Frantz FANON
Paulette NARDAL
Price MARS
Jacques-Stephen ALEXIS
Léon-Gontran DAMAS
Edouard Jacques MAUNICK
Saint-John PERSE
Maximilien LAROCHE
Aude-Emmanuelle HOAREAU

Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire and « Barbaries », according to Philippe Triay
Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire and « Barbaries », according to Philippe Triay

Attending a « Living Together Better » event in the City Hall of Paris’ 15th district – on the 1-year anniversary of the tragic BATACLAN concert hall attack – I was sitting next to a talented poet and journalist without knowing it.

Philippe Triay covers stories at FranceTelevision and has origins from Martinique, one of the Antilles islands of the French Republique. Not far from Puerto Rico, this beautiful region is also birthplace to  extraordinarily engaged writers and intellectuals, such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon.

In fact, reading these names on the book covers sitting before Mr Triay, piqued my interest. But little did I expect to discover a blending of these men’s ideas – two people I always thought rather different in temperment, but who nevertheless both worked tirelessly for social justice and equality until the end – in the form of philosophical essays, and poetry !

Aimé Fernand David Césaire  who died in 2008, was a Francophone poet, author and politician, and « one of the founders of the négritude movement in Francophone literature, » according to Wikipedia. His Discours sur le colonialisme (Discourse on Colonialism, translated in 1957) is an essay describing the strife between colonizers and the colonized.

As for Frantz Fanon who died in 1961, he was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer, whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism, according to a Wiki article. As an intellectual, Fanon was considered a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization, and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization.

It is not difficult to see links between them. However they were quite different in their application of ideas and regions of activity. For example, although Césaire focused most of his writing and political work on Martinique and France, Fanon went to Algeria and eventually participated directly in Algerian Independence activities.

In his work as psychiatrist at Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital, Fanon began « socio-therapy » to connect with his patients’ cultural backgrounds. What a pioneer ! So he was therefore an early interculturalist !   Fanon also trained nurses and interns, after which he joined the Front de Libération Nationale  in 1955.

Near the end of his life, in defense of the use of violence by colonized peoples Fanon argued that people who are not considered as equal human beings (by the colonizer), should not be bound by principles that apply to humanity generally, in their attitude towards the colonizer.  Reportedly his book was censored by the French government. — Not hard to imagine…

As a Buddhist I will never support the idea of war resolving conflicts, so my belief is similar to Mahatma Gandhi who argued that « blood just begets blood. » Or, like reflected in his comment, that if we all support the doctrine of « an eye for an eye, » we’ll all end up blind ! Therefore I can’t condone the violent approach aspect of Frantz Fanon. However, the Buddhist view doesn’t passivly accept injustice, either.

For example, I feel utter disgust when I hear a French person trying to justify the colonization of Algeria, saying, « We helped them in so many ways that they never could have gotten otherwise. » – This is just wrong. This will never, in one thousand years, justify the horrors and humiliations that millions were subjected to, for 135 years. And in my book, it is exactly the same principle whether it is US white peoples’ treatment of blacks or Amerindians, or Israeli treatment of Palestinians, or white North African’s treatment of Black Africans. Or, the Japanese toward other Asians, etc etc !

No person is « better » or « worse », of higher/lower level, than another human being. There is nothing « genetically » hierarchical among human communities.

When universal Human Rights are understood the way they should be, all of this becomes a moot point. (I’m truly hoping the United Nations resolution of December 19, 2011 for Human Rights education*, will bear fruit in the near future. Please see footnote for information on the commemorative event of 14 Sept, 2016 in Geneva. ). But it is unfortunately very profitable to ignore this truth. So our leaders need to develop enough moral courage to admit this, and resist the pressures of financial and strategic interests. But of course, this will only be possible when ordinary citizens rise up in solidarity around the globe and demand this from them. –  Personally for me, the appearance of the likes of Bernie Sanders in the USA and all the young people who supported him, was a great encouragement, for this very reason.

How it is possible that colonized communities can sometimes identify with a colonizer?  I think an echo can be found in the « paradox of power » theories in dominant / submissive relationships in the field of psychology. But there is surely much more to be said about all of this.

In any case, the precious reflections of these men Fanon and Césaire, merit renewed study. They were grappling with a post-WWII world moving like a tidal wave toward decolonization, and with all the complexity that entailed. And perhaps we are now once again, at another moment of historical change. With great challenges, but also, huge opportunities.

So I hope Philippe Triay is someone who can reintroduce such topics to new generations, and hopefully, minus violent tensions swirling around ideas of independence, but without any fear of facing historical truths. He told me he hopes his works of poetry titled « Pour une lecture fanonian de Césaire »(« For a Fanonian reading of Césaire ») and « Barbaries », will make the ideas of these two intellectual giants more accessible.

Our world can surely learn from their insights. Not only in France, but also of course, in enlarged studies of Majority-Minority relations in the United States.

– Peace, from Paris


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