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Victims of Progress: The Akuntsu & Us

August 26, 2010



The Akuntsu are one of the isolated tribes of Rondônia, Brazil.   They are a tribe that numbered around 7000 members no longer than fifteen years ago, but sadly have only five remaining today.  Five!  In order to make further “progress” in the areas of cattle ranching and soy cropping, big business thought it proper to plow down their homes and murder their families.    



Two days ago I was reading this article and learned about the Akuntsu.  I am obviously not the first to bring them up or to be touched by their story.  Perhaps though, I will be the first to pose this particular question about their relationship to us: What could it be in so many of us that responds/feels a loss upon hearing their story?   Seemingly, the life of the Akuntsu tribe has very little to do with our own.  Or does it?  When we see or hear their story it resounds with something in us.  What part of us is so tenderly related to them?  There is a type of solemn knowledge of their hardship, shame, simplicity, and pride.  Could it be that their story resonates with  us so strongly because we sense a sort of shared destiny with them?  You might ask how it is that we could share in the destiny of a near-extinct civilization that lives across the world,  and if you did,  I would answer that the Akuntsu have fallen a victim to big business as have we!  Not to racism, not to poverty, not to illness; they have lost all but a scrap of their culture to big business alone.   


I’m pretty sure that where ever you’re sitting, you do not feel like an indigenous indian who has seen scores of family members die.  You don’t feel like a man who knows matter of factly that his family name will not survive this decade.  You don’t feel like a person being forced to fall gracefully off the cliff of existence.  Feelings however, are not fact and we are most certainly also victims of a sort of genocide.  At this point, even in America most people know that big business supports progress by any means necessary.  By any means neccesary…what does that mean? It means that when it comes to “progress” and industry and big business, genocide is historically a small price to pay.    In the day-to-day most of  us either do not think about these types of things or we assume that big business only willfully murders somebody else.  However we are also Akuntsu in the eyes of industry.  The number of deaths directly resulting from big business are entirely too much to count.  Unlike the blatant disregard served to the Akuntsu, genocide in America goes on in quasi secrecy.  From the poisoning of our foods, to the usage of mind-controlling subliminal messages, and so much more; we too are in the midst of a long silent genocide. 


We can easily mourn for those victims of genocide that do not resemble us or live like we live.  We can lament the tragedy of their dying culture with sincere and heartfelt tears, as we should, but how few of us are lamenting the dying of our own.  Big Business’ ‘by any means neccesary’ idealogy  has poisoned our children, our parents, our friends and co-workers.  We cannot walk past or meet any person in America that is not affected by big business.  Whether or not we’re aware of it is another question and that question leads me full circle.  The pain we feel, that pain we see in the photographed eyes of the Akuntsu is the pain of knowing.  Unlike us, they were confronted with bullets and bulldozers.  They have the facts straight in the form of bloody images imprinted always on their minds and endless wailing that rings in their ears.    Right now we have only weak bodies and feeble minds.  However, I submit that what resonates within us regarding the Akuntsu story is that we know they are not different from us at all.  They make us aware again of  the bulldozers and bullets that are otherwise so easy to forget and either over or under-look. 


The messageDeath does not worry about the level of our consciousness, but only carries out his orders.  Just because you are not naked, in the woods, clinging to your last four relatives does not mean that genocide is not happening to you.   The Akuntsu and so many indigenous peoples before them have left us a message in their all too human eyes and that message reads, You Too! 








12 Comments leave one →
  1. StandingStill permalink
    August 26, 2010 4:09 am

    That is an interesting take on our reactions to this and similiar stories. I’ll have to think this one over a bit to know how true it rings to me. That last sentence with the “you too” seemed a bit extreme. But still its an interesting connection to make.

    • September 2, 2010 1:01 am

      That last part may have been a bit dramatic. I’ve been asking myself if I said what I meant to correctly. Thank you though for the read and the honesty!

  2. MarkitRead permalink
    August 26, 2010 4:14 am

    You have taken an uncommon but intriguing point of view here. Thanks.

  3. August 27, 2010 5:13 am

    You have great compassion and great heart. My soul cries for their loss and it is eye opening and you are right. We are easily just as destructible and disposable. it’s very sad.

    • September 2, 2010 1:03 am

      Thank you very much Angelia! I think you said what I was attempting to say much better. It is perhaps the idea of such vulnerability that leaves us feeling the way we do. Thank you for the read and your kind words!

  4. Julian Rodriguez permalink
    August 27, 2010 2:12 pm

    How right you are- the thought that we are all expendable in the eyes of progress or big business is one that none of us like to focus on and could very well be the cause of our sorrow and discomfort in hearing or seeing the stories of people like the Akuntsu.

  5. Andrew Owens permalink
    August 27, 2010 2:18 pm

    Amber I think you have really said something here. I hope you will continue to question our fears and emotional connections as a society!

    • September 2, 2010 1:05 am

      Andrew, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop questioning these things; questioning seems to be my natural response to almost everything! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  6. Felicia Edwards permalink
    September 2, 2010 12:03 am

    Wow, I’m amazed at how different all of your posts are. This one is so serious. I disagree a bit too I think. We are not victims of any type of genocide and to put us on the same ground as those real victims is irresponsible to say the least. I think I understand where you were coming from but I don’t at all agree with where you went!

    • September 2, 2010 1:08 am

      Variety is the name of the game no?? Thanks for reading each post, that means a lot to me! And, you are more than entitled to your opinion but I stand firmly on mine as well! There is no real-er victim…just victims and we are certainly that! Again thanks for the read and an honest opinion. Keep it coming!!

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