In the New Scientist issue of 30th September 2017, author Curtis Abraham from Uganda asks the question, if we as a technological mass society should force uncontacted tribes of aboriginal peoples into our global human civilisation or leave them be and act as they wish. I think this is a very interesting question with a lot of implications for speciesism and especially the view that humans should intervene in wildlife. The arguments for the interventionist perspective are essentially that our global human society has introduced human rights (and might introduce more generally animal rights), which do not exist in the wild, be it human or non-human aboriginal life. And, the argument goes, only basic rights can prevent interpersonal violence, which it is our duty to prevent. So, yes, they say, we should intervene and extend human rights and police powers to uncontacted tribes of humans and extend animal rights and interventional forces to nonhuman wild living animals. I have argued to the contrary, see https://martinballuch.com/a-summary-why-life-in-the-wilderness-is-better-than-in-a-technological-mass-society/.
Indeed, all statistics show that despite all world wars, interpersonal violence leading to the death of humans is a lot higher in wild living human tribes than in technological mass societies. On the other hand, it is equally undisputed by many investigations that, invariably, individual members of wild living tribes are happier and feel that they live a more fulfilling life than members of a technological mass society. What does the author of New Scientist say?
Abraham has a very clear opinion: leave uncontacted tribes alone, however much they inflict murder and warfare amongst each other. Indeed, he says that there are still more than 100 uncontacted peoples living mostly in the forests of Central Africa, South America and New Guinea. Historically, contact to uncontacted tribes often lead to violence against the aborinal people. In 2014, for example, the Sapanaga indians were massacred by illegal loggers and common diseases like influenza and measles, for example, often prove fatal because the wild living people have little to no immunity against them, as those diseases do not exist outside mass societies. Even when well meaning humans draw wild living people into their technological mass society, in order to protect them and let them benefit from modern medicine, the reality is, says the author, that the wild living people end up on the lowest rung of the ladder, often as beggars and prostitutes. “History shows that these groups end up in a far worse state after contact. Many succumb to addiction to alcohol or drugs.”
But even aside this practical experience, Abraham argues that it is a matter of self-determination and autonomy. The choice if some people want contact must be left entirely to themselves. Instead, their land should be safeguarded from intrusion and not be included in the general drive to use every resource possible in nature. This would be according to a 2007 UN declaration on indigenous rights. Abraham adds the observation that this would also benefit the outside world, because we would have a lot to learn from those people their way of living. It is simply arrogant to assume that “our” way of life is superior.
Those people, who sympathize with this view, will have to agree, if they are not speciesist, that it also applies to wild living non-humans. It should also be their choice, if they want to come into technological mass societies, and we should also protect their land from profit hungry invasion by capitalist enterprises. And it is also true that those non human animals would have a lot to teach us by the way they are living and how they view the world. It would be equally arrogant to assume that “our” human way of life is superior.