Today is the birthday of anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon. This intellectual giant taught us that colonization is fundamentally violent. It destroys one’s self-sufficiency, dignity and indigenous institutions, language and culture through murder and war leaving only wretchedness (dehumanized impoverishment, alienation and trauma) in its place. Fanon knew early on that you cannot protest occupations away because the relation between the colonizer and colonized was not dialectical. This means that no synthesis comes out of the opposing categories of the colonizer and colonized other than perpetual exploitation. This important radical black thinker and active revolutionary professed that the only way out of colonization is for the wretched of the earth to violently drive out their exploiters. Nothing less than complete elimination of the category of the colonizer in all its dimensions (social, economic, military, political and cultural) was the way out.
Violence was not only an instrument for liberation but also the birthgiver of a new revolutionary culture and identity. For Fanon the struggle against the colonizer can only succeed if it is based on indigenous native culture. Without a strong nativist basis to liberation the decolonized will remain vulnerable for recolonization through other means. Fanon posited that the estrangement from one’s own self, his/her own heritage was a weakness only to be exploited by Eurocentric political prescriptions and identities.
Frantz Fanon at a press conference of writers in Tunis, 1959.
In chapter 6 of wretched of the Earth Fanon writes:
“Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.
Comrades, have we not other work to do than to create a third Europe?”
As both Iraqis and Palestinians are now being faced with Europe’s monster and its secondary offspring, the United States of America and Israel, we should study Fanon’s ideas to understand the way out of the wretchedness that defines our modern political struggle.
Iraq Now was founded by a group of critical Iraqis who wanted to share content created for and by Iraqis about Iraqi history, art, culture and society. Guided by an anti-imperialist conviction we frame Iraq’s political, cultural and social problems through the struggle for independence as espoused by Iraq's diverse ethnic and religious groups and those in solidarity with our struggle.
This article was republished from Iraq Now.