Much of what I’m getting at here has to do with the way that Western society engages in the projective identification of “the colonial” as the excreta from its own body politic that it wishes to disown. (Cf. Melanie Klein and her definition of projective identification.)
So, “the colonial” is actually not anything real — but rather a defensive idea that the herd of Western society has developed as protection against its own inner knowledge of the imperial nature of Western society itself.
When I speak from the point of view of “the colonial”, I am also speaking not from the point of view of the one who was brought up in a colony, but rather from the point of view as one who has been conveniently scapegoated as that monster, “the colonial”.
For more, see comments.
According to Frantz Fanon, the black man wants to be white. [BLACK SKIN WHITE MASKS. p 63, “out of the blackest part of my soul ….surges the desire to be suddenly white”. Also: p 192, 193 — the “cultural imposition” of whiteness as an ethical imperative.]
If this is true, as it no doubt almost certainly is, then we can also go further to add an even deeper layer of complexity to this little historical nightmare that infuses us with the dynamics of contemporary identity politics. Let me explain how bad this gets:
For it wasn’t just about the blacks: Rather, the colonial white was one who wanted something, too. Above all, not to be a colonial, but to be more completely a Western Moderner, and to embrace some sort of metaphysical absolute.
The Western colonial, after all — and this is to say, most of the time — sincerely believed in his mission to be the paternalistic civilising force over the rampant lifestyle of the natives. He saw himself as the exact opposite of the iron fist in the velvet glove. In fact, he was to be the unyielding and severe face of civilisation, whilst turning a blind eye to all sorts of otherwise unconscionable behaviour in his “charges, which he felt obligated to dismiss as mere mischieviousness and/or childishness. This was the doubleness of soul that I grew up with. My teachers replicated it, one and all. It was the ostensible harshness, which much of the time melted, upon touch, into a kind of liquid and translucent quality of Christian spirit.
And yet the white colonial master no doubt found that his position in the world lacked the seriousness of an absolute morality. Thus, he was often tempted to lurch towards the morality of the West, with its single Modernist face, its one standard defining order, and its linearity in terms of logic.
Just as the black slave or black colonial man will often suffer from bad self esteem in relation to the representative normality of being white, so the white colonial, too, suffered a negative chip on his image — due to not being fully Western. It was the West that held the key to real dominance and power for him — just as “whiteness” held the key to power for the black man who was colonised.
The UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) of Rhodesia in 1965, making itself a sovereign state apart from the control of Britain was just such a lurch towards real power and at self-esteem. The palpable reality of this is well portrayed by the patriotic singing of John Edmond at the time. One of his songs, addressed to Britain, states the following concerning the UDI from Britain. Britain is cast as the parent who is obligated to let the mature colony go, as a parent lets go of a child, enabling it to fend for itself:
And now the eldest child has left
The parents and the home
And it can prove its worth
If it’s only left alone.
The psychology and the assertion of it were entirely justified: But, alas! What was the way that this child had found to assert its independence from its parent figure (Britain), apart from in a lurch toward a metaphysical absolute, in terms of overall cultural orientation?
What the Rhodesian leaders wanted was a release from the ambiguity of a caretaker role — the obligation to have a liquid and ever-giving Christian soul. They wanted power to be more well defined in the way that it was to be recognisably invested in them. They wanted, in effect, to rule upon the basis of real, political sovereignty. UDI was an attempt to harden the soul of the nation in such a way that those who sought a more Idealised and clear-cut identity — perhaps if I am right, one that was felt to be more respectably “Western” — could consolidate their rights to that identity, and raise their self-esteem vis-a-vis “the parent”.
Although the lurch of UDI was towards an ideological absolutism of identity, based on an impetus towards complete national sovereignty, the motivation for this lurch was (as I have explained) incredibly relative. It was intended as a movement towards a Modernist ideological framework — where everything was neatly categorisable and clear-cut. UDI was a movement away from the Christian’s obligation to the poor and needy and towards more self-centred and individualistic notion of identity (for its own sake). It was supposed to instantiate (on a political level) the typical psycho-social movement away from childhood, and towards owning oneself. And yet, for all that, it was a movement towards becoming more harder of heart, more fingertip freezing icy in individualistic disposition, and more absolute in an ideological determination to win the war at any cost. The mocking of the Westerners from the other side of the world only served to consolidate a psychological sense of being righteously indignant, thus consolidating the defiance and determination of the wayward colony, cast as “the adolescent”.
The struggle of the adolescent was to break free from its parent — with the sole purpose of becoming more like its parent (more Western). This is why, upon the defeat of the Rhodesian forces in 1979, many of the white colonials threw up their arms in glee (which was only 50 per cent mock glee) proclaiming their newfound freedom to emigrate from the colony in order to finally make themselves Westerners at last. Nothing else could possibly have given them so much pleasure as to lose their colonial home in order to find their “real” home in the West — to this day, this is what many of the displaced whites continue to insinuate.