Artemy Lebedev

§ 127. Without a smidgen of doubt

January 11, 2006

Following Che Guevara’s ascent to the position of the third most prominent figure of the Cuban revolution, he got fed up with the authority of a government official he was invested with and betook himself in early 1965 to Congo.

In his diary Che recounts the out-and-out mess in the army of indigenous guerillas whom he had engaged himself to train but who proved to be of small use as far as the making of a revolution was concerned. Among other things, there’s a mention of dawa.

Dawa is a liquid brewed by the muganga (a district sorcerer of the tribe) using special herbs. It is sprinkled over the warrior before the battle. To make dawa work, one should refrain from sexual intercourse, abstain from eating during the fight, and have no fear. A warrior getting wounded or shot dead must have failed to comply with one of the above rules.

William Gálvez. Che in Africa. Che Guevara’s Congo Diary. // Translated by Mary Todd. Melbourne.: Ocean Press, 1999

The warriors led by Che Guevara were positive that dawa could render them totally impervious to arrows, bullets, and, for that matter, the enemy air force.

If too many soldiers were killed in combat, survivors would go and murder muganga for preparing a poor dawa.

The high-profile Russian business daily Kommersant publishes astrological forecasts on the back page of every issue. The similarly high-profile daily Izvestia prints these, too. And hundreds of other print media publish them daily, weekly, or monthly. The author thinks that astrological forecasts are utter and complete bunkum, but he concedes that there are some who may take interest in reading this sort of things.

The author has seen different manifestations of human prejudices. Say the owner of a large company has a way of tossing a coin before making a crucial business decision. Another doesn’t do anything important until he mumbles to himself the word “seventeen”. Astrological prognostications are of the same kind.

A respectable print medium puts the notice “advertisement” over an advertising text to prevent the reader from wrongly taking the extolment of a stock fund for a veracious editorial.

Demanding that a business daily put the notice “utter and complete bunkum” beside a horoscope would be a bit of a stretch. “Prejudices” subheading or the “fun” section would make a fine alternative.

It’s hard to imagine that a major print news medium in a non-African country writes in a deadpan manner, “Rabbits may end up in a critical situation, so properly arrange all required insurance policies to play it safe” or “In December, if you start something new, you stand a chance to see your efforts result in success, especially in education and science, international cooperation and travel, as Jupiter has entered Sagittarius”.

Astrological forecast with Pavel Maximov. Subcelestial world in 2006. Kommersant. December 30, 2005, N 247 (N 3331)

A skilled muganga is always aware of the effects of a bad dawa.

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