Gold Gato, August 22, 2012 (view all comments by Gold Gato)
The Boer War attracted me to this book as I tried, once again, to understand why a particular war took place that didn't seem to need to take place, if you get my drift. Mr. Cecil Rhodes was the colossal figure behind Great Britain's grab for land and power in South Africa, and he established the nation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) through cunning, illicit means, and the type of outright land grabbing that would make the Americans of Manifest Destiny cringe in horror.
His story is extraordinary. After suffering illness as a teenager (a literal hole in the heart), Rhodes realized he had but one short life to live and he set out to become a Great Man. He chose the Cape Colony and soon was a multimillionaire, thanks to hard work and ferocious business dealings in diamonds and gold. Rhodes tricked the Matabele into losing their land and their king, while he dreamed of a British Empire running from Capetown to Nairobi.
"I walked between earth and sky, and when I looked down I said, 'This earth should be English,' and when I looked up, I said, 'The English should rule the earth'."
The Boer War actually comes toward the end of the book and one does not feel sorry for either side, as the Afrikaners and the British both took that which did not belong to them. I feel the book did its duty and portrayed a man in depth, but the author puts the full blame for the later system of apartheid on to Rhodes' shoulders, which is a bit of a reach. Yes, he changed from a man who felt everyone should have the same opportunity to a man focused on empire-building, but the Boers were far more obsessed with racial superiority than Rhodes seemed to be. South Africa produced Rhodes and Mandela, two incredible bookends. Smashing country.
One imagines how Rhodes would have fit into the world of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos. I think he would have been a Tech Titan with a private space fleet and a hankering for the colonization of Mars.
Book Season = Spring (when the winds blow fresh across the Cape)
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.