A New Control of Destiny

Mead, Margaret
1953-11-11

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Margaret Mead describes her belief that humans are born with the same inherent abilities, but each is formed by the culture in which he or she grows up; Mead believes it is through our relationship to civilation that we derive meaning, and that we must strive to build a civilation whose future is secure and free. This episode is a rebroadcast of an earlier airing.

Subjects
Women anthropologists
Social Networks
Civilization
Freedom
Equality
Meaning (Philosophy)
New York (N.Y.)
United States
Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/75834
ID: tufts:MS025.006.007.00010.00003
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights
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And now, This I Believe. We bring you an earlier broadcast which is being repeated because of the special interest it aroused. Here is Edward R. Murrow as he first introduced the guest.
This I Believe. Anthropologist Margaret Mead, of New York's Museum of National History, is a strong, confident woman who has traveled to Samoa, Admiralty Island, Bali and New Guinea, and come back with a wealth of information about primitive people and their customs. From a life of broad experience, she draws her beliefs.
Children used to play a game of pointing at someone, suddenly saying, "What are you?" Some people answered by saying, "I am a human being," or by nationality, or by religion. When this question was put
to me by a new generation of children, I answered, "an anthropologist." Anthropology is the study of whole ways of life, to which one must be completely committed, all the time. So that when I speak of what I believe as a person, I cannot separate this from what I believe as an anthropologist.
I believe that to understand human beings it is necessary to think of them as part of the whole living world. Our essential humanity depends not only on the complex biological structure which has been developed through the ages from very simple beginnings, but also upon the great social inventions which have been made by human beings, perpetuated by human beings, and in turn give human beings their stature as builders, thinkers, statesmen, artists, seers, and prophets.
I believe that each of these great inventions--language, the family, the use of tools, government, science, art, and philosophy--has the quality of so combining the potentialities of every human temperament, that each can be learned and perpetuated by any group of human beings, regardless of race, and regardless of the type of civilization within which their progenitors lived; so that a newborn infant from the most primitive tribe in New Guinea is as intrinsically capable of graduation from Harvard, or writing a sonnet, or inventing a new form of radar as an infant born on Beacon Hill.
But I believe, also, that once a child has been reared in New Guinea or Boston or Leningrad or Tibet, he embodies the culture within which he is reared, and differs from those who are reared elsewhere so
deeply, that only by understanding these differences can we reach an awareness which will give us a new control over our human destiny.
I believe that human nature is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically evil, but individuals are born with different combinations of innate potentialities, and that it will depend upon how they are reared--to trust and love and experiment and create, or to fear and hate and conform--what kind of human beings they will become. I believe that we have not even begun to tap human potentiality, and that by a continuing, humble but persistent study of human behavior, we can learn consciously to create civilizations within which an increasing proportion of human beings will realize more of what they have
it in them to be.
I believe that human life is given meaning through the relationship which the individual's conscious goals have to the civilization, period, and country within which one lives. At times, the task may be to fence a wilderness, to bridge a river, or rear sons to perpetuate a young colony. Today, it means taking upon ourselves the task of creating one world in such a way that we both keep the future safe and leave the future free.
That was a repeat of an earlier broadcast by Margaret Mead, a native of Philadelphia, now a
resident of New York, who is equally at home in learned societies and with the cultural and economic aspects of aboriginal life.