Peter says of the exhibition: "The first version of what would later regrettably be called a cargo cult arose in Melanesia which includes islands such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji. When colonists arrived on the islands they brought mass produced goods along with them. As the indigenous people were unfamiliar with the manufacturing process they believed these goods were manufactured by spiritual means and intended for the local population and that the foreigners had unfairly seized control of the cargo for themselves. At the core of the belief system is that this wrong will be corrected by some supernatural means and the desired manufactured goods will be fairly distributed to them.
Rituals arose to facilitate this change, often borrowing symbols from Christianity, western military forces and civilization generally. They produce mock versions of airplanes, landing strips and radios from local materials such as sticks, coconuts and straw. The rituals would often mimic the activities they’d seen western military personnel engage in to bring in the cargo.
These generally egalitarian, hunter gatherer and light agricultural societies have had their way of life disrupted by colonialism, globalization and capitalism and interpreted the production of the cargo as best they could from their understanding of the world. Many in the west may find their lack of understanding of how these goods are manufactured laughable, but I would wager many in western civilization are just as ignorant of the manufacturing process behind many of the products they feel entitled to.
From the minerals mined to create their cell phones, the petroleum used for the plastic forks thrown into their take out and the textiles produced and assembled in sweatshops for the fast fashion world of today, modern societies exploitation of the world’s resources for cheap cargo has put a heavy burden on the health of our planet and to those less fortunate, forced to earn their living manufacturing and delivering our cheap cargo.
A global shipping network creates unfathomable amounts of waste and exploitation for workers, coalescing in the convenience of next day delivery for Prime members. We have our rituals to bring in our cargo while unaware of its impact on our planet, humanity in general, and on our personal humanity. The reliance on mass produced goods leads us to no longer rely on our own abilities of survival and more importantly gives us the illusion that we do not rely on each other or the planet for this survival.
This is the dogma of the first world cargo cult, the selfish entitlement to goods based on the ritualistic exchange of capital built on the backs of an unsustainable economic and ecological system."
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