Saturday, October 25, 2014


'Passing the baby' was the chief custom of the Hahananawup people. A Hahananawup child would be born and held and caressed by its mother before being passed to its father who would cuddle the infant and then pass it to its grandparents who would cradle the little one before passing it to its uncles and aunts who would display affection in the usual way and then pass the newborn to cousins who would say 'ahh would you look the darlin little thing' or whatever before passing it to their friends who would show an obligatory amount of enthusiasm before passing the baby to friends of theirs who would display customary endearment and then pass the youngster to others who, by this stage, would be complete strangers to the infant's parents. The baby would continue to be passed from one person to another until it vanished from the lives of its mother and father completely, not to be seen again for at least four decades.

This would happen with every baby born into Hahananawup society, resulting in a whole population of people passing each other around. Of course, as a baby grew to adulthood the reactions of those it was passed to would change. Instead of pinching the baby's cheeks and saying 'coochie coochie coo', the Hahananawup people would offer polite conversation and ask the former baby how things are going or maybe say something about the weather.

It is thought that the custom of passing the baby brought about the end of the Hahananawup people. Hahananawups were not able to incorporate careers into their lives of being passed around so any chance of forming even the most rudimentary economy was remote. Consumption of food must have been difficult too but that matters little when one considers that there was no food to consume. Farming and hunting were close to impossible for a people being perpetually passed around and passing around others, to say nothing of attempts at procreation. The Hahananawup civilisation was a short lived one. As a people, they were just a throng of bodies jumping in and out of each other's arms, growing weaker all the time and suffering from the contagious conditions that the baby passing tradition facilitated. It is thought that the Hahananawup people only survived for two generations after adopting the custom of baby passing. We can work out what happened from the records of other societies who observed the Hahananawup at the time and from the remains of the Hahananawup themselves. Ah yes, ...the remains. A troglodyte city, empty but for a meshed heap of skeletons. The birds don't sing in the home of the Hahananawup but the wind whistles eerily as it moves through that colossal lattice of bones.

When the Hahananawup people and their custom of 'passing the baby' comes to mind, we are forced to consider the consequences of doing something just because everyone else is doing it. Some of our most treasured and adhered to customs might too be nothing more than really really really dumb fucking ideas. I suppose that's the moral of the story. Not that stories should have morals. Stories should just make people think and let them decide for themselves. But that's a story for another day. Until then, keep passing the baby.

And now a short film...

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