Rev. Agbali, in "The Expanding War and a Transmogrifying Globalization of Terror: An African Reflections" reflects on the dangers of terrorism
As the news from the London bombings perforates it induces nausea. As the details begin to emerge, the senselessness of all these is being grasped,nonsensical to the rational imagination. The torrent of horrible flashes that dominated the imagination, included many Africans imaging their portraits as Nigerians, Ghanaians, Zimbabweans, South Africans, Sierra Leoneans, that are probably either missing or dead. Not that the death of non-Africans does not make sense, or there is a discriminatory lack of apathy. No. It is only that certain events begin to detour from abstract imaginations.
The most touching is the outcry of the mother of one of the missing Nigerian, Mrs. Marie Fatayi-Williams, when she noted, "I am his mother. I need to know what happened to Anthony. How many mothers’ hearts shall be maimed. Terrorism is not the way. We cannot deliver peace by killing people" (Mother Makes Plea for Missing Son, BBC News Online, July 11th, 2005). But one thing is clear, African folks like Anthony, though often unsung are heroes, for this namesake of mine, was noted to have helped passengers from the earlier tube debacle get onto Metro buses, then entered the ill-fated bus, presumably meeting his fate, the same death he had cheated minutes earlier.
What a message within the spatial heartland of the globalizing terror! Anthony's heroism, his mother's tearful appeal gives vent to the forces marshalling against the expanding global evil forces of terror. This shows that the more different spaces and people are affected the meaning of terror takes on a personal coloration, evoking the rendition of hitherto silent voices, until now assuming the utopia of their being shielded from the effects of terror. Not so any more! Even the serenity of the African scene has been shattered, thus Africans are now leading their own war on terror by sounding their aghast voices.
We mourn the Africans that are missing and probably dead, joining their families in their grief and loss. As we visualize their portraits we hear of Anthony Fatayi-Williams, 26, a young oil executive and Ms. Ojora Ikeagwu, a 57 year old (young is a favorite usage these days), mother of three, and five other Nigerians still missing or presumed dead. They are other unnamed Africans among them about two Ghanaian, two Zimbabweans, and Seven South African still missing or presumed dead. Thus this event recalls the eery feelings following the 1999 bombings of the American embassies in Nairoibi and Das Es Salaam, that affected Africans enormously, many of whom remain uncelebrated heroes. Again, in 2002, came the bombing of the Paradise Hotel in Mombassa mainly patronized by Israeli tourists, again in Kenya. Africa and Africans are becoming scene and innocent victims of terrorists' demented craze.
As I try to make sense of these events three issues comes to mind. First, it regards the aggressive path that the globalization of terror is taking in transcending national boundaries, just like capitalist induced globalization. The former is acclaimed as negative and noxious by the hegemonic powers of domination, while the latter is acclaimed positive orientated. Just, thinking about it, the effect of globalization, whether affirmed as positive or negative, glamorous or noxious, is life changing in ways that virulently affect people and transform society. The 9-11 events in the US show that such idioms create new social paradigms and transform the social space. Also, no matter, the side of the equation one is regarding the evaluative effects (a judgment) of the values associated with globalization it leaves bitter sore for some, while also offering luxuriant feelings to others.
Secondly, I begin to feel that at times the dichotomizing rhetoric between the "we and them", constructed as affirming the "foreignness" and "otherness" of the perpetuators can sometimes be counterproductive. Are certain people within a given civilization more predisposed to terror than others? Or is terror not a human problem of all societies in need of resolute solutions? Thus, what happens when a Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, or Unabomber products of our own society are we involved, can we freely engage the "us versus them" rhetoric? Or do we rephrase it as "us versus us" antics ?
Thus, when and how do we refine the nature by which we alienate the perpetuators of crimes from the specificity of the cultures and civilizations within which they are nurtured and embedded? Whom then do we blame? Can we be bold to pillory the limitations within own self-acclaimed superior civilization? Or do we pretentiously and conveniently look elsewhere, so as to push our guilt to the sideline for a while? Thus, for the three or four men involved in the London bombings to which civilizations or culture do they belong, British or Pakistani, Western or Islamic? Do such dichotomizations actually help resolve the problems, or do they simply complicate it in polarizing the "other" further, angering the identified "other" in fostering their anger driven by their virulent alienation and thus becoming socially volatile ? These are lingering thoughts that bothers my own imagination, creatively and intellectually.
Many immigrants and non-westerns are too often alienated and despised after making the sacrifices to leave their homeland in search of opportunities that elude them there. Thus, simply because of their differences through systematized racism, ethnic prejudice, color and gender biases, and others they are often vilified for the problems of their host society, and denied of critical access to some of its opportunities.
Thus, tying this to some aspects of my own personal narratives, I can feel the weight of sentiments such acts engender, in driving some people to unimaginable anger, questioning why human beings can be so arrogant and mean in their interactions. Though, we imagine that such scenario should be combated it give rise to a noxious and lethal venting, that provocatively allow for easy disenchantment and disillusionment with the systemic and social frameworks. Therefore, easy reifying the religious idioms, turning its hermeneutics toward political machinations.
Thirdly, I have begun to question enormously the reasons that drive people to do perpetuate such heinous acts like hate crimes, violence, and suicide bombings, and why they refuse to adopt other options. In trying to seek answers I have come to assume that there is a limit to rationality within an irrational context. Reason just packs off when irrational impulses overtake the operations of the will. This is consistent with the operations of what ethicists call concupiscence as regards human acts when raw emotion overtakes the will and in an impulsive way beclouds proper judgment and reasoning. The closure of rationality portends a dangerous state of affairs, as irrationality comes to envelop clear reasoning.
Thus, we can ask the following questions. Is there a rational explanation for why people kill and maim, without cause? Is there a rationale for people to hate another, denigrate, degrade, and bastardize the meaning of others' lives? Is there a rational explanation, why young people, with the promise of a better imagined future than our present one, given the expanding creativity of human ingenuity in hyping paradise hype as evidenced by consumerism take their own lives? I am struggling spiritually to understand motives such as these. Thus, why would young people, like the suspected four young British men of Pakistani ancestry, pursue such course? Just, why? However, fundamentally at the intellectual level, though irrational, these irrationalities are propelling rational in-quests.
As I give thought to these questions, I am beginning to be aware of the ironies and contradictions of history. I am beginning to think seriously about what Anthony Giddens and others refer to as the occurrence of "reverse colonialism." As deplorable as these heinous acts against humanity are, I am beginning to sense that what looks like atypical behaviors in deploying the use of violence against a vulnerable and innocent people is characteristic of the central nerves that has turbined the nostalgic axle of western civilization in the urge to dominate peoples and nations, through the utility of the means of violence.
Thus, colonialism and imperialism utilized these same tools, using them arbitrarily to pacify and dominate vulnerable and defenseless colonized subjects. These forces and voice of violence has crystallized in ensuring the social, political, and economic dominance of the West over other global entities. The present acts might be a global contest in which certain forces are willing to ensure that history is reframed again, this time according to their own norms and tenets. Thus, while their strategies are considered "primitive" in their own justifications this is an all too familiar occurence. Thus, history might be repeating itself, albeit in the reverse, when the Anawims (the poor of the earth) shall inherit it.
Thus, the British Naval ships were used extensively by the Royal Niger Company against the people of Akassa, Opobo, the Itshekiri, Onitsha, Aguleri and other people along the Niger and Benue rivers. Hence, at one time as Kenneth Dike noted, such imagination went amok when the Royal Niger Company bombarded Asaba and Idah in the 1879, littering the towns with human remains, to the extent that British newspapers, especially the Times of London and the people denounced this reprehensible acts (cf. Kenneth Dike, Trade and the Politics in the Niger Delta, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962, p. 207, also 212).
Yet, even use of naval power created problems for the British in Nigeria, as they were unable to provide law and order, and fill the power vacuum created by the chaos they instigated (Dike, Ibid., 73). Such was the African experience of the norms of violence that defined Western civilization, using in the attempt to decimate a people, to break their resistance, and rupture their social cohesion as a society. This is nothing to say that the present utilization of violence, in the name of religion, or for whatever reason, is sanctioned and appreciated. However, the symbolic and subtle violence that mark race relations and minorities in many Metropolitan global domains cannot be absolved, as they create processes of alienations that estrange people from these arenas. Thus, seeking refuge elsewhere they are easily manipulated by the glazed tongued prophets of hope, that mask their agenda using religion and noxious spiritual innovative ideals.
Again, as I pause, I think a little bit more clearly. What makes young people whose parents left their homelands for greater prospects in the United Kingdom become so desperate to sink in terrors' horrors bringing tears to their families, and those of the victims, as well as the same society whose resources presumably nurtured them? Why would British citizens act against British interest and so-called civilizing values? As British citizens are the values of violence part of their British ancestral heritage and upbringing? Or, is this trait unique, thus acquired and filtered through the breasted milk of their Pakistani "decadent" descent genes? Which civilization defines them and their actions? Can we say, that as British citizens, they were using acts that were never part of British historical value orientation? Where do we vest the blame, on their British-ness or on their distal Pakistani (imagined) kinship? How do we instantly deny their British-ness in acclaiming that they code-switched into their Pakistani-ness in wrecking their horrendous actions? Not long from now, I wonder if it has not already begun, the Brits would soon be chanting a sonorous solo: "Purity of the Blood."