by Corey Snelgrove
Disrupting settler society, and avoiding fatalism, requires a two-fold recognition: of settler colonialism and Indigenous resurgence.
Destroying settler society, and allowing the rise of ethical relations, requires a two-fold active response: destroy the material and discursive foundations of settler colonialism and actively engage with Indigenous resurgence.
At other times and in other spaces, they are distinct.
In times and spaces of refusal, settlers must – we must – turn inwards.
This turn involves consistent attention to, and destruction of the monster inside each and everyone one of us.
There are no good settlers.
This turn also involves turning towards one another – our families, friends, and communities – and helping purge the monster that settles there, that is always attacking us or always looming to attack us, the monster that threatens the rise of ethical relations, of respectful and peaceful co-existence.
There are no bad settlers.
Thus, to allow the rise of ethical relations, to “jumpstart the decolonial engine,” we must cut off our own heads.
But I can’t do this alone.
You can’t do this alone.
Despite all our purported power and very real complicity and differing levels of privilege arising from the occupation of stolen lands, we cannot cut off our own heads.
We were not born, after all, through parthenogenesis.
Or, as Fanon writes, “there will be an authentic disalienation only to the degree to which things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word, will have been restored to their proper places.”
Worse though, the monster depends on this ideology that I can do it myself, that you can do it yourself.
It needs the atomized individual, the sovereign self, the yeoman farmer, the hypermasculine subject…
And so there is no threat if the subject of resistance, regardless of an enlightened consciousness, is framed in terms identical to, or similar as, the atomized individual, the sovereign self, the yeoman farmer, the hypermasculine subject…
Again: “there will be an authentic disalienation only to the degree to which things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word, will have been restored to their proper places.”
The monster feeds on and off of individuals – of their basic needs, material and discursive desires, and crippling self-doubt. In a sense, it also strives to produce its sustenance.
It thus relies on and perpetuates an obscuring of the actually existing, albeit pre-dominantly parasitic, relations between and among us and non-human forces.
The parasitical nature of these relations though is our dialectical weapon.
We must wield it together. We can only wield it together.
The formation of this “we” starves the beast, and thereby severs our own heads.
To do so, we must bring forth the relations between us. Expose them – parasitical or otherwise.
Settlers, we need to embrace an “insurgent vulnerability” – the “recognition of our material interconnection with the wider environment that impels ethical and political responses.”
This recognition is our dialectical weapon.
And while ethical relations are impossible in a society based off of Indigenous peoples assigned to a zone of non-being, we can, and we must, cultivate a certain ethos – a prefiguration, if you will, of the ethical relations to come. This ethos will aid the construction of a “we,” triggering the beast’s starvation and the destruction of the sovereign self, enabling us to cut off our own heads, allowing ethical relations to rise and an alternative, decolonial “we” to emerge.
To form this “we” – the “we” capable of wielding this dialectical weapon – requires a sustained ethos of “co-inclination” towards one another in discursive and material forms. This ethos of “co-inclination” is a call to “critique and critique hard. But never suppress the felt possibility that we, whoever we are, are going one another’s way.”
There are no good settlers. There are no bad settlers. There are settlers.
We need solidarity between one another, to cultivate the becoming of a “we,” while simultaneously critiquing one another, preventing one another from falling prey to the beast or from becoming another sort of beast, to prevent the reproduction of settler colonialism.
In those times and spaces of refusal, we – that is settler society – need to make and build non-parasitical relations both among and between us and non-human forces. Where those relations do exist, we need to provide greater energy and support to such initiatives in order to encourage subsequent reverberations.
After all, Indigenous resurgence, in its pursuit and vision of peaceful co-existence, foregrounds political, economic, and social justice for all peoples. Consequently, Indigenous resurgence demands:
- the destruction of capitalism and flourishing of non-exploitative alternatives – in terms of both land and bodies;
- the destruction of hetero-patriarchal gender systems;
- the destruction of white supremacy;
- the destruction of the nation-state and flourishment of Indigenous nationhood;
- and the various destructive and violent combinations and manifestations that emerge between and through colonization, capital, sexuality, gender, race and ability.
These are demands that settlers can take on in times and spaces of refusal.
The monster, we must remember, relies on us forgetting all of this, as well as these radical and beautiful alternatives to our present. The monster wants us to forget its existence and our own, though unequally distributed, vulnerability arising from it, the relations among and between us and non-human forces, and the potential for us too, as Taiaiake Alfred writes, “to live again”.
We, settlers, need to do this work of establishing non-parasitical relations amongst ourselves in those times and spaces of refusal. This alone, however, is not decolonization. And so, this must be done always with an eye (and ear) towards and inclination for the times and spaces of co-operative decolonial action. Towards and for accountability to Indigenous nationhood, to Indigenous futures not settler futures, for a shared future.
Again: “there will be an authentic disalienation only to the degree to which things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word, will have been restored to their proper places”.
It is in these times and spaces – of sustained co-operative action – that we, settlers, will finally be able to sever our own heads, to unsettle the coloniality of our own being, subsequently enabling a decolonial “we” to finally rise.
Corey Snelgrove is a settler colonizer and currently a Master’s candidate in the Indigenous Governance program at the University of Victoria. His current project examines settler stewardship and the move towards sustainable settler colonialism on Lekwungen homelands in Victoria, BC.