Somewhere to the west of Dire Dawa, Saleh’s Christian mother Gabra had given birth to him during a drought crisis, which had driven many rural Ethiopians in the direction of the countries major cities. His Muslim father Jasim followed the path of most Sub-Saharan men, engaging in multiple affairs, and sham common-law marriages to a number of women. For Jasim, it had produced 28 children over a ten year period, most dying in infancy through disease and malnutrition.
Saleh was his latest offspring. While Gabra fended for herself, and her five surviving children, during the last few months of pregnancy, Jasim went off to Dessie, north of Addis Ababa, to be with another one of his women for a few months. He made her pregnant, before moving further north to Mek’ele, to repeat the same feckless and irresponsible process.
This kind of immoral and reckless ritual, and the gross sexual abuse of women, had been a feature of Sub-Saharan societies for thousands of years. The men pretended that prodigious procreation was necessary to sustain the Ethiopian race, in the face of alarming high infant mortality rates. In truth, that was a convenience, allowing them to flit from fatherless-family to fatherless-family, increasing their number, whilst failing to fulfil both husbandly and fatherly responsibilities.
When the Western Christian missionaries arrived in the 19th century with medicines and morality as their byword, infant mortality reduced, but rampant procreation remained unabated. A hundred years later, Western aid agencies had taken on the endless task, their efforts making little impact on the overpopulation problem, or reducing starvation in the wake of famine. They made contraception freely available to both men and woman, courtesy of Western tax payers, who also funded the black hole of food and shelter provision, without any affect in terms of reducing, let alone reversing the seemingly endless poverty trend. In spite of billions of pounds, dollars and euros poured into the Sub-Sahara in the main all it did was produce even more unwanted babies and parentless children. The men saw the opportunity to be even more negligent and foolish in terms of fathering children, knowing that because of all kinds of politically self-imposed pressures based on ancient history, the West could always be relied upon to featherbed their offspring. Those males who did make it into adulthood merely carried on the business as usual culture.
Though many women saw contraception as a way to get away from more or less a life of sustained pregnancy until they died, most men abhorred the provision. Women would be beaten, even murdered, if caught taking the pill by husbands or live-in boyfriends.
No matter what the aid workers did in terms of sex education and basic family economics, it resulted in little change to attitudes. The men largely sustained absentee father status to their multiple children, and the woman remained too scared to refuse sex, or take the pill.
Jasim was part of the huge Third World mass of imprudent, thoughtless and selfish men, responsible for world overpopulation, and the knock-on problems it caused to the entire world at large.
As early as 1945, the UN and every Western government recognised that the biggest threat to the Earth was bourgeoning overpopulation, especially in the Third World. By the early 1950’s, writers such as Huxley, were producing work that warned of the affect that out-of-control Third World overpopulation, would have on the world’s resources in general, and Western societies in particular.
Later, the theme became used for disaster novels predicting the draconian consequences of Third World overpopulation. Christopher Priest’s Fugue for a Darkening Island, foretold of a time when black African’s invaded Europe and eventually colonised England, raiding the economy and the State of all its assets like locusts, in search of rich pickings to feed on, that would never be replenished. Eventually, the whole world would fall into a bedlam-like state, where no food or material goods were produced, public services would be non-existent, and the world economy would collapse. The tragedy would be just as harsh, and infinite in its far reaching affects, as a nuclear holocaust. The world would recede back into pre-historic times, where those who survived the race wars, would scavenge around like Neanderthal Man.
However, the 1945 vision was not new, or even remotely surprising to successive generations of historians, who had documented world demographics and their impact on material resources and social structures, since the time of the great Renaissance. Additionally, Western economists had recognised as far back as the early 19th century, that the world’s resources were finite. Though farming food stocks could be replenished, if overpopulation outstripped production capacity, it would spell the beginning of the end of civilisation. The message became crystal clear. Like for any enterprise based on supply and demand, the planets ability to support life, did have its limits, beyond which, any increase in population numbers, was unsustainable.
If not checked, and the trend reversed, it would result in an unrestrained, runaway disaster. Just like in Priest’s vision, its effects would reduce the modern world to a perpetual combat zone, where those surviving would scrounge around for the basic necessities to sustain life, and fight to the death for control, not over land, but essential resources.
With London bursting at the seams and the south-east’s transportation systems reduced to a daily log jam, Glyn and Steve decided to look into the overpopulation issue. They discovered that no one versed in logical thinking disputed the prediction. But back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western politicians were more concerned about European wars and empire building, and intellectuals about the meaning of life, to treat the subject seriously. Sociology was in its infancy, and though well-equipped as a human science discipline to analyse, predict and warn the powers that be about the impending effects of world overpopulation, it quickly became corrupted by a left-wing agenda. The purity of fact, conveniently shelved, or worst of all, rashly ignored. The collectivism germ and the drive to install a worldwide socialist state, with the aim of complete control over all human thoughts and activities, was still a central plank to its purveyors in the 21st century. No national government organisation, or world authority like the UN, ever used the word, overpopulation, let alone debate it. As world population accelerated from 1billion in 1800, to 3billion in 1960, and over-doubled in just 48 years to 6.73 billion in 2008, these august bodies made noises about the need for wealth redistribution from the developed West to the Third World, a politically driven ploy to conveniently side step and ignore the central issue of dangerously out of control world overpopulation.
In the 1960’s, Red China invoked a one-child-per-family policy in response to its own bulging and unsustainable population growth. The instrument had a profound positive effect over the next 40 years, culminating with China becoming a top 3 world economic power. If only the Chinese common sense approach had been adopted by Third World countries, particularly those in the Sub-Saharan region, then the famine effects of the late 20th century may never have happened, not that famines were a modern phenomena. Self-interested Western politicos would have the world believe that the famines in Ethiopia and Eritrea were somehow a consequence of modern worldwide economics, but in reality, famines had been sweeping across the Sahara, as they had been in some of parts of Asia, the Americas, and even Europe, for thousands of years.
Turning on the aid tap, achieved little, apart from quelling Western liberal elite sensibilities and consciences. As had been pointed out to Saleh by the crew of the Poseidon, the World could be bankrupted and nothing would change in famine torn Ethiopia. The far greater and superior force of nature was at work. Mankind could never hope to equal, let alone exceed its power. Nature is a self regulating phenomenon. It monitors the Earth’s state of health, in response to Homo sapiens gross overuse of its natural resources. When nature detects that the Earth is in peril, it generates extreme weather conditions, aimed at culling the infestation gnawing at its well-being, hence Tsunamis, hurricanes, flood, and intense hot and cold temperatures resulting in the destruction of basic food stuffs, and thereby famine.
The only two things which would defeat nature were a nuclear holocaust, or overpopulation exceeding critical mass, and enveloping the entire Earth. Though the cause and effect criteria were very well known at the UN, generation after generation of head-in-the-sand politicians, ignored or side-slipped the overpopulation issue, fearing any debate would lead to the inevitable racism taunts. To Glyn and Steve, it seemed they were willing to preside over the slow strangulation of the planet, but would do absolutely nothing about addressing its central cause; overpopulation.
Like most Sub-Saharan women, Gabra had accepted her fate from an early age. She had been born into an extended family, and brought up on the Christian teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. But unable to challenge Ethiopian men’s dominance in domestic matters, procreation in particular, she feared severe maltreatment in response to any non-compliance of the age-old code. Although her father was also Christian, the infernal heritage of child-bearing expectation saw to it that many of Gabra’s sisters and brothers died at birth, or early in infancy.
She was made of sterner stuff, and managed to survive early childhood without attack from life threatening diseases or malnutrition. For a short period in her nascent years, she found life to be tolerable. Then the suitors’ came-calling; much older men, who took their brides or common-law wives, before they had barely reached puberty. In Gabra’s unfortunate case, it was Jasim, a so-called family friend, over 20 years older then her. She knew she had no choice but to accept her fate, as did millions of Ethiopian girls of her age. Her first child had been born when she was just about into her teens. Since, Gabra had been pregnant every year for the past 22 years, many of her newborn, dead soon after birth, or within a few years.
For countless women, the extreme burden of too many children coupled with husband abandonment, became too much to bear. When the missionaries started arriving, followed by multi-national aid organisations, they too abandoned their offspring, leaving them in the care of Westerners. Gabra could not do that. It went against her Christian teachings. She loved her children, and looked after them to the best of her abilities. She was a good mother.
Gabra’s only driver became survival from one day to the next, though she never expected to make 40 years of age. Her surviving children; Makeda, Girma, Ayana, Dawit and Iskinder, were all malnourished. She knew at least two more of them would die before reaching adulthood. Makeda, the eldest daughter was 12, and already the subject of suitors, at least twice her age. Her mother encouraged her to take contraception precautions, knowing that as soon as marriage, or worse still, a common-law relationship happened, and Makeda didn’t get pregnant, the man in her life would beat her, and force her to stop any contraception method. Gabra thought that at least for a while, her eldest daughter would avoid child birth. However, Makeda, like her sisters, was doomed to follow in the eventual same near to sex-slave like footsteps, as that of her mother and her ancestors.
Jasim had some distant Arab blood flowed through his veins, and often used this to differentiate himself from other Ethiopian men, on the basis that Arabs were superior to pure-bred Ethiopians. During the final months of pregnancy, usually Gabra would name the children in his expected absence, but her husband had left instructions to name the latest offspring, Saleh; an Arab name.
Like for many Sub-Saharan children, Saleh survived early life by the skin of his teeth. He had been close to death on numerous occasions, principally through disease rather than malnutrition, but careful nursing by his mother, ensured his recovery and future wellbeing.
Jasim returned to Gabra twice more over the next two years, each time making her pregnant. The child count rose to eight with the births of Yenee and Kassa, a number well beyond his wife’s capacity to care for them, in his continued absence.
Then quite by luck, just by being in the right place at the right time, Gabra and her offspring were taken into a refugee camp in Dire Dawa, run by a Western famine relief agency. Thankfully, for a few years, Jasim was unable to find them. Not being perpetually pregnant, allowed Gabra’s health to improve and the relative security of the camp ensured her children were fed and clothed, even educated.
For the fatherless family, things started to perk up. No more of Gabra’s children died. They became fit and healthy, received fundamental schooling and social grounding. Then Jasim found them again. Realising the family’s position and security could be jeopardised, Gabra refused to have any more children with him. She received a brutal beating from her vicious husband, for what he considered to be refusal of conjugal rights. When the Western aid workers were alerted by Makeda, they called in the Ethiopian authorities. Jasim was found, and jailed for his heinous act, though subsequently released within a year, on condition he would leave his wife alone. Though Gabra eventually recovered, she was bed-ridden for eight weeks, and had to be cared for by the aid workers medical team.
Saleh grew up within the confines of the Dire Dawa camp, but in spite of his good fortune, he was always a difficult child. His mother and elder brothers and sisters often chastised him for ingratitude, bad manners, and a poor attitude to both his family and their benefactors. For some obscure and unfathomable reason, even from a very early age, he thought highly of his delinquent father, ignoring his obvious maltreatment of his family and leading a completely negligent life. Saleh clung to the idea that Arab blood coursed through his veins, and that differentiated him from other Ethiopians, making him a superior being. It would become the foundation of his ethos, his personal belief system, and in the end, his nemesis and downfall.
Gabra and Makeda would spend hours talking to Saleh, in an attempt to identify the source of his contempt, but little was forthcoming in the way of explanation. He would grudgingly offer up excuses for his stroppy attitude, laziness and general dismissiveness of his life at the Dire Dawa camp and Tewahedo Church Christian beliefs. He remained belligerent and argumentative about all things, from his place in the family pecking order, to playing tricks on the aid-workers who maintained his feather-bedded lifestyle, because they refused to give him the special treatment he demanded.
Saleh had few friends, and those who did gravitate towards him, quickly found his idea of friendship was to exploit them. His peers viewed him to be untrustworthy and unnecessarily quarrelsome. He would often get into fights when they challenged his moral code, or criticised his objectionable behaviour. Though his assailants were often bigger, Saleh never shied away, his sense of right, spurring on a physical response that was well beyond his slender physique. That action in itself impressed those who thought they had a similar kinship with him. But they found that when they befriended Saleh, he would maliciously abuse the friendship for his own selfish ends, leading to more strife.
At the camp school, the aid workers said he was very bright, even clever, but unreliable, deceitful and perpetually in trouble for minor misdemeanours and stealing. He was disruptive in class, tetchy and crabby with other schoolchildren, and always on the verge of picking an argument with his teachers, for no valid reason. Gabra was warned that unless his bad behaviour stopped, Saleh would be expelled, not only from school, but also the camp. The camp authorities said there were plenty of others to take his place that would not be a perpetual pain to them. Saleh took a tongue-lashing from his mother, and made profound apologies to the aid workers, promising to improve his attitude. But the repentance became short-lived. He returned to his anti-social ways, causing trouble and endlessly upsetting others. His teachers complained that he was arrogant, displayed disdain for virtually everything they viewed to be good and true, had little or no humility, and was extremely manipulative and conniving. Once more, he was given an ultimatum by those in charge of the camp. This time, realising they had reached their limit of tolerance, something inside Saleh told him to quit. He reasoned to himself, that there would be other opportunities to play the rogue down line.
Much to Gabra’s relief, Saleh knuckled down at school. His natural cleverness set him apart from most young Ethiopians, and his ability to learn writing, reading and arithmetic fundamentals, differentiated him from the vast majority of his contemporaries. His ability to understand basic science, appreciate world geography and history, coupled with an ever developing logical mindset to solve mathematical problems, were way beyond his years. His teachers thought he had passed through his early scallywag period, and they had high hopes for his future. Even his classmates and his family saw a huge change in his personality, Saleh apparently relinquishing his natural desire to be the rascal.
By his mid-teens, he had acquired computer skills, and was fluent in English and Arabic, as well as the Amharic language. It led to the Western aid charity giving him a job as a translator and performing office duties. For Saleh, it was easy meat, well within his academic capabilities. He accomplished all his delegated tasks with commensurate ease, and there was talk among the aid-workers, about promoting him to a more responsible position, in which he would act as a role model, and even a mentor for younger Ethiopians.
Then his old habits returned. He became short with people, upsetting the fine balance between the aid workers and the refugees that an aid camp needs to flourish, and retain sustainability. His became unruly in his dealings, disorderly in his conduct, and generally disrupted the order of everyday necessities, required for the camp administration to function properly. Finally, he was caught with his hand in the till, and given his marching orders. There would be no way back for him, as far as the camp authorities were concerned. Gabra was shocked and disappointed with her son’s appalling failings. He had brought the family into disrepute, and they felt the shame that clearly Saleh refused to acknowledge for his misdeeds. In comparative Ethiopian terms, he had been given an extraordinary start in life, and had bitten the hand which fed him.
His mother told him to go make his own way in the world, and not to return until he had learned the value of the good fortune he had been given. Saleh collected his belonging, stuffed them into an old and battered suitcase, and then stormed out of Dire Dawa, shouting abuse back at his family and the camp authorities.