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13.12.2001 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov

Terrorism as a phenomena of culture

   

‘A terrorist act, i.e. use of weapons, carrying out an explosion, arson or other actions dangerous to the health or life of people, or inflicting grave material damage or other grave consequences, if such actions were committed with the purpose of violating public safety, intimidation of the population, provocation of a military conflict, international complications, or with the purpose of influencing on taking decisions or on activity or passivity of organs of state power or local self-rule, state officials, public organizations, juridical persons, or for attracting public attention to certain political, religious or other opinions of the criminal (terrorist), as well as the threat of the above-mentioned actions with the same purpose, -- are punished by incarceration for the term from 5 to 10 years’.

(Criminal Code of Ukraine, Article 258 1)

The common definition of terrorism in the modern international right is absent. In the Ukrainian legislation a terrorist act is defined as above, there are no other definitions ion the legislation. It is an urgent necessity to understand thoroughly what terrorism is.

Dmitry Korchinsky in his interview to the TV channel ICTV defined the events in the USA as the war of Allah against Mickey Mouse. I think that this definition is not quite exact. Modern terrorist acts are the war of misunderstood Islam against belligerent Mickey Mouse. Yet, Dmitry Korchinsky is one of a few political figures, who managed to define what is happening as a cultural and not a political crisis. On the edge of centuries mankind came across a new problem, which, as usual, has historical roots and, as usual, has a new stem. It would be possible to find similar phenomena, but this seeming similarity is deceptive. My profound conviction is that terrorism is a phenomenon of the new times, which is connected, first of all, with essential cultural and psychological changes in the consciousness of mankind. So, this phenomenon should be considered not ad a political factor, although terrorist acts immediately become facts of the big politics, but as a cultural factor.

There have been few events in history similar to those of the present day. Reasons for assassinating some politicians always existed, but the assassination of Julius Caesar by senators cannot be called a terrorist act, since the murderers had a concrete political goal – the change of power in the country.

A somewhat closer example is the Decembrists’ plot against the czar. Kakhovskiy, one of the Decembrists, had to shot the emperor, after which the rebels planned to seize power in the country. We will not discuss the quality of their plan. Kakhovskiy, though he had the opportunity, did not shoot at the czar, since his consciousness did not get rid yet of the idea that a czar is sacral. He did kill General Miloradovich, a hero of the war of 1812, who was persuading the rebels to disperse. Kakhovskiy committed an accidental terrorist act, since they did not plan to kill anybody except the czar. It is important that the Decembrists, trying to kill Nicholas I, had a concrete political goal, while their successors, members of the ‘Narodnaya Volya’, had not such concrete goals.

Each generation of Russian revolutionaries has its own pattern. All these changes, plots and attempts occurred in a very limited population layer. Undoubtedly, the execution of the five Decembrists approached the future murder of Alexander II, named ‘the liberator’ (since he cancelled serfdom. Most of our historians up to the present day have not accounted that the revolutionary movement in Russia until the end of the 19 thcentury was a consequence of the European orientation of the majority of Russian intelligentsia. And this in no way corresponded with the state order in Russia organized an oriental satrapy with paradoxically westernized ruling class. Incompetence of social structures, the immense territory and the population diverse in the national and cultural features created the conditions for political instability. The opposing forces could hardly guess what profound cultural layers were concealed behind their political opposition.

I dwell on the Russian society of the 19 thcentury because it is there, where we see a broad terrorist movement as a way of achieving the loftiest social ideals.

Members of the ‘Narodnaya Volya’ and other similar organizations sacrificed their lives not for mere catching the power, but for punishing the existing power for immorality and cruelty. As a rule, these young people were belligerent atheists. Yet, they behaved as profoundly religious people. The belief in the social progress, European values of freedom and equality replaced the belief in God for them. In this case, it was the European system of values that formed the cultural whirlpool in the Russian society, in which young people were involved, eager to achieve the good and justice to such an extent that they became murderers and victims simultaneously.

The American Declaration of Independence and ideals of the French revolution made these people heroes-martyrs, ready to sacrifice themselves in mass. Elimination of this ideology was skin-deep. Dostoevski, Tolstoi and Turgenev wrote about this. Russian writers understood and told to the world that a Russian representative of the intelligentsia-atheist is a deeply believer, but belief presupposes the replacement of eternal values with public and political ones. Europe burst into Russia with explosions of bombs, which were thrown at the czar and his officials by the revolutionaries, and responsive gallows for these believing martyrs-murderers. Their deaths caused new terrorist acts, since the insulted religious and moral feelings demanded retaliation.

More than a century will pass, and Asia will satisfy its wounded religious and moral feelings with explosions and hijacking, terror directed at individuals and masses. Yet, this terror, in contrast to the Russian one of the 19 thcentury, will be faceless, as a rule, and directed at an indefinite target of representatives of the alien culture and civilization.

The activities of the Russian terrorists were absolutely incomprehensible outside the circle of the Russian intelligentsia. Russian philosopher N. Leontyev wrote that Russian citizens in Constantinople expressed perplexity about the attempts at Alexander II. The compatriots told Leontyev that it would be logical to kill the czar for the landlords, who lost their serfs. Foreign mass media of that time commented the events in the similar way. Than and now any terror was and is illogical, as well any responses to it. And this is not surprising, since what we see is an act of belief, but not of a political convictions or political actions. This belief is perverted; it replaced genuine religious ideals with its own conceptions, as well as in the case with Russian terrorists, here the belief in progress ousted the belief in God and demanded human sacrifices.

The scope of modern terrorist movement is incomparable with that of the 19 thcentury, as incomparable are their technical facilities. Yet, beside the technical facilities, the global scale of nowadays terrorist organizations and acts is caused by the facts that, first, the world becomes well-connected and united (so-called globalization effect), and, secondly, the contradiction between cultures became obvious because of the improvement in the information exchange: Mickey Mouse wants to drop into every house of the world. Those, who do not understand who is the Mickey Mouse, decided that he is a horrible monster capable of the ruining their traditional world and their future. Against this abstract symbol of the concrete culture the insulted consciousness of other culture rebelled, which is unable to counteract with something comparable in scale. Then the demon of destruction was resurrected. This demon demonstrates the mutual helplessness: helplessness of force and helplessness of weakness, and the mutual unwillingness to understand the source and depth of the conflict.

The historical experience demonstrates that illogicality and sacrifices of one epoch imply the cool calculation and mass victims of subsequent epochs. However, the world has changed. Maybe, the experience of many centuries will help the civilization to find the way to uniting without attempts of one culture to destroy another? The peaceful dialog of cultures is the only acceptable way out for mankind.

Today we observe how bombs drop on Afghanistan as peas from a sack full of holes. The USA, allegedly, set a reasonable political aim – to destroy the talibs’ regime, which created a theocratic Islamic state, even more rigid than in Iran some time ago. Talibs support Islamic terrorists in the entire world, and this seems to be a sufficient reason to wage war against them. The more so that the talibs’ regime is especially aggressive in culture: it is enough to recollect ruining Buddha statues, which were guarded by the UNESCO as memorials of the world culture. However, the bombs fall not only on talibs, but mostly on peaceful citizens. Moslems cannot help feeling this as a war against them all, even if they are opponents of talibs and the extremists supported by the latter. The so-called Northern Alliance and other opposition forces in Afghanistan, which now try to snatch power in the country, are also Moslems. Having reached their goals they all the same will recollect the bombs, and everything will begin anew. Bombs are a convincing argument in policy, but not in culture. Mickey Mouse is demonstrating the aggressiveness expected from him by the Moslem world. That is the case when, being separated politically, people unite on their cultural level. And all of them are prone to forget what namely caused such a rigid response from the USA. The West and East are far from each other today as never. And it awful to imagine where it may lead mankind.

The world anti-terrorist organization is necessary. Yet, in my opinion, it is also necessary to create at the UNO something like a cultural council, whose duty would be to study the cultural roots and consequences of political decisions. The necessity to have such an international council ripened long ago, since the problems, which were solved by military actions in the 20 thcentury, could be solved on the level of studying profound factors of conflicts and controversies. It is these factors that resulted in the rise of a number of communist, nazi and fascist states in Europe, the Latin America and Asia; but this is a topic for another article. Nowadays we helplessly observe how the controversy between the town worlds is growing, how it becomes firmer and more dangerous. All military power of our, Western, world becomes negligibly weak in comparison with a tiny envelope with white powder, even if it is merely chalk, since our minds are already hurt with terrorism.

Some time ago the League of Nations was created to prevent military conflicts. After the WW2, when mankind needed interstate dialog to survive, the League of Nations turned into the UNO – a really working structure. The urgent question of the agenda now is the search of the sources of controversies. This sets new problems before the world community.

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