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Napoleon Chagnon and the tribes



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Napoleon Chagnon was different to other anthropologists for two reasons: 1. he started his university career as a civil engineering student; 2. he was called “Napoleon”, like the great général himself. These facts are significant if you know anything about what anthropologists are like as a, well, as a tribe—if not an extended kinship group.


Anthropologists almost all belong with the softest of the social sciences—and the type of person who becomes an anthropologist usually has, as the psychologists say, “high openness to experience” and “high agreeability”. You’d expect that because anthropological fieldwork involves a trip down the Amazon and/or up the Zambezi (steady, matron) in order to live with some primitive tribe for months on end (with only a little notebook to take down their family trees—genealogies, in the lingo—for company).


So if you’re going to be an anthropologist—a field anthropologist (and, as we shall see, many never leave their comfy college offices)—then you better really, really like different cultures.


And you better like them not in the sense that you try Mexican street food now and again or make your own sushi—I mean you better like huffing hallucinogenic snuff that causes waterfalls of green goo to pour from your nose, you better like examining the road map of scars on a man’s head that show where he has been clubbed in ceremonial fights—you better like barely washing for six months in the tropics, like mildewed sleeping bags, like, frankly, eating mouse-sized grubs.


So the people who become anthropologists are often very liberal—because they’re really open to something new and exotic (and they live it, too—although, as we shall see, that doesn’t make them any the less deluded).


Chagnon, by contrast, had the engineer’s mindset—quantitative, hard-headed, practical. He was the general himself—and was, in fact, quite short. So Chagnon was different to the other anthropologists who did fieldwork and he produced very different results from the others—results that saw him accused of “genocide” and being “like Mengele”.


Chagnon was the genius type—and I think he looks like the mouse “Brain” from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain (“One is a genius, the other insane…to prove their mousy worth, they’ll overthrow the Earth—they’re Pinky, Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain *narf*”). That character was based on Orson Welles, but it fits Chagnon because Chagnon was a genius—and hated for it.


What was genius about Chagnon? He saw things as they actually were—and when the actuality is stated it seems so obvious (now you said it). The thing is that it is rare to find someone who states the obvious—puts it simply.


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Chagnon spent time with a tribe called the Yanomami—the tribe lives in Brazil and Venezuela; at the time Chagnon visited, many Yanomami villages were uncontacted. What did Chagnon discover there? The Yanomami warred all the time—called themselves “the fierce people”; and what they warred over was women. The tribal bands formed raiding parties to abduct women—fights and feuds could all be traced back to access to women.


Chagnon found that among men over 25 around 40% had killed someone—and 1/3 of men died a violent death. Further, the more a man had killed other men the more wives and children he had.


Villages did not exceed 150 members—the “Dunbar number” for maximum social relationships, as it happens—because at that number there were so many fights over women the villages had to fission or else become a site for constant internal warfare.


That was it. You might think, “That’s a bit unpleasant, but what’s so controversial about that?”. Well, it’s the implication—the implication is that all man’s warfare amounts to a struggle over access to women; it’s biological, in the blood (to speak symbolically)—or in the genes, to speak in scientific terms. It also means that the more violent you are, the more successful you are—in evolutionary terms; and yet, so it happens, almost every religion also stresses that man must procreate and war against his enemies (so religion and science are in accord here).

Well, Chagnon caused anger because most anthropologists being, you know, very open-minded people who really really like very different cultures tend also to be non-biological in their thought. It’s all flexible for them—mutable. The tendency is for them to be cultural anthropologists, broadly put—for them it’s all culture, it’s not “in the genes” (definitely not “in the blood”); if it were, war would never end—and the universal global “tribal” community could never exist, we’ll never all be one in Christ…or Marx.


So wars occur, in the cultural model, over, for example, trade routes and the exchange of valuable goods—and because primitive groups operate through extended kinship systems (marriage, inter-marriage, cousin relationships—like hillbillies, in fact) they cannot be used as an analogue for a society (where we are individuals, trained in an education system, and disciplined by the police and courts). So when Chagnon told a tribesman that his father went on a raid against “the German tribe”, the tribesman asked, “Did they steal your tribe’s women?”. He was puzzled that it could be any other explanation.


You’re not meant to make the inference that, says, for example, British society is just a very complex iteration on the Yanomami village—you’re not meant to say that when people post an image online of “all the countries Britain invaded” that it’s like a “humble brag” to show off the ferocity of this raiding party and how it acquires women (more than others). You’re not meant to discuss the implications as regards inter-racial couples in adverts.


You’re meant to say that it’s a completely separate phenomenon—like a Marxist, because this iteration of anthropology is strongly influenced by Marxism. So it’s all about the way the means of production is deployed in these societies—the British wanted to expand markets for their goods, that’s why there was a British Empire.


So the Yanomami squabble over access to Western-made machetes because steel is so much better than a stone axe—so, in a sense, Westerners “cause” the Yanomami to be “the fierce people” because we corrupted them with steel machetes and trade goods. Hence, even here, “Western imperialism” causes a war in the jungle—even if the machetes were acquired in an indirect way and the tribe in question has never even met a Westerner.


***


Chagnon was not alone in the jungle. There were other anthropologists out there, notably Kenneth Good and Jacques Lizot. Unlike Chagnon, these men were firmly in the cultural camp. Lizot was a Middle East specialist sent by the much-starred French-Jewish anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss to study South American tribes. The commonality with Lizot and Good is that both got involved with the tribes—in very much the spirit of the “participant observer”, i.e. they had lots of sex with the Yanomami.


Lizot was homosexual—as with all primitive tribes, as with the early Greeks, the Yanomami didn’t know homosexuality (except adolescent crushes when the young men found women monopolised by older men—yet this situational homosexuality is not the same as actual homosexuality); they didn’t even have a word for anal sex. This is likely to be because homosexuality is caused by a viral infection that destabilises hormone levels within the womb—hence, just as the Yanomami had never had measles, they had yet to get the “gay virus” (not that one, the other one) from the outside world.


However, Lizot soon introduced them to the full-blown same-sex handjob, blowjob—and anal sex. Frottage of all kinds, in fact—which he paid for in trade goods (très cultural). The Indians were distressed by these activities—now, the the Indians are not naïve but nor are they particularly smart and you have to remember they live in a completely primitive culture where the way to save their communal hut’s roof when the wind blows is to chant with the shamans. You also have to remember that they had never encountered homosexuality—they had no concept that such a thing could happen, they didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe it; and they were also desperate to get their hands on Western trade goods, willing to do anything for them.


It should be added that the Indians were far from noble savages; they would thieve from Chagnon non-stop and only respected, as all men do ultimately, strength. So, naturally, the desire to get their mitts on trade goods would overcome any scruples over weird sexual practices—even if the reward would soon be followed by remorse.


Kenneth Good, for his part, married three Yanomami women—one of who later committed suicide, and at least one of which he first met before she was twelve. He later transplanted one woman to the West where he composed various sentimental books about his love affairs with a “noble savage”—although his wife eventually left and returned to the tribe.


“Um, Mr. Good, it would be helpful if you couldn’t sweat so profusely when we discuss the child-sex allegations…it looks kinda…kinda...bad.”


Now Good, in particular, feuded with Chagnon—saw him as despicable. The reason is not hard to divine: Good was the most cultural of cultural anthropologists—he fully entered, in more ways than one, the Yanomami world; he didn’t see any reason why not to break the boundaries and take a child bride from the village—and the same went for Lizot. By contrast, Chagnon retained a solid boundary between himself and Yanomami and came back with an objective view on tribal life that provides evidence for a generalisable law about man’s wider condition.


The irony is that it was Chagnon who was accused of “unethical” behaviour—of “genocide”—because he participated in a US-government funded study aimed at understanding the impact of nuclear war through a investigation into remote populations that had never been exposed to Western disease (such as measles—and, arguably, homosexuality). In the course of these experiments, measles arrived in this section of the Amazon—the overlap in Chagnon’s research, the fact that he helped vaccinate the Yanomami, and the large-scale deaths were conflated to suggest that he somehow “genocided” them.

While anthropologists like Lizot and Good went around accusing Chagnon of “racism”, “imperialism”, and “genocide” it turned out that it was the “cultural camp” that was engaged in actual prostitution of children and corruption of the natives (with trade goods). In another ironic twist, “Mr. Good” was “bad”—and, as we shall see, perhaps Good isn’t his real name at all. Anyway, the strident moralists who “understood” the culture were up to their necks in misbehaviour—all the while denying that the Yanomami were a brutal warrior tribe who fought over women and lived in villages surrounded by faeces and wild dogs (while thieving constantly).

The division between the contemporary left and the right in politics is only too apparent here—it’s played out again in the divide over anthropology, the objective masculine view and the subjective feminine view.


****


This brings me to a final “tribal” point—cultural anthropology is a Jewish bailiwick. From Frank Boas to Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jewish anthropologists think it’s only culture. The reason they have a predisposition for this to be so is that the Jews are a priestly people and so they tend to think people can be reformed by persuasion alone—that people are infinitely malleable and subject to re-creation.


It’s a feminine position because it’s based on persuasion alone—insofar as Islam and Christianity are influenced by Judaism, they believe the same thing (all men are brothers, all differences are superficial, everything can be altered through moralised persuasion—people who refuse to accept the tribal consensus are “the blue-eye devil”). The same is obviously true in Marxism. It’s the view for Jews, homosexuals, and women. And, as you can see below, men who are not homosexual but perhaps could be called “gay”, men who work in the arts and are a bit “floaty”, also tend to this view.


“And more…”


Claude Lévi-Strauss, who sent his homosexual protege Lizot out to the back of beyond, did a tiny slither of fieldwork himself and then spent the rest of his life in Paris spinning out elaborate and very French “theory” about networks of kinship and symbolic interrelations—the cultural anthropologist is often good at languages (acquires the obscure native tongue) but this just reinforces his floaty nature (language is about interpretation, it’s more easily malleable than numbers); and, of course, the Jews have higher than average linguistic intelligence (to know the Torah got you laid).


So Strauss had basically zero contact with the reality of the things he theorised about—yet his books were hugely influential and storied and considered “classics” of the genre.


A parallel can be drawn to Margaret Mead, who was also Jewish, and who produced a book that was again hyped by the media called Coming of Age in Samoa that described how easy-going Samoans were about sex—the book was used in the 1940s to argue that sexual standards should be relaxed in the West. The problem is that Mead’s informants lied to her about their sex lives—the teenagers she interviewed (unsurprisingly) thought it would be hilarious to fool the stupid foreigner with tall stories about their sex lives (tribes consider all outsiders sub-human by default—for Yanomami, all other people are degenerate Yanomami).


That teenagers might lie about sex to an outside adult as a joke might seem obvious—yet even Chagnon found that the Yanomami adults lied to him about their real names (with sacred connotations) for months, so that all his genealogies were false or were names like (“big smelly arse”). So he would go to another village and ask a tribesman about his common ancestor with the other village “big smelly arse”—and, unsurprisingly, was met with offence. This went on for months until Chagnon got the real names—usually when one tribesman was pissed off with the others and told the truth as revenge.


So the primitives were not only thieving, not only violent, but were also total liars—because tribal society is like that (violent, dishonest).


So you see an implicit alliance between homosexuals, women, and Jews—because these people are mutable and tribal themselves. The truth is too harsh—if you tell it you get shrieks of protest and are called “a genocidal maniac” by the people involved in child sex (because everything’s mutable, you see—no boundaries, just let everything flow into everything else).


“The truth? You can’t handle the truth!”


The further irony is that although cultural anthropologists will talk about “symbolic relations”, “empathy”, and “cultural nuances” Chagnon, “the heartless engineer”, was better at cultural observation than they were—because he wasn’t caught in a narcissistic fantasy about “peaceful primitive communism where there are no up-tight taboos about sex” (Protestant work ethic, nuclear family etc).


So Chagnon makes acute observations about how, for example, a young Yanomami boy knows 25 sub-species of bee, their behavioural characteristics and precise anatomies—or how a young Yanomami girl would bring him a little seed pod that would then explode outwards to reveal baby cockroaches, because, not having Instagram to distract her, she had watched the cockroach lifecycle and could tell you exactly when they would burst out of their pod (and could describe the lifecycle in detail too).


In this respect, the tribal people are superior to the West—because few Westerners have a handle on the natural environment they live in, perhaps being at most able to name two or three species of tree.


Nevertheless, Chagnon was “evil”—because he told the truth, and tribal societies don’t like truth. Women, who think in a tribal way, don’t like truth. The Christians and Muslims don’t like truth—because they belong to artificial tribes (as do the homosexuals—who also can’t face the truth about what they are, it’s too horrific); and the Jews and Chinese don’t like truth—because their tribal nature is in the blood. It’s only the individual—like Napoleon—who is truthful and so can express genius.


That’s why it’s not enough to be an intelligent woman or an intelligent Jew or an intelligent Chinaman—you have to be truthful too. And if you tell the truth they will call you “Satan”—because reality is hateful to them, since it destroys their beautiful illusions and interrupts, frankly, in more cases than just this one, the child sex. The truth is hated even though if we engaged in it more there would be fewer tribal wars and less “abuse” all round—and the people who are truthful are called “Satan” and “genocidal” and “racists”, even though they are the least motivated by ethnocentrism, personal gain, and perversion.















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