The Semai, an indigenous people who inhabit the Malay Peninsula, may represent the most non-violent and conflict-averse society on earth. Anthropologists posit that after enduring a century of predation by Malay raiders and slavers, they developed a sense of “learned helplessness”; because it didn’t seem possible to fight back, they adopted a pattern of fleeing from threats and surrendering to domination.
The Semai continue to instill this approach to life in their children, teaching them that the world is full of threatening forces beyond their control. Learning to get along, even if it means tolerating out-of-line behavior, is prized, and any argumentation, anger, or assertiveness is suppressed. Because they can lead to aggression, competitive games are banned. Encouraged to be fearful, children are repeatedly taught one overriding maxim: “It is safer to be cautious than brave.”
Such might be described as the mantra…
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