Terror and Globalization
Catastrophes like the terrorist attacks in New York are part of western culture
Interview with Franz Hinkelammert
[Franz Hinkelammert is an economist and theologian living in Costa Rica. This interview published in: Neue Luzerne Zeitung, November 24, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.neue-lz.ch/news/artikel.]
Professor Hinkelammert, the shock after the terrorist attacks in the US is by no means over. As a way of coping with the incidents, the temptation to divide the world in good and evil has become greater.
Franz Hinkelammert: A paradigm of the suicide assassination characterizing these incidents prevents us from dividing the world into these two camps. This new paradigm could be seen first in the US, not in Islamic countries. In the eighties, assassins killed many children in schools and finally themselves. This pattern is repeated since them.
What is the background for this new "paradigm of suicide assassination"?
Hinkelammert: Something has happened in our culture...
Do you mean western culture?
Hinkelammert: Yes. We start from the fact that western culture has become a global culture. Countries with other cultures have become subcultures of the global culture. As a result, these catastrophes that surfaced are ultimately a part of this western culture. We already saw the famous towers of New York collapse several times in American films. There are also electronic games in which the player learns to guide airplanes so they crash into the Empire State. These games are sold by Microsoft. What does this mean? One could simply say that money is now made with such games. But why can so much be earned this way? What should be said about a culture that produces this?
Do you think that the dubious products of western culture fall back on that culture in the end?
Hinkelammert: This actually falls back on the western world. The globalization strategy that leads to increasing destruction of nature and to a violent exclusion of large parts of the world population could be analyzed under this aspect.
In this connection, the liberation theologian Leonardo Boff warns of the danger of a worldwide social apartheid.
Hinkelammert: This development is definitely threatening and is not compatible with human rights. The authority of human rights is annulled with the strategy of capital accumulation. This creates a social catastrophe and a catastrophe in the consciousness of people who realize: I have no more rights than a dog. Human dignity has become problematic, selective and unequal. When you have money, you have human dignity. When you have no money, you have no human dignity.
What are the consequences of this global exclusion process?
Hinkelammert: The population affected by exclusion protests. However the answer of the powerful of this world to these protests is that there is no alternative to this form of globalization... The result is what those responsible for this globalization strategy expect: fatalism. The suicide assassinations also have a deeply fatalist background. An incredibly militant fatalism is expressed here. Nothing matters any more; thus let us kill ourselves and drag along as many others as possible into death!
Connecting the terrorist attacks with the supposed antithesis between the western Christian world and Islam would be simplistic...
Hinkelammert: I regard that as completely untrue because the new paradigm of suicide assassination crops up in all cultures. I don't believe whether one suicide assassin wears a turban and another a top hat is important. The Bible of Bush against the Koran of the Taliban - that is a completely mad opposition! Neither the Bible of Bush nor the Koran of the Taliban is what these sacred books of Christianity and Islam proclaim. This problem appears in the whole history of Christianity and probably in all religions.
Still the motives for these acts of violence are not the same...
Hinkelammert: Independent of the motives, the same structure of action can be seen. One assassinates people whom one doesn't even know and afterwards executes oneself. This kind of assassination had its beginning in the US and emerged in Japan, China, Africa and a year ago in Nepal. Parallel to that, there were suicide assassins in Palestine. Lastly this gigantic suicide assassination of September 11 was merely distinguished from the original type of assassination in that a whole organization stood behind it
Does this militant fatalism have a concrete intention?
Hinkelammert: An intention beyond the actual assassinations is hardly apparent in these extreme actions. This brings to mind remarks that we heard in the 80s: "We must break what breaks us." A desperate reaction of the most irrational kind is hidden behind such declarations. The fatalism of the present globalization strategy is also implicit there. This fatalism engenders a consciousness that operates between despair and hopelessness.
What is the main problem of globalization?
Hinkelammert: No one denies that the world has become global. However the globalization of the profit calculus as a market calculus is problematic. This profit calculus produces indirect effects that are criticized today as global threats: social exclusion, inner dissolution of interpersonal relations and the destruction of nature.
You mistrust the vaunted principle of the self-regulation of the market.
Hinkelammert: That the supposedly self-regulating market is guided by an "invisible hand" and ultimately assures the general interest is an error. The present effects of globalization clearly refute this harmony stylization of the market. Reality appears very different. Globalization based on a nihilist system annuls human rights.
What must change concretely?
Hinkelammert: The answer to the negative effects of globalization can not be the abolition of the market. This attempt proved illusory in the past. What we need is an intervention of the market. The only survival chance for humanity lies in this intervention and in a complete reorganization of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and our foreign trade policy.
Who can or must initiate these changes?
Hinkelammert: A hundred years ago the working class was assumed able to bring about these changes. This hope does not exist any more today. A change of the total consciousness must occur. A new consensus including all classes is necessary.