By Indy Media
Jan 25, 2008
Most terrorists have mundane, apparently peaceful lives, but are just as cruel as those who behead for an internet audience. They are you and me, ordinary people consuming much too much, leading an unsustainable lifestyle, committing cultural genocide on the vast majority of humanity, plundering non-western economies in the name of free trade, and imposing our lifestyle and morality on the rest of humanity. Yes, terrorists r (also) us!
Of course, there is a difference between ‘their’ terrorism and ‘our’ terrorism. They often have a legitimate grievance; they engage in conscious terrorism because they see themselves as powerless against powerful governments that have inflicted real injustice on them. We are motivated by greed, a sense of superiority and an unshakable belief in our right to dominate the world. They kill indiscriminately. We kill en masse. Their nefarious deeds get the attention of the global media. Our terrorist activities are invisible, shrouded in pious rhetoric about “freedom and democracy,” embedded in our way of life, integrated into our system of thought and way of looking at the world. They know they are guilty. We have an innate belief in our innocence. They kill in hundreds and thousands; we kill in millions.
Of the 4.4 billion people living in the developing countries, nearly three fifths lack access to sewers, a third to clean water, a quarter to housing, and a fifth to health care of any kind. Every day 800 million people go hungry. A baby born today in Botswana has a life expectancy of 39.
This is not the product of some fluke of history, or natural disasters, or mismanagement by tinpot dictators or lack of initiative by the wretched of the Earth. These people are the direct victims of our consciously planned policies and actions. We deny government aid and our markets to African peanut farmers but give billions of dollars in subsidies to American peanut farmers and ensure they can sell their products all over the globe. We subsidize every cow in the European Union by $2.50 a day and force the vast majority of peasants in Africa and Asia off their land to live on less than $1 a day.
We also kill cultures, destroy traditional communities in the name of development, turn rainforests into deserts to satisfy our craving for hamburgers. Ten languages fall silent every year. Entire cultures, lifestyles and different ways of being human are disappearing as a direct result of the cultural terrorism we perpetuate.
In return, we gloat. America constitutes three percent of world’s population but consumes 25 percent of its energy and produces 30 percent of its pollution. The three richest Americans have assets exceeding the combined gross domestic products of the 48 least-developed countries. Americans spend $8 billion on cosmetics, almost as much on pet food, and $10 billion a year on pornography — more than the estimated total needed to provide clean water, safe sewers and basic health care to the world’s poor.
This, then, is the world that the West has created over the past two centuries and America has shaped during the last few decades. In this world, inequalities, exploitation and imperialism are not just part of the system — they are the System.
‘Evil terrorists’ perform horrendous acts of carnage by insulating their conscious awareness from the emotional consequences of what they do. We too insulate our consciousness from the repugnant consequences of what we continue to do every day of our mundane lives and the truly hideous world we have created and maintain. For sure, terrorists need to change. But we need to change even more.
The future need not be an extension of the past or the present. It can be shaped, decolonized and made more equitable and just. But to shape a future free from terrorism we must realize that the ‘war on terror’ is not a war at all. It is cultural politics. It is a struggle to create cultural space for other ways of knowing, being and doing. It is a politics of visibility that brings the inhuman consequences of our policies and action into sharper focus. It is personal exertion to live a more sustainable and humane life. It is an attempt to addresses the politics of identity that accompanies neo-liberal globalization. In the end, a terrorism-free future begins with our Selfs.
Ziauddin Sardar is a British writer, broadcaster and cultural critic. His recent books include Why Do People Hate America? and American Terminator: Myths, Movies and Global Power (Disinformation Books).