I read and watched this week:
King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild, a podcast guest: I’d meant to read Adam’s book since I loved Bury the Chains and learned this book was bigger. Recently reading Heart of Darkness led to me King Leopold’s Ghost. Both books talked about imperialism, colonialism, and slavery in the Congo. Conrad’s book was fiction you have to interpret. Adam’s spells it out in plain language hitting you in the gut.
I considered the most poignant sentence in the book where he illustrated the value of ivory by saying it was for them then like plastic to us today, meaning plastic today is like ivory then. Driving all the brutality and suffering was the home market buying ivory and rubber. Driving all the brutality and suffering today is us buying fossil fuels and minerals.
We are driving the same system today. The materials plundered and mechanisms of suffering never ended, but they are just elements of a system. The system itself never ended.
King Leopold’s Ghost description of King Leopold’s business practices reminded me of the conversations I’ve watched of the authors of When McKinsey Comes to Town (videos: 1, 2, 3), multiple Pulitzer Prize winning investigative NY Times reporters. I have the book on hold at the library, so will read it soon, but the descriptions of maintaining noble identities while profiting from imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and authoritarianism seem similar. We’ll see.
Wikipedia: “The book was refused by nine of the ten U.S. publishing houses to which an outline was submitted, but became an unexpected bestseller and won the prestigious Mark Lynton History Prize for literary style. It also won the 1999 Duff Cooper Prize. By 2013 more than 600,000 copies were in print in a dozen languages. . . King Leopold’s Ghost was specifically singled out for praise by the American Historical Association when it gave Hochschild its Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award in 2008,” though it also cited strong criticism.
I highly recommend King’s Leopold’s Ghost.
A Traveler’s Guide to the End of the World, by David Gessner: When his publishing team told me about this new book of his, I learned David played ultimate Frisbee overlapping with when I did, though at a slightly higher level and at Harvard and in Boston instead of at Columbia and in New York. I read his book Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth, which captured a lot of what ultimate meant to me and brought me.
We’re scheduling bringing him on the podcast. A Traveler’s Guide is well written—a nonjudgmental account of our world today, and it’s not pretty. That is, he’s not trying to project doom and gloom. He’s showing what’s happening—wildfires, sea level rise, droughts, flood, refugees, and more, all in the affluent United States. The scientists who predicted it predicted much more to come.
I don’t like the choices I see him making in Traveler’s Guide of what I see as capitulation, abdication, and resignation, but I have to realize most people never learned the skills of leading cultural change. It’s like me with a basketball: I’ve barely played, so give me a ball and an open lane to the hoop and I don’t know what to do. Give LeBron James a ball and heavy coverage, and he’ll find a way to reach the hoop. In sustainability leadership, I’m LeBron. Everyone else is like me with a basketball. I have to be patient with them. My workshops are starting to help people.
We’ll hear more when he’s on the podcast.
For those who play ultimate or want to learn why that part of my life was so important, remained so for fifteen years, and remains so today, I recommend Ultimate Glory.
An article, Opinion: Queens’ 34th Avenue Shows What Open Streets Can Do for People, and video Designing Open Streets & Plaza Blocks: The Transformation of NYC’s 34th Ave: Regular readers know I love the Not Just Bikes video channel, which I recommend for all. Regarding making cities safer, healthier, cleaner, more accessible, and more sustainable, Amsterdam and the Dutch are decades ahead of New York, but this article and video show action in a neighborhood in Queens, New York City.
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