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True Terror

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
True Terror

This past week three stories have dominated the news cycle: the on-going oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the Israeli massacre on-board of the international aid flotilla and the unreal looking sinkhole that appeared in Guatemala City. These news stories are obviously unrelated. However, when looked at properly, they reveal something hidden.

On May 30th a giant sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City. It swallowed an entire factory and left a hole, which even when viewed from the air seems to never end. Sinkholes in Guatemala City are the result of the cities poor drainage system. The hole obviously has a bottom (it is about 30 meters deep).

What is fascinating is the image itself. The sinkhole looks like a tear in the cosmic order. It is the complete absence of anything. It is a void, one that occurs right in the middle of a city. It is hard to dream up a better metaphor for our present situation. The stability of capitalism rests upon nothingness, the invisible, (undocumented and marginalized peoples, environmental externalities etc.) Which at any moment can swallow up anything and everything.

The BP oil spill has been a long slow disaster in the making. Now it is officially the biggest environmental disaster in American history. The response of most has been complete horror. The three to four million barrels of crude oil being released everyday should indeed be frightening. The damage to the Gulf will be incalculable. The video of the broken pipe spewing an unending amount of oil is hypnotically terrifying.

The serene terror of the disaster reminds us that the true horror of the situation is not the oil spill itself but what lies behind it, the smooth functioning of modern capitalism. The terrifying prospect that nothing will change, no disaster, no crisis, no jolt will occur that will alter our blind drive toward self-annihilation. Fortunately for us, modern capital cannot operate with out its excesses. The globs of oil washing up on the beaches of the Gulf Coast remind us that the smooth functioning of our modern system is impossible. If this spill is to been seen as more than just a spill we need to understand that that this was no accident, it is business as usual.

It is business as usual which is the most terrifying. The terror that Israelis unleashed upon those on-board of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla should be understood as murder, a war crime, piracy and above all routine. This wasn’t some bizarre aberration or mistake on the part of the Israeli government. It was a typical response. The unreal looking video of Israeli commandos repelling onto to ships and the grizzly accounts of the shootings (8 of the 9 confirmed dead were shot at point blank range) reveals the true nature of the occupation. The Israeli occupation is a story of brutal irrational violence and daily humiliation.

The ships that have been attempting to break the siege of Gaza were met with extreme violence. This is precisely because the Israeli government sees the ships as a real threat. They are not a threat because they will change the material situation in Gaza, nor are they a threat because arms could be smuggled in. They are a threat simply because an open port represents a slice of sovereignty and self-determination for the Palestinian people. The Palestinian struggle, the struggle of a stateless marginalized people, is a microcosm of the universal struggle of those shut out from power to gain self-determination and only by understanding this can we truly appreciate the stakes.

This week’s disparate images reveal three facts:
1. What appear to be excesses of the system (irrational violence, environmental degradation) is actually business as usual (true terror)
2. The stability of modern capitalism rests on the uncountable elements.
3. If there is hope it comes from unexpected places, from ‘invisible’ people.


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