The Golden Whirlpool
( Originally Published 1918 )
There is a whirlpool in Africa which swallows twenty thousand men every year. Its name is Johannesburg.
Some people call it " The Golden City," because it is the center of the gold mining industry. Others call it " The University of Crime," because of the debauching influence it exerts upon the life of half a continent.
From a thousand miles north and a thousand miles south there come every year half a million natives from the simple, barbaric life of jungle and veld into the whirling experiences and allurements of this industrial center of Africa. The diseases and vices which belong to the white man's "civilization " are responsible for the death, annually, of twenty thousand of these half million recruits. Tens of thousands of others find their way back to their kraals or native villages, broken in health and morals, " civilized within an inch of hell," as one explorer has expressed it. Every man who returns civilized after this fashion spreads physical and moral corruption among his fellows. The result is that whole native populations are being caught in the back eddies of the whirlpool of Johannesburg.
The "Tout" Is the Modern Pied Piper
Life in the primitive kraal is a simple affair. There are few needs in the way of shelter and clothing, work is light, food is plain, and sunset means sleep. T be sure, there are many and terrible evils. But the evils of heathenism are a burden quite sufficient without adding to them the evils of the white man.
Into one of these sleepy kraals comes a "tout or agent from the City of Gold. It is his business s to round up laborers for the mines. There are any ways of doing this.
One tout was in the habit of dressing up in the most elegant style, topping with a silk hat, and driving through the villages in a splendid carriage bhind a team of four fine horses to impress the natives with the splendor of the city from which he had come. Another made it a point to get the chief drunk and then by his authority he could obtain all the me he wanted. Highly colored stories are told of the wonders of the city. Added to this is the induce ent that every man who consents to go receives a cash advance, varying anywhere from twenty five to three hundred dollars. The native is only too ready to go into debt for the sake of having money to buy an extra wife or a few more cattle. Once in debt, of course he must go to the mines and work off his obligation. Thus, by one method or another, five hundred thousand natives every year are brought by trail, road, or railroad to the magic city.
The black man immediately exchanges his grab of a strip of hide, or a few wildcat tails for cast-off European clothes and thus, almost before he has entered the white man's city, he is in danger of contracting the white man's diseases. He finds himself in a city of clanging electric cars, automobiles, and motor-cycles, wonderful buildings called skyscrapers where many families live one on top of the other, picture-shows where you go into a room and look at a white curtain and presently the lights go out and you are whisked away in a dream to foreign lands, great signs about "Fifty-seven varieties" and " Post Toasties " and other signs that blink on and off at night and what is that glassy place at the street corner? A saloon? We must investigate that!
Mother Earth's Great jewel-Box
Little more than three decades ago herds of antelope roamed over the place where Johannesburg now stands. Then one day a farmer thought he saw a glint of yellow in a stone. Now a city has risen numbering two hundred and thirty-seven thousand inhabitants, and the gold reef which stretches along the Rand basin, forty miles east and forty miles west of Johannesburg, is being penetrated for gold by nearly one hundred different mining companies. In 1916 the production was $192,200,000. The Rand now produces forty-one per cent. of the total gold output of the world. More than fifteen million dollars' worth of the yellow metal is shipped from this district to London eve month.
A gold-mine is a very unromantic place. One might naturally expect that in a gold mine he would see gold. The truth is, however, that the only thing that is not seen in a gold-mine is the gold its If. Everywhere, on the surface and underground, to a depth of almost a mile, one may see nothing but ay rock which is blasted loose, and carried up to he stamp-mill, where it is pounded down into a soft ft, gray mud. Then it passes through a variety of chemical processes to extract the gold. For every particle of gold recovered there are one hundred thousand particles of waste.
Off to the northeast of Johannesburg another Bier farmer believed that his farm also contained so everthing of value. Today where his stock used to graze there stands a diamond city and next to it is an immense pit, nearly half a mile wide and three hundred ed feet deep. There are no underground tunnels here as in the gold-mines. The pit is open to the light of he sun by day and to the glare of the search lamps on he surrounding cliffs by night.
The blue clay containing the precious gems is dynamited loose and is carried away to be ground, filtered and washed until only one per cent. of the original mass remains. But that is the precious one per cent.! Three men go over this residue, picking out the diamonds and dropping them into locked iron boxes.
Think of having wealth constantly passing through h your hands at the rate of several hundred dollar a minute! These men handle every year seven million dollars' worth of diamonds, the total annual output of the mine. It was here, by the way, that the famous Cullinan diamond was found, which was presented to King Edward by the Transvaal government. This stone measures four by two and one-half by one and one-half inches.
The native does not find the life in the mines quite what was pictured to him by the tout. He probably finds that the tout made false promises to him as to wages. He also discovers that no matter how proficient he may become he is not allowed to rise to positions such as those held by the white men, because of the opposition of the white man's labor union. If he suffers an accident, he does not receive adequate compensation. These mines, although British owned, are in some cases operated by American managers. It is a matter for regret that there does not seem to be here anything like the same attention to welfare that characterizes the American mining concerns is South America.
Johannesburg Radiates the Great White Plague"
The greatest physical peril of all which the native has to face is dust. The inhalation of rock dust, irritating and cutting the lungs, furnishes the shortest road to tuberculosis. "Scientific counting of dust particles in measured volumes of air," says the Engineering and Mining Journal, speaking of the Rand Mines, shows that after blasting, the dust in mine-air breathed by a miner in a minute contains 2,450,000,000 injurious particles. This number can be reduced by water sprays to ten million per minute." An investigation has revealed that approximately thirty-two percent of the miners are tubercular. The proportion rises to forty-eight per cent. among the machine drillers, who are most exposed to rock dust, and fall to twenty-one per cent. among those who have ne e 'done rock drilling.
The government and the mine owners have mad a number of attempts to meet this problem. But there is some hesitation on the part of the mining companies because they do not wish to incur the expense which adequate preventive measures would involve. In the meantime, the disease of civilization, the dr ad white plague, is radiating from this center by every train and trail to spread rapidly throughout the naive population of the southern half of Africa.
While dust predisposes to tuberculosis, bad living conditions promote and spread it. In connection with most mines the employees live in a so-called " compound," a collection of dormitories on the mine property. Four years ago Surgeon General W. C. Gorgas, of Panama Canal fame, made an investigation of sanitary conditions on the Rand.
The most serious sanitary defect that I notice in the mines on the Rand," reports General Gorgas, is the manner of housing the native. The quarters re much too crowded. He has in general 200 cubic feet of air space, which would give him fourteen feet of floor space. The general objection to such crowding is that it causes the respired air to become vitiated. My great objection to such crowding is that it forces the occupants into close personal contact, and therefore largely increases the spread of any infectious disease. This applies particularly to pneumonia, tuberculosis, and cerebrospinal meningitis. A large aggregation of men in one room is objectionable in itself. It is evident that if infection is introduced into a room containing a hundred men, it is more likely to affect a larger number than if introduced into a room containing six men."
Workers Live in Windowless Cells
Another report on living conditions has been made by Dr. A. J. Orenstein, who was associated with General Gorgas on the Canal Zone and later became Sanitation Superintendent of the Rand Mines, Limited. He visited some of the quarters occupied by natives in Johannesburg.
The first place visited," he says, " was the yard ' of a manufacturing firm not half a mile away from your imposing Town Hall. My guide approached the foreman with a request to see the quarters occupied by the natives employed there. The request was promptly granted. I was shown, in a corner of a large shed, a number of cells made of corrugated iron arranged in two stories each about 7 feet by 7 feet and about 7 feet in height. Only two of the dozen or so cells had windows and these were merely holes covered with boards and fastened. I feel certain that, were such places used for the keeping of animals, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ani animals would have no difficulty whatever in making out a case of cruelty in any court in the world. Yet in these cells human beings were living. In some of these was told, a man and woman lived, though I am I do not know how that is physically possible.
" In another place, a contractor's yard, I saw housed in dark and filthy stalls, in rooms wit windows and indescribably filthy, and one boy I sort of a dog kennel into which one could get only crawling on all fours. Four or five other quarters provided by various large firms in the town visited, and, with a single exception, none of t could be considered fit habitations for human bei no matter how low and degraded they be."
Of course the natural result from such a situation is not only tuberculosis and other diseases, but wide-spread conditions of vice. Commercialized vice is unknown to the primitive native. He learns it for the first time in this evil " university."
No less tragic is the manner in which the native is also receiving the white man's culture in bottled f rm. According to Transvaal law it is a criminal offense to give or sell alcoholic liquor to a native. It is likewise illegal for a native to be in possession of liquor. That is to say, the law declares that white men may drink, but black men may not. Naturally; such a one-sided and illogical law cannot well be enforced. The result is that a tremendous illicit trade in liquor has grown up. The method is simple. A " liquor king" sends young white men around to the bottle stores to purchase bottles of liquor. They bring the liquor to the "king's " house, where it is poured into a bathtub, adulterated with methylated spirits, tobacco juice, pepper, and similar ingredients, and diluted with water. Then it is put up in other bottles and new labels are stuck on. Thus one bottle of the original poison be-. comes two of the still more evil poison. Then the liquor is distributed secretly to the natives who pay high prices for it.
More than six hundred whites in a year are convicted for selling liquor to the natives, and there are many others who are not caught, probably several times this number. In 1914 more than sixty percent. of the white convicts were in jail because of illicit liquor traffic.
Drunkenness is much more common among gold-miners than among diamond miners. The reason is that the miners of gold are allowed to leave their compounds at certain times and wander abroad through the city on condition that they return when the curfew rings at nine o'clock. The diamond miners, however, are kept in " closed compounds " and are virtually prisoners. This is necessary to keep diamonds from being taken out. It is also quite effective in preventing liquor from coming in. A high fence constantly stands between the employee and his personal liberty,"
If, after a few months, he wishes to quit his job, he is immediately the object of suspicion and explorers begin to go over him, hunting for hidden diamonds. He may have one hidden away in his hair or no e or mouth or in a decayed tooth, or perhaps it has been swallowed, or tucked under a finger nail or toe-nail or into a flesh wound. " Hence every laborer is locked in a cell for several days with hands shackled, given a course of physic, and thoroughly searched. But the fact that there is no shortage in labor supply an. that many return time and again through many years shows that natives consider such servitude by no means unendurable."
Keeping Workers In and Liquor Out
There has been much criticism of the closed pound system because of the restraint it places the natives. However, this seems to be necessary the diamond industry. Certain missionaries b that the closed compound should be adopted in a mines because of the advantage of greater so and steadiness among the men who are thus n posed to the liquor traffic. They are quick to however, that that is not going far enough the Rand needs is total prohibition for white for natives alike. This was enforced at Panama General Gorgas places himself on record as strongly favoring its enforcement on the Rand.
One of the evil fruits of conditions on the Rand is the secret society known as " The Ninevites," which originated in the jails of the Rand. The Ninevites have their king, who has absolute power of life and death over every member of the organization. Frequently in the newspapers of Johannesburg one may see reports of mysterious killings. In many cases these murders have been committed by Ninevites under authority of their master. Any Ninevite who should refuse to commit the crime allotted to him would be killed. Such has been the result of the civilization of Johannesburg!
Even in the closed compounds of the diamond mines, where superficial investigation might seem to show that conditions were excellent, things are not quite as they seem.
"Be not deceived," says a Christian missionary out of his thorough knowledge of these compounds. "These fellows, donning European clothes and living On bread and butter and sardines, are not only unmitigated heathen, but they are viler heathen. They are annexing not only profanity, gambling, and drink (when obtainable) but also unmentionable vices unknown except through contact with white men. Reenforced carnality holds sway in the compounds."
Our black man, after his term of six months or a year in the " university goes back to his kraal. He probably takes with him a derby hat, a pair of spats, an alarm clock, a bunch of old keys, a looking-glass, a necktie, a complete collection of English and American oaths, the love of liquor, a developed capacity for vice and crime, the beginnings of tuberculosis and other diseases, and an atheistic contempt for any laws, either material or spiritual.
What are Christian missions doing in the fa e of this desperate situation?
There are a few missionaries scattered throughout central and southern Africa not so many as there will be when the white man's conscience awake and he tries to make up for the terrible wrong he h s put upon the black man. In Johannesburg and o the Rand there are about fourteen mission societies es at work. Of the half million persons who come a d go in the course of a year, resulting in a constant population of about two hundred and eighty thousand, there are from twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand who attend religious services with fair regularity. here are not many compounds where there is not held at least one meeting on a Sunday. The missions are making a combined attack upon the liquor traffic and are carrying on this campaign in a systematic and sensible way that ought to bring results.
Hard for Men to Stay Good in Bad Houses
There is not space here to consider in detail the work of the fourteen societies. Perhaps the clearest understanding of the mission problem involved in the Johannesburg situation may be had from a study of the task of one man, an outstanding missionary pioneer, Frederick B. Bridgman. This is a great man with a great faith. Up and down the Rand he goes on the wings of mercy (which is missionary for motorcycle), chugging into almost impossible situations and coming out with triumph, carrying sweetness and light into the blackest conditions.
He understands the connection between a man's body and his soul. He knows, for example, that it is hard for a good man to stay good if he lives in a bad house. At a lantern lecture which he gave on the housing problem, his audience became so excited that they began to shout: " Where is our sanitary inspector? " It happened that the sanitary inspector was sitting in the first row. At the end of the lecture he said to Dr. Bridgman that he had not realized that these conditions existed, and requested Bridgman to serve as honorary inspector, and gave him a badge'
Dr. Bridgman believes thoroughly in social service. He believes in good housing conditions, the prohibition of liquor, the education of the natives in football, tennis, and music, the use of wholesome moving pictures, and other amusements to take the place existing devil-inspired recreations of Johannesburg
But he believes still more vitally in the regenerating power of the gospel message itself. Hence, deal of his work is directly evangelistic. In five compounds he has regular preaching services in seven or eight of these he has chapels erected. He describes interestingly the sort of carried on in one of these compounds :
" During our look around we come to a yard with some trees under whose shade some fort seated on boxes, are grouped about one of their ber who stands with open book in hand. It Daniel and his little band. As this is a special the services continue from 9.30 to 4, saving an intermission. Much time is given to an experience meeting when the roll of members and inquirers is called. On my last visit six were received on confession, after at least a year in the preparatory class. Two were disciplined, one for gambling, the other for immorality. Remembering their antecedents and this awful environment with every sin mentioned in the first chapter of Romans except murder, what a miracle that any should make even a start Christward
" To have no chapel here is a serious handicap. Usually when part way through our service wind, dust, and smoke or the yelling of a tribal dance make the position unendurable. So we retreat into one of the dormitories, a barn like room, some 5o by 30 feet, the walls being lined with a two-story tier of bunks.
Since many of the sixty roomers are not sympathetic, conditions are far from ideal. But for the hour of communion the mine provides a quiet room. And I am thankful to say that the Company has just promised that they will provide us with a chapel. An open-air rally with some two hundred and fifty listeners closes the day's work.
" During the week Preacher Likumbi holds day and night school to provide for both shifts, has Bible classes, prayer-meetings, and does personal work. While as yet our band numbers only fifty to sixty, this but partially represents the results. Many converts have gone as light-bearers to far-away kraals. As these return to work from time to time our company will gather strength."
Enough Fezis Would Save Africa
Johannesburg graduates many devils ; but through the efforts of the missionaries, she also graduates not a few saints. They go back to their native communities carrying a new message of light and hope.
" The achievements of some of these converted savages read almost as a chapter in the Acts of the Apostles. Think of ` raw' heathen who have just Found Jesus, and who have by real sacrifice managed to attend a night school for several months, returning to a pagan region to win their neighbors to Christ, to build churches, establish schools, and exemplify the standards of Christianity. This is just what some of our converts have done down in the fever-stricken coast district four hundred miles east of Joh. nesburg. Seven chapels were here built by spontaneous native effort, and about two hundred men and women were baptized. Tragic to relate, this beautiful work for Christ is now endangered by want of missi' nary oversight.
Another instance : Several years ago Fezi, hile 'working in Johannesburg, renounced his evil ways and stood up in church to ` choose the Lord.' After laboriously learning to read the Testament and to write a prize-puzzle hand, Fezi returned to his kraal at Bushbuck Ridge, one of the darkest regions I know.
" The first thing Fezi did was to bring his brother, Tobi, to the Master. They have both been fishers of men ever since home missionaries without pay. Last year, when visiting Bushbuck Ridge, nearly fou hundred miles from Johannesburg, I found that s the result of their efforts chapels had been built, the extremes geographically being eighty miles apart. The congregations were composed of scores of persons neatly dressed, as well as of scantily clad he then. One of the brothers is now taking a three-year ourse in the Mission's Bible school in Natal, and the other brother expects to go later.
" Bushbuck Ridge is earnestly pleading for sionary. These people just coming into the light their good sense by frankly recognizing their limitationsThey want help and guidance in their evangelistic efforts. They themselves require Christian nurture. They are crying for schools. Bushbuck Ridge is strategically located in the heart of a populous district, one hundred miles each way, without a missionary. The English officials concerned assured me that they would welcome the planting of a mission station, and that they would do all possible to aid the enterprise. The magistrate remarked that while the arm of the law might now and then punish the culprit of a witchcraft murder, missions were the only preventive."
But what is a handful of missionaries and native converts among so many? Tremendous reenforcements must be given to all missionary work within a radius of a thousand miles of Johannesburg.
The mission schools now teaching farming and the trades have won the support of the government, and have shown what might be accomplished by a whole system of Christian institutions that shall have it as their object to transform the work as well as the workers of many races. After all, the South African tribesman is an agriculturalist and a herder. Show him how to be a better farmer and you go far toward saving him from the evils which overwhelm him and his family when he takes up the unnatural life of the miner.
One of the interesting schools of this type is Amanzimtoti Institute, " the Hampton of Natal." In its industrial department it gives vocational training for both boys and girls, with especial attention to agriculture; in its normal department it prepares teachers for native primary schools throughout Natal and beyond; in its theological department it trains a native ministry for the churches of the region. " Church, school, shop, farm, and home for all these positions in life the school aims to fit its pupils." How the graduates of the Institute impressed the employers into hose service they entered after graduation is shown b the replies sent in when these men were asked to give their opinions of the boys working for them. Here are some of the statements :
" The best boys I have." " If they left we don't know how we could get along without them." "ever any trouble hard workers." " Rattling good boys." " A hundred times better than raw kaffirs." ` Best shoemaker in the city, bar none." " Absolutely the best boy we ever struck in this country." " These two boys among the very best we have." " A good fellow, reliable, truthful, and obliging. For genera conduct he could give us whites something to emu' ate." And other opinions in the same strain. The list of laudatory statements is before me, and to print it in full would require several pages.
Until we have provided many such centers here the young people of the South African tribes all be educated in a Christian atmosphere for work t at is suited to the circumstances of their life and here Christian leaders shall be prepared, the most powerful training institution in the land will continue to be the " university of crime."
You Gave Africa Your Worst, Now Give Your Best
Let us not think that we are altruistic in giving the help that is needed. It is our " civilization "the civilization of the white man that has cursed Africa. Our shiploads of liquor have been spreading drunkenness through half a continent. Our peculiar vices, formerly unknown to the natives of Africa, have been added to the already quite sufficient vices of the black man. Our white plague, tuberculosis, has laid its deadly blight upon the land.
We have given Africa our " civilization." The only thing left for us now to do, if we are to obey our loudly-speaking conscience, is to turn squarely about and offer Africa a civilization that needs no quotation marks, a genuine civilization, based on a vital Christianity.
Every distant jungle village needs real representatives of civilization it does not matter whether they are called missionaries or not men of high and sensible ideals, to teach the scientific growing of crops, that natives may not need to go to the cities to earn a fair living; to teach the art of reading, so that the realm of books and knowledge may be opened; to teach wholesome recreation, so that the life of the kraal may be made less irksome; to supplant the superstitious belief in devils with a stalwart faith in the one God before atheism has had a chance; to introduce the great and good forces of civilization, so that when the cankering influences come, the native life may be strong enough to resist them.
Johannesburg needs real representatives of civilization; strong, fearless men who will fight until hey bring about absolute prohibition, the scouring ou of vice, sanitation that will prevent tuberculosis, ins ruction that will build character and implant faith. The massing of native manhood on the Rand gives a unique opportunity for preaching the gospel. I Johannesburg the missionary has all Africa south o the Zambezi as his parish.
The challenge rings out to all people who wear white faces.
You have given Africa your worst. Now give' her your best.