02 December 2008

Daily Show on terrorism...

Fairly hilarious, but at the same time contains some truth. This is not its overt message (that these killers are simply motherfuckers) but, its half-serious parody of the unhelpful reaction to terrorism that is or has become our habit as Westerners; namely, that these killers are simply motherfuckers. Or, as many of us are quick to unreflectively assume, that terrorists are irredeemably evil, completely irrational (in the sense of being able to choose apt means for the ends that they pursue), and (therefore) so entirely Other that we can treat them as inhuman.

Of course there is an incomprehensible inhumanity in their actions, and in the repulsive images and narratives that came to us from Mumbai over the past few days, and I'd have to be particularly heartless to deny that. But not only has our habit of dehumanizing the Other been instrumental in facilitating the excesses of the WoT (which, hopefully, by now is a rather mundane and uncontroversial argument), it also suppresses any moral commitment to the need to understand their ends. These ends they likely hold in common with many others who are unwilling to choose violent means, and to that extent they probably don't boil down exclusively to seeking to construct an Islamic Caliphate or somesuch as the clip seems to suggest. These ends may turn out to be incompatible with our own, in which case we will find ourselves engaging in moral compromises to ensure that ours are the ones that prevail. But we should not hide from that possibility by refusing to ask the question.

It is a sensitive time to express such insensitive thoughts, but hopefully you agree that recognizing the humanity of the terrorist doesn't entail denigrating the humanity of his victim.

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