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Three score and ten or more

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I love that word. I know about six different English Language definitions for it, and don't have a clue as to what it means in the original language, but I have seen it used for (or as an excuse for) almost any short version(s) of what one would like to say (Assuming one doesn't want to write or present a long version- which technically should exist if some of the definitions I know are correct)

I went to my friends funeral today, and it was- - - a remarkable experience. I will write about it someday soon when I have come down from it. I was impressed most by the love shown by members of three different faiths who participated. Not now though.

While waiting for my Boston Butt roast to brine out (a new technique for me, I have brined turkeys but this was my first brined pork) , I picked up a book to read. It is one that my wife bought several months ago at a used book sale sponsored by one of the service organizations in the area. I suspect that someone had used it as a text for one of the courses in the University History Department. I haven't finished it, but it has caught me up completely. (I hate to talk about books that teach me things I never suspected, because Patrick at Born Again Redneck has always read those things years before, and makes me feel silly for having reached the three score and ten plus some age without having read it before).

The title of the book is KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST. It is, as far as I can tell, a remarkable well documented story of the discovery (by Europeans) development and rape of Black Africa. My only really impressive experience with that place and that time was my reading of Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, which I really only read because I had read his LORD JIM as a teenager and loved it so I looked up his other books and read HEART OF DARKNESS at a youthful enough age that I didn't really comprehend the depths of it. I began to realize that my reading of it was a bit superficial as Janet began using it with her AP English classes where they read, dissected, digested and really got into Conrad's work. Just being around her at those times made me recognize that perhaps I had not fully read what I had read.

At this point, I am convinced that Adam Hochschild's KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST is a book that every thinking human being, especially those who are of Black African descent or those who associate with, or love, or hate them. (or are considering one of their descendants as potential President of the United States.)

I have done a lot of reading, over the years about the Aztec, Inca, Toltec and other civilizations in the America's, and have always been astonished, once one got past of obvious and most publicized aspects of those civilizations how rich and complex they were.

Just reading the preface of this remarkable volume hit me the same way. I just had no concept of the complexities of pre-European discovery African societies. I suspect that I has a superficial picture of the Zulu and Ubangi, and of the existence of Pygmy societies from SHAKA ZULU, and a variety of books and movies from TARZAN on up, but I feel like my eyes have been opened. The stories of ManiKongo (king) Nzinga Mbemba Affonso and his relationship and the Kings of Portugal are enough to tear your heart out.

Likewise I have become aware of the true mendacity and corruption of both black and white societies that extended beyond the slave trade to African,European and American politics, to "upright businesses"and "businessmen" well into the twentieth century who showed so little conscious care of simple humanity in order to do what they wanted to do.

I'll finish the book and see if I still feel the same way at the end. Certainly I have a different picture of King Leopold II of Belgium and an awareness that the killing grounds of Nazi Germany, Cambodia, or modern Africa seem at this moment, to pale in comparison to killing fields of nineteenth century Equatorial Africa.


At 9:58 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

To me lagniappe means a little gift or bonus such as a baker's dozen i.e. 13 pies instead of 12 etc.

It's true that I have read nearly everything worth reading (and now have to be satisfied with Parade magazine on Sundays) including all of Conrad (one of my favorite authors) and Hochschild's KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST.

Yes, ancient African and Meso-American cultures were as you say "complex" but they still ate each other and therefore one cannot be sentimental about them. What the Belgian king did was hideous but consider who he was doing it to - the same people who sold their kin "down the river" as slaves. (That's where that phrase comes from.)

Hochschild is a Marxist who inherited a lot of money from his father and lives in that fantasy limo Leninist world. Sentimentality and self-righteousness are easy to indulge in but are ultimately dishonest and superficial.

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dick, I didn't make it to the funeral but was able to go to the viewing. I wrote my reminiscence of Bill at this blog, if you care to stop by.


At 10:40 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

I LOVE this post!!! First of all, thanks for teaching me a new word. ;o) Patrick Conlon looked at the same Wikipedia definition that *I* did, I guess, and I learned something. ;o)

Secondly, can you publish the recipe for brining? That sounds very interesting.

Thirdly, I'll hunt down that book. Sounds awesome if you recommend it!!!

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

I see that you were right, Patrick read the book. I'm not surprised either. :)

I've not read it but I've heard the title before. I should put it on my things to do list after I get done doing the things I have to do. *sigh*

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

Oh, and by the way, I'm feeling left out here. I've never heard the word "lagniape" in my life!


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