Days “chopped into pieces”.

February 22, 2008 | By | 5 Replies More

I want to share with everyone a passage from the opening of the movie The Gods Must be Crazy. This silly 1980s movie provides a very oversimplified, idealized image of African Bushmen, but at the same time gets its label of modern westernized man spot-on. This excerpt from the film’s opening narration always makes me pause and consider the needless complexity of modern life:

“…Here you find civilized man. Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment. Instead, he adapted his environment to suit him.

So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery. And he put up power lines to run his labor-saving devices. But he didn’t know when to stop.

The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier, the more complicated he made it. Now his children are sentenced to years of school, to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat.

And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings, now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt every hour of the day to his self-created environment.

For instance, if it’s Monday and 8:00 comes up, you have to dis-adapt from your domestic surroundings…and re-adapt yourself to an entirely different environment. 9:00 means everybody has to look busy. 10:30 means you can stop looking busy for 5 minutes…And then, you have to look busy again. Your day is chopped into pieces. In each segment of time…you adapt to new circumstances.

No wonder some people go off the rails a bit.”

Re-reading this part of the script really gets my mind a-brewing, thinking about all the wasteful, stress-inducing things we do to make life “easier”. More on this soon.


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Category: Culture, Films, Quotes, Recommended Reading/Films/Sites, Technology, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

Comments (5)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: thanks for sharing this passage. The culmination of this thought, for me (and I suspect, for you) is modern American suburban life. I'll be watching to see where you end up taking your analysis.

    In the meantime, I will share my concern that the thing that is supposedly the "American Dream" appears to be a toxic, wasteful and stress-inducing wasteland, at least for many of its inhabitants.

    I suspect that you are correct to point out a root cause, which is an abject unwillingness of humans to adapt to nature as it presents itself to us. It's not that human social and technological prowess doesn't make life easy in the short run. I love many of modern society's conveniences. But there's a big downside to these conveniences.

    That we work so hard to "fight" nature seems to be both our greatest victory and our heaviest burden.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Ahh,, one of my all time favorite movies.

    One of the implied themes in "The Gods Must Be Crazy" is that civilization is not about control and ownership, but being part of a greater whole.

    When the bushman ifnds the coke bottle in the desert, and takes it to the tribe, soon everyone is fighting for it. Suddenly, no-one could live without this useful thing that just days earlier that had not known existed. Ths elders deciced it was evil because of the effect it had on their peaceful society.

    Industrial society values the concept of ownership and control above society. Many of our modern problems stem for the control and ownership of things that a birthright. Industrial nations claim to stand for freedom, but their actions that they do not practice liberty and justice for all.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    I've seen several studies that show that "labor saving" devices in the home have not reduced the amount of time necessary for properly taking care of said home by any measurable amount.

    Desktop computers were hailed in the 1980's as the harbinger of the paperless office. 20 years later, the corporate storage rooms for documents too valuable to throw away (but of no foreseeable future use) have been replaced by warehouses.

    The few minutes once spent reading and dealing with the daily mail now easily adds up to an hour a day, including email.

    But "The Gods Must be Crazy" is the first movie I remember having seen after which my sides ached from laughing. Pharmacology was not involved.

  4. Erika Price says:

    I love the scene that features a man driving a jeep, but having to tackle several road-blocking, man-made barriers. He gets out of the car, pushes the gate open, struggles to get back in the car, watches the gate close, opens the gate, watches the car slide backward, blocks the car's back wheels, watches the car drive forward, stops the car by blocking its front wheels, opens the gate, and then struggles to get the car moving. Then he has to do it all again with another gate.

    Ironically, the car that is designed to make life easier has made it senselessly cumbersome. A man on foot could have just pushed the gate forward and continued on his merry way.

  5. Kev says:

    amen to that

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