A World Without Racism is Generous

Generosity In Culture

Generosity is similar to unselfishness, as you tend to put others before yourself. That being said, within different cultures, generosity is shown in different ways, and certain cultures are perceived as more generous than others. In fact, there is even a tribe of people, the Ik that live in the mountains of Uganda, that were termed as “the loveless people” by anthropologist Colin Turnbull who even wrote a book on them. In the 1960s Trunbull saw that the Ik people were ones who showed selfish, mean behavior. They tended to abandon young children and leave them starving, and would steal food from the elderly. In 2016, Cathryn Townsend, a different anthropologist, decided to see for herself how the Ik people lived.

The reason interest in this peaked was due to The Human Generosity Project. This study examines why and how human cooperation works its way through cultures in the form of generosity. The two people who started his project in 2014 wanted to see the cultural and biological factors behind humans’ generous behavior.


Through this project, they have found that some communities normalize generosity and expect people to give to others who are in need without expecting anything in return. This behavior was found in different areas of the world. The research so far implies that societies like these are more likely to survive difficult times. If this is the case, these lessons that are being learned and portrayed may be helpful in facing the numerous, unpredictable challenges that seem to keep on emerging upon humankind. 

When Townsend went to study the Ik people to see how a culture can live without generosity, she found out that generosity still existed even among these “loveless people.” An example of what she witnessed when she came to live with them was simply the fact that the Ik people shared their food with her without her even asking. Contrary to what Turnbull wrote, she saw the community providing meals to an elderly man who was living alone. Townsend did an experiment that is named as the “dictator game” where she gives one person the choice to distribute a sum of money to a different player and different factors are changed to see how those affect the dictator giving choices. From this experiment, Townsend found that the Ik are no more or less selfish than other people who have participated in this experiment.


One may wonder why there is such a drastic difference between what Turnbull and Townsend witnessed. Well as it comes to be, the Ik were facing a time of famine when Turnbull visited the. As a result, it is noticeable that generosity and cooperation do have their limits. It is true that in times of extreme hardship when survival was the main priority, the Ik were not exhibiting generosity. Times have changed and now that the goals and priorities are different, even they are generous and care for their community members.

Through further study researchers from The Human Generosity Project have found that there isn’t a division between selfish and generous cities in the world, but rather these things are embedded into humankind. The variation is in the type of strategies they use and how it is portrayed. Interestingly, it was found that people who have experienced hardships were ones who were more prone to be more generous. The Ik people are prime examples of that. Though they still live by barely getting by, and experience many hardships, they stick together and share what they can to help each other out.

As it is evident by this example, it is not right to judge other cultures’ generosity. There are many aspects and factors that play into a generosity of a culture. There are different ways generosity is shown and even different time periods, but all in all, we all portray generosity in a manner that makes the most sense within our own cultures.

What other ways do you spread the generosity philosophy? Please click here to share your ideas, we’d all love to learn more ways to be generous! Take care and stay connected.