First Contact

Christoper Columbus arrives in America

Image via Wikipedia

Check out this video of some indigenous people’s first meeting with a white fellow in Papua New Guinea.  Despite what keeps circulating in the Interzone, this occurred in 1993, not 1976.  I’m not sure who came up with 1976, but the filmmaker’s site claims 1993.

It’s a strange and momentous event.  The meeting, that is.  Not the 1976 thing, which might be an interesting tale, but not one that I am overly concerned with.  It’s the Interzone.  You can’t trust those bastards.

The scene brings to mind Stephen Hawking’s comments regarding alien contact.

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Filmmaker Jean Pierre Dutilleux has a particularly thought-provoking comment on his official site.

The Toulambi are among the very last witnesses of our distant past. When the last tribe is contacted and moved from the Stone Age into the modern world, from being free and masters of their own destiny to being poor and at the lowest level of our western society, it is a part of ourselves that will vanish forever.

It makes the future sound rather bleak for the Toulambi.

The comments also ignore the benefits:

  1. Medicine.
  2. Toulambi Idol.
  3. Forced conversion to Christianity.
  4. Not being surprised when bulldozers show up to eat your rain forest and build a coffee bean processing plant in its place.
  5. Science! and Industry!

Maybe I’m joking.  But the Prime Directive doctrine seems awfully arrogant to me.

(For the purpose of discussion, I’m ignoring the fact that this is stated as the Toulambi’s first meeting with white people and thinking of it purely as a first contact.  Not that the part where they are touching whitey’s skin isn’t kind of funny, in a way.  Is he a ghost?  Did he paint himself that silly color?  Why is he doing that with his hand?  Somebody run him through with a spear!  We can figure the rest out later!)

Living Cultures are not children to be shielded from the greater universe they exist in.  Sure, it might be nice to still have the unspoiled worldview of a five-year-old, carefree Pangs, but not at the expense of my parents placing me in a bubble and making sure nobody spoiled my nescience by explaining the Red Scare or the Atlanta Child Murders.

Five-year-old Pangs had a very misguided worldview.  There are things a body needs to know for their own safety.  He still thought hippies were a murderous troop of roving forest animals and that it was possible to fly off the roof with the aid of two large kites for wings and a good running leap.

Curiously, New Guinea gained independence from Australia on September 16, 1975 and became members of the United Nations in October of 1975.  Perhaps there is something in this chronology that explains the misdating of Dutilleux’s video (Didn’t I say I wasn’t concerned about that dating issue?)

The point is, this country is being governed.  Decisions made for the good (or other) of all.  The Toulambi are part of that whether they wanted to be or not.  I bet, given a choice, they would have ventured forth to meet such a government.  To say their piece regarding how they should be governed by people they have never met.  Can you dig it?

The PNG legislature has enacted various laws in which a type of tenure called “customary land title” is recognised, meaning that the traditional lands of the indigenous peoples have some legal basis to inalienable tenure. This customary land notionally covers most of the usable land in the country (some 97% of total land area);[29] alienated land is either held privately under State Lease or is government land. Freehold Title (also known as fee simple) can only be held by Papua New Guinea citizens. [Source]

Now, perhaps the modern world is a bunch of crap.  Perhaps not.  If I was a Toulambi, I would want to see for myself.  To explore and experience.  I wouldn’t want some douchebag deciding whether I was capable of dealing with all that entails or not.  The fact is, that shit exists out there and those folks were going to find out sooner or later.

I’m not saying that I don’t feel the sentiment in Dutilleux’s words.  I certainly didn’t have to go from Lord of the Monkeybars to Drone Bent Beneath the Yoke of Oppression in one day.  That would have been a bit unnerving.

About I.M. Pangs

digital verbal smog creator
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3 Responses to First Contact

  1. Autumnforest says:

    That film was fascinating. I remember in school, my favorite film days were when they showed films of contact with isolated tribes. I remember thinking, when I grow up there, will be no isolated tribes left. I think recently one was found in the Amazon, but it’s hard to imagine how strange it would be for us if another dimension opened up and we made contact with outsiders entering our world with strange looks and strange tools. Very humbling.

  2. Pingback: Species found in New Guinea |

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