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The Congo in Leopold s mind was not the one of starving porters, raped hostages, emaciated rubber slaves, and severed hands It was the empire of his dreams, with gigantic trees, exotic animals, and inhabitants grateful for his wise rule Instead of going there, Leopold brought the Congo that Congo, the theatrical production of his imagination to himself King Leopold IIBelgium was simply not big enough for the future kingWhen he thought about the throne that would be his, he was openlyThe Congo in Leopold s mind was not the one of starving porters, raped hostages, emaciated rubber slaves, and severed hands It was the empire of his dreams, with gigantic trees, exotic animals, and inhabitants grateful for his wise rule Instead of going there, Leopold brought the Congo that Congo, the theatrical production of his imagination to himself King Leopold IIBelgium was simply not big enough for the future kingWhen he thought about the throne that would be his, he was openly exasperated Petit pays, petits gens small country, small people , he once said of BelgiumHe watched as countries like Holland, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany were colonizing Africa and other exotic isles and becoming rich off the plunder In the 1880s, he saw his chance and claimed the lands of the Congo He did this without any kind of referandum from his people He knew what was best for BelgiumMost Belgians had paid little attention to their king s flurry of African diplomacy, but once it was over they began to realize, with surprise, that his new colony was bigger than England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy combined It was one thirteenth of the African continent,than seventy six times the size of Belgium itself They had no idea the level of atrocities that would be perpetrated in the name of Belgium I ve always thought of Leopold II as a 2nd tier genocidal maniac I d always reserved the 1st tier for Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, but after reading this book and hearing the estimated number 10 million associated with the deaths in the Congo, I have officially moved Leopold II to the 1st tier genocidal maniac So why don t we knowabout Leopold II Why don t we see him as the genocidal maniac that we associate with the names Hitler and Stalin Could it be because he was killing black people Another factor is the way Leopold worked tirelessly to convince people he was a great humanitarian He found people who would help support him in this endeavor and paid them to write reports that were favorable to his reputation in Africa He worked equally tirelessly to squash those who came back from the Congo with the lists of atrocities they had witnessed while in Africa The biggest thorn in Leopold s voluminous backside turned out to be a British shipping clerk named Edmund Morel, who noticed the amount of goods coming from the Congo that were being traded or sold at prices that would not support a living wage in the Congo The math did not add up The only way that Leopold could be selling goods this cheaply was if they were being acquired through slave labor Morel went on to found a paper that continued to expose Leopold s criminal activities in the Congo Morel hammered away at him for the rest of his life Additionally, Roger Casement was an Irish man who risked life and limb to obtain evidence that directly refuted the rosy picture that Leopold was selling Europe There were also two American black men, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, who did everything they could to expose Leopold s monstrosities to the world There were many other people who tried their best to stop what was happening, unchecked, in the Congo.The problem was that Europe and the United States wanted to believe Leopold The most famous book of celebrated author Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness was set in the real Leopold s Congo The famous character of Kurtz was based on a man Conrad met in the Congo Should I chase butterflies today or should I lob off a few heads One prototype for Conrad s Mr Kurtz L on Rom This swashbuckling officer was known for displaying a row of severed African heads around his garden He also wrote a book on African customs, painted portraits and landscapes, and collected butterflies L on Rom was a civilized, well educated man So how does decorating your garden with severed African heads equate with butterfly collecting and painting portraits and landscapes Leopold flooded the Congo with the right sort of men Mercenaries capable of chopping off hands, raping uncooperating women, murdering men, women, and children, and lashing men who didn t bring enough rubber back from the jungle withthe chicotte a whip of raw, sun dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp edged corkscrew strip The strip this would cut off a man s back, buttock, and legs would leave deep, permanent scars if the man was lucky, or in many cases unlucky, enough to live shudder White men felt free of all law in the Congo We have liberty, independence, and life with wide horizons Here you are free and not a mere slave of society Here one is everything So to live as free as one would like, one must enslave others These men had harems, money, and status, something they could never achieve working as clerks or plumbers in Europe In the Congo, they were warlords They killed so many Congolese that they feared not having enough slaves to maintain the plundering of the CongoWe run the risk of someday seeing our native population collapse and disappear, fretfully declared the permanent committee of the National Colonial Congress of Belgium that year So that we will find ourselves confronted with a kind of desertIt reminds me of hunters who hunted species to extinction and then bemoaned the fact that they couldn t hunt those animals any At no point did they think to themselves, maybe we are killing these animals faster than they can reproduce So why cut off the hands It seems counterproductive when you need these men to work Every bullet had to be accounted for with Leopold s mercenaries, so if a man used a bullet to kill game, he had to have an African hand to account for that bullet Every African hand was then turned in for a reward It is too sick to comprehend.Every country in Africa has tales of horror and outrage at the hands of European colonizers I do believe that what happened in the Congo was by far the worst atrocities on a native population in Africa The sad part of it is that most of us don t know anything about it I knew some, but I didn t know enough The cake that was Africa was cut up into portions and served to the white European countries as casually as if they were discussing the fates of Africans at a garden party with their children playing at their feet and their wives bringing them slices of the Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, South Africa, and Senegal with which they could gorge themselves Adam Hochschild had a difficult time getting this book published It was as if the ghost of Leopold was still haunting and suppressing the truth This is a brilliant and important book that exposes the truth of the Congo and the complicity which every civilized country played in allowing such atrocities to occur If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at The best non fiction book I ve ever read The hyphenated title on the book is a story of greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa and that sums it up very well Such horrific treatment including brutal maiming and killing of workers, including children, who refused to work for King Leopold s rubber plantations is a story untold for centuries and deserves this fine treatment by Adam Hochschild King Leopold of Belgium was an unrepentant monster. The book was written 20 years ago, and yet, it is so eye opening The theme has not been covered enough My idea of atrocities committed in the Congo in the second half of the 19th century werethan basic and narrowed to Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness, which I read and now should re read but didn t take too much interest in Conrad s time in the Congo, which was a mistake Author who undertakes a most difficult task to write about crimes against humanities term used for the first ti The book was written 20 years ago, and yet, it is so eye opening The theme has not been covered enough My idea of atrocities committed in the Congo in the second half of the 19th century werethan basic and narrowed to Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness, which I read and now should re read but didn t take too much interest in Conrad s time in the Congo, which was a mistake Author who undertakes a most difficult task to write about crimes against humanities term used for the first time by one of the 19th century journalist with regard to the Congo pays respect to all the victims of one s madness, greed, cruelty, indifference or hatred And I read this book, or rather listened to it, with precise the same intention There are several characters central to the unravelling the crimes that must be mentioned William Sheppard, George Williams, E.D Morel and Roger Casement They were the first to report openly on the cruelty towards the indigenous tribes and campaign against it Ordinary people and yet extraordinary in those days to speak and write openly of what they witnessed I can do nothingthan pay respect to the millions of victims who happened to live in the area rich in resources exploited to the full by white men This book is both overwhelming and depressing, however, it is one that should be read along with all the others that cover any crime against human beings.PS Writing these few sentences was not easy for me as I found this book too upsetting and painful to comment on.Thank you to my GR Friends who drew my attention to this book This is a remarkably painful book There are a number of estimates given throughout of the extent of the extermination of people in the Congo under King Leopold the author says perhaps 8 10 million people, but he also quotes someone who believes it might have been as many as 13 million people This does not include, obviously enough, the children who were not born because their parents could not face bringing them into such a world I mention this because at one point the author quotes people This is a remarkably painful book There are a number of estimates given throughout of the extent of the extermination of people in the Congo under King Leopold the author says perhaps 8 10 million people, but he also quotes someone who believes it might have been as many as 13 million people This does not include, obviously enough, the children who were not born because their parents could not face bringing them into such a world I mention this because at one point the author quotes people who say exactly that and goes on to say that one of the things people noticed at the time was the all too obvious gap in the population of the unborn The hellish extent of the nightmare inflicted on these people by Western greed simply beggar s belief Kidnapping family members to force other members of their family to work for you to pay off your ransom, mutilating and whipping them when they do not reach the quotas and production targets you have set, killing people horribly for the most minor infractions this is the horror story white people have repeated time and time again upon people in the developing world This is the origin of Conrad s Heart of Darkness And that dark heart continues to beat in our chests.What makes this story particularly disgusting is that King Leopold of Belgium was, for far too long, praised as a philanthropist and anti slave crusader while he was turning a nation into a killing field That is, while he was conducting one of history s worst acts of slaughter one where there were perhaps twice as many victims as in the holocaust he was fated as a great and humane leader Having just read Small Change by Michael Edwards, it is all too easy to can see where our modern day philanthropists learnt their trade There are heroes in this book too none greater than the nameless Africans who fought and died unrecorded and unremembered something the author as one of the cruel silences here This is part of the reason I m drawn to Critical Race Theory written in recognition of the fact that the oppressed are too often without a voice, and so finding ways of presenting sociological research that privileges their stories and gives them voice is an act of justice and humanity The work of W.E.B Du Bois, and in particular his masterful The Souls of Black Folk , provides a tour de force of what can be achieved by such presentations of sociological research But of the named heroes here, and I m not saying this because I was born in Ireland, the one I found most compelling was Roger Casement As a homosexual who lived his life in fear of being outed, as a visionary who believed the riches of the Congo should have gone to the Congolese, as a protestor against imperialist wars, it is hard to think of someone braver,visionary or further ahead of his time It is dark, dark,With the swarmy feeling of African handsMinute and shrunk for export,Black on black, angrily clambering Silvia Plath The Arrival of the Bee BoxAs always in life, it is the appallingly simple images that stay with you long after reading a book like this and in this book the inescapable image is also a rather bizarre one that of severed African hands that have been smoked, and also their nightmarish metaphorical doubles, made of Belgium chocolate and still sold without shame today The hands were cut off and smoked to be given to the administrators to prove the bullets used to kill their victims had not being wasted they mention later that the administrators were concerned that female hands were being used and so dried penises were later used as proof of kill You can Google Belgium chocolate hands if you have a stomach to A couple of years ago London s financial district offered an apology for the role it had played in the Slave Trade It is all very nice to apologise but there are a couple of things that make such apologies sound somewhat hollow The first is that London continues to benefit from the money made from that trade even today, and the benefits of those dead and tortured Africans are still tangible in glories and wealth of Europe And yet, the apology certainly did not extend to any question of the payment of reparations for the crimes of our past that we continue to benefit from The other uncomfortable fact is that we continue our rape of Africa and African resources even today while, just as our forefathers did whose actions we apologised for, we continue to leave those who ought to benefit from those resources destitute and worse.I will now need to readabout the US government s murder of Patrice Lumumba something else that, as with so many US interventions in foreign countries, provide yet another crime against humanity to be stacked against the litany of others You know, when you invariably chose the side of the oppressor over the liberator, maybe it says something about your own preferences This book should be compulsory reading Not least because horror did not end a hundred years ago, it is all still happened now This is a difficult book to review, because I am still thinking about it and probably will for some time Of course I knew about King Leopold and his cruelty in the Congo, but nothing to this extent The story Hochschild tells is one that left me consistently shocked, disgusted and deeply saddened and yet this is a book I would recommend to just about anyone It strikes me again and again how cruel and vicious people can be to those they view as the other , to those they view as someone less th This is a difficult book to review, because I am still thinking about it and probably will for some time Of course I knew about King Leopold and his cruelty in the Congo, but nothing to this extent The story Hochschild tells is one that left me consistently shocked, disgusted and deeply saddened and yet this is a book I would recommend to just about anyone It strikes me again and again how cruel and vicious people can be to those they view as the other , to those they view as someone less than themselves or even less than human based on their skin color, religious differences or any manner of means by which to conjure prejudice and hatred We see it in the news every day, and though it feels overwhelming at the moment due to the nature of modern media, I venture to say it has always been this way, us pitted against them with the result of violence That being said, I want to inject a note of hope here as well, just as Hochschild does in his book There are always, too, those that recognize this injustice, who are willing to speak up and to risk their own safety and peace to fight for those who cannot King Leopold s Ghost is a book I won t be quick to forget and it makes me all theaware of how much I do not know about this world, and how much is not taught in schools and it is up to us to learn if we want to try to understand the world and humanity or a lack thereof This is a bit of a ramble, but hopefully I am getting across how impactful this book is and how worth the read.Findreviews and bookish fun at This work of popular history does a great job of bringing to life the story of King Leopold of Belgium s orchestration of a private empire in the Congo near the end of the 19th century His greed driven campaign presaged the 20th century shenanigans with its use of political intrigue, bribery, media manipulation, and lies The popular explorer Henry Morton Stanley was wooed and appropriated to make his dream become a reality Its economic success was founded on the institutionalization of slave This work of popular history does a great job of bringing to life the story of King Leopold of Belgium s orchestration of a private empire in the Congo near the end of the 19th century His greed driven campaign presaged the 20th century shenanigans with its use of political intrigue, bribery, media manipulation, and lies The popular explorer Henry Morton Stanley was wooed and appropriated to make his dream become a reality Its economic success was founded on the institutionalization of slave labor, terrorism, and intimidation of both the population and participants long before Stalin and Hitler adopted such methods In one way the tale represents a special case of evil genius in another way it is a case study of approaches broadly common to European colonialism in Africa When the atrocities behind Leopold s money machine for ivory and rubber were first recognized, they sparked a brilliant protest movement led by two notable Englishmen Hochschild makes their story is as interesting as that of Leopold and Stanley s Belgium was late to the feeding frenzy of carving up Africa, and Leopold developed a gnawing hunger for a piece of the pie Stanley s forays through central Africa brought Leopold s attention to the vast area of the Congo River basin, an area the size of India or much of Europe As an example of Hochschild s knack of characterization, check out his profile of Stanley at the point of his first meeting of Leopold at age 37 The ne er do well naval deserter of a mere thirteen years earlier was now a best selling author, recognized as one of the greatest of living explorers His stern, mustachioed face appeared in magazines everywhere beneath a Stanley Cap, his own invention which, in a way, summed up Stanley s personality one part titan of rugged force and mountain moving confidence the other a vulnerable, illegitimate son of the working class, anxiously struggling for the approval of the powerful In photographs each part seems visible the explorer s eyes carry both a fierce determination and a woundedness.Stanley s job over a five year period was to establish a transportation system and treaties with the populace that gave Leopold carte blanche His well paid tasks included building a road past the 200 plus miles of falls in the coastal segment of the river, hauling a disassembled steamship to the navigable portion, and the establishment of many trading posts military bases along its 1,000 mile main course of the Congo River Above all he was to buy with goods like clothes and alcohol written deals with all the chiefs and village leaders along the way that handed over a trading monopoly to Leopold under the guise of his benign sounding International Association of the Congo The illiterate chiefs couldn t have known what they were signingThe treaties must be as brief as possible, Leopold ordered, and in a couple of articles must grant us everythingTheir text promises that the signers would freely of their own accord, for themselves and their heirs and successors for ever give up to the said Association the sovereignity and all sovereign and governing rights to all their territories and to assist by labor or otherwise, any works, improvements or expeditions which the said Association shall cause any time to be carried out in any part of these territories All roads and waterways running through this country, the right of collecting tolls on the same, and all game, fishing, mining, and forest rights, are to be the absolute property of the said Association By labor or otherwise Stanley s pieces of cloth bought not just land, but manpower It was an even worse trade than the Indians made for Manhattan.The territory included at least 200 different ethnic groups speakingthan 400 languages and dialects, ranging from citizens of large, organizationally sophisticated kingdoms to the Pygmies of the Ituri rain forest, who lived in small bands with no chiefs and no formal structure of government Through intermediary companies which Leopold held at least half the shares, the men of the tribes were forced into labor as porters, food producers, and gatherers of ivory and, later, rubber Force was effected by making a hostage of wives, children, or chiefs as hostages and intimidation through razing of villages, chopping off of children s hands, or public whippings of those who did not make their quotas A lot of this dirty work was carried out be a cadre of black people controlled by their own system of carrots and sticks Although other European colonies used these practices, Leopold s intermediaries advanced their use on an unprecedented scale What was especially outrageous was that the takeover of the Congo was sold to world under the humanitarian guise of eradicating the slave trade and civilizing the savages with the light of Christianity Some of this duplicity was captured by Conrad in his Heart of Darkness The concept that the evil incarnate of the company agent, Kurz, was a fictional parable is dismissed by Hochschild, who comes up with several candidates for realistic models that Conrad could have met or learned of during his employment on a river steamer.In the absence of official national military to back up his claim to the Congo, Leopold s ability to get a consensus of powerful countries to accept his new Congo Free State was his next amazing accomplishment It started with getting the U.S Congress to recognize it as a sort of protectorate, a coup based on bribery, harnessing missionary groups, and a massive lobbying campaign Playing Germany, France, and England against each other at a conference in Berlin was the second phase i.e the pretension of a free trade region under harmless Belgian hands was better than the threat of takeover by apowerful nation Early heroes of this sad tale include two black Americans George Washington Williams, an ex Union soldier in the Civil War, journalist, and budding historian, showed up in the Congo in 1890 to explore the potential for the region as a place for American blacks to emigrate to His investigations led him to the first media expose of the true situation His open letter to Leopold called a spade a spade the trading sites were labeled piratical, buccaneering posts that operated chain gangs and village burnings, and the conclusion was that your Majesty s government is engaged in the slave trade, wholesale and retail He got the letter published in newspapers and a long report disseminated it had less impact than it might have if he hadn t died soon thereafter from TB The contributions of the black missionary William Henry Sheppard as a brave witness to the atrocities continued into the later phase of whistle blowing.A few years later, a Liverpool shipping administrator, E.P Morel, developed into aunlikely fly in the ointment for dear Leopold In a leap of logic, he inferred from all the goods shipped on his ships out of the Congo compared to primarily weapons and ammunition sent on returning trips that the colony had to be founded on slavery Who could have guessed that this apolitical man would feel such outrage and be driven to masterful such effective skills in marshaling information, journalistic and speaking presentation, shaping his message to his audience, and use of celebrities in fund raising A powerful ally was enlisted in the form of a respected diplomat, Roger Casement, the first British consul to the Congo Free State His own investigations brought a lot of documentation and recorded testimony to the advocacy efforts The avalanche of public outcry they raised would rival that of the anti slavery campaign of decades before and presage some of thesuccessful strategies of advocacy groups in present modern era Photographs of Congolese in chains and of individuals with their hands cut off as punishment made good fuel for the fire A book by Arthur Conan Doyle and satirical pamphlet roasting Leopold by Mark Twain are examples that amplified the impact of Morel and Casement s work.Eventually, Leopold was forced to transfer his colony into Belgian state control But not before a week of burning all official records of the reign of terror in Belgium and Africa Hochschild credits Morel for the success, but he takes pains to educate the reader how the big picture of brutal exploitation of the people of the Congo did not change He also highlights the blindness of Morel to the possibility of self rule in the Congo and to the adverse impacts of British excesses in its own colonies The CIA led assassination of the democratically elected president of Republic of Congo in 1961 and installment of the brutal dictator Mobutu, who ruled in Zaire for three decades, follows the same mindset of imperial entitlement among developed countries with respect to the fate of African peoples While evidence of a population loss of half of Congo s residents under Leopold s commercial regime can be used to claim some level of guilt for the death of 8 10 million people, Hochschild points out that similar population losses have been estimated for colonies under French control over a similar period.Hochschild s highly readable history of the rape of the Congo was a great education for me how one king s bizarre successes could represent in microcosm thecomplex and lengthy process involved with other cases of colonial subjugation .READ KINDLE ⚆ King Leopold's Ghost ⚇ In the s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated King Leopold s Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II With great power and compassion, King Leopold s Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo too long forgotten onto the conscience of the West Exterminate all the brutes KurtzA very readable summary of one of the first real international human rights campaigns, a campaign focussed on that vast slab of central Africa once owned, not by Belgium, but personally by the Belgian King The Congo Free State was a handy microcosm of colonialism in its most extreme and polarised form political control subsumed into corporate control, natural resources removed wholesale, local peoples dispossessed of their lands, their freedom, their lives Exterminate all the brutes KurtzA very readable summary of one of the first real international human rights campaigns, a campaign focussed on that vast slab of central Africa once owned, not by Belgium, but personally by the Belgian King The Congo Free State was a handy microcosm of colonialism in its most extreme and polarised form political control subsumed into corporate control, natural resources removed wholesale, local peoples dispossessed of their lands, their freedom, their lives To ensure the speediest monetisation of the region s ivory and rubber, about half its population some ten million people was worked to death or otherwise killed And things were no picnic for the other half.Hochschild s readability, though, rests on a novelistic tendency to cast characters squarely as heroes or villains Even physical descriptions and reported speech are heavily editorialised Henry Morton Stanley snorts or explodes , Leopold II schemes , while of photographs of the virtuous campaigner ED Morel, we are told that his dark eyes blazed with indignation This stuff weakens rather than strengthens the arguments and I could have done without it Similarly, frequent references to Stalin or the Holocaust leave a reader with the vague idea that Leopold was some kind of genocidal ogre in fact, his interest was in profits, not genocide, and his attitude to the Congolese was not one of extermination but merely one of complete unconcern.Perhaps most unfortunate of all, the reliance on written records naturally foregrounds the colonial administrators and Western campaigners, and correspondingly as Hochschild recognises in his afterword seems to diminish the centrality of the Congolese themselves This is not a problem one finds with David van Reybrouck s Congo The Epic History of a People, where the treatment of the Free State is shorter but feelsbalanced Van Reybrouck, incidentally, regards Hochschild s account as very black and white and refers ambiguously to its talent for generating dismay For all these problems, though, this is a book that succeeds brilliantly in its objective, which was to raise awareness of a period that was not being much discussed It remains one of the few popular history books to have genuinely brought something out of the obscurity of academic journals and into widespread popular awareness, and it s often eye opening in the details it uncovers about one of the most appalling chapters in colonial history The success is deserved it s a very emotional and necessary corrective to what Hochschild identifies as the deliberate forgetting which so many colonial powers have, consciously or otherwise, taken part in Phenomenal book I can t recommend this enough Impeccably researched and told in a narrative style that is incredibly accessible Hochschild focuses on a small cast of characters, follows their stories in such an intimate way that the history and the story come to life in a novelesque way I don t know much about colonialism This book was a great way to get a sense of it and its exploitative evils and how imperialistic capitalism can bring out the absolute worst in human beings The cool thing Phenomenal book I can t recommend this enough Impeccably researched and told in a narrative style that is incredibly accessible Hochschild focuses on a small cast of characters, follows their stories in such an intimate way that the history and the story come to life in a novelesque way I don t know much about colonialism This book was a great way to get a sense of it and its exploitative evils and how imperialistic capitalism can bring out the absolute worst in human beings The cool thing is there is a counter to this, there are people who combatted this evil, often times at great peril to their own selves and reputations The author does tend to give a nuanced assessment of the historical figures involved in this story, no one is overarchingly good or evil Everyone has a variety of motives, everyone has their own flaws and blindspots and ideological strengths and weaknesses.I absolutely loved Hochschild s chapters on Joseph Conrad Conrad is an interesting character, an immigrant to the UK, he vehemently opposed Belgian colonialism and its dark evils of murderous exploitative genocide He spent time in the Congo and was utterly appalled, appalled enough to write a book about it And yet Conrad was a major cheerleader for his adopted country s own colonialism Wtf it showcases a striking hypocritical blindspot, a complete breakdown in ideological consistency But Conrad was in love and had such faith in British colonialism and its positive impacts on the world that he was blinded to its dark crimes and exploitative aspects It s noteworthy that a man as smart and talented as Conrad was not impervious to a shocking breakdown in ideological consistency A good reminder that shows any one of us can fall into such traps with ease, we can find self serving justifications for anything and execute the most incredible somersaults of logic to provide cover most especially for thing paradigms that benefit us personally And I have no doubt I do so on various issues.Hochschild also gives a great overview and insights into Conrad s book Heart of Darkness, which was based on Conrad s own time in the Congo Makes me really want to reread this book As disgusted as he was by the Belgians treatment of the African natives, Conrad still portrayed them as uni dimensional savages which is another example showing how hard it is to transcend one s culture and time We are people of our own time and place, and societal and cultural constraints and habits can blind us to what might now or in future seem obvious truths or justice Lord knows how many things I m blinded to due to my own circumstances But that s what I loved with reading this kind of analysis and critique of Conrad, it makes me contemplate myself, my conduct, my life Where are my failures and inconsistencies, where am I blind to truth and justice due to my cultural habits and upbringing How am I contributing to problems and how can I open my eyes and discover what I cannot currently see The hope is that I will find ways to challenge myself to not be lazy in my thinking, in my views, and to continually search and seek the truth and trying to be honest and self critical in analyzing my conduct and ideologies Such things are hard, it is very easy to slip into defensiveness and anger when our world views values ideologies are challenged, our hypocrisies or double standards pointed out, so this is something I have to continually work on Ok I m deviating into self indulgent self reflection here, but come on, it s good fun hahaMy favorite character in this story was Roger Casement A man of ideals I found him inspiring His story is so interesting, he was an anti colonialist and Irish nationalist I won t give away the arc of his narrative but it is really good Leopold was a fascinating character in his own right A devilishly clever man who expertly manipulated media to control public opinion so he could continue his criminal enterprises But his ambition and lust for power corrupted his soul, at least that s how I see it George Washington Williams, another complex and fascinating figure featured in this bookAnother great aspect of the book was its insights into the workings and nuances of European and American diplomacy Diplomacy played a large role in shaping and legitimizing colonialism The US had an interesting role in this, being the first country to legitimize the Belgian Congo What else what else so many things to say on this book I m losing track Oh yeah Another interesting point The Belgians, even long after leaving behind colonialism in the Congo, continued to hide and bury the history of what they had done They did not want to own this history or have it widely known It was because of the dogged tireless work of a Belgian foreign minister that the documents and archives were finally opened and revealed I think this happened in the 80s , allowing the scope and depth of the crimes to befully understood and acknowledged I cannot emphasize enough how important I think it is to own one s history, which is why I applaud what this Belgian foreign minister did As we much as we wish to own and celebrate the beautiful aspects of our history or what we consider such , we must also embrace and recognize the dark crimes within our past They are both equally important The other bummer with this story, which Hochschild laments, is that there were few African natives from the Congo who left behind a written record of their experiences So we are left to have this story told to us through the eyes of outsiders There is some documentation and testimony from the victims, but sadly it is relatively scant A compelling history of the impact of the West on the Congo