A Comment Most Awesome.
This is a comment made by the amazing Mia (ephemere on DW if you’re interested) on my thread on steampunk postcoloniality. Just to say, she is one of my greatest inspirations for writing the stuff I do. I’m not going to link to the thread because I know some of you will just hop on over and witness the fail and I don’t really feel like distressing more people than necessary, but you must must must read Mia’s response:
the effects of Western Colonialism on those citizens of former colonies who are TOO YOUNG TO HAVE EXPERIENCED THEM.
How dare you make the assumption of lack of damage or effect and dismiss the lived experiences of myself and millions of other people like me — people who were not alive at the time that our countries were under colonial rule but who bear imprinted on our bodies and on our tongues and seared into our brains the scars and the ashes, the undeniably damaging effects, of our colonial history. Because (apparently you seem to have missed it) the past shapes the present, and thus I am a product not only of a present life in a country casually dismissed as a Third World Source of Cheap Labor, but also of an inherited legacy and an all-too-significant collective past wherein my ancestors were taught to at once bow to our white colonizers and to idolize their ways, to submit and to obey, to act in accordance with what they believed befit the stations in life of those who were born in their colonies.
Do you want to play a game of cause and effect? Let me show you my pieces. Here is a tongue twisted out of shape into learning English as its primary tongue, because English was and still is the language of the educated and fluency in my native tongue is given only passing weight. Here is a body wrapped in skin that I have hated for decades because I have been taught sowell that White is Beautiful and Brown is Less. Here is a spine coiled so well into patterns of subservience that I still find myself automatically deferring just a little bit more to USAmericans solely because of their nationalities, even on matters where I am not supposed to defer; I find myself needing to show that I am a Good Member of My Nationality, that I too know English, that I am just as worthy of respect as they. Here are the social skills and responses of one who was brought up in a society carefully manipulated by USAmericans to aid their colonial rule — the hierarchy they supported and reinforced, of elites and masses, of “more” and “less”, is in my blood, do you understand? Can you understand? Here are hands and eyes shaped by hours of imbibing Western values and Western ideologies because clearly they are so much more sophisticated and superior; here is a self living in a territory that has time and again worked against its own interests simply because imperialistic ideologies pervade it so thoroughly that our officials and our workers and the vast majority of our people think it a greater wrong to say ‘no’ to the West than to say ‘yes’ to our own survival. I say to you now: in our economy and in our arts and in our labor and in our philosophy, in our daily speech and in the way we regard ourselves, we are caged by so many unseen barriers we are still in the process of identifying them, and these traps are neither invention nor figment of the imagination.
Can you really tell me that I am not a victim of colonialism? Because I will have to strenuously object, and I should think I know better than you what I live with everyday and what I do not. It is not self-pity. It is not delusion. Colonialism is there, sunk into our laws and into our psyches, into our everyday interactions with media and pop culture, into the tongues of market vendors and negotiators in the upper echelons of power. How can you say that there are no victims when time and again those who live with the debris of the past every day, those who struggle with the way it presses up, over and over, against our skin, decry it for all the ruin it has wrought on our societies and our souls and our nations? Will you pile grievous erasure upon grievous erasure? Will you erase our grief along with the memory of our dead? Do you think once the bodies sink out of sight they are forgotten?
Finally, do you really think colonialism is dead? Please. I live in a country where policy considerations, both domestic and foreign, are still governed largely by what our supposedly former colonial master wishes for us. The drive for empire is alive and well. It has just taken on different forms.