issue 226 - December 1991
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.
Why does the British National Front promote Colonel Gaddafy's Little Green Book?
. The British National Front (NF) support for Gaddafy came from a small section which called itself the Third Position, whose members wanted to get international status by supporting any party or regime that claimed to have nationalist principles. It led them to back the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Colonel Gaddafy, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein. But such support for Third World leaders and political groups should fool no-one about the racism that underlies National Front political philosophy.
Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
Are there any matriarchal societies in the world today?
. Contrary to the answer given in NI 223 I would suggest that at least one such society is alive and kicking in Canada and the United States. Mohawk Indian society is fiercely and proudly matriarchal.
Canadians observed this in the summer of 1990 when a group of armed Mohawks seized an ancestral burial ground in Oka, Quebec, earmarked for development as a golf course. I'm no expert but I gathered from media reports that ultimate political power among the Mohawks rested among formidable Clan Mothers. Television footage showed these middle-aged women asserting control over gun-toting Mohawk Warriors. And they were just as assertive with the Canadian soldiers on the other side of the firing line.
These women are credited with preventing much bloodshed during the Oka Crisis. I gather any would-be male Mohawk politician fears and respects them.
Which of the world's religions is the most anti-sex? And which the most in favour?
. If Dick Johnson had read the Confessions of St Augustine of Hippo he would know that Augustine was the last person to deserve an accusation of hypocrisy. He certainly had a bit of hang-up about sex but his sex-obsessed youth as a Manichee was well over before he started writing on the subject. He was a student of 19 when he joined the Manichean sect, which believed that the whole material world was created by an evil spirit and whose rejection of all sexual activity was so fierce that most members delayed full adherence until they were dying! But after nine years Augustine left the sect, disillusioned and totally sceptical. His conversion to Christianity was not completed until age 33 when he had ended his liaison with a woman - with sadness on both sides.
. In response to Dick Johnson's reply in NI 224, Muhammad was emphatically not a sensual man. At the age of 25 he married a twice-widowed woman 15 years his senior with whom he stayed until her death 25 years later. Subsequently he continued to live ascetically, but married - in succession - widows of his followers killed in battle and female war captives, thus releasing them from slavery.
Why do they wear bowler hats in Bolivia?
. The story I've heard is that a shipment of bowler hats was sent from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by Europeans who were working on the construction of the railroad. The hats were found to be too small and were distributed to locals.
Sutton Coldfield, UK
. I've heard it said that Ludwig van Beethoven was black. Is there any truth in this?
. Why do nomads in the Sahara wear dark colours when light colours are supposed to be cooler?
. I understand that there is an African tree that explodes. Does anyone know which - and why?
. What are the origins of the Panama hat?
If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).