I never subscribed to the myth of the noble savage. Ever since I came across Rosseau’s idea of the inherent goodness of man in the wild…. I found it laughable.
And here, of course, my suspicions were confirmed. Those suspicions being that ‘people are people.’ Attributing mysticism to their humanity because of an underdog ‘natural’ status is condescending. All that west coast Birkenstock bric a brac seemed a touch racist. ‘Why can’t an Indian be an asshole?’
But these boys weren’t assholes. They did have a legitimate reason to kill us. Nothing wrong with whacking the baddies. I’m a military man after all so murder is in my toolkit. Argue all you want but at some point, killing is a right.Ugly? This fact? Perhaps, but defecation is also a right. We shit. We kill.
We were potential vectors for disease. And while this tribe may not have understood the finer points of germ theory they weren’t stupid. They understood that every time ‘brancos’ (white folk) showed up death and disease often followed.
Hence all the trips to various villages that Cook and Lobo had recently taken. They were on a diplomatic mission to ply various chiefs with gifts and assure them that we weren’t walking infections. This would pave the way for a smoother passage then if we just strode in like we owned the place.
And Brancos had been doing precisely that for far too long. I am no bleeding heart and I take a healthy satisfaction in my northern heritage but there’s much to lament about the course of history. I can’t recall the name of the prospector but one story, in particular, turned my stomach.
Cook recounted how nearly a century or maybe it was more…there was a group of brigands chasing dreams of gold in the wood. There is gold in the Amazon but there are also Indians. And this particular band took great joy in giddy slaughter. Pregnant women were disemboweled, flayed men hung from trees, and all this was considered good.
More recently clashes between natives and police had produced less gruesome deaths. But deaths they remained. There were yet still prospectors boasting of slain Indians. In 2017 an investigation was launched based on these boasts. Boasts of boasters who could well be the cause of the deaths of 10 natives. Ten dead men do not strike a NATO boy as even the merest marginalia. But, these ten marked the death of a fifth of a nation.
It was small wonder then – Fabre’s news of the visitations deadly intent. The Amazon was home to the largest number of uncontacted tribes and while Cook was good, no one was quite good enough…
All these thoughts I read in the reflection of my face. The dark glass of a government Jeep was transporting us back to Cuiaba.
We were in trouble. The incident with the flares and the helicopter may have saved us but it was certainly unpopular with local officials.
Cook paused his hectic Portuguese exchange with the officer driving and turned to me.