December 11, 2007


Caption: Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Recently El Cabrero re-read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I was struck more than ever by the force of its denunciation of colonialism and imperialism. It was set in the Congo of a century ago, where the "Christian" king Leopold of Belgium and his minions perpetrated a holocaust that rivaled Hitler's. (See yesterday's post.)

I know that the interpretation of this short novel remains controversial. A colleague who is a native of Congo pointed out to me recently that the great writer Chinua Achebe thought that the novel de-humanized Africans by denying them language and culture.

Achebe has a point, but in fairness Conrad would probably get clobbered these days for presuming to speak for Africans as a European. And, with the exception of the narrator, the Europeans in the novel who do speak talk nonsense. Conrad went as far as he could go in this novel, which was pretty far. It is an unmistakable and explosive condemnation of the atrocities perpetrated not so long ago.

I first became aware of Conrad's brutal gem in the late 1970s with the release of the film Apocalypse Now, which is still one of my favorites. The film, as the reader will no doubt recall, was set not in Africa but in Vietnam, but it seems to me to be pretty close in spirit to the novel that inspired it.

But while Apocalypse Now was a film about war, Leopold's holocaust was perpetuated in a time of official "peace" in the name of Christianity, commerce and humanitarianism. Conrad described it best ironically in the tile of this post: "the merry dance of death and trade" whereby millions of people were exploited, exterminated and/or mutilated, physically or otherwise.

Sad to say, the merry dance continues, although generally in a more subtle form.

SHOCK AND ALL. Here's an interesting piece on neocons and the roots of the "shock doctrine" of disaster capitalism which was the subject of Naomi Klein's recent book.

SOCIAL EUTHANASIA. A few years ago, a dear friend and comrade applied for Social Security disability. By the time she finally got it, death was near. As this New York Times article shows, her case was not an isolated one:

Steadily lengthening delays in the resolution of Social Security disability claims have left hundreds of thousands of people in a kind of purgatory, now waiting as long as three years for a decision...

But in the meantime, more and more people have lost their homes, declared bankruptcy or even died while awaiting an appeals hearing, say lawyers representing claimants and officials of the Social Security Administration, which administers disability benefits for those judged unable to work or who face terminal illness.

WHAT DUMB ANIMALS? In lieu of Goat Rope's usual gratuitous animal picture, here's an item on animal intelligence. And here's one about the longstanding bond between animals and fermentation. Drink up!


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