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Heart of Darkness (Green Integer)

Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary - Joseph Conrad A very cerebral novel; symbolic and historic, from an able storyteller. This follows a brutish but observant European colonial who ferries supplies up and down the Congo by steamboat. Much attention is paid to an Englishman considered expert in extracting treasures from the untamed jungle, and who local authorities fear has "gone native". That storyline is familiar to many as the basis for Apocalypse Now. The very idea of "going native", and all that term implies, is a worthy subject for exploration. The connotation of the phrase is negative, and probably means different things to different people. Fear of the unknown prevents some from fully exploring other cultures, and there may be jealousy on the part of the inhibited towards the adventurous who "go native". Cultural arrogance may also account from some animosity towards "going native". Agents of the British Empire were sent to plunder the bounty of the lands, not to taint their disposition with indiginous ways. Each man who "went native" represented a loss of talent from the British pool and a corresponding gain to a foreign power... Of course the most obvious explanation for shunning men who "go native" is pure, unabashed racism. Europeans aren't the only people who "go native". In present day America, it is not uncommon to hear first generation immigrants lament when their children prefer American tastes and habits over the ways of the old country. Like the British imperialists of old, modern immigrants sometimes come to our shores hoping to partake in the economic opportunities, but reluctant to participate in the culture. When one of their own "goes native", their communities are no more accepting than the British were in Africa! It seems like an odd link, but a good companion book on this topic is Sayonara, where American G.I.'s in the post-war occupation of Japan were strongly discouraged from "mixing with" (let alone marrying) local women. For contrast in the nonfiction arena, check out Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton -a "gone native" hero for the ages!The more commonly recognized theme in this book is colonialism. The entire world continues to bear the scars of colonialism, including the ongoing legacy of oppressive colonial central banking systems which maintain locals in a yolk of debt slavery. The developed world long feasted on the fruits of indiginous peoples' labor, but did not realize for decades that they were winding up the gradient between haves and have-nots like a spring. Now it has reached a critical point, and the cost savings of moving manufacturing jobs to the former colonies cannot be ignored. China, India, Vietnam, El Salvador, and the like are devouring skilled jobs away from the West. Naturally, all of this is beyond the scope of the book, but Heart of Darkness provides insight into the colonialist attitudes which continue to be felt around the world, one-hundred years later. A good non-fiction book to complement this is Rhodes: the Race for Africa by Anthony Thomas.