"…It was customary in those days for European travelers to come to Africa or Asia, ask native guides to show them the way to the source of a river, or to the top of a mountain, and then turn around and claim it as their own discovery. They would then name it after themselves or their king or queen…" Quoted from G.E. Gorfu’s Essay: Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence (1)

This kind of ‘unholy’ claim, one might think, ended in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. But, nothing could be further from the truth. It still goes on, sanctioned by Europe, America, and the powers that be in the UN, together with all the ‘so called’ civilized nations of the world. These days, however, it is being conducted quietly, discretely, and without commotion. A law of dynamics in biochemistry in the interaction of systems states that: ‘…when two systems interact, the more developed system will exploit and eventually destroy the less developed system…’

Take the simple case of a local craftsman or medicine man practicing his ancient art, handed down from his ancestors, in some poor and rural area of Asia or Africa. A multi-national company opens shop in a close by town and hires this craftsman or that medicine man to regularly produce his art or medicine to be exported and sold in Paris, London, or New York. One of the requirements during the hiring process is to have him sign a bunch of papers. The poor man knows very little of what they are having him sign. One of the papers in the pile is the one where a company employee gives over any and all rights, "…of discovery and/or any original work…" to the company.

Very soon, the artwork is carefully photographed and attached to copyright application papers, which are filed with the proper authorities. And very soon after that, the company acquires the rights to reproduce and manufacture this ancient craft handed down over so many generations, as if it was a new creation discovered by the company. The same is being done to the medicines the local medicine man is mixing. A lab is set up to analyze and record the ingredients, and application forms are soon filed to patent the product, making the company the sole proprietor of the medicine(s).

What has happened here is, that the people in these examples were robbed in broad daylight and dispossessed through the instrument of the law. Here is a sad example where the law is being used to commit robbery. Once the legal instruments are in place, the medicine man and the craftsman can be laid off or fired, and the company has rights to the product and can reproduce it up-teen times and sell it worldwide. What we see here in action is therefore, a real life drama being played out, where the advanced system of the West continues to exploit the less developed societies and cultures of the world.

What needs to be done is for those in the international law arena to draft legal clauses that protect native medicine men, craftsmen, and artisans from these kinds of thefts. These then should be submitted to the appropriate body in the UN and have them drafted into law. In the drafting of these laws, one should make sure that they also have "teeth." There should be some types of punishments in heavy fines, and they should also be made retroactive. As it stands now, there is nothing to protect the ‘less developed system’ from the legal robbery and intrigues of the ‘more developed system.’

G. E. Gorfu, Dec. 2002



1. Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence, G. E. Gorfu. 2000. Published electronically in Zara and

The views reflected in the above   essay are solely of the author and are not necessarily shared by Meskot. You may contact G.E. Gorfu  for comments at .