Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us


Von Neumann, widely regarded as perhaps the most intelligent man who ever lived, had this to say:

It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl. Both are laws of nature.

There's an amazing story (H/T Candide) of a Belgian couple who for some stupid reason decided to drive across the Belgian Congo (DRC today). They documented the whole trip on this forum. The whole adventure is a great story, of course. Unless you're like me, and can't stop wondering why would anybody attempt such a stupid trip. Why, oh why. I mean I sorta get it if you're a 20 something man with your buddies. But a couple on their 30s (by the look of them)? What kind of man brings a woman to such a place? It's insane. On the other hand I find it very useful, when I show it to my wife to tell her how lucky she is of having a man without a death wish.

That said, it is an amazing read. I liked this passage the best:

Bicycle tracks are not suited for Landcruisers... so we got stuck. The villages usually had the worst obstacles. In this one village there was a big boghole filled with water. We drove in but did not see the pigs that were taking a bath so we slowed down to give them the time to get out.

Big mistake. We were stuck. The water came to the bottom of the door. This particular mudpit had a bit of a funny smell. It was the favourite place of the pigs so it probably contained a fair amount of sh*t. It sure smelled like it. The entire village gathered round us while we got out, knee deep in sh*t.

They did not offer help.

We started clearing the wheels. Josephine hurt her foot on a stick, the pain could be seen on her face. The people thought this was extremely funny and burst out laughing. This was very humiliating for Josephine and I could see the anger on her face. We looked at eachother and understood that this was not the time to get angry or start discussions with 50 or so people. We continued to work. As I bend over to clear the mud from underneath the car my pants get wet up until my ehrm.. 'privates'.. . Once again this is the funniest thing these people have ever seen. Hilarity ensues. This was very humiliating to us.

Eventually they offered to help us if we pay them. I tell them that I do not have money. They did not move an inch.


It takes the best part of an hour to get us out. To their surprise we stop again and I get out and walk up to them. Very calmly I explain that we did not like it when they laughed at us. I asked them how they would react if they hurt themselves and we would laugh at them. The acknowledged that they would get mad at us.

I asked them if they would want us to help them if they had a problem. The acknowledged this. I said what they would think if we asked for money before we would help them. They called us racists and immediately demanded money from us.

Of course they did.



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  • You left out the best line, "We tried putting things into perspective. Maybe we shouldn't be here after all?"

    Anyway, Mr. good old-school progressive Belgian doing what Sailer encourages them to do, continue to set the moral example and constantly lecture people on the righteousness and importance of reciprocity and The Golden Rule and objective standards of behavior and universal principles of ethical reasoning.

    Lots of Europeans living or traveling in Africa have similar tales of trying to get someone to reach the 'Rawlsian' epiphany of understanding how they would disapprove of what they are doing if the shoe were on the other foot.

    I forget which one, but one of - I think - the Vice documentaries in Africa met with some rebel group of fighters in the jungle. And the African militant was talking very matter-of-factly and with an untroubled conscience and sense of self-justification about how they would rape women when they came across any village or small town. "You know, when you spend a long time in the bush, so long, then when you see a woman, you really need that. No big deal, nothing wrong with that." The interviewer said, "And what would you do if some other rebel were to come across your mother or grandmother or wife or daughter and do that?

    And you could literally see the expression on the guy's face change. But it wasn't into anger or annoyance at having some trap set, or contempt that someone was condescending to them. Instead, for this African guy, the look on his face was real reflection and sudden realization, "Oh, whoa, you've got a good point there ..." and then, "Oh no, I would totally think that was bad and want to kill them for that. And maybe other people will see me a bad guy like that when I rape, and not think this is of course something people should be able to do whenever they spend too long in the bush." I wish I could find that video.

    It takes a lot of cultural development to make ethics function instinctively at the universalist level of abstraction. Sailer's right - the progressives should keep it up and stop playing with the fire of encouraging these people to return to the Who, Whom? ethical instincts of the state of nature.

    • You're probably thinking of the Vice guide to Liberia, when they meet with General Butt Naked. That documentary also stars a drugged up Liberian hooker calling them racist and asking for money.

    • He says later:

      I would love to go back. It would be much easier if we were equipped to travel in these regions and not lugging our house trough the jungle.

      I often think of these people, wonder how they are doing. But I have no means of contacting them.

      This is not even Chinatown, Jake.

    • Similar experience. The guy does go a bit overboard with this - Latin "obligare" literally means "to bind", and e.g. various Indo-Europeans had and used abstract concepts like 'promise' without writing - it's a good writeup. Also, the level of abstraction they are talking about in the video you mention isn't really universal. They aren't talking about everyman, but about rebels like the guy himself. The key point is that he's able to extrapolate what other people would think about him from what he would himself think "when the shoe is on the other foot".

      • I remember that guy. He's not a good philosopher really, but i guess thats why he taught in Africa.

        All abstract concepts in all languages come from concrete, physical stuff. That's why etymological dictionaries are fun to read. "Promise" is pro-metere, to put forward. Iliterate peasants in Europe didn't know what a polygon was either. You gotta teach that stuff. It may be harder for Africans because they're stupid. But the concepts in a language 6can be taught. If the new concepts just don´t sound right in the old language people can use them in English all the time. PhDs in Hong Kong speak in Cantonese, but use English words all the time because they are more familiar with English terminology in a classroom setting. And there's good enough Chinese words for all, but they just won't use them.

        There's a better argument for saying they lack of empathy, of "Theory of Mind", but again that is something you learn. Toddlers can't do it. I'd swear Chinese peasants can do it. But their educated kin can. You learn the stuff. If somebody had told the rebel fighter in the documentary that when you fuck with people, people will fuck with you, and that feels the same way for them as to you, and he'd been told that incessantly for some time, he'd be empathic alright.

        • True, but apparently there are differences. Even with the "theory of mind" approach, notice that both the guy in handle's story and the guys in that SA story were able to imagine what others would feel in a similar situation, that's what a "theory of mind" does. It's some other module downstream from it that doesn't click.

          • Namely, "Hey, wait a tick, why would I care whether an Outsider is angry or not?"

            You get these wonderfully incisive questions that Whitey just doesn't expect - "Are you going to shoot me?" If the answer is 'yes' then they're quite polite. Unless they also have a gun, of course. Whitey never answers 'yes' and then is properly flabbergasted when the child proceeds to ignore them or go back to asking for money.

  • The author works very close to an understanding of HBD... but he can't quite get there. Or more likely, won't. (It's a public forum, after all. No upside.) He's lucky he got out alive, really. And sweet Josephine both alive and unraped.

    The times when he is camping in a village (and not in a Catholic compound), and people are just sitting endlessly watching him -- like a zoo -- are also striking. And also he obviously gained an appreciation for religion, insofar as a handful of Catholic priests everywhere are apparently almost the only helpful people in the Congo.

    A very interesting read also when you consider what it is to be a nation. Contrast the Congo of 1955 with today. Today one essentially cannot cross the Congo in a car; these Westerners do so only just barely in their 4wd land rover and with the greatest effort (and continual spending of hard currency). So why is the DRC a recognized state? It seems, basically, because that's what the State Department says.

    • I find the travel log utterly fascinating in that the natives see White people as organisms that spew money. The writer makes a point not to pay the bribes/requests/etc. I wonder how it would be for a group of guys with suitcases full of twenties.

      A couple quotes I found pretty insightful:

      "Le Blanc, Il va payer!" = The white guy, he is going to pay (if I want to pass) "Donner moi de l'argent" = Give me money The kids were just like kids everywhere, but somehow the begging had crept in already."

      "It seemed like so many Congolese tried their best to make us feel unwelcome. And the few friendly people we met made us feel totally out of place with their tragic stories. So many people expected that we would be able to help them. Could we stand it to keep dissapointing those people? We are just tourists passing trough.. it feels wrong."

      "He was a good example of the older generation. They grew up in a prosperous (relative) Congo and have seen it go downhill. They still have the pride every person should have. The younger generation grew up in disastrously f*cked up country and lack the pride. Why should they, they know they do not get any chances? It is that old generation that longs back to the colonial time. They acknowledge there were a lot of problems in that period and that they were discriminated by the white colonisator. But at least they had a functional country. They had roads and schools. They had jobs and could buy supplies. And above all, there was stability. Now there is nothing but uncertainty.. waiting for the next war to start."

    • I sadly forget where I saw it, but someone pointed out state borders don't change much anymore because then State would have to redraw their maps. And that's, like, work, maaaan.

  • But a couple on their 30s (by the look of them)? What kind of man brings a woman to such a place? It’s insane.

    Citizen, i believe i have detected you Crimethinking. Please report to Miniluv for reeducation.

  • White progressive meets reactionary reality needs to be a genre. I quite enjoyed Scott Alexander's journey to Haiti.

  • This could also be a scene from Paul Theroux's novel The Lower River if the characters were 40 years older. I'm afraid I have nothing more useful than that to contribute.

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