In November of 1961, 23 y/o Michael Rockefeller (yes, of THOSE Rockefeller’s) was floating on a capsized boat about ten miles off the coast of New Guinea, an area he’d spent well over a year exploring and getting acquainted with its indigenous inhabitants.
After about 24 hours floating on their overturned catamaran, Michael Rockefeller left his shipmate Rene Wassing and began to swim to shore.
About 19 hours later he’d made it to within a 100 yards of shore, where a group of Asmat hunters saw him, first mistaking the form in the water for a crocodile.
The natives paddled their 40’ long canoes toward a man they’d seen before in their village, a man they knew as, “Mike.” They reached him and tried pulling him into their boats, but Rockefeller was too exhausted to help, so they got out and helped drag the man to the shoreline.
According to Carl Hoffman’s account in Savage Harvest (https://www.amazon.com/Savage-Harvest-Cannibals-Colonialism-Rockefellers/dp/B00OHXVCEO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1493122257&sr=8-2&keywords=Savage+Harvest), as they approached an inlet, one of the tribesman said to another, “Now’s your chance,” which was more a taunt than a statement. The taunted man (Pep) was the head of a Jeu, or five - a men’s house. He had killed more men than any of them and collected more heads. His reputation, like all reputations among the Asmat’s was forged on fearlessness, boldness and aggression. Pep didn’t hesitate, arching his back and shouting, he plunged his barbed spear deep into the chest of Michael Rockefeller, mortally wounding him.
What followed was an account of how the Asmats butchered and ate Michael Rockefeller and collected his “seed,” or head.
Carl Hoffman’s account is a haunting tome and it held a special significance for me.
The Asmat’s allegedly killed Rockefeller over the deaths of some Asmat warriors killed by the Dutch Armed Forces trying to gain control over the area. In their culture each death required another death “to balance out the world.” They ate human flesh NOT out of hunger, but for “ceremonial reasons.”
For their part, the crew that Michael Rockefeller worked on was guilty of their own abuses. Dutch District officers complained to the government that the American scientists were encouraging the Dani (another local tribe) to start a tribal war so that they could film the event. The Hague even sent a parliamentary commission to investigate these charges.
In a report about the situation the commission described the actions of the expedition as being ‘unwise’ and it made the following statement in its official report to the government: ‘The Dutch Authorities are well aware of the expedition leader being extremely keen on filming tribal warfare. In the first two months of the expedition there were at least seven deaths and a dozen or more were wounded in the area around of Kurulu the village’.
At any rate, years ago, I’d rejected out of hand the inane idea that is STILL popular among many pseudo-elites today, that of the mythical “Noble Savage.” I believe I responded rudely to a Professor who espoused that theory, spending nearly 20 minutes trying (in the nicest possible way) to explain to him what an abject moron he was (yup, I failed that class), finally definitively stating, “Well, I’ve never actually considered whether or not there COULD’VE been such a pristine and ‘noble savage,’ BUT I’m quite certain that had I considered it, I’d have flatly rejected it out of hand.”
Since that period, I’ve learned that the “Noble Savages” in the Americas were horrifically warlike, dabbled in tortuous ritual murders, as well as the timeless art of chattel slavery.
Ironically enough, it was the world’s FIRST Industrialized societies of the West (England, America, France, etc.) that banned chattel slavery and sought to snuff it out around the world. So, maybe it’s “the Noble Modern”?
Carl Hoffman’s work merely told the tale of perhaps the most pristine, the most authentically primitive people left on earth at the time, the Asmats of New Guinea.
Here’s your conclusive proof that all those years ago, I was right and that misguided professor, wrong.
There was NEVER a time when mankind, “Pristinely primitive and unspoiled by modernity, lived in peace and harmony.”
No, not at all, such primitives had the moral equivalence of the average serial killer in our modern world. They practiced cannibalism, head-hunting and were skilled in ritualistic, torture-murder.
In short, they were pretty much SCUMBAGS.
So, there was never a time when humans weren’t SCUMBAGS, we came into this world SCUMBAGS...and SCUMBAGS many of us (maybe most of us) remain, ESPSCIALLY those among our pseudo-elites.