John Zerzan, Call Your Office

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According to the London Telegraph, "one of the world's last Stone Age tribes" has killed two fisherman who strayed into its territory:

The Sentinelese, thought to number between 50 and 200, have rebuffed all contact with the modern world, firing a shower of arrows at anyone who comes within range.

They are believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world to remain isolated and appear to have survived the 2004 Asian tsunami….

Environmental groups urged the authorities to leave the bodies and respect the five-kilometre exclusion zone thrown around the island.

While it helps to have the local greens on your side, the Sentinelese have other ways to protect their sovereignty. The Telegraph reports that "The Indian coast guard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter but was met by a hail of arrows."

[Via bOING bOING, which also links to an interesting article about the Sentinelese and other Andamanese tribes in The American Scholar. For more on how the aborigines fared during the tsunami, go here.]

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  1. Leave the bodies? After they murdered a couple of innocent fisherman? I say go there, kick ass, and open a McDonald’s without a local menu item. That’ll show ’em.

    And since when did we have the Prime Directive? What the flock?

  2. And since when did we have the Prime Directive? What the flock?

    Stargate doesn’t seem to have one either.

    They’ll just open casinos anyway…oh, excuse me, wrong Indians.

  3. And yet their thinking is probably more advanced than that of some Muslim fundies. Or Christian fundies, for that matter.

  4. After they murdered a couple of innocent fisherman?

    They just fell prey to a pre-Neolithic “make my day” law!

  5. “The Indian coast guard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter but was met by a hail of arrows.”

    The Indian Coast Guard needs to teach these people why it’s a bad idea to bring arrows to a gunfight. Hooray for cultural differences and all that, but once you cross the line into murder you lose the right to respect.

  6. What would Kirk do?

    Two red-shirted guys get killed while fishing. Does the tribe survive Kirk’s wrath? If phasers are not fired, does the tribe’s culture survive? Are we wimpier than the Federation?

  7. If the tribe wakes up tomorrow, it’s because Kirk decided to let them live.

  8. Unless he pulls a Kirok and joins them.

  9. because he’ll score the three-boobed chiefette on the island?

  10. No, it’s because Jack Bauer decided to let them live.

    When you shoot Jack Bauer the bullet bleeds.

    A billion people in China want to kill Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.

    They should change the name of the game “Simon Says” to “Jack Bauer Says”, because when Jack Bauer says something you damn well better do it.

    Jack Bauer’s gun reloads itself. Why? Because he told it to.

    If Jack Bauer lost his edge and became a total wuss he’d change his name to Chuck Norris.

  11. Dang, North Sentinelese nightlife must really suck.

  12. Sorry, thoreau, but Kirk is badder than Bauer. He once threatened to exterminate a whole planet on a dare. So to speak.

    Maybe he’s descended from Bauer? Or, perhaps, Bauer and Norris? Whoa.

  13. Why environmentalists are on the side of murderers is beyond me.

    I think we should just send in the BATF. Then lets see what happens when they attack with arrows. Oops, I forgot, they like to murder innocent women and children. Why exactly does that organization still exist?

  14. Just where is the Sentinelese Liberation Army when you need them?

  15. The article neglects to mention that the Sentinelese worship a giant ape.

  16. Jennifer: you are forgetting that, from the tribe’s point of view, their territory was invaded. A different question might be, why does India claim sovereignty over a territory whose people clearly reject their authority?

    Granted, killing trespassers is in poor taste, but I imagine the tribe’s immigration policy is well known in the area. Wipe them out, if you will, or leave them alone, but don’t trifle with them. You’re operating under the assumption that the Sentinelese are conscious of your legal system, accept it, and think it applies to them. It’s just possible that when you are in their territory you’re subject to their laws, not the other way around.

  17. I can’t believe I’m saying this, cos I have never (ever, ever) been sympathetic to the “you can’t blame them because that’s their culture and we can’t judge them” crap, and my views on Islamic fundamentalists verge on Rightwing Deathbeasty but….this is a STONE AGE tribe. Their concept of murder is likely not the same as ours. I mean, under our laws you’re not convicted of murder if you are judged incompetent to stand trial, or if you’re proved to be loony. Could not a similar exemption apply here? And don’t they have an exclusion zone around them already? (I want to read the full article, but haven’t yet.)

  18. Is it necessarily murder when people are killed for trespassing? I too think multiculturalism can be taken too far, but these folks wanna be left alone, and it seems clear they’ll leave the rest of us alone as long as we honor that wish and stay off their property. Death for being too drunk or foolish to realize you’ve wandered onto a crazy person’s property is a harsh penalty, but it’s not unheard of. I remember several years ago some Asian exchange student walked into someone’s house looking for a party and they thought he was a burglar so they shot him to death. Tragic, but the law upheld the guy’s right to protect his property and family. I’m sure y’all can find differences cause there always are. But I think the important parts are the same. Sucks for the dead fishermen, but they share responsibility for what happened, and either way they’re dead already whether or not we fuck with this entire group’s way of life over it.

  19. I see Stubby and James said largely the same thing in the five minutes I took to write my post!

  20. I think James, Stubby, and fyodor raise good points. I don’t know what the proper resolution is for this matter, but I think it’s a little more complicated than some have made it out to be. There are issues of sovereignty, property rights, self-defense against perceived threats, whether or not the perception of a mortal threat was reasonable, etc. etc. The answer may very well come up in the end that they’re still guilty of murder, but it requires some careful analysis first.

  21. Considering that first the contacts between the Native Americans and the Europeans led to the spread of diseases like smallpox, which the natives had no immunity, one could argue that this tribe was merely repelling an attack by biological weapons.

  22. I remember several years ago some Asian exchange student walked into someone’s house looking for a party and they thought he was a burglar so they shot him to death. Tragic, but the law upheld the guy’s right to protect his property and family.

    Opening a door and walking into a stranger’s house is quite different from being in a boat that drifts into shallow water near a beach.

    from the tribe’s point of view, their territory was invaded.

    And from the KKK’s point of view, civil rights protesters really were threatening to destroy their culture. So what?

    I mean, under our laws you’re not convicted of murder if you are judged incompetent to stand trial, or if you’re proved to be loony.

    Even then, you’re not set free to kill again.

  23. either way they’re dead already whether or not we fuck with this entire group’s way of life over it.

    Hypothetically speaking, how many fishermen or other outsiders would have to be killed before the way of life of these 50-200 people stopped being so sacrosanct?

  24. There are issues of sovereignty, property rights, self-defense against perceived threats, whether or not the perception of a mortal threat was reasonable, etc. etc. The answer may very well come up in the end that they’re still guilty of murder, but it requires some careful analysis first..

    Well, not much analysis, really. Assuming this was nothing more than a case of trespass, with perhaps a little light fishing on the side, and the fishermen did not initiate any violence or threats:

    I’m not aware of any legal standard that countenances deadly force as a response to simple trespassing or other violations of property rights unaccompanied by a plausible threat of force.

    I don’t think that any legitimate nation reserves the right to simply gun down peaceful illegal immigrants. The low level violation of sovereignty representated by simple trespass don’t justify killing the trespasser.

    The use of violence in self-defense is justified only as a response to a threat, generally with the caveat that a reasonable person would regard the threat as a serious one. No sign of that here.

    Looks like murder to me, unless new facts develop.

  25. OK, R C, good points.

  26. I was mostly kidding earlier. Certainly, if there’s no contact and the tribe felt reasonably threatened, there’s probably no need to go in with phasers blasting. However, we also don’t have to endure killing in the name of “cultural preservation”. Maybe we should impose a one-murderous-act rule for Stone Age tribes, kind of like the one-bite rule for dogs in the common law. Nex murder/killing/”incident”, we kick 21st century boo-tay!!!!

    What’s the scariest thing we have? Maybe a green laser demonstration is called for? Could I, um, go there and be proclaimed a GOD? Just curious, of course.

  27. Jennifer, we could sternly inform the tribe that there is a 10-murder limit. That will be strictly enforced. Eight more deaths, and we’ll get really pissed.

  28. I am not entirely convinced that we are doing those folks a favor by leaving them alone.

  29. My goodness! Look how quickly some libertarians are willing to dump the right to self-determination and the right not to live under a coercive government that you don’t want to when someone gets hurt. Interesting . . . very interesting.

  30. Ha-ha. Re:

    Opening a door and walking into a stranger’s house is quite different from being in a boat that drifts into shallow water near a beach.

    I repeat what I already said:

    I’m sure y’all can find differences cause there always are. But I think the important parts are the same.

    Actually, I find the Asian exchange student who walked into a stranger’s house thinking the party was there a lot more sympathetic than the fishermen who let themselves drift into waters where they either knew or should have known they were not wanted and where danger lurked and then were too callous to their situation or even drunk to heed warnings that could have saved them.

    Hypothetically speaking, how many fishermen or other outsiders would have to be killed before the way of life of these 50-200 people stopped being so sacrosanct?

    Considering the circumstances (did you RTFA, BTW? I don’t always myself so I’m not being snide, just asking; it’s actually very short and easy to read), more such deaths are unlikely and would almost definitely be limited to a very few fools like these who were already breaking laws.

    Now, if they somehow were able to attack people not trespassing on their land, obviously that would be different. Then the numbers would not even be a factor. BTW, I never said, oh it was only two people, so what, so your hypothetical is irrelevant to what I actually did say. But I’m not the first around here to look at the pros and cons of enforcing a particular law in a particular instance (assuming this was even a crime, which is debatable) to conclude that it’s not worth enforcing. I believe you’ve used such logic yourself, Jennifer, in a case regarding statutory rape, though I couldn’t be absolutely sure of that.

  31. I’m on the side of the bloodthirsty savages.
    But, what the heck, let’s apply our enlightened middle-class morality to a primitive tribe…so what’s the plan? Conquer them, force their children to attend “white” schools and learn our customs, then put ’em all on welfare? I mean, if we’re going to charge them with murder, we’ll have to teach them what our definition of murder is.
    Otherwise, and I know this is anathema, maybe we should just leave them the hell alone.

  32. My goodness! Look how quickly some libertarians are willing to dump the right to self-determination and the right not to live under a coercive government that you don’t want to when someone gets hurt. Interesting . . . very interesting.

    Hear hear!!

    I don’t think that any legitimate nation reserves the right to simply gun down peaceful illegal immigrants.

    Sigh. I refer back to what Stubby said. The idea of holding these folks to such a strict analogy is ridiculous. These folks probably see their land as communally owned, so it’s more analogous to protecting private property than an immigration issue. Maybe we know there was no threat, but as I’ve pointed out already, people have killed intruders who were no more a threat than these fishermen, but the killers got off because they perceived a threat. If someone speaking another language in your house but brandishing no visible weapon is legitimately perceiving a threat, how about folks from the stone age who don’t know a damn thing about the intruders except that past ones like him caused great harm?

    Anyway, if they’re sovereign over their land, they can make their own rules, whether we agree with them. We could cut off foreign aid, but of course we’re not giving them any. They’re no threat except to fools who put themselves in harm’s way. Leave ’em alone.

    Oh and to johnl, well I don’t know if it’s a favor or not to leave them alone either. But I think that’s for them to decide, not us. And they obviously prefer to be left alone.

  33. Phil, your rights end where mine begin. Hear that one around here before? That’s why a response is debatable, not a foregone conclusion either way. But, of course, we libertarians have such a monopoly on hypocrisy.

  34. BTW, South America has been dealing with this situation for a long time, and in all the cases I can find, plenty of loggers get killed for illegally entering the “off limits” tribal areas, and some natives are killed by loggers illegally entering the “off limits” tribal areas, but there is not a single case of a tribe member wandering into downtown Brasilia and killing anyone.

  35. Johnny Clarke,

    Yes, thank you, you make some good points.

    Y’know, I’ve always wondered about the phrase: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” I guess we have to have it that way cause otherwise it would be too easy to claim ignorance and too difficult to prove otherwise. But taken literally, it seems inherently unfair, which is why it’s unfair to enforce a retroactive law. And that’s what you’d have here: Enforcing a law on folks who clearly exist so far outside of our law and culture (or anyone else’s) that there’s no way to expect them to have known about it. It would be for all intents and purposes retroactive enforcement.

    Y’know, extreme cases make bad law. This is a very, very extreme case. No need to draw any conclusions from it regarding anything in normal international relations or criminal law. Just write it off as news of the weird and let the fuckers be. Nuff said.

  36. Everyone’s once again missing the real issue: Does the chief of the Sentinelese have the authority to summarily execute a terrorist suspect on Sentinelese soil?

  37. No blood for fish oil!

  38. Seriously, though, a few of the commenters calling this “murder” seem to see the Sentinelese as no different than a looney band of North Idaho separatists. I think having no meaningful contact with the outside world, beyond the occasional gift of coconuts in exchange for pilfered souvenirs, for 60,000 years, suffices to entitle the Sentinelese to defend their own territory against anything they perceive as a threat.

  39. Well, if the arrows were tipped with poison, that’s chemical warfare, which would give us the green light to invade.

  40. crimethink, are you suggesting that WMDs were used?

  41. Stone age tribesmen and modern libertarians are two species seperated by thousands of years of evolution…the two should never meet. It’s enought to make a sociologist’s head explode.

  42. “But, what the heck, let’s apply our enlightened middle-class morality to a primitive tribe…so what’s the plan? Conquer them, force their children to attend “white” schools and learn our customs, then put ’em all on welfare?”

    Um, Johnny Clarke, this is in the Indian Ocean. Not a lot of “white” people there.

    Anyway, I’m inclined to agree with RC Dean, even though he’s talking about “legal standards,” and “legitimate nations,” concepts that obviously don’t apply to this society which has completely been out of touch with the modern world. As he said, unless the fishermen were posing a threat, there was no reason to kill them. Fuck all this cultural relativism shit, murder is murder, and no one anywhere has a right to kill someone just for “trespassing” on their land.

    Of course, we’ll never know what really happened. Maybe the fishermen were belligerent. Who knows. I’d say it’s just best to write this off and leave these savages (whoops, I said “savages”) to themselves.

  43. Wait a second. If I shed my veneer of civilization, my arrogance, my cultural biases, then, then. . .

    I can kill the bastards for revenge. Then enslave any survivors. Yes, I feel better for not imposing my Western values on them.

  44. andy, true, true, these folks don’t fall under our legal system at all, actually, so it’s not truly our problem. I was using “white” as applying to our little discussion here.

    As for “cultural relativism shit”, well, when you say “murder is murder”, that’s relative to your culture, dude. That’s the argument. You’re saying murder is some cosmic absolute. So, where does that come from, God?

  45. And I was totally wrong and I apologize. I should have used the word “Western”, not “white”.

  46. crimethink, are you suggesting that WMDs were used?

    Better safe than sorry. Who knows how long we have before they scrounge up enough plutonium to make a “dirty arrow”….

  47. “You’re saying murder is some cosmic absolute. So, where does that come from, God?”

    I’d say it comes from Locke. 😉

    Seriously, the right to not be murdered comes from our nature as human beings. If you don’t agree with that, I don’t know if I can convince you.

    “when you say “murder is murder”, that’s relative to your culture, dude.”

    I’d say that even if it weren’t relative to my culture (which, of course, it is- see Drugs, War on) There’s a lot of things my culture says is wrong that I disagree with, and vice-versa. Again, I’m not philosophically sophisticated enough to make an elaborate argument, but here’s what I’m saying- Morality transcends culture.

  48. *which of course, it’s not 😛

  49. As General Napier said about the Indian practice of Sati:
    “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
    So let the Sentinelese have their custom of murdering fishermen and let the Indian Air Force have their custom by blitzing the island.

  50. So they kill strangers who do nothing worse than invade their “culture.” Christ, Tom Tancredo and J.D. Hayworth favor the same thing and people elected those idiots to Congress

  51. Funny, the first thing I thought of when I read this topic was Star Trek’s Prime Directive. And then I quickly saw I was not alone. (Not only that, but the island has a five-kilometer “Neutral Zone” around it.)

    I don’t really think the Prime Directive is a good idea, but in this case the natives have themselves indicated rather forcefully that they don’t want contact. It’s not a paternalistic imposed thing.

    Also, there is this relevant tidbit in the article:

    In the 1980s and early 1990s many Sentinelese were killed in skirmishes with armed salvage operators who visited the island after a shipwreck. Since then the tribesmen have remained virtually undisturbed.

    The article doesn’t say who started the fights. However, for all we know, the Sentinelese are acting on past experiences where outsiders who approached their island were usually aggressive and killed Sentinelese.

    Multi-culti moral relativism is one thing, but I think even by our standards that the Sentinelese, given their understandably limited knowledge of how outsiders behave, may have reason to believe they are merely acting in self-defense.

    Let me give you an analogy.

    Suppose one day, aliens in 10-mile-wide spaceships land on Earth. Unfortunately, either through carelessness, recklessness, or utter disregard for us, some of them land on our major cities, smashing acres of buildings and their inhabitants flat.

    Attempts to communicate with the aliens do not go well. It is difficult for us to undestand them or what they want.

    Some of them emerge from their spaceships and we observe them doing strange and explicable things. Do they plan to invade? We don’t know. We see some of them digging around in the Earth’s crust. We don’t know why. When we attempt to interact with them, they don’t appear rational. (Meaning, they act nothing like we’d expect our own people to act.) In many of these interactions, Earth people end up getting killed. Are they killing us on purpose? Are they doing it accidentally? Or are they so alien they don’t care whether they do things that are incidentally deadly to us or not? We don’t know.

    However, by happenstance we learn that beaming radio waves of a certain frequency seems to do them some harm. We observe that aliens in the path of the beams collapse, thrashing, until other aliens carry them back into their ships.

    Then we discover that when we beam the radio waves at their ships, they hurriedly leave.

    For a few years afterward, we see other alien ships approach Earth, but we beam them as soon as they come within range, and they go away.

    Two decades go by. We’ve half-forgetten about the aliens, and we’ve put our radio-beam-generator into storage..

    Then one quiet day, we detect another 10-mile approach Earth, enter the atmosphere over the equatorial Atlantic, and head northwest.

    It’s wobbling quite a bit. (The aliens inside are drunk and aren’t quite aware of what they’re doing, but we don’t know that. We have no idea what they intend, and nothing but our still-baffling past experience to guide us.)

    The alien ship appears to be heading right for New York City, and will get there in about 30 minutes. No time to evacuate.

    So what do we do?

    Do we hastily drag out our radio-beam-generator and fire it at the ship before it reaches NYC?

    Or would that possibly be harming, even murdering, beings who may intend us no harm?

    Or do we wait to see whether they destroy NYC or not?

  52. jacob- you ass.
    did all 50 to 200 natives shoot the fishermen? if i walk into a rough neighborhood of 50-200 people and i get shot, should that neighborhood be blitzed?

    assuming 15 or 20 tribesmen were involved, you’d be murdering between 35 and 185 innocents. with that ratio, a more civilized culture who believed you were murdering innocents could kill between 612 and 17,112 non-involved of your people.

  53. murder is murder? when did that happen? i mean historically. at what point on the evolutionary (cultural and biological) chain did that happen? was it when we were monkeys? was it when we first became homo sapiens? i personally think it was when we LEFT the stone age. these boundaries that spontaneously emerged are the first rung on the ladder to a civilized society. they are pre-murder. if we were to punish them, should we punish other species for ‘murdering’ each other? should we punish other cultures whose legal systems aren’t as advanced as ours for breaking our futuristic laws?

    so how do we deal with them? how do two fundamentally different cultures interact w/ a min amount of violence? there should be some bridge that both groups can understand. i’ve got it! let’s give them 3 miles. AND a neutral area surrounding it! shit!
    the law making it illegal to enter that area is a different kind of law. the punishment for breaking this law is probable death. they broke it and they were punished. is the law unjust just bc the judge and executioner aren’t the indian government?

  54. The Sentinalese are wild human animals compared to the civilized world. Just leave them alone.

  55. I don’t think that any legitimate nation reserves the right to simply gun down peaceful illegal immigrants.

    Isn’t that begging the question? Why doesn’t the Sentilese homeland constitute a legitimate nation?

  56. Everyone’s once again missing the real issue: Does the chief of the Sentinelese have the authority to summarily execute a terrorist suspect on Sentinelese soil?

    That was good, BTW.

    No blood for fish oil!

    So was that.

    The article neglects to mention that the Sentinelese worship a giant ape.

    And that, indeed.

    Sorry, thoreau, but Kirk is badder than Bauer.

    I have to agree.

    Kirk has three escalating levels of violence: “Set phasers on stun,” “Set phasers to kill,” and “I will personally throw a punch.”

    Spock may be far smarter and physically stronger than an ordinary Earth human — but he’s still Kirk’s bitch.

    At the beginning of Star Trek V, Kirk isn’t climbing a mountain. He’s pulling down the Earth.

    Kirk can wear a gold velour shirt with a plunging V-neck wrap front and still not look like a sissy.

    Even if the repairs are impossible, Scotty makes them anyway, because Kirk tells him to.

    Whenever Kirk says, “Captain’s ‘log,’ Stardate …” he’s really talking about his penis, and the “Stardate” is really its current length in inches.

    Kirk once went up against the Greek God Adonis — and totally kicked his ass.

    Kirk had to join Starfleet because one Earth full of billions of women just wasn’t enough for him.

  57. Slubgob,

    If these people are ‘pre-murder,’ they should have no problem with being killed. It wouldn’t be murder: they aren’t advanced enough to understand that. So let’s just remove this threat to our kind with one missile.

    Hmmmm…. Wait, maybe that murder thing isn’t relative.

  58. If the Sentinelese were rowing out in their war canoes to attack passing vessels, by all means, smoke ’em. But that does not appear to be the case. When does Libertarianism mean an unlimited right to impose your presence on others? Comparing them to the KKK is simply out of line, Jennifer. There’s no Sentinelese power structure holding the Indians down. And, ultimately, they have the right to hold on to what’s theirs. By force, if necessary.

    I imagine that people have been scheming to get their hands on their little paradise for quite some time. It’s an old story: private parties simply move onto the lands of the natives as if they owned the place, the natives react, the miners or what have complain to their government, which sends a punitive expedition to wipe them out. Happens all the time. The right thing is to leave them alone. The smart move would be to drop off a crate of wonders on the beach every month for a couple of years until one day they’re waiting to talk to you. No need for violence against them, but violence is the default response among human beings, even those who pride themselves on being “civilized.”

  59. “If these people are ‘pre-murder,’ they should have no problem with being killed.”
    they’re pre-murder, not pre-fear-of-being-killed. the reason i don’t want to be murdered has nothing to do w/ the moral/cultural concept of murder. the reason i don’t want to be murdered is bc i don’t want to die.

    “It wouldn’t be murder: they aren’t advanced enough to understand that.”
    it’s murder to the murderer. isn’t that what makes it a murder? mmm?

  60. Hmmmmmm, someone brought up a good point but I am too lazy to scroll. Are “we” going to exact punishment on all the Sentinelese for the murdering ways of what appear to be only a couple of them? By that logic we ought to nuke all the Arabs for 9/11. Of course, I’m sadly sure there are those that feel that way….

    If “we” aren’t going to exact mass punishment for the crimes(?) of perhaps a couple of them, then we need to go in and question them and try to find those responsible. Good luck doing that without getting more people killed.

  61. Off topic question, if it’s not too late already.

    Who would win in a fight without weapons, Han Solo or Captain Kirk? Assume they are both in their prime.

  62. Without weapons? Kirk would definitely win. He appears to be trained in at least a basic form of martial arts and has fought hand-to-hand several times and won.

    Han Solo may be great with a blaster, but I don’t think I’ve ever even seen him throw a punch.

  63. “I remember several years ago some Asian exchange student walked into someone’s house looking for a party and they thought he was a burglar so they shot him to death.”

    The man in question was a 16-year-old Japanese high school student called Yoshihiro Hattori. In 1992 he knocked on the door of the wrong house in a Baton Rouge suburb, looking for a Halloween party. He never entered the house: the owner came to the door with a revolver and ordered him to freeze. Hattori, apparently not noticing the weapon, moved towards him and replied “We’re here for the party” and the owner, Rodney Peairs, killed him. Hattori was unarmed; he was not masked (his costume was a tuxedo); he was carrying nothing that could have been mistaken for a weapon; he made no threat of any kind towards anyone else present; he was committing no crime. A soldier who killed an Iraqi in similar circumstances would have broken his rules of engagement.

    Peairs was acquitted of manslaughter; spectators in the courtroom cheered when the verdict was announced.

  64. My goodness! Look how quickly some libertarians are willing to dump the right to self-determination and the right not to live under a coercive government that you don’t want to when someone gets hurt.

    No, I’m simply saying that your right to self-determination doesn’t include the right to kill others who drift onto your turf.

  65. Thanks for the details ajay; I remember that case sounded less like a “tragedy” and more like a “cold-blooded murder” to me at the time.

    As for Kirk – yes, two light karate chops to Han’s neck would make him crumble like a house of cards.

  66. Kirk over Solo in 12 parsecs 🙂

    Okay, for a serious note on the Sentinelese. I’m sure they’re a known danger, and anyone who gets close to them has decided to take on that risk. The government could go in and round them up, but their primary interest is allowing the culture to exist sans interference. If the fishermen knowingly placed themselves at risk, and the tribe didn’t go out of its way to seek out a confrontation, I imagine the status quo will be maintained. Honestly, these people are being treated as advanced animals (who aren’t held entirely responsible for their actions), not as humans.

    I sometimes wonder if such cultural “preservation” isn’t self-indulgence on our part. We want to be able to observe this primitive culture in some sort of fishbowl, and we justify it as some sort of moral act for their benefit. That’s hogwash–the people in the tribe would almost certainly gain by having access to modern technology, medicine, amenities, and culture. Well, maybe not the culture. Anyway, it should be their choice to make.

    Also, consider Jennifer’s statements in another thread about not allowing parents to refuse to get medicial treatment for their kids. Aren’t we (using “we” in the modern human sense here) doing the same on a larger level by “preserving” these tribes? What do you think their infant mortality rate is?

    Kirk, at least, knew when to violate the Prime Directive.

  67. I’m not aware of any legal standard that countenances deadly force as a response to simple trespassing or other violations of property rights unaccompanied by a plausible threat of force.

    The legal standard is: survival.

    You might as well criticize a pride of lions for not being well-versed in modern western law.

  68. Mr. F. Le Mur:

    Sir, we object quite strongly to your characterization on 10 February, 2006 of lions as “not being well-versed in modern western law”. I’ll have you know that three members of my pride alone are solicitors in Johannesburg. Quite successful, too, I might add.

    With great pride and indignation,

    Simba, Ph.D.

  69. You might as well criticize a pride of lions for not being well-versed in modern western law.

    So you’re saying that these islanders are no more than animals, and we should expect nothing better of them?

  70. That’s it, Jennifer. They’re exhibits in a zoo. Can’t blame the zoo if people insist on jumping the barriers and getting killed.

    This is interesting. I’d never thought this out before, but I think total isolation of a primitive culture might very well be immoral. I’m not sure what I really think about holding them to modern laws without an attempt to make them aware of the laws first, but treating them as a museum exhibit seems. . .bizarre. Guess I won’t be joining Starfleet anytime soon.

  71. PL, I wouldn’t FORCE these people to move into the modern world, but I’d at least let them know what they are missing and give them the choice.

    And I wouldn’t give them carte blanche to kill any outsiders they see, on the grounds that they’re just predatory wild beasts who can’t be held to human standards.

  72. They’re not exhibits in a zoo. For one thing, they aren’t captives. For another, there aren’t any spectators.

    As for whether they’re better off isolating themselves, I’d say that’s up to the tribesmen to decide. If you read the American Scholar article I linked to (and you should; it’s a terrific piece of writing), you’ll see that contact with civilization has been a mixed blessing for some of the area’s other hunter-gatherers. I say that with no illusions about the drawbacks of primitive life.

  73. Jesse, there is a huge difference between, say, forcing these people to get jobs in factories and live in apartments and wear modern-style clothing, versus simply saying “You can’t kill anyone who simply wanders onto your turf.”

  74. I’ll take a look at the article.

    I wasn’t clear in my statement about who should make the choice–it’s definitely up to the tribe. Totally isolating them, however, makes that choice ours, and ours alone. I don’t pretend that exposing them to modern culture would be anything less than disruptive, of course.

  75. Jennifer: If you can think of a good way to tell them that, I’m sure their Indian neighbors will be all ears. Bear in mind: No one outside their island speaks their language, none of them speak any outside language, and people who approach their territory tend to get shot at.

  76. Another hypothetical: suppose instead of killing the fishermen, they’d simply kept them alive, either as slaves or as prisoners? For those who suggest nothing be done to these people for killing the fishermen, would you also suggest leaving them alone if the fishermen were still alive on that island? Would rescuing the fishermen be considered less important than maintaining the Stone Age way of life?

  77. No one outside their island speaks their language, none of them speak any outside language, and people who approach their territory tend to get shot at.

    Tranquilizer darts. Sleeping gas. Put them to sleep, set up hidden microphones, and get some linguists to eavesdrop until they get the language. There are plenty of possibilities.

  78. Another question: I detect among some people here an attitude of “serves the fishermen right for getting drunk and wandering into their territory.” Would your opinion be different if the fishermen were sober, and swept into the island territory because a storm blew them off course?

  79. Well, Jennifer, there is always the question of contributory fault. Did you knowingly open that hot coffee while fourwheeling or didn’t you? Intentionally or even negligently inserting yourself into a dangerous environment places some of the responsibility for the consequences on you. Legally and morally.

    Of course, I don’t know that all of that totally absolves the tribesman of the killing. We obviously draw a line somewhere, and I think you’re right that we wouldn’t leave people alive there in captivity.

  80. Intentionally or even negligently inserting yourself into a dangerous environment places some of the responsibility for the consequences on you. Legally and morally.

    That concept applies when you’re injured by inanimate objects, like spilling hot coffee while four-wheeling, but it doesn’t apply in instances where the harm is deliberately caused by other human beings: a black person beaten after wandering into a neighborhood full of white supremacists, or a woman who gets raped after walking through a high-crime district alone, is not legally considered “partially responsible” for what happens to them.

  81. So you’re saying that these islanders are no more than animals, and we should expect nothing better of them?

    I’m saying that it’s ludicrous to expect people who’ve never read a written word to act as though they’d gone to some western law school, or to expect people without concepts like “police” and “telephone” to consider calling the police when someone invades their territory.

    And, BTW, humans really are animals. If that’s news to you, well then, I really don’t know what to say.

  82. And, BTW, humans really are animals

    Yes, but we’re animals capable of suppressing our baser instincts if necessary. That’s why we’ll hold men accountable for raping a woman, but don’t prosecute male cats who force themselves on unwilling female felines.

    I’m saying that it’s ludicrous to expect people who’ve never read a written word to act as though they’d gone to some western law school

    And I’m saying its ludicrous to allow people to commit acts of murder just because they’re too savage to know any better. I wouldn’t give these people the death penalty, maybe, but I damn sure wouldn’t let them stay free to kill again.

  83. Hooray for cultural differences and all that, but once you cross the line into murder you lose the right to respect.

    Modern Western civilization is so superior that it can be taken as an absolute standard: we fill out a lot of forms and talk a lot of shit before we kill other people. Then it’s OK.

    Solution: give the Sentinelese some forms to fill out before they kill people. Then arrest them all and lock them in cages for indecent exposure because they waved “Hello!” with their dicks and because they didn’t get the forms sent in within 30 days.

  84. Modern Western civilization is so superior that it can be taken as an absolute standard: we fill out a lot of forms and talk a lot of shit before we kill other people. Then it’s OK.

    More importantly, we don’t subject people to summary execution because their boats drifted into the shallows off of a private beach.

    Solution: give the Sentinelese some forms to fill out before they kill people. Then arrest them all and lock them in cages for indecent exposure because they waved “Hello!” with their dicks and because they didn’t get the forms sent in within 30 days.

    Do you honestly think there’s no difference between condeming them for murder and condemning them for violating our standards of indecent exposure, of was this simply the best example you could come up with?

  85. That’s why we’ll hold men accountable for raping a woman, but don’t prosecute male cats who force themselves on unwilling female felines.

    This reminds me of the American anthropologist who married a Yanomamo woman and brought her back to the U.S. After 6 years in Civilization she decided that being raped (as per Yanomamo custom) was better than living in New Jersey.

  86. I’m reading the article that Jesse linked to. It’s pretty interesting. There’s been all sorts of contact over the last 100+ years–some of it friendly, some of it involving spears. We’ve killed a number of them ourselves, so there’s an argument that the relationship is akin to warfare in many regards. The Sentinelese may also be in contact with a lot of criminals, too, because they use the island as a base of operations.

    One of the tactics used to make peaceful contact is to show up with lots of gifts. That seems to have worked on occasion. They’ve also been friendly enough to make sexual advances to Indian and British folk.

  87. >Then arrest them all and lock them in cages for indecent exposure because they waved “Hello!” with their dicks and because they didn’t get the forms sent in within 30 days.

    Good one.

    My mind is reeling over the fact that the 60,000 years of cultural evolution that separate us from thse people is somehow being regarded as irrelevant when it comes to the concept of “murder.” No doubt the Sentinelese do have some concept that is akin to murder, but that does not apply to outsiders. I think this is understandable, given the outcomes of their most recent contacts with outsiders.

    Regarding what to about the fisherman’s deaths, what can really be done but leave them alone? The practical problems here are formidable. How could we even begin to find out who did the killings without a common language? It’s not like any of them would be motivated to communicate that information in the first place.

    The issue is difficult and very fascinating on so many levels it sort of is making my head explode (Dogzilla!) The rash and absolutist thinking that has characterized a lot of the posts here is contributing to that effect.

  88. For those that haven’t read the article, penis waving is part of a friendly hello out there. Really. As is having your hand placed on a female breast (by the woman in question) in a “nonsexual” way. Uh, huh. Maybe we should just give them a PC and broadband. Sounds like they’re ready.

  89. Simba –
    I saw your cohorts on TV murdering a water buffalo. An injured baby, to boot. Shame on you for surviving and for letting The Children eat a non-FDA approved carcass.

    Do you honestly think there’s no difference between condeming them for murder and condemning them for violating our standards of indecent exposure, of was this simply the best example you could come up with?

    I think locking people in cages for waving their dicks around, in a friendly manner, is at least as backward and barbaric as killing invaders.

    Locking people in cages for years because they grew the wrong kind of plant is far more barbaric than either.

  90. I think locking people in cages for waving their dicks around, in a friendly manner, is at least as backward and barbaric as killing invaders. Locking people in cages for years because they grew the wrong kind of plant is far more barbaric than either.

    I agree our indecent-exposure and drug laws are stupid, but what has this to do with whether or not the fishermen’s murderers should be allowed to get away with it?

    The rash and absolutist thinking that has characterized a lot of the posts here is contributing to that effect.

    I confess to certain absolutist beliefs in regards to certain human rights, like the right to not be deliberately murdered without penalty because your boat drifts near the wrong beach.

  91. ATTN REASON SERVER: Since you won’t let me post my WhizzDum to “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” thread, here it is (this ‘clash of cultures’ subject is similar enough.)

    Needless to say the defenders of the dignity of Islam …

    The who of what?

    are having a field day with the hypocrisy of it all.

    That’s good. The Euros should be called to account for their half-assery.

    That Guardian interview makes Irving sound like a sociopath, and I realize Austria and Germany are special cases,

    I disagree. Every country has skeletons in its closet.

    but the idea that somebody can be looking at 10 years in prison for expressing a point of view is hateful.

    I’ve always thought the speech-codes associated with Nazism exist solely because the Germans (etc) don’t want to be reminded about what kind of people they really are (yes, “are,” not were): no dissent = no discussion; suppressing free speech = continuing to act like Nazis (small “N”?).

    “But may it be that repeated lessons will finally teach us not to stop the writer’s pen during his lifetime? At no time has this ennobled our history.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

  92. I agree our indecent-exposure and drug laws are stupid,

    And barbaric.

    but what has this to do with whether or not the fishermen’s murderers should be allowed to get away with it?

    It shows that just because a legal concept is western and modern doesn’t mean that it qualifies as an absolute standard of behvior for people who are neither western nor modern.

    Repelling invaders isn’t “getting away” with anything. What were they supposed to do, use the phones they don’t have to call some embassy they never heard of? (So people with modern, western uniforms, and forms, could do the killing for them).

    Why should anyone “get away with” locking people in cages for growing the wrong kind of plant?

  93. Repelling invaders isn’t “getting away” with anything.

    They weren’t invaders; they were two unarmed guys in a boat drifting offshore.

  94. Jennifer,

    This doesn’t read like an execution-style killing, which I take to mean the murdered person is restrained and the killing has some ceremony, ritual or procedure. The article of the new event doesn’t say exactly at what point the fishermen were killed as their boat ran aground. But the accounts in the reprint article suggest that the Sentinelese maintain a predictable routine of patroling the shore, brandishing weapons, and firing arrows well before they are in deadly range. If that does not proactively communicate “Turn away or we will use deadly force” without the benefit of a common language, what would?

    Here’s a Western analogy: the 1995 Turbot War. In 1995, Canada issued several coast guard vessels the authorization to use deadly force to turn away Spanish fishing trawlers from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, in support of environmental (sustainable fisheries) policy. Warning shots and military boarding actions were actually taken by Canadians on Spanish civilain ships. There was very nearly a NATO-on-NATO war. The situation did not escalate to deadly force, basically because the Spanish civilian ships took the actions communicated to them. What if a Spanish captain continued into the area in defiance of the Canadian display of force? Who would you consider responsible in the developing situation?

    Links:
    http://www.cda-cdai.ca/symposia/2005/Sneyd.pdf

    http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780771010941&view=excerpt

    At the time, it was an unresolved question of whether this was Canadian or International waters. Similarly, who has jurisdiction over Sentinel Island? The colonial British Navy established domination of the sea-space around the island, which transferred to India upon independence. Reading the reprint article, it’s seems to me that there has never been a British or Indian permanent presence on Sentinel Island. The Sentinelese have never had their control of the island broken. Further, they appear to have maintained a consistent approach to all outsiders. I would say they have a consistent due process: they start shooting before they can hit you, and keep on shooting unless you lay out gifts AND withdraw. The current treatment of the island by India maintains this: it is illegal within the Indian jurisdiction to approach the island. One has to take willfully illegal or negligent steps to make contact with the Sentinelese, which describes the murdered fishermen: illegal fishing followed by a jury-rigged anchor and apparently getting drunk in an embargo zone.

  95. Keith–

    If what you said about firing multiple warning arrows is true, then perhaps that is a different matter. What I wrote on this thread was based on the limited information in the article–they drifted into the forbidden zone and were killed.

  96. To be sure, the news story doesn’t go into detail on the final events of the fishermen (and there probably is no way to establish what actually occured — the other fishing boats sound too far away to have been witnesses; the helicopters came after the fact; and the Sentinelese have a language barrier with us)

    The other story mentions that the 1981 Primrose grounding was met at daybreak by men brandishing weapons on shore. The 1974 anthropolgy film crew was fired at from extreme range, and eventually the film director took a non-lethal thigh wound. In 1975, a tour by the ex-king of belgium came to just about arrow range, and the men on shore brandished weapons at them. An Indian anthropology/paramilitary expedition in force in the late 60’s caused the Sentinelese to abandon their camp and flee deeper into the island. Some of the histories mentioned from the 19th century say that people may have been ashore for some time before being beset by attackers.

  97. Oh, Jennifer! Why can’t you simply shut up? Don’t you see that this discussion’s going to get utterly preposterous thanks to your asinine schoolmarmish pedantry?

  98. Well, Keith, maybe what they did wasn’t murder, then, but I still think that at the very least the bodies should be recovered, if the families of the dead want them for burial, burning or whatever funerary rites they have. If that means dumping sleeping gas on the island, then so be it.

  99. Keith, thanks for your posts.

  100. caveat: I only read the first few comments. Based on those…

    You guys are a bunch of vomitorious tiny-brained fools. The thought of cave people still existing in this world is no less fasinating than the thought of coming across worms on mars. For you morons though neither are undoubtedly of any interest. Because you just want your free-market McDonalds.

    Do you have no interest in life at all? does the thought of living cave people not set your imagination to extravagant thoughts? Is nothing of any interest to you but the mocking of your idealogical enemies (environmentalists in this case) and based on idealogies that you admire as you do your local sports team – because they happen to be yours?

    That said, I really did only read a few comments and for all I know you folk may actually be critical thinking intellectuals of the highest order who were foully misunderstood by me. But I doubt it.

    mnuez

  101. No, I’m an idiot.

  102. mnuez use big words make head hurt. Want cheeseburger.

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