On the outpost between ‘civil society’ where political correctness reins despotic, and a neo-anarchist state of the free mind. To quote Jim Morrison, “out here on the perimeter we are stoned immaculate.”
Here there is no interest in “transhumanism” – just in the idea of remaining human, remaining sane, and retaining individuality. Here it is understood that we control our own emotions; that to be insulted one must allow a cutting remark to have it’s effect. The insult ‘taken’ is how you make your own pain of it.
Here there is no belief in lasting consensus – community is an ever shifting and morphing myth based on false notions of stasis.
Here there is no prophesy, just a continuum of a timeless state of wonder. [1≡∞]
The Prime Question
What does it mean to be well adjusted to a pathological society?
HEART OF DARKNESS
Heart of Darkness centers around Marlow, an introspective sailor, and his journey up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, reputed to be an idealistic man of great abilities. Marlow takes a job as a riverboat captain with the Company, a Belgian concern organized to trade in the Congo. As he travels to Africa and then up the Congo, Marlow encounters widespread inefficiency and brutality in the Company’s stations. The native inhabitants of the region have been forced into the Company’s service, and they suffer terribly from overwork and ill treatment at the hands of the Company’s agents. The cruelty and squalor of imperial enterprise contrasts sharply with the impassive and majestic jungle that surrounds the white man’s settlements, making them appear to be tiny islands amidst a vast darkness.
Marlow arrives at the Central Station, run by the general manager, an unwholesome, conspiratorial character. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and spends several months waiting for parts to repair it. His interest in Kurtz grows during this period. The manager and his favorite, the brickmaker, seem to fear Kurtz as a threat to their position. Kurtz is rumored to be ill, making the delays in repairing the ship all the more costly. Marlow eventually gets the parts he needs to repair his ship, and he and the manager set out with a few agents (whom Marlow calls pilgrims because of their strange habit of carrying long, wooden staves wherever they go) and a crew of cannibals on a long, difficult voyage up the river. The dense jungle and the oppressive silence make everyone aboard a little jumpy, and the occasional glimpse of a native village or the sound of drums works the pilgrims into a frenzy.
Marlow and his crew come across a hut with stacked firewood, together with a note saying that the wood is for them but that they should approach cautiously. Shortly after the steamer has taken on the firewood, it is surrounded by a dense fog. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by an unseen band of natives, who fire arrows from the safety of the forest. The African helmsman is killed before Marlow frightens the natives away with the ship’s steam whistle. Not long after, Marlow and his companions arrive at Kurtz’s Inner Station, expecting to find him dead, but a half-crazed Russian trader, who meets them as they come ashore, assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who left the wood. The Russian claims that Kurtz has enlarged his mind and cannot be subjected to the same moral judgments as normal people. Apparently, Kurtz has established himself as a god with the natives and has gone on brutal raids in the surrounding territory in search of ivory. The collection of severed heads adorning the fence posts around the station attests to his “methods.” The pilgrims bring Kurtz out of the station-house on a stretcher, and a large group of native warriors pours out of the forest and surrounds them. Kurtz speaks to them, and the natives disappear into the woods.
The manager brings Kurtz, who is quite ill, aboard the steamer. A beautiful native woman, apparently Kurtz’s mistress, appears on the shore and stares out at the ship. The Russian implies that she is somehow involved with Kurtz and has caused trouble before through her influence over him. The Russian reveals to Marlow, after swearing him to secrecy, that Kurtz had ordered the attack on the steamer to make them believe he was dead in order that they might turn back and leave him to his plans. The Russian then leaves by canoe, fearing the displeasure of the manager. Kurtz disappears in the night, and Marlow goes out in search of him, finding him crawling on all fours toward the native camp. Marlow stops him and convinces him to return to the ship. They set off down the river the next morning, but Kurtz’s health is failing fast.
Marlow listens to Kurtz talk while he pilots the ship, and Kurtz entrusts Marlow with a packet of personal documents, including an eloquent pamphlet on civilizing the savages which ends with a scrawled message that says, “Exterminate all the brutes!” The steamer breaks down, and they have to stop for repairs. Kurtz dies, uttering his last words—“The horror! The horror!”—in the presence of the confused Marlow. Marlow falls ill soon after and barely survives. Eventually he returns to Europe and goes to see Kurtz’s Intended (his fiancée). She is still in mourning, even though it has been over a year since Kurtz’s death, and she praises him as a paragon of virtue and achievement. She asks what his last words were, but Marlow cannot bring himself to shatter her illusions with the truth. Instead, he tells her that Kurtz’s last word was her name.
Note: The film APOCOLYPSE NOW is based on Heart on Darkness.
KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST
King Leopold’s Ghost speaks to the same topic of the Belgian Congo
King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998) is a best-selling popular history book by Adam Hochschild that explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885 and 1908, as well as the large-scale atrocities committed during that period. The book, also a general biography of the private life of Leopold, succeeded in increasing public awareness of these crimes in recent decades.
The title is adopted from the 1914 poem “The Congo”, by Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay. Condemning Leopold’s actions, Lindsay wrote:Listen to the yell of Leopold’s ghost,Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.Hear how the demons chuckle and yell,Cutting his hands off, down in Hell.
The book was refused by nine of the ten U.S. publishing houses to which an outline was submitted, but became an unexpected bestseller and won the prestigious Mark Lynton History Prize for literary style. It also won the 1999 Duff Cooper Prize. By 2013 more than 600,000 copies were in print in a dozen languages.
Original cover of KING LEOPLOLD’S GHOST
Leopold II, King of the Belgians, privately controlled and owned the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908. In 1908, the area was annexed by Belgium as a colony known as the Belgian Congo. Leopold used his personal control to strip the country of vast amounts of wealth, largely in the form of ivory and rubber. These labor-intensive industries were serviced by slave labor, and the local peoples were forced to work through various means, including torture, imprisonment, maiming and terror. Christian missionaries and a handful of human rights organizers internationally publicized these atrocities. Slowly, various nations, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America, began to object to Leopold’s tyranny with the result that the country’s administration was transferred to Belgium. Little changed inside the country, however, until the ivory and rubber were exhausted.
European interest in the African continent can be traced back to the late 1400s, when the European explorer Diogo Cão sailed the west coast and saw the Congo River. By the 1860s, most African coastal regions were claimed as colonies of European powers, but the vast interior of the continent remained unknown to Europeans. Henry Morton Stanley, a complicated man and renowned explorer, ventured through much of that unknown during a descent of the Congo River. Leopold II, King of the Belgians, was fascinated with obtaining a colony and focused upon claiming the interior of Africa—the only unclaimed sizable geographic area. Moving within the European political paradigm existing in the early 1880s, Leopold gained international concessions and recognition for his personal claim to the Congo Free State.
His rule of the vast region was based on tyranny and terror. Under his direction, Stanley again visited the area and extracted favorable treaties from numerous local leaders. A road and, eventually, a rail line were developed from the coast to Leopoldville (present-day Kinshasa). A series of militarized outposts were established along the length of the Congo River, and imported paddle wheelers commenced regular river service. Native peoples were forced to gather ivory and transport it for export. Beginning c. 1890, rubber—originally manufactured from coagulated sap—became economically significant in international trade. The Congo was rich in rubber-producing vines, and Leopold transitioned his exploitative focus from dwindling ivory supplies to the burgeoning rubber market. Slavery, exploitation and the reign of terror continued and even increased.
Meanwhile, early missionaries and human rights advocates such as Roger Casement, E. D. Morel, George Washington Williams, and William Henry Sheppard began to circulate news of the widespread atrocities committed in the Congo under the official blessing of Leopold’s administration. Women and children were imprisoned as hostages to force husbands and fathers to work. Flogging, starvation and torture were routine. Murder was common—tribes resisting enslavement were wiped out; administration officials expected to receive back a severed human hand for every bullet issued. Rape and sexual slavery were rampant. Workers failing to secure assigned quotas of rubber were routinely mutilated or tortured. Administration officials so completely dehumanized local peoples that at least one decorated his flower garden with a border of severed human heads. News of these atrocities brought slow, but powerful, international condemnation of Leopold’s administration leading, eventually, to his assignment of the country to Belgian administration.
In 1908, Belgium annexed the Congo as a colony and proclaimed a general sea-change in administrative policy. Actual change, however, was nearly imperceptible. The era of World War I shifted attention from atrocities in Africa to European trench warfare. In the post-war era, the global demand for reform was largely forgotten. However, commercial rubber tree farming had become firmly established and the collection of wild rubber became commercially insignificant, just as ivory supplies had been exhausted years earlier. Because of this, the slave labor industries of the Congo diminished in importance and atrocities became far less frequent. Finally, in 1960, the Congo gained independence.
STANLEY & LIVINGSTON – A PROPAGANDA STUNT
John Rowlands had become Henry Morton Stanley, who began living a very American series of adventures: he fought for the Confederacy, was taken prisoner and, when offered the chance to switch sides, fought for the Union. He drifted west after the war to try to make his fortune mining gold and silver, and he became a journalist covering the American Indian Wars, rubbing elbows with Ulysses S. Grant and Wild Bill Hickok. There seemed no limit to the things he was willing to take on.
During the march to Tabora, Stanley had written regularly in his journal but had sent nothing to the newspaper. On July 4, he penned his first dispatch to Bennett in the form of a 5,000-word letter—enough to fill the front page of the Herald. In it, Stanley told of his fears and even his contemplation of suicide. “I should like to enter into more minute details respecting this new land, which is almost unknown,” he wrote, “but the very nature of my mission, requiring speed and all my energy precludes it. Some day, perhaps, the Herald will permit me to describe more minutely the experiences of the long march, with all its vicissitudes and pleasures, in its columns, and I can assure your readers beforehand that they will be not quite devoid of interest. But now my whole time is occupied in the march, and the direction of the expedition, the neglect of which in any one point would be productive of disastrous results.” Stanley held back the information his audience wanted most until the final paragraph. Livingstone, he told them, was rumored to be on his way to Ujiji. “Until I hear more of him or see the long absent old man face to face, I bid you a farewell,” he signed off. “But wherever he is be sure I shall not give up the chase. If alive you shall hear what he has to say. If dead I will find him and bring his bones to you.”
Stanley sent his dispatch with a caravan going east with instructions to give it to the American consul in Zanzibar, who would then send it to New York by ship. But Stanley hadn’t told his readers everything. Afierce tribal war blocked the road to Ujiji, threatening to derail his entire expedition. Stanley would either have to embroil himself in the fighting or find an alternate—uncharted—route to the south.
Africa, however, scared Stanley. The fear had set in as he sailed to Zanzibar to purchase supplies and hire men for the expedition. He had had nightmares and even pondered suicide to avoid traveling into the “eternal, feverish region.” Despite his anxieties, by March 21, 1871, he had managed to assemble one of the largest expeditions to ever set forth from Zanzibar—so big that Stanley was forced to divide it into five subcaravans and stagger their departures to avoid robbery. As Stanley set off, he heard rumors that a white man had been seen near Ujiji, some 750 miles inland.
As he pondered his course of action, he encountered a far more lethal obstacle. On July 7, as Stanley sat in the shade in Tabora’s afternoon heat, drowsiness washed over him like a drug. “The brain was busy. All my life seemed passing in review before me,” he wrote. “The loveliest feature of all to me was of a noble and true man who called me son.” Stanley’s intense visions evoked long-forgotten emotions: “When these retrospective scenes became serious, I looked serious; when they were sorrowful I wept hysterically; when they were joyous I laughed loudly.” In fact, Stanley was suffering from dementia brought on by cerebral malaria, the often fatal strain of that disease.
Nyangwe, Congo, July 15, 1871—Livingstone took his usual seat in the shade to observe the marketplace. Soon, slave traders arrived and started squabbling with the Africans. Suddenly, the slavers began firing their guns into the crowd. A horrified Livingstone watched as the villagers fled and more Arabs joined the slaughter. “Men opened fire on the mass of people near the upper end of the marketplace, volleys were discharged from a party down near the creek on the panic-stricken women who dashed at the canoes,” Livingstone wrote. “These, some 50 or more, were jammed in the creek and the men forgot their paddles in the terror that seized all.”
The Arabs stood along the riverbank, calmly aiming and firing, then reloading to kill again. When the villagers leapt from their canoes and began swimming, the Arabs picked them off. Livingstone had run out of paper, and was writing his journal on any scrap he could find—old checks, magazine pages. Livingstone’s supply of ink was gone too. Instead, he was using a red dye he had made from roots; the color brought a graphic realism to the tales of murder: “As I write I hear the loud wails on the left bank over those who are there slain, ignorant of their many friends who are now in the depths of the Lualaba. Oh, let Thy kingdom come!” he implored God.
Livingstone fled Nyangwe for Ujiji a few days after the massacre. The path he took was new to him, and in the heavy equatorial heat, his dysentery returned. His feet had swollen; his shoes were falling apart. “The mind acted on the body,” he wrote. “And it is no overstatement to say that every step of between 400 and 500 miles was [taken] in pain.”
On November 1, after two weeks of searching, Stanley finally reached the MalagarasiRiver. Villages lined its banks, and fish-eating birds could be seen in the shallows. The caravan restocked with food and water, but the Malagarasi offered up another challenge. Crocodiles dotted the surface as far as the eye could see, and the only way to cross was to hire locals to ferry the caravan. By sunset, all were across except the donkeys, which were to swim alongside the canoes, held by their halters. The first donkey to go was a favorite of Stanley’s named Simba—“lion” in Swahili. Halfway across, to Stanley’s horror, crocodiles attacked Simba and dragged him underwater. That night, sadness permeated the caravan. Simba’s gruesome death was a reminder that the same could happen to any of them. All traces of melancholy vanished the next morning, however, when a passing traveler told of seeing a white man in Ujiji.
Lake Tanganyika, October 8, 1871—Livingstone’s endurance was remarkable, but by the time he had reached Lake Tanganyika, his will was shattered. Describing the moment, he wrote, “I was reduced to a skeleton.”
The continued failure of his mission was breaking Livingstone. He set off by canoe to cross to Ujiji, hoping to find supplies from the British Consulate waiting for him. But when he reached Ujiji, there was nothing. Livingstone now faced the desperate choice of becoming a beggar or starving to death. He spent his days in Ujiji praying for deliverance. “I made up my mind to wait until men should come from the coast,” he wrote, still hoping the British consul would send help. “But to wait in beggary was what I never contemplated, and now I felt miserable.”
Rescue looked bleak. Both to the east and to the west, Arabs and Africans were fighting. “I felt, in my destitution, as if I were the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. But I could not hope for priest, Levite or good Samaritan to come by on either side,” Livingstone wrote.
As Stanley entered Ujiji, thousands of people pressed around the caravan. Livingstone had been sitting on a straw mat on the mud veranda of his small house, pondering his woeful future, when he heard the commotion. Now Livingstone got slowly to his feet. Above the throngs of people, he saw the American flag snapping in the breeze and porters bearing an incredible assortment of goods: bales of cloth, huge kettles, tents. “This must be a luxurious traveler,” Livingstone thought. “And not one at wit’s end like me.”
Livingstone pushed through the crowd and saw a tanned, gaunt man. His boots were worn and his sun-beaten helmet clean. The man had such a formal bearing that, despite the Stars and Stripes, Livingstone assumed he was French. He hoped the traveler spoke English, for Livingstone didn’t speak a word of French. He thought that they would be “a pretty pair of white men in Ujiji if neither one spoke the other’s language.”
What Stanley saw was a pale white man wearing a faded blue cap and patched clothing. The man’s hair was white, he had few teeth, and his beard was bushy. He walked, Stanley wrote, “with a firm and heavy tread.”
Stanley stepped up crisply to the old man, removed his helmet and extended his hand. According to Stanley’s journal, it was November 10, 1871. With formal intonation, representing America but trying to affect British gravity, Stanley spoke, according to later accounts, the most dignified words that came to mind: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
“Yes,” Livingstone answered simply.
“I thank God, doctor,” Stanley said, appalled at how fragile Livingstone looked, “I have been permitted to see you.”
“I feel thankful,” Livingstone said with typical understatement, “I am here to welcome you.”
Livingstone, worn down by disease, died in today’s Zambia, on May 1, 1873, a year and a half after his meeting with Stanley. His attendants mummified his body and handed it over to British authorities. His remains were buried in Westminster Abbey. Stanley was a pallbearer at Livingstone’s funeral. Afterward, he fulfilled a vow he’d made to the explorer to return to Africa to search for the source of the Nile. In his failed attempt, Stanley circumnavigated lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, then traveled the length of the Congo River to the Atlantic. Later, however, he besmirched his reputation by accepting money from King Leopold II of Belgium to help create the Congo Free State and promote the slave trade. Though he returned to Britain, married in 1890 (he and his wife, Dorothy, adopted a 1-year-old Welsh child in 1896), resumed his British citizenship in 1892 and served in Parliament, when he died at age 63, he was denied burial in Westminster Abbey because of his actions in the Congo Free State.
By Martin Dugard
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | OCTOBER 2003136