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.