Have you seen the movie, the Gods Must be Crazy? You might remember at the beginning there is a documentary-style introduction to the lives and behaviour of the Kalahari bush-men. You might then also remember that they lived together in perfect harmony, sharing all their possesions, without complaint or argument; even their children played together without fighting or bickering. Truly wonderful.
Until of course, western civilisation dropped from the sky (in the form of a coca-cola bottle) and corrupted everything.
This is typical of the anthropology I grew up with. I don't know where it comes from or how it got to me. It's what was imbibed through television, books and school. It's the anthropology that suggests not just that all cultures are equally good, but that the more primitive the culture is, the less influenced by western civilisation it is, then the better it is and the more morally superior it must be.
I don't know anything about the culture of the Kalahari bush-people except what I saw in the Gods Must be Crazy and an extremely different picture gleaned from the Number One Ladies Dectective Agency books (neither a very credible source!) in which a young girl rescues her baby brother from being buried alive on the death of his mother.
This is what I do know about the Kalahari Bush-People.
They are sinful.
Western Civilisation, as evil as it can be, does not make people or cultures sinful. They do that on their own.
It's not just the Kalahari. It's man-Santo, in the middle of this pacific island, still never to have seen a white-man. It's the Nepali on the slopes of the Himalayes. It's Indians in the Amazon.
Nor do I mean that their music is not beautiful; their craftmanship not skillful and their dance not incredible. Nor that there is not much that we can learn from them. There is.
However, I do mean this. All cultures are equal in this regard: they are full of people who, though all equally made in the image of God, are all equally sinful. Any anthropology that leads you to believe that "untainted by western civilisation" is the same as being innocent or pure is naive, mistaken and ultimately, evil.
After I wrote this I found this interesting article which explains a few things. Unfortunately the link "anything but innocent" doesn't seem to work.