The Sunday News
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena
Continued from last week
Corporations of the world, Non-Governmental Organisations and Governments themselves have over years increased transnational, postnational and postcontinental existence.
Diplomacy, international relations and international trade are all motions that point to the need for postnational life in the world. If, wishfully, colonialism and imperialism happened as dialogue between North and South, as trade and exchange without conquest, violence, domination and exploitation of one by the other, by now the world would be a postnational place, free and powerful. Conquest failed to unite and harmonise human beings, it divided, classified and antagonised them.
What conquest, with its colonialism, enslavement and imperialism failed to do, decoloniality as a planetary philosophy must do. Unite, harmonise and liberate people across the human divide. The search for resources and opportunities, for happiness in the world, is itself a rejection of localism and territorialism that accompany nations and their ideology of nationalism.
In the enslavement of blacks in the West, the theft of resources of the people of the Global South, Empire made the North more prosperous than the South. The people of the South, in natural justice must claim and share in the progress and prosperity that was stolen from them.
That alone means that peoples, including those of the South must belong anywhere they want in the world, as part of undoing conquest. The redistribution of the natural and artificial resources of the world that have been the cause and the subject of slavery, colonialism and imperialism requires the elimination of borders, countries and fundamentally nations themselves. Critical cosmopolitanism, the common and collective citizenship of different human beings to the whole world might be a decolonial vision of a future world. Borders, maps, countries and nations are not only divisive but they are also dehumanising, they turn human beings into confined and quarantined animals, and so must they go. At this juncture I must, to do justice to my present proposition, make the case against nations and nationalism.
Except where he is being misrepresented and abused by opportunistic propagandist for cheap and primitive nationalisms, Benedict Anderson unmasked the coloniality of nations.
In describing nations as “imagined communities” Anderson illustrated how nationality is an imaginative construct, an artefact of the mind that is lived and believed as real. We are put in a territory called a country, we narrate the believed history from our ancestors to the present, we create myths and legends of our heroism and we call ourselves this nation, the descendants of this and that brave ancestor.
We jealously police our national borders which are also ethnic and racial borders, we persecute those that are not members of our national or ethnic family. Every nation has insiders and its outsiders. For the love of our nation we hate those that are considered aliens and foreigners. What we call patriotism as the love of the motherland or the fatherland is also the passion with which we hate the so-called foreigners, aliens and the late arrivants to the country, omafikizolo. Even inside the nation, not all nationals are national the same and equally.
In that way, that insider versus outsider way, nations produce victimisers and victims. Patriotism becomes less about the love of the nation and country but hatred of the outsider, or those that are conveniently imagined as outsiders in order to exclude them from the land and the opportunities.
Every country under the sun has this problem of insiders and hated outsiders. Every country that is patriotically loved has people, tribes, clans and races that are patriotically hated.
Nationalism itself, I argue, is an ideology of exclusion and hatred of the foreign and alien other.
Colourful flags that we salute at attention are symbols of our imagined, not real and natural nationhood. The national anthems that we sing melodiously and prayerful are glorified slogans and performances of the propaganda of our imagined, not actual nationhood and nationality. We naturally come from families that come from the human race. The division of the human race into inferior and superior races, nations, tribes and clans that occupy mapped and bordered territories was introduced by conquest.
Nations and nationalism maintain and perpetuate the work of conquest. Countries and their borders are all monuments to Empire and living symbols of the durability of conquest. Nations are glorified and extended families that think they are better than others, drunk on intoxicating passions of patriotism, the nationals are willing to die or kill for the nation and the country. Nations are created and kept with bloodshed.
The exalted dream of a United States of Africa, for instance, was killed by nationalism. Individual presidents of African nation-states could not surrender their power to a central African authority.
They stubbornly clung to their nations and countries. They accused Nkrumah of trying by hook and crook to be the president of Africa. They killed Pan-Africanism with nationalism and kept Africa colonially divided, weak and chaotic. African disunity has ensured the strength of imperialism from the West and the East. It has allowed, in the name of national sovereignties, tin-pot dictatorships and tyrannies to thrive in the continent, with impunity, knowing that their national sovereignty gives them immunity from due probity. Africa has remained as it was structured and shaped by colonialism.
The struggle is not only to undo borders and create a united and one Africa but it is also to disinvest in nations and nationalism. A postnational world is a human universe that is the true beginning of the end of the nation and the birth of the first truly liberated and natural man.
Not only borders and maps are colonial constructions, countries and nations also are colonial confabulations whose underlying effect is to divide than unite human beings, to imprison them in toxic identities and dehumanising territories.
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from Sunnyside, Pretoria in South Africa: [email protected]