It is becoming more and more difficult for me to pretend that I’m not completely disgusted and disillusioned with Academia. I realize that my position is a tad bit unusual as the lone hijab-wearing, abaya-clad “angry minority” (yes, I’ve been called that), reciting Fanon, Guevara, Ibn khaldun, Ibn Taymiyyah, Azzam, Biko, or Nkrumah like a mantra and refusing to apparently ascribe to Western Academia lock, stock, and barrel. Clearly, such a person is bound to stand out like a sore thumb in the oh-so-civil world of Graduate studies. But even then, the illusion of belonging there can be maintained with a healthy dose of denial and cognitive dissonance. However, ever so often something happens that rips away this thin veneer of carefully concocted self-delusion.
I don’t know about you, but participating in panels filled with privileged Westerners and their native informants debating about whether or not it is legitimate to use war as a mean of bringing peace to the world, or how to better civilize the planet by spreading democracy (and by extension Western values), just doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe I’m just too primitive to understand that such debates are in fact the sort of intellectual sparring academics and scholars partake in while washing down the bitter taste of such unpleasant topics with liberal amounts of wine and cheese.
In these rousing debates the wars in question are always meant to be launched against some far off countries inhabited by amorphous masses whose lives are always deemed not quite as sacred or as important. In fact, these countries are portrayed as such hellish dens of inequity that the only options available to these populations is apparently to either A) live miserable lives, or B) die miserably. The Global South is hence declared to be a geographical exception where the rules of law can be bended. A place where concepts such as human rights, civil liberties, political and religious freedoms become hypothetical and never quite fact. A place where national sovereignty, equal rights, and self-determination are debatable at best. The domain of preemptive wars, drone assassinations, and outsourced torture. All that is required to give this process of transmutation the illusion of respectability and legitimacy is to coin new concepts such as illegal combatants. And who better to embark into the clever bending of reality itself than academics and scholars.
Keep in mind that none of these people have ever lived in the vicinity of a war torn region, let alone experienced one. Keep in mind that these experts will go home at the end of their day never fearing a stray bullet or a drone attack. Keep in mind that none of them will ever see the inside of a tyrant’s gallows, disappear in the middle of the night, or experience first hand the agony of state mandated torture. Keep in mind that none of them will ever watch everything they own and everyone they’ve ever cared about go up in flames after a missile strike. Keep in mind that they will never have to dig into the debris of their former dwellings searching for the body parts of their loved ones, or smell the awful reek of charred human skin. Keep in mind that they will never have to search franticly for their lost children wondering whether they are still alive or not. Keep in mind that they will never know the bitterness and desolation of exile, or find themselves huddling with what remains of their families around a poorly lit fire in a God forsaken refugee camp. No, these men and women have the luxury of talking about war without ever having to live with its consequences.
Yet, these same individuals are under the impression that they somehow possess more insight on the lives of people of colour than those principally concerned. Privilege is having the luxury to wax poetics about civilization, progress, freedom, and war without so much as losing a drop of blood in the process. Violence, cultural assimilation, and economic blackmail are easy to consider as possible means for achieving a so-called honourable end, when one doesn’t have to be at the receiving end of said means. The levels of violence unleashed by the Western world against the Global South on almost every possible level are truly mind boggling. Having the same perpetrator frame for its victims how they should feel about the whole thing is adding insult to injury.
Truly, whitesplaining never ceases to amaze me. Excuse me, if I ask you to kindly talk to the hand because this “angry minority” is certainly done listening to your drivel.