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What is Decolonial Heroism?

24 Nov 2019 at 14:15hrs | Views
EVERY living philosophy has its dilemmas and frustrations. Philosophies, if they are not sophistry and charlatanry, always arise from perplexity.

The perplexity of decoloniality as a philosophy of liberation is the state of unfreedom in the world, especially in the Global South.

That the abolition of slavery and the end of colonialism in the Global South did not lead to liberation is a reality that frustrates decolonial philosophers and provokes them to their own reflections on oppression and the struggles against it.

Thus, decoloniality has a big problem with the present world system and the condition of the human. Decoloniality is interested in the reconstitution of the political and re-imagination of the world for the production of a new order of things.

The state of unfreedom in the world makes decoloniality an unhappy and also a very angry philosophy that has lost its temper.

Decoloniality has nothing to celebrate in a world that is still marked by coloniality in the form of later day imperialism, slavish forms of labour and employment, despotisms and tyrannies. Growing inequalities, poverty, the ecological crisis and the persecution of one by another along the lines of identity, difference and other politics makes decoloniality an agitated school of thought.  

If decoloniality is unhappy and refuses to celebrate the present order of things in the world as they are; it is important to ponder the subject of heroes and heroism.

Exactly what and who is heroic in a world such as ours.

The fundamental question is how possible is it to have heroes where there has not been revolutions. Where the poor mass of the people of the Global South are not free to be free because of poverty and fear.

Heroes are supposed to be gallant revolutionaries that live and die for the people, and with the people. There have been gallant anti-slavery and anti-colonial fighters that died fighting and others turned around to fight their own people, and others still just came to naught, sold out and became the new enslavers and colonisers of their own people.

In the Global South we may still adopt the protest in Ayi Kwei Armah novel of 1968 that: The Beautyful Ones are not yet born. The beautiful ones, those fighters and leaders of the Global South that will not be compromised and corrupted by Empire, that will not be tempted by power and money, and that will suffer for and with the people, are yet to be born.

Heroes are artefacts of the future that are yet to be seen in a present that is marked by dystopia. True heroes are the characters and actors in the fantastic movie of utopia.

Against War

Nelson Maldonado-Torres's book of 2008; Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity is representative of the way decolonial philosophy distastes war. Violence and the paradigm of war in general are resented as part of the Will to Power that the nihilist, Friedrich Nietzsche, expressed with glee and pleasure.

The present Euro-American Empire has ruled the world with a will to power and a paradigm of war that has become a world political culture. Even in the Global South states and countries have become part of the world-system and order of the will to power and its paradigm of war. Decoloniality as a philosophy of liberation abhors political violence, war and blood-letting. Only as a means to liberation and to the end of war itself are decolonists such as Frantz Fanon willing to endorse war. Paradoxically but truly, decolonists will only wage a war for purposes of peace and liberation, and only as a method of the very last resort where the enemy and opponent is a monster that can only be overcame by the creation of a greater monstrosity.

Contrary to Nietzsche and other nihilists, the true philosophers of politics and power in the ancient world were also opposed to or cautious about war.

It is Niccolo Machiavelli, the timeless schemer of power who in his own, Art of War, notes that: "It is unwise to finish with weapons what can be finished with words because wrong words can be corrected but wrong weapons certainly, at the end, lead to the peril of the commanders." War punishes populations but eventually eats the warriors and the commanders. Machiavelli thought that populations and leaders should trust in words and not weapons.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Sun Tsu, made famous the wisdom that the greatest victory in war is that which is achieved without the actual fighting. In his own famous book also titled, The Art of War, the Sun Tsu noted that: "If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's bidding."  And victory, according to the Sun Tsu is when nobody dies and where there is no drop of blood.

A war that involves the blood of the friends and that of the enemies cannot be won because all bloodshed and death is a loss to humanity.  Political victory that is at the expense of blood, the Sun Tsu thought, is not political victory at all.

What Ali Mazrui, in 1977, called and condemned as "the warrior tradition" is that politics that sees heroism in wars and battles.

Heroes in that kind of politics are battle-scared survivors or warriors that die fighting, killing and being killed. In 2004, Achille Mbembe also wrote a pulsating: Essay on Politics as a Form of Expenditure, where politics is styled as a war where people do not only spend time and lots of money but also their lives and the lives of others.

In that way politics becomes a wasteland where lives are cheap and power is expensive. In other words, this is true barbarism where the life of one must depend on the death of the other. In that order of things political power becomes the true art of eating others, drinking blood and creating corpses, sitting on a throne of skulls.

The powerful politician in that scheme of things is the one who is more feared than loved, the dark prince of a mafiadom.

Do the Heroes Exist?

My first philosophical temptation is to conclude that there are many people that walk around the world unnoticed that are actually heroes. And that there are many that are called heroes but are actually villains. They only enjoy positions of power and privilege that allow them to be called heroes.

My second philosophical temptation is to suspect that the very binary between heroes and villains is a misleading fallacy that hides the truth that heroes do not actually exist except in the excited imagination of their supporters, flatterers and sycophants.  

The paradigm of war, warrior politics, politics as expenditure and the will to power do not allow leaders to be corrected or told sober truths by supporters and well-wishers. Leaders become gods that are praised and worshipped even if they are leading people to hell itself.

Enterprising flatterers and opportunistic sycophants form a cult around the dear leader and sing for super and breakfast combined, and call their songs political commentary or political analysis.

Some of them appoint themselves ghost writers and spooky thinkers that write speeches and letters for financially rich but spiritually poor leaders such as P.W Botha that effectively made use of ghost writers.

Flatterers and sycophants are not led by leaders but they lead leaders to their doom with carefully phrased falsehoods and myths.

Machiavelli warned leaders thus about flatterers: "There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you." Leaders should have their supporters know that bad news that is true is more important than good news that is false.  

Great leaders, not heroes by force and fraud, need more critics and less supporters and musicians for bread that frequently surround leaders.

Machiavelli added to his warning the observation that a leader will at the end be judged by the calibre and indeed depth of the people that surround him. Wise and brave advisors are far better than praise singers.

Advisors that look the great leader in the eye, point out his faults, acknowledge his efforts, and warn him about the Carbralian danger of telling lies and claiming easy victories are rare to find.

Most of our heroes in the Global South are great leaders that were misled by praise singers into believing that they are heroes.

These heroes are post-political figments of the imagination of praise singers.

Heroes are therefore imagined personalities rather than material realities, in the main.

I know most of my readers will observe that warrior leaders and paradigms of war have made me contemptuous of all heroes including such saints as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens have warned about tyrants that use non-violence and performances of humility as a weapon to attract attention and gain following. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa are mentioned by the two philosophers as such tyrants of humility.

All heroes, be they saints or monsters, are suspects. Societies should trust in working institutions such as the courts, parliaments, the media and other entities that check the excesses of leaders and their followers.

For me the Zapatista Movement described decolonial heroism when they spoke of leaders that command while obeying and that speak after listening.

Otherwise as soon as a struggle has a face and a hero that struggle is betrayed and all heroes are traitors just waiting to happen.

The great leaders are those leaders of the Global South that do not imitate the politics of Empire where heroism comes from above but receive their greatness from the people, not from the cults of praise singers and other criminals.

Once a leader is left to rely on his good nature to care for the people and is not controlled by institutions that he fears the people are under a personal despotism that is like any other colonial regime. The colonists are the last people to teach us heroism and leadership, in the final analysis.

Countries of the Global South have lost great leaders to flattery and sycophancy, to hero makers and leader worshippers.

They turn a promising leader into a god. Once he is a god, like any other god he begins to demand burnt offerings and other sacrifices that the people cannot afford. As soon as the god-leader is in trouble or removed, like Evo Morales of Bolivia, the same flatterers and sycophants wake up the following day with new praises for the new leader, they are professional praise singers.

– Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from Foxwood House, Houghton Park, Johannesburg:

Source - sundyanews
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