Friday, August 27, 2004

The Heart of Darkness

I don't usually do this, but I've got p*ss all else to write about and nothing else to do in general. So here goes. I recently read the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which is obviously regarded as a bit of a late 19th century classic these days. I really enjoyed reading it because I liked Conrad's imaginative prose, and just some of the rare stuff he comes out with (the endnotes at the back also gave me a good time, what with descriptions of the culinary temptations of Congonese cannibals and all). Just before I read it, though, I watched Apocalypse Now, which is a Coppola movie based on Heart Of Darkness, so I kind of understood the plot and it was interesting to compare the two. I thought Apocalypse Now managed to deal with the madness theme better than the actual book, or at least that is where the emphasis in the film seems to be directed. I also thought that An Outpost of Progress, a short story also written by Joseph Conrad, offers a better description of the superficiality and vulnerability of European civilization and the men who adhere(ed) to it. Yet this is what I expected even more so from Heart of Darkness. I'm not putting the book down in any way; it's probably just because Conrad has such a concentrated and potent style that I was kept from fully appreciating all of the so-called motifs and keys within the narrative. I suppose the reason why it's a classic is because it's honest about the real rationale for the murderous European 'civilizing project' that took place back then, and it's unusually frank about the bullshit premise for so much brutal interference. These days we don't consider it taboo to call American and British forces in Iraq brutal killers, who are working for self-interested governments, although it is undoubtedly controversial. Back in Conrad's day though, it must have been a hair-raising read.

Hmm, probably the same kind of collective reaction you'd get from the Japanese if you went around talking frankly about their civilizing mission in China a few decades ago. These days I think we need a few more fellas like Kurtz (one of the main characters in the story) about the place to put some gritty perspective on what's happening in the world. Somebody interesting who would be frank enough to come clean and admit that governments just go about doing their stuff for themselves. The people I talk to these days about world affairs only have two contradicting arguments. They dice around between trying to justify the murder of innocents (Iraqis, Afghans, Chechnyans) along moral lines (civilization and all that bullshit) and the other source of justification, that is by 'Realist' conservative arguments (governments will always follow the policy of self interest). We need a Kurtz on the scene with the balls to tell everyone the truth. Not a Hitler or anything, but just someone to tell the truth goddamit!!

I've got a class now.