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🗝️ Sanity Classics: The 'idiots' fight back. Or, why being incurious is awesome.

What's the relationship between curiosity, colonialism, and 'idiocy'?

Tanmoy Goswami
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Now enjoy today's Sanity Classic on how colonialism weaponised 'curiosity' against the colonised whom they called 'idiots' - and how said idiots struck back.


On April 28, 1770, the British Royal Navy research vessel HMS Endeavour made its way into a calm, deep bay on the eastern shore of New Holland. We now know this place as Australia. Endeavour became the first European vessel to reach this remote corner of the world, giving its commander, a 42-year-old explorer named James Cook, a hallowed place in the history books.

But something else happened on that fateful April day that's missing from mainstream history. As they disembarked from the ship, Cook's men were in for a rude surprise. One of them, a naturalist named Joseph Banks, spotted four small canoes inside the bay, from which indigenous inhabitants of this 'new' land were catching fish. To Banks's puzzlement, they completely ignored the imposing ship and its important-looking occupants, staying focused on the fish instead.

"These people seemed to be almost totally engag'd in what they were about," Banks wrote in his journal. "[T]he ship passed within a quarter of a mile of them and yet they scarce lifted their eyes from their employment."

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