How do I become a person of great moral character?

Answer by Rory Young:

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." – Nelson Mandela

Putting ideals or morals first is tough. It takes the bravery described by Madiba. It takes this bravery because it will often result in pain and suffering for oneself.

The higher a person sets the bar the, the tougher it will be. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, the White Rose students of Nazi Germany and so many others' lives throughout history are testimony to that. They experienced hell on earth and received no reward for it other than suffering and even terrible death.

I have noticed that the only reward I have ever personally received, when I have tried to do the right thing in the face of opposition, was the ability to sleep peacefully and I am a pathetic worm compared to these people..

Perhaps then the final sleep of Nelson Mandela will be the sweetest and most peaceful of all because of the bravery he has shown, the good that he has done and the suffering he has endured?

γνῶθι σεαυτόν
Know Thyself
This was famously inscribed at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was variously attributed to many sages.

It appeared at different places in the ancient world. At the inner temple at Luxor in Ancient Egypt it was inscribed as follows, ""Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods."

Knowing thyself means knowing what you really are, what you truly believe in and what you wish to be.

It is impossible to be a better person without true self knowledge. Clear and brutal self-honesty is tough but it becomes easier with practice.  People who lie to themselves are the most dishonest of all.

"This above all; to thine own self be true." William Shakespeare Authenticity
Following one's own code of conduct over others' is the hardest thing to do, especially when it conflicts with one's superiors or even the law of the land. How many German officers in Nazi Germany had the courage to follow their own codes of ethics and honour over that of the Nazi party or the orders of their superior officers?

Nelson Mandela did this so many times in his life that it became habit. He turned his back on his government when it was wrong. He turned his back on his wife when she was wrong. He turned his back on former comrades when they were wrong. However, he never turned his back on his ideals and never backed down from standing up for those ideals and anyone who suffered for them.

Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta
meaning good thoughts,good words, good deeds in Avestan.
Gathas: Song 7 – stanza 10

Six thousand year old wisdom and never more relevant than today.

Although there are many interpretations of what is good, it is certain that we are what we think, do and say. A person is what they make a habit of doing, not what they do sometimes whether that be something good or bad.

The only way to become a person of great moral character is the think, speak and act like one all the time and to accept the inevitable suffering that it may well bring you.

 There are no shortcuts and it will never be easy but at least you will sleep well!.

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What is it like to almost die?

Everything went black. 

I woke up in hell.

My killer was Malaria. It had drained the  life from my body. There had been nothing dignified or graceful about it in any way.

I always recognized it was coming by the dull headache behind the eyes, the sensitive almost painful feeling on my skin and the nausea.

Next would come the three-hour cycle of fever. It feels like you are freezing to death when in reality your temperature rising higher and higher.

The vomiting means you can’t keep any food down. You become dehydrated. Dehydration and soaring fever are usually what kill you.

Very often you hallucinate,especially in the later stages.

In those days we just treated it when we got it and hoped it wasn’t cerebral malaria. The doctors used to tell us that if we were living in a malaria zone continually and we knew how to recognize the symptoms, that we should not take malarial prophylactic drugs.

Instead they advised us that we should immediately treat for malaria, dehydration and fever if we developed the symptoms.

Their reasoning was that constantly taking the preventive medication would be very bad for you over time. They also said these drugs often masked the symptoms till the malaria developed to a more dangerous stage. They also said that it left fewer options for treatment.

It obviously never dawned on them that getting malaria frequently and treating it with the necessary heavy medication would probably be worse for your health.

I had already had it four times prior to this in the last six months as well as amoebic dysentery. I was very thin and my immune system was obviously weakened. It was also the hottest time of the year, just as the rain season was hitting. It was also the end of the tourist season so I had been working non-stop for months. Now the poaching season was starting. I had more serious work to do now.

I had been having a few days off in Kariba in Zimbabwe from work in the Zambezi Valley on the Zambian side of the river when I had recognized the symptoms.

I treated the malaria and crashed in bed for a few days. On the morning of the day I was due to head back down into the valley. It seemed I was over it. I grabbed my kit and threw it into the back of my vehicle.

I was driving an old short-wheel-base Land Cruiser. The doors and roof had been removed so I was exposed to the sun and wind. I felt okay though and it was still morning so not too hot yet.

I needed to cross the border, drive a couple of hours down to Chirundu on the pot-holed tar road and then on to camp on the dirt. It hadn’t rained properly yet, so the dirt road was still okay. Once the rains came it would be impassable.

I left a bit late, so when I reached the border at the Kariba dam wall I was in a hurry. Unfortunately the immigration officers on the Zimbabwean side were not. There was only one on duty. He was in no hurry and there were three buses full of people queued up.

I ended up waiting and standing for hours. I began to feel very sick. I didn’t have a temperature so hoped against hope that it was just the after effects and the fact that I was still weak.

I finally got through, headed across to the Zambian side and into the then small building. As I began to fill out the arrivals book, the officer behind the desk pointed out that I was shaking. “Ah my friend, are you sick?”.

He was right I had the shakes and was feeling cold, even though by now the sun was high in the sky and it was approaching 40C.

There were buses on this side just heading across to the Zimbabwean side. If I tried to go back it would again take me hours. My best bet would be to head for Chirundu. I knew there was a mission hospital there run by Italian nuns and doctors.

I set off. The drive was about two hours. Within half an hour I was struggling to keep going, having to stop and retch. There was nothing in my stomach to throw up.

Within another fifteen minutes I was stopped on the side of the road and trying to get water out of the twenty liter container in the back of the cruiser. I couldn’t lift it. Eventually I knocked it over and licked it off the floor.

I staggered over to the shade of a baobab and collapsed. I was beginning to lose consciousness.

“Oh dear”, said a voice next to me, “this is bad”. I saw a white man dressed rather strangely lying in the same shade. He was also obviously sick too, sweating profusely. His face was gaunt and jaundiced. He looked familiar. Oh yes, it was David Livingstone.

“We’re dying”, said Dave.

“Shit”, I answered.

“Nice tree to die under though”, said Dave.

“F***”, I answered.

“Well, if you don’t like it  then why have you chosen to die here?” asked the good doctor with a look of kindly bemusement. “If you don’t like this tree or you don’t want to die then you better move on” he said.

DL was quite right, if I didn’t get in the car and go I would just die here. It was my choice.

Everything went black. A vague memory comes to me of swerving and trying to stay on the road. Then nothing. A loud bang. Water. Ice.

I woke up in hell. There were faces all around me. Thin skin stretched over bone. Dull eyes. Hell was like a concentration camp. They were all suffering. There was screaming in the background. Funny that I was the only white man; all the faces were black. I must be somewhere else. There had to be many more white men in hell.

One of the faces grew a body. He started talking to me. He thought something was funny, he was grimacing or grinning. I couldn’t tell which. I looked around. Yes, all the faces were still the same but this was not a concentration camp. I was in a hospital.

“Where am I?”, I asked the living skeleton next to me.

“Chirundu Catholic Mission Hospital”, he answered.

“Congratulations”, a voice said. I looked around again. A old nun was standing smiling at me.

“Thanks”, I answered. “Why?”.

“We thought you were dead when they brought you here.”, she said.

“A couple of days ago you crashed your car into the lamp-post at Chitibu Bar, then walked inside, asked for water and fell over. The owner got her sons to put you in the back of your car and then she drove you here. ”

She continued, “You were barely alive. We threw you in a bath with blocks of ice and put you on a quinine drip. It will probably give you tinnitus by the way. We put you in this ward because we didn’t think you would make it.”

Well that explained the screaming, which hadn’t stopped, and the ward I was in was obviously for those about to die. I later discovered that all the five poor men with me were in the last stages of Aids. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer me a bed in a different ward.

I thanked her from the bottom of my heart and I told her I needed to get going. She laughed and told me I wasn’t going anywhere.

She was right. After another day had gone by and two of my ward companions had passed away, I was able to get up. I insisted on getting going.

The doctor told me it was a bad idea. I explained that no one knew where I was. I didn’t mention that I didn’t really feel like lying there with nothing to do except watch my companions die.

He relented, but on condition I left in the cool of the morning and if my temperature went up at all I must come straight back.

I set off the next morning, feeling pretty weak but otherwise not too bad. Two thirds of the way to camp it started bucketing down with rain. It took me forever to get there. I was extremely lucky not to get stuck. When I arrived I had a temperature.

I collapsed shortly afterwards. My friends and colleagues, Roz Mitchell and Rolf Niemeijer tried to keep me alive. All they could do was put me on a drip to keep me hydrated and give me anti-pyretics to keep my temperature down. I was hallucinating badly. They decided to try and drive me out back to the mission.

As soon as they got me into the back of the vehicle and started driving I started swearing and spitting at Rolf.. in French. I was convinced in my delirium that he was taking me out to shoot me. He was accompanied by a staff-sergeant from the French Foreign Legion who was giving him instructions. I opened the door and almost fell out. I was just energetic enough in my madness to be a danger to myself and possibly Rolf. The road was impassable by now anyway. He had to turn back.

That night Roz nursed me in a tent, pouring water over the sheet covering me and then fanning it to try and keep my temperature down. At first I went quiet and they worried I might have died.. Then I began to ramble on and grumble in French. I went on all night. Apparently it was quite annoying.

In the morning my temperature had dropped. I began to improve. In a few days I was on my feet. I was lucky. I was skin and bone.

Quite recently I passed by the tree where I met the long-dead Dr. David Livingstone. It was quite strange to go back. I stopped, sat under it and smiled to myself. It was a very good tree to die under, but not good enough.

Thanks Dave.


What would it take to end racial, religious and tribal prejudice across the world?

Answer by Rory Young:

First the short answer:

Understanding and tolerance.

Now the long one:

A lesson on tolerance from Africa.

I am fascinated by the interactions between Central African tribes. Zambia, where I live has seventy two distinct tribes recognized by the government and with their own land and chiefs. They are incredibly tolerant of each other.

Well, actually not. The tribes formalise and "manage" their relationships with each other. They have a fascinating way of doing it. It's called "joking kinship".

It works something like this. Two tribes went to war, raided each others cattle and daughters for a few centuries, and then one day everyone decided enough is enough. For whatever reason. Let's say for argument's sake another bigger tribe is moving in and they need to team up. It doesn't really matter why.

The chiefs and their indunas meet each other and declare "cousinship". This means the two tribes are kin in every way, enjoying the benefits and disadvantages of being from the same tribe. Except for one thing. Joking.

Joking means your are allowed to, nay, you are strongly encouraged to tear the ring out of each others' tribes at each and every opportunity.

Here is how it works. I, a "muzungu" (white man) go to the Simwatachela chiefdom (tonga) which has adopted me and I am treated with respect and accorded all courtesies and hospitality as a member of the tribe. Everyone will completely ignore anything different about me, such as the fact that I am quite obviously white. To joke about this would be taboo except for a few people related in a particular way. Simple.

Now, I, the muzungu, go to a Lozi (Barotse) chiefdom. The Lozis are "joking cousins" of the Tongas. I am afforded every hospitality and treated as a member of the tribe. Except for one thing. I am mocked mercilessly.

How can these stupid Tongas think a white man is one of them? (never mind that they themselves also "adopt") Are they completely blind? Is it an attempt to breed new stock? Did the women do it because the men are even uglier than muzungus?

Seriously, anything goes. (If you would like to see a good example of this have a look at the extremely popular Facebook page Lozi vs Tonga specially setup to enable good, thorough insulting.)

It works.

Pretending everybody was the same would be completely idiotic. The two tribes couldn't be more different.

For example, if you visit the Tongas as a stranger, they will treat you as a friend until you show yourself to be a threat/problem/plonker and then they will chase you off. On the other hand, visit the Lozis as a stranger and you be treated appallingly until you have proven yourself not to be a threat/problem/plonker.

In the eyes of the Tongas, the Lozis are rude. In the eyes of the Lozis, the Tongas are false. The way both parties view it, the stupidest thing of all would be to deny that their different habits and cultures are each annoying to the other when in fact they clearly are.

Simplistic or realistic? I don't for one second expect this to somehow be translated to Jerusalem or Kosovo. Such a system has taken millennia no doubt to evolve in this part of Africa. However, there are some things that can be learned.

Different cultures do rub each other up the wrong way. What is the point in denying it? The answer is for these different cultures to find common ground and understand the differences.

For example, in most Central African cultures it is rude to stand up when someone enters the room. In European culture it is rude for men to stay seated. If the two cultures do not know this about each other there could be misunderstanding. The different tribes would get around this (if they are "cousin tribes") by pointing out the differences and teasing each other. The teasing allows them to point out each others differences without causing offence. The next time both would know how to avoid being perceived as rude by the other party.

At the very least people can understand different cultures by learning about them, and by accepting and making allowances for those differences.

This starts by  knowing what makes them different.

I remember as a child other white kids laughing at black kids who would stick their finger in their nose as a polite way of indicating they were thinking/considering an answer to a question asked by an older/senior person. The same black kids would be embarrassed if someone scratched their head to indicate they were thinking. As far as they would be concerned it would indicate a case of bad lice or worse!

As for race, this doesn't require explaining or understanding. The colour of a person's skin is not a cultural thing and does not indicate any possible understandable cultural differences that one should try to understand.

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How do wildlife enthusiasts drive/walk in unexplored areas without roads or pathways?

Answer by Rory Young:

In African Parks that are healthy eco-systems, there are always paths. However they are not created by or for humans.

They are game-trails that have been created by the movement of animals.

Usually they occur between food and/or water or they are “runs” used by different species for escape.

Sometimes they are generic and used by a variety animals. Others are specific to one species.

To use them is not very straight forward or easy and takes practice until using them becomes second-nature.

For example, elephant trails seem nice to walk on until  you discover that you have to keep climbing over obstacles.

To get round the problem people will walk around the obstacles but can’t understand why they keep losing the large and obvious trail.

The reason for this is that people tend to walk the right hand way around an obstacle whilst elephants (and most other species) take the left hand route.

Another example is hippos. The trails are sometimes a bit annoying to use because  they actually create two parallel paths because they are so fat that the straddle of their right and left sides never deviate from a straight line.

Walking their trails when you are not used to it can also be strange because they take long circuitous routes round non-existent obstacles.

The reason for this is that what seems like an insignificant or non-obstacle to us, such as a tree branch for example, is a big problem to a hippo. I used to use thin logs to prevent hippos coming back to fields they had raided when doing “problem animal control” work.

The owners of the fields would be very skeptical of this method till they actually saw the next hippo walk up to the log across its path and then just stand there with a stupid look on its face. (they are not stupid actually but can definitely give one the impression they are sometimes).

Animals use trails when moving to water or from one feeding area to another. Therefore in some places there aren’t any and you just have to take a circuitous route round these patches.

Some animals do not create trails and tracking animals shows their different habits. Lions for example can be very frustrating to follow. This is because sometimes they just walk in one direction and then suddenly change for no apparent reason. It can because they have smelt or heard something. They also sometimes don’t walk on trails. Especially when they are moving towards a sound, such as prey they may have heard or other lions.

In these cases they tend to make a bee-line. They wander straight through some strange places. Interestingly, when not stalking they make a hell of a racket crashing through the bush and slapping their paws down.

A story I have always enjoyed is how the road from Makuti down the Zambezi escarpment to Kariba was built.

The Italian company Impresit who were to build the massive Kariba dam in the 1950s employed a team of surveyors and engineers to figure out a route. They battled and were taking too long. They whole mega-project was falling behind schedule. By chance an old prospector heard an engineer discussing the problem over a drink. He told them to follow the elephants.

Elephants can’t jump. They can climb hills at remarkable gradients but not enough to make a road along their path impractical.

The road team invited the prospector to show them. He did. The main road was built following the elephant trails from Makuti to Kariba and is still there to this day and the elephants also use the route to this day!

As for avoiding danger, that is equally interesting.

Obviously, one uses one’s eyes to look for snakes and other dangerous animals. However, you really use your ears a lot.

For elephant you will usually hear the sound of branches being broken or leaves/bark being stripped. This can be heard long before they are seen in wooded areas.

I am always listening for ox-peckers when I walk in a dangerous-game area. They sit on the backs of buffaloes and eat the ticks. They have much more acute senses than the buffalo and will let out an alarm call to let the buffalo know you are coming. If you hear this sound you really pay attention as buffalo are the most dangerous animal on land in African parks.

Amazingly if ox-peckers are on domestic cattle they will not sound the alarm as you approach. Somehow they know that man is not a threat to cows.

Regarding tracking and  approaching dangerous game and or encounters with them, here are some other answers I have written:……

Wildlife: Why do animals attack humans in the wild?……

How does one stop a charging buffalo?

Lions: If I got lost on an African safari and came face-to-face with a growling lion, what should I do to garner the best chance of survival?

What was the most scary incident of your life?

Answer by Rory Young:

Fear makes us feel our humanity.
Benjamin Disraeli

[Forgive me; two incidents actually but they are closely linked.]

My daughter's birth was was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened. It changed my entire view of life and all my priorities in a flash. I could not remember ever having felt such joy. I had not known till then that I would able to just sit and look at another human being for hours and feel complete and utter peace and happiness.

Before the birth I was just very anxious about the well-being of my wife. She is slightly built and not very strong physically, although mentally her resilience is formidable and her quiet strength of character has always amazed me.

Despite my concerns she was fine. We had decided that the birth would take place at the best hospital in South Africa. Everything went extremely well. Our little angel was born without any unusual.

We waited for two weeks in South Africa before travelling home to Livingstone in Zambia. For the first month everything was fine and she grew and developed well. At six weeks old our little Astrid fell ill.

She kept throwing up and she had a fever. We rushed her to our doctor's clinic. Our doctor was away so we called our second choice. He was away too. We had to see someone else.

We went to clinic recommended by a friend. The doctor there immediately started giving her injections. Especially anti-pyretics to lower her temperature and anti-biotics. Her temperature went down at first but then shot up again. He gave her another more injections, said she would be fine and left. She continued to throw up. It all felt completely wrong.

We made a snap decision. We went home, picked up our passports, then raced to the airport and jumped on a plane to South Africa.

In the emergency ward of a Johannesburg hospital they made clear she was in a serious condition. They tried to get a drip into her hand and failed. Eventually they ended up putting one in her head.

When they started doing this they told me to get my wife out of the room. She was distraught. I tried to calm her. She took a deep breath and told me to go back inside and stay with our little girl.

Astrid had gone from screaming to very quiet. I knew this was not a good sign. 

I felt my world collapsing. It was as if some giant evil hand was clasped around my throat and squeezing it with malevolent joy.

Till this point every hardship, pain, suffering, fear felt totally insignificant. I had never felt such complete and helpless terror. I had learned during my life to shut down my emotions and fears when dealing with threats to my own safety and to just accept whatever may come if I couldn't mentally and physically overcome it.

 This was something different. It was emotional terror. I had experienced it before when I had believed that my wife was in danger but not to this degree as the threat was different.

This was not the threat of physical pain this was my very soul being tortured. I could not bear the possibility that we might loseour sweet little girl.

The pediatrician explained carefully to me everything he had done to get her temperature, heat-rate and hydration to normal. She had gastroenteritis and the laboratory had identified the culprit and exactly what antibiotic was needed. Our daughter and Marjet had been sedated. He told me that he was hopeful that she would be okay.

The feeling of relief that flooded through my body like the ultimate drug . The next feeling was of panicked concern. Hopeful? How hopeful? Hopeful meant nothing!

The doctor calmed me down and said that he believed strongly that she would soon start to respond to the treatment.

She did. Very soon she was on the mend but she had to stay in hospital for two weeks.

On the last day the pediatrician who had treated her when we first arrived asked to sit down to chat to us. When we had arrived with her I had handed him a list I had made detailing all the treatment she had received from the doctor in Livingstone. The pediatrician told me that when they had looked at this list they had immediately seen that the treatment itself was the biggest problem. Then he told me that he would deny it if I repeated it but that the treatment itself would have killed her and that if we hadn't brought her to the hospital in South Africa that she would almost certainly have died.

Although our daughter recovered, my wife suffered from post natal depression and had a very hard time. However, she struggled and overcame it and soon we were all healthy and happy again.

Eighteen months later we were preparing for the birth of our second child.

This time Marjet decided that she wanted to have the birth in Livingstone. I really didn't feel comfortable with this but she was adamant. She didn't want to go and stay in South Africa for six weeks before the birth and then another two afterwards.She wanted to be able to go and have the baby and then come straight home.

We discussed it with our Uzbek doctor, who was also a friend. There was private clinic, properly equipped and owned by an Egyptian surgeon. He would deliver the baby and our doctor would also make sure that she was available.

The due date arrived and nothing happened. It was decided that they would induce the birth if nothing happened within a few days. The next day her waters broke.

However, no contractions came. The doctor decided to induce the following morning if the contractions had not begun by then.

Again nothing happened, so she was checked in for the baby to be induced.

The Doctor started inducing. Nothing happened. So he tried again with more medication. Everything then went wrong.

The surgeon started looking panicky but did not say anything. Our friend stepped in. When the doctor handling the delivery ignored her she started aggressively questioning the nurses. She pulled me aside.

She had a hard look on her face. "You need to trust me and do exactly what I say". I nodded. "You need to get her to Doctor Bupile at Livingstone General Hospital NOW". I agreed. She said, "I will call Doctor Bupile; you get her there!"

I didn't wait to find out why, I grabbed the doctor and told him we were going to Livingstone General. He didn't argue, "Yes, yes, the baby is distressed, I need to perform a caesarion", he said.

We raced there. Doctor Bupile, a Congolese gynecologist who had trained and worked for 18 years in Belgium, was waiting. He questioned the Egyptian doctor. After hearing what he had to say, he gave him some harsh words and told him to leave the hospital. He then began examining Marjet.

Our Uzbek friend explained what was going on. "He started inducing and the contractions began but Marjet's cervix was not opening", she said. "He then did the worst thing, he tried to induce again", sh continued, "this meant that her contractions became even harder but the cervix was still not opening; so the baby was being forced but could not go anywhere. They are both now extremely distressed".

Up until this point I had focused on just getting her to the hospital. Now my world started collapsing. I asked how serious it was. "Extremely serious for them both", she answered.

I was hit by the horrible realization that I might lose both my wife and my unborn child and I could do nothing.

The doctor decided wait because the contractions seemed to be slowing and he was hoping they would stop and both of them would be able to recover. He wanted to wait as long as possible before trying a risky caesarion.

The contractions slowed and then stopped. First her heart and then later the baby's heart rate returned to normal. They were out of trouble it seemed. I asked him what would happen now.

"We will let them rest", he said. Hopefully the contractions will come naturally but if they don't begin in the next twelve hours we will perform a caesarion."

I walked over to the bed and kissed my wife. She smiled and asked what was happening. I told her everything was fine and she should just rest. Our doctor friend had just told me they could both have died. I didn't tell her this. I couldn't let her get stressed.

We sat and chatted. The doctors left and we were alone with one nurse all the other patients in the ward. I looked around. We were in what would only have been called a condemned building in the first world. Half the windows were broken. It was winter. The "sheets" were torn rags and the walls were brown with filth.

I looked at my lovely wife and could not believe we had ended up here with their lives in the balance.

The contractions started again. The doctor came. Everything was fine, her cervix was opening and the contractions were increasing normally.

The doctor left and when it became obvious that the birth was approaching, I asked the nurse where the doctor was, as he had promised to be there.

"He has gone to church", she answered, "I will call him." My response cannot be repeated.

She couldn't get him on the phone so left a message.

She told my wife that she could now walk to the "birthing theater". This was in another wing of the hospital. I asked her if she was out of her mind and then told her that she was not going to be walking anywhere.

The nurse told me she had delivered several thousand babies, that I should calm down, that my wife could have the baby there and then curtained off the bed as best she could.

She began to instruct Marjet to breathe. As any good husband does, I repeated everything the nurse said and tried not to pass out. Then she left. Apparently to get something or other.

Her timing couldn't have been worse. Marjet had obviously had enough because she gave one last push and I suddenly found myself holding the baby.

I had just "delivered" my own son.

The nurse returned.

They were both fine. The nurse thought it was a heck of a funny thing that she had missed the actual birth and I had been on my own. I probably would have strangled her with my bare hands if I hadn't been so relieved that it was over, Marjet was fine and we had a healthy son!

If I ever think I am having a bad day I just have to think back to the times I almost lost everyone I love. If I ever feel fed up with my luck for any reason I just have to think of how lucky I am to have them!

Our little Aidan just after his birth, on a kitchen scale!

Aidan today.

Our daughter  Astrid today. (and her first tigerfish)

Marjet, my lovely wife.

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What are some little known facts about zambia?

Answer by Rory Young:

Dr. David Livingstone died in Zambia heart is buried in there!

He died Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala southeast of Lake Bangweulu on 4th May 1873 from malaria and dysentary.

His two loyal followers, Chuma and Susi  who had loyally accompanied him thorugh his explorations and battles against slavery, removed his heart from his body and buried it under a Mvula tree.


They then smoked his body and set off to take it England! They carried it through 1000 miles of incredibly wild and dangerous terrain to the Mozambique coast. They then accompanied the body to England where it was interred at Westminster Abbey.

The First World War "ended" in Zambia!

On the 11th November 1918 the armistice was signed with Germany was signed on Marshal Foch's train carriage in the forest of Compiegne. According to the terms, hostilities would end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

While this was happening, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, commander of the Imperial German forces in the East African Campaign, was busy raiding Zambia (then called Northern-Rhodesia) and of course knew nothing about it.

Von Lettow-Vorbeck

Two days after the armistice took effect, von Lettow-Vorbeck captured the town of Kasama.

On the 14th November 1918 a British magistrate approached his collumn under a white flag. He handed a telegram to von Lettow-Vorbeck informing him of the armistice.

Von Lettow-Vorbeck agreed to a cease-fire on the spot, thus ending WW1 and then marched to Abercorn (Mbala) where he and his men surrendered undefeated.

Zambia has the world's largest artificial lake and reservoir by volume! (shared with Zimbabwe)

Lake Kariba is 220km long, up to 40km wide and up to 97m deep.

Construction of the dam wall was begun in 1955 and completed in 1958. The lake took until 1963 to fill up.

86 men died during construction.

The entire tribe the Tonga Zambezi, were relocated. They are still suffering the effects. To this day they are considered "development refugees".

The first ever large-scale relocation of wild animals was undertaken during Operation Noah during which over 6000 animals were saved and relocated to the mainland.

Operation Noah: Rupert Fothergill saving a porcupine.

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What is the bravest thing you have ever seen someone do?

Answer by Rory Young:

I watched a slim young woman walk directly up to a mob of men armed with machetes and clubs who had promised to kill her.

My then girlfriend and I had our own business. It included a large safari lodge and farm next to a lake and rhino sanctuary close to Harare in Zimbabwe. We leased the properties and were doing well enough to have made an offer to purchase them.

That all came to an end when the "war vets" turned up.

"War vets" were actually nothing of the sort. Originally, veteren guerrilla fighters of the Rhodesian bush war that had run for fifteen years and ended in the 1970s had begun protesting that they had not been properly rewarded for their service.

Initially Robert Mugabe tried to appease them by awarding them all hundreds of millions of dollars. That wasn't enough.

At the same time as this was going on there was another drama developing. At the end of the war an agreement had been signed between the United Kingdom, the Nationalist organizations including the military wings and the then Rhodesian government.

This agreement, called the Lancaster House Agreement, agreed to majority rule and one-man-one-vote. Amongst other things the British government promised to fund the purchase of commercial land for redistribution to indiginous farmers.

So, at the time of the war vets' demands Mo Mowlam decided to announce that in spite have having promised to do so twenty tyears earlier they would not fund the redistribution of land.

The result of this disgarceful decision was that President Robert Mugabe saw a way to solve the problem of aapeasing his war vets and also of teaching the British a lesson. He let the war vets and everyone else vaguely associated with them or just wanting a patch of dirt losse on the white Zimbabwean farmers.

At first everyone believed it was just a protest and a poilitcal move by the ruling party to appease its supports.

It wasn't. It turned extremely nasty. Farms were destroyed, farmers and farm workers started being attacked and then they started killing.

There was no way the farmers and their workers could fight back. They were all massively outnumbered and the police and army had been ordered to stay out of it. In fact they were assisting by collecting thugs off the streets and trucking them out to the farms.

We were caught in the middle of this. A crowd of "war vets" turned up.

First the lodge was abandoned. We found ourselves suddenly alone. Then some stoned maniac turned up with notes ostensibly written by the workers accusing us of all sorts of nonsense, telling us that they were going to take over and that we would be killed if we tried to leave.

This last, the letters informed us, was because we had to produce "all the money" first. This was extremely serious as there was no way we could make money appear from nowhere and they would get nasty when we didn't.

We heard singing and walked out of the lodge. There was a mob at the front gate. It was the only exit.

I don't like mobs.

I told my girlfriend to stay in the lodge and began to approach them. The closer I got the more aggressively they behaved. They did not enter but if I went up to them I knew they would kill me. They were completely out of control.

We were completely trapped and it was only a matter of time before they came inside and began smashing and burning.

We had no options. I was armed. I had a handgun under my shirt and my rifle was on the back seat of my car. The problem was the gate was not at the end of a road. If we made a run for it we would have to knock the gate down and then turn through the crowd. Although I had only seen the machetes, knives and clubs, I was certain there would be guns amongst them as well. If we tried it it would be easy to kill us.

I thought about farmer Terry Norton who had tried to make a break for it after getting into a shootout with a mob of warvets. It just made it out the gate before being gunned down.

I couldn't start a shootout if I wasn't sure it would mean me getting my girlfriend out safely. On the other hand I might not be given the choice.

I decided to explain to my girlfriend that if they attacked us and we had no choice that she would have to drive while I shot.

I looked around. She was gone.

I ran out of the conference room we had been standing in. She was walking to the gate.

The warvets had gone silent.

I was horrified. I couldn't approach. If I did they might go mad. I gripped the handgun and waited to start using it.

She calmly and quietly walked up to them and then she began talking to them softly.

Here and there men began to sit down. I had no idea what she was saying but it was doing the impossible.

Eventually nearly everyone was sitting listening to her talk. After a while she stopped and then a discussion began among them.

She talked some more with them and then began walking back. I was almost crying with relief.

When she reached me she said, "they said we can go".

We drove out of the gate and never went back.

Oh and yes, I married her. She's sitting on the couch next to me as I write this.

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What is being done to save black rhinos from extiction and where is this happening?

Answer by Rory Young:

Black rhinoceros

In short, not enough.

Since the recent economic rise of China the demand for rhino horn has been equalled by the ability of those who want it to pay huge amounts of money for it. Ther is a mass slaughter of rhinos going on right now.

It happened in the early 90s as well but was stabilised and then the population of black rhinos doubled in size again in Africa. Nearly all of these were in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately this time the threat is so much worse.

The largest population of both black and white rhinos is in Kruger National Park. There are under three thousand white rhinos and about three hundred black rhinos. Rhinos are being killed in the Kruger at a much faster rate than they can breed. Most of the animals poached are white rhinos. That is because they are easier to find and kill. The poachers are "picking the lowest fruit". When the white rhinos are gone they will go after the black.

The disaster in Kruger illustrates well the situation everywhere.

Kruger is huge, about seven times the size of Yosemite National Park in the US or roughly the size of Wales.

The park is has an international boundary in the North with Mozambique.

Mozambique endured an horiffic civil war which only ended in 1990. Over one million Mozambicans died and millions of others were displaced. Until it lost its spot a few years ago to Somalia, Mozambique was the poorest country in the world.

1990 there was peace and thousands of highly trained and experienced guerrilla fighters were out of jobs. Most of todays poachers come from the ranks of these men or are trained by them.

As the Chinese economy and the demand for rhino horn have been growing so has Chinese investment in Africa. These Chinese companies bring large workforces and management teams from China. A large Chinese community has sprung up out of the blue and this community provides the traffickers.

The Chinese government has shown no will to tackle the illegal iumport of endangered species and the products are sold openly in shops there.

Rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine, usually as an aphrodesiac. It has been proven scientifically to have absolutely no effect on a a man or woman's libido. Rhino horn is keratin, the same substance that hair and findernails consist of. Clearly Viagra is not good enough to beat centuries of traditional BS.

The poachers are armed with heavy caliber hunting rifles, navigation and night-vision equipment as well as assault rifles and other weaponry for use against park rangers.

Ironically in the 90s the Limpopo Transfrontier Park was set up to link the Kruger National Park in South Africa, The Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique and Gona Re Zhou National park in Zimbabwe.

This was hailed as a major conseervation success and it certainly has been for the wildlife of Gorongoza especially as funds, expertise and animals moved across the border. However it has now turned out to be a disaster for the Kruger rhinos. That's because the border fences were taken down.

In 2002 to much acclaim the fences were dropped. With no border fences the poachers are able to infiltrate into Kruger National Park. When it was proposed that the fences be put back up the South African Government decided that it would be too expensive.

650 park rangers with two donated helicopters and two dontated drones don't stand a chance.

South Africa has a large, well equipped and well trained military. There has only been token use of the South African Air Force and army.

On the other side of the border the Mozambican government is unwilling to patrol the border or commit money, troops or equipment to anti-poaching efforts nor to sign an agreement proposed that would intitiate a joint anti-poaching effort.

That means the work is left to the park rangers. In 2012 they captured 200 poachers and killed another thirty.

If the South African government was truly serious about protecting the rhinos they would have mobilised the military and other resources needed to tackle the problem.

Ban Ki Moon recently warned of the threat to peace and security on Central Africa posed by poaching gangs. Hopefully African governments will react if not the UN Security Council whom he was addressing.

All of the above illustrates some very simple facts.

In order to deal with the poaching itself there has to be a commitment by the governments of Southern and East Africa to tackle it had on with the military and with the law. Kenya has finally raised the penalties there from minor fines to prison sentences. South Africa has started sending in the Air force, Army and police to assist but not in any sort of serious deployment.

China, Vietnam and other Asian states to fight trafficking, criminalize the sale of rhino horn in their countries and then enforce their law.

For any of this to really happen there needs to be a worlwide will to do what needs to be done.

In the meantime the black rhino and the white rhino as well as the Asian species are heading for extinction.

I am heading into Matusadona to track rhinos soon. I cannot believe that my daughter son may not be able to experience the same when they grow up.

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Do white people from South Africa identify as African?

Answer by Rory Young:

Thank you for asking me to answer this.
I should point out first that I am NOT South African. I was born and currently live in Central Africa which is very different in many ways. I did go to boarding school for one year in South Africa, three of my siblings now live there and I have visited many times. I am also "Anglo African" so can, I suppose, answer as a non-South-African but with a good knowledge of South Africa and its white people.

First of all, what does it mean to be African?

Africa is vast and its people are incredibly diverse.

Genetically there is more diversity in one indigenous Central African village that there is in the entire indigenous populations of many European countries.

There is more difference between Zulu and a Xhosa, two South African tribes, than there is between a Mongol and Laplander.

Culturally, compare a Muslim Moroccan Berber from the Atlas mountains with an Animist Baka "pygmy" from the Gabonese rainforest.


Atlas Berbers

Or compare an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian (one of the oldest Christian societies and churches in the world) with a Kalahari San "Bushman".



All these pictures show how different they look but that is the least of the difference. In terms of religion, language, food, architecture, music, you-name-it they are completely different.

Africa is 30.2 million km in size or ten times the size of India and three times the size of the USA. It has over TWO THOUSAND languages. It has snow capped mountains, deserts, equatorial forests and temperate, Mediterranean coasts.

Africa is a continent, a big one with lots and lots of different peoples living on it.

Now let's look at white South Africans.

There are many different types of white South Africans but most fall into two categories.

Firstly there are the "Anglo-Africans".

These are people of mostly, but not only, British decent who speak English.

Anglo-Africans really started settling from 1820. Only recent arrivals have any sort of kinship with Britain. They are however mostly Christian, whether Methodist, Catholic, Church of England or other.

They have retained many British habits, including tea-drinking, golf, cricket, rugby, tennis but are for the most part not in favour of football (soccer) or cucumber sandwiches. They speak with their own accent, which varies according to the province they come from.

Secondly there are the Afrikaners.

These are people of mostly, but not only, Dutch, French and German ancestry who speak their own language called Afrikaans.

The Afrikaners first began settling in South Africa in 1623. They have absolutely no ties with the Netherlands other than they are usually members of the Dutch Reformed Church although their own churches are independent of the Dutch Reformed Church hierarchy in the Netherlands.

Not only have they evolved their own language but they have also developed their own culture entirely. Their food for example is quite unique.

During the Boer Wars the Afrikaners fought the British who wanted to take over the independent States that had been formed by different populations of Afrikaners who had, generations before, left the British-ruled Cape Colony.

Boers Fighting the British

The Boers (Afrikaners) fought magnificently against the British who in the end resorted to creating Concentration camps (this was where the term originated) into which they forced many Boer families. Over 26,000 boer women and children died in these concentration camps.

Lizzie Van Zyl, a girl in a Concentration Camp During the Boer War.

Many Afrikaners are still angry about this to this day. There is a certain but limited amount of mutual animosity and resentment/annoyance between English-speaking and Afrikaans South Africans.

As you can see, neither the Afrikaners nor the English-speaking South Africans could fit into any European society. Their home is South Africa and that is a part of the African continent.

Neither consider themselves black Africans because they are not. They also do not consider themselves European although they may use the term to describe their racial origins. Both groups consider themselves South African in terms of Nationality.

In terms of ethnicity they are two different cultures that both belong in South Africa.

White South Africans see themselves as South Africans and white and as Africans but of different cultures.

The question tribe has been the cause of endless tragedy in Africa and the question of race has been the cause of endless tragedy in South Africa. It is not gone and will not be for many generations. However, it is at least no longer a part of the system of government. There are still many racists of many hues in South Africa and many white South Africans still have a lot to answer for. That does not mean though that everybody there is racist. I spent a year at boarding school in South Africa when I was 13 years old. I can assure you that the attitudes of white South African13 year-olds then and now are drastically different.

As for me. I assume from the "Ask To Answer" you would like to know how I, as a white-African, see myself.

I am of Irish, Scots, Scots-Irish, German (German Jewish actually), French Breton and Cornish ancestry.

I was born in Zambia, to Rhodesian parents (although one was born in Cape Town and one in Northern Rhodesia, the future Zambia) in Zambia. I grew up in Zambia, Rhodesia (formerly Southern Rhodesia), Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (formerly Rhodesia), Zimbabwe (formerly Zimbabwe Rhodesia), Malawi (formerly Nyasaland), France (formerly France), England (only one year and it was too cold). As you can imagine I have given up long ago on the whole nationalism patriotism thing.

As well as English, I speak French (I learned French as a kid so it is very much a part of me) and Dutch (my wife is Dutch so this really is a part of me too) as well as two "African" languages (which I leaned at a young age) and Afrikaans.

I went to eleven schools in five countries and have lived as an adult in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, France, Corsica and The Netherlands and have traveled or worked in many more.

Now, just to well and truly confuse the hell out of everybody, I was made an Induna by Chief Simwatachela of the Zambezi BaTonga people. Therefore, although I am white, my tribe is Tonga.

Tonga woman with marijuana pipe.

So, if you ask me "straight" what I am..

My answer is..


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What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever had to explain to a third party?

Answer by Rory Young:

It was golden hour. The warm glow of the African sunset bathed the already gorgeous scenery of Lake Kariba and the Matusadona mountains making its already magical beauty seem almost surreal.

We were seated in an open Land Rover quietly observing the old elephant. Serenity.

Then he began to extend his enormous penis.

Yes, it is big. Enormous, the largest member of any land animal. Up to a meter in length (measured from the base) and six inches thick. It also has two muscles, so they can move it, which they seemed to like doing when being observed by men..

I waited quietly for the response from the two couple seated on the back.

Responses were usually varied. The ranged from the elderly dears, "good grief!" to the Australian bloke's, "That would come in handy on a picnic!"..

these two couples were very different to each other. Whilst both the men were pretty laid back and chatted normally and asked questions about the wildlife, there wives couldn't have been more different. The first lady just could not shut up. She talked incessantly and was giving me a headache.

The second lady was the exact opposite. She was petite, demure and did not say one word. I was starting to wonder if she could speak at all.

I noted with a feeling of great relief that the garrulous lady had now gone completely quiet. But then so had everybody else.

I waited till the silence was deafening and then decided to break the ice. "This is a male elephant", I said, "You can tell from the shape of the head." There was a round of chuckles from behind me and I tackled the subject head on, "The elephant's penis extends 160cm in total length, including what you don't see and the testes are internal, close to the spine, which is why you don't see them."

Then, as I  rambled on, I was interrupted by a quiet little voice from the very back. It was the girl who had not yet said a word. "How doelephants have sex?", she asked.

A surprising first question. Quite obvious i would have thought. As usual I bit back my first answer, which in this case was "Not in the missionary position.." and began to explain how the male's penis has to curve to reach and therefore had the two muscles and so on and so forth.

When I had finished our quiet little angel said "Oh". I waited. Then, "I always thought their sexual organs were in their feet", she said.

"I beg your pardon?", I said. I hadn't yet realized who was the naive party in all of this and now expecting to have to explain the birds and the bees to a honey-mooner.

"Because when it stands on you you're f*****" said the little church mouse to me.

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Do elephants have politics within their groups?

Answer by Rory Young:

Most definitions of politics relate to government, the state and citizenship. However one definition from Wikipedia is as follows:

"Political maneuvers or diplomacy between people, groups, or organizations, especially involving power, influence or conflict."

So could this definition apply in the case of elephants as well as people?

The sound of bull elephants fighting is very distinctive. You hear the tusks knocking, snorting, the occasional roar and trumpet. It can go on for long periods. It happens during the day and during the night. It is captivating to watch.

There are different types of fights among bulls. There are casual "fun" fights. A bull will sidle up to another with his trunk hanging over one tusk, waggle his head, which means he is not serious and then push the other. These are real bonding affairs. They will often lay their trunk on the other's head or even stick it in their opponent's mouth.

Fights for dominance are a much more serious affair. Imagine two seven tonne trucks smashing into each other repeatedly. The roaring and trumpeting are the engines revving and the gears grinding. The bulls will wrestle using trunks and tusks. They will smash their heads into each other and they can do serious harm to each other.

Then there are the really serious affairs such as two bulls in musth fighting. These can result in death. They have many times the normal levels of testosterone pumping through their system. They are essentially out of their minds. The reasonal bull goes into musth is believed to be a counter to in-breeding as amongst elephants dominance and therefore opportunity to mate with the females can last many years.

So why all the fighting? Simple. Power. Or more specifically, dominance.

Every bull elephant in contact with others must know his dominance in relation to those others. If he doesn't then a fight is required to find out.

That's some of the power question but it doesn't stop there. Bulls form friendships and alliances.

For example an old bull will often have "Askaris". These are younger bulls who accompany, learn from him and benefit from his superior knowledge and experience in terms of find food, water and females. They "butter up" the old bull and polish his ego in return.

More food for them means they will be healthier and stronger which in turn means more dominance which means more chance of getting the girls!

Now let's look at the girls. Males move about freely on their on or in batchelor groups, and sometimes join or follow the herds. This can be because there is kinship (visiting mum) or because there is a female in season.

The females stay in their herds. They will chace off unwanted young males and often allow more mature bulls to "shack up" with a female in season because he will be able to chase off all the younger bulls whose continuous harrassing behaviour can make life unbearable for the whole herd and the affected female in particluar.

The dominance structure amongst the females is based on age. The matriarch of the herd will usually be the oldest female and thus the most experienced. The reason for this is again because the herd needs her knowledge to survive.

The females and young live in herds so as to be able to protect the young. The problem is that now enough nutricious food must be found to feed everybody. This is much harder to do for a herd of elephants than for one bull on his own. Also, elephants only absorb a very little amount of the nutrients in their food, so they have to eat a lot and of a wide variety in order to get all the goodness they need to sustain them.

This all adds up to lots of moving and an amazing knowledge of where to find different foods at different times of the year. It can get tough, so the herds will often break up into smaller herds which are easier to feed. They will communicate with each other when in hearing range (up to 12km or so for normal infrasound communication) but otherwise remain apart for long periods, even years at a time.

When they meet up there is a big to do as every one needs to figure out who is who and whos kids are whose and who the chieftainess is.. You may have noticed I said usually the oldest female is the most dominant. well, there are different personalities and just like we have "type A" individuals racing around, so do the elephants.

Some young females will continuously try to take charge of aanother cow's baby or get involved in other elephants' disputes. You know, the usual sort of thing; someone stepped on someone else's trunk or someone grabbed a particularly tasty fruit that someone else wanted and of course Miss Busybody wants to get involved.

So, power, fighting, brown-nosing, protegés, cliques, sex.. Politicking goes on everywhere, even amongst the jumbos..

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