Ref. :  000034276
Date :  2011-01-15
Language :  English
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The meaning of “carnage”?


About Alexandria (December 31, 2010) and the new “massacre of Eastern Christians” that has plunged the “Christmas truce” into mourning, the question is not only to know: “who has done what, and why?” (the main question that is being asked by most people), but rather: “what is it that we are expected to believe, and why?”, as well as: “what are the consequences we are expected to draw from our understanding of the event?”.

We meet one first thorny observation if we follow this way of comprehending the event. Contrary to conventional wisdom, those who perform “terrorist actions” are not guided by the obsession of “causing the greatest number of victims possible”… Indeed, if it were the case, our planet would be a volcano of atrocities without common measure with today’s disaster. Indeed, the potential for recruiting helping and qualified hands, for finding weapons and designated targets is unlimited. The truth lies somewhere else: terrorists are thrifty and rational; they actually perform few actions but those actions ―when they succeed― are literally saturated with meaning. Far from being a new form of nihilism, this contemporary “terrorist wave” places us in front of, the concentration of meaning under explosive forms.

The second bothering observation is that those related actions are awfully performing. They manage to plunge their witnesses and observers in a posture of either tetany or stupidity, according to circumstances, thus keeping them tightly gripped in the clamp of the (falsely good) question “Who has done what, and why?”. It does not take long before one finds oneself frozen face to face with the two-folded question, numbed as Buridan’s donkey who is dying from the incapacity of choosing whether to move forward to a stack of hay or a pail of water both standing at the same distance. When trying to answer the question “Who? ”, we feel dizzy in front of the numerous conventional “answers ” that come in continuous loop: “Al Qaeda”; the “Islamic circle of influence ”or the “anarchist” one; the “secret services”; the Mafia; the Police; the Army; the “far right and far left groups”; the “presidential palace”; and lastly, one more “plot”… As for the question “Why? ”, we fail in producing better “answers”: those answers are almost always characterized by their immediateness. For citizens are supposed to claim for clarity and intelligibility on the spot! With Alexandria, a voice stronger than others has imposed itself over the racket. This voice asserts that the whole story is about “scaring Eastern Christians off”. Is that really the whole meaning of the carnage? By shedding such a vivid light on the carnage, are we not taking the risk of reducing the range of its symbolical impact? In other words, are we merely facing brutes sending messages to dumb donkeys?

A third observation has to be made. By keeping “terrorism” under the statute of an autonomous sphere that escapes the rules of normality and the criteria of “civilization”, and that should be annihilated by resorting to the sacred Union of all those “attached to the values of the universalist democracy and humanism”, we block up the access to a genuine understanding of its phenomenon and of its connections to our world. There is no doubt this stance is very hard to accept by direct or indirect victims of terrorism who suffer in their body and soul. But the only way to uncover the genuine nature of contemporary terrorisms might imply this: considering them the same way Clausewitz did with war, as the “continuation of politics by other means”. This idea is in no doubt scandalous for those who consider terrorism as an exacerbated form of pathos free of relation to civil, political and social life… It is however indispensable to burst the screen if we want to be able to begin comprehending what terrorism is in itself: the unacceptable continuation of diplomatic notes, of financial stakes, of political programs that, having to face the failure of their traditional means, have decided to conduct a radical change of register and method. Let us put it another way: terrorism is not “normal” given the excess (Hubris) of its feats; it however has to be convincingly interpreted and the rationality at work even in the more pathologic of its manifestations, decrypted. Putting feelings aside is a prerequisite to that.

In this respect, and alike its equivalent, the carnage inflicted to the believers of the Two-Saints Church of Alexandria on December 31st 2010 should not be reduced to a sequence of expressions forming an obsessing leitmotiv devoid of any form of thinking such as: “Al Qaeda / Islamist radicals / implication of secret services / complicity of the ruling power / chasing Eastern Christians away / destroy churches/ wipe off all forms of peaceful dialogue between religions”, etc. For this leitmotiv, based on the manipulation of words and spirits, appears as nothing else than a self-realizing prophecy.

Moreover, the dramatisation of the carnage has to be understood according to distinct meanings. On the one hand, the carnage is filling in the empty space left by a discourse (be it militant, political, social or religious…) that reveals itself failing in submitting real projects. Indeed, anything is better than the experience of emptiness, the experience of the absence or negation of what had so far fulfilled the function of reference points, provided comfort and support. On the other hand, and this is where lies its stroke, the carnage imposes an endless doubt in its victims and witnesses’ minds. A dramatic state of doubt takes hold of both those who are overwhelmed with “incomprehension” and those who suddenly imagine they “understand it all”, and thus find themselves struck by Plato’s double ignorance.

The carnage of bodies and of physical mutilations then succeeds in turning into carnage of ideas, convictions and projects. By such means, it reaches its objective of imposing boundless domination and control.

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