Nothing New Under the Sun

Comparative distributions of Andamanese indige...
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It is the most sickening story.

A video, released by the British newspaper The Observer shows women from a protected tribe in India’s Andaman Islands dancing, some naked, in exchange for food.

The women belong to a primitive tribe named the Jarawa, which was thought to be one of the first tribes to successfully migrate from Africa to Asia. They are supposedly protected by Indian law from being bothered or traumatized, but tourists apparently bribed a police officer, who then led the tourists to them, and lured the women to dance for the tourists in exchange for food.

The video is thought to have been taken some years ago, but that does not take away the disgust that someone would treat human beings as though they were nothing for what feels like “30 pieces of silver.”

It is sad, but unfortunately not surprising that a colonial mindset exists that makes people think that it is all right to treat human beings as objects. Because a person is a darker hue or has less education does not make that person or, in this case, these women, of less value than a person who lives in a city, has money to travel, and has education.

The story made me wonder how these tourists would feel if the tables were reversed, if members of the Jarawa came to England or America and found American women in compromised situations, but desperate and unaware of how cruel the world can be, and willing to do almost anything-for food.

I remember the first time I went to Africa. Just out of college, the group of us traveling was reminded that the Africans were human beings with feelings, and that to go around just taking pictures of them would be offensive. “Think about how uncomfortable you would feel,” our teacher said, “if you were sitting on your porch and some foreigner came along and, without your permission, began taking pictures of you.”

Enough said. I understood.

The story about the Jarawa tribal women is bad in and of itself, but the fact that a police officer – someone who is supposed to be a protector of all people- took a bribe and then used his authority to participate or worse, initiate barbaric treatment of fellow human beings, is just plain sad and wrong.

V. Kishore Chandra Deo, who is India’s Minister of Tribal Affairs, voiced umbrage; “you cannot treat human beings like beasts for the sake of money,” he said.

In theory that is true, and it is morally correct, but it is a fact that humans have treated other humans like beasts for the sake of money from the beginning of time.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, “the preacher” bemoans that there is “nothing new under the sun.” How true, and how sad, that, even as civilization in terms of science and technology has taken societies higher and higher, there has been little progress in those same civilizations as pertains to  the way people treat other people. I would bet that the police officer who took the bribe, and the tourists who squealed with delight as the Jarawa women danced for them while they threw bananas and biscuits at them, or on the side of the road that leads to their village, go to church every Sunday.

A candid observation …

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