Monday, February 9, 2009

A Primate's Memoir

I am reading a GREAT book by Robert Sapolsky, entitled "A Primate's Memoir."
I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone. It is his memoir from a field work, studying baboons in Africa (starting in 1979). Simultaneously, this book is scientific, political, satirical, ethnographic, national-geographic ... it's a little gem, that I was reading in the passport office today, and could not help myself bursting into loud laughter every other 3-4 page.

I wanted to share with you a little passage;
"When Harun's (an old man Robert befriended) tribe, Kisii fought with Masai to the east, that was okey and everyone had a fine time. But when they fought with the Masai to the south, they were fighting with Tanzanians, and it was an international incident and the police would come and tell them to cut it out.

To the combatants the whole thing seemed pretty bizarre and arbitrary. It reminded me that once, long ago, this border formed another strange arbitrary boundary. Once Kenya was British East Africa, Tanzania was German Tanganyika, and in 1914, the while colonists in each dutifully made uniforms, formed units and conducted World War I. There were battles in Kisii land and even now, there were still legends about treasures buried in the hills by soldiers before battle.

Harun and I sat with the very old man who drank and chortled and belched and reminisced. I asked them about the time the German colonials and the British colonials fought eachother. They remembered well.

The white people had a fight amongst themselves for some reason, so they started fighting here. They would come in clothes like the policemen wear now, and they would shoot at eachother. dead white people, imagine. Once, an airplane came over. We did not know what it was and we were terribly frightened; we ran to our mothers and hid ourselves.

One day the British came and said that we should go and fight also. We could not believe it--they would give us guns to shoot white people. They always said guns had a magic so that an African man could not use it to shoot a white man, but they said that these Germans were different white men and the guns would work.

Then they said a crazy thing. They said we should also fight the Masai, that they would give us guns to do that. Yes, we said, we will fight them with your guns, but they said we could only fight the Masai to the south, the Masai to the east we must never fight. We thought that was crazy. so we refused. They beat some of us, but we still refused.'

The old men thought it puzzling and basically funny. the Masai were delighted, however to fight. Units of British East African Masai from the east and Tanganyikan Masai from the south had several pitched battles in makeshift uniforms. no one remembered the outcome. "
This book reminds me of the movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy!
If you haven't seen it, and if the economic down turn or Israel are depressing you, watch it! It'll make you laugh your heart out (at our civilization)!


Sojourner said...

thought those were your initials?
I am just a silent reader... so for the record, great to see you too :)

nunya said...

Looks like fun :)

nunya said...

I remember watching his documentary "Stress: Portrait of a Killer." on PBS.

Naj said...

He is great!

But look at what his science has turned into in the hands of psychopathic psychologists (from Germany!)

You have to see how the experimenters boast about "how they got X or Y participant STRESSED" and how they brainstorm to develop the next "fake" stressor then their teeth shine through their ugly smirks ... Eeuuuh!

I was forced to apply this to an old man, and I was sick and sobbing for the next two days ... he was sweating, he was ashamed, he was in pain ... and the experiment was going on in the name of fucking science ... and with the excuse of "we will debrief them after" ... but no one seemed to question the means ... well I did, and I got kicked out for being insubordinate ... another one of those things Germans cannot tolerate!

Which reminds me, have you read the book "Hitler's Scientists"?

Arun said...

Dr Sapolsky has created a masterpiece with this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Check out my review of the book.