Transcript of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885)
KINGDOM OF BELGIUM (KB): Empress Victoria neednât swallowâševery morsel of the Congo,
but leave a slice for our Emperor Leopold.
FRENCH REPUBLIC (FR): He sees rubber as black gold,
but mustnât work Congolese into coffins.
KB: Unquestionably! Slavery fathers sins.
KINGDOM OF PORTUGAL (KP): Europeans
should be Christians, not merely Caucasians.
UNITED KINGDOM (UK): Well-born whites!
UNITED STATES (US): Well-qualified whites!
UK: Oxford-taught blue-bloods must rule Africa.
KB: Save for at IsandlwanaâŠ.
UK: That Zulu âVictoryâ was a miracle
wrought by Hubris â an error, tactical.
US: In any event, there was a slaughter.
UK: I hear no matter warranting laughter.
Recall: We torched your White House to smithereens.
US: And we whupped your ass at New OrleansâŠ.
KP: We scent the stink of History.
KB: What does Belgium want? No mystery:
Nothing too swollen; nothing we canât digest.
UK: One piece of wedding cake? Next: The rest?
GERMAN FEDERATION (GF): The dogs of War are nervous!
Shakespeareâs bulldogs bark, howl, at every mouse.
UK: Her Majesty has no corpse tendencies.
GF: If Peace is not agreed, we seed maggots, flies,
and the English Channel becomes a decayed sea.
US: Divvy up copper, diamonds, the rubber tree.
Put away gunboats and barbed wire.
FR: A real peace treaty must require
Dissipation of Irregularities:
No more poaching each otherâs colonies
like dogs scrapping over bones.
US: The answer is more and more free-trade zones,
thus ending land-grabs, pillages,
unruly borders, ethnic-cleansed villagesâŠ.
UK: What Hypocrisy! Admit that you make all
South America, outside Brazil (late of Portugal),
your de facto colonies. Uncle Samâs a cancer!
GF: Colonies provide illicit Capital transfer
to empires; Plunder makes Europe âtriumphant.â
FR: This Hurt requires disinfectant!
GF: But a treaty canât be journalistic flimflam.
KP: Respect Ek Chuah, the âGod of Trade.â
GB: You parrot the mantra of Uncle Sam.
US: Properly-coloured maps must now be made.
KB: We want to ship rubber, rum, sugar, diamonds,
ornaments, copper pots, sugarâŠ.
FR: And bust female savagesâ hymens.
US: The problem with John Bull is
the troublesome rotundity of his
belly, a bloating that never sags.
KB: And the spiderâs branching legs,
straddling the globe.
US: Threatening all with bulging crevices
of graves, an atlas of abyss upon abyss.
UK: You know that well, America!
Cadavers piled up â blue and grey ca-ca;
the fallen, heaped uniforms, ungainly.
GF: Nothingâs as unbudging as a cemetery.
FR: Colonialism is a glorified Infection.
KB: Diamonds render Congo dirt a confection.
GF: Forego this unforeseen Anatomy
before it becomes an autopsy.
All of us have a need for a necessary
swelling: The point is to distribute equally
the âbeer monopoly,â so to speak.
Excuse the metaphor. We want no mystique.
Split Africa smartly, and no party needs arms,
but only hands to work factories and farmsâŠ.
[Peterborough (Ontario) 27 novembre mmxv]
George Elliott Clarke is Canadaâs Parliamentary Poet Laureate.