The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

On Evil, Terror, Violence, Torture

(Part of a text for upcoming Pratt presentation this month; some
of this has already appeared in a different form.)

Facing, what?

If we face evil, comprehend it, examine it, watch those videos,
does that reduce us to catatonia? Does that empower us to act?
Does it reduce us to fear and trembling, to terror?

It's not enough to say, this is the way the world has always
been; the world, now, is not as it has always been.

Or is it enough to insist on the long lens, reach, of history,
to insist that the past itself will teach us, that we can learn
from it's - our - "mistakes"?

Another approach - this has nothing to do with us; this is the
work of a miniscule number of people; this is the work of the
made, the depraved, criminals; this is the work of the lost; of
the disenfranchised; of this or that group. But is this not also
our group, isn't there, yet, the shade of Adolf Eichmann, the
normalcy of evil? Then what is this?

Or this is for or against or the result of, neoliberalism - but
this has always been with us, this resides within us, this
defines us, at least a part of us.

Or that this is the result of social media, of technologies
that spread everything everywhere, this is the result of the
disseminated messenger. But social media, oral histories,
ballads, newspapers, tablets, rumor, gossip, languagings, have
also always been with us.

Or that ethology plays a role, sociobiology, that this is part
of our primate heritage, that we may or may not overcome. Yes,
and then what?

At the heart of all of this - absolute violence and anguish,
textual and oral inerrancies, symbolic acts and always
totalization, the violence inherent in language and its
recoding of histories.

At the heart of _all_ of this, death, and the erasure of death.


On the Subaltar of Evil, the Abject

abjection/expulsion, purity and danger but here: with a weapon

[Fragments below]

XXXX: Logic of Universal Terror

[for all]X (not X --> 0)
Therefore not X is taken to 0 (null set)
Therefore not X is always already processed to 0
Therefore not X is equivalent to 0
Therefore not x is identical to 0
Therefore X --> V (universal set)
Therefore X is always already processed to V
Therefore X is equivalent to V
Therefore X is identical to V

This came on the heels of a first post I wrote thinking about
XXXX and the idea of exclusion - from for all X not X tends
towards zero - to X is identical with the universal set, not X
is identical with the null set. I'm playing off ideas of purity
and exclusion - things like the Pale etc. or the theory in
Kristeva's Powers of Horror or the earlier Mary Douglas' Purity
and Danger.

That which is not for me, in other words, is against me, and
must be annihilated, and annihilation must be carried out to the
limit. So for me the movement is from 'sending' or projecting
not-x into the null set, to making it equivalent, to making it
identical - a movement maybe from epistemology to ontology - the
not-x become - _are_ inherently non-being, eliminated. -

X doesn't equal not-X. The world divides and hardens between X
and not-X; it's a classical division so that the intersection of
X and not-X is the null set. What I'm trying to present is the
idea of an expulsion and an annihilation of what's expelled.

XXXX wants a purified caliphate with only believers;
non-believers are expelled or murdered. Could you elaborate on
the rest of your post? I'm trying to say then that the
annihilation is that of the Other - the Other isn't permitted to
survive, and with the death of the Other, the Other becomes
identified with 0.

Trying to come to grips with annihilation when for example
beheading occurs, not only to foment terror, but as an act of
piety, as part of the natural order of things -

              in the above, a signal is sent, becomes furious,
begins to dissolve, the dance is violent and sexual like a
machine gun

XXXXnegative theology

"The end approaches, now it's too late to tell the truth about
the apocalypse. But what are you doing, all of you will still
insist, to what ends do you want to come when you come to tell
us, here now, let's go, come, the apocalypse, it's finished, I
tell you this, that's what's happening."

Derrida, Of an Apocalyptic Tone Newly Adopted in Philosophy, in
Derrida and Negative Theology, ed. Coward and Fosbay, 1992

Addenda (prepared for the Empyre discussion):

[...]"Amery argued, was that torture destroyed the world as the
sufferer previously knew it. One of the most 'fundamental
experiences of human beings', he observed, was the 'expectation
of help': hot-water bottles, cups of tea, analgesics are
routinely given to those in pain. In contrast, 'with the first
blow from a policeman's fist, against which there can be no
defense, and which no helping hand will ward off, a part of our
life ends and it can never be revived'."

(Joanna Bourke, The Story of Pain, quoting Jean Emery, At the
Mind's Limits.)

"Isis (Islamic State) militants have released images of the
public crucifixion of a teenage boy.

The barbaric punishment took place over three days in the
central square of the extremists' de facto capital Raqqa.

The militant group accused the teenager of taking photographs of
the terror group's headquarters in Syria. It's claimed the boy
was caught receiving 500 Turkish lira for every photograph he
took of the Islamic State military base.

The graphic images show the battered and bloodstained body of
the unnamed boy strapped to a cross, with a handwritten placard
hanging around his neck, accusing him of apostasy.

A handful of individuals who oppose Isis have attempted to
document the violence the terrorist group has inflicted in

The image has been circulated on Twitter both by anti-Islamic
State campaigners and by Islamic State supporters.

Charlie Winter, programs officer at counter-extremism thinktank
The Quilliam Foundation said crucifixion is a prescribed
punishment meted out by Isis for specific crimes.

'Crucifixion has been used many times before it's an age-old
punishment dealt out to people who have committed treason,' he

The militant group have embarked on a reign of terror since they
seized control of the city earlier in the year.

The city has been bathed in blood, with severed heads regularly
impaled on spikes on a small patch of grass in the square, and
wooden and metal crosses readied for executions."

"Across the border in Syria, Islamic State fighters bragged of
executing hundreds of members of the Shueitat tribe this year
after it had tried to fight them.

"And Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday that the
Islamic State had systematically executed about 600 captives
after taking over a prison near Mosul in June.

"The jihadists divided the prisoners by sect and gunned down the
mostly Shiite prisoners as they knelt alongside a ravine, the
New York-based organization said in the report, which was based
on survivor testimonies.

"Also in June, the Islamic State carried out a similar mass
killing of captured soldiers at a palace complex in Tikrit where
Saddam Hussein once lived."

"UNITED NATIONS (AP)  A new United Nations report says the world
faces a challenge of foreign fighters in terror groups on an
'unprecedented scale,' with about 15,000 in Syria and Iraq

The report by a panel of experts monitoring al-Qaida and the
Taliban, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, has been
submitted to the U.N. Security Council.

'Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the
cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990
and 2010 - and are growing,' the report says. The panel was set
up to support the council's al-Qaida sanctions committee.

The panel says fighters from more than 80 countries working with
al-Qaida associates in Syria and Iraq "form the core of a new
diaspora that may seed the threat for years to come," and that
domestic terrorism could rise as fighters return to their home

"BAGHDAD: Islamic State militants have executed 85 more members
of the AlbuNimr tribe in Iraq in a mass killing campaign
launched last week in retaliation for resistance to the group's
territorial advances, a tribal leader and security official said
on Saturday.

Sheikh Naeem al-Ga'oud, one of the tribe's leaders, told Reuters
that Islamic State killed 50 displaced members of Albu Nimr on
Friday. In a separate incident, a security official said 35
bodies were found in a mass grave."

"Nearly a thousand years old the first of its kind in Iraq,
according to Archnet, and one of the last six standing,
according to Iraq Heritage the distinctive muqarnas-domed
mausoleum is now a statistic. The tomb of Shia Uqaylid amir
Sharaf ad-Dawla Muslim is one of a number of sites that have
been destroyed recently. Preceded by the Shrine of Arbaeen Wali
(for 40 martyrs in the Islamic conquest of Tikrit) and the
Syrian Orthodox Green Church of Mar Ahudama in late September,
followed by the Yezidi Shrine of Mem Rean (Meme Reshan) in late
October, the Mausoleum of Imam al-Daur was destroyed by the
Islamic State on October 23."

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.