I am taking a class on Non-Western Literature. One of my texts is the very excellent Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction, by Robert J.C. Young. This book is totally rocking my world. Having considered myself a good little liberal for several years now, I thought I was fairly well-versed in the concepts of occupation and colonialism, and sweet Heaven on Earth, I am very, very clearly not at all well versed. Some things I read and am still chewing on:
The European brings…a notion of property and the proper, of ownership and possession.
The nomad works the land, has an intimate relation to the land, but does not affiliate him- or herself to it in a relation of property or ownership. The relationship is rather a sacred and ancestral one. (p52)
The absence of traditional links to land, history and culture explains why the US has to make an identity for itself out of its liberal state ideology (democracy, liberty, free enterprise capitalism), and why it has to create demonic enemies which are alleged to threaten its very existence (successively: witchcraft, Chinese immigrants, communism, Hispanics who won’t speak the state’s official language English, African killer bees, Islam…). These enemies serve to make all its different people feel collectively threatened, and therefore to bond with each other. (p61)
In reading these passages, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of rightness, of having someone else express so clearly for me the vague thoughts I’ve been chasing down for years. And now, with the clarity found in these few simple sentences, I’m led to question so much of what I thought I already understood – the concept of ownership, in particular, and my engagement in a capitalist culture.
Learning is so fucking cool.