by Himal Ramji
Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, first published in 1955, reads as a passionate and scathing piece of prose, laying heavy but warranted criticism on Europe, the oppressive classes and those who continue to allow such oppression to continue. While being written around 1955 specifically about colonialism, it bears many explicit and metaphorical statements which can be applied to our situation today both in terms of racial struggles as well as struggles against capitalism and imperialism. While all these struggles are intimately intertwined, it is important not to conflate them, emptying each of their specificity.
Born in 1913 in the French colony of Martinique, Aime Cesaire went on the serve as mayor of Fort-de-France and representative of Martinique at the French national assembly for 47 years (Rosello, 1995). He famously taught and mentored Frantz Fanon, a fact that should not or, rather cannot overshadow Cesaire’s own intellectual accomplishments. He is, after all, one of the ‘fathers’ of Negritude, a title the likes of Senghor and Cesaire could not shake off considering the somewhat dominant, patriarchal but definitive role their theories have played in the movement.
CHANGES IN CESAIRE’S POLITICS
Cesaire’s politics – like most others – did not remained stubbornly stagnant. Rather, he has proved quite responsive to situational changes, constantly tweaking his thought in reaction to the conditions he found around him. His politics are marked by several shifts which seem, on paper, to be quite drastic but are actually rather fluid developments for the most part. The shifts seem to begin from his early immersion in French political theory and culture, particularly as a young man in Martinique, to his part in the Negritude movement accompanied by a distancing from Europe and wholesome embrace of blackness and the idealisation of Africa as the homeland, to 1946 and the decision to make Martinique a French DOM (Department d’outremer/Overseas Department) – a decision that fed the lingering infection of cultural, economic and political colonisation (Rosallo, 1995: 18-19).
He left Martinique eagerly to study at the prestigious Lycee Louis-le-Grand and, later, Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) (Rosallo, 1995: 20) – elite establishments which boast such alumni as Robbespierre, Sartre, Derrida, Diderot, Senghor, a number of French presidents including Jacques Chirac and a fair few members of foreign royalty. At ENS, he would come into contact with the seminal works of Western philosophy. Despite this ultra-elite schooling, Cesaire came to realise, in France, the true value of his homeland, Martinique. It was in Paris that Cesaire came into contact with black intellectuals from other parts of the Caribbean and Africa as well as a more well-rooted, more insidious white racism. Here, in the heart of colonial oppression, Cesaire’s certainty of white hypocrisy and black truth and equality (and even superiority) took root.
Alongside Senghor, Cesaire helped formulate the concept of Negritude during their studies France. It was during his return voyage to Martinique from these studies that Cesaire first used the actual term in reference to the Haitian revolution in his Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, 1956/1995): “Haiti where negritude stood up for the first time and said it believed in its humanity” (Cesaire: 91). Human equality, black freedom in mind and in politics and in culture, and freedom from the confines of a supposed inferiority constructed by the oppressive and the opportunistic members of a fair-skinned race – these were the goals of Negritude. The term was chosen, in part, so as to re-appropriate the term ‘negro’ and all its relatives for black people – to disempower or, rather, reconfigure the terms themselves.
It seems that it was in Paris that solidarity against a common enemy was found. Negritude marks a break from the French educations of its creators (including Cesaire, Senghor, Damas). It marks a break from French as a language, culture and identity; a break from black inferiority, passivity and assimilation into French-ness, European-ness, white-ness. This idea of taking pride in one’s blackness coursed through the veins of Negritude and was taken on by the likes of Fanon and Biko, playing a critical role in the struggle to emancipate black minds from myths of naturalised inferiority and subservience to white folk. It changed the concept of blackness forever in an attempt to erase its association as symbolically bad or evil. It took pride in the cultures of black people, in their histories, in their everyday practices – their very existences. Negritude was thus largely a movement in search of black identity: for African self-writing. Cesaire affirmed this search for identity, writing in his Notebook (93): “Who and what are we? Admirable question”.
This call for self-discovery, self-actualisation came as a reaction to, among other things, the proliferation of imitation among, in particular but not only, the educated black elite. That is, they tended to attempt to imitate the Western model so kindly provided by their European teachers. These were (and still are) the epitome of colonised minds. Minds so heavily saturated with the idea that whiteness was goodness and purity and truth and to be striven for – those who would refuse their own culture – those who would qualify in Sartre’s terms as inauthentic. Let us take a moment to allow our own minds to settle on the examples of this closest to home: those who don their Italian-tailored suits, and those drive (or are driven by chauffeurs) in their blue-lighted German cars, and those who live in their lavish homes but are soon to move to the wondrous crime that is Zumaville, and those who continue to marginalise the poor and those seeking refuge from the colonial-constructed violence in their own countries, and those who implement policies so as to appease China, USA, faltering European Union, and international corporations like Anglo-American.
Conversely, Negritude has been criticised for essentialising the concept of race and for being rather racist itself. That is to say, its most radical followers tended to idealise blackness, forgetting the undeniable complexity of each individual in a sometimes blind focus on blackness and race in general. Some saw blackness itself as superior to whiteness in a twist of colonial logic. Of course, in terms of theory, this may well be true, since after much theory has seemed to detach thought from experience. Experience in this world is very much socially-conditioned and perceptions are very much aesthetic and physical. That is, you cannot escape the tone of your flesh.
Importantly, however, by the time Cesaire wrote Discourse on Colonialism (1955) he was arguing against any sort of racism or assertion of innate racial superiority. He himself drew heavily from the likes of Rimbaud, Lautreamont and, notably, French surrealism (Depestre, 1967: 25). Despite these European influences, he understood the particularity of the black experience; and the particularity of the black Martiniquan experience. He was critical of the logic of colonialism – the mindset, the attitudes that allowed for such inhumane criminal activities to occur. And yet all this criticism of Europe came not long after he had ushered in a neo-colonial relationship between Martinique and France. Nevertheless, the piece is extremely powerful in its scathing critique of bourgeois Europe and affirmation of the existence of a very well-concealed African history and even better concealed history of European brutality and savagery.
- Acceptance of DOM status
Cesaire met much criticism for his part in the agreements make Martinique a French DOM – a title which largely serves to shroud and preserve a colonial relationship in which France seems to leech economically and culturally from the island, retaining a political stranglehold on Martinique. What makes this more surprising from a man who heavily criticised assimilation and fathered and advocated Negritude is the fact that all this occurred when many colonies were claiming their independence or at least fighting for it. Cesaire, perhaps, raised a white flag. Still, this decision did provide Martinique with the same educational and welfare systems as other French Departments. The standard of living on the island is, apparently, “not as low” as the “so-called Third World” (Rosello, 1995: 18).
DISCOURSE ON COLONIALISM
But it would do Discourse on Colonialism and much of Cesaire’s work discredit to focus too heavily on this moderate moment. The work in question is, on its own, a much-needed critique of (particularly) European bourgeois society (although the metaphor can be carried through to all of us), a group who have to often been allowed to distance themselves (ourselves?) from the atrocities committed in our name, atrocities allowed to occur through our own ignorance or, more likely, disinterest, indifference and comfort. In Discourse on Colonialism, Cesaire points out that the society that allowed for colonialism to occur is complicit in its brutalities. It is they who allowed the savagery to occur – it is for their benefit that colonialism occurred and was and still is preserved.
- Hypocrites and Holocausts
European society is a profoundly hypocritical society, for it was only when colonial logic and tactics were brought home and turned against them that they became very terrified and very critical. But they criticised it under the title “Nazism” or “totalitarianism” or “fascism” or “despotism” instead of simply “colonialism”. Perpetrators were forwarded like “Hitler” or “Mussolini” or “Stalin” or Mao” or “Louis” instead of simply “Kitchener”. But it was in Africa, Asia and the Americas that Europe tested and developed its systems and mechanisms of control. After all, it was the Spanish that first introduced concentration camps in Cuba in 1896, with the British soon to follow suit against the Boers in South Africa at the turn of the century (Agamben, 1998: 166). The British establishment – particularly the colonial authorities – have always been a cautious, tentative but cruel people, testing their methods of domination outside their own borders before implementing them more subtly at home: they first tested their take on the activity colonisation on the Irish before exporting it to the rest of the world. Furthermore, much like the Nazis, many French have for long sought for French national purity, seeking to maintain this myth against the threat of (‘god forbid!’) intermingling with lesser folk (say, for example, Moroccans or Algerians or Haitians or Martiniquans or (‘the horror!’) Congolese folk. In their quest for racial, cultural, national and linguistic purity, the French – and most other European nations – did nothing more than build the structure and provide a very clear blueprint for Nazism, fascism, totalitarianism, despotism. And the blueprint is headed “Colonialism”.
In a very fair point, Cesaire notes that colonialism was not merely destructive in the colonies. Colonialism as a practice brought home the savagery implicit in its activity – it turned not only the colonist himself but every comfortable, well-nourished European into the blood-soaked, murderous figure of General Kurtz who directly or by association was responsible for the horrors of colonialism. Those who benefit from such practice in any way and utter not more than a feebly-mumbled token of admonishment are complicit in the crimes of that practice.
And it is because of this European ‘regression’ that Cesaire refers to these civilisations as “decadent”, “stricken” and “dying” (Cesaire, 1955: 1). They are civilizations so tainted that they may not heal the morality they suspended in the colonies – a suspension that came home and manifested itself most clearly in concentration camps, in Gulags, in gas chambers, in genocide.
And yet it seems as if these Europeans who enjoyed the fruits of colonialism were so deluded as to believe that they were doing the people they exploited a service. They claimed that, while the white man had a natural desire to question authority and revolt against it (referring to the French revolution, obviously), they claimed that black folk did not “experience rivalry with the paternal authority” (Mannoni in Cesaire, 1955: 14). Of course, this can easily be countered with countless examples, starting with the Haitian revolution and ending when resistance truly capitulates or oppression finally ends. Additionally, Europeans somehow managed to create the myth of an ahistorical Africa, a land with no real past except that formed by Europe. Cesaire (1955: 10) quotes Faguet as writing: “civilisation has never yet been made except by whites… If Europe becomes yellow, there will certainly be regression, a new period of darkness and confusion, that is, another Middle Ages”. What Faguet doesn’t realise is that, by entering into the colonial endeavour, Europe effectively returned itself to the Middle Ages, spreading the regression like a cancer to other continents, onto other people who were on a developmental trajectory that the West found it far too difficult to comprehend or accept as real. To Europe, Africa existed in a vacuum of historical stagnation, as if nothing had changed on the continent since some biblical boot gave mankind an evolutionary nudge.
And it was in this way that they allowed themselves to think, ‘Colonialism is okay, we’re helping out the natives. They are, after all, merely under-evolved, child-like savages’. There was a belief that, merely because they were not Westernised, black and yellow and brown folk were inferior. ‘Stupid due to blackness’, as if it were a disease that came with the ‘curse’ of blackness. And it is the essentialism here, that nature is defined by race, that came to infect thought and morality. White intellectuals – like many Negritude thinkers – had, and still have, the tendency to see race as something that is essentially closed-off, something that is so unchangeable that it is the definitive characteristic of a person. The post-revolutionary French intellectual, Renan, quoted by Cesaire (1955: 4), explicitly refers to the essentialised, racialised natures of people, and the inferiority and natural servitude of all races to the white race:
“Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese Race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honour; govern them with justice, levying from them, in return for the blessing of such government, an ample allowance for the conquering race, and they will be satisfied; a race of tillers of the soil, the Negro, treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race. Reduce this noble race to working in the ergastulum like Negroes and Chinese, and they rebel.” [own emphasis]
Clearly, according to Renan, everyone has a very specific role to play in society. It is very curious what conclusions can be made from such events as the French revolution, as if Haitians were not revolting around the time Renan and others were making such claims.
- Marxism and particularity
In his Discourse, Cesaire makes reference to Marxism and the role that socialism could play in the liberation of colonised people. He writes: “It is a new society that we must create… For some examples showing that this is possible, we can look to the Soviet Union” (Cesaire, 1955: 11). He goes on to blanket all oppressed people under the term proletariat, referring to them as “the only class that still has a universal mission, because it suffers in its flesh from all the wrongs of history, from all the universal wrongs” (Cesaire, 1955: 24). Clearly, the influence of Marx and, particularly, Lenin runs thickly through his politics in his Discourse.
But only a year after Discourse on Colonialism was published, Cesaire removed himself from association with Marxism and the influence of the USSR, resigning from the PCF and forming his own party, Parti Pregressiste Martiniquais (Rosallo, 1995: 35). Perhaps, in part, this is due to the atrocities of Stalinism that could not be ignored.
More powerful, however, was Cesaire’s realisation of the particularity of black struggle; that the decolonisation of the black mind could only be done by black people themselves. It was a specificity of the struggle that even white allies could not understand for they had not (indeed, they could not have) endured the experience of blackness in a very, very racist world. Herein lies an important lesson: that it is dangerous or, rather, it would be careless and irresponsible to conflate the struggle of the proletariat and the struggle of black people. As has already been noted, there is an important distinction that cannot be ignored between race and class: you can change your class or your children’s class by playing the cruel games posed by the system well enough, but you can never change your skin-colour. You may be wealthy, you may well be a genius, but you’ll never change the fact of your blackness.
PROPHECY AND FANON
Cesaire seemed to have something of a prophetic habit. Two instances are notable: that he foresaw the spread of American imperialism even at a time when many saw the USA as a liberatory force; and that he foresaw the implosion of African states fallen to “a caste of ‘greedy and voracious dogs’ who were about to confiscate the revolution for their own benefit” (Cesaire, 1956: 42). Of course these are two points which Fanon was only too aware of.
In terms of the first Fanon writes that the third world was thought to have to “choose between the capitalist system and the socialist system. The underdeveloped countries, which made use of the savage competition between the two systems in order to win their national liberation, must, however, refuse to get involved in such rivalry. The Third World must not be content to define itself in relation to values which preceded it” (Fanon, 1963: 55).
In terms of the second, he writes of how “the colonialist bourgeoisie frantically seeks contact with the colonised elite” (Fanon, 1963: 9), referring to the intention of colonial powers to maintain control of the colonies through control of their supposedly independent governments. Further on, he writes: “In order to assimilate the culture of the oppressor…the colonised subject has had to pawn some of his own intellectual possessions… one of the things he has had to assimilate is the way the colonialist bourgeoisie thinks… He turns into the kind of mimic man” (Fanon, 1963: 13). Colonised minds can do nothing but serve their master – they can have no hope for emancipation if their minds are not first freed. Furthermore, in tune with Cesaire’s resignation, Fanon wrote: “The nationalist political parties never insist on the need for confrontation precisely because their aim is not the radical overthrow of the system” (Fanon, 1963: 22).
Perhaps this is also a break from Cesaire in Fanon. Cesaire’s work, while being heavily critical of Europe and those who imitate it, doesn’t really call for violence, whereas Fanon himself called for violent revolution, emphasised explicitly in his chapter ‘On Violence’.
Cesaire’s moderate tendencies manifested in his prolonging of Martinique’s neo-colonial situation. This could well have been a reaction to the prospect of violent civil conflict in Martinique, which could have predictably been spurred on by France or the USA or the USSR. In 1946 one could easily imagine an aversion to conflict, and particularly a reluctance to become a satellite of the Cold War. Prolonging Martinique’s French relation to this day is, perhaps, in part an avoidance of the isolation endured by Haiti and, particularly, Cuba. There is always a price for claiming independence, this is made certain by neo-colonial powers. The price is often higher for islands.
Aime Cesaire’s influence on later theorists and writers cannot be underestimated. His thought can be traced through the works of Bantu Steve Biko, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Ayi Kweyi Armah and, more contemporarily and very originally, Kgafela oa Magogodi (to name only a few).
The effects of Negritude and Cesaire’s thinking as a whole in the South African Black Consciousness Movement cannot be ignored. Indeed, the very basis of Black Consciousness is based in Cesaire’s and Negritude’s mode of thought: that black is beautiful, that blackness is not inferior etc. Biko’s ideas are about taking pride in one’s blackness – in one’s intrinsic particularity – so as to cast off the burden of inferiority, servitude or dependence. The black South African can think for himself, can decide things for himself – the BCM was a defiant and very definite claim for black agency. This, too, is a link between Biko and Cesaire: in both the BCM and Negritude, those who joined each respective movement made certain that whites were left out – indeed, in Biko’s case, white students and company could not be trusted to understand the black condition simply because they could not possibly experience it. The co-opting of NUSAS into the apartheid regimes aims bears testament to this. It is impossible to represent what you cannot experience, what you cannot fully understand for yourself. Biko, like Cesaire, realised that it was up to black folk to emancipate their own minds. Perhaps in this way the BCM surpassed or, rather, transcended Negritude by virtue of the fact that its definition of ‘black’ came to represent all oppressed people. Unlike Cesaire’s Negritude, the BCM came to represent liberation of all oppressed folk, thus eliminating the racial prejudice implicit in Negritude.
And it is for these thoughts – and the fact that he voiced them – that Biko was killed. His mission to emancipate minds from mental slavery was such a great threat to the apartheid regime that he was banned as a person (a ludicrous idea itself!) and, later, killed in detention (like so many others who dared similar missions). In truth, Biko’s mission and his fate are strikingly similar to that of Frantz Fanon – death at the hands of an oppressor whose oppression had become perhaps too clear.
Chinua Achebe’s famous work Things Fall Apart (1958), published only three years after Discourse on Colonialism, bears many similar themes to Cesaire’s Discourse. It comes as a narrative critique of, among many things, the practice of colonialism. Perhaps the final paragraph of the book provides a sufficient summary of Achebe’s views. Just after the story’s protagonist, Okonkwo, commits suicide in a moment of despair at the fall to colonial power of his village, the Commissioner in charge of the mission muses to himself, reflecting on what had occurred: “In the many years in which he had toiled to bring civilisation to different parts of Africa he had learnt a number of thing…The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate… He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of Lower Niger” (Achebe, 1958: 183). There is little thought for the fall of a man who was once quite highly revered in his region. Furthermore, it is due to his village’s collusion with colonial authority that Okonkwo is driven to kill himself – it is a moment of choosing death and authenticity and freedom over the prospect of being ruled by an all-invasive force. It is this same people who betray the Okonkwo who only a short while earlier sang of those who allied themselves with the missionaries, “Kotma of the ash buttocks, He is fit to be a slave. The white man has no sense, He is fit to be a slave” (Achebe, 1958: 154). As we have seen in Cesaire’s politics, the only constant is change.
Ngugi wa-Thing’o’s A Grain of Wheat (1986) provides a rather more balanced view of things, looking at a fictionalised account of Kenya preceding independence through the lens of various characters. Like Cesaire, Fanon and most other African writers, wa-Thiong’o is none-too-positive about colonials. John Thompson, the ‘chief colonial’ of the narrative, asserts that “We are not beaten… Africa cannot, cannot do without Europe” (Ngugi, 1986: 161). In his notes he writes of “primitive minds”, the “darkness and mystery of the forest”, that “The Negro is a child, and with children, nothing can be done without the use of authority”, and regarding the violence of the Mau Mau that “One must use a stick. No government can tolerate anarchy, no civilisation can be built on this violence and savagery. Mau Mau is evil: a movement which if not checked will mean complete destruction of all the values on which our civilisation has thriven” (Ngugi, 1986: 54). Perhaps Thompson has missed out on the atrocities committed by his fellow colonials. Or perhaps he prefers to ignore them.
Armah’s work, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968), explores post-colonial Ghana. It is drenched in metaphors of decay and rot – a moral decay largely attributed to the effects of colonialism and the impregnation of capitalism and self-serving (im)morality into African culture. The protagonist of the narrative is a man who refuses a bribe and is thereafter spurned by his wife for refusing to do what everyone else is doing. In taking a moral stand, he is despised, criticised, seen as an outsider. And all this because minds are so colonised, so fully contorted by the logic of Western capitalism and the conditions enforced by colonialism. But Armah is careful to insert the pervasive idea that it is the agency of these people – their refusal to attempt to overcome, to improve upon, to transcend this ‘excremental’ state. He is explicitly critical of African people, to varying degrees, for having failed to overcome the confines of a culture contorted by colonial interruption.
Linton Kwesi Johnson has often been seen as one of the finest exponents of the creolisation advocated by Cesaire in his later work. LKJ’s work has been important in the affirmation of creoles, Jamaican creole in his case, as languages in their own right, rather than being accepted merely as dialects of English or French. Like Cesaire, LKJ used his poetry as an act of revolt against the prescribed norms retained through decolonisation and into neo-colonialism. To contrast Cesaire’s surrealist sensibilities, however, LKJ makes an appeal to reality and decisiveness (or, if one prefers Fanon’s terminology, one must become “actional”): “dis is di age af decishan/so mek wi leggo relijan/dis is di age af decishan/soh mek wi leggo divishan/dis is di age af realit/so mek wi leggo mitalagy/dis is di age aff science an teknalagy/mek wi hol di clarity/mek wi hol di clarity.” (2006: 34, 34-42).
In a similar vein, Kgafela oa Magogodi tears into the English language, inserting pieces of Southern African languages including Sotho, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans with expert precision and fluidity. In terms of self-writing, it proves difficult to find someone so radical. He writes in ‘i mike what i like’: “i mike what i like/i dis what i dislike/i carry the spirit of graffiti/i obey no law of religious gravity/the spoken word is my shepherd/i shall not want shit” (2004: 1-2: 11-16). Further, in quite a Negritude moment, he writes in ‘Outspoken’: “i rip voortrekker diaries/to pieces…it sounds hip/when i wreck van riebeeck’s ship/i crush history’s kak stories/to ground zero” (2004: 23: 27-34). Clearly, he is not a supporter of the colonial history that Africa has had written for it. And this, too, is perhaps a jibe at America’s imperialist endeavours and its repercussions. At one point, in reference, obviously, to the white Western world, specifically the emphasis on psycho-analysis that has been endeavoured upon to understand the human (mental) condition, he writes of those “who are hooked on psycho-analytic articles/who lick hideous lies/from encyclopedias/who say their ancestors/chained us to save us” (2004: 108: 83-86) and continues, “how did i get here?/not by slaveship/or a trip through a passage in the middle/of monsters/who ate up my people/in plates of human platter/who lived happily ever after” (2004: 109: 121-126). Clearly, he bears similar views regarding colonialism to Cesaire.
Of course, all of these writers bear the mark of the influences other than Cesaire. Often, in fact, most of them are far more radical than Cesaire. But his influence can be traced through their texts because of the massive influence he had on writers of emancipatory texts since the late 1930’s. In these examples of Cesaire’s influence one can see a distinct search for identity and meaning independent of the dominance of the West. In language, in politics, in culture, Cesaire and those around him – from Senghor, Fanon all the way to oa Magogodi – sought and still seek to continue the Haitian revolution. While some might say that Cesaire in Negritude went too far, merely turning colonial logic around to point the other way, it remains that his thought was pivotal to mere realisation of racial equality, particularly in the mind. If only for this fact, we should remain eternally grateful to the work of Aime Cesaire.
Agamben, G. 1998. Homo Sacer. Meridian.
Armah, A.K. 1968. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Heinemann, 1988.
Achebe, C. 1958. Things Fall Apart. Heinemann, 1971.
Cesaire, A. 1955. ‘Discourse on Colonialism’ in Monthly Review Press. New York and London, 1972. (originally published as Discours sur le colonialism Discours sur le colonialisme. Editions Presence Africaine, 1955).
Cesaire, A. 1956. Notebook of a Return to My Native Land. Bloodaxe, 1995. (Introduction by Rosello, M., 1995)
Fanon, F. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press: New York, 2004.
Johnson, L.K. 2006. Mi Revalushanary Fren. Ausable Press.
oa Magogodi, K. 2004. Outspoken. Laugh it Off Media.
Wa Thiong’o, N. 1967. A Grain of Wheat. Penguin, 2002.
 On this point, observing the dress-codes of different thinkers is useful. Fanon wore Italian suits and yet his views were of a most radically democratic nature, Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ) often wears tweed jackets and English-style hats; and yet Mobutu is often pictured in his leopard-skin outfits. Perhaps dress-code is not directly proportional to one’s politics. But I do not argue that one’s dress should endogenously reflect one’s culture, or some remnant of a subdued culture. Rather, my issue is with the actual cost of the suit, who is buying it, for what reason they are buying it, and who is suffering because they are buying it. Invariably, the suit is expensive, politicians – including some self-proclaimed ‘communists’ – are buying them, they are buying them in emulation of some model of grandeur transported from colonial times (think back to the extremes of old colonial court dress), and it is the people that they should be serving that are suffering as a result. The ‘suit’ itself is a symbol of masculine power and thus one must overcome this obstacle in an argument regarding freedom and equality – its relevance has been ignored for too long. Of course, we should not deny ourselves the ‘nice things’; rather, we should re-evaluate what we regard as the ‘nice things’.