Sunday, June 25, 2017

In the Shadow of the Bomb

-- By Tom Phillips

In my lifetime, Western Man's greatest fear has always been that he will be "hoist by his own petard," blown up with one of his home-made  bombs.  Baby boomers grew up in the shadow of the A-bomb, then the H-bomb.  Today, the fear of nuclear war has receded, but another spectre of the post-war era has returned -- babies themselves. 

With the earth warming and seas rising, the "Population Bomb" is upon us again, bigger and uglier than ever.     

The New York Times sounded the alarm in its Sunday Review of  June 18.  Eugene Linden, author of a book titled "The Ragged Edge of the World," says the world's most pressing problem is "too many people," specifically too many poor people. 

He chooses a curious example: the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, a black African state completely surrounded by South Africa.  He calls it a "cursed nation," but offers no cause for the curse.  His history only goes back to Lesotho's independence in 1966, when a study by the British Colonial Office concluded that the new nation could support only about one-third of its million-plus people.

It was not always so.  From the 17th to the 19th century, the Basotho tribes ruled a large swath of fertile land in southern Africa.  In the 19th century their territory was infiltrated by Dutch migrants -- the Boers. Following tribal custom, the Basotho granted them some land to farm. They signed a treaty of friendship in 1837, but the Boers continued to invade, and declared their own republic on the land they occupied in 1843.  A series of wars ensued, in which the Basotho lost most of their arable land.  In desperation they turned to a rival colonial power, the British, and eventually became a British Protectorate. But the British and the Dutch made their own deals, and the Basotho's fertile "Lost Territories" became part of South Africa.

By 1966, Lesotho was a land of subsistence farmers with not enough land to subsist on. Instead, men went to work in South Africa's mines, and when those were mined out, were left with nothing to do, nowhere to go.  In 2016 Lesotho's unemployment rate was 28 percent.  57 percent live below the UN's poverty line.  But the Linden analysis -- backed by the UN -- is that Lesotho, which has fewer people than Brooklyn in an area nearly the size of Maryland, is just too crowded.  And its hope lies in "population control," i.e. condoms.**(see footnote) 

This, of course, is not just Lesotho's story.  The United States used genocidal policies against native peoples, vastly reducing their numbers as we seized their land. We then herded the remnants of Indian civilization onto barren reservations, where unemployment runs up to 90 percent.  If Mr. Linden were to apply his history-blind analytics to the reservations today, he would have to conclude they are "overpopulated," even with less than three million Indians left in the US.    

A better case could be made for Latin America, where Spanish conquerors seized the land and destroyed ancient civilizations, but left the natives to breed. American companies followed up and turned traditional farmlands into Banana Republics, dispossessing the peasants. The landless, jobless descendants of these people now make up the hordes streaming across the Rio Grande, desperate to be exploited in El Norte. 

One more case: Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. At fifty, the Israeli occupation looks more and more like a slow-moving invasion, with Jewish settlers methodically taking Arab land and resources. The Palestinians' only strength is in their numbers, and those numbers grow because they refuse to practice "population control."  Today they are winning the race to build a Population Bomb, and will soon outnumber Israelis in all of historic Palestine.  (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Palestinian birth rates of 4.1 in the occupied territories  – compared to a rate of 3.1 births among Israeli Jewish women – are expected to bring the populations to parity in 2017.)

This is the real Population Bomb -- not just too many people per square mile -- but masses of dispossessed people gathering on the borders of the nations that dispossessed them.  The catastrophe cannot be averted by throwing condoms over a Wall.

How will it all play out?  For that we can only turn to the original revolutionary handbook, the Bible, which tells us in the Old Testament, and repeats emphatically in the New, that the poor shall be lifted up and the rich sent empty away.

Lord, have mercy on that day.

-- Copyright 2017 by Tom Phillips

he number of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories will equal the number of Jews by the end of 2017, according to a report issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statics (PCBS.)
The number of Palestinians worldwide is currently estimated at 12.37 million, with 4.75 million living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (1.85 million and 2.9 million respectively,) 1.47 million in Israel, 5.46 million in Arab countries and some 685,000 in non-Arab countries.
The report puts the total number of Palestinians in what it calls “historical Palestine” (Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) at the end of 2015 at 6.22 million, compared to 6.34 million Jews.
But Palestinian birth rates of 4.1 in the occupied territories (during 2011-2013) and 3.2 in Israel proper (in 2014) – compared to a rate of 3.1 births among Israeli Jewish women – are expected to bring the populations to parity in 2017.
By the end of 2020, the report estimates, Palestinians in the entire territory will number 7.13 million, compared to 6.96 million Jews.
The Palestinian population within Israeli is particularly youthful, according to the report, with some 34.8% aged below the age of 15 years in 2014. Only 4.2% of the Palestinian population in Israel is aged 65 years and over.
The average household size of Palestinians in the occupied territories was 5.2 people in 2014, down from 6.1 in 2000. In Gaza, the size of the average household was 5.7 people, while in the West Bank it was 4.9. The average size of an Israeli household is 3.73 people, according to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics. read more:
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1.** The history of Lesotho above is the consensus found in today's encyclopedias.  However, the UN Development agency has another version of Lesotho's history that doesn't even mention the Boers!  It says the Basotho lost their land in conflicts with African tribes -- "among others."  These alternative facts leave the impression that the Dutch and British -- who dictated the indefensible borders of Lesotho -- were somehow marginal players. To give a history of any part of South Africa without reference to colonial rule seems crazy.  But there are political reasons for it.  By pretending that Lesotho made its own history, the UN can avoid blaming any member nation for the country's woes.  It can avoid unpleasant issues such as restitution of land, or reparations from those who took it.  And it can treat massive unemployment and poverty as the outcome of natural factors -- overpopulation as the result of overbreeding.  In this Orwellian way, history is rewritten to remove the forces behind it, to pardon the wealthy and blame the poor for their own hopeless condition.

1 comment:

  1. Critics of this article complain that I denigrate population control, but offer no alternative to the world's people problems. So here's an alternative:
    We now have a situation where poor and displaced people are thronging the borders of wealthy nations which are in large part responsible for their poverty and displacement. (Think Latin America and Syria, respectively.)
    The developed world’s response has been to close its borders, but this depends on a willful ignorance of its own causal roles in the crisis. Their response should be the opposite. Wealthy nations should swallow their fears and open their borders, as Sweden has – and let these people find places in their economies, as they can and will.
    Remember the collapse of the communist world, and the West’s response to the hordes of refugees it generated? It can be done. If it isn’t, the wealthy nations face endless conflict.