Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blood River

The Congo is an amazing place, completely chaotic, completely removed from the modern world. Due to the constant fighting, no white man has gone through the Congo from Lake Tanganyika to the coast in decades. Stanley was the first to do it, in the nineteenth century. It is just too dangerous to go overland in large parts of the country. There is no law, and roving bands of soldiers or rebels or just criminals may kill you at any time. There is no law, no government, nothing at all. Numerous villages are so isolated that they have no clue of the outside world. It is pretty much the only country in the world that has gone steeply downhill since the 60's, to the point where they are surviving, if they are, using the same techniques they have always used. It is too chaotic for farming, so they live on a certain kind of root that provides some amount of inadequate nutrition.

The country has riches, in the form of mineral wealth, but the mines are controlled by small groups who enrich no one but themselves. The only role the government serves is to take bribes from the people that are making money. There is no kind of support for the people in the form of the rule of law, or any kind of medicine. It is kind of a hell, and the rain forest mostly remains as it always has been. Any organized economic activity, such as coffee farming or palm oil farming simply can't get done in the atmosphere of chaos and violence.

Mobutu had a lot to do with Congo's problems. He robbed the country blind for thirty years while the United States supported him. This country could have done something-but we didn't. Nobody has cared about the Congo in the least other than to get the mineral wealth in their hands. That's true of this country historically and true of China now.

There's lots of blame to go around. The Belgians should take a lot of it too. And the slave traders before them.

I'm reading a book about a brave guy who decided to go across the Congo on foot in 2004. It's quite interesting: Blood River.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fwd: testing

brautigan imbroglio

in watermelon sugar the deeds were done
or in three piece suits
on the phone
making deals
crashing the economy
bailing out before hand
with big
going-away presents