Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stuff: Voodoo economics.

Are you worried that some black magician has stolen your genitals?

I understand the concern, but breath easy. Nobody has stolen your genitals. What you're actually feeling is the psychological effects of currency devaluation.


Andrian Kreye, editor for the "Arts and Ideas" section of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, explains the connection:

The larger the number of people who cause an error on a vast if not global scale, the more difficult it is to find conclusive explanatory models. The larger the error, the more surreal the attempted explanation will be. In West Africa, for example, at the beginning of the nineties, a regional recession triggered a wave of superstition. In countries like the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Senegal, the myth of the "voleurs du sexe" made the rounds. Black magicians, according to popular belief, robbed innocent men of their genitals, by chanting magic spells while shaking the hands of their victims. None of these cases of course were ever proven. However, the deadly side effect of the superstition were massive witch-hunts with angry mobs chasing alleged genital thieves across town, finally stoning them to death.

Some psychiatrists in Senegal found a perfectly sound explanation for this phenomenon. The reason for the recession had been a devaluation of the West African Francs, the regional currency strongly dependent on the French Francs and the goodwill of the Banque de France.

Most people of West Africa might have encountered hardship at one point or the other. But in most cases the underlying causes had been clear–drought, floods, or wars. An economic austerity measure such as the government mandated devaluation of a currency caused widespread confusion. The superstition engendered by this economic confusion could be explained in very simple psychological terms: Because the breadwinners had been de-empowered, i.e. emasculated, their angst turned into fears of castration that were taken out on alleged genital thieves who in turn were punished by lynching.

4 comments:

Shon Richards said...

I'm trying to imagine how a mob gets started. Someone yells "he stole my genitals!" The mob attacks. Later when Stolen-Genital guy is being picked on for being a eunuch, he shrugs and says he got better. Magic is so wacky.

I like the currency theory. It makes me wonder if the current U.S. economic crisis will result in impotence fears.

Side note- the word verification is "imalarry". The Three Stooges lives on.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Shon,

Maybe the lynchings are framed in more preemptive terms:

"Sure, guys, we could all wait around until Tom proves he's a genital thief. Then we'd be 100% percent sure. And that's great. But it means that somebody is losing their genitals. Will it be you, Frank? Bill? Mike? Chris? Who wants to lose their genitals? Gentlemen, in times of financial crisis, I say that nobody has to lose their genitals. As Grammy Screamin' used to say, 'You got to get the genital thief BEFORE the genital thief gets you!'

"Look. If we lynch Tom and somebody loses their genitals after that, I'll be the first to say I'm sorry. But if I'm right, and killing Tom means nobody's genitals disappear, then I say it's worth the risk. To Tom."

Sasquatchan said...

What would all this mean for the "ate my ballz" meme from a few years ago ?

CRwM said...

Screamin' Sassy,

I don't know. This stuff was apparently happening in the early 1990s. Do the two phenomenon overlap?