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To many of us, it doesn't matter a bit whether the victim is "us" (by this, I guess you mean people from the more technologically developed part of the world) or not. Killing others is disturbing and difficult to accept, even when it is for cultural reasons.

I also think that describing the death penalty as "Killing people for reasons the government is actually forbidding..." is a description that misses the mark, especially in democratic societies in which the government serves at the pleasure of the governed.

That could be a complete projection on my part, but none the less I understand that it is difficult to address subtle and nuanced issues like this in a language that is not one own. I'll be hard pressed to utter a single simple sentence in German, and addressing issues of more depth like we are discussing here would be out of the question.

Staggering numbers of people are killing and being killed all the time, and television, radio, print and electronic media present these events nearly anywhere we look. More than what culture or time period the victim may be from, I think it is the presence or absence of the umanizing details?

While the Chalmer incident left a powerful impression on the mind of missionaries, the Rockefeller incident is the one that tends to linger most in the thoughts of those of us who are interested in the art and culture of this area. This latter event happened in the Asmat region, which is West through the Torres Straight and up along the coast of West Papua (Indonesian side) in relation to Goaribari Island where the Gope board that started this thread originated.

It is rather just to point out what I see as the striking malleability and cultural specificity of moral boundaries and how in cases like the one just mentioned, a few moments can totally change the acceptability of certain actions. While listening to military briefings in the news, often it is explicitly stated that an objective of some operations will be to "capture or kill" the enemy.

The lawful or unlawful context is socially determined and the implication is that while murder is always killing, killing is not always murder. This is in no way a revelation, but it seems few ever pause to consider it all.

Regarding other recent comments in this thread, my own interpretation of some of Udo remarks was that he may have meant to draw attention to this sort of cultural/moral disparity across cultures.

That particular event is extremely well documented, and despite happening over 100 years ago, seems to be an occurrence that left quite an impression - and one that remains on the minds of missionaries and their ilk to some extent if the frequency of references to the incident are any indication.

However, what is probably the most well known incident of this sort in the greater Papuan region, was not directly related to missionary activities. I am referring of course to the disappearance in November, 1961 of Michael Rockefeller while on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art (when the museum was closed in 1976 the bulk of the collection went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Of the victim's life that cause us to react or not to their death. Whether it was the American, Michael Rockefeller, or the Solomon Islander named Tombat, the British Missionary Chalmer, or Limbang the Dayak ?reaction on an emotional level has more to do with what we know about that person than their nationality, race or religion per se.

So I am very sorry for that, but I will go away with very very happy memories of Papua, New Guinea." Conversely, I should also note that in this same documentary the local headman expresses great reverence and esteem for the Rev. Chalmers and went so far as to say, because of his coming we are civilized."

In any case, one can see that Goaribari is a place with a colorful history, no matter what one interpretation of some of those events might be.

As for the Gope boards, they are displayed in the long houses and are the representation of ancestral spirits. They may be understood to represent what are essentially tutelary entities whose power and wisdom guide successive generations.

The argument is that such individuals are more desirable to the opposite sex and hence are more likely to pass their skills and aesthetic tendencies on to progeny? Reinforcing the creative/artistic tendencies of the species in the following generations.

Of course there are critics of these ideas, as there always are with anything of this sort, especially when ideas like Miller manage to exceed the boundaries of the specialized scientific community and generate interest among aymen but critiques aside, Miller perspective makes a lot of sense to me in general.

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