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Feeling Wretched

Reading Fanon for tomorrow’s class, and finding it all a bit alarmingly familiar, this year:

The settler makes his history; his life is an epoch, an Odyssey. He is the absolute beginning: “This land was created by us”; he is the unceasing cause: “If we leave, all is lost, and the country will go back to the Middle Ages.” Over against him torpid creatures, wasted by fevers, obsessed by ancestral customs, form an almost inorganic background for the innovating dynamism of colonial mercantilism.

The settler makes history and is conscious of making it. And because he constantly refers to the history of his mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother country. Thus the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he plunders but the history of his own nation in regard to all that she skims off, all that she violates and starves.

Not to mention, of course, Sartre’s preface:

With us, to be a man is to be an accomplice of colonialism, since all of us without exception have profited by colonial exploitation. This fat, pale continent ends by falling into what Fanon rightly calls narcissism. Cocteau became irritated with Paris — “that city which talks about itself the whole time.” Is Europe any different? And that super-European monstrosity, North America? Chatter, chatter: liberty, equality, fraternity, love, honor, patriotism, and what have you. All this did not prevent us from making anti-racial speeches about dirty niggers, dirty Jews, and dirty Arabs. High-minded people, liberal or just softhearted, protest that they were shocked by such inconsistency; but they were either mistaken or dishonest, for with us there is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism since the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters.

All of which is leading me to suspect that W.’s weirdly correct when he rattles on about how “they hate us for our freedom”; that freedom has always been created on the backs of those we enslave. Why wouldn’t they hate us for it? The problem is W.’s solution: dragging them kicking and screaming into the light of democracy, writing our history on their backs one more time.


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