Sven Lindqvist’s Analysis – “Exterminate all the Brutes”
In the 1800s, there was exponential growth in population, energy, production, innovations, etc. that led to an era called the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought imaginary ideas and concepts to realization. New innovations such as the steam engine, interchangeability of parts, vehicles, telegraph, and AC power paved the way for this exponential growth on a local and global scale. Thus, countries began to boom and expand creating new relations anywhere in the world and at the same time spreading the idea of Imperialism. Because in a sense, every country and every society believed they were the best and others were of lesser value. So yes, one could say the Industrial Revolution was brilliant and it changed the way of life forever. However, it did not come free of charge. Somebody or something had to pay the price. It is the overlooked and unobserved that was lost while achieving such a striking outcome; in the notion of Joseph Conrad’s words, “Exterminate all the Brutes”.1 Joseph Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857 in the Polish Ukraine, did not learn English until he was 21 years of age. As a young boy his father was exiled to Siberia and his mother died. Not ever seeing his parents again, he was sent to his mother’s brother in Krakow to be educated. At the age of 17, he traveled to Marseilles and spent his next 20 years as a sailor, later becoming a British subject.2 He then fulfilled his childhood dream of traveling to the Congo; there he took command of a steamship in the Belgian Congo. His endeavors, as commander of a steamship for a Belgian trading company, led him to write his most renowned book “Heart of Darkness”. As commander of the steamship, Conrad was able to experience the full force of Imperialism deep in the Congo Jungle. He saw the devastating consequences of imperialism, which was occurring not only in Africa but also across the globe in other underdeveloped countries. It was the Belgian imperialist, King Leopold II, who was creating so much havoc in the African Congo. King Leopold’s main motive was to control his personal colony, the Congo, by means of exploiting the Congolese as his labor force and accessing their raw materials of rubber for export. King Leopold, like most business men of that era, needed to use whatever means necessary to keep up with a fast pace economy and the extreme demand for production. His country was great and deserved to be the best. The only obstacle was the native people who resisted this new society and servitude to a foreign people. European colonization of these “inferior” civilizations was defined as a means of great progress and the development of a global society. This definition coming from a new industrialized society that focused solely on efficiency and the acquisition of raw materials. Indigenous societies were dependent on the land they occupied and in their history, they had vigorously protected it. But, they were no match for the Europeans. Because these natives were of lesser value, as described by imperialistic views, there was no concern or sympathizing notion for these “brutes”. The justification and explanation for exploiting local populations, and the resulting genocidal activity were endless. In the words of the great anthropologist J.C. Prichard “it was obvious that the savage races could not be saved,” as the thought of genocide was regarded as the inevitable byproduct of progress.3 Europeans regarded the African people as unteachable, except through the use of brute force. Their superiority in military matters only further supported the notion Europeans were far superior, both intellectually and biologically.4 And without a civilized society to observe and comment on their activities, armies moved across the Congo inflicting unspeakable atrocities. Back home in Europe, few cared to hear the details behind the taming of the...
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