Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Prime Directive

I've been thinking about Star Trek today. Any Star Trek fan knows the Prime Directive is non-interference with cultures of other civilizations.

underwear.jpg (101665 bytes)I read kind of a weird book while working at Logos today.  It's by cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, who esssentially made his career on the Internet.  He would sit in bars doodling on business cards, creating his own version of "potshots" (a graphic with a short message).  People liked them and someone suggested he should start a blog.

I didn't bring the book home, so I can't quote from it, but it seems that he talks about the "old days," back in the early 1990s when blogging wasn't very common.

(Heck, I go back to the 1980s when there was no blogging.)

He talks about the way social interactions have changed in the past 20 years, how friendships and contacts are now made on the internet.  Someone told me recently that a lot of businesses don't even want resumes; they pick people from Linked In.  I had a wonderful email yesterday from someone who has been reading this journal for many years, but had never commented before.  

"A few years ago I never would have thought of writing such a "letter" as this  to someone I have never met nor had a correspondence relationship with," she wrote.  The internet has changed the way we live our lives in a very brief period of time.

I found this relevant because yesterday I finished reading the book, "Lost in Shangri-La" about a group of military people stationed in New Guinea at the end of WW II.  To pass the time and relieve the boredom they started offering fun flights over a newly discovered valley where they had found villages of prehistoric natives, who were rumored to be cannibals and who had never encountered modern civilization before.  The plan was to fly over the villages and then back to the base.  But things went terribly wrong.  The plane crashed, 22 of the 25 passengers were killed and the three survivors were in bad shape, with terrible burns and other injuries.

After a tortuous trip through the jungle to find a clear space, they were spotted by reconnaissance planes, but finding them and rescuing them were two entirely different things.  They were able to parachute medical help and supplies to them and set up a base camp with some 25 soldiers.  And they made friends with some of the natives, who agreed to set aside their war-like conflicts with other villages while the strangers from the sky, whom they thought were "gods," were there.

tribesman.jpg (29435 bytes)The natives had lived a happy, organized existence.  They were farmers, and they raised pigs.  They were fairly happy people.  "War" was something they did more as sport and it followed rigid rules. They had never seen clothing before, the concept of exchanging something for something else (in this case shells for food or jewelry) was foreign to them.  By the time the Army had figured out how to rescue the people on the island, the villagers had been changed forever by their encounter with these strange beings they had never seen before.

While the story was a technological triumph, in the end it was very sad.   "The province has the highest rates of poverty and AIDS in Indonesia.   Health care is woeful, and aid workers say school is a sometimes thing for valley children.  The Indonesian government provides financial support but much of the money ends up in the hands of nonnative migrants who run virtually all the businesses of Wamena.

"Elderly native men in penis gourds walk through Wamena begging for change and cigarettes.  Some charge a small fee to pose for photos.  More often they look lost."
The Army had violated the Prime Directive (even though this was many years before Gene Roddenberry thought of it!)

Update on the TV ... They have decided to repair rather than replace and it won't be ready until next week!!!!


Harriet said...

That was a common theme when socioologists began studying primitive societies. How do you study a culture without changing it? (I don't remember whether Roddenberry had ever studied anthropology.)

Kwizgiver said...

They should have replaced the TV.