Blackguard

APRIL IST, 1871. The banks are well peopled, but one must see the gathering at the market, of about 3000,  chiefly women, to judge of their numbers. They hold market one day, and then omit attendance here for three days, going to other markets at other points in the intervals. It is a great institution in Manyuema: numbers seem to inspire confidence, and they enforce justice for each other.  As a rule, all prefer to buy and sell in the market, to doing  business anywhere else ; if one says, ” Come, sell me that fowl or cloth,” the reply is, “Come to the ‘chitoka,’ or market-place.”

2nd. To-day the market contained over a thousand people, carrying earthen pots and cassava, grass cloth, fishes, and fowls ; they were alarmed at my coming among them and were ready to flee, many stood afar off in suspicion ; some came from the other side of the river with their goods.  To-morrow market is held up river.

3rd, The people all fear us, and they have good reason for it in the villainous conduct of many of the blackguard half-castes which alarms them : I cannot get a canoe, so I wait to see what will turn up. The river is said to overflow all its banks annually, as the Nile does further down. I sounded across yesterday. Near the bank it is 9 feet, the rest 15 feet, and one cast in the middle was 20 feet : between the islands 12 feet ; and 9 feet again in shore : it is a mighty river truly. …

May 3rd. Abed informs me that a canoe will come in five days. Word was sent after me by the traders south of us not to aid me, as I was sure to die where I was going : the wish is father to the thought ! Abed was naturally very anxious to get first into the Babisa ivory market, yet he tried to secure a canoe for me before he went, but he was too eager, and a Manyuema man took advantage of his desire, and came over the river and said that he had one hollowed out, and he wanted goats and beads to hire people to drag it down to the water. Abed on my account advanced five goats, a thousand cowries, and many beads, and said that he would tell me what he wished in return : this was debt, but I was so anxious to get away I was content to take the canoe on any terms. However, it turned out that the matter on the part of the headman whom Abed trusted was all deception : he had no canoe at all, but knew of one belonging to another man, and wished to get Abed and me to send men to see it in fact, to go with their guns, and he would manage to embroil them with the real owner, so that some old feud should be settled to his satisfaction. On finding that I declined to be led into his trap, he took a female slave to the owner, and on his refusal to sell the canoe for her, it came out that he had adopted a system of fraud to Abed. He had victimized Abed, who was naturally inclined to believe his false statements, and get off to the ivory market.

David Livingstone, “CHAPTER XVIII, TRAGIC SCENES ON THE LUALABA”, The last journals of David Livingstone, in Central Africa, from eighteen hundred and sixty-five to his death

Again we have David Livingstone, a medical missionary, talk of his travels through what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He needs to get somewhere on the water, and needs to rent or buy a canoe. No one will trade with him because of the “villainous conduct of many of the blackguard half-castes which alarms them.”  In his journals you’ll see citations of people being stolen into slavery, for either export or sex, and cruel employers, etc.  In 1871, there are still slaves here.  On top of this some people who apparently looked like Livingstone (“half-castes?”) had acted in a blackguard fashion, and Livingstone doesn’t begrudge the traders who are now afraid of him.

I’ve been in an electronics store the weekend before a Superbowl and overheard a couple discussing purchasing a $1000 big screen TV with the intent of returning it after the game.  My memory is that the store didn’t sell TV’s long after that event. This is one of the facets of human suffering, if only a trivial one: systems which can provide good things instead break down because of the behavior of unscrupulous, dishonorable people. Don’t be a blackguard.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we thank you for the efforts of medical missionaries, who work tirelessly for showing your love, both in word and deed. We pray for those who fear us, either rightly or because of associations, and give us the spirit of Livingstone in holding no grudges, only being determined to find new ways to love more. We pray for those who act unscrupulously and seek self-interest in ways that ruins things for others. We also pray that we not count the sins of others or hold grudges against anyone.  AMEN.  

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