Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
About this deal
His perplexing objective was “to convince happy, satisfied people that they are lost and need Jesus as their personal savior.
The Piraha have frequent contact with neighboring tribes and Brazilians, traders, anthropologists, linguists on a regular basis, yet they are isolationists and somehow seem to avoid being contaminated by any hint of consumerism, ambition or outside culture in any sense.In his book he states although the Pirahas perceive color they do not have simple words for it like we are used to.
To speak the language well he must understand the culture and context for the Piraha, and there is no reason they would eat a salad. It creeps me out when over-educated/churched white people go to live in jungles with non-white/non-educated/underprivileged people to "learn" their way and then promote their way of life as some kind of idyllic vision. Whilst I understand the sentiment, frankly, I would rather that others sent out with that as their missionary mindset, should rethink not only what, but why they are doing what they are doing. The fact that Everett went there to convert the Pirahã to Christianity but ended up losing his own faith was an impressive plot twist. They thought that the Pirahãs were lazy and stupid, because they had zero interest in pursuing wealth, or plundering their ecosystem.The fact is that every phenomena has a multitude of explanations, and it's incredibly problematic that Everett argues from a position of experiential superiority (I lived with them, I know them, I am them, etc. I am not criticizing the work he has done or the conclusions he has come to professionally, but just felt this book was too shallow a document to satisfy my thirst for deeper knowledge of the Pirahã culture or language.
Aggression is observed from time to time, from mild to severe (Keren witnessed a gang rape of a young unmarried girl by most of the village men). It took him YEARS to realise that the reason behind was that poor Brazilian people keep dying of all sorts of diseases and the world doesn't stop turning, so Brazilian people didn't understand why it should stop turning because of an American being sick. My dwelling was flanked by two smaller Pirahã huts of similar construction, where lived Xahoábisi, Kóhoibiíihíai, and their families.
In another blog about this book I found an interesting comment that, “linguistics is populated by a deeply factionalized group of scholars who tend to dismiss their opponents as frauds.
Everett is initially shocked at how indifferent the Pirahas seem when his wife and daughter are dangerously ill, shouting after him to bring supplies when he sets off on a nightmare trip to find medical help. Everett gives the example that the Pirahas view dreams as indistinguishable from waking life, because both are things they see and therefore are to be treated in the same way.Kevin, though you might not be interested in the whole book, I highly recommend the New Yorker article I linked to above. He never discusses nor seems concerned about the possible traumatic effects such fear and threat of violence might evoke in the women and children.