HMJ Classics: Blind Elders 4 – Brits in South Africa

In our last episode the British Empire was in a dither as they could find no way to get more than 24 hours of work, per day, out of each of the people in India. The Empire reasoned that this was because these largely ungrateful at being occupied native peoples smoked cannabis, usually as charas, which is hashish. That troublesome cannabis plant was to plague the Brits in South Africa, too.

This is the highpoint of the British Empire, when the Brits were exploiting and exploring the whole wide world. When the British need more manageable workers for South African farming and mining operations, they import what the think will be more manageable workers from India. Many of these people were induced to make this transit on a promise of a better life. They came as indentured servants and moved on from that status as quickly as they could. The need for workers was chronic in S.A. and there was some opportunity that did not exist back at home.

The emigrating Indians brought their charas and learned that the indigenous South Africans also had a love for cannabis, which they called dagga. Did you ever turn down a chance to try a new strain? Neither have I and, I bet, neither did any of these folks. We are told that these two groups did not like each other, but consider, both love the weed and neither are British. I’ve seen marriages based on less. Just a thought.

But for the Brits cannabis was the same problem in S.A. that it had been back in the Raj — it eats into profits, somehow.

Did it? South African mines allowed the miners to smoke — dagga — as it made being underground a less traumatic experience. Mining is scary. The workers worked better with a bit of dagga. Some mines grew their own, for their own workers. But by 1887 another British commission was set, this one headed by Supreme Court Judge Walter Wragg. These enlightened souls declared cannabis was “dangerous to white rule and stability” and that cannabis might turn the native tribes into belligerents.

One of the deep, deep roots of cannabis prohibition is racism, have no doubt.

But to reward the British for their racism and short-sightedness there arose in South Africa an Indian lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi. Go get’em, Mahatma.

“Blind Elders 3” looked at the British Empire & The Raj

[images: Google images “Gandhi”]

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Author: DavidB

a heathen, but hopefully not an unenlightened one

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