Notes towards a definition of resistance
(a speculative reading of colonialism in the global context)
By Prakash Kona
April 10 2010
O my body, make of me always a man who questions!" – Frantz Fanon, 'Black Skins, White Masks'
I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight. – 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X'
The bestiality of imperialism, a bestiality that knows no limits, that has no national frontiers, the bestiality of Hitler’s armies is like the North American bestiality…for it is the very essence of imperialism to turn men into wild bloodthirsty animals determined to slaughter, kill, murder and destroy the very last vestige of the revolutionary or the partisan in any regime that they crush under their boots because it fights for freedom. – Che Guevara, Speech at the UN, 1964
Revolution - by any means necessary – Malcolm X,(1925-1965)
This land is ours.
Wrists in blood, teeth clenched, feet bare…
And earth like the finest silk carpet; this hell, this paradise is ours.
Let the doors close on forced labor never to open again.
Let man stop enslaving man; this cry is ours.
To live alone, like a tree and free like a forest as brothers together,
This longing is ours.
Nazim Hikmet, Turkish Communist poet (1902 – 1963)
We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering, not to profit from the people, from the work created and sustained through their spirit of political association, while refusing to contribute to the political state that we profit from. We must say ‘no’ once more. Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor. Jose Marti – 'Thoughts'
In the liberal manifesto , that asks every other question except the one related to property relations or the power that comes with the “ownership” of one’s own body, all existing inequalities continue to remain as they are, as parasitical as ever in preying on individual hopes and collective destines built on those hopes. Criticism that politely avoids the question of where one stands in a given social and political order is the essence of the liberal manifesto. “I” cannot imagine such a manifesto because I live within it at any point in time. It manifests in the choices I make through the work I do, the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the air I breathe and the thoughts I think and assume to be my own.
The manifesto is a social and political condition, a program that is at once universal because there is no limit to what you can identify yourself with – the pornographic sites on the internet are an instance of the libidinal theater where the self is absolute and every other body is subservient to the self - and in particular because the reality principle plays itself out in what I desire but cannot always possess in my day-to-day life as a being-in-the-world. Not only in so-called liberal western democracies, or in a Third World nation such as India where contradictions abound but also in the worst forms of dictatorship, the “liberal” element thrives in a “global” framework; if after all it is not the moral aloofness of the majority, then what is it that makes authoritarianism possible in the first place?
Martin Luther King declares in his speech Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam (April 30, 1967): “Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.” The silence that is betrayal is the essence of the liberal manifesto because it speaks in a perfectly natural tenor of the “economic miracle” of globalization with its advanced technologies that would have bewildered the creators of the Arabian Nights but fails to mention the fact that this miracle is about the rich becoming richer and the poor gradually disappearing from the stage. The miracle is what Chomsky famously talks about “taking from the needy” and “giving to the greedy.” In consequence a cycle is created where the needy become needier and the greedy greedier.
Injustice affects the body before it devastates the mind and humiliates the spirit. The institutions that civil society creates in the womb of its moral and material struggles are practically molded and transformed to suit the needs of financial institutions and multinational companies. In his scathing criticism of the Reagan Administration, the counterculture comedian George Carlin (1937–2008) asserts that: “They [the Reagan Administration] want to put street criminals in jail to make life safer for the business criminals. They're against street crime, providing that street isn't Wall Street.” This is a paraphrase of what Saint Augustine says in the City of God:
Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.
The time that will eliminate all other time is the time of the revolution – the Messianic time – that Walter Benjamin speaks of when history through which the memory of the past is interpreted will now reveal itself through the struggles of the oppressed to whom globalization is a meaningless discourse that violates their bodies and enslaves their spirit.
Resistance cannot be understood without a notion of time. The resister creates his or her own time because every other time works against the resistance. In a system of wage slavery the “time” of the working classes is taken away to incapacitate them from arriving at the consciousness of their being-in-the-world. Within those brief moments when the system is refueling itself like a beast that must devour in order to acquire the strength to terrorize the world, it is in those nanoseconds that resistance enters those spaces of consciousness, where imagination declares its right to create out of the materials of life a language that articulates the selfhood of the poor and the powerless.
That every poor man, woman and child is an individual is the hardest thing to comprehend in the discourse of the global that uses the politics of identity to homogenize the person to fit into fixed slots and turn them into consumers. The moral self is identified with consumption and those who are in no position to consume but rather are themselves consumed in the form of cheap labor by a vicious system of exploitation, their bodies are removed from their minds, their ability to be creative is crushed by the need to survive and their humanity sucked by death-defying drudgery that is called work; the great success of ideology is when it convinces the exploited that their condition is natural and not man-made.
The globalizing of resistance through the media reduces change from a politically loaded term that produces alternatives to the status quo to a complete stasis where fruitless discussions lead to more fruitless discussions and revolution is a toothless tiger whose growl is more like a whimper. Change is a saleable commodity like any other item in a globalized version of “resistance.” Resistance is a commodity that happens on a concocted stage and not as in Auden’s poem “Musee des Beaux Arts,” “in a corner, some untidy spot/ Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse/ Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.”
The resistance to globalization through “organized” protest is an inventor of a language that simultaneously acknowledges the strategic use of identity and rejects every attempt to be identified with a label that “sells” in the global media. More than the imagination, the language of resistance appeals to the situation of the oppressed. The appeal takes the form of timelessness when all injustice comes to an end. The utopian time of the revolutionary does not appeal to the past but to possibilities latent in the present. 
Unlike a revolution that is an outburst of countless acts of resistance, the resistance happens from the corners of the unconscious to the infinite expanse of the imagination. Mark G. E. Kelly in his book The Political Philosophy of Michel Foucault summarizes Foucault’s notion of resistance:
Resistance is what opposes power, not simply diametrically but transversally, opposing by going off in a different direction to power’s strategies. If someone tells me to stand up, I could stand (obey), I could continue sitting (disobey), I could lie down on the floor (disobey by doing something else), or I could stand up and punch the one who ordered me to stand, obedience with a supplement of resistance, or indeed any number of other responses; there is no “simple refusal,” but rather many ways of refusing. Acts of refusal indeed typically involve power themselves, even the most passive responses: the point is in general to get the other to stop, which is to say, to act upon their actions, even if this manipulation may pale in comparison to that of the perpetrator. (109)
The present is a gift to both the past and the future. It’s a gift that cannot be possessed because it does not exist in time. Its existence is either something we remember or we anticipate as the audience would the fulfillment of the words of the soothsayer in Antony and Cleopatra or the disastrous prophecies of the three witches in Macbeth. The literal time which cannot be metaphorized is the darkening sky in a solar eclipse with the moon covering the sun. In the darkness of an instant that is neither past nor the future, the timeless time of the eternal present in which “God” exists for Saint Augustine , it’s the time in which the subaltern realizes not through consciousness but through a body deprived of its ability to make choices, the sacredness of all resistance.
Resistance is sacred because it happens in a timeless now. It refuses to accept the time-frame of exploitation. It rejects memory that holds back all action and the hope which freezes the mind in a state of fantasy. In a time that is neither the past nor the future the revolutionary invents the world anew. Globalization declares a war on the sacred in transforming the “life-worlds” of men and women into a commodity.
With a tinge of irony, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, Eliade adds that, “Marx takes over and continues one of the great eschatological myths of the Asiatico-Mediterranean world-the redeeming role of the Just (the "chosen," the "anointed," the "innocent," the "messenger"; in our day, the proletariat), whose sufferings are destined to change the ontological status of the world” (206). Further Eliade adds: “It is even significant that Marx takes over for his own purposes the Judaeo-Christian eschatological hope of an absolute end to history; in this he differs from other historicistic philosophers (Croce and Ortega y Gasset, for example), for whom the tensions of history are consubstantial with the human condition and therefore can never be completely done away with” (208).
Marx’s response in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte is more than obvious: “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” The golden age that the revolutionary dreams of is already there present in the space of nothingness. The present has to declare its innocence in the face of the “tradition of all generations that weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” The nightmare must be exorcised at all costs. The golden age of fascism never existed to begin with. In communism the golden age must be invented for it to be a golden age. Both extremes have a tendency to descend into authoritarianism. Resistance is the antithesis to fascism which thrives on golden ages in times of absolute boredom and drudgery when leisure, far from being the space of creativity, is a source of decadence built on imitation and repetition. Lawrence says: “A thing isn't life just because somebody does it…The ordinary bank clerk buying himself a new straw hat isn't 'life' at all: it is just existence, quite all right, like everyday dinners: but not 'life'.” (Phoenix 529-30)
But the “ordinary bank clerk” is the order of the day. To live like a bank clerk, to think like one, to shop like one, to breathe like one, to believe in what everyone believes and declare what everyone is certain of – it is this bank clerk existence made possible by bank clerk governments, bank clerk corporations, bank clerk families and celebrated in advertisements and movies made for bank clerks by bank clerks – even fascism seems better than this.
With the triumph of the bank clerk comes fascism and the promise of a new beginning. Fascism is a religious conception in which man is seen in his immanent relationship with a superior law and with an objective Will that transcends the particular individual and raises him to conscious membership of a spiritual society. Whoever has seen in the religious politics of the Fascist regime nothing but mere opportunism has not understood that Fascism besides being a system of government is also, and above all, a system of thought. (Mussolini).
Fascism seems to challenge the bank clerk which is why artists and philosophers like Croce, Heidegger, Pound and Celine embraced it at a certain point of their lives. It’s an emotional reaction and as Reich puts it: "Reactionary concepts plus revolutionary emotion result in Fascist mentality" (7).
If, by being revolutionary, one means rational rebellion against intolerable social conditions, if, by being radical, one means "going to the root of things," the rational will to improve them, then fascism is never revolutionary. True, it may have the aspect of revolutionary emotions. But one would not call that physician revolutionary who proceeds against a disease with violent cursing but the other who quietly, courageously and conscientiously studies and fights the causes of the disease. Fascist rebelliousness always occurs where fear of the truth turns a revolutionary emotion into illusions. (7)
Chaplin and Orwell saw through the “fascist mentality” and the need to look for an imaginary enemy. Others did not. They embraced it in the hope of putting an end to the bank clerk bourgeois existence filled with straw hats.
The role of the global media or the media whose message is globalization. Its antipathy to resistance is built into a conception of the real. Since reality must be converted into a media byte we don’t know what is real and what is not. We don’t know how much of the feelings people display before a camera are real or just a performance meant to trigger anticipated reactions. Motives are impossible to judge given the fact that images are carefully chosen, information that comes as news doctored, and what happens behind the surface is far more complex than what appears with deceptive simplicity before our eyes.
Media has to be used strategically by all intellectuals who mean to subvert this existing order to make way for a just one. Whether the image corresponds to the truth or not, truth will not stop being truth. Lies have their days but truth has its moments. One moment of truth is worth an eternity of lies. Like a ray of light the truth pierces the dark ocean of untruths. Truth is on the side of those who suffer injustice and are determined to fight back. No amount of media lies can defeat the truth. If lies worked all the time the slaves in the Roman Empire would be slaves for eternity. Ideology that comes with brainwash collapses before truth. Such a truth is both historical and rooted in a social, political and economic context. It is not connected to those compulsive-obsessive individualists John Galt or Hank Rearden from the novels of the so-called Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand. It is more connected to Caputo’s understanding of the authentic being (da-sein) in Heidegger’s Being and Time.
Authentic Dasein must be authentic historicizing, which means that the moment of choice, of truth, of vision is above all a historical moment in which Dasein seizes upon the historical possibilities which it has inherited and which it alone, as resolute, has the eyes to see. Dasein's temporalizing (Zeitigung) is historicizing, and its historicizing is cohistoricizing in and with its "generation." It is just this historical dimension of authentic Dasein, the historicity which is essential to authenticity, that is often overlooked in the usual renderings of 'Being and Time'. (89)
Temporalizing, historicity and authenticity are intimately connected because one’s being-in-the-world is fundamentally related to the worlds of other beings. Caputo gives it a “religious” dimension along with strong political overtones. The authentic being is not about what he claims to be but more of what he or she stands for in a given historical situation. Caputo uses the notion of religion and “God” to include everyone who protests against social and political injustice.
Religion, accordingly, is fundamentally a defiant gesture. It speaks in the name of life and against the powers that demean and degrade life. It does not arise negatively, from a rejection, but affirmatively, from an affirmation of life, from the momentum and energy of life itself. In this framework, the very idea of "God" means He who stands always and necessarily on the side of those who suffer, He who intervenes on behalf of the sufferer. Religion has both a fiduciary quality, a certain trust in a loving hand which supports those who suffer, and a defiant quality, which is neither passive nor acceptive of suffering. In the face of suffering, the believer is compelled to think, as one who believes in life and refuses to allow it to be wasted, that God stands with those who suffer, that that indeed is what it means for there to be a God.
That is why religion, on this conception, is politically subversive, with a subversion which cuts across the ideologies of right and left. Liberation theology flourishes in Latin America where Catholic priests and nuns are called Marxists because they stand by the poor and oppressed, the starving and excluded. And in Poland, where the priests also stand with the poor and those who have no voice, the church is called counterrevolutionary, when all that means is that the church here, too, is engaged in a work of liberation, of disrupting constellations of power, of standing on the side of those who are systematically deprived of their dignity and even of their lives. (280-81)
An institution such as colonialism far from introducing “modernization” – a dubious phrase - to the colonized of the earth, reinforces existing inequalities such as with caste system in India because it suits the colonizer to use those inequalities for his long-term benefit. If it did not do that, it wouldn’t be colonialism in the first place. The inequalities of the postcolonial era are those that are institutionalized through a form of lopsided modernization that culminates in globalization. Economic liberalism is another way of keeping landless peasants and working classes poor and underdeveloped. Globalization is a philosophy impossible to sustain in the absence of neocolonial style of exploitation.
Alternative to resistance that identifies the enemies of a classless society and plans its moves accordingly are mobs that thrive in false consciousness. Every known prejudice comes to the fore and the notion of imagined “scarcity” becomes the order of the day. Every act of whether individual or collective resistance produces within it seeds of counter-resistance. Power elites are not just a feature of the oppressing groups but also of the oppressed. The aim of the counter-resistance is the preservation of the status quo as in the case of Cuba after the revolution with Fidel Castro as the head of the state. This is a serious climb down from the politics of perpetual resistance that Che Guevara espoused in his “Message to the Tricontinental.”
We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism — and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals — instruments of domination — arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence. The fundamental element of this strategic end shall be the real liberation of all people, a liberation that will be brought about through armed struggle in most cases and which shall be, in Our America, almost indefectibly, a Socialist Revolution.
Opportunism is a mask that fits the political face of both the Left and the Right; it is the ideology of globalization and has seriously infected the politics of both the Left and the Right in which case both those terms are essentially rendered meaningless and ineffective because they don’t serve the purpose of identification. The Cuban dissident Reinaldo Arenas makes a point when he says: “In Communism and in Capitalism they kick you in the ass, but the difference is, under Communism, you have to smile and say, Thank you; whereas under Capitalism, at least you can scream” (288).
A house is burning, says the Buddha in “The Parable of the Burning House” and there are “intellectuals” and “learned” people asking questions like: is the world eternal or not? Is there life after death? Are body and soul one and the same thing? Is the universe finite or infinite? What happens as a result of all this stupid and meaningless questioning? The house is burnt to ashes. The global discourse cultivates an attitude that combines cynicism with deceitfulness since it is the essence of the free market first and foremost to push the common person into a state of dependence. The tendency is that the world can “burn” but the commodity must remain in tact as representative of a sinister kind of individualism where in fact there is anything but the individual. Preserving the commodity at the expense of the human person is at the heart of globalization.
In the introduction to his book The Poetics of Imperialism, Eric Cheyfitz speaks of what imperialism means at the level of “dialogue” and “difference”:
Thus, those of us who live within the privilege of Western patriarchy live in an increasingly narrow psychic and social space. For we cannot afford to enter most of the social spaces of the world; they have become dangerous to us, filled with the violence of the people we oppress, our own violence in alien forms that we refuse to recognize. And we can afford less and less to think of these social spaces, to imagine the languages of their protest, for such imagining would keep us in continual conflict, in continual contradiction with ourselves, where we are increasingly locked away in our comfort. Terrorizing the world with our wealth and power, we live in a world of terror, afraid to venture out, afraid to think openly. Difference and dialogue are impossible here. We talk to ourselves about ourselves, believing in a grand hallucination that we are talking with others. (xx)
This “grand hallucination” of “talking with others” is reproduced in panel discussions on Third World and working-class issues that we see in official channels on television and hear on the radio, which is repeated by experts and parroted by so-called professionals, journalists and scholars at conferences in universities. The grand hallucination continues. We are talking to ourselves about ourselves. Ironically we persist in imagining that we are talking with others.
Anyone who has read Freud knows that hallucinations are not without histories. Stereotypes perpetuate hallucinations and in turn are perpetuated by them. The hallucination is institutionalized and serves to function as the basis of what Althusser terms the ideological state apparatus. In this hallucination there is no space for either difference or dialogue. In the epic poem Human Landscapes by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet there is a doctor who thinks that life is just one day passing into the next – a philosophy of the world-weary. The dialogue between the revolutionary in jail going blind and the doctor is a telling one. No matter how much the poor suffer, they’re attached to a conception of living that is both history and the present.
…You’re at an age now where you should calculate:
more than half your life has slipped through your fingers.
You can compare what’s gone with what remains.
Before thirty, years and even death are just ideas.
Then they become facts.
And you’re stunned how soon
how little time remains.
Haven’t you ever felt this way?”
But I understand you.”
“What do you understand?”
“You have the time and opportunity to think a lot.”
“Sure, I have that privilege, too.”
“What do you mean, ‘privilege’?”
“‘Privilege’ means this, Faik Bey:
this woman you just operated on,
who – as you said yourself-
hasn’t even dreamed of sleeping past dawn,
who’s condemned to a half-animal, half-vegetable existence,
this Dumel’s wife,
and Dumel himself
and most of the people in our country and on earth
are deprived of the happiness of thinking a lot.
They don’t have the time or the opportunity.
They work so hard and get so tired
that when they climb into bed at night – even at sixty –
sleep descends on them like lead.
And when they think
they think about life
…This is why, Faik Bey:
because you are alone in life,
you are alone with death.”
Colonialism is the frame of reference for any liberation in the third world. Without addressing the sexist and deeply racist nature of the frame itself any talk of liberation is meaningless for the working classes of the third world. Sexual and gender liberation complement economic liberation because both involve the body. As Foucault notes in his book Discipline and Punish, “the body becomes a useful force only if it is a productive body and a subjected body” (25). The “half-animal, half-vegetable existence” of millions living in the villages and the fringes of cities across the third world is a constant reminder of what we owe them. Pushed into an existence that is sub-human they’re looked at as if they deserve what happens to them. But, then, as Hikmet says: “they think about life/ not death” while their exploiters and intellectual cynics that the Buddha mocks in his parable “are alone in life...alone with death.”
If Shakespeare better than any other writer of his generation stands the test of contemporaneity, it is for the simple reason that he understands the contradictions of a colonial society. Shakespeare takes colonialism to the level of performance – Manichean to the point of being comic with an island as a focal point of the drama in The Tempest where the colonizer is pitted in a struggle against the colonized.
Prospero thus addresses Ferdinand toward the end of the play on a philosophical note that “These our actors,/ As I foretold you, were all spirits and/ Are melted into air, into thin air,” (Act IV, Scene I); contrastingly in the same passage he speaks of his tiredness: “Sir, I am vex'd;/ Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:/ Be not disturb'd with my infirmity:/If you be pleased, retire into my cell/ And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,/ To still my beating mind.”
To Prospero the contradiction is a legitimate one because he can at once be the “stuff that dreams are made on” and a “vex’d” man “troubled” by his “infirmity.” Shakespeare insists on recognizing Prospero’s humanity because at the end of the day colonialism never comes out as a discourse of “bestiality” but at best as one of “weakness” that humanity as a whole is beset with. A deeply patriarchal and colonial character such as Prospero is absolved of his wrongs the same way that the land-owning patriarch “Big Daddy” Politt is absolved of his guilt with a cancer at the end of Cat on a hot tin roof by Tennessee Williams.
If Caliban reincarnates as Fanon in the twentieth century then the meaning of resistance or decolonization is an all-too-clear one: “In decolonization, there is therefore the need of a complete calling in question of the colonial situation. If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the well-known words: "The last shall be first and the first last." Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence” (37).
In exploring the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized as performance, Shakespeare recognizes the ubiquitous nature of power; performance at another level serves as a disguise to power; as Foucault says: “power is tolerable only on condition that it mask a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to its ability to hide its own mechanisms” (86).
If the last – the subaltern, a historical position that she is born into before she authentically chooses to make history – must be the first, it is not through retaining a colonial order of things but by dismantling whatever it stands for at the level of practice. It’s at that point that Fanon locates decolonization where the “native intellectual comes into touch again with his own people” and “the Mediterranean values--the triumph of the human individual, of clarity, and of beauty --become lifeless, colorless knickknacks. All those speeches seem like collections of dead words; those values which seemed to uplift the soul are revealed as worthless, simply because they have nothing to do with the concrete conflict in which the people is engaged (45-46).
(April 10 2010)
Prakash Kona's novel, Streets That Smell of Dying Roses and Pearls, is published by Fugue State Press (New YorK)
 As Walter Benjamin observes in his 'The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction', the growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property.
 In his essay 'On the Concept of History' Walter Benjamin makes the point that, “The materialist writing of history for its part is based on a constructive principle. Thinking involves not only the movement of thoughts but also their zero-hour [Stillstellung]. Where thinking suddenly halts in a constellation overflowing with tensions, there it yields a shock to the same, through which it crystallizes as a monad. The historical materialist approaches a historical object solely and alone where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he cognizes the sign of a messianic zero-hour [Stillstellung] of events, or put differently, a revolutionary chance in the struggle for the suppressed past.”
 In his last interview Derrida clearly states that “the responsibility today is critical: it calls for a rigorous war
against the doxa, against those that we can call from hereon in the "media intellectuals," against this general discourse pre-formatted by the media, who are themselves under the control of politico-economic lobbies, and often editorial and academic as well. Without being any less European and global, of course. Resistance does not mean that you avoid the media. When possible, you have a responsibility to help them develop and diversify, to call them back to that very same responsibility.”
 In his sweet little book Utopia by Saint Thomas More - one of the first novels ever written - we see the
ideal government of the Utopians where goodness and decency are the norms among the people and the government. Says the protagonist Raphael Hythloday commenting on the evils of the current social order in comparison to the Utopians:
" I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among them with that of all other nations; among whom, may I perish, if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity: for what justice is there in this, that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, that either does nothing at all, or at best is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendor, upon what is so ill acquired; and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a ploughman, that works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labors so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood, and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure; and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age; since that which they get by their daily labor does but maintain them at present, and is consumed as fast as it comes in, there is no overplus left to lay up for old age. Is not that government both unjust and ungrateful, that is so prodigal of its favors to those that are called gentlemen, or goldsmiths, or such others who are idle, or live either by flattery, or by contriving the arts of vain pleasure; and on the other hand, takes no care of those of a meaner sort, such as ploughmen, colliers, and smiths, without whom it could not subsist? But after the public has reaped all the advantage of their service, and they come to be oppressed with age, sickness, and want, all their labors and the good they have done is forgotten; and all the recompense given them is that they are left to die in great misery. The richer sort are often endeavoring to bring the hire of laborers lower, not only by their fraudulent practices, but by the laws which they procure to be made to that effect; so that though it is a thing most unjust in itself, to give such small rewards to those who deserve so well of the public, yet they have given those hardships the name and color of justice, by procuring laws to be made for regulating them. Therefore I must say that, as I hope for mercy, I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who on pretence of managing the public only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill acquired, and then that they may engage the poor to toil and labor for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please. And if they can but prevail to get these contrivances established by the show of public authority, which is considered as the representative of the whole people, then they are accounted laws. Yet these wicked men after they have, by a most insatiable covetousness, divided that among themselves with which all the rest might have been well supplied, are far from that happiness that is enjoyed among the Utopians: for the use as well as the desire of money being extinguished, much anxiety and great occasions of mischief is cut off with it. And who does not see that the frauds, thefts, robberies, quarrels, tumults, contentions, seditions, murders, treacheries, and witchcrafts, which are indeed rather punished than restrained by the severities of law, would all fall off, if money were not any more valued by the world? Men's fears, solicitudes, cares, labors, and watchings, would all perish in the same moment with the value of money: even poverty itself, for the relief of which money seems most necessary, would fall.”
 This short piece I wrote some time ago after watching the movie The Battle of Algiers takes the form of a series of reflections. Hence the title: "Reflections on colonialism in the movie The Battle of Algiers (1967)".
1.Colonialism thrives under torture, not murder.
2. Rationalism indifferent to the feelings of men and women is the framework of colonialism and the very thing that will enable the colonized to recognize their helplessness and the need to fight back.
3. Torture scores a point that murder does not.
4. Resistance is shy of the light unlike power.
5. To oppress is dull and prosaic, to resist is poetic and exhilarating.
6. It is democracy - which means equality in every sense of the term - and not nationalism that is the real answer to colonialism.
7. Terror creates fear in the colonizer but does not bring real freedom.
8. Periods of quietness are when the resistance is gathering to fight.
9. When the oppressed know that they are oppressed - that's the beginning of revolution.
10. The day every Palestinian knows that she is oppressed Israel will have lost both the battle and the war.
11. Knowing does not mean being aware -but knowing in the sense of believing with your body and soul that this thing called oppression must end or I die.
12. Revolution can only be in the open.
I'm certain the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan have no clue of how the people have nothing for them but utter contempt.
13. Where there is justice laws are unnecessary and where there is injustice the law becomes an end in itself.
14. Terrorism responds to the brutality of the colonizer with a boomerang effect.
15. Revolution takes away fear and loneliness that are features of any struggle.
16. The colonizer will stop to nothing.
17. Terrorism shares the pitilessness of the colonizer.
18. Both the colonizer and the colonized are caught in a vicious circle of death-defying boredom and madness.
19. In the end the oppressed win.
20. A revolution that does not absorb women as equals in the struggle is not a revolution.
21. The revolutionary provokes the colonizer into becoming his worst self where he cannot recognize himself anymore as a person or a human being.
22. The cynicism of the colonizer shows in his forced irony.
23. Internal colonialism uses nationalism to disguise brutality.
24. The basic nature of a colonizer - which is to keep the status quo in tact - can be seen in the native bourgeoisie as well. One thing a colonizer can never be at peace with is himself.
25. The concentration of wealth, power and resources in a few hands defines internal colonialism.
26. The colonizer believes absolutely with an almost divine sense of conviction in his right to power. It is the colonized who need that sense of certainty that comes with the readiness to die than live with indignity.
27. Internal colonialism is the infection that stays with the body much after the external cure which removes most of the symptoms of the disease.
28. The hardest thing to convince the rich is that their wealth does not belong to them.
29. Such is the narcissism of the rich that they can only believe in their own reality.
30. Internal colonialism is "organized robbery" that happens within the framework of the state.
 In the Book Eleven of the Confessions Saint Augustine explains the nature of the eternal present:
There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because thou hadst made time itself. And there are no times that are coeternal with thee, because thou dost abide forever; but if times should abide, they would not be times.
For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who can even comprehend it in thought or put the answer into words? Yet is it not true that in conversation we refer to nothing more familiarly or knowingly than time? And surely we understand it when we speak of it; we understand it also when we hear another speak of it.
What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know. Yet I say with confidence that I know that if nothing passed away, there would be no past time; and if nothing were still coming, there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all, there would be no present time.
But, then, how is it that there are the two times, past and future, when even the past is now no longer and the future is now not yet? But if the present were always present, and did not pass into past time, it obviously would not be time but eternity. If, then, time present--if it be time--comes into existence only because it passes into time past, how can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being is that it will cease to be? Thus, can we not truly say that time is only as it tends toward nonbeing?
 I add a short article with reference to the notion of resistance in the context of American imperialism and
the third world: “Nazis, Neocons and Manifest Destiny of the US in the 21st century.”
The United States did not become a world power in the 20th century. In the US invasion of Mexico or the war of 1847, the US took by treachery and force, the present states of California, Utah, Nevada and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming. If this list would also include Texas which rightfully belongs to the Mexicans, Mexico lost two-thirds of its territory. That was when the doctrine of Manifest Destiny – an imperial philosophy of expansion - bore fruit and the United States became a world power.
With the end of the World War II, the manifest destiny of the United States became the destiny of Western civilization. Gandhi was not exactly ironic when he called “western civilization” a “good idea.” It is indeed an idea in the minds of those who subscribe to it. George Bush Jr. and the Neocons make sense in this context. They’re defining as well as defending the destiny of the West against the others that would include the traditionally colonized nations. In a globalized world definitions are made to suit the new realities. Theodore Roosevelt, the multifaceted American President in the early 20th century said that: “The conquest and settlement by the whites of the Indian lands was necessary to the greatness of the race and to the well-being of civilized mankind.”
Who is the “civilized mankind” that Roosevelt is referring to? In Roberto Rossellini’s movie Rome – Open City (1945), the Gestapo commander says to a skeptical fellow Nazi about a resister who refuses to talk in the face of brutal torture: “I’ve a man who must talk before dawn…he’ll talk…and if not…then it would mean an Italian is worth as much as a German…! It would mean there is no difference between the blood of a slave-race and a master-race…! And no reason for this war.” If the Germans did not believe that they were the “master-race” and that their blood was different from the “slave-races” of the world, Nazism would never have been possible. The Gestapo commander has a point. Either you are the master-race or there is absolutely “no reason for this war.”
Nazism is the culmination of imperialism. The violence in the colonies came home in the form of Nazism. The holocaust was only the tip of the iceberg of what the west had inflicted upon the colonies for centuries. The rest of the iceberg was the genocide in the colonies. One cannot be dissociated from the other.
The definition of the person or the individual in the West is an exclusive one. They believe in their own superiority and they’re going to defend it at all costs. Otherwise there is no reason why America should be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Latin America or Eastern Europe or just about anywhere in the third world. These wars would be completely meaningless without any rationale to justify them.
Why would they’ve to defend the pimps who do the unsavory job of torturing and killing their own people? Racial superiority is at the heart of manifest destiny. It won’t make a fundamental difference even if Obama wins the election. He has to put the destiny of the west before his own. If it is “manifest” for George bush Jr., it might as well be equally manifest to the not-so-white Obama or anybody in that position. Globalization is part of the civilizing mission to reach out to the “inferior races” and “educate” them with “our” way of life. The manifest destiny of globalization is connected to keeping this racist system alive.
Movies like True Lies centering on American family values are truly lies. They show how cheap Arab life is when compared to that of an American. The Arabs and Afghans don’t come under the category of “people.” More importantly they show that the American family cannot exist as a “family” unless there are “terrorists” who are threatening to disrupt their way of life. The terrorists are actually indispensable for the American way of life. Otherwise the contradictions would be too much to bear and the whole system would collapse under the pressure of lies. Truly!
Racism is the key to understand American foreign policy in the third world. Black or Arab life has to be cheaper than white American life. At the same time the lives of poor white Americans who fight those futile wars is cheaper than that of bourgeois Americans and the elites. The lives of the rich in general whether black, white or Hispanic or Indian has to be more expensive than other lives in the same country. There is a gradation as far as whose life costs how much. If you’re white and rich in this system of gradation, your life has a value greater than anybody else’s on earth.
As James Baldwin says: “The incoherent, totally, incoherent, foreign policy of this country is a reflection of the incoherence of the private lives here” (Conversations 16). That is because the germ of racism and exclusion is hidden in the individualism and exclusive interests pursued by Americans in their private lives. Malcolm X responds eloquently when he says: “No, I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver - no, not I. I'm speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare” (Speeches)
The “dream” of the exclusive pursuit of one’s own interests is a “nightmare” to the poor black who does not fit in the system. That’s also what the dream is to the victims of American imperialism in the third world. Belief in white supremacy is the logic that supports the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as it did the lands stolen from Mexico more than one hundred and fifty years ago. Bush is a white supremacist murdering to protect the interests of white elites and their cronies in the non-western world.
The elites of the third world keep the “slave-race” theory going because they’re mentally slaves and without any basic character. They’re slaves who’ve carefully calculated how much they can get paid to keep the racist system alive. These are the very people who made colonialism possible. The Gestapo commander knew of these kinds who would sell their people for nothing which is something that someone who, according to him, belonged to a “master-race” would never do. The resister proved the commander wrong in dying rather than betraying the cause of liberating his people from the tyranny of the Nazis.
Americanization is racism. Why should the rest of the world see themselves with American eyes? Why not through the eyes of their own cultures and traditions? Why not through the eyes of their individuality and creativity, their languages and dialects and their ways of life? Why should the whole world be a multinational corporation with an American boss? Why should America dictate the political economies of non-western nations? Who is the United States to live a life for us that we would like to live on our own?
In India we’re heading towards a West Bank and Gaza style politics. On the one hand we’ve Indians embarking on a wholesale submission to Americanization of this country. On the other hand, we’ve the extremism of the Gaza-style traditionalists. Radicalization of politics will sooner or later divide this already divided nation. This is exactly the agenda of western imperialism across the third world – which is to divide the populations at the ideological level, keep them busy fighting one another, appropriate their resources and commit whatever acts of violence that you like.
It was always a fact that the economies of the west stood on the backs of the colonies as today they continue to do so in the form of MNCs.
Baldwin in A Rap on Race makes the point to Margaret Mead: there is a very serious flaw in the profit system which is implicit in the phrase itself. And, in some way or another, one can even say at this moment, sitting in this room, that the Western economy is doomed. Certainly part of the crisis of the Western economy is due to the fact that in a way every dime I earn, the system which earns it for me…is standing on the back of some black miner in South Africa, and he is going to stand up presently. Now, if we don’t anticipate that, we will be in terrible trouble. Because he is not going to be bending under this weight…And if we don’t understand that and let him stand up, the whole thing is going to be a shambles…What shall we do? How should we liberate that man and us? Because that liberation is a double liberation” (164).
The United States exemplifies the schizophrenia at the heart of western civilization. You cannot build a whole way of life that excludes the many of the earth. As James Baldwin put it in his last interview: “They’re trapped. And nothing will spring the trap, nothing. The world is present, and the world is not white, and America is not the symbol of civilization. Neither is England. Neither is France. Something else is happening that will engulf them by and by…It’s the only hope the world has – that Western hegemony and civilization be contained” (Conversations 292).
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