The Wretched Of The Earth A Review

The Wretched Of The Earth: A Review Essay, Research Paper

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.


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