Philosophy of the bomb.
One of the longest standing political projects of all times are the reflections on how to justify a carnage. Theorising to erase murder and call it by some other name; finding ways to hide dead bodies from the past - in a futile attempt to escape retribution. Sometimes, it is about delusions that are employed to escape conscience.
But things doesn’t work that way. Sooner or later, truth catches up and the stench of rotten flesh - not always the literal human meat - will surface and there would be no place to go. That is also when we realise that the demons that ate our loved ones were hatched by ourselves. By the time we realise, it is almost always too late to do anything.
Great empires create arms industries to sustain their campaigns. But one day, the depradations would prove too less for the kind of trouble the proprietors of these industries take. And then, the guns will be trained to the weakest; so that the ‘costs’ are amortized over a the remaining days of a grappling empire. “Chickens always come home to roost.”
“The colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal.” “And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific reverse shock: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine, discuss. — People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind — it’s Nazism, it will pass!” And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it.” —Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism
However, this cannot be used as a means to blame the victims. They are almost always the “victims of circustances”, who almost always had no say in the way powers that be cultivated the world before them. Of course, they could have voted sensibly. But did voting save them from the vagaries of price rise, poor health and education policies, or did they get a sound economic system? Weren’t they dependent on the intellectuals who lied and a salaried media that appeared to be free?
In any case, the “philosophy of the bomb” applies to another category of people who come from the very lot who live at the heart of these colonies. They are, however, not the ‘weakest’ kind. The weakest are generally marginalised to the extent of irrelevance and disappearence. They are even below the “proletariat”, who could afford to work in the factories run by the colonial as well as comprodor elites. The weakest, are cast aside from the avenues of education, skilling, social participation and are kept there through perpetuating their state of ‘deliberate uselessness’ as designed by the colonial power centres.
The proletariat and the ‘middle class’, are actually the benefactors of colonial state in varying degrees. Indeed, some of their faculties and labour is exploited by the colonial power to reinforce its authority and ensure commercial viability of the empire. However, they are indeed rewarded - from the handsome excess that the ‘middle class’ receives vis-á-vis the meagre living wage that a proletariat member gets albeit being confined to their urban prisons, fondly called ‘chawls’ of the new world.
In modern parlance, the amorphous “Market Economy”, is commanded by a power centre that is coveted by all seekers of power. Irrespective of the social status of these contenders, they all are benefitted from this Market Economy that distributes largesse as a function of your acquired skills. Only caveat being that these skills are a function of your social privilege - something that the Holy Market doesn’t really care. That it aids perpetuation of structural inequalities is a debate for another day. IMO, the long march of democratic traditions will be halted if this fundamental inequity isn’t addressed through the electoral as well as administrative apparatus.
Going back, the philosophy of the bomb (PoB) needs another exposition around the perceptions that religions or identity is the prime motivator of terrorism. The phenomenon of terrorist being linked to religion is a relatively recent one. Rather, PoB is a remarkably secular apparatus. It is a thinking complex, that works as an antidote to the pains inflicted by the structural inequalities. It is a polemic that goes to great lengths to justify violence as the means of political action.
It might be ironic to state that PoB is a lazy political espacism, given the great lengths its proponents go to, inorder to achieve its stated ends. The only problem is that painful political organisation and legitimate politcal expression of the masses is a long, arduous process to which the revolutionary have no patience. The revolutionary is always childish, even when their actions are inspired & conjured up by the elder lot. Here, the revolutionary is pushed into the thick of action even before they achieve a stage of reason. Here, ‘the state of reason’, shouldn’t be confounded with age of the revolutionary. Sometimes, the revolutionary is an older person, having bored themselves to a point where any sociopolitical action, whatever nuisance it is, is a fulfilment of their romantic ideals. Here, the old revolutionary use age as a justification. They argue that they have tried and tested every other method and PoB is now the only way forward. These perverse justifications of violence arises from the fundamental inability to creatively engage with the larger society. But the PoB gives a reliable outlet through which these anxieties (many a times manifestly sexual) could be relieved.
Anyhow, the PoB always comes back to the perpetrators. It gives a figment of legitimacy to the colonial state’s oppressive apparatus. Adherents of PoB is always a small minority, who pose little threat to the multi-billion enterprise that the extractive colonial state is. In fact, the adherants of PoB lives in cavities carefully carved out for them. They preach various flavours of freedom discourses - tuned to suit various affinities. They have a tailor made version for the urban proletariat. Yet another concocted by university professors who don’t really understand how an automatic rifle or IED works, but see them as a “last resort” means to justify PoB. The post revolutionary anti-intellectualism will almost always consume them. But they have little choice. Under a capitalist & colonial apparatus, they feel emasculated and useless; the post revolutionary world is a promise. Their dilemma is something we will deal with later.
The purpose of this particular article is to examine the mechanism through which PoB infiltrates the minds of radicals in stratified societies of today. It may not always manifest as bombs or mass shootings; for social media acts both as a source and sink of radical hatred and discontent that propels them into action. But when they finally choose action, the fountainhead of their philosophies are the “materials of dehumanisation”, actively employed by them and against them as the situation demands.
You cannot bomb someone you see as being similar to you. The whole point of the exercise to clear out “something” (not someone) which (not who) you see as threat to the “larger good”. So the victim has to be dehumanised. Now, it is not always the bomber who would have done this. It could be a rabid political philosophy or ethnic idealism that worked over existing social faultlines. Whatever the case may be, according to the bomber, they are not killing people, they are exterminating a ‘threat’.
This is why PoB is only an expression of the larger malice of philosophies and ideologies that seek to dehumanise. And despite the efficacy and utility of dehumanisation, it has to be actively shunned by sane political actors. Modern democratic discourse must have customary as well as legal mechanisms to counter dehumanisation. Lexical controls, conventions or even curbs on discourse in favour of larger humanity should be the norm. If the school curriculum or the early socialisation doesnt’ include this with a spirit of fraternity, the society is doomed to fail.
Aspirations for a united society alone wouldn’t make to it. There is a dire need to act against social faultines. The fighting devices of dehumanisation of dissenters or rivals is something we cannot do without. Sunset begins at noon - we need to act now.