Monday, December 14, 2009

Meet the Natives

Last night I watched a few episodes of the Travel Channel's "Meet the Natives". This is a reality show I can get in to! I found it to be very entertaining and I think we could learn a lot from these natives.

The show is about 5 natives from the south pacific island of Tanna who come to America to spread their message of peace & happiness. As you can see in the picture, these guys are "deep country" natives -- no electricity, no running water, I'm not sure if they even have a written language! Anyway, these native ambassadors stay with a host family in 5 different cities for a week each. Talk about a culture shock! The first episode takes the men to Montana where they experience the life of a "cowboy."

It's interesting to see how these natives react to the ways of a western cattle ranch. (Keep in mind that these guys come from a hunter and gatherer society on an island that is 12 miles wide.) After they get over the vastness of this Montana operation and are explained that it is because of a business as to why these people own 5000 cows, they are quick to ask why the cows are being fed "dead grass". One of the elders tells a ranch hand that the cow will taste better if it is fed grass, and that grass contains vital nutrients which the cow will die without. I suspect these beef herders know this already -- I have no doubt they have heard the terms "free range" and "grass fed." Whether or not they know about the health hazards that the cows face when they are fed "dead food" doesn't matter, because they have antibiotics that they give to the cows regardless if they need it or not. And this also concerns the natives. Sam, the tribes medicine man, asks about the chemical injections that the cows receive and does not hesitate to express his worry that the chemicals will ruin his body if he eats the cow.

This is what I'm talking about when I say we could learn from these guys. It's amazing that they intuitively know these things. How far have we come from this kind of natural knowledge?

In another episode the tribesmen are in Illinois helping to cook Thanksgiving dinner. They are in awe at the size of the turkey -- its the biggest they have ever seen -- that's because the birds on their island are not grown in cages, force fed and given growth inducing hormones. It's all good until their host puts the turkey in a plastic cooking bag. The chief tells her of his concern of the plastic melting and making him sick, but she assures him that it is a special plastic that will not melt. Admittedly, I know nothing about this practice (or cooking turkeys for that matter) but I do know that everything has a melting point and that plastic doesn't need to physically melt to give off carcinogenic properties. Apparently the chief knows this as well. He also knows that the canned sweet potatoes they are serving are a "lifeless food" as he tells his compadre, "we don't know if it has been in the can for a month or for a year."

Fast forward to Orange County California and the natives are immersed in a highly artificial environment. From the landscape to the people, there's a lot of fakes. Nothing personal about the host family, they seem to be genuinely good people, who are genuinely overly concerned about the way they look. Personal grooming is one thing, and the natives seem to enjoy the mud bathes and the pedicures, but when Kuai is asked if he would like to look 10 years younger during his facial, he says, "No, I would like to live longer." And that captures the way they think.

The OC episode concludes with what seems to be the most foreign concept for the natives -- a botox party. The medicine man has many questions for the doctor who comes to smooth out the faces. Did you know botox was a diluted form of e coli? I didn't. Anyway, it was funny to hear the natives talk amongst themselves as the facial injections took place.

"She takes this youth medicine to smooth her face."

"But what about her inside? Does it reverse her life there?"

The men cover their eyes in disbelieve and misunderstanding. I can't say that I feel any differently. The chief draws a useful analogy saying, "The sun will set. You cannot change it. Your blood will know what time it is."

In many ways I envy these men. They are knowledgeable about the bare necessities of life and know little about frivolous luxuries that they can do without. They are not burdened with a media driven public perception, the spoils of vanity or the idea of keeping up with the Jones'. Their food is fresh, clean and full of life. Their culture does not revolve around the root of all evil.

Of course there is no way would I trade my life in America for the life that these guys lead on the island. But I don't need to live in the stone age to take a lesson from the natives. The take home message is this: we should eat and exercise in a manner that closely resembles that of primitive man. This is how we prospered physically for thousands of years and nothing has changed.

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