Bombing the alien

Aliens, Liberties, Novelists, Politics, Science Fiction

Continuing to ponder the alien, in the context of bombings. Recapping yesterday, Lem sees the alien as being inexplicable in common human terms; it happens without apparently comprehensible cause or effect. We can be physically proximate to it, but we can never approach it rationally or emotionally.

So what does this have to do with bombings? Well, it’s a question of motivation. Speaking after the recent failed attacks in Glasgow and London, PM Gordon Brown described this kind of terrorism as being perpetrated by ‘a few extremists who wish to practise violence and inflict maximum loss of life in the interests of a perversion of their religion.’ While in power, Tony Blair consistently used a comparable formulation, talking of an ‘extremism based on a perversion of Islam’.

According to both Brown and Blair, terrorist motivation is rooted in wrong headed faith. Key aspects of faith are that it’s spontaneous; it’s absolute; and it’s irrational. Made wrong-headed, ‘perverted’, it becomes even more so. Given this definition of terrorist motivation, terrorist activity becomes a force of nature – or more appositely, an act of god. It’s something that just happens.

That implied ‘it just happens’ is fascinating. It moves terrorist activity into the realm of the alien, making it something that can’t be understood or engaged with on rational terms.

It can’t be predicted – so sweeping action against anyone who might conceivably be / become a terrorist is justified. It has no clear context – so trying to understand it as a response to (say) the invasion and occupation of Iraq is rendered futile. And it will never go away – so substantial measures against it *have* to be taken, because it’s become a perpetual, ongoing threat.

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