Waking up from a nice dream into a global nightmare
The words, in my head, are English. My education was American and Canadian. I write against white power like I always knew better, but I didn’t. I am a comprador. I am a collaborator. I am complict.
I am a brown man, easily passing for white, and for most of my life I thought everything was fine.
We colonized ourselves. That’s what always gets me. We didn’t just kick the few dozen white men out, we negotiated with them, tried to play them against our court rivals, and got massively played out ourselves.
We administered the colonies. We loaded our own resources onto their ships. We carried the truncheons. We put each other in chains. We even fought in their damn wars. They left, but it never stopped. This is part of the violence of white power. Not just bodies, you have brutalized our minds. As Frantz Fanon said, you left us with an arsenal of complexes. I am only beginning to untangle this myself.
Today, we have capitalized ourselves. We run the factories. We reject our own visas. We go to their schools, work in their colonial IMF and World Bank, we continue to administer their empire.
For petty rivalries we sold out our people. For petty privileges we lost away our rights. It never ended. Capital Colonialism is still here.
Colonialism is capitalism. That’s what people don’t understand. We weren’t colonized by states, we were colonized by private companies. Look at the most valuable companies in the history of the world. They were all colonial. The Dutch East India Company (VoC) was the first IPO. The VoC was worth more than Apple, Microsoft and Google combined.
1. Dutch East India Company: $8.28 trillion 2. Mississippi Company: $6.8 trillion 3. South Sea Company: $4.5 trillion 4. Saudi Aramco: $1.89 trillion 5. Apple: $1.3 trillion
Selling people’s data is child’s play. Capital colonialism sold people. And it’s still here. It never stopped.
Modern capitalism is to colonialism as Uber is to cabs. Same function, just asset-light. We’re ‘independent-contractors’ now. Just let our elites buy iPhones and take vacations and it’s cool. We’ll stitch your underwear, we’ll work the plantations, we’ll even let you come here and enjoy the choicest villas. We’ll hold our own people down. Divide and conquer, forever. Can I rub your feet?
For most of my life I just accepted the idea that a brown person should have less freedom of movement than a white person. That a rich person deserved more freedom than the poor. That it was better this way, that this was progress, that if we just ‘developed’ they’d let us into their club. More to the point, that it was fine, because I was already in.
There’s an entire class of people like me. The comprador class. We go to your universities (paying higher fees). We work in your companies (after filling out the right forms). We live in your countries not by right, but by privilege. You judge us based on how useful we are to you. Then you decide to let us in, or to put us in cages. We’re coder coolies, or in concentration camps.
And we’re proud of this. Our brains are brutalized. Individually our elites can rise to the top, but they never overturn the system. We are the system. We are the exception that makes colonial rule.
Barack Obama was the son of a Kenyan. Kamala Harris is the child of two people from the colonies. Priti Patel as well. Sundar Pichai of Google is from Chennai. Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian.
Yet when we get into power, we proudly uphold the system that keeps our cousins down. Barack Obama was known as Deporter-In-Chief. Priti Patel is proudly ending freedom of movement in the UK. Tech companies still lobby for their ‘skilled’ visas, never questioning the violent system of borders at all.
That’s the trouble with class consciousness. Most people don’t want to change class. They just want to change their class.
It’s pernicious because once you do change your own class, it doesn’t matter anymore. Not to you. This is how the new feudalism sustains itself. It bends, but doesn’t break. If you’re smart, great, we’ll buy you off with education. If you’re enterprising, great, we’ll buy you off with money. If you’re political, great, you can run the whole plantation, here’s a diplomatic passport.
At every turn our elites are bought off, and the monstrous system sustains. It grows stronger. It digests its rebellions. People don’t even question it, we know the answer. Fuck everyone else, get yours.
Aspiration has become oppression. Our chances have become our chains.
It is only recently that I have started questioning this myself. To question the privilege that lets me walk through a border bopping to headphones while so many people just like me are drowned. To question a system that lets me compound interest while so many are working for their next meal. To question ‘development’ that will destroy every beach I know, and leave an unrecognizable planet for my children.
Capital Climate Colonialism
It is this final fact that binds the outrage for me. Climate change. White empires took our land, our bodies, our minds, and now they’ve come for the air. Capital colonialism never ended, it just went airborne. It became a nexus of exploitation — Capital Climate Colonialism. The Three Cs of the apocalypse.
Like cancer, their unchecked growth, their ‘shareholder returns’ — it never ends. They will end the Earth before they have a bad quarter.
It is this process that has made me a comprador class traitor. I have awakened into bright, incandescent rage but the light wasn’t always on. I was, until recently, happily sitting in the dark, holding my passport, looking at my iPhone, passing for white, thinking everything was fine. I felt like we were at least going in the right direction. With climate change, however, I can see that even the direction is wrong.
What I want you to understand is that while I write stridently, this is a process of discovery for me as much as you (I hope). I’m not going to pull punches or hold your hand, but as this is an email, I’d just like you to understand. As much as I write to you, I write to myself. I am still trying to shake this colonized mind.