I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the matters I’m going to discuss here. However, we have to step back from reported occurrences and bring forth our readings so that we can be the drop in the ocean of mass media pumping itself into our surroundings. I am a minority; you are a minority. I don’t care who you are, you’re a minority. How? Because we represent ourselves. Even when we speak from our collectively shared identities, the individual amalgamation of these identities in each person forms that which is unique to each being andthis needs to be known. You’re not like him, her, them. You’re you, and I INVITE you to share your own reading, even in the complete rejection of mine. Just whatever you do, be completely sincere about it.
Incidents of terrorism – or suspected terrorism – are emotionally-charged, situating immediately who is right and who is wrong, or more so: who isinnocent and who is a monster. But I do not want to look at them from the dominant perspective. What can I possibly offer by doing that? We live in a society which allows free speech (conditionally obviously), but this is dominated by huge corporate machines and dominant language passed off ascommon-sense. There is free space for us to express ourselves within themodern state – mostly within the margins of the public-space/public-cyberspace. Even so, we should still spread our understandings across it, and not allow ourselves to be consumed in the outpour of what ‘common sense’ is.
In all of the discussion on individuals murdering other individuals in the name of religion, we miss the consistent evidence of political attachment. Nationalism, foreign policy, us/them – are all political. Metaphysical beliefs can and have been brought into this. Yes terrorists refer to them, but they also refer repeatedly to their grievances on political matters which can easily stand outside of religious ideology. The state does not wish to acknowledge these grievances because of its need to continue its own interests in foreign countries, as well as continuing the national support from its population which is dependent on discourses of patriotism and conceptions of identity and ‘national-culture’; ideas that are enforced in the absence of any other way to tie the population of a whole country together (something which all modern states are concerned with). I am not criticising discourses of patriotism or conceptions of identity and ‘national-culture’ because I understand that human-beings naturally desire safety in a collective identity – especially in societies that are secularised and where traditions are fading. However, the liberal nation-state has a huge flaw; it cannot self-assess without fear of chipping away at the ‘self-esteem’ of its people and their collective identity. And of course it cannot self-assess because it has countless financial benefits in its ‘interactions’ with the rest of the world.
However, in the process, the self-esteem of other collective identities is chipped away. Most importantly, this happens at a much more extreme and horrific level over there in less civilised, pre-modern states than can be imagined by our civilised society within our modern state.
Acts of violence which are common in the less civilised, pre-modern state are unimaginable where we live. Violence is thus compartmentalised. It is fair to say that violence occurs globally, however, the compartmentalisation of violence occurs by the hand of the ‘First World’ (apologies as I will be using this phrase for need of a better one) because the First World is the only ‘agent’ (again apologies) which can and does actively decide how to compartmentalise, whereas the rest of the world does not have that kind of ability. And so the First World’s violence is catastrophic in the eyes of thosepre-modern states under attack. However, to us the violence inflicted in our name is normal because we label the pre-modern world characteristically violent and barbaric anyway, as well as a place where awful things happen and people just have to deal with them. But the civilians within those pre-modernstates see the monstrous side to our modern state. The pre-modern individuals who see their loved ones being killed, abused, houses torn down, schools destroyed, skins bleeding, rubble, corpses lying on the road… stand as spectators. But such spectators are not just within the pre-modern, they are also within our modern state as well, especially those within our society who have a further attachment (for whatever reason) to those pre-modern states. The spectators therefore see this violence from within and also from without – through their various technologies – in various parts of a compartmentalised system, and feel in various ways towards these occurrences. And don’t get me wrong, by calling them spectators I’m not differentiating them from us, they are not the ‘voiceless orient’, we’re all spectators. I just happen to be referring right now to those spectators who feel empathy or attachment towards the atrocities in the pre-modern state.
Discourses of terrorism are failures to the discussion of the real dynamics taking place in the horrific violence happening right now. It is my view that they too easily disregard the full picture of the compartmentalisation of violence by the First World and focus predominantly on instances of terror within our own realm which is meant to be a violence-free zone. If we witness through our media the aftermath of violence, a situation which gives us closer proximity to a scene of violence – we are shocked by it because it is not meant to happen here. A man carrying meat cleavers with which he has just chopped another man down on a London street is violence brought to our very door-step; regarded as pre-modern by its nature. This situation of murder is not justifiable by any means. However, when any kind of discussion which links such situations to atrocities in the pre-modern realm enters the radar it is instantly avoided by the mainstream knowledge outlets. Yet this is an area which continuously resurfaces in many instances – certainly in the most publicised instances – of suspected terrorism in which mainstream outlets leech onto dystopian ideas within destructive religious ideologies because of their shock factor as much as – or maybe more so than – because they are claims of the suspect. However the suspect’s claims are also political.
I am not denying the existence of the religious ideology, or all the arguments put forth regarding the individual’s disconnection from society, the individual’s mental state, how murder has no justification etc. I am just giving you another aspect within this discussion on violence – one which none of us wants to look at. But it’s very necessary that we do. I mean I have been bothered for a while now regarding the compartmentalised nature of atrocities in which we are safe within our section here and are therefore free to ignore the kinds of consistent atrocities over there – a drop of which would shake us to our core. The difference between the compartments must be understood, and I am discussing them now because I find it fascinating that no one else really wishes to. I hope that I can cause you to put aside your cultural and territorial affiliations for a minute while thinking about these issues – but that is something I can only hope for.
Beyond just heavily publicised incidents, expressions of certain extremistdialogue today are often at a deeper level a response to the growing insecurities of the spectator who feels under pressure to protest in some way against the dominant framework of who decides which violence is justified and thus ignored for its brutality, and which is expressed as horrific (that which takes place in the First World) – thereby providing an example for how all violence should be reacted to by the world. Spectators refuse to be spectators, refuse the compartmentalisation which at the same time as ordering violence, orders the colour of peoples’ skin, cultures, religions – in whole the collective identities which are widely embodied in the same way as a civic national identity may be. The identities discussion is only an on-the-surface discussion, however, and talking about the disconnectedness of second/third generation youth of immigrants in modern states is another angle the modern state believes is rational to take because it is within the rhetoric of its own interests to bring together its population by rooting out the alienated who cannot settle well into the ‘national culture’ while seeing the modern state’s behaviour and the darker side of its political/economic ideology in its other compartments. The truth is, however, that wherever a modern state decides to get involved outside of itself, and whichever compartments it wishes to set up in order to wage war and gain from it – it must expect consequences (by which I’m not simply talking about terrorism) as the world’s dynamics are very different in a postcolonial age where we are more connected in some ways and disconnected in others.
Needless to say, I believe in humanity. And if you can find the strength and understanding, and – most importantly – the security to look past national framings when they go beyond their pragmatic value as a territorial and societal framework of law and order, then you can see us as a globe sharing the consequences of evil together. So when anyone is murdered, we all want it to stop. We want it all to stop.