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General Interest

KEEPING AMAZON TRIBES AS PETS

Bad enough that half this world lives in the Space Age while the other half resides somewhere between 2 and 8 centuries ago, but there’s tiny groups of so-called isolated tribes who haven’t even reached the Bronze Age yet and scientists and social engineers want to keep them exactly where they are. Why? Their sacred life style will be lost forever? Good! Why the hell should these people pay for their former geographic isolation from the rest of humanity forever? Just so some asshole with a few letters behind his name can test them like lab rats and use them to advance his half-assed social theories? Screw that. Some of these patronizing slobs have in effect “adopted” these tribes and do all they can to keep them living in primitive conditions, the rat pricks.

When you adopt a child, if you kept the kid in primitive conditions it wouldn’t be long before your ass would be slapped in jail for child abuse, and rightfully so. The isolated tribes have children, sure, but most of them are human adults with the exact same intellectual capacity as anyone anywhere. Their children have the exact same capacity for learning and adapting to new realities as children anywhere else on the planet. Should they be condemned to live a prehistoric existence forever just so some joker can publish scientific papers that only other dopes like them read? And guess what? They sure as hell are not isolated anymore or the rest of us wouldn’t know so much about them. Explain that one away, Dr. Livingston. If we are reading about them in The New York Times, it’s pretty damned official; they’re famous. Isolated, shmisolated.

So, that bubble is burst and these people are well aware of us too. Do they ever wonder why the rest of the world hasn’t invited them to the dance? There’s giant bulldozers dismantling their damned world all around them, and people with satellite phones and laptop computers flying into their neighborhood in aircraft all the time photographing them, filming them, interviewing them, treating them with modern miraculous medicines when need be and generally letting them know that we have all sorts of really cool stuff centuries more advanced than anything they have. That would be like a technologically advanced race from another planet visiting us, and telling us: “Sure we can cure cancer, end hunger in your world and provide you with an unlimited energy source using house flies but you can’t have any of that because we want to study you in all your backward squalor.”

That would kind of grate on your nerves, no? Maybe they’d explain that they don’t want to despoil our unique, naive and quaint culture with all this complex progress and ease of living. So they’d just sort of hang around, interviewing us and documenting our existence while they play with their miraculous inventions and fly around in their space ships and levitate sky scrapers with their secret decoder rings and never share any of this with us even though they aren’t any smarter than us and then have the nerve to call themselves our friends and protectors. And we’d still be dying in droves from cancer and starvation and poisoning our planet with CO2 emissions knowing that these guys can help us out here in a flash. It wouldn’t be long before we started kicking serious alien ass and telling them to go the fuck home and leave us alone already and we’ll figure our lives out ourselves, thank you, you arrogant alien blowhard fucking geeks!

You’ve got to figure there’s a lot those thoughts swimming around in these not-so-isolated-anymore people’s heads, stuff like: “I’m living in a sweltering straw fucking hut making arrow tips from obsidian so I can chase down a giant irritable wild boar barefoot in the pouring rain through thick jungle and be lucky not to get a huge tusk hole gouged in my abdomen and I’m carrying water in a mud and straw bucket and my 48 year-old father is dying of old age and this asshole cruises in here in an air-conditioned speedboat eating microwaved food, carrying all sorts of automatic firearms that he doesn’t even hunt with, listening to Wilco songs while talking to his friends on the other side of the planet on his computer in real time and wearing glasses that cure failing eyesight with ease and he’s telling me I’m the lucky one? I’ve got a nice litle poison dart with his goddamned name on it, the fat-ass piece of shit!”

Who wouldn’t think these thoughts under the same circumstances? No one’s saying eradicate their culture or language or religion or their cultural wisdom, just maybe give them some amenities, a chance to join the party and boogie a little bit, maybe give their kids a shot to not have to drop dead of old age at 48, if they can avoid the panthers and the boar tusks, that is. An invitation, that’s all. Hell, the Dalai Lama has a friggin’ website and flies around the world first class and he’s still a Buddhist monk, believing all the same stuff that Buddhist monks have believed for long centuries, so let’s not get all weepy about the modern world spoiling ancient belief systems and cultures.

Who hasn’t seen an Indian woman in a traditional sari and head dot texting and gabbing away on the latest iPhone, or a bearded and black-garbed Chassidic Jew who truly believes that the world is only 6,000 years old (!) whipping out the old laptop to find the best prices for religious relics exactly like those described in the Book of Leviticus? These people have kept pace just fine with the modern world and haven’t had their cultures, languages or ancient beliefs eradicated. Why keep these Amazon tribes as humanity’s pets? Because we can? That’s pretty shitty of us.

At least give the poor suckers a choice. If we don’t, look for a rash of scientists’ bodies floating down the Amazon River with a whole bunch of obsidian-tipped poison darts perforating their plump heinies. Then maybe the next set of scholars to visit them just might rethink their roles as human zookeepers and try to truly help our long lost brothers and sisters join in our shared human journey. Odds are they’ll have plenty to teach us too; their music, their stories, their jokes, their wisdom, their vast knowledge of the ecology of the deep rain forests, their thought processes and the unique opportunity to learn from fresh sets of eyes assessing the world we have built. One of them just might cure cancer one of these days, invent a spaceship that can reach the stars or explain how men can live in peace. But we’ll never know that if we insist on keeping them as pets. Set them free and go study aardvarks or something.

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