Cargo Cults

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Cosmology / Magic /
@ K. 2002 03 21

I just scribbled the following in an email to bkMarcus. The story is adopted (freely) from Our Own Metaphor, Mary Catherine Bateson’s report on Gregory Bateson’s famous conference.

GB organized a powwow at Lindesfarne. Got some good people. They
discussed good things: like cargo cults. Told the story of the Pacific
islanders who prayed for cargo. The cargo didn’t come. Finally the priest
exhorted them to show more faith. So they gathered their national treasure,
put it on a boat, rowed it out to sea, dumped it overboard … said, Now will
you send us cargo: goddamn you to hell, gods!

When the gods still didn’t send any cargo, they rowed back out to the
dumping spot, stepped overboard, the coral shelf being only about two
inches deep there, and rescued the entire national treasure.

Maybe the gods aren’t quite as stupid as the people think.

I’ll expand and clarify as I can, starting with the information (more familiar now that Jared Diamond also cites the term) that “cargo” for the have-nots means TVs, refrigerators, cars … consumer goods: what the industrial world has that the “undeveloped” world does not. Stone or wood age people, seeing the crates of stuff come off the plane, may well think it comes from heaven; not a factory, a distributor …

Magic Menu

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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