Subscribe to Love Mondays newsletter updates via email »

LM: #270: Cargo cult culture

July 01 2024 – 10:00am

One of the most fascinating displays of the follies of the human mind is the cargo cult.

In WWII, the U.S. military landed on various islands in the Pacific. To the previously-isolated societies who lived on these islands, these soldiers were like aliens from another planet, arriving through never-before-seen technology.

After the soldiers left the islands, cargo cults cleared forest areas to make runways, and made headphones out of coconuts and air-traffic batons out of sticks.

They believed if they recreated the scenes they had seen, planes would once again land with food, clothes, and equipment.

One such cult is the “John Frum” cult. To this day, on the island of Tanna, there are festivities, worshipping rituals, and even false prophets claiming to be the reincarnation of “John Frum.” (A now-mythical American serviceman whose name apparently derives from introducing himself as “John, from…[place].”)

The bizarre beliefs of cargo cults come from the same wetware with which we in industrial society are equipped. So, cargo-cult thinking is everywhere:

We often merely mimic appearances, without understanding what will cause the effect we want.

Do you see cargo-cult thinking in other areas?

Aphorism: “Anyone who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but rather his memory.” —Leonardo da Vinci

Book: I don’t remember how I got It Only Takes a Minute to Change Your Life (Amazon) but it’s motivating and inspiring.

P.S. I shared another several weeks ago, but the Waiting for John documentary on the John Frum cargo cult, which includes the above image, is even more in-depth.

Thinking of
writing a book?

How to Write a Book cover
Download your FREE copy of How to Write a Book »

(for a limited time)

This post is filed under Newsletter.