The science of human beings has always intrigued me. Learning about new cultures and their different traditions is a wonderful way to get a better understanding of our own cultural beliefs.
I would say, the most fascinating villagers to study are the Yanomamo. The natives live in the Amazon Rainforests of Brazil. Other than the fact that the tribe is considered to be the most primitive in the world, I was stunned when I watched a documentary about the people. To my amazement, I could understand what they were saying. Their language is a dialect of Brazilian Portuguese; it sounds like they are speaking Cape Verdean Creole with extremely thick accents. (Insert Cape Verdeans are a primitive people joke here!)
During my study of anthropology, I would have to say the Nacirema are the most disturbing people in the world. The Nacirema were introduced to the world by professor Horace Miner in 1956. His ‘Body Ritual Among the Nacirema’ was a shocking revelation. (I suggest reading the 3rd edition of Distant Mirrors by Philip R. DeVita and James D. Armstrong. Along with the Nacirema, there are many other interesting people discussed in the book.) In Distant Mirrors the exotic behavior of the Nacirema was described as both sadistic and masochistic. In the introduction to Miner’s study, DeVita and Armstrong write, “Where else in the world do we find a culture, believing that the human body is ugly, totally devoted to shrines and rituals to overcome this predominant configuration?”
My purpose is not to discuss Miner’s study. I have been fortunate enough to interact with the Nacirema and I will add to Dr. Miner’s findings. From Miner, we learned:
- The Nacirema are a people, who live in the area between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of Antilles.
- According to Nacirema mythology their nation was originated by a cultural hero, Notgnishaw.
- There are ritual fasts to make thin people fat and fat people thin.
- There are other rituals used to make women’s breasts larger if they are small and smaller if they are large.
- Intercourse is taboo as a subject and scheduled as an act.
The Nacirema are a people made up of many different backgrounds. There is an overwhelming assumption held by the Nacirema that their culture is superior to all others and they usually try to force their traditions on everyone else. The Nacirema do not have an official religion because the people believe in spiritual independence, but the belief in the Judeo-Christian God trumps all others. There is also a tradition of separation between spirituality and laws, but the Nacirema infuse God into many of the tribal traditions. Each new leader must swear an oath to God vowing to protect the tribe.
I have come to identify a smaller sect of the Nacirema people. Living amongst the many citizens is a separate clandestine group called the Nacirema Tuls. The Tuls are no different from the other Nacirema, except for their insatiable sexual appetite. The Tuls are sometimes referred to as Ser-ohw. They’re true identities are hidden because the strict Nacirema culture preaches against promiscuity, but the secreted Tuls are becoming more influential and their concealed nature is less inconspicuous.
There is a difference between the male Tuls and the female Tuls. The males consider their promiscuity as a sign of achievement, and they openly discuss their conquest of the opposite sex. The Nacirema Tuls women, who are just as promiscuous as the men, keep their exploits hidden due to the shame that is cast over them by the judgmental Nacirema. Women of the Nacirema Tuls usually become angered when identified as being part of the secretive Tuls under-culture, often denying how many people they have come to “know.” The women are also angered by any behavior that they consider “being judged.” I learned that the truth is, the women are not actually being judged, the fact is they are indeed Tuls, and they would be better off admitting their true nature instead of being concerned with what others think.
The male Tuls are narcissistic and have a desire to sleep with as many women as possible. They fail to realize that the female Tuls are easily bedded. Bragging about sleeping with a female Tuls is like bragging about working for an entire week and earning a dollar. Often, male Tuls will use refined techniques to lure the affection of a “normal” Nacirema woman, but the relationship is usually ruined when the male dishonors his woman by sleeping with a Nacirema Tuls female.
The problem of the Tuls for the religious Nacirema is the ability that they have to blend in. There are no distinctions between the Nacirema and the Nacirema Tuls. In fact, Tuls men and women are quick to be deceitful about their true nature, whenever attempting to court a “good” Nacirema. No respectable member of the Nacirema would ever marry a Tuls. In fact, such a decision would shame the family name. Therefore, the Tuls will forever keep their identities hidden. There are members of the Nacirema family, usually an elder who is more experienced, that will warn relatives about the true nature of the Tuls. No matter how well a Tuls can blend in, their true nature will eventually be exposed. The problem for the Nacirema is being able to discover the identity of the Tuls, before entering into a serious relationship with one; scrutiny will always expose a Tuls.
I discovered that the hypocritical Nacirema Tuls are quick to put down other the Tuls, even though they are guilty of the same behavior that they consider “un-godly.” Many of the Nacirema elders are the most judgmental people, but they themselves were former Tuls. The younger generation will converse with an elder and learn the truth about the very people who claim to be the most virtuous. In fact, much of the Nacirema culture is based on deception. The priority of the Tuls is to attain the ability to mask their true identity. A Tuls who is talented in the art of camouflage, can achieve almost any goal.
The family structure of the Nacirema has evolved from a two parent unit, to a society in which the mother, whether Tuls or “regular” Nacirema, is left to care for her children on her own. The male Tuls impregnate females with total disregard for responsibility and the well-being of the children. The grandmother of the new generation of Nacirema children, who is more often than not single herself, is usually left to fill the role of the father. The institution of marriage is sacred amongst the Nacirema but the influence of the Tuls has created a new culture in which the marriage vows are being broken more often than the promises of the Nacirema leaders. The Nacirema culture, which they believe to be the quintessence of civilization, is essentially a mirage. The Nacirema are incapable of practicing what they preach.
The complete breakdown of the intricacies of the Nacirema culture could fill a multi-volume set of books. (Good luck to the anthropologist who attempts to complete such a study; it would take a lifetime to conclude the arduous task!) For those of you who enjoy learning about a new culture, I hope this post nourished your curiosity.
The people who have no interest in studying how others live may be asking themselves, “What was the point of this blog entry?” The answer is simple. Take a closer look at these two words: Nacirema Tuls. Read the words backwards. QUITE REVEALING!!!
It’s easy to judge others, but when an outsider evaluates our own culture, without bias, the discovery is usually enlightening!