ALL AH WE IS ONE: Colonial residue
By Tennyson Joseph | Tue, June 12, 2012 - 12:00 AM
The recent jostling of competing voices on the retention of the institution of the British monarch as head of state exposes of one of the greatest challenges of post-slavery, post-colonial states such as those of the Caribbean.
This problem can best be described as the political struggle of competing nations within the nation. Whilst it can be argued that the nation anywhere is never a “fully settled” construct but is always an “imagined community” in which national myths tenuously hold together hostile sub-nations dwelling together in temporary and uneasy unity, it becomes an even more delicate question in “plural societies” like ours.
In our region, this problem of national unity is compounded by the limited nature of the anti-colonial project which failed to thoroughly clean out the mud, dirt and stubborn grease of the last vestiges of colonial hangover. Having suffered the worst atrocities imaginable, including the genocide of its original populations, our independence project made fatal compromises with that past.
Hence, despite this history of murder, theft, rape, exploitation, and psychological abuse inflicted upon the underclass (or perhaps, because of it) remnants of the local population continue to glory in the colonial past, identify with its genocidal history, and hang on for dear life to the last vestiges of colonialism, in some cases, out of ignorance, in other cases, as expressions of unapologetic racial arrogance.
It is such political questions which are wrapped up in the debate over the retention of the monarchy. This is why the latent expressions of white supremacy masquerading as innocent “love for the monarchy” should not remain unanswered by the progressives amongst us.
It is a fact that that the local aristocracy (the Euro-Caribbean groups) suffered a loss of political power in the democratic revolutions which swept through the Caribbean in the decade of the 1930s. Whilst that group has continued to enjoy a position of economic and racial privilege, a close examination of its public discourse would reveal that over the years it has continued to harbour disdain towards the black dominated parliaments. Today, given the economic divide, this contempt is expressed in the view that the black governments “do not understand business”.
To the Euro-Caribbeans, therefore, this retention of the monarchy is the last fortress of white political domination, and the historical link to the imperialmother. There is much at stake. Those who claim that the monarchy is merely symbolic, therefore, wallow in deep error.
Under cover of the jubilee, some stinging insults have been thrown at the historically exploited black majority without apology. We have heard public commentators suggest that Euro-Caribbean family connections to the monarchy should be celebrated.
Could anyone dare suggest that evidence of Hitler’s blood relations to the people he sought to exterminate be celebrated?
Is our defeat so complete, that we are so callously insulted?
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.
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