Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Terrible Truth About Tubes.

It's easy to ride when you still have your hands attached...


It was most interesting, lying in the bush watching the natives quietly at their day's work. Some women...were making banana flour by pounding up dried bananas. Men we could see building huts and engaged in other work, boys and girls running about, singing...I opened the game by shooting one chap through the chest. He fell like a stone...Immediately a volley poured into the village.
-Captain William Grant Stairs, Congo diary, September 28th 1887


In 1904 a report was issued to the London Colonial Office. It was filed by Roger Casement, and recounted his investigation into widespread rumors of conduct in an African colony adjacent to Brit-owned Rhodesia. This report would document some of the worst human atrocities ever put to paper...even to this day. Mr. Casement had been in the position of Their Brittanic Majesties' Consul in many of the African territories. He had been sent to Africa to investigate instances of barbarism at the hands of the colonial government. What he would find was a collection of murders, amputations, slavery and mutilation all run by the government. Entire ethnic groups had all but vanished without a single word, with many more on the brink of extinction. Along with the removal of villages, the report also chronicled a new phenomenon..the hacking off of hands.

The reason for all of this? The invention many years earlier by Doctor John Dunlop of Belfast, Ireland. He had actually invented an air-filled tube to repair his son's trike tire, and began to sell them. By 1890 demand was so great, he had quit his veterinary practice and devoted his time to the product. set up with air-filled, cushiony tubes the bicycle became supernova-hot. The world's demand for rubber exploded.




Enter the greedy and aristocratic Belgian, King Leopold II. Thanks to an expedition by Henry Stanley, Leopold had possessed an enormous slab of the Congo about equal to the size of Europe. Acquired as part of Belgium? Nope. He wanted this one all to himself. Called Congo Free State, it was ripe for the plucking and replete with ivory and the new found liquid gold, rubber.



With more free labor than he could ever need, he would ship only guns, powder and ammunition IN to Africa, with rubber and the blood of the Congolese pouring out. Until rubber resources could be mass produced, the King realized if he could make this work he would own rubber production for at least a decade..and he did. The cost was terrible. Entire villages were murdered, children held hostage and tortured, mutilated or killed if the fathers returned from the fields with sub-par baskets of rubber extract. The soldiers began to get paid by the killing, and as proof would be required to return with severed hands as proof. The soldiers got greedy, and would just begin lopping of indiscriminate children, women and men's hands..while still alive..often so many per soldier they had to be steamed and shrunken to get back to the pay camp. This left thousands of amputated people who would probably die slowly of infection rather quickly at the end of a rifle. Forced labor, mass rape, and unheard of brutality fed the European and American demand for rubber goods. Back in Belgium, King Leopold II with both hands attached greedily filled his coffers and expanded his private villa's, palaces and personal museums. he would even construct a "Triumphal Arch" to himself entirely from the blood money born from the Congo Free State.

Thankfully, it wasn't all going entirely unnoticed. English shipping clerk and astute French speaker, he was often in Belgian ports to witness the off-loading of ivory and rubber. he was also there to see what was being ON-loaded to those same ships heading back to the Congo. The documents read "...items of daily use as payments for trade...", but all Mr. Morel saw were guns and ammunition. After careful inspections of records, he found that no payments were heading into the Congo, nor were the monetary amounts recorded even close to matching what was being off loaded.

The workers' lives were too often tragically changed for the worse, like this instance witnessed by Reverend John Harris...

"Breakfast was just finished when an African father rushed up the veranda steps of our mud house and laid upon the ground the hand and foot of his little daughter, whose age could not have been more than five years." If you have ever read Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness," this was it in real time. For the sake of rubber goods, it is estimated that ten million Congolese were killed. And King Leopold? He would spend the money on renovating his Paris villa and spent many days there lavishing gifts on his mistress, a prostitute he had met in there many years prior. Now when you set about changing that flat tire, it may make you pause and think about how much you treasure your hands....

6 Comments:

At 7:54 PM, Blogger rushman said...

HOOOOOLY SHIT I'm f***ing exhausted...

 
At 5:11 AM, Blogger Sharpie said...

Maybe from fondling your junk! Take your advanced ADD and couple it with the fact that you can't read, and you would never have made it past the first photo!

"How many ADD kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

"CHICKENS!"

When are we gonna have a beer?

 
At 7:04 AM, Blogger Tookie said...

Cut and Paste boys Cut and Paste the way to get the info. across

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger rushman said...

I did read the whole thing and my ADD was under control due to the fact that I just got ...forget it anyway that was out of control and when? are we gonna have a beer?

 
At 9:28 AM, Anonymous TheKlaw said...

Damn...and sorry about always mooching off of you to change my flat tires, let alone using your tire irons back in the day and not returning them!

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Sharpie said...

Cut and paste my Dewey-Decimal-System-lovin' ass!

 

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