Cargo cult

related topics
{theory, work, human}
{god, call, give}
{service, military, aircraft}
{land, century, early}
{country, population, people}
{ship, engine, design}
{system, computer, user}
{group, member, jewish}
{company, market, business}
{island, water, area}
{build, building, house}
{@card@, make, design}
{war, force, army}
{food, make, wine}
{water, park, boat}
{car, race, vehicle}

A cargo cult is a religious practice that has appeared in many traditional tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the "cargo") of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices. Cult members believe that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors. Cargo cults developed primarily in remote parts of New Guinea and other Melanesian and Micronesian societies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, beginning with the first significant arrivals of Westerners in the 19th century. Similar behaviors have, however, also appeared elsewhere in the world.

Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American combatants bringing in large amounts of material. When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased. In an attempt to attract further deliveries of goods, followers of the cults engaged in ritualistic practices such as building crude imitation landing strips, aircraft and radio equipment, and mimicking the behaviour that they had observed of the military personnel operating them.

Over the last sixty-five years, most cargo cults have disappeared. However, the John Frum cult, one of the most widely reported and longest-lived, is still active on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. This cult started before the war, and only became a cargo cult afterwards. A number of editions of the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier from late 1969 report an apparent latter-day cargo cult, but with more traditional practices.[citation needed]


Causes, beliefs and practices

Contacts between members of different cultures can often produce misunderstandings. These misunderstandings are not limited to an isolated society's first contact with the other cultures—a result, for example, of exploration, colonization, missionary efforts or warfare. Often people will have doubts about the fully human nature of those being encountered: outsiders will also have difficulties understanding those from the isolated society. Attempts may be made by both sides to fit the contact into the existing beliefs of the culture, with members of the other culture being assimilated to various non-human roles: spirits, demons, animals.[citation needed] With time, each culture learns that the others are mortal and that their respective material cultures differ in important ways. Disagreements often arise over how parts of this material culture (whether manufactured goods (the "cargo") or handicrafts) are shared. In cargo cults, natives develop rituals that express their disagreements with outsiders who refuse to share cargo on acceptable terms.

Full article ▸

related documents
The Myth of Sisyphus
Maya (illusion)
Predestination (Calvinism)
Brave New World
John Shelby Spong
Zeno of Citium
Analogy of the divided line
Moral absolutism
False consciousness
Observational learning
Environmental determinism
Cognitive bias
John Anderson (philosopher)
Franz Brentano
Object (philosophy)
Theory of justification
Theaetetus (dialogue)