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Adele Elliott: Lost and found


Adele Elliott



I am fascinated by the story of an isolated tribe of Amazon Indians recently discovered in Peru. Mixed with the Super Bowl hype and incessant celebrity blather was a snippet of news about the Mashco-Piro Indians. 


Unknown less than a year ago, these Indians have begun making photo-op appearances on the banks of a tropical forest river. They were probably forced from of their jungle home, Beatriz Huerta, by the intrusion of loggers, and low-flying aircraft from nearby natural gas and oil explorations. 


Interesting as this story is, it is not necessarily a good thing for the Mashco-Piro, or those who interact with them. They have launched bow and arrow attacks on a forest ranger, who lived, and on a local Matsiguenka Indian, Nicolas "Shaco" Flores, who died from his injury. 


Flores could communicate with the Mashco-Piro because he spoke two related dialects. He also gave them machetes and cooking pots. The loss of Flores makes reaching any understanding with the Mashco-Piro very complicated. He was the only person who could actually talk to them. Now that he's dead that is impossible. 


In a world so over-connected by mass media, the Internet, and split-second global communication, I find myself envious of the Mashco-Piro. A bit more privacy would be desirable. 


I am a bothered that my computer's home page knows every subject that I have researched. It spits back links to topics that I lost interest in weeks ago. Related web sites pop up as ads on the games to which I am addicted. Big Brother is watching, and his office is on Madison Avenue. 


It is bad enough that I am bombarded by drivel about Kim Kardashian's lighter hair color, or Heidi's split from Seal. Those things mean nothing. But, the personal info that is kept on me is quite scary. Who needs the CIA, when we have computer cookies? 


Even worse, is that they don't always get it right. I once tried to find information on feng shui and was offered nude photos of Elizabeth Shue. OK, so I cannot spell. But, the point is that I may now have a record somewhere out in the Ethernet saying that I am interested in movie star porn. 


We are paying too great a price for information that is at best foolishness, and even more horrible, so intrusive as to be frightening. Personal privacy is irrevocably destroyed. Is this world of minute scrutiny that we created worth such loss? 


Certainly, some technology is great. Caller ID and spell-check are my favorites. I suppose an argument can be made that knowing who is on the phone before you answer may fall into the category of invasive, as well. However, those who are calling are intruding on my time. This is not quite the same thing as Internet espionage. 


I know we will never return to the 1950s, or even the 1970s. But I do wish we could reclaim some civility, the kind of courtesy that admonishes us to mind our own business. It all starts innocently enough with machetes and cooking pots. But how far will interference escalate? I expect to see the Mashco-Piro reality show all too soon. 


This tribe is one of about 15 "uncontacted" ethnic groups in Peru. Together they are estimated to number between 12,000 and 15,000 people living in jungles east of the Andes. (I sometimes wish I could join them.) At the very least, "modern" man should just leave them alone and unmolested. I would never use a bow and arrow on anyone. It is not difficult, however, to understand why that sort of protection occasionally comes in handy.


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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