I read a couple of critiques of Going Tribal (Or Tribe depending on whether you watch via the BBC or the Discovery Channel) lately that piqued my interest. The first was by The Times and the other was from Short Sharp Science(S^3).
For the uninitiated, the Times gives a pretty good, if rather snarky, synopsis of a show:
Parry lands in remote spot, meets suspicious tribal elders, gets injected with jumba-wamba juice, trips out, vomits and defecates wildly, is accepted into the tribe and finally goes home refreshed and confident in the knowledge that the world’s indigenous peoples are, like, special and stuff.
The Times go on…
[Y]ou almost forget that you’re watching obscene postcolonial pygmy tourism masquerading as eco-entertainment. While, ultimately, his grip is so assured that he makes you forget that Tribe is fundamentally Dirty Sanchez for grown-ups, complete with skin-piercing antics and vomit-splattered money shots, but without the expletives and beer.
On those two critiques, I’d have to partially agree with the second; there are a lot of cheap, dirty, cringing thrills involved. Think: penis turned inside out (I’m with you, reader -> ?). However, there is some value in learning about how other cultures operate. The first critique is common among the critics and it mirrored in a more even handed way by S^3 (which is a great collection of the different responses to the show – kudos to Lucy Middleton). The concern is with the paternalistic tendencies of these shows. The implication is that the show causes us to judge or look down on these cultures and that’s a bad thing. The other concern raised by S^3 is that
There are over 40,000 isolated people that remain today, most of whom (see the Man of the hole and the Sentinilese) do not want contact with the outside world. Now more of us are aware of these people and their rapidly changing lives, the question is: is there anything we can do to stop them from being contacted? Other than building an impenetrable barrier between them and the outside world (which just isn’t practical) and protecting their land (not always that effective in keeping out loggers and oil companies), what else can we do?
I suggest we back up a bit and ask the question, is it a bad thing to contact these people or integrate them into the rest of the world? Assuming this is a bad thing this conveys either a sense of guilt of the developed world that our world is, in fact, of less value and we shouldn’t allow these people to slum down into our material lifestyle or a sense that these people couldn’t thrive in a connected world. Otherwise, allowing them to connect into the real world would be considered a good thing. And if they don’t want to, they don’t have to.
While you’re chewing on that, chew on this: The things that a lot of these tribes do to their members would be considered torture and child abuse anywhere else in the world. If we take the premise that all people are created equal, how is it acceptable for people to treat their children like this in a isolated society but not in Brooklyn? Are we not allowed to look down on those practices? (note I said practices not people) What if we did that for all cultures? What if we told people: “That’s just KKK the culture, they grew up that way and it’s part of their community ritual so let them be”? This arguement was actually used quite often by southerners in the 1700s-1800s to justify slavery.
It seems that in our culture it’s okay to demand change and sling mud against those who are viewed as ‘on top’ and excuse bad behavior by those we see as oppressed. Possibly those who are dominant in society should meet a higher standard. What this comes down to really, is where to draw the line between respect for the different values of a culture and hard definitions bewteen right and wrong. It seems that a lot of western society has gotten too relativist in its outlook. Of course, there is a lot of western society that has gone overboard the other way (seeing the world as evil vs good; black vs white). So, I’ve got no answers but it’s just something to chew on during your friday (aside from your Friday Doughnut).
Men are easy
Sheril Kirshenbaum posts over on The Intersection about a study that basically showed that men will choose for a date anyone over a certain looks threshold, while women are more picky and leverage their attractiveness to get the best guy they think they can (while trying not to over-shoot). The problem with this study as I see it is that this was based on a study of speed dating. Guys also know their attractiveness to some degree it seems and know who is in or out of their league and also after a few minutes, more than looks is needed for anyone. At least with the people I’ve known, males are just as picky but they aren’t as self aware that they are being picky (I like them/ don’t like them vs I like/don’t like x, y, z). Read more here. Unscientifically (it is friday!), I think that what men and women are attracted to has more to do with what they didn’t like about their previous boyfriends/girlfriends than anything else.
Weekly Aural Pleasure:
That seemed a little heavy for a friday morning so hopefully these will perk you up. Talking a lot about supplements earlier got me thinking about the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (she takes lots of vitamins). The video isn’t too good but the song is one of my favorites. A good example of how if the tune is great the lyrics don’t matter much. Of course, the lyrics are brilliant in their own way.
Bonus Aural Pleasure: In my head today so here is the amazing Belle and Sebastian. It’s certainly got a friday feel.