Updated: Oct 16
I spent 16 years in Marine Corps and Paramilitary Special Operations and I spent 16 years as the child of missionaries in Indonesia. Want to know which one requires more courage? It’s a wash. I don’t know a single Navy SEAL who would travel, at night, with no gun, or weapon of any kind except a machete, in a small, shitty, leaking hand hewn wooden boat with a 15 horse motor on it, in the dead of night, 500 miles deep in jungle, with only a native tribal person in a loin cloth with a shitty flashlight to call out logs and rocks and sandbars, no one to call to pick you up if you get into trouble, no radio to call them even if you did, five hours up a river with only the gnarliest classes of rapids, only an extra prop and afew extra pins for it for when you fuck it all up on the rocks and maybe an extra couple of spark plugs and a wrench in case the boat flips, with fucking snakes as fat as FIATs everywhere as well as every other creature in the jungle who’d love to score a human kill out to get you, in order to bullshit with abunch of people who’ve never seen a white person before and think you’re an evil spirit and believe that you haven’t reached manhood if you haven’t taken at least one human head, so you can ask them if you can just fucking set up shop in their shitty village for afew years. Like I said… it’s a wash.
My dad was more wild Indian Fighter than anything, I thought. It just seemed like that’s what he’d have been doing if he had been born in another time. He and the missionary pilot used to fly around over the jungle in the little Piper Super Cub, hours by air away from any kind of civilization. They would look for smoke coming up from the jungle below. If and when they spotted smoke, they would mark it on a map, then spend weeks hiking through Sulawesi’s mountains and triple canopy rain forest to see if they could make contact with the people groups who’s smoke they had spotted from the air. That’s why we were in Bangketa. They had made initial contact with a tribe in the mountains and were attempting to follow up with them in the hopes of eventually being allowed to live with them in the jungle.
These people were as primitive as time. They had only occasionally met anyone from the coast to trade rattan and rubber for leaf springs to make machetes and spear heads, wire and bicycle inner tubes for their spear guns, salt, and other necessities of war and life. Their whole world since the beginning of the earth had been only them and the jungle with the few other equally primitive tribes with whom they constantly wared. They called themselves the people of Bahasa Madi: the people of the language of “NO”. They were all about five feet tall or less, each tribe’s trappings were unique, but all wore only a loin cloth, a small pouch for the betel nut they chewed and the tobacco they smoked, and always a razor-sharp machete, it’s handle adorned with a plume of human hair from the heads they had taken, each in an ornately carved scabbard tied with whicker weaved rope around their waist. Leather would rot in the jungle. Two bamboo tubes about a foot long tied together and filled with blow-gun darts. The poison for the darts there, ready, in the recess of a bamboo lid in the form of a dark tar-like substance, and a pitch made of sap in the other lid to secure the light hand-hewn cones to the back end of their darts which caught the sharp burst of breath and stabilized the dart on its deadly perfect path. The blowguns were eight to nine feet long and their spears twelve or more. Some carried short daggers with L-shaped handles and blades treated with poison, the blades intentionally rusted so that the poison intermingled with the powdery rust. They lived in houses that were at sometimes twenty to thirty feet above the ground to keep enemies within their own or other tribes from spearing them through the floor as they slept. Constant wars and Baku bunuh – payback murders. Often just an old woman or young child caught alone carrying water from the river. It didn’t matter. As long as someone from the other tribe’s head was taken.
They did have medicine. From the Dūkūng - the witchdoctor who communed with the demons and ancestors which dominated their daily lives through taboos, curses, and the like. Some of it was very real. My dad once saw a Dūkūng moving a cow skull back and forth across the ground with gestures of his hand from a distance of over thirty feet. There were no strings or mirrors. Others claimed the ability to shape-shift. The taboos were crushing. In some tribes, for instance, it was taboo to cut the grains of rice from the stalk unless done from directly behind it. Any discovered trespass would be punished severely, sometimes by death, lest the tribe bear the ever-present wrath of the spirits they worshiped. The animistic spirits of the trees and mountains and rocks. I saw a look in their eyes I will never forget.
The next time you’re tempted to think that those people are happy the way that they are living. Think about this. I’m gonna call you out here, but don’t take offense, just think about it… Our entire race. All of humanity, including your very self, are under that ever-present throbbing burden to ease the pain. Whatever pain there is. It is humanity’s greatest obsession. And we do it. We do it every day. We are constantly making things easier for ourselves, and thus less painful. We have developed medicines and accomplished great feats of science and innovation in the pursuit of this cause. A parent wants for their children to feel less pain and have a better life than they. We do it. It’s a part of cultural evolution. The evolution of humanity.
Those people are us thousands of years ago. They are evolving as well. They aren’t making duller knifes and spears. They aren’t going backwards. Their culture is evolving as well. We used to be there. Ironically, the reason they have been trapped there is not because of the desolation of their environment. The reason they have been trapped in that state is because of the abundance of thereof. You must be astute and creative, but there is little need to innovate to survive. They are simply continuing what they have always done, but better. They have the food and water that they need, they can make shelter, and the climate is not so intemperate as to make survivability impossible. They are trapped in Eden.
And all the pain that humanity used to feel, all that we have since sluffed off, at the point of our most acute bondage to it, some would wish to keep on them. All that we have done to ease our pain we wish to keep from them because we have some damn fool notion that they are happy that way. What the fuck is that? That’s un-thought-out-worldview-horse-shit. Imagine camping for your whole life in the shit-ass jungle with no REI stuff and no medicine, no written language, no electricity, no hope for shit, just scared. Scared of everything, because everything is trying to kill you, including your belief system. It fucking sucks. Think about it. Don’t not think.
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022