What Was Worst

Article excerpt

Ryszard Kapuscinski and I could have met decades earlier, but we got together over a later-abandoned plan to do a science fiction film. (The only adequate place to shoot this film was Southern Sudan, but at the time there were nine factions of rebels fighting the central government-and also fighting each other. Ryszard had been caught in an ambush down there recently, and he had the prudence to dissuade me from pursuing my plan.) I contacted him in the first place, because he seemed to share with me a science fiction idea "in reverse," a much more probable possibility than intergalactic travel: a future where most of our technical abilities and most of our knowledge are lost, a situation similar to what happened after the end of Roman antiquity.

We both were convinced that our highly technological civilization is not sustainable. We both had seen first signs of this during our travels in Africa.

Shortly after the independence of the Congo, the country lapsed into unspeakable chaos. The eastern provinces in particular had dissolved into tribal strife and cannibalism had become rampant, and I, having just turned eighteen, had set out to witness all this, in order to grasp and understand how Germany could have turned utterly barbaric in an inconceivably sudden departure from its deep-rooted culture. …