The Wretched of the Earth
By Frantz Fanon
Published by Penguin Books (1967)
DECADES after many African countries colonised by France have attained independence, France is still ‘robbing’ its former colonies.
Like a blood-sucking leech, France still clings to its former colonies.
Not only is she stalling the economic, social and political development of its former colonies, France maintains a tight dominion in Francophone Africa, both to serve its interests and maintain a lasting stronghold of imperial prestige.
Despite the Francophone countries being independent, France still claims it has the first right to buy any natural resources found on the territory of its ex-colonies.
In other words, these countries are still at the mercy of their former coloniser.
There are reports which highlight the heavy presence of French companies in West and Central African countries in order to siphon resources such as uranium ore from Niger and Gabon or cocoa from Ivory Coast.
This scenario is a reflection of how the colonial master continues to perpetuate agreements crafted at the Berlin Conference by Europeans in 1884-85 – a gathering that sealed the fate of Africans in their absence.
The book under review this week is The Wretched of the Earth by the late philosopher Frantz Fanon.
It is a book that brings to the fore the effects of colonisation on an individual and a nation.
The Wretched of the Earth is a rich book, full of information that can be used to decolinise the mind of humans who suffered directly and indirectly from colonisation.
Written more than three decades ago, the book tackles issues of hypocrisy of the former colonisers and their cunning methods of milking Africa’s abundant resources.
Fanon does not only highlight the economic conditions of Third World countries, but bemoans their social organisation which is under threat from cultural imperialism.
“Colonialism does not simply state the existence of tribes: it also reinforces it and separates them,” writes Fanon.
Fanon also addresses issues to do with identity, violence, spontaneity and national consciousness.
He argues the end of colonisation does not mean the colonial master stopped crafting new ways to loot and exploit resources in the Third World countries.
“During the colonial period, the people are called upon to fight against poverty, illiteracy and underdevelopment. The struggle, they say, goes on. The people realise that life is an unending contest,” puts it Fanon.
It is against this background the whiteman first introduced slave trade to benefit from free labour before coming with new ideas of colonising Africa.
Now that most African countries are independent, a dependency syndrome has been instilled in Africans by the whiteman so that they can continue looking to developed countries for aid, development and modernisation.
Like a realist, Fanon says it is a matter of interests that bind developed and developing countries.
Writes Fanon: “The settler makes history and is conscious of making it.
And because he constantly refers to the history of his mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother-country.
Thus the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he plunders but the history of his own nation in regard to all that she skims off, all that she violates and starves.”
When he talks about identity, Fanon clearly points out that the coloniser creates an entire mindset of submission and inferiority complex on the part of the colonised.
The colonial master depicts the colonised as absolutely evil and sometimes goes as far as depicting the colonised as sub-humans or mere animals.
Fanon’s argument highlights the perception that Joseph Conrad reflects in Heart of Darkness when he presents the blackman as ‘barbaric’ and ‘backward’.
The Wretched of the Earth is a book that shows that to decolonise a human being means creating a people with an entirely different mindset, people who identify with freedom rather than submission.
In other words, freedom must not be given, but must be attained.
Writes Fanon: “To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech.
What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
The Wretched of the Earth is a must-read.
It is an eye-opener that emancipates the mind.