Saturday, April 30, 2005

More Pygmies

While I was in Geneva, I treated myself to a movie. Turns out I stumbled into “Man to Man,” a British-made movie about … pygmies!

I hadn’t heard about the movie until I’d arrived in Geneva. If the film is showing somewhere near you, check it out. It stars Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas.

In 1870, a British scientist travels to Central Africa and kidnaps two pygmies, and transports them back to England to conduct scientific research. He is convinced that this race of Africans may very well be the first race of humans, the originals, the “missing link.”

But when he completes his research, the pygmies fall into the hands of a ruthless businesswoman who literally rents them to a zoo! The English gentry are fascinated by the sight of “real African pygmies,” and the exhibit is a hit.

Fiennes, who plays the scientist, however, begins to have qualms about the morality of what he has done, and seeks to undo the damage he has caused to the Africans.

The movie was powerful to me, especially given the experiences I’ve had in the past month. It’s not so much based on a single, true story, as it is on the general treatment of African pygmies by Victorian England and the rest of Europe.

The lesson is hardly novel. I don’t think very many people, outside of Nazi parties or Ku Klux Klan gatherings, who would argue that there are people on the planet who are “less than human” in any sort of biological or genetic sort of way. But I am certain that each of us must check the terrain of our own hearts, to examine if we do, indeed, treat some people as being “worth less” than others.