By Orlando Green
People often dwell on Fanon's theory on violence. Because of this, we will focus on that later. We will begin with two (2) psychological problems that exist in a colonial setting / relationship.
Before we can start that…what is colonialism? Historically colonialism is a phenomenon that takes place when groups of people are subjugated by an invading country and ruling class. The purpose of this invasion, or conquest, is usually material gain for the colonial mother country, such as England, France etc. during the 1500's. The colonizer seeks this material gain by the FORCEFUL acquisition of land (natural resources) and labor (chattel slavery or indentured servitude).
A distant invading country controlling a people across the ocean defines not all colonial relationships. Classical relationships of colonialism can be applied to old South Africa/Azania because the relationship of colonizer and colonized was present although they lived together on the same landmass. White South Africans are defined by the Geneva Convention definition as settler-colonist. Taking this same relationship, the United States also is defined by the Geneva Convention as a settler-colony. The US ruling class had a colonial relationship with the indigenous people (until their genocide) and the transported African chattel slaves until, arguably, legal segregation ended.
Violence or the threat of it maintains this type of system of exploitation. Either physical or psychological. Physical violence is the force used by torture, guns, etc. Psychological violence is imposed through culture and theories of inferiority and superiority that devalues the humanity of the oppressed.
There are two main psychological problems that exist in a colonial setting. Auto-destruction is one of the most severe. Fanon states that colonial oppression:
Keeps alive in the native an anger which he derives of outlet; the native is trapped in the tight links of the chains of colonialism. But we have seen that inwardly the settler can only achieve a pseudo-petrification. The native's muscular tension finds outlets regularly in bloodthirsty explosions-in tribal warfare, in feuds between sects, and in quarrels between individuals.
This sounds like displacement. The victim, feeling powerless to attack his enemy, attacks his own people instead. This phenomenon can be seen in underdeveloped communities and countries around the world where there are high levels of crime rates. The displacement of aggression (and this must be seen as a correct aggression) is a colonial disorder not just manifested by tendencies of self-destruction. The victim psychologically replaces the threat of the colonizer with "myth", religion and superstition. The "zombies" and devils become more terrorizing than the colonist does. This diminishes the colonial situation and the practical focus becomes rituals to drive out spirits rather than a revolution to drive out the settler.
Racism is a result of psychological violence in colonial society. Characteristics of: laziness, docility and animal-like behavior are imposed on the victim as well as a superiority complex is imposed on the colonizer. "Blacks and Latinos are lazy, late and unintelligent" is how this type of disorder is manifested in ideas. This type of disorder is the acceptance of colonial psychology. This type of disorder weakens the struggle for freedom when the victim internalizes it.
Dr. Fanon believes that an integral part of the colonial-instigated etiology is lack of self-awareness, and the varied defenses that attempt to compensate for this lack. He does not make this clear in analytical terms. What is clear, in clinical terms, is that Fanon sees his patients suffering from "reactionary psychoses," in the sense that "prominence is given to the disorder but the history and conditions of the situation is hardly touched on. Fanon gives a few case studies that we will touch on.
Examples of case studies in colonial mental disorders begins with an Algerian revolutionary who comes down with a disorder of male impotence. Fanon calls him subject B. Many attempts were made to alleviate this problem through nourishment and rest. Soon, before incidents of failed sexual attempts, he would have an irresistible urge to tear up a picture of his little girl. B was a member of the Algerian liberation front against the French. He was married to a young Muslim woman through cultural arrangement. He did not love her going into the marriage because he really wanted to marry his cousin. His parents had already arranged for her to marry someone else. Subject B eventually had a child with his wife.
A situation incurred with violence perpetrated against the French and colonial police started to round up and question suspected Algerians. Subject B fled the situation and went "underground" into hiding. Colonial police caught up with subject B's family and raped his wife in the process of interrogation to find him. He never returned to his family and started a relationship with another woman although his wife never gave up information on Subject B. He is overcome with guilt over his wife, whom he did not love. It was out of her sense of Algerian people-hood that she stayed strong against the French police because they were looking for any name that could have led them to the movement circles. He was tearing up his daughters' picture because of the dishonor that his wife went through and how that fell on his daughter too.
Another case study is one of the murder by two young Algerians, thirteen and fourteen years old, of their European playmate. The youths admitted to having done it. The crime was reconstructed and pictures were created of one child holding the victim and another stabbing the European 13yr old with a knife. The 13yr old Algerian youth was speaking to Fanon and other psychologist and he stated that he was not personally angry with the boy and that he would not mind going to prison. He stated that the Europeans wanted to kill all the Arabs, so they felt that they could only retaliate against the smaller ones because the grown ups were "too big". The 13yr old Algerian also stated that the victim's father had said that all Algerians should have their throats cut.
The 14yr old Algerian youth did not deny the murder either. He was stern with his answers. Instead of answering the questions of the psychologists, he asked the questioners if they "have ever seen a European locked up for murdering an Arab?" Fanon replied that he had never seen such a circumstance. The youth replied passionately that relatives of his "were murdered by European soldiers in the middle of the night" in a raid of a nearby village (40 dead in total). "Children are murdered too", he said as he felt that children should take part in revolutionary struggle to defend themselves against colonialism.
Subject R is a European police inspector who tortured his wife and children. This case study is different because it falls as psychoanalysis on the colonizers. Subject R, 30yrs old, states that for several weeks "things weren't working out." R was married and had three (3) children. He had a smoking habit with a loss of appetite and nightmares. He stated that he had a problem with people contradicting him. Little things like people accidentally bumping him in the street cause him to have thoughts of violence against them. At home he beats his children for making too much noise with intense "savagery." One night he brutalized his wife for speaking up against his abuse of their children.
Subject R complains of torturing Algerians for hours at work. Personal "success" at work is related to "getting" confessions about the Algerian movement groups. The profession of being an inspector was very important for him because it paid well for him to support his family. Without beating around the bush, the inspector asked Fanon to help him to go on torturing Algerian patriots “without any pricklings of conscience, without any behavior problems, and with complete equanimity.”