Post-Colonialism-Trying to Regain Individuality

to Regain Individuality

Indeed, the stranger has unusual customs.

The white man held the paper like a sacred thing. His hands shook, and
we mistrusted him... For how many moons will the stranger be among us?
(Vera 43)

The stranger still lives among the people
of Zimbabwe, though the colonial political authority has left. Yet I wonder
if the town elder speaking in the above passage from Yvonne Vera's Nehanda
would recognize current Zimbabwean authorities as strangers or countrymen.

Could he relate to today's government officials and understand the languages
which they speak? Would he feel at home in an African country with borders
defined by European imperial powers without regard to the various ethnic
nations involved? Post-colonial theory attempts to explain problems such
as these, yet it does so almost exclusively in the languages of the European
colonial powers. Europeans even created the word Africa. "To name the world
is to 'understand' it, to know it and to have control over it" (Ashcroft

283). Because knowledge is power, and words, whether written or spoken,
are the medium of exchange, using words incurs responsibility.

One must use special care with broadly
defined words and terms, such as post-colonial. Post-colonial literature
describes a wide array of experiences set in the contexts of heterogeneous
societies which themselves represent many different ethnic groups. Ashcroft,

Griffiths and Tiffin define post-colonial theory as discussion of "migration,
slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, race, gender,
place, and responses to the influential master discourses of imperial Europe...
and the fundamental experiences of speaking and writing by which all these
come into being" (Ashcroft 2). The wide-ranging nature of the term post-colonial
threatens to weaken its usefulness by "diffusion... so extreme that it
is used to refer to not only vastly different but even opposed activities"
(Ashcroft 2). Post-colonialism encompasses many of the issues encountered
in the work we have discussed thus far in the semester. Yet because vague
and generalized theories have limits and tend to oversimplify, clouding
over real problems, one must handle the term with care.

Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin suggest
that we should restrict the term post-colonial to signify after colonialism.

"All post-colonial societies are still subject in one way or another to
overt or subtle forms of neo-colonial domination, and independence has
not solved the problem" (Ashcroft 2). After colonialism, new elites, often
in the form of dictators, frequently rose and still rise to power in post-colonial
countries. In Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, Ikem complains
about countrymen worse than thieves, "leaders who openly looted our treasury,
whose effrontery soiled our national soul" (Achebe 39). Ikem refers not
to the white strangers but rather to Africans who have ruled with policies
similar to those of colonial oppression. With the British empire gone,

African societies must look inward to find remnants of colonialism which
continue to harm their nations, and perhaps, find those which are advantageous
in the new world they have been thrust into. Ikem's speech directed to
all Nigerians rather than to any particular class pleads, "you must develop
the habit of skepticism, not swallow every piece of superstition you are
told by witch doctors and professors... When you rid yourself of these
things your potentiality for assisting and directing this nation will be
quadrupled" (Achebe 148). Part of the danger of the term post-colonial
stems from people's disregard of their responsibility for their situation.

As Ikem notes in his speech, people prefer to blame other groups, perhaps
even post-colonialism, for their problems and rarely comprehend that only
they can help themselves.

Yet for people to act responsibly, they
must first have a certain level of understanding of the situation which
faces them. However, because colonialism and exposure to Western culture
caused so many changes in African societies, people were thrust into new
experiences which they could not comprehend with the guidance of the old
traditions. In Ken Saro-Wiwa's Forest of Flowers, when a young man becomes
dumbfounded after bringing home a man who he thought was a woman, people
explain transvestites in the following manner. "One man said it was spirit,
another said fairy and another ghost" (Saro-Wiwa 73). Resorting to old
superstitious explanations of events makes it very difficult to understand
real life situations and from thence, act responsibly in them.

Too much has changed to simply revert to
the old ways of life. New problems exist and will continue to do so unless
one can learn to deal them in the modern context. Blaming post-colonial
syndrome for the ills of developing countries sentences those countries
to continue in their state of hardship. Rewinding the clock to prevent
colonialism from occurring is impossible, so we must look at each issue
now, in the modern context, as a separate problem which we must attack.

These problems affect not only