Really old time religion
January 21, 2008 1:27 PM   Subscribe

General Butt Naked is now a preacher of some kind of Christianity. But in his adolescence he ran a gang of soldiers in the Liberian civil war which killed, he thinks, about 20,000 civilians. They fought naked except for their army boots, crazed on drink and ganga. Before the fight they would kill children and eat their hearts. Now he claims that it was all down to evil spirits and wants forgiveness.
posted by alloneword (57 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
3rd link is broken.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on January 21, 2008

I think it says something about a horrible deficit in my character that when I think about the Liberian civil war, I think about

1. High school debate (UN peacekeeping was the policy topic one year I was competing)
2. Metal Gear Solid 2.
posted by dismas at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2008

So, who's going to tell him that it's "buck naked?"
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:42 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

We are the gang of soldiers?

posted by chillmost at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Die Hipster Die: He must have another think coming.
posted by dismas at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2008

DieHipsterDie, it was always "butt naked" where I grew up in the redneck South... possibly to avoid racist connotations of "buck," but probably because "butt" is funny when you're four.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:48 PM on January 21, 2008

Major Erections.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2008

mmmmm, hearts.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:50 PM on January 21, 2008

“Drugged fighters waltzed into battle wearing women's wigs, flowing gowns and carrying dainty purses stolen from civilians.”

Smart, see because they’re looking for the army guys to be marching in uniforms.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:50 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

In 1996, while charging naked into a battle, Blahyi said God appeared and told him he was a slave to Satan, not the hero he considered himself to be

It's nice that god gets proactive sometimes.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I for one would be even more terrified if I found myself faced with a crazed army of men wearing nothing but boots AND shirts. If you see a bunch of butt naked guys running at you, I imagine it's pretty easy to take in the fact that they're not wearing any clothes. But, if they're wearing shirts but no pants or underwear? That raises a lot of interesting questions, the answering of which would probably give the enemy more than enough time to cut out your heart and eat it.
posted by domakesaypat at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2008

Gives a quite different aspect to "have a heart".
posted by Cranberry at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2008

And British-style imperialism in Africa was bad ... why?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2008

You know, sometimes I think you just shouldn't get forgiveness. This guy is at least 19,999.5 kills past that point. At that point, I'm pretty sure the only reasonable action is throwing this guy up in front of an international war crimes tribunal.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2008

He became a born-again Christian and for a while, traversed the war-wracked streets of Monrovia selling cassettes of his sermons.
That and blaming demons, external spirits , I have no doubt he is completely utterly full of shit. No mercy, lifetime inprisonment in isolation ..and his accomplices, he didn't do all this by his own, he shouldn't become an easy scapegoat.
posted by elpapacito at 2:04 PM on January 21, 2008

Actually, the whole "charging into battle buck naked" tactic is something the Scots are famous for, but it's probably one that's been used for thousands of years.
posted by clevershark at 2:08 PM on January 21, 2008

Metafilter: a gang of soldiers
posted by Dr-Baa at 2:08 PM on January 21, 2008

Oh, come on. Admit it. You only posted this because his name is Butt Naked.

Does that add insult to injury when, upon arrival in [insert afterlife here], you find out that you were killed by Butt Naked?
posted by graventy at 2:10 PM on January 21, 2008

Forgiveness shouldn't just come on its own. It should be tied to acts of redemption, and a willingness to face appropriate punishment. I'm not seeing that here.

Also, really, God, if you're gonna get someone to stop doing things, appear to them before they eat the child hearts, not after. Seriously.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:12 PM on January 21, 2008

Granta 48, Lynda Schuster "The Final Days of Dr.Doe" An exceptional article/ essay about what it was like to be an outsider in Liberia at this time.

This guy's nom de guerre is funny. Everything about his story and the story of Liberia is blood-chillingly not funny. In fact, in light of how un-funny it is, even "General Butt Naked" is not funny, but rather a portent of horror and despair.

The guy should be in jail for the rest of his life. He can be as contrite as he wants there and we won't have to fucking listen to it.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:14 PM on January 21, 2008 [8 favorites]

Everyone has awkward civil war moment.
posted by Free word order! at 2:16 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

"I could be electrocuted. I could be hanged. I could be given any other punishment," the 37-year-old Blahyi said in a weekend interview following his truth commission appearance last week. "But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go."

Ain't it funny that when they're doing the cutting, it's all "booze, drugs, and eating the hearts of innocent children" and yet, when it's their heads on the block, a more measured response is what's called for.

Fuck him.
posted by quin at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Language Log on "butt naked" vs. "buck naked":
I didn't know the answer, and it looks like no one else does either. There are two stories out there. One story is that the original is "butt naked" and that "buck naked" is either a euphemism or a mishearing. The other story is the same, with the roles reversed.
* [first]
* [second] (where he takes on stark naked as well, and even brings in the then-General)

Bottom line, nobody has a good argument for either being the primary and the other being a corruption. It's even (just) possible they developed independently and the similarity is mere coincidence.
posted by dhartung at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2008

“Yet some praise Blahyi”


“Others in a country where some feel everyone is tainted said they would rather not dig up the past.”

And so, avoid repeating it.

“Because the violence was so widespread it's not uncommon to find Liberian families that have both victim and perpetrator under the same roof _ a daughter who was raped and a son who took up a gun and went on to rape the daughters of other families.” ferget it.

Y’know, I don’t want to seem like I’m getting on third world folks.
I think we all want justice and to prevent inhuman acts of murder, rape, mutilation and brutality. And I agree with Edmund Burke (in opposition to say Pitt and Fox) in terms of stopping such things based on general principle (f’rinstnce in the French Revolution).

But at some point there is the temptation to throw up one’s hands and say ‘those people are f’ing crazy’ and leave them to their own devices. Re: Cool Papa Bell’s comment “And British-style imperialism in Africa was bad ... why?”

‘Exterminate the brutes’ indeed.

But, I suspect this strikes at the heart of the problem - it is exactly colonialism and imperialism that is - ultimately - at fault here. When that was going on the Africans were stripped of their traditions (and private property) and placed, purposefully, not only in opposition to each other, but with a reliance for stability on a system of raw power rather than one of tradition and proper authority.

So they keep repeating the pattern of a fracture, disorder and reform by a popular military leader - no matter how friggin’ crazy he is who - as ultimately must - maintains power by granting greater and greater licence to his troops because they don’t have loyalties to any sort of abstraction beyond immediate pleasure and vulgar displays of power (such as radical defiance of the most elementary decency).

But again, Burke comes to mind: “Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief.”

What they need is a new social contract. While imposition by force seems nearly ideal in the light of instances such as these, that is a reaction from exasperation with the current state of affairs.
Reforms can be made, rights can be written into a constitution and enforcement authority can be derived from them.
Unfortunately there seems to be vast economic interest in maintaining the continent in the chaos that gives rise to these asshats.

Imperial exploitation directly by governments has stopped; by multinational corporations, not so much.
And this is the result. A madman who would otherwise have been institutionalized in any stable system becomes a potent leader in creating atrocities.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:29 PM on January 21, 2008 [8 favorites]

not to be confused with General Peanut Butter...
posted by geos at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2008

Humans, generally speaking, are kind of a shitty species.
posted by jonmc at 2:39 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

In Seek Denis Johnson wrote a piece about the Liberian war that mentioned one faction going to war in dresses and wigs. I can't find the book on my shelf right now, so that's all the information I have, but it's definitely worth reading. In fact I remember Denis Johnson talking about being shown that video of Prince Johnson torturing the old president Samuel Doe and cutting his ear off and then taking a break to play in his funk band, or something similar -- apparently the funk band was pretty good.
posted by creasy boy at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2008

I said that unclearly. Denis Johnson was in some room watching the video, and then Prince Johnson got up on stage to play in his band while Denis Johnson was there watching Prince cut a guy's ear off on the video...and everyone else was drinking beer and partying, if I remember the story correctly. Anyway, yeah, one gets the impression that standards of normality were basically out the window. There was also something about dogs eating corpses and a militia of cross-dressing psychotics.
posted by creasy boy at 3:24 PM on January 21, 2008

Not only is the third link borked, but the first and last links are the same AP story. You might have tried harder on a pretty interesting post. And it might have helped not to lead with "General Butt Naked," unless you're happy with the way the thread has gone. (And don't tell me "That's his name!"—his name is Joshua Milton Blayee. Yeah, putting that in the post instead wouldn't have led to so many comments. I guess it depends on whether you want quantity or quality.)
posted by languagehat at 3:45 PM on January 21, 2008

Reminds me of this:
Broke dictator back with mother
Valentine Strasser became the world's youngest head of state when he seized power in 1992 at the age of 25. But the limelight didn't last -- four years later, he was ousted in another coup.

"I'm basically living off my mother now. She's been very supportive," the 35-year-old said at a neighbourhood bar on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital.

Gone are the crisp military fatigues, new suits and wraparound sunglasses. In their place: A baseball hat worn backward, a Bob Marley T-shirt, dark green shorts and a pair of 'Air' Nike sneakers.

posted by PHINC at 3:53 PM on January 21, 2008

Off to the Hague with him.

(PS Dear Hillary/Obama (delete as applicable), please come play International Criminal Court with us. Yours, the world)
posted by athenian at 4:14 PM on January 21, 2008

True story:

The electrician who wired my house when I redid the kitchen knows this guy, and goes to Africa for months at a time to do relief work for him. The electrician is a good guy, but kind of a fanatic, and once he found out I had a Master's in English, was trying to get me to write GBN's biography.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:17 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Smedleyman, I do see where you're coming from in general, and agree that imperialism stripped colonised peoples of traditional modes of government and authority, which is something that must have been profoundly dislocating. But:

1. As with most agrarian societies, sometimes the traditional ways weren't that different from modern day senseless slaughter and 'kill as many of those guys over there as you can'

2. To say that people like Blahyi are in some way less responsible for their actions because of something white people did thirty years before he was born makes him seem rather like an automaton (and puts the white man centre-stage again, which I thought was something we were trying to get away from).
posted by athenian at 4:24 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I remember when first reading of the way fighters in Lideria would dress of the penchant among some rioters and rebels in British history to cross-dress (the Rebecca riots spring to mind as an example). I presume it's tied to an awareness of social transgression.
posted by Abiezer at 4:31 PM on January 21, 2008

My roommate and I have often discussed how we would commit suicide if we ever decided to do so. Eventually we settled on setting ourselves on fire whilst riding a motorcycle off the roof of a skyscraper and shouting "ROCK AND ROOOOOLLLLL!!!".

Until reading about Butt Naked, that was the most hardcore way to go that I had encountered. From this point on, my method has changed to dying in battle, naked as the day I was born, with a mouth full of baby heart.

Scoff all you want, suckers. My ass is goin' to Valhalla.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:46 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

I can understand the cries for vengence, but I think they lack a certain perspective:

Charles Taylor(Yeah, like the shoes. You see a lot of this in Liberia.) deposed Doe in an amazingly bloody coup: When he finally ran for democratic election, supporters chanted "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I'll vote for him!" (Guardian) as a slogan - implying that he would do it again if he needed to. - And won.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's only been in power three years or so. Hell, I think they JUST started getting water and power going in the capital, Monrovia(Named after the president. Told you.) - I think it's been off since sometime in the 80's (Imagine a city of 500,000 without reliable sewers, water or power...).

There are PLENTY of Taylor supporters around - Certainly enough to overwhem the Liberian army and police, and probably the UN forces, to boot. The last thing people want is for a War Crimes Tribunal to make Taylor's supporters think they've got nothing to lose by starting back up again, and nothing to gain from the rule of law.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:50 PM on January 21, 2008

"To say that people like Blahyi are in some way less responsible for their actions because of
something white people did thirty years before he was born makes him seem rather like an
automaton (and puts the white man centre-stage again, which I thought was something we were trying to get away from)"

Well, the founding of Liberia is, essentially, something white people were responsible for (I mean, c'mon - The American Colonization Society?). And that was pretty much a hydra from its inception with a variety of not exactly cooperative motives.

So, is Blahyi responsible for his actions - yes. But would he have succeeded in an otherwise stable country - not a chance.
It's a matter of nearly mechanical social processes, not so much race. Power for its own sake does that no matter who starts it, so it is, in a sense, a kind of automaton society that gives rise to certain archetypal forces. Blahyi himself is irrelevant. As was Napoleon. It was merely inevitable that someone like that would come along, given the circumstances.
As it is, in Africa, those circumstances are static locked. Whatever the fundamental causes doesn't matter as much as recognition of that.

As far as agrarian societies are concerned, even primitivism has its traditions and manners and social customs. Certainly some rituals are inferior to others (e.g. cannibalism) but even in an agrarian society the lowest individual has some rights and privileges and property and so some investment in the state.
My argument is not that their traditions have been taken by the white man and so they're not responsible for their actions, but that they have been and are being denied the course of progression they and their society would naturally take towards stability.
And further that tradition, as I mean it, is not the tradition of 'killing all those people over there,' no society would engage in that unless they have already organized around some sort of internal order and stability (even if it's based on how to dole out the spoils of pillage), but rather the natural tendency to seek a predictable state of human affairs.

That's not what they have. Not even a bad predictable state. Not fascism, not autocracy, not even anarchy really. It is at best a sporadic cooperative in the midst of chaos.
They're lacking a social contract not only with those who came before, and with each other but with the future as well. It's essentially a gross animal existence based on expediency with immediate gain as the only real coin of the realm.
I'm simply saying that is by design to some degree. You eliminate the breadth of a society to exploit it economically.
In the example in the link it's Coltan, but the same kind of thing led to the potato famine, chaos, rebellion, social schism, etc. etc. (not to mention terrorism) and those guys were white.

At some point we either recognize that, and recognize that economic success alone can't make a society work, or we keep suffering the effects. 20,000 slaughtered by men in wigs and dresses led by a crazed nude man sacrificing children and practicing ritual cannibalism, one son raping, another daughter raped - kinda a red flag there maybe somethings wrong.

And it will come to rest on our doorstep at some point. Hell, it already is even if it's not here. Think about how much this chaos, rape and terror scares the hell out of people then take another look at the defense budget.
Many people don't want it fixed (as I said 'Exterminate the brutes') And indeed, the charge (by a Nigerian writer) that 'Heart of Darkness' dehumanized Africans parallels your argument.
But I'm not saying it's something we've done, nor that the jungle is a normal state of affairs (re: jungle = chaos, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short in the Hobbsian sense)
I'm saying barbarism must be maintained.
That the natural state of man is to create contracts, precisely because no one wants a solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short life.

Barbarism is an artificial state and men tend naturally toward order - perhaps not good order, perhaps not good government, but order of some kind (to paraphrase Walter Sobchek - say what you will about National Socialism, at least it's an ethos).

Therefore this "hands off" sort of thing, the argument that engagement is an imposition of the white man's mores, is off base.
It's our lack of engagement - our willingness to look the other way at whatever multinationals do when they're outside our borders - that is causing chaos. It doesn't take much for economic exploitation to be self-sustaining.

Which is what's happening a lot now. Most of the stuff that seems to actually get done in Africa comes from the grassroots.
That there is where traditions form - whether the social style it takes is dour Nordic stoicism or easygoing Jamaican hedonism - the common wisdom is formed by those methods of dealing with each other within the given environment that become handed down and passed on.
That process is being interfered with. And it's not by the "white man." Racism is, and really always was, just another excuse to exploit folks for profit. In this case it's profit and the attendant power that is hampering tradition and the social contracts that would normally form - whomever is carting away the goods under whatever lie.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:01 PM on January 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

("Eventually we settled on setting ourselves on fire whilst riding a motorcycle off the roof of a skyscraper and shouting "ROCK AND ROOOOOLLLLL!!!""
That's how I drive to work.)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:02 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Jesus. Chatter chatter chatter from the Mefites.

This piece of shit killed little children so he and his buddies could eat the children's hearts.

Chatter chatter chatter is it "butt" or "buck". Jesus.

This guy's a barbaric nasty piece of shit who should be in a six by six by six cell until he dies. He killed children and ate them.

If this happened in Minneapolis, would we be chattering? No, we'd be horrified. But it happened in Africa, so -- ha ha! -- it's occasion for clever comments and chatter. Jesus.
posted by orthogonality at 9:30 PM on January 21, 2008 [6 favorites]

Minneapolis may be a bad example. I just had sauteed child heart at the local Ruth's Chris Steak House downtown. It's a pretty common menu item. Vegetarian can even get wheat gluten versions.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:51 PM on January 21, 2008

Languagehat: I'm sorry about the links. I must have got my clipboard in a tangle. There are various versions of the same AP story. I was trying to get the dud link link to point to the South African site where he talks about the mother killing her own child for him.
posted by alloneword at 11:18 PM on January 21, 2008

Smedleyman, if I understood you correctly , is the core of your point the so called Pax Romana , which is better than Barbarism ? Similiarly with Churchil saying democracy is the least undesiderable ? (don't have the quote handy)
posted by elpapacito at 12:39 AM on January 22, 2008

Wow. This fpp scrapes.
posted by humannaire at 12:49 AM on January 22, 2008

When he finally ran for democratic election, supporters chanted "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I'll vote for him!" as a slogan

It's no 'I Like Ike' but it does have a certain ring to it.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 4:25 AM on January 22, 2008

When he finally ran for democratic election, supporters chanted "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I'll vote for him!" as a slogan

It's no 'I Like Ike' but it does have a certain ring to it.

Seriously, pause for a second and try and dream up what it would take to put you in that chanting crowd. I'm all for keeping ironic distance and all but, uh, sometimes it just tastes like blood.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:56 AM on January 22, 2008

Seriously, pause for a second and try and dream up what it would take to put you in that chanting crowd.

Seven years of bloody, brutal civil war... the promise of a vicious strongman to end the violence and restore peace... the lack of any other options.

posted by Fuzzy Monster at 5:11 AM on January 22, 2008

A lot of Russians had that attitude towards Stalin.
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on January 22, 2008

You're right, LH.

It didn't work out for the Russians any better than it did for the Liberians.

Which is why I believe-- From Blykn's imagination exercise aside-- that voting for someone whose slogan is "He killed my Ma, he killed my Pa, but I'll vote for him" is a bad idea.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:24 AM on January 22, 2008

This is about the most horrifying horror story I've ever read and I've read a lot of them. Something about the juxtaposition of the ridiculous (running around naked, cross-dressing, etc.) and the downright evil (eating the hearts of babies) makes it extra creepy. It's hard to believe it's non-fiction; that there's a country where half the people have the mindset of Jeffrey Dahmer.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:56 AM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is what obscene levels of poverty brings.
posted by ossobo at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2008

Two relevant War Nerd articles:

Please Don't Eat the Pygmies

Trading Places: Liberia's Pompous Slaves
posted by Bletch at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2008

He killed little kids and ate their hearts and now wants forgiveness?

No problem, right after I put a .45 round between his eyes. What a shit-stain.
posted by illiad at 10:47 AM on January 22, 2008

There was a Fortean Times article about this guy a few years back but I can't find anything online.
posted by christopherious at 12:26 PM on January 22, 2008

“is the core of your point the so called Pax Romana , which is better than Barbarism”

Actually, somewhat the opposite. Though that’s a logical conclusion to derive given some of the ideas I put forth and insofar as I agree with the minimal emphasis on military force (and I did contemplate posting the Terence quote ‘I am human and nothing human is alien to me’ so perhaps a Roman subtextual flavor there).
We are not culturally engaged with Africa - I’m not asserting style or the more common connotation of ‘tradition,’ perhaps custom is a more appropriate word, Burke used ‘prejudice.’
But while we (the US) occasionally delve into force (that bit in Somalia) as does the UN, there isn’t a lot of development in terms of forming legitimacy and custom - NGOs aside of course, I think they’re doing some brilliant work.

Let me draw on an example from here - some folks talked about women getting raped and the fact that if they began praying or went into a church or something their attackers would back off.
That demonstrates they, the attackers, have at least some respect for - and so have, or believe they have, an investment in - some kind of system. (Again, Burke talked about the influence of the church on powerful folks, I’m not headed that way other than to point to it as one form of custom. So not church specificially, just one example).

In this case (and in many others, such as the French Revolution, as I pointed out) we have direct opposition to such custom or at best an utter lack of resistance to it (the Yeats poem comes to mind - “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity” - and indeed, as an aside early drafts of Yeats’ The Second Coming’ included phrases such as “And there's no Burke to cry aloud no Pitt”)
In this case the general exemplifies passionate intensity and the couple with the rapist son and the raped daughter are those who lack all conviction. In the latter case they don’t want to discuss the past, have no convictions in order to escape the brutal pain, in the former an active resistance to order of any kind and a direct opposition to order and custom they hear about (Jesus, God, etc).

The values themselves are not, for me in this argument, a concern.
One can debate the merits of worshipping Jesus vs. Satan in terms of religious history, theology and history, but what is unequivocal is that the general (and his men) in this case are not making those sort of assertions but rather merely opposing any values with the most direct method possible (eg. Satan is in direct opposition to God in JudeoChristian beliefs - had the most influentual order been, say, Scientology, he may have said he worshipped Xenu - if I’ve got that detail correct and Xenu is in fact the ‘bad guy’ in that mythos system).

So - not isolationism - even with the benefit of less military incursion. But in fact, engagement and fostering of custom.

It’s an easy thing to miss because we take these things so much for granted - but consider the depth behind each interaction you’ve had today that involves manners and demanded a kind of predictability from you today.
Not conformity - although societies do push for that as well, but that’s more of a value - predictablity.
You buy a coffee, you hand them money, there are some verbal pleasantries which are subtextual assurances of good intention and mutual benefit.
In some other countries, you haggle before you buy something and there are predictable patterns associated with that seemingly wide open process as well which are also subtextual assurances of good intent and mutual benefit.

These things are nearly invisible in our lives, which is great, but where there isn’t an assumption of investment in the system life can be a little scary. It is, in part, why folks avoid homeless people.

And homelessness is an apt name. It’s not merely shelterlessness or houselessness.
An entire city of people without a home, but with wealth and shelter is a battleground and as much jungle (in the sense Hobbs meant it) and chaos as a wasteland (another good poem, by T.S. Eliot, and, in fact, somewhat related - the drought that turns the land into desert and his allusions to the neutrals in Dante’s Inferno who chose neither virtue nor sin and so can’t enter Heaven or Hell and remain eternally stagnant...and we see the same theme in the film “Children of Men” - and the connection to Eliot’s The Waste Land there too - ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’).
The point being that stagnation comes from this lack of contract with the future and the past. In ‘Children of Men’ it’s arbitrarily imposed by the dearth of children being born. In the Waste Land it’s the ignorance or denial of the unity of consciousness and it’s attendant healing (Tiresias figures big in the poem and he’s often associated with the caduceus - y’know the medical symbol)

To get less metaphysical here and closer to politics, we - that is the western world - create wastelands because of how we sow our own land. The feeling of lack of investment in Africa exists because they are separated from the world. In much the same way the homeless are shunned - and that maintains their homelessness.

And this is, to some degree, by design. We blind ourselves to the forces that cause homelessness as we blind ourselves to the forces that create dispair and chaos in other lands because we believe ourselves immune or, in the worst cases, believe that their poverty is necessary for our wealth.
So we don’t engage them any more than we speak to the homeless guy. We don’t think about the debilitating effects the system has on those who break - mentally, socially, or otherwise - and so we don’t consider countries in chaos.
We arm to protect ourselves from the threat they pose (and they often do) but ignore the violence done away from us as a result (the internal rapes, killings, etc - are in some ways analogus, homeless folks are far more often the victims of crime than the perpetrators) - exactly because it is far away from us.

I’m saying even if, as a country, we send economic aid, try not to impose our own values, etc - we’re still allowing harm (if not tacitly or even overtly encouraging it in the private sector for economic exploitation) because we are not engaging them, helping them form more universal customs and stability.

It’s as though I eliminated the possibility of you getting a job by depriving you of any tools to learn how to do anything - even cooking and cleaning for yourself - but gave you some money, food and so forth.
You would develop a sort of nihilistic outlook. You would certainly be unsatisfied with your life.
If however I shared methods of doing things with you, taught you ways to express yourself, how to cook, clean, think, do a variety of things - including learn - then you can support yourself. Whether you actually have money is not relevent.

The works of Shakespeare, Mozart, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, William Hammond Hall (the civil engineer) are not accessable only to people with wealth.
But most people don’t have the taste for them because they’ve not been engaged to appreciate them - and knowlege for it’s own sake - and the custom which supports it. Same thing with countries. If you don’t have that kind of custom between countries - and I mean custom in the broad sense of the word, intellectual, cultural, prejudicial trade - there isn’t going to be any real engagement no matter how much aid you send them.

Again, NGOs are doing some great work there. But that’s paddling with a straw to some degree. It can grow, but it will take a far longer time than it would if there was engagement and investment - and not economic per se - in Africa so they can self-invest.

It is in our interest to do so, not only because of the general principle espoused by Terence, but because we would ultimately spend less on stuff. The savings on weapons alone would vastly improve our lives.

But essentially, barbarism is being maintained artificially regardless of our political alignment because of the lack of recognition of whats happening not only in the private sector, but what’s not happening culturally and in terms of communication and basic attention to the human plight.
The response, typically, and at best (and again with Yeats in mind) is to open the wallet, slide over a couple bucks and forget about it.

That’s not a moderative policy. That’s not a political policy, really, of any kind. That’s abandonment.

And the political result, not surprisingly is this kind of recurrent nihilism giving rise (and fall) to cyclic charismatic leadership which maintains the barbarism.

Raise a monkey with negative attention and another with positive attention and you can get whatever kind of monkey as a result - mean tempered, happy, sad, whatever - depending on the variables.
Raise a monkey with no attention at all and they will likely die.

Attention is often more important than food (that whole wire mother/ soft mother series of experiments).
No surprise then that humans can thrive on love even in the absence of wealth, even in the midst of poverty. The dispair that comes from abandonment, not so much.

(Sorry to get so wordy there - but you and athenian have good observations that I do agree with - I’ve just stepped back a ways further and it’s tough to ‘splain without showing the underlying reasoning. I could say “The world has abandoned them” but there are some arguments against that are correct from a certain perspective - not only the NGOs but some policies are geared towards corrective measures - still - they don’t address the overall problem, much like penicillin does fight certain infections - but in the broader sense overuse is giving rise to mutations immune to penicillin, etc. etc. So I felt I had to kind of clarify why this guy and others like him - while, yes, in control of their own actions - are inevitable given the circumstances.

And while I agree he himself should be punished - eliminating him - by whatever means - doesn’t eliminate his series or the conditions that gave and will again give rise to someone just like him. It is not enough to kill a madman to stop mass murder and genocide, you must destroy the conditions in which he thrives. Unfortunately some people have an interest in maintaining those conditions. Typically they are arms dealers and politicians, but the more insidious folk are exploitive businessmen who are often invisible to more altruistic people and whos influence is often invisible on policy makers (or in this case lack-of-policy makers). )
posted by Smedleyman at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

San Dimas High School football rules!
posted by humannaire at 9:13 PM on January 22, 2008

This guy is like the supporting lead of a Cormac McCarthy book, up until the part where he asks to be let off the hook.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 PM on January 22, 2008

Smedleyman: let me be the first to say: Yowza.
posted by It ain't over yet at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2008

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