“Wherever there is life, even if it be only a possibility, the harbingers of death must go to destroy it.
See the footsteps they have left over all the world. Wherever they have been they have destroyed along their road, taking, taking, taking.”
---Ayi Kwei Armah
Baba note: Lets continue to examine attributes of Europeanisms. European hegemony has plagued the world for many centuries. In Marimba Ani’s classic YURUGU, we’re told that her work is an aggressive attack to clearly show vital elements of “Europe’s” drive to conquer, control and rule other cultures’ people. The 8th chapter, Behavior Toward Others, she deals with:
The Concept of the ‘Cultural Other.’
“A crucial aspect of European culture for the understanding of its imperialistic posture is what I term the European conception of the ‘cultural other.’ This conception helps to make European behavior towards others possible. It is closely related to the European image of others, but is not quite the same. I mean to imply that it is more a conceptual construct---a mental category---that becomes the ‘proper’ receptacle for what would otherwise be considered unsupportable, unsanctioned behavior. The European image of others, of course, reinforces this concept and ensures its continuance as a part of the European world-view. The concept of the cultural other further enables the continued existence of the extremely negative image of others that is a dialectically necessary part of the European self-image. Let us look, therefore, at this conception and the style of behavior that it implies.
“The cultural other is a creation of European culture, constructed, in part, to answer the needs of the European utamaroho.* The utamaroho is expansionistic. This, as a cultural characteristic, is itself very important to understand. The ego seeks to infinitely expand itself. This kind of self expansion should not be confused with the desire to ‘give of oneself’---to ‘merge self with other’ or to ‘become one with the world.’ All of these are identified with the spiritual experience of love. Expansionism is the psychological, emotional and ideological opposite of these. Expansionism is the projection and imposition of the cultural ego onto the world. (It is possible to interpret all manifestations of ‘universalism’ in this way.) It is the expression of arrogance, greed, and an obsession to consume all that is distinguished from self. In this setting, ‘discovered’ phenomena automatically become areas to conquer---to be made ours European expansionism is the delimitation and redefinition of the world in terms of the European self;’ as opposed to the ‘losing of self’ in the world or in the ‘other,’ which is the obliteration of the isolating boundaries of self.
In European ideology the cultural other is like the land---territory or space into which Europeans expand themselves. The cultural other is there for Europeans to define, to ‘make over.’ That is why they can describe their new awareness of objects, peoples, and territories as their ‘discovery.’ This idea is coherent for them because according to their world-view it is their role to impart definition to the world. People of other cultural traditions and ‘persuasions’ are part of the world to be defined; it is a European world. And in this sense, the conception of the cultural other is that of the nonhuman. It is Europeans who define ‘humanness’ in terms of their own self-image and with such intensity that the ethic and rules of behavior that apply to those who are like them do not apply to those who are not. The cultural other is, therefore, the person (object) who can be treated in any manner---with an unlimited degree of hostility and brutality, as is evident when one reviews the history of the European’s relations to peoples of other cultures. It is only non-aggressive and non-exploitative behavior towards the cultural other that is negatively sanctioned in European culture.
The thrust of my argument is that (1) the ethic that guides the behavior of Europeans within their culture is quantitatively and qualitatively different from that which is acceptable and sanctioned behavior toward those outside of the culture; and that (2) the characteristic behavior of Europeans toward those outside their culture is made culturally possible[i.e., the culture can support and sustain it] by the existence within European ideology of the conception of the cultural other. This conception, along with the utamahoro that supports it, makes possible a degree of aggression and successful imperialistic behavior unique in human history.
European Versus ‘Non-European’
“When I refer to the ‘intra-cultural’ behavior of Europeans, I do not mean to indicate merely their behavior within the geographical or territorial confines of nations considered to be European. I refer rather to the way in which one European is expected to behave towards another. This excludes many people who are colonized within European nations (such as the United States, part of the European diaspora) and includes Europeans living within the territorial boundaries of non-European nations. Though the European’s behavior is characteristically aggressive and competitive, there are limitations placed on the ‘acting out’ of that aggression within his culture, as there are acts that the culture does not sanction intra-culturally. Europeans are not supported culturally in the murder of other Europeans. It is not allowed; it is difficult to get away with. War among Western European nations is regretted and avoided in a way that war between a European nation and a non-European nation could never be. European intracultural behavior is characterized by a lack of trust as a basis for love…. Aggressiveness and hostility on the part of the individual makes emotional life precarious within the culture. It is obvious that the culture could not survive as a viable entity if there were not some’safety-valve’ for this aggression. This cultural need creates the cultural other, whose existence makes possible, on a cultural level, the absorption of dysfunctional internal aggression. Put simply: If the cultural other did not exist, Europeans would destroy each other’
One of the dynamics in the historical development of the West is that as the culture matured---as it developed---its ideology ‘progressively’ adjusted itself so that the limitations on treatment of Europeans became more circumscribed with respect to certain extreme forms of political relationships. More precisely, the tendency that can be recognized is that first slavery, then serfdom of Europeans by Europeans became negatively sanctioned within the culture, and in general it became increasingly less acceptable to hold extreme overt political power over other European nations. This, of course, was Hitler’s greatest crime in terms of the European ethic; the methods by which he sought to control the Western world were obsolete---were not longer sanctioned. The European reaction to first British and then United States world ascendancy is very different. It is within this cultural-ideological process of the redefinition and maturation of Western European political nationalism that the call for European unity became audible and the negative image of others and the concept of the cultural other became intensified. In 1814 Saint-Simon called for a ‘European Confederation.’
‘All undertakings of common advantage to the European community will be directed by the great parliament; thus, for instance, it will link the Danube to the Rhine by canals, the Rhine to the Baltic, etc. Without external activity, there is no internal tranquility. The surest means of maintaining peace in Confederation will be to keep it constantly occupied beyond its own borders, and engaged without a pause in great internal enterprises. To colonize the world with the European race, superior to every other human race; to make the world accessible and habitable like Europe---such is the sort of enterprise by which the European parliament should continually keep Europe active and healthy.(3)
3. Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, Social Organization, The Science of Man, and Other Writings, trans. And ed. Felix Markham, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1964, p. 49