Carla Drift – Travelling


After submitting my thesis on the subject “Preventing Excesses during Change and Conflicts”, I gave a presentation on this topic two weeks later. The attendees asked critical questions about the need for defence of property. They were sceptical about the possibility of words – ultimately chats do not fill gaps caused by tensions and stress. During the examination, fundamental questions were asked about the balance between the races of developments of the material prosperity and the development of the arms industry that has produced devastating instruments including atom bombs. Luckily, I had an example available on the transition from the Bronze Age [1] into the Iron Age in Greece and Asia Minor around 1200 BC. At that time, many cities were destroyed by sacking and fire. Until recently, this destruction was attributed to drifting people – the so-called Sea People [2]. Now there is more nuanced thought about this period. It is believed that the improved military technology and population growth – by use of iron agricultural tools – made it possible to sack cities and defeat  classic armies equipped with bronze weapons and chariots.

After the exam and the diploma ceremony, there was my graduation party – a beautiful party. Everyone who was important in my life, was present. My father beamed, my mother and sisters were happy for me, childhood friends from South Limburg wished me luck, but they warned me for the dangers of the human world. They asked when I would come back home and they had taken vacancies of posts at the Municipality and the Province. My student friends asked what my plans were: a post – or a journey around the world. Also my former great love was present – the magic between us was gone. I saw him as an ordinary beautiful nice young man, who easily falls in love with women – not my type. We gave each other kisses on the cheeks and promised to keep in touch with each other. Not much came of it. Through acquaintances I occasionally heard something about his life.

After receiving my Masters, I had no interest in PhD. Then I should specialize too much during the investigation and an academic career did not attract me with its hairs-splitting including a strong competition with other scientists. Before I might accept a post, I preferred to see parts of the world. I prepared a world tour of about a year. I disposed of many of my belongings and I left the special items at my family, friends and acquaintances. I only owned the contents of my backpack: 10 kilogram or two sets of spare clothes and a little more.

Backpack with belongings [3]

I planned to go to India to first. The overland journey was too dangerous with the war going on between Iran and Iraq and uncertainty about Afghanistan.

During the elaborating of this plan, I received an invitation for a paid study trip to Central Africa. A human rights organisation wished to investigate excesses in a dictatorial governed country in Africa. Before I participated in the research, I could make a three weeks tourist journey at my own expense in parks in Kenya and Central Africa.

On this tourist travel I met many dear, nice and helpful people. Their hospitality exceeds far beyond the good hospitality in South Limburg. In this environment men still know – according to the first college philosophy by Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen – the art of half an hour work for eight hours sitting in the sun. An art that I could only acquire during short periods much later in my life. I was open and people were open. They protected me – as one of their small children – for the dangers of the environment and for dangers of robbery and worse.

Savanne in Africa [4]

In Central Africa I noticed remnants of former cities. I was reminded of the ancient cities in Asia Minor during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Several hundred years ago, this continent had undergone a similar forced revolution by the invasion and colonization of a more advanced civilisation from Europe.

City wall in Zimbabwe [5]

All the maritime countries of Europe tried to take possession of a part of Africa to assert their influence and to acquire riches. According to an old saying, a crime is underlying each possession. This occupation was accompanied by violence against the original inhabitants and with violence between the maritime countries themselves. Around 1885, Congo still had to be divided between the high-profile countries in Europe. In 1885 during the Conference in Berlin, Congo was awarded to King Leopold II of Belgium: he made Congo his personal property and named it ‘Congo Free State’. For the original inhabitants of this part of Africa it was certainly no Free State.

From the West Coast of Africa, many original inhabitants – after being captured – were traded as slaves and deported to South- and North America. Below is a photo of their symbolic gate – called “Point of no Return” – for their forced departure with an excessive unpleasant journey to the “promised” land, where a slave existence awaited. Only much later, after many hardships and strive, they would legally receive an equal status in the United States of America. In practice, the status of many people from Africa is still not equal to people originating from the maritime countries of Europe.

Gate of Point of no return[6]

More than a century ago, Africa was divided by Europe into many parts with artificial borders. The population within these parts was not homogeneous. Coherent groups were divided over different areas. After the Second World War, Europe had no longer the power and influence to keep its colonies in Africa occupied. By negotiation or after a freedom fight, many former colonies received independency along  the former imposed artificial borders. Serious underlying tensions often existed within this new independent parts and between these parts. These tensions found their way in mutual conflicts between tribes and between the new States. A number of new States had great internal tensions to establish a new public administration. Some countries fell into dictatorship with a reign of terror in order to stay in power.

Map of Africa [7]

In Ethiopia in 1974, parts of the skeleton were found of a woman who has lived approximately 3.2 million years. She is called “Lucy” [9].

Australopithecus afarensis or a woman of 3,2 million years old named Lucy [10]

By conducting this paid study, I started a dangerous career. This first paid study focused on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. I have never been very convinced of the existence of homogeneous people. I think it is better to speak of small or large groups of people with reasonably similar habits and culture. Within these groups, the differences can be significant, but outsiders often focus on the similarities. Based upon this framing, special characteristics are attributed to this group. When tensions arise, certain characteristics are used for stigmatisation of a foreign group; the own group is glorified based upon certain other characteristics. Tensions can pass into conflicts with sometimes fatal consequences and excesses for groups or parts of the group. My study focused on the process and the consequences of this stigmatisation and on the responsibility for excesses.

For the safety of the interviewee, my co-researchers and myself I can give no details about this study.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Age_collapse
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Peoples
[3] Source image: Zie ook:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpack
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_afarensis
[10] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide

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