"responsibility"

27 Oct

I’m gone all weekend starting at 8 something am tomorrow. Again. Last weekend I had to leave at 7 something am on saturday, so i guess this is improvement. This isn’t the most convenient weekend to leave with a few papers and a midterm and a few exams coming up, oh yeah and Halloween, but realistically, no weekend is really that convenient to take off. Point being, tonight I read a book about the Algerian Revolution wrote a reading response because I’m trying this new thing called balance, and I want my fun time to be purely fun timewith no stress attached. Anyway, the book turned out to be really interesting. My reading response isn’t that interesting ,( are any reading responses interesting?) and the writing is crappy because its just a blackboard assignment but i think it’s important stuff to be aware of, therefore:

(wait, ps, there is a couple screaming outside my door right now. aw,cute. they are officially the most irrational people i have ever heard. this is entertaining)

A Dying Colonialism by Frantz Fanon was, for many years, banned in France for it’s sympathetic tone towards the Algerian cause regarding the Algerian Revolution from France during the late 1950’s. After reading A Dying Colonialism, I see why the French would find it advantageous to restrict circulation of this book in their country in order to preserve their national ego as a proper and civilized nation. In a post-war context, I suspect that the French would not be too surprised to discover details of the Algerian Revolution that are usually associated with war: mutual violence, torture, death, prisoners of war, people consciously choosing their country over their lives, etc. The more surprising and shameful realization the French people would have come to from this book would not be the drastically unequal ratio of Algerian lives lost over French lives, but rather the attempts and methods by which the French aimed to forcefully acculturate the Algerians to French ways. Killing a person is much more impermanent than killing a culture.
A tactic of cultural domination that Fanon discusses which powerfully struck me is the way in which France attempted to use the Algerian women as tools, staking claim to their bodies and space as justification and for the French ‘civilized’ presence in Algeria:“ We want to make the Algerian ashamed of the fate that he metes out to women (pg. 38).” This supposed dreadful fate was, in part, a reference to the veil and seclusion. If France were to succeed in making the Algerian men feel guilty about this aspect of their culture, and moreover, the women want to attain the same exhibition as French women, then the Algerians would be in a vulnerable state, placed below the French pedestal. Fanon explains that the French figured out to control the Algerian women was to control Algeria, and they implemented both tangible and rhetorical means to achieve this goal. French men would no longer only invite Algerian male co-workers alone to dine with them and their French wife, they would insist that the Algerian wife came too. The purpose of this was to expose the Algerian wife to the French wife, who seemingly had more power through association with her husband, the boss, was unveiled and unconfined. An Algerian man then faced a juxtaposition: risking resisting this form of derogatory exploitation of his culture by not bringing his wife and the possibility of losing his job, or to bring his wife and foster a hierarchy which systematically gnawed at the legitimacy of his culture. Fanon describes the prior choice using gendered language, stating that by bringing the Algerian wife he would be “…prostituting his wife, exhibiting her, abandoning a mode of resistance (pg.40).”
Such strong gendered language is not to be taken lightly, but in this situation I think it effectively gets across the dynamic of using solely the body- not the character- of a woman for the satisfaction of a person other than that woman. Fanon again uses gendered language to describe the overlying function of the French domination in Algeria through women: “ Every veil that fell, every body that became liberated from the traditional embrace of the haik, every face that offered itself to the bold and impatient glance of the occupier, was a negative expression of the fact that Algeria was beginning to deny herself and was accepting the rape of the colonizer (pg. 42).”
Because Fanon’s use of gendered language is so bold and frequent, I have pondered why the French-Algerian dispute is described as a rape instead of a war. The French ignoring the Algerian’s saying ‘no’ to the French penetration of Algeria, France forcing Algeria to remain under it’s submission, the French making the Algerians feel guilty about their culture and customs to silence and manipulate them, and the French claiming symbolic license to the bodies of the Algerian women are all facets of this conflict I came up with which have a strong correlation with the concept of rape. Also, militarism (in this case, the French) is often emasculated and countries (in this case, Algeria) are often described as female, makes the concept of a military rape of a foreign nation clearer.
However, I’m not confidant that using the word ‘rape’ to illustrate the dynamic between Algeria and France is beneficial to either party, or completely accurate. Rape is an act motivated by aggression; the French rape of Algeria was motivated by economics, entitlement, and a strange, arrogant drive to ‘civilize’ the world. A more distinct contrast is that the active or passive form of resistance that a rape victim uses to escape, like fighting back or disassociating, are not successful in a rape; Fanon is not regarding the as the ‘attempted rape’ of Algeria. The Algerian people did resist the French presence actively and passively, through arms and through boycotts and veiling, and Algeria did achieve self-determination. To paint Algeria as a victim of rape is to undermine all of the hard-work and resistance efforts put forth to avoid a completed rape.
Frantz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism has further helped me understand how nationalism and imperialism can play tug-o-war with women’s issues for their own personal gain.

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