I’m sharing a poem I first came across in the 80s when I was studying a course with the Open University, UK, called, ‘Third World Studies.’ It was a brilliant multidisciplinary introduction to the North South divide. Hats off to the OU for that seminal moment in my life.
The 80s seem a distant memory but so much of what we see happening and complain about today has its roots in that time of transition, from widespread social democracy in the North, with Keynesian influenced economies holding Capital in check, to Neoliberalised economies in Northern nations, whose citizenry find themselves going through the same sorts of austerity strictures imposed decades earlier by the IMF on the South. The South could have told us what would happen and how it would feel.
Savvy Southerners have devised all sorts of strategies to survive. Colonisation in reverse is one of them. The logic of it goes something like this: “Since you invaded our lands, took us over, came in your thousands and squeezed yourselves in, stole our resources and rendered us destitute, we will do the same to you.”
I’ve reposted the poem from where it appeared in New Black Magazine, May 6, 2007. It is written in Patois. It’s hilarious, and I think we could do with a little laughter right now.
Colonisation in Reverse
(You can hear Louise Bennett tell her poem here – go to 4.48mins
Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in Reverse
Be the hundred, be de tousan
Fro country and from town,
By de ship-load, be the plane load
Jamaica is Englan boun.
Dem pour out a Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.
What an islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An turn history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
An week by week dem shipping off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see da turnabout?
Jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout’.
For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.
Jane says de dole is not too bad
Because dey paying she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
dat suit her dignity
me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay popn Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
Wat a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But me wondering how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.
Isobel’s first novel Asylum is available in paperback at Odyssey Books, Angus and Robertson, Amazon and the Book Depository. Ebook available through all major outlets.
I used to teach Religious Studies at a high school in the UK. Best subject ever, from trawling through world faiths in the lower years, getting hot under the collar following the GCSE curriculum where moral issues such as Wealth and Poverty were explored, all the way to A Level, when it morphed into Philosophy of Religion.
I was teaching in 2001. The day the twin towers fell I’d just come out of a class on Islam. I was teaching Islam to four classes of Year Eights at the time.
In those classes we explored some core beliefs such as the five pillars of Islam. We did a historical cook’s tour and we thought about what we as white non-believers could learn from the faith.
Bang! A light bulb switched off.
It was the day the Dark Age began.
I’m not getting into the whodunnit side of things. All I know is the pudding was already cooked and ready to serve.
Welcome to the era of the terror monger.
Before the dust had settled on the towers, ‘war or terror’ and ‘axis of evil’ were rolled out. War in Afghanistan and then, to the horror of the world at large, the invasion of Iraq. A sorry recent history full of bloodshed and fomenting hatreds.
Our New Dark Age has the stamp of terror all over it. A stamp of indelible ink wielded on soft skin by the anti-terrorists.
The New Dark Age is an age of Security and Surveillance.
The hordes of bloodthirsty nutters with guns are doing nothing but serving this agenda. I wish they could see their own complicity. I wish they could see that they are empowering the very beast they fight.
As for the rest of us, while we sit around hoping we don’t get caught in the crossfire, we’re already ensnared. Our freedoms constricted by a raft of new laws. Our journalists gagged.
Islam is a fine faith and I, as a non-believer, will always defend it. Islam teaches that within each of us is a divine spark, something pure and sacred and connected to God.
My wish is for that spark to flame and light this darkening world, light up the hearts of those consumed by hatred.
And as for the greedy who are behind everything that is wrong with this world, I have yet to figure out what’s to be done about them…
Happy 2015! What a jolly time of it the powers that be are having – Obama and Cameron posturing like ancient philosophers on the problem of radicalisation and how to combat (combat?) hardline ideologies. LMAO – Mirror mirror on the wall…
Islamic fundamentalism grows in catch up with Christian fundamentalism and neoconservative/neoliberal fundamentalism.
There, I’ve answered it for you in a nutshell. But let me explain, in case you don’t get it yet Mr O and Mr C, (although I’m certain you get it very very well):
In a reality of linear and concrete thinking, where in Scripture this and that is taken to be literally true, fundamentalism will always beget fundamentalism.
Meanwhile hardline neoliberal policies of post GFC austerity beget a downtrodden populace, a populace with a dim yet tangible sense that they’ve been conned. (You will have heard the term bankster Mr O and Mr C?)
As ever, the two extremes, Christian and Islamic, foment each other, and as the pot is stirred by Western Supremacism (your way or the highway, eh), the utterly disaffected become so pissed off they’ll take up a bomb or a gun. It’s an obvious response. Happy days, say the Crusaders.
Radicalisation exists because we have a word for it, our gluttonous media slavering over every ounce of it. Hat’s off to the think tanks for this latest bit of spin in this new wave of propaganda. My, how adept you must think you are! Adept at creating thought wars, the battleground a dense fog, a miasma. Must be a fun job that.
Woo hoo say the corporations, circling vultures, waiting to swoop and eat their fill as cities fall and people flee. There’s the arms trade, there are the government contracts, there’s the private militia/security business, there’s the reconstruction, and there are the billions of dollars of profit to be made out of asylum seeker detention centres. It’s a bonanza.
Yet two women kiss and canoodle and are thrown out of a cafe in Vienna, and the owner is forced to apologise after over a thousand people take to the street outside in protest. If humanity is capable of mass action in the face of a cafe kiss, then little wonder you are afraid of us, so afraid you stamp us down with anti-protest laws and beefed up surveillance and security.
Let the woman in the hijab be. Let Islam, a religion of peace and grace, be. Let fundamentalism slip away on the wings of an open heart free of fear and hatred. And let neoliberalism fall, as all empires fall, and we can say farewell Mr O and Mr C, and welcome in a new and better age of fairness and goodwill.
Hearing Obama outline his latest plan for the curtailment of ISIS it would be easy to believe that this group emerged spontaneously and entirely of its own accord out of the desert country of Syria and Iraq, filling a vacuum in the power shenanigans left when the US military pulled out of Iraq. That’s the propaganda. That is what the US and its allies would have us believe. And it isn’t true.
An elite of concentrated power bent on expansionism, such as found in Empire America today, will inevitably spawn its nemesis; groups of the disenfranchised, the alienated or the diametrically opposed in belief and ideology, those who contest both the expansionism and the elitism behind it. This sounds a logical and reasonable claim.
Empire America calls the nemesis terrorism.
Dig around and things begin to look quite different. Since the power elite of Empire America knows full well that such a nemesis will emerge, as inevitable as sunrise, they have set off with fertilizer and a watering can, encouraging their nemesis to grow and flourish, seizing the opportunity to further their own aim to render the Middle East a series of Failed States.
The nemesis has had other names. In the age of European expansionism, when Spain and Portugal and Britain were conquering new lands, the nemesis was piracy. In fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries piracy was rife. Renegades from all over Europe flocked to Algiers and Sale, (the pirate utopias of North Africa), many converting to Islam. Piracy was big and legitimate business. In Algiers, then the world’s slave capital and a sanctuary for a polyglot of renegades from all over Europe, ten per cent of the proceeds of a pirate attack went into the city coffers in exchange for the pirates’ protection. Sale, originally inhabited by Berbers and the only Moroccan Atlantic city not to have fallen to the rising powers of Spain and Portugal, became the home of exiled Spaniards that had fled King Phillip III’s anti-Moor ethnic cleansing. It was out of these exiled groups that the notorious Sally Rovers came into being. Ships sailing back from the Americas were especially vulnerable. The Canary Islands, situated en route to the Americas, were repeatedly sacked. And these piratical attacks were brutal. Whole villages and towns razed, people slaughtered, or taken as slaves to be sold back in Algiers. An entertaining and informative book on the matter is Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs and European Renegadoes, by Peter Lamborn Wilson, 1995.
Today the ideology of Jihad has replaced that of piracy as a repository for all the thugs, criminals and blood-lusting psychopaths eager to let loose their base impulses. Young men craving adventure, keen to cut loose and go wild, enamoured with rampage, glorying in brutality are drawn to join one or other of the many groups fighting the enemy Empire America, fighting to gain supremacy over competing groups, fighting to impose their own version of Islam, fighting for the hell of it.
Then as now the holy war and its defeat are glamourised and revered. Tragedies mourned, heroes celebrated. Pomp and ceremony in abundance. Then as now it is big business that profits. Then as now it is the innocent who suffer.
Now, as then, the fall of ISIS will mirror the retreat of Empire. Or its collapse.
Back in the 1980s I enrolled in a course as part of my undergraduate degree with the Open University (UK) entitled Third World Studies. I was twenty-four and full of awe and amazement and outrage as I learnt about India’s Green Revolution, issues for the Tuareg of Niger, and of the economies of the newly-industrialised countries (NICs) of south-east Asia. I learnt about the problems created for poor economies by big business. I learnt about the IMF and the World Bank. I studied the socialism of governments in Tanzania and Mozambique. I read novels by Buchi Emecheta and the poetry of Louise Bennett. The course was multi-disciplinary (perhaps the first of its kind) and all-encompassing, or so I thought.
Now I am reading Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books, 2012) and I realise that the course title ‘Third World Studies’ was a misnomer. The title created the illusion that there was a First World, perhaps a Second World (Russia) and a Third or Poor to Very Poor World. Other notions have come along since, such as North and South, notions that also perpetuate the illusion. For upon reading Hedge’s text, it has struck me squarely that apparent third world conditions (slavery, corruption, severe inequality) have always existed and persist in America today.
Being from Australia it is fairly easy to say that our indigenous Australians have been condemned to exist as impoverished others in their own land, conditions normally associated with the very poorest of the poor in the ”Third World.” John Pilger’s Utopia suffices as an introduction to that view. Perhaps I have for too many decades been naive, or perhaps somewhat in the dark as regards poverty in America. I have known about low wages, trailer parks, food stamps, the state of Detroit, African American and Hispanic and Mexican poverty. I have known of the ludicrously high incarceration rate in America, mostly of African American men. And I knew, vaguely, that America’s First People are horribly oppressed and marginalised. I knew all of this, but only vaguely. I knew about the voracious appetite of American corporations too, of their corruption of democracy and the judiciary, and the casino-style hustlers in the world of American finance.
What I have not known, not contemplated, not engaged with so deeply it turns my stomach and makes me want to holler with outrage and weep for the suffering – tears I had spilled decades earlier for many an African nation – Hedges portrays with unrelenting honesty. A laying bare of America’s underbelly, from the native Americans of Pine Ridge, the enormous widespread and utterly unjust suffering of the poor of Camden, the devastation of the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia (500 mountains so far bombed into oblivion to extract their coal), and the Mexican slave workers in tomato fields in Immokalee, Florida.
That the American Elite (corporations in cahoots with duly corrupted and compliant political and judicial systems) can so devastate its own nation in such a ruthless manner, bodes so ill for the rest of us, for this is the package it persists in exporting to the rest of the world in the guise of development.
As I have indicated above, I have long known the dreadful environmental and social consequences of Big Mining. The struggles of the working classes and the poor around the world are so often bound up with the mining giants, along with the oil and gas giants. If not, they are bound up in agribusiness. It is a case of same old same old.
So when I read calls from the apparently awake for others to wake up, I ask myself of the islanders of Bougainville – Are they awake? – Yes, I have to say yes they are. What of Papua New Guinea? – Are the people there awake to the shenanigans of corporate greed? – In large part I would say they are? What of the villagers of India whose valleys are being flooded by Big Dams? Are they awake? – I would say most definitely, judging by their protests.
What of the native Americans at Pine Ridge? Are they awake? Yes, I have to say mostly yes, for the alcoholism, the drug addiction, the suicides, the violence, surely they are a recognition of and a response to the consuming misery they are forced to endure. They are awake, to a nightmare.
So I ask of those who make the awake call, wake up who exactly? The privileged middle classes struggling to maintain expensive lifestyles and fat mortgages? Do they slumber? Or are they imprisoned by the system too, riven with fear of losing everything in an economic and social climate of uncertainty.
Sure there are those who are not so much asleep as rendered catatonic by consumerism with all its glamour, sure there are those whose hearts are riven by hatred and bigotry, those prejudiced against the many who are not themselves. I don’t think there is much to be done about them, or at least, I don’t have a solution. All I know is that those who are catatonic and those who hate will most likely never ”wake up.”
There are enough of us around the globe who know more or less exactly what is going on. There are definitely enough of us who are awake to make a difference if and only if, we all decide to do something, to realise that what we face in the world today is a state of emergency akin to that of a world war, and we must resist at every turn.
I am a non-violent person. Which was why I was shocked when I woke this morning to the thought that someone should drop something big and heavy on Bohemia Grove at an opportune moment. Then I thought, no, that would make little difference. But I do know that we must make great personal sacrifices if we are to stave off the march of the corporations. We must preoccupy ourselves with the spirit of Occupy. And if ever there was a book to rouse the heart to action, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is it.