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ANTHROPOLOGY: Natives avoid the truth
Daryl DeBell describes the willingness of natives to avoid telling the truth:
"The Kikuyu were reputed to prefer lies to the truth in almost all circumstances. Many people tell you what they think you want to hear. I doubt that an observer who is aware of such tendencies would be fooled for very long. What people say is checked by observations of what they do." [If you have a chance to observe it. RH]-
Linda Nyquist cites her own experiences:
"I saw many examples of behavior being concealed during my tenure in the Sierra of Oaxaca. On one occasion, a young mother was having tremendous difficulty giving birth, and had been in labor for 5 days. Her husband came to my hut to ask for help. It was a couple of hours walk down the mountain, but I took some medical supplies, some drugs, and accompanied him. When I reached his home, the poor wife was in tremendous distress. Her belly had a very odd shape and she said the baby was coming. When she allowed me to feel under her clothing, however, I felt a nose and mouth rather than the top of a head, and it was very clear that this baby was not in a good birthing position. The mother was exhausted. I had a little shortwave radio, so I radioed out to a physician friend who said to give her some Demerol that I had to allow her to sleep, and with luck the baby would shift position.
There was nothing else to be done, given the total absence of medical care in the area. I went back to my little hut, and the husband was to come and get me when his wife was in labor again. Meanwhile, the doctor would standby to help via the radio. In 3-4 hours, the husband came up and said (in Mixteco) "the baby was born in pieces." I was trying to imagine what on earth he was talking about. Well, I went back down to the house, and I will spare you the details, but out of desperation the family had decided to dismember the baby. [I suppose they were trying to hide the fact that they had murdered it.RH]. They didn't realize that I would know that babies are not "born in pieces." It was a terrible scene. The mother died. Of course, I did not comment and offered my condolences, but was quite aware that I had witnessed a terrible tragedy.
On another occasion, a little boy said "my mother gets the bed tonight." Again, I thought "what IS he talking about?" Within a few days I began to understand that men were taking second wives, but it was very clandestine, and NEVER talked about or revealed to roving anthropologists. This little boy had unwittingly let the cat out of the bag.
I have many such stories. In retrospect, I wonder how much of what I THOUGHT was true was so indeed, and how much I misunderstand. The good part is that I still have friends in the village, and continue a warm relationship with several god-children, all of whom are parents now themselves."
Ronald Hilton - 9/05/00