Initially I struggled with reading Fanon’s chapter “On Violence” because of his insistence on engaging with binaries – good versus evil, colonist versus colonized subject. To my mind this seemed merely simplistic and over-generalised his entire argument. However, that being said, Fanon’s exposition on the nature and result of decolonisation was fascinating precisely because in generalising the colonized subject’s automatic and, indeed, necessary response to colonialism, he formulated an essentially simple and powerful argument for violence in the process of decolonisation.
Violence, by virtue of its forceful nature, is the status quo for both establishment and destruction of colonies. The ironic, self-defeating reality of the common language of violence for both enforcer of and rebel against colonialism, is that all parties involved suffer. For all Fanon’s argument against the cruelty of the colonist which has entrapped the colonized subject even in independence, even he comes to admit the interdependence of both on one another. The colonist still needs the (ex) colony as a market for his goods, the colonized subject finds his country slipping back into regression with the withdrawal of colonial infrastructure. True “independence”, on either party’s part is then, in more ways than one, a sheer fallacy. Violence is from the very outset of colonisation, self-defeating since it only begins a cycle to establish power and assert an independence that, even if achievable in some small way initially, falls apart in the long run under the weight of its own expectations for “something better”.
It is thus clear that Fanon’s initial argument pitting colonist against colonized subject and then uniting them with the common thread of violence still leaves us unsatisfied precisely because it is, in its simplicity, insufficient to explain the complexity of the human condition as reflected in the exercise of power through violence, whatever the intention: to enslave or to free.