Loki on Health

reproduced with acknowledgments to The Scorpion, where this prescient article appeared in 2006

One advantage of submitting one’s copy to the Scorpion at (or beyond!) the ragged edge of the Editor’s forbearance with deadlines is that it does enable a certain topicality. So that I can open my remarks on the threat to the health of humanity posed by our present socio-economic system with the Dead Swan of Fife.

This is not the title of a sombre tone poem by some Scottish Sibelius, nor a dolorous ballad from the repertoire of Anne Lorne Gillies or Andy Stewart, but a deceased, and indeed somewhat decomposed, specimen of Cygnus cygnus found on a beach in the former Scots Kingdom of Fife a few days ago as I write. Although actually a whooper, it ended up as a very mute swan nevertheless bearing tidings of doom and despondency to be trumpeted throughout the media even unto the very gates of DEFRA (the British bureaucrats responsible for those relicts of our countryside not yet built over by the myrmidons of the sinisterly-named Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).  

The Dead Swan owed its unhappy state to an avian influenza virus, H5N1, which, having despatched a few dozen hapless Vietnamese and Turks who had evidently become overt-intimately attached to its principal host, wildfowl and poultry,  had been borne on migrating wings ever closer to our sceptred isle. Amid mounting media hype, usually of the form – page 1: NO NEED TO PANIC AS DEADLY BIRD FLU GETS NEARER (see pages 2-9 for further sundry scare stories and panicky reportage of the issue). 

This is of course the latest of a steady series of similar pandemic scares in recent years, from SARS to AIDS. Your author still has a London Sunday Times magazine issued in 1986 purporting to contain reportage from the AIDS-ravaged Britain of the mid-1990’s: millions dead, not a family in the land untouched etc etc. Sadly for such Government-sponsored prognostications, AIDS stubbornly refused to behave in the predicted Politically-Correct equal opportunity manner. Retreating into a bigoted epidemiology characterised by racism, sexism and homophobia. Disproportionately afflicting Africans, male homosexuals and women, even sinking to prey on disadvantaged drug-injectors. Shocking! Still, what can one expect of a mere virus…?

All, thus far, have proved specious. After the headlines and the hype departed, humanity carried on much as usual. So, nothing to worry about then? 

Sadly, not quite. Indeed, not at all. Regardless of how often or how speciously the media little boy cries “wolf!” there really is a big, dangerous beast out there. One we are pretty certain, sooner or later, to unleash on ourselves with apocalyptic consequences retroactively justifying every lurid headline and purple passage. As with almost every pestilence and plague throughout history, it will be in a sense self-inflicted, the price of the way we live. But not, this time, the unavoidable price, if we are prepared to change the way we live just a little. If we don’t, we will collectively deserve all we shall, sooner or later, get. 

First, it’s time to get to know Pestilence, the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. His colleague Death is several hundred million years old, introduced to our ancestors when they ended the arithmetically confusing practice of multiplying by division (binary cell-splitting or metazoan vegetative budding) and subcontracted reproducing to a minority of germ cells, leaving the rest to perish in an ageing body. Famine is probably an even more venerable fellow, manifesting himself to the first primitive mote of life to run out of primordial soup. War in the sense of battles between rather than within social groups of the same species introduced himself to our apish ancestors some millions of years ago. Ants and termites made his acquaintance much earlier. But, although he has been about since the first phage viruses began to afflict bacteria possibly billions of years ago, and pressed his unwelcome attentions doubtless upon our ancestors for much of the time since, Pestilence pretty much left our own personal ancestors alone for the past few million years, until relatively very recently.

The reason is that our ancestors, from perhaps 2 million to around ten thousand years ago, followed a lifestyle Pestilence found decidedly unconducive to his activities.  We were not herd animals, on and amongst whom pestilential pathogens could themselves graze, assured of finding another host when they used up the current one, either by rendering it deceased or immune. Our hominid, and Palaeolithic human, ancestors were thinly spread across the land. Living in bands of at most 200 individuals, each defending a tribal hunting and gathering territory and meeting in larger numbers only infrequently. A situation not conducive to plagues. If disease did break out in one band, it might well infect all its members quite quickly. But such an infection would have run its course, killing or rendering immune and pathogen-free those infected, before they were likely to have met anyone else to infect. In fact, extreme isolation is not necessary – if conditions were such that each person whilst infectious on average infected less than one other, any disease would, sooner or later, die out even if it managed to spread amongst more than one band. 

As was doubtless the sad (if one can spend sympathy on bacteria and viruses) fate of whatever disease organisms managed from time to time to jump the triple barrier that guards one species from the diseases of another. A barrier comprised firstly of the need to physically get from one host of one species to one of another. Not easy in the millions of years when humans generally only got close to other animals immediately before and during killing, cooking and eating them (which incidentally is why you won’t get bird flu from eating cooked chicken!). Secondly the disease has to actually survive and reproduce in the new host, without being simply swatted by the immune system that stops us being eaten, for example, by our own gut bacteria and the countless others that land on and in us constantly. This is especially difficult for viruses – bacteria basically just divide and multiply given a suitable food source, and we are quite suitable to many. But viruses, thousands of times smaller than bacteria, have to hijack a host cell, subverting it into making copies of the virus, before they can breed. Subversion which is highly selective in terms of whose cells can hear, and whose are deaf, to its genetic siren song. So the new disease has actually to succeed in making us ill. Thirdly – and this is the Third Barrier the H5N1 viral Bane of the Dead Swan of Fife has yet to cross – it has to be able to spread from one human to another before the first human is dead or all the germs invading him and her have been slain by the body’s very effective defences.  Having got that far, almost all diseases to afflict our pre-agricultural ancestors simply died out after a brief local epidemic when they ran out of new hosts having the dual desiderata of being both still alive and not already immune.  

To survive as a disease of human or humanlike hunter-gatherers, a pathogen had to gang exceeding warily. Being quite infectious, but not virulent, nor provoking a strong immune response. Subtly lurking in its hosts for decades, and killing, even debilitating most of them slowly or not at all. 

The result is that, as genetic evidence has revealed, only one major affliction of historic humanity ever managed to inflict itself on us lastingly before we started writing our first histories. Tuberculosis. Human TB, alone of all ills to which mankind is heir, is most closely related to its counterpart in our nearest nonhuman relatives, chimpanzees. And its genetic clock shows human and chimp TB diverged when humans and chimps themselves did. It was a disease of our common ancestors, several million years ago. Its practice of lurking, latent, in infected victims for years, even decades, before becoming active and infectious when their immune systems weakens for any reason means it can become endemic even amongst hunter-gatherers. The same genetic clock, the accumulation of random mutations in non-critical genetic material ticking away in lineages of life after they have divided, that shows TB is the one major indigenous human disease shows that pretty much every other human disease is little if at all older than recorded human history. Many are much younger. 

The reason is that both epidemic disease and recording history sprang from the same source. The “Neolithic Revolution”, the adoption of agriculture, the replacement of hunter/gatherers over wider and wider areas by farmers, leading in turn to towns, cities, civilizations, literacy and recording history. .  Pestilence likes farmers. 

There are a lot more of them to prey on, for a start. Even Neolithic-level farming can support tens of times, up to a hundred times, more people per square mile/kilometre than hunting and gathering.  People living cheek-by-jowl in villages, and soon towns and cities, in herds hundreds and even thousands strong. Amongst whom even the most virulent plague can spread quickly enough to be likely to find a fresh host before the current one has died or defeated it. Whilst an endless supply of interesting new diseases is assured by people living in close association and proximity, over long periods, with other species whose herding or flocking behaviour long enabled endemic diseases to evolve for them. Early farmers shared their homes with pigs and cattle (often housed at the other end of their houses or in a ground-floor byre under the living floor) with ducks and chickens underfoot (much as in those areas of SE Asia in the news lately for deaths from SARS and avian flu, by no coincidence whatsoever).

The result was that disease after disease crossed the species barrier from domestic livestock to man. Smallpox was originally the cowpox of cattle. The same species’ rinderpest mutated into human measles. Jumping the species barrier a second time to become canine distemper. Pigs contributed whooping cough – again passed on in turn to poor old Fido, who has got the short end of the stick medically speaking from being Man’s Best Friend.  Falciparum malaria was originally a disease of birds. The human form evolved from that found in ducks and chickens. Different strains of influenza have repeatedly crossed the species barrier to man from their original hosts in pigs and ducks. Southern China and Vietnam, where both pigs and ducks are kept in intimate proximity with impoverished peasants in unhygienic huts, has for this reason repeatedly contributed flu pandemics to the sum of human happiness. To help them make this contribution to mankind, said peasants have cultivated a taste for delicacies made from uncooked duck blood and similar suitably infectious tit-bits.

Agriculture, and the urbanisation it enabled, also allowed species we didn’t intend to share our space with to make themselves at home amongst us anyway and share their exciting diseases. Bubonic plague, for example, was in origin a disease of rats.     

Throughout the last few thousand years, disease after disease has crossed the species barrier and sparked pandemic after pandemic. In each case, the story is the same. Animal diseases were repeatedly exposed to potential human hosts living in intimate and insanitary conditions with their original hosts. Given the very short generation times of germs – some bacteria go through one generation every nine minutes – they evolve rapidly. Mutant strains arise all the time. In situations of frequent opportunities to infect humans, any mutant able to take advantage would prosper. At first, again and again, they would find themselves trapped in a human host, able to multiply and exploit him or her, but with no way of spreading out of the body they were in should it die on them or become able to kill them off. The only escape was a lucky mutation that could escape into another human. With populations in each infected hosts in the high millions and generation times in minutes, such mutations were generally not long in coming. And another new plague was unleashed on humanity…

With, in general, initially devastating effects on populations with little or no natural immunity or resistance. Mortality rates frequently of 25-75% in the first epidemic. Effects mitigated over time in the interests of the disease rather than humanity. Because the disease organism’s best long-term interests lie in farming rather than exterminating its food supply – us! Killing the host before he has time to infect anyone else is clearly a bad career move, which has spared us so far from the likes of the Ebola virus which do this. But even slaughtering the human host herd to the extent that the population drops below the minimum necessary to maintain the disease as endemic amongst it is also inefficient. Although it’s also inefficient to fail to harvest the maximum sustainable yield of germs from the bipedal food supply. On the other side of the evolutionary battle, a virulent disease is actually breeding, and socially selecting, its hosts for resistance to it – it is only the survivors of its attacks, or those who avoided infection, who survive to carry on their kind and/or their healthier way of life. 

The result is that, over time, evolution causes a gradual reduction in the virulence of each disease. And a progress away from devastating but intermittent plagues thereof to a permanent low-level endemic presence. Rinderpest, for example, is widely thought to have crossed the species barrier to become human measles in the 2nd Century AD, causing the devastating plague that caused over 25% mortality in the Roman Empire in the late 160’s AD, in the process ending the relatively idyllic Antonine apogee of Rome. After which it became endemic, with new mutations able to overcome immunity to earlier variants breaking out in a series of plagues of steadily decreasing virulence until, within a few centuries, it became what it was until the recent MMR vaccine came on the scene – a harmless (with the odd tragic exception) disease contracted by virtually every child in the host population, who thereafter became immune, and surviving at a stable level on that basis.  

Such human-adapted diseases can still wreak havoc on populations that have co-evolved with them. When Europeans reached the Americas and then the Pacific Islands, they inflicted a string of new diseases on the natives. Some, like smallpox, were still pretty dangerous even to Europeans, with mortality rates approaching 50%. Among the urbanised Neolithic populations of Mesoamerica those rates hit 95%. The 5% survivors of course passed their higher (though not total) degree of resistance to their descendants. But their society had been destroyed, easy meat for the Conquistadores. Even diseases fairly harmless to Europeans, like measles, could cause significant mortality in populations that had never been exposed to them. Lower mortality, demonstrating that the relative harmlessness of the disease in long-exposed populations was due not only to the hosts evolving resistance but to the pathogen evolving to be less lethal. An example of coevolution in action fascinating unless you happen to be a 19th Century Hawaiian!         

So the Dead Swan of Fife is not mere media hype. The fear that a new disease – or in this case a new variant of an old disease – will cross the species barrier from its non-human host and become an initially very deadly disease of people is well-founded. It is, as we have seen, the way we got pretty much every other disease to which humanity is now heir. From smallpox – first recorded in scabs on an Egyptian mummy from the 17th Century BC – to polio – the first epidemic of which was as recent as 1840, although it’s not yet clear which animal species we got that one from – and including wave after wave of New Improved Flus. Sooner or later – and more likely sooner than later – it will certainly happen again.     

The trouble is that next time, or at least one of the times in the next decade or two, this happens it will be a disaster on an unprecedented scale. Because of the way we live now. 

Disastrous disease epidemics, as we have seen, are already a result of changed human socioeconomics. Before we invented agriculture, they just didn’t happen. Now we have invented globalisation, they are about to get worse. A lot worse. 

Why? The simple answer is that there are more people than ever before, they move around more and faster than ever before, and the short-sighted selfish greed that is the ruling ethos of globalisation has made it much more difficult in a number of ways for us to defend ourselves against new diseases (and indeed made them more likely to arise).     

The unprecedented swarming mass of humanity, which has more doubled in number in the last 50 years to over 6,000 million, provides a feast for new pathogens as never before. Every year there are 74 million more juicy humans to prey on, an entire large European nation full – although the additional arrivals are not Europeans, of course. This seething biomass bred by Western medical and agricultural technology the prevailing ideology of the West caused to be sold, and sometimes given, to the rest of the World without thought of the consequences, beyond short term profit.   

Now they seethe like maggots, eating up the rest of the living world. Living in swarming squalor in their sewer-free shanty towns and favelas, sitting ducks for the next major pandemic and an ideal breeding ground for such a new human pathogen. The epidemiological antithesis of their ancestral scattered bands of Palaeolithic hunters.

Their sheer numbers also mean people are pushing ever deeper into formerly thinly peopled wildernesses, some of which, such as African rainforests, are rich reservoirs of potential pathogens, currently preying on species such as chimps genetically very similar (98%) to us, making the species barrier the germs have to jump temptingly low. To help the germs even more, the African rainforests are now being raided on an ever growing scale for “bushmeat” to be sold and eaten in the vast squatter camps around the continent’s cities. Chimp meat is, apparently, a particular – if 98% cannibalistic! – delicacy, as is that of various monkey species. From one of whom has already come AIDS. So as to enhance our experience of potential disease diversity here in Britain, recent Court cases reveal that Africans have been smuggling chimp and other bushmeat into Britain, where it is apparently a prized delicacy at a number of African restaurants in London. 

However, were any such diners to go down with some exotic germ here, they could be assured of swift and professional medical care. Not so in the teeming slums back home where most such prime cuts are more usually consumed. There any alien pathogens will be given every chance to try again and again to cross the species barrier to infect humanity in a medicine- and hygiene-free germ-friendly environment. Swarming with potential prey, their immune systems weakened by poor nutrition and in many cases in Africa AIDS. Welcoming any initially diffident bacterium or virus anxious to seek asylum from a rainforest animal host being hunted to extinction as its habitat is destroyed in the welcoming and abundant pastures provided by Homo sapiens – overwhelmingly Africa’s commonest large mammal. Though it would be churlish to pass over the peasantry of East and South-East Asia, living cheek-by-jowl with their pigs and ducks, in their efforts to help Mr Pestilence mount his horse for another good gallop through humanity.   

In fact, he has got his foot in the stirrup a few times already of late. Lassa, Ebola and Marburg viruses have all managed to evolve strains capable of infecting humans and spreading from one human to another. However, so far every outbreak has aborted itself because the viruses turn their human hosts into a bag of goo too quickly to allow effective transmission to a wider public. Any mutation of these viruses that makes them just slightly less deadly and they will be in business.  They don’t have to be any less deadly – and so far few have survived infection with Ebola or Marburg. They just have to be deadly a little more slowly, to take a few hours more to kill. And once these delightful creatures do manage mutate to epidemiological effectiveness (or maybe it will be something else not yet heard of, but we can count on  ex Africa semper aliquod something rather nasty  in the coming years) our delightful global Free Market economy will be there to waft Pestilence wherever he wants to go.

For not only is the vast human population swarming through the last wild refuges of exotic viruses and bacteria unprecedented. So is the speed and volume of human movement around the world. Fleets of jumbo jets roaring hither and yon in the service of the free movement of labour in the global economy.  So that a germ that was caught in a village in Gabon or a shanty town around Lagos or a street in Shanghai in the morning can be coughed out into a crowded London Tube, Paris metro or New York subway carriage the same evening. 

When the last big killer hit Europe, the Black Death in 1347, it took some years, and many thousands of germ generations, to spread West from its origin in China, giving the germ and its new host some chance to adapt to each other. Even then, one European in three perished. Now a germ can be in the heart of Europe and North America only a few tens of cell divisions, or in the case of a virus copyings by host cells of its genetic code from its first deadly incursion into our species. 

No-one is going to stop the carrier if the next Black Death from walking through Passport Control at Heathrow if his papers are in order even if he is looking a little peaky. Any suggestion of thorough medical checks or even quarantine periods on people entering the West from Third World plague danger zones would be howled down. 

Ostensibly, but doubtless effectively, with the parrot squawk of “racism” – though such controls would, to work, have to be applied with the same indifference to race, nationality and ethnic origin that most (though as AIDS shows not all) plagues themselves show.  But actually because they would interfere with the vast profits to be made by the multinational combines who own the West from shipping people quickly and freely around the world. Third World labourers to the West to be exploited in dirty, dangerous and low-paid jobs that no Western worker would do – unless they were made cleaner, safer and better-paid, and where’s the profit in that? And Western managers to run “offshoring” operations in the Third World, milking the low-paid labour at source. But if they carry on, one day they will get something very different from profit from the Third World.

The BBC recently released on DVD its chilling 1975 series Survivors, showing exactly the sort of pandemic plague this article is talking about in action. Then it was portrayed as an escaped Chinese germ warfare agent. But very likely Nature can still show human folly a trick or two here. But the opening sequence, showing the Death spreading around the World in days in a mix of footage of jumbo jets overhead and passport stamps at airports, is even more apposite today, when air travel is vastly greater than it was thirty years ago. Nor is the sequel depicted, of the swift collapse of government and civilization as all but one in ten thousand perished in weeks, dated in the least either. That mortality rate would be unprecedented in the history of humanity. But so is our current social situation, in ways that make such a killer plague far likelier than it was in the past. 

In fact, before the present day, Survivors’ plague, The Death, was, ironically, too deadly to spread around a world in which travellers were slower, better controlled, and fewer in number. More than a few decades ago, and Western Governments would have the time and the will to close their borders effectively as the Death rolled closer, to slam the gates in the face of onrushing Pestilence. With peoples who, as the patient endurance of the privations of the last World War by the ordinary people on both sides showed, were capable of reserves of discipline, dedication to the common cause and courage in crisis one suspects would be sought in vain amongst the consumerist hordes of their descendents, brainwashed into the selfish short-sighted greed that is the underlying ethic of 21st Century Western “civilization”.

Indeed, a few decades ago, not only would the next great plague of mankind be less likely to get into Western nations, there is a much greater chance it could have been beaten back even if it had done so. For the ingenuity and technological brilliance that is one of the better aspects of our civilization had, by the early 1940’s, come up with antibiotic “magic bullets”,  stunningly effective against bacteria if sadly not viruses. But being able to beat bacteria alone secures us against the Black Death, and leprosy, and even the ancient human killer tuberculosis. Combined with widespread vaccination, which does work against viruses, this lead the US Surgeon-General in 1962 to proclaim that humanity had won its war against Pestilence. 

Sadly, he reckoned without Pestilence’s good pal, Greed. And a socioeconomic system built on the mobilization of greed, and Greed’s ally Selfishness. The antibiotics, as everyone knew from the start, would eventually lose their effectiveness if they were used carelessly and promiscuously. So long as they were only deployed to save lives actually under threat and in controlled circumstances where the patient could be compelled to take the full course so there were no bacterial survivors of the attack, they would keep their effectiveness. Let them be used indiscriminately in doses not high enough or continued long enough to stamp out all the attacking germs, and some more antibiotic resistant germs would survive to pass on their resistance. Evolution by natural selection works if the best adapted organisms to a new environmental challenge – even if not yet fully adapted – get a chance to survive and breed. And, each generation, even better adaptation to the challenge was rewarded with better breeding success. With generation times in minutes rather than years, microbes can evolve fast and far – if they are given the chance.    

Capitalist greed gave them that chance. The antibiotics were soon the preserve of giant multinational pharmaceutical companies. Who saw there was no profit in hoarding them and using them sparingly so as to preserve their effectiveness. The more widely they were used, the more they sold. Helped by the fact that it was discovered that putting antibiotics into animal feed in the burgeoning factory farms enhanced yields of eggs, milk and meat. To the point that today 70% of all antibiotics made are not used to treat disease but are used in agricultural food production – fed to battery hens and pigs and the like. Much of the rest is wasted in, for example, bactericidal washing-up liquid and tissues. This was combined with the deliberate fostering of selfishness in the interests of profit, under the guise of “human rights” serving “freedom”. So that compelling tubercular drug addicts and Haitian illegal immigrants in New York to complete their courses of antibiotics was deemed an “infringement of their human rights”. 

The upshot was that bacteria were allowed to accustom themselves to antibiotics, constantly and widely exposed to dosages enough to favour resistant strains but not enough to kill them before their resistance had evolved to be complete. Thus Capitalism created MRSA – a strain of the ubiquitous bacterium of boils and zits, and wound infection and septicaemia, Staphylococcus aureus immune not just to methicillin but, in time, to every known antibiotic. Whilst tubercular trash of society exercising their “human right” to stop bothering to take their medication any more once it had cured their symptoms but before it had killed off the last most antibiotic resistant holdouts of TB germs in their bodies has bred a TB which is now almost as resistant to treatment as it was a century ago.    

Compulsory universal vaccination exterminated viral scourges such as smallpox altogether by the late 1970’s (apart from inside sinister secret US and Soviet Government labs). But again the pervading social spirit of selfishness promoted to create profitable consumer populations insidiously undermined the eradication of other viral plagues. 

To work, vaccination has to cover at least 95% of the host population, so the virus cannot find enough vulnerable hosts to sustain itself in the population. But it is not itself without a cost. Sadly, a very small proportion of those immunised are seriously harmed or even killed by the vaccine. Fewer than the disease used to maim and kill. But in today’s self-centred society the “rights” of the individual prevail against the good of the people as a whole. So, for example, a scare – later found to be unfounded anyway – alleging a link with autism caused British parents to opt their children out of the MMR vaccine. Which they were allowed, selfishly, to do. The result is that measles was not eradicated but broke out anew, and recently the first British child for decades died of the disease, whilst others were blinded or brain damaged because social selfishness backed by the courts allowed the eradication campaign to fail. In a different society – or our own a couple of generations ago – parents would have ensured their children’s vaccination out of social duty. Those few children who did die from the vaccine would be seen in the same light as soldiers who perished in battle or firemen who died on duty, as having given their lives nobly for the greater good of  the whole, by their sacrifice saving the lives of the far more children who would have perished had the populace not been protected by vaccination.      

One might think that, with antibiotics growing less and less effective and vaccination less and less universal, and with a general awareness, as the Dead Swan showed, of the danger of a new pandemic plague, those responsible for finding new drugs would be concentrating their efforts on better antibiotics to fight bacteria and cheaper antiviral drugs to fight viruses. But the big profits for the pharmaceutical companies to whom such research has largely, in the privatised market-run world of today, been abandoned do not lie in pills taken briefly to defeat a deadly germ. They lie in those taken lifelong to stave off a lesser chronic ill – a gyppy stomach or a creaky joint. Or mood-altering drugs to help people cope with their crazy world. Or perhaps really expensive and profitable pills to save a few from cancer rather than cheap and unprofitable ones to save many from germs.  So antibiotic research languishes and  resistant strains rampage through homes and hospitals. Necrotising fasciitis anyone?

So we are right to fear the message the Swan of Fife died to bring us. Modern, cosmopolitan, global market society is making the worst pandemic disaster in human history much more likely, and making it much harder to resist it when it comes. The global market is playing a game of Russian roulette with Pestilence. He pulls the trigger on the revolver’s chamber loaded with AIDS. Click! Spin the magazine. Pull the chamber loaded with SARS. Click! Ebola virus. Click! H5N1 flu. Who knows? The hammer is still falling on the chamber. But sooner or later- BANG!     

The last great pandemic, that caused by a new flu train in 1918, killed more people  in four months than perished in the four years of  the First World War. 80% of the United States soldiers who did not come back from serving in World War One died of this flu after the Armistice rather than in battle before it.   The next, spreading much faster amongst a much more closely connected world with lots more people in it, will doubtless kill many more people. Perhaps most people. Though almost certainly not all people. But quite possibly civilized society, which will collapse if enough of its productive people perish. We do not know how many individuals comprising a society need to die to bring down civilization with them. 50%? 75%? 90%? We may be about to find out…

Yet the predicament humanity has got itself into in the first decades of the 21st Century is so grim that such a pandemic is not the worst thing that could – and probably will – happen to us. Our teeming population eating the Earth like locusts has started a race to get us by all the Four Horsemen. Pestilence, as we have seen, is currently a few lengths in the lead. But, as we turn farmland into desert ever faster each year, partly from exhaustion of the soil in the Third World but increasingly in coming decades due to climate change brought on by our greed and filth, Famine is coming up strongly on the stand side. As rising sea levels force entire nations such as the Bangladeshis to pour inland seeking new land for their hundred millions and drought in a warming world displaces billions in Volkerwanderungen to dwarf those which flooded over and drowned the Roman West , War is beginning to spur on his steed strongly. Add the wider spectre of top tier biosphere collapse brought on by the mass extinction of other species at the hands of the spreading plague of excess humanity on a scale already surpassing that when the dinosaurs departed, and Death, currently hanging back and saving his mount’s wind in the certainty that he will get us all in the end individually anyway, must be the bookies’ favourite to sweep ahead in the final furlong and claim our entire species as his prize. 

Unless Pestilence rides a clever race and claims enough of us now to deny his fellow Horsemen their prey later. We are in such a plight by now, caused at root by far too many people, that a pandemic that killed enough people now might save us from worse to come. 

Not too many people, everywhere, though to collapse that Western technological civilization which, once it has sloughed off its Capitalist carapace, still offers the last best hope for the long term future of our species.  Indeed, resolute, determined and disciplined action in the face of pandemic might save one or a few Western nations more or less intact, whilst the rest of humanity perished. The survival of that part of human civilization which has stabilized its population already, freed from the certainty of being swept away in a tide of the desperate rest of humanity as it dragged us all down to disaster, might well be the last best hope of mankind. 

The tragedy of our current plight is that, for humanity as a species to survive the next thousand years, most humans must die as soon as possible in the next hundred. If he can do that for us, without reducing the survivors to savagery, perhaps Pestilence is our friend after all, and the Dead Swan’s message is one of hope in the hour of our coming desperation.       

Slovak national-socialists gain seats

Slovak national socialist leader Marian Kotleba, whose party L’SNS gained seats in yesterday’s general election

The Slovak national socialist party People’s Party – Our Slovakia (L’SNS) led by Marian Kotleba gained three extra MPs in yesterday’s general election and is now the joint-third largest party in the Slovak Parliament with 17 seats.

Meanwhile the more ‘moderate’ Slovak National Party, which at the previous election in 2016 was slightly larger than L’SNS, was wiped out yesterday, falling from 8.6% to 3.2% and losing all of its 15 seats.

L’SNS polled exactly the same vote as four years ago, 8.0%, but it seems likely that a large slice of the former Slovak National Party vote went to a populist conservative party called ‘Ordinary People’, who were the big winners yesterday on an anti-corruption platform.

‘Ordinary People’ seems to be somewhere between the populist nationalism of Victor Orban and the more amorphous protest vote party typified by Italy’s Five Star Movement. Its leader has already said he will be prepared to enter coalition talks with any party except for the defeated government party – the corrupt socialists – and the beyond-the-pale ‘nazis’ of L’SNS.

In practice this means some sort of deal with the anti-immigration party ‘We are Family’, who have 17 seats, and with a libertarian, eurosceptic party ‘Freedom and Solidarity’ with 13 seats. The pro-EU liberal alliance ‘For the People’ backed by Slovakia’s president Zuzana Čaputová (who won a resounding victory hailed by the world’s liberal media as recently as 2019) was in sixth place with 12 seats, so would not be able to reach a working majority in alliance with ‘Ordinary People’.

Spanish nationalist party surges ahead

Vox leader Santiago Abascal addressing a party rally

Yesterday’s general election in Spain saw the nationalist party Vox double its number of MPs from 24 to 52, after its vote increased from 10.3% to 15.1%.

Vox has been in existence for less than six years, and achieved its first significant electoral success at regional elections in Andalusia, southern Spain, last December.

Yesterday was the second Spanish general election in seven months. In April Vox (who had never previously polled above 1% in a general election) managed 10.3% and won parliamentary seats for the first time. Following yesterday’s result, left-wing opponents feared that Spain’s “far-right” is now “one of the strongest in Europe”.

Some observers perceived the latest Vox success as partly a backlash by traditionalist voters against the vindictive decision by Spain’s leftwing rulers to exhume the remains of General Francisco Franco (who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975 after a successful anti-communist revolt).

Spain’s leftwing rulers recently exhumed the remains of former leader Gen. Francisco Franco from his tomb at the Valley of the Fallen (above) near Madrid.

This year’s two general elections have been a disaster for Spain’s mainstream conservative parties, the long-established People’s Party (some of whose right-wing broke away to form Vox at the end of 2013) and the ‘centre-right’ Citizens party.

Yesterday the PP won back some seats at the expense of the Citizens, who lost 47 of their 57 seats. The important fact however is that while Spanish nationalism (which had been electorally insignificant since General Franco’s death in 1975) is rapidly advancing, the conservative parties are in crisis.

The two conservative parties combined now have only 98 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, down from 123 in April this year and 169 in 2016.

This is a phenomenon repeated in several European countries, notably Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU is divided over whether to continue ruling out future coalitions with the ever-stronger anti-immigration party AfD.

The one big exception is the UK, which while politics remains dominated by the Brexit question has had no chance to develop any serious nationalist and anti-immigration force.

Later this week H&D will begin detailed coverage of the UK’s 2019 General Election, comparing our political line-up with the rest of Europe, and asking how our movement can progress in a post-Brexit nation.

The latest Holocaustian testimony

The Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig

Today’s testimony in a Hamburg state court room might well be the last time that an accused ‘war criminal’ gives evidence about the functioning of supposedly homicidal gas chambers.

If so, it is consistent with Holocaustian tradition that this contradictory and by any reckoning unsatisfactory ‘evidence’ has been trumpeted today by the mainstream media with conclusive headlines such as the Guardian‘s ‘Ex-Nazi camp guard admits seeing people taken to gas chamber’.

Bruno Dey – now aged 93 but 17 when he served as a sentry in the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig – stated in today’s testimony that from his watchtower he saw on one occasion 20 or 30 “people were led in, into the gas chamber, then the door was locked”. He then heard screams and banging, but added “I didn’t know that they were being gassed.”

How in that case, one might ask, did he know that it was a gas chamber – especially given that elsewhere in his evidence Mr Dey mentions that on another occasion he saw 10 or 15 people taken into the same building, who later walked out again?

But of course Mr Dey, like the rest of us, has been told for the past seventy-odd years that there were gas chambers in Stutthof and elsewhere. And he no doubt believes that his best chance of acquittal is to say – yes, I now realise there was a gas chamber, but I didn’t know at the time and I was only a 17-year-old guard…

Cross-examination will inevitably focus not on the question of whether Mr Dey indeed saw a homicidal gas chamber in operation, but on the extent of his share in collective guilt.

In the Introduction to his four volumes of Écrits Revisionnistes, first published in 1999, the late, great Professor Robert Faurisson wrote:
It is a good thing that the exterminationists have finally (or very nearly) come to abandon, in practice, the charge, based on “testimonies”, according to which there existed execution gas chambers at the camps of Ravensbrück, Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, Hartheim, Struthof-Natzweiler, Stutthof-Danzig, Bergen-Belsen…

It had indeed seemed in recent decades that orthodox historians had given up some of their wildest claims. Yet still it goes on. We will look in vain for any attempt by the Hamburg court to examine forensic or documentary evidence as to whether this ‘execution gas chamber’ at Stutthof (or any other) actually existed.

After all, the court has just heard a 93-year-old eyewitness. What further proof could be required?

One more brick in the Holocaustian edifice. Whether this amounts to history or justice is a question one dare not ask in Hamburg, nor across most of 21st century Europe, on pain of imprisonment. In a few weeks time, for example, Ursula Haverbeck will celebrate her 91st birthday in a Bielefeld prison, 150 miles south of the Hamburg courtroom. Her crime – to have asked the questions that the Hamburg court avoids.

A detailed book about Stutthof has been published by Jürgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno, but there is no possibility of the authors being allowed to give expert testimony in a German court.

Italy heads for ‘post-fascist’ coalition

Steve Bannon with Giorgia Meloni at a conference of her ‘post-fascist’ party Fratelli d’Italia

Matteo Salvini – the leading anti-immigration politician in Europe – is set to realign Italian politics with a new, ‘post-fascist’ coalition.

As interior minister and deputy prime minister in the present Italian government, Salvini has already pursued radical and highly popular policies to protect Italy from tides of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean.

However – as H&D has consistently argued – the coalition between his Lega party and the anti-establishment (but essentially liberal) Five Star Movement was always incoherent and unlikely to last.

Though it is obvious that Salvini is now deliberately looking for an excuse to break up the coalition, this should be seen not as an unscrupulous bid for personal power, but as an attempt to create a more ideologically stable coalition, probably with the Fratelli d’Italia (‘Brothers of Italy’) party, one of several movements that grew out of the postwar fascist party MSI.

Fratelli and their leader Giorgia Meloni have for several years been allied to the British Conservative Party in the European Parliament, an inconvenient fact that doesn’t get mentioned in the alarmist analysis published today in the Sunday Telegraph.

Nevertheless a Lega-Fratelli alliance would be a bold challenge to the postwar European consensus, and would probably succeed in winning a solid majority for an explicitly anti-immigration, pro-White government, whenever new Italian elections are held.

The biggest short-term problem is that Italy’s constitution allows all sorts of delays which might involve the President appointing a ‘centrist’ government that could hold power for many months without elections.

Winners and losers as Europe’s populist tide ebbs and flows

Leading figures in ‘The Movement’, an alliance of European populists – (left to right) former Trump adviser Steve Bannon; Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini; and Brussels-based Jewish lawyer Mischael Modrikamen

While Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party celebrated big victories in this week’s European elections, the much-advertised populist breakthrough proved to be at best a patchy affair.

Predictably the big populist winners included Italy‘s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, whose anti-immigration Lega party topped the polls with 34.3% and 29 seats – a huge increase on their 6.2% and five seats in 2014, when the party was known as Lega Nord (Northern League).

Also continuing to advance were the nationalist-conservative governing parties in Poland and Hungary.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party are suspended from the European conservative group EPP, but Orban had the last laugh this week. While most European conservative parties are in crisis, Fidesz increased their support to 52.3%, up from 51.5% in 2014.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban was among the big winners at this year’s Euro-elections

A very radical nationalist party polled exceptionally well in Slovakia. Marian Kotleba’s People’s Party Our Slovakia – a party that stands staunchly in the tradition of Slovakia’s wartime leader Monsignor Jozef Tiso – gained two MEPs after polling 12.1% (up from 1.8% in 2014).

By contrast some previously successful populist and anti-Islam parties suffered poor results. The once-influential Dutch Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders was wiped out, losing all four of their MEPs and polling 3.5% (down from 13.2% in 2014).

Also badly beaten was the Danish People’s Party who lost three of their four MEPs after their vote fell from 26.6% to 10.7%. Voters in Denmark showed the strongest evidence of a trend also witnessed in some other European countries: an anti-populist backlash with increased turnouts among previously apathetic voters.

Marine Le Pen, once Europe’s most successful anti-immigration politician, has been to some extent eclipsed by her Italian ally Salvini, but Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) – previously the National Front (FN) – again topped the poll in France with 23.3% (slightly down from the FN’s 24.9% in 2014). The more ‘moderate’ French eurosceptic party France Arise (DLF) led by Farage’s main French ally Nicolas Dupont-Aignan fell below the 5% threshold to obtain MEPs. DLF polled 3.5% (down from 3.8% under an earlier party name in 2014).

Marine Le Pen (leader of the renamed French National Front) stayed top of the polls, but her ally Geert Wilders saw his Dutch Freedom Party wiped out.

Le Pen’s former FN vice-president Florian Philippot broke away in September 2017 to form a splinter party called The Patriots, mainly on the European issue: unlike Le Pen he wants France to leave the European Union. Philippot’s party polled only 0.7% despite seeking to appropriate the name of the anti-establishment “yellow vest” street protestors.

Having lost one of her main European parliamentary allies with the demise of Geert Wilders’ Dutch Freedom Party, Le Pen will have been greatly cheered by the landslide gains for the Flemish nationalists Vlaams Belang. In simultaneous Belgian regional, parliamentary and European elections, VB’s young leader Tom Van Grieken (elected in 2014 as a 28-year-old) succeeded in turning round the party’s fortunes.

VB now have 18 seats in the Belgian Parliament (up from 3 in 2014) and three MEPs (up from one in 2014).

The other important Le Pen ally is the Austrian Freedom Party, who managed to hold on 18.1% (down from 19.7% in 2014) despite a financial scandal that has destroyed the career of party leader and former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache. In fact these European elections pale into insignificance against the background of Austria’s political crisis, which has now brought down the government and provoked a general election to be held in September.

Rather than consistent populist/nationalist success, the main event of this year’s European elections in most of the continent was a dramatic increase in turnout: up from 42.2% to 50.1% in France; from 48.1% to 61.4% in Germany; and from 43.8% to 64.3% in Spain.

Golden Dawn supporters rally outside the Greek Parliament

The new Spanish anti-immigration party Vox elected three MEPs for the first time after polling 6.2% (up from 1.6% in 2014 but down from 10.3% at this year’s general election).

In Germany the civic nationalist and anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative for Germany) polled 4.1m votes (11.0%), up from 2.1m votes (7.1%) in 2014, increasing their tally of MEPs from seven to eleven.

One side-effect of AfD’s success was the defeat of the long-established German nationalist party NPD, who polled 101,000 votes (0.3%), down from 301,000 votes (1.0%) in 2014. The NPD’s sole MEP Udo Voigt consequently lost his seat. Two smaller German nationalist parties also contested the Euro-election. Die Rechte polled 25,000 votes for a slate headed by 90-year-old author and historical justice campaigner Ursula Haverbeck, who is presently serving a prison sentence for “holocaust denial”. The III Path (Dritte Weg) polled 13,000 votes.

Greek national socialist party Golden Dawn lost one of their three MEPs after polling 4.8%, down from 9.4% in 2014 (though in contrast to some populist parties Golden Dawn is disproportionately strong among young voters). Their Maltese counterparts Imperium Europa, a national socialist party led by Norman Lowell, polled 3.2%, up from 2.8% in 2014.



Big gains for Farage on mixed night for Europe’s ‘populists’

British voters decisively rejected the political establishment at the European elections. Results announced overnight showed that Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party took 32% of the vote and 28 MEPs, while Theresa May’s Conservative Party was reduced to just three MEPs, polling just 9%.

Farage crushed his old party UKIP, whose leader Gerard Batten lost his own seat in London, where UKIP polled only 2.1% losing their deposit.

Batten wasn’t the biggest loser in these elections: that honour went to former EDL leader ‘Tommy Robinson’. Standing as an independent in North West England, ‘Robinson’ lost his deposit with only 2.2% despite a very high-profile campaign with his trademark street violence and anti-Islam rhetoric.

‘Robinson’ has been exposed as full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

By contrast Farage will now be considering how to transform the Brexit Party into a genuine political party able to contest the next general election. British politics might never be the same again.

Leading figures in ‘The Movement’, an alliance of European populists – (left to right) former Trump adviser Steve Bannon; Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini; and Brussels-based Jewish lawyer Mischael Modrikamen

Meanwhile across Europe there were mixed results for anti-immigration parties. The biggest winner so far seems to be Matteo Salvini’s Lega who topped the poll in Italy with 34%; while among the losers was the anti-Islamist Dutch Freedom Party headed by Geert Wilders – they lost all four of their MEPs after polling 3.5%, down from 13.2% in 2014.

H&D will publish a full analysis of the results for anti-immigration and pro-nationalist parties across Europe as full results become available later today.

Former Soros hedge fund manager Robert Rowland – now a Brexit Party MEP

There will be some confusion among staff at Hope not Hate and other recipients of largesse from George Soros. Last night Robert Rowland, who managed about $1bn of hedge fund assets while working for Soros Fund Management from 1996 to 2003, has just been elected alongside Nigel Farage as a Brexit Party MEP for South East England.

A small sign of UKIP’s terminal decline was in Burnley, one of the very few towns where the party has a viable branch and a group of elected councillors. Yet even here the party was evidently not represented at the count, where a blatant error seems to have been made by the Returning Officer. It seems obvious to H&D that a bundle of 500 votes was misallocated by Burnley counting staff to the tiny pro-Remain UKEUP rather than to UKIP: to anyone with political experience, the reported result in Burnley looks obviously wrong. This is the sort of error that potentially could have cost UKIP £5,000 – but no party representative was on hand to correct it!

German lawyer arrested again: faces 18 months in jail

(left to right) Günter Deckert, Sylvia Stolz, and Lady Michèle Renouf following the release of Frau Stolz from a prison sentence in April 2011: today she was again imprisoned.

German lawyer Sylvia Stolz was arrested again today for what George Orwell would have called ‘thought crimes’ – in the supposedly ‘democratic’ Federal Republic.

Her ‘offence’ is to have given a speech in Switzerland in 2012 where she spoke about her earlier conviction in 2008 for offences against Germany’s notorious ‘Paragraph 130’ law that forbids discussion of or research into forbidden historical topics.

Sylvia Stolz was imprisoned from 2008 to 2011. For her speech in Switzerland she was convicted again in February 2015 and sentenced to 20 months imprisonment, later reduced on appeal to 18 months.

It is this 18 month sentence that she must now serve following today’s arrest.

Less than two weeks ago the host of the Swiss conference where Sylvia Stolz gave her ‘offending’ speech – religious broadcaster and author Ivo Sasek – was represented at an alternative media conference in the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament in Berlin) held by the civic nationalist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

Despite the climate of fear engendered by ‘liberal dictatorships’ across Europe (seen at its worst in Germany), voters in this week’s European elections are set to defy political elites.

Not only AfD but a host of anti-establishment parties are set to win seats in the European Parliament. Voters in the UK went to the polls today, but because most countries do not vote until Sunday, there will be no counting until Sunday night and Monday morning.

This website will bring up to date coverage and analysis of results as they are declared. The present May-June edition of H&D contains a detailed analysis of the many different populist or nationalist parties standing in different European countries; the July-August edition will have reports on the results and on the widening division between Europeans and their rulers.

Europe shamed by Jared Taylor’s deportation

Jared Taylor (third from left) with H&D editor Mark Cotterill, assistant editor Peter Rushton, and former MEP Andrew Brons.

An apocryphal British newspaper headline supposedly once read: “Fog in Channel – Continent cut off”.

This was of course a joke at the expense of insular Britons, in fact according to the historian Niall Ferguson it was first promoted by German National-Socialist propagandists.

However as of 2019 the joke is now on Europe’s institutions. On Friday American Renaissance editor and author Jared Taylor was detained at Zurich airport and deported back to the USA. He appears to have been banned from the entire “Schengen area”, which means most of Europe, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and some Balkan countries.

In the name of “security”, Europe’s guardians have decided to cut off their citizens from one of the world’s most important writers and thinkers on racial questions. Since the race problem is by far the greatest threat to Europe, the guardians of our security have thus become part of the problem.

Mr Taylor – a Yale graduate and author of the classic text on America’s racial crisis Paved With Good Intentions – was changing planes in Switzerland en route to Stockholm for the Scandza Forum, the latest in a series of conferences that have brought together some of the most important European thinkers and activists on racial questions.

He had also intended to attend a further conference in Turku, Finland.

Jared Taylor speaking at a meeting of the National Capital Region of the CofCC in Washington DC. Seated to his right is the late Dr. Sam Francis.

In an update posted to his website, Mr Taylor explains:

The officer at passport control in Zurich airport had already stamped my passport and waved me through to my Stockholm flight when she called after me to come back. She stared at her computer screen and told me I had to wait. She didn’t say why. In a few minutes, a policeman arrived and told me there was an order from Poland that barred me from all 26 countries in the Schengen Zone.

He said the Poles did not give a reason for the ban, and he asked me what I had done. I said I give talks on immigration, and someone in Poland must not like them. “That makes me a political criminal,” I said.

The officer took me to an interrogation room and asked me about my travel plans. He went off to another room for a while and came back with a form for me to sign, saying that I understood I had been denied entry and was being sent back to the United States. After some more waiting, he fingerprinted me and took my photograph. He then turned me over to a man in civilian clothes, who took me to a spare, dormitory-like accommodation where I will spend the night. It’s not a jail. People pay the equivalent of $40 to spend the night here if they miss a flight. I am free to walk around the terminal, I can make phone calls and use the internet, and I have a meal voucher that is supposed to last me for the next 12 hours. The officer kept my passport, though, and won’t give it back to me until I board the flight home.

Fortunately the internet means that (for the time being at any rate) Europeans can still access Mr Taylor’s work at the American Renaissance website, and the contributions of other speakers at the Scandza Forum.

The multiracial society’s collapse is evident all around us. Those same border security officials who excluded Mr Taylor have utterly failed to protect our continent from the real and continuing threat.

Immigration surges after Brexit referendum

Many of those who voted in 2016’s referendum for the UK to leave the European Union believed that this would lead to a rapid reduction in immigration. A continuing debate ensued for example in the pages of H&D between keen Brexit campaigners (who broadly believed that leaving the EU would be a major blow against the multiracialist establishment) and more sceptical racial nationalists, some of whom feared that Brexit would actually worsen our country’s racial problems.

This week official statistics confirmed the sceptics’ worst fears. It is now apparent that almost from the moment of the 2016 referendum, net immigration from EU countries began to fall. In fact there is net emigration from the UK to the Central and Eastern European nations known as the EU8: i.e. Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

However there has been a sharp rise in net immigration from outside the EU, not only increasing numbers of university students (especially from China) but other immigrants from Africa and Asia. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office actually boasted that this increase in immigration was a positive sign!

Conservative-dominated governments for the past nine years have consistently stated their aim to reduce annual net immigration to below 100,000. If achieved, that would take us back to the start of the Blair / ‘New Labour’ era in 1997, when net immigration was 50,000.

Don’t forget that even then, there would be tens of thousands more people arriving in the UK than leaving, and these immigrants would be constantly adding to our existing non-British population.

Shockingly, none of those Conservative-led governments since 2010 has got anywhere near even their modest 100,000 immigrant target. The most recent figures for the year ending June 2018 show net immigration of 273,000.

And of these an increasing proportion are non-Europeans. In that same 12 month period, the number of non-EU citizens who are in the UK on a long term basis rose by 248,000, whereas the same figure for EU citizens was 74,000.

A very large number of the new arrivals are from India.

The UK faces an ever more dangerous demographic time bomb, and this crisis has been worsened by the Brexit process (so far).

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