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"Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the depths of darkness, and in return came a precious trickle of ivory." (1.44)
Everyone cares only for the ivory; almost anything will be given up in exchange for it—manufactured goods like cotton, beads, brass-wire, and even human slaves.
"When annoyed at meal-times by the constant quarrels of the white men about precedence, he ordered an immense round table to be made, for which a special house had to be built. This was the station's mess-room. Where he sat was the first place—the rest were nowhere. One felt this to be his unalterable conviction." (1.52)
Hm. See, we thought the point of a round table was to make everyone equal—but instead, it just ends up making the manager seem more powerful. Wherever he sits, that's the head of the table. This power play keeps the manager on top and his underlings decidedly beneath him. Smooth move!
[At the Central Station]: "The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove!" (1.53)
Everyone at the Central Station wants to get their hands on ivory so badly they actually make ivory into a god. But instead of giving them power, this greed ends up making them into "imbeciles." The whole affair feels as dirty to him as the stench of a corpse.