Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology

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We were created equal.

Take a flight with me to Papua-New Guinea in1963 on an old DC-3 twin prop airplane. As you wing into Milne Bay and see the rusted hulks of the landing barges amidst the shoreline of palm trees fringing golden sands, you wonder about this statement of 'cultural anthropology' and think about what this Second World War wrecked in the way of an indigenous lifestyle. We have only used this term in relation to other races we think of as inferior and intriguing. If we applied it to ourselves in western society we would probably get a shock, if it came down to core values of living. I remember studying anthropology and sociology at university. The anthropology side of thinks was relegated to the other 'tribes' of the world. The more modern sociology aspect to our own 'so called civilized society' and the way it works as we go off to work, collect our bills and suffer stress related disorders.

Since that time the aeroplane has turned in to a jet and I have winged to some very interesting parts of the anthropological world. Papua-New Guinea was interesting enough and very colorful and much was to be learnt from their different customs. The people of the coast had a life centered around their garden plots. One was literally created in the garden, spent their life in the garden and was buried in that same garden. They were a happy people who were singing and dancing and generally interacting in a healthy way with their environment.

You then had Margaret Mead informing us of the customs of these people and other Pacific Islanders and intellectualizing it in western university terms, as though these people quaint and different .They were different alright and in many ways could have been reported as having better ways of life than ours. But anthropology had to hold its place as a revered study, so somehow these people were always reported as primitive and childlike. Even early missionaries in Papua, where I worked for a year, had this benevolent attitude towards the villagers as though they were like children. They certainly were 'children of nature' and could have shown the missionaries a thing or two about survival, in the jungle. They were often used as guides on expeditions into the mountains.

The travels took me to Hawaii where again the indigenous have been analyzed in anthropological terms. They were a friendly lot whose former king of a century ago actually fed the homeless in his palace. Can you imagine the Queen doing that sort of thing these days? From there to Southern Africa and Botswana, the home of the Kalahari bushmen and women who are studied and respected for their amazing ways of survivng in such a harsh environment. The peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa were all very different and there was much to be learnt from the lifestyles they had developed around their environments. Even in Egypt, my wife and I found the manners of the people extremely courteous and their desert lifestyles colorful and full of new interest.

I wonder if in the libraries of all the indigenous people of earth, who had advanced ways of living sometimes long before Europeans, there are books studying western cultures the same way and entitled cultural anthropology. Why under the Sahara desert there are the remains of cities as advanced as many today on earth. Look at how the west always looks at the golden age of Egypt and other cultures like the Moors of Spain and the ancient wisdom of the Greeks.

So, all about cultural anthropological studies. What do we deduce? It seems that it is a curious pattern of development that some cultures just get on and live in the now and have no libraries in which to study this quaint phenomenon. But we in the west think we know it all and have this subject in our universities to theorize about and pass exams on. My wife and I often wonder when we see documentaries about the cultural archaeologists, where has all the respect for another culture gone, when graves can be so easily desecrated to inform the west about other civilizations that once were.

If this is what cultural anthropology has come to, then it is time it stopped. Why if these same people came to our cemetries and dug up our relatives and ancestors, they would be locked up. We are all different culturally. A book should be compiled with all the good points about every culture for all to share and not as is now, a book called 'cultural anthropology' which highlights differences, sometimes in a condescending way. We already have enough destruction arising out of religious differences. Let's all accept we are in some way different and that is what makes the world so interesting. Replace the hierarchical term 'cultural anthropology' with this one, 'Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Nations, all respecting each others differences and learning from each other'. It is the only way to world peace. When we don't divide, but mix and meld and love each other, regardless of race, color or creed.

More about this author: Jishi Santos

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