‘Come in and meet our Gods,
This is not your day.’
North Sentinel Island is a place most people never heard of before this week. I recall finding out about it about ten years ago when I saw an article and some photos about a helicopter being driven away by the impressively long range arrows of the inhabitants (known by us, if surely not themselves, as the Sentinelese). I had forgotten about it for quite some time until I was reminded this week of the place because of the death of missionary John Allen Chau.
One thing that makes me overjoyed is that the overall reaction of people, if the internet is any judge, is one of overwhelming hostility to this man and his mission. Had this story came to news prominence in, say, 2004 or about, no doubt reactions would be split 50/50 in the American media as we were still in a mindless post 9/11 fervor where rallying around the flag also meant rallying around the cross for many. And no doubt the people who recognized that such a person would deserve their death would have still treaded on eggshells disproportionately. This was, after all, the time of the Bush administration- evangelical alliance’s height before a countless barrage of sex scandals and their total inability to not make asses of themselves caused the growing brand of theologically inclined social reactionaries to start crawling back under the rock from whence they had first emerged in the 80s.
But not today. John Allen Chau is clearly and rightly seen by most people as anywhere from dangerously deranged to downright evil. His attempt to contact a tribe that has kept the outside world at an arms length for tens of thousands of years was a monstrous breach of any sense of remotely logical ethics, if for no reason than the very real danger a man of globalized world’s bodily pathogens coming into contact with an isolated people who are likely to have very few immunities to anything he might be carrying. To put it succinctly, he very well could have committed unintentional genocide of an entire culture just so that he could spread his religion. A culture, by the way, that no one off of the island can even communicate with.
This is the first and obvious take away from this situation. Sure, the Indian government wants to protect people from the tribe, who have clearly taken an isolationist stance since they were first invaded by a small British exploration force in the Victorian era…but they also want to protect the community from literal biological death. It has happened enough (and often at the hands of missionaries themselves) in human history that this should be a no-brainer. While it is clearly irregular for a group of humans to still be so isolated, its uniqueness also argues in favor of protecting them. They might survive in situations were many of the rest of us would not. And to maintain constant habitation of one place for so long clearly implies they want for little and are clearly doing something right. I am no romantic primitivist, I know far too much of history for that, but what works works in each ecological niche. And part of appreciating human diversity is appreciating that individuals and groups alike also have the right to opt out-even if in an ideal world all children of said groups can also choose to opt-in, if they so desire.
But this is where I stop giving you the typical arguments you can find anywhere, and were I go into territory many commentators won’t. This is where I get mean. Because Chau was not a misguided but good hearted man, or even just a criminally negligent man (though he certainly was that too), but a bad man. The kind of man we should discourage from even showing their faces in a remotely self-respecting society, much less other societies.
Even if it were not for the obvious biohazards of the situation, I would still laugh and cheer and the death of John Allen Chau and people like him. Not only do I believe that the Sentinelese acted in self defense, I also believe that they did the world itself a favor. Be it tribal, rural, or urban, human society has had enough Chau’s in the past two thousand years. Such people are the lowest level of scum to be found on this planet. If you doubt me you need only be aware that according to the diary his own family released that he wrote, he referred to North Sentinel Island, possibly the most stable and by some metrics successful society on Earth still around today, as ‘Satan’s Last Stronghold.’ Yup. Swell guy.
Christianity and Islam, those two incestuous brothers of trying to take a Jewish ethno-cult and turn it into a universal global religion, are by far the biggest two ideological scourges on this planet. Both past and present. The reason they are so uniformly prone to aggressive expansion, thought policing, and being unable to rest while The Pagan Other still lurks ominously in their fever dreams is because they have only one absolute god, who they also maintain is the god of everyone. And the only way to get closer to said god, of course, is to kowtow to their theologians who have only the correct interpretations. In its most diseases sects they can also stress that pure belief, rather than community or being useful to society, is the most noble of goals.
This, which could be argued is the true invention of virtue signaling as ideology, has to have been the worst idea any human has yet had. It has delivered no measurable or material positives while also giving many negatives, especially in regards to the destruction or near destruction of numerous cultures of people and artwork. Including literally all of the Americas. Pagan gods could be ruthless, but it was an honest ruthlessness that didn’t pretend also to be your Very Concerned and Loving David Koresh like Father. Gods across the polytheistic world were adopted in each other pantheons or merged together all the time. People of various personality and professional persuasions had their own gods and cults far better suited to their interests of choice than one bland, homogenizing, and yes dare I say, neoliberal, omnigod who was to be all things to everyone at once. Despite the many artistic accomplishments of Christian and Muslim artists once the initial fires of fanatic faith burned out leaving the craving for culture in its wake, these still remained at periodic risk due to revivalist and reformist movements who often re-awakened the latent puritanism of the original dark days of the faith. From Calvinism in the 17th Century to Wahhabiism in the 18th Century and ISIS today, all of us who live within majority Abrahamic societies must live in fear of the worst messianic instincts of our foolish fellow citizens who follow such ideologies rising up in periodic resurgences of insanity. All of us who deviate from their norm in thought, sexuality, or creed must always stand on guard to protect the precious innovation that is secularism simply because such people exist.
But lest I go over previous treated ground on a sad cultural legacy of monotheism and fanaticism and how it still lives with us today, I want to specifically mention the sheer entitlement of the modern American Christian missionary and why they, as a class, are never to be mourned when they die doing such ridiculous cultural invasions as that of Chau on North Sentinel Island.
While I started this essay with an expression of happiness at the overall attitude toward this fool’s death exhibited by the public, there are, of course, dissenters. Almost all of whom are evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in America and (probably also) Western Africa and enclaves in Latin America. I’m not going to drive up any of the traffic of these fool websites and commentators, but I can sum up what I have found.
There is a near universal consensus by such types that they are a persecuted people. They point to people being mean about their fellow traveler online and how the Indian government will not prosecute (someone even called the police for this ‘murder’-the American police no less-these people are beyond parody). They try to draw a connection between the Modi government of India and this totally excluded and autonomous island. But lets be real, a fundamental aspect of Christianity has been and probably will always be crying ‘persecution!’ They do it when they are the majority community who sets all the standards, they do it when they are the *only* people around and then subdivide into numerous warring sects for they apparently cannot even exist without sectarian strife. They do it when someone they are oppressing merely complains about their being oppressed, they do it when they see something they disagree with, and they do it when people don’t buy shitty chicken sandwiches from a chain restaurant. Their societies have enslaved and exterminated too many to tell and yet the deaths of those at the hands of societies that resist is somehow an attack on all of them and a great tragedy. And naturally, if you point this out they say ‘not all Christians!’ For a people so eager to generalize all of the planet that exists outside of their yoke, they are remarkably adamant that you never generalize them.
Foolish ‘secular humanist’ types can also follow this trope by lamenting the loss of life, as if pacifism ever got anyone anywhere. But a humanist is just a secular Christian when it comes to values so the point still stands. History is not a teleology with a heroic endgame or moral platitude that triumphs, its a mass of cycles of chaos and circumstances alone determines who stands and falls. But on those rare moments when a choice can be made…just shoot the fucking missionary.
When we see such events as Chau’s misguided adventure and death we should not hesitate to be as mean about it as possible. We should celebrate such victories as many of us would be better off had our societies resisted the missionary as well. He had it coming. That empty-headed smile he shows in his selfies is a testament to the bland mediocrities who often crawl through this planet with designs of ‘saving’ the world from divergent thought. He is the photogenic Christian version of those smiling jihadist selfies of those wreaking devastation on the culture and people of the Iraqi/Syrian border but bourgeois and socially acceptable. The policies of the 17th Century Tokugawa Shogunate and 19th Century Kingdom of Madagascar to remove the Christian population as harbingers of a coming colonialism and as a matter of national security were not misguided, but correct. Religious freedom can only work under either polytheism or secularism, which means the freedoms of those who don’t believe in freedom must be curtailed. Knowing this its about time to make the profession of missionary as extinct as that of court eunuch, foot binder, or witch hunter.
For old but cool footage of both brief trade and then conflict with the Sentenelese, see:
For a Finnish musical take on this topic from the correct perspective which I quoted at the top, see: