We Are All Coolies

Danny has been supportive of and has contributed to the work of the Critical Thinking project and its successors for some years, not least in providing meeting space, events and screen printing facilities in 2015. When we crossed paths in Eddie’s print studio on Tuesday, I spotted he had a few “Cool!tude” T-shirts. Danny explained their background. They were the product of the work to co-author a paper on colonial, indentured labour in Mauritius. He and Marina are happy to share their engaging and important paper:

Pulled through Time: Art and the Indian Labour Migrant by Marina Carter & Danny Flynn
Coolitude is thus about explaining, poetically and historically, how and why we are all, more or less, at one time, or all the time, ‘coolies’

We are coolies throughout our lives from the moment we are indentured to the state through the registration of our birth. From Black’s Law Dictionary (Ninth Edition):

  • register … To enter in a public registry…
  • bond1. To secure payment by providing a bond… 2. To provide a bond for (a person)

As in the gulag of academia, the conditions of our bondage may be much more humane than in the gulags of the Soviet Union or for the coolies of Mauritius but all our institutions serve the same purpose and have similar effect, except they foster total ignorance of our true condition. Those near the top of the pyramid of power revel in their bondage because of the status and privileges they enjoy.

I can’t find the direct reference but some years ago Janet Biehl wrote an article in which she quotes the Kurdish founder of the PKK, Abdul Ocalan, who said something like, “until all people are free, none of us are free“. Janet worked closely with Murray Bookchin whose Ecology of Freedom is a foundational reference for Critical Thinking’s analysis of political economy.