Sour Taste

Edwin Brock wrote a poem (no, not that kind, a real one) called Five Ways To Kill A Man. He had a series of suggestions, including crucifixion, stabbing with a knight’s lance, bombing and more. His final offer was:

“Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.”

You can see, it is a real poem. It contains real insight into the state of society and articulates real issues. The modern age has become infamous for the toll it has taken on men’s souls. Drudgery and disinspiration abound. This is the age that realised the terms “decadence” and “Fight Club”. It is here, in, the age of cynicism, that the office drone sits in his morgue-cold, fluorescent-lit office cubicle and daydreams of a better life, where he wouldn’t have to slave away at this numbing job, where he could live free under the sun, in a verdant rain forest perhaps, where he is woken by bright birdsong, and lulled to sleep by the hiss of a distant waterfall. And food? Instead of slaving away at this computer for a living, when he gets hungry, he could just walk into the bush and pick a few fruits off the tree or snare a squirrel. No problem.

That would be the life. Human beings were not meant to live in cubicles.

I can understand why so many people would want to leave the Un-contacted Tribes alone.


But that sour taste lingers. I still can’t become comfortable with the idea of leaving them alone. I am not saying we should go in and snatch them out of there and throw them in the middle of a city with cars and advertising and mobile phones. I just think we should go in and introduce ourselves and have a chat.

We should make contact.

Here’s why-

The March of Civilisation.

We all start out like those guys: Hunter-gatherers. Eating what we can find, sleeping wherever it is safe. But it appears that with time, societies change and develop; we evolve, we mature in a particular direction. For example, we learn agriculture or we develop tools like spears and bows and arrows. We fabricate ways of building permanent shelter—huts or tree houses.

Essentially, rather than just continue to take whatever is lying around, human societies strive to find ways to make living easier. Basic subsistence agriculture is us saying that instead of just going out to find food wherever it is, we will organise a way to have the food in one place where we need it. And the bows and arrows? We develop them to find more efficient ways of catching the squirrel.

I guess there are those who will have been content with the gathering of berries and the hunting sans tools, but even when the old way is working fine, something in the nature of man always strives for a way to make it work better.

So it goes on. From bows and arrows and elaborately planned hunting parties, to learning how to preserve meat for long periods, to domesticating animals and herding them around, to specialisation and trade; from little shambas, to granaries, to plantations, to specialisation and trade, to exploration and interaction with other societies, to exchange of ideas.

It is what human societies do. It is in our nature. We strive towards civilisation.

That is one of the reasons it bothers me so much that we as modern civilisation decide not to try and make contact with these tribes. Do we assume that they don’t want to evolve? That they are content where they are? But they have already showed that they are interested in technology by developing bows and arrows and huts. Shouldn’t we try to help them answer the other questions they are trying to figure out?

After all, civilisation isn’t about Desperate Housewives and Usher’s new record, It is about developing efficient ways of utilising our environment. We could show them about basic mechanics; about crop rotation, about metal. We should show them about health care.

The enlarged frontal lobe

And forgive the truism, but human beings are not animals. They shouldn’t live like animals. We have a different sort of brain that can do more than just find food and shelter. And wants to do more.

That is why we end up with religions and science and folklore and art. It is the human brain acting out its natural inclination to reach out and find out and discover and understand. Humans yearn for knowledge.

We want to know what those shiny things in the sky are. We want to know where the rain comes from. We want to know where the first human came from. We want to reach higher, and see further. It is in us.

That is why it just seems mean to not go in and say: “Hi, I’m from the 6 billion people out there. We just saw pictures of the planet Mars the other day. Oh, yeah. There are six billion of us out there. No, most of us are poor. When people live like you guys, we call it poverty. Others have all sorts of magnificent stuff. Huge, massive huts. There are boxes you sit in that take you from here to beyond the horizon in less than an hour. Some of us live to be like seventy years old. Yeah. It is possible. And when we learn more about medicine and human physiology, we might live even longer. One hundred and beyond. Oh, that is called Mathematics. It is a system of understanding things by counting them. You know what you could do? If you want the water to be nearer, you could put this stick here and this stone here you have what we call a pulley system… and the water will come even easier. Yeah… Okay, it is time for me to go, now. Yeah, I can come back and visit…”

I know, I know

Okay, I know that if modern civilisation does get in touch with them, it will be the end of their way of life. Chances are that they will be seduced and will slowly begin to leave the rainforest and their little culture, their language etc will die out.

Still don’t believe that that is a reason to deny them knowledge of the outside world. It should be their decision to make, not ours; if they opt to let their culture die, that should be their choice. It is presumptuous of us to crown ourselves guardians of their way of life.

It is as if we are forgetting that they are human beings, too. They are people, not wild animals. We can’t claim to be protecting their habitat or conserving their species, They are human beings. The whole world is their habitat. We are their species.


But then again, I am sure there is a reason why the people with the PhDs stay away, and if I read long enough I will find out what that reason is. Let me go and find out.



  1. Confession I haven’t read the whole post but…

    You’re saying that they should have a choice in wanting to be contacted…what if with all the loggers and airplanes flying over they just don’t want to have anything to do with those crazy people with the loud machines…in that case we’d definitely have to impose our lifestyle on them and try to convince them that it is better…some people take a little longer to adapt to change; they must be a really small tribe so there’s no harm in having a few “early man” species existing

  2. But we have people like that in Uganda…

    The pigmyies (SP) in the west and the K’jongs. Baz, unfruck out.

  3. baz, leave these people alone, i beg you. please do not go try and be their hero rescuing them from themselves. there is a reason they have been hidden from the rest of the world. it should stay that way. on the other hand, maybe angelina joliie may want them…

  4. I notice you don’t mention nuclear bombs and enslavement and the like, shit that we have precisely because we are no longer hunter-gatherers.
    You don’t mention cluster bombs and landmines and the other little things that, if mentioned, would send all of us fleeing into the forest.
    Like, say, that they’d have to live in a world where someone like George Bush has the Nuclear Football following him around, never beyond arm’s reach.

    Not to say, of course, that everything is bad here (or there). I think … it’s a delicate situation, and “civilising people” has always been tragic, often worse than their not being civilised.
    Nice post, Baz.
    *raises glass to the Memory of the Australian Aborigines* Live on, great People with a great Spirit. Uniformity sucks. *gulps*

  5. Baz, you need counseling. These people really got to you eh?

    They should be left alone. Let *development *come to them as an inevitable thing, not forced on them. They could die if you gave them all that you are proposing. Case in point – somebody had the Mbu brilliant idea once of resettling the Pygmies in Bundibugyo in ‘better’ settlements out of the forests. The poor folks just started dying one by one, till they had to be taken back. They were depressed, the climate change was too harsh, they were too idle and they started getting new diseases. Let the Uncontacted be.

    Oh, and human beings are animals. The alternative to being animals is to be a plant, and that I am sure I am not.

  6. Robba, that is not fair. You should at least tell us what the book says. You know I am never going to find it. I live in an Kampala that is virtually uncontacted when it comes to books.

  7. @27th: Memory? Must you be quite so disgustingly ignorant? And I doubt you actually own a glass anyway. Mugs are not glasses. Get a job.

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