contemporary terrorism and negative globalisation


True to its name, the paramount weapon of terrorism is sowing terror. And given the current state of the planet, rich crops are assured however inferior the quality of the seed.

Given the nature of contemporary terrorism, and above all the ‘negatively globalized’ setting in which it operates, the very notion of the ‘war on terrorism’ is all but a contradiction in terms.
Modern weapons, conceived and developed in the era of territorial invasions and conquests, are singularly unfit for locating, striking and destroying the extraterritorial, endemically elusive and eminently mobile targets, minute squads or just single men or women travelling light, armed with weapons that are easy to hide: they are difficult to pick out when they are on the way to another atrocity, and may perish in the place of the outrage or disappear from it as rapidly and inconspicuously as they arrived, leaving behind few if any clues of who they are. To deploy Paul Virilio’s apt terms, we have now passed (an event only belatedly noted and grudgingly admitted by the military) from the times of ‘siege warfare’ to those of ‘wars of movement’. Given the nature of the modern weapons at the disposal of the military, responses to such terrorist acts are bound to appear awkward, clumsy and fuzzy, spilling over a much wider area than that affected by the terrorist outrage, and causing ever more numerous ‘collateral casualties’, and an ever greater volume of ‘collateral damage’, and so also more terror, disruption and destabilization than the terrorists could possibly have produced on their own – as well as provoking a further leap in the volume of accumulated grievance, hatred and pent-up fury and stretching still further the ranks of potential recruits to the terrorist cause. We may surmise that this circumstance is an integral part of the terrorists’ design and the principal source of their strength, which exceeds many times the power of their numbers and arms.” (p.107)

“Thus far, ours is a wholly negative globalization: unchecked, unsupplemented and uncompensated for by a ‘positive’ counterpart which is still a distant prospect at best, though according to some prognoses already a forlorn chance. Allowed a free run, ‘negative’ globalization specializes in breaking those boundaries too weak to withstand the pressure, and in drilling numerous, huge and unplugable holes through those boundaries that successfully resist the forces bent on dismantling them.

The ‘openness’ of our open society has acquired a new gloss these days, one undreamt of by Karl Popper, who coined that phrase. No longer a precious yet frail product of brave, though stressful, self-assertive efforts, it has become instead an irresistible fate brought about by the pressures of formidable extraneous forces a; a side-effect of ‘negative globalization’ – that is, the highly selective globalization of trade and capital, surveillance and information, coercion and weapons, crime and terrorism, all now disdaining territorial sovereignty and respecting no state boundary.
If the idea of an ‘open society’ originally stood for the self-determination of a free society proud of its openness, it now brings to most minds the terrifying experience of heteronomous, vulnerable populations overwhelmed by forces they neither control nor truly understand, horrified by their own undefendability and obsessed with the security of their borders and of the population inside them – since it is precisely that security inside borders and [-p.97] of borders that eludes their grasp and seems bound to stay beyond their reach forever (or at least as long as the planet is subjected to solely negative globalization, which all too often seems to be the same thing). On a globalized planet, populated by the forcibly ‘opened’ societies, security cannot be gained, let alone reliably assured, in one country or in a selected group of countries: not by their own means, and not independently of the state of affairs in the rest of the world.” (p.96)

“Neither can justice, that preliminary condition of lasting peace. The perverted ‘openness’ of societies enforced by negative globalization is itself the prime cause of injustice and so, obliquely, of conflict and violence.” (p.97)

“‘Market without boundaries’ is a recipe for injustice, and ultimately for a new world disorder in which (contrary to Clausewitz) it is the politics that becomes a continuation of war by other means. Global lawlessness and armed violence feed each other, mutually reinforce and reinvigorate; as the ancient wisdom warns – inter arma silent leges (when arms speak, laws keep silent). The globalization of harm and damage rebounds in the globalization of resentment and vengeance.” (p.97)

“The spectre of vulnerability hovers over the ‘negatively globalized’ planet. We are all in danger, and we are all dangers to each other. There are only three roles to play – perpetrators, victims, and ‘collateral casualties’ – and for the first role there is no shortage of bidders, while the ranks of those case as the second and the third grow unstoppably. Those of us already on the receiving end of negative globalization frantically seek escape and breathe vengeance. Those as yet spared are frightened that their turn to do the same may – and will -come.” (p.98)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold, mine) Zygmunt Bauman (2006) Liquid Fear. Polity Press: Cambridge, UK


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