300,000 Dead West Papuans: A Fair Price For Our Golems?

300,000 Dead West Papuans: A Fair Price For Our Golems? Australia, Blog, Czech Republic, Europe, History, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philosophy, PNG, Poetry, Poland, The Struggle, UK, West Papua
May 29, 2012

originally posted on Blak and Black.

Resurrecting The Gadigal Atlantis…

The human cost of progress is not only born by the ghosts and memories of a Gadigal Atlantis, but born to this day by the untold sufferings of countless indigenous people worldwide, people who are forced to witness the destruction of their traditional lands and culture, in the name of progress.

Sydney: city of mystery, city of marvels

Sydney: its foreshores once teeming with Gadigal; now a captive city pregnant with memories, enveloped by memories of a Gadigal Atlantis.

The traditional Gadigal are all but gone, however their presence remains. Though brutally murdered, their legend survives. By telling their tale, we resurrect their Atlantis. By reviving their legends, we awaken their spirits. Their souls haunt the city still. Their presence pervades the avenues and alleyways, for there they tread in defiance of the desecration of their land. Though dead for generations, Sydney is still their Dreaming.

Kabbalah & The Golem…

While rummaging through some old books today I came across an old tattered copy of the Kabbalah, given to me by an early mentor Mr Geoff Eismann.

On opening the front cover I was reacquainted with the aforementioned words I wrote many, many years ago as I was trying to come to terms with the Jewish mystical tract Sefer Yezirah. In the full blossom of my youthful arrogance, I had asked an elderly neighbour, a Holocaust survivor, if he could teach me about the Kabbalah. Far from fobbing me off, as I had expected, he introduced me to Mr Eismann who had more than a passing acquaintance with Jewish mysticism.

While walking along the beach at Kirra with Mr Eismann one evening discussing Solomon Ibn Gabirol, we happened upon an elderly Aboriginal couple walking in the opposite direction. As they passed us, Mr Eismann turned to me saying:

White people will never possess this land in the same way that the Aborigines have for millennia. Just look into their faces, they are part of the very fabric of the land itself.

He was right, to most so called civilized people, the land is nothing more than a commodity, to be exploited and ultimately discarded in the name of Western ‘progress’ and greed.

I digress, but my digression has a purpose. The legend of Solomon Ibn Gabirol while obviously not part of Aboriginal culture contains within in it a poignant reminder for all humanity.

According to the Talmud, the third-century Babylonian sage Rava created an artificial man, a golem, by magic. Medieval legends record that a female golem was created by the poet-philosopher Solomon Ibn Gabirol. A victim of a communicable skin disease, Ibn Gabirol had to live in complete isolation. He decided to create a female golem to serve his domestic needs. When he was denounced to the authorities for having created a woman for lewd purposes, he restored her to the elements from which she had been created.

In medieval Kabbalistic literature the golem is widely discussed.

Creation of a golem was considered the mark of an adept kabbalist. Though a creature himself, man was presumed to have magical abilities with which to create artificial life through esoteric rituals based upon the Sefer Yezirah, or by invoking secret names and incantations.

By penetrating the mystery of creation, by becoming himself a creator, the human being, the kabbalists believed, experiences the mystical rapture of oneness with the Creator. The creative experience thus becomes a conduit to mystical ecstasy.

In the 17th century there was a widespread tradition that [Polish] Rabbi Elijah of Chelm had created an automation by means of the Sefer Yezirah. By the 18th century this tradition had been transferred to the more prestigious Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague.

According to various versions of the golem legend Rabbi Loew created a huge, powerful, but not quite human creature to be his servant at home, or according to others to protect the Jews of Prague from physical harm; yet others attribute Rabbi Loew’s creation as assisting him in countering accusations of ritual murder made against the Jews of Prague. It was only when the golem’s power could no longer be controlled by Rabbi Loew, when his creation became destructive, that he was forced to destroy it.

In recent years, reflections upon the golem legend have led to serious consideration of some of the implications of the relationship between man and machine, between a human creator and an artificial creation. Norbert Weiner, a pioneer in cybernetics, considers the machine…to be the modern counterpart of the Golem of the Rabbi of Prague.”

The golem legend is not only artistically evocative, but morally provocative. It can alert us to the danger that things we create to help us can potentially harm or annihilate us.

As Gershom Scholem has noted, the golem legend can show us – specifically in the case of the computer – why we must have the wisdom to control the repositories of knowledge and power we have created.

One may further speculate that it is not mere coincidence that the word ‘robot’ emerged from the literary investigations into the modern human condition of the Czech Capek brothers in their famous play R.U.R. Possibly influenced by the golem legend, the Capek’s, like Gustav Meyrink, may have been stimulated to enunciate their view that just as people can create machines which have the power to destroy them, so may people become machines, golems, robots, devoid of a soul, without conscience, lacking creativity.

So may people become machines…devoid of a soul, without conscience, lacking creativity

Powerful words, words with real meaning and bite; Sydney: city of mystery, city of marvels. The traditional Gadigal are all but gone, however their presence remains. Though brutally murdered, their legend survives. Sydney, a city with a population of 4.6 million, whose denizens go about their daily routine, relying on their golem like creations to ease their burdens, while remaining totally oblivious to the human cost of their comfortable existence.

The Human Cost of Progress

The human cost of progress is not only born by the ghosts and memories of a Gadigal Atlantis, but born to this day by the untold sufferings of countless indigenous people worldwide, people who are forced to witness the destruction of their traditional lands and culture, in the name of progress.

Recent research has shown that autonomous tribal peoples have not chosen progress to enjoy its advantages, but that governments have pushed progress upon them to obtain tribal resources, not primarily to share with the tribal peoples the benefits of progress. It has also been shown that the price of forcing progress on unwilling recipients has involved the deaths of millions of tribal people, as well as their loss of land, political sovereignty, and the right to follow their own life style.

One of the primary difficulties in assessing the benefits of progress and economic development for any culture is that of establishing a meaningful measure of both benefit and detriment. It is widely recognized that standard of living, which is the most frequently used measure of progress, is an intrinsically ethnocentric concept relying heavily upon indicators that lack universal cultural relevance. Such factors as GNP, per capita income, capital formation, employment rates, literacy, formal education, consumption of manufactured goods, number of doctors and hospital beds per thousand persons, and the amount of money spent on government welfare and health programs may be irrelevant measures of actual quality of life for autonomous or even semiautonomous tribal cultures.

In its 1954 report, the Trust Territory government indicated that

Since the Micronesian population was still largely satisfying its own needs within a cashless subsistence economy, “Money income is not a significant measure of living standards, production, or well-being in this area.”

Unfortunately, within a short time the government began to rely on an enumeration of certain imported consumer goods as indicators of a higher standard of living in the islands, even though many tradition-oriented islanders felt that these new goods symbolized a lowering of the quality of life.

A more useful measure of the benefits of progress might be based on a formula for evaluating cultures devised by Goldschmidt (1952: 135). According to these less ethnocentric criteria, the important question to ask is: Does progress or economic development increase or decrease a given culture’s ability to satisfy the physical and psychological needs of its population, or its stability? This question is a far more direct measure of quality of life than are the standard economic correlates of development, and it is universally relevant. Specific indication of this standard of living could be found for any society in the nutritional status and general physical and mental health of its population, the incidence of crime and delinquency, the demographic structure, family stability, and the society’s relationship to its natural resource base. A society with high rates of malnutrition and crime, and one degrading its natural environment to the extent of threatening its continued existence, might be described as at a lower standard of living than is another society where these problems did not exist.

Careful examination of the data, which compare, on these specific points, the former condition of self-sufficient tribal peoples with their condition following their incorporation into the world-market economy, leads to the conclusion that their standard of living is lowered, not raised, by economic progress – and often to a dramatic degree. This is perhaps the most outstanding and inescapable fact to emerge from the years of research that anthropologists have devoted to the study of culture change and modernization. Despite the best intentions of those who have promoted change and improvement, all too often the results have been poverty, longer working hours, and much greater physical exertion, poor health, social disorder, discontent, discrimination, overpopulation, and environmental deterioration – combined with the destruction of the traditional culture.

West Papua’s Status… An Accident of History

West Papua a victim of a world community devoid of a soul, without conscience

West Papua’s status as part of Indonesia is due to an accident of history. The Dutch established their claim to the western part of New Guinea first and this colonial connection provided the bridge over which the post-independence Indonesian Republic travelled to gain control of West Papua.

If the UK in the late 19th century and early 20th century had acted more quickly in its colonial expansion, then West Papua would today either be an independent country or a part of Papua New Guinea. Such are the vagaries of the legacy of European colonization.
— Dr Keith Suter, Global Directions

Ever since the Indonesians crossed the bridge the Dutch made between the Dutch East Indies and West Papua, human rights abuses have been the rule of the day. Human rights abuses carried out in the name of greed, in the quest for the rich mineral deposits (gold, copper, nickel, oil etc.), the vast virgin forest with its timber and the ’empty’ land. The West Papuans have been removed from their land by force. Political prisoners and detainees in West Papua continue to be subjected to ill treatment and torture by police and military authorities, particularly in the early stages of their detention. Indonesian security forces have also been responsible for the extrajudicial execution and ‘disappearances’ of suspected OPM activists and sympathizers both in West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

Out of a total population of 2.1 million in West Papua (latest census results from year 2000), the indigenous Papuan Melanesians currently number only 1.3 million, with the remaining 800,000 made-up of an assortment of opportunists and transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia who neither share nor respect the Papuan culture and identity. The Papuan population in independent Papua New Guinea across the border currently stands at an estimated 5 million. The disparity in numbers clearly indicate genocide/ethnocide perpetrated on a massive scale by the Indonesian military against the indigenous population in just 40 years of oppressive and brutal rule.

Dr Kees Lagerberg, Introduction to Genocide in West Papua, Pacific Concerns Resource Centre Inc. Vol. 4. Issue No.2 reported that an estimated 300,000 West Papuan’s had disappeared without trace since the Indonesian takeover of the area in 1962. This is an awful lot of people in anybody’s language, but it is more horrific if one considers that the  estimated population of the territory was about 700,000 in the early 1960, and about one million in the 1980’s, when Dr Lagerberg made the claim. Thus 30% of the population has simply vanished from the face of this earth.

According to, “Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control”  a publication of the Yale Law School, in 1981, the military launched Operation Clean Sweep, which sought to undermine support for the Papuan resistance by persecuting relatives of OPM members. Soldiers raped, assaulted, and killed the wives of known rebels and sacked villages suspected of lending support to the OPM. Survivors reported brutal murders in the Jayapura district, claiming that whole families had been bayoneted to death and their bodies left to rot.

By the summer of 1981, the campaign had extended into the Central Highlands. In August, the military responded to apparent OPM activity by bombing the village of Madi, in the Paniai basin in the Central Highlands, where a Dutch television team had filmed hundreds of OPM supporters training for the resistance. Troops used napalm and chemical weapons against the villagers and killed at least 2,500; some estimates put the death toll as high as 13,000.

The loss of their land and disruption of their lifestyles placed the West Papuans at severe risk of malnutrition and disease by the mid-1980s. In 1984, an Indonesian doctor suggested that Indonesian intrusions into West Papuan lifestyles led to a high incidence of disease among the West Papuan population. A Dutch doctor interviewed by a Dutch TV company called the health situation of the West Papuans alarming. He described high rates of yaws, measles, whooping cough, small- and large-scale epidemics, and sexually transmitted diseases that impaired the fertility of the Dani people who resided in the fertile Baliem Valley, a major transmigration site. A Dutch missionary working in the mountain regions told the Dutch TV journalists that infant mortality among the West Papuans in that region was above 60 precent, and the average life expectancy only 30 or 31 years.

What price progress?

No matter what standard we use to measure the benefits of progress of the West Papuan people, it is in the red. The West Papuan’s are unfortunate in that their traditional lands hold untold mineral and energy wealth, wealth that is needed in the West to produce the golems that make our daily burdens just that little bit easier to deal with. Since most people living in the West, spoilt for choice and luxury, have become machines, golems, robots, devoid of a soul, without conscience, lacking creativity, what chance do the real victims of progress have?

I’ll leave readers with the lyrics of Victim Of Progress by Korzus:

The clouds close throwing their rays
over the sea of blood
The stars dissapear and in their places
mountains of ice appear
I only see the light of your eyes
What was made, was destroyed
The world became slow and dumb
when you woke up, it was over

Scream, scream
Scream loud, loud
Believe me, man
Scream, scream
Scream loud, loud
Nobody will hear you

The darkness stays intact
insensitive to your plea
you one your future to progress
That the human mind invented
you don’t have power to scream
when your mind is dead and gone
you`re another vctim of progress
What happened? You’re sick

Scream, scream
Scream loud, loud
Nobody will hear you

You remember the paradise you lived in
you can’t resist no more
you are the mercy of disaster
When you close your eyes
Just a question I wanna ask you
Are those behind this in the same shit as you?
Die in peace!
Die in peace!

blakandblack

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