Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tribeless, Lawless, Hearthless Ones

STORIES AND PHOTOS of 'uncontacted' Amazonian Indian Tribesmen standing around their hut are floating around the net. Whatever the legitimacy, I don't know what's worse: tormenting these people with helicopter flyovers (The Gods Must Be Crazy!), or speaking of them as if they were polar bears:

"These pictures are further evidence that uncontacted tribes really do exist...the world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct."

Just as in the abortion issue, it's easy to deny someone's claim to human dignity when you deny them any real personhood or human nature. Interestingly, the denial of dignity to the unborn is so that we can kill them without guilt, which is the ultimate selfish move, but in the case of these Indians, the denial of their dignity is, while still selfish, so that we can preserve them exactly as they are. It is selfish precisely because the scientific community wants to keep them as a snapshot of a previous time in human development in order to help explain where modern man came from before he was born, thus relieving the pressure of dealing with where he might be going after he's dead.

Actually, it seems there are two realistic explanations for the international community implying that these unconnected people ought not be disturbed. Either scientists believe that these people are to be classified amongst the lower animals, not having developed into a fully human species, or uber-men untainted by the fallen human nature that the rest of humanity is corrupted by. It all depends on your point of view of human nature. Some people think that everything other than the norm is disgusting. Others think everything is beautiful except for the norm. The one group thinks these Indians don't share humanity's collective guilt for sins such as destroying the planet any more than an insect shares, while the other group thinks these Indians are the only pure sample of true humanity: a purity that exempts them from law and therefore lawlessness as well.

This kind of distinction is vaguely reminiscent of ARISTOTLE'S VIEW of men outside of the rule of law: "[H]e who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state." I realize Aristotle is actually speaking of individuals who have no societal impulse, and this is obviously not true of these Indians, for they are tribal, but still, the idea is applicable by extension: as parts not within a whole.

Whatever the international community thinks of the taxonometric status of these people, it is so, so sad that they are afraid of sharing the Truth with them. They are men just like you and me. Reminds me to pray for God's mercy and that they have an implicit DESIRE for Baptism.

Oh, and also for ALL THE LITTLE GREEN MEN. Silly Jesuit Astronomers.


Ignoramus said...

Isn't one concern that they have no immunity to our diseases, so any contact with them will probably wipe out the entire tribe?

That doesn't settle the issue of whether we should contact them for evangelization, but it does make the "hands off" position more reasonable.

The Vitruvian Duck said...

Sure, but my main beef wasn't that we're not contacting them (although how can we say they're uncontacted after helicopter flyovers?), but how we are speaking of them. By the language we use, we betray that our real concern is not whether we keep them safe from our diseases, but whether they can be of some service to us. There's no mention of their good, but allusions to our good.

In practice, I don't mind the 'hands off' position. I mind the 'speech off' position greatly.