By Daniel Dorman, November 30, 2023
On August 18, 2023, I wrote in these pages that “if postcolonial theorists succeed in implementing their vision of ‘truth and reconciliation’”, such a world would be indistinguishable from the “coercion and oppression” they see at the core of Western civilization. I argued that, theoretically speaking, postcolonialism and its attendant calls for ‘decolonization’ represent a fundamentally irrational ideology that’s incapable of distinguishing justice from oppression.
Then October 7th happened. Perhaps predictably, Western intellectuals influenced by postcolonialism jumped to the defence of Hamas terror. What I knew to be theoretically true was playing out in real-time on Twitter feeds and on the streets of major cities across North America and Europe. Zealous postcolonial activists showed, without a shred of plausible deniability, that they truly couldn’t tell the difference between terror and liberation.
Take CUPE Ontario leader Fred Hahn’s (later deleted) social media post. With atrocities in southern Israel ongoing, Hahn posted, “Resistance is fruitful and no matter what some might say, resistance brings progress.” Or the statement penned on October 10th by NYU Law student bar association president Ryna Workman, which expressed “absolute solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression toward liberation and self-determination,” claiming, “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life, state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary.”
One could reasonably criticize Israel, and express deep concern for the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians, without approving of, or finding anything productive in, an attack which included stomach-turning atrocities, like the tying together and burning of more than 20 Israeli children.
For some, these horrors served as a wake-up call. As Konstantin Kisin wrote in The Free Press:
“Many people woke up on October 7 sympathetic to parts of woke ideology and went to bed that evening questioning how they had signed on to a worldview that had nothing to say about the mass rape and murder of innocent people by terrorists. The reaction to the attacks—from outwardly pro-Hamas protests to the mealy-mouthed statements of college presidents, celebrities, and CEOs—has exploded the comforting stories many on the center-left have told themselves about progressive identity politics.”
The centre-left went to sleep on October 7th unnerved by the question of who, exactly, they got into bed with in the ‘decolonization’ crowd. And many folks on the right were equally shocked by how deeply unbalanced members of their own society must have become to express anything but disdain for such horrific acts. My point is this: if you were surprised by the support for Hamas terror you weren’t paying attention.
Postcolonialism’s founding thinker Edward Said (interestingly, a Palestinian American himself) subscribed to Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci’s idea that all pretension to political knowledge is “tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact.” For Said and Gramsci truth and justice are illusory, always subject to the coercive power structures they saw as definitive of human society.
Ultimately, as I argue in my earlier piece, “postcolonialism layers a radical skepticism about the capacity for human knowledge over a radical cynicism towards the possibility of justice in the world. In postcolonial theory, truth is just the opinion of the powerful and justice is merely whatever is advantageous to the stronger.” Postcolonialism and decolonization are, as such, walking the well-worn philosophical path towards violence and oppression that other Marxist ideologies tread before it.
In The Gulag Archipelago, Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn reported the thinking behind mass arbitrary detention and torture of innocent individuals in the USSR: “It was useless to seek absolute evidence–for evidence is always relative.” That same type of thinking undergirds postcolonialism and rots the moral sense of its most zealous activists. The moral precepts of “right” and “wrong” cannot exist in a world of absolute relativism.
In a recent article for the Hub, Andrew Bennet offers the following analysis of the events that have unfolded in Canada since October 7th:
“Blinded by political ideologies, including a neo-Marxist cultural view that divides people into so-called ‘colonial oppressors’ versus ‘oppressed,’ these barbaric acts are freely justified and promoted in Canada in protests and via equivocating, spineless statements by some of our public institutions and their leaders.”
Solzhenitsyn, likewise, explains the mindset behind the interrogation and sentencing of millions of innocent Russians: “The first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? These are the questions that must determine the fate of the accused.” For a zealous postcolonial activist the only relevant information is status: Is the group in question an ‘oppressor’ or part of the ‘oppressed’? Once these roles are assigned, the oppressor can do nothing right and the oppressed can do nothing wrong – because there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, only power.
Once Hamas achieved ‘oppressed’ status, it was inevitable that those activists in the West, captured by postcolonial thinking, would either equivocate or outright support their cause.
In the aftermath of the October 7th attacks, the spotlight fell on a class of influential Canadians who have adopted an incredibly dangerous ideology. Canadians must wake up to these postcolonial wolves in sheep’s clothing before it’s too late.
Daniel Dorman writes independently on political and cultural issues. He is the Communications Manager at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.