December 11, 2016
I first came across “cargo cults” in Papua New Guinea in 1970. It amazed me that if I bent my mind a certain way, I could sort of understand how cult believers saw the world through eyes of faith.
Donald Trump’s election has brought cargo cults to my mind because Trump believers and cargo cultists, well, have a lot in common.
Cargo cults happened in the western islands of the South Pacific during World War Two, when natives watched in awe as planes and ships brought in food, weapons, jeeps, clothing and medicine. Charismatic leaders taught that their own ancestral spirits had brought the goods, but they got misdirected to the Americans and Japanese.
So when the war was over and cargo shipments stopped, natives cleared airstrips, even control towers, to be ready for cargo to come to them from their ancestors. Cult leaders introduced rituals where natives marched and talked on coconut radios.
Those charismatic leaders weren’t believers themselves. They were flim-flammers. I’m sure they said something like: “Believe! Just believe and all this wonderful stuff will come to us!”
When I saw Trump rallies on TV, I saw the Man up there shouting, “Believe! All those jobs that are rightly ours have been misdirected to Mexico and China! Follow me and they will come back! Believe me!”
No plans to make it happen. Just his personal relationship with the powers out there that handle things like this. And the faith of his followers – yes, the faith of his followers.
So now they wait. Like those Melanesian islanders, they wait.
But will they be patient like the islanders were decades after the war ended? Can the Man keep flim-flamming them with stunts like Carrier?
I’m watching, just watching. Like everybody who knows the facts, I know the war is over. The world has changed. Those planes full of jobs won’t be landing for us. They’re gone.