Said argues that Conrad's Marlow and Kurtz, like Conrad himself, fail to recognize that "what they saw, disablingly
and disparagingly, as a non-European 'darkness' was in fact a non-European world resisting imperialism so as to one day regain sovereignity and independence, and not, as Conrad reductively says, to reestablish the darkness." Said continues, Conrad's tragic limitation is that even though he could see clearly that on one level imperialism was essentially pure dominance and land-grabbing, he could not conclude that imperialism had to end so that 'natives' could lead lives free from European domination.
The trouble with culture today is that it has come to mean, on the one hand, something disablingly
local and overspecialized, basically nothing more than the affirmation of a "specific identity," and, on the other, everything from a habit of mind, the arts, political institutions, to a whole way of life.
But from the presentist standpoint it is all too up to date: unavoidably, ineradicably -- some would argue disablingly
-- up to date.