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June 03, 2006

 Killer ostriches

A UN meeting has adopted a declaration on the "unprecedented human catastrophe" of AIDS that omits any specific mention of the plain fact that homosexual men, prostitutes and drug users are at high risk. Reality just survives: buried in paragraph 22 is a reference, after "abstinence and fidelity," to "expanded access to essential commodities, including male and female condoms and sterile injecting equipment". Such documents don't have much effect; but if governments won't even sign up to a realistic paper in New York, what chance is there of adequate policy at home?

The soft-spoken Kofi Annan has been moved to protest, and accuses African and Middle Eastern delegates of lack of leadership and putting their heads in the sand.

These are very mild words. The world's rulers, including those of rich countries, are guilty of causing the deaths of millions of people by reckless negligence, through racism and professional anti-racism, homophobia, mysogyny, hypocrisy, puritanism, incompetence, and indifference. I think we need a new term, that stands to manslaughter as genocide does to murder. Folkslaughter, micklekilling, meganeiresis?

Posted at 09:44 AM | TrackBack (0) | |


I like "folkslaughter." It would have been apt from 1981 - 1986 when the CDC and the Reagan White House - and the entire Republican Party (especially the Texas branch) - were doing the same thing here in the US.

A friend who did some consulting at the CDC in 1982 or 83 and now teaches at Harvard School of Public Health, was counseled by a CDC insider at the time that agitating for more attention to AIDS was a "bad career move." (In fairness to the CDC, they had shaped up by 1985.)

Posted by: Michael at June 3, 2006 10:16 AM

I think you want something like "second-degree genocide." Where manslaughter is distinguished from second-degree murder, it typically encompasses murder committed under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally disturbed (i.e., murder "in the heat of passion").

Posted by: "Q" the Enchanter at June 3, 2006 12:10 PM

What does "professional anti-racism" refer to in this context, and how does it contribute to this scourge?

Posted by: rilkefan at June 3, 2006 10:43 PM

I was thinking gf South Africa, where the reality has been denied even by the Minister of Health. It comes I think from viewing every issue first in terms of the legacy of apartheid, and seeing racist motives behind every criticism from white experts. See here,, or just google for "South Africa AIDS denial".

Posted by: James Wimberley at June 4, 2006 02:52 AM

Q: Second-degree genocide: I like it, but I think it's actually a different case that would fit the massacre of the Armenians in 1916 or the Trail of Tears. The Turks knew many Armenians would die in the forced marches, and had military reasons for what they did. It was inexcusable, but lacked the cold-blooded exterminatory plans of the Nazi Holocaust or the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides.

Second-degree murder is a specifically American term not known in English or Scots law, which modulate the crime by devices like diminished responsibility and mitigatingg circumstamces. Any charge of murder still requires mens rea, which is always difficult to prove by omission. If I am a nurse caring for Granny, fail to inject her insulin a week running, and she dies, a prosecutor can plausibly infer mens rea. When politicians commit great evils by omission, it is usually impossible to prove they knew the consequences with equal clarity. That's why I would prefer the analogy to a broader and undeniable charge of culpable negligence.

Posted by: James Wimberley at June 4, 2006 03:18 AM
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