One technique used to maintain the slave economy in the Antebellum South was to outlaw any form of behavior that allowed the slave to become learned. It was necessary that the slave not only be illiterate but that s/he be isolated as much as possible from the world around them; if they knew little of the outside world they were more easily confined, constrained, and controlled.
Ignorance in the free white community and the black slave community in Antebellum South was no accident. I suspect the depth of ignorance within the American population today is, likewise, no accident.
Potlatch was a common characteristic of primitive cultural practice and ritual. Potlatch ceremonies were a common practice in the winter months because the summer months were busy times for gathering wealth for the family and community.
Quickie from wiki: “Sponsors of a potlatch give away many useful items such as food, blankets, worked ornamental mediums of exchange called "coppers", and many other various items. In return, they earned prestige. To give a potlatch enhanced one’s reputation and validated social rank, the rank and requisite potlatch being proportional, both for the host and for the recipients by the gifts exchanged. Prestige increased with the lavishness of the potlatch, the value of the goods given away in it…The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods.”
In primitive communities social life was a continuous dialogue of gift giving and reciprocation. When there was food there was food for all when there was scarcity all shared in this scarcity. The successful hunter kept the least desirable parts of the kill for himself and gave the most desirable to the community. “This was the core truth in the myth of primitive communism.”
Primitive man was judged not by the magnitude of his accumulated wealth but by the magnitude of his shared wealth.
Present day economic theories are of a self-regulating system of markets. Such a social theory did not come from history. We are taught that this practice of private property and gain are the natural order of human social evolution; such is not the case. “Gain and profit made in exchange never before played an important part in human economy.”
Adam Smith theorized that the division of labor results from man’s “propensity to barter, truck, and exchange one thing for another…This phrase was later to yield the concept of the Economic Man.” This observation represents a misreading of the past and a great fallacy that has led us into today’s culture of human social behavior becoming dominated by economic ideology.
We must discard some 19th century prejudices underlying the hypothesis of primitive man’s predilection for gainful employment. The bias that caused Smith and his generation to incorrectly view primitive man induced succeeding generations to lose interest in early man.
“The tradition of the classical economics, who attempted to base the law of the market on the alleged propensities of man in the state of nature, was replaced by an abandonment of all interest in the cultures of “uncivilized” man as irrelevant to an understanding of the problems of our age.”
Anthropologists inform us today that there has been a remarkable sameness for all societies throughout earlier history and that sameness is “that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social assets…the economic system will be run on noneconomic motives…All social obligations are reciprocal.”
Our present economic system of acquisition with little or no regard for the rest of society is not our naturally evolved culture. This is a totally artificial system that we have been raised to recognize as a natural phenomenon. Our ignorance of many things is maintained by those who manage to control social policy and especially our educational systems.
We are maintained in a semi sophisticated state of ignorance in order to prevent us from critically evaluating our institutions and changing them in a manner that is less alienating to our nature.
Quotes from “The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time” by Karl Polanyi