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Cargo-Cult

Previously isolated peoples in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea were caught up in the second world war. When the Allies invaded the area to drive out the Japanese occupiers they brought with them vast quantities of military equipment and consumer goods. The local people interpreted this as a supply sent by "the gods" and intercepted by the "white man" . (They had never seen a white man do any work, so they couldn't have made the things they used.)

Was the introduction of Marxism into Russia a phenomenon of this kind? Socialism in western Europe was a response to the faults of early capitalism - low wages and high profits leading to extremes of riches and poverty. It had grown out of local conditions. Russia had not shared the western European culture of the 18th century enlightenment. Maybe too the introduction of western type schools into traditional societies has a similar inappropriateness (a curriculum devised in an industrial country may not be suitable for people with different experiences). Cargo cult may be a special form of a general human failing: acting on too little knowledge. The Market as applied to eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union may turn out the same way, unless it is introduced sensibly.

Last revised 14/5/94


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