Funny the ideas that pop up when one blogs and teachers. In our blog discussion Tuesday of House Bill 1089, the proposed ban on female genital mutilation, I mentioned my college-days battle against multiculturalism. I walked into class today and found students reading a text on multiculturalism in literary theory. I mentioned my concerns about value relativism to the students (how can we critique Western culture of multiculturalism encourages us to value and celebrate all cultures?). But then I read this passage that casts multiculturalism as a healthy democratic response to oppression:

As opposed to the hierarchies set up by European colonists, [Frantz] Fanon imagined the independent Algerian republic working on the principles of extreme decentralization, with contact and interchange between the leaders and the rank and file, and a clear understanding that the government would be at the service of the masses. In addition, he said, "Women will have exactly the same place as men, not only in the clauses of the constitution but in the life of every day: in the factory, at school, and in the parliament." The living expression of the nation would be found not in the leaders, the palaces, or rituals of politics, but in "the moving consciousness of the whole of the people: it is the coherent, enlightened action of men and women" [Stephen Bonnycastle, In Search of Authority, 2007, p. 231].

Decentralization, encouraging the rank and file to make their own decisions, expecting leaders to communicate with and respond to the people, supporting women's equality, legislating with a focus on helping more people express their will... almost the perfect opposite of what Republicans are doing to South Dakota.

And then it hits me: we are being colonized by our own legislators. Co-opted by corporate imperialists, our legislators are putting us in chains, disrespecting the popular will, and dehumanizing us to make easier their seizure of our wealth and pollution of our land and water.

We children of empire now fight the new corporate empire. We colonizers become the colonized. I may have to revisit my SDSU textbook on multiculturalism.

32 comments

At the beginning of this month, I responded with abhorrence to the murders of the Charlie Hebdo artists by jihadis and asked whether Islam has a fundamental tendency toward violence that Christianity does not.

In one of those wonderful moments of cosmic connection, I walk into class today and find AP students reading "Postcolonial Criticism and Multiculturalism," a chapter from Stephen Bonnycastle's literary theory text In Search of Authority. On page 230, Bonnycastle directs students' attention to Frantz Fanon's critique of Europe's history of oppression:

...Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.

And yet it may be said that Europe has been successful in as much as everything that she has attempted has succeeded.

Europe undertook the leadership of the world with ardour, cynicism and violence. Look at how the shadow of her palaces stretches out ever farther! Every one of her movements has burst the bounds of space and thought. Europe has declined all humility and all modesty; but she has also set her face against all solicitude and all tenderness.

She has only shown herself parsimonious and niggardly where men are concerned; it is only men that she has killed and devoured.

So, my brothers, how is it that we do not understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe? [Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 1965, pp. 311–312].

I was aiming too low in comparing jihadis professing Islam to contemporary Christians who seem not produce proportionate holy warriors. I should have looked at the history of the great Western European Empire, at the pinnacle of which I comfortably Tweet, an empire built on the enslavement, exploitation, and extermination of millions from other cultures. Killing cartoonists, colonizing continents... what's the difference?

Update 16:47 CST: In related news, the Super Bowl is this weekend....

10 comments

Support Your Local Blogger!

  • Click the Tip Jar to send your donation to the Madville Times via PayPal, and support local alternative news and commentary!

South Dakota Political Blogs

Greater SD Blogosphere

SD Mostly Political Mix

Greater SD Blogosphere

Madville Monthly

Meta