This past week I placed two posts on a video on Zuruahá infanticide. They were written in Portuguese. Some of you who read them or had them translated left several comments. By the gist of them I feel that some missed the point of my comments, and that is why I am posting this notice to clarify things.
To begin with, my posts on the video did not concern my anthropological and humanistic views on infanticide among the Zuruahá or among other Indian cultures in Brazil. That view I did not express in the posts in any way.
My main concern was with a video that uses children to perform an act that is by all means condemnable and that may constitute an indictment on the Zuruahá. Furthermore, the act was purposely intended to provoke disgust and horror on other people, as it indeed provoked.
This sort of thing is unacceptable in Brazil. Those means do not justify the ends, whatever they might be. I dare say it is unacceptable as well in the United States, Canada, England, India, Sweeden, and any country that keeps a standard of respect and protection of children.
The video was made with an aesthetics of horror and curse movies, and it appeals to base emotions and feelings, not to elevated sentiments of love and charity, as Christians ought to feel and behave.
My anthropological background tells me to respect other cultures´s practices and values. Most anthropologists follow this attitude. Nevertheless, in many instances, an anthropologist has to take upon himself to transcend his profession and take attitudes that go beyond it. I believe that is the case with infanticide, with terrorism, with violence in general, and with other important human issues. In all cases, I take a stand against a relativistic attitude.
Over the years many Indian cultures in Brazil stopped the practice of infanticide, and for many different reasons. Some of them did it spontaneously, others were helped by missionaries and mostly by Funai (National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples) civil servants. In all cases, the practice was abandoned by persuasion in view of a close relationship between the people who practiced it and the people who helped them. A relationship of charity, self-abandonment, and love. Most of the cases were achieved without any show of media, self-serving attitudes, and self-righteousness.
This statement is intended to clarify only my comments on the Zuruahá video. It is not intended to cover the issue of infanticide and the actions that ought to be done to help people abandon it. That would take more human resources than I can dare imagine. In any case, it could never be done without pulling together the resources of the Brazilian state, through the Ministry of Justice, the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai), the National Health Foundations (Funasa), the General Attorney Office, the Public Ministry, clergy of all denominations -- and especially the indigenous peoples concerned. Who would be able to lead this task, I don´t know. In any case, it is being done in many indigenous areas by the attitude of love and respect of people, and through modest and simple demeanor.
Finally, I am sorry to say but this statement does not intend to be an engagement in a strict dialogue with those that have defended the Zuruahá video and the Jocum organization. It is probable that that organization shall be sued by the Brazilian government for exposing such a video and for making it without proper authorization. For those who want to know about Brazilian Indian legislation, interethnic relations, and history, I immodestly recommend my book The Indians and Brazil (Gainesville: UPF, 2000) It might also be possible that the American Anthropological Association will issue a statement regarding the unethical character of the mentioned video.
Those who wish to use my statement to pick out phrases to attack me might as well as lay their pen to rest. I shan´t give them the benefit of my response.