For example – some small and remote tribe (let’s say in Brazil) lives by traditional hunting and gathering, and conducts religious rituals that involve dancing, chanting, masks, etc., under moonlight. They speak a language not closely related to any other on earth. This tribe, once “discovered”, assimilates into Brazilian society and disappears over the next fifty years or so, largely due to the choices that young tribe members make – they are interested in the larger society, so more and more of them leave until only the old folks are left.
So, after several decades, no one alive still speaks this language, no one conducts these religious rituals, and no one lives the lifestyle unique to this tribe.
Is this tragic? I’m deliberately leaving out the stuff that normally has accompanied such “discoveries” in our history (murder, displacement, theft of land/resources, exploitation, slavery, etc.) – such things are undoubtedly tragic (and crimes against humanity). But what about just the loss of culture, practices, and language (and again, I’m assuming that these losses were the result of decisions that individual tribe members made over time)? Is this loss tragic?
I think the answer is no. Or, if they are tragic, then they are a very, very minor tragedy indeed. I’m not troubled if no one believes in a certain god any more, or no one conducts a certain ritual any more, or even if no one speaks a certain language any more, except when these things were eliminated by violence (which I’m aware that they often were).