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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 125 - Minor Lion-Based Surgery (Feats of Survival Week)

Tom's Notes:

Technology, David Attenborough

Earlier today I went to the man bank to cash in some man points. You see today I have run up a hill a few times, lifted some weights, made chutney, cooked a chilli and eaten steak and kidney pie that I knocked up from scratch yesterday. Throughout the day I’ve been able to hear the man points being collected, it sounds like when Super Mario collects loads of coins in one jump. In the end, because of favourable exchange rates currently, I was given 57 sheckles, 4 florins, 12 rubles, 2 dongs and a h’penny shrupence from the man bank.

Audience feedback:

Aaron has been talking about my home-made jam on the microphone.

Aaron number 2: “Hey Sam and Tom,

I found your podcast a month or so ago and have been working my way through all the episodes on Spotify. You guys are doing an awesome job, the show is SUPER funny. I spend a lot of time driving for work and this show helps make the drive a lot more enjoyable.

I’m a musician and music teacher in Toledo, Ohio so I loved the episode you did on composers. In an episode near the pandemic episode (can’t remember which specifically) Tom references “tone poems” but says he doesn’t know what they are. A “tone poem” is a piece of music that is meant to illustrate a specific story, novel, painting, etc. Think “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss.

Anyway thanks again for your work on this show, it’s really hilarious.”

Erik: “Dear Tom and Sam, just wanted to tell you that I absolutely love your podcast! Each new episode is the highlight of my week! Keep up the fantastic work!”

Aaron: “I have recently thought of two ideas: trains/railways/transportation and Africa.”

Jeroen: “Just to make clear, I am not french like you guys supposed during the listener feedback section of the previous episode. And yes you touched on this subject already, that is what sparked the suggestion in the first place. Just think of the toilet humour gold mine just waiting to be mined. If there ever was a pair of podcasters that could pull it off, it is You.”

Ms Sue Kessler: “repurpose”

As a topic, this is a goldmine. I was spoilt for choice. Everywhere you look in history there are fun stories of men going on adventures into the unknown, I say the unknown, what I really mean is the unknown to them. If these people had cared to ask the locals, they would have found out everything very quickly without all the suffering, cannibalism and death. But where’s the fun in that! And besides, a leopard can’t change it spots, or more accurately, a colonial explorer can’t change its condescending and arrogant attitude towards less advanced civilisations. And I’d like to point out that I use the term ‘advanced civilisations’ in a Social Darwinism sense; i.e. civilisations that are stronger and more dominant, not necessarily better – ooh, I can sense a can of worms labelled ‘socio-political ethics’ being opened up here, let me place a brick on that. Not that I’m implying either that the cultures dominated by colonial powers were liberal, tolerant and altruistic Gardens of Eden where unicorns farted rainbows and people ate pies and chutney from sunrise to sundown in only their pants. They weren’t. Let’s move on…

I committed myself early on to finding a good example of snooty British colonial adventurers in the 19th century getting lost in Africa and have a torrid time – all with a strong undercurrent of Victorian racism. Why Africa? Well because we’ve already had plenty of examples of Europeans making twats of themselves in Australia and North America. So I’m going to talk about Sir Henry Morton Stanley’s search for David Livingstone in 1871.

So who was Henry Morton Stanley? Which sounds very much like an investment banking company. Stanley was born in Wales in 1841. Back then, his name was John Rowlands, and he doesn’t actually fit the British colonial explorer stereotype I’m afraid, although he was arrogant, harsh, difficult to work with and had a moustache. His upbringing is rather sad, not that that was particularly unusual in the mid-19th century, or in Wales. He was an illegitimate son who wasn’t really loved by his mother and who was reluctantly brought up by relatives. He soon found himself at a workhouse. If listeners don’t know what a workhouse is, Charles Dickens is your man! Read Oliver Twist. “Moose! Never before has a boy asked for moose! We only serve angel delight.” Workhouses were basically a solution to mass poverty – the poor were made to work for their food and shelter in rather unpleasant conditions. Children were also given a modest education. At the age of 15, Stanley escaped his workhouse, and in doing so the horrible relatives he depended on, and fled to Liverpool where he sailed to New Orleans. “There are no cats in America and the streets are paved with cheese!” Only American cheese can be likened to a paving slab.

Once in America, Rowlands was kind of adopted by a chap called Henry Morton Stanley. This merchant was the first man who had every shown Stanley/Rowlands any kindness. However, Stanley soon died, why? Because this is the 19th century and life was miserable! Rowland adopted Stanley’s name – a clear indication of how much Rowlands respected this merchant, and then had lots of adventures in the USA as soldier during the Civil War, a sailor in the US Navy and finally a journalist. In 1869, the New York Herald said to Stanley, SILLY AMERICAN VOICE, “Hey Stanley, I’ve got a scoop, I want you to find Livingstone! He’s gone missing in the middle of Africa. People are going to go mad for this story! It’s gonna have everything – cannibalism, death, disease, adventure, more cannibalism, more death, if you can find some tits and ass that would be the icing on the donut! Hey, broad over there, get me a donut will yer honey! Go get ‘em Stanley!”

Now it’s time to explain who David Livingstone was: David Livingstone had a moustache. I think that’s enough for now. No, I think we probably need more than that. Livingstone was born in Scotland in 1813 and like Stanley, did not have a privileged upbringing, although he did have a loving family. My Encyclopaedia Britannica describes his early life as follows; “Livingstone grew up in a distinctly Scottish family environment of personal piety, poverty, hard work, zeal for education and a sense of mission.” Oh, and an intuitive ability to use a deep fat fryer and a whip-like head butt, “Whittosh! Have that!”

He had 6 siblings and they lived with their parents in one room in Clyde. Clyde Muldoon? No, the town of Clyde. GEORDIE VOICE, “Hey, I’m Clyde Muldoon, or am I? Or maybe I’m undercover Sting. BURP! Or maybe I’m Burpy the Dwarf! Oh no! Or I could be the guilty dragon?” If you want to understand these references, I suggest you listen to our back catalogue and sharpish.

From a young age Livingstone worked in a cotton mill. Now get this, in his spare time he studied Latin, Greek, theology and medicine. SCOTTISH ACCENT “Hey yer fucking show off.” Through the church he became a missionary and at the age of 25 he headed off to South Africa to spread the word. Halitosis praise the Lord, my breath smells like a Glaswegian whore’s undercarriage.

Livingstone soon developed a reputation for being a very disciplined, hardworking and successful missionary. In fairness to Livingstone, and I was hoping to find out that he was a proselytising twat, he was a vocal critic of the Boers and Portuguese, who had footholds in the south of the continent, because of their derogatory attitudes to the Africans. Livingstone was also strongly opposed to slavery and a huge amount of his time was devoted to trying to end it. By the 1840s most European powers had made significant progress towards abolishing slavery but there was still a lot of work to be done. Not only were some of the European colonial powers still at it, but Arabs in the north and north-east of the continent had a well-established slave trade. And both the European and Arab slavery networks were based on those of the African kingdoms. Basically, if you were a normal African just minding your own business, everyone wanted a piece of you.

In 1844 Livingstone was mauled by a lion by 1850 he had developed terrible haemorrhoids that possibly ended up killing him. No seriously, I’m picking out all the pertinent points from his biography. By 1850 he was also very well respected, had travelled further into the centre of Africa that any other European (or so the claim goes) and had a good working relationship with the Royal Geographical Society in London. In 1855, after an epic journey into central Africa, then to the east coast, then to the west coast, Livingstone discovered, and named, Victoria Falls. Now I can’t go into too much detail about his further expeditions, although they are fascinating and largely with the objective of discovering ways to spread commerce and Christianity, which it was hoped, would lead to the end of slavery. Many of these expeditions were badly led by Livingstone and the parties ended up falling apart. In 1866, one of these expeditions to find the source of the Nile ended with disagreement, arguing and the party disbanding. Rumour spread that Livingstone had been killed by natives but he was actually pressing on, exploring parts of Africa with anyone he bumped into who would help him, including Arab traders. By 1871, nobody knew where Livingstone was or whether he was alive and there was a buzz around his story in the papers in Britain and the USA. Cue Henry Morgan Stanley!

In 1866 Stanley left the USA to find Livingstone, but first, to Egypt to see the opening of the Suez Canal! There was other business to see to too, and it wasn’t until 1871 that Stanley reached Zanzibar (an island on the coast of modern day Tanzania) to start his quest for Livingston in earnest. Crikey, I hope he was getting refunded by the New York Herald for his expenses because this sounds like one hell of a business trip! For the better part of a year, Stanley led an expedition inland. Eventually, in November 1871, Stanley found Livingstone in a place called Ujiji, which is on the banks of Lake Tanganyika near Burundi but still in modern day Tanzania. In fact, Stanley gave the lake its name. A few geography facts here; it’s basically the second largest fresh water lake in the world, second only to Lake Baikal in Siberia. As the story goes, Stanley saw Livingstone, and casually said, despite all the effort and suffering that had gone in to finding him, “Dr Livingstone, I presume.”

The two of them joined hands and went for a few adventures together in central Africa. A year later Stanley returned to Zanzibar, leaving Livingstone to carry on his work. He died in 1873. His heart was buried in Africa and the rest of his body in Westminster Abbey. It must have been pretty stinky by this point because it was a long way home. On the whole, Livingstone seems to have been someone with good intentions, a genuine desire to improve the lives of Africans, but poor leadership skills, and some of the Victorian prejudices and paternal condescension to Africans that you would expect. Under scrutiny, he comes out quite well, certainly compared to other Britons in Africa.

Stanley on the other hand seems a bit more questionable. It would be wrong of me to make a confident summary of his personality, because I haven’t researched him enough and the evidence is often very contradictory, but we talked about his upbringing earlier, I suspect to survive this upbringing, he must have developed a very hard and selfish personality. His career as a journalist and explorer continued until around 1890-1900 and he went on some pretty remarkable adventures after leaving Livingstone. I wish I had time to detail some of these, and maybe I will for a future episode, but he developed a reputation for being harsh, violent, arrogant, self-righteous, boastful and intolerant. There are many accounts from people who knew him that praise him, others that make him sound like a monster. Perhaps his tough side was necessary for him to complete his expeditions? Leadership isn’t a popularity contest. Maybe Livingstone would have been a more successful explorer if he had been a stronger, harder leader. Anyway, a final note, Stanley also played a vital role in creating the Congo Free State for King Leopold II of Belgium. Now you can’t blame Stanley for what Leopold subsequently did, but it’s an association that doesn’t look good on paper. I’d be inclined to conclude that Stanley was a strong leader but a tosser, whilst Livingstone was a weak leader but a decent guy.

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