When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
By Liam O'Ceallaigh / walkingbutterfly.com
Sep 15, 2013

Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?

Most people haven’t heard of him.

But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.

Most of us – I don’t yet know an approximate percentage but I fear its extremely high – aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in polite society, but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-Socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind – this is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.

When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, potentially killing in upwards of 5-7 million people from bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.

There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were  eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict no less). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.

You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.

Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.

* * If you liked this post, please consider visiting the author's Facebook page and ‘liking’ it. Thank you! * *

 

For a modern day example of the callousness of Western imperialism, read Liam's post about the famine in Somalia “20,000 billion dollars for banks, 1 billion for millions of Africans suffering from capitalist famine“ via his website.

 

Diary of a Walking Butterfly is a social commentary, cultural criticism, and political analysis website run by Liam O’Ceallaigh, a political organiser and writer based out of New York.

 

4.2 ·
31
Trending Today
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 29,261 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 16,562 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 13,022 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 9,074 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 6,805 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 4,819 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 4,577 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 3,665 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 3,528 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 2,418 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,144 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 2,109 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,061 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 1,738 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong
6 min · 1,362 views today · What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-selling book 'Chasing...
Films for Action's Public Film Screening Guide
Tim Hjersted and Matt Toplikar · 1,045 views today · This guide will give you step by step instructions on how to host Films For Action sponsored film screening events in your city. It is intended primarily for people who have...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,015 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 928 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 596 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Philippine Vigils Against Vigilantes - The Reign of Terror in the President's War on Drugs
7 min · 582 views today · The war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken more than 7,000 lives since its inception. It took the killing of a South Korean businessman by police...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'