The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth Irony

Reversals of Force

One of the ironies of colonialism is how the means by which the colonists tried to control the colonized end up being used against them. At first, the colonists enforce their authority through violence and the threat of violence. This elicits submission from the colonized, who learn they are powerless. But when violence spontaneously erupts in the colonies, and men fight back against the colonists, they learn they were powerful rather than powerless. They start to use violence against the colonists. The irony is that the force used by the colonists ends up getting used against them; the force they used to subdue the colonized has taught the colonized how to fight back.

Reversals of Manichaeism

Similar to how violence gets reversed in decolonization, the colonial view of morality also undergoes an ironic reversal. Under colonialism, the colonist divides the world into two. It’s a simplistic division between colonist and colonized, white and black, good and evil. Under decolonization, the colonized fight back and split up the world into the freedom fighters and the oppressors. Now the world is still divided into two, but the colonists are the evil ones. The colonized have learned a dualistic division of the world, but have flipped the script.

Under colonialism, the dualistic division of the world also erased the complexity and diversity of the colonized. People from different ethnicities, tribes, and religions were all lumped into this one category: the colonized, dehumanized beast. But now, under decolonization, this big category becomes a threat to colonialism. That’s because people have learned how to come together and unify in a common fight. Instead of being divided by tribe, ethnicity, and religion, the colonized are a powerful, unified block fighting against colonialism. This is the further irony of a colonial division of the world coming back to help destroy colonialism.