Davis says that in every case, indigenous people are being driven to extinction by identifiable forces. “And that’s actually a very optimistic observation because it suggests that if human beings are the agents of cultural destruction, we can be the facilitators of cultural survival.”
“When people lose the comfort of tradition and feel these kinds of pressures of intense change that can provoke a sense of disappointment, disaffection, alienation, you get very strange movements emerging that can be very dangerous. Al-Qaeda is one of these kinds of fantasy movements that invoke a world of Islam that never existed but has to be presumed to have existed for those who are trying to rationalize the humiliation of all these years of chaos in the Middle East. Maintaining the integrity of culture is not an act of sentimentality; it’s not an act of nostalgia, its much more than an act of human rights. It’s about maintaining the integrity of civilization itself,” he said.
He cites, for example, in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, a meeting of 4,000 anthropologists from the American Anthropological Association was held in Washington DC where the primary topic of discussion was the attack on the Twin Towers.
“The entire gathering earned a single line in the Washington Post, in the gossip section, that basically said ‘the nut cases are in town,’” he said. “And who is more remiss: the government for not having the ability to listen to the one profession that could have explained what was going on or the profession for not having the ability to communicate effectively with the world at large?“