Jared Diamond, an evolutionary biologist, wrote that New Guinea natives are not less intelligent as Americans, since they know how to fish and survive in nature. I am sure they are, in the same sense that my SES students are so bright in class. The New Guineans have never developed a civilization or religion, except the cargo cult, which is the most fascinating religious phenomenon I ever learnt of. During WWII American soldiers landed and brought cargo to New Guinea. After the Americans left, a native religious leader directed them to build copies of American landing strips and to re-act American behaviour, hoping that the cargo will arrive to them from the skies, just as it did for the American soldiers. Believers treat the activities of American soldiers as rituals performed for the purpose of attracting cargo. The cult members build these items and 'facilities' in the belief that the structures would attract cargo. In a form of sympathetic magic, they build life-size mockups of airplanes out of straw, and create military style landing strips, hoping to attract airplanes. The John Frum cargo cult is still active on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. And from time to time, the term "cargo cult" is invoked to mean any group of people who imitate the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance.
The centre of the Jon Frum cargo cult today is based in a village at Sulphur Bay. The Jon Frum Church here houses the movement's most sacred red cross. On Friday evenings, Jon Frum supporters come from the nearby villages to dance. Every year on the 15th of February, Jon Frum day is celebrated. This is the day when the Sulphur Bay people believe that Jon Frum will return, bringing with him all the cargo he has promised. Prayers and flowers are offered at the red cross in the village church. This is followed by a flag-raising ceremony and a military parade. Islanders carry rifles made of bamboo, painted to appear as if they have red bayonets.
About 100 men march under the command of two village elders dressed as US Army sergeants. The soldiers have the letters "USA" painted in red on their bodies. These soldiers consider themselves to be members of the Tannese Army, a special unit of the American armed forces.