Classical Arabic dictionary defines Siyasah, politics, as pertaining to a person assigned the responsibility “to oversee a group so as to rectify their affairs toward that which is better.” The English etymology for the word politics can be traced to Aristotle’s ta politika meaning “affairs of state” or “affairs of the cities.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary has a number of possibilities in the extended definition for politics and one is “the art or science of government” and also “the total complex of relations between people living in society.” Increasingly, the term politics has become synonymous with corruption, greed, and cheating while emptied of core meanings embodied in earlier definition. Attending to the “affairs of the cities” implies a concern for the life and well-being of the people who reside within the confines of these urban centers.
“Affairs of the cities” in today’s world has become a non-ending series of wars, invasions, drones, and utter destruction. Aristotle commented, “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” Since killing is the only politics then today, peace itself is reorganized to reproduce war. Politics has been reduced to a rat race to the bottom and a never ending public relations circus to identify who is best at killing more people with more sophisticated killing machines. Politics has been reduced to militarism whereby the vision of a good and prosperous society is fired through the barrel of a canon or bunker buster bomb production line and bodies strewn in the streets. Politics has been reduced to one response for every conceivable problem–war and bombs away. Politics has been reduced to death by any means necessary even to the extent if society itself is killed and obliterated. Terrorism is a global signpost for killing as the only politics using spectacular attacks to illustrate the wanton ability to take lives as a measure of meaning, self-realization, power and false success.
Killing has become the only politics and all contemporary meaning and society’s worth is connected to it. When killing is the only politics, then every aspect of the society is structured to bring about its fulfillment. Instead of having a generative, sustainable, and life-giving economy, killing is the only politics mobilizes people’s “creative” energies to produce death machines and a military industrial economy which destroys everything it builds. This is the military industrial economy that destroys the products costing billions to design, research, and manufacture with the measure of success being how many lives it efficiently could snuff away with each dropped “smart” bomb.
The warnings of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the impacts of the military industrial complex are more relevant today: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
When killing is the only politics, then entertainment and children’s games are all directed to produce the mental framing that normalizes killing as a signpost for being included in society’s narrative of its own distorted sense of achievement. Video games and violent movies dripping blood in the minds of children and adults alike, reflecting and reproducing society’s killing campaigns as the only politics in the metaphorical and imaginary space. When entertainment is reduced to glorification of death and the prowess of the young and impressionable in killing, then society itself has produced its own epistemic annihilation.
The circumference of a circle in math lessons has been replaced in society’s imagination and rhetorical discourses with a “Daisy Cutter” bomb radius of destruction and the expected scope of “collateral damage”, a euphemism for calculated and projected civilian deaths. Killing as the only politics transforms every problem into a war, reduces opposing points of view into an enemy camp, and favors relations with guns over saving people’s lives. John Steinbeck correctly observed, “all war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal,” and when every aspect of society, global, and local is disfigured by death wrought by the failure to imagine and act to bring about a different outcome.
The war monger argument is that killing is needed to save cities and people from an expected evil, but when close to 90% of all victims of war are civilians then this claim is hollow. “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”–this was how Mahatma Gandhi responded to war and killing being the answer. What is needed is a life saving politics that is wedded into a sustainable and human centric economy and social/religious discourses that embrace the stranger as an extension of the self. The time for giving birth to a new and different world is now and what is needed are dreamers and innovators that can think boldly and bring about different, more just and peaceful possibilities.