“The custom among the Pirahã Indians of Brazil is that women give birth alone. The linguist Steve Sheldon once saw a Pirahã woman giving birth on a beach, while members of her tribe waited nearby. It was a breech birth, however, and the woman started crying in agony. “Help me, please! The baby will not come.” Sheldon went to help her, but the other Pirahã stopped him, saying that she didn’t want his help. The woman kept up her screams. The next morning both mother and baby were found dead.
The Pirahã believe that people have to endure hardships on their own.
The anthropologist Allan Holmberg was with a group of Siriono Indians of Bolivia when a middle-aged woman grew gravely ill. She lay in her hammock, too unwell to walk or speak. Her husband told Holmberg that the tribe had to move on and would leave her there to die. They left her a fire and some water and walked away without saying goodbye. Even her husband had no parting words for her.
Holmberg was also sick and went away to get treatment. When he returned three weeks later, he saw no trace of the woman. At the next camp, he found her remains picked clean by scavenging animals.”
Sir Politic Would-Be (SPW-B), in the opening paragraphs of his essay of January 10, 2013 titled 'Tribal Lessons' nominally a book review of Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday, willfully provokes his readers to a kind of revulsion at the customs of two tribal peoples. In fact he seems to revel in its recitation. But the seeming report of the barbarism of these two tribes reflects perfectly the laissez-faire attitude of Modern Conservatism. In it's simplest terms an ethos of survival of the fittest, as refracted through the story that he artfully constructs in service to two rhetorical ends: shocking and manipulating his bourgeois reader into a state of susceptibility to an unfocused wonderment at his sociological/ethical grasp of our political present and it's interaction with 'primitive cultures'. Let the paternalistic characterizations stand as testimony to the patriarchal ascendant.
He also quite gleefully lays waste the Rousseauian myth of the noble savage, a mainstay of the Enlightenment mythology. Never miss an opportunity to exploit an advantage. But following that imperative, might the average reader point out that SPW-B belongs to a tribe that sanctifies the ritual sexual mutilation of eight day old infant males, as initiation into the tribe and a sacrifice to a tribal deity? Or would that constitute rank Antisemitism, a descriptor that seems to be redolent of this political moment.