Sunday, April 6, 2008

I understand terrorism

There, I said it. I understand terrorism. I get it. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and, to be honest, have been procrastinating writing this blog post because I'm envisioning being arrested and interrogated just for saying it. But the truth is, terrorism is simply the most fitting form of violence for modern times.

First of all, there's the decadence factor. When you look at any "developed" nation you see excess. You see:

-individual sugar packets

-disposable cameras

-paint in colors like "sunset" and "bird of paradise"

-people trying to grow grass in the desert

-high fructose corn syrup

-t.v. dinners

-20 minute showers every day

-soap operas

-books with 20,000 baby names

I could probably go on for hours, but you get it. Excess. The obvious answer to the confusion, the depression, the stifling inhumanity of excess is the explosion. You just blow it all up. You don't know how to triage or sort through or approach it even. You can't sleep, but when you open your eyes there's just overload. Too much stimulation. Too much of everything everywhere. You are taught from infancy how to talk, live, eat, dress, pray, and then by the time you've absorbed all you can absorb you have to go out into the world and make some sense of it all. It's fucking impossible. So what do you do? Self destruct.

I realize it's not that simple. What I'm saying is that there is always an antithesis to the thesis. By necessity there will always be a dark to the light. There will always be an other. We are paying for our excess with self-destructing human beings. School shootings, drug abuse, literal "terrorism," terrorism that's okay because the WASPS are doing it...

How can we claim to have freedom, liberty, justice, truth, when we are the ones terrorizing. How can we put Saddam Hussein to death and never even ask our own government what the fuck it thinks it's doing when over 90,000 Iraqis are dead, not to mention the atrocities committed in other Southeast Asian nations, African nations, and South American nations. Is it not terrorism to sponsor trade agreements that force small famers in South America to grow coca and produce cocaine to survive because we flood their markets with cheap goods thus relegating small-scale agriculture to a joke? Is it not terrorism to force nations into poverty and refuse to eliminate their debt. Is it not terrorism what this administration is doing? And yet they have the right to declare who the REAL terrorists are?Bullshit.

Why shouldn't suicide bombers blow themselves up? It is their barbaric yawp against the terrorisms committed against them. It isn't pretty. It's bloody and awful, but what should their response be to injustice when the system they're up against doesn't give a damn, doesn't listen, doesn't even look their way? Should they all dress up in business suits and attend hearings and meetings? Should they sip red wine and give George Bush a handjob every chance they get? Would this get them anywhere? Terrorism, it would seem, is the only logical response to such atrocious inequities.

Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that terrorism is positive. It's awful that the world has come to this. I am merely stating that in light of the situation, terrorism may be the only way to be heard even if it means destroying oneself.


green with a gun said...

Let's begin with some definitions.

There's the attacker, and the victims. What matters is whether one is civilian or military. We'll set aside ordinary crime.

Attacker military, victim military = war
Attacker military, victim civilian = war crime
Attacker civilian, victim military = guerilla warfare
Attacker civilian, victim civilian = terrorism

In our society we distinguish between these things essentially on the basis of intention. We use intent to distinguish between a woman who's cooking, whose husband surprises her as he walks up to her, she turns around in alarm and accidentally stabs him in the guts - and a woman who waits until her husband is asleep and then jumps on him with her knife. Intent matters.

It's intent that makes one lot of people terrorists, or guerillas and another lot plain old war criminals (eg Abu Ghraib) or war-fighters (eg the initial invasion of Iraq).

Where it gets murky is when the victims are not all of one type. If you're a soldier blowing up a tank and there happened to be some civilian standing next to it, did you do war-fighting or a war crime. Usually we look at the intent of it, did they take reasonable precautions against hitting civilians, etc. To call the soldier who blew up the tank and the civilian standing next to it a "war criminal" will often be wrong.

Likewise, to call groups "terrorists" when they're only attacking military targets is likewise wrong.

Something you have to understand about actual terrorists is that they're not fighting oppression, because they're generally of two types: prosperous middle and upper-classed people who join willingly, and impoverished people forced to join by the richer ones.

So the people blowing themselves up are in fact generally not oppressed. The oppressed tend to put up with it, or become guerillas. The genuinely oppressed usually have a keen sense of justice and injustice, and either are pacifists or attack only military targets.

So when you speak of the waste and affluence prompting terrorism - it's just not accurate.

Terrorism and war crimes are different from regular acts of war in that acts of war are carried out with the aim of ending the war on favourable terms. War crimes and acts of terror are carried out to perpetuate the conflict.

For example, with both Germany and Japan in WWII, the number of war crimes increased as the war went on. We saw this with the Serbs in Bosnia, the Viet Cong up to 1968, the Americans in Vietnam after 1968, and so on. If you're losing and your guys want to give up, get them to commit a war crime. Committing atrocities hardens the resolve of soldiers, "we can't surrender, what will the enemy do to us now?!"

Likewise, if there's a peace process going on and it seems like your side might accept peace and only some of what you want, if you commit some act of terror then it's likely to fuck up the peace, and make the war go on.

Normally in a war each plan and action is aimed at ending the war, at resolving the conflict violently; a war crime or terrorist action is aimed at starting the war, or making it go on.

So this really is probably the root of your desire to blow up all the consumerist stuff and people. It's not that you expect to end consumerism by blowing shit up, but that you'd like to start a conflict between those for and against consumerism.

Fantasies of world destruction are sadly common throughout history. And they're a common response to talk of climate change, peak oil, social injustice and so on. Everyone dies, we wipe the slate clean, I retreat to my bunker in the hills with my assault rifles and spam...

It's not healthy. It's much better to take a step back from apocalyptic despair, and to think how you can engage with people rather than start endless conflicts.

meg said...

Point well-taken, and thanks for your response. I personally want to blow up nothing. Even if I do despise the state of the society that I live in I have no illusions about blowing it all up and starting with a clean slate. I'm way too pacifistic for that. I think I was speaking more on a metaphysical level (sorry to use that word--it's a little stifling) about how terrorism seems to fit this age as a yang to the yin of production.

I probably did make some acerbic, silly statements in my blog. This is most likely due to the fact that in college, I am being taught to look at everything on this universal, theoretical plane. Thanks for bringing me back to earth.