Hottentots, Tobacco, and the “Agility” of a Monotesticular Life

From “Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an exotic Plant Seduced Civilization” by Iain Gately

Tobacco enabled the Dutch to make some amazing bargains, in Africa in particular. In 1652 the Dutch purchased the entire peninsula of the Cape of Good Hope for ‘a certain quantity of tobacco and brandy’. The Hottentots, the nation with which they struck this bargain, were a remarkable race who had integrated tobacco into their unusual culture in a manner which has never never been imitated. On achieving puberty, a Hottentot boy was given his first cigar while his mother bit off and ate his left testicle. As Guy Tachard, a French Jesuit, observed: ‘they have some very odd and whimsical customs… The men in their youth make themselves half eunuchs, pretending that that contributes much to the preservation and increase of bodily agility.’

Tobacco was one of the few things that would persuade a Hottentot to indulge in manual labour:

“The Hottentots, being persuaded that there is no life after this, labour as little and take as much ease as they can in this would. To hear them talk even when they are serving the Dutch, for a little bread, Tobacco or brandy, they look upon [the Dutch] as slaves who work the land of their country, and as people of no courage who shut themselves up in houses… whilst their people encamp securely in the open fields without stooping so low as to labour land. By that way of living they pretend to demonstrate that they are Masters of the Earth and the happiest people in the world”

Now, one should never take the word of a Priest at face value. Especially when they are talking shit about non-Christians (note that sly “being persuaded that there is no life after this” bit. I’m waiting with baited breath for modern Christian apologists to start floating the argument that “atheism leads to ball-eating.”).

But still… Damn.


~ by herodotuswept on July 16, 2009.

One Response to “Hottentots, Tobacco, and the “Agility” of a Monotesticular Life”

  1. Ha.

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