“The settler makes history and is conscious of making it. And because he constantly refers to the history of his mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother-country. Thus, the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he plunders but the history of his own nation in regard to all that she skims off, all that she violates and starves.”Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Origins of the Quote
It was understood that the colonized were imprisoned by thought first, and an overarching ideology that they had no way of battling. It was not a fair fight. What is termed ‘revolution’ from the people who were fighting for their land and identities, was in fact a fight for independence.
According to Fanon, the only chance that the colonized people held for achieving freedom from degradation was removing western influence. Through this act, their society and community would be purged. Fanon’s “collective catharsis”, is subject to much debate. This is owing to the advocacy of violent means. This was directed at European colonizers and their collaborators. But in all fairness, it was the vocabulary that he was talking about.
There was no polite and bloodless take-over of cultures. So, if the nations needed to rise to economic and socio-political independence – they would have to make a choice. This is the point that Fanon makes through his book. His quote is a detailed understanding of the route that exploitation takes.
The Person Behind the Words
Franz Fanon (1925-1962) was a psychiatrist and philosopher. A renowned thinker and center of many discussions, for his seminal work on colonisation ideologies. The destructive patterns of racism and cultural subjugation that were brought to the fore are critical to modern society. He was a student of medicine and received his psychiatric education at the University of Lyon. He also served as the head of the psychiatry department at the Blida-Joinville Hospital in French-occupied Algeria.
In 1954 he joined the Algerian liberation movement. During this time he honed his insights, which would embellish armory of books and literature that he created, before succumbing to Leukaemia at the age of 36.
Some Final Thoughts
Fanon’s words in “The Wretched of the Earth” are a testimony to the ravages of colonization, and their lasting impact. An impact so deep that the ‘Third World’ countries would take centuries to eradicate the effects and reach economic, political and cultural maturity. While the settlers took over the natives of the land – under the larger umbrella of their ‘mother-land’ – their own ideology created monsters. Each settler ran high on the sense that he was entitled and undoubtedly superior.
Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand-picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration, and thought-provoking words.