Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

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A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization. The fact is that the so-called European civilization— "Western" civilization—as it has been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving the two major problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem; that Europe is unable to justify itself either before the bar of "reason" or before the bar of "conscience"; and that, increasingly, it takes refuge in a hypocrisy which is all the more odious because it is less and less likely to deceive. Europe is indefensible. Apparently that is what the American strategists are whispering to each other. That in itself is not serious.
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10 I Aime Cesaire What is serious is that "Europe" is morally, spiritually indefensible. And today the indictment is brought against it not by the European masses alone, but on a world scale, by tens and tens of millions of men who, from the depths of slav- ery, set themselves up as judges. The colonialists may kill in Indochina, torture in Mada- gascar, imprison in Black Africa, crack down in the West Indies. Henceforth the colonized know that they have an advantage over them. They know that their temporary "masters" are lying. Therefore that their masters are weak. And since I have been asked to speak about coloniza- tion and civilization, let us go straight to the principal lie which is the source of all the others. Colonization and civilization? In dealing with this subject, the commonest curse is to be the dupe in good faith of a collective hypocrisy that cleverly misrepresents problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them. In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly—that is, dangerously—and to an- swer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamen- tally, is colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a de- sire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law. To admit once for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pi- rate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civiliza- F*J; Discourse on Colonialism I 11 tion which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies. Pursuing my analysis, I find that hypocrisy is of recent
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Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

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