Video ergo sum : the legitimisation of the post-colonial condition

  • Dominique Nacci

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Once upon a time there was a world where the subject replaced the object by the idea. This simulacrum called Reason found a way to constitute its very objectivity through the act of representation. Thanks to an autonomous transcendental field allowing individuals to periodise themselves through their own historiographical accounts, generations of cultural practitioners have since been able to reinvent new convenient fictions empowering the fragments of the past via the superior status of the written idea. Then, came the image subverting with its immediate apprehension of forms the previous simulacrum that had constituted the locus of absolute objectivity. Along with the very disposition of seeing, a new movement of retention and protention going far beyond conscious awareness (since it constitutes it),modified the realm of experience and the frame of action from which is manufactured the political present of the latest ethical subject. In the age of visual culture, the medium of existence operating in real time gives the illusion of transparency and therefore bypasses the simulacrum of the idea by speaking directly, that is viscerally, the language of the will. Therefore, it is by a new folding of Being, that is, by a process of personalisation transforming the relationship of the self with itself and bringing its conduct into compliance with one's ideal behaviour, that the new aesthetic dimensions of language have normalised the bodies and transformed the cultural imaginary of the post-literate generation into a new quest for self-realisation—Video ergo sum: I see (myself) therefore I am... Through the cult of immediate experience and self-referentiality taking place in this new ideographic sphere of impressions (whose ideas are the copies as Hume tells us),the historically-desiring, electronically-minded and socially-constructed Coming Generation can pretend to enlarge its view of the world, while being the terminal materialisation of a collective memory and imagination generating a self-presence obsessed by the quest for legitimacy. Down Under in the supermarkets of postmodern humanism, identity politics and hybridity, reconciliation and cultural diversity, Mardi Gras and the virtual republic, have all emerged with the shift from the representation of the literal to the presence of the figurative produced by the late sensible form of the signifier. With a reconfigured eye giving birth to a reconfigured "I", the new "fair dinkum" agency can consume a sense of guilt and then reconsume the signs of emancipation, denounce "European" colonialism and then "call" for social justice, in order to see and experience itself as "becoming" organically grown, culturally diverse and fundamentally tolerant. In this manufacturing of an ideal ethical substance taking place in a new narcissistic age of simulation, the new-fashioned dynasty of judicious philanthropists can nullify the very idea according to which colonists live in the colonies, while playing at being post-colonial by turning old fallacies into new romantic lies. It is, indeed, with n(r)ational pride that the new sprung consuming human herd is able to proclaim in the name of Reason the end of blinkered polarities to the point of considering itself as the "victim" of a fraudulent old-age Eurocentrism. In the name of so-called cross-cultural histories, it is commonplace in Australia to walk and also to spit on the graves of the old fellows and to excommunicate as peremptory the foundational vision of what is described as the old world—through the bashing of the "whingeing Poms",the "bloody French" and the "damned rednecks"—while refusing to consider the latest moralism of convictions as a mere feeling made of fugitive hope and self-satisfying good intentions-in meanings. Mourning with a professional diaspora eager to secure its privilege by plumbing the depths of misery with the silences of Said's Orientalism, the new angels of human progress living in the richest Anglo-Celtic enclave in the world, labour in "subaltern" studies in order to produce themselves as the incarnation of this exquisite virtue legitimising their own "postcolonial" condition. As the simple minded Prince Muyichkine inhabited by the soul of a child, as the idiot who escaped from a universe of nostalgia to join l'Education Sentimentale of the so-called New World, I travelled through the ecstasy of time until I reached the age of innocence of the Coming Generation. Yet, by the deliberate act of crossing times and cultures, forms and possible domains of knowledge, as the alien frog lost among the songless birds, I have found myself to be institutionally unwise. Instead of playing at being "progressive" I have been caught by the philosophies of suspicion to the point of developing an incredulity toward the critique of colonialism, which led me to sustain a lonely but corrosive assault on ethical complacency. Restricting myself to the world of language and wandering alone in the land of subjectivity, I have examined this in-built self-destructing discourse in which the compassionate and apparently well-tempered Coming Generation "calling" for the end of colonialism, attempts to pay back its priceless land by the brandishing of virtuousness. In fact, it came to my mind that deducing an hyperreal "is" from a politically correct and morally prescriptive "ought" is not decolonisation, but rather a process of fictional self-fashioning where only the very negation of an imagined past has become visible in the house of being. Thus, by following a strategy of disruption, I have attempted to expose the existential and ontological foundation of the postcolonial discourse, that is, the transcendental and formal logic producing this very ideal that can only deny itself as reality. In this thesis it is argued that in the age of a simulated activism figuratively demonstrating the goodness of a Coming Generation (proudly walking on the bridges of sorrow),the postcolonial discourse is the n(r)ationalism of an electronic age that entertains a vision of the future by dressing up in aesthetics the rub-a-dub of social justice and racial tolerance. Despite its engaging nature, the ideal produced by the "progressive" discourse remains the not-yet of a double process of personalisation and periodisation operating within the intra-temporality of being secured by the play of differences, that is, an endless deferral (post-colonialism) that produces difference (colonialism) in the cultural sphere, but not decolonisation. It is, therefore, an onto-theology of guilt and hope where the so-called organic intellectuals of the self perceived New World condemn the "imperialists" and prattle humanely about the "repressed" in order to periodise their constituency and re-present themselves as custodians of a new moral rectitude that remains a redemptive illusion. In short, the bulk of self-indulgent humane criticism about the past is mainly aimed at justifying the very moral prejudices the local petty bourgeoisie condemns. And this is why no one does the job of the colonials better than the so called well-tempered and compassionate people "calling" for cross-cultural reflections and antidiscrimination. Naturally, this form of intellectual inquest treating the pursuit of the ideals with vigour, goes against a lot of presupposed concepts, and therefore is not going to be appreciated in every corners of the ethical institutions. But in a lucky country where blacks (still) die twenty years before the sentimental heirs of the puritan warriors, it is necessary to expose the ideas and moral convictions of the Coming Generation for their inadequacy, and consequently, to argue that although necessary its convenient critique of colonialism is also a pervasive cultural practice that perpetuates the dark side of the dream in order to legitimise the condition of the well-wishers. Can Dionysus forgive me for having looked beneath the masks of the ideals before dissertating on the birth of the post-colonial tragedy from an age of self-referentiality where the propensity of preaching virtues as a means of keeping the lower classes in order is shaped by new aesthetic...
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBill Mandle (Supervisor) & Graeme Osborne (Supervisor)

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