ROTTERDAM – The Quetta hospital in Pakistan got bombed today by a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. At least 64 people died, and by now even the righteous calls for attention to terrorism and its victims in far-away deserts have seized. I’ve heard them say apathy is the curse of postmodern civilisation, that idealism has been dead since the late sixties, and that all that’s left is the fear. And it saddens me greatly that the clash of civilisations seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy dividing the world into us and them. Fear divides, and I may be a pessimist but I know hatred to be more powerful than love. It is after all easier to create distance than to bridge it. Inflicting pain takes but a second while healing is measured only in time. And all it takes is a poisonously designed ideology and thousands of years of human civilisation will crumble to a basic instinct: we trust who we think we know, and after all, in the age of individualism and selfishness, who would that be?
We let the other side of the coin tell us. We allow people like Donald Trump, and all his populist counterparts around the world to mount a counter-attack that simultaneously defines and unites who we consider to be ‘us’ and more importantly, we let them define who ‘they’ are, who we are attacking. We revel at the terrifying prospects of radicalisation and violent extremism while those who support the demagogue do not realise they are the counterweight that creates the very terrorist they themselves want to carpet bomb.
But how often do we have to reset the counter to _0_ days before the moderate voices in our world are silenced? Before our alliances disengage because we have become so suspicious of otherness that we not dare to look beyond our own nationalist culture, limited edition©? I find that it is becoming harder to point out nuance when those who I argue against are not my enemies but rather people with whom I used to agree.
Those I disagree with most do not talk to me. They’d shoot me. Those who I oppose believe that their way of life is under attack by the culture I somehow represent. They are raging a holy war against the corruption of the world. Against the sudden unlimited freedoms that do not make them feel free. They are bombing the invisible hand that sends the invisible drones. This faceless world power is colonising markets, exploiting people where it can. Imagine being able to see the indiscernible streams of capital flowing weightlessly in the air, like plane contrails in the sky, always just out of your reach. There are those who have given this faceless entity a face. And that face is my face, and it’s your face. It’s the American flag and it’s Father Jacques Hamel, and the 84 killed in Nice, and the 50 killed in Orlando. You have to understand that the true inventors of modern Jihadism are few in number. And by that I mean that I can probably count them on two hands. They are the leaders, and those who sacrifice their lives for this cause are the mere followers.
I don’t argue with them, though. I argue with the people who believe that our way of life is under attack by the culture that other-looking people somehow represent. They are raging a war against the corruption of the world, protesting the dismantling of the categories of social reality that they grew up with. Those of patriarchy, heteronormativity, racialism, post-colonialism, post-imperialism. Don’t we all dream of simpler times, about that glorious romanticised past when everything still made sense?
They feel that all the promises of Western civilisation have fallen short on them, that they have been handed the short straw in this post-globalisation theatre we call the world economy. They too see the flows of capital above their heads heading the other way. And they too have leaders, who have put a face on that unfathomable powerlessness and frustration. Some of those faces we cannot see because they are floating down in the Mediterranean as we speak. A lot of those faces we put in refugee camps, and we bar our doors for them. And because these leaders I speak of have personified the insecurity of life into these displaced people, some of us now think that if we just could get rid of them, we’d go back to this glorious past. The tragedy of course is that this past does not exist. It never did, and meanwhile we will have barred refugees and Muslim immigrants from our countries, we have disenfranchised many people who live where we live, and we will have abandoned the millions who have nowhere to live anymore.
Unfortunately, this is a harder sell than the pitch of these populist politicians. If there is one thing, though, one thing I could point out before you move on, there’s this:
Those who took and abused concepts that once meant to tell a story about how to live meaningfully are essentially the same everywhere, regardless of whether that word was ‘jihad’, ‘freedom’, or ‘democracy’ and whether or not their violence is deemed legitimate matters little to their victims. After all, terrorist attacks and military interventions both kill, and what we or they choose to call it matters little to the dead.
It has been _0_ days since the last incident. I’ll reset the counter tomorrow again.