Themes of Modern Terrorism Bakunin's God and the State

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Mohit Mulani
Prof. James Gilligan
22/12/12

“God and the State”
The idea of malevolent terrorism is fundamentally rooted in an extremist interpretation of religion enabled and to a great extent encouraged by priests and political figures. To examine this closely with reference to historical situations and ideas, we can apply the notions bought forward by the Russian 19th century philosopher and nihilist Bakunin in his seminal book, “God and State.”

In the book, doctinaires are critiqued quite heavily for their relentless imposition of impractical ideals upon the world. With regards to the, Bakunin states, “They are so jealous of the glory of their God and of the triumph of their idea that they have no heart left for the liberty or the dignity or even the sufferings of living men, of real men. Divine zeal, preoccupation with the idea, finally dry up the tenderest souls, the most compassionate hearts, the sources of human love.(God & the State, 65)” Comparing these 19th century doctinaires with modern day terrorists we see a group of people so completely enthralled by the superiority of their belief systems that they are more than willing to compromise the lives of non-believers to 'persuade' others. This follows in the line of a traditional process that requires the destruction and absolute overhaul of a current system and its institutions in order for a new one to establish itself and thrive. Referred to in the line, “Every development necessarily implies a negation,” the idea is the basis of aggressive and violent terrorism globally (God & the State, 9).

The September 11th attacks for instance were planned to include bombings of the Pentagon and White House, both symbolic locations representing the centers of Western imperialism and sources of resentment for the jihadis. This is particularly important given how modern day authors, journalists and thinkers have emphasized the peaceful nature of Islam when interpreted by its scriptures. Looking at the sheer organization and potency of terrorist organizations, it seems as though the hyper-violent aspect of this otherwise 'peaceful' religion must have arisen from an understanding of this dogma. There must prevail the idea that without the destruction of certain reviled Western ideals, their preferred value systems cannot be secured across the world.

Another aspect bought up in Bakunin's statement about doctrinaires was the erasure of love and sympathy towards the victims of terrorist acts. The perpetrators here have been blinded by the aggressive, nationalistic rivalry between ideologies towards the pain and suffering of others. In some cases, the real or imagined suffering of their own people, often at the hands of the West is used as a tool to harden their emotional facilities towards demonized groups of people. Several recruitment communications and propaganda display in explicit detail the torture practices, prison camp conditions and drone attacks the Western nations have inflicted upon suspected terrorists. This intensifies the unbridled hatred that ultimately fuels the metaphorical terror machine-churning out thousands of graduates armed with suicide vests and destructive ideals that they wish to impose upon the world. An important point here is that the origin of such behaviour isn't singularly caused by hate or resentment; it is rather the amalgamation of several factors including socio-political ones that in their totality create this belligerent section of the world.

Bakunin speaks of, “the whole history of humanity, intellectual and moral, political and social, [being] but a reflection of its economic history (God & the State, 9).” The fiscal nature of countries and their people often have direct consequences on the views and positions adopted by them. The effect of poverty on the terrorist world-view most directly can be two fold. In the first case, people join jihadist factions for direct monetary recompense to themselves or...
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