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Author Topic: King Leopolds Ghost
Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 12, 2018, 12:28
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I just did a lot of checking on wikipedia. Sheppard was indeed heavily interested in the Kuba, who are located, it seems, in the eastern Kasai region and still retain some sort of native kingdom, though obviously without the local power they had before the Europeans came. They were sufficiently isolated to escape the slave traders until King Leopold took over.

Since the shipping company had a monopoly, at least on shipments between Antwerp and Boma (the shipping port at the mouth of the Congo, since there are rapids downstream from Leopoldville and Brazzaville). So it's reasonable that Morel believed (probably correctly) that his information was complete.

Roger Casement is far more famous, of course, for his Irish nationalist involvement. This included importing arms from Germany in 1916, though he opposed the Easter rising. But it was still a serious no-no when Britain was at war with Germany, and he ended up become closely acquainted with a sturdy length of hemp.

I don't know specifically about rubber vines, but I do remember that someone in German East Africa discovered a source of latex for rubber there during the Great War, which was useful for maintaining resistance there. (In fact, von Lettow-Vorbeck didn't surrender until he read a newspaper on one of his raids that reported Germany's surrender. Much like the Confederate raide Shenandoah, which sank a number of Bering Sea Yankee whalers in late June 1865 and then learned that the war was over.)

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 12, 2018, 22:09
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According to the book, Elder Dempster “the firm had the contract for carrying all cargo to and from the Congo.” It said nothing about the one and only route that any ships took was between Antwerp and Boma. I just thought that either the book didn’t explain it well (I don’t think it did) or Morel’s assumption was unwarranted. Might not a Dempster ship sail from Hawaii to Boma with a load of coconuts (or whatever) to trade with the natives?

We’ll see if this author notes Roger Casement’s unhappy ending. But because he’s a socialist (presumably) and hate’s Britain, I imagine he’ll be shown in a good light.

Apparently the particular vine from which latex was harvested in the Congo was the Saba comorensis. This is likely what it looked like. And apparently “The fruit looks similar to an orange with a hard orange peel but when opened it contains a dozen or so pips, which have the same texture as a mango seed with the fibres and juices all locked in these fibres.”

Hevea brasiliensis is where 99 percent of the world’s natural rubber comes from today. What is Rubber Made Of? is a good summation of natural and synthetic rubber.

Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 07:56
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SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) is what they now call the Buna-S (the "na" was for sodium, symbol Na) invented by I. G. Farben. Apparently it required a small amount of natural rubber, which they got from Japan after they conquered Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, generally shipping it (along with tin and perhaps tungsten) in large German and Italian submarines.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 08:20
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I always thought materials such as Bakelite were interesting. And according to the Wiki article, this synthetic plastic was developed by a Belgian-American chemist.

Back to Morel. The author notes his “blind spots,” especially including his support for England’s colonies even while damning Leopold for his. This works to Morel’s advantage because his would have been a particularly small audience if he damned all colonialism.

To his credit (I was quite astonished to read this), the author notes another of Morel’s blind spot:

The picture Morel gives in his writings of Africans in the Congo before whites arrived is that of Rouseeau’s idealized Noble Savage: in describing traditional African societies he focuses on what was peaceful and gentle and ignores any brutal aspects—which occasionally included, for example, long before the Force Publique made it the order of the day, cutting off the hands of one’s dead enemies.

The author also criticizes Morel for his belief in “the magic of free trade.” As opposed to the “magic of command economies”? The author gives with one hand and takes with another. Still, so far, the book is less politically correct than I thought it would be. Here's some background on the author, Adam Hochschild. Nothing in particular stands out. He seems a typical liberal Jew, university bred, and outraged at all the things the Left are always outraged against. He was one of the co-founders of Mother Jones. Clearly he’s a fan of socialism and Marxism.

For these types, King Leopold’s Congo must have been a godsend. Set aside for a moment that there was virtually no free-trade occurring there (it was a slave state), it was damned as colonialism and colonialism was damned as an outgrowth of “the magic of free trade,” aka “capitalism.” It’s funny that Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot and others are never bad publicity for socialism.

Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 10:11
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Ah, but the socialists all insist that those other guys did it wrong. For some reason, that excuse is never allowed for anyone else. It sure pays to set oneself up as a moral arbiter and be accepted in the role despite lacking any actual moral sense.

Yes, those Aztecs were such nice guys if you just sort of forgot about all those heartless religious sacrifices. And it's amusing that colonial monopolies were treated as the embodiment of free market capitalism. How many people know that the tea tax shenanigans of 1773 were an attempt to enrich the East India company as well as maintain the principle that Parliament could tax the colonies?

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 11:10
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One of the amusing parts of this book is the story of Caroline, the 16-year-old mistress of Leopold. The natives became restless.

Leopold had long had a well-known taste for extremely young women, but losing his head completely over a sixteen-year-old call girl was a different matter entirely. His new mistress was young enough to be his granddaughter. Leopold’s chaotic family life and sexual tastes are far more than incidental to the Congo story. Ironically, they probably lost him more popularity in Belgium than any of the cruelties he perpetuated in Africa. This, in turn, meant that few of his people were willing to rally behind him when he became the target of an international protest movement.

. . . But it was not only Leopold’s liaison with Caroline that lost him popularity with Belgians. It began to dawn on his people that their country was gaining little financial benefit from the Congo: the bulk of the profits were going straight into Caroline’s dresses and villas and, on a far larger scale, into the king’s construction projects. Since Leopold had little taste for good works, literature, or drama—and a well-known dislike for music—he spent his money mostly on building things, the bigger the better.

For years the king had pled poverty, but as his triumphal arches, museums, ad monuments sprouted around the country, he could keep up the pretense no longer. Belgians were even more upset when it became clear that their king was spending much of his newfound wealth abroad. He was soon one of the largest landowners on the French Riviera, where he built a dock for his fifteen-hundred-ton yacht, the Alberta, and had architects from Nice design and build a series of splendid villas. His property included most of the land at the end of the scenic fingertip of Cap Ferrat, then, as now, among the most expensive seaside real estate in the world.

This guy sounds just like he would have been at home on the board of directors of The Clinton Foundation.

Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 11:27
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Clinton Foundation? He sounds like Billy the Goat is his reincarnation.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 11:38
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Rubber tree plantations were being planted but they would take a decade or two to mature into trees large enough from which to extract the rubber.

I might have mentioned this before, but the first time I lived in Singapore, one could drive across the Causeway to Johor, Malaysia and go amongst rubber plantations.

Somewhere in my stacks of boxes, I have a photo I took of the little cup, wired to the tree, which collected the white sap. Those plantations are now long gone. The only place I ever saw working elephants, outside of a circus or tourist trap, was around those Malaysian rubber plantations.

Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 13:18
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I don't recall you mentioning this before. The only occasions I can ever recall vising a farm were two: once when Grandpa Lane took us to his farm, shot a pig, and hauled it to a butcher so he could show us what he was doing. I don't recall if we had pork for dinner that night. The other time, he took us to where they were gathering up some sort of cane (if this was in Kentucky it was probably sorghum, though at the time I thought it was sugar cane) and making a little molasses (brown-colored, as I recall) from it. On one occasion someone dipped part of a cane into it and ate it from the cane.

Japan made good use of rubber plantations in their invasion of Malaya. They could even send their tiny light tanks between the trees. Even light tanks are useful against troops with no defense against armor.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: King Leopolds Ghost
on: July 13, 2018, 14:26
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I saw a pig being slaughtered in an Austrian mountain village in 1974. The poor pig knew what was about to happen. What a racket.

I met an old English lawyer who practiced law in Singapore in the earlier 1980's. He had commanded a small tank in Malaya and fought against the Japanese when they invaded the peninsula. As I recall, the tank ended up on its side and he had to retreat.

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