Rubber grew in the jungle for the taking, but extracting it was a beastly business.
You had to go into the rainforest, your feet squelching deep into mud and standing water, hoping not to step on a snake, ears pricked for the rustle of leopards a pounce away. You had to pick out a rubber vine in the vegetable tangle, then shimmy up its stalk to a point soft enough that you could slice into it to release the sap.
It was faster just to cut a vine in half, but because that killed the vine, the state forbade it.
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You had to wait for the creamy liquid to drip into your pot, then wait for it to thicken and gum into latex. The easiest way was to smear the sap over your body. Once it dried, you could tear it off your skin taking your hair or skin with it, if needed and roll it up into balls. It could take days to fill your basket with enough tough, gray pellets to satisfy the state or company agent. This was slow, painful, dangerous work, and nobody volunteered to do it.
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So European agents developed an arsenal of coercive methods. Henceforth, the state required Africans to collect rubber in lieu of paying taxes. District officers set quotas for each region and dispatched the Force Publique into villages to round men up to work. In the concession territories, European agents fixed posts every hundred kilometers or so, made lists of all the men in the villages in their district, and used teams of armed sentries to push them into the forests at gunpoint.
These usually African soldiers-cum-tax-collectors got paid for delivering rubber to their white bosses, so they had an incentive to use whatever means were necessary to make people go get it. If you refused to work, you would be punished.
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If you were caught cutting down vines, you would be punished. If you tried to run away, you would be punished. They saw only what King Leopold showed them, and he was busy setting his profits in stone: a palace to outdo Versailles, a triumphal arch to trump the Brandenburg Gate, a seaside promenade to make Ostend into the Cannes of the north.
But by the time Heart of Darkness was republished in the volume Youth—and Two Other Stories in , a young Anglo-French shipping clerk named Edmund Dene Morel had almost single-handedly raised public awareness about what was going on in the Congo Free State. The Foreign Office dispatched its consul in Congo to gather evidence.
That consul was none other than Roger Casement, the railroad surveyor Conrad had met in Matadi in Casement returned to Britain from his mission with notebooks ablaze with damning testimony, ready to write up his own report on the suppression of savage European customs. One of the first people he contacted to support the cause was his old acquaintance Joseph Conrad.
Conrad here appreciates it, and never. Casement had misread his man. Casement had also potentially misread his book. To the extent that Heart of Darkness was a precise description of what was going on in Congo, it presented the Congo that Conrad had visited in , not the Congo of In there was no government monopoly.
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Darkness Revealed free audiobook In the latest novel in Alexandra Ivy's Guardians of Eternity series, Anna Randal finally manages to track down Conde Cezar, the vampire with whom she shared an unforgettable night of passion two centuries earlier. Since then, Anna has become filled with unearthly power she can't begin to comprehend. And the sexy, charming vampire responsible has eluded all of her efforts to track him down, until now.
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