Thursday, August 7, 2008

Terrorists In Our Midst

Not so infrequently, we are reminded of the terrorists in our midst. Through their actions and words, we get a sobering reminder that our society has a long way to go before we can overcome these terrorists. No, these are not the grenade hurling type of terrorists; they are not the type of terrorists who strap themselves with bombs around their waist and blow up a bus full of innocent passengers or the kind that hijack planes.

These terrorist are another kettle of fish. They terrorise others; they instil fear, they intimidate, and through their conduct, coerce others. Their methods are seemingly non-violent but they, nevertheless commit severe violence on others and on the social fabric of society. They don’t dress like the typical terrorists, they are not hell-bent on destroying any particular social order or part of any outlawed or banner group, and they don’t represent some fringe cause or marginalised political ideology.

These are people who go about their daily lives like most ‘normal’ people seemingly do. They may be teachers, they may be elected officials, they may be politicians, and they may be civil servants. They go about their daily lives like the rest of us, being seemingly productive citizens contributing to the life of the community they live in. They may be ‘educated’ but they are uncouth and ignorant.

And they are terrorists. They are terrorists when they terrorise others - for example, when a teacher terrorises innocent children with her vile hatred and bigotry. Such people destroy the lives of others with their hatred, which they exhibit through their racism. They are abhorrent and repulsive. They are especially destructive because they are entrusted with high responsibility and make a mockery of the trust placed upon them. They profess to ‘teach’ others but are themselves desperately illiterate and ignorant. They are called upon to care for our young children, but they abuse them and commit psychological violence against them. They hold respected positions of authority in our society but commit violence on the fragile, impressionable, and vulnerable.

Sometimes, such well-positioned individuals even brandish weapons and speak – in undisguised and uncensored language – about their racial superiority vis-à-vis other racial minorities. They may see themselves as saviours of their race but they peddle hate and commit violence against our collective well-being – regardless of our racial background.

They are in positions of authority and they aren’t ashamed of their racism – and the violence they commit on others. Sometimes they are so bold as to even have the audacity to stand before their peers in the chamber of a state assembly and commit their violence – and exhibit their contempt for others.

The above, of course, only represents the tip of the ice-berg. And, it is easy to brush these sorts of incidents aside or to look at them in isolation to one another. But we must confront a deeper reality in our society. How, we must ask, could we have gotten to this stage where such violence on our young and vulnerable – no, not just the kind of terrorising of our children – but the racism that is practiced at all levels, persists. We have leaders who say, ‘look Anwar is an agent of the Chinese.’ Such people commit violence because they exploit and perpetuate fear and they seek to coerce others – like terrorists do. This is the kind of culture that allows other forms of terrorism – the kind that is committed by the school teacher against her Indian students, or the kind that allows an elected representative to stand up in a state assembly and hurl racial insults.

Don’t be mistaken; those who practice this kind of coercion and intimidation, and perpetuate fear, are committing violence. They are terrorists because they terrorise others.

They are despicable.

G. Krishnan