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Dreaming of Extinction

Impossible Conflicts and Social Differences Between Tribal Societies and Western Cultures

A Short Comment

In the process of looking for solutions to the severe poverty and exploitation that the Akha are experiencing one must first ask some questions as to the background of this situation and similar situations that Tribal Societies have experienced in history.

The first thing that is apparent is how little the situation has changed. The experiences which the Akha are having now are not improvements on this cultural conflict.

Possibly one could start with some points worth mentioning.

First off, is there any likelihood that tribal societies will ever assimilate or that they want to or even should?

Why must everyone be the same? Today we see an ever increasing push to force everyone to join the mainstream consumer economy where everything, every idea and every person for that matter is nothing more than a commodity to be traded or provided with services, like it or not.

If one understands that the western economy is based on a model where there must be constant growth of overproduction and consumption then it doesn't leave much room for anything else. The idea that anyone is different is irrelevant because the basis of the machine is that no one is going to be allowed to be different so basically they can think what they want while being pushed into line.

This is much the same for the religious orders which follow on the heels.

The argument is valid that people should have a choice to NOT stand in this line, to not join this single consumption model.

Tribal societies are a clear test case of this. Although there will be a lot of people who partake in both societies or cross the line into the larger society, the fact remains that many tribal people want to remain just who they are, where they are, raising their families and their food that they live on. As they have for centuries. This should be their right.

Perhaps it is only in the west where the "Family" is so touted, where circumstances have actually departed so far from this essential human reality in the direction of human alienation. Try not paying your property tax and see how long you get to live there?

However tribal societies would laugh at anyone who agreed to live under such duress.

But at this time as no other, the last corners of the earth are seeing roads plowed into them and these last tribal societies are being told to "get out".

If people who consume so little to survive are now being told that those who have so much have no room for them then it can only be seen as evidence at how far the situation has gone.

Why shouldn't tribal people have the right to Sanctuary, to be able to live in preserves, where jungle is badly needed at any rate, and be protected there?

There is no logical reason not to allow it. Not to demand it.

Why should tribal peoples be forced to join the western economy?

Should choice of economy be listed as a basic human right?

One would think so.

Why should they not have the choice to consider their form of education acceptable without having the western form of education forced on them with its increasing emphasis and collaboration with the marketplace?

Possibly allowing even one tribal society to exist is like leaving one piece of evidence that once life had some value, once not everyone needed, wanted or wore a watch. That at one time there was a spiritual way to live and grow up that wasn't something which had been reduced to just words in religious books.

Sitting in a hut watching an Akha women carry on endless conversation with her child as she goes about her work makes such mockery of foolish western notions made up to ease the conscience like "quality time." One would laugh if it weren't so tragic.

Tribal societies don't assimilate well for very possibly the reason that they don't want to.

Assimilation is a term of denial used by the social system which is rolling over them and taking away what they have.

In America it was the land. In Brazil it was the land.

With the Akha it is the land. It is the same everywhere. And in little more than a hundred or so years of this new model almost all of the worlds resources have been put in jeopardy.

The tribal peoples become a slave class in a cash society so much more hardened than they. Many of the men end up in prison, many of the women end up as prostitutes while drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide and diseases such as AIDS are the actual reality of "assimilation" and "development" programs.

The larger society comes up with all kinds of rationalizations as to why this occurred but can never admit to the causes which are not convenient to talk about. Like a bird in a cage, tribal societies die more often than become enslaved. To live among them one would quickly see why. More often they are being asked to give up all which they have inexchange for what, for many good reasons, appears to be less than nothing.

It is the vast difference in these two realities and who the looser usually are that makes the work to assist Tribal peoples so crucial.

It is not just a matter of helping them till they assimilate, because this in reality is not what is occurring, in reality they are dying.

More often than not, "Assimilation" or "Development" as it is so politely put, is not what they want and should not be forced on themby governments, religious groups or well meaning NGO's.

Tribal societies one after the other are being wiped out in this fashion.

And this is what appears to be ignored.

Copyright 1991 - 2006 The Akha Heritage Foundation