In Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, in "On Violence," what is the relationship between the French colonists and the Algerian colonized people in relation to violence?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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As a staunch anti- colonialist directly influenced by the French who took over Martinique, his birth-place, Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist, recognized the effects of culture on a person's outlook and, having witnessed oppression, believed that people who have no freedoms and are thus not treated like humans, are entitled to use violence for democratic ends. In Wretched of the Earth, he defends this right.

In attempts to "decolonize" there is a definite clash between the previous colonizers and "them"- those people or "natives" who are now striving for independence. The reader is reminded that "it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence." The French are essentially foreigners in Algeria and yet it is the Algerians who are seen as "the others." It is not simply a question of removing barriers or allowing people into areas previously forbidden and it is certainly "not a rational confrontation of points of view." The local people are aware of the opinion of the French and it is the "dehumanization," as French try to bring them around to the "white man's" ways and not God's ways that increases the justification for violence:   

He knows that he is not an animal; and it is precisely at the moment he realizes his humanity that he begins to sharpen the weapons with which he will secure its victory.

Attempts by colonizers to discuss values and instill them into the "natives" reveals that colonizers believe in their own superiority and the fact that Western culture is preferred and should be adopted after decolonization. This however serves to engender violence. Westerners do not seem to realize that freedom is not about using their methods to run the country. They cannot comprehend any other way as the colonizers way must surely be preferred! The individualist culture that exists among colonists is not the "native" way which is a far more communal comradeship where "tradition demands that the quarrels which occur in a village should be settled in public." This counters a westernized view; again leading to violence due to misunderstanding. 

Those colonized people act violently towards their own people, in their confusion to replace themselves in the "settlers'" privileged position and it is the attitude of the "settler" that ensures that the "native" never loses that desire to replace him: 

He is in fact ready at a moment's notice to exchange the role of the quarry for that of the hunter. The native is an oppressed person whose permanent dream is to become the persecutor.

The colonizers, in a cycle of oppression, feel justified in claiming that "natives" are unmanageable and unable to govern whereas the colonized man is using his own people as his outlet for his anger against his oppressors.  This situation also allows the oppressor or colonizer to appear blameless.

Algerians recognized colonialism as "violence in its natural state" and, as such, defeating it means more violence although there are those who choose non-violence, mainly because they know that the violence of the West is far more effective and will ultimately cause their defeat anyway. When Algerians rise against colonialists, there is an "indignation of all civilized conscience" when French soldiers are killed and yet the wiping out of entire villages is barely noticed. Therefore, a "cycle of hate" prevents any real progress. Algerians become "suspects" and the French are allowed to take whatever action they deem necessary for their own protection. To confirm the view of the "natives"  and strengthen  the premise that violence promotes violence, the reader is reminded that after "seven years of crimes in Algeria (and) there has not yet been a single Frenchman indicted before a French court of justice for the murder of an Algerian." 

Violence then seems to be relative. The violent but subtle and therefore seemingly "acceptable" actions of the French are seen in a completely different light by the westerners and there is a blindness in recognizing the perpetuation of violence as they see only the outwardly violent action of the "natives."

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