Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ebola, rampaging superstition, and a complete ignorance of fact

I've pointed out in the past that the reason the Ebola epidemic continues to spread in Congo is largely due to the primitive, superstitious tribal culture in that part of the world.  Unfortunately, many First World readers have no conception of just how primitive and superstitious that culture really is.  It's so far removed from our reality that it's inconceivable to many of us.

Now comes a report on child soldiers in the Congo that may help some readers understand the problem better.

The potion was powerful stuff: the grown-up rebels who had given it to the boys, smearing it on their beanpole bodies every day for a week, had promised it would make them invincible.

Still, the first time he went into battle Jean-Paul wanted to be sure. Stripping off his clothes, he fought the enemy naked.

The magic seemed to work.

Not only has he lived to see his 13th birthday, but he has emerged more or less unscathed from repeated engagements with the Congolese army over a period of nearly two years.

“I knew that as long as I remained naked, I could be sure that the charms worked,” he told the Telegraph last week.

His friend Phillipe, a year older and wiser, also holds with the magic. And why not? Unlike Jean-Paul who went into battle with a mere hunting rifle, he was been given far more powerful weapons: three eggs and a calabash gourd.

“When I threw the eggs they turned into bombs and the enemy was killed by the fire,” he said. “I killed many people that way.”

Alive today, there was, and remains, no reason for him to question it all.

. . .

Commanders wasted no time in wielding the sorcery to their advantage. On the battlefield they deployed girls as young as seven in matching red frocks to the front line.

Swishing their magic dresses to scoop up the army’s bullets, they protected not only the boys standing behind them with their hunting rifles, eggs and pieces of wood that turned into AK-47s but also the men, armed with proper weapons, who brought up the rear.

The child soldiers – known as the “Baby Police”– were killed in their thousands, but total numbers were not evident to individuals. And anyway, with magic there is always an explanation.

Jean-Paul said he believed the children who died met their fate because they had not followed the rules. Perhaps they had eaten meat, or had sex, or had worn underwear while fighting, he explained.

. . .

Going from village to village, they set up baptism sites, known as tshiota, to indoctrinate child recruits.

At these, children were given bitter potions made from the powder of bark from three trees, often mixed with human blood and ground-up bones. The remainder, made into a paste, was brushed onto their bodies with the promise it would give them superhuman powers.

Sometimes, as in Jean-Paul’s case, they swallowed three live red ants before marching round a fire and chanting the words “In the name of the Kamuina Nsapu” [the 'magical' name of the tribal militia], an incantation they would intone repeatedly in battle.

They may have been outgunned, but even the army’s elite Republican Guard seemed to fear the magic. Sometimes they did mow down the girls in their red dresses and the egg-throwing boys. But often they turned and fled.

There's much more at the link.

This is the sort of superstition that aid organizations and health care workers are dealing with in north-western Congo.  It's a level of ignorance that makes it easy to persuade locals that the aid organizations are actually spreading Ebola, a "white man's disease";  that they're killing people in their hospitals, rather than trying to treat them;  and that their medicines and health care measures are designed to bewitch and/or enslave people rather than help them.  It's no wonder that attacks on aid agencies and workers are so frequent, and sometimes deadly;  and it's no wonder that the Ebola epidemic in the Congo is now out of control.

There is literally no reasoning with such people, because they're not capable of reasoning in any logical, rational sense of the word.  Their lives - their entire world view - is/are bound up in, and encompassed by, and permeated with superstition and witchcraft.  If their shaman, or witch-doctor, or whatever, says to them that they must or must not do something, they'll obey their spiritual leader rather than health care authorities, because it's patently obvious to them that the former knows so much more than the latter.

That's why this outbreak of Ebola scares me so much.  It's perilously close to breaking out of its geographic boundaries, despite months of intensive efforts to contain it.  The reason is precisely what I've said above.  Local people don't believe in Western medicine;  in fact, they'd rather flee from it.  In doing so, they're going to spread Ebola into Uganda (which has "10,000 [border] crossings each day" to and from the Congo - and that's just the ones who go across legally, rather than walk through the bush).  South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi are also threatened.  From there, it's a hop, a skip and a jump to Kenya, with its international airport at Nairobi and its many flights per day to Europe and the Far East.  From there to the USA is no distance at all in terms of air travel.

Be afraid, people.  If you're not, you don't understand the situation.  This could turn very nasty, very quickly, and there's almost nothing effective we can do to stop it if it does.  Even an international travel ban would have only limited effect, given how easily African refugees, particularly Congolese, can cross (and are already crossing) our borders illegally.



The Lab Manager said...

And to think that leftards and libertardians think these kind of people should be imported into a first world society. There are exceptions, but I have a low opinion of Africans.

Ray - SoCal said...

Adding at the bottom of your post in Ebola previous links to posts you did would be helpful!

Glen Filthie said...

They are what they are: Neolithic people. I am old enough to remember as a boy, every Sunday there was a show on Africa’s wild kingdom that regularly had spear chucking savages and fat, topless women with bones through their noses and lips. I remember anthropologists crapping their pants with rage when they dropped in to visit, and found the tribesmen playing with zippo lighters.

My elderly grandfather would be shot for saying it today but it is as he said: “you can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the boy...”

Steve said...

A couple of legitimate questions:
How many of these folks are muslim?
And does this area practice first cousin marriages?


deb harvey said...

Have read that Africans are massing at the Mexican border demanding entry into our country. Where did they get transport from Africa? Many may be carrying Ebola and are sent to spread the plague on purpose. Why do the intelligence services not know who is at the back of this tremendous evil?

Glenn B said...

"Unfortunately, many First World readers have no conception of just how primitive and superstitious that culture really is." While that statement may be true of many, we should not forget we in essence have primitive superstitious types right here at home - at least with regard to how their thought processes are influenced by ignorance. There are many who would rather, and do, believe that God or superstition is their protector and who - for religious or whatever other reasons - refuse to accept modern medicine into their lives. It was recently evident in NY City during a measles outbreak. It comes up on the news now and again too about folks all around the country who for whatever reason fight vaccination programs in court because somehow they seem them as evil or harmful.

While we also have people who may take more of an advantage, than those tribal communities in Africa, of many modern technologies, they still think much the same way as do those in Africa (and bear in mid even those Africans will go to modern tech - such as an AK or hand grenades when available ut still have the thought processes of the blissfully ignorant). All too many people in this country see one group or another as responsible for all of their ills just as the Africans see outside medical personnel as being responsible for spreading Ebola and other tribes or religious groups responsible for their other misfortunes. Ignorance, superstition, prejudice, taking advantage of less educated people have never died out in any community in the world as far as I can tell; sometimes you just need look a bit deeper to find it.

Today in the United States, despite modern technology or maybe even because of it, e.g.: the Internet and the ignorance it spreads) those things have become more prevalent than they have been in at least 55 or 65 years. Just look at political groups and groups like ANTIFA and their hatred for all things Trump or conservative or other than how they think, that they have imagined are responsible for all of the ills in the world. They may use much more modern technology than children in Africa but only because of its availability here; yet, they certainly are as gullible due to their ignorance and how that ignorance is manipulated, just as is superstition, by politicians and others. Thus they are as easily molded into pawns to be used at the whim of their controllers as are the youths in Africa.

While on the outside there appears to be huge differences between our cultures, it seems too many of us still tend to think and act on much the same base level when it comes to hatred and our eager willingness to destroy our perceived enemies. It's all mostly because of the manipulation of the minds of the ignorant that one group of people believe they have been directed and protected by what amounts to some form of divine providence to follow the cause of their handlers and all too often that amounts to the propagation of ignorance that allows it all to continue unabated.

Jess said...

There is a logical way to solve the problem, but it's ugly, and may one day be shown to be the step that should have been taken.

Larry said...

Though it's not all that long ago our own ancestors were burning witches and saw the hand of Satan everywhere. The German tribes that Marius and Caesar faced were no more advanced than Africa tribesmen. Culture doesn't change in a day, or even a generation. Centuries, more like, for substantive change.

Larry said...


Steve said...

Here's another story on the subject, from last December. That Telegraph story, annoyingly, isn't dated, but from the source appears to be from June 1.

Magic, murder and the lost boys of Congo's long war

Philip Sells said...

Hi, Bayou R. Your posts on the subject are my go-to source for Ebola news. Thanks for keeping it up, even though it's an ugly subject. Having done some leisure reading about Chernobyl lately, I start to wonder if this Ebola outbreak might become a sort of epidemiological equivalent of a Chernobyl scenario. I think there are certain parallels.

Aesop said...

Chernobyl killed....what? 4000 or so, who died or will, from after effects.


The 2014 Ebola outbreak death toll will never be accurately known, but it was likely in the neighborhood of >30,000 deaths.

This outbreak is over 1,000 dead already, and we're just getting warmed up.

Aesop said...

And in case anyone was wondering, get your preps together.
At current course and speed, barring anything changing, this one is going to break containment and go hog wild.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

In response to Glenn B's comment on "Unfortunately, many First World readers have no conception of just how primitive and superstitious that culture really is."

You rather nicely made Peter's point.

I agree that we have some really stupid people in the US but you would have to go a long way to find somebody who thinks vehicles are propelled by magical incantations and poultices.

Another thing that escapes the first world is how blasted young African countries are. There is a reason so many soldiers are middle school aged. But even backing out the age issues, in the US most second grade kids know that you have to put fuel in the tank if you want to not run out of gas.

Regarding the northern Europeans Caesar encountered, they had metallurgy and fabricated wheeled vehicles and boats. I am not sure the rebels of eastern Congo are that advanced.


STxAR said...

350 Congolese migrants that came up through Mexico in San Antonio today. Good grief...;