This morning, outside, it has been raining most of the night and the humidity is as high as humidity can be measured before humidity becomes precipitation. This is what I personally detest about weather in certain places: excessive humidity. Other than where I presently live—that is, in a “port” city where no port should really be; a city built atop a silt swamp complete with human-made beaches to lure tourists (false beaches constructed at enormous cost and maintained at an expense of about $18 million every few years to combat the natural erosion of such a geography, so that people can come here to conspicuously consume in order that the beach-building costs are justified… never mind the state of nature and its processes, which are, in such a scheme, merely an aggravation to the financial planning). The only other place I’ve spent time that is consistently more humid that here is when I lived in New Orleans (a curiously-constructed place, no doubt, but which has its origins in temporary trading posts dating back to the pre-Arcadians of the area). At least in NOLA, there is the French Quarter and Garden District to while away such afternoons that measure F90°+ / 95%+ humidity.
Another place that reaches such extremes in both humidity and heat (which I have never physically been) is the geographic source for the coffee I’m drinking this morning. Congo Kivu is in my cup and deep in its dark heart is a complexity that has left me, even after my third pot of it this week, unsure about how I would describe it. But more on the taste of this coffee in a moment. Let us first—via our electronic computerized scrying mirrors—metaphorically travel to that place and examine a few facts about it.
When I first began thinking about this review two weeks ago, I was re-reading Conrad’s famously infamous novella, and how its contents and influence lay buried in my subconscious for more than two decades before it writhed it way up into my conscious thoughts and offered a framework for a great number of other factors I have both independently and academically studied (for more about Conrad, the Congolese, and me, see the linked essay when it goes live in a bit). I wanted to place Conrad’s two rivers with two views of the Congo’s place in international perspective and commerce. But in the meantime, I’ve come across issues far more contemporaneous and just as brutal as Leopold’s sans-handed attempts to make the Congo looks like the myths of Antwerp. This article discusses the United Nations condemning M23 rebels in the eastern Congo [to be politically precise, the Democratic Republic of Congo], for their role in the rape warfare that has been expanded beyond all previously known horror to include victims as young as 18 months old!
Leaving aside the terribly irony of the UN condemning what it has been consistently proven to have either ignored, not challeged, or actively participate in sexual slavery and human trafficking (see such works as Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo by Peter Andreas, and myriad references in any close examination of the UN’s involvement in Rwanda, pan-African conflicts, and Bosnia), this condemnation of such heinous actions—sadly and simultaneously—illustrates a number of current and on-going problems in the world.
Farther in the past than the debates of Plato and Socrates, there has been this question that is usually deemed unanswerable, that involves never fully understand something until we comprehend the why of it. I posit that is is not an unanswerable question but rather the sort of question that we-as-a-collective-society do not want to answer. Answering questions brings about understanding—as Umberto Eco writes in The name of the Rose, “learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do”—and with understanding comes the responsibility to act upon that understanding. So answering the question why inherently causes a moral/ethic self-awareness that most people are terribly uncomfortable in achieving. Because responsibility is even more uncomfortable. It demarcates the difference between talking and doing, the difference between social media internet compassion and acting compassionately in the world of actual inter-human relations. After a great tragedy—the Boston Marathon bombings, Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City, 9/11, 11-M, 7/7, Arab Spring, the assassination of an Archduke on a street corner on a Sunday morning in June—the invariable question is why? And that question is usually deemed too complex to fathom. And so the cycle continues. But this response is self-delusional.
Why would any reasonable sensible creature rape an 18-month old baby?
Well, reasonable, they are not. Nor are they animals. I’m no active zoologist, but I’m not certain that there is any animal, or even insect, that would rape another of its own—or any other—kind. Kill, eat, attack, perhaps, but not rape. This is (I believe) a uniquely human characteristic. And the answer to the question why? is deceptively simple to conclude, and immensely difficult to combat. The answer is Incessant Greed.
In what amounts to earning pennies on a century note, the M23 Congolese militia are willing to resort to raping year-old infants to define their claim on a geographic territory that has been found to be essential to world trade and commerce. This area holds numerous resources that are integral to the progress of civilization—i.e. “modern life”.
Be it ivory, rubber, copper, diamonds, gold, cobalt, columbite–tantalite (coltran), or, ehem, coffee, the Congo has been the focus of exploitative barbarity since the Portuguese, Dutch, and Brits decided to start “civilising” this “untamed wilderness”. Mind you, bringing civilization and religion to the Congolese has, for the overwhelming majority of all instances, been a façade for grabbing up a personal stockpile of the estimated $24 trillion of wealth in natural resources the Congo provides. When nations and corporations are willing to pay a working a dollar a day to mine coltran, then make hundreds (if not thousands and/or millions) of times that amount in returns—and the people mining either earn that dollar a day or nothing at all since the profits are rarely or only minisculely invested back into the region, people who are willing to rape an 18-month old are going to be in place to take those pennies on the century note. And yes, in my opinion, since international corporations have long known these were the sort of people they were buying their diamonds, coltran, and gold from, they are culpable of being accessories if not outright employers of the rapists.
Does this include Starbucks, Pete’s, Caribou, Contra coffee chains? In a major why, yes. They, like other corporations, have done little to aid in the infra-structure of the region (farmers may grow crops to sell, but if there are no roads to take those crops to market, they spoil and the farmers go without earning a wage that allows them to continue being farmers…so they go to work mining minerals with hand tools for their dollar a day; as Jello Biafra sings, they’ll “work harder with a gun in [their] back for a bowl of rice a day”). The exploitation of King Leopold did not ceased with that homo excreta‘s demise, it merely took his blueprints for sanctimonious corporate lust for financial wealth at the expense of human life and limb. But coffee is one resource that could, with international investment rather than merely international consumption, begin to break this cycle of Kurtz’s horror. Alas, less than a year ago, SOPACDI coffee workers were slaughtered while taking their crop to market. Those who slaughtered the plantation workers reaped the financial benefits from selling the coffee to those aforementioned coffee chains. Such coffee plantations in the Congo have sometimes sold their beans in exchange for food, soap, and clothing. Money, as may be evident from attempting to eat, proves to have no nutritional value.
So what about this coffee? How does it drink in the cup?
This Congo Kivu, from Schuil Coffee Co., is, as I stated above, complex. That’s the first adjective that springs to mind, but I’m not sure I can place delicious immediately next to it (although, to be sure, it is an excellent tasting coffee), because it also has a bite to it that has nothing to do with bitterness. I’d attribute it to a psychological shading of the taste, except it has been un-solicitously mentioned by another in tasting it. It’s partly a earthy bite, much like the Sidamo coffee of Ethiopia, a bit to the north, and partly a bite of coffee strength, like some of the Kenyans I’ve had. I suppose, since this is the morning of writing the review, I shall add the descriptors: curious and hesitantly inviting to the rating.
Rating: Distinctive and complex, curious and hesitantly inviting.
After brewing and pouring, I sip this distinctive coffee and can barely taste the blood.