Sunday, September 30, 2007

Penan Idealism, Reality & Solution

Please click to enlarge the extracts from The Battle for Sarawak's Forests by World Rainforest Movement (Sahabat Alam Malaysia), 1990.
There was a time when I was an idealist like Bruno Manser, believing everything in this world would best be left in its pristine state. There should be no development at all. Period.

Today, that idealism has to give way to the reality that as long as a state does not carry out development, there would be no progress in this part of the world. As we lag behind in progress, the rest of humankind will carry on, making us mere fools who have been deceiving ourselves in our delusions.

I would think it is time that the gentle nomadic people, the Penans of Borneo should be persuaded by kind means-not through gangsters or other dubious tough methods- to accept development. It is only through development that they would maintain their survival. Life is near impossible with the ongoing heavy deforestation as the rivers and streams remain polluted and wildlife food gets scarce. Diseases and deadly creatures are rampant in the interior and the early death rates of these folks remain high.

Sadly, there are some Penans who have totally rejected assimilation into the fabric of civilized modern society. They are so hard-core that they are prepared to either be imprisoned (The courts have been harsh on them), mistreated (The law-keepers have also been tough on them) or even die for their cause. Perhaps it is due to idealism, illiteracy, ignorance or just plain stubbornness (Let's leave this to the sociologists and psychologists to dissect and explain away) but the fact remains that they are actually happy the way they are.

Is there a solution for them? Maybe, just maybe, the kindest way to handle this problem is to resettle them in a beautiful Shangrila paradise with clear boundaries, somewhere in the virgin jungle. They, and all those many anti-development jungle dwellers could opt to resettle in this location. It would be their self-governing homeland without political power, much like one of the Northern American reservations. Here, they would be able to hunt and move about to their delight. Short of carrying that out, it could mean there will tragically be a subtle cleansing of this amazingly humble nomadic folks.


june said...

what a sad blog post. As a Sarawakian, I am sad that there are a lot of people like you who completely believe the controlled media, without thinking on your own.

These folk who fight against "development" - they're not saying, let's keep the forests pristine, they're saying, let me decide which kind of development I want. Of course, most folks in the rural areas want electricity, piped water, etc.. but they are held hostage from these basic rights unless they vote for BN.

How ironic you say that "It is only through development that they would maintain their survival. Life is near impossible with the ongoing heavy deforestation as the rivers and streams remain polluted and wildlife food gets scarce. " Don't you see how your sentences contradict each other? You are confused yourself.

Please, let us go from this unoriginal thinking that the rural people do not want development. They DO. But all they are asking, let us be part of the negotiations. Don't take our land, without proper compensation. Listen to what we have to say. etc. etc..

Coul you do that?

luke said...

Dear June, please allow me to thank you for your concerned response.

I do really have a lot of empathy for the Penans and other tribes in the interior.

Once upon a time, I worked with decent folks like them in Borneo. My contributions will never be acknowledged as I was a mere humble compassionate human being in a world full of human weaknesses- greed, treachery, lying, cheating, pure evil and so forth.

It is suffice for me to say that Bruno was a good buddy. I knew him before he was sent home the first time.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the outside world has few individuals and many governments that reap the benefits of the 'rape 'of forests everywhere. Presented with a golden opportunity to be a major vocal voice and rallying point in the fight against abuses of tribal human rights and reckless deforestation of the forests, there were few or almost no governments that would extend a practical hand. A lot of it was just cheap talk while idealistic individuals and organizations slavishly and pathetically attempted to turn the clock back, failing on most occasions.

I say this in all sincerity, having experienced a miserable time overseas warning the world about the coming tragedy of global warming and depletion of the ozone... Few heard and I suffered.

Now the hour is at hand when the world has to face the reality that weary warriors have given up the good fight and are on The Other Dark Side not to gloat over the misery of the gentle nomadic tribes but to render an empathetic solution to their woes.

I am on The Other Dark Side because what little influence I have can be utilized for the good of the meek and the gentle. Our voices of moderation will ensure, hopefully and prayerfully a peaceful solution to the painful problem at hand...

By the way, if we ever meet in person, over beer, I would be happy to show you pics of a happier time when Bruno and I were buddies.

Believe me, I'm one heck of an understanding person who greatly admire your passionate defense of these suffering humans in the interior. They should not just be a footnote in history books in future...