all which way, she wanted to trash the whole thing and start all over.

: : : : : I told her not to throw out the baby with the the bathwater but to calmly look at what I suggested and mabye incorporate my suggestions into what she already did.

: : : : : She did and we all lived happily ever after.

: : : If you type "bathwater," for instance, in the archive search box on the main Discussion Forum page, you'll get a Google search of the discussion archives only. It works!

: : .....
: : Now let me tell you what made me think of this expression. I have already mentioned a group of "paleo diet" where I belonged (actually I have recently left that group). Well, those people, most of them young people under 30, have found a new item of worship: paleo food, paleo books, paleo lifestyle and so it goes. They just love this label: paleo. If it is not paleo, then they will look at it with suspicion. And there are not only paleo groups over there. Some follow the so-called primal diet (raw dairy, raw meats and juices) or instinctotherapy (everything raw, except dairy and grains, as you please), or raw veganism (only raw vegetables and sprouts). It is just like a cult. And these groups mostly fight against one another, because each group assumes it has found the ultimate truth - at the age of 30! What these groups share is a rejection of civilization. This rejection is in fact very ambiguous, because these same people who only see the evils of modern world are riding cars, using computers, watches, condoms - what do I know? It is easy to feel sorry and even a little worried for them, because they are young and can't see the error of extremism. But let it be: the young have to make mistakes in order to learn, right? Well, I hope there aren't young people on this forum, either, but if there are, let me reassure them I have nothing against youth. I can only abhor pretentiousness or self-conceit, which is typical of the young (but of course not only the young). Now, by rejecting all values of civilization, which has good and bad things of course, even if secretly or unconsciously adopting a few of them, aren't these young people throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

: : JC

: Yes, it's a good example. People who reject "modern civilization" may do so because Mozart is superior to MTV, but I for one refuse to time-travel to any date prior to the discovery of antibiotics. Your paleo-people worship purity and consistency (a foolish consistency, as Emerson said, is the hobgoblin of little minds) but the world is a messy, inconsistent place, and we need to learn to discern .

And so say all of us--at least those of us acquainted with the margins of what we like to call "civilization". The problem with the paleos is an utterly deficient knowledge base. Does a single one of them know what a lion or a buffalo smells like, and can they tell the difference, sightlessly, in an instant? Do they know immediately the difference between a harmless grass snake and a boomslang? Of course not. Never had the opportunity. But people closest to that real ecology--Kalahari bushmen, Australian aborigines who have kept their roots, Amazonian indians, Ituri etc. have a huge and highly sophisticated knowledge base which we "sophisticates" can scarcely comprehend, essential to their very survival, and to which the westernized artificial paleos have no access whatsoever. Stick these paleo guys or gals in the Kalahari, the outback or the tundra, and they all would be dead in 72 hours flat. We each of us underestimate the quality and efficacy of millenia of accumulated and carefully coded and transmitted knowledge which is tragically dying out very fast indeed. And, ironically, real "indigenes" actually do appreciate aspirin and penicillin - no conflict there in their minds.

The paleos never had the baby and never will. They are drinking the bathwater and declaring it to be vintage wine. Great spirit, wrong problematique, lousy epistemology. Hope my dear daughter is not of their number!