How to deal with terrorism: food for thoughts for the Twenty-First Century

The German philosopher and journalist Hannah Arendt wrote that Nazi officers were simply abiding by the law and the rules laid down in Berlin. In the light of the recent terrorist atrocity perpetrated in Manchester, can the same line of reasoning be applied to religious fanatics or is the banality of their evil is something different?

One of the issues that has beleaguered the most both East and West is the problem of religious terrorism. How are we to combat it? Why has terrorism targeted our society and can politics come up with any reasonable solution to counter it? The aim of this article is to make a most objective and neutral case for addressing such a significant problem, endeavoring to reject any extreme or false arguments. 

Thomas Hobbes

I would like to begin my reflections with a philosophical consideration based upon Hobbes’ Leviathan (1650). The English philosopher lived in an age where unrest and uncertainty had taken the upper hand, and, for this reason, he developed a philosophical system where the monarch wields absolute authority so as to restrain his subjects. In Hobbes’ world, nobody can escape the pervasive control of the body politic, but terrorists of any kinds bid defiance to this predetermined state of affairs. They challenge institutional checks because they are not part of the social frame: they are outcasts and therefore escape social and political control (Williams 2009).

Furthermore, terrorists are at odds with capitalism: capitalist ideology keeps people wishing for things, turning them into wishing machines. Notwithstanding this, these people thirst for death, the least desirable product in a capitalist society, because, once you are dead, you stop wishing for things (Deleuze and Guattari 1977). It is important to re-emphasise this point, as it should be clear that terrorists cannot be easily identified, since they avoid being part of the social fabric.

Why has terrorism targeted Europe? Is there any significant aspect of our societies that trouble them so much? Does immigration constitute a way for terrorists to gain an easier access to Europe?

Europe is the most obvious target for religious fanaticism because it has always been the home to Christianity. Islamic terrorists clearly construct Europe in terms of a religious dialectics, where they try to assert power, but it is my contention that religion does not play any significant role in terrorism. Terrorists are the victim of a poor system of integration: they abandon their home countries, torn by wars and conflicts, in order to seek a safe haven in any European country, but states are not always able to integrate and support them in the most effective way. Hence their dejection and fanaticism become the only way to escape a desolate life.

In addition to that, it should be noted that foreigners and migrants are victimized by ruthless politicians that hope to capitalize on racism and xenophobia to get the lion share at elections. It is fair to say that such propaganda does not help these people integrate into their new country, but make things worse. At present, Eastern European countries have opposed relocation and EU migration policies, causing disruption to the union as a whole: so far, only Greece and Italy have significantly contributed to dealing with the situation, but most countries have not since they do not want to accommodate any migrant.

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By doing so, they worsen things, because these people feel rejected and seek aid in fanatics or religious extremism. I am of the opinion that Europe should lay down the law clearly and unambiguously in migration policy: if all these countries say to adhere to a Christian ethics, then they should co-operate and help these martyrs of our century, escaping death and torture in their homelands to start afresh in Europe. Thus, immigration does not constitute a way for terrorists to enter Europe, because, as data have clearly shown, all attackers were French or English born and bred, but racist ideologies can cause bereavements: this is the case with Jo Cox, murdered just before the referendum in the UK by a right-wing extremist.

By adopting philosophical sources and an objective approach, it should be clear that it is the body politics and its dysfunctions that cause terrorist attacks. Yes, the banality of evil of terrorism is not so different from the defense put up by Eichmann in Jerusalem: Western society has completely failed migrants and thus they associate with vile and dangerous hatred.

-Andrea Di Carlo

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