Week 10: “What has the Congo got to do with it?”

“This perception problem is not in its origin the result of ignorance, as we are sometimes inclined to think. At least, it is not ignorance entirely, or even primarily. It was in general a deliberate invention devised to facilitate two gigantic historical event: The Atlantic slave trade and the colonization of Africa by Europe” in Chinua Achebe’s response to Europe’s representation of Africa as that of “aliennes” in his article “Africa’s Tarnished Name.” Achebe speaks a very harsh truth, harsh mostly because it is true. And truth is never a pill swallowed voluntarily nor whole. I was rather gleeful as I read Achebe’s response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, mostly because I think the book is absolute trash, but also because I LOVE that some is speaking out about the obvious racism and the raging-angry-sadness that Conrad’s representation of the Congo is actually…believed? What?

*face meet palm*

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“Conrad managed to transform elements from centuries of transparently crude and fanciful writing about African into a piece of “serious” and permanent literature” and THIS IS WHERE LANGUAGE BECOMES DANGEROUS, excuse my tone. Last week I was skeptical about Chris Abani’s TED talk where he says that “Language actually makes the world in which we live in” I mean, if that were that case what world is Conrad making? …Sadly, the one we live in now, I guess. But, indeed, “language complicates things” (Abani), just as Conrad has not only complicated the Congo, but transformed it into something monstrous and ugly.

“Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world, “the antithesis of Europe and therefore civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality.” Writes Chinua Achebe in another article “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” he later follows with “In the final consideration his method amounts to no more than a steady, ponderous, fake-ritualistic repetition of two antithetical sentences, one about silence and the other about frenzy.” Which I can no less modernize to “Oy! Conrad is selling alternative facts!”

Pal Ahluwalia in his essay “When Does a Settler become a Native? Citizenship and Identity in a Settler Society” asks a very important question, one which I have been continuously pondering since reading the essay a few days ago, “What makes or who is a citizen and who is a subject?” Ahluwalia continues on in his essay with his attempt to answer the very question he posed. I find his argument compelling, simply because it in an argument I too can stand behind. See, a native, or as Ahluwalia later calls them, a citizen are they that “share in the allocation of power” or they that would “engage in the political Sphere” or they that share “feeling of patriotism.”

But when does a settler become a native? In my opinion, it is when a settler adapts to the land in which they’ve settled peacefully and organically; practice and live as you wish, but respect the established culture and land which you inhabit. For example: I am from Venezuela. I, the immigrant, respect the United States and am very loyal to it. I am an American, but I also acknowledge and am proud to be Venezuelan.

It all goes downhill when cultural dominance comes into play, me thinks.

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