“King Trump is no more or less than a malarial mosquito in a stinking swamp of quicksand we’ve created. You can say the same about the Queen of England with regard to the British historical record and present momentum. They’re both deadly forces, but — ultimately — distractions from ourselves, our responsibility.” — Richard Martin Oxman
Malaria comes from “mal” and “aria,” which means “bad air.” Before the parasite that caused malaria was discovered, people thought the disease was caused by foul air, and associated it with marshes and low-lying swamps. They were not 100% wrong—those areas are perfect breeding grounds for the mosquitoes which transmit malaria, and so infection often occurs in and around these areas.
There is a deadly “bad air” that does come from “the swamp” that Candidate Trump — disingenuously — promised to clean up while on his 2016 campaign trail, echoing Mussolini’s greatest triumph. If Donald’s “draining the swamp” meant making Washington, D.C. more ethical, it’s not happening, of course. There are way more lobbyists spinning their influence throughout The Corridors of Power than a year ago.
And the actual quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat — organic, vegan, gluten-free, or not — is worsening by the day, in general. But the malaria of my title has primarily to do with the quality of our attitudes toward one another. That — not any leader — is responsible for our momentum now. And it must be addressed. How to embrace healthy movement in solidarity, respectful of individual differences, acknowledging our interdependence. Admitting our long standing complicity in holocausts worldwide.
In Mike Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of The Third World, the famous scholar examines how tens of millions in Asia, Africa and South America perished as a function not of Acts of God (natural phenomena), but mainly because of the malarial attitudes of Europeans toward the dark people of other realms. Imperial attitudes not only ruled the seas, they were responsible for the deadly actions of rulers responsible for what is routinely attributed — exclusively — to natural droughts and the like.
Reading Davis’ work you are forced to doubt such a point of view. Reject it.
But we must not reject one another now. That is what is in the bad air I speak of. There is an attitude becoming more popular by the day which is dooming us. As we buy into the notion that we are in Planetary Hospice, the apocalyptic point of view is enabling us — encouraging us — to step back from one another. To go into a Bunker Mentality and look at others like we’re Lord Lytton, Queen Victoria’s favored poet and Viceroy of India, viewing the immiserated of an undeveloped world. Viewing virtually everyone as if they are a threat, smiling internally when they are being eliminated or — at least — controlled.
Yes, everyone becomes competition or toxic to the touch in an atmosphere of bad air. And nothing good can come from that. Not for the Collective Good.
The political ecology of famine has a parallel in our recoiling from one another. The Swamp is within our control. We are capable of getting rid of attitudes which guarantee that an ungodly global scenario will unfold.
And, truth be told, our first step must be to step back from focusing as much as we are on King Trump. Which is now as silly as commenting on the Queen’s millinery. Neither the monarchical nor the maniacal should distract us from what we can do something about: ourselves. And our relations with others.
There’s a clear need to alter our activist attitudes. Otherwise, we stand to continue trying to do something that’s tantamount to attempting to squash a mere mosquito or two in the Pontine Marshes.
Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com