Where generalized reciprocity is a pervasive feature of economic life, sharing and individual humility become compulsory social habits. As Richard Lee comments in regard to the !Kung (1978:888):
The most serious accusations that one !Kung can level against another are the charge of stinginess and the charge of arrogance. To be stingy or “far-hearted” is to hoard one’s goods jealously and secretively, guarding them “like a hyena.” The corrective for this in the !Kung view is to make the hoarder give “till it hurts,” that is, to make him give generously and without stint until everyone can see that he is truly cleaned out. In order to ensure compliance with this cardinal rule, the !Kung browbeat each other constantly to be more generous and not to set themselves apart by hoarding a little nest-egg. . . .
But as seriously as they regard the fault of stinginess, the !Kung’s most scathing criticisms are reserved for an even more serious shortcoming: the crime of arrogance. . . . A boasting hunter who comes into camp announcing “I have killed a big animal in the bush” is being arrogant. A woman who gives a gift and announces her great generosity to all is being arrogant. Even an anthropologist who claims to have chosen the biggest ox of the year to slaughter for Christmas is being arrogant. The !Kung perceive this behavior as a danger sign, and they have evolved elaborate devices for puncturing the bubble of conceit and enforcing humility. These leveling devices are in constant daily use, minimizing the size of others’ kills, downplaying the value of others’ gifts, and treating one’s own efforts in a self-deprecating way. “Please” and “thank you” are hardly ever found in their vocabulary; in their stead we find a vocabulary of rough humor, back-handed compliments, putdowns, and damning with faint praise.