a media culture in which acknowledgment equals absolution and absolution is seen as crucial to success.
The truth is that Europe took things from us that it will never be able to restitute. We will learn to live with this loss. Europe, for its part, will have to take responsibility for its acts, for that shady part of our shared history which it keeps denying or of which it has sought to divest itself. The risk is that by restituting our objects without giving an account of itself, it concludes that, with the restitution complete, our right to remind it of the truth is removed. If new ties are to be woven, Europe must honour the truth, as the truth is the teacher of responsibility. This debt of truth cannot be erased as a matter of principle. It will haunt us until the end of times.
Honouring truth comes with the commitment to learn and remember together. As Édouard Glissant never ceased to reiterate, each of us needs the memory of the other. This is not a matter of charity or compassion. It is a condition for the survival of our world. If we want to share the world’s beauty, he would add, we ought to learn to be united with all its suffering. We will have to learn to remember together, and this doing, to repair together the world’s fabric and its visage. Restitution will always be partial. There are irreparable losses that no compensation can ever bring back – which does not mean it is not necessary to compensate. To have compensated, does not mean to have erased the wrong. To compensate, as Kwame Anthony Appiah underlines, is about offering to repair the relation.
As we are increasingly surrounded by multiple and expanding wavefronts of calculation, all we are willing to ask from it is to detect patterns or to recover artifacts whose existence is derived from financial models built on technologies of miniaturisation and automation. As a result, techne is becoming the quintessential language of reason, its only legitimate manifestation. Furthermore, instrumental reason, or reason in the guise of techne is increasingly weaponised. Life itself is increasingly construed via statistics, metadata, modelling, mathematics.
If my description of current trends is accurate, then one of the questions a planetary curriculum must ask is the following: What remains of the human subject in an age when the instrumentality of reason is carried out by and through information machines and technologies of calculation?
The second is: Who will define the threshold or set the boundary that distinguishes between the calculable and the incalculable, between that which is deemed worthy and that which is deemed worthless, and therefore dispensable?
The third is whether we can turn these new instruments of calculation and power into instruments of liberation. In other words, will we be able to invent different modes of measuring that might open up the possibility of a different aesthetics, a different politics of inhabiting the Earth, of repairing and sharing the planet?
In fact, here as elsewhere in Africa and other parts of the global South, almost everything remains to be done. The amount of work needed in order to create a better life for all is incalculable. But the structure of the economy doesn’t really need us all. Nor does it need our time. It doesn’t really need every single body, all of our muscles or energies or even the bulk of our social and collective intelligence. And this will be more and more the case in the future, as we move to a phase of human history in which only that which is computable counts. As we speak, many bodies already fall beyond the scope of calculation. Unless we reinvent the terms of what counts and in the process resignify what value stands for as well as the procedures of assigning value, of measuring value, of exchanging value, things won’t change. These are some of the key questions any decolonisation project worthy of its name has to address if the injunction to decolonise is to be more than a mere ideological phantasm.
The political cannot be reduced to the painstaking management of emotionally safe spaces and shared atmospheres. Radical agency is not about the sharing of boundaries. It is about deborderisation. It is simply not true that unless I have undergone the exact same experience as the other, I know nothing about his or her pain and should simply shut up. Insofar as to be human is to open oneself up to the possibility always already there of becoming (an)other, such a conception of self and identity is by definition antihuman. The political in our time must start from the imperative to reconstruct the world in common. For the idea of decolonisation to have any purchase at a planetary scale, it cannot start from the assumption that I am purer than my neighbour.