Franz Fanon, the revolutionary Algerian psychiatrist, noted that when darker-skinned, oppressed and colonized peoples begin to talk among themselves and plan their liberation, the colonizers, and those who have cast their lot with them, become very anxious and are prone to all sorts of irrational responses.
Maybe this has nothing to do with the fact that the furor surrounding Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech to the U.N. conference on racism precluded any discussion or even knowledge of what he actually said, or the fact that the boycott of the conference and walkout from his speech consisted almost entirely of white people, while the representatives of the vast majority of the world’s peoples remained, applauded heartily and signed the final document.
Anyone interested in understanding today’s world should know this speech and the fact that it received wide support. We must ponder the fact that third world spokespersons, particularly those with darker skin, are so often portrayed as madmen, and their beliefs are dismissed before we even become aware of them. We might call this the Geronimo Syndrome. This UN conference challenges us to ask, who is out of step with the current of history?
Following is a summary of President Ahmadinejad’s speech, with extended quotations where appropriate. One would get the impression, from our media, that President Ahmadinejad had jumped up out of turn, seized the microphone and delivered a diatribe. In fact he was invited by the organizers to present a major speech and this he did.
He begins by observing that we are just now emerging from centuries of pain and suffering for much of humanity, a dark age in which scientists and thinkers were put to death, a time of enslavement, plundering, massacres, displacement of millions, colonial occupations and world wars. “Many years passed by before nations rose up and fought for their liberty and freedom, and they paid a high price.” They lost millions of lives to expel the occupiers and proclaim their independence.
The world wars, imposed on the peoples by the “coercive powers” claimed a hundred million lives and left tremendous devastation. Rather than learning the proper lessons from these “horrors and crimes”,... “(t)he victorious powers called themselves the conquerors of the world while ignoring or treading upon the rights of other nations by the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.” Today, “a number of powerful countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their own interests and at their own discretions. And they can easily ridicule and violate all laws and humanitarian values, as they have done so.”
Ahmadinejad claims that these victorious powers used the suffering of the Jewish people as a pretext for establishing, by military force, and in pursuit of their own interests, an occupation by a European population of another people’s land, Palestine. European racism against Jews was now extended to a new racism: the oppression of Palestinians. At this point 22 delegates walked out, while far more applauded.
He now turns his attention to the “root causes” of the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan. He asks, why have over a million Iraqi people been killed by US aggression, millions more made homeless, with hundreds of billions of dollars in losses? Not to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars in costs to the people of the U.S. and its allies. The cause is found in the “desire of the owners of wealth and power to expand their sphere of influence,” to satisfy the “interests of the arms manufacturers” and to “control and plunder the energy resources of the Iraqi people.”
The basic question with regard to Afghanistan is. by what authority did the U.S. undertake this invasion? “Did it represent the world? Have they been mandated by them? Have they been authorized on behalf of the people of the world to interfere in all parts of the globe .... Aren’t these measures a clear example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination, or infringement upon the dignity and independence of nations?”
Turning to the “global economic crisis”, Ahmadinejad points his finger at the United States as bearing primary responsibility, for which everyone else is now suffering. It imposed on the world an inequitable financial order lacking international oversight and even hidden from its own people. “They introduce laws and regulations in defiance to all moral values only to protect the interests of the owners of wealth and power.... They further presented a definition of market economy and competition that denied many of the economic opportunities that could be available to other countries of the world. They even transferred their problems to others whilst the wave of crisis lashed back, plaguing their economies with thousands of billions of dollars in budget deficits. Today, they are injecting hundreds of billions of cash from the pockets of their own people into the failing banks, companies and financial institutions, making the situation more and more complicated for the economy and their people. They are simply thinking about maintaining power and wealth. They couldn’t care any less about the people of the world and even about their own people.”
Turning to racism, Ahmadinejad places it in a broad context of human spiritual ignorance which accompanies the pursuit of wealth and power. “Racism is rooted in the lack of knowledge concerning the truth of human existence as the selected creature of God. It is also the product of humanity’s deviation from the true path of human life and the obligations of mankind in the world of creation. Failing to consciously worship God, not being able to think about the philosophy of life or the path to perfection that are the main ingredients of divine and humanitarian values, have restricted the horizon of the human outlook, making transient and limited interests a yardstick for one’s actions.”
“The result has been an unbridled racism that is posing the most serious threat to international peace and has hindered building peaceful coexistence in the entire world.... It is therefore crucially important to trace the manifestations of racism in situations or in societies where ignorance or lack of knowledge prevails in the societies.” The key to the struggle against racism and for better world is the “increasing general awareness and understanding of the philosophy of human existence; (this) is the key to understanding the truth that humankind centers on the creation of the universe, and the key to a return to spiritual and moral values, and finally the inclination to worship God the Almighty. The international community must initiate collective moves to raise awareness in the afflicted societies where the ignorance of racism still prevails so as to bring to a halt the spread of these malicious manifestations.”
In this context, Ahmadinejad refers to Zionism as a form of racism that serves “the political goals of some of the world powers and those who control huge economic resources and interests in the world.”
The extreme inequity and oppression in Palestine is the prime example, according to Ahmadinejad, of the crucial need for a new, more equitable international order. “In defending human rights it is primarily important to defend the rights of all nations to participate equally in all important international decision making processes without the influence of certain world powers. And secondly it is necessary to restructure the existing international organizations and their respective arrangements. Therefore this conference is a testing ground and world public opinion today and tomorrow will judge our decisions and our actions.”
“The world is going through radical fundamental changes.... The sounds of cracks in the pillars of world oppression can now be heard. Major political and economic structures are at the brink of collapse. Political and security crises are on the rise. The worsening crises in the world economy... amply demonstrate the rising tide of far reaching global changes. I have repeatedly emphasized the need to change the direction in which the world has been managed today, and I have warned of the dire consequences of any delay in this crucial responsibility....
“The inequitable and unjust management of the world is now at the end of the road.” It must be replaced by the “collective management of world affairs”, which “centers on human beings and the Almighty God”. The “making of a global society” requires “the establishment of a common global system that will be run with the participation of all nations of the world in all major and basic decision making processes.... Scientific and technical capacities as well as communication technologies have created a common and wider spread understanding of the world society and have provided the necessary ground for a common system.
“Now it is incumbent upon all intellectuals, thinkers, and policy makers in the world to carry out their historical responsibility”... of creating a system that “perceives the truth of the world and humankind” and is designed “in accordance with human and divine values, justice, freedom, love (and) brotherhood.”
Ahmadinejad closes by emphasizing two points. One, present challenges can be faced only through collective efforts, through “the cooperation of all countries in order to get the best out of existing capacities and resources in the world.” Two: international legal structures must be modified in light of “divine and humanitarian values and by referring to the true definition of human beings, and based upon justice and respect for the rights of all people in all parts of the world.” Immediate tasks are to “reform the structure of the Security Council, including the elimination of the discriminatory veto... and to change the current world and financial monetary systems. It is evident that lack of understanding of the urgency for change is equivalent to the much heavier costs of delay.”
“Let us not forget the essence of love and affection, the promised bright future of human beings is a great asset that will serve our purpose in keeping us together to build a new world and to make the world a better place, full of love fraternity and blessings; a world devoid of poverty and hatred, (enjoying) the increasing blessings of God Almighty and the righteous management of the perfect human being. Let us all join hands in amity in playing our share in the fulfillment such a decent new world.”
The world has changed drastically in the decades following Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”. Humanity has become a unified family in ways we could barely imagine just a few decades ago. We face the challenge of sustainability and survival, which can only be met by the creation of a new, equitable world order. As we used to sing, “which side are you on?”