"Cyniquian" Level Poster
Post Number: 321
|Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 03:02 pm: |
Ok, here is my spiel...
The Heart of Darkness ('Darkness) is first and foremost a searing indictment of the White Supremacy, particularly with respect to the malevolence it wrought upon Africa. 'Darkness obliterates the fantasy that the Europeans intentions/deeds were more civilized, more ennobled than those of Africans. I am dismayed that reasonable people would allow someone of Chinua Achebe's esteem and reputation to obfuscate a discussion of this great book amid the minutiae of it prejudiced overtones.
I am sorry. But Achebe commentary are mostly the fading intellectual gasps of a cantankerous old man who is, perhaps, trying to used alleged misgivings about 'Darkness to conveniently quicken this fame/notoriety. Of course Conrad was a racist. Cynique is right: WHAT White man borne/bred in the 19th Century WASN'T racist? And, ok, Achebe is disappointed the 'Darkness is not especially empathetic of Africa(ns). TUFF! Join the REST of us who have been born the past +500 years, pal!
Since 'Darkness doesn't make ALL of the Afro-political arguments he would prefer, the ENTIRE book is to be discarded? Is THAT an appropriate stance for a reasoned mind to take, especially when virtually ALL of Western Literature/History is rife with such derision on Blacks? Heck, if he wants to purge the world of all prejudiced materials, he may as well toss his Merriam-Webster, Roget's Thesaurus, Atlas, Almanac, Encyclopedia Britannica, et al.
Amid his diatribe he (conveniently) omits discussing any specific 'effects' or 'Darkness. If the book was as monstrous as he relays, why does he not mention its onerous impact on Whites and Blacks, Americans and Europeans?
He says 'Darkness made life MORE difficult for Africans. Well, where is there proof of THAT? What increment of malice was reaped upon Africans with the advent of 'Darkness that had not already occurred 100X fold? Heck, 'Darkness certainly didn't CAUSE colonization or any of the pernicious effects that ensued. If anything, 'Darkness provided a stirring polemic of colonization.
Also, why didnít Phillips leave 1/2 way thru this thing?
Because this whole thing bogs down into Achebe's confusion/ambivalence on what can/should a White writer be allowed to write about Africans.
When Caryl Phillips smartly asks Achebe to mention ONE White person who manages to do what Conrad has allegedly failed to accomplish (which is Phillips' ONLY worthy utterance during this entire wasted effort), Achebe must labor to mention even one, Graham Greene. This suggests to me one of 2 things, either A) Achebe has himself not fully thought thru what he's ranting about or B) there are few if any White authors who have managed to achieve what Conrad supposedly has not, which then begs the question of why is Achebe deriding Conrad's 'Darkest any more than he should COUNTLESS other books written by COUNTLESS other Whites about Blacks?
Also, he credits Greene for being empathetic of Blacks, but then contradicts himself when he says about Greene that "...we can't be too profound about somebody whose history and language and culture is beyond our own." Which is it? And if that is true that you can't expect others to be "too profound" about someone of a different "history and language" - AGAIN! - then what the HECK can you expect a 19th Century bred Conrad to think/feel about Africans other than that which is very circumscribed and prejudiced?
Achebe even cites Stanley Livingstone as an archetype of a White writer who is genuinely empathetic of Afric(ans). I find this to be laughable because 1) Livingstone wasn't even an author per se, he was an adventure/explorer and 2) and anyone who has actually read much of Livingstone's writings would know that he was working off a "I am here to save the ignorant savages" god-complex in Africa (which to me seems hardly complimentary of Africa[ns]).
Achebe even refers to Phillips are being made from a "half-made people". Well Gee! I wonder what all of US born from the African Diaspora should think of a debasing crack like THAT?
And by the time he starts making bizarre comparison between Conrad and palm nuts, my eyes began to glaze over as it was clear he was spouting off some conveniently trite African proverbs that had NOTHING to do with the subject at hand.
This entire event was pointless. Phillips was supposed to defend 'Darkness but he came off as an effete, intellectual lightweight. Perhaps they should have sent someone to meet with Achebe who wouldn't be inclined to kiss his wrinkled @$$.
BTW: I was intrigued by Achebe's quotes of Conrad's graphic descriptions of both the Black Haitian and the White Englishman. I wonder why Conrad said those specific words and why Achebe chose to quote them. Because, I don't. But those descriptions seem almost to have a tone of homoeroticism?