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Monday Dec 19, 2011

Modern Tribes Redux


I watched a documentary the other evening featuring a team from the West who went deep into the uncharted New Guinea jungle. They were in search of a remote mountain Stone Age people who were untouched by modern times.

Trekking through the lush unmapped jungle was grueling and dangerous—from headhunters to poisonous snakes. When the team reached their destination, the tribesmen were not pleased to see them. Eventually, although there was an agreement to have a peaceful interchange, the air was rife with tension.

The tribe lived in a seemingly unbearable and inhospitable environment: stifling humidity, pestering flies, mosquitos, dangerous animals, diseases, and so on. They did live in houses built some 60 feet above ground; apparently, flies and mosquitoes did not often soar that high. These tribal people mostly segregated men and women, and they did not see a correlation between sex and children.

Finding food was the tribe’s main activity; the villagers ate most anything. If you were offered one of their ‘tasty’ delicacies like skewered rat, you accepted if you wanted to keep your head.

There were birds on the menu. No big game in this jungle, and no invention of the wheel either, which would be of no use in the nearly impenetrable harsh thicket.

Why were these Stone Age people living in this hostile environment in the first place? Yes, humanity does have a knack for adapting, but why adapt to such a dangerous way of life? Did ancestors from the remote past think that this was a good place to settle?

Except for some sort of payback in raiding another village and headhunting, it didn’t seem that any of the tribe’s people ventured out beyond their jungle turf to explore the world beyond. These folk, born and mind controlled from birth, accepted reality, and its seeming limitations as it was.

Are we modern humans any different? We are born to believe that we are a member of a country, a region, a clan, a belief system, a religion, a philosophy, name your dogma. How many question this cultural conceit? How many do anything about it?

The true artist breaks down the mindless artifices of civilization, and must pay the price for doing so.