The moment of boomerang

Today in the Catholic community is Black Saturday. Brussels, like Paris before it, having been similarly terrorized is indeed black news.

What was it with Paris and recently Brussels? The incidents in both these capitals were I believe what the French philosopher and Nobel laureate, Jean-Paul Sartre, described in his 1964 book, Colonialism and Neocolonialism, as the moment of the boomerang:

In Algeria and Angola, Europeans are massacred on sight. It is the moment of the boomerang, the third stage of violence: it comes back and hits us, and, no more than on the other occasions can we understand that it is our own violence… The natives…They have a single duty, a single objective: to drive out colonialism by any means.

In this seminal book, Sartre criticizes French policies in it’s colony, Algeria, in the 1950s and 1960s. He argues for the necessity of decolonization lauded as key reference to understanding the break-up of the French colonial empire.

What this tells us is that these particular acts of terrorism are not new. It has been going on for quite a while. What’s new is this generation who grew up with no knowledge of wars or conflicts. If there were, we were perhaps mere infants then. Hence our reaction: naïve indignation. Or, just a shrug of the shoulders, because how do we properly react to something we don’t have historical consciousness of?

For any reader, the incidents, within the framework of Sartre’s arguments, can be singularly said as karma. For those immersed academically in the study of colonialism, or politically as in the active elimination of it’s remains, it is no less than man reconstructing himself.

The colonized cure themselves of the colonial neurosis by driving out the colon with weapons… from afar, we regard their war as the triumph of barbarism; but it leads by itself to progressive emancipation of the fighters, it progressively liquidates the colonial darkness within and outside them… One must remain terrified or become terrible… Terror has left Africa and established itself here, for there are quite simply fanatics here who want to make us natives.

Today, the natives are revealing their truth; as a result, our exclusive club is revealing its weakness: it was a minority, no more and no less. And worse than that: since the others are making themselves human beings through their opposition to us, it appears that we are the enemies of the human race; the elite is revealing its true nature: a gang. Our cherished values are losing their sparkle: looking at it closely, there is not a single one that is not stained with blood.

Sartre continues

at this first stage of the revolt, they have to kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, doing away with oppressor and oppressed at the same time: what remains is a dead man and a free man…

we, the people of Europe, are also being decolonized, that is to say the colon within each of us is being removed in a bloody operation. Let us look at ourselves, if we have the courage, and see what is happening to us.

Sartre then asks at the same time provides an answer

Will we recover? Yes. Violence, like Achilles’ spear, can heal the wounds that it has made. Today we are in chains, humiliated, sick with fear, at our lowest ebb… Every day we shy away from the fight, but you can be sure that we will not avoid it: the killers need it; they will wade in and let us have it. Fear, count on the colons and the mercenaries: they will make you take the plunge. Perhaps then, with your back to the wall, you will finally unleash this new violence aroused in you by old rehashed crimes. But that, as they say, is another story. That of man.

That of man. To which I add, of the new enlightened European.


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