File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 101

Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2001 20:52:10 +0100
Subject: colonial thoughts and the other


Back in the early 19th C the differences in living standards, for 
example, between a British working class person and an Indian farmer 
were relatively insignificant compared to the differences that separated 
both of them from their ruling classes. By the end of Victoria's reign, 
however, the inequality of nations was as profound as the inequalities 
of classes. Humanity had been divided. It is worth remembering that the 
''prisoners of starvation'' who the Communist international urges to 
rise up, were modern inventions of the late Victorian world as were 
electric lights, machine guns, Eugenics and fascism. In a recent shift, 
everyone has been harking back to his or her origins, you may have 
noticed it. Some proudly claim their French, Russian, Celtic, Slovene, 
Moslem, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, or American roots and why shouldn't 
they? I suggest it may happen that the former turn into the latter and 
the latter into the former, normally according to the political 
situation and the changes in the economic and social situation. Related 
to this of course are the struggles around human identity that we humans 
have been engaged in for nearly a million years, one that has recently 
lost some of its ideological masks and is being carried out protected 
only by the mythical points of its origins. (This collapse may only be 
scrutinised in wonder) The crisis in values caused by the familiar 
collapse of the much discussed post modern and the resultant 
fragmentation of individuals has reached a point where we no longer know 
what we are and take shelter, to preserve an understanding of 
personality, under the most massive and regressive common signs: 
national origins and the faith of our predecessors. Consider the 
following phrase said to me recently ''I don't know who I am or even if 
I am, but I belong with my national and religious roots therefore I 
follow them..." So this of course ends up with the cult of the others 
and its linked cult of the origins which is a hatred of the other - a 
fear of the other, the stranger.

Perhaps you are interpreting the above as a possible savage critique of 
Bin Laden. Not so, for it doesn't work that way - in his recent media 
responses he does not attack my way of life, he does attack the West, 
the woman's movement, short skirts gender equality and so on, No he 
attacks the support of Israel, the treating of his fellow Moslems as 
colonial objects, the colonial objective... (As israel engages in more 
state terroism against the palestinians is it possible to object... the 
israeli minister assasinated earlier this week would have made a fine 
member of a 1930s fascist party...)

No the model is us - an extension of the 19thc colonial model dropping 
into the post-modern terror of the other, the stranger. The ongoing 
identification of the self through nationalism, religion, the other is 
end-orientated - it seeks to deal with our anxiety regarding death and 
the finite nature of our existence but enables the justification of the 
mass bombing of a small state at the end of the world... From this it's 
pretty clear that the task of democracy which should be to prevent the 
construction of conditions which create hatred, fear, terror and death, 
is not being successfully carried out... The opposite is the case - 
perhaps the colonial model is to strong in the social imaginaries of the 
G8 states...



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