On Being a Stateless Actor

I’ve fallen in love with the phrase “non-state actor.” If nothing else you can credit the Pakistani government for coming up with fig-leaf expressions like this one to hide naked lies which is the essence of the state itself.

For years and years I’ve not voted. Usually the reason is that my name is never on the voter’s list and I’m too lazy to get it enrolled merely to have the opportunity to choose between a worm that sucks blood and a blood-sucking worm. The meaning is the same and the difference grammatical in terms of what comes first, the “worm” or the “blood.”

People who overstate the importance of voting as central to democracy are liars. Democracy is not just about voting. Democracy is about having real choices in your private and public life. In a country like India only money can buy you those choices. They’re not rights that come with birth. Citizenship does not ensure those rights and neither does voting make a difference at a fundamental level. The poor simply have no choice. Those who think that to vote is the main issue – they’re people who’re not looking for real change.

Like all pseudo-liberals from the educated classes who think that they are “clever, classless and free” but in fact are “fucking peasants” in heart and mind, for years I saw myself as a non-state actor. It’s not state of mind that I’m referring to. It’s the state as government that Tolstoy describes as “an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.”

The terrorist is indeed a stateless actor and it takes a government as brutal as the Pakistani to arrive at the phrase “non-state actors.” It takes a government as brutal as the Indian one to agree with that because we’ve plenty of them in this country and in fact they’re in the majority. We also call them the working classes or the poor and the downtrodden. It takes a government as violent, ruthless and manipulative as the American to understand that. If Israel did not know this little secret of brutality by any means, it would’ve been long kicked out of the Palestinian territories. Therefore these governments are united in their determination to preserve the right to violence.

In his defense of the Baader-Meinhof group during their infamous trial in the seventies – some might even have the memory of the hijacked Lufthansa flight in 1977 done by the Red Army Faction (RAF) for the release of the RAF prisoners – this is what the French writer Genet had to say: “If we reflect on any vital phenomenon, even in its narrowest, biological sense, we understand that violence and life are synonymous. The kernel of wheat that germinates and breaks through the frozen earth, the chick’s beak that cracks open the eggshell, the impregnation of a woman, the birth of a child can all be considered violent. And no one casts doubt on the child, the woman, the chick, the bud, the kernel of wheat.”

This is the violence of the non-state actor who intends to leave no stone unturned to counter the brutality of the state. Genet further adds in the same essay: “The more oppressive brutality becomes, the more will the violence that is life be required to the point of heroism.” The poor are non-state actors and the terrorists directly or indirectly represent the anger of the oppressed albeit in a sinister manner – the oppressed who are every minute reminded of their oppression in the face of glaring wealth and luxury of the rich.

The poor in this country have a different view of what terror is all about. It’s not the view of the media or of the envious middle-classes who’re busy competing with one another for the leftovers of the rich. Forget about what people say before a camera. Just take a look at what they say behind a camera. The media did a great job in making the government look like fools and the terrorists like heroes or anti-heroes.

The common people that include students and the unemployed and everyone denied of a basic standard of living have a grudging admiration for the terrorist and their admiration comes from the fact that the terrorist is disrupting the system that is destroying them body and soul. What the terrorist is doing is what they’re incapable of doing but nevertheless would like to do.

This is the reality on the ground. The US is the most hated and unpopular regime on earth. The Pakistani and Indian governments are the most slavish and despicable regimes in South Asia. They’ll do anything to please their American masters. Rich and powerful people are hated in this country for their decadent lifestyles and their cynicism.

Commenting on the killing of Israeli Olympians in Munich by the Palestinian organization Black September in 1972 none other than Sartre said: “Terrorism is the atomic bomb of the poor. The only weapon available to the Palestinians is terrorism. It’s a terrible weapon but the poor and the underdogs have no other weapon. Violence exists. It exists in regimes run by police who are themselves violent. People who are victims of such regimes can do no other than respond with violence. I see it as a valuable political gesture.”

The exploitative leadership of these groups whether it’s the LTTE, the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammed  – they know how the poor feel. They’re no different from the governments they’re fighting against. They’re geniuses when it comes to channelizing anger and destructive energy and leaders with the potential to run giant corporations. The leaders and the organizations are guilty of being state-driven actors because they are doing what the state expects of them and they’re not directly involved in any conflict. They prey like vultures in a desert on the unhappiness of the exploited.

As long as the brutality of hunger, poverty and injustice do not come to an end, the brutality of the terrorist, the jihadist, the Maoist and every other “non-state actor” will continue with a greater violence – not just to make a point but to communicate a deceptively simple message that they’re not going away any time soon.

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3 replies »

  1. Prakash Kona here rightly points out to the constant othering process taken up by the state against the angered, deprived, poor who in retaliation take up arms against the system. Cynisicm has become the norm in India and its counterpart Pakistan wherein any struggle against state oppression is labeled as terrorism, naxalism or whatever ‘isms’ that a dictionary could contain. In pointing out succintly that violence and life go parallel, Kona is striving to show the perpetual struggle for a free, liberated space that all mortals crave for.

  2. The author has raised more questions than even addressed. equating life with violence is perhaps just another one form the long list of dystopian ambitions that the world painted here can aspire to, here maybe even terror can be justified. right and wrong do not remain important anymore.

  3. Violence in itself is neither right nor wrong. We cannot have an abstract theory to speak about violence. A woman who is being raped has a right to be violent towards her assailant. A violent situation produces violent results. Abstract TV intellectuals like to believe that “terrorism” as a form of violence is wrong because it is wrong. That’s not an argument. That’s merely a statement that means nothing. It’s like saying I’m hungry because I’m hungry. The cause is the effect of the cause. The violence that is life is life to those whose have nothing to lose; to those pushed into poverty and powerlessness violence is an act of self-preservation; to “me” it is “wrong” because I’m not one of them; but to them it makes perfect sense. Those conditions that produce the violence must be changed instead of going by absolute categories of “right” and “wrong” which serve the interests of those who create the violent situation and are responsible for it.

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