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American Is Killed by Bow and Arrow on Remote Indian Island (nytimes.com)
73 points by dankohn1 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments



All: those of you turning this into religious and national flamewar are violating the site guidelines and significantly degrading the thread. Please don't do that on HN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


..a remote Indian island, North Sentinel, that I learned all about after it was mentioned on HN a couple of weeks ago. Small world!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sentinel_Island

..which led to reading about other "uncontacted peoples", a fascinating and sad story.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncontacted_peoples

edit: Oh, it was 8 days ago. I submitted this[1] ripping yarn about an American with an anthropologist father and Yanomami mother returning to South America to find his mother after 20 years. I'd read his father's book about his life, work and marriage years ago.

Bob Connolly & Robin Anderson's amazing Highlands Trilogy[2] is about a mixed-race man trying to run a coffee plantation while living between western society and his New Guinea tribe. His father was the first white man to contact the tribe.

Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday[3] brought home for me what human life was like until very recently. You couldn't travel far in any direction without the tribe next door trying to kill you.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18438586

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Contact_(1983_film)#The_...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Until_Yesterday


Don’t know if read down to the Waorani people on that wiki article - but I followed the same trajectory from the HN post last week. I’ve had the pleasure to have hiked out from Shell Ecuador to a Waoroni village and spent some tine with them (they speared a number of Christian missionaries to death in the 50’s) and it’s quite fascinating how their culture has changed from one of the most violant to a peaceful one, and their population size has increased substantially since their conversion

The “Christian” movie The End of The Spear documents that tribe and I’m happy to say that I’ve met many of the original “spearers” and they are alive and well and mentoring the young villagers on living peacefully


Thanks. P.S. The documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor by the same director about the same story sounds better.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337868/


As horrific as it may sound, I hope his rotting body won't make the islanders sick. Human contact in the past had wiped out some of the Andaman tribes due to the lack of resistance to many diseases.


"According to health professionals, the fear of spread of disease by bodies killed by trauma rather than disease is not justified. Among others, Steven Rottman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, said that no scientific evidence exists that bodies of disaster victims increase the risk of epidemics, adding that cadavers posed less risk of contagion than living people."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_risks_from_dead_bodies


In this case, a living person would also pose a risk. These islanders don't have the same immune system that the population the health professionals are looking after have, just like Native Americans didn't have the same immune system as Europeans.


It's not comparable to the "New World" situation. These islands are close to the continent and had regular (if dangerous) visits from modern people throughout the twentieth century. We have no reason to think that Chau carried a deadly disease.


Interesting.. I'm sure its probably not true and definitely far fetched but I wonder if this is why the tribe has adopted the practice of converting their living visitors to dead cadavers.


Thanks. I'll happily trust someone called Rottman when it comes to decomposing bodies.


[flagged]


The few contacts that the North Sentinelese have had with the outside world have often resulted in kidnappings, death and disease being bought into the island. Given the few data points they have, it seems reasonable for them to want to avoid any further foreign contact.


They were armed combatants and the person they killed was a civilian. I can think of loads of people that I could shoot with a bow to protect my interests, and the fact that I have not signed any treaties to not do it doesn't mean I can.


It seems rather improbable that a pre-civilization tribe even has the concepts of "armed combatant" or "civilian" in the modern day sense of those words.

Steko 3 months ago [flagged]

Perhaps they felt threatened and have a primitive belief that allows them to kill people whenever this happens. Like in Florida.


Maybe if they killed a person they invited onto their island would it be just for the killer to be punished. But he wasn't invited onto the island, he thought he could just waltz in with a soccer ball and some fishing gear. This is essentially just castle doctrine. He apparently also swam back to the fishermans boat with arrow wounds, but went back to the island anyway.


If any country on Earth killed a citizen of another country at the border there would be a gigantic outrage.


> If any country on Earth killed a citizen of another country at the border there would be a gigantic outrage.

The US kills people at the Mexican border periodically; there is rarely gigantic outrage.


It is fascinating - and unsettling - how many people react to this on range of "ha-ha, stupid medieval idiot, deserved to be murdered" to "typical American!".

I know some cultures don't value human life as high as we in the Western culture do, and murdering people for trespassing on some taboo barely comprehensible to outsiders is not very far from our culture either. But what I see is a person trying to do a subjectively good thing to the islanders (even though one can certainly disagree about it being objectively good, but it's clear he meant absolutely no harm to them) and objectively at least not doing anything we'd consider harmful - getting murdered.

I don't think it warrants derision and mockery that I am reading here, and I don't think such reaction would follow if he wasn't an American Christian. It is true than in the past Christians participated in many atrocities (not that it's in any way unique to Christians), including against indigenous people - but this person has nothing to do with it. He meant no harm, and he got murdered for it. It is tragic, and should not be a place to make fun of his religion (even if you consider it and all religions stupid in general, there are many more befitting opportunities to make fun of them than a murder of an innocent person) and blaming him for being American.

Yes, maybe he is not the cleverest cookie in the jar, and he probably shouldn't have done what he did. But making fun of his murder goes far beyond that, and I am positively horrified of how many people jump into that so readily and with such gusto.


Why on earth would the nationality or religion of the guy matter? Wouldn't change my view that he was an arrogant idiot choosing not to believe local custom should apply to him. Him being atheist or Buddhist wouldn't change that. He chose to follow the well trod path of believing them not "civilised enough" and wanting to force change. Doesn't really matter what change, does it?

It's a shame he chose to waste his life so needlessly.

"He meant no harm"

Why does whether he meant harm matter? It would not matter to a crocodile had he chosen to wander into a zoo enclosure. It would not matter if he had wandered into a hot war zone. It did not matter to a group of people who have consistently, for a very long time, demonstrated they do not want invasions of their home. The evidence appears he knew full well his intentions were rejected, as he made multiple visits at times when he hoped he would not be seen or caught.

"murdered"

No. He was killed subject to the laws and customs of an isolationist territory he visited repeatedly despite his first visits being rejected. In local custom that could easily be considered more than fair warning. You might not like their laws and customs, just as some might not like SE Asian drug laws and the death penalties that result, or the laws or lack of due process of some other parts of the world. You risk flouting them at your peril regardless of intent, or whether you happen to agree with them.

His nationality or religion is irrelevant.


> Why on earth would the nationality or religion of the guy matter?

Seeing the comments, it clearly does.

> Why does whether he meant harm matter?

That's kinda how we do morals around here? We treat a person that intentionally means harm to another person (e.g. if somebody shoots another person with intent to kill) as morally negative, and we usually treat actions that did not mean any harm with much less moral scorn, even if they led to bad consequences - e.g. if a car accident happens through no fault of anybody and still there's a fatality, we treat it as much less morally repugnant than, say, unsuccessful murder attempt. Moreover, in criminal case, to prove guilt, you usually need two things - actus reus (bad deed) and mens rea (guilty mind). Intent matters there too.

> It would not matter to a crocodile had he chosen to wander into a zoo enclosure.

People aren't crocodiles though. People are subject to moral judgement. That said, if somebody wanted to feed a crocodile that he genuinely believed is starving and in dire need of food, and the crocodile killed him, I don't think the person would deserve the kind of derisive mockery we see here.

> No. He was killed subject to the laws and customs of an isolationist territory

Yes, he was murdered. If you follow your moral relativist stance, you'd very quickly arrive at the conclusion that virtually every atrocity in human history - from ancient genocides to the Holocaust - is completely fine and justified, since it was OK by the rules of whoever perpetrated it. I don't think you really believe that.


I completely agree that this is tragic and not in any way funny.

I also agree that his being American is irrelevant: we have arrogant, selfish fools in many countries.

But I can't agree that his being Christian is irrelevant. His stated reason for being there was on a conversion mission. It was precisely his proselytising that gave him the arrogance to risk the lives of everyone on the island.

And it was very likely his religion that led to his death. He had been shot at on a previous visit. He wrote to his parents saying that he may not return. It strikes me as highly likely that he thought that his death would be a martyr's death.

So no, I don't find it funny. Any more than if someone climbed into a lion's enclosure and was mauled to death. Because, in many ways, that's very similar to what he did. An utterly stupid waste.


It has been documented that this tribe does not have immunity to many common diseases "outside world" has including flu etc. He was a danger to the tribe.

Not only he was danger to the tribe, he was breaking all local laws as well. Even citizens of India are not allowed to go there.


The tribe has been isolated from the world for 100s of years and has no immunity to many of the diseases that are common now. The Blockade is for their protection and he was endangering 120-150 people for promoting his religion. It's same as someone trying to use machine gun on a crowd of people I don't think anyone would have any sympathy for that person if he is killed before he can start shooting.


It sounds to me like the danger of a single contact with a healthy person is a bit overrated. While theoretically it could happen that this particular person carries some disease strain that would be new for last 100 years and deadly to people on the island, the probability of this for a single contact with a single person is IMHO not that high.

> It's same as someone trying to use machine gun on a crowd of people

No, it's not the same. Christian proselytizers may be annoying, but believe me, machine gun is much worse. If you are given the choice, do choose the former.


"objectively at least not doing anything we'd consider harmful" - According to the article, these islanders have been isolated for several thousand years. Newcomers can bring disaster to them via infections against which they may have no defense. We've seen how that played out in the mediterranean islands and of course, the americas.

Edit: Again, absolutely sad that a human life was lost. I do not condone making mockery of the dead.


"I know some cultures don't value human life as high as we in the Western culture do."

I'm sorry, I feel a general agreement with the rest of your post but this line is too much a false claim to ignore. If we're going to generalize on Western culture, I would say that that has a habit of only valuing lives that are Western or lives that are white.

It took decades for there to be even mild acknowledgement that Thanksgiving celebrates the genocide of millions. You revere people like Churchill or Obama who are responsible for countless third world lives being lost. A single American dying somewhere warrants more attention in the West than a dozen brown lives.

Had this American caused the death of 5-6 islanders with disease, I wonder whether it would be front page news. Please don't give me this claim that the West values life more. It is we in the East who suffer the bulk of the casualties of your Western wars.


> I would say that that has a habit of only valuing lives that are Western or lives that are white.

That's obviously not true. Ever heard about abolitionist movement, for example? Are you claiming no Western culture persons supported movements like civil rights movement, BLM, etc.? This claim flies right in the face of obvious historical and present facts.

It sounds like you are just parroting some fashionable overgeneralisations - which may be fine to shout on a protest, where the goal is to push your point and getting a little overboard is ok, but it can't be taken seriously as a logical argument.

Surely, there are Western racists - as there are racists and xenophobes in very many cultures. But no guiding principle of modern Western culture claims that only lives of persons with pale pinkish skin are valuable. Don't confuse propaganda with facts.

> It took decades for there to be even mild acknowledgement that Thanksgiving celebrates the genocide of millions

Why acknowledge an obvious falsity? Literally nobody celebrating Thanksgiving is celebrating "genocide of millions" (ok, I don't know, maybe you personally know people that do, but nobody else does). Surely, events that gave birth to Thanksgiving also led to some very appalling atrocities (if you bother to dig, atrocities are buried in history of virtually every country, and certainly in the history of many indigenous American tribes as well - you don't think Europeans invented war for them and they never knew what it is before that, do you?). But that is decidedly not what is celebrated on Thanksgiving. So only a propagandist completely detached from the facts would claim that it is what is celebrated.

> A single American dying somewhere warrants more attention in the West than a dozen brown lives.

In US, yes. In UK, that would be single Briton. In Russia, single Russian. In Japan, single Japanese. In Philippines, single Phllippinian. Of course people care about people that are close to them more than they care about abstract people they never saw and have nothing in common with. This is common to virtually every culture on Earth - if there's a culture that cares absolutely equally about every single human, I've never heard about it. You neither, probably.

> Had this American caused the death of 5-6 islanders with disease,

But he hadn't. Instead, he was murdered. Yet you ignore what happened while concentrating on what hypothetically could happen.

> Please don't give me this claim that the West values life more

I will. If an person from that tribe comes to a Western country, maybe he wouldn't be treated nicely. Maybe he would not be even admitted (he probably has no papers and no visa). Maybe he would be subjected to a treatment much worse than a common Westerner. But he won't be murdered on sight.

> It is we in the East who suffer the bulk of the casualties of your Western wars.

If you talk about any wars before WWII, most of Western wars happened in the West, and thus West suffered most of the casualties, naturally. WWII is impossible to call a Western war, though, given what happened in the Pacific theater, for example.


Thought experiment: imagine it was a buddhist monk. I am sure the reaction here in the comments would be at least slightly different.


Nope. Idiot breaking national law and against all warnings tries to indoctrinate with religion is both “self-righteous” and unethical. Doesn’t matter which religion.


How about a Greenpeace protestor trying to prevent the locals from hunting the animals or harvesting the forest?


Oh I think it does help to not have your faith associated with holy crusades, if only a little.


I'm fascinated by these people. They must have one heck of a culture to immediately resort to killing any stranger that lands on their shore. I wonder what religious beliefs they have and what kind of society creates what seems to be extreme and violent xenophobia to us.

As fascinated as I am I would double check that I have something to row with if I take a motorboat out to see the island from afar. No way in hell I'd want to step foot on that island or be at bow and arrow distance.


> and what kind of society creates what seems to be extreme and violent xenophobia to us

Their first major contact with the outside world was in 1880, when a British colonial administrator kidnapped six of the Sentinelese, two of whom died from disease before they could be returned - and who knows what diseases the other four brought back with them when the British dumped them back on the island.


Sad and interesting how that single event from 140 years ago still shapes the tribes beliefs.


Based on reports from that era, the tribe was highly secretive and suspicious of outsiders long before this event happened. The first time a Westerner recorded encountering the island, they mentioned seeing signs of recent habitation, but finding no inhabitants, as if they had disappeared into the forest. Likely, they just didn't want to interact with strange intruders in their territory.


The US Civil War still has a very large impact on the culture of the South.


A single event that affects 3% or more of the entire population is pretty memorable.


>I'm fascinated by these people. They must have one heck of a culture to immediately resort to killing any stranger that lands on their shore. I wonder what religious beliefs they have and what kind of society creates what seems to be extreme and violent xenophobia to us.

Non-human animals regularly kill outsiders that have made incursions into their territory. Chimps for example will even 'invade' neighboring territory and attack to try and grow their territory.

Male elephant seals will attempt to kill other males that are 'sneakers' that attempt to reproduce with their harem.

'violent xenophobia' is instinctual, humans however try to rise above this in many societies but in primitive cultures outsiders represent uncertainty at best.


If past contacts lead to major disease outbreaks that’d be one hell of an incentive to kill intruders on sight. That’s a short story to pass on to the next generation as well.


I think you're over estimating how friendly other cultures are to outsiders. There are numerous, numerous cases of greed and ambition leading to the slaughter and enslavement of native peoples by invaders/conquerors. There are also multiple states in the USA where you'd be within your rights to shoot anyone on your property.


> There are also multiple states in the USA where you'd be within your rights to shoot anyone on your property.

in which US states can you legally use deadly force against anyone on your property (not in your house) without being threatened?


> There are also multiple states in the USA where you'd be within your rights to shoot anyone on your property.

Can you prove that?

The closest I can think of is Texas, but even there you'd have to meet the definition of "criminal mischief at night".


> There are also multiple states in the USA where you'd be within your rights to shoot anyone on your property.

Yikes, that doesn't sound right. Citation please?


That isn't horribly uncommon for people living in non-state societies when encountering people who don't speak the same language. It's really easy to dehumanize people you can't talk to and consider them giants or dwarves or goblins or whatever.


> what kind of society creates what seems to be extreme and violent xenophobia to us

A fish has no concept of water, it doesn't know it is in water, it doesn't know there can be existence outside of water, and it doesn't know it depends on water. You cannot possibly deem the culture extreme & violent when it is much like fish, that doesn't know of alternatives.

Most of all, fish will defend themselves against perceived existential threats - fish aren't xenophobic to defend themselves against sharks


To the extent that a fish can be said to have "concepts", I'm certain that a fish like a mudskipper or a flying fish can distinguish between being in water and being in air.

Does that not invalidate your argument?


All the cultures in the Americas that welcomed strangers were slaughtered by the Europeans beginning with Columbus which didn't get a lot of coverage in the stories they told my generation of American children - and these particular islanders had already had a bad experience in their first dealings with the British a couple of hundred years ago.


This is not xenophobia. It's self defense against idolatry and false gods.


They have to protect themselves from disease. If the wrong microbe makes contact, it could result in genocide.


I realize that they probably have seen some bad things happen from contacts with the outside but I doubt they have an understanding of germ theory of disease yet. I assume they have stories they repeat to one another, maybe songs or warnings they provide to one another to encourage this ruthless xenophobia. I'd love to know what those things are.


It's not hard to make a connection between "a foreigner shows up" and "people suddenly start dying of weird unknown diseases" when the entire population is small enough for everyone to individually recognize everyone else.


Do they actually know that though?


Yes? You don't need science or even literacy to tell your (grand)children that everyone who meets outsiders die messily (cf. All Andamanese except for 80-strong Jorwa(?) and this North Sentilenese tribe)


xenophobia? You're attributing 20th century concepts to a tribe with no hint of modern civilization. The history of humans is bloodier than you think.


Xenophobia is not a "20th century concept". Xenophobia has existed for as long as man has existed. Cavemen were most likely xenophobic towards other cavemen. Hell, for all you know, some of the Sentinelese might even be xenophobic to other Sentinelese that live on a different part of their island.

Animals of all types also exhibit xenophobia, even the ones that have "no hint of modern civilization".


You realize, of course, that you're in complete agreement with GP?


"The 27-year-old American, identified as John Allen Chau, came to India on a tourist visa but came to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in October with the express purpose of proselytizing, Dependra Pathak, Director General of Police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN. "We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island," Pathak said. Chau did not inform the police of his intentions to travel to the island to attempt to convert its inhabitants."

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/21/asia/andaman-nicobar-us-missi...


> a remote island inhabited by a tribe whose members have killed outsiders for simply stepping on their shore.

I'm not sure what he expected.


I wonder if this young man also had to touch the red hot stove after being warned that it would burn him. Just another fine recipient of the "Darwin Award"...

> The fishermen said that tribesmen had shot arrows at him and that he had retreated. He apparently tried several more times to reach the island over the next two days, the police say, offering gifts such as a small soccer ball, fishing line and scissors. But on the morning of Nov. 17, the fishermen said they saw the islanders with his body.


Lots of people talking about his intent to convert the Sentinelese. Maybe that's relevant, but I feel like the main talking point should be that he went to a place where everyone warned him not to go to because it was dangerous and forbidden. He knew the risks and deliberately tried to circumvent the patrols by setting out at night time. Patrols that existed as much for his safety as for the islanders'. Even when met with initial hostility, he persisted in try to land on an island where he was clearly unwelcome.

This man deserves no sympathy.


The Sentinelese also do not appreciate pork:

Once, when Mr. Pandit’s expedition offered a pig to the Sentinelese, two members of the tribe walked to the edge of the beach, “speared it” and buried it in the sand.


If anyone is interested in an entertaining and informative podcast about North Sentinel, check our Jake Barton's Historium episode[0], from just a couple weeks ago.

Also, I highly recommend the entire podcast.

[0] https://www.orbitaljigsaw.com/podcasts/historium/41-the-isla...


I read in one article that there was a recent change in law involving the Sentinelese that might have encouraged Chau to go there. Can anyone corroborate?


What he did was illegal. Access to the island is restricted for a reason.

>>> But Mr. Chau pushed ahead in his kayak, which he had packed with a Bible. After that, it is a bit of a mystery what happened.

Also, can these evangelists take a break? It's not 1600s anymore.


If you were convinced that something is true and that it has eternal consequences for those who reject or don't hear that message, how could you _not_ want to tell everyone about it, going to the ends of the earth and risking life itself so others could hear that message?


Although if you believe in an omnipotent god, would you believe that she/he would not give those a chance who did not here of her/him? Why the need to actively push it onto those who are currently unaware?


If you're a theist who believes in a "god", sure, you can believe whatever you want, including that god won't punish anyone.

But for Christians, we are convinced that the Bible is true based on evidence and reason, and therefore can only believe what it teaches. For Christians, the answer is simple: everyone has sinned, God is just, and must punish sin. Lack of knowledge of God is no excuse, for everyone knows that God exists and everyone has rejected Him. No one deserves to go heaven; no one can get to heaven by anything they do. The only way to heaven is through Jesus, by trusting in Him as our only hope of forgiveness and salvation.

That is why we must go to the ends of the earth, from the largest cities to the most remote islands, to share Christianity with everyone we meet, often giving our lives to spread that message.


And that is why I also understand that he is dead by bow and arrow.

Sometimes is terrorism.


That my friend is a level of self-reflection and self-awareness that is not as common as you'd imagine.


Our fellow human comrades in the country next door have a very similar belief system that contains the same defense mechanisms. Spread the word and fight the enemies of their deity.

This is self-reflection: everyone believes what fits better to one, don't push your shit over others or risky getting killed with bows and arrows, and every now and then bombs.

Religions are very creative ancient defense mechanisms. It exists for you to have bonds to your group, for you to survive, and protecting the belief system is to protect your own. But this is not 1600 anymore, time to grow up. Take the good stuff and throw the toxic shit behind or put it all behind.


Their religion and its proponents teach them to spread the word, they won't take a break. It's what separates Christianity and Islam from the majority of non-proselytizing religions.


> the majority of non-proselytizing religions

I get that you are much more aware of how it works in Christianity and Islam, but there is no majority of non-proselytizing religions.

Such a thing cannot exist in a Nash equilibrium. Think about it. All current faiths (and for that matter, ideologies) have spread much faster than people spread. MUCH faster. So they all proselytized.

It is sometimes a little bit irritating to hear people make the wildest claims about quite a few religions. Often about Buddhism people make the most outlandish claims, which presumably includes "non-proselytizing" in your comment. Now please don't think I'm singling out Buddhism here, it's just an example.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missionary#Buddhist_missions


You are mistaken. Judaism, at least, does not proselytize. Some branches actively discourage converts, and a few refuse to acknowledge that conversion is even possible for the Gentile-born.


The branch of Judaism that proselytzed and admitted Gentile converts became Christianity.


And the rest did not. The point stands.


I don't see catholic christians setting up missions with the primary purpose of proselytizing. In many respects it is true that American evangelical churches are much more retrograde than the Catholic church itself, promoting a brand of religion that is, for example, self-righteous, anti-scientific, and putting particular emphasis on the more archaic and brutal Old Testament.


>I don't see catholic christians setting up missions with the primary purpose of proselytizing.

Because they did most of it starting in the middle ages and the Age of Discovery. In fact that's mostly what the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits did in California, South America and Asia from 1500ish to well into the late 1800's.


Of course, I'm talking about the current situation.


> I don't see catholic christians setting up missions with the primary purpose of proselytizing.

To the extent that is true, it is a post-Vatican II reform (and proselytization is still an important function of Catholic missionary work, though the method of more persuasion by example.)


> persuasion by example

A bit of an odd example that the catholic church chooses to set...


> I don't see catholic christians setting up missions with the primary purpose of proselytizing.

Not in the West. In Africa and Asia, absolutely.


>> Also, can these evangelists take a break? It's not 1600s anymore.

One of the Christian figurehead's final commands is paraphrased as "Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world". I speculate that's what these people are doing.


Well, it's made much more clear what his intentions most likely actually were in the BBC [0] article:

> "People thought he is a missionary because he had mentioned his position on God and that he was a believer on social media or somewhere online. But in a strict sense, he was not a missionary.

> "He was an adventurer. His intention was to meet the aborigines."

[0]: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46293221


He was an adventurer. He would go to remote and weird places all the time, usually without any kind of primordial tribespeople to convert. Odds are he was just on another adventure, rather than him feeling that these people really needed jesus.


The 27-year-old American, identified as John Allen Chau, came to India on a tourist visa but came to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in October with the express purpose of proselytizing, Dependra Pathak, Director General of Police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN. "We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island," Pathak said. Chau did not inform the police of his intentions to travel to the island to attempt to convert its inhabitants.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/21/asia/andaman-nicobar-us-missi...


Yes, I'm aware of the statements of the Indian authorities. I'm curious if they know this or if they are assuming based on some statements he made - like about how god gave him the power to travel to remote and dangerous places, or because he had a bible on him(which many Christians carry).

Did Chau learn any Sentinelese? How was he planning on doing the proselytizing?

Also, not to nitpick, but the article does have other errors. For example, it says "Just more than a dozen people" live on the island, whereas all sources I can find say between 50 and 400 people live there.


>Also, can these evangelists take a break? It's not 1600s anymore.

I don't know, the Saudis just started letting women drive earlier this year. People do lots of weird things for religion - some of them you might not agree with, and some of them might be straight up dumb. The year doesn't matter.


“Jesus had bestowed him with the strength to go to the most forbidden places on Earth”

To go, yes. To survive, evidently not.


And thats why you dont do that.


> Mr. Pathak said Mr. Chau, believed to be 26 or 27 and from Washington State, may have been trying to convert the islanders to Christianity. Right before he left in his kayak, Mr. Chau gave the fishermen a long note. In it, police officials said, he had written that Jesus had bestowed him with the strength to go to the most forbidden places on Earth.

A perfect storm of Christian and American arrogance.


Religious and national flamewar is not allowed on HN and we ban accounts that do it. Please don't do it again.

Please do review the guidelines and follow them: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Please explain to me how the fact that he happens to be American is proven to be causal here?

I guess you make a good point. After all, the missionaries who converted indigenous populations all over the world were all from the USA. Oh wait, no. The vast majority of the Christian missions were founded by Europeans. Arabs converted millions to Islam hundreds of years ago.

But yeah, they were all infected with American arrogance.


Proven to be causal? Like we'd clone 1000 John Allen Chaus, raise them around the globe, and see how many of them do something fatally arrogant relating to overseas travel?

As an American who has lived on 4 continents, I can confirm that American tourists quite often live up to the stereotype. I have a variety of painful memories of times I've had to intervene and explain things and/or translate for aggressively clueless Americans. Many travelers are great, of course. But I still think the stereotype is justified.

It makes sense, I guess. We grow up in a country big enough that we can travel widely without learning another language or learning much about dealing with different customs. And our wealth and our culture of American exceptionalism make it easy for us to spin the globe, plop a finger down, and expect that we can go there and do as we please. Often it works, even if it does rub the locals the wrong way. And sometimes, as here, it doesn't work at all.


> But I still think the stereotype is justified.

It is, but in my experience (cruise from Venice -> Greece and back last summer) that stereotype applies to every culture. Americans just happen to be louder at it.


A very snide remark you start with, not realizing you are proving my point.

He made a statement that is a sweeping generalization that isn't even provable.

Your anecdotal experiences on 4 continents are again, just that. Anecdotes. The American travelers you didn't notice, and therefore don't remember, aren't included in your confirmation bias fueled reasoning.


Right. Everybody understands that not every topic is in practice approachable with the sort of level of rigor we use in, say, particle physics. But we are still people who have to live in the world. So everyone has a variety of heuristics they use to deal with topics that are not as tractable.

That includes you, of course. What studies do you have that show that demanding proof of causality in casual conversation is effective in improving the discourse? None, I'm guessing. But here you are doing it.


Well, wide eyed 'convert heathen!' zeal became pretty unfashionable in much of Europe for a bit, so most of the serious missionaries left for the Americas. American arrogance is really only European arrogance that has been left on the stove to brew for a bit longer.


As someone from the deep south (the largest baptist church in America was walking distance from my house as a kid) there's a huge push for third world mission work among evangelicals. The only reason why you don't see the focus on explicit conversion is that they don't feel like there's many pagans left to convert.

For an example of the US evangelical effect on the third world: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/how-uganda-w...


I'm fully aware of the push for missionary work by US evangelical churches.

Is it arrogance? Is it American arrogance more specifically?

As someone who is borderline atheist, but grew up in a religious household, I don't think it's arrogance of any form. I think that these people truly believe that they are saving people from a bad afterlife. You can certainly call that delusional. Just not sure it's arrogance.


I think the entire idea of going half way around the planet to tell a bunch of people how they're doing life wrong without putting any effort into understanding why they don't already agree with you (aka nearly all mission work) is the epitome of arrogance.


Americans certainly aren't the source of arrogance nor its sole practitioners.

But the phrase "American exceptionalism" is a thing for a reason. And if other societies through history may also have indulged in similar thinking, it functions more to demonstrate how a comparable place in the world can present comparable temptations more than it serves to refute the existence or problems of exceptionalist thinking among Americans.

Religious fervor may, of course, play a greater role (something I'm personally acquainted with as someone who was also involved in evangelism once). The combination of background cultural exceptionalism doesn't help, though.


America was simply late to the party but there is a long history of American missionaries carrying on the tradition. Hawaii wouldn't be a state if it wasn't for American missionaries.


I think he implies americans are more stupid than europeans nowadays #trump #mormons #altright #bigots. We dont really have that in europe

Edit: "some" americans of course.


Y'all have plenty of crazy far right populism gaining steam between AfD, Golden Dawn, Front National, etc.


"Front national" people are not exactly "crazy".. on the racist / bigot side but mostly working class people scared for their wallet / culture. They wouldnt exacly go evangelise peopne like that


That's right, anti-immigration sentiment, nationalists, and neo-nazis are unique to the US.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/09/10/right-wi...

Brexit, chemnitz riots - those are all American...


No but evangelism is (nowadays)


For people who are prepared to die for what they believe in, Mr. Chau seems to be among them.


@dang - is this acceptable on HN? It would really help to understand which groups we’re able to attack and which are frowned upon.


Yes, I've noticed this.

I said something admittedly nasty about Mao's policies a couple of months ago, and was threatened with banning due to "borderline nationalistic trolling". Fair enough.

It sure doesn't seem to be enforced in an objective fashion though. More likely, it appears to be more in line with the current fashion of SV: Never discriminate, unless it's against a group viewed as being powerful and bad by West Coast Americans, in which case it's ok. American? That's definitely a way to be cool and anti-imperialist/colonialist. Christians? Even better. Because of all of the regressive religions which preach hate towards gays and deny evolution, Christianity is the one practiced by white people from Alabama, and therefore it's funny and useful to attack it. If this gentleman were an Islamic missionary from Egypt, the above comment probably would never have been made, and if it had, would be removed, with good reason.


It's true that HN moderation is inconsistent, but for a completely different reason: we don't see all the comments. This makes consistency impossible.

All: please help with this by letting us know at hn@ycombinator.com when you see an egregious comment on the site that hasn't been flagged or moderated yet. We can't read all the comments, but we do read all the emails.


I'm not Dan, but I can offer my own advice: don't generalize individuals into groups, and don't attack any individual or group here. It never leads to the kind of thoughtful discussion that HN is known for.

If you see a comment that attacks any individual or group, the best thing to do is downvote it, flag it, and move on.


Clearly there are groups you can criticize on HN as evidenced in this entire submission's thread.


The explanation is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18507863.

As you can see, now that I've noticed the thread and had a chance to moderate it, the evidence shows the opposite.

You've been here long enough that I wish you would be more charitable. You've made such comments before. I wouldn't ban someone just for saying false or mean things about HN moderation, but it's still a bummer. Especially since, if you'd take a longer and fairer look at what we do, you would know that it's not true.


Of course it's unacceptable.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18507852


There's incredible bias here against Christians and occasionally also white Americans. Sad for a website that's A) dedicated to technology, where people are supposedly more open and accepting, and B) supposedly holding itself to a higher standard than other similar forums.

My advice would be to just ignore it and flag rule violations, in my admittedly brief HN career doing anything else has never helped me nor anyone I'm replying to.


It appears he forgot to ask St. Sebastian to bestow him immunity from arrows: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Sebastian


Combined with the savage lack of humanity and reasoning skills of isolated peoples.


Racial and national flamewar will get you banned here. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't post like this to HN.


Tittered the European, dripping with blood from every corner of the map.


Reacting to nasty flamewar with nasty flamewar will get you banned just as well. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do this on HN again.


A more accurate title: "American Is Killed by Bow and Arrow for Illegally Invading Remote Indian Island"


I thought this was going to be another drunken mistake like the two fishermen who died in 2006. No, apparently, this guy thought he was going to bring Jesus to a bunch of famously xenophobic murderers.

Any death is a tragedy, but it's hard to feel terribly bad about this one.


What they did is defend their territory and made it very clear that if he came any closer they would shoot. This is what any nation's coast guard would do. Of course, they would most likely not shoot to kill but this not exactly unreasonable.


I'm curious if people are downvoting because I was blasé about the death, or because I used the word "murderers."


"Murderers" is in the eye of the beholder. From their perspective, they are defending their land and people from invaders.


>From their perspective, they are defending their land and people from invaders.

In this case that is what it looks like from my perspective as well


Based on the rest of the context of the post, I read "murderers" as extremely tongue-in-cheek.


I wonder if your generosity in interpretation extends to modern cultures and their borders.


By "modern" I'll interpret that to mean "a nation generally participating in the global community":

I'd say, they have every right to defend their borders from invaders. But they also have knowledge that these islanders don't have. They have an understanding that outsiders are not all belligerent and to be feared or non-entities to be killed (though some will act counter to that knowledge, see the stoked fear in the US about the migrant caravan, or the way North Korea treats many outsiders). So it's easier to cast judgment on "modern" nations and cultures who kill on sight, because they really should know better and be better able to discern true threats from mere nuisances.


This wasn't a "kill on sight" situation, though: he was driven off with warning shots first, and was only killed after several attempts over two days to step foot on the island. That's much more patience than I'd expect from, say, North Korean border guards.


Indeed. Which is why the moral outrage is particularly absurd. He had multiple chances to escape with his life from people he knew intended him harm.


On whether they "know" better -- the first time someone who looked like that intruder showed up, it was a British guy in 1880 who kidnapped 6 people, only 4 of whom came back alive. Not exactly a great first impression of the outside world.


Yes, I didn't feel the need to bring this up in my comment as I'd seen it elsewhere in the thread.


I don’t believe in moral relativism. They don’t get a pass for not knowing better. Just as their victims didn’t get a pass for not knowing better.


> I don’t believe in moral relativism.

Good for you? The homeless, penniless child should never steal the loaf of bread when all other, apparent, options are exhausted.

> They don’t get a pass for not knowing better.

They get a pass because it was already decided a long time ago that they were too dangerous for outsiders to be allowed near. They're contained, and by the survey numbers their population is dwindling. In another century the island could well be uninhabited. A small speck of isolated land that no one has any need to go to is easy enough to leave alone.

> Just as their victims didn’t get a pass for not knowing better.

Except their victim (in this case) certainly did know better. They even chased him off multiple times before finally killing him.


> The homeless, penniless child should never steal the loaf of bread when all other, apparent, options are exhausted.

'The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.' - Anatole France


I don’t see how a single homeless child is comparable. This is more like justifying North Korea’s methods because the poor country is just trying to survive.

The victim should have known they were murderous savages but gave them the benefit of the doubt anyway.


> murderous savages

Racial flamewar is not allowed on HN either. Please don't post this kind of thing again.


How is calling them murderous savages racist? It makes no generalisations of their race. Even if one interperts it as a generalisation of their race, how is it prejudice or discrimination when it is an accurate description (given the previous murders commited by them)? Genuinely curious.


It's an obvious trope of racist discourse. Maybe the most obvious of all time. Therefore it's flamebait, in addition to whatever else it is, and the fire department needs to turn a hose on it.


One man's delusion is another's deliverance. Some may snicker of Darwin Awards and all that, but this man died in a misguided and naive attempt to do good, not to exploit or harm anyone.

I'm sure his family and friends feel terribly bad about this tragedy.


> not to exploit or harm anyone

Isolated tribes often do not have the same built up immunities to common diseases. It may not have been intentional, but he could very well have killed them all, regardless of his motives.


"Ignorant" is another descriptor that should be applied to his actions.


>>>but this man died in a misguided and naive attempt to do good, not to exploit or harm anyone.

May be he wasn't doing anything good from islanders' perspective.


That's what made it so misguided and naive.


I don't think he deserved to die. He sounds like he was a decent and loving person, and I'm sure he will be missed; I do not celebrate his death. But when you do the equivalent of sticking your hand in a box marked "DANGER LETHAL VOLTAGE", I do think you bear some culpability for your own death.

Practically the only thing we know about the Sentinelese is that they kill anyone who comes near them, no exceptions. He tried to make friends with them because he believed God told him to. Either his god is a giggling psychopath or he was delusional. I don't see a middle ground in this particular case.


[flagged]


Without sparking a typical science vs. religion debate, the point is that quite likely in his eyes he was trying to perform an act of charity, not of malice.


Yes this isn’t a science versus religion debate. The issue is the definition of charity, which means different things to the giver and the receiver.

I argue here that the giver was acting in self interest unable to see another perspective. I’ve been on the end of that class of charity before many times and ultimately it was about changing mindset and empowerment of the charity giver rather than helping the receiver. Whether or not this was conciously done I have yet to establish.

By any moral standard, perhaps we should let people know we’re there if we are needed and the help should be on the receiver’s terms. We’d all get along a lot better then.


> attempt to do good, not to exploit or harm anyone

Well, he wanted to instill in them a belief system based upon irrational faith. One could argue that attempting to change the contents of their minds/belief systems for no good reason is "harm", and especially so when the new belief system is so flawed.


I'm not too thrilled with the comments here that are defending his decision to go there as clearly some kind of good thing because his stated motive was Christianity. I'm just going to leave this here and say no more on the matter:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

https://www.biblica.com/bible/niv/matthew/7/


The comments here are horrific.

Yes, I don't think we should invade the lives of indigenous people any more than you do. And yes, I think this young man was mistaken and misguided.

But, he went in with the best of intentions, and he died. You just don't believe what he did. Imagine a techie died while trying to teach rails to the homeless (which, I can only assume, some of you might be more sympathetic towards), would you feel the same way?

Edit: p.s. The rails thing is a joke, but not the rest of it.


Throwing in flamebait like "teaching Rails to the homeless" leads only to more horrific comments, as we see below. Please don't do that, even if you're upset with how other people are reacting to a story.


While infectious, Rails doesn't risk killing the homeless.


You haven't seen my AWS bill! Ayy lmao


Pretty sure he could wipe out the entire island because of their immune system


If it were against the law, local authorities respected and warned of their desire to be left alone. If numerous attempts to teach rails in the past 100 years had resulted in death, rejection of gifts, attempts to peaceably repel by firing arrows without heads and threatening until the visitor leaves. Yes, I'd feel the same way.

I'd be sad that someone had thrown their life away needlessly and foolishly in the face of overwhelming evidence that it would be an idiotic thing to do.

Would you feel the same if he had died having broken into someone's home after being repeatedly warned not to and that the householder was hostile and armed?

"Best of intentions" is debatable - to push his religious beliefs on others. That's arrogance not good intent.


> But, he went in with the best of intentions, and he died. You just don't believe what he did. Imagine a techie died while trying to teach rails to the homeless (which, I can only assume, some of you might be more sympathetic towards), would you feel the same way?

This wasn't the homeless, this was a society which has (overtly, if only in practice and not in name) been granted, by the relevant government, absolute internal self rule, and which notoriously applies summary execution to invaders.

Whether that community should be self-governing, and whether or not it is justified in its response to intrusion are, certainly, topics perhaps worthy of debate.

But, look, after making initial and peaceful contact he got in a fight with the natives where an arrow was shot into a book he was carrying, fled, and then tried to return the next day. When the people whose land you are intruding on have clearly signalled that you personally are unwelcome and they are prepared to deadly force to keep you away, I'm not sure that it can be said that your return is some kind of morally virtuous (“best of intentions”) act in any case (his actual intentions appear unclear, as his writings and comments to others indicate that thyey were either thrill-seeking or proselytization or a mix of the two.)


A techie might teach Rails to a homeless person if that person wants to learn Rails.


More like tried to teach rails to a tribe of armed COBOL programmers in the most dangerous part of the inner city. "DHH tweeted to me in my dreams".


The road to the proverbial Hell is paved with good intentions.


Right converting to Christianity is such a useful skill in afterlife.


If it was actually against the law to teach Rails to the homeless, in order to protect them? Yeah.


You're making a legal argument about whether the action should be allowed, and I am making a moral argument about whether this person deserves sympathy rather than scorn.


What if these specific homeless were known for killing anybody that came near them. That the government said, stay away from this one very particular group of homeless people (but feel free to go anywhere else that you want, and teach any of the other homeless people, that want to learn, Rails.


In some places, it's actually against the law to feed the homeless (without a proper license). Teaching Rails does not require a license, so it's probably OK (though if I were homeless, I'd rather take food).


I didn’t know that death was a proportational or appropiate sentence for this crime. And I am willing to bet that whatever Indian law he violated it wasn’t a capital offence.


Indian law is at best marginally applicable, as the Indian government treats the Sentinelese as a de facto mostly-sovereign protectorate. The use of force in repelling unwanted visitors is one of the basic prerogatives of any nation, even a very tiny one, and the Sentinelese even follow a reasonably ethical use-of-force continuum, with shouts and then warning shots before only shooting to kill if someone doesn't leave on their own.


Parents who put their homosexual kid through conversion therapy also have the best of intentions. That frequently ends up driving their own kid to suicide, or so I've heard. I don't have sympathy for these parents.

This person's action could have resulted in dozens of dead Sentinelese due to disease. He was recklessly endangering his own life and the lives of people he didn't even know. Every death is a tragedy, but I find it hard to feel sorry for him.


The best of intentions? To erase their culture and replace it with Chr-stianity? I don't see that as well intentioned.


Well, not for unbelievers, but if he thought their souls would be saved forever (not really clear on the metaphysics but something along those lines), then yes his intentions were good.

We know those intentions have caused a lot of harm. I am not saying he should have been allowed to proceed, but that it is sad that he died.


Yes, his intentions were not universally good, just from his point of view. For many observers, his intentions were evil.

Edit : loss of human life is indeed sad, regardless of intentions or actions.


[flagged]


>The bad part is he was probably brainwashed into the religion as a young child

Why do, apparently intelligent, people automatically throw out 'brainwashed' 'cult' etc when it comes to religion.

Is it improbable that any given religion is actually correct? Sure.

Do you know what else is improbable? That 13.8 billion years ago a single event occurred that spawned an incalculable amount of events that allowed for you and I to exist, for the internet to exist, for this news article to exist, for us to be having this conversation.

If someone wants to believe in the God of Abraham, the Spaghetti Monster, that we have free will, that we are nothing but accidental chemical arrangements in a cold and uncaring universe, why do you feel the need to lash out and label them as 'brainwashed' or 'part of a cult' or 'an idiot' or 'superstitious'. If they aren't directly hurting you, who cares?

Does God exist? Who knows. Do we live in a simulation? Who knows. Am I an artificial general intelligence that has deluded itself into thinking it has a biotic form and is participating in the physical world and not in fact just existing on the internet itself? Probably not but it's possible.

If someone's not directly hurting you, don't take a dump on their beliefs. Say "that's not for me" or better, say nothing at all.


> If someone wants to believe in the God of Abraham, the Spaghetti Monster, that we have free will, that we are nothing but accidental chemical arrangements in a cold and uncaring universe, why do you feel the need to lash out and label them as 'brainwashed' or 'part of a cult' or 'an idiot' or 'superstitious'. If they aren't directly hurting you, who cares?

People brought up into it from the time they were a baby don't get a fair shot to evaluate it.


With that last sentence you are making my argument for me.


Intentions don't matter if your actions prove otherwise. He invaded their land in order to enact his beliefs, that the people there have repeatedly shown they want no part of.


"Don't matter" in what sense?

Should his intentions render his actions legal? No.

Should his intentions elicit sympathy in fellow humans? Yes


Misleading title. It's technically correct but conveys an erroneous message.


Funny how the world has evolved. A couple hundred years ago, natives killing a member of another civilization usually resulted in that civilization sending a militia to exterminate/enslave those natives. The times have changed.

verroq 3 months ago [flagged]

Maybe they should build a wall? Funny how leftists come out of the woodwork to justify murder while screaming open borders.


Taking a thread like this straight into ideological flamewar like this is exactly what we don't want and the sort of thing we ban people for. Will you please not do it on HN?




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