The real lesson of Rapa Nui

So…. I just watched a documentary on Easter Island… and I want to grab its makers and shake them, vigorously. Less of that for the moment:

The Easter Islanders (as, of course, they do not call themselves) were getting on with life and carving their moai and adapting to the (admittedly) rapidly changing ecology of their wee island (because… well because they weren’t complete dimwits and knew a trendline when they saw one, thank you very much)… and then along came a European Explorer. The End.

Not, oh – they all killed themselves or, oh they were overran by rats and lacked a Pied Piper mythos, or oh they ran out of trees and lost all their topsoil and starved… or even oh, the moai were really important and the whole society revolved around constructing them at all costs. No. Just, ‘along came a European explorer; the end’.

Let me plot the dots again for you: 1) eke-ing out what’s left of an existence on the island 2) contact with European explorer 3) the end. I’m not going to join the dots for you, but here’s more:

  • With the island being mapped now, more explorers can only arrive, can’t they? And that they do.
  • Don’t you know there’s quite the demand for slaves uhm… workers all the way over there in Peru, and no-one’s exactly volunteering, so… uhm… (scuffles, bundled onto waiting slave ships)…
  • Meanwhile, here’s some catholic priests, for all the trouble.
  • Oh and have some smallpox too. It’s all the rage these days – wouldn’t want you to miss out.
  • Meet random French dude who now owns pretty much all the island. He’ll be dropping off his trizillion Aussie sheep here cos you know – you have all this space. (Need we mention that the sheep thrived, timesmultiplicatified greatly, and grazed away what little vegetation there was left? I didn’t think so).
  • At this point Chile just steps in and ostensibly puts the little volcanic knoll out of its misery by annexing it or whatever and imprisoning the handful of islanders left (wha..? I still don’t get that part). Now all the descendants of Rapa Nui actually speak Spanish (which, if the Chile that took over is the Chile we have today, makes this a spectacularly meta case of colonisation. I imagine indigenous Chileans rolling their eyes among themselves and going, ‘tsk. figures’.)
  • Eventually, people (Europeans again, funnily enough)… start revisiting the place after it’s been completely flushed down the dunny, to begin some finally-useful anthropological and archaeological forays into the culture, in spite of which the final insult (that the islanders basically shot themselves in the foot ecologically speaking and killed themselves off, all by themselves) gains mythical proportions in the media.

In the documentary the proffered explanation for the fallen moai (which gazed inwards, not proudly out to sea in LOTR-esque overtones of self-important majesty – and, it has to be said, in awareness that one ought to be bracing against unforseen alien elements)… the proffered explanation for the fallen moai seems both plausible and poignant: they did not fall. Their faces may well have been lowered to the ground – perhaps so that they could no longer witness what had become of the people and the land.

The same documentary, AFTER LAYING ALL THIS OUT, concludes glibly: what we’re supposed to learn from all this is that the fragile ecology of Easter Island is a reminder of the larger fragility of our relationship with the Earth’s environm— ##NEEDLE-SCREECH###

Uh, What?! Gtfo!

The lesson here is that you don’t ever let someone else find you first… caught with your panties round your ankles because you thought you had the bathroom all to yourself. The lesson isn’t about ecological responsibility or even that Colonists just take, take, take. The lesson here is that you don’t want to be happed upon, ever.

Poor Rapa Nui. Any ass-saving parachutes they may have been trying to release, mid-descent, was always going to get tangled up in the Imperialist/Colonialist dragnet of fuckery.

***
Image cred: http://chrono-strife.deviantart.com/art/Moai-280618507

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *