Hundreds of wars and armed conflicts take place every day, in different parts of the global geography, both to maintain the status and modus vivendi of the great urban centres of the West and to exterminate populations that are dispensable for the economic dynamics of modern capitalism. And yet, the drama that is constructed as a universal narrative of the horror of the terrorist act is not present there: because there, in those dynamics, what the West enunciates is that stale discourse in defence, protection and promotion of freedom, peace, stability, order, human rights and happiness.
Last Friday, March 15, a lone wolf (as U.S. common sense usually calls this type of individuals) perpetrated a mass murder that resulted in more than ninety-seven deaths and several dozen wounded in a mosque located in Christchurch, New Zealand. As is customary whenever events of this nature occur within the societies that make up the cultural space of the West -regardless of the geographical location in which these populations are located-, the feeling of horror was not long in coming and immediately put into operation that enormous media machine that takes advantage of these junctures to move the whole world and drag it, by the force of empathy-induced with respect to the victims of the attack in question, towards the imperative of becoming the faithful confession of Western values.
Cases such as Virginia Tech, Virginia (2007); Newton, Connecticut (2012); San Bernardino, California (2015); Orlando, Florida (2016); Las Vegas, Nevada (2017); and, in other latitudes, Charlie Hebdo, Paris (2015); or Borough Market, London (2017); account for this movement in which the West asserts itself in a position of victimization in the face of an infinite number of military, media, computer, economic, political, cultural threats, etc.., which, of course, has the clear objective of stopping them through extermination, before they continue to attack the fundamental pillars of their civilization. Western civilization, faced with the threat of global barbarism, is the formula that summarizes the crusades of the West around the world and its response to any social difference that represents an open or veiled questioning.
The world, however, is not reduced to the West and to the type of civilization that from there seeks, permanently and uninterruptedly, to export to the rest of the world. And the reality of this life is that all the time, in an infinity of spaces-times of social life in the world, acts as atrocious as those represented by the classic examples offered today by the Anglo-Saxon mass media are being committed to exemplify what terrorism is and what it is all about, despite the fact that they go unnoticed, either through a deliberate invisibility on the part of the political interests and capitals that control the lines of communication between societies or through an act of absolute interiorization and naturalization, in the West, of the violence that fills the peripheral spaces of the world: America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
There are plenty of examples. Dozens of military dictatorships – supported by political support, financial flows and the Western arms trade – coexist in states of these peripheral spaces without the central societies being scandalized by the interests defended by their governments in those countries where death is the daily bread of millions of people. Thousands of communities, urban and/or rural, suffer from the mercenary activities of the big transnational corporations in their dispute for appropriating natural resources, cheap labour, spaces for circulation and accumulation of capital, and so on. Hundreds of wars and armed conflicts take place every day, in different points of the global geography, both to maintain the status and modus vivendi of the great urban centres of the West and to exterminate populations that are dispensable for the economic dynamics of modern capitalism. And yet, the drama that is constructed as a universal narrative of the horror of the terrorist act is not present there: because there, in those dynamics, what the West enunciates is that stale discourse in defence, protection and promotion of freedom, peace, stability, order, human rights and happiness.
Returning to the events that took place in New Zealand, it is enough to observe that, at the same time that the attack against the Muslim population present in the mosque was being committed, the State of Israel was carrying out one more air attack on Palestinian civilian populations, in more than one hundred points of contact. The international press, however, did not record the attack with the same amount, depth and extent as it did in the case of New Zealand; and when it did, the ideological bias used was the usual one: Israel only ended up defending itself, with its sophisticated military weaponry, against the aggressions committed by some sectors of the population it maintains under a permanent state of concentration.
What does all this say about the West and its project of civilization exported as colonialism and neocolonialism to the peripheries? At this point, it is no secret that, since the 1970s, the Western discourse of war against terrorism has insatiably sought to justify the extermination of the cultural specificities of Muslim societies by way of a supposed rigour, systematicity and veracity in the way terrorism is understood in the world.
In 1996, Samuel P. Huntington, National Security Advisor to the White House until 1978, and since then one of the main and most influential ideologues and promoters of the militarist style of U.S. democracy around the world, sought to give a more robust scientific support to that war discourse against international terrorism and, through the formula: The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order ended up consolidating that common sense that today saturates the collective national imagination when it comes to thinking about what terrorism is, how it works, what its foundations are, and how it can be fought. Huntington, in effect, by synthesizing the idea that the West has of the East in the formula of the clash of civilizations, he universalized, in terms that are highly understandable to anyone -regardless of their levels of schooling and politicization- the idea that the East (essentially Muslim) is in itself a danger to Western values because of the profound cultural differences that are found within it; In particular with regard to “democracy, human rights, freedom, the sovereignty of the law and the separation of church and state”.
Since then, until now -and always hiding that it is their finances and their weapons, in addition to the training and indoctrination under their charge, the elements with which the West contributes to form guerrillas, militias and entire armies of Muslims to Balkanize the East and their societies from their very entrails-, that discourse has been refined more and more, so that every day it is much easier to categorize a given event as a terrorist expression based on radical hermeticism and on the systematic rejection of East and Islam towards the West – despite the fact that, in the facts, both one and the other; that is, East and Islam, have proved to be of the geocultural configurations most open to diversity throughout the world.
And what is certain is that the trajectory of this western fundamentalism, supremacist in all aspects, is not to be surprised. At the end of the Cold War, and after the sentence of the End of History, of Fukuyama, the West, in general, and the United States, in particular, did not accept the idea of exercising its hegemony in a world in which there was no longer any enemy, sufficiently totalizing and abstract, that would work for its discourse as an Otherness that must be fought and exterminated everywhere. Drug trafficking, in America; and international terrorism, in the rest of the world; are those two new enemies invented by the West to maintain their dynamics of balkanization of the world in accordance with the random dictates of their needs of capital accumulation.
Therefore, in the case of the attack on the Christchurch mosque, the first thing to observe is the way in which Western conservatism, through its spokespersons, has not ceased to insist on securitizing the whole of collective life, on the one hand, and, on the other, on increasing the presence of the State. And it is that, regardless of ideological divisions, in the West’s intellection of terrorism, from right to left, the dominant consensus in the diagnosis is that this is a phenomenon inherently external to the characteristics of the Western society to which it belongs.
In Mexico for example. They have not lacked the conservatism they see in the country’s current migratory situation, in the diversity of professed religions, and in the conflicts that are emerging as a result of the structural reforms being carried out by the López Obrador government, the main threat to the national security of the State, on the understanding that each of these phenomena carries in itself the seeds of a possible terrorist catastrophe for the country. The immediate logical consequence in this way of proceeding, in order to combat the phenomenon as such, is, consequently, that it is necessary to try to carry out a sort of purification of society, accompanied by a greater presence of State institutions (with special emphasis on the armed forces) and a combat strategy that is capable of eliminating the threat as soon as it is present.
The problem with this view, in addition to the obvious misunderstanding and reproduction of Islam and the cultural character of other populations, is that it is not fully understood that it is neither a power vacuum nor an abandonment or absence of the State that facilitates the emergence of terrorism within a society. On the contrary, if the history of this phenomenon has shown anything, with paradigmatic cases such as those of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski – Secretary of State of Nixon and Ford, and National Security Advisor of Carter, respectively; in the formation of paramilitary groups, armies and militias in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia and America to balkanise entire societies, it is that terrorism, in order to operate, requires the presence of the State and big capital: both are its condition of possibility and not the solution that eliminates them.
Christchurch, again, is a paradigmatic case (like the rest of the cases cited, and all those that by extension of this reflection did not manage to integrate), to question that cultural supremacism of the West which, from time to time, manifests itself in radicalized expressions of itself, such as racial supremacism, ethnic supremacism, religious supremacism, classism, etc., but which, in short, are not an antithesis or a negation of the former. It would be necessary to begin to think, in this sense, of all those spaces and times that, in everyday life, show the traits of those behaviours that in specific conjunctures explode in massacres such as those referenced here.
Not only does it help to make invisible the differential treatment given when the act is committed by a white supremacist or by a black individual, a Muslim, a Latino, etc. In addition to this, it exonerates society itself, the political regimes it uses and the model of production, circulation and accumulation of capital that determines them, from their responsibility in the reproduction of social, collective violence.
Photo: José Clemente Orozco
Authorized translation of the original article in Spanish published on March 30th, 2019. At the CEMAPI (MEXICAN CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY ANALYSIS BY ITS SPANISH ACRONYM). The article was written by MPhil. Ricardo Orozco.