by David Austin, Toronto, Canada
"In a February 2002 National Post column, "Frantz Fanon: A Poisonous Thinker Who Refuses to Die," writer Robert Fulford claimed that "it was Fanon who brought into modern culture the idea that violence can heal the spiritually wounded," and that Fanon "argued that violence was necessary to Third World peoples not just as a way to win their liberty but, even more, because it would cure the inferiority complex that had been created by the teachings of white men."
He also informed us that The Wretched of Earth "went into six editions in Arabic," scandalously insinuating a relationship between Arabness and violence. Fulford is sorely misguided, if not disingenuous. He perpetuates the image of Fanon as an apostle of violence. But to label Fanon as an avatar of violence is as presumptuous as labeling Fulford as a pacifist.
Much of the hullabaloo stems from passages such as the following: "At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from despair and inaction." At a cursory reading, the passage appears to be a promotion of violence as cathartic release. But at a closer read, Fanon's language is very specific. The words "At the level of individuals" are crucial: Fanon is sharing his first-hand observations as a clinical psychiatrist. He was treating Algerian patients who were engaged in a life-and-death struggle against French settlers who had killed, brutalized, and maimed Algerian women and men. For some of them, violence was a cathartic act. Under these conditions, should we be surprised that, in absence of an impartial judiciary, police force, or any other official institutions willing to defend the rights of Algerians, some of them should take matters into their own hands ?"