Thursday, 9 February 2012

Existentialism / Preface to Frantz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" - Notes



* 1925 - 1961
* His writing is influential in the field/ Marxism
* "A radical existential humanist"
* Humanist - Practice that focuses on human values and concerns over divine and supernatural matters


* Philosophical thinking begins with the human subject
* "Not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual"
* Kierkegaard regarded as the father of existentialism
* You must overcome your facticity
* You can ignore everything except choice
* Facticity is given to us, not chosen. You can't control this
* Free will, choice
* Our 'true self'

Opening summary:

* "Preface beings with a discussion of how colonisers from Europe carried out their civilising mission"
* Describes what the outcomes were
* "The 'civilized' native, who had learnt to echo his masters voice, finally led to the independent individual who disregarded the European civilisation and wouldn't mind taking up arms, when necessary, against his oppressor".

The passage begins with a comparison between 'natives' and 'men'.

"In the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother country preferred it with clothes on" - Men living a lie, not being their true self. Western culture as an entity that is hiding the truth. Western culture shapes values, the natives create their own.

Western culture - "They stuffed their mouths full of high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck in their teeth".

Those that have been touched by Western culture are 'walking lies'

Satre explains how the colonisers made an effort to wipe out native culture and traditions, to substitute them with their own. "Attempts were made to create a rootless native who belonged to nowhere in particular".

"In those countries where Colonialism has deliberately held up development, the peasantry, when it rises, quickly stands out as the revolutionary class".

"In order to triumph, the national revolution must be socialist" - Points out that revolution is constantly in the making.

The key theme of the preface is oppression. In terms of Existentialism, the themes of the true self and culture moulding individuals has links with the natives as they come into contact with the colonisers.

Satre admires Fanon, explaining how Fanon is the first since Engel "to bring the processes of history into the clear light of day".

Satre discusses forced labour and slavery:

* There is no contract. There must be intimidation from which oppression grows
* "Our soldiers overseas lay down the principle that the native is not one of our fellow-men"
* The colonisers aim to dehumanise the enslaved
* Wipe our their traditions, their language and their culture
* If he (the enslaved) gives in, he is no longer a man at all - Shame and fear will break apart his character.

"I do not say that it is impossible to change a man into an animal. I simply say that you wont get there without weakening him considerably. Blows will never suffice, you have to push the starvation further, and that's the trouble with slavery".

A man is born from the wreckage if a terrorised native. Ready to sacrifice himself for the cause of his nation. Once a man, a slave will look at himself as a tool. Satre likens a slave to a gun or a horsewhip.

The uprising of the natives:

* They become men because of the settlers
* The men they fight against wish to make them 'beasts of burden'
* "The half natives are still humans, through the power and the weakness of the oppressor which is transformed within them into a stubborn refusal of the animal condition".
* The different tribes fight between each other since they cannot face the real enemy

Violence is a good thing - When the natives rage boils over, he rediscovers his lost innocence and he comes to know himself in that he himself creates his self.

When a native is beaten, ill and terrified, he understands only the language of violence.

Satre states that Fanon's work does not necessarily need a preface. He argues that he has merely written one to bring the argument to its conclusion, pointing out that Europe is being decolonised too. "The settler which is in every one of us is being savagely rooted out".

There are different ways in which the coloniser strengthens his hold over the oppressed. In certain places, the mother-country will form a native bourgeoisie and give rise to different factions.

Satre is soon to highlight the fact that the peasant classes must hold power. Unlike the Bourgeoisie and the proletariat, they suffer the most. Satre describes the poor as the 'most revolutionary class'.

For Satre, the movement of revolution is a positive thing. It can reform a nation and prevents power from reaching the Bourgeoisie. The natives are in danger of losing their true identity.


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