Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’

Karen Davies on Feminist Article Debunking Claims that Africans and Other Non-White Peoples Didn’t Know about Biological Sex before European Colonisation

June 14, 2022

I felt I had to put this up, because the fact that activists and feminist scholars like Karen Davies and Jennifer Seiland, the author of magazine article Davies discusses, have to refute this nonsense show how far the ideological fantasies of Queer Theory have poisoned genuine political, feminist and ethnological discourse. Davies is a Black American lady, who’s a sharp, trenchant critic of the transgender ideology and its supporters. She’s a musician, schoolteacher teaching young children, and has also worked in the care sector with the mentally ill. She has very strong, uncompromising views on both the transgender ideology and transwomen which has led to disputes with other gender critical campaigners, like Graham Linehan. However, her views and criticisms are informed by medical scholarship, and she cites the appropriate medical and psychiatric literature to support her case.

In this video she approvingly discusses a piece in the feminist magazine Reduxx by Jennifer Seiland ‘Black Women Are Women. Men Are Not’, concentrating particularly on Seiland’s attack on a frankly weird and bonkers idea going around Trans supporters and ideologues. This is that Africans did not understand biological sex and the gender binary before it was imposed on them by White, Christian Europeans. Davies herself makes good, and sometimes glaringly obvious points against this nonsense. Like Africans obviously knew about the gender binary and the biological differences between the sexes, like everyone else. It would have partly been a survival issue. You wouldn’t let heavily pregnant women go hunting where they were particularly vulnerable to animal attack. Rather, you’d give them other, lighter work to do and leave them with other people in attendance to help them when the baby arrived. She points to great African civilisations like ancient Egypt and asks how anybody could build such a great culture and its monuments, if they were too thick to know the difference between men and women. She also raises the point that people in the ancient world travelled widely long before European colonisation, and that the Vikings probably got to Africa. She also makes the feminist point that not only were Black women frequently denied their humanity, but so were women generally. She compares the attitude that African’s didn’t understand the difference between men and women to nonsense she was taught at Roman Catholic school that Africans didn’t have language until the Europeans arrived.

This all seems to be a development of one of the arguments used by the supporters of the transgender ideology that non-western cultures have a third gender, and that White westerners, as racist colonialists, have imposed their narrow view that there are only two sexes on them. Now some cultures do have a third gender category for people, usually gay men, who are seen as somehow neither male nor female. A few years ago the Indian hijras – eunuchs – were campaigning for official recognition as a third gender. One book I read years ago about Polynesian society described the gay men in those societies, who grew their hair long, dressed as women and took up feminine occupations like laundry. Going further back, Herodotus in his Histories describes how the men of the Scythian aristocracy often dressed as women and did feminine tasks.

Not all cultures outside Europe have such ideas, however, and in many African cultures the sex roles can be very marked. For example, among the Dowayo of Cameroon the smiths are men but their wives are potters. Basket-weaving is also feminine occupation,. The British anthropologist, Dr. Nigel Barley, in his book The Innocent Anthropologist, describes the general hilarity he caused among his hosts when he tried his hand at basked making. To me the statement that Africans didn’t know about biological sex seems to be a new mutation of the old, and thoroughly discredited anthropological belief that primitive peoples, like those of Papua New Guinea, didn’t understand the father’s role in conception. They believed instead that a god or spirit had entered the woman’s womb. In fact later research showed that primitive peoples know very well that you need a biological man as well as a women to make the next generation.

I also wonder how anyone can make such a ludicrous statement that it needs to be refuted by a feminist scholar like Seiland, when there’s a wealth of popular literature about Africa and its peoples that would easily show otherwise. All you have to do is look for the books on Africa in the local library or good bookstore. And there’s some excellent LGBTQ+ literature which discusses homosexuality and related issues around the world. One of these is A Gay History of the World. This describes the case of an African queen, who overthrew her husband, took on male dress and ruled as king. She also had a harem of male wives, who wore women’s clothes. It’s definitely queer, but it seems to me to be a result of very strong traditional ideas about the sex roles. Only men can rule as kings. Therefore, any woman that tries to rule, has to make herself culturally a man, which means dressing in masculine clothes and having a harem of wives. Though as it seems the queen was heterosexual, these were men rather than women.

As for what Davies was taught in Catholic school about Africans not possessing language until it was brought to them by Whites, I honestly have no idea where that notion came from. It’s the kind of rubbish Fascist groups like the National Front used to say. But European explorers and linguists from the 19th century, and no doubt well before, knew that Africans had their own tongues. The Victorian explorer Richard Burton gives a complete description of the language of the east African city of Harar with grammar and extensive vocabulary in his account of his journeys in that part of the continent. In Wanderings in West Africa he talks approvingly of the Mandinko people and the language of the Kru, asking why Brits dealing with them can’t use their own, perfectly good indigenous names rather than give them nicknames like ‘Three-Fingered Jack’. I’m not saying such attitudes towards African languages is common in the church. I know it isn’t. One of the other voluntary workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum told me once how he’d heard mass in Swahili when in Africa. It seems pretty clear that this bizarre idea that African’s didn’t have their own languages isn’t general to Roman Catholics, but just held by those particular teachers in Davies’ old school.

I do wonder at the intellectual damage assertions like the idea that Africans had no notion of biological sex are doing. At the moment they’re held by a small, highly ideologically driven elite, but it seems to be an attempt to deny biological reality for ideological reasons. And I fear that it will be enforced by the same people that protest against and sack academics like Kathleen Stock, who simply assert that sex and gender are based in biological reality, rather than mental or cultural constructs.

Banned by Brent/Lambeth – Willard Price’s Cannibal Adventure

February 12, 2022

Published by Hodder & Stoughton at Sevenoaks, Kent, in 1974, Cannibal Adventure was one of a series of children’s adventure books by Willard Price. It’s heroes were a pair of boys, who sailed around the world on a Yacht visiting exotic places like Africa, Polynesia and South America. The blurb for the book runs

‘A Willard Price Adventure story, about Hal and Roger and their amazing adventures in search of wild animals for the world’s zoos.

Hal and Roger themselves in a village of cannibals in New Guinea, but the native tribes and the animals the brothers want to catch are less dangerous than an old enemy who arrives secretly and is bent on revenge.’

I read it when I was at junior school, way back in the 1970s when one of the children’s shows on TV during the summer holidays was Daktari, about a vet treating animals in Africa. One of these poor afflicted creatures was Clarence, the cross-eyed lion. It was based on, or inspired by, an earlier film about a White doctor or anthropologist working with an African people and learning to respect their ways and he and his son make friends with the locals. I read a number of the Willard Price books, as did some of my friends at school. We liked the exotic locations, the animals and the different peoples the heroes encountered on their journeys.

But Cannibal Adventure was one of the many books that earned the ire of Bernie Grant in his crusade against anything he thought was even vaguely racist. And so it was put on their Index Librorum Prohibitorum, declared to be racist, and removed from the local libraries.

The 70s were a much more racist, or openly racist time than today, and I can understand why Grant and his minions would be sensitive about it. One of the nasty stereotypes about Blacks is that they are all cannibals living in mud huts, wearing grass skirts and with bones through their noses. Another children’s book from the same period on making costumes for parties includes a page or two on how to make just such a costume, along with others for less controversial figures like Frankenstein, Dracula and the man with another face on the back of his head and entirely different outfit pointing the same way on the rear half of his body. Some of the racist abuse Blacks have suffered has been based very much on the Cannibal stereotype.

But I read the book and didn’t think it was at all racist. Some indigenous Papuan tribes were cannibals, eating the flesh of their enemies. One tribe suffered from a degenerative neurological disease, Koro, related to Creuzfeld-Jacob and Mad Cow Disease because of their traditional custom of eating human brains. There were also at the time tribes that had still not been contacted by the outside world, while many Papuans still wore their traditional tribal costume. When the Papuan parliament was opened in the early 1980s by Prince Charles, the chiefs attending the ceremony flew in wearing pretty much the outfit sported by the Black gent on the cover.

The book was also careful to present the indigenous friends of the two lads as intelligent, dignified people despite their Stone Age lifestyle. They had a skull hut, where they kept the revered skulls of their ancestors. Again, this is based on fact, and I’m not going to sneer at it because the ancient Celts were also head-hunters. French archaeologists in Lyon, the ancient Lugdonensis, found a skull temple. It’s the carving of a monster, between whose front paws are a couple of circular indentations to hold human heads. On Anglesey in the 1980s British archaeologists also found the remains of a human skull in what was also probably a ritual site or temple. Cuts on the bone showed that the face had been cut off, probably for the priest or shaman to wear. Despite this, Price stated that the local people weren’t superstitious savages. They didn’t know what glass was, but they knew it wasn’t spirits, and so called it something like ‘transparent stone’. If I remember correctly, they were presented in a positive light, at least relatively for the time.

Lambeth and Brent’s zeal for banning books enraged some on the left as well as the right. Martin Barker, the author of Comics: Ideology and Power, which defends comics from attacks from both the left and right, rails in his final chapter against the new censorship, all the more so because it’s being done by the left and he was a man of the left. It was this bigotry and intolerance by those London councils that partly influenced my decision not to vote for Dawn Butler as deputy leader of the Labour party when a hustings was held here in Bristol. She made it clear she was going to come down hard on racism. I thought of some of the stupid things Lambeth and Brent got up to, and wondered if she was going to follow the same pattern of hurling specious accusations of racism against anyone who didn’t follow her definition of it.

Now, nearly fifty years after the book’s publication, there are the same kind of people demanding the censorship and cancellation of others for what they see as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and so on. Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes it’s the accusers themselves who are narrow and bigoted. And I firmly believe that children should have their imaginations stimulated through literature, escapism and the exotic as well as the real and the socially conscious. On a related topic, I notice that American Evangelical Christians are also screaming about the Harry Potter books’ promoting the occult again, despite the fact that they are very definitely well within the tradition of children’s fantasy.

Thomas – or was it Heinrich? – Mann said about the Nazi book burnings ‘When you burn books, you also burn people’. Well, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to burn some books, like those advocating paedophilia. And some books are definitely evil works of genuine racist propaganda, like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Others are just innocent, but express the attitudes of their time. Or don’t find the very narrow ideological parameters of the censors. Of these, I strongly urge you to use your own judgement.

And don’t let anti-racist fanatics ban ordinary, decent books like those of the fanatics on the extreme right.

Archaeologists Discover Bronze Agent Musical Instrument Made of Human Bone

September 4, 2020

This is an interesting piece of archaeological news from Tuesday’s edition of the I for 1 September 2020. The article ‘Bronze Age people turned human thigh bone into musical instrument’ by Nina Massey reported that archaeologists from Bristol University had discovered the instrument buried with other fragments of bone and tusk and axes buried as grave goods with a man near Stonehenge. The article reads

Researchers have uncovered evidence of a Bronze Age tradition that saw human remains retained and curated as relics over several generations.

The findings indicate a tangible way of honouring and remembering individuals some 4,500 years ago, experts say.

Led by the University of Bristol and published in the journal Antiquity, the study used radio-carbon dating and CT scanning.

Lead author Dr Thomas Booth said: “Even in modern secular societies, human remains are seen as particularly powerful objects, and this seems to hold true for people of the Bronze Age. However, they treated and and interacted with the dead in ways which are inconceivably macabre to us today.

“After radiocarbon dating Bronze Age human remains alongside other material buried with them, we found many had been buried a significant time after the person had died, suggesting a tradition of retaining and curating human remains.”

He added: “People seem to have curated the remains of people who had lived within living or cultural memory, and who likely played an important role in their life or their communities, or with whom they had a well-defined relationship, whether that was direct family, a tradesperson, a friend or even an enemy.

In one example from Wiltshire, a human thigh bone, crafted into a musical instrument was included as grave goods with the burial of a man found near Stonehenge.

The carved and polished artefact was found with other items including axes, a bone plate and a tusk. Radio-carbon dating of the thigh bone suggests it belonged to someone this person had known.

Professor Joanna Bruck, principal investigator on the project, and visiting professor at the University of Bristol’s department of anthropology and archaeology, said: “Although fragments of human bone were included as grave goods, they were also kept in the homes of the living, buried under house floors and even placed on display.”

Dr Booth said: “This study really highlights the strangeness and perhaps the unknowable nature of the distant past from a present-day perspective.”

He is also quoted as saying, “Bronze Age people did not view human remains with the sense of horror or disgust that we might feel today.”

This is the first time I’ve read about human remains being turned into a musical instruments in ancient Britain, but I’m not surprised. There are many cultures all over the world that preserve the skulls of dead ancestors and enemies. They included the Mandan and other tribes in the US, some indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea and the ancient Celts. There’s a carving from an ancient Celtic temple from southern Gaul of a monster, whose two front claws rest on severed heads. Around the statue are depressions carved into its base, possibly to hold the real thing. Nigel Barley in one of his books on death around the world notes that in the traditional culture of one of the Pacific peoples, the skeletons of dead relatives are handled and taken apart, so that their descendants can carry bits of it about of them as an act of respect and remembrance.

And there are also cultures that turn human remains into musical instruments. There’s the Chod ceremony in Tibetan Buddhism, in which the priests wear aprons made out of human skin and play drums made of human skulls and, I believe, flutes from bone. Something similar may well have been done here with this instrument.

The Stonehenge connection is interesting and possibly relevant. One of the theories about the standing stones is that they were originally put up as monuments to the ancestors in a process involving secondary burial. This followed the suggestion of a Madagascan archaeologist, who said that they reminded him of the practice among his people. There the remains are interred for a period after death while they decay. After a certain time, they’re taken out, prepared and then re-buried in another set of ceremonies during which a stone or a wooden pole is set up as a monument. It may well be that this instrument was created as part of such a burial rite.

From 1998: Times Speculates on the Resurgence of New Plagues

July 18, 2020

Here’s another old article, this time from the Times, Monday, August 4 1997. Written by Anjana Ahuja, ‘Are We Ready for the Next Plague’ argues that the world has been mistaken in scaling back its defences against global disease, leaving us seriously unprepared. Subtitled ‘We are dropping our defences against disease’, the article runs

In the Middle Ages, one would not have lingered by the marshes of eastern England, particularly those in Kent and Essex. Nowhere in the country, which was falling prey to plagues, was more hospitable to the malaria parasite.

The menace of malaria hung over British shores until the mid-19th century, when it mysteriously declined. By 1940, the disease was no longer a threat to humans, because of rising standards of hygiene, the falling price of the anti-malarial drug quinine and the lessening availability of cattle, on which mosquitoes prefer to dine. But there is no guarantee, says a leading parasitologist, that malaria will not haunt the nation again.

The warning has been issued by Robert Desowitz, Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, who has spent many of his 71 years studying insect-borne diseases in places such as Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Burma, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, India, Laos, Vietnam and Sir Lanka. His view, expressed in his book, Tropical Diseases, is that the “golden age of antibiotics is waning”. As a result, he says, it is not impossible that the nightmares once vanquished by modern science will recur. Isolated outbreaks of Ebola and Lassa fever are, like the rise of HIV, a sign to him that we should be on our guard. However, he does not wish to seem apocalyptic. ” It may be true thyat there are diseases coming out of the jungle to kill us,” he says. “My response is that we don’t know that, but we ought to stay alert.”

His book is an eloquent, and sometimes alarming, history of how diseases have hitched their way around the world. The subtext is that humans, particularly in the colder climes (this includes the British), live in a fool’s paradise. Our defences are further weakened by mass migration and global change, leading to great changes in epidemiology. He expresses incredulity that worldwide efforts to combat infectious disease are being would down.

“I was listening on the radio this morning to America’s new military chief of staff, who was saying that we cannot demilitarise against old enemies,” he says. “The symmetry with disease struck me. We are not properly prepared.”

“The science budget is shrinking. My opinion is that the World Health Organisation is scientifically bankrupt. We are having problems with infectious disease. If you were going to certain parts of the world, you would be hard pushed to find a really good anti-malarial drug. We have neither cures nor preventions for viral diseases such as Ebola, Lassa and HIV.”

One particular worry is climate change, which he sees as an enormous potential problem. Tropical diseases such as malaria are very temperature-sensitive-higher temperatures allow an influx of alien pests and the warmth encourages the pests to breed more rapidly.

Other researchers have been discovering the effect of climate change on unwelcome visitors. Biologists at Leeds University have set up a simple experiment that shows what happens to insects when faced with temperature changes. Using eight linked cages, and three species of fruit fly adapted to different temperatures, Professor Bryan Shorrocks and Dr Andrew Davis have tried to replicate what would happen to fruit flies if the temperature changed across Europe. the Biotechnology and and Biological Research Council financed the £241,000 project.

The cages were connected by thin tubes through which the flies could migrate. The temperatures in the cages ranged from 10C to 25C; the intention was to mimic average temperatures across a swath of Europe stretching from Leeds to southern Spain. The optimum temperature for the three types of fruit fly – Drosophila subobscura, Drosophila simulans, and Drosophila manogaster – were respective, 15C, 20C and 25C. Fruit flies are easy to use and they breed quickly.

When each species was tested on its owns, and confined to one cage, it became extinct at temperature extremes. The next step was again to treat each species on its own, but to allow it to move through the tubes between cages.

Dr Davis reports: “The flies survived across the whole temperature regime. Where they became extinct, the population was topped up by individuals from other cages looking for more food and space to lay eggs.

The last, and most complex stage, was to populate the cages with different permutations of the three species. This was where the most interesting results began to emerge. For example, when subobscura and simulans were thrown together, the simulans species dominated its familiar temperature climate of 20C., but subobscura was more populous at about 10C, well below its optimum temperature.

Dr Davis says that each species did not necessarily behave according to expectation. He concludes: “We may not be able to predict where a species will occur on the globe purely by knowing its temperature requirements. It’s surprising.

In other words, matching the pest to a temperature zone is not that simple. Dr Davis is keen not be seen as alarmist. “I am not saying these effects will happen, or that they will be important,” he says. “But some of the things that might happen with global warming may need planning, particularly pest problems.

Professor Desowitz does not envisage doom for the human race. Not yet, anyway. “People have survived plagues before, but we are not preparing ourselves properly. Perhaps,” he adds, not without a whiff of menace, “London will become malarious again.”

Meera Senthilingam says much the same thing in her Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus (London: Icon 2020). Climate change, migration and mass travel are leaving us vulnerable to new epidemics, traditional antibiotics are losing their effectiveness. And we still have no cures or treatments for diseases like Lassa fever. or Ebola. But whatever other faults Blair’s government had – and these are legion, like the invasion of Iraq – it did take the threat of a renewed epidemic seriously, especially after Avian and Swin flu. They invested in the NHS, and developed specialist medical and bureaucratic machinery and protocols to combat such an epidemic when it came along. And when the epidemic was wargamed in 2016, the Tories knew that we were seriously underprepared. But they simply didn’t care. They wanted austerity and budget cuts so they could give tax cuts to the super-rich. And as a result, this country has one of the very worst infection rates and mortality from Coronavirus in the world.

They knew the disease was coming. They did nothing.

60,000+ people have died.

The Tories are guilty, and Johnson is responsible for mass manslaughter at least.

 

Trump Insults Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President

February 4, 2017

Another day, another example of how absolutely, constitutionally unsuited for government, or even civilised company, Donald Trump is. Yesterday there was the news that Trump had managed to insult the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and threatened the president of Mexico with invasion.

Trump had been discussing an agreement signed last November between Obama and the Ozzies in which America promised to take a few of the refugees coming to Australia, who were temporarily settled in the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Dictator Drumpf really doesn’t like the idea of taking prospective immigrants to Oz, and made his opposition very plain. According to the Washington Post, the orange megalomaniac told Turnbull that it was ‘the worst deal ever’, accused the Ozzie PM of trying to send him the next Boston bombers and said he was worried that the deal would kill him politically. He also told Turnbull that he’d already spoken to four national leaders that morning, including Putin, and that this was the ‘worst call so far’. The phone call was expected to last an hour, but Drumpf rang off after only 25 minutes.

Here’s the Young Turks video in which John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s highly undiplomatic phone call.

Then there are reports that in his phone call to the Mexican president, Trump is supposed to have accused the Mexican army of cowardice in trying to sort out the drug cartels, and threatened to send US troops to do the job instead. He is claimed to have said

‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.’

There have been denials that this was ever said from the Mexican president’s office, but it appears to be true. John Iadarola, discussing the report in the video below, suggests that the denial might be an attempt by President Pena Nieta to save face. When he stood up to Drumpf last week, his approval ratings unsurprisingly shot up. Trump talking to him like this looks like a humiliation, and so he may have wanted to cover it up to prevent his approval ratings plummeting accordingly. It does, however, unfortunately seem to be true.

Iadarola and Kasparian make the point in the video about Trump’s insulting phone call to Premier Turnbull that Drumpf is perfectly happy to bomb the nations of the Middle East, but as soon as their citizens want to move out and seek refuge in America, he’s gets upset. In fact Australia’s immigration policy is itself highly controversial. I can remember Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer at one of the British universities, saying at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in the 1990s that their treatment of refugees made him ashamed to be an Ozzie.

As for the drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels are indeed ‘bad hombres’. Actually, I think that term gives a romantic gloss to gangs of utter scum, who are completely subhuman in their cruelty and barbarism. In one of the Mexican provinces where they’re particularly strong, the gangs were engaged in feminicido – feminicide – as a kind of very sick sport. They got their kicks raping and killing women. And far from being cowards, the Mexican cops, who take them on are as hard as nails. A few years ago the on-line humour magazine, Cracked, did a list of the toughest real life vigilantes. Top of the list was a secret organisation of Mexican coppers, dedicated to rubbing out the gangs and their members. The identities of their members were unknown, to prevent reprisals against their families. The overall impression given was that these men were like the Punisher, but even more ruthless and absolutely dedicated.

I’ve no doubt that the Mexican army isn’t as good, as well trained or as well equipped as the Americans. But considering that America and her allies are still in Iraq and Afghanistan after nearly a decade and a half, I really don’t see that the Americans would have any more success in dealing with the drug cartels than the Mexican authorities.

Quite apart from the fact that you don’t tell the head of a friendly neighbouring state that you’re going to invade his country if he doesn’t sort a domestic problem out. Trump really has no idea how that sounds, not just to other nations generally, but specifically to Latin Americans. There’s considerable resentment of America in Central and South America, particularly in Argentina. It dates from the 19th century. Before then, many Spanish American liberals were solidly in favour of the US as the kind of modern, progressive country they wished their nations to be.

Then the US invaded Mexico, and causing these intellectuals to reverse their previous positive attitudes. They became bitterly resentful of what they saw as the US’s contemptuous, colonialist treatment of Latin America. It was the start of what I think is called ‘Arielismo’, in which South America writers used the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the brutish servant of the wizard Prospero, as a metaphor for the imperialist contempt with which they perceived Americans treated their Spanish-speaking neighbours to the south and their culture.

The Young Turks in the video above also talk about how Trump’s brusque, insulting treatment of his Mexican opposite number may imperil the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico. This has resulted in a loss of jobs in America, as firms have shifted their locations south to take advantage of the cheaper labour there. But they argue that it has also benefited America.

Trump is clearly one of the most undiplomatic presidents in American history. You really do wonder how long it will be before this loudmouthed buffoon starts another bloody war, or a major international incident, simply because he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head.

He can’t even be counted on to behave decently with our head of state. Mike a few days ago carried a story on his site that Prince Charles had been told not to lecture Drumpf on global warming, if he meets him, as otherwise the Orange Supremacist will ‘explode’. Now I’m well aware that not everyone reading this site is a monarchist, and the exaggerated deference, with which they’re treated should definitely go. I’m referring to all those arcane rules of behaviour, which dictate that you must only talk to the queen if she speaks to you. Those rules should have no place in the 21st century. But that does not excuse another head of state from going on a rant at ours.