Colonizing of the Mind1

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Kinsman, Gwendolyn ENG 3140 May 1st, 2012 Colonization Is Still Alive and Well and Its All Your Fault: Or Colonizing of the Mind and the Stranglehold Disney Has on the World What even is post colonialism? If one were to ask a random person on the street that had no idea, most people would hazard a guess that it was simply the era after colonialism, and they would be partially right. It does reference the era after colonialism in the mid-20th century. Post colonialism is prevalent in nations that were colonized, and then gained their independence, either after a rebellion or after a peaceful transference of power from the colonizer to the colonized. However, if one were to ask the same random stranger if colonialism is truly dead, and by that, I mean, does colonization mean only colonization of a nation or people in a nation, by another country or nation state? Can colonization happen to a group of people by some other entity or force? The answer to that question is complicated, but ultimately, yes it can. In fact, all people are colonized every day; the colonization is that of the mind. In particular, one particular corporation has a stranglehold on the minds of a good population of the world, particularly in the United States, and that corporation would be Disney. Of course, many would balk at the notion that they could be colonized, as they are free to do what they wish, that no one from Disney, nor is Disney themselves forcing anyone to watch their films, go to their parks, or buy any of their merchandise. No, this colonization is something that we do to ourselves, and it does not happen to us by force or because we are not strong enough to stop it, it happens because we are ambivalent and because we buy into what Disney is selling.Kinsman Page 1

In order to truly lay out this new form of colonization that has become prevalent in the world we must look at two post-colonial philosophers in Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, who both spent a great deal of time laying out the ideas of post colonialism, Orientalism, and the Subaltern. These terms are intertwined and when dealing with post colonialism, go hand in hand. In Orientalism, Said tells us that Orientalism is this basic idea that there is something fundamentally diametrically opposed between Western and Eastern societies. This idea isnt really questioned, because it is true both hemispheres of the world buy into different cultures, into different belief systems, and their way of life are vastly different, however, Orientalism goes further than that. Orientalism also claims that there is a stereotype from the Western perspective that those from the Orient or East are, exotic, pre-modern, emotional, and indolent. (Dittmer 18). In, Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film, Mary Hamer makes the assertion that it isnt that Orientalism completely ignores the Eastern cultures and societies, its that they do acknowledge them and study them, and then measure their culture and society against their own, and find ways to subvert any and all evidence that there may be something to the Eastern way of life. She claims, Orientalism is seductive; it offers forms for European pleasures. (Bernstein 271.) In other words, Orientalism allows the Western world to justify what they are doing, their way of life and thinking, because the thing they are measuring is diametrically opposed to them, and anything that is different, must be bad or exotic. In the term of orientalism, exotic does not mean beautiful and desirable as it does today. Exotic, in terms of orientalism, means wild or dangerous, or something to be frightened of. She also claims that, The most effective counter to the fantasies of Orientalism, it has been argued, is to measure them against the historical record. (Bernstein 271). She claims that many authors and artists from the time were accused of ignoring anything true and historical, so as to keep up the fiction of the Eastern setting and to


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perpetuate the notion of Orientalism. Said himself claimed in Orientalism, The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be Oriental in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be- that is, submitted to being-made Oriental. (Bernstein 305). Choo asserts, Said convinced the West of what the East already knew, that the Orient is a Western invention. For Said, Orientalism is the form imperialism takes in the Orient. What constitutes the superior West (modernity, scientific advances, and technical advantages) and what constitutes the inferior Orient (superstition, adherence to tradition, spirituality as wisdom) have a strong foundation in the colonial quest for wealth and profit. (Bernstein 305). In other words, the very idea of colonialism and imperialism lends itself to Orientalism, it is the very justification of taking away the same humanity of those being colonized, so as not, to offend ones sensibilities and lead to guilt and shame for forcing a group of people to submit to someone who simply knows better, because they are better. If one can justify their actions and beliefs at the expense of another group of people and gain more land and profit in the meantime, then why shouldnt they? Once a group of people is forced to adhere to a fictional representation of them by a group that has taken the power, they become mute and powerless. Shawn Rider in his article, The Silenced Majority: Colonization of the Mind and the Flesh Eating Zombie claims, The relationship between the ruling and the ruled is a constant power struggle. Edward Said buys into Foucaults notions of power flow, in that power flow is set up so power flows away from the native and toward the colonizers. Native language and religion are usurped by civilized or better versions, destabilizing the native culture and of course the restabilizing force is that of the colonizers. (Rider 4-9). Once the natives buy into the new religion, language,Kinsman Page 3

and culture, the natives become the subaltern. The subaltern refers to according to Spivak, In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern-a space of difference. (De Kock 45). To Spivak, the subaltern is those natives who have been cast under the Orientalism lamp, those who have no voice, because it has been torn away from them, it is those who have been cast as the role of, The Other. In terms of the colonizer, The Other becomes the subaltern, it becomes the people that are different than them, and by different it means, worse than. Of course the question Spivak poses then, is can this group of people speak? Can a group that has had their voice taken away, actually speak? Tabish Khair says in, Can the Subaltern Shout (and Smash), that Spivaks notion of the subaltern only being able to speak when they stop speaking as a subaltern, is wrong, and that idea of speech being noise, or a sound made from ones voice, is faulty. Speech can happen through body language, through thought, through written word, and that the question of whether or not the subaltern being able to speak is a rather stupid question. Of course, the subaltern can speak, but the better question, can the subaltern ever be listened to? Meaning, can the subaltern ever say anything that is listened to, welcomed, and adhered to? And that question is no. The subaltern can say anything they want, but as long as they are only speaking to another subaltern, the message means very little. It is like the phrase, preaching to the choir; subalterns could speak all day long to each other. Nothing will ever happen, because simply put, they are subaltern. As long as they are in that position, not speaking to the right people, not taking a stand and shrugging off the oppression of being the subaltern, it doesnt matter if they speak or not. (Khair 10-15). J. Maggio in his article, Can the Subaltern be Heard?: Political Theory, Translation, Representation, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, basically agrees with what Khair says aboutKinsman Page 4

the subaltern. He claims that just because the colonizers refuse to listen to the subaltern when they cry out, doesnt mean the subaltern are not heard. There is a distinction between hearing something and listening to someone. You can hear almost anything, but the things you choose to actually listen to are the ones that get through and stay with you. In this, Maggio, faults Spivak for her shortsightedness and her approach on the subaltern and the subject of speaking and being heard. (Maggio 429-438) Which leads to another question entirely, does the subaltern even want to speak? If the subaltern are now colonized into believing they are in fact better off with the new colonizing force, why would that group of people even want to speak out? And this is where colonization of the mind comes into play. Marcelo Dascal claims in his essay, Colonizing and Decolonizing Minds, Whereas the most visible forms of political colonialism have for the most part disappeared from the planet by the end of the millennium, several of its consequences remain with us. Postcolonial thinkers have undertaken not only to analyze this phenomenon, but also to devise strategies for effectively combating and hopefully eradicating colonialisms most damaging aspect the taking possession and control of its victims minds. (Dascal 1). Many will ask, but what is it? The answer is complicated. Colonization of the mind is a metaphor that shows how a colonizer forces their ideologies, beliefs, or some external source into the mental sphere of its subjects. It thereby changes the subjects way of thinking, and the contents that are in the mind, because of this the effects of colonization of the mind are long lasting, and last far longer than any physical ramifications of colonization. There is a clear unevenness of power between the colonized and colonizer, on