We know that leftist tradition condemns terrorism and political assassination. When the colonized uses them, the leftist colonizer becomes unbearably embarrassed. They are spontaneous outbursts of masses too long oppressed, or better yet, acts by unstable, untrustworthy elements which the leader of the movement has difficulty in controlling. Even in Europe, very few people admitted that the oppression of the colonized was so great, the disproportion of forces so overwhelming, that they had reached the point, whether morally correct or not, of using violent means voluntarily. The leftist colonizer tried in vain to explain actions which seemed incomprehensible, shocking and politically absurd. For example, the death of children and persons outside of the struggle, or even of colonized persons who, without being basically opposed, disapproved of some small aspect of the undertaking.
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Walking, Reading, and Reading about Walking Memmi was Tunisian, and since Tunisia was then a French colony, although one engaged in a struggle for liberation, he was one of the colonized. But The Colonizer and the Colonized goes beyond a description of colonized people: The colonial relationship which I had tried to define chained the colonizer and the colonized into an implacable dependence, molded their respective characters and dictated their conduct.
Just as there was an obvious logic in the reciprocal behavior of the two colonial partners, another mechanism, proceeding from the first, would lead, I believed, inexorably to the decomposition of this dependence.
Indeed, writing this book helped him to understand his experience. By temperament and education I had to do this in a disciplined manner, following the consequences as far as possible. If I had not gone all the way, trying to find coherence in all these diverse facts, reconstructing them into portraits which were answerable to one another, I could not have convinced myself and would have remained dissatisfied with my effort.
I saw, then, what help to fighting men the simple, ordered description of their misery and humiliation could be. I saw how explosive the objective relation to the colonized and colonizer of an essentially explosive condition could be. The answer: yes, I think they can. Among these, some reject their objective reality. Borne along by the colonialist apparatus, they do everyday in reality what they condemn in fantasy, for all their actions contribute to the maintenance of oppression.
They will change nothing and will serve no one, but will succeed only in finding moral comfort in malaise. Terror and exploitation dehumanize, and the exploiter authorizes himself with that dehumanization to carry his exploitation further. The engine of colonialism turns in a circle; it is impossible to distinguish between its praxis and objective necessity.
They must think that First Nations children deserve to be apprehended by social services at astonishing rates, because they can be apprehended by social services. To handle this, the colonizer must assume the opaque rigidity and imperviousness of stone. But what have I learned from it? Why do Europeans move to colonies? He realizes that this easy profit is so great only because it is wrested from others.
Thus the European living in the colony finds himself on one side of a scale, the other side of which bears the colonized man. If his living standards are high, it is because those of the colonized are low; if he can benefit from plentiful and undemanding labor and servants, it is because the colonized can be exploited at will and are not protected by the laws of the colony; if he can easily obtain administrative positions, it is because they are reserved for him and the colonized are excluded from them; the more freely he breathes, the more the colonized are choked.
All Europeans in the colony are thus colonizers or colonialists. The courts will be more lenient on the colonizer than the colonized; it will be easier for the colonizer to get help from the government; jobs will be more available. Memmi might be describing the situation of newcomers to Canada—particularly people of colour—with these words. Will he agree to be a privileged man, and to underscore the distress of the colonized?
Will he be a usurper and affirm the oppression and injustice to the true inhabitant of the colony? Will he accept being a colonizer under the growing habit of privilege and illegitimacy, under the constant gaze of the usurped?
Will he adjust to this position and his inevitable self-censure? It is rather a position of principle. He may openly protest, or sign a petition, or join a group which is not automatically hostile toward the colonized. The impossibility of this conversion seems to block Memmi. He vaguely foresees the day of their liberation and the reconquest of their rights, but does not seriously plan to share their existence, even if they are freed.
There may be no way to cross the cultural, social, and linguistic barriers between them. Such a person will be uncomfortable with terrorism and political assassination, which are tools in the struggle of the colonized for freedom This second point is just as difficult as the first: In order truly to become a part of the colonial struggle, even all his good will is not sufficient; there must still be the possibility of adoption by the colonized.
However, he suspects that he will have no place in the future nation. This will be the last discovery, the most staggering one for the left-wing colonizer, the one which he often makes on the eve of the liberation, though it was really predictable from the very beginning.
Colonial relations do not stem from individual good will or actions; they exist before his arrival or his birth, and whether he accepts or rejects them matters little.
It is they, on the contrary which, like any institution, determine a priori his place and that of the colonized and, in the final analysis, their true relationship.
Being oppressed as a group, the colonized must necessarily adopt a national and ethnic form of liberation from which he cannot but be excluded. His demands, compared to those of the colonized, or even of a right-wing colonizer, are not solid. Besides, has one ever seen a serious political demand—one which is not a delusion or fantasy—which does not rest upon concrete solid supports, whether it be the masses or power, money or force?
Is he not an expression of himself, of a negligible force in the varied conflicts within colonialism? He might hesitate or reject a demand of the colonized, the significance of which he will not immediately grasp. This lack of perception will seem to confirm his indifference. Wanting to vie with the less realistic nationalists, he might indulge in an extreme type of demagogy which will increase the distrust of the colonized. When explaining the acts of the colonizer, he will offer obscure or Machiavellian rationalizations where the simple mechanics of colonization are self-explanatory.
Or, to the irritated astonishment of the colonized, he will loudly excuse what the latter condemn in himself. Thus, while refusing the sinister, the benevolent colonizer can never attain the good, for his only choice is not between good and evil, but between evil and uneasiness.
The colonizer who refuses, tries in vain to adjust his ideology to his life, thereby unifying and justifying his conduct. Because the most talented colonizers will tend to leave the colony for the metropole, either to pursue opportunities or for ethical reasons, only the mediocre remain This decision in no way brings him permanent peace of mind.
On the contrary, the effort he will make to overcome the confusion of his role will give us one of the keys to understanding his ambiguous position. Human relationship in the colony would perhaps have been better if the colonialist had been convinced of his legitimacy.
In effect, the problem before the colonizer who accepts is the same as that before the one who refuses. Only their solutions are different; the colonizer who accepts inevitably becomes a colonialist. In this role or complex , the colonialist, at the very time of his triumph. His true victory will therefore never be upon him: now he need only record it in the laws and morals. For this he would have to convince the others, if not himself. In other words, to possess victory completely he needs to absolve himself of it and the conditions under which it was attained.
This explains his strenuous insistence, strange for a victor, on apparently futile matters. He endeavors to falsify history, he rewrites laws, he would extinguish memories—anything to succeed in transforming his usurpation into legitimacy.
As the colonialist engages in heavier oppression, he become an oppressor. The more he sinks into injustice, the more he hates Britannicus. With all his power he must disown the colonized while their existence is indespensable to his own. Having chosen to maintain the colonial system, he must contribute more vigor to its defense than would have been needed to dissolve it completely. Having become aware of the unjust relationship which ties him to the colonized, he must continually attempt to absolve himself.
He never forgets to make a public show of his own virtues, and will argue with vehemence to appear heroic and great. At the same time his privileges arise just as much from his glory as from degrading the colonized. He will persist in degrading them, using the darkest colors to depict them.
If need be, he will act to devalue them, annihilate them. But he can never escape from this circle. The distance which colonization places between him and the colonized must be accounted for and, to justify himself, he increases this distance still further by placing the two figures irretrievably in opposition: his glorious position and the despicable one of the colonized. It is significant that racism is part of colonialism throughout the world; and it is no coincidence.
According to Memmi, colonial racism is so spontaneously incorporated in even the most trivial acts and words, that it seems to constitute one of the fundamental patterns of colonialist personality. The frequency of its occurrence, its intensity in colonial relationships, would be astounding if we did not know to what extent it helps the colonialist to live and permits his social introduction.
The colonialists are perpetually explaining, justifyng and maintaining by word as well as by deed the place and fate of their silent partners in the colonial drama. The colonized are thus trapped by the colonial system and the colonialist maintains his prominent role.
A paternalist is one who wants to stretch racism and inequality farther—once admitted. It is, if you like, a charitable racism—which is not thereby less skillful nor less profitable. It becomes obvious that the colonized, whatever he may undertake, whatever zeal he may apply, could never be anything but lazy. The same analysis could be made of each of the features found in the colonized The mechanism of this remolding of the colonized is revealing in itself. It consists, in the first place, of a series of negations.
The colonized is not this, is not that. He is never considered in a positive light; or if he is, the quality which is conceded is the result of a psychological or ethical failing. He is hardly a human being.
It cannot leave him indifferent and remain a veneer which, like an insult, blows with the wind. He ends up recognizing it as one would a detested nickname which has become a familiar description.
The accusation disturbs him and worries him even more because he admires and fears his powerful accuser. Willfully created and spread by the colonizer, this mythical and degrading portrait ends up by being accepted and lived with to a certain extent by the colonized. It thus acquires a certain amount of reality and contributes to the true portrait of the colonized.
The colonized carries the burden of history, but he is not its subject, merely an object How could he be interested in something from which he is so resolutely excluded? The society either revolts, or it calcifies Memmi discusses the place of language—in his argument, Arabic—in the colony. This argument reminds me of something my friend Art told me once: Indigenous languages need official recognition if they are to survive.
Colonized writers need to be able to use European languages in order to be published, and it is only in those language that such writers can advocate for their own languages
According to Memmi, there are only two answers for the colonized to disrupt the system of oppression. In response to the marginalization of the colonized, both answers carry a high price. The first of two answers on the road to collapsing colonization is assimilation. Imitation and compromise are not the answer to decolonizing, for neither the colonized nor the colonizer.
Memmi wrote it in response to the decolonization of North Africa in , when Tunisia and Algeria gained independence from the French. Although Memmi bases his examples on events in North Africa, he states that the dynamics he describes are similar in any colonial system. During its colonial period, Tunisia was home to French colonizers, Italians, Tunisian Muslims, and a minority of Jews. The Italians, although not as well off as the French, were also privileged. The Muslim majority was the most oppressed. Although the Jews were also oppressed, Memmi describes the Jews as more willing to try to assimilate to the French. Memmi writes of the Jews: Unlike the Muslims, they passionately endeavored to identify themselves with the French.
Summary Of Albert Memmi's The Colonizer And The Colonized