Thursday, January 16, 2014

Decolonization 101

Only indirectly and imperfectly can I explain decolonization.

Suppose X lives in a large family, with an Imperious Aunt.  This Imperious Aunt happens to know (or so everyone believes) how X feels better than X does.   X falls down and scrapes his knee; he gets a good school report card; he doesn't get into the college he wants; he gets a job; he falls in love - whatever it is,  to find out how X feels, everyone consults the Imperious Aunt.  Even when she's visibly inaccurate about how X feels, and X expostulates, "But....", everyone tells him, "Oh shut up, what do **you** know?", and goes back to listening to the Imperious Aunt.

Decolonization is the process of overthrowing the Authority of the Imperious Aunt. 

It might boggle your mind that an entire nation can suffer from the syndrome of the Imperious Aunt.  Well, the nation is not one person; there is an elite; sort of like Krugman's Very Serious People (VSPs), who dominate the discourse in that country; and this elite can be very disconnected from reality.   Just like Birla, who, before his de-Macaulayization,  could not recognize expertise or competence unless it presented itself in the Queen's English.  It is this elite that are the arbiters of everything in the country, and they constantly run to their Imperious Aunt to know anything about everything.  Imperious Aunt doesn't mind either, it suits her purposes.  Decolonization is the process of dismantling this hegemony.

PS: on a milder note, I recall seeing Gell-Mann trying to educate a visiting professor on how to pronounce his (the visiting professor's) wife's name.   Just imagine, he returns home, and tells his wife, we've been married twenty one years. but only now, finally, Gell-Mann taught me how to say your name properly. (In real life, he protested to Gell-Mann.)  Not letting Gell-Mann tell you how to pronounce the name of your spouse of many years is decolonization.