Africa, Malthus and Eugenics

A few thoughts on African loss of life (and eugenics), for those for whom history began before 1979.

We’re told that Africa has an AIDS problem. I used to think this was so. But after copious reading research and discussion, I am more than fairly convinced that Africa has a number of severe problems that have been collected together and name-branded ‘AIDS’.

Last year I spoke with an epidemioligist, a specialist in water-safety, just returned from Uganda. She showed me her pictures of the tin-shack shanty towns, thrown up on the muddy banks of garbage heaps and drainage ditches, children playing in the refuse. I asked, where’s the clean water? That, she said, was a problem. I asked, how do you tell dysentery, cholera, TB, malaria and sepsis, and all the rest of what occurs, from AIDS?

That, she said, was the problem.

She added, with some frustration – “But you can’t get a grant to do anything over there, unless it has the words “HIV/AIDS” in the title.”

So, no clean water, no sewage systems, but only AZT and Nevirapine for Africa?

But I’m looking for the historical perspective. What was Africa like before 1985, the year the label was made for Africans in Bangui, in the Central African Republic (more on that here ).

Is AIDS – Illness, plague, famine and early mortality in Africa – a modern phenomenon? Ask Thomas Malthus. But don’t ask him about slavery, at least, not much:

From Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798): Book 1, Ch VIII Of the Checks to the Population in different parts of Africa

The wars in Africa are of two kinds, one called Killi, that which is openly avowed; and the other, Tegria, plundering or stealing. These latter are very common…. – These plundering excursions always produce speedy retaliation.”

“The insecurity of property arising from this constant exposure to plunder, must necessarily have a most baneful effect on industry…The waste of life in these constant wars and predatory incursion must be considerable and [surgeon/explorer Mungo] Park agrees with [natural historian Georges] Buffon in stating, that independently of violent causes, longevity is rare among the negroes.”

“At forty, he says, most of them become grey-haired and covered with wrinkles, and few of them survive the age of fifty-fife or sixty. Boffon attributes this shortness of life to the premature intercourse of the sexes, and very early and excessive debauchery.

Ah yes, Negro Debauchery…. we’ve heard this tune before. Not war, pestilence, famine or… well, sit tight..

Africa has been at all times the principle mart of slaves. The drains of its population in this way have been great and constant, particularly since their introduction into the European colonies; but perhaps, as Dr. Franklin observes, it would be difficult to find the gap that has been made by a hundred years’ exportation of negroes which has blackened half America. For notwithstanding this constant emigration, the loss of numbers from incessant war, and checks to increase from vice and other causes, it appears that the population is continually pressing against the limits of the means of subsistence.”

Yes, never mind the slave-taking of the strongest and youngest, and the never-ending cycles of war… Those negroes just eat too much!

This is Malthus’ argument against poverty, essentially: Too many people breed poverty. Not poverty breeds many people, which is the actually observed phenomenon, and that wealth breeds conservatism… No, in Malthus’ era, as the English empire accustomed itself to the loss of the Americas, held a bloody grip on India, and struggled against the pressures of a rising working class (via agrarian and industrial revolutions), the worker was no longer content to just be a serf, and the ruling class found itself profoundly challenged in its historical role.

The revolution in France, England’s commerical and historical rival, had brought to the fore new ideas about the limits of “L’etat, C’est Moi”, of private property and the priviledges of the ruling class, versus the new and burgeoning bourgeoisie.

And so, naturally, it was this this idea – Overpopulation by the unwashed lower classes, the uncivilized, uncouth (and, of course, Black) – that was the probable cause of the root of all future evils to expound.

He continues, however, in a vein nearing reality:

According to Park, scarce years and famines are frequent. Among four principal causes of slavery in Africa, he mentions famine next to war and the express permission given to masters to sell their domestic slaves for the support of their family…seems to imply the not unfrequent recurrence of severe want*. During a great scarcity which lasted for three years in the countries of the Gambia, great numbers of people became slaves. Park was assured by Dr. Laidley that at that time many free men came, and begged with great earnestness to be put upon his slave chain to save them from perishing with hunger.”

Ah, the beneficence of the West..

But what is this? What could explain the following?:

[I]n a climate in which there appears to be many predisposing causes of sickness, it is difficult to conceive that this state of wretchedness does not powerfully contribute to the extraordinary mortality which has been observed in some of these countries.”

Extraordinary Mortality? Must be AIDS …I suppose AIDS began in the 1700s then? Must have been dirty needles, or maybe a super-strain…you know, because of all the Methadone being used by those debauched, sex-crazed negroes…

”[T]he whole coast of the Red Sea, from Suez to Babelmandel, is extremely unwholesome, but more especially between the tropics. Violent fevers, called there Nedad, make the principal figure in this fatal list, and generally terminate the third day in death. Fear frequently seizes strangers upon the first sight of the great mortality which they observe on their first arrival.”

It surely does, Thomas, it surely does.

Oh, and there’s more…

“In Gondar, fevers perpetually reign, and the inhabitants are all of the colour of a corpse.

“In Sire’, one of the finest countries in the world, putrid fevers of the very worst kind are almost constant. in the low grounds of Abyssinia [Ancient Ethiopia, in part], in general, malignant tertians occasion a great mortality. And ever where the small-pox makes great ravages, particularly among the nations bordering on Abyssinia, where it sometimes extinguishes whole tribes.”

The effect of poverty, with bad diet, and, its almost constant concomitant, want of cleanliness, in aggravating malignant distempers, is well known; and this kind of wretchedness seems generally to prevail. Of Tchagassa, near Gondar, [explorer/travel writer James] Bruce observes that the inhabitants, notwithstanding their threefold harvests, are miserably poor.”

and more…

“The Agows, one of the most considerable nations of Abyssinia in point of number, are described by Bruce as living in a state of misery and penury scarcely to be conceived. We saw a number of women, he says, wrinkled and sun-burnt so as scarcely to appear human, wandering about under a burning sun with one and sometimes two children upon their backs, gathering the seeds of bent grass to make a kind of bread.”

The Agow women begin to bear children at eleven years old. They marry generally about that age, and there is no such thing as barrenness known among them.”

“In Dixan, one of the frontier towns of Abyssinia, the only trade is that of selling children. Five hundred are exported annually to Arabia; and in times of scarcity, Bruce observes, four times that number.

and more…

“At half past six,” Bruce says, “we arrived at Garigana, a village whose inhabitants had all perished with hunger the year before; their wretched bones being all unburied and scattered upon the surface of the ground where the village formerly stood. We encamped among the bones of the dead; no space could be found free from them.”

“Of another town or village in his route he observes, “The strength of Teawa was 25 horse. The rest of the inhabitants might be 1200 naked miserable and despicable Arabs, like the rest of those which live in villages. Such was the state of Teawa. Its consequence was only to remain till the Daveina Arabs should resolve to attack it, when its corn-fields being burnt and destroyed in a night by a multitude of horsemen, the bones of its inhabitants scattered upon the earth would be all its remains, like those of the miserable village of Garigana.”

…but who reads history? Certainly not eugenicists. It would put them out of business!

The solution to all of this? Clean water systems, banning slavery? Implementing supportive and fair economic and trade practices???

Oh, come now! Far too much work. The solution? Just ask Margaret Sanger …Or Bob Gallo.

13 thoughts on “Africa, Malthus and Eugenics

  1. Great stuff, Liam. Lotta big picture visions.

    An entire continent that over the past 200 years has been ravaged by: (a) slave trade, (b) exploitive colonialism, (c) lack of water, (d) lack of food, (e) political instability, (f) tribal warfare, (g) Apartheid, (h) puppet dictators, (i) unsanitary conditions and (j) lack of economic development, but …………..

    the “experts,” advise us to ignore all this, blame any and all illnesses on a mystery sex virus derived from Chimpanzees, by way of The Castro in San Francisco, and then claim the solution lies in the widespread dissemination of toxic Western pills.

    Is that about right?

    Hank Barnes

  2. “the “experts,” advise us to ignore all this, blame any and all illnesses on a mystery sex virus derived from Chimpanzees, by way of The Castro in San Francisco, and then claim the solution lies in the widespread dissemination of toxic Western pills”

    All sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? Makes a person wonder if the official “AIDS” story had been written before the ’80’s as a novel, would it made it off the bookstore shelves? I doubt it, it’s just too convoluted, illogical and just plain silly to be believable.

  3. Let’s point out that this is concurrent with a debate at the Seed Magazine blog here

    I’d say read the passages from Malthus carefully. He, like his heirs, seeks to blame sexual habits and overpopulation for what is clearly, evidentially, a complex series of major scourges: slavery, pestilence, the inhabitability of the burning tropics, recurrent famine, etc.

    He sees it (or has read about it from the explorer/writers of his age), but he still seeks an alternative explanation – one that boosts the sagging morale of the struggling Eurpean world.

    “We’re doing better than they are! That’s for sure. So all the problems in the world (and all the problems to come!) are surely their fault!”

    That’s the Malthusian bargain, and it really is the basis for the AIDS paradigm.

    Their sexual practices, their burgeoning numbers, our need to prophylactize and chemically sterilize them, and on and on.

    From Malthus sprouted the Eugenic rationale – kill them before they’re born, or prevent them from being born – this is the ‘better breeding’ path to the western utopic vision.

    It’s racist, to be sure, and pretty tribal, in its own right, is it not?

  4. Liam, you are right on top of things as usual! As long as I can recall, being a child or the early sixties, we watched on tv for pleas to feed the sick and dying in Africa. Nothing has basically changed in my lifetime. They are still sick and dying. Now, unfortunately, they have mostly been labeled with Aids which take the responsibility off of society to save these people. It can all be blamed on this illusive and destructive virus.

    The original problems of these people probably are still not be addressed. Nevertheless, we now have big Pharma Superman
    on the scene to save the day. What a joke! These toxic, drugs will do these poor, starving people in sooner while mega buck is being made by the ruthless. If they really cared about these people then they would not poison them with drugs.

  5. Hi Noreen,

    thanks for the good words. As a child in the 70s, I too watched the television showing the beyond thin brown bodies, appearing frail and brittle as dead winter branches, in famine and war-plagued areas of Africa.

    There are many interesting discussions of how war-torn Uganda and Apartheid South Africa were renamed AIDS epicenters by the Western authorities. Here are a couple links:

    The Ugandan Example – Fiala
    Treating Poverty with Toxic Drugs – Scheff
    Racial Stereotypes and AIDS – Geshekter
    The Plague that Never Was – Hodginkson

    Joan Shenton and Meditel did some television work on Africa and how so many things have been name-branded “AIDS”:

  6. But what is really interesting, or telling, it to look at the daily papers at how life goes in areas branded ‘aids’ centers, like Uganda:

    Kampala’s Soweto – The Monitor, Uganda

    The South African Soweto is described by “old squatter misery and new prosperity, squalor and an upbeat lifestyle,” according to a SA website. For the most part, this definition is appropriate for Namuwongo because of the congestion and the general activities that characterise this slum.


    Most of the residents are from northern Uganda. The Chairman LC I, Mr Emmanuel Masengere said the war in the north has worsened the situation in Soweto because there is a continuous influx of the people from the war zones into the area.

    Why they chose Soweto is a mystery.


    Soweto is also riddled with poor sanitation and a poor garbage disposable system. When The Monitor visited the area, Matovu was mobilising residents, with great difficulty, to clear garbage that had blocked a waterway.

    The most unpleasant part of the filth is the human refuse. As we toured the place we found a woman peeling potatoes, while faeces, half covered with a piece of paper, sat just nearby.

    A bad smell from the litter and from the blocked water passages fills the air.

    Masengere said that only a few households have pit latrines in the area. Those who do not have either pay Shs 100 each time they use someone’s latrine or Shs 2,000 a month per family.

    Others use polythene bags commonly known as ‘flying toilets’. Many of the problems that the Local Council in this area face are probably because of the congestion.

    Masengere also says that an average of 10 people live in a single small room.

    Mr Ojwiya James is a resident in Soweto. He stays with his wife, mother-in-law and six children in a single roomed house. The house he rents with other tenants is collapsing and has no pit-latrines.

    When asked where the family ease themselves Ojwiya pointed at his backyard. “That is no problem, the yam gardens are full. That is where we ease ourselves,” he said.

    Ojwiya is not the only person who uses the yam gardens, which are in a swamp. Hundreds of other residents do the same. Masengere said there are about 4,500 people who are registered with the LC but the majority of the residents are not registered. He estimates that there are about 8,000 inhabitants in his area.

    Masengere feels helpless; because he cannot send some of the residents away and yet day-by-day the slum continues to grow. The violence continues.

    Kampala’s Soweto – The Monitor, Uganda

    But apparently we’re not the only ones aware of the propoganda surrounding the marketing of brand-name “aids”:

    US to Africa: You All Have AIDS

  7. The AIDS establishment wants to sell a lot of drugs. Selling drugs makes lotta $$. So, to whom are they gonna sell all these drugs?

    How about a continent full of 1 billion people? They view Africans as potential customers, not patients. But Africans don’t have the money to buy all these drugs. Hmm. Thatsa problem. What’s the solution?

    Turn it into a “noble” crusade, scream loudly that all these people will die, without the “life-saving” drugs, get the gov’t to buy the drugs and have them dispensed to the people.

    Ya gotta think creatively, boys!


  8. Hello Liam and all.

    EXCELLENT choice of pieces to show the historical aspect of Africa.

    Liam, I would love to share with you the following to give you along the same historical line, but one that actually happened here in the US in 1793:

    A story of Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and first Surgeon General, and one of the founders of American Medicine, as he deals with the first outbreak of a disease epidemic in the New United States that happened in the then Capital city of Philadelphia. Phenomenal to me, how the more things change, the more they stay the same. His recommended treatment of bloodletting and mercury divided society into two camps: those who, largely thanks to Rush’s work, still retained confidence in medicine, and those who refused all medicine.

    Destroying Angel: Dr. Benjamin Rush,

    Yellow Fever and the Birth of Modern Medicine

  9. Pingback: New AIDS Review
  10. Hola!Si, Si—“food, water, infrastructure, development, investment” (minor revision: water before food)

    A viable example and approach is described here,
    here, and
    here, but few are listening.

    Any hope for progress will have to be done by the usual quiet, self-sacrificing and dedicated minority who are willing to turn things over to the locals when they are capable. The current approaches of governments, and those like Billy (Gates) and Willy (Buffet) will only make things worse for the reasons you have laid out.


  11. Yes, water, water. Clean water.

    Thanks for these links – they look great! Will definitely have a read.

    Have a look folks – from the second piece:

    Boston Magazine “Desert Saint”

    “When Gordon Sato was sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans as a teenager during World War II, he learned to cultivate vegetables in the dry California dirt. Today, the 76-year-old Sato is using that experience to help the people in a drought-racked, war-ravaged nation grow food in their own desert.”

    Wow! Fascinating stuff. Will respond in greater depth once I’ve had a chance to read them.



Comments are closed.