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Telling Half of the Story |
Walter Mignolo

Thoughts on modernity/coloniality, geopolitics of knowledge, border thinking, pluriversality, and the decolonial option.

Telling Half of the Story

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani objected to the bipartisan study group chaired by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton. He was reported by the international press to have said that the bipartisan U.S. report calling for a new approach to the war offered dangerous recommendations that would undermine his country’s sovereignty and were “an insult to the people of Iraq.”Being insulted is not of course a minor charge. It is at the very foundation of the impossibilities of finding a solution in the near future. When someone feels insulted and offended, it is his or her dignity that is at stake. And that cannot be solved with blue prints of the road to democracy, by sending more troops, or by taking out the US troops already there. It is not just this particular insulting act that is at stake. It is deeper: the very blindness of the US officers of the State to see or even stop to ponder whether they are acting as if the Iraqi “people”were a mass of inept and ignorant human beings that need Washington’s experts to know what they want and what they would like to do. The “insult to the Iraq people”runs deep in the Western unconsciousness: the belief that the half of the story they are telling is indeed the full story. Such belief and blindness runs deep in the modern/colonial imaginary. It can be identified in the entire Western political spectrum: right, left and center. In a nutshell: it is the blindness and the reluctance of Eurocentric cosmology to see and recognize that their cosmology is one among many and that has been mounted on the pillars of capitalism, militarism and international law.

About three months after the Zapatistas’s uprising, in January of 1994, a young Indian woman interviewed by journalists in a Chipas market was asked what she thought about the Zapatistas. And she responded: “The Zapatistas returned dignity to us.” Who, one may think, took dignity from her and the “us” she was referring too? The Mexican government? The Free Trade Agreement? Spanish colonizers or the native elite of Spanish descent that controlled the state and the economy since Mexican independence at the beginning of the nineteenth century? In the case of President Jalal Talabani we know who is the agency of the indignity. And I am not referring to James Baker, III and Lee Hamilton as specific individuals, but as to the belief system or the set of assumptions (to give it a name) that they (Baker and Hamilton) took for granted when undertaking the mission and writing the report. That belief system or set of assumptions were the same that guided Baker and Hamilton, without realizing that their action was offensive toward other human beings (and in that sense racist) are part of the same world that the young Indian woman assumed had taken the dignity away from the Indian and herself. The world in question is described as the guiding principles of Western Civilizations, Eurocentrism or EuroAmericanism and, in its most recent version, Globalization and Neo-Liberalism. Or, in other words, of the imperial/colonial matrix of power that structured the modern world from the European Renaissance on. In building that world, the rhetoric of modernity, progress, development, peace and happiness has been the cover up of the underlying logic of coloniality: imperial management by diplomacy, army, finances, regulation and exploitation of labor, and international forced relations.

The question is that the young Indian woman in Chiapas and President Jalal Talabani are two examples of a mounting global awareness. It is a de-colonial moment of awareness leading to the de-colonization of the structure of knowledge that sustains a system of values and beliefs leading to humiliation at a global scale on the name of peace, democracy and happiness.

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