|The British troops then launched another invasion into the confederate tribal territory burning their villages, destroying their crops, and bombarding the thickets into which the wretched and famished natives fled with grape-shot and Congreve rockets. The outlawed Caffers could only reply: “When our fathers and the white men first met there was peace until the Dutch Boors became covetous, and when they could not obtain all our cattle for beads and old buttons, they began to take them and our land by force. Our fathers drove the Boors out of our land. You British have joined with our enemies, and have defeated us; we want peace.” In response to this plea, the British colony annexed a large tract of Amakosa land of about two million acres, and the remaining cattle thereon were divided among the colonists or sold for funds for the erection of a Christian church at Uitenhage. (Pringle 80)
Pringle had to leave South Africa because he was too outspoken against the government; he returned to England and worked to end slavery. He was known as the South African poet, and became a principal signer of the Act of Abolition that outlawed slavery in English enterprises.
The attitudes reflected in this and most of these stories appear to support Said’s perception of European rooted bias in texts that deal with the non-European “other.” Nevertheless, there is a liberal and humanitarian impulse that thread through these examples that Said seems to ignore in his arguments because it does not advance his project. In the World, the Text, and the Critic (1983), Said asserts, “Were I to use one word along with criticism...it would be oppositional. And the object of “oppositional criticism” is not the literary text, but all forms of cultural representation and domination and its goals are non-coercive knowledge produced in the interests of human freedom” (Said “World” 29). Said contends that understanding and working to change the ideological processes of misrepresentation are the main tasks of the oppositional critic. The critic is responsible to a degree for articulating those voices dominated, displaced, or silenced by the textuality of texts (Said “World” 53). Thus, representing the voiceless, the powerless, the “others” is how Said defines “oppositional criticism.” Said has made a convincing argument in identifying Orientalism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe did command the world; the imperial map did license a cultural vision. However, wider reading of texts from the Victorian annuals show that there were effective liberal and humanitarian arguments that effected international changes that outlawed slavery, ruthless economic hegemony, and moral and religious impositions.
Since the end of World War II, European imperialism has been effectively dismantled. But Orientalism lives on as a mind-set of the Western World according to Said. Said discusses several unsuccessful ways previous colonies have resisted Orientalism in Africa. Native leaders have either exploited their own countries as the former imperialists did or reverted to pre-modern tribal ethnic conflicts and genocide. Said points out that despite the apparent success of a growing world capitalistic economy, the United States has not set a particularly good example at being a world policeman and is burdened by an Orientalist outlook. Are there any present day solutions to this problem that Said has defined? It appears that Said’s “oppositional” stance is too polarizing, and therefore it gives his work no remedial or recuperative dimension for present day application.
A Kantian critique of Said’s position demonstrates that he is correct in suspecting any epistemological, moral, and aesthetic example of what he defines as Orientalism. This review of the stories in the British literary annuals shows that one must suspect Said’s arguments for being selective and biased. The stories discussed show that liberal and humanitarian resistance to cultural polarization has never been absent. This view is supported somewhat by Richard Rorty, a neo-pragmatist, who has said that “liberal society contains the institutions for its own improvement [and that] governments should [be able to] optimize the balance between leaving people’s lives alone and preventing suffering” (Bhabha 458). Homi Bhabha attacks this statement as being ethnocentric, and disempowering for the non-Western “other.” Bhabha says we must force the dialogue to acknowledge the limits of liberalism in the postcolonial perspective. Exactly what that perspective entails is lost in Bhabha’s poststructuralist questioning of the role and nature of narration.