About We Write What We Like
Steve Biko was unwilling to compromise if it would in any way maintain the status quo of “normalisation” of a racist paradigm. He was a man who believed in the power of self-liberation by the means of empowerment that historically was called “Black Consciousness”.
Far from being a racist idea, it was instead inspired by the awareness that a human could only achieve his freedoms by refusing to submit and surrender to being a lesser human being. Defining the needs of his own people and expressing the perception of these needs without a filter of what in his time was known as “the white liberal”, Biko insisted upon the task of the white man resolving his racism problems and the black man becoming aware of his own potential and needs, translating them into action. A slogan that he coined: “Black Man, you are on your own” was the expression of the reality that no one else would, could or should liberate anyone else.
It was a statement of empowerment and the natural result of knowing for oneself what was best for oneself, and it included the realisation that leadership could only come from within, the grassroots could only be built by establishment of the primacy of the needs of the group and actions decided upon as an outcome of internal consensus.
And this is why Steve Biko is the guiding light and inspiration of this new collective effort that adapts the name of the collection of his writings and interviews. When Biko wrote under the name “Frank Talk” he was not directing his discourse at the world, but at the world that could gain from his thoughts to change the status quo, could learn from his insights and could engage in a discourse based on common goals. His writing was directed to his fellow South Africans who rejected the negative label of “non-whites” – identifying them by what they were “not” and instead replacing it with a strong awareness of what Blackness was and how awareness of the Black Identity was the instrument leading to liberation.
Not only did he seek liberation from oppression, but he sought a just society. His discourse was based on Liberation Strategy, but it did not stop with the liberation of Blacks from the chains of apartheid, but extended towards a vision of equality and prosperity for all South Africans, and the emergence of an paradigm for liberation that could possibly be extended to any part of the world where there was colonialism, oppression and racism.
We see a completely non-racial society. We don’t believe, for instance, in the so-called guarantees for minority rights, because guaranteeing minority rights implies the recognition of portions of the community on a race basis. We believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, just the people. And those people will have the same status before the law and they will have the same political rights before the law. So in a sense it will be a completely non-racial egalitarian society.
… We don’t need any artificial majorities, any artificial laws to entrench ourselves in power because we believe once we come into power our sheer numbers will maintain us there. We do not have the same fear that the minority white government has been having all along, which has led to his many laws designed to keep him there. – Steve Biko “No Timetable” in Our Strategy for Liberation.
The vision of the future based on equality is one that nevertheless acknowledged human diversity and the differences in treatment that are part of all colonialisms (and occupations).
Black Consciousness is in essence the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their operation – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group in order to rid themselves of the shakles that bind them to perpetual servitude. It seeks to demonstrate the lie that black is an aberration from the ‘normal’ which is white. It is a manifestation of a new realisation that by seeking to run away from themselves and to emulate the white man, blacks are insulting the intelligence of whoever created them black. Black Consciousness, therefore, takes cognizance of the deliberateness of God’s plan in creating black people black. It seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life.
And thus, it should not be a surprise that our inspiration is Steve Biko. We are living in times of people taking charge of their own struggles for liberation against tyranny. The Tunisian spark that is freeing all the people of North Africa and which will continue to be a trend towards the freedom of the region and ultimately beyond has been for us a monumental event of historical importance and also… joy. We support the people’s struggles everywhere, and know they will eventually be victorious.
This blog seeks to be a space for discourse about the liberation struggle FOR those in the struggle in what was called in an orientalist moment “The Middle East” and for those who support it from the outside. We wish to address this public, the public of Palestinians and ‘solidarity activists’ for Palestinian freedom as well as all the “Middle Eastern” liberation struggles, and our aspirations are to add anything possible to lead to liberation by means of improving our strategy, defining our instruments and using them wisely, working with one another to keep a vibrant, varied, interesting and effective discourse which leads to more and more actions that bring about the end of all the occupations and the true expression of the vast potential in the concept of “Arabhood”.
In that sense, it is an internal discourse, as Palestinians don’t need to be told how bad Israel is. This is an undisputed fact. It is more effective to abandon time-consuming rhetoric amongst those in the movement who in one sense are doing great work, and are completely determined with their hearts and minds to expose Israeli crimes, but whose efforts sometimes seem like singing to the choir – and instead to devote our energies to refining our own strategies and supporting our own grassroots movements in carrying out a variety of effective actions.
We are convinced that Israel has no fear of rhetoric, indeed, the presence of hyperbole can be counter-effective as it often allows them to “prove how everyone hates them” and grants them a sort of excuse to further entrench themselves in the garrison mentality that they express in obscene violence and oppression of those they perceive as “the enemy”.
We are further convinced that the real tool to liberate Palestine is the UNITY of all Palestinians, across all geographic, social, religious divides. The Palestinian People, united in the Arab Body is the true and legitimate tool towards liberation, just as all the Arab peoples are throwing off shakles of tutelage and tyranny (some more effectively than others). We know there is a limit to how much Israel can do. Their days are up, their fate is sealed.
It is just a matter of tactics, of adopting good strategy and unity of purpose… and like Biko suggested, it was impossible to know exactly when it would happen, but the liberation is inevitable, it is perhaps on the horizon.
This blog will be a collective effort of a group of people who all share the same goal, liberation of Palestine, the end of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the self-empowerment of the people of the “Middle East”. We differ in some aspects in our approach, opinions and in our focus but on several core issues, there is no room for diversity:
1) we support full Right of Return;
2) we reject any orientalist approach where the “Western expert” or pundit seeks to be a leader or to set the discourse, as often they do have a hidden or different agenda. Westerners (like some of us here including this author) do have a place in the struggle, and it is on the side and in a supporting role. We can and must serve and assist and offer what we can to fulfil the aspirations of the needs that have been indicated to us, but we simply reproduce a colonialist and orientalist attitude by seeming like “we know better”, especially when it’s true that we don’t and we can’t;
3) we reject any kind of hate speech against anyone and are completely able to maintain discourse within the parametres that shun racism, sexism, discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnic group or nationality, social class or age. Furthermore, zionism is an ideology, and as thus, criticism of it or rejection of it can in no way be misconstrued as racism or hate speech;
4) we aim to respect the differences amongst ourselves and this means as well that we allow criticism of ourselves and allow ourselves the right to criticise each other and ourselves. It is painful to realise we often fall short of our goal, or worse, cause damage by our actions. Taking stock of that is a duty which we can’t subtract ourselves from, as long as we justify, provide solid evidence and reasoning for why we assume these positions, internal critique is not only necessary, it is healthy. If the goal and aim is the liberation of Palestine, we will work towards that aim and also expose mechanisms WITHIN our own movement that are strategically, tactically, ethically or intellectually flawed and we will attempt to understand how to be more effective as activists. The cause is NOT Activism or Activists, the cause is and will remain Palestinian liberation in the context of liberation of the entire “Middle East”;
5) we support the rights of people under occupation to resist by whatever means they consider necessary as long as they are within international law. Thus, armed resistance is as valid to some of us as non-violent resistance. The resistance is always determined on the basis of the level of suffering the oppressor provokes as well as external elements such as perceived convenience and opportunity, and the means will change accordingly. Each author here who upholds a specific type of resistance should not condemn others who do not share the same strategy, but rather, use it as a basis for internal discussion. At the end of the day, it is the Palestinians on the ground who will determine which actions they want to select in any given circumstance;
6) we believe in individual rights as well as group rights. We are still debating the construct of “universal rights” as they are themselves an output of a history of colonialism, but we believe in human rights and dignity of everyone and without hesitation reject torture and abuse and condemn inter-Palestinian violence, (as it can only serve Israel);
7) each person is accountable for their actions and deeds. This means that we have a duty to uphold the principles that we are convinced are driven by justice, but we are going to also have our own personal and individual differences that we also uphold and defend. We believe in the necessity for unity and reconciliation, but we also believe that it does not imply homolgation to a single ideal or vision, whether it be political or religious. Thus, each writer and contributor here recognises his or her unique individuality and personal voice. We each speak for ourselves, as individuals seeking to engage with others in fruitful discussion. Yet, we seek to also speak and act collectively in the times this will be strategically beneficial.
This site takes off where Palestine Think Tank left off and it intends upon maintaining now, (as then) the primacy on the Arab Voice of Resistance. We hope that the creation of a larger collective in a format where others can contribute with greater ease will serve the cause, and we hope that discourse is positive, enlightening and civil. And we want nothing but FRANK TALK.
Long live the Arab People
Long live Palestine