[FoRK] Africa

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Fri Jan 8 14:45:51 PST 2010

Wulf Losee wrote:
> Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> The article below shows an astounding level of ignorance [of] primitive
>> culture.
> Hmmm. Mr Williams, please drop yourself naked in the middle of the Amazon
> rain forest -- or, if you like drier climates, the Kalahari Desert -- and
> try to survive for a month. The cultures that inhabit those areas, primitive
> though they may be, have developed all sorts of advanced strategies for
> survival without modern tools or medicines (although most of those cultures
> have disappeared or been assimilated by the modern now).

If properly prepared, I'd do just fine.  I do long hikes in the jungle 
(well, Hawaiian tropics), desert, and rough terrain already.  I already 
know that I could make 100 miles flat and 20-40 miles on rough terrain 
in a day, given enough water. 

I didn't say that the primitive cultures in question couldn't survive or 
didn't have any useful knowledge for their environment.  Whether you can 
thrive in your environment is largely separate from whether you are part 
of a thriving and modern culture.  Or do you really believe that 
survival skills are incompatible with a modern functioning society?
> For example, would you know how extract poison from a particular species of
> frog to envenom your arrows?  That is, if you were even capable of
> fashioning a bow -- which would involve flaking an arrowhead out of flint or
> obsidian, selecting the correct wood(s)  for the bow and arrows and then
> crafting it, fletching the arrows, and curing or preparing animal gut, skin,
> or fibers for the bow string.
> Would you be able to even start a fire without a lighter?

> I often think about how different modern first world people are
>> mentally from those in medieval times and before.
> Quite true. But knowledge and ignorance is relative. While you were
> stumbling around the jungle, I'm sure the natives would laugh at your
> ignorance and helplessness. Which I think would be justified, considering
> your cultural arrogance.

And they would have a tough time flying a plane or making it through DC 
rush hour traffic, to say nothing of making a good living at a modern 
job.  Survival and job skills are fairly separate issues from modern 
social, governmental, ethics, and morality beliefs.  They are 
intertwined somewhat, but mostly substitutable.
> As for Medieval thinking, one of my neighbors firmly believes that the Earth
> was created in 7 days, and that it's only a few thousand years old. But he
> functions quite well in our modern society. And, of course, US Christian
> Scientists wanted a prayer option added to the HCR bill. I'd say just about
> everyone in our modern society, has a selection of beliefs that are in no
> way justified by "rational" thinking.

True, unfortunately, however they are products of a functioning first 
world society which likely means that they hold certain compatible 
beliefs and skills.  They likely don't have slaves.  They likely don't 
hack the heads off of their "servants" on a whim.  Etc.  Although their 
underpinnings may be a little rotten, they still share the bulk of the 
functional beliefs and skills needed to function as a member of the 
modern world.  Otherwise, they act out, are detected, and are eventually 
> As for child-sacrifice in Africa, don't believe everything the media tells
> you. So called "primitives" often love to shock their Western visitors with
> ghastly stories for their own amusement. I wouldn't consider myself a
> "primitive", but I enjoy making fools out of gullible know-it-alls. I'm sure
> someone in a remote Ugandan village could have the same attitude towards a
> self-important BBC reporter. Anthropologist have experienced their
> informants purposely misleading them -- often much to their chagrin. I doubt
> if a reporter from London has the time or the inclination to sift fact from
> fiction in a backwater village of Uganda -- and -- "Heck, even if story
> isn't true, it's a great story!  Let's run it."

True, that happens.  I expect that the BBC vets stories a little better 
than just random rumor or scare-the-tourist.  And I know that many 
atrocities actually have happened, especially in Africa.  Dismissing the 
story out of hand as obviously false would require a lot more knowledge 
on my part.  What is your inside information?

If it is a hoax, that will come out.
> The public loves gore! So much for our post-Modern sophistication.
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8441813.stm
>>> Witch-doctors reveal extent of child sacrifice in Uganda
> Also, it's important to remember that Christian organizations love to
> promulgate the stories of evil "witch doctors" to try to spur the forcible
> conversion of the people who practice indigenous religions. Isn't Uganda run
> by a bunch of Christian fundamentalists who also want to make homosexuality
> a capital crime?

I have no idea.  For myself, I'll knock first worlders holding 
superstitious beliefs and trying to do irrational things even harder 
than third worlders.
> Frankly, I think Mr Williams could supplement his intellectual diet with
> drought of rational skepticism.

Really?  I think there are some here who think I have quite enough 
rational skepticism.  ;-)

> Cheers!
> --Wulf

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