Title: The Wretched of the Earth
Author: Franz Fanon
Publisher: Grove Press (2004)
A significant portion of post-colonial States sing from one hymn of neo-colonial presence, poverty, minimal industrial output and political oppression. Unaffordable commodity prices, dilapidated health facilities and unemployment also rule the roost. To many, a change of leadership face is the only way-out.
Well, when Franz Fanon penned one of the most famous chapters an African can ever read, The Pitfalls of National Consciousness in The Wretched of the Earth, his primary concern might have been limited to the first transitional phase from colonial to liberation movement leadership, but his theoretical basis continues to play the role of compass to those like us, who seek to see beyond the smokescreen of political propaganda, mind games and euphemisms.
I realise that, though regrettable, at the back of every manifestation of transitional movement is a cloud of hope, donned by all, anticipating that whatever movement that they are participating in, the outcome shall be of the universal good of all that participate in and maybe also reside in a nation State.
The primary thesis of Fanon’s writing is grounded on the exploration of the art of leadership replacement rather than leadership renewal. The primary reason why a movement leader, as in the case of the bourgeoisie who takes over power from colonial rule, is to replace the colonial force and be the new leadership frame, verbatim.
It is the clear reason why, after many years since their rise, mostly, nothing has changed, but the failure of the colonial system. The reason, as Fanon explores, is that, all they have is the desire to take on the helm of leadership and not the vital knowledge expected from being a captain of the ship.
Truthfully, “They have nothing more than an approximate, bookish acquaintance with the actual and potential resources of their country’s soil and mineral resources on a general and abstract plane.”
This is the reason why, many a times locally, we hear of indications of the presence of gold, diamond, gas and whichever other ground deposit all being assumed to be present and without any inch of certainty attached to it. As a result, the African continent loses to those that hold the knowledge.
Again, of note is that, to know that, when there is a trophy hunt, bliss will surely not descend to everyone’s pathway is elementary knowledge that many do not have in-between their esteemed bookish knowledge systems.
Fanon’s prophetic realisation reads: “National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallisation of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and most obvious result of the mobilisation of the people, will be in any case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been.”
This too, is the epilogue invisibly attached to each one and every movement that befalls my beloved continent. But as I said, it remains some form of truth despised by people, blinded by the euphoria of indulgence and the prospect of winning bets. They hope, leaders’ dreams and tools are all encompassing, but that is not it.
This unfortunate ending comes not because of fate or of nature, but because of the nature of the people who, at most, champion the cause. First of all, the leader personnel is human too and for being human, he’s bound to err.
The cycle is best explored by Fanon’s truthfully revealing writing. “The people who for many years on end have seen this leader and heard him speak, who from a distance, in a kind of dream, have followed his contests with the political power, spontaneously put their trust in this patriot. Before independence, the leader generally embodies the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty, and national dignity. But as soon as independence is declared, far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people in what touches bread, land and the restoration of the country to the country to the sacred hands of the people, the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general president of that company of profiteers impatient for their returns which constitute the national bourgeoisie.”
My words cannot do more, save to dilute what Fanon actually penned. Writing on, he unravels the gullibility of institutions of leadership, removing their camouflage hidden behind impressive, but deeply banal manifestos and speeches.
The chapter further hints: “When such parties are questioned on the economic programme of the State they are clamouring for, or on the nature of the regime which they propose to install, they are incapable of replying, because, precisely, they are completely ignorant of the economy of their country.”
As he famously wrote, the leadership formulation is an underdeveloped one. It lakes, “…the dynamic, pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and of the discoverer of new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies”.
As present day presents, movement leaders awaken people, with all their might, but what is not clear to many is that, all this is done to catapult him to the throne, but upon that, the leader will become thorough in dampening the spirit, that which makes the people hope to explore all possibilities of progression; for because of his lack of capabilities, he will have failed to take the people to the promised land.
Fanon explains, “During the struggle for liberation, the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to sleep, and three to four times a year asks them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since then”.
Faced by perennial hardships, “…the immoderate money-making of the bourgeois caste, and its widespread scorn for the rest of the nation will harden thought and action”. But the ending will remain the same.
And so the million-dollar question stands unanswered, will the leader of the new wave of opposition politics escape these world systems? For who is he to escape the pathway which the liberation movement leadership took, when the enemy playing underhand tactics is just, but the same and with the same intent of looting Africa and keeping it on the position of perennial consumer and not of producer?
Until the curse is broken, according to Fanon, there will surely be more hard Easter holidays for the African citizen, whether there being leadership changes or not, for they understand not the deep formula that turns the wheels of the world around, beyond the tribal and the nitty gritty complexes that they might be best equipped to fight.