The indigenous Moronola people live on a Caribbean island called Mustabdum, an island that doesn’t appear on any available maps. The Moronolas have cultural values extremely different than the majority of the western hemisphere, namely in how they seek out relative idiocy when choosing their society’s leadership.
Anthropologist Cole Slaw Golinowski, 34 and originally from Jacksonville, FL, has been a participant-observer among the Moronolas for over three and a half years. Golinowski was at first enraged to see the interviewers whom ventured to Mustabdum by boat, some seventy miles southeast of the Bajo Nuevo Bank. Golinowski’s initial greeting was as follows: “I don’t know how you found out about the Moronola’s location, and I don’t quite care. I can’t take a chance of you polluting our—I mean, their society.” He pointed a bow and arrow at the interviewers, prepared to fire. Golinowski calmed down when bribed with a written agreement that his full name would appear in any of the interviewers’ published materials. “I hope you’ll forgive my outburst,” he said with the bow over his shoulder. “I didn’t want you to tamper with my research.”
Although many Moronolas watched the encounter from afar in their scanty, flora-based garb, only one of them stepped forward. Golinowski introduced the tall and well-toned man as Nobrane Kanue. Golinowski invited Kanue to join him for a tandem interview in a tiny hut on the beach.
“Don’t worry. He can barely understand English,” Golinowski said, nodding towards Kanue before diving into a fast-paced explanation of Moronola civilization. “They’re incredible. Their island is very rarely discovered because currents guide ships out of the range of visibility. They aren’t savages, I swear. Try to ignore how they’re dressed. I should also mention that we anthropologists don’t use the word ‘savages’ anymore. We prefer more subtly insulting labels nowadays, like ‘simple’, ‘early stage’, or ‘as yet undeveloped’.”
Golinowski described the Moronola’s specific appeal to him. “You won’t believe it, but when they pick their community chief, they’re in truth looking for someone stupid, man or woman. Their qualifications for leadership include vapid stares into space while picking crap out of one’s teeth and the inability to be embarrassed when wrong or confused. While it’s true the Moronolas also emphasize the importance of traits like cooperation, altruism, and an overall peaceful demeanor, my research shows ineffably that what they really want is somebody incapable of deep thought. They seek out fools to lead them. Holy fools.”
Stepping outside the hut and leaving Kanue inside, Golinowski directed the interviewers’ attentions to the current chief, a thin and regal woman named Ibidi Annula. Annula led a group of young children in tying wooden planks together, a technique Golinowski said would eventually be applied to boat-building. “Look at her. She’s teaching them a mindless repetition, but it’s for a good cause. She’s the ideal chief – never questioning the validity of her subjective experience, and never wanting to. She’s completely at peace.” Golinowski exhaled in admiration. “The Moronola have struck gold in the society they’ve created here. They’re just so perfectly naïve to the rest of the world. Naïve to what it’s like for your fiancé to cheat on you with your sister and then your Mom. Naïve to Zoloft® and naïve to failed attempts at using eHarmony®. Naïve to wanting to escape from it all.” Golinowski temporarily excused himself from the interview after his observations in order to “take a dump.”
The interviewers were prepared to wait for him in silence. They both smiled at Kanue across the language barrier’s chasm. Kanue replied to their smiles and said, “I do speak English, you know.” He chuckled at the interviewers’ surprise. “I also speak French, Spanish, and Creole, as well as the language of my people, a Ta-Maipurean language closer to Ciboney Taíno than Classic Taíno. Listen to me closely, before Cole returns.”
Kanue elaborated on how he and the other Moronolas noticed something was off in Cole Slaw Golinowski when he first arrived on Mustabdum those three and a half years ago. “He was disturbed. Who completely cuts themselves off from their family, friends, and home, and plans to do it for ten full years? I honestly don’t think he knew our society existed here when his raft first came ashore,” Kanue commented. The Moronolas held a meeting and decided they would pull together as a community to restore Golinowski’s faith in humankind. “He needed some sort of psychic comfort. Cole wanted to believe that human nature could be pure, could exist outside of time. We wanted to give him that hope.”
Kanue poked his head out of the hut to check for Golinowski’s whereabouts. “It’s easier to maintain the utopic façade than you might think. He spends most of his time in the hut we built for him. He’s typically reading, writing, or sobbing.”
Kanue goes on. “We told him the huts where we keep our computers and electrical generators are restricted to devout followers of the Moronola religion, ‘Idio’, and that Cole has to earn his entrance into them by being a participating member of our community. We believe community participation may rehabilitate his wounded spirit. He hasn’t stepped away from his research to help us irrigate yet, or to help us educate our children. That’s part of why he hasn’t noticed Moronolas like me are leaving the island to offer aid in lawsuits about the rights of indigenous peoples. And if you’re wondering why I’m wearing this,” Kanue continued, gesturing to his bare body and the woven palm fronds that covered his nether regions, “it’s because it’s our culture, because it’s persuasive in a courtroom, and because—how do you say it?—it’s because it’s f*cking hot in the Caribbean.”
With Kanue’s quip, Golinowski reentered the hut wondering aloud in English if anyone had seen his iPhone charger. “Not to use it, but just to know where it is, for safekeeping.” But it was too late; Golinowski had overheard Kanue speaking English. He was stunned. He reacted immediately and tackled one interviewer to the ground.
“What are you doing?!” Golinowski demanded. “Giving him an English lesson?! Teaching him curse words?!?” Breathing like the air was thinning, Golinowski picked himself up off the interviewer whose face he’d pressed into the sand. “Don’t do that to him. You’ll ruin him. You’ll ruin all of this.” Golinowski placed his right hand on his heart, or, rather, on the chest pocket of his beige safari shirt. He said, “Oh, that’s where it was,” and reached into the pocket. He pulled out his formerly lost iPhone charger and flashed it to Kanue and the interviewers. “Always the last place you look, right? But seriously: no English lessons or this could all get destroyed overnight. Anyway, let’s get back to the interview. Do you have any other questions you want to ask me?” The interviewers couldn’t think of a single one.