Monday, July 7, 2008

The failure to resist

I remember telling a colleague not long ago that I don't like to talk endlessly about how evil imperialism is. I think the more constructive thing is to discuss the failure to resist imperialism, with a view to figuring out a remedy for those failures.

I suppose I was thinking mainly about the Muslim world at the time, although as I have said here before, I think indigenous communities in Canada are in the predicament they are in partly as a result of being too nice to Europeans - time and time again, they didn't seem to understand that to their guests, an agreement was only as good as the gun being pointed at the other party's head. Then again, the Moghuls of India had guns, armies, and imperial politics of their own, but they too got conned in the end.

The problem is that so much of the world is still falling for it. Imperialism has to be taken as a given - what is scandalous is the failure to resist.

The News International is not my favourite Pakistani newspaper, but here is some sage advice for the Muslim world from freelance writer Farooq Sulehria, in a column last month entitled "Blaming Others." Although such a catalogue of failure seems depressing, there is wisdom in the cliché that "admitting you have a problem is the first step."

From the article, the words of Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani:

Five thousand years

Growing beards

In our caves.

Our currency is unknown,

Our eyes are a haven for flies.


Smash the doors,

Wash your brains,

Wash your clothes.


Read a book,

Write a book,

Grow words, pomegranates and grapes,

Sail to the country of fog and snow.

Nobody knows you exist in caves.

People take you for a breed of mongrels.

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