Friday, May 22, 2020
Strip away the civilized veneer, and human beings are still capable of anything
I'm obliged to American Partisan for posting a video of the rebellion and civil war in the Congo in 1964, when white mercenaries and Belgian paratroopers had to restore order across thousands of square miles of equatorial forest and bush. The video is explicit: you'll see bodies and parts of bodies, all of them real, and most of them casually discarded or even used as decorations by the fighting men. That's what such absolute disregard for human life does to those who encounter it. Eventually, it grinds you down. You become numb, inured to it, no matter how deep your faith or developed your conscience.
I'm not going to embed the video here, because it's very graphic in its depiction of brutality and horror. Nevertheless, if you want to see what Africa can be like at its worst, I recommend you watch it. You'll find it at this link. When you've done so (or if you'd rather not watch it, for which I don't blame you), read on below.
The thing is, nothing's changed in Africa. Precisely that same brutality is going on right now in the east of the Congo. The terrorist groups who oppose (and sometimes attack and kill) the medical teams trying to deal with Ebola? They're the descendants of the same people who slaughtered so many thousands in the sixties. It's not just the Congo, either. The Rwanda genocide, the Burundi civil war, the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, the South Sudan civil war, the Sierra Leone conflict, the First and Second Liberian civil wars, the Rhodesian conflict, South Africa under apartheid . . . the list goes on and on. Nor is it just Africa. The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the East Timor genocide, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Salvadoran Civil War . . . need I name more? For another example of this sort of casual brutality in action, see the documentary "Cry Freetown" about the civil war in Sierra Leone. You'll find it at this link. The same warning applies to that video as to the earlier one - it's brutal.
This is the reality of more primitive societies when the thin veneer of civilization is removed from them. Decades of colonial rule, followed by independence and decades of alleged "education" and "development", have not changed that basic reality. I know. I've been in many of those countries, and seen that at first hand for myself. Nor is it only allegedly "primitive" societies. Our First World nations are just as vulnerable to such savagery. Consider the Holocaust, or the lynching of black people during the civil rights struggle in the American South. It's just that we (usually, but not always) take longer to strip away our slightly thicker veneer of civilization.
Many people in the First World today have become so insulated from this sort of reality that they literally can't conceive of it. Yet . . . it's not very far from us. Consider cartel violence in Mexico, or the worst of the crime-ridden inner-city ghettoes in the United States. Precisely the same savagery is evident there. It's almost indescribable to a Western audience, because their educated, civilized minds just can't wrap themselves around such things. Yet . . . it's true.
We may degenerate more slowly than others, revert to savagery more gradually than others: but in all of us, civilization is only so deep. Pushed far enough, some - too many - of us really are capable of reverting to the most primitive savagery. I hate to acknowledge that, and I don't want to believe it, but I've seen too much to doubt it.