Chet Flash wuz here Circulation: 81,443,838 Issue: 150 | 23rd day of Swimming, Y6
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To Explore or Not To Explore

by resurrectedwarrior


MERIDELL - With the cold wind on my face, I step out from a Meridell inn just south of King Skarl’s castle and make my way down to the river. There I am met with a scene of near chaos. A party is preparing to leave Meridell in long, heavy-laden boats. Wooden crates are being passed from sailor to sailor, full of supplies for the voyage, and being placed inside the hull of the white ships.

This is no ordinary voyage party. These are explorers under the leadership of Doctor Graham Kenny, a blue Bruce anthropologist stationed in Meridell. His research on the undiscovered cultures of Neopia is currently funded by the Neopian Culture Preservation and Development Organization. The NCPDO was founded for the very purpose of finding as-yet undiscovered cultures and worlds in order to preserve them -- by not making contact. Dr. Kenny was hired as part of their location team. They go into currently unexplored areas of Neopia and search for signs of Neopets. Once found, Dr. Kenny and his team quietly slip out of the territory and make maps of the area so other explorers and developers will leave the uncontacted civilization alone.

Within a few hours, the team, Dr. Kenny and I are on our way south in the boats. We are bundled up in warm, fur-lined coats and bracing ourselves for the bitter cold of the Neopian South Pole. Several rumors have reached Dr. Kenny from amateur explorers concerning strange, dome-shaped buildings and pieces of carved wood found in the snow. Any and all reports hinting at a possible new civilization are brought to Dr. Kenny, and those showing merit are investigated by taking a team of explorers to the place where the rumor originated.

“There are many reasons,” Dr. Kenny says, “for the preservation of uncontacted civilizations. Contact destroys culture.” This, Dr. Kenny claims, can be seen in the cultural changes exhibited in Meridell since its discovery less than a decade ago.

“Already cultural degradation can be seen amongst the inhabitants,” says a Meridellian historian P. B. Holebottom, “they are being brought into conformity with what’s seen to be acceptable in the greater Neopian culture.” This can be seen in the change in the kind of games the locals are becoming accustomed to playing. As soon as ‘Extreme Potato Counter’ was introduced to society, the amount of participation at the regular ‘Potato Counter’ field dwindled to a minimum. “The old way just bores them,” P. B. Holebottom remarked, “Especially amongst the young folk, who count the most toward preserving our own unique culture and customs. If we fail to entice the younglings to cherish their own ways of life, the old ways of life, Meridell as we know it will fade away.”

Holebottom’s worries are not entirely unfounded. As a rule, almost every civilization changes their currency from a typical barter system to Neopoints as soon as they’re discovered. Kreludor, for example, was barely observable using its ‘natural’ economical system before it was bombarded with excited Neopians from the planet below. Another observable phenomenon amongst newly discovered worlds is the rapid springing up of shops full of knickknacks and other useless items sold as souvenirs to tourists. While the average Neopian will see nothing wrong with these shops, Holebottom does. “They [knick-knack shops] are just another example of a culture conforming to the Greater Neopian Culture. They encourage materialism and clutter. Who really needs a Tiki-Tak key ring or bottles of sand? After these are bought, they do little but lay about the Neohome and take up space. Before discovery, Mystery Island would have nothing to do with unnecessary frivolities, and the situation was much the same with Meridell. ”

“It is to preserve and protect an undiscovered culture,” Dr. Kenny says, “that we have decided to avoid discovering them. From what we have seen in the discovery of other cultures, this the only way to keep different ways of life free from corruption.”

However, a cultural anthropologist from the Mystery Island College completely disagrees with historians like Holebottom and the cause of Dr. Kenny. Dr. Gaston Weeks has this to say, “Discovery, though it does have downsides, overall improves the condition of a civilization. Take Meridell, for example. Before its discovery, many Meridellians lived in poverty. They simply couldn’t afford proper housing. Now that there’s a way to gather income other than farming and clothes-making, many of these poorer Neopets are flourishing.”

This isn’t the only positive change that has occurred in Meridell after discovery. Common ailments, such as the Sneezles, are seen less and less in Meridell and health-care over all has improved greatly since the Meridellian doctors now have other medical professionals from all over the world to consult with. Such is also the case with Krawk Island.

There are other positive aspects of discovery benefit the entire Neopian population. A recent study conducted by the NCPDO (the same organization funding Dr. Kenny’s work) found that most Neopians are very open and accepting of new and foreign cultures. According to their report, because so many distinct civilizations have been discovered, most young Neopians are able to connect with others from distinctly different cultures. On many more than one occasion, the researchers encountered pairs of friends from opposite ends of the culture spectrum - one from Virtupets, and the other from Tyrannia. Also, many Neopians in the report claimed they feel ‘enriched’ by the discovery of other cultures. “We get to learn that even though not everything is done identically, the result is almost always the same,” an anonymous Kacheek stated. “It’s interesting to find that, even though we’re from totally different places in the world, we value many of the same things.”

“And there is another point most historians fail to note in their rants about ‘preserving culture’ and the like,” Dr. Weeks says, “without the help of the rest of the Neopian population, Meridell would not exist as it does today. General Kass would have wiped them out. If their culture had been ‘preserved’ in the fashion Dr. Kenny promotes, there would be no Meridell. Discovery may affect a culture in one way or another, some of which are less than desirable, but it also means there is help when you need it. ”

Finally reaching the snow-laden South Pole, we step out from our boats and survey our surroundings. Dr. Kenny waits until the sailors unload the cargo and set up their base camp before setting out with a group of explorers on a preliminary survey of the area. Nothing resembling civilization is found now, but the team is in no way discouraged for two reasons; first, they rarely expect to find evidence of inhabitants on their first day in the field. Secondly, no sign of life, rather than being a cause of excitement for these explorers, means there will be much more work to map out their area of occupancy and then further measures must be taken in Meridell to work out ‘no-go’ zones with development companies and safari tourist organizations. For this team, no discoveries is a good thing. (Especially as far as paperwork goes.)

Several weeks pass and there are no signs of life in this region. Finally, on the eve of our fourth week, the origin of the rumor is discovered. Seven leagues inland is a large ice-covered plain, except for half a dozen high-mounded domes. As we draw near, we find these were indeed constructed by means other than natural processes. However, it soon becomes obvious these haven’t been made anytime recently, and they certainly are not igloos. Rather, it is soon discovered these are small monuments of ancient construction, and the area is soon noted on maps to be of interest to an archaeologist.

When considering whether or not uncontacted civilizations should be discovered (or when discovered, if that discovery should be made known to the public), one should always weigh both sides of the issue and count the cost. Ultimately, it is the Neopians at large who will decide the fate of the ‘uncivilized’ civilizations: To explore, or not to explore.

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by resurrectedwarrior

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