Flimsy Sanity: More Stuff I Never Knew

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Stuff I Never Knew

750 Million Dollar House sold to Russian. Originally built by King Leopold for a mistress. Did your history books ignore this little tycoon? Here is a little from Amazon:.
King Leopold of Belgium, writes historian Adam Hochschild in this grim history (King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa), did not much care for his native land or his subjects, all of which he dismissed as "small country, small people." Even so, he searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium, frantic that the scramble of other European powers for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people. When he eventually found a suitable location in what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire and now simply as Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people, "a death toll," Hochschild writes, "of Holocaust dimensions." Those who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber, yielding a fortune for the Belgian king, who salted away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts throughout the world. Hochschild's fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists' savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light. --Gregory McNamee

And from a review:
In a tour de force of characterization, Hochschild portrays Leopold as a petulant and greedy monster who decided at a young age that the way to wealth was ownership of an African colony and the subjugation of its inhabitants. Leopold initially made his profits through the exportation of ivory, but his bureaucrats struck gold with the expansion of the international rubber market.

The victims were the natives, who lost not only their land and their freedom, but often their lives. There is no pretty way for Hochschild to tell this story: Leopold's officials used unbelievably harsh methods to force the locals to collect rubber--all in the name of bringing them European civilization, Christian charity, and a Western work ethic. In addition to taking wives and children hostage (in subhuman conditions) until the men made their quotas, soldiers would torture or kill the inhabitants if they faltered. One of the most grisly aspects of this calculatingly orchestrated version of modern slavery was the severing of hands--and their collection into baskets as proof of killings--as a means of terrorizing the population. The wonder of it all is that Leopold and his agents managed to keep most of these deeds secret and even disguised his colony as a charity for the benefit of "pagan" African natives.


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