As we drove back from the Indian independence celebrations at India-House in Tripoli, in which our ambassador told of the challenges of every transition phase Dr.Singh asked me in an impatient tone-
“Doctor sahib! Why are you going to Frantz Fanon, after all these novels related to India we have discussed? ”
Though impatient at times, Dr.Singh is the most regular member of the reading group and endured the discussions regarding Orientalism and relevance of Senghor, Fanon in Indian and post colonial context.
This is a summary of why we should read Fanon to understand what is happening in India or North Africa today. With the rupee falling well below 60 to a dollar or the Islamic elected persons facing prison (Morsi) while the person deposed is set free (Mubarak) we need to relook at Fanon.
For those unfamiliar with Frantz Fanon- he is author of “The Wretched of the Earth” a classic which Stuart Hall calls “The Bible of Decolonisation”. Fanon’s best hopes for the Algerian revolution were taken hostage and summarily executed, first by a bureaucratized military rule that violated his belief “that an army is never a school for civics, but a school for war. . . ,” and then by the rise of fundamentalist groups like the Islamic Salvation Front.
As one watches the ferocious attacks on Islamists in Egypt which some journalists call a “Death match” between the military and the Islamists, the ripples are felt across the region.
The writer Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His latest book is “Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment?” comments
” The current fight pits the Muslim Brothers and their Islamist allies against the military-backed government and a sizeable segment of Egyptians who rally around the flag and populism. Religious frame of reference is pitted against a deeply entrenched nationalist identity that is centuries-old.
This fierce struggle over hegemony and the future identity of the Egyptian state has been invested with cultural and existential overtones. Both camps view their rivalry as life-and-death and are locked in a deadly confrontation, a clash that has killed more than 1,000 people, including dozens of members of the security forces and injured thousands”
In his introduction to the book- Homi Bhabha writes
” The global aspirations of Third World “national” thinking belonged to the internationalist traditions of socialism, Marxism, and humanism, whereas the dominant forces of contemporary globalization tend to subscribe to free-market ideas that enshrine ideologies of neoliberal technocractic elitism.”
One can look at some of the statements of the new rulers and find an echo of what is in store.
In Libya for example, many doctors have pointed out that the amount of money being spent for treatment abroad would have covered the costs of building modern facilities in Libya.
The former Chief economist of World Bank Joseph Stiglitz wrote about the forces of globalization
“They help to create a dual economy in which there are pockets of wealth.. . .
But a dual economy is not a developed economy.”
I still remember the anger of a Libyan friend who used to tell in his characteristic ways concluding many long discussions we had.
“What these people are doing is creating hatefulness amongst their own people.”
While not a World Bank economist or a noted social writer, this person with his feel of the ground summarized the many currents of the Arab street. A humanist, he was often misunderstood when he tried to tell different people of different layers to not do actions which will increase Hatefulness.
Sometimes I thought he was confused and not taking decisive stand for or against one party. Two years down the line, and many bombings and killings later, I think I see the logic. Many of us (myself included) could not understand him.
He no longer physically lives in Libya.
But the truth of his words resound as we see what is happening in this region.
Bhabha further reveals the connections between perceived “New” as is often said in these regions.
“New” national, international, or global emergences create an unsettling sense of transition, as if history is at a turning point; and it is in such incubational moments— Antonio Gramsci’s word for the perceived “newness” of change— that we experience the palimpsestical imprints of past, present, and future in peculiarly contemporary figures of time and meaning.
Are the events happening in our region new? Or is there a link.
As we re-read Fanon, a sense of the two histories written in Fanon’s works- that of colonialism and the other of neo-liberal globalization come through.
ECHOES OF FANON
As a follow-up of the three sessions we had on Indian Independence day, we revised some of Fanon’s words from the “Bible of Decolonisation” (The Wretched of the Earth)
See the previous three blogs- On our Independence Day
It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of Man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man, and consisted of the pathological tearing apart of his functions and the crumbling away of his unity. And in the framework of the collectivity there were the differentiations, the stratification and the bloodthirsty tensions fed by classes; and finally, on the immense scale of humanity, there were racial hatreds, slavery, exploitation and above all the bloodless genocide which consisted in the setting aside of fifteen thousand millions of men.
* * *
As my friend smiled sarcastically, not able to understand the links between two post colonial nations of Asia and Africa, I gave him the practical example of his twenty five years of gratuity stuck in some corrupt layer of the ministry, and how he teaches Mendelev’s periodic tables to his son from a distance. That was easier for him to understand.
The rhetoric of some of the current persons in power has the echoes of what Fanon wrote in 1961.
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING