by Owen Stanley
Published by Castalia House (2016)
When academic theories collide with practical reality, fun is had by all and sundry. The Missionaries is a hilarious book that will have you turning the page to see how badly a UN bureaucrat’s quest to modernize a distant tribe can go — and believe me, it goes really wrong. It shows the limits of the academic way of thinking while making you laugh all the way.
In the book, Dr. Prout is on a mission from the UN to develop the tribes of Elephant Island. As he does this, he finds himself going up against Roger Fletcher, a local administrator who prefers to let the tribes live as they always have, with him smoothing over any disputes. Despite Fletcher’s crude behavior and jokes about the natives’ culture, he clearly understands and respects them on a fundamental level. Dr. Prout, on the other hand, strides in like a know-it-all, spouting a mix of UN propaganda and left-wing orthodoxy while making no effort to understand the people in front of him. Most of the book’s humor comes from the collision of Fletcher’s practicality and Prout’s theoretical thinking.
The book happily flips the script, too; despite Fletcher’s rough attitude and coarse manners, he is disrespecting tribal symbols and customs. And despite Prout’s academic credentials and enlightened sensitivity, he always casts his own opinions onto the tribes, often fantasizing about how modern they would be once the UN was done with them. It made Prout and the UN mission’s accusations of racism ring hollow, since all the mission could think about was how developed the place would be and showing no respect for the local way of life. The author shows the hypocrisy of the modern Left throughout the book, sneering at others for their “racism” while talking about “revolutionizing” the tribes’ way of life into sterile modernity. In this way, the UN mission resembled colonialism far more than Fletcher’s way did.
The only major flaw is that the book could get a little didactic at times as it hammered home the superiority of practical knowledge. But even these segments are funny and entertaining to read, and the book does not suffer from them.
While this book wouldn’t be everyone’s favorite, I would proudly say that I loved the book. Highly recommended. Get it on Amazon.