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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism

Sorry it's been a little while, if anyone was thinking, "ya know, that Street Philosopher dude hasn't posted anything in a while. Wonder if he's alive?" The answer would be alive-ish. Loving the life here in Hawaii, although I'm still workin' out some of my time management. I did get to do dinner last night with my dad, cousin, her hubbs and their friends which was a great relief from the everyday.

Here's a shorty I wrote on the above titled work for Social Stratification. Hope it actually makes some sense...I wasn't sleeping and was hopped up on caffeine. Enjoy if you will.


SOC 754, Social Stratification
Due: 11/4/10
Critical Evaluation for: Discourse on Colonialism

            Cesaire pulls no symbolic punches in Discourse, and weaves a compelling narrative of what it means to colonize. Not necessarily a narrative in the simple sense of a story from beginning to end, but in a context-heavy and consequence focused description. The main concepts derive from an anti-colonial viewpoint, and seem simple enough:
  • The act of colonizing[1] dehumanizes the colonizers just as much if not more so than the colonized, and;
  • Colonialism holds within itself the destruction of the colonized world at both the point of colonization and the origination.
            Here we have a wonderful opportunity to examine the effects of colonialism on the institution of governance and social control. To visit the first concept, as colonial powers institute rule over peoples that were previously free of colonial rule, there is always a backlash against the colonialism in some way. More often than not, this backlash is necessarily violent and easily understood by the colonizing power as the actions of uncivilized lunacy. This easy categorization of non-European peoples[2] as uncivilized, which includes undeveloped both technologically and politically from the colonizing point of view, allows for a forceful ‘civilizing’ to be undertaken. Languages are un-taught and the colonizing language is substituted in the example of the Native Americans’ ‘re-education’ otherwise known as the ‘save the native’ campaign in early United States history. Familial organization is reorganized to resemble the colonizing ideology of family and community as we can see within the Christianized Samoa and familial values undergoing a massive shift to unquestionable male domination. Land and the means of personal and cultural subsistence are appropriated to assume the appearance, or more subtly the feel, of the original socio-physical place of the colonizing force as we might observe in the constructed forts and surrounding townships in Africa and the Europeanization of the social and political landscape there.[3] Because such serious steps to ‘civilize’ the peoples of colonized places were deemed necessary, it is not a far logical jump to then assume that the resistance whether violent or otherwise is obviously lacking in foresight and proper temperament. Ethnocentricity and blatant racism aside, to forcibly adapt someone to another culture would seem unconscionable if perpetrated against the colonizing force; however, the colonizers excuse their lack of compassion and self-respect, and overabundance of violent oppression as necessary steps in what they might describe as the objectively right direction. An inference to our current militaristic occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is easily bridged.[4] The colonized will fight, and simple answers to the deep philosophical questions of what liberation and progress mean are inadequate when accounting for the social realities of other peoples.
            So, we can see that relatively contemporary documentation to support the theory of the brutality and dehumanization of colonialism is well within reach, as are historical parallels. Cesaire draws upon the history of the Roman Empire and its downfall from both external forces of attack and rebellion from within. The symbiotic relationships of neighboring peoples is described deftly, as are the repercussions of enveloping others in order to assume control of a people different from the crusading colonizing force. As the colonial empire grows; as the people who are colonized are forcibly removed from their own culture and communal spirit; as biting hunger for further expansion escalates within the colonial force; so too does the danger of revolt from within the colony and without. Protecting interests not yet appropriated for the use of the colonizers would hold as much validity as reclaiming a colonized home. If there are only those within and without, instead of a cacophony of cultures, civilizations and peoples, we are left with the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ instantly creating the divisive and fear-inspiring totality within the binary language of colonial rights and responsibilities.[5] Cesaire is also adept at pointing out the inherent dangers of nationalism substituting for collective organization and identity as a colonized population. While the colonized peoples may break free of the direct control of colonial rule, he argues that care must be taken to avoid settling in within the institutional structures left behind by a defeated colonial occupation. This is not only an interesting philosophical point, it is also practical if we think of the effects of living within a rigid system of right and wrong, or proper and improper for an indefinite amount of time and awakening to find that some form of social cohesion and direction must be found.
            Cesaire’s only weakness that I perceived was his dual recognition of the bourgeoisie as both negligent controlling class and potential saving grace of the proletariat. I would agree that if a shift in bourgeois consciousness regarding the malformation of colonial intent were to occur, the bourgeois could in fact play a vital role in the art of reorganizing a more equitable societal foundation and structure. Conversely, I would argue that it might seem impractical for a class of people, who benefit both directly and indirectly from the social and cultural enslavement of a perceived lower class of people, to do anything to change the fundamental nature of the system supporting their comfort. To say that it might or should be the underlying foundation of a truly civilized society to never accept such audacious colonial abuses I think would be appropriate. Thinking that it might one day be more than likely I would posit is a stretch. This would require an awakening from comfort such that has not really been seen in contemporary history, and I think it is safe to say neither is there evidence of such an awakening occurring in a significant historical context. That said, there is no reason not to fight for such a monumental call for equity, sustainability, and from what I can see, global survival.


[1] And the subsequent acts of barbarism as described by Cesaire.
[2] In this case, European colonialism is the current colonizing power under literary scrutiny, and in contemporary effect.
[3] Including masterfully organized and socially reinforced apartheid and racially motivated brutality.
[4] Invade country, enable corporate development projects and force a specific style of governmental rule on the people of the country, continue to eradicate dissenting voices; this sounds like colonization to me. Couldn’t we have done with a black-book operation to remove an oppressive regime instead of resorting to poorly excused slaughter?
[5] I recognize that I wrote this in a style similar to Cesaire, however I must say that it seems quite effective. I promise my work is still my own.