29 December 2011

Territories of the displaced political

[The eleventh in a series of articles collected under the title 'Love Notes to Democracy', written while in the USA as a member of a team of international monitors overseeing the US Presidential Election 2004]

This is the age of globalization.  This is an age celebrated in terms of the imminent setting up of the Global Village and indeed where people are already talking of something called the Global Family.  This is the age of the Information Superhighway.  An age of freedom flowers bursting into flames in the most desolate landscapes, an age where the unmistakable word of the creator downs the unbeliever into submission by the very power of its truth.  This is an age of the fulfillment of Orwellian Prophesy.  Pigs fly.

For this is also the age of mass migration, from villages to cities, from forced unemployment to conditions of slavery and urban squalor, the global south to the global north, from community to gated community, from contentment to conditions of misery, from war zones into refugee camps, from the picket line into jail, from a conscious objector to a conscious subjectivity, from the expression of outrage into the shell of disbelief.  Pigs fly. 

The globalization of markets and the irrelevancy of national boundaries for the flow of capital, exploitation of labor, extraction of resources and violence to fragile ecosystems, has been accompanied, it seems to me, forgive me if I am wrong, the globalization of idiocy and of poverty, the replacement/misplacement of Territorial Nationalism by Diasporic Nationalism, the mushrooming of Promised Lands and virtual communities, and the emergence of the “refugee” as the largest collective category on earth. 

This, therefore, is a refugee story, and given realities, it can be argued that it is the story of our time worth relating.  I am not a storyteller, and therefore I hope my arrogance in attempting to write this introductory note to what ought to be the Magnum Opus describing our time, would be forgiven. 

Fidel Castro understands refugees and the politics of refugee-making.  For decades now successive administrations in the USA have berated Castro for being a tyrant and for denying to the people of Cuba the “freedoms” they ought to enjoy, never mind the fact that people in the United States do not enjoy free education and free healthcare.  Successive governments have urged and/or tried to coerce Castro to allow the people to go, to look for and discover the magic of freedom, justice and democracy in the United States.  Castro did the unthinkable.  He actually “let his people go”!  And the US quickly shut its borders. 

This is the fundamental problem of the monstrosity that is a monster wanting to bring down a monster.  When the monstrosity acquiesces, the winning monster can’t take it.  In refugee terms, the refuge-seeker never finds refuge for he/she is never liberated from the burdens of nostalgia.  Even the most ardent Cuban American celebrator of US-style democratic freedoms, says he/she wants Castro “taken out”, so he/she can go home, although in his/her heart of hearts that is an option if made available would be flatly refused!  More crucially, the Promised Land into which refugees pour their lives and their dreams seldom keeps the promise.  Put simply, there has been too much colonization and re-colonization for anyone to reasonably expect to recover or build “home”. 
Sure, the world has known millions of “boat people”.  The United States of America itself, for example, was made into what it is today, through violence and constitutional enactment, by “boat people”.   Nevertheless, for all the millions who have abandoned their traditional homelands and replaced these with nostalgia, there are millions more who do live on their traditional homelands, without rights, without acknowledgment of history, without franchise and very often under conditions of slavery, colonized out of their minds. 

The problem with the United States of America, is that it refuses to accept that it is peopled by refugees.  Worse, their descendents who for want of anything better to call “home”, while believing rightly or wrongly that these “united” states make up their traditional homelands, are unwilling to accept that they are in fact refugees on their own land, helpless recipients of ideological bombardment, disenfranchised and conditioned to fight wars on people they do not know for reasons they are never made to understand. 

Anyone whose mind is colonized, is not an agent, but by definition a subjectivity.  There is no voter in this country that can state with absolute certainty that his/her vote counted and/or was counted.  Vast sections of people, especially the minorities have little or no say in the decisions made on their behalf and supposedly for their own good.  This is why people, in the aftermath of the November 2 “result” are expressing a need to “go to another country” and are talking about “seceding from the union”. 

Decolonization is not an easy project.  Just as one cannot obtain decolonization by migration, one cannot decolonize the mind without breaking down the colonized regions of the thinking faculty.  One can perhaps live out one’s life in the refugee camp called Hope in a land that one believes would someday be named the Promised Land, but one cannot employ the faculty of nostalgia to recover what is traditional in the homeland of the mind. 

There is a refugee in the mind of everyone who has been in many ways structurally disenfranchised.  This refugee can be clothed and fed thanks to the largess of a social and political environment that is enveloped in make-believe, but he/she cannot recover his/her hills and valleys, rivers and oceans, breezes and soils, nor the loot that have been in many ways plundered from his/her traditional homeland, unless he/she decides to do so. 

Don’t let them get your voice, baby, don’t let them get your heart, for voice and heard congeal into melodies and these are never totally inaccessible.  Where people resolve to sing, they turn themselves into a massive orchestra, and in the vast and mysterious communality, results in a harmony that has the power to obliterate colonization and refugee camps. I firmly believe.