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What did the Romans ever do for us?

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is planning to install a statue of John Chilembwe in Trafalgar Square. Mr Chilembwe was a Malawian Baptist famous for, among other things, leading an uprising where the head of a Scottish farmer was chopped off and put on a pole. He is much revered in his home country for all this and his face has appeared on banknotes. In truth, Mr Chilembwe didn’t incite the murder of many people, in the great scheme of things. If the mayor is searching for a murderer who did punch his weight, he could do worse than hoist up a statue of Francisco Macías Nguema, the former dictator of Equatorial Guinea. I do not have the exact figures of how many people he murdered, but it is impossible not to be impressed by his ambition to have everybody who wore spectacles killed. I think Francisco would look splendid standing next to Horatio Nelson.

This plague of self-flagellating obeisances, which has ripped through many of our institutions since the Black Lives Matter business last year, has now afflicted the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Like a lot of other colleges, it has decided that it is time to ‘decolonise’ its curriculum and indeed its staff and students. The subjects taught will be re-worked so as to avoid racism. Staff have been told that if they are white, cis and heterosexual, they must accept that they are privileged and there’s an end to it. Making people feel bad about the race they were born into seems to me the very essence of racism, but there we are. Eight posts have been created for people who will be enjoined to discover racism in the nooks and crannies of the LSHTM and stamp on it with a vengeance. Eight posts! If you ever wonder what the great growth industry in Britain might be right now, look no further.

More specifically, staff will be told that they must avoid at all costs perpetuating the ‘white saviour myth’. The big problem here is that the white saviour myth is not a myth but a clear and incontestable reality — and there is no institution on Earth which better demonstrates that fact than the LSHTM. If you look at the list of the top 20 ways in which Africans die, other than at the hands of other Africans, you will largely find a list of ailments for which white people have found effective cures, palliatives or vaccines.


For example, a vaccine for yellow fever was discovered by the Nobel prize-winning South African/American virologist Max Theiler. The identification of malaria and the long list of treatments developed to combat the disease involves white people from a formidable array of countries, but especially France. It was Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou who first started treating patients with quinine back in 1820, and Alphonse Laveran who discovered the malaria parasite in 1880. The most effective treatment, chloroquine, was invented by the German Hans Andersag at Bayer IG in 1934. Sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis? A Brit, David Bruce, discovered the causative agent and the vector, the Tsetse fly, and a Swiss bloke, Ernst Friedheim, the best cure for late-stage patients, melarsoprol.

An ebola vaccine was created, against all the odds, by researchers largely from Winnipeg in Canada (and was at first shunned by the idiots in the World Health Organisation). Aids continues to wreak destruction in Africa south of the equator, and while some African heads of state were denying a link between HIV and Aids, or denying the disease existed at all, as victims were forced to recourse to the local witch doctor, the American group (with German roots) Merck, Sharp and Dohme were busy discovering the retroviral drugs which now make the condition not merely survivable, but liveable with in some comparative comfort.

None of this, none of it, should need to be said. It is so patently obvious. Not least the stuff about ebola, because the disease was discovered in 1976 by a Belgian bloke called Peter Piot — who is now the director of the LSHTM. It may be unfortunate and politically uncomfortable that just about every single medical advance made in the past 300 years has been by white people, but it is nonetheless true. For sure, colonialism helped to facilitate, both directly and indirectly, whitey’s ability to create large pharmaceutical companies and universities which provided the forum for research. (The various African empires somehow did not have quite the same result.) But there is no doubt that in the area of medicine (and in many others too), whitey was and still is a saviour, and it is therefore no myth.

Trouble is, this runs counter to the current liberal thesis — comprised as ever of non-sequiturs and flagrant denials of observable reality — that everything the white man has done in relation to Africa is entirely malign and that white supremacy and capitalism are to blame for pretty much all the evils of the world. And yet it is capitalism which enabled those drugs and treatments mentioned above to be developed on a mass scale, so that impoverished Africans might benefit from them. And it is capitalism which has lifted so many billions of people out of poverty.

Liberals will also wave a bit of cultural relativism in your face, insisting that there is nothing in white culture which makes it inherently superior to indigenous African culture. Nothing — except for a means to stop people dying in their millions from preventable illnesses. Oh, and education and democracy, the rule of law, female emancipation etc ad infinitum. Yes, we are back with: what did the Romans ever do for us? Racism is foul. But what the LSHTM and others are doing is not its antithesis. It is a delusion and just more of the same.

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