Saturday, December 08, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Geezers of Dawn

Geezers of Dawn

If ever Iquitos, Peru has a contest for “The coolest guy in town to hang out with” the deserved winner would be Bill Grimes, restaurateur and U.S. Consul in the city. Affectinaltely known as Captain Bill, Grimes is a casual guy who often wears a spotless white shirt that matches his hair, his blue eyes and gentle smile and calm and soothing voice with his mid-western drawl being as easy to like as his restaurant on the Malecon, the pedestrian walkway along side the river where folks sit out under the hand painted awnings and eat and drink and take life as easy as one can in this world.

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A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: POPPY House: America of the Mind (Part Two)

Long before the boy started coming round in the evening to cry on the stoop I wondered about those kids no one wants, or who are wanted perhaps but not affordable in some too drastic fashion: too expensive to feed, clothe, house, educate, or even care about very much. What happens in a city full to bursting with babies and toddlers and little kids everywhere to those kids others don't want so much?

To read the rest of this story, please turn to the following link;

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Iquitos, Peru: Jews, not Jooos

--> Everyone wants to be Marilyn Monroe,
But nobody wants to be the audience.
Everyone wants everybody to love them.
But nobody, nobody, loves everyone.*

Everybody wants to be the Jews. But nobody wants to be the Jooos.
Some maybe want a “Boogy-Jew” to show that those who would be Jews are not the Jooos!
In Pucallpa, Peru, as I was lingering long while making my way slowly toward the jungle city of Iquitos, my first assumption on seeing ladies dressed in deep blue head scarves and long skirts standing on street corners was that they were nuns of some Peruvian Catholic order; but then I saw the ladies with husbands and children. The Amazon is a bit swelteringly hot for clothing like that, but I didn't give it more thought till I was on a boat to Iquitos much later and there I saw a fair number of ladies dressed similarly in blue. Those others on the boat I asked about the blue ladies just shrugged and said nothing more about them, turning to talk instead of fishing and family. I let it go, assuming nothing of interest about these blue costumed people. But when I saw them again and in large number in Iquitos, I asked further till a friend told me they are “the Jews.”

A Jew, but not one of the Jooos

Norman Mailer's WWII novel of US soldiers fighting in the Pacific, The Naked and the Dead, has a scene of two Jews in a fox hole, one arguing that, “I'm not a Jew: I'm an atheist.” The other responds: “When they come for you they won't ask what kind of Jew you are.”

--> I got curious, though, about what kind of Jews there are in Iquitos, finding as I looked around, as I met a man with a large blue and white magen david painted on his motorcycle helmet, he being one of the few people in this city of so many motorcycles one couldn't begin to count them all, he being one of the few who wears a tlilith under his jacket, he being one of the few Jews remaining in Iquitos at all, I found that the few Jews who had come to Iquitos during the rubber boom had married local girls, and over the generations had lost their ties to the religion, having to convert to claim the right to return to Israel, which most then did, leaving the field open, in effect, to the new Jews, an old story, indeed. So, in some sense, not credible to me, the Jews are not the Jooos of Israel that our post-modernist Left love to hate so much, these new Jews are Jews, new and improved over the old Jooos whom God hates and has forsaken in favour of Peruvian indians, many of whom moved to utopian communes in the Amazon. Who knew?

Even Muslims, who hate the Jooos more than anyone else, want to be the Jews; but in Peru Muslims have to wait in line for the followers of a dead shoemaker who got word from God Himself that the shoemaker is The New Jews, and the Jooos are cooked, as it were, Peru being the new Promised Land, particularly the Amazon, and the shoemaker is now the mouthpiece of God. Or is it the school teacher from the Andes? Or the hippie from the city?

In my position as a witness of understanding, and having set out the contents of this letter, I must testify:

Our Missionary General and compiler of the excellent and beneficial universal Law: Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal testifies that he was taken away to the third heaven, to write the ten commandments of the universal Decalogue, and to unite all the people whose names are written in the book of life, from the four corners of the earth, so as to save them: Then Jehovah will be sanctified and glorified among the people, and they will know the living God, Jehovah, God of truth, eternal king. Amen halleluya.

Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal

Nobody wants to be the Jooos, but there is some serious brand grabbing here in wanting to be authentic beyond the history we can all lay claim to, the ideas we know as old and tired, the ways that seem to dramatically to have failed us. And thus, if one can go back, as it were, to the very beginning of what we think we know as what is right, the first Revelation, then perhaps, the others having failed and we being the holders of the first truth, we can do it right, being the right folks by name and definition. We can be the Jews God favours with his whispers. The others having mis-heard or misspoken since. Better to lay claim to being even older than Christ in Christian country like Peru, better to go back of beyond to the Jewish time that so few have any critical knowledge of to lay a foundational claim to rightness and awareness of the future.
So too with the other turn to the Golden Age, the return to the prehistoric past of the Inca era and beyond even that in a challenge to the failed orthodoxies one might be at odds with, even to the point of being at war with orthodoxy. In an attempt to create a whole new world, going back to first principles can mean going so far back to original revelations that there is no record to compare against, only myth and the mind of the creator today. The new world, the new Jews, the new man, the new bringer of Light.

It is about bringing people to orthodoxy, to an agreement about the way it must be for all men if they would live a right life in this corrupt world. Corrupt it is, and the corruption competes with the bringing of the new and the perfect that would be for all men better if only there were a way to take power from those who are evil, those who must, if life is to be right, be rid of. A new second coming, “surely some revelation is at hand.” Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, an old shoe maker by trade, had a vision of a new world, and so too did his competitor in the new world business, Abimal Guzman. Two views. Two Perus. Two new Jews. But something is lost. In Peru, some people are determined to bring about a new order in the universe, to end the old order and make the new their own. The end of the world is the beginning of the world. Tear down the old to make way for the new.

In becoming the New Jews, something is lost in the wilderness of wandering translation. The old Jooos! would never use the "name" Jehovah nor its Hebrew equivalent, Yahweh, derived like an acronym from Exodus 3:14, where God only gives his name as a sentence: “I am that I am.” It is the True Universality revealed by that declarative sentence -- the first ever God who cannot be named, i.e. called to appear,who is no local God, which is to say that all erstwhile tribal gods or spirits are really just (mis)apprehensions of the same universal God-idea that all humans carry forward from a common origin -- of which the new Jews want to be the world's messengers, replacing the envied old Jooos, the first self-conscious universalists whose paradoxical mission is to remember religiously the event at Sinai where they alone in the desert first discovered 'God-defined-by-a-sentence', and hence to remain a distinctive, peculiar, people.

The new Jews, lacking (whether admitted or not) ancestors at the historical scene of the Exodus and the first ever discovery of the name that cannot be named, use the Biblical acronym that refers to the unknowable name, to represent their own relationship to or knowledge of Him.  Once the old Jooos have unleashed upon the world the idea of God as something one can universally define but not name, the only alternatives are to remain unknowingly tribal, or to convert to (or mimic pointlessly) Judaism and remember, as only the peculiar and religiously Jewish nation does, that one must never say "Jehovah" or "Yahweh". The new Jews have learned too much (from Christian missionaries and conquering nations) to go back to being unselfconscious tribalists, and they don't convert to Judaism, not simply because there are no rabbis in the neighborhood recruiting, but because they implicitly feel there is something falsely universal about a "tribe" that remains apart while pretending to be the embodiment of universal truth. That, in a nut shell, is the essence of Judeophobia, as Eric Gans has so effectively argued in his Chronicles of Love and Resentment.

The "antisemite" ignores the universal human paradox that someone must always go first, and remain marked by that peculiar firstness, in representing anything truly universal. But since we all descend from the unique and common origin of human language where someone unknown went first in representing a shared human scene as something transcending the physical world, we all do indeed carry the mark of firstness, however deeply buried within us. It is only in the modern age, where the global marketplace can make us all feel like Jews on exodus in the desert, searching for insights of value to take back and sell in the market, that can dawn the beginning of the idea that We Are All Jews (Now), an idea at first so scary that it emerges along with a big dose of Judeophobia, even in places where Jooos are rarely, if ever, present. But we can make the mark of firstness normal: imagine you are in the gym, working out, and you see on the tv a middle-aged woman with an "I mean business" haircut, and the caption "momtrepreneur".

Wanting to replace the Jews is at least as old as Saint Paul, and it was dead tired by the time Mohammad (whether he actually existed or was invented as the FINAL PROPHET by some who would deny the Jooos) came round with his version of why he was the New Jews c. 618 A.D. Today we see it in Peru, two groups of religious activists claiming to be the chosen ones bringing forth the Revelation of God, as if, and in one case “as” the Jews, if not the Jooos! In replacing the Jooos, one becomes the ultimate and most important deliverer of Truth. Unity, universality, totality, commandment. Smashing the idols, there is but One God, and he is We. We the Perfect.

The story of greater interest, and one older than the Jews, is that of the end of the old oppressive order of tyrant and the restoration of the true order that the righteous God intended for the oppressed suffering unjustly.

Mid 20th century Peru produced two chiliastic movements, certainly distinguishable but both very much religious chiliastic movements intent on ushering in the Millenium, the end of history, and the New Age of perfection. Obviously this hasn't quite worked out because James Redfield is still doing much the same with a series of hack novels, The Celestine Prophecy, most famously, based superficially in the Amazon, in Iquitos, and akin to lower level high school writing passing for profundity in our rather fallen literary world today. The desire for a perfect world never fails to entice the masses of unhappy people.

I use the term chiliasm rather than the latinate millenialism because too many people think of the latter as being about sewing, which the end of the world is not exactly about. Chiliasm, concern about the utopian fulfillment of history, has probably been with us since people developed a sense of history at all, believing that they were at the very cusp of a new time, a new awakening of mankind from a terrible nightmare of oppressors and oppressed, the latter being heirs of a new age, those special and elect folks who would live on top when the revolution finally rolled around. The meek finally inherit the earth, and the world would tremble at the righteous justice forthcoming. We usually call such people belonging to such groups cultists, if not losers, who are failed in the world of men, though not always because of personal failings. Some systems are truly oppressive and sometimes genocidal, and it makes some sense for people to long for a time when there will be an end to the evil, a restoration of the good, and a transplanting of the lower to the elite. I'm not in a position to want to think in such fashion, not being oppressed beyond endurance because I have money of my own and I can vote against my local petty tyrants when and if I so choose, or I can simply leave the place they rule over for some other thug somewhere else where I might be less a target for officious meddling in my private life. But my options are not those of most people most places, and certainly not available to most people throughout history. There more or less reasonable refuge from oppression, tyranny, and outright murder has often been into flights of phantasy, into chiliastic visions of cosmic justice meted out my an all powerful god who loves the oppressed and who will, in the fullness of time, come to their aid and rescue. When one has nothing but another day of suffering, who am I to scoff?

Most generally, we can say that utopia -- literally "no place" -- is an inherent quality of human desire, inasmuch as desire focusses on the obstacles to its realization and thus resents the given order of reality, leading us to phantasize about a state of unreality. Thus,  even if it wasn't until Thomas More, writing in the early sixteenth century, this quality of desire was articulated by the concept of a Utopia.   Utopianism may be inherent to our humanity, but that doesn't mean we can't resist its dangerous sirens in the building of practical goals and ethical interactions with others.  Or, if we can't learn how to do anything, but only dream of revolution and sex, we may end up with a very dangerous politics, or in the best case just mope about like Jobim's "Dreamer":

Why are my eyes always full
Of this vision of you
Why do I dream silly dreams
That I fear won't come true

I long to show you the stars
Caught in the dark of the sea
I long to speak of my love
But you don't come to me

So I go on asking if
Maybe one day you'll care
I tell my sad little dreams
To the soft evening air

I am quite hopeless it seems,
Two things I know how to do
One is to dream
Two is loving you

Well, dreaming of what may be might be may be innocuous when it involves "loving" a girl who sees only a boy, or when it's truly some poor sod crying about his oppression, but it can become downright deadly in the mind of Gnostic politicos sworn to destruction of the oppressive capitalist world that is, for they never have a realistic alternative, just empty words of hope and change-- if not the full rhetorical Mussolini-- in service of more restraint on exchange and fair reciprocity, if not the fully destructive will to power or a Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. Dreaming. In a dream one can do anything. Creating a Dream World? It is often not innocuous. The dream of the perfect world is a path to glory, and leads but to the grave. Replacing the Jooos to become The New Jews....

Life might well be harsh, and at times and places evil. One fights. Some fight not for good but for perfect, falling into the “Perfect fallacy” of “If it's not perfect it must be evil.” Some of those who long for the millenium kill to bring about the eschathon, the perfect peace of heaven on earth. Those people often wish to be the Jews, replacing the Jews and turning the first into “The Jooos!”**

Below we see two (and a half) cases of utopianism at work in the world, the Perfect Jews as 'Not the Jooos.' We see the cobbler from Lima with his visions of the perfect; we see the mad philosophy progessor with his blood-drenched dystopian cleansing on the march, and, so slight as to be hardly noticable, we see the cliched maunderings of a post-Modernist would-be cool guy moron nihilist slagging the Jooos and the Christians and the usual suspects of hip and edgy in the shiny plastic world of the West that has lost even the semblance of authenticity the two others strive for.


In the town of Equipi, Acobamba District, Tarma Province, Junín Region, in the year 1955, in the month of April, I was studying the Bible, and while reading the Bible, I felt a change in my face, and I felt a transformation in my person. I remained still in surprise and amazement; and by the mercy of God, I Ezequiel received the revelation of the mystery for the first time.
For the first time, in the morning vision, I heard a heavenly voice, that spoke to me saying: To you is given, this mystery of dispensation, and you will speak to the ends of the earth, you will no longer be dumb, for this I chose you, and have done this, I responded: this I will do, thank you my Lord.
After which I turned my face to God, with prayers and pleading cries, saying: Now Lord God of Heaven, give me understanding, and teach me of your ways and that which I must do: Then: during the night time vision, there came a voice like thunder, and said to me: Understand Son of Man, I am here to teach you: what there is to do, what is to happen, and what is to come.

[First, he referred to "how darkness prevailed," a clear reference to the colonial period. Second, he asserted, was an age that explained "how light emerged and steel was forged." Finally, he concluded with "how the walls were destroyed and the dawn spread."***]

EZEQUIEL GAMONAL, who has died aged 82, was a Peruvian prophet regarded by tens of thousands of followers as the Messiah.

A diminutive, rather bad-tempered figure who suffered from arthritis, Gamonal was worshipped by his sect, the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant. Its members were mainly Andean peasants who wore Old Testament costumes modelled on the Hollywood epics of Cecil B De Mille.

Add caption
Gamonal, a former village shoemaker, taught that he had been chosen by God to inaugurate the new Israel, which had been transferred from the Middle East to Peru as a punishment for the original Israelites' loss of faith. The new kingdom would extend far into the Amazon, where it was believed the last Inca emperor had been sleeping since the Spanish invasion in the 16th century.
Belief in the sacredness of the jungle led the Israelites to found a number of "colonies" deep in the rainforest....
At his month-long birthday celebrations in 1999... an Indian dressed as Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, handed over a golden sceptre to Gamonal, signifying that he was destined to bring the fabled empire back to life.
Throughout the festivities the old man watched impassively, chewing methodically on enormous pieces of pork, sitting on his throne, a reclining orthopaedic armchair.
Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal was born in 1918 to a peasant family in southern Peru. It was while working as a shoemaker in the 1950s that he converted from Roman Catholicism to Seventh-day Adventism....
In 1969, the new religion was recognised by the Peruvian state, and by the 1990s estimates of its strength ranged from 60,000 to 200,000.
Gamonal's cosmology was a complex and often confusing mixture of Seventh-day Adventism, Judaism and Inca legend.
It was beyond doubt, however, that Gamonal's followers, most of whom were peasants uprooted from their villages by the collapse of the rural economy in the 1970s, derived spiritual comfort from his teachings. For many, the Israelites' life of prayer offered a peaceful alternative to the Shining Path, the Maoist guerillas who terrorised Peru during the 1980s.

The wooden pillar of blood and sacrifice.

The article on Aeminpu above from the Telegraph seems to have been originally published at, written by Lali Cienfuegos, a journalist for Al Jezeera and the BBC. The second version is stripped of the “cool”; the religion-bashing New Age hippie cliches removed from the standard journalistic piece. Not at all strange are the religious overtones in the original piece, the religion of pomo/Obama-worship, the pseudo-religious scientism of the Left eschatology. We can understand this by noting that while Utopianism may be a human universal, the specific form it takes is shaped by history. The BBC brat belongs to a postmodern age when Utopianism has lost any kind of concrete vision of the world to come. All it knows is that it must continually oppose the world as is, in the name of redeeming the victims of the putatively powerful or "privileged", an impulse that can always find more victims to make objects of media and bureaucratic mediation, maybe to throw Obama bucks at the victims though first to claim the debt-backed stimulus for their own mediation. It's a make-work project for guilty "white" folk, leaving one maybe just to cry out against capitalism, biting the hand that feeds, or as in Cienfuegos' piece to denounce a group he at first wanted to see as victims of the changing economy of Peru, but who in the end destroyed his guilty white "compassion" because of their penchant for Bibles, beef, and rice, all grown at the expense of the greater supposed victim, the death-loving bitch Gaia's rainforest. Life in the jungle may be a "verdant hell" of insects and reptiles, but a victim-worshipping death cultist respects Gaia for that and would not give the Bible thumpers the chance to gain dominion over her.

In other words, Cienfuegos is pissed that the new Israelites' Utopia is so old school.

The "oppressions" (to use the modern term) under which people lived in traditional societies were to some considerable degree understood and accepted in terms of the "natural" hierarchical order into which one who was born, say, a slave, cobbler, or feudal peasant and hence could expect little but hardship in this world. The Utopian impulse of such people, at least in the Christian and Islamic worlds, tended to the millennial and other-worldly. Taking a messianic bent, their relationship to Jewish, Christ- or Mohammed-killing, otherness was understood by reference to the peculiar ritual and law of Judaism (whether actual or invented - e.g. the belief that Jews put children's blood in their Passover mazoth), the supposed failures, evils, and limits of which could justify the ascendancy of a new covenant of new Jews. The new Jews don't kill gods and prophets. That's what the Jooos do.

In contrast, the modern word, supposedly too sophisticated for stories of blood-sucking Jewish rituals, gives rise to a utopianism that takes holistic resentment of the market-driven social order as the normal stuff of intellectual life and, in the manner of Karl Marx, makes of "the pushy Jew" the epitome of commerce, so that the transcendence of capitalism by Communism is the liberation of mankind from Judaism whose essence is no longer divine law, but simply the law's no-longer-hidden foundation: Money.  One no longer simply resents the lord or master, but the system as a whole.  And one starts to see supposedly invisible, but indubitably money-grubbing, hands manipulating the system in their own interest.  Whether one offers a concrete vision of the society to come (as Marx thought he did), or one goes postmodern, like Cienfuegos, and simply implies that resentment of an imperfect world is proof itself of an authentic vision, one may well wonder what if anything in this could be relevant to the situation of Peruvian peasants.

Here we will consider the Cerberus of Peruvian Gnostic religion, the Israelitas, and the Shining Path terrorists, groups lead by messianic figures promising a New Age as they become the new Chosen People, those who would become the better Jews of our nature.
In the face of reactionary military actions... we responded with a devastating action: Lucanamarca. Neither they nor we have forgotten it, to be sure, because they got an answer that they didn't imagine possible. More than 80 were annihilated, that is the truth. And we say openly that there were excesses, as was analyzed in 1983. But everything in life has two aspects. Our task was to deal a devastating blow in order to put them in check, to make them understand that it was not going to be so easy. On some occasions, like that one, it was the Central Leadership itself that planned the action and gave instructions. That's how it was. In that case, the principal thing is that we dealt them a devastating blow, and we checked them and they understood that they were dealing with a different kind of people's fighters, that we weren't the same as those they had fought before. This is what they understood. The excesses are the negative aspect... If we were to give the masses a lot of restrictions, requirements and prohibitions, it would mean that deep down we didn't want the waters to overflow. And what we needed was for the waters to overflow, to let the flood rage, because we know that when a river floods its banks it causes devastation, but then it returns to its riverbed.... [T]he main point was to make them understand that we were a hard nut to crack, and that we were ready for anything, anything.
Abimael Guzmán[2]


Lucanamarca Documentary:

Wikipedia enters that on 3 April 1983 the religious fanatics of the Peruvian Communist Shing Path murdered 69 peasants in the Andean town of Luicanamarca in the Ayacucho region. The massacre is ostensibly in retaliation for the stoning, stabbing, and burning and shooting death of Olegario Curitomay, a Shining Path leader from the town, in March previous. The peasants murdered by Shining Path were hacked to death by machetes and axes, some were shot. “Eighteen were children, the youngest of whom was only six months old. Also killed were eleven women, some of whom were pregnant. Eight of the victims were between fifty and seventy years old. Shining Path members also scalded villagers with boiling water.

There is no good in preventing the perfect. Whatever creates the perfect must be good in itself, no matter the means. The Jooos aren't perfect....

Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (B. 1934--), was a philophy professor at Lima, Peru before he turned to violent revolution as the means of creating the perfect world.

Son of a business man, he studied at Arequipa, was a philosophy professor at Ayachuco in the Andes. He converted to Communism shortly after Ezequiel Ataucusi converted to AEMINPU.

Initially Guzmán attempted to win over the support of citizens by punishing corrupt government officials and other unpopular leaders. However, Shining Path's increasingly brutal methods together with strictly imposed curfews, the prohibition of alcohol and an overall sense of insecurity and fear lead to an increased popular reaction against the communist party. Eventually Guzmán's plan backfired as rural militia or "rondas" rallied support for the military against Shining Path. The very peasants Guzmán claimed to defend had turned against the Shining Path. This resulted in a cyclical state of violence in which Maoist guerillas embarked in ruthless punitive expeditions against Peruvian civilians living in the Andean region.
Theodore Dalrymple has written that "the worst brutality I ever saw was that committed by Sendero Luminoso in Peru, in the days when it seemed possible that it might come to power. If it had, I think its massacres would have dwarfed those of the Khmer Rouge. As a doctor, I am accustomed to unpleasant sights, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Ayacucho, where Sendero first developed under the sway of a professor of philosophy, Abimael Guzmán."

In the early 1960s military dictator General Juan Velasco attempted to expropriate 19 million hectares of agricultural land for peasant communes. When the expropriation program ended in 1976, about 7 million hectares had been seized by the government. By 1979, “only 13 percent of the rural lands of Peru were actually under the control of the peasants. Most of the land remained under the control of the state itself. This created disillusionment. ... It led many to believe that even a government seemingly sympathetic to their economic plight could not be trusted. Rather than rely on a top-down approach to reform, many believed that it was time to take action at the grass roots level.”

Land reform was a failure and by 1978 Peru was almost bankrupt. “The availability of clean drinking water and adequate waste facilities deteriorated to the point that 'an estimated forty percent of Lima 's mushrooming population and approximately seventy-five percent of Peru 's rural population did not enjoy access to clean water or sewage'.” (Cynthia McClintock, Revolutionary Movements in Latin America, 1998, p.193).

Disillusionment set in “[P]articularly in the rural regions such as Ayacucho, [where people] came to believe that they completely lacked sociopolitical mobility, as well as the basic necessities of life and that no remedy was in sight. Indeed, conditions continued to worsen. Relying on the legitimate political and legal system ... no longer appeared to be a viable option.” (See Gaociela Tarazona-Sevillano and John B. Reuter. Sendero Luminoso and the Threat of Narcoterrorism, 1990).

For the chthonic peasant, the usual response to oppression is a rejection of the established religious order, replacing the old prophets with a new messiah who will bring purity and good to the oppressed; whereas for the Modernist, newly educated intellectual, the usual response is a Gnostic political rebellion; the former delving into 'religion' itself; the latter into a Gnostic “poligion” (political religion) as escape from cosmic injustice and for a restoration of the cosmic good in which the lower will be the higher.

“Many Sendero members claimed that socioeconomic misery drove them to join the movement. Others claimed that government duplicity and incompetence were important reasons. In short, they saw society as corrupt.” ( McClintock, Revolutionary Movements in Latin America , 273).
For many, the problems of Peru stemmed from a society dominated by people who were perceived by the Indians as foreigners in their own land. They were convinced that if this dominant and seemingly "foreign" class of elites could be removed from the positions of power in Peruvian society, the country's problems would be much closer to being solved. The movement perceived of violence and terror as agents of rebirth and renewal. As Abimael Guzman himself asserted:
Revolution will find its nest in our homeland; we will make sure of it ... the people's war will grow everyday until the old order is pulled down, the world is entering a new era.... This is of transcendental importance ... The people rear up, arm themselves, and rise in revolution to put the noose around the neck of imperialism and the reactionaries, seizing them by the throat and garroting them. The trumpets begin to sound, the roar of the masses grows, and will continue to grow, it will deafen us, it will take us into a powerful vortex ... there will he a great rupture and we will be the makers of a definitive dawn. We will convert the black fire into red and the red into light. This we shall do, this is the rebirth. Comrades we are reborn. (Quoted in G. Gorriti, The Shining Path, 1990,34-35).
The symbolism here is clear: conflict, dark, light, death, sacred intervention, destiny, rebirth, paradise. …. (Ibid.65.)
In recent years, religious movements have emerged in the Andean region that carry on the millenarian traditions of the past. The congregation of Jehovah or the Mision Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal del Peru (Israelite Mission of the New Universal Pact) believe that their founder, Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, is a prophet and son of God. … Los Israelitas, as it is commonly known, possesses symbols and theology uniquely crafted from both Judeo-Christian and pre-Columbian Indian sources.
Nonetheless it appears to be "explicitly Peruvian and implicitly Andean in its use of symbols and sacrifice." ... (Sarah Lund Skar, Lives Together, Scandinavian University Press, 1994, p. 246).
[I]n the mid-1960s ... Guzman ... insisted that Sendero Luminoso ... were increasingly presented by the movement as possessing a kind of scripture- like quality. Sendero ideology was built on this firm and seemingly sacred foundation....
Sendero Luminoso really came into its own in the early 1980s within a background of rapid sociopolitical and economic change and profound crisis in Peru.
Guzman and his colleagues worked diligently to craft an ideology that successfully merged the millenarian stream of the Inca past with the dialectic of Marxism. Nonetheless, Guzman's conscientious and meticulous manipulation of Indian traditions was subtle. At the same time, his supporters were quite aware of the syncretic mixture that he had created and were comfortable with it.
One poetic interpretation of the "people's war" declared:
Thousands of Indians and Mestizos Descend to the town Like a red avalanche With muscles of steel And voices of thunder, shouting "freedom'" Because they know that the days of Pachacutec And the Inkarri have arrived. (Quoted in Strong, ShiningPath, 61).
Sendero forces, when crying out acts of violence against the state, purposely utilized the widely known Inkarri myth of Indian resurrection. In addition, in 1980, they chose to openly celebrate the one hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of the execution Gose Gabriel Condorcanqui, Tupac Amaru II. This was a highly symbolic action and afterward, one can clearly discern that consistent and meaningful elements of Quechua Indian culture and ritual pervaded the Shining Path and significantly influenced their activities.
Guzman viewed Sendero at the forefront of a revolution, which, he believed, would accompany "humanity's third millennium." In a speech entitled "For the New Flag" delivered at a Sendero conference in 1979, Guzman divided Peruvian history into three important epochs. ***First, he referred to "how darkness prevailed," a clear reference to the colonial period. Second, he asserted, was an age that explained "how light emerged and steel was forged." Finally, he concluded with "how the walls were destroyed and the dawn spread."These three epochs were designed to purposely coincide with the transformation in the colonial period of the initial five ages of the Andean world. According to traditional Indian myth, each of these five ages lasted 1,000 years and was made up of two distinct halves. By the time of Juan Santos Atahualpa, the five ages had been cut to three-the age of the Father, the age of the Son, and the age of the Holy Ghost. It was in this third age that the separation between the Indian and European worlds would be reestablished. (See Stefano Varese, The Ethnopolitics of Indian Resistance in Latin America, in Latin Latin American Perspectives Vol. 23, No.2, Spring 1996, 58-7).

Here we would do well to note that none of this was original thinking. As Thomas Bertonneau writes (

That politics since the eighteenth century at least has been   ersatz religion , and that the results have been murderous, is perhaps the axial proposition in [Eric] Voegelin's ample and wide-ranging work. It is necessary to qualify the statement because Voegelin sees the roots of modern political religion--he sees the roots of modernity   as   political religion--as far back as the Twelfth Century in certain   “symbols of immanence,” as he calls them. In   Joachim   of Flora's (1145 - 1202)   Tractatus super quatuor evangelica , to cite what Voegelin sees as the primary text of the phenomenon, one finds a new image of history in which chronology is for the first time divided into three ages: that of the Father, that of the Son, and that of the Holy Spirit. Joachim   believed himself to be living in the senescence of the second age; the third age, he argued, was about to dawn and would be the   final   age of history, now seen as a closed system.   Joachim's tripartite construction reappears monotonously in European speculation, as does his notion of a dux and his cadre who will refashion the world according to their inspired vision. There is the Machiavellian "Prince," the Puritanical "Godded Man," the Nietzschean "Superman." All occupy the realm beyond good and evil and are uniquely gifted to see the extra-moral justification of their own acts. Voegelin calls attention to the way that Joachim's doctrine rejects Pauline Christianity's indefinite postponement of the Last Judgment, and of salvation through a transcendental divinity, in favor of the audacious assertion that humanity can reorder existence, making good all the deficiencies, and redeem itself through the actions and worldly grace of its charismatic leaders. A Joachitic vehemence attends the events of 1789 and immediately thereafter. Auguste Comte projected a scheme similar to Flora's, going him one better in ascribing the role of   dux -and-redeemer to himself, while introducing coinages like "altruism" and "positivism" that became current in all political schemes styling themselves "progressive," not least Marxism, that pit an agenda against individual conscience. In   The New Science of Politics   (1952), Voegelin writes of Comte's politico-religious projection that:

There were provided [in it] honorific degrees of . . . immortality, and the highest honor would be the reception of the meritorious contributor into the calendar of positivistic saints. But what should in this order of things become of men who would rather follow God than the new Augustus Comte? Such miscreants who were not inclined to make their social contributions according to Comtean standards would simply be committed to the hell of social oblivion. The idea deserves attention. Here is a gnostic paraclete setting himself up as the world-immanent Last Judgment of mankind, deciding on immortality or annihilation of every human being. (Collected Works V. 5, p. 194).

The construction of a   Third World , an idea indispensable to postmodern discourse   soi disant, closely resembles prior quasi-religious constructions such as the Joachitic "Third Realm," the Liberal-Socialist "Third Way," the Neo-Conservative-Libertarian "Third Wave," or the National Socialist "Third Reich." The putative Third World identity is inextricably tied to victimary claims, which sanctify and elect the claimant, whether he stakes the claim himself or has it staked for him by some supervisor. "Just as in the Nineteenth Century," writes Paul Johnson of what he calls in   Modern Times   (1982) "the Bandung Generation," "idealists had seen the oppressed proletariat as the repository of moral excellence--and a prospective proletarian state as Utopia--so now the very fact of a colonial past, and a non-white skin, were seen as title-deeds to international esteem" (477). Johnson, whose analysis is consistent with Voegelin's, points out "the political religiosity" (477) of early "Third World" discourse in the speeches of Nehru, Sukarno, Sihanouk, Nkrumah, and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the Afro-Asian Conference in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955. Sukarno said on the occasion that "we, the people of Asia and Africa . . . can mobilize . . . the   moral violence of nations   in favor of peace" (Johnson 477), conjoining the ideas of "violence" and "peace" ominously. The novelist Richard Wright, also in attendance, summed up the apocalyptic character of the event, as understood by the participants: "This is the human race speaking" (477). Human and all too human.

Sendero Luminoso furthermore utilized symbolism to enhance Abimael Guzman's image as a savior of the people.51 For example, many of Guzman's closest advisors were known as the "holy family." (Poole and Renique, Peru: Time of Fear, 43. See also, Gorriti, The Shining Path, 25). “Simply being linked to [Guzman] could somehow raise the status of mortal men to that of the near sacred. As the perceived 'father of a new age in Peru' Guzman was portrayed as a "bright, soaring flame, burning with ideological passion and power'." (Tarazona-Sevillano and Reuter, Sendero Luminoso, 22).
The literature of the Sendero Luminoso was dotted with messianic references designed to strengthen the belief that they were leading the people to a new age.
Biblical references often peppered party pamphlets circulated around Ayacucho. In particular, these glorified the image and symbol of Guzman, asserting, "we are communists as your image and as your simile ... fortunate the eyes that see you, fortunate the eyes that heat [sic] you." In this way, Guzman's role as a god-like figure was embellished and "the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism were internalized as dogmas." (Jefrey Gamarra, Conflict, Post-Conflict and Religion: Andean Responses to New Religious Movements." Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 26, No.2, June 2000, 271-287).

After an initial three-day trial Guzmán was sentenced to life imprisonment. After other trials, “On 13 October 2006, Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison on charges of aggravated terrorism and murder.”
He is currently incarcerated in Callao in one of four subterranean cells. His neighbours include victor Polay, leader of the tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, and, ironically, Vladimiro Montesinos, the former head of the National Intelligence Service, who served under the (now also imprisoned) President Alberto Fujimori.

Everybody wants to be the Chosen people; nobody wants to be a philistine. The new Jews of Iquitos live down the road from my place, and they are quiet and peaceable. Iquitos was spared the violent insanity of the school teachers and their peasant followers from the Andes, those who wished to bring about the New Jerusalem in Peru. Today, as usual, those who would be perfect, the Gnostic would-be Jews of Modernity, howl like dogs about the Jooos! No one in this part of the world is interested in exterminating the New Jews from resentment of their success in life or their “firstness” as John Truepeers puts it. The New Jews in Iquitos don't do much at all but live. In my area at least we can all get some sleep at night, the “Jews” down the road keeping it to themselves. A quiet night and a bit of sleep in Iquitos can be almost heaven. Who could ask for anything more?

*Song lyrics originally in French. I can't recall any further details.
**I coined the phrase “The Jooos” one evening as I was writing on the Internet about Leftists protesting something about Israel. As it happened, while I was typing I heard a dog howling outside my window, and I thought for a moment he was a Left Jew-hater going on about-- The Jooos!

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Ayahuasca (Part Five)

Interviews with Shamans (Part One)

Most locals in Iquitos, Peru would no more consider drinking ayahuasca than would the average executive in Manhattan think of drinking moonshine distilled in a car radiator in the secluded hills of Tennessee. The world is larger, however. Daily, planes bring their cargo of anomie-ridden Modernists to Iquitos, and within hours many of those people have taken the Hummer to a luxury lodge in the selva where they are pampered and jaccuzied and buffed till they shine, all in keeping with the up-scale pursuit of happiness and spiritual enlightnement. One such actually pranced around the city square in white robes, looking like a stand-in for Sauroman in The Lord of the Rings but for the vampirish look as he hit on little girls and boys left unattended momentarily by suddenly nervous mothers. He hit on me. And then, seeing my lack of like, he hit on the young woman I was standing with. Three days later, his “ceremonies” complete, he was back on the plane to the Modernist city he'd come from. He's not exactly typical, I guess. And maybe he was enlightened by the time he left. There would be greater miracles. Now, one could say I might wish that particular fellow harm but it doesn't extend to the average ayahuasca-drinking suburbanite from the West. Most appear to be mindless conformity hippies who have lost the train that would otherwise have pulled them willy-nilly through a life of moderate misery to less than horrible conclusion were it not for the near collapse of value in our shared Modern existence today. The Straight and Narrow today is a swamp and one should be at least not bitter that so many fall into it because that swamp is the norm that so much of Modern life requires the unthinking to follow to be acceptable to others. For those who have everything, everything isn't close to good enough. There has to be more, because they're special. They deserver more, and better still, because they have huge piles of cash to pay for it, or the facsimile thereof, in this case, jungle drugs that make them wholly really sick. I calls it drug abuse, but I'm not a priest and I'm not a policeman, and I'm not even your normal guy at all who would care about drinking moonshine in the hills with the two sisters I met one time and we can skip that part now that I think about it. Drug abuse? It's not my problem. I don't wish anyone ill for abusing drugs. And so, let us begin with some clear good advice to anyone considering using or abusing ayahuasca. The stuff can be dangerous.

The best advice for the ayahuasca-drinking Modernist that I have seen, other than my own advice of staying home, marrying the girl next door, having kids, and living a private life, comes from Andy Metcalfe writing in the Iquitos Times, the local expat paper published by Mike Collis. You drink the stuff, you get sick like big-time. Here it is:

Stick to the ayahuasca diet for at least 24 hours before and ideally 2 to 3 days after drinking it. Do not use salt, sugar, spicy foods, dairy products, fermented foods, red meat or pork, and do not drink alcohol. Do not mix ayahuasca with other drugs, such as antibiotocs. And if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, or signs of mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression, do not take ayahuasca. Yes, you might be Gandalf's evil twin, but let someone else have the pleasure of killing you. That latter part is, by the way, my addition to Andy Metcalfe, “A Backpacker's Guide to Drinking Ayahuasca in Iquiotos,” Iquitos Times, Nov. 2012; p. 16. But he probably doesn't want you to die either.

One can buy a one litre Coke bottle of sludge, i.e. ayahausca and its psychotropic agent DMT, for five bucks at Belen Market in central Iquitos, and one could probably find a paper bag and an alley to sit in and drink with bums by the dumpster, but the usual practice is to check in with the local shamans for a guided session, or as local parlance has it, a “ceremony” to ensure that if it gets too rough the shaman will be there to keep one from the worst. They call it a ceremony, which to my mind suggests being married or buried, not being crazy writhing on the floor on jungle drugs the locals won't go near while spoiled Westerners puke on my shoes and wail about their snakes and weep about being lonely. Nevertheless, the drug is powerful and has its impact that exceeds the norms of Oprah-vision. It might appeal to spoiled atomistic nihilists, but the problems one can encounter under the influence of the drug should cause all the least serious to think about taking it under experienced supervision. I hate that! The idea of some befeathered clown from California shaking a baby rattle at me and singing la la while people have vomit attacks and uncontrollably shit themselves is repulsive and makes me want to be alone even if I simply see such people in the park. Still, prudence has its place. One goes to see a shaman for this ayausca business.

Or, in this case, one goes first to see a movie playing at a hole-in-the-wall vegetarian cafe to get a sense of what others want and expect from ayahuasca-drinking. A friend invited me to a screening of a movie about ayahuasca, said I had to see it, and she was right. I would not have believed an oral or written account. Uh oh. But, really, I'm going to relate it as I saw it. That's the truth. I actually sat through about five minutes of Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within. I couldn't make up the rest even on LSD. It was the weirdest five minutes in recent memory, and the movie was about as bad as I expected.

Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within. (USA) Dirs. Rod Mann et al. 2007

The film examines the re-emergence of archaic techniques of ecstasy in the modern world by weaving a synthesis of ecological and evolutionary awareness,electronic dance culture, and the current pharmacological re-evaluation of entheogenic compounds. Within a narrative framework that imagines consciousness itself to be evolving, Entheogen documents the emergence of techno-shamanism in the post-modern world that frames the following questions: How can a renewal of ancient initiatory rites of passage alleviate our ecological crisis? What do trance dancing and festivals celebrating unbridled artistic expression speak to in our collective psyche? How do we re-invent ourselves in a disenchanted world from which God has long ago withdrawn? Entheogen invites the viewer to consider that the answers to these questions lie within the consciousness of each and every human being, and are accessible if only we give ourselves permission to awaken to the divine within.

Written by Anonymous

There is no God. There is only Satan; and one of his devils wrote the blurb above. When ayahuasca-users babble about demons attacking them, the writer above is who they mean, I'm sure. But it gets even worse when one tries to watch the "documentary" in question. The jungle medicine needed here for healing is not ayahuasca, it is aspirin. Tylenol ll. Extra-strength. My aching head.

And then there is Steve Beyer, writer at “Signing to the Plants.”

Since at least the 1970s, a tenacious meme has circulated among a generally progressive youthful demographic, some of whom have now carried that meme with them into their elderhood. The meme states that there is a connection between our ecological crisis and our loss of earth-connected spirituality — a connection to both earth and spirit that we once possessed but have now lost, and which is still preserved for us by some indigenous peoples. Still, the meme says, there is hope. A spiritual awakening is coming, associated with the Age of Aquarius, or the fifth pachakuti, or the culmination of the Mayan calendar in the year 2012.

This shift is away from ego, self-importance, greed, racism, capitalism, consumerism, and left-brain linearity, and toward a recovery of our primal connectedness with nature. The signs of this shift are everywhere — in the rise of neoshamanism, technoshamanism, rave culture, and in the recovery of archaic techniques of ecstasy. Psychoactive substances, both natural and artificial, are an inherent part of this shift. Such entheogens — the term is taken to mean something like awakening the divine within — were the basis of a primal universal human spirituality and, indeed, may have been the basis of the very process of our becoming human. Today, entheogens not only reconnect us with our past but point us toward the future, where we will all be shamans — interconnected, peaceful, creative, and deeply in touch with spirit and the earth.

Or maybe there is a God and He gives some people good minds with which to make their own choices by their own will that they then put toward efforts not so much worthy of their gifts, God standing back with his own bottle of aspirins. I won't pretend to know that part.

I don't have to pretend to know about the film itself, though I confess I suffered through very little of it before excusing myself for having knocked over the table of coffee-- no, herbal tea-- cups on my way to the back of the Circulo Cromatico Cafe where I found Layna, the mapacho-puffing manager looking old and tired out at mid-30, the life of a Jewish hippie in the Amazon having taken a physical toll one need here not wonder at. She smoked, I choked, we had a nice time sort of chatting. The video flickering on the front wall of the cafe on the wooden window shutters kept on flicking. But it has all started out so well....

We entered late to the viewing, finding the cafe to be filled but most tables vacant, a large knot of rat-do, barefootin' American girls in billowing India cotton floor length skirts of too many colours squatting on the cement floor idly scratching themselves more likely out of boredom than bugs given that they hardly spoke to each other, doing the junkie nod while never actually falling asleep or falling over. Once in a while one would slowly reach out and grab cup and sip and slowly place the cup back on the table top above her, careful to ensure the tea didn't fall back down on her. Then back to ommm-ing back to the groove as she and her friends stared into space and had a really special time. Or maybe they were dead tired teenagers back to the city and in need of a shower and a good night's sleep after a few nights in the jungle communing with the Anaconda Spirits, or more likely something less phallicy. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the video was going full-on heavy, a massive visual artillery barrage of images culled from old National Geographic documentaries, jerky, emaciated old Hindu men in high-paint with needles stuck in 'em every-visible-where; naked Negro ladies lined up and dancing in some savanna village where likely they had no idea that well-dressed suburbanite ladies would ooh and ahh their fashion sense 40 years later and go off to have sex with their grandchildren for two weeks during that much needed separate get-away from the husband and kids at home vacation, as if anyone really would notice mom's gone; and thundering jump-cuts of the obligatory all men are loathesome but white guys are evil especially when they are dressed in military uniforms and are marching in formation toward the camera, all the troops wearing gasmasks so you don't know if they are black, white, or women anyway. But they are scary. That's what counts. Faceless killing-machine men who are never in touch with their feminine sides. Their chakrahs are clamped as tight as their butts. Besides, guys like that only want one thing, which is to tie you up and murder you with power tools from the back of the pick-up truck. Or sex. Same dif. As if boys wanted to have sex anyway, not that one would let them, but the boys are always playing video games or shooting hoops and don't even notice when one dresses like a hooker in August on the boardwalk. But we were in the vegetarian cafe watching visual cliches, I know, on the shutters. And OK even if we admit that the rugby scrum of MTV clip images are overdone for the point of no point we need something to break up the monotony of talking head metrosexual guys in their sixties talking about the sixties and how cool it was to be enlightened by LSD and to know stuff, man. But now, having gotten the Ph.D and tenure and a foundation grant or so to do some really cool research into psychoactive drugs with exotic names that don't sound so sixties, the metrosexuals are a tad boring to just listen to so one needs a background of trance Musak for kids to help along the staccato cutting of newsreel footage from the fifties in Borneo and army training videos from Poland in the mud. But that's cool. I am a hep cat. I still like the night life of getting down and boogee-ing. (Where was I?)

The video. Yes, all that “ego, self-importance, greed, racism, capitalism, consumerism, and left-brain linearity.” The bus driver was doing that in Bolivia for a while till he got enlightened and ommm-ed everyone off the Death Road by being stupid and they all died. They are all in heaven now. No capitalism there. Great place, I hear. Everyone is equal. They are all dead, though. So, it's a bit hard to say how good that is, really. But what do I know? Not much, given that I am an old guy who thinks too much. Being a fascist, of course, means I only think about racist stuff. Yes, and my only sex phantasies anymore are of raping Mother Nature. I'm proud to say I took all this like a man, not showing any signs of weakness, even when I was bombed by ugly paintings by the failed medical illustrator Alex Grey, Dr. Feelgood of the ayahuasca art scene, a book of whose art showed up one evening at my bedside delivered breathlessly by a young American lad veering seriously into mental illness, exacerbated by cocaine binges with teenage hooker duos whom he allowed to reduce his limited financial reserves to the point he sold his clothing on the Malecon to passers-by for food and a bare floor to sleep on with bugs for company in the night. “He gets right to the heart of the ayahuasca visions, and it's all here in his art,” the young man said, as if I were too blinded by years of looking at the world to see anything else but the plain facts of an aged existence in a material realm. Kind of teenage stuck-in-the-sixties pop art? Shows what I know. The documentary flashing MTV style images a million a minute included much of Grey's work, and broke up or broke into the New Age talkers about the glories of ayahuasca visions, the enlightenment awaiting the spiritual seeker willing to embrace the inner realities beyond the racist, sexist, homophobic white room of Modernity with it's false consciousness of capitalism, individuality, and reason, rationality, and logic. If only I would put myself in the care of a shaman who can guide my lost soul to the higher realities of post-modern enlightenment, then I might be less a curmudgeon and more a cool guy for kids to hang out with. If only I had watched the video with less knowledge of its actual meaning and with more sensitivity toward its deeper message, then I might have been a better man, or at least less obnoxious about not liking it all. But, damn, I spent too many years at the library indulging in left-brain linearity, and now I am totally screwed.

Godwin's Law states that in an acrimonious Web debate it takes a couple of turns before one or both involved will hurl the Nazi accusation. I try to be careful about accusing others of being Nazis, and I try to point out, as a matter of some import, that Nazis weren't what most people assume them to be, i.e the most deliberately evil people of the 20th C. Far from striving toward the perfect evil of the time, the Nazis attempted to be the best of all people of all time, and in their own minds, at least the committed, of whom one can see there were many, they believed they were doing the world the greatest favour, even at their own expence. That's not just my left-brain right wing-brainery, it's common sense and verifiable in the texts available to those who go to the library and delve into the madness of Nazi Gnostic seeking of the enlightenment of the ubermenschen and the avatar of Germanness. In short, the Nazis were convinced they were onto something special, so good and moral and right that they had to kill off all the evil around them to make a better world for themselves and those who remained living. It's impossible to argue against them because they are right that to succeed in creating a perfect world for perfect people is a perfect goal. The problem of “if” is where many of us stumble; and it is where many of us today stumble with the New Age gurus of ayahuasca neo-shamanism emanating from the bowels of Modernity. So, if I write that the video I walked out on, Entheogen: Awakening the Divine Within, is a naïve remake of Leni  Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (Germany,1934) I do so with some awareness of the problem of Godwin's Law and also with some practical awareness of the reaction of such a claim from those who are impatient to provoke a fist fight with me because of my seeming idiot effrontery.

In Iquitos a shaman (pronounced shay-MAhN) is sometimes called by the Spanish term curandero, medicine man, or healer. For the locals since forever, ayausca has been about purging intestinal parasites and other evil influences, such as curses. It's the local medicine. Those today from the West take the “medicine” line as far as they dare by calling themselves somehow sick and in need, as one hears to the point of existential nausea, of “healing.” I will let that go, refusing to allow my inner karma to be bummed out further by such wanker bog, rising up to my spiritual potential in doing so. But still, I just about hate this. That's me, and we are here to look at shamans, to find out what they say, what they do, and what they think of it all. The point here is to watch, listen to, talk to, and think about shamans inIquitos as they work in the ayahuasca business, regardless of any moral dimension it might have to the Modernist skeptic and humanist. Having some background concerning why some Modernists would seek out such a local remedy for parasite in an attempt to gain what one might call authenticity in the world is necessary for a truly enlightened vision of anything that comes later, I think. Idiocy and deliberate ignorance when actual understanding is possible seems to me to be a crime against the mind and life itself. If we can know the truth, and we can know the truth indeed, then let's find out the truth, regardless of what the truth tells us.

Nazi sought the Truth. They believed they found it and that the truth is that Germans are the master race, destined to rule the world and its people by virtue of racial superiority and inherent moral greatness. The matter of proof? Let us first dismiss that left-brain linearity that demands a logical and coherent answer. One can hardly do better in explaining this than to rely on Steve Meyer, who puts it all plainly, though probably naively, in terms of post-Nazi mysticism.

Briefly, and essential to our understanding of post-modernist longing for enlightenment via ayahuasca-drinking and other avenues to New Age awareness of the authentic, the Industrial Age began in 1760. This is the time of the rise of the Age of Machines. From then on, man was secondary in the world of production, his labour being supplementary to machines that made what he had previously made himself with his own hands and his tools. This is the beginning of the alienation that drives so many fabulously rich people into the lush jungles of the Amazon looking for relief from lives of honest misery amidst genuine abundance. It was the Age of Machines that drove the Nazis into the horror of their own dark night of the soul. It was the Age of Machines that makes men today the post-Nazi spirituality tourists so many are. It's not even strange. If not inevitable, it is perfectly understandable. The local shaman in the village in the jungle has no sense of this, nor need to sense any of this; but for the tourist from Modernity who knows not and cares not, all ignorance hereafter is vanity, i.e a bad thing.

At the dawn of the Age of Machines a German philosopher, J. von Herder thought long and hard about the uniqueness of peoples isolated from each other in specific geographical settings, of how such isolation creates people different one from another. Those people are deeply “in touch” with Nature, with their environments, with each other and the Earth. [C.f. D.W. Walker, A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, Vol.s 1-5. (2012- ). The machine and mechanical production removes man from the act of creation of his life as person and makes him an appendage to the machine itself, the machine connected to a system of machines, man being merely a small and replaceable part thereof, himself a machine, a number, a thing of labour value. Man is not the authentic man he was but is therefrom a small cog in a great machine about nothing much at all but stuff made for no greater purpose than the sake of someone else's greedy, selfish, individualistic profit. It's all mechanical, like thinking logically, planning, sorting out, counting, and conforming to a mechanism one cannot be an organic part of and would not wish to be. Man, removed from nature and sent to work in a plant in a city is cut off from his real self as unique thing in a unique place, i.e. he is not natural but alienated. “Get back to Nature.”

“[T]here is a connection between our ecological crisis and our loss of earth-connected spirituality....”

Our “ecological crisis” has little to nothing to do with the birds and the bees and the trees. It has much to do with a crisis of faith. Who are we and what is our authentic being if we are just stuff in a machine world of meaningless production of other stuff? What is the meaning of life?

Prior to the Age of the Machine when man lived on a piece of land and among his family, relatives, neighbours, and fellows, regardless of how well he lived materially, he was an organic and inherent and undeniable part of something unique and probably valuable. For some German philosophers such as Herder, Fichte, Schelling, et al, the uniqueness of Germanness was both profound and ultimately good. Germanness was what the individual was in his lifetime, a passing thing connected to the dead and to those Germans yet to be. That Germanness came to one as a birth-right, given to one as a German from a history of blood and soil in the soul. To find oneself in a city of alien men who controlled machines for the sake of making stuff for the sake of making money, and profit at that; to find oneself in ones own unique place suddenly cut off from that uniqueness and to be just another thing among foreign things, i.e. Jews and Poles and rich peasants from America, was to be alienated. Not to recognise the “Land” was to have no identity as a German, and thus to have no identity but ones lonely self. The indigenous German was simply another alien worker in a strange place he could not call home.

“[There was a] connection to both earth and spirit that we once possessed but have now lost, and which is still preserved for us by some indigenous peoples.”

There are those who can write clearly and coherently about a unity of man and nature, and some Germans did so with facility and greatness. They did so with such success that there are those today who unknowingly and unthinkingly and uncritically assume such ideas are their own and right.

One cannot be no one and one cannot be noting, but one can very easily be false. For those seeking reality, authenticity, and Truth; for those who believe they were all good things in their sphere at one time and no are lost; for those who feel cheated; there is the Will to Power to restore the perfect utopia of Right. Or “a recovery of our primal connectedness with nature.” And, yes, “[T]here is hope. A spiritual awakening is coming....”

I won't argue that all New Age spirituality-tourists are Nazis, nor even that any are legitimately such. One can argue rightly that the Nazis were such spirituality-tourists. The Nazis, committed ecologists, hold in their early ranks one Ernst Haekel, creator of the pseudo-religion of oekology itself. It is a struggle for authenticity in an alienated environment.

“This shift is away from ego, self-importance, greed, racism, capitalism, consumerism, and left-brain linearity....”

The longing for a return to the Golden Age of German uniqueness in the Age of the Machine is utopian, of course, but more: It is a return to and a severance from Germanness as it had been for centuries, a tradition of order and religion and culture and society in favour of a gnostic egoism of the will triumphant in spite of all humanness otherwise. But individual will as embodied in the avatar of Germanness, in this case, Hitler, is not a return to a past, it is a creation in the mind of a no place, i.e. a u-topia. It is the ultimate ego-trip of the man who abandons all other thinkers over history as worthless idiots who brought about ruin and who must be abandoned, the books burnt, the cities razed, and the people purified of sin by the new priesthood of spiritually pure and right-minded, enlightened intuitives who know, who are literally “gnostic” about the agathon, the ultimate good. Forgive this cowboy for being wary of such people.
And so it is that as I sat in disgust among smelly airhead girls squatting on the dirty concrete floor of a hole-in-the-wall cafe on a dark street in Iquitos, Peru one evening and watched a rehash of Triumph of the Will, I walked, knowing something more than nothing about the way of the world and its history. It's an easy matter for even the laziest intellectual to find out in detail about the Nazi ecology movement and its outgrowth today across Modernity, and to know much about Nazi mysticism and its pinnacle in the Annenarbe and the SS. That is no mystery to me, nor is the life of an acid-dropping teenager. Who knows what could happen? Maybe “we will all be shamans — interconnected, peaceful, creative, and deeply in touch with spirit and the earth.” Or, if one uses ayahuasca and other such means to epiphany, and if one knows not of the roots of ones search, then the best one can claim is a triumph of the will, an “own goal” for ego and a loss for religio.

I'll leave at that for here and turn next, now that we have established at least my grasp of the matrix of ayahuasca tourism to actual shamans themselves.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Rubber Boom and the Rubber Barons of the Amazon Slave Trade (Part Four)

Charles Condamine was the first European to discover rubber, and Joseph Priestley was the first to make any practical use of it, as an eraser-- one of our greater inventions since the advent of travel writing. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution came the means to use rubber commercially, as waterproofing, and later for automobile tyres, among myriad other useful applications in fields left undiscussed here. Latex, the raw rubber from Amazonian trees, was less than commercially valuable until Charles Goodyear invented the process of “vulcanisation.” With practical commercial applications came the opportunity to make vast fortunes in the rubber business. In 1879, rubber was only found in abundance in the Amazon. Thus, men from Europe and America and South America went to seek their fortunes in the jungles. Some did get rich. Some lost everything: they lost their souls, and arguably, their minds.

In Conrad's novella The Heart of Darkness, “The Horror” Kurtz in engulfed in is the overwhelming success of Modernity, I think. We are so good at Modernity that we have fallen into its horror unknowing, and we have in the fall lost our minds to the faithlessness of our own beauty, a beautiful but cancerous Narcissus, man so focused on his own perfection that he loses sight of life beyond himself. Losing ones life might be unfortunate, but losing ones mind to ones self is a horror. The Belgian Congo of Conrad's book is close enough to the Rubber Boom years of the Amazon to show us that such a successful enterprise of Modernity is not a one-off disaster. That a man such as Kurtz is the same man as Arana lost in the horror of the Amazon is too clear. That we might not be so far behind is troubling. We succeed all too well in our pursuit of the Modern. When we become solely ourselves, rulers of all we survey, we might and some do become lords of flies. Our triumph is our doom, and it dooms others. Life becomes generally The Horror.

It's a favoured idiocy today among too many of the beneficiaries of Modernity to weep sentimental tears over atrocities from times past and to beat their chests in high emotations to show how sensitive to human suffering they are. The rote lines of this theatre of self-indulgence are always about the evils of capitalism, of how the drive for profit has turned-- mostly-- European and-- mostly male Europeans-- into savages who steal, rape, and murder with some kind of ethnically determined evil the gentle savages of anywhere other than Europe or the lands settled now by their descendants, i.e. the average White man, the evil capitalist.

Outside the simple barter system, most trade involves profit, to at least a minimal extent. Higher profit does not make capitalism. The highest profit at all is outright theft, and so slavery is outright theft, of labour and often of life itself. It is not capitalism. Unfortunately, too many critics of capitalism at the higher levels of discourse are intellectuals, and they are often mistaken de facto for intelligent people. When intellectuals decry capitalism and say, “Look at the slave trade in the Amazon during the Rubber Boom,” they commit the idiocy of confusing slavery with what it is not: capitalism. But who would dare contradict the intellectual who is clearly “intelligent”? Those who claim, like Proudhon, that property is theft are those who would have us, but not themselves, live in conditions akin to the average pre-Columbian native in the Amazon. No profit. Just the noble savage living a peaceable life in the selva. Such satisfies the Romantic longings of some intellectuals for the removal of others from their aesthetic experiences of life. We can be pretty and decorative figures in the far distance for the “intellectual” to coo over as he eats his sherbet on warm day while watching the farm animals labour happily for his benefit. Those peasants who would live a Modernist life are an affront to his aesthetic experience of life, an affront to the aristocratic sensibility of the high noble who looks benignly upon the savage noble. The risen peasant, the man who rises by the mode of capitalism is the horror of the elitist. And so in some cases is the aristocrat right in looking upon the risen peasant as horror itself. But he and we do not see in the rich peasant a capitalist: we see a man mired in the peasant world of non-profit economics, the universe of theft and scarcity. The capitalist trades for profit: the thief steals because he cannot make a profit. The peasant thief who is called a capitalist is in fact a hold-over from the world of the aristocrat, he who sees the world as limited, who must take from another because there is only the limited and nothing more, the very antithesis of capitalism. Thus, the “Robber Barons” are seen even if intuitively as aristocrats, and the “Rubber Barons” of the Amazon are aristocratic thieves as well. They are not capitalist; they are aristocrats of a holdover feudalism. Some such people made their ways to the Amazon during the Rubber Boom, and they acted in traditional aristocratic fashion. Most were nothing close to capitalist, as we shall see in the story of the Amazon Rubber Boom.

I'm not the first to have seen this, as below we read in a doctoral thesis by an anthropologist: 
According to Enock, [q.v.] the crimes [in the Putumayo district] were committed by the “Barbadian Negroes at the order of the Peruvian chiefs of sections”, who were chosen because of their “savage depth” (1913:39).

After the exposure of the scandal, the Peruvian government sent a commission of its own to the Putumayo, which confirmed what had been published. 237 warrants were issued against the criminals, but nobody was actually prosecuted (Goodman 2010).

The rubber boom also created a feudal system of relations in Amazonia that influenced the way indigenous people were treated even after the end of rubber extraction. Indigenous people remained trapped and subjected in a feudal system and came to possess the lower stratum of this system. Villages gave place to fundos or haciendas, where life revolved around the feudal house (San Román 1994:163).

[R]ubber extraction did not contribute to the development of the Amazon region. Instead, it made the area vulnerable to European influence and promoted patterns of dependence. This perspective is most evident in accounts such as San Román’s. According to this view, even though exceptional profits accrued from the rubber trade they were transferred out of the region and thus made unavailable for local development. Another view sees the main consequences of extraction, including that of wild rubber, to be the underdevelopment of Amazonia and marginalization of its rural people (Bunker 1985). Weinstein (1983) has argued that sustained economic development in the post- boom period was frustrated not by surplus drainage from Amazonia but by the persistence of precapitalist relations of production. Precapitalist relations effectively blocked regional development by stifling capital accumulation, modernization of the wild rubber industry, and the development of significant internal markets and other sectors (Weinstein 1983). According to Barham and Coomes (1994), the Amazon  rubber industry produced substantial surplus and that a significant portion of surplus, due to the very organization of the rubber industry, was retained by local economic agents that included the state. Large profits were accrued during the rubber boom but this did not result in their investment for the development of the area. p.44
When the demand for rubber became so great that there was money to be made from it, then men to the risks involved in investing in the product and risked their very lives by moving to the Amazon to get it, often enough by any and every means needed, seemingly in some cases by whatever evil means appealed to them personally. The Rubber Boom attracted some nasty characters, indeed. Such men were not business-men: they were Huns, pillaging and raping and killing, and making money at it as well, no different from Muhammed, the Islamic prophet, raiding trade caravans in the desert in 625. But, in the long term there is now the benefit of the Rubber Trade in the Amazon, as we see in the existence of the city of Iquitos, for example, a city thriving under capitalism itself, not a city under the death spell of aristocratic theft by force and murder. The rubber trade, in spite of some of its worst aspects, created good in spite of the men who worked such evil in the jungles. The rubber boom benefitted mankind, and Iquitos in particular, though some aspects of how that industry ran are revolting.

In 1851 Iquitos had a population of 200, and by 1900 its population reached 20,000. In the 1860s, approximately 3,000 tons of rubber was being exported annually and by 1911 annual exports had grown to 44,000 tons, representing 9.3% of Peru’s exports.”

The most infamous of the colonial maniacs of the imperialist Western world is undoubtedly King Leopold II of Belgium [R. 1865-1909] whose atrocities still outrage the public world-wide. On a smaller scale, less famous than Conrad's fictional tale of the Congo, The Heart of Darkness, is W.E. Hardenberg's account of slavery, torture, and murder of Amazonian natives press-ganged into the rubber harvest.

Michael Collis writes this brief account:

During the 1880s Peru and Ecuador sent rubber samples to England and the United States, rubber very much in demand, for tyres and waterproof clothing, for example. When Charles Goodyear developed vulcanization, which made the latex rubber harder, the rubber boom really got started. Foreign companies surged to invest in securing vast amounts of latex (the raw rubber). One of the biggest rubber companies was the Peruvian Amazon Company.
Rubber Tapper and Rubber Tree

The elite "mestizos" who were of Spanish descent were recruited as caucheros or rubber barons. The work of the caucheros was to recruit, by whatever means, workers to harvest as much wild latex from the vast jungle as possible. The Amazon people were not used to working long hours but fished and hunted for the food they needed and then did not work again until they got hungry. Working all day, every day was not in their agenda. The caucheros found the docile and obedient temperament of the natives easy to overcome and easily made them into rubber slaves. The caucheros did not go out and find the rubber slaves, instead they recruited black men from Trinidad and Jamaica in the West Indies. They were paid to capture as many slaves as possible and to make sure the slaves collected sufficient amounts of rubber. These West Indian men were called muchachos and they captured natives from the rainforest. The muchachos were well-armed and always acted in an aggressive manner. The natives they enslaved would be required to collect rubber during 3 or 4 expeditions every year. Every 4 months they were required to bring into the rubber stations a fabrico which weighed at least 50 kilos. To get paid they had to do this at least 3 times a year. They were not paid in cash but one fabrico would provide them with a hammock, a cup, a machete and a pair of trousers. If they brought in 2 fabricos they were given a gun, but with very little ammunition it was not much use. If the natives failed to collect sufficient latex they would be punished severely. This punishment increased in its severity until they were killed. Women were also enslaved and rape was the usual penalty for low performance. If a male slave escaped, his wife and children were raped and tortured until the slave returned or they themselves revealed were the escapees could be found. Women and children were also sold to brothels where they were raped and tortured in bestialic ways.

Around 1912 the Rubber Boom ended and with it the enslavement of native people. Some researchers estimate the deaths of indigenous peoples in Peru and Brazil at 250,000 in the rubber trade, native tribespeople of the Amazon such as Witotos, Androque, Huitoto, Matses, Yagua, Karipuna and Boras amongst others. An example: In 1940 the entire Bora tribe consisted of only 500 people, but back in 1910 there were more than 15,000. The Huitoto tribe decreased from 50, 000 to 7,000 between 1900 and 1912. Some smaller less known tribes were completely wiped out

During this time foreign investors made fortunes, and the City of Iquitos prospered. At any time steamships could be seen anchored on the Amazon River. They were bringing in all the requirements the rich merchants needed for their millionaire lifestyles and the ships took away huge amounts of latex rubber. It was said that Iquitos was so awash with money that large wooden cases filled to overflowing with English silver sovereigns could often be seen on the street unattended. Fortunes were made and it is said some of the merchants lit their Cuban cigars with $100 bills. The wives of the merchants did not like their clothes washed in the Amazon water so their fine linens were sent on the steamships to Europe for laundering. …

Mike Collis, “The Enslavement of Amazon Natives During the Rubber Boom,” Iquitos Times. Iquitos, Peru. Month Year.

The rubber boom didn't suddenly end, it simply moved to other parts of the world where growing and harvesting were more favourable to commercial interests. With the rise of rubber plantations in Malaysia, for example, the rubber from the Amazon was too expensive to compete, and thus the Amazonian bubble burst. But this is not to say either that the inhuman if not insane conditions of the rubber trade would have continued as per usual had the trade continued in the Amazon. Part of a product is its pedigree, and most people will forego even the most useful and beneficial product if it comes from a poisoned tree. Most people, knowing the conditions of slave workers in the Amazon would boycott the product, thus bankrupting the producers, allowing others to move in to satisfy the moral market for a commodity in demand. Cocaine addicts have no such concern, but coffee drinkers do. Those wearing raincoats are as likely to be disgusted with a product created in a condition of slaughter as would be the average tea-drinker. The criminal drug addict has no moral priorities, whereas the average car driver does, in spite of the general slander toward oil companies so glibbly mouthed by those who have no idea in practice. People will pay a great deal for morality and purity, and will go to great lengths of suffering to avoid contamination with products deemed and known to be created by murder. It's not that hard to grasp, but the point is often not the pursuit of ordinary truths but the point of propaganda in pursuit of a a misanthropic agenda to further the regress of the German Revolution, a return to the eternal fasces of human experience. Not everyone actually accepts the purity of the noble peasant commune as promoted by the Romantic Prussian elitist of post Modernity. Most people want rubber tyres, they just won't pay for it if it means people are being slaughtered for it. To argue otherwise is to both lie about the human condition, and to malign the human for private reasons. Private companies understand this need to appeal to the public moral, and so do their competitors: if one can impinge rightly on another for corruption, then it will do so in full throated glee. The winner takes all. It is not, perhaps even a matter of moral but simply of good business, the point of business itself. All else, the conspiracies and the moralist preening be damned. People do not want to be tarnished with evil. So it was with the rubber trade in the Amazon.

We see below an account of how the rubber trade helped further the Public Relations industry, and too that public relations are essential to furtherance of the Moral, if one will. Without the restraint of society on the man alone, the man alone can and does at times revert to a previous state of moral monster. Power severs the bond of man to mankind. Man can and does fall into the Horror. Sometimes one man can come from nowhere to chastise or even destroy the power of the lunatic in his charnal realm. Then, in the seeing of it, the world stands in horror and condemns. Man against man; man against himself and losing; man winning Modernity while losing his mind. The rubber boom collapsed because it was a horror.

Bora Girls, Iquitos

The Peruvian Amazonian Rubber Company was eventually destroyed by the exposes of men like W.E. Hardenberg and Roger Casement, men who inquired into and wrote on conditions of slavery and murder in the Amazon. When the public in Europe found out about the near genocide of the Putumayo people, they and the companies involved, forced an end to the practices that were to nearly everyone morally unbearable.

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister from 1905 -1916 lead a parliamentary charge against the Peruvian Rubber Company and eventually forced the company out of business.
Paul Seaman writes in “The rumble in the jungle: modern PR’s Edwardian birth,”
that the beginning of the assault on the Amazonian rubber trade for violence against the people began in 1907 as a newspaper campaign in Peru and later in America and England, where the London-based board of directors “were pilloried in the court of public opinion for orchestrating human rights abuses on a grand scale. Six years later they were found guilty by the British and American authorities, who in response set out the principles of corporate responsibility, accountability and governance that have influenced our expectations ever since.

The original newspaper campaign was carried on by W.E. Hardenburg, a young adventurer who turned to writing about the atrocities he witnessed practiced by Julio Arana's Peruvian Rubber Company. With his reports in the magazine Truth he was followed by a more official reporter assigned by the British government to verify the details, Roger Casement. Then, finally, the courts ruled against the company and bankrupted it, stopping not only the company itself but setting a near universal standard for other companies to follow or not at their commercial peril. A company's relationship with the public is a matter of life and death. The corporatist state can force a public to buy a company's product, but in a free market this is not possible. The public pays as much for morality as it does for product. A good name matters. Seaman write of the development of public relations during the rubber boom:
Mr. H. L. Gielgud was “the first PR spokesperson ever to be made ‘secretary and manager’ of a major international corporation during a major existential crisis that had global dimensions.”
To paraphrase Seaman,The Peruvian Rubber Company board of directors understood as well or better than most that a corrupt name is the death of a company, and as proof they paid to maintain their status. W.E. Hardenberg had hurt the rubber company to the point the company paid to improve its reputation, going so far as to libel Hardenberg and to gratuitously offer a gift to an otherwise sympathetic newspaper, the Morning Leader, the mistake of assuming all people are as corrupt as oneself backfiring when the paper publicly exposed the attempted gift in the next edition.

“Gielgud, an auditor ... was prepared to deny the allegations outright. The grateful directors immediately made him the company’s leading executive, hiking his wage from 150 pounds sterling to 1000 per year. This jumped-up-clerk and wannabe PR-spokesperson went on to represent his firm in the media and at inquiries and to earn 2500 pounds per year.”

Theft is not profit and rape is not romance, though too many are determined to play stupid and say so. The rational and successful company gives people what they want at a price they can afford over another and people reward the company with continued success, i.e. profit. A thief and a rapist is imprisoned or killed. An evil company cannot withstand the outrage of a moral public. Hardenberg proves it.

Hardenburg’s account of extreme immoral behaviour in the Amazon was almost beyond imagination in 20th century London and Washington. He claimed Indians were slaves who received no pay; they were kept naked; they were robbed of their women and children; there were floggings and killings, some of which involved crucification head downwards; ears, fingers, arms, legs and testicles were sometimes cut off as punishment; there was no medical treatment.
Such was the disbelief – and fear of libel actions – that mainstream British media initially refused to publish Hardenburg’s account. It was only London’s anti-slavery magazine Truth that was willing to take the first risk (backed later by the Manchester Guardian) of supporting his story. It opened its campaign in 1909 with the shocking headline, ‘The Devil’s Paradise: a British-owned Congo’. As Anthony Smith writes in Explorers of the Amazon: ‘Truth did not publish one article: it published the story for week after week, keeping it on the boil’.

In 1913 a House of Commons Select Committee delivered its findings... based mainly on statements by British Barbadians employed by the company in the Amazon, as well as by [abused Huitotos] natives. Arana was found to have had ‘knowledge of and responsibility for the atrocities perpetrated by his agents and employees in the Putumayo’. [B]ritish directors... were absolved of direct responsibility for the atrocities. However, they were censured in a way that remains a lesson and warning to company directors to this day. The MPs concluded that they had harmed the good reputation of England and that ‘Company Directors who merely attend board meetings and sign cheques… cannot escape their share of the collective moral responsibility when gross abuses under their company are revealed’.

In a free market economy no one tycoon, no corporation, no secret cabal of conspirators is capable of continuing indefinitely to corrupt the public. In a corporate state the public has little or no say; in a free market the public decides daily the life and death of commercial enterprise and services by willingly engaging with private money one could as easily spend elsewhere. A rotten and corrupt company has no chance of surviving a free market, whereas the corporate company has little to fear from anyone or everyone so long as the state controls the purse-strings of public spending. That was then.... The Peruvian Rubber Company was bankrupted.

This marked the beginning of the era of corporate responsibility and reputation management we are still in. It illustrated how public opinion, which had already abolished slavery in the British empire in 1833, and later rallied against King Leopold in the Congo, was now a force capable of expressing (in a manner that could not be ignored) its moral outrage against individual corporations on a global scale. There was no longer anywhere to hide, not even deep inside the Amazon. Directors in London and New York could no longer wash their hands of what went on elsewhere in their name.
Paul Seaman, 9 july 2012 21st century pr issues.

Hardenberg wrote a book about his time and campaign against slave labour in the Amazon, W. E. Hardenberg, The Putumayo, the devil's paradise.

From the introduction we read: “As a young man Hardenburg was imprisoned by Arana, and when Hardenburg got his chance of revenge he took it, turning to what journalists do best: muckraking. He published a book that helped eventually to destroy the Arana campaign of terror in the Amazon.

In the introduction to Hardenberg's work Enock inserts himself rather forcefully into the text, to such an extent that Hardenberg's work is now of interest only to specialists and those looking for myopic details over which to agonise after the fact. The catalog of horror is repulsive and need not be covered in any detail here. Enock indulges himself at length in sentimental philobarbarism and promotes a Romantic Utopian picture of happy natives in the Amazon oppressed and then enslaved and murdered by rapacious Modernists in pursuit of money at all expense. Perpetuating that story is still a thriving industry today.

To give useful geographical context and some idea of how a man such as Arana could flourish in a horror landscape of his own creation without rebuke from an outraged world Enock writes:

The Putumayo River rises near Pasto, in the Andes of Colombia, and traverses a vast region which forms one of the least-known areas of the earth's surface. This river is nearly a thousand miles long, flowing through territory which is claimed both by Peru and Colombia, and enters the main stream of the Amazon in Brazil. The river crosses the equator in its upper portion. The notorious rubber-bearing region upon the Putumayo and its affluents, the Igaraparana and the Caraparana, lies within a square formed by the equator on the north, the 2nd parallel of latitude on the south, and the 72nd and 74th degrees of longitude west of Greenwich. Like most of the Amazon tributaries, the Putumayo and its two affluents are navigable throughout the greater part of their courses, giving access by water up to the base of the Andes ; and the rubber traffic is carried out by means of steam-launches and canoes.
The Caraparana and Igaraparana rivers, both flowing from the north-west, run parallel for about four hundred miles through dense, continuous forests, discharging into the Putumayo, the first some six hundred miles and the second some four hundred miles above the confluence of that river with the Amazon. [T]he region is a considerable distance from Iquitos, nearly a thousand miles by water, the small, intermittent river steamers of the rubber traders occupying two weeks in the journey ; and a part of the course lies through Brazilian waterway. A much more direct route can be made by effecting a portage from the Putumayo to the Napo River, which enters the Amazon about fifty miles below Iquitos. The Putumayo region, therefore, must be regarded as an extremely outlying part of Peru, with corresponding difficulties of access and governance. The native people inhabiting the region are mainly the Huitotos, with other tribes of more or less similar character, but with different names.
The condition must be borne in mind that the region of the Amazon forests is in every way separate from the region of the mountains and that of the coast. The coast region of Peru, bordering upon the Pacific Ocean, is a rainless, treeless zone, upon which vegetation is only possible under irrigation, but upon which the modern Peruvian civilisation flourishes ; Lima, the capital of the country, being situated only a dozen miles from the sea. To the east of this Europeanised region arise the mountain ranges of the Andes, which cut off the forest lowlands so completely from the coast that the two may be regarded as separate countries. The mountain regions embody vast, treeless tablelands, broken by more or less fertile valleys, and overlooked by snow-clad peaks and ranges, and are subject in general to a cold, inclement climate, with heavy rainfall. The uplands lie at an elevation of 12,000 ft. and upwards above sea-level, and the dividing ranges are crossed at 14,000 to 17,000 ft., with only one or two passes between Western and Eastern Peru, at a lower elevation. The line of tree-life begins at an elevation of about 10,000 to 11,000 ft., this forest region being known as the Montana of Peru, merging by degrees into the great selvas or forests of Brazil, These topographical details serve to show how greatly Western and Eastern Peru are cut off from each other. The conditions similarly, affect Colombia and Ecuador, and, to a certain extent, Bolivia, but the last-named country does not extend to the Pacific coast. It is in the isolation of the cis-Andine from the trans -Andine regions that Peru may claim some palliation for the offences on the Putumayo, The river port of Iquitos is from thirty to forty days' journey from Lima under existing means of travel. The easiest method of reaching the one from the other is by way of Southampton, or New York, and Panama. A system of wireless telegraphy is now in operation across the six hundred miles of coast, mountain, and forest territory separating the two cities.
The topographical conditions described had influenced the human inhabitants of Peru before the time of the Spaniards. The aboriginal race inhabiting the highlands and the coast lived then, as they do to-day, in a manner distinct from each other. The highland and coast people were those who formed the population under the Inca government, and under whose control they had reached a high degree of aboriginal civilisation; whilst the indigenes of the forests were more or less roving bands of savages, dwelling on the river banks, without other forms of government than that of the Caracas, or petty chiefs of families or tribe. The influence of the Incas did undoubtedly extend into the forest regions in a degree, as evidenced by remaining customs and nomenclature, but the Incas did not establish order and civilisation in the forests as upon the highlands. The Incas and their predecessors built a series of fortresses which commanded the heads of the precipitous valleys leading to the forests, whose ruins remain to-day, and are marvels of ingenuity in megalithic construction.
In very different condition are, on the other hand, the aborigines of the forests, who live neither under civil nor religious authority. But there was probably no fundamental or racial difference between the upland and forestal Indians, and they resemble each other in many respects, with differences due to climate and environment. Remains of ancient civilisations, in the form of stone ruins and appliances, are found east of the Andes, in the Amazon forest regions, and the Chaco plains, arguing the existence of prehistoric conditions of a superior character. ... One of the principal tributaries of the Amazon is the River Maranon, which flows from the south for a thousand miles between two parallel chains of the Andes, and breaking through a remarkable canon, known as the Pongo de Manseriche, turns suddenly to the east and forms the main Amazon waterway. Above the Pongo, or rapids, the river is navigable only for very small craft, but below it forms the head of steam navigation. The upper Maranon flows down through a high, difficult territory, with many fertile valleys, and upon its headlands and the adjacent slopes of the mountains are freely scattered the ruins of the Inca and pre-Inca peoples, who inhabited the region in pre-Hispanic times and even contemporaneously with the Spaniards.* From this district, and from the valleys to the west of Cuzco and Titicaca, it was that the Inca influence mainly entered the forest regions of the Peruvian Montana.
So it was that a man from the Andes, Arana, ventured into the Amazon to make his fortunes in the rubber business. He descended into the selva to find people who had little to no defence against his superiour skills as predator. What Arana could not have realised is that he had no defence against himself once he left the highlands of his own life, once he severed the bonds of the past to pursue his own goals of wealth and power at the cost of all else. There were no others willing, more a long period at least, to stop him from descending into his own heart of darkness, and the result was slaughter and depredation that to this day sickens the moral world.
The Peruvian Government and the Press of the Republic have long been aware that the Indians of the forest regions were brutally exploited by the rubber merchants and gatherers. Reports and articles have been made and published both by officials and travellers. That Indians were sold at Iquitos and elsewhere as slaves and that there was a constant traffic in Indian women has been known to the authorities ever since rubber-gathering began. In 1906, in Lima, the Director of Public Works, one of the most important of the Government departments, handed the present writer an official publication … Documentos oficiales del Departmento de Loreto, Lima, 1905, of which extracts were published in " The Andes and the Amazon."
But knowing of evil events far away and intervening in such events is a matter of complete difference. There are as I write numerous equivalent horrors of man in conflict with the moral, man utterly unrestrained by anything more than his own will to power, and there is little to nothing the average man can do about it but feign sympathy as he pursues his own privacy in the hope of slowly improving the general mass by osmosis. Those few who take it upon themselves, men such as Roger Casement, to intervene on the side of the good too often find themselves hanged and hated by friends and foes alike, coming to the rope's end to dangle to no effective purpose, leaving Mr. Ellis to clean up the minor mess and carry on another day with another alienated life and a quiet corpse. What is to be done?
The Putumayo atrocities were first brought to public notice by an American engineer and his companion, Messrs. Hardenburg and Perkins.... Mr. Hardenburg and his companion suffered great hardships and imprisonment at the hands of the Peruvian agents of the rubber company on the Putumayo, and barely escaped with their lives. For these outrages some time afterwards they were awarded the sum of £500 damages by the Peruvian Government, due to the action of the United States. Mr. Hardenburg came to London from Iquitos in financial straits, but only with considerable difficulty was able to draw public attention to the occurrences on the Putumayo. Messrs. Hardenburg and Perkins's account and indictment of the methods employed by the company's agents on the Putumayo, under the name of "The Devil's Paradise," was a terrible one. It was averred that the peaceful Indians were put to work at rubber-gathering without payment, without food, in nakedness; that their women were stolen, ravished, and murdered; that the Indians were flogged until their bones were laid bare when they failed to bring in a sufficient quota of rubber or attempted to escape; were left to die with their wounds festering with maggots; and their bodies were used as food for the agents' dogs; that flogging of men, women, and children was the least of the tortures employed; that the Indians were mutilated in the stocks, cut to pieces with machetes, crucified head downwards, their limbs lopped off, target-shooting for diversion was practised upon them, and that they were soused in petroleum and burned alive, both men and women. The details of these matters were almost too repugnant for production in print, and only their outline was published.
What is to be done?
The first result of the publication of the Putumayo atrocities in the London Press was denial. The Peruvian Amazon Company denied the truth of the matter : the Peruvian Government denied the existence of such conditions ; whilst the Peruvian Consul-General and Charge d'Affaires in London denied them even more emphatically. … The Peruvian Consul in London wrote vehement letters of denial and re-denial to the London Press, among them the following, published by Truth in September, 1909:
"This Legation categorically denies that the acts you describe, and which are severely punished by our laws, could have taken place without the knowledge of my Government on the Putumayo River, where Peru has authorities appointed direct by 30 the supreme Government, and where a strong military garrison is likewise maintained." *
The Secretary of the Peruvian Amazon Company wrote in September, 1909, to the Anti-Slavery Society and Truth as follows:
"The Directors have no reason to believe that the atrocities referred to have, in fact, taken place, and indeed have grounds for considering that they have been purposely misstated for indirect objects. Whatever the facts, however, may be, the Board of the company are under no responsibility for them, as they were not in office at the time of the alleged occurrences. It was not until your article appeared that the Board were aware of what is now suggested."
None of these atrocities occurred; and besides, we weren't in the office when they didn't happen. It's not our fault. Furthermore, you could not possibly mean me because I am we. Good day, sir.

Bora girls,Iquitos
But the mysterious and invisible hand of profit comes to rescue even the seemingly hopelessly damned. If there is some profit in exposing and halting an atrocity, then there are those who will risk it and perchance do some oblique moral. For the puritan, this is not good enough. They, like Casement, might rather hang while all about are dead as well.
No one would publish the Hardenburg account, because as a book it might not have been a paying venture. Only when the way had been prepared for a successful book, by the public scandal which resulted after attention had been drawn to the matter, was it resolved to publish it. The London Press at first was equally negligent or timorous, with the exception of Truth. It showed little disposition to take the matter up, until that paper, whose business it is to expose scandals and abuses, exposed the horrors to public gaze. Then, when the matter had reached the stage of useful " copy," it appeared in all the papers — in some cases with startling headlines. The daily papers feared that they would incur risk of libel proceedings in attacking what was regarded as a powerful London Company, with a capital of a million pounds and an influential Board of Directors, and at first hesitated to take the matter up. Had it not been for the work of the philanthropic society already mentioned, the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society,* in London, and the courage of the Editor of Truth, to both of whom Hardenburg went, followed by the prolonged publications. in Truth the sinister occurrences of the Putumayo might have remained unrevealed....
Profit greases the gears of the moral. And as if by Providence, one sees the rise of the corrupt to show his face and prove the point of profit's right.
The Peruvian Amazon Company protested that the allegations were made by blackmailers. This was denied by Hardenburg, and by Truth on Hardenburg's account. There were, however, accusations of blackmail against others.* * The most serious charge was one brought by the Peruvian director of the Company, Julio Cesar Arana, against an English army officer who had travelled on the Putumayo and witnessed the atrocities committed upon the Indians. According to this charge, which was supported by a document, recorded in a minute upon the Company's books and issued in a printed circular to the shareholders in December, 1909, this officer called upon Arana in London, entertained him at the United Service Club and Cafe Royal, and offered to suppress a Report he had made for the British Foreign Office upon the subject, which was, he stated, of a nature such as would ruin the Company, if Arana and the other directors would pay him £1,000 to cover his expenses on the Putumayo. The directors refused and the officer sent in the Report. The travels of this officer are mentioned in Mr. Casement's Report. The matter is mentioned here in the interests of common fairness.
In fairness, too, one must note the Black slave-raiders in the Amazon, the muchachos, slaves brought to the New World to work feudal plantations-- not capitalist industries-- and their original slavery made by canonically ordained Islam, i.e. by Muslim slave-traders, of which I have written at great length in other works. No race is inherently “good.” It takes, if at all, sometimes, one man with a mission and good luck to stem the tide of evil and bring it to a halt whereafter one might find in the fullness of time a prosperous city on the riverside where previously blood flowed freely and men ran in fear at the sight of their fellow human beings.
In 1910, a British Consul, Mr. Roger Casement, well known for his investigations into the Congo atrocities, was instructed to proceed to the Putumayo, his locus standi being secured on the grounds that a number of British subjects, coloured men of Barbadoes, had been employed by Arana and the Peruvian agents of the company as slave-drivers. The securing of Mr. Casement for the work was due to the endeavour of the Anti- Slavery Society. The directors of the company, aroused at length by public opinion, or the representations of the Foreign Office, sent out a commission of inquiry at the same time. Both the consul and the company's Commission faithfully carried out their task, and Mr. Casement handed in his report to Sir Edward Grey in January, 1911. The conclusions reached were terrible and damning. The worst accounts were confirmed in the words of Consul Casement: " The condition of things fully warrants the worst charges brought against the agents of the Peruvian Amazon Company and its methods on the Putumayo."
We know of atrocities today across the world, and with little effort I could easily name one hundred nations in which horror is the norm at this moment, horror that pales anything seen in Putumayo then. What is to be done? Are we monsters? Are we lazy and stupid beasts with no concern for our fellow?
It may well be asked how it was possible that such occurrences could take place in a country with a seat of government such as Lima, where well a highly civilised and sensitive people, whose public institutions, streets, shops, and churches are not inferior to those of many European cities. The reply is, first, in the remoteness of the region of the Putumayo, as explained, and secondly in political and international matters. Peru is constantly torn by political strife at home, and between the doings of rival factions, the outlying regions of the country are overlooked. But Peru was largely influenced by its own insecure possession of the Putumayo region; and it had greatly welcomed the establishing of the Peruvian Amazon Company, a powerful organisation, in the debatable territory. Under such circumstances few questions were likely to be asked about such matters as treatment of the natives. The existence of the company was a species of safeguard for Peruvian possession of the region. Furthermore, a central Government such as that at Lima might be well-intentioned, but if distances are vast and without means of communication, and distant officials hopelessly corrupt, the situation was extremely difficult for the Government. Another circumstance affecting the action of the Peruvian Government is that, in the republican form of government, the judicial authorities are independent of the Executive, The educated people of the Peruvian capital and coast region must, in general, be exonerated from knowledge of the occurrences of the Putumayo .
I'd love to change the world, and ever one were to offer me a paying job at it I would certainly do my best. That's how things get done. So far, for me at least, no one offers, no one nods. It's a vocation for the seriously wealthy or those almost wholly dependent upon those who are. A trust fund, a government, a gaggle of old ladies pitching in from their pension monies, I, like most, have no such benefactors. Some do. Some act. But even terrible poverty costs money. And most people would rather live with what they have and make more than risk losing all of their little for the sake of nothing.
The difficulties of Peru in the government and development of their portion of the Amazon Valley, known as the Oriente, or Montana, must not be lightly passed over. The physical difficulties against what has been termed the Conquest of the Montana are such as it is impossible for the European to picture. Nature resists at every step. Hunger, thirst, fever, fatigue, and death await the explorer at times, in these profound, unconquerable forests. Peru has sent forth many expeditions thereto; brave Peruvians have given their lives in the conquest. The authorities at different points have frequently organised bands of explorers, and the Lima Geographical Society has done much valuable work in sending out persons to explore and map these difficult regions. Yet the possession of the Montana is a heritage of incalculable value to Peru. It is a region any nation might covet. The Peruvians are alive to its value and possibilities, but they are poor. Days, weeks, months of arduous travel on mule-back, on foot, cutting trochas, or paths, through the impenetrable underbrush, by raft and by canoe, suffering all the hardships of the tropics, of torrential rain, burning sun, scarcity of food — all these are circumstances of venturing off the few trails into the vast and almost untravelled trans-Andine regions of Peru, divided by the lofty plateaux and snowy summits of the Andes from the temperate lowlands where the Europeanised civilisation of the Pacific flourishes.
Money is power, but only the few relinquish their ties to humanness in its pursuit. Even among those who fall into corruption, the shame they endure from their peers is the currency that pays them back and they crawl away, lost and alone and in debt eternally. There is no ultimate gain in it. Crime is not, as they say, “sustainable.” Shame is everlasting.
After the exposure of the scandals the Peruvian Government sent a commission of its own to the Putumayo, which confirmed all that had been published. The principal official of this commission was Judge Paredes, the proprietor of El Oriente, an Iquitos newspaper; and he made a full report " embodying an enormous volume of testimony, of 3,000 pages involving well nigh incredible charges of cruelty and massacre" and "issued 237 warrants" against the criminals, as stated in Sir Roger Casement's Report. But between issuing warrants and actually making arrests and convictions, in South America, there is a wide gulf. Furthermore, Judge Paredes endeavoured, in a recent statement, to show that the "English Rubber Company" was solely responsible for the atrocities, and that the English Consul at Iquitos has been aiding the guilty parties in keeping from the Peruvian Government an exact knowledge of what was taking place, is the contention of Peru. Mr. David Cazes, English Consul in Iquitos since 1903, would have been in a good position to find out about the management of the rubber plantation. All the rubber gathered in the Putumayo is shipped from Iquitos. And yet he always swore that he knew nothing. No one can enter the territory of the rubber company without the permission of the Company's representative in Iquitos. The twenty one constables whom the Peruvian Government kept in the Putumayo in those days had all been bribed by the English traders and shut their eyes to what was happening in the jungle."
The Amazon rubber boom burst, the companies went bankrupt, many a man was ruined for eternity, and the dead are forgotten. Life carries on like the river. Perhaps mankind gained a small step toward the moral in his demand to the end of the slave-trade in the Amazon. A lesson paid in blood and death.
The occurrences on the Putumayo have at least tended to arouse the religious element, if not the commercial conscience, of the British people. A severe indictment of the directors of the Peruvian Amazon Company was made from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey, in August, 1912, in a sermon Canon Henson. The English directors were denounced by name, and the demand made that they should be arrested and brought to public trial, the preacher stating that he chose that famous pulpit for delivering the indictment in order that the widest possible publicity might be given to the subject. The directors, in the public Press, then made through their solicitors an emphatic and indignant denial of their responsibility, alleging that in the first place they were ignorant of the occurrences, and that when these were shown to have some foundation in fact they voluntarily dispatched a commission to inquire into the matter.
The occurrences of the Putumayo have aroused public feeling in Lima... for there has always existed a party protesting against the abuses practised upon the Indians. ... The subject must not be allowed to sink into oblivion, and the pressure of public opinion must be sustained.
Reginald Enock. “Introduction,”W. E. Hardenberg, The Putumayo, the devil's paradise; travels in the Peruvian Amazon region and an account of the atrocities committed upon the Indians therein." Edited and with an introduction by C. Reginal Enock, F.R.G.S. T. Fischer Unwin; London: Adephi Terrace, Leipsic: Inselstrasse 2C . 1912.

The rubber boom ended in Iquitos 100 years ago, and the city fell into ruin for close to the full century before tourism and oil brought people to the area again, to make money, to build, to last. The moral course is trod one step at a time, sometimes “One step forward, two steps back,” as Lenin notes; and as one of his more evil acolytes furthered, to circumvent humanness, one attempts a “Great Leap Forward.” Those steps often lead to entry into the heart of darkness where man stands alone as his own god, unrestrained by his fellows, pursuing his own idols built to honor himself, the result being the City of Death ruled by a toad. It must collapse. Murder cannot prevail. The boom must burst. Today Iquitos is a thriving city of half a million people, relatively prosperous, making money bit by bit without the burden of madness descending on the few who, unsupervised by ordinary morality among men, run amok in the wild and destroy. From a city of 20,000 in which some lit cigars with hundred dollar bills while others were enslaved and mutilated and murdered for the sake of theft, there is a city full of people engaged in the Modern, growing more prosperous daily, moving incrementally toward-- a new sewer system!

Theft, rapine, and murder enriched a few for a short few years. Honest industry enriches a large city forever. For that one might grudgingly thank the numerous hippies who arrive today in the city of Iquitos to take drugs. Capitalism and its spirit, profit, work miracles unknown to the man driven into himself alone. That man without other men held worthy of trust and dignity cannot be a man but only a monster is a lesson viewed clearly in the heart of darkness. That man will collapse into his own Hell.

In the aftermath of the Rubber Boom the city of Iquitos went from a population of 20,000 to roughly 200. Today the city is close to half a million people living in something approaching Modernity. It ain't so perfect. Some things could stand some improvement. We'll look at the sewer system first, and then we will end this book on Iquitos with a look at the ayahuasca trade that has such a great impact on the city. The robbery of the rubber trade was “unsustainable” and today it is replaced with private pursuit of happiness, i.e. the successful pursuit of profit, sometimes at the expense of those who seek enlightenment from the darkness of their alien Modernity. Here, Iquitos bounces back. 

 A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book: