Macleans – Why we love that alien hordes stuff<br/> It’s all delicious fantasy for us. But in some places, they’re actually living the apocalypse, by Mark Steyn

The pop-cultural detonation of national landmarks is a mostly American phenomenon. In other places, it happens for real. Godzilla thomping his way down Fifth Avenue and hurling Buicks through the Empire State Building offers the frisson of a roller-coaster ride: when it’s over, the ground under your feet will be as solid as it ever was. Whereas watching alien hordes take over Paris or Brussels or Berlin would be déjà vu all over again. At the same time as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction were running those covers of the Statue of Liberty battered and brutalized in one dystopian scenario after another, Buckingham Palace took nine direct hits during the Blitz. Reducing the iconic British landscape to rubble wasn’t Fiction and it wasn’t that Astounding, and it didn’t even require much Science: on one occasion, an enterprising lone German bomber flew low up the Mall and dropped its load directly above the king and queen’s living quarters. … We can enjoy blowing up the Statue of Liberty every couple of months in some movie or comic book because we assume it and what it represents are indestructible.

It doesn’t seem that obvious in the rest of the world. This week, my eye fell on a striking headline in Britain’s Daily Telegraph: “General Butt Naked Confesses To Nude Killings.” General Butt Naked is a Liberian warlord so called because of his preference for charging into battle wearing only his boots at the head of a similarly deshabille contingent known as the Butt Naked Battalion…

“The nude gunmen became known for terrorizing villagers and sacrificing children whose hearts they would eat before going into battle during Liberia’s 14-year on-off civil war which ended in 2003.”

Did they do a lot of this? Child-sacrifice and heart-eating and so forth? Well, General Butt Naked confesses to killing some 20,000 people before finding himself standing nude in battle on a bridge outside Monrovia and hearing the voice of God tell him he was Satan’s slave and should repent immediately. Since when he’s been an evangelical preacher in Ghana.

And we shrug and move on. Hey, it’s Liberia. … A New York returned to a Hobbesian state of nature is a delicious fantasy because it’s so remote, but in Liberia who needs the movies? They’re living it — right down to the whole Quentin Tarantino “Stuck In The Middle With You” menu options. And when it turns up on page 37 of the newspaper we give it nary a thought because who expects anything of West Africa anyway?

Liberia’s not a “victim” of European colonization. Founded by freed American slaves, its first republic lasted from 1847 until Samuel Doe’s coup in 1980. In the seventies, before nude warlords came a-rampaging, Monrovian bigwigs didn’t merely pull their pants on before swaggering forth, they favoured morning dress of an anachronistic gentility reminiscent of the antebellum South.

In other words, Liberia went backwards. Do you remember when Mel Lastman engaged in a bit of Canadian multiculti outreach and wondered aloud why he’d ever want to visit Mombasa? “I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.” He wound up having to apologize, of course. Oddly enough, when Mel was a kid and it was taken for granted Africans were a bunch of cannibals, there was virtually no empirical basis for such a persistent stereotype. “The rest of the world had always believed that there was cannibalism in Africa,” wrote Charles Onyango-Obbo in The East African a few years ago, “but there wasn’t much hard evidence for it.” Today, when the PC enforcers clobber you for evoking the old cooking-pot gag, cannibalism is flourishing. Mr. Onyango-Obbo was reporting that the Congolese Liberation Movement was slaughtering huge numbers of people and feeding the body parts to their relatives. As he sees it, it’s a function of Africa’s re-primitivization. “Cannibalism,” he wrote, “happens commonly where there is little science, and people don’t see themselves as creatures of a much higher order than other animals around them. When you have gone to the moon, you consider yourself and other humans to be very different from the chimp at the zoo.”

Well, maybe. Before the carnage of recent years Liberians didn’t go to the moon but they had a broadly functioning society. So did the Yugoslavs, until folks decided it would be more fun to reduce the joint to rubble. They didn’t eat their enemies’ private parts, but they certainly sliced off plenty of breasts and genitals. True, they never had a nice clear-cut embodiment of civilization like the Statue of Liberty, but you would have thought, given the society General Butt Naked was born into, that there would be some restraint against ripping the hearts out of children and eating them. Or (to cite the penultimate Benazir Bhutto assassination attempt) wiring up your baby as a bomb and inviting the politician to come and kiss the cute little moppet. The state of nature has made huge advances in recent years — which is why some of us worry what will happen when such forces go nuclear. I like those shattered Statue-of-Liberty covers as much as the next comic-book nerd, but they’re the product of confident 19th-century assumptions about a distant republic living in splendid isolation from the world’s cares. Dystopian fantasies become obsolescent for two reasons: if you’re lucky, progress renders them absurd (see Metropolis); if you’re not, they cross over from fiction to the news pages.

Well that went a bit long, didn’t it. But hey. Worth quoting.