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kevbo's avatar

What are other examples of small groups of people discovering something new or introducing something new to the western world?

Asked by kevbo (25624points) March 30th, 2010

Two stories I can think of have this in common… adventurers stumble upon a “paradise” of sorts (and under the right confluence of technology and circumstances) and attempt to live their dreams there. Their success brings about a sea change in western culture that leaves an indelible mark on the collective consciousness or history.

The first example is the group of guys who were the pioneering big wave surfers on Hawaii’s North Shore in the 50s. It was a group of about 10 or 12 guys who figured out how to catch the big waves and spent days on end surfing for hours every day and living without much money off the land and ocean (diving for food, e.g.) Within a few years, the surfing craze hit mainstream America via Hollywood and Hawaii and California were overrun with surfers.

The second is the group of guys who stumbled upon the Taos Valley in New Mexico in the late 1800s, where the dramatic landscape and undisturbed American Indian culture provided subject matter that had never been painted before and that provided distinctly American themes that broke cleanly from the art establishments of New York and Paris. Their artistic success eventually morphed into commercial success when the railroads and tourist industry commissioned paintings to sell trips to the Southwest. The phenomenon changed the indigenous culture of Taos Pueblo, caused the town to swell with tourists every summer as early as the 1920s and was largely responsible for the establishment of Taos and Santa Fe as a premier art market.

Do you know of other examples of stories like these?

I say “new” because while native Hawaiians surfed for a thousand years prior, westerners were the ones who sought to push the experience to its edge. Similarly, American Indians lived in the Taos Valley for thousands of years, but westerners fell over themselves with the natural beauty and converted it into an art market.

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15 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

CERN researchers creating the internet.

Cruiser's avatar

The modern rail system, aviation, ball and musket on through up to nuclear weapons, x-ray, penicillin, running water, modern sewer systems, the automobile and now the computer are all serious game changes throughout history. Available clean water supply and AI are the next big game changers coming our way.

As far as small groups changing their landscape I watched the Menominee Indians go from run down homes with broken cars up on blocks in their front yards to having Cadillacs and manicured lawns ever since they opened up gambling on their reservation.

jfos's avatar

Good question, I can’t think of any at the minute.

JeffVader's avatar

Back in the 1800’s a famous American army Colonel stumbled across an ancient spice recipe from the Teciko tribe, after years of perfecting it he decided to use them whilst deep frying rats, & hey presto KFC was born!

kevbo's avatar

famouse indeed

aprilsimnel's avatar

Tibetan refugees coming to the US and spreading Vajrayana Buddhism in the late 1950s, and then Westerners running with it to look at other forms of Buddhist practice, like Zen, in the 1960s and 70s.

CMaz's avatar

Emile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau inventing the Aqualung (my friend) open-circuit units.

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, allowing us to stay under water conveniently, for long periods of time.

jfos's avatar

@ChazMaz Nice Jethro Tull reference.

partyparty's avatar

How about Alexander Fleming discovering antibiotics

davidbetterman's avatar

The pygmies of South America teaching us about Curare!

cazzie's avatar

So, groups of people who discover or share something with the larger group of people, and it creates a memorable subculture that still exists or spreads about in our consciousness as a group…. I’ll see if I can made a list…

So much stuff on the internet does it. It’s changed our vocabulary really quickly. Think of all the www type words we have now.

Science Fiction writers from book and TV and movies have done this. Much of their imaginings have entered our lives, catch phrases, references….

Music…. forms, too many to list, the artists and followers of different genre have created lasting subcultures, trends, dance forms.

Frank Lloyd Wright and other artist/architects have changed the shapes of our homes and our style of living.

Ghandi’s teaching on Civil disobedience and the effect it had on the Civil Rights Struggle in the USA – When asked the question: ‘What do you think of Western Civilisation?’ Ghandi replied, ‘I think it’s a good idea.’

Umm… that should be enough to start some debate, anyway…

john65pennington's avatar

What about the two Chinese men that discovered the zipper?

andrew's avatar

The discovery of king Tut’s tomb, which sparked “Egypt-mania”, which profoundly influenced international Art-Deco culture.

YARNLADY's avatar

The invention of ice cream. Who would ever think that warm milk (at first) would be turned into such a delight?

And what about spoiled grapes into wine?

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