The Heart of Darkness, Indeed!

President Obama “issued a fervent call to arms” at the UN yesterday, according to the New York Times, as he “charted a muscular new course for the [US] in a turbulent world.”

Oy! That doesn’t sound good.

And it gets worse: “Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition.”

Recalls the days? It sounds like ancient history unless you replay the entire American experience up through yesterday, or turn your attention to Israel’s brutal assault on the people of Palestine. (Incidentally, this is difficult to keep straight: is Israel still a US client, or has the US become Israel’s miserable but smiling lap dog?)

President Obama reaches further: The brutality of the terrorists “forces us to look into the heart of darkness.”

He’s gone completely off the rails here, and I suggest he reread the Heart of Darkness and dig a little deeper into its significance then as well as its meaning for us today.

Marlowe observes at the outset the fierce reality of imperial conquest: “They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind. . . .”

The despicable and homicidal acts of a band of zealous terrorists should not be allowed to wipe clean our collective consciousness of the wicked international system that underlies the tumultuous and roiling world we inhabit.

Marlowe discovers in due course that everything he’d been taught to fear and loath about Africa, all the white supremacist logic and assumptions were actually deep inside the Europeans themselves. The horror, the sickness, the heart of darkness, is us.

That’s Joseph Conrad’s entire point.

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