Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dark Materials I

Luckily the Ik are not numerous - about two thousand - and those two years reduced their numbers greatly. So I am hopeful that their isolation will remain as complete as in the past, until they die out completely. I am only sorry that so many individuals will have to die, slowly and painfully, until the ned comes to them all. For the individuals one can only feel infinite sorrow at what they have lost; hatred must be reserved for the society they live in, the machine they have constructed to enable them to survive. They have not created it willingly or consciously; it hascreate ditself through their biological need for survival, out of the only materials available, and in the only possible form. It is that survival machine that is the monster... They had a simple choice of living or dying; they had already lost the rest - family, friendship, hope, love - and they made the same choice that most of us, I believe, would make...

There is no goodness left for the Ik, only a full stomach, and that only for those whose stomachs are already full. But if there is no goodness, stop to think, there is no badness, and if their is no love, neither is there any hate. Perhaps that, after all, is progress; but it is also emptiness.
[Colin M Turnbull, The Mountain People, New York 1972 - p285-6]

If we grant, as the evidence says we should, that the Ik were not always as they are, and that they once possessed in full measure those values that we all hold to be basic to humanity, indispensible for both survival and sanity, then what the Ik are telling us is that these qualities are not inherent in humanity at all, they are not a necessary part of human nature.Those values which we cherish so highly and which some use to point to our infinite superiority over other forms animal life may indeed be basic to human society, but not to humanity, and that means that the Ik clearly show that society itself is not indispensible for man's survival, that man is not the social animal he has always thought himself to be, and that he is perfectly capable of associating for purposes of survival without being social. The Ik have successfully abandoned useless appendages, by which I refer to those "basic" qualities such as family, cooperative sociality, belief, love, hope andso forth, for the very good reason that in their context these militated against survival. By showing that man can do without these appendages the Ik show that man can do without society in the sense we mostly mean by th eword (implying those qualities), for they have replaced human society with a mere survival system that does not take human emotion into account...

Note: the title of this post is a fairly obvious reference to the title of a book that I haven't actually read. Naughty me.

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