Romanticizing a Stone Age man (or woman)

If you’re asked which button to press: rewind, pause, fast forward, as the question goes in one of those pathetic bulletins in Friendster, a friend, that is, in Friendster, whom I do not really know and keeps me wondering how we became friends, answered rewind and pause.

The answer tells something about how retrogressive most of us are. And there is nothing wrong about it only if we do not sacrifice our today by thinking of what could have been had we done something different in the past or how good the past was and how nice it is to live in a bygone good ol’ days. The past being so unlike today because then the world was less polluted, the river pristine, the ladies lady-like, and the gentlemen knightly. Meaning, the farther we are back through time, the better things are. If the extension is gone further, man is more of what he really should be because he is more attached with his origin. He and nature are one both working symbiotically together as entities approaching near perfection. Unadulaterated. Man in his purest form.

With this kind of thinking, it’s not anymore odd why we find ourselves in awe every time a news comes out about a newly “discovered” tribe deep in the forest of the Amazon or a Stone Age-like community existing in the tropical mountains of South Cotabato, Philippines. We think of them as our last hope to see a reflection of ourselves before civilization encroached our purity and the “goodness” we once had. We, in a literary sense, romanticized these tribes. Granting they are not hoaxes (as most of these discoveries are hoaxes, e.g., the Tasadays who are members of a civilized tribe but were used by Marcos as an anthropological showcase deemed as the “Greatest Anthropological Discovery of the 20th Century” so as to detract critics of his corrupt administration or a “lost tribe” of warriors near the Brazilian-Peruvian border that was reported a few months ago which as it turned out, the story is only half true as authorities have known about this particular tribe since 1910), I do not see the point why, if they have a choice, we do not want them to be “corrupted”, here it means to experience what civilization can offer. If we are trying to hold on to that certain purity we are so protective of which we have long ago lost, then why do we place the burden on these people who are as eligible as we are for the comfort, not to mention the challenges, that this world can offer?

In a post modernist sense, the process of romanticizing makes our subjects prisoners of our ideals. We, in the process, are denying them of a basic right to define themselves using the bigger world as a basis. We give them a preconceived definition of who they are because we are insecure of our present situation. We want to keep them in their “pure” state because by doing so we retain a certain part of our past that we can never revisit.

And this certain preoccupation with the past, without any conscious effort to learn from the mistakes committed by its actors, makes the process of romanticizing an exercise in futility. Not only that, it is also a selfish process.

The Tasaday Community

As in the case of the Tasadays, the lost tribes, the good ol’ days, etc., they shall remain victims of our post-modernist tendencies. They’ll remain static as if frozen in time, but only inside our minds, because in truth, they were gone a long time ago. They’ve escaped our ruthless definition. They have dynamically made themselves remnants of the past, a bouillabaisse of the present, and who knows what the future will bring.