I’ve often read NYT and gasped in bewilderment at the great depths of their ignorance. Here, in this 21st century hour, at this beloved place of the educated east coast elites, America continually promotes neoliberal projects which have wreaked ruin across the world.
“Modernising” despots like Kagame are heralded, Socialist democrats like Chavez are demonised, the promotion of the Washington Consensus in the name of “development” goes on unquestioned and, apparently, potentially wiping out an entire people in an attempt to force Jesus on them is an act to be celebrated.
A few days ago, an American missionary (ya know, like the ones who promoted the now extremely violent homophobia in Eastern Africa in the 1970s) was killed by the uncontacted people of North Sentinel Island as he attempted to “save” them from Satan and introduce Christianity to them. After a day of being shouted at, threatened and having an arrow shot through his bible, he was surprised they didn’t “accept me right away” despite offering them a football, a fish and shouting “Jesus loves you!” at them… in English, of course.
Naturally, he decided to stay and, the following day, was seen – in cadaver form – being dragged across the beach. What a pity.
Now, I don’t mean to romanticise the lives of these islanders and I doubt they would stand to benefit nothing from contact but if history has taught me one thing, it’s that when a Christian of any kind – let alone a missionary who consider’s you and your culture as “Satan’s last stronghold” – knocks at your door wanting to civilize you (all the while being riddled with microbes which may wipe out your entire family), you shoot that Christian. You shoot him dead.
For the history of missionaries’ impact is long and uniform. The National Geographic:
‘ “In the past, missionaries were a major force in contacting, pacifying, and settling isolated indigenous people throughout the Amazon, often causing demographic decimation and cultural erosion along the way,” said Glenn Shepard, an American anthropologist and ethnobotanist at Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, in Belém, Brazil.
And like the pacified tribes of South America, indigenous peoples of the Andamans soon succumbed to contagious diseases and wholesale social disintegration in the wake of contact. The Jarawa tribe, after laying down their bows and arrows on South Andaman Island in the late 1990s, has endured two deadly outbreaks of measles.
Their once proud warriors have been reduced to listlessness and alcoholism, their children even made to dance for handouts by unscrupulous tour operators guiding “human safaris” along the trunk road that now cuts through their traditional territory. Other Andaman tribes in turn have suffered demographic shock and cultural collapse following efforts to force them into settled communities.’
Now, there are other viewpoints. In the NYT‘s desperately sympathetic piece for the fallen zealot, the only criticism they can muster is for the Indian government which protects the uncontacted indigenous community from imperialists and tourists alike. That they have left the islanders alone “with no school, aid, development or government services” is seen as a crime in and of itself because these things are objective goods in the eyes of NYT – who seem to have lost any grasp of their normative purposes.
The NYT does not need to know anything about this tribe of blacks to know that it is inferior to themselves, that the Indian government’s policy is almost cruel and that the risks taken by this bible-basher were gallant.
In his final notes, the American pondered, “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”, to answer that and combine both how best to treat such invaders with why it is best to treat them so, I leave the rest to the ineffable Wednesday Addams: