Sunday, December 02, 2007

Terrorists get off

From an interview with Frank Furedi, talking about the ideas in his new book, Invitation to Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown.

I think that what we have today is a very formless, diffuse anger, which lashes out at certain symbols of modernity and the West, or against what these individuals think of as the Empire. And I certainly think it is a problem when this phenomenon is redefined as something with a coherent ideology, or when it is called ‘totalitarian’ and various other names. This endows the networks with a coherence that they otherwise lack. But what is interesting is that their incoherent rage is matched by an equally incoherent response from Western governments. You’ve got this kind of symmetry of confusion in the war on terror.

Today’s terrorist networks simply lack the intellectual resources to offer any coherent alternative. And therefore they opportunistically draw on all sorts of resources. They’re just as likely to draw on some anti-consumerist manifesto or anything else that represents some kind of alternative to the onward march of a modern, technologically advanced society, as they are to draw from the Koran. So in a perverse kind of way, although they often have Islamic convictions, their worldview is fuelled by ideals that are much more to do with a backward-looking anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, anti-modernist imagination; an outlook that says: ‘Stop the world I want to get off.’
There's a lot of good stuff here and I could have chosen several other passages, among which, the feebleness of our elites and the lack of 'greater meaning' in our society. It's worth a read.


Riri said...

Interesting interview, the following passage struck a string or two on the violin of my soul:

"Today, in the absence of that, we’ve got no real clarity about what is the purpose of society, and what is non-negotiable in terms of our values and freedoms. And in this situation, in the absence of an overarching meaning, people can turn in on themselves. Amongst the elites, there is a feebleness about standing up for a particular way of life. Indeed, the very expression ‘way of life’ has an increasingly rhetorical character and offers no real clarity about what society and life is about today"

NoolaBeulah said...

I noticed it, too. Partly because I had just finished writing that my last comment to you where I spoke about 'no centre'. Later the same evening I started reading a book by Jonathan Sacks that says the same thing. From him, Chief Rabbi of the country, it is not surprising. But even non-believer writers are making the same point, such as the man above.

Before you joyously jump to the conclusion that all this is merely another signal of the END, it may just be that we are in the middle of an adjustment to circumstances that have never occurred before. Societies with vitality can always adapt. It is to be hoped that this is indeed the case. As the Chinese curse has it, we live in interesting times.

Riri said...

I wouldn't dream of giving you the satisfaction of jumping into "certain" conclusions. Again, the END is a question of reference points it is not a fixed absolute truth (some words die hard eh). In any case, I think that societies change in such gradual and subtle ways that it is very difficult to pinpoint when a society has ceased to exist and another one has emerged. Looking back in History we can identify relatively distinct segments, but from where we are standing now, it is quite difficult to project those on the future.

One thing is certain though (at least in my view), if in the process of adaptation a society loses whatever endows it with vitality, it has ceased to exist by definition for lack of vitality is a form of death. The trick is it must define clearly the source(s) of its vitality - this is very difficult in the absence of "fixed" reference points because it leads to confusion and unclarity in the long term.