I am sick of ‘Terrorism’. Terrorism being an essentially contested concept, as with all the ‘isms’ of the human and cultural eras, political contexts and language which describes and narrates as life flows forward, and so long as there are onlookers to witness and discuss it.
But before I go on to talk about this ‘terrorism’, and the epic waste caused by it, let me just offer a bit of background into the meaning of the word.
As I actually learned at university, one time (but it really doesn’t take a Scholar or an Academic to realise it): ‘Political Concepts’ and theories are invoked when people discuss politics and government, and generally prescribe labels by which they can collectively understand, interpret and follow things which are happening around them, and what to do about them. It is an obvious outcome of human evolution, intelligence, consciousness, the capacity for language, communication, learning, memory, adapting for survival, planning, reason, co-operating and living together.
In case it helps for me to add in that extra reference, for getting the general idea of what I’m on about this time: Anthony H. Birch, an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria, Canada, describes in his book- The Concepts and theories of modern democracy:
“A concept is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an idea of a class of objects, a general notion or idea… People who discuss political matters cannot avoid doing so (using political concepts) because, as a British philosopher once said, ‘out idea of what belongs to the realm of reality is given for us in the language that we use’ (Winch 1958: 15).”¹
My thoughts are, therefore, that it is appropriate to talk about our modern use of the word ‘terrorism’, as a political concept today. The reason the concept of ‘terrorism’ is a contested one, can be explained by the fact that what we mean by ‘terrorism’, and what constitutes our use of the word, is subject to many different interpretations, practices, historical and normative standpoints/theories, and perceived consequences.
The crux of the matter
What has driven me to write about this today, is the news of a further act of ‘terrorism’, on people who were down the famous Las Ramblas area of Barcelona, Spain. I had the pleasure of visiting this amazingly quirky, thriving, busy, cultural, and gorgeously artistic strip of Barcelona just over a month ago.
It is ‘home’ for hundreds of citizens, artisans, market holders, businesses, industry, and for a centre of architectural brilliance, to name only a few things. It is also an area of (understandable) tourist attraction, for holidaymakers, travellers, sightseers and adventurers alike, from all over the world.
I loved the atmosphere, the smells, the sights, the bicycles, the people and their friendliness. I was struck by a throbbing vibe felt through the city, with the arts, the restaurants, bars, cafes, public parks, music, nightlife and the festivities. In spite of the fact that I visited during a time where unrest, political uncertainty, and ‘terrorism’ was certainly a threat, given there had been several incidents across Europe, in the months surrounding, I never for once felt unsafe, threatened and/or vulnerable to attacks. Yet here we are.
Terrorism in practice
What one group of people, politicians and messengers condemns as ‘terrorism’, another group or faction, political agent, participant or witness, might call ‘Martyrdom’, or ‘means to an end’. They might think of the violence, bloodshed, death and ‘terror’ which terrorism brings about, is some form of ‘moral imperative’ on behalf of some greater reason. What one person calls an act of ‘cowardice’ and ‘evil’, another might see it as ‘bravery’ or ‘honourable’ and just.
Going back over the history of humanity, ‘terrorism’ is really just a modern use of the various different adjectives used for categorizing human acts which cause terror, violence, death, destruction and war. Inherently primal, yet undeniably strategical, these are actions which, through battle, fearmongering, extermination, brute force and all other forms of application, bring about a shift in the balance of power, between one group or another. All which have been crucial in forming the script towards a common story, which some call acts of Gods/higher powers, while others call the ‘great’ battle towards the top of the food chain.
¹ ‘Introduction’ to Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy (2nd edition)., Anthony H. Birch., First published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)., 2001., p.1