R J Comeau - Curriculum Design & Research
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The Souls of Black Folks, a short selection from the beginning
Selections from the Qur'an not included in Approaching the Qur'an, on non-believers, war and women.
So much said, I continue to hope that the reader distinguishes this human balance sheet of colonization from the lessons which I believe it is possible to draw from it. I know that I shall often have to ask that I be read before being refuted. I hope for an additional effort; and that, if opposed a priori to the lessons of this investigation, the reader does not reject that methodological but healthy prudence. We shall see later whether it is proper to acknowledge the necessity of the following conclusions.
It definitely appears that the colonizer is a disease of the European, from which he must be completely cured and protected. There is also a drama of the colonizer which would be absurd and unjust to underestimate. The cure involves difficult and painful treatment, extraction and reshaping of present conditions of existence. Nonetheless, there is also a drama, a still more serious one, if colonization continues.
Colonization can only disfigure the colonizer. It places him before an alternative having equally disastrous results; daily injustice accepted for his benefit on the one hand and necessary, but never consummated, self-sacrifice on the other. That is the situation with the colonizer who individually decays if he accepts, and repudiates himself if he refuses to accept.
The leftist colonizer's role cannot long be sustained; it is unlivable. He cannot help suffering from guilt and anguish and also, eventually, bad faith. He is always on the fringe of temptation and shame, and in the final analysis, guilty. The analysis of the colonial situation by the colonialist is more coherent and perhaps more lucid, for he has always acted as though an arrangement were impossible. Having realized that any concession threatened him, he confirms and defends the colonial system in every way. But what privileges, what material advantages, are worth the loss of his soul? In short, if the colonial adventure is seriously damaging for the colonized, it cannot but be unprofitable for the colonizer.
Naturally, people did not fail to devise changes that would leave the colonizer all the advantages acquired while sparing him the disastrous consequences. They only forget that the nature of the colonial relationship depends on its advantages. Either the colonial situation subsists and it effects nothing, or it disappears and the colonial relationship and colonizer disappear. The same goes for two propositions, one of them believed radical in a bad sense, the other believed radical in a good sense: extermination of the colonized or assimilation.
It has not been so long since Europe abandoned the idea of a possible total extermination of a colonized group. It has been said, half-seriously, with respect to Algeria: "There are only nine Algerians for each Frenchman. All that would be necessary would be to give each Frenchman a gun and nine bullets." The American example is also evoked; and it is undeniable that the famous national epic of the Far West greatly resembles systematic massacre. In any case, there is no longer much of an Indian problem in the United States. (Extermination saves colonization so little that it actually contradicts the colonial process.) Colonization is, above all economic and political exploitation. If the colonized is eliminated, the colony becomes a country like any other, and who then will be exploited? Along with the colonized, colonization would disappear, and so would the colonizer.
As for the failure of assimilation, I do not derive any particular joy from it, especially since that solution carries a universalistic and socialistic flavor which makes it a priori respectable. I will not even say that it is impossible by definition; historically, it has succeeded a few times, but it has often failed. However, it is clear that no one expressly desired assimilation in contemporary colonization, not even the Communists. Moreover, and this is the essential thing, assimilation is also the opposite of colonization. It tends to eliminate the distinctions between the colonizers and the colonized, and thereby eliminates the colonial relationship.
I shall pass over minor pseudo-solutions: for example, to remain as foreigners in a colony that has become independent; thereby having no special rights. It is obvious that, besides the legal incongruity of such proposals, such an arrangement is destined to be worn down by history. One can scarcely see why the memory of unjust privileges would be sufficient to guarantee their permanence. In any case, there is apparently no hope for the colonizer within the framework of colonization.
Some will say that this is one more reason for, him to hang on, to refuse any change. He can then accept being a monster, accept alienation through his own interests. But no, not even that. If he refuses to abandon his profitable sicknesses, he will sooner or later be forced to do so by history. For let us not forget, the diptych has another side: one day he will be forced by the colonized to give in.
A day necessarily comes when the colonized lifts his head and topples the always unstable equilibrium of colonization. For the colonized just as for the colonizer, there is no way out other than a complete end to colonization. The refusal of the colonized cannot be anything but absolute, that is, not only revolt, but a revolution.
Revolt. The mere existence of the colonizer creates oppression, and only the complete liquidation of colonization permits the colonized to be freed. Much has been expected of reforms in recent times, of bourguibisme, for example. It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding. Bourguibisme, if it means to proceed by stages, never meant being satisfied with any stage, whatever it might be. The leaders of the blacks presently speak of a French Union. Again, it is only one stage on the road to complete and inevitable independence. If Bourguiba should believe in the bourguibisme ascribed to him, and the leaders of Black Africa believe in a permanent French Union, the process of liquidating colonization would leave them behind. Already, the younger generation fails to understand the relative moderation of their elders.
Revolution. We have seen that colonization materially kills the colonized. It must be added that it kills him spiritually. Colonization distorts relationships, destroys or petrifies institutions, and corrupts men, both colonizers and colonized. To live, the colonized needs to do away with colonization. To become a man, he must do away with the colonized being that he has become. If the European must annihilate the colonizer within himself, the colonized must rise above his colonized being.
The liquidation of colonization is nothing but a prelude to complete liberation, to self-recovery. In order to free himself from colonization the colonized must start with his oppression, the deficiencies of his group. In order that his liberation may be complete, he must free himself from those inevitable conditions of his struggle. A nationalist, because he had to fight for the emergence and dignity of his nation, he must conquer himself and be free in relation to that nation. He can, of course, assert himself as a nationalist. But it is indispensable that he have a free choice and not that he exist only through his nation. He must conquer himself and be free in relation to the religion of his group, which he can retain or reject, but he must stop existing only through it. The same applies to the past, tradition, ethnic characteristics, etc. Finally, he must cease defining himself through the categories of colonizers. The same holds true of what more subtly characterizes him in a negative way. For example, the famous and absurd incompatibility between East and West, that antithesis hardened by the colonizer, who thereby sets up a permanent barrier between himself and the colonized. What does the return to the East mean, anyway? Even if oppression has assumed the face of England or France, cultural and technical acquirements belong to all peoples. Science is neither Western nor Eastern, any more than it is bourgeois or proletarian. There are only two ways of pouring concrete-the right way and the wrong way.
What will he then become? What is the colonized, in actual fact? I believe neither in metaphysical essence nor in psychological essence. One can describe the colonized at present. I have tried to show that he suffers, judges and behaves in a certain manner. If he ceases to be a colonized -- he will become something else. Geography and tradition are obviously permanent forces. But perhaps at that time there will be fewer differences between an Algerian and a Marseillais than between an Algerian and a Lebanese.
Having reconquered all his dimensions, the former colonized will have become a man like any other. There will be the ups and downs of all men to be sure, but at least he will be a whole and free man.
Copyright 2013-2015 Robert J. Comeau