This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

In The Garden of Eaten

From June 2008

There are still tribes and peoples in the world who are not in touch with what we...for want of a better "civilisation."

One of them, for those here who don't keep in touch with the more esoteric news of the world, was spotted from the air recently near the Brazil-Peru border. They were photographed in order, as a Brazilian official, Jos Carlos dos Reis Meirelles, put it, "to prove that they exist".

Here I have posted some of those photos; you can see large grass huts,
and red-painted warriors firing arrows at the helicopter while a black-painted woman (note the breasts) watches...

...and in this photo a child can be seen as well:

Why should one want to prove that these people exist?

Well, one excellent reason is that these people live in a part of the world under great threat from environmental destruction, and if no one knows they are there, they might as well not exist, and it makes it easy for certain people to say "But that jungle is good for nothing and of use to no one. It should be cleared to grow biofuels to put in the fuel tanks of American SUVs and earn good dollars. A poor country can not afford environmental sensitivity." And once you accept the argument, the tribe will quietly vanish in a silent, undocumented, genocide; as so many already have.

Whereas, once you prove they exist, their forest can be declared a reserve that belongs to them and be protected from exploitation and destruction. And even though I know that the woolly mammoth and the giant moa were driven into extinction by pretechnological humans, by and large the so-called "savage" is a much better custodian of his natural surroundings than the "civilised" human. Where you have uncontacted tribespeople, you most likely have healthy unspoilt forests and undepleted fauna and flora. OK so far?

So far so good. But shouldn't the Brazilian government seek these people out, and give them access to the modern world and its benefits? Isn't it a violation of their human rights, as at least one person I know on this site would argue, to keep from them schools and hospitals and mosquito nets?

Well, now. Do you really think these tribespeople don't know the modern world exists? Anthropologists, for instance, have known of the particular group in these photos for twenty years. How do you think they knew just where to look?

These people aren't lost sheep wandering the wilderness in search of a shepherd. Like virtually all the "uncontacted" tribes, they know all about the modern world, and have come up against the business end of that modern world in the shape of prospectors, hunters, loggers, and so on. They decided that they could do perfectly well without the dubious benefits of stock exchanges and movie halls, and preferred to retreat into the interiors of the protecting forest. Given that the anthropologists say their numbers (or at least the number of huts) have doubled over the years, they aren't doing all that badly.

All right, so they don't have antibiotics to take when they get a bout of toothache. Sad. But the Native American population of South America collapsed from 5 million to 350,000 in the years after the alleged European "discovery" (ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahaha) of America, and is collapsing today. One tribe contacted in 1996 for the first time, for instance, lost half its members since then to the common cold. They'd probably prefer toothache.

While I'm on the subject: India has several indigenous tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Most of them are "domesticaged" as I'd put it; one group, the Great Sentinelese, remains uncontacted though frequently surveyed from the air. They seem to be doing well enough, though the population of some tribes contacted in the relatively recent past, like the Jarawas, for instance, is already in free-fall.

But, you know, I wonder what went through the minds of those tribespeople when they saw a helicopter for the first time ever? Giant mechanical insect? A messenger of the gods?

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