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The Most Isolated Man on the Planet
August 21, 2010 2:40 PM   Subscribe

The Most Isolated Man on the Planet.
posted by homunculus (71 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
That man's story was amazing and heartbreaking to read. I really wonder what the holes he dug were for.
posted by dazed_one at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2010


Isn't there an ethical obligation for the Brazilian state to find this man? He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

Further - if this man *wanted* out, how in the world would he indicate so, given that the state is deliberately isolating him as much as it possibly can?
posted by Mr. Excellent at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2010


Further - if this man *wanted* out, how in the world would he indicate so, given that the state is deliberately isolating him as much as it possibly can?

He's not trapped, I figure he could walk to the edge and say hi to people.
posted by floam at 2:57 PM on August 21, 2010


He's clearly violent

Where did you get that from? The violence I saw in the article was all descriptions of settlers killing indians.
posted by Forktine at 3:00 PM on August 21, 2010


Fascinating.
posted by Gator at 3:01 PM on August 21, 2010


Brazil so totally cribbed the "Policy of No Contact" from Roddenberry.

You have to wonder how long this guy has been alone. Does he have language? Does he remember his parents?
posted by cjorgensen at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2010


Ted Kaczynski?
posted by ReWayne at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2010


I really doubt after living by yourself for a number of years in the jungle you could be considered a danger to yourself. Because the jungle is a dangerous place. You kind of have to want to live, to live.

If he wanted to leave the jungle he could do so by putting down his bow and arrow. They're trying to do what's best for him. They probably watched the movie Nell.
posted by amethysts at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't there an ethical obligation for the Brazilian state to find this man? He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

You may have a point, but I'm much more concerned about the settlers that murder entire indigenous tribes for material gain. This man's violent action can be explained as misguided self protection, given what he's been through, and the likely miscommunications that occurred (I wonder what language they spoke in, and the chance they would speak the same dialect).
posted by fermezporte at 3:08 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


A fascinating article.
posted by ob at 3:08 PM on August 21, 2010


Forktine: Where did you get that from? The violence I saw in the article was all descriptions of settlers killing indians.

"On one occasion, the Indian delivered a clear message to one agent who pushed the attempts at contact too far: an arrow to the chest. "
posted by paisley henosis at 3:11 PM on August 21, 2010


You know, I read things like this and I can't help but think about history — or, more accurately, prehistory. Back before we had cities and states, people moved when they wanted to. Humans went from the heart of Africa to the shores of Australia in some ten thousand years, just by having their kids move a little further down the coast every generation. Then, with migrations into Europe and Asia, we almost certainly displaced plenty of homo whathaveyous in our rush to get more game, more caves, more berries. And with the advent of agriculture, we were probably wreaking havoc on whatever other local hominid populations were already around just to get more bread and beer (probably not in that order). The entire 100,000 (or so) year history of human evolution and migration has been, undoubtably, one of violent conflicts and uprooted competitors, wherein one group of people arrives in seemingly lush new lands and — much like the settlers of America — ignore or destroy the people already inhabiting the land. Certainly, there were many more unspoiled places on Earth as recently as 500 years ago, but we humans have a way of getting just everywhere, and when more humans come, it's rarely good news.

The Indo-Europeans, as we call them, arrived in Europe some 7000 years ago and dominated the continent, culturally if not genetically. Imagine what cultures were snuffed out in the process of their domination! And imagine that this has happened tens, nay hundreds of thousands of times all around the globe for tens of thousands of years! It is only now in our post-modern, electrically and electronically connected world that we can think of the Brazilian farmers as doing something transgressive and wrong in light of history, as being outsiders attacking an Original Inhabitant. Chances are good that whatever tribe our lone Indian belonged to descended from a group that drove some other tribe to extinction or assimilation before (re)settling that land for their own purpose.

This is all not to say that we aren't living in our post-modern, connected world, and that these farmers should have free reign to destroy tiny tribes. Most certainly the people living their traditional lives in the forest have every right to be left alone in the face of greed and expansionism. But this conflict is not a new one. It's not even an old one. It's one that is absolutely fundamental to the origin and growth of the human story.
posted by cthuljew at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


Well you don't have to be Roddenberry to see how this won't go well for the poor guy.

Really, what's the best case scenario if he's contacted? Right now he is living an epic adventure. He knows it will all end when he dies but he probably figures you win by living and resisting as long as you can. (If we didn't want to be cast in the role of Terminators in his movie, it might have been prudent not to start by bulldozing his village and murdering all his tribemates.)

So we manage to contact him peacefully, and then what? He can eat ice cream and watch TV (probably with no channels in any language he understands without a lot of study) and he can be the proud owner of 31 square miles of Amazon rainforest which someone will figure out a way to scam from him and maybe he can learn to play HALO. Medical science will keep him alive for an extra 10 to 20 years while he remains alone in an alien environment of machines and strangers who don't talk his language or know of his ancestry instead of his ancient forest home.

I know my wife would come down solidly on "bring him in and show him what is possible." But too often what has been possible is "now we'll kill you so we can take your land." If that's changed, the new order still has to live with what the old has done.
posted by localroger at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


In order for moral terms like 'murder' to have any meaning, there has to be some kind of social contract. If this is a member of an uncontacted tribe, there is no social contract, no society, and no moral code to violate, except his own.
posted by empath at 3:13 PM on August 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

That's pretty much the history of American colonialism in a nutshell, yeah.
posted by granted at 3:16 PM on August 21, 2010 [27 favorites]


He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

Is this a joke? Because otherwise, this is a very... weird, and wholly unexpected reaction to this article. For the first part, what would you propose? Taking a large team and hunting the fellow down, trapping him in a net, then dragging him back to civilization for a psych evaluation? And for the second part, would you really want to prosecute him for the arrow in the chest incident after repeated attempts at contact were clearly rebuffed? Completely ignoring the rest of the context of this situation, too? Felony assault? Really? That's a joke, right?
posted by effwerd at 3:17 PM on August 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


" He's clearly violent"

noooo.... he was clearly defending himself from a perceived threat.

John Boorman needs to make the movie about this. (and, if you've never seen The Emerald Forest, I suggest you do so.)
posted by HuronBob at 3:18 PM on August 21, 2010


For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

"Normally" really stood out for me here.

The Brazilian government has decided to take into account the context: That they are, basically, a nation that is growing to take over what other people have long considered to be their own lands--people who were there before. That these people have suffered violence, genocide, fraud, disease, and more at the hands of what is to them a foreign government and people. That this man in particular had his tribe wiped out by these invaders, and probably has no way to know that the new invaders don't wish him harm.

I suppose if someone deeply believes that the government shouldn't take context into account, that the vast machinery of the state should treat everyone equally even if it results in massive injustices, then there would legitimately be a question if "exceptions" for Amazonian tribe members are ethical. I personally don't believe that, so there's no question.

But also: He wasn't rewarded a giant private yard because he assaulted someone. Under Brazilian law, it was already his. If he attacks someone who is trespassing on it, who he also has a legitimate reason to fear, is that felony assault under Brazilian law in the first place?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:19 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The unintended consequence of the Brazilian law ensuring the territory of tribes is heartbreaking -- it's the American "shoot, shovel and shut up" with human beings.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:30 PM on August 21, 2010


> The Indo-Europeans, as we call them, arrived in Europe some 7000 years ago and dominated the continent, culturally if not genetically. Imagine what cultures were snuffed out in the process of their domination!

Not true. There were no "Indo-Europeans" other than a smallish group who actually spoke Proto-Indo-European, and we know nothing whatever about them except that they spoke it (because someone must have). We don't know how many there were, where they lived, who they worshiped, etc. We also do not know how IE languages spread throughout Europe; the idea that they must have spread by conquest and involved forcible domination/replacement of indigenous peoples by horse-riding people dressed in birchbark or whatever has long been given up.

On topic: this poor bastard has a right to be left alone if that's what he wants, and I'm glad they're giving him the chance.
posted by languagehat at 3:32 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he's on Facebook.
posted by LordSludge at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


that's the most wonderful thing i've read in years.
posted by msconduct at 4:03 PM on August 21, 2010


Felony assault? Really? That's a joke, right?

What else is it?

Let's imagine you're walking through a federally managed area of Kansas -- there are more than 13 million acres of land in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma that literally aren't owned by anyone specific -- and get shot in the leg with an arrow.

A man emerges behind a tree and says, "Get off my land."

What's your reaction?

"Oh, hey, sorry, sir. My bad."

???

Dude needs hospitalization.

---

Many, many horrific things have happened to natives in the past. Many more will happen in the future. But today, howzabout we dispense with the "let's all let the noble savages be noble savages" idea?

This guy is going to die as a result of something stupid and completely, utterly preventable. A tooth infection will happily kill you.

You know, he was a baby once. His mother felt him kicking in her womb. Fed him. Bathed him. Hoped he could have a great life.

How do you think she'd feel about the idea that her baby died in agony, desperately clawing at a rotten molar, because we all stood around and debated the merit of giving him some penicillin?

Penicillin. Which we invented. In 1928. Before even she was born.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:10 PM on August 21, 2010


I like that the world still has people like this in it. I worry that they'll all be gone by the time I have children.

Full marks to the Brazilian government for their hands-off approach.
posted by twirlypen at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2010


This website has an article about the last remaining handful of indigenous people in this area, including this man. If you scroll to the very bottom, there's a (supposed) picture of him.
posted by Houstonian at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, it's not impossible that he would become deathly ill just by spending any amount of time in the company of other human beings from outside his tribe. We don't know what his immune system can bear.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2010


> He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

Two paragraphs after the anecdote about shooting a Brazilian government agent in the test is this: "Just months before the agents began tracking the lone Indian, they made peaceful first contact with two other tribes that lived in the same region. One tribe, the Akuntsu, had been reduced to just six members. The rest of the tribe, explained the chief, had been killed during a raid by men with guns and chainsaws."

So, yeah, the lonesome man might have overreacted, or he may be aware of precedents.
posted by ardgedee at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


(The video clip from which the photo comes.)
posted by Houstonian at 4:19 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who was wondering how he got there all the way from India? And then the arrow ... Oh, ok, it's like that.

I wonder if the holes were spiritual hideouts like the Pueblo kiva.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


If someone is living in Kansas, you can be reasonably certain that they are familiar with the way life goes in the US. If they start shooting strangers, it's a safe bet that they need some kind of help.

This article is about an entirely different scenario. This man operates entirely outside of our customs, laws, and society. To expect him to abide by the rules of a society whose existence he only barely understands is ridiculous. According to the laws of his land – on which the government was intruding – we were invading, and he only responded in violence after the rest of his tribe had been destroyed.

As for his toothache – yes, he’ll probably die earlier than most of us will. How do you think his mother would feel if she knew her son was torn from the only home he’s ever known and thrust into a terrifying and foreign world, just so he could be kept alive for a few more years of torment? We just don’t know if he would really benefit from our society, and we have no way of finding out without irrevocably changing his life. I think the more humanitarian and humble path is to let him be, rather than imposing our way of life on him.
posted by twirlypen at 4:26 PM on August 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


How do you think she'd feel about the idea that her baby died in agony, desperately clawing at a rotten molar, because we all stood around and debated the merit of giving him some penicillin?

I doubt she'd feel anything other than what she had witnessed in her own life and came to expect for the life of her descendants. I don't think there is anything 'noble savage' about the way this man is treated, just an awareness that he might be better off living out his life in the only environment he ever knew. Because really, there would be nothing in a Western hospital for him except death by numerous viruses and other bacteria that would probably swamp his immune system in a rapid time.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:27 PM on August 21, 2010


For all we know, she might have been proud that he refused to accept the help of an enemy in exchange for becoming a prisoner, and despised him if he did.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:30 PM on August 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


He's more likely to die from a gunshot wound than a cavity. The rangers last tried to shoot him in December. There's another group of people in the area -- they are down to five members. I completely appreciate that they don't want any contact. I think they have the right to agency -- the right to choose their path in life. In many cases, the uncontacted Indians know about the bigger world, and reject it.* It would absolutely not do for someone to come around and tell me that I need to change everything I know and how I live, so why would I think that's ok for someone else?

*(Except the Surui. "The Surui are co-operating with Google Earth on a project that monitors encroachment into their territory through satellite imagery. Numbering 5,000 before the opening of the B364 highway, they are now endangered, with 11 tribal chiefs killed by ranchers in the past decade.")
posted by Houstonian at 4:41 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


> He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

Pretty much all hunter gatherers are violent by the standards of contemporary settled civilisation.
posted by atrazine at 4:41 PM on August 21, 2010


How do you think she'd feel about the idea that her baby died in agony, desperately clawing at a rotten molar, because we all stood around and debated the merit of giving him some penicillin?

When I was a kid, my step-dad used to kill insects while saying, "Killed it to save its life." I haven't thought of that in 30 years--it baffled me every time he said it and when I asked what it meant, he would just laugh. I hated him for it. However, after reading your post CPB, I'm no longer baffled.
posted by dobbs at 4:43 PM on August 21, 2010


You know, he was a baby once. His mother felt him kicking in her womb. Fed him. Bathed him. Hoped he could have a great life.

How do you think she'd feel about the idea that her baby died in agony, desperately clawing at a rotten molar, because we all stood around and debated the merit of giving him some penicillin?


It's doubtful he's going to die from his teeth, and if he started to, I'm sure he knows what plant to eat and in what quantity in order to humanely shorten his existence. His mother may have been one of the tribespeople murdered by the local farmers "with guns and chainsaws" as told by another tribe in the area.

This is one of the last people on earth who truly has free will, who hasn't had the values of a state forced on him at birth without his choosing. After taking his whole world away from him, including everyone he loved and everything he knew about reality, I think the least we can do for him is to let him be human, and let him die in a way of his choosing. Let's follow the wisdom of the Brazilian people and let him make his own destiny.

I know I'm going to sleep better tonight knowing that a man who has lost everything is still waking up in the morning, finding water, finding food, and marking the trees the way his forefathers have done for who knows how long. He's still searching the earth for his God, just like everyone else.

To put him anywhere near a television or a hospital would be a fucking outrage. Unless, of course, he decides otherwise.
posted by atypicalguy at 4:45 PM on August 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


Um, since he survived in the wilderness for all these years, (he's in his late 40's) he has done things better than us. I'm surprised at these comments. Can there be a Darwin award in reverse? And I'm not surprised that he arrowed that agent.
posted by swooz at 4:56 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Advanced societies invariably have subsumed whatever indigenous populations they've encountered, determining those tribes' fates for them.

Article. Fucking. Fail.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:58 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe he's the great grandson of Percy Fawcett.
posted by bwg at 5:25 PM on August 21, 2010


Isn't there an ethical obligation for the Brazilian state to find this man? He's clearly violent - for all we know, he could be a danger to himself. For that matter, do states normally reward felony assault with giant private yards?

You think the man his land are parts of Brazil and not what he a right to defend in a situation that has historical precedence over the existence of the Brazilian state, and moral precedence over its laws. You think Brazil has a stronger moral right to the land and merely lends him a privilege. You are absolutely wrong.
posted by mobunited at 5:29 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


We also do not know how IE languages spread throughout Europe; the idea that they must have spread by conquest and involved forcible domination/replacement of indigenous peoples by horse-riding people dressed in birchbark or whatever has long been given up.

My personal theory is that the speakers of PIE were just incredibly promiscuous. The chariots were real, extra long and the interior was primitive shag made of beech and salmon. And soma was rohypnol.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:36 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's imagine you're walking through a federally managed area of Kansas -- there are more than 13 million acres of land in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma that literally aren't owned by anyone specific -- and get shot in the leg with an arrow.

No, imagine you're a partisan in the blasted countryside in WW2, after Nazis have shot all of your mates to death. A Nazi comes strolling out of the bush expecting to be your buddy. He has no gun, but he has a radio. Imagine an analogy that actually pertains to the residents of land that is being invaded, and whose people have been regularly slaughtered by an invading force.

I would shoot that motherfucker any day of the week.
posted by mobunited at 5:37 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brazil so totally cribbed the "Policy of No Contact" from Roddenberry.

Brazil's implementation of the Prime Directive is just a fancy way of telling us they have warp technology.
posted by doobiedoo at 5:48 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


the first thing I thought about was this lonely whale story previously on MeFi. Made me just as sad.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:23 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the guy in Kansas were a naked hunter-gatherer with no concept whatsoever of what "USA" is, the analogy would be useful, but he's not. And I dare say a had the attempted friendly contact "hello" not been rebuffed - ultimately arrow-to-chest rebuffed - the notion of "would you like some penicillan for your infected tooth" would have arisen somewhere down the line. He chose to preclude that offer being made, it wasn't first world types choosing to deny him healthcare due to naively glorifying his "tribal" lifestyle. So while the 'howzabout we dispense with the "let's all let the noble savages be noble savages" idea?' line of argument is not in my view entirely meritless, and at the least opens an interesting debate in the abstract, I find the way you apply it to this specific situation to be very weak.
posted by Slyfen at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2010


a mysterious hole dug in the center of the floor

The dude takes big dumps and he's in voluntary exile to spare the rest of the world from dealing with them. Good grief, Brazil, deliver him the sports page and leave him be.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:29 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is one of the last people on earth who truly has free will, who hasn't had the values of a state forced on him at birth without his choosing.

Listen, I want this guy to be left alone too, but can we calm down the noble savage nonsense a bit? He wasn't born into the state he lives in now; he was born into a tribe, which no doubt had its own set of values that he wasn't allowed to choose.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:32 PM on August 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have the perfect compromise! We need to build a big enclosure for him; not 31 square miles maybe, but at least 31 square feet. We'll put in some realistic fake rocks, maybe flowing water, some viewing platforms, and an electric fence. We'll plant a lot of plants that are really close to his "natural environment". Heck, we can even build a hut out of Gunnite and make a square hole in the floor! Then we catch him, knock him out, and set him up in it, with penicillin and good food, but still in his "natural environment" and we can charge people to come look at him! He won't know the difference, right? And it's for his own good.
posted by The otter lady at 6:53 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think there's money in the budget for plants, otter lady, but I'm sure astroturf will be fine. He'll just be happy to have some penicillin.
posted by amethysts at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, he was a baby once. His mother felt him kicking in her womb. Fed him. Bathed him. Hoped he could have a great life.

How do you think she'd feel about the idea that her baby died in agony, desperately clawing at a rotten molar, because we all stood around and debated the merit of giving him some penicillin?


How do you know she didn't know about a tree root that did exactly the same thing as penicillin, and that she hadn't been giving it to him for toothaches all along before this? And how do you know she didn't teach him how to identify it, and that these holes he's been digging haven't been a sort of root storage for things precisely like this?

Not all cultures work the same way. "Different" doesn't mean "better" or "worse".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 PM on August 21, 2010


You civilized kids get off my lawn!
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:35 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's imagine you're walking through a federally managed area of Kansas ... and get shot in the leg with an arrow.

A man emerges behind a tree and says, "Get off my land."


Of course, you're specifically changing a key fact. In the Brazilian case, both the government and the man believe that the man has a right to the land. In your example, only the man believes that.

And Kansas is a castle doctrine state.
posted by dhartung at 8:07 PM on August 21, 2010


I just feel bad for the guy because he's missing a GREAT season of True Blood this year.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:08 PM on August 21, 2010


Leave him alone. Leave him be. He doesn't want our help in dealing with his "violence" nor does he want to be put into a safe place that he would consider a cage.

Let the poor man go his way until he dies. Leave him alone and stop acting like zoo keepers or like social workers. I suspect that he doesn't want our pity or our social work.

He is an independent human that shouldn't be put into our vision of "safety".

To be the last human on earth must be enough pain.
posted by stirfry at 9:31 PM on August 21, 2010


It's a quarter to two, and after posting unfinishable fiction to my MeFi profile, I realize... that sucker ain't got shit. You just know some hot post-grad's gonna be stuck with his outdoorsy ass for a semester at some point. Then it just devolves into a slightly higher grade of bodice-ripper, one featuring peer-review boards instead of a rich widow's stables.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:51 PM on August 21, 2010


Back before we had cities and states, people moved when they wanted to.

Ummm - no. They went where their very vicious and brutal warrior caste wanted to, as there were humans or pre-humans living there first, or they were running away from someone else's vicious and brutal warrior caste.

The myth of the "Noble Savage" is just that - a rotten, no good, fucking myth. If it ever existed, it existed before Humans evolved, and then we curb-stomped that shit.

Recognizing the brutal tribal/territorial instinct is absolutely key in negating it moving forward as a species. Recognize - you, personally, are a member of a war-like and genocidal species. Understanding this is the way to evolve past it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:59 PM on August 21, 2010


> To be the last human on earth must be enough pain.

Hey, wait. I'm the last human! Anyway, being a free range human like this guy has its ups and downs like every other gig. I'm glad the authorities seem to have decided to leave him be. He probably doesn't even know that his situation is extraordinary--he just wants to be in his forest.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:02 PM on August 21, 2010


Also, since ranchers in the area are reportedly intent on killing him, it's no surprise that he's hostile.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:28 PM on August 21, 2010


Let the poor man go his way until he dies. Leave him alone and stop acting like zoo keepers or like social workers. I suspect that he doesn't want our pity or our social work.

I understand your point, but I don't appreciate your mis-characterization of social workers.
posted by kylej at 11:34 PM on August 21, 2010


I hope that if/when the ranchers succeed in killing him, they don't get rewarded by being allowed to develop that land. It should be made into some kind of national monument or something.
posted by Dr. Send at 12:13 AM on August 22, 2010


He clearly has excellent survival skills. And whether he knows it or not, staying clear from the outside world is probably part of that successful survival strategy. I bet if he came out of that isolation, he'd be dead within weeks due to a combination of stress and disease.
posted by sour cream at 12:57 AM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Starbucks Marketing Exec: My god, there's one left! One person untouched by our mark.

To the helicopters!
posted by zippy at 1:19 AM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very interesting story. I hope he does continue to live alone unmolested; I don't think he would be happier to be dragged into a completely different way of life with new gods, new clothes, new language, new foods, new goals, new history, new arts, and new rituals. It really isn't surprising that previous cases ended in death by depression.

I am torn by wanting him to be left entirely untouched and wanting to know more. I suppose I'm a bad person for thinking it would be tempting to have him under covert surveillance-- and if I am thinking that, then you know others are thinking it as well-- possibly people in power in Brazil. But how fascinating to discover what his daily habits are and what he eats and how he divides up his time. Forty something years old. I wonder how long he will live without modern medicine.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:53 AM on August 22, 2010


I think it's safe to say that all of us here have grown up in a world that is profoundly different from this man's. How can we know what is best for him? It's entirely possible that he stays alone out of fear and distrust, and would in fact benefit from contact with the outside world. It's also entirely possible that contact would destroy him. We need to be humble and recognize that we do not, and can not, know which one would turn out true. The tragedy is that he probably can't know which it would be, either.
posted by Makwa at 7:15 AM on August 22, 2010


This is similar to the Indian government's policy for some tribes on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (hmm...both policies deal with Indians of some kind). Some of the policies have been successful, while others have clearly failed.
The Sentinelese are a tribe that have resisted interaction with outsiders and are thought to have lived on the islands for over 60,000 years. The Indian government has decided not force assimilation and necessarily discourages contact, even for administrative purposes like census taking.
posted by neetij at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2010


All he really needs is a girlfriend (I'm only half joking, hell, if prison inmates can attract women, a guy with his skills should do pretty good. Some one get him an account with GreenMatch or GreenSingles).
posted by 445supermag at 7:58 AM on August 22, 2010


Ishi, whom the papers called "the last wild Indian in America" (c. 1860 - 1916 ).
[Having survived Three Knolls Massacre in 1865, Ishi and the other remaining Yahi] went into hiding for the next 40 years. In the fall of 1908 a group of surveyors came across the camp of an elderly woman, elderly man, and young girl. The latter two fled and the former hid herself in blankets to avoid detection, because she was sick and could not run. The surveyors ransacked the camp and took everything. The elderly woman, Ishi's mother, and other relatives soon died and Ishi was the last of his tribe. Being starved and having nowhere else to go, Ishi walked into the white man's world. . .
Ishi means "man" in Yana. . . When asked his actual name, he said: "I have none, because there were no people to name me."
posted by Herodios at 7:18 PM on August 22, 2010


Ishi

Ishi, the Last of His Tribe
posted by homunculus at 8:06 PM on August 22, 2010


Clearly there is a problem in Brazil. The ranchers have no natural enemies, and have out-bred their environment. We'll have to cull the herd to keep them from starving, with the added benefit that it will keep them from burning down more rainforest to make way for McRanches raising McCattle.
posted by Goofyy at 1:55 AM on August 23, 2010


Having worked in a couple of these little indigenous villages in the middle of the Brazilian swamp, I just want to add that there are a not insignificant number of people who die of good old-fashioned old age, having lived high-60s to high-70s number of years, with great (x2 or 3) grandchildren, and a ton of crazy stories.

Sure, they have some more support than one lone man with no exposure to modern health care or technology, but I want to at least gnaw away at the "noble savage" cookie in hopes it'll crumble away a little bit.
posted by whatzit at 3:22 PM on August 27, 2010


Also, Ishi, mentioned above, was a fascinating book. Hopeful, sad, a little bit of everything. What happened to Ishi was a product of that place and that era, but really makes you think about what has (or hasn't) changed since then.
posted by whatzit at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2010


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