Should we contact uncontacted tribes?

  • #1
russ_watters
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Another spinoff from the uncontacted tribes thread.

A couple of arguments/points were made about leaving uncontacted tribes alone:

-The history of intervention has, to put it mildly, not been good.
-If we follow some version of Star Trek's "prime directive", we should let them develop in their own way.

But what if we could be benevolent in that contact? I'd like to think we've evolved to the point where we can. That requires making the level if interference their choice. After a first contact, with an explanation of options, if they want to be left alone, fine. But what if they want an education? A new set of experiences? Double the lifespan? A wider gene pool? Air conditioning? We could offer them that choice.

Regarding the prime directive, I do not see any morality built into in that type of guideline. I don't see what negatives it prevents or positives it creates. To me, it just seems like something to make us feel better about what we do. Someone in the other thread called it an air of superiority, and I agree. We shouldn't force anything on these people, but at the same time, I do not see it as moral to deny it to them.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Borek
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This is a little bit like in quantum physics. You can't make observation without disturbing the system. You are going to ask questions that they don't understand. To make them understand the options you have to teach them. Once they understand the question (and options) question about being left alone is a moot.

In fact just letting them know this question exist is a disturbance.
 
  • #3
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In fact just letting them know this question exist is a disturbance.
You are correct. However, not letting them know is making the choice about level of contact/involvement for them. Since we cannot both let them choose their destiny and leave them undisturbed we must make a choice as to which is more valuable: a person's right to choose for themself, or a culture's undisturbed purity.

As a libertarian I place a high value on individual freedom, and see cultural purity as just another excuse to violate that freedom.
 
  • #4
Borek
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Will you allow 7 y.o. to watch porn drinking beer, or will you violate his freedom?
 
  • #5
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Another spinoff from the uncontacted tribes thread.

A couple of arguments/points were made about leaving uncontacted tribes alone:

Heh....thanx Russ for re-opening the debate. <cheers> :)

I'll just re-make a point I made that got deleted before the subject was changed to linguistics and the thread locked:

Generally what happens when you introduce a culture based on technology and finances to a culture who simply lives off the land and is self-sufficient, is that you only succeed in creating a dependent and impovershed society that would have been much better off if left alone. Time and time again throughout history this has been done resulting in the destruction of the culture we were trying to help (or in more extreme cases, remove).

I find absolutely nothing immoral about just leaving them be...

The more immoral thing perhaps, is ignoring the cultures we have already "helped" by introducing them to our "superior" ways that are now starving because they can't fend for themselves and are now dependent on $$ (which they do not have).
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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Will you allow 7 y.o. to watch porn drinking beer, or will you violate his freedom?
What does that have to do with anything?
In fact just letting them know this question exist is a disturbance.
You are correct that any contact is a disturbance and bringing it up implies you are operating under the assumption that any disturbance is automatically bad. Could you explain why?
 
  • #7
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Will you allow 7 y.o. to watch porn drinking beer, or will you violate his freedom?
No, a child shouldn't have the same right to self-determination as an adult, similarly with severely mentally handicapped adults. They also shouldn't have the same responsibility to care for themselves.

However, an adult member of an uncontacted tribe is merely uneducated (in the usual sense), not mentally handicapped nor mentally childlike.
 
  • #8
Evo
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Why these tribes want to be left alone. They are not "unaware" they have made the decision to be left alone.

http://www.survival-international.org/campaigns/uncontactedtribes

Dale if you want to impose your beliefs on other people, then why not start here in the US with all of the religious cults that refuse medical care? What, that's not legal? What, they have rights? When you say that
daleSpam said:
As a libertarian I place a high value on individual freedom
yet you want to take away their individual freedom. I don't get it.

And these people have medicine, as a matter of fact "we" are learning of cures we didn't know about from these people.

In one documentary, one of the white people was injured and it wasn't healing with the medication they had with them, so a local Indian got sap from a tree and applied it to the wound and it healed. We are now studying the sap.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters
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Why these tribes want to be left alone. They are not "unaware" they have made the decision to be left alone.
I know that's what the link says, but it's an oxymoron: we can't know that they want to be left alone unless we contact them and ask them. So that link really is a non sequitur: it isn't about uncontacted tribes.

The link is talking about true invasions, and that's a real problem and something for them to legitimately be afraid of, but it is not the only possible form of contact. It is possible to make benevolent contact with such people. That link mentions one such event, but says nothing at all about the content of the encounter.

I'll take this a little further: because of the nature of human incursion into the rainforests, contact is, in many cases, inevitable (the link says that particular tribe unintentionally migrated toward a settlement of colonists and loggers). That means that benevolent contact is actually essential to the survival of these tribes. The choice really is: contact them and tell them the score in order to work together for a solution, or let them run headlong into a logging camp to be shot.

In any case, the disdain for human life that apparently still exists in Brazil is quite breathtaking. I said above that I'd like to think we've evolved past that (in the US, anyway, it's been a long time), but apparently that is still a serious problem in Brazil. For tribes that have already been "contacted" violently as little as 30 years ago, it is no understandable that today it is impossible for them to trust people who attempt to contact them. But that still doesn't change - it really doesn't even address - my point in the OP.
 
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  • #10
Evo
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I agree with you Russ, if there could be some kind of contact that wouldn't hurt them, that's ok. But actually these "uncontacted" tribes do have contact with other tribes that have been contacted. So eevn if they haven't been directly contacted by outsiders, they are not unaware.

I think you have the right approach, but as soon as someone with good intentions goes in the others will be right behind them.

More after this commercial break.
 
  • #11
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It turns out that many contacted tribes suffer at first, but the next generations assimilate much more easily.

http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=605&catID=4

The Zo'é Indians told me that when they first saw white people in the 1980s they were very curious, as the whites had useful tools such as metal axes and machetes that the Indians wanted. The Zo'é were amused at how inept these strangers were at hunting – a tribesman mimicked a white man struggling to carry a peccary on his back, its teeth were clacking loudly. These strangers were fundamentalist evangelical missionaries who had secretly and illegally entered Zo'é land to convert them to Christianity. Many Zo'é died from the diseases they brought. Fortunately Funai (the government's Indian affairs department) expelled them and the Zo'é now have their land officially recognised. Their population is increasing
We now have a generation of indigenous people who have seen their parents go through that first terrible process of contact, and who are more prepared for the outside world. They are running their own cultural projects, doing research into their medicinal knowledge and recording their history. A good example are the Waiaipi. When they were first contacted their numbers plummeted, but now the population is growing. They have their own teachers and are holding on to their language. A lot of their knowledge is still being transmitted among the tribe, while they are engaging with the outside world. They are very feisty and often go to Brasilia to lobby for their rights.
 
  • #12
siddharth
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I agree with you Russ, if there could be some kind of contact that wouldn't hurt them, that's ok. But actually these "uncontacted" tribes do have contact with other tribes that have been contacted. So eevn if they haven't been directly contacted by outsiders, they are not unaware.
Not always. Some uncontacted tribes cut off contact from other tribes too.

And these people have medicine, as a matter of fact "we" are learning of cures we didn't know about from these people.

In one documentary, one of the white people was injured and it wasn't healing with the medication they had with them, so a local Indian got sap from a tree and applied it to the wound and it healed. We are now studying the sap.
But, because they are ignorant of science, they probably do not have medicine to a number of diseases which kill them, to which we do have cures. So, look at the potential knowledge which they could gain under benevolent contact, and directly improve their quality of living.

IMO, the difference between these uncontacted tribes and the religious cults which refuse medicine, is that the former has very little or no access to knowledge about such medicine, while the religious cults actively refuse the medicine despite easy access to information. I don't think it's a valid comparison.

Russ said:
But what if we could be benevolent in that contact? I'd like to think we've evolved to the point where we can. That requires making the level if interference their choice. After a first contact, with an explanation of options, if they want to be left alone, fine. But what if they want an education? A new set of experiences? Double the lifespan? A wider gene pool? Air conditioning? We could offer them that choice.
Yeah, that's what I think too.
 
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  • #13
Borek
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No, a child shouldn't have the same right to self-determination as an adult, similarly with severely mentally handicapped adults. They also shouldn't have the same responsibility to care for themselves.

However, an adult member of an uncontacted tribe is merely uneducated (in the usual sense), not mentally handicapped nor mentally childlike.
Just because s/he is an adult doesn't mean that they understand the implications of them agreeing to be contacted or left alone. That's very similar situation - child doesn't understand possible outcome of its actions, same with mentally handicapped - so we prefer to keep them safe, because we assume we know what is good for them. Uncontacted tribes are in exactly the same situation as a child - while they are adult and perfectly able to deal with their own life in their own environement they will have no idea about what they are asked, and becasue of that their answers are - in a way - meaningless.
 
  • #14
Borek
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What does that have to do with anything?
Explained in other post.

You are correct that any contact is a disturbance and bringing it up implies you are operating under the assumption that any disturbance is automatically bad.
Your words, not mine :smile: No assumptions, just an observation - to which you agreed.

Note: I have no idea what is better for them, whether they should be contacted or left alone. There are numerous aspects, many of which have been already listed. IMHO history of contacts so far is rather discouraging. 20 years ago I would vote to send them teachers, doctors and engineers. Now I got a little bit older, could be a little bit more experienced and mature, and I vote no. But I don't assume I am right, it is just a gut feeling.



 
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  • #15
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Dale if you want to impose your beliefs on other people, then why not start here in the US with all of the religious cults that refuse medical care? What, that's not legal? What, they have rights? When you say that yet you want to take away their individual freedom. I don't get it.
I think it is pretty amusing and hypocritical for you to accuse me of posting a strawman argument and then for you to post something like this.

Whether or not you agree with me, I have certainly been clear and consistent in my viewpoint and comments. Not only have I been consistent, but I have also identified my general philosophy so that you could make reasonable extrapolations to my position on other similar matters like the religious cults.

In case you do not understand what "libertarian" means, let me summarize by saying that libertarians believe in dealing with others through persuasion and free choice, and not violence nor fraud. Therefore, I would not take the right to choose away from either the tribesmen or the religious cults.

They are not "unaware" they have made the decision to be left alone.
As I said already, that is different and I have no problem with that. Until this thread I did not realize that "uncontacted" in this context can mean something more like "no regular contact". We should still maintain some occasional contact; some of the young adults may choose differently than their elders.
 
  • #16
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Just because s/he is an adult doesn't mean that they understand the implications of them agreeing to be contacted or left alone. That's very similar situation - child doesn't understand possible outcome of its actions, same with mentally handicapped - so we prefer to keep them safe, because we assume we know what is good for them. Uncontacted tribes are in exactly the same situation as a child - while they are adult and perfectly able to deal with their own life in their own environement they will have no idea about what they are asked, and becasue of that their answers are - in a way - meaningless.
If you honestly believe that then the logical conclusion is that we can and should go in and forcibly integrate them into our society. I am sorry, but I disagree most emphatically. I think you are belittling their very humanity in the worst way. There are fundamental differences between the cognitive capacity of children and adults that are beyond mere differences of experience and education. Adult tribesmen are not old children.

Even as fully-integrated adults in modern society we always act on incomplete information or on an imperfect understanding of important aspects of any given challenge. If that were the criteria for allowing freedom, then nobody should have any freedom. That is not acceptable to me. Obviously, the degree of "incomplete information" is far higher for the tribesman, but I would still not take away their choice.
 
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  • #17
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If you honestly believe that then the logical conclusion is that we can and should go in and forcibly integrate them into our society.
Hmm, too late to edit, but I realized that this is not the only logical conclusion that could be reached based on our judgement of the relative merits of the respective societies. In any case, for the reasons above, I still disagree with unilaterally forcing our choice on them either way.
 
  • #18
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Can we observe them without notice?

It would make sense to give it ago.

We may discover that they are under the rule of a tyrannical dictator. A terrible figure imposing their will upon the people.

Under these circumstances how could we not intervene? Let alone worry about the affect of our first contact.
 
  • #19
arildno
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No culture, considered as a set of beliefs&practices has any primary right to continued existence.

Only individuals have that right, because in contrast to cultures, individiuals are the ones thinking, feeling..living. Cultures have none of these attributes, and on the face of it, have less rights to exist than dung beetles.


Only SECONDARILY can cultures be said to have a right to exist, namely as expressive of the wishes and desires of..individuals.

It is morally obligatory to defer to such wishes as long as their implementation (say, in the shaping and maintenance of some culture) do not trample on the rights of individuals who are so-called "members" of that culture.

However, if such trampling on rights occurs (say, for example, that women are being regularly raped out of some chauvinistic male ideal), then that "culture" can, and should, be dissolved.

By their intenal acts of oppression, the internal violators cannot regard just retaliations against them as oppression of themselves, since their acts of oppression nullified certain of their rights (that we are hence not morally obliged to respect).
 

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