Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Storming The Bastille
The Wretched Of the Earth

Paris is burning says David Ignatius in an op-ed piece in this morning’s Washington Post [1]. Sadly he is right. France is being engulfed by flames that have been steadily smoldering since the end of WW II and the end of French colonialism. He rightly says that the race issue in France has been a conflagration waiting to happen. He quotes James Baldwin as saying in the 1970s, “"someday it (racial tension) will explode." Right he was. However Baldwin never had his finger fully on the pulse of race relations in France. He knew they were not right but he was never able to translate his truly insightful knowledge of race relations in America to an understanding of the French situation. To complete that understanding it would be helpful to turn to Frantz Fanon [2], a French revolutionary in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.

Fanon was born on the French island of Martinique in the Caribbean. He came from a family background of African slaves and indentured servants. Even though he grew up under the burden of French colonialism he fought with the Free French Army during WW II and was a decorated hero. He went to school in France and became a psychiatrist. He began writing on race and colonialism in the early ‘50s. He supported a doctrine of violence in overthrowing colonialism and imperialism. He has been an influence on groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang in the ‘60s and ‘70s to al Qaeda of today.

With the possible exception of Gandhi, Fanon’s understanding of race and colonialism is not to be surpassed. His call to violence is intolerable but for anyone with a desire to understand our chaotic world of today, his writings are essential.

[1] Why France Is Burning

[2] Frantz Fanon

The Bush Credo - No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Others To Make.

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