"Let us get nearer to the fire, so that we can see what we are saying -- The Bubis of Fernando Po" (epigram from Chapter One of The Meaning of Meaning, by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards)

"...the most notable trait common to members of [primitive aboriginal] communities is a certain amiable inefficiency when confronted with force or fraud." Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Classs

The Boobies of Fernando Po
(from Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's Cave)

The Island of Fernando Po
Once knew a fleeting fame
As home to aborigines
The Boobies were their name
Who -- legend has it -- only spoke
By light of fire's flame

Their basic primate language showed
That Boobies had devolved:
Whatever they had figured out
They also had unsolved,
Reverting to forgetfulness
And culture long dissolved

They had the means of making noise
As all rude peoples do
And yet just like the deaf and mute
They had to see words, too,
Or else they could not cogitate
Or any thoughts construe

The Boobies of Fernando Po
Could neither read nor write,
Instead, they "acted out" their speech,
"Performing" it despite
Unconsciousness of language arts
Of which they'd long lost sight

Their spoken tongue made little use
Of sentences and words,
Thus they communicated like
A flock of chirping birds
Or else like fatted cows content
To graze within their herds

Dependence on the visual
Constrained their use of sound
To something less than merely noise
Unorganized and bound
To grotesque facial grimaces
And gestures unprofound

They'd slap their foreheads; roll their eyes;
In slack-jawed pantomime
Of something they'd done yesterday
While only killing time
In mindless mimicry that had
No reason and no rhyme

"I'm all like going 'duh'," they'd say,
Which usage left aghast
Their teachers who had worked so hard
But realized at last
That Boobies couldn't separate
The present from the past

In cultures that have languages
Like Chinese, French, and Basque
Linguistic tools like verbs and nouns
Perform the needed task
Of formulating answers to
The questions Boobies ask

But Boobies need their hands and feet
To illustrate their themes
They "point" and "walk" and "pose" because
They've no semantic memes
To pass among themselves for use
As metaphoric schemes

They live imprisoned in the Now,
All Boobies preordained
To do the things their parents did,
Each generation chained
To labor on a treadmill
Giving up what they had gained

The rooster crowed; the sun came up
Which taught them quite a lot
The cows came home; the sun went down
Which didn't teach them squat
At sunrise they began to learn
At sundown they forgot

They could not tell this day from that
They had no memory
Each moment died at birth and left
No known posterity
The Boobies had no ancestors,
No living history

They could not tell where they had been
They knew not where they went
As far as they could figure out
Each thought came to them sent
Prefabricated "up above"
From "Heaven's" firmament

This made them existentialists
A philosophic breed
Who dealt in isolated facts
And never saw the need
To add their observations up
Into a larger creed

Yet starting at the other end
As Plato chose to do
With abstract "essences" and spooks
And "gods" not real or few
Would only have made matters worse
By proving falsehood true

The Boobies just threw up their hands
And thought whichever way
Which made it easy for the priest
To hold them in his sway
Performing magic rites that made
The sun come up each day

The Boobies let their children grow
As they themselves had done
By joining dots with crayon lines
And having lots of fun
While limiting arithmetic
To just the number one

"It's all the same!" the Boobies cried;
And they believed it, too;
Which made their basic monism
So easy to imbue.
"If everything is One," they said
"Who needs the number `two'?"

And so the Boobies on this isle
Endured the Dumb disease:
A simple, savage livelihood
That mainly served to please
The tribal chief and witch doctor
In their concerted ease

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2006