If You Kill Your Cattle, You Will Starve

Over at the Master Resource Blog,  law professor Gail Heriot points out the similarities between global warming, fear-monger Al Gore and Xhosa Prophetess Nongqawuse:

Nongqawuse was a teenager and a member of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.  One day in April or May of 1856, she went down to the river to fetch water.  When she returned, she said that she had encountered the spirits of three of her ancestors who told her that her people must destroy their crops and kill their cattle.  In return, the sun would rise red on February 18, 1857, and the Xhosa ancestors would sweep the British settlers from the land and bring them fresh, healthier cattle.  (Some of the Xhosa cattle had been suffering from a lung ailment, which may or may not have been brought by the British settlers’ cattle.)

Astonishingly, the Xhosa chieftain, Sarhili, agreed to do exactly as this young girl urged.  Over the next year, a frenzy occurred in which it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 cattle were killed and crops destroyed.  Historians sometimes call it the “Great Cattle Killing.”

But on February 18, 1857, the sun rose as usual.  It was not red.  And the Xhosa ancestors did not show.  But the Xhosa people had destroyed their livelihood.  In the resulting famine, the population of the area dropped from 105,000 to less than 27,000.  Cannibalism was reported.  Following Nongqawuse’s advice was a calamity of staggering proportions for the Xhosa people.

Like Nongqawuse, Gore tells us that the sun will soon rise red over the land.  Well, maybe.  But already the models that he relies on have been proven wrong.  The intense period of warming that these models predicted over the past ten years never came to pass.  Yet we are repeatedly told that it’s still coming and that it’s just a little late.  Apparently, we should pay no attention to the fact that the polar ice is expanding again.  Instead, we must put the brakes on our use of energy–the very thing that makes the modern world possible–to avoid antagonizing the spirits of our ancestors, I mean to avoid climate disaster.

The most infuriating aspect of the fear-mongers’ movement is that their solution to climate change is for humanity to adopt an economic system that has brought misery and death nearly every time it has been tried.  From the tropics to the poles,  free markets have brought prosperity, comfort and longevity to the masses.  No matter how well intentioned they are, the fear-mongers threaten to wreck the engine that allows the Earth to support a human population in the billions.

The Earth’s climate is in a state of flux. The notion that humanity should doom itself to privation and famines in a futile attempt to maintain climactic parameters within a set of narrow bands is the height of folly.  If we kill our cattle, we too will starve.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I wish non Africans would stop interpreting African proverbs to suit their purposes.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Yeah, I can see how people who have never set foot in Africa would miss all sorts of cultural contexts.

    Out of curiosity, though, what does that have to do with my post?

  • Akston

    “I wish non Africans would stop interpreting African proverbs to suit their purposes.”

    Is the interpretation wrong? Can you provide a correct one?

    Or is it interpreted correctly, but you don’t like the proverb being used as an allegory for proposed political responses to current views of climate change?

    What purpose is the proverb intended for?

    I’m assuming it’s not just a jingoist or racist comment asserting that only people of a certain country, continent, or skin color could possibly understand the story.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Your assumption is wrong.
    I have no idea what the purpose, but neither does Tarran or Gail Heriot. Does she even speak the Xhosa language?

    There is always a context and I can’t see what on earth a 19th century parable would have to do with global warming. It could just as well been a warning against prophets.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I am pissed off that there is this search to find some black person to justify white speech. That smacks too much of slavery. But that is entirely about another subject.

  • Akston

    Funny, I couldn’t possibly care less whether the speaker or the listener is black or white. I also care very little whether the parable was correctly translated.

    Parables tend to be timeless. It doesn’t matter whether they’re translated exactly from a specific source. Very few parables can be. It doesn’t matter much whether they’re presented in the original language. It doesn’t matter what century they originated in. They are told to make a point.

    I find it a bit curious that someone with your intelligence doesn’t see the point it makes.

    To clarify my interpretation:

    “If you kill your cattle, you will starve.”

    “If we tax our productive industry (that which feeds us all) to death because of a faith-based perspective (or model-based), our country will fail.”

    I think the parable makes a very reasonable point. I’m sorry you’re pissed off, but I’m having trouble seeing how race has anything whatever to do with this post (beside what you’re making of it).

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    OK. Several points:

    1) There is no African proverb in the story. The statement that if you kill your cattle, you will starve is of my own invention. It’s a statement of fact…

    2) I am not searching for some black person to justify white speech. I honestly don’t care about the color or a person’s skin unlike some of our readers.

    3) Human beings are not very different today than they were at the beginning of recorded history; ergo, you see the same patterns of behavior showing up time and time again when you look across human history. Thus, it is instructive to examine historical events that are analogous to the present to try to identify the proper way to handle them. Or, as some dead white male put it “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”.

    4) People (or races) don’t own history. Nor is examining the history that of some other ethnic group somehow exploiting them. Oddly enough, VRB, you are not the first person I have encountered who seemed to think that only members of a particular race could use the history of that race; your comment reminded me of an essay I read on David Duke’s website (yeah the KKK guy) that made a similar argument, albeit from a ‘White Nationalist’ perspective when I was doing research for this post.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Akston and tarran,
    Perhap what I should said, is that there usually is no scholarship.
    Proverb isn’t the right term.
    The black white statement I made was only in regard to Akston, not the post.
    I don’t think I have to list every person I take issue with including black people to make the statement I did. I only said non-Africans not white people.
    Americans know so little about Africa and until recently knew little about the middle east or Islam. Then all a sudden we got these experts because they have read one book or one blog.
    I have seen our own history erroneously used to prove some point about an ideology and the upon reading the source found that the whole analogy was bad and the facts taken out of context. The same source the bloggers used. I guess they thought no one would check their source. No scholarship.

  • Constant

    What VRB is saying is that if you are white you aren’t allowed to use references to black culture. Also, if you are English-speaking, you are not allowed to use references to non-English cultures. Finally, whatever county, you are not allowed to use references to cultures outside of your county, because if you did, then your county would in effect be enslaving the rest of humanity.

    It’s obvious.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    VRB, Are you specifically accusing Professor Heriot of having made up the story?

    Or are you merely saying she must have gotten something wrong because she is non-African?

    The Xhosa cattle killing took place. Most of the cattle were killed by their owners who were led to believe it would bring about a better life. The source of this belief was a teenage girl. In the space of a year, two out of every three members of the tribe died. These are all well documented facts.

    I am having trouble understanding how anybody could read that passage and its terse narrative and immediately think “bad scholarship”. Moreover, before complaining about bad scholarship, you might want to investigate whether the passage you are critiquing actually contains any bad scholarship, and to use that evidence to educate the rest of us. All you have provided us, to this point, are insinuations based on nothing more than racial or ethnic prejudice.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    None of you believe a word I said in my last comment. Is that because I’m black I don’t have any credibility.

    “I don’t think I have to list
    every person I take issue with including black people to make the statement I did. I only said non-Africans not white people.”

    I can’t have an opinion unless it is base on race so why bother to provide any scholar ship.

    YOU PLAY THE RACE CARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran


    Could you please translate that into coherent English? Because I don’t see how that
    a) answers the simple yes/no questions I was asking
    b) has any relevance to the discussion.

    I certainly am not asking you to tell me what black people you disagree with. They are irrelevant to the matter.

    I do however point out that you are the one who introduced race into the discussion, and have, despite my repeated questions failed to substantiate any of your racially charged and inflammatory comments.

  • Akston

    For the record – again – I also could not care less about any racial aspects of this story. It’s simply irrelevant.

    And I like the pithy proverb as coined by tarran. It makes a clear point.

    To me, the original story could have been in Martian. It makes no difference to the point being illuminated. Even if we could find a scholar who could demonstrate that the original story was taken completely out of its original context, or that there was no such Xhosa story that ever existed, the story as presented would still be an accurate allegory of using current Climate Change dogma to justify destructive political policies.

    And, of course, no such scholar has yet stepped forward, rendering the entire issue so much “sound and fury”.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I did not bring race into this. I responded to Akston comment. See this is why there can be no discussion. You don’t even read.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    You mean where he asked what the hell you were insinuating with the hope that it wasn’t some racist comment and you responded with, and I quote:

    I am pissed off that there is this search to find some black person to justify white speech. That smacks too much of slavery.

    And yes, there can be no discussion, because I, and I think others, still can’t figure out what exactly you are alleging. You have coyly claimed you are opposed to bad scholarship, but have not backed it up by pointing out what Professor Heriot wrote that constituted bad scholarship. You have made nonsensical comments to the effect that non-Africans talking about African history smacked of slavery. I’m being charitable and assuming that you were being honest when you claimed that your use of the word proverb was a mistake rather than a knee-jerk reaction to my pithy title based on an assumption that I was quoting some african proverb.

    Again, it is you who have been grousing about some people outside a group using the historical experiences of people inside the group to make a point. And, I should point out, you are implicitly arguing against the notion that the Xhosa are psychologically similar to we who live in the United states nearly a century later. In other words, I am claiming that the Xhosa are part of the same human family that we Americans are, and you’re getting huffy and offended about it.

  • Peter

    VRB – Wait, you’re black? It’s funny, but until you explicitly told everybody that, I had no idea; the internet shows everybody as faceless. Your lack of credibility comes not from people seeing your face, but from the illogical statements you posted.

  • Aimee

    The thing I’ve noticed about you is that you go out of your way to find fault in these posts and have very little to add to the conversation, if you don’t like them, stop reading.

    You need to take a deep breath and get over your high and mighty self.

    You are so far out on left field on this one that you aren’t even playing in the same ballgame.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Your are a newbie. Some here have actually visited my blog, where you would get an indication of who I am.

    I have never seen you have your own opinion. It seems you want to be one of the boys.

    Everyone here always jumps to conclusions so to add something to the conversation one has to go line by line to correct wrong assumptions. I guess they think they are so smart they can read your mind.

    Before I could respond to tarran, I get a response like this.
    “I’m assuming it’s not just a jingoist or racist comment asserting that only people of a certain country, continent, or skin color could possibly understand the story.”

  • John222

    VRB you have yet to say what your problem with the original post was.

    Professor Heriot made an apt comparison between something that actually happened in the past and something that seems to be happening now. The fact that the original event took place in Africa is irrelevant to the point being made.

    Al Gore would do well to read Luke 6:42. (and no, I don’t speak Greek, I read a translation) There are many people who genuinely seem to care about their own impact on the environment and it shows. I wouldn’t put him in that category.

    I believe tarran’s statement to be correct, “If we kill our cattle, we too will starve.” Attempting to maintain the climate of the planet within some range that we choose is arrogant if not asinine. If the planet were sentient and so inclined it could literally shake us off like so many gnats. We have nothing to compare with the sheer power of the natural events that occur on a daily basis all around us.

  • Akston


    I am not smart enough to read your mind. Apparently, I can’t even read your words as you intended:

    I wish non Africans would stop interpreting African proverbs to suit their purposes.

    What does that mean, exactly? It seems to imply that only Africans can interpret African proverbs/stories. Or that the story should only serve an African purpose.

    I asked what you meant. I assumed it wasn’t what it appeared on the surface: “a jingoist or racist comment asserting that only people of a certain country, continent, or skin color could possibly understand the story.”

    Given any lack of coherent alternative response, I am forced to assume that there isn’t one. I’d rather be wrong.

    I apologize again for evoking such an emotional response, but emotions are not arguments. There is a passive aggressive fallacy in debate. It now seems as if you are falling to this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but please do it with reasons. I’ve tiptoed enough.

  • Aimee


    I have never seen you have your own opinion. It seems you want to be one of the boys.”

    I do happen to agree with the other comments on this post. I didn’t realize that was a crime.

    If you read the comments on religious parents denying medical care and issues on abortion you would see that I do have my own opinion and they don’t always jive with the author of the post.

    I just don’t go out of my way to find fault or racist comments in everything I read on here or anywhere else.