Sunday, June 10, 2007

Old, Sad Story

In today's Washington Post, Stephanie McCrummen offers a dirge for the Hadzabe, believed one of the oldest people on the planet and certainly among the last of the hunter/gatherers. By some estimates, Hadza culture goes back more than 50,000 years in the eastern Rift Valley in northern Tanzania, around a seasonally dry salt lake, Eyasi. They number maybe 1,500--enough to hold onto a large chunk of their ancestral foraging grounds, marginal though they may be for agriculture or grazing and thus not highly desirable to others--until now. Ironically, perhaps, the 1,000 to 1,500 Hadza, who seem to have embraced societal changes, even the great disruptions of the past century, cautiously, if at all, and have received an assist from ecotourists out to see a Stone Age tribe, as well as from anthropologists eager for the same, are now threatened by a state that has embraced the imperial tourism of greed. McCrummen reports that the Tanzanian government has leased 2,500 square miles of the valley to Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd., a front for the royal family of the United Arab Emirartes, which wanted its own private hunting preserve, so its spoiled members can kill for pleasure game the Hadza, as they are also known, kill for food.

Tanzanian Government official, Philip Marmo, told McCrummen that the Hadza are "backwards"and "they would benefit from the school, roads and other projects the UAE company has offered as compensation." Who is "backwards"--the Hadza whose culture is old beyond reckoning--a sure sign of vitality, or the morons in the Tanzania government who bargained away the Hadza's traditional hunting and foraging territory thereby condemning their traditional way of life to extinction. Of the people whose money is behind this destruction, I can say only that they prove again that no one should be permitted to inherit wealth or privilege or rank or station.

Surely there should be places in the world for the Hadza and other foragers--indeed for nomads and other non-assimilated people--to live as they choose. There should be many things in this world that nonetheless don't exist.

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