Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Existential Threat to Western Elite Privilege

Are our leaders truly protecting us, as they claim, from a dark and looming Islamic menace? Must all else be sacrificed on the altar of securing the nation against terror today just as it was sacrificed on the altar of securing the nation against the communist menace during the long Cold War? Somehow, it all seems a bit too familiar and a bit too convenient.

A threat obviously does exist: a tiny number of individuals have become convinced that a battle to the death is the only way to achieve justice for the Islamic world. Exacerbating this situation, the violent and unsympathetic nature of the Western response has greatly enhanced this splinter faction’s influence. Nonetheless, the West has had all the time in the world to amend its approach to the Muslim world in order to make room in the global political system for their existence and their hopes and their grievances. Choose your favorites from among the innumerable symbols of the West’s response: Grozniy, Jenin, Lebanon, Gaza, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo. None of these was a legitimate, much less rational or even self-serving, response to bin Laden’s terrorist challenge, much less to a very much justified Islamic political critique. The West has insisted in the rudest and clumsiest fashion that it will contemplate no such thing as making room for an independent Islamic political force.

For those old enough to recall, it feels all too familiar. History does not repeat: it is simply not credible that exactly the same menace requiring exactly the same response is required in two successive historical periods, with not a moment’s peace separating the two. It is far more likely that the identity exists in the minds of those who, by their power, set the rules of the game.

Alain Badiou has just summarized this from the French perspective:

Honte aux gouvernements successifs, qui ont tous rivalisé sur les thèmes conjoints de la sécurité et du "problème immigré", pour que ne soit pas trop visible qu'ils servaient avant tout les intérêts de l'oligarchie économique ! [ Alain Badiou, “Le racisme des intellectuals,” Le Monde 5/5/12.]

"Shame on successive regimes which have all competed with each using the intertwined themes of security and the "immigration problem, so as to thinly veil their service above all to the interests of the economic oligarchy." Yes, there is an existential threat: an existential threat to elite privilege; the elite knows it, and the elite is defending itself.

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