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Mark Twain's Killing Train

Every time I give someone my email address, or tell them the title of my blog, I get a raised eyebrow or a shocked look. Now, telling people the title of my first book has the same effect. For that reason, I've set up this blog to have "Why Killing Train?" and an explanation about the new book very prominently available on the front page.

Every so often, while I'm researching something, I come across a passage from decades, or centuries, ago, that shows that today's problems are not new. BR Ambedkar, in his 1936 speech "The Annihilation of Caste", argued that the only tolerable inequality for rewards in society would be inequality in rewarding effort, something that I had associated with Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel's Participatory Economics model before coming across that essay.

I've been researching the Congo, and I came across this great passage in Mark Twain's little 1905 pamphlet, King Leopold's Soliloquy, in which he satirizes Leopold by writing as if he was Leopold, the Belgian King at the time. Mark Twain was an activist who worked on a wide range of issues, including the horrors that were being inflicted on the Congo by King Leopold's Belgium. I was inspired to name this blog after an image created by Michael Albert, in an essay and a book called Stop the Killing Train! It turns out that over 100 years ago, Mark Twain published a killing-train like image in his 1905 pamphlet (pg.36). Writing as Leopold, he says about the Congo activists (like Twain himself):

"They prefer to work up what they call "ghastly statistics" into offensive kindergarten object lessons, whose purpose is to make sentimental people shudder, and prejudice them against me. They remark that "if the innocent blood shed in the Congo State by King Leopold were put in buckets and the buckets placed side by side, the line would stretch 2,000 miles; if the skeletons of his ten millions of starved and butchered dead could rise up and march in single file, it would take them seven months and four days to pass a given point; if compacted together in a body, they would occupy more ground than St. Louis covers, World's Fair and all; if they should all clap their bony hands at once, the grisly crash would be heard a distance of --" Damnation, it makes me tired!"

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Comments

I never saw Twain's words. Had I - I would have done a better job with my train image, as well as including a reference. Twain can write - I merely try.

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