Once the lords of East Africa, the Maasai have been close to peerless in the modern age for maintaining the continuity of their traditions—traditions now imperiled by the tentacles of the market and by technology, as cell phones and cheap Chinese motorcycles, like the one we rode, upend the very possibility of isolation. Compulsory and nearly free education, instituted by former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, means most Maasai children are today in school. Those of the prior generation who were educated only in the ways of the tribe — who speak no Swahili or English but just Maa — are around 30 years of age. Many wile away the hours in clapboard bars, unable to resist that alcohol now available in quantities unheard of in the past, when beer was brewed in the home from honey and was not for sale.

David McDannald, in The American Scholar (subscribers only), on the effects of globalization on the Maasai tribe in Kenya.

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Photo: wwarby, Flickr