By Kindeneh Endeg
As the reader might recall, in the introductory essay, we argued that doing justice to Borrell’s jungle metaphor requires applying it in the reverse order. Doing so demonstrates that the jungle metaphor is an apt semiotic befitting of Europe, particularly in reference to the institutions and practices of slavery and colonialism by which Borrell’s ‘European garden’ realizes economic prosperity. Economic prosperity is in turn the second of three qualities or attributes Borrell identifies as the defining features of his beloved European garden, the other two being political freedom and social cohesion.
Accordingly, it is primarily by likening the crimes and atrocities of slavery and colonialism to cannibalism, that we put Borrell’s metaphor on its head, as it only deserves, thereby having Europe/Occident exchange place with the rest of the world as the jungle, better yet, the Heart of the Jungle. For as we observed, the jungle has a sort of hierarchy to it based on the savagery of the wild beasts residing therein. Accordingly, we have awarded Europe the title of being the undisputed Master/Knight of the Jungle, with hands down. Because, no other wild beast known to ፈሳላጎስ (the Ge’ez term for the study of the animal kingdom) would be as ferocious, devouring its own kind.
While that is the case, if the jungle could pass for the garden, as Borrell had the audacity to represent it to us, we noted that the credit belongs to racism/white supremacy. For racism is what keeps the European garden dwellers in blissful ignorance about the brut reality of their situation.
Indeed how omnipotent racism has proven itself, delivering on such discursive feat of rare in/human ingenuity! It does so, perhaps most important of all, by serving at one and the same time as enabler and waiver of cannibalism. As enabler of cannibalism, racism is the one that lay the foundation for and set into motion slavery and colonialism some five hundred years or so ago by telling the perpetrators that they need not worry about their cruelty and inhuman treatment of non-Whites, for they were but merely on a hunting trip, dealing with some wild games in a jungle. As waiver of cannibalism, racism grants both the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the atrocities of slavery and colonialism impunity. It excludes any occasion for remorse. It does so by removing any trace of humanity from the victims of the excesses and abuses of slavery and colonialism.
With that we part ways with Mr. Borrell, leaving him in peace. For we never set out with the object of targeting or singling out any individual or even any group of people for pedestrian demonization/dehumanization in the first place. Nor should the reader be all of a sudden in high alert looking for the cannibal in every passerby. We meant no cause for any such alarm either.
We simply capitalized on Mr. Borrell’s jungle metaphor to highlight an important fact it brings to light about the post colonial world order, namely the pervasive nature of Western racism. That surviving and coming down intact the official end of colonialism and Jim Crow in the 1960s, racism basically sabotages and renders the reality of the post colonial world order hollow.
That is why focusing on individuals totally misses the point. The culprit is rather the Zeitgeist- (German for the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era)- that lend racist views like Borrell’s their evident intellectual weight, moral currency as well as spiritual/cultural authority, such that their vectors could expound them with cocksureness, and we may add, often than not, with a distinct sense of patriotic duty. And that is where we should counter it as well, subjecting the Zeitgeist in question -as opposed to specific manifestations and expressions of it by individuals- as the proper site of our sustained critical interrogation and scrutiny.
For the fact of the matter is that those spewing the most racist venom are not the mentally deranged on the fringe. The tendency to use the far-right as scapegoat notwithstanding –as Borrell also did in his clarification sequel to the Burges keynote address– often than not, the most vicious and rather well-thought-out racism, with a quality of full-fledged ideology (complete with Manifesto informing action) comes from the standard bearers, those considered and looked up to as the morally upright and respectable members of society.
Borrell’s is no exception. Rather than isolated view in the minority, it represents the mainstream thinking and attitude of the wider European/Western establishment. As such, it is only the latest in a long series of similar views that by now we come to expect from those in position of power throughout Europe/the West as though a matter of standard rite of passage they have to fulfill to qualify for office.
And what most of them have in common is that they are all in thrall to slavery and colonialism. That if they were to have their way, they would rather have the whole notion of post colonial world order done away with altogether.
Indeed, it has become all too familiar to witness European/Western leaders and top raking politicians lamenting the passage of the “good old days” of slavery and colonialism with unabashed nostalgia. To the majority of them, it is as though slavery and colonialism were a golden era, the sort of Paradise Lost of human history.
That is not to say that there is no remorse or regret on the subject. There is. Regret, that one wishes slavery and colonialism were not a thing of the past. Regret, that the end of slavery and colonialism came about as an aberration or a major regress, violently interrupting, ruining and prematurely aborting the idyllic, upward march of human history. In an article entitled, Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism, Boris Johnson, the would be Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, for example stated;
“The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience.
The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not
in charge any more….The best fate for Africa would be if the old
colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction;
on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”
We should further point out here that the article is published in 2002 in The Spectator, a weekly British magazine widely considered as unofficial voice of the Conservative Party’s establishment. At the time B. Johnson was the chief editor of the magazine (a highly coveted position considered by Troy insiders as a stepping stone propelling the career of an aspirant politician to the highest echelon of British politics through the hierarchy Conservative party).
In the same vein, in 2007 barely a few months in office, the French President N. Sarkozy, had a packed auditorium of Cheick Anta Diop University of Dakar, stunned with a learned reflection on the history and ethnography of Africa, the gist of which goes as follows;
“The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history …
They have never really launched themselves into the future…
The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time,
marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words…
In this realm of fancy … there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”
Alpha Oumar Konare, AU’s Chairman at the time waste no time to denounce Sarkozy’s speech as “declaration of a bygone era”.
Indeed, Sarkozy’s “tragedy”, is Boris’ “blot”. A calamity or disaster which befell Africa basically by way of punishment from Providence for rejecting progress (read colonialism). Because Africans refused to launch “themselves into the future”. Which, i.e., the bright future for Africa, B. Johnson explicitly equates with embracing colonialism.
Like Borrell, Sarkozy’s choice of venue was also no accident. Cheick Anta Diop after whom Senegal’s flagship university is named is one of the leading critics of colonialism and intellectual luminaries of Africa of the last century. In his brilliant work, Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire hailed Cheick Anta Diop’s seminal book, Nations nègres et culture originally published in 1955 as “the most daring book yet written by a Negro and one which will without question play an important part in the awakening of Africa.”
Worth further noting for our purpose is also that as much as indefensibly raciest, the views quoted above cost B. Johnson and N.Sarkozy little to nothing in terms of their political ambition or office. If anything, quite the contrary. That such routine homage to slavery and colonialism earn Western politicians the approval and recognition of their colleagues and constituencies.
Which brings us to one of the major points we are trying to highlight in this essay. Which is that, the requirements of political correctness that might impose a certain limit as to how far one can push the envelope notwithstanding, embracing, not to say, celebrating and glorifying slavery and colonialism as the golden age of human history, is not heretical, as opposed to what constitutes mainstream orthodoxy or established thinking of Europe/the West.
This is what becomes further evident when we consider the fact that equating European/Western domination of the non-west in general and Black Africa in particular with civilization is something sanctioned at the highest level of western academia. Indeed Sarkozy could have learnt the details of his comments about Africa being the continent without history and civilization under the feet of Hugh Trevor-Roper, a preeminent Oxford University Professor of history. In a high profile 1963 public lecture Trevor-Roper stated;
“Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at
present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans
in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre-European,
pre Columbian America. And darkness is not a subject for history.”
That may be the case. Except unlike what Sarkozy and Trevor-Roper seem to have conveniently glossed over, the oft-repeated assertion that pre-colonial Africa is a content without history and civilization, strikes one as having the quality of self-fulfilling prophesy to it. As such one cannot help wondering if Africa was rather turned into a continent devoid of history and civilization as a matter of occupational hazard on the part of European colonizers.
This has to do the fateful fact that, wherever they went, colonizers/the agents of Empire, commonly sold their project as civilizing mission. Which means that for colonialism to justify itself as a civilizing mission, of necessity, pre-colonial Africa had to be a continent devoid of history and civilization, thereby making iconoclasm, rather a mandatory requirement and standard procedure accompanying colonialism wherever in went in Africa, bulldozing any trace of pre-existing history and civilization that dared to stand on its way, threatening to render it redundant.
But we digress. More important to highlight for our immediate purpose is that, as the sample excerpts quoted above illustrate, if Europe is not quite comfortable with the post colonial world order, that is because the end of colonialism came when it, i.e., Europe/the West expected it the least. Put differently, the end of colonialism took Europe/the West, by the storm. Europe was hardly ready for it. (That Ethiopia might have to take the lion share of the blame for that is beyond the immediate scope of this essay)
The end of colonialism did not come about as a result of the required radical shift or revolution in terms the views and attitudes of Europe/the West, towards the non-west in general and black Africa in particular. It came in spite of that.
Put bluntly, the official end of Jim Crow (racial oppression and segregation in the US), and colonialism, that came about concurrently in the 1960s, came about while the attitude of the white majority of Euro-America especially towards the Black “race” was still quite unflattering. Not to say, while the view of Europe/the West, about the Black “race” in general and Africa in particular, is that of the jungle dweller.
Hence the difficulty of Europe/the West, adjusting to, coming to terms with the post colonial world order. A difficulty to do with the major disconnect described above. That the end of colonialism came about while the Zeitgeist of Europe/the West, was still the very same one that set into motion or sanction the onset of slavery and colonialism five hundred years ago.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the view of Churchill, arguably the most influential British politician of the last century, who had the following to say on the eve of the end of colonialism;
"I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger,
though he may have lain there for a very long time I do not admit that right.
I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians
of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been
done to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race
or at any rate a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in
and taken their place. I do not admit it. I do not think the Red Indians had
any right to say, 'American continent belongs to us and we are not going to
have any of these European settlers coming in here'. They had not the right,
nor had they the power."
Earlier Churchill had also the following to say about the Chinese;
I think we shall have to take the Chinese in hand and regulate them.
I believe that as civilized nations become more powerful they will
get more ruthless, and the time will come when the world will impatiently
bear the existence of great barbaric nations who may at any time arm
themselves and menace civilized nations. I believe in the ultimate partition
of China … The Aryan stock is bound to triumph. (underlined emphasis in the original)
No, the reader can rest assured! It is not Hitler. We have that double checked and verified. It did come out of the pen of none other than Churchill himself.
And that is the whole point. Namely that when it comes to Europe’s/the West’s view and attitude towards the non-west, everyone especially the elite of the West is more Aryan than Hitler, advocating Might makes Right.
That means Hitler is wrongly credited/blamed for any authorship of Aryanism, (i.e., the ideology of White supremacy/the White Master Race). Aryanism predates Hitler by several centuries, coming to prominence as the European wide/pan-Occidental Zeitgeist since the late 18th and early 19th century, of which Germany was the leading center, premium hub.
The excess of Hitler’s racism is not therefore introducing Aryanism, thereby setting off a “World War”. Hitler’s crime is practicing what Aryanism all along preached. While what made his crime further unforgivable in the eyes of fellow Aryans like Churchill is giving them a test of their own medicine. Namely further refining Aryanism and turning the institutions and practices it sanctions, i.e., slavery and colonialism inward, thereby having an Aryan devouring a fellow Aryan.
Back to the main point, least the reader assume that the racism that condone slavery and colonialism is typical of the Right -to be designated as un-changing Zeitgeist of the west of the last five hundred years as this essay insists-, let us listen in earnest to what Marx, the ultimate doyen, God-Father of the Left has to say about Africa;
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn
of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial
war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre.” Marx, Das Kapital, 1867, (English Version, 1887, Vol. I, 1887, 179-80)
Granted, we ought to be careful lest we read too much into the passage. Rhetorical extravaganza aside, Marx might as well be just analyzing and describing the situation than gloating at and celebrating the misfortune of Native Americans and the “black skin”.
Yet we have to ask, what if it were the Western proletariat as opposed to Native Americans who had to be “extirpated” and “entombed” en mass to jump start or pave the way for early capitalist production? What if it were the heartland of Europe that had to be turned into “warren for the commercial hunting of the white-skin”, that “the rosy down of capitalist production” required? Would Marx have described and analyzed that as fate accompli, unavoidable fact of nature, dictated by the law and dynamics of historical/dialectical materialism?
That is unlikely. If that were to be the case, Marxism would have at once ceased to be dispassionate scientific theory and turned into a passionate political ideology highlighting and championing the plight of western proletariat, as well as a practical political manifesto prescribing various acts of rebellion and sabotage to reverse the situation.
Because according to the overall schema of historical/dialectical materialism, the Western proletariat is supposed to be an active agent of history. Not a helpless object of it, as the case of the Native American and the “black skin”.
Indeed what we need to highlight in this connection here is that the Left has no difference whatsoever with the Right when it comes to condoning and sanctioning the entitlement of the West to the land, resource and labor of the non-west. Meaning that the institutions and practices of slavery and colonialism do not constitute unjust oppression and exploitation of mankind, as low wage, long working hours excreta would in connection to the treatment of the Western proletariat by capitalist relations of production.
Nowhere in the writings of Marx in particular and Orthodox Marxism in general do we find slavery and colonialism denounced as inhuman crimes against mankind. To the contrary, they are if not openly hailed, then certainly tacitly tolerated as mandatory stages in the unfolding of universal history towards the ideal destination, i.e., socialist Utopia.
In other words, Orthodox Marxism’s notion of social justice is not only formulated and developed exclusively as a class question, having no room whatsoever for the race question. It does not just exclude the question of race. It makes advantage of racism.
In other words, Marxism sacrifices the race question for the class question. In that for the life of the western proletariat to improve, for the history of mankind to progress towards its ideal destination, that is Socialist Utopia, Marxism vouchsafed the turning of the non-western Other into a collective sacrificial lamb.
This is what Marx view on India/Asia further demonstrates;
“England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan
was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her
manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question
is, can mankind fulfill its destiny without a fundamental
revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have
been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history
in bringing about that revolution.” (quoted in Edward Said Orientalism, 2003 ed. P153)
The escapable conclusions we arrive at when we compare the two excerpts quoted above that reflect Marx’s view towards Africa and India is not only that Marx’s racism is indeed indefensible. It is also hierarchical not unlike that of Churchill or Hitler, that place “the black skin” at the bottom of the ladder. For Marx’s “destiny” of mankind, namely Socialist Utopia, has a room for Indian/Asiatic societies. These societies could partake in and be part of the ideal destiny of mankind, that is Socialist Utopia, after going through the required social revolution by means of colonial intervention of the west.
By comparison Marx’s ideal destiny of mankind has no room whatsoever for the “black skin”. The role of Africa ends at serving as “warrant for commercial hunting of the black skin”. Meaning that Marx writes the obituary of Africa in such a way that “the black skin” would come to the same fate as the Native Americans, i.e., the role of Africa as “warren for the commercial hunting of the black skin” likely to bring the extinction of the “black skin”. This is the unavoidable conclusion we arrive at when we consider the fact that “warren for the commercial hunting of the black skin”, is the only role of Africa in Das Kapital, i.e., Marx multivolume comprehensive account of the history of mankind.
In this case Marx is a loyal disciple of his master Hegel than a critic of him. In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History: Hegel wrote in 1857, “At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit”. Meaning irrespective of the difference between master and disciple as to the primary driving force of history, i.e., Hegel’s idealism Vs Marx’s materialism, Africa is no part of human history/civilization save through the agency of Europe/the West.
Meaning the issue with Marx is not just that for all his radicalism, and championing of social justice, he seemed to have failed to identify with the plight and suffering of the non-white/non-western Other in general and Black Africa in particular. Rather that he is downright nihilist, that especially the “black-skin” does not make part of his notion of mankind. As far as Marx is concerned the “black skin” is as good as non-existent save his role as slave. Meaning Africa becomes part of human history, that it could be accounted for only in its role as auxiliary to Europe/the west. Otherwise it is as good as non-existent.
And that is the point. Namely the horror of the Left is no less if not more than the right. In that what such conceptual annihilation does is let Europe/the West loose against Africa in particular and the non-west in general to commit genocide and atrocity with no restraint whatsoever. Thus going to the heart of our overall argument, that racism turn Europe/the West into a cannibalistic savage that devoir its own kind with no restraint whatsoever. Meaning that racism justifies Might Makes Right, as the chief, modus operandi without any need for the Rule of Law when it comes to the West’s encounter and treatment of the non-west. The only equation being that of Power!
In other words the conceptual annihilation common to both Left and Right, was what laid the foundation to genocide and crime of slavery and colonialism that go beyond anything that transpired in practice. For the racism in question render everyone but the European/Western white OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND. It has everyone but the European/western white accounted for. And what is unaccounted for conceptually, is also unaccounted for practically. Rendered out of sight, written as good as non-existent conceptually, it is anything goes!
በግብር ማለትም በባርነትና በቅኝ ግዛት ታሪክ የተደረገው የዘር ማጥፋትና የባርነት ጭቆና በሙሉ ተደምሮ የኀልዮውን የዘር ማጥፋት ወንጀልና ኀጢያት/መተላለፍ አይስተካከልም!
We shall trace the origin of this horror of human history, to the Enlightenment. The theme of the upcoming third and last part by which we shall conclude this essay. Inshi Allah!
Kindeneh Endeg is a Historian with PhD from Florida State University, currently based in Addis Ababa, Kinde2011@gmail.come
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