By John Maxwell
There was a curious story out of the Congo a few days ago. The Culture Minister, Mr. Christopher Muzungo, explained that he was personally responsible for the re-erection of a giant statue of Belgiumâ€™s King Leopold II in the capital, Kinshasa. For nearly forty years it had lain in a trash heap outside the city.
Just hours after the statue was put up it was taken down again. There was no explanation.
In the 1885 Berlin carve-up of Africa, Leopold II persuaded the Europeans and the Americans to give him free rein in the Congo for a “civilizing project, rather like the Red Cross,” he said. In less than two decades he made himself one of the worldâ€™s richest men.
Leopold was allowed by the great powers to murder and maim millions of Congolese while he plundered Congoâ€™s resources. His subjects lost their hands, their feet and their heads to Leopoldâ€™s sub-agents. One of them was described, under the name of Captain Kurtz, in Joseph Conradâ€™s novel, The Heart of Darkness. In the novel, the narrator approaches Captain Kurtzâ€™s jungle encampment and sees round it a palisade with white knobs decorating the tops of the posts. It is only when he comes close that he discovers that the objects atop the posts are human skulls. Conradâ€™s Kurtz was based on a real Belgian lieutenant who like his fellows, carried out his monarchâ€™s orders with fatal efficiency.
Conrad described the Congoâ€™s Belgian experience as â€œthe vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscienceâ€.
According to Congoâ€™s Minister of Culture, he replaced the statue of Leopold because it was part of Congolese history. â€œA people without a history is a people without a soul,â€ he said, and referred to the remembrance of the holocaust last week. Perhaps no one had explained to him that the Jews had not felt the need to erect a statue of Hitler to remind themselves of their history.
Several years ago, at about the time of the start of the Iraq misadventure, I wrote a column which asked the question: â€œWhat can they be smoking?â€ It was about the strange behavior of the leaders of the western civilized world, which then and now, seemed to me to be more than simply perverse. I now realize that the reason for their aberrant behavior had nothing to do with psychoactive substances, but was due to another factor entirely â€“ their inherent and ineffable â€œofficial blondness.â€
When Hitler was busy turning Jews into handbags, lampshades and black smoke, his reason was that the world needed to be rid of them (and of blacks, homosexuals, Gypsies and others) because they threatened the purity of the Aryan master archetype. This archetype was a blue eyed, blond superman with no resemblance to Hitler himself or to most of his main assassins. They, I now realize, were a new species, Geopolitically Modified Humans â€“ GMH â€“ Officially Blond. Looking at them you wouldnâ€™t know it. Some people even said that Hitler himself â€œlooked Jewishâ€ â€“ whatever that meant, obviously missing his essential blondness which gave him the right to talk nonsense and murder as many people as he wished.
What I realized this week is that the Congoâ€™s Muzungo was not crazy, simply blond. And when this thought occurred to me it cleared up a host of misconceptions in my mind.
I had been asking myself how could Africans like Kofi Annan and Afro-Americans like Colin Powell , Canadians like Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Haitians like Gerard LaTortue not understand the appalling wickedness which their policies have created in Haiti? Or how did Tony Blair, George Bush and Malcolm Fraser of Australia not understand the primeval wickedness they had let loose in Iraq? The answer was simple.
Like Adolph Hitler, they are GMH-Blonds and are therefore exempted from normal human feelings, duties and responsibilities. They are expected to giggle helplessly when confronted with murdered children and dismembered teenagers, with tortured Arabs and raped Haitian women. Like the good Germans in Tom Paxtonâ€™s 1960s song â€“â€We didnâ€™t know a thing.â€
Anyone who has seen the movie Schindlerâ€™s List or simply given thought to the logistical problem of murdering six or seven million people will realize that the neighbors must be aware when the people next to them are arrested and sent in huge trains to extermination camps. Vast stretches of housing suddenly become vacant, people vanish from schools, synagogues are closed; something must be happening.
â€œWe didnâ€™t knowâ€ the blonds will tell you, “we were born with built in rose-colored glasses and a missing sense of community.”
The G-7 group of First World countries is having a finance ministers meeting in London this week. The US representative has airily told the British chancellor that the US has no time to consider his proposal to reduce or abolish the debt obligations of the poorest countries. Gordon Brown, the British chancellor, wants to write off the debts completely and to construct an International Finance Facility which would double aid to Africa to $100 billion US annually. The US Treasury Undersecretary, John Taylor brushed Brownâ€™s idea off: â€œNot only does the IFF not work for the US, we donâ€™t need the IFF.â€
The Americans are in favor of debt relief of course; their President regularly announces that he will increase the amount of US aid to Africa and the Third World.
It is an odd fact that some of the poorest countries in the world are responsible for creating much of the First Worldâ€™s riches. I wonâ€™t speak of slavery and the contribution that made to accelerating the progress of Europe and America. That is old hat. But a few days ago, the Shell oil company announced that it had made a profit of Â£9 billion, nearly US$ 20 billion from oil. We donâ€™t know how much of Shellâ€™s profit was made from Nigeria, from which it gets ten percent of its oil, what they call in the business â€œsweetâ€ crude, low sulphur and extremely profitable.
Shell, which is indefatigably blond, is only one of several predators in Africa and the Third World. In Nigeria it has destroyed whole environments and rendered thousands homeless and suffering. BP â€“ British Petroleum â€“ is about to announce a similar quantum of profit and the five biggest British banks between them are about to announce total profits exceeding Â£30 billion (US 56 billion).
None of this appears to excite the North American press, but why should it? TIME magazine a few issues ago distinguished itself in blondness by publishing a whole column of statistics about the Iraq war without even an estimate of the number of Iraqis killed â€“ surely the most significant statistic.
It is astonishing how many of the crucial interventions which have not been made could have been made by people whose appearance, at least, might have suggested that they recognize some sort of ties to the underdog. Like Powell, the head of the TIME conglomerate is an African American, a man called Richard Parsons. Unfortunately, like Powell, he is hopelessly â€œOfficially blond.” His company, Time-Warner, made a net profit of nearly $4 billion. The revenues of the worldâ€™s largest companies outstrip the Gross Domestic Product of most countries. In fact, the giant retailer Wal-Martâ€™s revenues â€“ $165 billion â€“ are larger than the combined GDP of all the lesser Developed Countries â€“ $156.5 billion.
The uncomfortable fact is that most of these large transnational corporations derive much, if not most of their revenue from the exploitation of Third World resources such as oil, aluminum, gold and other metals or raw materials such as cacao, coffee, sugar and so on.
The unfair distribution is, according to the blonds, a matter of historical accident, incompetence of the natives or just bad luck.
One of the factors driving the poverty is the simple fact that there are groups in the Lesser Developed countries who realize that they are being encouraged to destroy the local culture and national self-reliance and self-government by carrying out plots which are not officially ordered by their metropolitan masters. Such a case occurred in Ghana in 1966, when, after destroying the government of Kwame Nkrumah, the new dictator General Ankrah, wrote personally to President Lyndon Johnson stating his willingness to prostitute Ghana for American moolah. In the case of Haiti, as the Griffin report makes plain, the subversion was planned and executed by conscious and paid agents of the United States.
The situation today is one of bloody chaos, unremarked by the diligent, freedom-loving, upright American press which, in its blondness, cannot see injustice or understand that their own democracy is in danger as the poison from evil foreign adventures seeps back into the American soul.
Last week an American general who is clearly, exquisitely, â€œblondâ€ had his say in the press. This character, due to be played in a movie by Harrison Ford, is a US Marine general named James Mattis.
Lt. Gen. Mattis had a news conference on Tuesday in San Diego, California, after the announcement of his scheduled immortalization in the movie.
“Actually it’s quite fun to fight ‘em, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling,” Mattis said.
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said during a panel discussion. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
According to Reuters Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee praised Mattis as “one of this country’s bravest and most experienced military leaders.”
“While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war,” Hagee said.
Of course we could also remember the comments of another US general who is in a crucial position of power at the Pentagon. Senior Pentagon Intelligence official Lt. Gen. William Boykin referred in 2003 to the struggle against Islamic extremists as a battle with Satan. In a speech, Boykin referred to a Muslim fighter in Somalia, and said, “Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
I remember when I was about 15, reading an article in the Saturday Evening Post about the Congo, then completely controlled by Belgium. The place was portrayed as a demi-paradise except that nowhere was there any mention of the Africans who presumably lived there. Later, I discovered some of the real facts about the Congo, such as, that as the Belgians fled in 1960 they left in the Congo the priceless bequest of four trained doctors in a population of about 20 million. It was much later that I heard about the unspeakable blondness of King Leopold and his campaign of dismemberment and murder.
John Maxwell of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is the veteran Jamaican journalist who in 1999 single-handedly thwarted the Jamaican government’s efforts to build houses at Hope, the nation’s oldest and best known botanical gardens. His campaigning earned him first prize in the 2000 Sandals Resort’s annual Environmental Journalism Competition, the region’s richest journalism prize. He is also the author of How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalists and Journalists. Jamaica, 2000. Mr. Maxwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.