A little lecture for young Ashma John
A few years back, my eyes glanced upon a column by Ashma John, the daughter of the owner of the famous Splashmin’s. On seeing her offerings in the newspaper, I said, “I know this girl; she was my daughter’s friend at high school, let me see what she has written. That is how I began to read this young lady. I do like her commentaries. She strikes me as a young Guyanese that should try her hand at politics.
Ms. John recently wrote the following; “Much of what Great Britain and Europe look like are as a result of colonization in the Caribbean, but there are people who fail to draw the correlation between our society today and how colonization induced many of those damning realities for us. It may be difficult for some to associate colonization with the way we behave today, because some of us may not be informed about our history. It may also be embarrassing for some of us to be honest about our biases and so we prefer to mask them…”
I have read that observation since I was eighteen without any thought that one day I would attend a university, study that very statement, write about it, philosophize about it and eventually put my own interpretation to it. I hope Ms. John does not take offence at this little lecture I am directing at her. It is done because I feel that with her temperament she needs to understand the complexities and nuances of the theory of the destructive role of colonialism.
The point of this lecture is to inform Ms. John that colonialism is not totally responsible for what Guyana and the Third World are. The 20th Century philosopher Karl Popper is relevant here. Popper achieved distinction in philosophy because of his doctrine of the falsifiability of theory. Popper essentially amplified and purified the induction method of the great 17th century philosopher, Francis Bacon.
Popper argued, in more convincing ways than Bacon, that inherent in theory is its refutability. He asserted that theory can more be refuted than verified. It is outside the scope of a column to elongate on Popper’s philosophy; suffice it to say, the theory of the inevitability of colonial destruction is falsifiable.
Bacon once wrote that if you find an untold number of verifiable situations and just one doesn’t conform to the pattern, the theory falls. It is not a theory. Singapore and Malaysia have not conformed to the pattern of the theory of psychic colonial destruction. If colonialism had permanently damaged the psyche of the colonial subject then why are Singapore and Malaysia not just like any other damaged Third World society?
In fact, right here in the Caribbean, Jamaica may be too complex a situation for which to study the theory of colonial destruction. Jamaica has successfully experimented with cultural forms that exist independently of the colonial legacy. One needs to cite just two examples – Rastafari culture and reggae music.
The theory of permanent colonial destruction explains everything and it explains nothing. In this regard, Ms. John can best understand the complex nature of post-colonial society by looking up three top Caribbean scholars – Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney – and the fantastic mind of the Palestinian scholar, Edward Said.
They dissected colonialism, explained its psychic damage on its subject but went beyond those themes to explain post-colonial failure, citing factors unrelated to colonial penetration.
Ms. John needs to understand that after 50 years of Independence, it is not the permanency of colonial legacies that determine the backwardness of her country and the rest of the Third World, but the deliberate backwardness of the human mind driven by the obsession with power. And that is found in all types of humans, of which colonial domination has nothing to do with it.
Ms. John as a young scholar has to be careful she doesn’t fall into the trap of blaming the colonials for every conceivable vice, every conceivable failure, every conceivable degradation we see in Guyana and the rest of the post-colonial world. Such a theory cannot stand up. It has more holes than a basket. The Jews were rejected by the world when Germany was killing them. Today they control the US.
Black America has resisted white racism by giving the world the best the worlds of music and sports have to offer. China was a colonial victim; today it is one of two superpowers. Space has run out, but my advice to Ms. John is to be careful about accepting the theory of the permanency of colonial damage. Post-colonial leadership is happy to use that false theory for its own destructive use of power.