“The Future Lasts a Long Time”

From Postcolonialism: A Historical Introduction (P293):

1922.  Baghdad.  The dust settles after the activity of the morning markets.  Groups of children are walking home from school.  All over the city, people sitting down to eat intone ‘Bismillah-ir-Rahmanir Raheem.’  The quiet is broken by the sound of engines droning in the sky.  A squadron of the British Royal Air Force passes overhead.  Some minutes later, there is the sound of thuds in the distance.  The planes are scattering bombs randomly over the villages in the hills.  It is the first time that the new RAF has been deployed against a rebellious colonized people.  The Iraqi tribesmen, promised freedom from the Turks during the First World War, but handed over to British rule at the 1919 Versailles Conference, are being pacified.

1998.  Baghdad.  3 a.m., two days before Ramadan.  Children and their parents are asleep in their beds.  The drone of cars speeding around the city is interrupted by staccato bursts of anti-aircraft guns, the slower roar of anti-aircraft missiles.  In four waves, US Navy EA-6B attack planes begin to bomb Iraqi air defenses.  In Europe and North America, people sit on their sofas watching eerie green TV pictures of Baghdad under fire.  Their fire.  The British government announces that the RAF is preparing for further bombing raids.  Doctors in Baghdad hospitals report the first casualties.  Iraq’s military capacity is being degraded.

Colonial violence was carried out in the name of ‘pacification’; postcolonial violence is carried out in the name of ‘degradation,’ degrading the postcolonial subject back to subaltern status.  ‘This infinite pass through violence is what is called history (Derrida 1978: 130).

The future lasts a long time.

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