She was asked by the leader: “When will you, reporter, stop writing about fighting in Sulu? Is that all what you reporters are after?”
Earlier in the day, she had been “slapped in the face and pulled around till [she] hit a rock… ordered to undress and changed into an outfit they threw at [her] face… pointed a gun at her forehead… Late in the night they [had] pushed her into a shallow pit… and someone [had] pissed on her…”
A suicide bomber, for Terry Eagleton, “by actually accepting his death, frees [himself] from death and turn[s] it into a weapon… forc[ing] a point out of the ultimately pointless. As well as a way of killing a lot more people, death becomes a symbolic statement that the way he is living is even more dire than non-existence…” one thing that is “stronger than death is his anger [the kidnappers’].”
The contempt hostage-takers, in the name of religion & social debasement, hold against Christian civilians (there are cases of Muslim collateral damage) is the very paradigm of the politics of a “Third World society, first century Palestine” where traditional cultures are “last-ditch resistance to… modernity.”
In a sense, they mimic the ancient Moors who defended their turf from the Medieval knights in alleged search of the Holy Grail – & their aversion for the Crusaders still enflame believers of Islamic truth. After all, mimicry, according to Michael Taussig, “lies in the copy drawing on the character and power of the original, to the point whereby the representation may even assume that character and that power.”
Think of Janjalani rediscovering himself as a mythical Paladin in the same manner that penitents are virtual Christs themselves who must be nailed on the cross.
We conflate here terrorism & original: the bandits, in the name of the first transgression, have become the resurrected warriors out to crush the infidels with the same imagined brutality of interlopers who inflict pain on them. The hostages are consequently the very reality of the corporate world that has marginalized them – & it does matter little if these outsiders belong to the same oppressed class as they surely are.
We take note of the inquisitorial voice that denounces the ordinary reporter for portraying their kind as violent – paradoxically revealing a blindness of himself to his own brutality.
We are reminded of the conservative paradigm that denounces the republicanism of Danton & Robespierre as the classic case of the revolution devouring of its own children, of victims partaking of the role of executioner they had earlier revolted against. But this a reactive response from the far right that sees no qualitative difference between polarities.
But are the Sulu denizens in the same league as Iraqi suicide bombers, whose nationalism & religious fundamentalism twin with the Islamic contempt for the maternal body & preference for the allegedly spiritual?
The Mindanao caper on Drilon & her cameramen repeats the old Sipadan chaos, where Muslim rogues & Christian bureaucrats conspired to corral Burnham & Company – in the process exposing the marketing scam to siphon off state & foreign donor’s bounty, in the name of negotiation.
The beheading of the victims was a simple point to raise the ante on ransom money & project the absoluteness of their beastliness. The language of terror is that which moves the urgency of what’s at stake.
If, however, they cannot value human life as a metaphysical dictum, why score therefore the inhumanity of state satraps?
The reporters who are currently detained must have been asked this: but does this advance their plea for social justice?
“A local official,” moreover, “had asked whether media could still do something about Sulu’s image crisis.”
Alas, but a Kotong cop has a more viable PR possibility for a makeover…
The tragedy of the recent Sulu kidnapping is not so much the ambiguity of terrorism itself (“that which seeks to turn despair into hope, but to draw its power from despair as such”) as the corporatism that has muddled its projection of counter-violence against a state that turns hungry peasants into gun-toting bosses.
The haggling over money in exchange for prisoners has turned into a transaction for the highest fee – thus reducing their mission into a market ploy, like pricing animal stocks for the abattoir. Is there any difference therefore between a cow to be slaughtered & a human to be beheaded or shot?
While they denounce the commodification in a system that reifies their being, they nevertheless subscribe to the monetary mode of recouping their subjective loss. Thus is the absurd that makes of the anarchic group a cheap simulacrum of the al-Qaeda in Iraq & Iran, although they draw inspiration from them.
That they are enabled by scalawags in the state apparat is the unsaid that encourages right-wing fanatics to unleash their brand of militarist terror & that is the rub. More than ever, the state operators benefit from their orchestrated mayhem, as political observers are wont to suggest.
“In the pragmatic, disenchanted, distinctly unmetaphysical climate of advanced capitalism,” according to Eagleton, “those for whom culture and militancy are inseparable…” Western postmodernism “rides roughshod over local communities and traditional sentiments…” which results in “Western society… leav[ing] a culture of smouldering ressentiment in the wake.”
Thus the resurgence of the JI group in the southern tip of the archipelago, which is fertile ground for First World incursion – economically & politically: after all, Ibn Laden was a CIA creation for anti-Soviet operators in Afghanistan, only to become later the scourge of New York.
For a fundamentalist, language is not metaphorical, but singular & transparent, for the alleged truth is self-manifesting, contrary to the positing of Derrida, where multiplicity & consequently the final truth is most elusive. If a text promises a believer of a reward of 60 virgins after a mission that does away with his corporeal body, it literally meant that. But what escapes the sacral assurance with patriarchal overtone is the promise recuperates the feudal Persian practice of the sultanate’s harem, where desire flourishes because sanctified by laws.
& when Christians are deemed infidels, as in the past history of the Medieval Crusade, they must remain so to this day: the age-old civilization persists as in the Koran, & redistribution must be visited upon its detractors, ever on their own kind who would reinterpret it in a liberal humanist way of the New World.
Terror is holified.
Yet, we must also take note “that the predatory actions of capitalism breed, by way of defensive reaction, a multitude of closed cultures” (in Middle East & Asia in general), then creating the resistance by which current fundamentalism tries to protect itself, its beneficiaries among the elect seeking to perpetuate themselves by their authoritarian hermeneutics of the Koran & the persistence of atavistic tradition.
Revolutions come out of the womb of love & compassion, never fear & loathing.
They never seem to learn.
True, in a universe that is proclaimed by postmodernists as uncertain & contingent, terror has become the essence of existence – a political rationale that allows nihilism to be the central thematics of our times. (Some point pounced upon by dictators & monopoly capitalists as precondition for steering clear of the abyss; & if allowed everyone to be overwhelmed by such possibility, the road to Dachau is most justified.)
But, as Zizek cautions to balance, as it were, the equation: “The same goes for revolutionary politics: the horrible experience with Stalinist error should teach us how idealism and cruelty are two sides of the same coin…” It also should “in no way inhibit us in our search for a ‘good terror’ as the key ingredient of any truly radical politics.”
& we ask: do the Sulu brigands make for a positively (deconstructive) dictum on the violence of the violated? That the subaltern has the inviolable right to acquire the master’s mayhem?
Can the Islamic children of war & hunger, taking after their wrathful elders, assume a higher moral ground against a corporate state and/or Christian outsiders they are wont to denounce as the bane of their squalid existence?
Isn’t the Sulu kidnapping as an industry, in a quirk of historical analogy, reminiscent of the slave trade that saw Western colonialists raid African & Asian settlements during the foundational years of Empire?
Isn’t their mode of Islam only a decoy play for accumulating capital in the pursuit of counter-hegemony?
O A perverse terror is upon us.
was the town’s
but he’d prefer
denims & sneakers
that raised his mother’s
Why does their son
embarrass his parents
with his shoddy looks?
When readymade pants
& shirts became de rigeuer,
the shop had to close down
& his father
would look for
but it was too late
for custommade apparel
to be king again…
(Seasons are always
who raise the artisanal
Now he rues
the superfluous brands
the market offers
as terrific loot
whenever he preens
before the mirror
like a faded peacock
& longs for
At his father’s wake,
by his urn of ashes,
lay the scissors
& tape measure
of his trade
& his insolent youth…
“We who are fathers
are ourselves fatherless,”
the first line of a sonnet
he uttered at 19
his past drawing up
that is his present now…
Should he have feared
its sad, sad gravity,
like a shot
wildly fired in the dark?
He is thankful
for that open-eye blindness
that stopped him
from keeping it
like a secret letter
of the arcana
in his heart.