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Wilfred Thesiger

June 09, 1991

Regarding "The Last Great Explorer," by Michael A. Hiltzik (April 28): At the heart of Thesiger's observations is the belief that ancient ways of social organization--for example, the nomadic hunters and gatherers of Arabia--are more "developed," or more "satisfying" to human beings than the types of permanent societies that followed the invention of agriculture. As Thesiger argues, the most destructive aspects in the lives of these nomadic and other small but permanent groups these days are changes brought on by development schemes (funded by First World and international agencies) that alter indigenous ways of practicing agriculture, implement formal education and construct Western-style housing, all of which often destroy family and culture in the guise of saving these societies from their "primitive" and "self-destructive" lifestyles.

These types of programs are often, in part, responsible for the "lives of disease, isolation and penury" that Thesiger purportedly glorifies.

CHESTER BRUCE ABBOTT

San Diego

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