Sabtu, Mei 18, 2024

Literature and Power Relations

Donny Syofyan
Donny Syofyan
Dosen Fakultas Ilmu Budaya Universitas Andalas

As long as human beings are enslaved by lust to dominate and to oppress, Marxism and all its roots and leaves, such as Theories of Power Relations, Theories of Hegemony, Postcolonialism, Racism and the like will never vanish from Literary Studies. The story of The Golden Ball in Ancient Greek myth proves to be right: wars, representing the will to dominate and the will to resist, will never end. The world is never void of wars and violence: If some parts of the world are peaceful, in some other parts of the world there must be wars. Because of Zeus’ cardinal sins, raping Leda that caused her to bear Helen, the most beautiful and yet the most destructive woman in the world of mythology, human beings should suffer forever from never ending threats of wars, revenges and violences.

Samuel Huntington’s theory of The Clash of Civilizations also proves to be right: the world will never be able to free itself from conflicts, wars, ethnic cleansing and the like. Today the world is facing clashes of ideologies of fundamentalism and secularism, and these kinds of conflicts today actually also happened in the past.

Michel Foucault’s pardigm in Power Relations Theory also proves to be right: if there is an oppression, there must be resistence, and in fact, from the past to the present, and presumably to the future, the world has been dominated and will be dominated by a series of oppressions and resistences. The marginalized, or the “they,” and the non-marginalized, or the “we,” has also dominated the world, and, as Rudyard Kipling implied in his poem “We and They,” “They Look Upon We/ As only a sort of They.” The struggles between “They” and “We,” the fact that “They” want to be “We,” and “We” tends to look down and even suppress “They” will last forever.

In order to abolish sharp differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, according to Marxism, revolution must be implemented. Revolution, not evolution, because evolution takes long processes that make the bourgeoisie more powerful, and the proletariat more helpless. In Russia, for instance, there was a revolution in 1917 to overthrow the Emperor, the Cuban Revolution in 1953 to overthrow Batista, and in 1948 there was a communist coup d’etat in Madiun, Indonesia, and another effort to change the ideology of Pancasila to Communism in October 1965. in Iakarta, Indonesia.

The successful revolutions did not give the birth of equality of all people, but the birth to totalitarian governments, such as in The Sovyet Union under Stalin and in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Instead of implementing meritocracy system, in communist and socialist countries implanted feudality: Fidel Castro in Cuba has been succeeded by his own brother, Roul, and in North Korea the country has been ruled by Kim Dynasty. The one who replaced Fidel Castro as the President is Raoul Castro, Fidel’s brother, and North Korean has created Kim Dynasty. The feudality stems from the efforts of the authority to keep status quo, so that “We” remains “We,” and “They” remains “They.”

Colonialism and Postcolonialism is also unseparable from power relations between the stronger side, colonial peoples and the weaker side, colonized peoples. One of the weaknesses lies in the mental attitudes of the colonized peoples. One of the examples can be seen, a.o., in Robinson Crusoe, a novel of Daniel Defoe, published for the first time in 1719.

In his expedition to an unknown place, Robinson Crudoe’s ship was struct by a terrible hurricane; all of the crew perished, and he was the only survivor. In order to life with no other human being in an unknown land, he had to cultivate the land accompanied by his pets. One day, on Friday, when he was taking a walk, he was wondering why there was something moving beyond the bush. It turned out that it was a human being, a colored one. Right at this moment of this encounter, Robinson Crusoe spontaneously said to himself, that the colored man was his slave and had to follow whatever he ordered him. At the same time, the colored man spontaneously said to himself, that this white man was hise master, and he was a loyal slave of Robinson Crusoe. In order to show that he was a loyal slave, he knelt down, and set Robinson Crusoe’s foot upon his head. Because this encounter was on Friday, Robinson Crusoe named him Friday, and Friday accepted this name gratefully.

This encounter reflects the superiority complex of the whites, and the inferiority complex of colored peoples. These complexes imply mental attitudes: the whites feel the right to enslave the colored peoples, and the colored people let themselves to be enslaved, and even proud of being enslaved. Colonialism happened not simply because colored peoples did not have modern weapons and lack experiences in wars, but consciously or unconsciously were happy to be colonized.   Conrad’s Lord Jim is another example of the colored peoples’ mental attitudes. Jim is a criminal fugitive, and therefore should be driven away when he came at a colored people’s land. Instead of being driven away, the local people welcome him warmly, and consider him as a “Lord.”

Territorial colonialism has been over, and yet, in postcolonialism period similar mental attitudes still exist, as one can see in Homi Bhabha’s concept of mimicry and Frantz Fanon’s opinion in his book, Black Skin White Masks. Dying hair into blond and whitening skin by white cleansing shows that colored ladies, consciously or unconsciously feel that they are respected if physically the look like white ladies. Most actors and actresses of cinema electronic (sinetron) are whites, otherwise people tend not to watch the sinetrons. In Africa similar problems also happen: the Africans are aware that they are blacks, and in order to have better status they behave like whites. These attitudes of mimicking the West and behaving like The West are, in fact, the echoes of Friday’s attitudes towards Robinson Crusoe in the early eighteenth century.

Donny Syofyan
Donny Syofyan
Dosen Fakultas Ilmu Budaya Universitas Andalas
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