..which led to reading about other "uncontacted peoples", a fascinating and sad story.
edit: Oh, it was 8 days ago. I submitted this 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 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 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.
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
The US kills people at the Mexican border periodically; there is rarely gigantic outrage.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
> 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.
Edit: Again, absolutely sad that a human life was lost. I do not condone making mockery of the dead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
in which US states can you legally use deadly force against anyone on your property (not in your house) without being threatened?
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".
Yikes, that doesn't sound right. Citation please?
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
Does that not invalidate your argument?
Animals of all types also exhibit xenophobia, even the ones that have "no hint of modern civilization".
I'm not sure what he expected.
> 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.
This man deserves no sympathy.
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.
Also, I highly recommend the entire podcast.
>>> 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.
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.
Sometimes is terrorism.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
A bit of an odd example that the catholic church chooses to set...
Not in the West. In Africa and Asia, absolutely.
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.
> "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."
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.
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.
To go, yes. To survive, evidently not.
A perfect storm of Christian and American arrogance.
Please do review the guidelines and follow them: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For an example of the US evangelical effect on the third world: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/how-uganda-w...
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.
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.
Edit: "some" americans of course.
Brexit, chemnitz riots - those are all American...
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.
All: please help with this by letting us know at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
If you see a comment that attacks any individual or group, the best thing to do is downvote it, flag it, and move on.
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.
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.
Any death is a tragedy, but it's hard to feel terribly bad about this one.
In this case that is what it looks like from my perspective as well
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.
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 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
The victim should have known they were murderous savages but gave them the benefit of the doubt anyway.
Racial flamewar is not allowed on HN either. Please don't post this kind of thing again.
I'm sure his family and friends feel terribly bad about this tragedy.
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.
May be he wasn't doing anything good from islanders' perspective.
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.
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.
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.
“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!’
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Edit : loss of human life is indeed sad, regardless of intentions or actions.
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.
People brought up into it from the time they were a baby don't get a fair shot to evaluate it.
Should his intentions render his actions legal? No.
Should his intentions elicit sympathy in fellow humans? Yes