Facts of the Body that Can't Be Decolonized Just settler bullshit.
For someone else's school assignment, I was reflecting on what decolonization is in concrete terms, beyond the slogan “decolonization means no state.” Riffing off “Decolonization Means No State” by Tawinikay and “Decoloniztion is Not a Metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of colonial impositions that are not, contrary to official history, “good for us” or inevitable or necessary: landlords, paying rent, being employed, identifying as a “citizen” or “worker”, buying food from grocery stores, factory farming, compulsory heterosexuality, two and only two binary genders, whiteness, racialization, industrial agriculture, only letting food plants grow in tiny little plots, embalming our corpses, getting served food at restaurants, the stock market, psychiatric institutions, assembly lines, plastic-wrapped food, the imperative to be productive at all times, ubiquitous advertising, human resources departments, prison, police, “private property”, spending most of our lives sitting down and inside a climate-controlled cube, “corporate social responsibility”, a few weeks of vacation per year, air travel, one-day shipping, English as a lingua franca, the institution of Science, compulsory schooling/kid prisons, keeping animals as pets, humans thinking they're not animals, bottled water, the concept of “dating”, rich people starting charities, the concept of “value”, concrete sidewalks with the occasional tree, lawns with nothing but grass on them, micromanaging our kids, cities built around highways and car sales, separating life into “work” and “leisure”, conceiving of time as a resource to spend and save, conceiving of rocks and water and dirt as “resources”, dreams of terraforming mars...
While maintaining these things is really only important for the wealth and well-being of a small group of people, nearly everyone is subjugated by this this toxic shit. All of these impositions are mutually supportive. You can only lock an upstanding canadian citizen into pointless jobs for life when they have to pay rent and buy food. So private property has to be protected with violent force, and food has to be grown and processed by slave labour “somewhere else.” I don't think I have to spell out much more. There is no removing and fixing isolated elements in this system, which is designed to accumulate Value and dismiss all other factors as externalities.
Here's my sense: decolonization is expansive and penetrating as state and corporate control are totalizing. I'm thinking it's not possible to reduce decolonization to a series of discrete, manageable processes. Maybe there is no stable set of conditions to aspire toward and protect indefinitely. There is no correct social organization to prescribe. There is no central authority imposing structures on everyone at once to achieve “decolonization.”
Considering what it all practically means, I thought about my local context. I thought about myself and my positionality. I wondered about what decolonization could mean on the individual level, for a settler who has been steeped in capitalist industrial mass culture from birth.
I live in the city. I sustain my body with commodities purchased from stores with money. I navigate bureaucracy to obtain what I need from institutions that hold that shit hostage. If urban parasitism is all you know, if you have no family and no history that tells you anything else was ever possible, you can't even imagine the life-ways that are excluded and extinguished so more cities like yours can flourish, so more highway malls and sweatshops get copy pasted everywhere. No drinking from a river. No picking berries from a bush. But it goes so much deeper than observable activities and consumption choices like that.
There is an interiority, a subjective experience beyond my imagination, that I cannot possess because nearly every facet of my body has been sculpted and stunted to suit the needs of employers. My sense of what is possible or real has been bent into shape by the tools I use.
I feel like decolonization is not a state you can arrive and stay at, like “death” or “employment.”
“I” cannot be “purified” or returned to a “state of pre-colonial nature”. “I” am an extension of the colonial process. This is a social order intended to reproduce and support people (somewhat) like me: potentially productive and reproductive worker-renter-consumer-citizens. Everyone else is supposed to die or go “somewhere else”. Industrial production and material flows hold my life. My “self” right now only has a future in a world that is as genocidal and cruel as the present.
Not to self-flagellate or sermonize on the necessity of settler guilt. This may be the plain fact of how things are, the outcome of causality, devoid of moral meaning. I wanna accept the body and circumstances I have and make the most of existence anyway. I'm not gonna insist there are any “should”s here for how you feel about yourself.
I messaged my friend with much of the above to help pad their assignment. I don't think any of it was usable. One flippant line I wrote went like so: “Hot take: decolonization in practice is self-annihilation*. Self-annihilation, unlike decolonization, can be a metaphor.”
I’m not going to stand by that equation. But I do jive with the idea of becoming something you’re not, when the present you makes you feel so not at home, and guiding that iterative process of reinvention with intention and active rejection of the ideological slosh getting pipelined into our brains.
In practice, I think that means not going through the same unthinking motions as usual. It means uprooting the habits and thoughts and forms-of-life that make “you” up. The flipside is inventing new, deliberate forms-of-life that make sense for where you’re at and who you’re with. It means fucking with your sense of time, what matters to you, choosing the places you wander and inhabit, cultivating new a sense of “possible” and “real.”
Taking it metaphorically, 'self-annihilation” is probably never a place you get to, unless you literally die and are forgotten by everyone. Maybe I'll never untie every knot there is to untie. Maybe I'll never live a completely free and uncompromising kinda life because we all live interdependently, amidst forces of overwhelming scale. Maybe there will always be an urgency and compulsion to preserve and grow the “self”.
All I want for myself is to reject (as much as possible) scripted modes of life for securing a future for myself as an amenable, recuperable human resource.
No Self. No hope for living the Good Life within the bounds set by Empire.
*I'm not the kind of person who literally gets told I should die. This idea of yeeting yourself, literally or not, has a different meaning for me than someone who is actively encouraged to stop existing. You know if you're one of those people. I’m not telling anyone what to do or how to feel. I only know I’m sick of myself, as I’m sick of all this shit.