Letters — 22 May 2015
Fanon in the modern context …

Hopefully you noticed in the previous discourse that violence goes hand in hand with power. Hopefully you noticed that the examples of violence deal with situations of poverty.

Poverty is the result of power used to deny equal distribution of resources and wealth. Creating, contributing to or sustaining poverty is violence. Failure to eliminate poverty is violence.
In The Wretched of the Earth, the late psychologist Frantz Fanon, a Black man born in Martinique, analyzes the psychology of the colonist and the colonized in their respective struggles for power and freedom. The first section is on violence.

Now, Dr. Fanon was talking largely about physical force and confrontation, violent language, rifle butts and bayonets and bloody knives in the formation and organization of colonies and their eventual “disorganization” and decolonization. However, he may as well have been analyzing the psychologies of the rich and the poor. The parallels are striking; one has only to substitute “the wealthy” or the “ruling class” for “the colonist” or “the colonized intellectual”; “the poor” for “the colonized” or “the native” or “colonial subject” or “exploited.” In doing that exercise one gets a true picture of the plight of the poor and their relationship to the wealthy and the inherent violent acts in that reality.

An example is the following excerpt in which those terms have been substituted: “The wealthy (colonist) are not content with physically limiting the space of the poor (colonized), i.e., with the help of their agents of law and order. As if to illustrate the totalitarian nature of ruling class (colonial) exploitation, the wealthy (colonist) turns the poor (colonized) into a kind of quintessence of evil. A poor (colonized) society is not merely portrayed as a society without values. The wealthy (colonist) are not content with stating that the world of the poor (colonized) has lost its values or worse never possessed any.

“The poor (colonized) are declared impervious to ethics, representing not only the absence of values but also the negation of values. He is, dare we say it, the enemy of values. In other words, absolute evil. A corrosive element, destroying everything within his reach, a corrupting element, destroying everything which involves aesthetics or morals, an agent of malevolent powers, an unconscious and incurable instrument of blind forces. Values are in fact irreversibly poisoned and infected as soon as they come in contact with the poor (colonized).”

Here’s another one: “In capitalist societies, education, whether secular or religious, the teaching of moral reflexes handed down from father to son, the exemplary integrity of workers decorated after fifty years of loyal and faithful service, the fostering of love for harmony and wisdom, those aesthetic forms of respect for the status quo, instill in the poor (exploited) a mood of submission and inhibition which considerably eases the task of the agents of law and order. In capitalist countries, a multitude of sermonizers, counselors and ‘confusion-mongers’ intervene between the poor (exploited) and the ruling class (authorities).

“The proximity and frequent, direct intervention by the police and the military ensure the poor (exploited) are kept under closer scrutiny and contained by rifle butts. We have seen how the government’s agent uses a language of pure violence. The agent does not alleviate oppression or mask domination. He displays and demonstrates them with the clear conscience of the law enforcer, and brings violence into the homes and minds of the poor (colonized subject).”

Physical and other forms of violence inevitably erupt that can be directly attributed to poverty. In this next excerpt from The Wretched of the Earth, you, reader, can do the word substitutions and look further into the world of poverty. Remember, Dr. Fanon was a psychologist.

“A world compartmentalized. That is the colonial world. The colonial subject is a man penned in; apartheid is but one method of compartmentalizing the colonial world. The first thing the colonial subject learns is to remain in his place and not overstep its limits. Hence the dreams of the colonial subject are muscular dreams, dreams of action, dreams of aggressive vitality. I dream I am jumping, swimming, running and climbing. I dream I burst out laughing. I am leaping across a river and chased by a pack of cars that never catches up with me. During colonization the colonized subject frees himself night after night between nine in the evening and six in the morning.

“The colonized subject will first train his aggressions sedimented in his muscles against his own people. This is the period when black turns on black and police officers and magistrates don’t know which way to turn when faced with this surprising surge of black criminality.

“The muscles of the colonized are always tensed. It is not that he is anxious or terrorized, but he is always ready to change his role as game for that of hunter.”

As clearly illustrated above, violence begets violence. Hopefully, just as clear to you, reader, is the fact that in previously colonized Belize, as in other former colonies, the ruling class, the well-to-do, those whom Dr. Fanon calls the colonized bourgeoisie, have taken the place of the colonist. Another story for another time.

Beryl Young

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