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Heart of blackness

I am reading about Africa. I am on book three. This series was suggested by the author of book one. In writing, he mentions the other two, refering to them more once, so I thought, so as to better understand and 'get' his references, I would try the other two.

Excuse me...what am I reading? 1) Dark Star Safari- by Paul Theroux ( 2003) ; Heart of Darkness- by Joseph Conrad (1899), and
King Leopold's Ghost - by Adam Hochschild (1998 )

I started with the first one (Dark Star)picking it sort of at random from the bookstore. It says 'Pulitzer' winning author, which I've had good luck with, Pulitzer winners, so I bought it.

What at have I learned? Well, many things...

I learned that Africa is not a country; it is a continent, and that Africa is a country ( not in a political sense, but as a place, separate and altogether). So that yes, technically 'Continent' is the word, country is the place; a place of shared history, a Pre-history and post- history in regards to European entanglement, and that is what it is -entanglement- as everything European seems to be not beneficial in the long run ( or the short).

And I will digress here to counter the on-more -than-one-occasion heard, most disturbingly ignorant comment, about how lucky 'savages are that we saved them from being eaten in the bush', to which I always counter with the challenge of said ignoramous-spouting-this-dullard's logic to, if they could, actually imagine armed thugs coming into their town, taking their women by force- daughters; wives- for their own sexual whimsy etc.( at whenever or wherever) while chaining them ( the men and their stolen females) into a life of forced labor, "I mean really... would you choose that over a previous-perhaps-perilous, yet free existence of dodging lions, I ask you..(?)"

Sometimes they even throw in the 'Christian ' bit (as opposed to pagan human mass sacrifice) as better. "So you really believe they are better off dead or as slaves?"

So then, getting back to it... Heart of Darkness has been sited as the inspiration or the basis ( a retelling of) for the popular movie Apocalypse Now. There are major differences (the time, the continent), but the basic idea is that a foreigner,-white man- with his more advanced, complicated; sophisticated heritage, may come in and assume or be granted control of the locals, and that by shedding his morality (that of his sophisticated, advanced society) adopting that of the 'savages' may use control of said locals while become a Demi-God to effect great change, in this case gathering a small empire.

Mmm. Seems rather unlikely, but, then it has happened that 'savages' mistook Europeans for deities, only recognizing their mistake once it was too late. Cortez, and the conquest of Mexico come to mind. After inserting himself, his avarice was finally enough and the locals most violently ran him off. Little did they know that the seed of their destruction in the form of foreign microbes was already planted.

Dark Star Safari is a travel log. The writer can't help but to include his opinions, supported by some of the locals in regards to modern intervention by foreign entities, whether business or so-called charities. It is a fascinating look. I have nothing to either corroborate or deny. There is is a general blackout of news coming from that part of the world, and it is 'a very far away' place to me.

The last one, Leopold's Ghost is the most disturbing, chronicalling the history of Europeans and slavery, the true nature of empire (conquest, suppression, looting) and later European reaction/protest against slavery (conveniently not the other two, conquest, and looting), eventually getting to Leopold's legacy. It is a description of greed and man's inhumanity (perhaps true humanity); a horrific story. I'm not finished yet.

It is amazing to me how Belgium ( and the rest of north Europe) are now looked upon as being so humane and charitable, while the history is ( at least in my country) completely unknown. Hmf.

Comments

Now you're doing Africa, You could also try Laurens van der Post: 'Flamingo Feather', and/or 'The Heart of the Hunter', and etc.
 
I'm at about page 50. Leopold is about 50, and finally realized his dream of empire.

Through a series of writing maneuvers, that is, like Stalin, his personal edits of re-writes of those employed by him to write on his behalf, he has shaped opinion around him, managed to sway opinions of other governments, and incrementally changed the nature of what was originally characterized as an association intent on helping the continent by bringing Christianity, infrastructure, stability, and "free-trade", while at the same time, eliminating "Arab" Slavery, into something that is clearly his own personal domain, legally, and publically.

In actuality, all my of these supposed altruistic, humanitarian, ( and shared) goals, by the end of it, are revealed to be merely euphemisms enabling him to gain control by preventing opposition from other outside bodies - other governments- while getting monies and manpower together to consolidate territorial control, and build infrastructure- roads, railway- in order to facilitate the extraction and exportation of the resources of a huge area, without the interference or competition from other like-minded European entities, similarly engaged in other parts of the continent.

It is somewhat unclear to me exactly how much of this ( each step, and the actual wealth he was able to gain) Leopold realized ahead of time, but he successfully 'land-grabbed' an area 1/13th of the entire continent, which, Belgium being one the smaller, weaker, nations, was quite a feat, considering. He basically stole it right under their noses.

Anyway, that's where I am at, so far...
 
I finished the book last night. Spoiler: Yeah, everyone dies...
Anyway, this is a book about human nature.
What's that? Well, this is my opinion. It's my blog, not yours, so shut up. Oh...you agree with me. Yes, of course you're correct. You may speak. Anyway, again...
The minute, the moment people get together, organize the possibilities become imagined. What possibilities? See, you're obviously not greedy enough or smart enough, or you wouldn't have to ask. The possibilities are absolutely anything you want; you desire. That is what motivates, that is why people do anything. Going back to caveman days (and let me point out here that this is a misnomer. We did not live in caves; they're stinky, damp, bugs crawl in there, smoke from fire finds it difficult to leave. Look, even chimps build houses, nests, outside, in the trees, so we didn't live in caves, not really. Yes, we used them, but mostly no one wanted to live in a cave, not unless it had plenty of fresh air), the moment two humans got together thinking about what it is they wanted, greed was invented.

What at is greed? Greed is wanting more than you need.
And how much do you need? Basically, enough to get by.

And that's easy, that's great if you live in vacuum, some garden of Eden where it's just you, and maybe your family;where there's plenty for all, and you don't have to worry about your neighbors coming through the fence and picking all your fruit, or where your neighbors don't have to worry that you're going to come through their fence because you ate all your fruit, and by the way, that's a nice shiny bauble you have there, and I'll take your daughter, by the way. Aaand... since it just so happens that my culture has nice shiny baubles, which you like, and guns ( which you now realize you need to defend yourself) we've decided that we need you to get your lazy butts out there and start stripping the wealth that we discovered you had ( 'had', but were too ignorant to realize, because obviously God made you inferior, and therefore us superior, I mean , we've got guns, and look what you got : nothin'), so again, get your lazy butts out there...

So that's what happened, and 10 million Congolese died in the process, mainly to provide wealth to King Leopold II, while providing first ivory, and then rubber.

He he was outed, several times, and then finally it stuck, forcing him to divest himself while absconding. The world was outraged. All those poor Africans, murdered, raped, hands hacked off; genocided through forced labor. The funny part was that nobody mentioned that their lands were confiscated. That seems to be the part people still forget. The winners take the spoils. They may feel bad for the people, but they still keep them.

And as as far as Belgians being the most evil, greedy , rapine... it was all bullshit. The Brits, French, Germans- we're all engaged in exactly the same thing. The only difference being that their portions of rain forrest where rubber grows(or grew) were smaller. Their ratios of death by forced labor, enforced by the gun in order to strip the locals of all their natural resources and thereby enrich European countries and their capitalist empires were actually higher.

There were resistors, native heroes, who'd if they'd been successful, we might have heard of, but they were not. They were anihilated. Hypocrites all, the western powers continue there greedy grab-alls, to this day, throughout the uncivilized, backward world. The Congo's first freely elected leader was CIA assassinated, his body cut up into little pieces, and dissolved in acid. Yes, for real. A certain Mobutu Sese Seku was put in place, basically a black substitute for a white robber, his task was to keep the locals in line while foreign interests ( free trade) continued plundering and exporting the nation's wealth right out from underneath the natives' feet, while while Mr. Mobutu was given a large cut.

So, if want to know how things work in the third world, just a little bit , well that's how it is. God bless us all.
 

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