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Dying for Ideas by Costica Bradatan;

Dying for Ideas by Costica Bradatan;

Author:Costica Bradatan;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Published: 2015-06-14T16:00:00+00:00


Dying to kill

The suicide-bomber, too, uses his dying body politically, but there is nothing passive about his gesture. His action is designed to cause the death of others even as its author dies performing it.46 Yet the ultimate objective here does not seem to be the sheer volume of victims, but what the suicide-bomber projects in the process: the terrifying image of an individual (one of the many out there) who does not fear death, who does not hesitate to waste his life, or anyone else’s, for the cause. What these people mean to communicate is that they are above “life and death,” and that they strike like natural disasters: mercilessly, implacably, and indiscriminately. It is this carefully induced perception that counts most. For suicide-bombers, and those who commission them, know only too well that they cannot win anything strictly militarily. Their primary targets are not those whom they kill, but those before whom they perform the act. That’s why they perform it as if on a stage: the videos they leave behind, with all their rehearsals, elaborate mise-en-scène, and standard recitations; the posters displayed afterward; and the entire publicity industry backing them. This is a fundamental part of what suicide-bombing is about; it is perhaps more important than the act of killing itself.

Yet no matter how sophisticated the propaganda machine, there is something at the core of the suicide-bomber’s gesture that prevents it from generating the kind of effective, constructive social energy that, say, Quàng Đúc’s deed did. The latter’s power came from the fact that the harm he was causing was directed exclusively against himself; nobody else was hurt, nor meant to be, in the process. The only body Quàng Đúc disposed of was his own. What produced a change in society was not some physical pressure he put on its members, but the strong impression left on their minds by the public spectacle of a supremely selfless act. By contrast, the change that the suicide-bomber seeks to produce is done, by definition, through the harm he causes to the bodies of others. Such a gesture cannot go unnoticed: the event is noisy, messy, and bloody, the carnage unbearable and traumatic, and the terror is real. But that’s pretty much what suicide-bombing is all about. Its significance exhausts itself on the stage of the killing, be it a bus, metro, or café. There is nothing in this gesture that transcends it such as a wave of genuine sympathy from the larger community. Society is terrorized, but not moved. This is why suicide-bombing is doomed to remain within the confines of guerilla warfare. Far from being structured by some symbolic values, by something higher, these actions, as Malise Ruthven observed, remain driven “by a combination of realpolitik and despair” (Ruthven 2002: 101).

From the perspective of the Gandhian method of the “reversal of opposites,” one may say that suicide-bombers are eventually powerless precisely because they appear so powerful. Their impotence comes from the offensive nature of their act. You cannot use actual weapons and still turn your body into a symbolic weapon, one nullifies the other.



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