I do feel like Al Pacino sometimes … “they just drag you back in…” I really do not want this blog to become ColeWatch or anything like it, but the Professor had a post the other day that so perfectly encapsulated his philosophical ‘framing’ that I expected that it would get picked up widely and commented on.
It wasn’t, so I will.He says:
Reuters reports that Israel is expanding its colonial settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank even as it is planning to remove a few thousand settlers from Gaza.
We have seen these sorts of events many times in colonial history. The French colonists rioted in Algiers in January 1960 as it became clear that DeGaulle was moving toward granting Algerian demands. There were a million colonizers in Algeria then, and they had managed to grab up the best land, the most lucrative industries. The Algerian owners of the country had run out of patience with this colonial theft, however, and the colonists would not prevail. Had the French tried to remain in Algeria, it would have meant a 30 years war. The Western Right, so attached to the colonial project of dominating others and establishing racial and economic hierarchies, has been frustrated for decades by decolonization. But as the Israelis have learned, the costs of colonialism in the contemporary world are very great indeed, since contemporary populations are mobilized, connected by media, and savvy about using modern science to strike back at their torturers. You can have a colony to feel superior over, and to exploit, only at the cost of living your life in fear and being brutalized and driven toward a kind of fascist society. The only forces that really want such a fate are . . . fascists.
If you had the academic background I did – studying political theory and history in the early 1970’s – this will be as familiar as a Led Zeppelin riff. Everything back then was viewed through the lens of colonialism – internal, external, economic, social, political. It was the aqua regia of political analysis.
And, in its moment – the postwar decades in which the old colonial order crumbled – it probably had some relevance. It probably has some utility today. But as a theoretical anchor in the modern era, it’s just silly. It’s like using epicycles to try and navigate a spaceship.
And worse, it has become the root of Bad Philosophy, which dissolves every relationship into a relationship of power – and which demands that power and violence be used to free the oppressed from the bonds of that power.
Sadly, those bonds are largely imagined.
But the destruction and pain caused by their release is very much real.