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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Back to Abya Yala: an anti-colonial awakening

I´ve been watching documentaries about the Palestinian Nakhba (like the one by Al Jazeera) which is always enlightening for me due to my pro-zionist upbringing. Being back to Abya Yala after some months away, I´ve been thinking about my position in a colónial order: white but not wasp, national of a country but not of a metropolitan one, raised to feel part of a group (Sepharadic, Jewish) with a history of being persecuted, placed on the side of the urbans in the regime of peasant disempowering, raised to be male but with heavy doses of heterogynefilia
and a great deal of autogynefilia, cushioned by the middle class entitlements, surrponded by wanna-be whites that love African stuff provided that it doesn´t bear too much of an afro name. I guess I am in the middle of a scale that I once called the Güero-Indigenous scale, güero for the moderns, indigenous for the locals (both terms turned out to be complicated and I would rather refrain from using them again, but they served my purpose). In other words, in the endeavour of opening territories (in heads, in headscapes, in land, in landscape) for the moderns (that people of variable geometry, says Latour, and of growing geography, my words) I was placed not in the top of the scale and not at its bottom. As a Brazilian, I wasn´t an Indigenous, but I wasn´t a Westerner either. As a Jew, I wasn´t a displaced person any longer but I carried a history of displacements in the (official version of the) family. For a while, when I was growing up I believed all these identity archeolatry to the extent that I felt torn between a Jewish and an Abya Yala (a.k.a. Latin-American, Patria Grande) identity. In both cases I was placed in the middle of a colonial scale: not fully Modern, not fully Indigenous. A complicated position to be: that of a hybrid, maybe. I realised soon that the role of these hybrids are related to some kind of diplomacy. I could speak with heavy accent the language of the Moderns and I could mutter some Indigenous words. The issue, it seems to me, is whether I babbled with pride while disguising my accent or whether I was ashamed of not being able of doing more than mumbling and aware that my Modern-ese was a pígeon language. I guess for most of my years I went for the former and not the latter. That is, I did my diplomacy but starting out from the trenchers of Modern-land.

These two archeolatric identities are also diplomatic identities and their diplomacy was put in service of the Moderns. The Jewish Haskalah (enlightenment) that took place in Europe since late 18th century (and had Napoleon as its outer world greatest figure) is the craddle of Zionism: the Jews then dropped their indigenous nature - that made them like beggars, outsiders, nomads - and sided with the European project of organizing the world in states, nations, governments, economics and economy. What follows - the tragedy of the Nakhba - started there; what else followed - the tragedy of the Shoah - took place because Jewish and European assimilation to the Moderns was not fast enough. Yet, it was enough for the an enormous technical machinery to be put in the service of both catastrophes. Some Jews than learned the lesson: Moderns have to patrol someone else to ensure that the geography is expanding - acquiring more Lebensraum for modernity. This is what they are now: modernized Indigenous. This is what Brazilians want to be - no wonder Israel is admired around by the Modern classes. Brazil cherishes the dream of becoming part of the West. In both cases, these wanna-be moderns end up often to practice modernity à outrance and being more royalist than the natives of modernland. Often ruthless and with no space for hospitable (or even diplomatic) gestures. The strength (specially of convictions) has to be proven throughout.

I was placed in the middle of this diplomatic imbroglio: in the midst of two wanna-be modern archeolatric identities. Born to be in the middle-range. Not quite indigenous, not quite güero. Offended to be called both ways by either pole but pleased to belong with the upper hand holders. Still, I realised hybrids can see through some things. Because they were bred in the middle. I grew glad to be in the middle. But then even glader to be on the way somewhere. Where?

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