Thursday, 27 November 2008
On the move again
Just back from local BBC branch, havinglinked up with RTE to record The Arts Show that goes out next week. In half an hour or so to Cambridge to read again.
Messages from good friends in India, expressing horror and fear for the future, because if it does turn out to be a Muslim group that is responsible for the co-ordinated attacks, the tensions in India will probably produce Hindu reprisals. In any case, there is the sheer audacity and numbness of it. A young man (they all seem to be very young according to reports) in black shirt and jeans (they all seem to have worn black shirts and jeans according to reports) walks into a hotel lobby or a railway station or an apartment block, takes out his automatic rifle and shoots at random, killing many. Without expression he simply refills and fires again then moves on to kill more.
The chief principle of political violence is destabilisation. If the action sets two major groups against each other, all the better, because in the chaos, the force with guns can exploit the chaos and possibly seize power. It also shakes the faith of ordinary people in the ability of the state to protect them, so they look elsewhere. So they can be blackmailed and bullied.
To carry out such acts of random violence you must detach yourself from all feeling of human sympathy. You must not look in the eyes of those you kill: you must not make contact. You must blank them out. You must put ends above means, the aim of the operation above the value of an individual life. In effect, you must elevate yourself into a god.
Dying is normal, but to assume power over the deaths of others is an act of supreme arrogance. States assume that power in times of war when the debate is not so much about war between combatants, but about the involvement of those who are not consciously part of hostilities. The bombing of civilians. The shooting of bystanders. The execution of prisoners.
We die, we kill, we are killed. That's the way things are and have been. With a bit of luck we survive to live our natural span. People who deliberately focus on civilians are simply murderers. If they do so for a political purpose they are terrorists and murderes. Not militants. Not an army. They are murderers with a vastly inflated opinion of their own honour and righteousness. which also makes them hypocrites.