Friday, February 1, 2013
Fanon, Page 7:
“Sometimes this Manichaeanism reaches its logical conclusion and dehumanizes the colonized subject. In plain talk, he is reduced to the state of an animal. And consequently, when the colonist speaks of the colonized he uses zoological terms. Allusion is made to the slithery movements of the yellow race, the odors from the “native” quarters, to the hordes, the stink, the swarming, the seething, and the gesticulations. In his endeavors at description and finding the right words, the colonist refers constantly to the bestiary. The European seldomly has problems with figures of speech. But the colonized, who immediately grasp the intention of the colonist and the exact case being made against them, know instantly what he is thinking. This explosive population growth, these hysterical masses, those blank faces, those shapeless, obese bodies, this headless, tailless cohort, these children who seem to belong to anyone, this indolence sprawling under the sun, this vegetating existence, all this is part of the colonial vocabulary… The colonized know all that and roar with laughter every time they hear themselves being called an animal by the other. For they know that they are not animals. And at the very moment when they discover their humanity, they begin to sharpen their weapons to secure its victory.”
This quote by Fanon is one that describes humanism by stating what it is not. Humanism is not being reduced to an animal, in both speech and by the intentions of the other. He acknowledges the dialogue of the colonist and his ability to describe individuals as if they are simply one of a smelly and beastly herd of animals. These “zoological terms” do not go unacknowledged by the colonized and instead are used to fuel his violence against the offenders. A human is aware of being treated without humanity.
Later is his book, Fanon discusses the bourgeoisie and its inability to act on even minimal humanism. Nonetheless, the bourgeoisie champions universal democratic ideas and hides his racism by multiplying the “nuances” between people. This is where we can posit the idea of “multiculturalism” as touched upon briefly in class. While Fanon’s humanism emphasizes equality --- we are all humans and we are not animals --- multiculturalism emphasizes differences. Multiculturalism tends to define rigid borders between people and highlights the gaping differences amongst us. Together, a group including individuals from Senegal, China, and Chile create a multicultural setting. Indeed, we think first of the differences when we read of a diverse group. I believe Fanon may take issue with this kind of multiculturalist idea because it sounds familiar to his description of Europeans who mask racism by seeming to believe in universal ideas while simultaneously multiplying the differences between these people.
While I can certainly understand how multiplying nuances between people could, in many cases, mean racism, I’m not sold on the idea that humanism and multiculturalism are two things that can be compared as opposites. For me, humanism and multiculturalism both support the rights of the individual --- to be respected as a human and as an individual. What do you think?