Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

Published on Sunday, November 4, 2018

Superstitions still harm people

Every now and then, I run across news reports that make me feel sick. (No, I’m not referring to Donald Trump.)

            Last summer, I read a report from Malawi, in Africa. You may not have heard much about Malawi. It always ranks near the bottom on Africa’s poverty scales, for a variety of reasons.

            First, because Malawi is land-locked. It has no seaports, no way to access world markets except through other countries.

            Second, because it has nothing to market. Malawi has no oil, no minerals, and barely enough agriculture to support its own 20 million population -- in one-tenth the land area of British Columbia. It has lots of fresh water -- Lake Malawi is second only to Lake Victoria among African lakes -- but water is not exportable.

            But Malawi does, apparently, have something that people in other parts of Africa covet -- albino babies.

            By some genetic quirk, it seems, Malawi and its nearest neighbours to the north and south, Tanzania and Mozambique, have a higher-than-usual proportion of albino babies. That is, black babies with white skin.

 

Whiteness as “virtue”

            In most of the world, white skin -- or at least a lighter skin -- is a social advantage.

            In India and the Middle East, the ruling elite almost always have lighter skins than their subjects.

            In America, skin colour becomes an icon of “purity” for conservative causes. The U.S. Congress is predominantly white and male. So are most police forces. So are top-floor corporate boardrooms. Far-right extremists target anyone who is not white (according to their own definitions), shooting, bombing, and vandalizing Muslims, Jews, and blacks indiscriminately.

            Also gays and Democrats, admittedly -- who are also beyond the pale.

            Only in some African countries does the darkness of one’s skin offer a political benefit.

            Which leads to the anomaly -- in Malawi, albino babies are prized.

            For -- brace yourself -- their body parts.

            In a 2016 report, Amnesty International stated that people with albinism were “hunted and killed like animals” for their body parts. Just as poachers slaughter elephants for their tusks, and rhinos for their horns, attackers abduct and murder albino children to chop off their limbs and pluck out their organs to sell to witchdoctors.

            Are you feeling sick yet?

            Even the victim’s bones, Amnesty reported, are sold to practitioners of traditional medicine for charms and magical potions associated with wealth and good luck. Something like a rabbit’s foot, among western societies. (Which does not, as a child once observed, bring good luck to the rabbit.)

 

Victims of their genes

            Albinism is a genetic condition. It cannot be blamed on anything its victims did, or did not do. A particular combination of the parents’ genes leads to little or no pigment in the eyes, skin, and hair.

            Albinism occurs all over the world. In the U.S., it affects about one in 20,000 people.But Tanzania and Malawi the ratio can rise as high as one in 1,500 -- about 13 times higher.

            Malawi alone has about 10,000 residents with albinism. Because of lingering superstition, they live in fear. Many albino children do not dare going to school because they risk death and dismemberment. Mothers who send their children to school, believing that education is the only cure for historic superstitions, gamble daily with their children’s lives.

            In 2016, Malawi’s government passed a law to tackle an increase in killings of albino persons in the country. The Revised Anatomy Act created new offenses and tougher penalties.

            But despite this legislation, Amnesty states that people with albinism were still being killed for their body parts. A United Nations report went to far as to claim that albino persons were “facing extinction.”

 

Relics of ignorance

            Don’t blame this situation on “backward” African nations. Halloween, earlier this week, should remind us that we still have our own share of superstitions, from black cats to ghouls and ghosties, carried over from ancient civilizations.

            When we humans had no other adequate explanations for tragedy and disease, we blamed misfortunes on utterly unrelated factors. Like black cats, and cracks in sidewalks.

            And, we reasoned, if there were malevolent elements in nature, then surely there must be beneficial elements too, that brought good luck. Or just better sex.

            It is time we recognized that body parts -- whether from albino children or rhinoceros horns -- have no intrinsic powers whatsoever. They are an outdated relic of pre-historic fears, shared, as far as we know, by no other species on earth. 

            It’s time we named superstitions for the nonsense they are, and got rid of them.

*******************************************************

Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                       To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

********************************************************

 

YOUR TURN

 

In last week’s column, I compared the mass march of 5,000 (or may 7,000, but who’s counting?) Honduran refugees towards the U.S. border to the biblical Exodus. 

            “Bad analogy,” wrote Steve Roney. “It makes the Americans the Canaanites, and you might recall that, once they crossed the border, the Hebrews were not exemplary at assimilating. Seems to justify Trump in calling it a national emergency.

            “You also make the point that these are simply economic migrants: ‘ordinary people, hoping for a better life.’ But on this basis, there are no grounds to grant them refugee status or U.S. residency. There are probably about 6.5 billion people in this world who would love to move to the U.S. for the sake of a better life. I am surrounded by 100 million Filipinos who all dream of emigrating to the U.S. or Canada. So why should this group of Hondurans be given special preference? Because they broke the rules? If it is on the basis of poverty, there are dozens of countries poorer than Honduras. And if it is on the basis of poverty, how can you, as a Canadian, condemn the U.S. when Canada deliberately cherry-picks the rich as immigrants?”

 

Isabel Gibson also questioned my support for the refugees: “I agree with your general point that we will continue to see attempts at mass migration, caused by economic disparities and political instability.

            “But I'm curious. Do you think the USA should open its borders completely? (I'm assuming that the answer for the southern border would apply to the entire border, all 50 States, and all forms of ingress: air, land, sea.) If not completely, then what line would you suggest they draw? Would you have them screen only for security risks, and ask them to admit every economic/political migrant? Or do you see a process- or a numbers-driven approach to immigration?

            “As for Canada, in large part we are sheltered from this storm by the USA and by three oceans. What would you have us do now, at our own borders? And would your answer change if the USA instituted an open border?

            JT: As I replied to Isabel, I have no answers. I’m moved by sympathy, not solutions. I have to take as my overriding principle, “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” If I were poor, frightened, I would want to be welcomed and helped, not turned away with massed armies. 

 

Sylvia McTavish put a personal angle on the story: “I have had a ‘foster child’ in Honduras for 14 years. The latest picture of her is on my fridge, and she has been a part of my family since she was a baby. I know she goes to school and her dream is to be a doctor; I am happy to know she can read and write and trust that she can continue with school and not be pushed into an early marriage. 

            “I have been criticized for sponsoring children in foreign countries while Canadians are in want, and sometimes I wonder if I have helped or hindered. Over the years I have fostered over 20 children and had the privilege to meet a boy in Kenya who was able to train in a trade that benefitted the family. I wonder about the beautiful boy in Sudan, and the bright one in Egypt, the little girl in Togo, and the boy in Thailand who lost both his parents when I was his sponsor. I have pictures and letters -- and memories. My boy in Burkina Faso was too far from a school so never learned to read or write, but he had an inquisitive mind and asked questions about so many things and I have always hoped that when he grew up he found a way to go to school -- I will never know but can always hope that life has been kind to him. 

            “To all my children I am a very wealthy woman. According to their standard of living I am wealthy so there is not much sense in saying otherwise. When I see the thousands walking through Mexico on their way to the riches of North America I wonder why truth is not shown in TV programs that many see, that despite the good side there are bad sides in all those big cities, and on the farms and towns; homes are overcrowded, everyone does not have a job, the streets are laden with garbage, much of it there because earlier marchers have no place to live and where does one dispose of waste? -- on the street, of course! And then I wonder about birth control and I will continue to wonder about that, especially when I see so many young girls trudging along in all the countries where people are attempting to escape to a better life.

            “I do not have an answer. In small way I am helping one child and a community to perhaps have a better life than their grandmothers had. Or am I making it harder for them? I wonder…”

 

Bob Rollwagen focussed on our political situation: “Like to addictive substance rehab, where professionals know you have to hit bottom before you really start to work towards the cure, we have a while to wait before our neighbours figure out their addiction and how to heal.

            “We [in Canada] are not far off going in the same self-destructing direction, as government leaders raised in resource-based manufacturing economies treat deficits and taxes as the only critical issue and ignore green industry and global health.”

            Bob noted that all of us (except the indigenous peoples) came here as immigrants: “People move to improve. When they improve, they forget. We feel entitled, and when our level of comfort is threatened, we set up borders and rules -- not to be fair but to maintain the status quo as long as possible.”

 

Robert Caughell wondered, “How much of this/other things happening in Central and South America are the result of U.S. interference in other countries’ domestic affairs/economies? They get rid of a democratically elected leader they do not like, install a pro-U.S. puppet, or invade a country under false pretense when that puppet leader no longer does what the U.S. wants.”

 

Bob Warrick applied the Honduran example to his own Australia: “Today’s column was very moving, and informative. Thank you for your research.  Our government’s treatment of boat people on Manus and Nauru is similarly horrifying. Our politicians, who can change their minds on some things effortlessly, are unwilling to change their minds about these people and their need for a future other than being stuck where they are. I would like to have all our parliamentarians send their children to Nauru to live exactly as our prisoners there are ‘living’.”

            JT: I had not heard of Manus and Nauru. They are islands to which the Australian government sends asylum-seekers pending their applications being processed, which translates roughly into the same time period as incarceration at Guantanamo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Solution

 

******************************************

 

TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

                       To subscribe or unsubscribe, send me an e-mail message at the address above. Or subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message) to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at sharpedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                       You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

                       I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                       And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetrywhere I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca,  or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blankemail (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

********************************************

 

PROMOTION STUFF…

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                       Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet

 

 

 


Comments (0)Number of views (25)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Malawi, albinos, albinism, witchcraft

Print

Tags

#MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix aging Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amherst Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac App Store Archives armistice artifacts astronomy atropine Attawapiscat attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry baby Bach baggage Bahai Banda banning books Barabbas barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears Beethoven beginnings behaviour belief systems beliefs benefits Bernardo Bible biblical sex birth birthday birthdays Blackmore blood blood donors body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombings books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe broken bubbles Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bullets bullying butterflies butterfly Calendar Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats Canute caregivers caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cats cave CBC Cecil the lion. Zanda CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking chivalry chocolates choice choices Christian Christianity Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes coastal tribes coffee collaboration colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confusion Congo Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent Conservative Party contraception Conversations coral Cornwallis Cosby Cougars courtesy courts CPP CRA creation Creston crime criminal crucifixion Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki dead zone deaf death decision Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's Descartes determinism Devin Kelley dinosaurs dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Donald Trump Donna Sinclair Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs dying Dylan Thomas Earth Day Easter Ebola eclipse economics editing Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or email embassy emergent emotions English epiphany epitaph Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy evacuation evacuation orders Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played evil Evolution expectations experiment extinctions extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes faith False Creek fascist fear Fedex feel Fentanyl figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow charts flowers fluency flying Folk sayings forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign franchises free free speech free will freedom friend friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Garrison Keillor Geese Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Rule good good intentions goodness Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Gretta Vosper Grinch Group of seven growth guilt guns Habits haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki harassment harmony Hawaii health health plans hearing hearts heat heaven Hell helping heroes heroin Higher Porpoise highway Hillary Clinton Hinduism history Homulka Honduras honesty hope Horgan Horton hospitality houseflies houses human rights hurricane ICBMs ice dance identity IMF imitation immigrants immortality immuno-globulin inclusive language income taxes independence India individualism inertia Infinity injustice intelligence intervention irreverence Isaac Watts ISIS Islam Jack McCarthy Jagmeet Singh James Shaw Jr. Jean Piaget Jebusites Jeff Sessions Jerusalem Jessica Farrar Jessie Oliver Jesus John A MacDonald Johnny Mercer Jonathan Kay Joni Mitchell Jordan Peterson Joseph judgement judges Julie Payette jury justice Justin Trudeau Kaepernick Karen Armstrong Kaunda Kavanaugh Keaton Jones Kelly Pocha Kelowna Ken Lam Kick the can Kilauea killing Kim Jong Un Kim Jong-Un Kimberley Jones Kinder-Morgan Kinsbury mosque Kiribati Kissinger Kitimat kneel knitting knowing God knowledge Kootenay Kootenay Lake Kootenays Korean War kryptonite Kurt Weill Lake Country lakes Language Las Vegas law laws leadership learning Lent Leonard Cohen Leroy Anderson Lethbridge letter letters to the editor leukemia Liberal lies life light lightning Linda Newkirk Lionel Shriver Lions Gate Bridge Lisa Genova listening little hens livestreamed video Lizard Brain LNG lobotomy logic lone wolf looking ahead looking back Lorax Lord Cornwallis Lord's Prayer Losses Lovelock Lying lynch lynching Lynn Beyek Macdonald macho Malawi Maldives Manchester Mandela Mao Tze Tung maple syrup Margulis Martensville Mary Mary Oliver Mass
Copyright 2018 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada