Fanon and violence

While I disagree on Fanon’s insistence on categorizing the colonial world as Manichaestic, I agree with his claim that decolonization is a programme of complete disorder. Any process that seeks to remove a previous system in its entirety and to start anew with another system, especially in the case of decolonization in Southeast Asia where the system that was introduced is one that is not only new but has not been proven to work, would definitely cause disorder. His claim that decolonization is a programme of complete disorder brought me back to the last section (Temples) of A Passage to India where Forster documents a festival where there is complete disorder, and noticably there are not any Anglo-Indian characters in this section. Perhaps Forster was also already aware of the violence that was to come with decolonization.

Also, I feel that while violence is never a good way towards striving for a resolution, I feel that decolonization was a necessary violent process. After the violence that had been inflicted upon the natives during the process of colonization, I feel the only way to start completely anew is through violence as a ‘cleansing’ process. As such, even though the violence that decolonization brought about was viewed as only another example of native barbarism and as such seemed to only proved that they weren’t ready to be free from the colonialists, I feel that it was a way that the natives could come out of the period of history which was marked with violence.

Violences in Fanon

I found Fanon’s On Violence particularly striking and in fact, disturbing. Fanon writes of the colonized and colonists as two polarised and homogenous groups or masses, and expounds on the violence that both groups enact. When I was reading his descriptions on the actions of the white colonisers on the native colonised, a few points struck me. Firstly, that Fanon has no problem with discussing colonialism and decolonisation in terms of a clear-cut binary of wary colonizer and envious colonised, and secondly, that in his own discussion of the violence done upon the colonised by the colonizers, Fanon himself also enacts a sort of violence upon them.

Frankly, I was quite disturbed by the way Fanon reduced and simplified the experience(s) of colonialism and decolonisation in to clear cut black and white binaries. The wary ‘colonist’ and the envious ‘colonized, both strictly at odds with one another. Fanon seems to ignore that the experience of colonialism was different in each country—yes, it can be argued that being colonised was at the root an act of violence, and the natives were, in all cases, ‘invaded’ by the white men. Yet, Fanon dismisses the different ways people—both colonialists and colonised—thought about colonialism and being colonised, and the nuances in the colonial experience and process. Granted, Fanon was writing from his own perspective and experiences, but I feel that his simplification of the issue not only makes a meaningful discussion of colonialism difficult, but is also in itself an act of violence on the colonised, and also the colonisers.

Fanon’s description of the colonized really disturbed me, especially the way he ‘condensed’ the various individuals who were colonised into a single figure—“the colonized subject”, a single, unremarkable “him”. This struck me most as the ‘violence’ in the text, not the actions of the colonizers.

The Crisis of (Post-Colonial) Identity

Decolonization, as Frantz Fanon suggests, is but replacing the (former) colonists with a new generation of previously-colonized elites. Not only do these new leaders “tend to forget the very purpose of the struggle [to] defeat […] colonialism” (13), they are ironically the ones who perpetuate those atrocities that were suffered by their forefathers. In more concrete terms, this means that those supposedly decolonized nations are still maintaining the “status quo” – with the “symbols of society such as the police force, bulge calls in the barracks, military parades” (16) firmly intact – while “instill[ing] in the exploited a mood of submission and inhibition which considerably eases the task of the agents of law and order” (3-4). Put simply, the one thing that has changed is that violence is now committed on the ‘blacks’ by the ‘blacks’ (paraphrasing Fanon; 15).

 

This, to me, urgently questions the rather aggrandized ideal of modernity: have we really become more liberal, equal and fraternal (borrowing from the French), or are the past and present rulers merely engaging in a “narcissistic monologue” (11) albeit different ‘nationalities’? I believe we have passed the point where we only want our leaders to ‘look’ like us superficially; we demand that they re-utilize the merits ‘our’ people earned through their colonial history for our people’s sake, instead of solely maintaining the legacy of that economic ‘superstructure’.

 

But this is as difficult as attaining any ideals are. We can surely see the character Aziz portray an insistence on preserving his culture while succumbing to the control of the Civil Surgeon. My issue is: why is he called “imprudent” for it by his fellow countrymen? Isn’t this very scene showing us the effect of “the colonist who fabricated and continues to fabricate the colonized subject” (2)?