I recently watched the BBC documentary series, Tribe (Going Tribal in the US), which originally aired between January 2005 and September 2007. In the series, former Royal Marine instructor Mr. Bruce Parry visits remote tribes in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, and spends a month living with each as a participant observer. The idea is to interact with the tribesmen, adopt their customs, and take part in their rituals in an effort to understand their lives.
In the series, we see Mr. Parry eat the unthinkable, don a penis gourd, undergo penile inversion, ingest powerful hallucinogenics, and subject himself to ornamental mutilation. It is an extreme form of ethnography, turned into mass entertainment.
The series was especially interesting to me for two reasons. First, in the episode Cannibals and Crampons, where Mr. Parry spends a month living with practicing cannibals, the Kombai in the forests of West Papua, the expedition party (consisting of Mr. Parry, Mr. Mark Anstice, and a local guide) makes first contact with a tribe never previously known or observed. We are given the opportunity here to witness, if vicariously, how humans who continue to live today as our ancestors lived tens of thousands of years ago react to an encounter with what are effectively highly-evolved descendants visiting from a distant future (more on this later).
Kombai tribesmen in New Guinea
Secondly, it was possible to observe obvious parallels between the behavioral patterns, emotional proclivities, and styles of communication, dress, and bodily adornment prevalent in the prehistorical communities featured in the series, and those of their near genetic relatives in modern, urban environments in the developed world. Against this backdrop, the subcultures of urban Blacks in America in particular, emerged not as idiosyncratic responses to slavery and racism, but simply as reformulated expressions of desires and sensibilities that have their roots in a tribal past.
That the parallels are resilient enough to hold across time and space and radically different environmental conditions will not come as a surprise to anthropologists who accept the influence of genes in human behavior. Indeed, these parallels are efficiently explained by J. Philippe Rushton’s Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995). In this sense, because of its illustrative power, Tribe is educational in a manner that no anthropological tract or table of statistical figures could hope to be.
Among the African tribes showcased in the series, we see a preoccupation for status display through prominent and extreme forms of bodily adornment, such as lip plates, jewelry, and scarification. We see a tendency to glorify violence and for neighboring tribes to remain locked in perpetual conflict, involving frequent raids and bloody retribution. We see a tendency towards very pronounced expressiveness in communication, and, outside combat mode, for masculine body language to involve, in contrast, an almost lethargic, lazy calm.
We see a tendency to engage in extreme performances and acts of body modification in order to be deemed desirable by members of the opposite sex — matched by relatively loose emotional ties. We see, finally, a tendency for life to unfold at a generally slow pace: outside of the hunt for food (which is never conducted in a hurry), long stretches of diurnal inactivity are punctuated by ritualistic performances involving dance and music of a vocal / percussive nature (this slow pace of life contrasts sharply with the constant activity of the cold-dwelling Nenet, in Asia, also featured in the series).
These traits can still be found today among Blacks in Western urban environments, where lip plates, beads, and scars may have given way to gold toothcaps, diamond-studded gold chains, and tattoos; elaborate tribal gear to dandy zoots; Suri stick fights to Gangsta Rap music videos; cows to Bentleys; cattle raids to muggings and robberies; bows and arrows to pistols and Uzis; tribal warfare to gang warfare; cattle jumps to Rap concerts; polygamous hunters to promiscuous players; outlandish shamans to exuberant preachers; ritual dance and music in the village to ritual dance and music in the church.
Woman of the Suri Tribe of Ethiopia
A genetic explanation for the resilience of these parallels, despite centuries of geographical and cultural isolation in markedly different environments, might partly elucidate why access to the wealth, infrastructure, and technology of White societies has not erased or fundamentally altered existing behavioral, cognitive, and emotional traits among post-colonial Blacks in Africa. Rather it has amplified their expression.
Because of this amplification, sociocultural differences between Blacks and Whites have become more pronounced. It would be simplistic perhaps to characterize this process as a post-colonial process whereby Black populations have become more dysfunctional. Michael Levin, Richard Lynn, and J. Philippe Rushton, writing from different perspectives, have suggested that behavioral, cognitive, and emotional traits that are sometimes deemed dysfunctional in White societies are, in fact, normal for Black populations.
If these authors are correct, this would furnish a powerful argument against the effectiveness, and indeed the wisdom, of White-sponsored development programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developmentally "retarded" parts of the world. Indeed, decades after decolonization, and despite ever-growing mountains of aid money being thrown at the Dark Continent, violence, famine, disease, and economic failure — even in formerly prosperous colonies like Rhodesia and South Africa — have flourished and remained endemic.
Theories of development uphold the belief that, given enough investment and education, sub-Saharan Africa can develop itself into something equivalent to the West, save minor anatomical differences. To my mind, those theories are profoundly dubious.
Firstly, they are elaborated on fallacious a prioris, such as the idea that the region needs to be developed, and that development necessarily means convergence with modern Western paradigms, such as capitalism, free markets, democracy, and progress.
Secondly, they rationalize their own failure by attributing it to an imperfect implementation of these Western paradigms, as opposed to the futility of introducing them in the first place. Development theories ignore that the peoples indigenous to the region have a suite of traits and abilities that in important ways are very different from those of European-descended peoples.
Development theories also ignore the fact that the abstract philosophical concepts, the legal relations, and the technology and infrastructure of European societies reflect the desires and sensibilities of European-descended peoples. This is because the traits of European-descended peoples that predispose them to these phenomena were adaptive responses to a unique set of environmental conditions — conditions that were very different from those of sub-Saharan Africa. Things like political parties, banks, post offices, civil servants, and integral equations with partial derivatives never existed — and had no reason to exist — in the sub-Saharan bush until their introduction by European colonialism.
Left-leaning Science Fiction authors have critiqued colonialism via scenarios where aliens, typically with a unique biology and originating from a highly advanced civilization, arrive on Earth and set out to conquer the planet in order to despoil it of its natural resources. When one considers that the European settlers of the 19th century were incalculably more advanced than the bushmen they encountered in sub-Saharan Africa, and that these settlers possessed cognitive abilities, technologies, and a body of knowledge that was inconceivable, unassimilable, and incomprehensible to the peoples they conquered, it seems fair to draw an analogy with the alien conquest Sci-Fi scenarios.
In these scenarios, plotlines typically end with either the triumph or the defeat of the conquerors. However, imagine if an author were to write a novel in which highly advanced aliens conquered the Earth, stayed for a few centuries, and then, for reasons of their own, decided to leave, after having erected a society predicated on traits vastly different from — and, in some areas, biologically far superior to — our own. I suppose that the part of the novel dealing with how the aliens sought to alleviate their guilt by attempting to make us more like them would probably read like sub-Saharan Africa’s postcolonial history.
Although Mr. Parry appears to possess irritatingly liberal sensibilities, he nevertheless seems to partly concur with my view that development programs in certain parts of the world are a White man’s folly. In the series he frequently expresses the hope that the tribes he has encountered will be allowed to decide their own destiny, solve their own problems, and (if they choose to do so) evolve their societies in their own way and at their own pace.
In my view, there is no moral turpitude in allowing sub-Saharan societies to devolve until they stabilize at a lower ecological niche, if this means that indigenous peoples end up with societies that more accurately reflect their desires, sensibilities, and capabilities. Such societies might even be happier and more stable than societies whose correct functioning necessitates a suite of traits that is absent in the population and which could only be mimicked with great difficulty.
Put more simply, a society that whose correct functioning is predicated on, for example, people averaging IQ scores of 180 is unlikely to be stable or happy if the people living in it only average IQ scores of 90. This is Richard Lynn's argument in Eugenics: A Reassessment (2001). The quality of the decisions will not be the same. The same applies to any society whose correct functioning is predicated on the presence in abundance of very rare or non-existent traits. Like Communism, such a society would be contra natura.
The problem with proponents of development, of course, is that, for all their righteous talk of tolerance and diversity, they are disturbed when they see populations with living conditions vastly different from their own. This is because they rely on evaluative dimensions designed to measure compliance with their preferred subset of Western values, rather than with the values of the population being evaluated.
One does not have to go to sub-Saharan Africa, however, to see examples of how what we may proudly consider an asset in our society is scornfully repudiated as dysfunctional in another: Look at the Muslim world vis a vis female visibility and bacon sandwiches. A functional sub-Saharan Africa would necessitate Western liberals being prepared to accept lifestyles in the region that people in the West would likely regard with horrified fascination — and at times find deeply disturbing and even repugnant. It would also necessitate a painful period of readjustment, which would involve a great deal of misery and end with a population implosion. This is just as inconceivable to modern Western minds as the idea that decolonization in many cases ought to have been accompanied by some level of deindustrialization.
Certainly, the naked cannibals first encountered by Mr. Parry and Mr. Anstice in the forests of West Papua looked terrified at the mere sight of European man. One can only speculate what the two expeditioners, fully decked up in high-tech trekking gear and digital equipment, must have looked like to the forestmen, who had never seen or conceived anything remotely similar. Being distant prehistorical relatives, it is certainly easier for us to comprehend them than for them to comprehend us. And given that the forestmen relied on foot travel and stone axes, Mr. Parry and Mr. Anstice might as well have come from a different planet. Mr. Parry and Mr. Anstice chose, correctly, to leave them alone and be on their way.
Notwithstanding the above reflections, my primary concern with this discussion is the effect that sub-Saharan development programs have on White societies. Firstly, because it is predicated on fantasy, development programs have exacerbated failure, and failure has, in turn, been a driver for Third World immigration into European societies. There is little doubt that many of the facilities we have the West, such as abundant food supplies, hot showers, insect repellents, analgesic tablets, and rapid transport, will be attractive to any human anywhere. Without an understanding of what the elaboration and maintenance of such facilities demand in terms of cognitive ability, temperament, and lifestyle, the West is seen by the "undeveloped" mind as an El Dorado to be despoiled of its riches — a paradise of affluence, comfort, and leisure. This is extremely dangerous, given population and birthrate differentials.
Secondly, and for the reasons stated earlier, I find the guilt-mongering, anti-White subtext that runs through development and ‘anti-poverty’ campaigns dangerous and an insult to the intelligence of educated men. This is not only because the idea of development is fallacious, but because development is also used as a moral weapon to rally support for an ostensibly egalitarian political program that seeks to undermine European societies. Whether the political program is utopian or dreamt up by malicious conspirators, as some have argued, is immaterial. The end product is the same.
At this point in our history, a shrinking demographic presence and the dominance of legitimized anti-White ideologies in the West represents a material threat to the existence of European-descended peoples in a world where they already constitute a small minority. Either by accident or design, theories of development contribute to existing negative trends.
It is important, therefore, that these theories be subjected to radical critiques that fundamentally challenge their underlying assumptions. Because these assumptions are quintessentially Western in character, it should be possible to critique them using post-colonialist language and theoretical frameworks.
In other words, it should be possible to enlist the spawn of our opponents and marshal them to soldier against their progenitors. I would eventually like to see a tidal wave of criticism directed against proponents of Third World development, and not just a polemical compilation by an underground Black Metal label. We need to develop our own postcolonial theories and do our own march through the institutions.
Tribe is only a television program, but I believe that, in the context of the ideas articulated here, it has educational value, provided it is viewed intelligently and with caution. Given the enormously favorable consensus we witnessed in response to Bob Geldof’s Live8 events of 2005, it seems fair to assume that most Westerners support the idea of development in the Third World. Yet, only a small minority of Westerners has ever been to sub-Saharan Africa, and within that minority only those affiliated to Christian missions have ever met a bushman in the wild.
This lack of actual experience with Africans helps to perpetuate the comforting liberal myth among Westerners that the objects of their compassion can and must eventually become middle class consumers, just like them. In as much as seeing is the first step to understanding, Tribe may be a step in the right direction.
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