" Madam, he never so much as asked my name! That's why some rude
... some ill-informed people still call me "Friday" today. He
callously christened me "Friday" and told me that his own name was
to be Master. That, not Robinson. The idea!
My dear father --you know how happily I was united with
him after we'd finished building that boat to get off the island--
he wasn't asked either what his name was. Crusoe didn't even
care to call him, like me, after the day of his rescue. Haven't
you noticed, Madam, that he actually kept on referring to my dad
as "Friday's father" for the rest of his life? As if I, Benamak,
were not the son of Bena, just as once a Robinson, one may
imagine, must have been the son of a Robin. Yes, 'Master'
Crusoe's self-satisfied complacency was, besides his
industriousness, a central feature of his rather flat character.
But at the time I was meek and mild. I should never have allowed
him to call me "Friday" -- such a frigid colonial name ...
"Benamak for friends, Sir; and Mr Mukoowo for others.
Nothing else, Sir!"
Didn't he rescue and convert me?
Rescue, indeed, Madam, but only to turn me, good-natured as
I was, into a slave, a mere source of manpower, and a cheap one
at that. You must recall what choice Crusoe gave Xury, that
African boy, before coming to South America: "Either be faithful
to me, or I'll throw you into the sea". Then, for being faithful
to him, he sold Xury to the captain of a Portuguese ship; he
who'd assisted him so loyally in procuring his liberty. By now
Xury is a free man, after ten more years of slavery, and only
because he agreed to become a Christian -- would you believe it?
Forgive me the comparison, Madam, but if I save you from
drowning or from being slaughtered by brutish savages of your
own race does this give me the right to immediately turn you
into my slave, to require you to be faithful to me, to call you
"my loyal servant", and to capitalize on this one good deed
forever? Definitely not, but, Benamukee, did I know ...
And convert me, Madam? It's too outrageous for words. I
assume you now refer to that mean tale about him converting me?
Let me explain to you, Madam, if anything, it was I who
That it was he who civilized me by teaching me English and
by instructing me in religion?
The poor creature: he wanted 'to lay a foundation of
religious knowledge in my mind'. As if he possessed any of that
at all himself! Devil-lore, yes, but knowledge? If you're
interested, Madam, I'll tell you exactly what discussion took
place between the two of us before Crusoe relapsed into his
archaic creed again. Well, 'exactly' ... Thirty years ago, when
I was still in my twenties and Crusoe the only English-speaking
person I'd met, my command of your language was, of course, not
what it is now.
For example, when Crusoe once asked me out of the blue
who'd 'made' me, I didn't understand him right away. Moreover,
such a dubious question I wasn't used to ask myself in spiritual
matters before other so much more important ones. When he also
mentioned the sea, the land, the hills, and the woods, however,
I replied, if only to show goodwill, that Benamukee had made
them. (And, please, forget about that crazy c before the k.)
Naturally, if a god had produced the island, the moon and the
stars, as, I must admit, I sort of believed then, it was at
least as old as the fruits of its creative involvement. That
seemed pretty logical to me. (And also the fact that this
'maker' was not necessarily a he, but might as well be a she, or
neither.) Therefore, I never said that 'one old Benamukee' had
created the world, just as Crusoe himself would never have said
that 'one old Lord' had done it. The treacherous liar!
His next question was why not all things worshipped
Benamukee -- "this old person" as he disparagingly referred to our
deity. As if everything on Earth worshipped his Old Person!
"All things say O to him"?
O, I remember I said that, sometime in the beginning, when
we'd just met. But that was a long time before we had the
discussion I'm talking about now. That was when I didn't even
know the words for believer and prayer in English. All I
meant to say then was that believers say prayers to Benamukee. I
offered to teach him my language as we were in the part of the
world where I, not he, was born, but he considered himself too
civilized for such an undertaking. So I had to be smart enough to learn
his language, because he was not smart enough to learn mine. Should he've
tried it, I'm sure he'd still have expressed himself twice as clumsily
as me until many years later.
That I thought that those eaten up went to Benamukee too?
Yes, at the time I believed that. All innocent people
'went' to Benamukee, whether they were murdered or not, and
whether their bodies were devoured or not (by humans or other
animals). In this respect Crusoe's own religion was no
different, except that he didn't always use the same words and
names for the same things. That's why I was at first rather
stupefied than irritated when he wanted to instil 'the knowledge
of the true God' in me, for that 'true God' seemed to be no-one
else than Benamukee in an exclusively male, foreign disguise. (I
say "foreign", not "false".) It --or if you prefer its
contrived masculinity: he-- was the great maker of all things.
It lived up somewhere 'beyond all' or 'in Heaven'. It influenced
the world by the same power and providence by which it had
Didn't I open my eyes by degrees?
Of course, I did. Because Crusoe maintained that his god God
was omnipotent and could do (literally) everything for us, and
could hear us 'up beyond the sun'. Just a lot of hot air, this
so-called 'omnipotence' and, as I learned later, 'omniscience'.
And what authoritarian claptrap, this childish business of a
male deity giving everything to people, so long as they submit
themselves to all his wishes, and taking everything away from
them, if they don't. I certainly listened with attention
--that's true-- but I was getting more and more disgusted with
Crusoe's overbearing manners towards someone who was not a
fellow-believer ... And more and more shocked, too, by his wild
ideas. He seriously argued that he was shipwrecked off Amaa
Amapi --"the Island of Despair" as he called it: his despair--
because his father wanted him to become a lawyer, and he'd
defied him by becoming a sailor instead. 'Worshipwrecked', as it
were, for it was his god, he claimed, who'd warned him before,
and who'd thus punished him for his disobedience.
Mind you, he never feared to be punished for having
enslaved or killed so many non-Europeans! In this respect he was
no different from that other European, and religious zealot,
Columbus, who treated the Tainos of the island in which he
founded his colony of La Isabella like brutes without any
feelings. After raping, torturing and murdering them, and
burning their villages, he transported the survivors to Spain,
as slaves. This is the way the native peoples of the Americas
were, and still are, invited to become Christians of their own
accord, and to submit to the love for and the servitude to
'Their Majesties' and to the whole of the Spanish nation. I
won't have to explain to you that I didn't make these
discoveries until much later. The crown Crusoe wore (or had to
bear) was not Spanish but English.
Without knowing the details of Columbus' visits to a number
of islands in our region now more than two hundred years ago I
was already irritated enough by some aspects of my own encounter
with Crusoe. It was merely out of piety that I tried to hide
this irritation as much as possible. And somehow it was also
informative to observe that there was god-worship even among
people who could read and write. The creation of some form of
religion or other to preserve, first of all, the potency and
veneration of some cabal of patriarchs was obviously not to be
found in my native land only but even among the technologically
most developed countries. Money and God together were for a
materialist such as Crusoe, as I came to realize, the two general
denominating articles in the world. And yet he insinuated to me
that the phenomenon of my old men going up the mountains to say
prayers to their god was a fraud; that if they met with any
answer, or spoke with anyone there, it had to be with an evil
How unfair an insinuation this was, Madam! As if his own
old men going up the stairs of a church to say prayers were ever
met with any concrete, divine answer. My Benamukee! As if his
Supreme Being had ever spoken to him or his coreligionists in
their buildings, those unnatural, man-made molehills of
idolatry. But at the time I genuinely believed in Benamukee, and
Crusoe's god seemed to be little different, not even kindlier.
It was Crusoe's attempt at proselytizing which was so much worse
than I had ever met with before.
Whether Crusoe didn't convince me of the existence of a
Something else he's cheated his readers with! My words
were: "If your Lord is so omnipotent, he must be stronger than
this so-called 'devil', mustn't he? Why, then, doesn't he
prevent that devil's evil deeds, if he can?". Crusoe was really
surprized and not at all capable of answering my question. He
didn't know what to say, my 'Master'. Pretending not to hear me
he asked me what I'd said, tho' he'd understood me well enough.
After an awkward pause he uttered something completely
ridiculous like: "God will punish him by casting him into a
bottomless pit with an everlasting fire". Upon which I asked him
immediately, but politely, why this god of his waited so long
before he decided to punish his devil for the crimes he'd
meanwhile committed. "You may as well ask me", Crusoe then
replied, "why God doesn't kill you and me, when we do wicked
things here which offend him. We're preserved to repent and be
pardoned". To me this meant that it was his own Lord who was so
obstinate as to allow his counterpart no repentance, and to
refuse him forgiveness, so that all other creatures in the world
were to suffer for the one's sadism and the other's obstinacy
forever. I mused a while at this morbid state of affairs in
Crusoe's mind, and then asked him in a seemingly subservient way
whether, indeed, the devil was pardoned too, in the end.
How he reacted?
Flabbergasted he was. He rose up hastily, as if he suddenly
had to go on important business. He even sent me for something
far away on the other side of the island. Before I left, however,
I managed to get Crusoe to listen to me for one more second.
"Master, let's talk man-to-man for one moment now", I said. "We
both worship the same god, even tho' it may have different rival
names". (I meant tribal names.) "Benamukee is
as good a god as yours, or --if I may be so bold-- better, for
Benamukee is not a consuming fire to anyone, not in the habit of
treading anyone down under his feet, and never even thinks of
destroying us and all the world. Those things and those thoughts
are in these parts reserved for the inhabitants of Caribe. With
their many canoes they plunder our islands and eat our flesh.
They believe in a Supernatural Being whose behaviour is a mere
reflection of their own strife: a Monster with its believers'
basest doings and dealings."
Even Columbus, who could be so blatantly biased and cruel
at other moments, wrote about the intense general goodness of
the inhabitants of our islands --long before anyone turned
Christian-- that they were willing to give as much love as
their hearts could give, that they were honest and generous,
that they didn't have religious sects, nor indulged in image
worship, altho' they believed in things higher and better than
those here and now. At the time, however, all I'd heard about
Columbus was that he'd 'discovered' us.
"Our god", I pointed out to Crusoe, "has been peaceful
throughout the records of our oral history. Furthermore,
Benamukee doesn't arrogate a position above the mountains or
above nature. No, Benamukee is part of the mountain, part of the
natural environment. If we felled or defiled the woods, we'd
fell or defile Benamukee itself, himself and herself. That we'd
never do! Nature is not something given by a father-god, a sun-god
or a father-son-god to be used at will, let alone for his
pleasure". The thought of being reduced to 'a mere state of
nature' was an abomination to Crusoe, and I imagined that he and
his god would there merely resemble each other.
But what I could stomach least of all was --how shall I
say?-- the ... demonical part of Crusoe's religion. I
continued, before he would leave me: "About this devil-business,
master -- you cannot be serious! Please, be honest to
me here, where no-one else is around. Admit that someone who's as
intelligent as you are doesn't entertain such a mad, mediaeval
belief, whatever he may feign when he's with compatriots or
Crusoe was quite impressed and sat down again, but not
before looking around him to see if there were no (more)
intruders anywhere. Then he confessed --I swear it, Madam--
"No, Friday, it doesn't make much sense. We in civilized
countries have been inculcated with these two spirits of
religion from our earliest childhood. Our world is not the firm
bedrock of eternal peace and harmony between man and nature, as
your ideal seems to be, but the unsteady theatre of an
ever-lasting war between god and devil. Rather than a war between
good and evil, this sickening war itself is our evil, and so
all-encompassing that it has become a war of man against nature
as well. Where I come from, Friday, salvation doesn't lie in the
hills or in the sea but in Heaven. And Heaven is far, far away
from this natural world, where my people are held in the grip of
a devil who has secret access to their passions and affections,
who adapts his snares to their inclinations, and who causes them
to run upon their own destruction by their own choices. The
belief in it is a collective persecution complex that takes away
their innocent pleasures, their will to act for the better,
their personal responsibility".
"Well", I said, "you do agree, then, that you've been
indoctrinated and strayed from the strait natural path of sound
reasoning"? "Yes, I fear so, Friday", he answered, "I'm glad I
met you," and he smiled 'mighty affectionately'. I embraced him
and swiftly left for the task assigned to me. Never ever did
Crusoe bother me with this nonsense about a devil anymore, and
whenever he got in a theist mood, we'd agree that the god and
prophets of the Middle East, or of the North for that matter,
were no better than those of the Middle and the South of this
planet. (For it goes without saying we had our prophets or gurus
Why, then, the story of Crusoe's life tells of my
conversion to his religion?
How could it have been the other way around? Had Crusoe
written down that it was I, Benamak Mukoowo, who'd shown him
the silliness of his demonical ideas and cured him from his
theist arrogance (this true God phraseology) he'd never have
held the limelight in the first place. On his return to England
in '87 he fell back into his former beliefs and customs, due to
social pressures, and because it would earn him money. Only
reborn as a bedeviled (and 'begodded') Christian was he able to
publish his book and to become famous. Otherwise no-one would
ever have heard of him ...
And of me ...
Maybe, that would have been better, for it's certainly no
unqualified pleasure, Madam, to be the object of a 'false, shuffling,
prevaricating rascal unfit to give his testimony in a Court of
Justice', as my master was described by another friend of his,
long before I myself became fully aware of the existence of our
own culture and the significance of my own thoughts. The story
of him converting me in The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is
as egregious a lie as that of my death in The Farther
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. As you can see with your own
eyes, Madam, I'm still hale and hearty. "