'Murder most foul'
A melancholy wind, hissed and howled, the day they were born. What devil stood by their mother's bed to claim their souls! History is riddled with those who seem to be born to the human race without a human heart. They carry the heart of a monster, or a dark empty vacuum where the heart should be. Such were those creatures destined to write in blood another chapter in mankind's tragic history of genocide. Their loathsome bloody deeds have stupefied generations, leaving a legacy of confusion, fear, horror, and awe. Yet no lesson was learned as crimes against humanity have not only survived, but have even prospered and spread, exerting their power of extinction over mankind.
Forest Whitaker embodies Uganda's Idi Amin
From Nero to Napoleon, men have massacred other men for little rhyme and less reason. Such atrocious, extravagant, unspeakable crimes, were followed by no remorse, no atonement, and saddest of all, no opposition. In the stream of history's narrative, religion has played, not a minor role, in promoting intolerance, sanctioning torture and death for non-believers. How many wars have been waged, how many lives lost, how much blood has flowed in the name of religion!
Those were the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, in the far and distant past, when the souls of a Nero burning Rome, or an Alexander burying Persipolis, were unrestrained, unopposed, uncensored. Not so! In fact the 20th century, with all of its sophisticated enlightenment, and all its loud talk of human rights, has nurtured more such men who committed crimes against humanity, so unthinkable, so unspeakable, so innumerable, its history will be written in blood and sorrow. The value of a single human life has diminished over the last century, and has been devalued even more during the new millennium. Like little Neros they dance while others burn. Does history teach no lessons?
From the pogroms of the Middle Ages to the slaughter of the Native American Indian -- the carnage continues. From the institution of slavery to the extermination of 1.2 million Armenians at the hands of Ismail Enver of Turkey, Adolph Hitler's 12 million victims of Jews, Poles, etc, the 20 million Russians purged by Stalin, the 50 million Chinese lives paid as the price of Mao-Ze-Dong's "Cultural Revolution", Pol Pot's Cambodian massacre of 1.7 million, Kim Il Sung's North Korean purges of 1.6 million, the beastly list goes on and on. Born without guilt or conscience, psychologists analyse such despots as being unable to comprehend the enormity of their crimes. What about the rest of us? What about our conscience, our guilt? If we do not protest evil, do we not become its accomplice?
The Dark Continent of Africa however, was kept in the dark from modern man's achievements, as well as his crimes until it allowed the light in. When Africans saw the light by the second half of the 20th century, 1.5 million Ethiopians perished at the hands of Menghistu, one million fell to John Kambanda of Rwanda, half a million to Savimbi of Angola, hundreds of thousands of victims in the Congo, Zayre, Sierra Leone, Chad, Sudan. It is estimated that 400,000 thousand have already fallen in Darfur 500 perish daily, and still the world is silent.
Among the African nations, there rose a man of such wide charismatic appeal, such devilish magnetism and charm, who captivated the world's attention. We were intrigued by his excesses, eccentricities, flamboyance, and ruthlessness -- his name, Idi Amin, his country, Uganda. During an eight-year rule, Amin's victims reached half a million. It is his lifestyle however, that aroused the world's curiosity, if not indignation.
The Last King of Scotland chronicles the atrocities of this demonic African leader. A first novel by journalist Giles Foden, it is an award-winning book, a perfect blend of fact and fiction. The fiction is the protagonist, a young Scottish physician, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who travels to Uganda in search of a new adventure. Instead, he finds himself strangely entangled in a dangerous alliance with the country's beastly president, the monstrous Idi Amin. Mesmerised by the Ugandan ruler, Garrigan embarks on a dark journey into the depths of a dark heart. He becomes the most trusted friend and physician of the country's new leader, but is unable to stop the insanity and heathen brutality of his boss, and winds up in a desperate fight for his own survival. His heaven soon becomes his hell!
The Last King of Scotland is not the Scottish Garrigan, but the Ugandan Idi Amin. Fascinated by all things British, especially Scottish, Amin wore kilts regularly, forced his choir to sing "Loch Lomond" at political rallies, as he declared himself "the last great king of Scotland".
Actor Forrest Whitaker, always one to give excellent performances, has finally found the role of a lifetime. Whitaker's rendition of the lonely, pitiful, menacing, insane, bloodthirsty, monster, whom Ugandans still revere to this day, has Hollywood critics cheering. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Kevin McDonald turns out a first class, first feature, briskly paced, dramatically charged, deeply saturated in images, vividly green, and mournfully brown.
We often deride Hollywood for its own set of atrocities, but we have to salute it for embracing worthy causes every now and then. Hotel Rwanda (2003), The Constant Gardner (2004), and Tsotsi (2004), have helped spread a clear understanding of chaotic conditions in Africa.
Is power truly that seductive, turning men into beasts, or do we have an insatiable desire for death and destruction? Is this a tragic flaw existing in the heart of all humanity?
The righteous continue to defend their human rights, as they continue to tolerate their abuse. History continues to record human crimes that raise all of hell's furies while we continue to tolerate the reality of innocent, helpless victims, screaming, thrashing, dying, in the blazing fire of pain -- a horror to God, a horror to man. Yet we watch in silence, without chagrin, without shame.
... Like the painting of a sorrow,
A face, without a heart
-- Hamlet, Act IV, Sc 7
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)