The Real Lesson of Easter Island

By Sardar, Ziauddin | New Statesman (1996), March 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Real Lesson of Easter Island


Sardar, Ziauddin, New Statesman (1996)


Ancient cultures have much to teach us. Unfortunately, we still haven't learned how to look at them with unbiased eyes. Our examination of enigmatic ancient monuments, such as the stone figures on the tiny Easter Island, reveals only the predilections and perversity of our own world-view, rather than the reality of the people who produced them.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I call this the Grafton Elliot Smith effect. The great Australian anatomist believed that any sign of sophistication in the ancient world was the product of the Children of the Sun--that is, the Egyptians. Why? Because sophistication, capability, invention, your basic thought and imagination, were rare attributes. The world belonged to the savage primitive and only a few ever rose above that level. In modern times, by overwhelming general agreement, the few boiled down to white Europeans.

While academia has moved on from Smith, the popular imagination has not. It is much more gratifying and soothing to look at ancient cultures from a supremacist self-image.

The Rapanui, the people who colonised Easter Island (Rapa Nui), are the prototype for this phenomenon. They are seen through the constructed lens of what it is to be primitive. Not only do primitives lack capability and rationality, they also have perverse beliefs and are mired in superstition. What else could one expect these people to do than to destroy their own environment, engage in warfare and cannibalism, and kill themselves off in slavish worship of false gods--whose empty eyes are all that remain?

The story of Rapa Nui is a morality tale of ecological devastation. As promoted by Jared Diamond in his bestseller Collapse, this theory has the inhabitants felling their forests to erect enormous, enigmatic stone statues. Without wood to build boats, they were marooned and unable to fish. Finally, cannibalism sealed their fate, thus providing an ecological lesson for us all. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Real Lesson of Easter Island
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.