Empire of passions

Gaza Strip under Israeli bombing / Reproduction Telegram
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By DANIEL AFONSO DA SILVA*

The high intensity of the eternal enterprise of good against evil fueled by passions was rehabilitated on October 7th.

“La peur, la vraie peur est un délire furieux”
(Georges Bernanos)

Under the shock of October 7, 2023, Israeli authorities rushed to classify Hamas terrorism with that perpetrated by Al Qaeda against the Americans on September 11, 2001. Comparison does not infer reason. But in this case it seems important to retreat into a lot of meditation.

The September 11 attacks did not necessarily alter the geopolitical course of the world. They simply precipitated trends, asserted nuances and accentuated illusions. That unnamed event from that day was televised. The entire world thus instantly received an invitation to the desert of the real. And, as soon as he could, he reciprocated.

The North American reaction was the first to take hold. “Justice will be done”, promised the president on the occasion. Political scientists were quick to identify all of this as the end of the end of history. Sociologists identified the victory of the clash of civilizations. Historians proposed it to be the revenge of those historically removed from History. Linguists recognized it as the return of the barbarians. And Pierre Hassner (1933-2018) – that unique Romanian philosopher – considered it to be the revenge of passions.

After the furore passed, the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq were quickly obliterated by the storms of the 2008 global financial crisis. Only Osama Bin Laden continued to observe the undeniable barbarities that the Americans were carrying out in those Middle-Eastern parts.

Trying to renew everything, Barack Obama went to Cairo in 2009 to start everything over again. The Arab Spring soon followed to suggest that a fresh start was possible. That the proto-African who presided over the United States, finally, could indeed be right. That the hands of Western, African and Middle Eastern clocks could harmonize. That the market, globalization, justice, democracy could become universal. That the end of the story, there, could come true.

So you forgot one detail. The story had already started again – if it ever really ended.

Even so, Africans and Middle Easterners took to the streets yearning for democratic regimes, rules of law and Western-style justice. However, they soon realized that the end would be more painful than the beginning. That the difficulties were not compatible with the effort. That that pantheon of promises was an ocean of illusion. Quickly, then, all movements receded. Some dramatically. Others emphatically. It was morally impossible to applaud anything.

The catastrophe of “regime change” in Libya transformed the Mediterranean into the largest cemetery of human beings in sunlight that everyone can enjoy today without tickets. The fallacy of red line to scare away the Syrian people resulted in a war without end or forgiveness for the protection of Damascus that no one today has the courage to seriously observe again. About Palmira, it became better to forget and not talk about it.

When it was announced from the United States of America that justice has been done after the neutralization of the prosecutor of the 2011 attacks, all of this had already been announced. A complete emptiness settled in the air. A silent void. But penetrating. Disturbing even. Similar to the one on November 11, 1918. Similar to the one on September 2, 1945. Similar to the one on November 9, 1989.

Justice has been done? Okay. Now what?

Everything that historically came after silent, penetrating and disturbing voids produced horrifying hardships. The interwar period, in fact, was indisputably worse than the sleepwalking that led to the Second World War. The Cold War was, in truth, as indigestible and full of wars as the Great Wars without peer. And the post-1989-1991 period gave rise to an empire of illusions like never before. It took September 11th to bring everything back on track with some sense of proportion.

It was noted with September 11th that the empire of illusions was transformed into an ocean of passions. It was quickly discovered that the fury of passions was truer than the interests of nations. Passionate movements were capable of doing anything for their purpose. It was realized that justice, democracy and reason were simply abstract escapes from a world filled with grudges, resentments and drives. It was understood that the modern Kantian world no longer existed. It was admitted that, from now on, we would regress to the Hobbesian world. The one of unparalleled tragedies. The one of brute strength, of virility, of endless war. The one without rules or rights or laws. The one of unreason. Long before any civilization. The one with the drives. A world of barbarians. But now, where the barbarians were also those who once imagined warring against barbarians.

The North American terrorist war in response to Al Qaeda's terrorism, from this perspective, revealed the failure of an entire tradition inaugurated by Locke, deified by Kant, modeled by Hegel, supported by President Woodrow Wilson and yearned for by political scientist Francis Fukuyama. The prosperity promised by liberal democracy has become a pipe dream. Neither democracy nor happiness became universal. The force of globalization has not inhibited the desire for war. The guarantee of rule and law did not produce peace – often nor perpetual. The imperative of Western superiority did not prevent them from regressing to unparalleled savagery. See Kaboul, see Baghdad. Kant's world was redefined as a Hobbes world.

Less September 11 and more the reaction to it, in this way, rehabilitated the return of fear, of insecurity, of pain. He thus turned to the worlds of Georges Bernanos. It was clear what he meant by “La peur, la vraie peur est un delire furieux” [fear, true fear is a furious delirium]. She began to live under the cloak of these unbearable delusions. Delusions that opened the new century. Delusions that feed him every day of the century. Delusions that motivated October 7th. Delusions that feed your after.

September 11, therefore, changed paradigms. The concrete point of change was when President George W. Bush decreed the implacability of “us against all”. When this happened, a holy war was decreed by the axis of those – Enlightenment Europeans and post-Christian North Americans – who had been murdering the transcendent in favor of justice and democracy. Justice and democracy were the promise of overcoming passions. From the containment of the drives. The advancement of citizenship, rationality and civilization.

The perplexity of everyone in the know at this act of change was lost amidst the comments, images and sounds. But the law of retaliation returned to the scene and no one truly serious could deny it.

Goodbye, democracy. Goodbye, West. Goodbye, justice. Everything turned to resentment versus resentment. Humiliation versus humiliation. Empire of passions.

The resentment and humiliation felt by Muslims has always been immense. They have always been buried shamelessly in their empires flooded with passions. The memory of the victories of their glorious past began to be buried in the miseries of the present universalized by the Western imperatives of enlightenment and reason. The memory of their greatness in culture, politics and economics was, little by little, contrasting with the evidence of their very bloody daily lives of storms, exclusion, inequalities and oppression. A unique tragedy in Middle Eastern lands. A tragedy symbolized and nuanced in the existence of the state of Israel.

That's why the conflicts of 1956, 1967 and 1973 left such profound marks that no one paying attention in Washington, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv could forget. Come to think of it, the nationalist onslaught in Nasser's Egypt delivered the coup de grace to Franco-British colonialist temptations everywhere. It served as an ultimatum, for example, to the French who set out to resolve the situation in Algeria. Either they resolved this issue or the Algerians would forever barbarize the reality of Voltaire's heirs.

Looking closely, the resolution of the 1967 tension, in turn, left even more scars. But none of them were similar to those carved into the soul of the West when King Faysal of the Arabs harmonized the Muslim world against the occupations of Israel in October 1973. From then on it became clear that the eternal war had become an endless war. A war of passions. Hobbesian style. A war to last.

Those who, years later, consciously analyzed the events of September 11th perceived there a radical Islamic offensive, yes, against Western, European and North American believers and infidels. But he also understood the continuation of resistance to those – Westerners, Europeans and North Americans – who occupied, without any will, sacred places of passionate peoples, Muslims, non-Christians and Jews.

The story never had an end for them. Muslims, non-Christians and Jews. Middle Eastern peoples. Liberal democracy, Western-style justice or Enlightenment reason never had any meaning or place for them. Heroism, virility, awareness of the tragic and the prevalence of death were never indifferent to them. However, it was necessary to have September 11th for Westerners, Europeans and North Americans, to become aware of all this.

But by becoming so aware, they turned their conscience into a mirror. Rehabilitate, among Westerners, fanaticism, virility, heroism. Thus, returning to succumbing to passions. Terrible passions magnetized to enthusiasms. Venomous enthusiasms that led to extreme nationalism. Extreme nationalisms that produced all the totalitarianisms that made all the advances of civilization in the West regress.

Under the banner of the “war on terror”, therefore, North Americans and Westerners exchanged the rule of law for the rule of passions. They began to sincerely wallow in fanaticism. They realized that life in this world, after 11/XNUMX, needed to be one of the eternal battle of good against evil. Of deep nihilism. With a pure and comprehensive Nietzsche. Lawless worlds. Where, of course, justice should not only be done. To be precise: justice will never be done.

By moving in this way after the tragedy of September 11, without realizing – or consciously perceiving everything – Westerners, Europeans and North Americans, succumbed to the traps of others. Like it or not, they rehabilitated the decivilization of the 1930s. Like it or not, they mired the entire world in a true pit of unreason.

If they were all, until then, afraid of barbarians, as the late Tzvetan Todorov alluded to, now, their biggest fear was having to recognize that the worst barbarians could reflect in the mirror when any of them prostrated themselves before one.

It is no coincidence that the United Nations left the concepts of terror, terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity fluid. All of this refers to emotions, fear, pain. Strong, hot and cold passions. There is no justice that can appease passions. Otherwise, all Westerners, defenders of justice and reason, would be languishing in some prison.

In any case, the undeniable trauma of the September 11 attacks would have justified Westerners responding in kind. They forgot, however, that their culture and principles suggest turning the other cheek. The neglect of this Christian gesture led Europeans and North Americans to the same record as their Middle Eastern opponents. This made the once residents of the empire of reason return to their empire of passions. An empire of delusions. Where fear is responded to with fear. Anger with anger. Unreason with unreason. The pain with more pain.

Nothing has changed since then. Nothing changed from September 11th to October 7th. There is, therefore, no reason to be surprised by the statement by United Nations Secretary General António Gutierrez who reports that, on the month anniversary of the new phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gaza has become an immense children's cemetery. Nor does it seem plausible to be surprised that more than two hundred human bodies are unidentified in Israeli morgues for the simple reason that they are no longer identifiable.

The high intensity of the eternal enterprise of good against evil fueled by passions was rehabilitated on October 7th. An undertaking already launched on the original September 11th, at the beginning of the century, in 2001. An eternal and never-ending undertaking. And, worse, no referee for the Final Judgment.

*Daniel Afonso da Silva Professor of History at the Federal University of Grande Dourados. author of Far beyond Blue Eyes and other writings on contemporary international relations (APGIQ). [https://amzn.to/3ZJcVdk]


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