MOBUTU, LUMUMBA and the RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

Once in awhile, I get some unfortunate youtube comments regarding two video pieces that I posted some time back. I’m not sure exactly what motivates their posting, or even the angle—but, hey, something motivated colonialism and resedential schools and countless other brutal yet largely praised endeavours, so no surprise.

As humans, of course, we follow our natures to a large degree, and our natures are nurtured by environment, in some mysterious alchemy, resulting in us.

I, of course, have no answers, but, as the Beach Boys once sang…

“Wouldn’t it be nice…” if things were more loving.

CONGO/ZAIRE/DRC

For the historical aspects of the Ali film I’m working on, the Congo/Zaire/the DRC may be noted in two different areas.

One is from the early 1960s. That connection, or at least perceived connection, between Black nationalist groups in America, in this case the Nation of Islam and, more specifically, Malcolm X. Specifically, his support for the eventually assassinated, democratically elected leader Patrice Lumumba.

From Mike Marqusee’s book Redemption Song, pg 117:

Malcolm [X] was overwhelmed by Lumumba, whom he called “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent.” It was not an accident that he referred to Lumumba in his response to the JFK assassination, nor that he would invoke his name again and again during his own final months.

Lumumba, it is said, was captured and murdered by domestic military forces with support from Western Intelligence agencies. The imposed leader was brutal strongman and thief extraordinaire Mobutu Sese Seko.

The second area is with Mobutu. In 1974, it turns out, he put up (surely not his own) big money for the Rumble in the Jungle—Muhammad Ali versus the invincible George Foreman for five million a piece. For Mobutu, the point of the event was to highlight the greatness of the country he was actually bleeding to death, in all senses of the word.

As Mobutu continued his pathological reign of terror (indeed, prison and terror continued unabated beneath the Stadium while the fight was on, according to Norman Mailer in When We Were Kings), the boxing match was dubbed a back-to-Africa spectacle of solidarity, led by that champion of solidarity and human rights, the inimitable and twice-charged-with-murder or near murder, Don King.

Ah, the material experience. Is this not a fascinating world?

This fight was King’s first really big splash in boxing, as the fight game moved from the Frankie Carbo mafia tranglehold to the Don King (and a few others) stranglehold.

Talk of pensions and unions remain largely non-existant, which can only encourage boxers to fight too long.

PIRATES AND EMPERORS

It has been estimated that Mobutu took 4 billion dollars from the country (in loans payable, no doubt, many via the IMF etc). This was undeniably known by the CIA well into the 1990s, as Mobutu remained the celebrated guest of, among others, Ronald Reagan and former CIA head George Walker Bush.

Anyway, things are still more than difficult in the Congo, unsurprisingly yet ironically exacerbated by rich resources in the country.

This is a quick piece on Mobuto.

This is a piece from Hope In the Time of AIDS. The young girl in the film, Safi, lives in the DRC.

And this is a very brief overview of Colonialism—or, more specifically, the so-called Scramble for Africa.

Life is never as clear as any of these pieces, of course, but they can still be instructive.

Love more!

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2 Responses to “MOBUTU, LUMUMBA and the RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE”

  1. Dear Pete: Thought you might be interested to know that I have just completed a novel called ALBERTVILLE. The story revolves around the rise and fall of Lumumba, but it is seen through the eyes of a young black woman raised in segregated Alabama in the 1940s and 1950s. My debut novel HUNTING THE KING just came out in April. But I am trying to secure an agent and a publisher for ALBERTVILLE as there is no guarantee that my current publisher, Kunati Books, will want to publish ALBERTVILLE (or anything else for that matter). I’d enjoy hearing from you on your work in this area. Peter

  2. Dear Peter,

    Thanks for the note. Sounds like a fascinating setting for a novel. I wish you great success. Lumumba, Congo/Zaire and what unfolded seemed to me a quintessetial example of being a pawn in Cold War interests. I’m not sure that is exacty true, but I sure felt intelligent writing it.

    One thing’s for sure, the DRC over the last decade-plus has been ravaged my war and disease and exploitation by internal and external forces—they even had to pay dearly for the Rwandan Genocide due in part to the exodus of a million-odd Hutus to Kivu (including the surviving genecodaires, who were by all accounts (perhaps unintentionally), by aid to the area.

    What a world.

    I’ve actually, in the old days, written a couple of novels myself, but neither with the kind of scope you’re working with. They sound wonderful.

    Oh, I saw on your website: “I am looking for a political candidate to believe in.”

    With a smile on my face that comes in humility of knowing I really don’t know much about much, I have to comment on this optimism (and I am an optimist, indeed—life is remarkable, stunning, mysterious, beautiful and, yes, tragic).

    I beg you, yes, to hope for a better candidate. But one “to believe in,” I believe, is founded in a misreading of what politics actually offers, due to the limited bandwidth of possibilities within “politics” in the democratic or so-called democratic system (basically the right to vote every X amout of years, and speak relatively freely).

    And granted, that may well be the best system of large systems being attempted at this time, by a mile.

    Also, this does not discount the massive tentacled effects of politics, just comments on what one politician, voted, supported and financed by this system, can do (or even wants to do) to effect change.

    And don’t get me wrong, I love living in Canada (and I have a great fondness for the beautiful sisters and brothers I meet in the States). But politics is, to me, profoundly small in its bandwidth of thought and creatvity (though we see this not).

    There should be a new name for it even being called politics, because it is hog-tied to multinational business interests, and even more sold-off than ever by the Bush regime (Blackwater, the security business as the smallest example). To quote Naomi Klein, the political arena, the White House, is a “hollow house” for the next arrival.

    Indeed, resources of all forms have been intensely privatised virtually completely at tax-payers’ expense and citizen cost. So we can be described, me thinks, more appropriately as State Capitalism (with the definition of capitalism being dodgy) or, given the size of the tax-payer debt reflecting the enormity of the state (as opposed to government), Market Socialism (with the definition of socialism being dodgy).

    Having said that, these descriptions are dodgy at best, and stop critical thinking. I see the two parties as one big party run by two brothers, who are slightly different. One has gay friends, maybe. That limitation of two parties looking like one about says it all.

    Joy, change, hope, love and everything else precious to me and so worth fighting and loving for remains most deeply felt and possible in the sweetest and unavoidable tension and fluidity of community/solidarity and individual freedom/creativity. Not one without the other. They are, anyway, inseparable. Just a few thoughts, with no answers.

    Chomsky: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American President would have been hanged.”

    He goes on to say, paraphrasing, that if he were ever to be President, the first thing he would do is apply the Nuremberg Laws, because it’s so damn difficult in politics, given the interests of Power, to avoid breaking those laws.

    I hope Hunting the King and Albertville are grand successes.

    Love to you and yours, Pete

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