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Two minutes: Enemy of the tribe


There was, once upon a time, a small tribe that lived in a deep jungle. They were migrant farmers, traveling from cultivation spot to cultivation spot, depending on the season and their fancy. In their absence, these spots were often used by other tribes, with the understanding that they would set aside small amount of their harvest. This symbiosis benefited all involved, keeping the soil fresh and turned, providing sustenance for the inhabitants of the jungle 

Their traditions compelled them to hospitality and friendliness toward visitors- their words for strangers and visitors translated into "friends-who-are-not-yet-friends" and "visitors-and-we-are-their-friend". If they didn't like someone, they would become "Friend-that-is-not-talked-to", usually adding "until we talk again", implying that ire was temporary and a return to friendship imminent. 

One day, they were visited by a random anthropologist. Fascinated by the vocabulary their worldview had assigned to the many possibilities and iterations of friendship, having lived with them a number of months, asked "But what do you call those that you fight with? Those who have robbed you? Wronged you? Stolen from you?" 

And on this evening, they were re-introduced, in broken fragments of language to the concept of "those-who-are-not-our friends", and that these might include people who shared their land, the visitors they hosted, and even the anthropologist. The anthropologist believed that this introduction to the concept of competition could only enrich what he had described in his journals as a "[…] charmingly naîve and primitive worldview, based on cooperation and cohabitation, absent of the concept of competition for limited resources". 

After he had returned to his tent, the tribe discussed these concepts. They thought back to the times before they had adopted their current role as peacekeepers in their region, in which they had maintained many soldiers to subdue rival tribes and fought bloody wars to expand their supremacy. They thought back to the realisation that though powerful, they had been more preoccupied with maintaining that power than with the cost they were paying- they had no farms, and so had to tax, or ransack weaker tribes lands and could not care for themselves without conquest. Their happiness was based on proving their influence, power and wealth to each other- whatever the cost, or harm. They used different words for the world then- words that no longer described the world they had chosen. 

In the morning, they informed the anthropologist that they called those who had been their enemies "mostly dead", using not the descriptor "friends-that-we-remember", now equally applied to tribespeople and their many friends, choosing instead to edify him with the old term "foes-that-we-slaughtered", which he understood much too easily- these were words he would soon return to, in a world in which anthropology was a word. In that moment, he felt foolish for his assumptions of simplicity and naïvite, even more so when he learned that the night had also borne him a name with the tribe- "Friend-who-wanted-us-to-have-enemies". 


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