Born into colonial Aotearoa, I had no right to my heritage. It had been defined three hundred years ago, by an expert panel of British imperialists, who’d divided the world by civility and barbarism.
Socialised white, the mock of genetics wrote itself on my skin.
At age six, the kids at school climbed the fence to our house and laughed at the salted octopus drying on our clothesline.
At age seven, I stopped learning my home tongue.
Disavowal works through the repression of that which traumatises, so its operation can continue without egoistic collapse. I made a fetish of whiteness, displaced the elsewhere of an ancestral land I never knew, and reproduced the nationality of the coloniser.
Accumulation for accumulation’s sake. Lack perpetuating lack. White trace across the broken lights beneath my lids.
Time stills. In the misrecognition of yesterday, the present stretches into perpetuity. The amber stone of colonial destitution becomes eternal, an ideal type severed from material history that encloses the ego into an atemporal space of its own suffering.
I fall between two worlds, belonging neither here nor there, constantly reminded of a heritage I never had; a classmate asks me where I’m from, Aotearoa New Zealand, they respond, no, what about your parents; white but not quite, interpellated as oriental, nothing I identity with, nothing I perform, nothing I connect with in any way or form; but beneath the shame and aversion, there is an overwhelming sense of loss; a loss I cannot wholly comprehend.
History was stolen from me because it was imposed on me. Reduced to an object of western knowledge, I sought a new subject position—that of the masters.
At age fourteen, my father told me to succeed in this world I’d have to speak without an accent.
At age fifteen, I began mocking exchange students.
Distance yourself, put on a mask, forget who you are. Elsewhere arrested in the other, I excise trauma like a rot. I spread the wasting disease of imperialism.
Hegemony generates consent, not through reason, but shame; through the threat of social death, one’s excision into nothingness; a total alienation that often ends in suicide. I glimpse the terror of meaninglessness in society’s obscene reflection, in the virtual haunt that underlies western sociality; violence towards the other, the irregular, the abnormal; nihilistic destruction without reconstruction; the tumbling, turning maw of capitalism; trauma unresolved.
One day, I glimpse the obscene reflection of myself; a synthesis of conflicting narratives, folded over a vitriolic core. I glimpse centuries of injustice performed upon and through me, the refracting lash of the master, like a panoptic ripple across space and time. I disintegrate. The amber stone of colonial time slips out of my ribs. I wonder what’s left.
Colonisation invades not simply the land, but the mind; a terror tactic meant to fragments the ego-ideal out of control. Primitive accumulation of the psyche involves the destruction of indigenous practices, the delegitimation of indigenous knowledges, and the theft of indigenous technologies. Once the imperialist gains control, cultural capital is generated and circulated on the market of ideas. Through colonial institutions, such as schools, churches and hospitals, a hierarchy of normality is generated, through which these ideas are weighed and judged. The imperialist becomes normal against the abnormality of the colonised. Power fades from view as ideational phantoms drift so far from their real roots they appear universal and eternal—as if western imperialism had never happened at all. We are taught to colonise ourselves; to internalise shame; and when we finally realise what has happened, that shame transforms into guilt. At every step of the process, the coloniser remains in power.
What’s left? Beneath the coloniser’s mask, rots the mask of elsewhere. Worse than nothing, I am something; the pet project of white supremacy and capitalist lack; the bifurcated desire of a hybridity yet to transvaluate suffering into jouissance. In the bleakness of the now, there is no outcome from liminality except death.