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Cargo Cult - Essay Example

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Cargo Cults Your Full Name Your “A” Number The Name & Number of the Course The Name of your Instructor (The Date the Paper is Submitted) December 7th, 2013 Cargo Cults Cargo cults are a kind of a Melanesian revitalization movement that were created as a consequence of the locals coming in contact with the colonial societies, especially those of Australia…
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Cargo Cult

Even though cargo cults continue to be discovered, they ceased to exist as a phenomena “as soon as anthropologists figured out how to explain” it (Dalton 2000:345), however, they can be seen as a successful (in certain aspects) revitalization movement for the indigenous population, who often needed to vent out their frustration with the new way of life under the colonizers. Cargo cults, as the specific millenarian movements in the Melanesian region are called, were not studied very closely before the twentieth century; after F. E. Williams published The Vailala Madness and the Destruction of Native Ceremonies in the Gulf District in 1923, interest as well as publication on them have increased (Long 1974:403). Usually, a cargo cult is formed when some member of the tribe has a dream (a myth-dream) whereby the rest of the tribe is instructed to follow certain orders, which can include touching things or ritualistic destruction objects, or not going to their garden to work, or dance around open altars (Stephen 1997:1) or even baptism and insistence on giving up local culture in favor of the European (Long 1974:410); what is more, as Worsley notes, there is also the “cultivation of large gardens and the building of stores, sheds, jetties and landing-grounds for the reception of good which will never come” (Dalton 2000:358). According to the native rituals and social norms of the Melanesians, anyone who could give a lot of material gifts to others was automatically someone to be respected and looked up to. With the arrival of colonials, who brought with them many material products, the natives saw their material wealth and automatically assumed that the colonizers were respectable people. As, on the converse side, the person who could take gifts but could not give anything comparable in return was frowned upon according to the same norms, therefore, the Melanesian, based on their own cultural norms, lost respect in their own eyes. The products that the colonials brought with them were things that the natives wanted, but which the natives, in their lack of exposure to technology, had no idea how to produce even though they had been seeing them delivered to piers and landing strips. Certain cargo cults were formed, whereby certain mythological stories were exchanged to make sense of just why nothing that arrived was for them but for the colonizers. As per this explanation, the ancestors of the natives were busy making things for their descendants, both within the volcanoes that the locals worshipped, and living amongst the lands of the colonizers, disguised as white men. These ancestors were sending all the cargo that they had accumulated and manufactured to the locals, however, the white colonizers, entrusted with the transport of the cargo, were robbing the natives by changing the labels of the cargo to steal it and claim it as their own (Long 1974: 409). It can be argued that the irrational rituals were created in a bid to get the wealth of the colonials (Lindstorm 2000:296). Clearly, this shows a sense of resentment on the part of the natives who felt not only threatened by the colonization but also used and abused. As Burridge puts it, the natives have their own rituals and ways for proving “their integrity as men. But faced with a white man, the moment passes them by. They feel themselves children of sin” ... Read More
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