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Comparison and Contrast of Fanon’s and Arendt’s Different Views on Violence Essay

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Updated: Apr 5th, 2019

After the World War II, there was massive struggle for independence with most of the countries becoming independent nations because of decolonisation. The use of violence was inevitable in the quest for freedom. ‘The Battle of Algiers’ is one of the most influential political films in History that was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. It portrays the Algerians’ struggle for their French Colonisers (Pontecorvo, 1966).

Several thinkers use the film to understand the meaning of violence. In the view of Violence, Frantz Fanon considers the use of violence to be inevitable and an essential part of revolutions and uprisings. Frantz argues that violence is indispensable in decolonisation of both societies and minds. Therefore, violence qualifies as a way to unite people, bring cleansing and increase productivity.

On the other hand, Aredent considers the use of unnecessary violence by the modern governments to be unlawful. He argues that power and violence are not similar, as the political theories tend to link them. The use of violence by the states results from lack of power because true power derives consent, will, and common purpose. The less powerful states use violence because of lack of power. Thus, violence is the only option available to them.

The purpose of this essay it to compare and contrast Fanon’s and Arendt’s different views on violence – the violence used by governments and the violence used by people seeking social change, freedom, and justice.

The film ‘The Battle of Algiers’ gives a story of terrorist group (FLN) in Algeria, which tries to get independence from its French colonisers. The film looks into the issues of violence and the kind of violence used by people to gain their independence. The issues of good versus bad story in the film leave the bad fading away from the viewers as they continue to watch the film.

The film is quite relevant in the modern society, as it helps to give understanding of beating terrorism. Many armies such as the American army use the film to understand how to beat violence. Different thinkers explain the issues of violence as related to independent violence and violence used to gain independence. There is in comparison with Frantz Fanon and Hannah Aredent’s theories on violence.

The Fanon’s theory on decolonisation describes decolonisation as being violent phenomenon at all times. He describes decolonisation as a process that replaces certain ‘species of men with others. The process of decolonisation is complex and needs a total change in not only the political set up but also the minds of the citizens for absolute decolonisation. His statement

“Decolonization never takes place unnoticed, for it influences individuals and modifies them fundamentally. It transforms spectators crushed with their inessentiality into privileged actors, with the grandiose glare of history’s floodlights upon them”.

The use of armed struggle or rather violence in thus inevitable. Fanon is wrong in his view of decolonisation as a process that replaces certain species of humankind with another because the decolonised elites colonise the other citizens. Therefore, the effects of colonisation are still rooted in the minds of the colonised.

Aredent’s view of decolonisation is comparable Fanon’s theory on decolonisation in that the means of decolonisation have far much reaching impacts on the end of colonisation. In fact, this is evident in the second scene of the movie. This scene portrays extremes of violence in which children shoot soldiers openly, women plant bombs is secret places and the French soldiers decide to torture and break the will of the rebellious (Pontecorvo, 1966, ‘Battle of Algiers’).

However, Aredent disagrees with the Fanon’s view of use of armed conflict as the only means of ending colonisation. In her view, the use of armed conflicts is not justifiable to end colonisation. In fact, “The technical development of implements of violence has now reached the point where no political goal could conceivably correspond to their destructive potential or justify their actual use in armed conflict” . In reality, the use of scorching bullets and bloodthirsty knives is inevitable from for the decolonisation process to be successful.

Fanon argues that there is total substitution in course of decolonisation at any period of transition that contrasts Aredent’s view. The success of colonisation is viewed by putting into practice the words, “The last shall be first and the first last”, supports this. “Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence. That is why, if we try to describe it, all decolonization is successful”. His argument is true in that for the first to be the last, complete substitution must take place.

Thus, armed struggle is inevitable. In fact, in the Battle of Algiers, Col. Mathieu says, “Should we remain in Algeria? If you answer “yes,” then you must accept all the necessary consequences” (Pontecorvo, 1966). Decolonisation results from the displacement of the colonisers from the political rule of a country. The domination of political authority of a country by another nation shows the existence of inequality.

However, Fanon takes a wrong track in describing the origin of inequality to be from economic inequality that arises from various differences in the way of attaining the reality of life. He misquotes Marx who describes well the nature of the pre-colonial societies by his argument that parcels in the world belong to a certain race or rather species. Thus, the white are rich than the blacks.

On the other hand, Ardent disagrees with Fanon’s view of total substitution for decolonisation to occur. In her view, the main political goal of decolonisation is mutual deterrence rather than victory. This is true in that the some of the powerful legends such as Mahatma Gandhi of India and Martin Luther the king did not use violence in spite of them being more powerful.

She argues that, “The apocalyptic” chess game between the superpowers, that is, between those that move on the highest plane of our civilization, is being played according to the rule: “if either ‘wins’ it is the end of both” . In spite of Aredent’s view on armed struggle being unnecessary and illegal, she might be mistaken for advocating for armed struggle amongst the super powers instead of mutual deterrence. The claim rests on their investment in nuclear weapons and other ammunitions.

The use of armed struggle to end decolonisation from Fanon’s view is in contrast with Aredent’s view of use of mutual deterrence in preventing colonisation. This is evident in the third scene of the movie where the senior military officers in the French military force recall the use of torture and execution to counteract rebellion amongst the Algerians. This portrays the effects of use of violence in attaining freedom.

The two authors do not support colonisation and its effects. Aredent advocates for the use of legitimate power in addressing freedom. he disagrees with the idea of colonisation in that power creates consent, will and common goal. The use of power creates mutual deterrence. He emphasizes that people should be proud of their culture by valuing it. This is true because most blacks consider the white superior to them. In Fanon’s view, the black people should not desire to be like the whites or rather being in ‘Black skins and white masks’.

He argues, “This phenomenon is ordinarily masked because, during the period of decolonization, certain colonized intellectuals have begun a dialogue with the bourgeoisie of the colonialist country” . He encourages the people to throw away the western cultures, as they are free from colonisation. However, the Africans still hold on to the western cultures in spite of their decolonisation.

This depicts the great impacts of colonisation that is somehow masked. Decolonisation is not an historical happening but a process, as indirect colonialism still exists where the elite are in charge of the less educated. His view on the major three problems that affect Africans is correct. He views the Africans to have three major problems.

They believe that African did not have History, inferiority complex and false conversion of many African to Christians by the colonialists. The view of false conversion of African to Christians is also evident in the Marx views.

The use of violence to attain power is not justifiable according to Ardent. On the contrary, Fanon support of the use of Violence. Ardent argues that there have been technological developments in the means of attaining freedom. In her view, “the World is at war with itself” thus in spite of many tools to create means of attaining freedom, the use of violence is not necessary. Her argument is true because what matters most in the recent world is deterring people from fighting and using diplomatic means to attain power.

Aredent goes in the right track by in describing the nuclear age where there is no winner. She disagrees with Marx’s view of the working class ruling the nation in that the existence of power cannot be suppressed: it is not defined by the degree of violence. Aredent argues that the use of bureaucracy in the twenty first century in most nations is negative as there is no person responsible for any mistake. Her support for legitimate power gives a good understanding of good use of power.

In my opinion, the use of violence during the colonial era was justifiable for decolonisation. The signing of peace treaties and agreements was not effective. Moreover, displacement of the white from the African lands had to take place for the African to have political control over their economy. In the current century, the use of warfare is not justifiable as various means of attaining freedom are available based on technological advances.

In spite of the massive investment in military sector, the use of weapons has far much reaching negative effects than the benefits. This is attributed to the massive nuclear weapons that have long lasting effects on individuals’ health, the environment, and future generations. The use of legitimate power is thus preferred to the use of coercive power and wars.

In conclusion, the phenomenon of violence discussed by Fanon and Ardent is similar in that they describe different aspects of power. The use of violence is not the main issue but rather the reason behind its use. The two thinkers interconnect in that nations use violence in quest for power and that the world is in war with itself.

However, Aredent describes violence as not equal to power. Thus, people should avoid it at all cost. The implications of use of violence are that countries invest in military power by investing in weapons as in the Case of Egypt and Algeria, as portrayed in the Battle of Algiers. In spite of much investment in weapons, a country may not have much power unless there is unity.

Reference List

Arendt, H. (1969). A Special Supplement: Reflections on Violence. The New York Review of Books, 12(4), 2-4.

Fanon, F. (1963). The Wretched of The Earth. New York: Grove Press.

Pontecorvo, G. (Director). (1966). The Battle of Algiers. Vic.: Motion Picture.

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