The Wretched Of The Earth: A Review


Fanon\'s book, "The Wretched Of The Earth" like Foucault\'s "Discipline
and Punish" question the basic assumptions that underlie society. Both books
writers come from vastly different perspectives and this shapes what both
authors see as the technologies that keep the populace in line. Foucault coming
out of the French intellectual class sees technologies as prisons, family,
mental institutions, and other institutions and cultural traits of French
society. In contrast Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) born in Martinique into a lower
middle class family of mixed race ancestry and receiving a conventional colonial
education sees the technologies of control as being the white colonists of the
third world. Fanon at first was a assimilationist thinking colonists and
colonized should try to build a future together. But quickly Fanon\'s
assimilationist illusions were destroyed by the gaze of metropolitan racism both
in France and in the colonized world. He responded to the shattering of his neo-
colonial identity, his white mask, with his first book, Black Skin, White Mask,
written in 1952 at the age of twenty-seven and originally titled "An Essay for
the Disalienation of Blacks." Fanon defined the colonial relationship as one of
the non recognition of the colonized\'s humanity, his subjecthood, by the
colonizer in order to justify his exploitation.
Fanon\'s next novel, "The Wretched Of The \' \'\'Earth" views the colonized
world from the perspective of the colonized. Like Foucault\'s questioning of a
disciplinary society Fanon questions the basic assumptions of colonialism. He
questions whether violence is a tactic that should be employed to eliminate
colonialism. He questions whether native intellectuals who have adopted western
methods of thought and urge slow decolonization are in fact part of the same
technology of control that the white world employs to exploit the colonized. He
questions whether the colonized world should copy the west or develop a whole
new set of values and ideas. In all these questionings of basic assumptions of
colonialism Fanon exposes the methods of control the white world uses to hold
down the colonies. Fanon calls for a radical break with colonial culture,
rejecting a hypocritical European humanism for a pure revolutionary
consciousness. He exalts violence as a necessary pre-condition for this rupture.
Fanon supported the most extreme wing of the FLN, even opposing a negotiated
transition to power.
His book though sees the relationship and methods of control in a
simplistic light; he classifies whites, and native intellectuals who have
adopted western values and tactics as enemies. He fails to see how these natives
and even the white world are also victims who in what Foucault calls the stream
of power and control are forced into their roles by a society which itself is
forced into a role. Fanon also classifies many colonized people as mentally ill.
In his last chapter he brings up countless cases of children, adults, and the
elderly who have been driven mad by colonialism. In one instance he classifies
two children who kill their white playmate with a knife as insane. In isolating
these children classifying there disorders as insanity caused by colonialism he
ironically is using the very thought systems and technologies that Foucault
points out are symptomatic of the western disciplinary society.
Fanon\'s book filled with his anger at colonial oppression was
influential to Black Panther members Newton and Seale . As students at Merrit
College, in Oakland, they had organized a Soul Students\' Advisory Council, which
was the first group to demand that what became known as African-American studies
be included in the school curriculum. They parted ways with the council when
their proposal to bring a drilled and armed squad of ghetto youths onto campus,
in commemoration of Malcolm X\'s birthday, the year after his assassination, was
rejected. Seale and Newton\'s unwillingness to acquiesce to more moderate views
was in large part influenced by Fanon\'s ideas of a true revolutionary
consciousness. In retrospect Fanon\'s efforts to expose the colonial society were
successful in eliminating colonialism but not in eliminating the oppression
taking place in the colonized world. Today the oppression of French colonialism
in Algeria has been replaced by the violence of the civil war in Algeria, and
the dictator of Algeria who has annulled popular elections, a the emergence of
radical Islam which seeks to replace colonial repression with religious
oppression. But this violence might be one of the lasting symptoms of Frances
colonial brutality which scared the lives of Algerians and Algerian society;
perverting peoples sense of right and wrong freedom and discipline.

Category: English