An anthropologist named Richard Borshay Lee and his wife Nancy lived with the !Kung Bushmen for three years in the edge of the Kalahari desert. He decided to be involved and celebrate Christmas with them, even though they don’t fully understand the holiday, but have an idea of what the holiday is about. They do a custom called the Tswana-Herero, in which an ox is slaughtered, cooked and then given to the Bushmen in a trance dance feast as an annual goodwill gesture.
Lee’s article describes how sometimes people’s personal believes can interfere with communicating with other cultures and its people.
Lee wanted to give them !Kung people an ox as his way of gratitude and since it was the last time he was going to spend Christmas with them and he wanted to end the holiday with a big bang. He decided to buy the largest and meaty ox to satisfy them in the feast. Ten days before the holiday occurred, he bought a firm black ox that weighed 1,200 pounds, horns that were five-foot wide, and stood on five feet high to its shoulders.
The ox was more than enough to feed the 150 Bushmen guest attending the feast. However, when he broke the news proudly to the !Kung people including Ben!a, a mother of five who was sixty years old at the time, and /gaugo, an !Kung man, they quickly criticized the ox. Stating how it was too old, too skinny, and it wouldn’t be able to feed and energize the people at the feast to dance.
But Lee had a difficult time understanding why because his wife and himself thought the ox was thick and enormous. He then asked a Tswana cattle owner named Halingsis for his opinion on the ox. He too agreed that the ox was too old and thin. Halingsis even reprimanded Lee himself on how he lived with them for three years and he couldn’t pick out the right ox. This caused Lee to lose his Christmas spirit and began to worry. His friend Tomazo expressed how the Bushmen love fat and that he should have chosen one that was small but fat enough to feed and please them. Lee then got more anxious when an old conservative, u!au, tells him that if the ox doesn’t feed everyone, it can start a fight between the Bushmen about how one got too much and one got too little. Once the Christmas feast started, /gaugo than cut the breast bone, in which began the process of butchering the ox and letting them remove the viscera. This gives them access to see if the ox has a lot of fat. When /gaugo was cut the ox, Lee noticed that the ox had a load ton of fat. About two inches thick to be precise. Lee questioned the Bushmen’s claim that it was too skinny and everyone around him started laughing. Even though Lee noticed that they were messing with him, he was still confused as to why they harshly criticized him and his ox. Lee explained to Hakekgose, a Tswana man that grew up with the !Kung people that in his culture Chrismas is about family, friendship, and love and how the Bushmen ruined the holiday for him. Hakekgose revealed that it’s just the way the Bushmen people are. For example, if he went hunting with the Bushmen and failed to catch an animal at the first try, then they will make fun of him the entire time. Even if Hakekgose caught an animal afterward, they’ll still make disapproval remarks on the animal like its size. Lee than sought out Tamazo for answers as to why the Bushmen would insult him even after going through so much trouble to find the perfect ox for the feast. Tamazo answered his question with one word: arrogance. He describes how the Bushmen were teaching him a lesson about how he shouldn’t have so much pride on finding the perfect ox because then he’ll think too highly of himself and treat others like servants or lower class. To not support Lee’s pride, they respond with humility, which is why they criticized his ox a lot to gently lower his ego. Making Lee the perfect target to shoot down his arrogance with humility.
In conclusion, Lee learned an important lesson about how different cultural values can be and that sometimes it could be difficult to put his or her own personal beliefs aside. In addition, to the message, the Bushmen sends, in which that all acts have their place and that there aren’t acts of generosity. Since they don’t want someone to feel empowered and treat the rest like nothing. Understanding and having an open mind about the various types of culture can help people conduct those diverse customs and beliefs.