Zitat des Tages (2)

Niemand muß dich extra zwingen
wenn du selber mitmachst
niemand muß dich gleichschalten
wenn du dich selber gleichsetzt
um auf dem Markt zu konkurrieren
und dich vergleichen zu können
um zu den Siegern und nicht
zu den Verlieren zu gehören

Aus dem Song Der Tausch (Verschwörung aller gegen alle) von Egotronic feat. classless Kulla.

Das ist eine außergewöhnlich gute und genaue Feststellung, daß eben nicht die anderen (die da oben!) Schuld haben und man selbst Opfer oder wenigstens innocent bystander ist. So ist es eben nicht. Aber es hat sich so in alle Diskurse gefressen, daß alles, was man dagegen sagt, wie Worte in den Wind zu sprechen ist. Diese Haltung sorgt dann auch dafür, daß die großen Problemfelder der Gegenwart, wie class, race und gender, davon weitgehend unberührt geblieben sind. Streckenweise wird es klar nur noch bei Leuten wie Butler, Gilroy, Müller und Roediger. Für den, der es lesen kann. Kann das überwunden werden? Und was danach?
“Plonger […] [a]u fond de l’inconnu, pour trouver du nouveau!”

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Oh! Oh! Sarko, c’est rigolo!

The President of France, Sarkozy, who supports the highly problematic idea of DNA tests for immigrants, (which, granted, isn’t racist per se, this is dependent on the exact phrasing)has once more shown his colors. Among many other things he said today in a speech in Dakar two frankly outrageous thing, which should lead to his having to resign, but most likely won’t have any effect like that. Bernard, in a piece for the online edition of le monde, highlights them:

Fidèle à lui-même, le président a absous les colonisateurs qui, certes, “ont pillé des ressources” et “ont eu tort” de le faire, mais étaient “sincères”.

le président a présenté l’Africain comme un homme prisonnier de sa culture, marqué par l’irrationalité et l’incapacité d’envisager le futur. “Le drame de l’Afrique, a-t-il déclaré, c’est que l’homme africain n’est pas assez entré dans l’Histoire (…). Jamais il ne s’élance vers l’avenir (…). Dans cet univers où la nature commande tout (…), il n’y a de place ni pour l’aventure humaine ni pour l’idée de progrès.”

The great thing is that Le Monde has posted the whole speech and it is loads of fun to revel in it. After having first said, through various uses of the sentence “Ils ont eu tort” (they were wrong), that the European colonizers of Africa did wrong in colonizing it and doing it the way they did, he continues to somewhat absolve the colonizing movement of their guilt (if you wonder why I quote so extensively from the speech, Le Monde’s online edition isn’t online for free for longer than a week or so, so this post will still be readable when some of the links become defunct)

Le colonisateur est venu, il a pris, il s’est servi, il a exploité, il a pillé des ressources, des richesses qui ne lui appartenaient pas. Il a dépouillé le colonisé de sa personnalité, de sa liberté, de sa terre, du fruit de son travail.

Il a pris mais je veux dire avec respect qu’il a aussi donné. Il a construit des ponts, des routes, des hôpitaux, des dispensaires, des écoles. Il a rendu fécondes des terres vierges, il a donné sa peine, son travail, son savoir. Je veux le dire ici, tous les colons n’étaient pas des voleurs, tous les colons n’étaient pas des exploiteurs.

Il y avait parmi eux des hommes mauvais mais il y avait aussi des hommes de bonne volonté, des hommes qui croyaient remplir une mission civilisatrice, des hommes qui croyaient faire le bien. Ils se trompaient mais certains étaient sincères. Ils croyaient donner la liberté, ils créaient l’aliénation. Ils croyaient briser les chaînes de l’obscurantisme, de la superstition, de la servitude. Ils forgeaient des chaînes bien plus lourdes, ils imposaient une servitude plus pesante, car c’étaient les esprits, c’étaient les âmes qui étaient asservis. Ils croyaient donner l’amour sans voir qu’ils semaient la révolte et la haine.

La colonisation n’est pas responsable de toutes les difficultés actuelles de l’Afrique. Elle n’est pas responsable des guerres sanglantes que se font les Africains entre eux. Elle n’est pas responsable des génocides. Elle n’est pas responsable des dictateurs. Elle n’est pas responsable du fanatisme. Elle n’est pas responsable de la corruption, de la prévarication. Elle n’est pas responsable des gaspillages et de la pollution.

I cannot possibly comment on that without writing at least 20 pages of rebuttal, but this part of his speech is so blatantly ignorant, that it provides its own commentary, basically, doesn’t it? With texts like these, quoting them is more than enough to expose their authors. The other scrumptious parts I let Bernard quote, and apart from these passages, the speech basically becomes a plea for “young africans” to stay at home (don’t come to us) and rebuild their…er…country? Yes, it’s ONE country, Africa, didn’t you know that. Oh God. One might think of pushing books by Paul Gilroy (see also my blog entry on Gilroy here) for this on Sarkozy, and Frantz Fanon as well, who would come in handy in many other places in his fun speech. Even a text that doesn’t carry as much philosophical weight as it used to like Said’s Orientalism (still a very readable book) would broaden this president’s horizons, one feels. As an aside, doesn’t he remind you of Giuliany a lot as well? Strange.
Whatever. Finally, he wraps his speech up by telling the “young africans” that they can change their country all by themselves, with a little help by their French friends. The gall! I’ll quote a good portion of it:

Jeunes d’Afrique, vous voulez le développement, vous voulez la croissance, vous voulez la hausse du niveau de vie.

Mais le voulez-vous vraiment ? Voulez-vous que cessent l’arbitraire, la corruption, la violence ? Voulez-vous que la propriété soit respectée, que l’argent soit investi au lieu d’être détourné ? Voulez-vous que l’État se remette à faire son métier, qu’il soit allégé des bureaucraties qui l’étouffent, qu’il soit libéré du parasitisme, du clientélisme, que son autorité soit restaurée, qu’il domine les féodalités, qu’il domine les corporatismes ? Voulez-vous que partout règne l’État de droit qui permet à chacun de savoir raisonnablement ce qu’il peut attendre des autres ?

Si vous le voulez, alors la France sera à vos côtés pour l’exiger, mais personne ne le voudra à votre place.

Voulez-vous qu’il n’y ait plus de famine sur la terre africaine ? Voulez-vous que, sur la terre africaine, il n’y ait plus jamais un seul enfant qui meure de faim ? Alors cherchez l’autosuffisance alimentaire. Alors développez les cultures vivrières. L’Afrique a d’abord besoin de produire pour se nourrir. Si c’est ce que vous voulez, jeunes d’Afrique, vous tenez entre vos mains l’avenir de l’Afrique, et la France travaillera avec vous pour bâtir cet avenir.

Vous voulez lutter contre la pollution ? Vous voulez que le développement soit durable ? Vous voulez que les générations actuelles ne vivent plus au détriment des générations futures ? Vous voulez que chacun paye le véritable coût de ce qu’il consomme ? Vous voulez développer les technologies propres ? C’est à vous de le décider. Mais si vous le décidez, la France sera à vos côtés.

Vous voulez la paix sur le continent africain ? Vous voulez la sécurité collective ? Vous voulez le règlement pacifique des conflits ? Vous voulez mettre fin au cycle infernal de la vengeance et de la haine ? C’est à vous, mes amis africains, de le décider . Et si vous le décidez, la France sera à vos côtés, comme une amie indéfectible, mais la France ne peut pas vouloir à la place de la jeunesse d’Afrique.

Some days ago, Sarko visited the US and had an enormous success, according to an assessment in the NYTimes

“It’s safe to say that you’ve impressed a lot of people here on your journey,” Mr. Bush said, calling Mr. Sarkozy “the kind of fellow I like to deal with.”

Really telling was this remark, which should have prevented us (well, me) to be surprised by Sarko’s disastrous speech in Dakar today

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said of Mr. Sarkozy’s performance: “You just heard a Ronald Reagan speech from a president of France. It was an almost out-of-body experience for all of us.”

[…]

In his speech and the news conference with Mr. Bush, Mr. Sarkozy pledged to be a strong partner with the United States against terrorism and to keep French troops in Afghanistan as long as needed in the NATO-led mission to bring stability.

On Paul Gilroy’s "The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity"

(Fußnoten sind in eckigen Klammern in den Text integriert)

Paul Gilroy’s text, “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity”, the first chapter of his book on the Black Atlantic, struggles to arrive at a clean notion of ‘blackness’. His problems, however are due to the same problems he shows ‘Cultural Studies’ to have, moreover, problems, that most academical writing informed by modernity struggles with. So his own difficulties are symptomatic for the topic he discusses and they might resurface in my own discussion of his text.

There have been many definitions of what would constitute the ‘modern’ or ‘modernity’, but modernity’s roots in the Enlightenment [ Of course, Gilroy oversimplifies how influences worked at that crucial time. How the Romantics resurrected the racialized idea of the nation and used it against ‘scientific’ tendencies, in short, how the Enlightenment as the Age of Reason and the Romantics as the resurrectors of ‘culture’ have worked together to produce Modernity has not been considered by Gilroy, yet these are minor disagreements; they would not have an impact on his thesis.] have always been stressed. The so-called Age of Reason is usually evoked whenever politicians or academics attack ‘intolerance’ and ‘racism’. Yet that same age has not only been instrumental in inventing the modern nation-state, it also helped racializing culture via the “fatal junction of the concept of nationality with the concept of culture” (2). The crucial aspect was the notion of a racial community of members of the same nation. Germans were Germans because they were linked by blood [2 Blood, as a juridical marker of Germanness was kept until 1996, which explains many racialized arguments in this country, but not similar arguments in others. Gilroy’s argument, however, holds true for all of the ‘West’.] and culture. The same applied to Britishness. Thus, Britishness or Germanness took on a transcendent meaning. And British persons and Germans were, racially speaking, considered white [3 And Christians, of course. In the same period of time, modern Antisemitism was born from a cluster of notions similar to the cluster considered by Gilroy].

The racialization of culture is most obvious when the major role of ‘blackness’ (not darkness) as a trope in early 19th century lectures and discussions on aesthetics, which could be said to provide a foundation for most of modern aesthetics [4 This is of course a bold claim, but I think its true, considering the extent to which major claims of Hegel’s lectures in Jena and A.W. Schlegel’s lectures in Berlin keep resurfacing in modern aesthetics.], is considered. Thus, blackness, as the other, has been ingrained in the very basis of modern thought and writing. The idea of the black man as the adversary has long since become part of cultural thought and the identity of ‘Germans’ and ‘the British’ has for a long time been white. To black Europeans or Americans this has been a major problem, as they could not partake of the identity of their nation. As a result the idea of an African ‘homeland’ and of a black history arose that is -examined closely- basically identical to the history of Africa and the history of the Middle Passage. Thus, black empowerment, instead of changing anything about racist attitues, was intrumental in creating a nation for blacks.

However, blacks were not only in so far part of the creation of Modernity as they served as a trope. Gilroy stresses the extent to which blacks have been actively participating in crucial movements in ‘white’ history, from “Columbus’ pilot, Pedro Nino” (16) to the likes of Olaudah Equiano, who was involved “in the beginnings of organized working-class politics” (12). In the realm of whites, blacks were only seen as a victimized people, never as agents. Purportedly emancipated branches of cultural studies which are concerned with the study of blacks, reinforce that impression by reiterating the nation/culture juncture, the nation being, in this case, Africa. The consequence of these studies is the identity, for instance, of the Black American as the exception to the (white) rule. Gilroy’s focus on the Enlightenment makes clear to what extent the racialized notions of nation and culture have informed the tacit racism on Campuses around the world, and how much of it went unnoticed by scholars.

The difference in method in Gilroy’s text is the emphasis on traveling. Instead of focusing on nations as creators of culture, he creates the Black Atlantic as the epitome of travel. The Atlantic, upon which black slaves were carried from Africa to America, but upon which black captains, too, navigated on many routes. From the ships going back and forth several were built by blacks, and books and ideas crossing the Atlantic were -in part- written by blacks. The trope of the Black Atlantic, in other words, serves to destabilize the notion of stable cultural identities.

Gilroy proposes a “theorization of […] hybridity”, which would still (of course) be based on black and white identities, which is where Gilroy’s problems with the notion of ‘blackness’ enter, but focusing on travel and not on the awkward construction of a ‘homeland’ might very well be the way out of the trap set by Enlightenment, which ensured that you cannot dispense of talking about black and white if you do not want to drag these concepts along implicitly. However, using the Black Atlantic as a trope for the inbetween, these identities do not fuse (as this would create only new ‘stable’ identities), but instead, they are disregarded, losing their power in a theory concentrating on the fluidity of identities instead of their stableness.

*

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