Batek of Malaysia
February 26, 2011
The Batek of Malaysia
The Batek are an indigenous group of people that live in the rainforests of Malaysia dating back to the 1800’s. They have existed for many years by leading a nomadic lifestyle complete with being hunters and gatherers. The Batek rely on each other and the land around them in order to survive and flourish. Foraging “is the oldest form of human society, dating back to the Paleolithic period, at least a million years ago” (Nowak and Laird, 2010, ch. 3.1). They are a very peaceful society that work together to achieve a harmonious society in which everyone succeeds. After close examination, one can see how the various ...view middle of the document...
Both sexes can build shelters, gather food and hunt. Not one task is deemed only for one sex or another.
There are primarily two social organizations within the Batek society which are the nuclear family and the camp. The first component is the family unit and it is a very important and integral part of their society. The nuclear family is formed when a couple gets married. “Men and women choose their own spouses on the bases of affection and compatibility” (Endicott & Lampell, 1984). The other unit within the Batek is called a camp. Camps comprise of anywhere from two to fifteen families that live together. The members of the camp can change daily as some members may leave to join other camps as well as new families that may come into the camp making it a constant ebb and flow of members.
When a man and woman decide to get married, there is no marriage ceremony. The couple merely moves in with one another and reside together. “Couples live wherever they want, often alternating between the camps of their parents” (Endicott, 1999). Husbands and wives make decisions together about where to gather food and the movements of the camp. They work together as a team and the spouses consider each other companions. There are times when one partner may be more vocal about certain issues but this does not mean that there is a shift in who is in charge and the family still operates as one. “Batek fathers as well as mothers spend a lot of time cuddling, holding, and talking with infants of either sex” (Peaceful Societies, n.d.). Parents are very relaxed about disciplining their children. Instead of using physical force as punishment, the parents resort to telling tales about tigers or strangers to scare the children (Peaceful Societies, n.d.).
At any point in time, if either partner feels that the marriage is incompatible or burdensome, he or she may initiate a divorce by simply leaving and going to another shelter to live. A divorce usually does not adversely affect either party due to the fact that both sexes are capable of completing all tasks and they also have the support of the camps to assist them since everything is shared. Even after a divorce, both parents will help to care for the children.
Throughout the Batek families and camps, they all enjoy the benefits of reciprocity. They share everything that they have with everyone in their social organization. They pride themselves in the art of sharing which they instill in every member of their society. When a family procures food, it is first shared within the nuclear family and if there is more food, then it is given to immediate family members such as the parents and in-laws. If more food is still left over, it is then given to other people within the camp. They do not store food products unless everyone in camp has had enough food and every family shares their goods. Vegetables such as yams are in abundance and each family shares them with other members in the camp. Meats, on the other...