Friday, November 28, 2008

Gorilla Wars

Deep in the darkest reaches of mountainous jungles in central Africa, within the vast country once known as Zaire--now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (as large as the entire United States east of the Mississippi)--lies a savage, tropical land of giant trees and tangled undergrowth; a complex, inter-nested ecosystem of a million species of plants and stinging, biting, crawling insects; of predators and prey, small and large; of species known and many yet unknown to science. Within those jungles are set apart 3,000 square miles for the Virunga National Park, home--among many rare and endangered species--of several hundred mountain gorillas, nearly half of the surviving members of this dying species, so close to humans that we share nearly 98% of the same DNA, yet so alien, so strange to us that we instinctively fear them, these gentle giants and their savage, jungle ways.

Mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species, but they are "protected" in that park--their native homeland is guarded and patrolled by some 50 forest rangers who try to keep out poachers seeking "bush meat" and loggers who want to fell the giant trees to traffic in charcoal that provides fuel and water-purifying chemicals to Rwanda, Uganda, and other nearby African nations.

But a civil war also rages in the Congo: over five million people have been killed in the past ten years--recently nearly 50,000 each month. And the rebels want to control the lucrative and illegal charcoal trade. They are willing to kill to do so--some 120 forest rangers have died in the past ten years. The rebels are willing to kill--not just humans, not just the rangers, but in addition, recently, they have hit on another plan: they believe that if they exterminate the mountain gorillas, the forest rangers will have no reason to risk their lives limiting the rebels' activities; they will leave, and with them the government troops they summon when battles for areas of the park, and the trees, rage.

This savage genocide is proceeding. Bands of gorillas have been rounded up and executed. The civilized world--humanity at large--has no power to stop it. Soon mountain gorillas--some of Homo sapiens' nearest relatives--will be gone. And we humans will be a little more alone in the Universe.


In this piece as with everything I write, my chief aim is to write well--to explore the power of the English language. I am always pleased to have something to say, but how to say it is my major quest, my obsession.

Do you agree that the prose, particularly of the first paragraph, is lush with complex, inter-nested mini/micro parts like the jungle?

Do you agree that the later prose somehow captures and conveys the
triple confrontation of raw nature with drum-beating warfare and with soul-deep political unease?

(Did you see the movie "Instinct"?)

I spent many hours thinking about, working on, and writing this piece. There was clearly a muse calling who wanted something special here.

I am pleased with it. There are some awkward elements and curious juxtapositions that, nevertheless, work to capture and convey the tone, the spirit I was looking for.