Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Contact New Guinea

From “First Contact” by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson, Published 1987 by Viking Penguin Inc.:

“Certain extraordinary events remain engraved forever on the conscious memory. In the highland valleys of Papua New Guinea, old men and women recollect with utter clarity the very day, the very hour, what they were doing, where they were.”

1932 in Papua New Guinea provided a First Contact event that may be one of the last, on a large scale, that we will ever see here on Earth. Australian gold prospectors ventured into the interior of the country and found hundreds of thousands of natives who had never seen people of European descent. Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson traveled to the area in the 1980’s to interview highlanders who experienced the shock and awe of First Contact personally.

“I saw them with my own eyes when they first came,” says Kirupano Eza’e,”and I’ve not forgotten it. We were living in our old village then…I was with my father when we first saw them.”

What makes the accounts so remarkable are the pictures the prospectors took during the initial encounters. You can see the surprise on the faces of the highlanders. They thought they were seeing relatives brought back from the dead.

It does not take much imagination to put ourselves in the place of the New Guinea highlanders. If an alien civilization were to present itself to us this very day, I would imagine the looks on our faces would be quite similar. Sure, we’ve talked about it for years. Actually having it happen is another matter. There are a million reasons to suggest that we will never experience such an alien encounter. However, there is much we can learn from Papua New Guinea if it does.

The pre-technological civilization found by those prospectors existed due to geographic and societal anomalies. The highlanders lived in many small tribes and warred constantly with each other. This made travel dangerous and difficult as Connolly and Anderson describe it in their book. Combined with a range of mountains on either side of the valleys isolation became an almost concrete construction, unchanged for thousands of years.

We are not a pre-technological civilization. We have science to help us reason and explore. We have the ability to try and look beyond our solar system and out into the universe beyond. It is unlikely we would react exactly as the highlanders did in 1932. However the impact on our society could be as dramatic. Suddenly we could find ourselves so technologically deficient as to change our very self-awareness. The entire human race would take a massive hit to the collective ego. We are no longer supreme rulers of the universe. So who are we?

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