Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Intimate Turned Alien
The readings done for this week provided fascinating perspective into ideas of post colonial society and, if taken in conjunction with Patricia Grace’s Potiki they can even more adequately inform one’s notion of what postcolonial literature and postcolonial society really means.
For instance, after reading Potiki any discussion or thought surrounding colonialism can’t help but be of a narrow view for in the novel one is presented with two extremes, those who seek to destroy a culture and those who refuse to capitulate under any circumstances. However, Wendt (in his introduction to Nuana and his work Sons for the Return Home) and Grace (in her short story Ngati Kangaru “The Sky People”) each discuss a more moderate view of society, one that acknowledges the ills of colonialism (particularly in Sons and Ngati Kangaru) but also its benefits and addresses the effects it has on the psyche of those who are forced to assimilate into or at least adapt towards a new, overbearing society. Thus, a more dynamic view is formed of how hostile takeovers performed by bigoted western Europeans shifted the cultures of indigenous people.
The first work I read was Sons for the Return Home and after reading the other two pieces it struck me as a melding of the ideas put forth in Nuana and Ngati. To begin: consider Nuana. Wendt, initially seems to be almost praising the postcolonial world. He refuses to support theories that submit that those cultures that were colonized were diluted or corrupted, in fact he calls them “racist and outmoded” (Wendt 3). He considers them changed and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Faulkner, Yeats, Hemingway and other masters were introduced to the indigenous people because of colonialism and, perhaps more importantly Pacific Islanders were introduced on a broader stage. In the postcolonial world they managed to find a voice, to normalize or rather humanize themselves and at least attempt to present an image that does not propagate racist stereotypes by depicting them as exotic or as like curiosities.
Ngati though addresses a different view. One may duly note the cunning of the Maori protagonists, their willingness to stoop to fraud in order to take back their lands from those who took it. Of course the question that must be begged, before any criticism is leveled at them is: why must they take back their lands in the first place? And, as an extension of that inquiry, is it their fault that they are forcing people out of vacation house and home? Are they not merely using the same tactics to which they were subjected to? The message therefore, is clear. Colonialism inspires an inhumanity to one’s fellow man and a postcolonial world reaps the “benefits” of such action.
In Sons, as has been previously mentioned, the reader bears witness Wendt meditating over how the vices and virtues of colonialism and how they are enacted in a postcolonial world. His nameless protagonist adapts to the world around him but struggles with the distance he feels towards others, initially towards whites but later towards those of his own homeland. In many ways yours truly could relate to the struggles of relation to others felt by Wendt’s protagonist. Even the family dynamics are similar. A venerated, anguished deceased patriarch of a grandfather, a strong willed, loving mother with a huge extended community of family surrounding the smaller circle of immediate kin. Hence, the issue of how does one emerge from the womb of the home, replete with all of its idiosyncrasies and definite worldviews and adapt to the larger universe but then maintain the capacity to relate in any way to the womb that was just vacated. Cultures change and adapt to survive as Wendt states in his introduction. But when one branches out and begins to forge ahead and change on one’s own, it becomes a struggle not to become an alien to the home that was once so familiar, a stranger in a strange land. Further complicating the matter is that I don’t think the protagonist views himself as any less Samoan just as I don’t view myself as any less a member of my family in spite of the increasing distance in worldviews and desires for my life should be lived. One risks becoming an island, ostracized, to an extent, from the motherland. A worthy notion to consider, though is whether or not this is a bad thing. I suggest that it is not particularly if one has nothing to regret and nothing to look forward to in the way of Wendt’s protagonist. And so when the goddess crosses her legs one can be happy in death.

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