An alternative history

Franon provides a fascinating overview of the history of those oppressed by colonialism. Fanon’s personal experiences as a psychiatrist during the Algerian war enables him to tell the story of the horror experienced by those who were victimized and tortured. I found his chapter on Colonial War and Mental Disorders as the most compelling of the entire book. I wished he would have started the book with this chapter to set the stage for the various key points he addresses throughout the book. I think it’s very effective to hear the stories of real people and the effects of the violence of colonialism to appreciate its destructiveness.

Fanon’s book reminded me of the story of Che Guevara in the Cuban revolution. I recently watched a film with Benicio del Toro on the life of el Che during the Cuban revolution and I was reminded of the “wretched” Cubans that struggled to achieved their independence. Perhaps one of the strenghts of Fanon’s book is the way that it can apply to just about any colonized group in the world. From the jungles in Cuba, or those in the D.R.C. or to the deserts in northern Mexico or the Northern parts of Africa.

Yet one of the aspects of Fanon’s book is the creation of “whiteness” by the colonizers which forced an internalized form of racism on their subjects. The way that ascribing an innate inferiority to the colonized is key to keep them subjugated and control. To really understand colonialism, and the act of decolonizing, we must conceptualize its complexity. Fanon states that “decolonization is always a violent event” yet this violence is not just a physical violence but a psychological one as well, the latter leaving more permanent and sometimes irreversible damage.

Sadly, colonization has not stopped its horrific process, as we sit here an ponder on the history of those poor Algerians, we may forget our colonization of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Fanon states, “the United States of America has become a monster where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions.” However, during the time he wrote this book (1961) we had not started colonizing Asia nor the Middle East. What kind of a monster have we become? and how is history going to describe us as Americans who stand by and watch as the exploitation of some for the benefits of other continues.

Fanon invites us to “… make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create a new man.” Yet, we have a long way to go if this dream is ever going to be fulfilled. As an optimist I hope it will.

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