Monday, May 3, 2010

Scraps 02: The Cargo Cult of Human Relationships

“So what do you think my problem is?”

“You ever hear of the Cargo Cults?”

“I’ve heard the name, not much else, though.”

“Well, they break down like this. In World War II, both the US and the Japanese built air bases all through the Pacific. Suddenly both sides are flying in goods that the natives had never seen, oftentimes sharing it with the local guides and such. Only since it was a war, there weren’t any missionaries or anthropologists to explain what was going on to the natives. They could only watch, puzzle and take what cargo they were given.”

“Interesting enough.”

“Problem is, the war ended, and the cargo stopped coming. For the natives, this was all magic and these cults started springing up that imitated what they saw the Americans do to bring the cargo. They built faux runways, did military drills with mocked up or salvaged weapons, carved coconut headsets and worked wooden radios. They imitated the behaviors they saw, hoping to bring cargo from the gods, without knowing what any of the real meaning of the activity was.”

“Wow. That’s weird as hell, but why bring it up.”

“Because that’s you.”


“That’s you with women, heck, it’s you with people in general. You’ve watched everyone interacting your whole life. You understand scraps, you imitate the little rituals. You’re funny, you pay complements, you wink and nod and smile and laugh at bad jokes… but there’s a disconnect there. That’s why it doesn’t work. That's why you say the wrong thing or just spin your wheels. You’re the cargo cult of human relationships.”

He didn’t respond. He just sat there, looking somewhat depressed and frustrated. Part of him was clearly searching for a response but the rest was trying.

“There is a bright side.”


“Sometimes… when a plane got struck by lightning or got lost in the dark, the pilot would look out and see a runway complete with lights. It didn’t matter that the lights were just torches and the runway packed dirt. It was close enough. You see. Sometimes… just sometimes… the rituals worked. Sometimes the cargo came.”

No comments: