– but for many years he was a hunter-gatherer, and now he’s on Facebook!
Worried that their visit might pollute their culture with modern ideas, or perhaps make them terminally envious of a world beyond their reach, I talked to some experts on Papua New Guinean tribes, and at that point exposed myself for the blinkered bigot that I was. “How dare you,” said one anthropologist, “to imagine, without question, that a Sepik tribesman would be envious of your culture. That’s one of the most arrogant things I’ve ever heard. These people are supremely proud of their own culture. They have a much more rewarding lifestyle than the majority in the West. Mark my word, they won’t want anything you can give them.” And, essentially, she was right. Six members of the tribe came to Britain. With every whispered observation, they left us powerless to explain the madness of our own social norms, and when they boarded the plane back to PNG, we were the ones racked with envy – envious of their joyously interdependent community, their clear understanding of what mattered in life, their rock-solid roles, simple pleasures and ample leisure time, their lack of mortgages and debts, their indisputable “goodness.” Our world appeared an obscene and dysfunctional manifestation of human existence in comparison.
For the first time in history, humanity is truly open-access.