The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorismby Robin Morgan
This groundbreaking work on the psychological and political roots of terrorism by award-winning writer Robin Morgan is updated with her new introduction covering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. In a new afterword, "Letters from Ground Zero," Morgan offers her eyewitness account of the physical and emotional devastation caused by the assault on
This groundbreaking work on the psychological and political roots of terrorism by award-winning writer Robin Morgan is updated with her new introduction covering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. In a new afterword, "Letters from Ground Zero," Morgan offers her eyewitness account of the physical and emotional devastation caused by the assault on New York's World Trade Center and the global struggle in its aftermath.
First published in 1989, The Demon Lover is now more timely than ever: a personal journey as well as a landmark work of investigative journalism. Traveling to the Middle East refugee camps, she gathered the first interviews with Palestinian women about their lives as women, and re-encountered the core connection between patriarchal societies and the inevitability of terrorism. In her final chapter, "Beyond Terror," Morgan sets forth a compelling vision of hope for the future.
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The Demon Lover
The Roots of Terrorism
By Robin Morgan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Robin Morgan
All rights reserved.
EVERYMAN'S POLITICS: THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF VIOLENCE
Terror, the human form divine ...
/ WILLIAM BLAKE
Look closely at her.
She crosses a city street, juggling her briefcase and her sack of groceries. Or she walks down a dirt road, balancing a basket on her head. Or she hurries toward her locked car, pulling a small child along with her. Or she trudges home from the fields, the baby strapped to her back.
Suddenly there are footsteps behind her. Heavy, rapid. A man's footsteps. She knows this immediately, just as she knows that she must not look around. She quickens her pace in time to the quickening of her pulse. She is afraid. He could be a rapist. He could be a soldier, a harasser, a robber, a killer. He could be none of these. He could be a man in a hurry. He could be a man merely walking at his normal pace. But she fears him. She fears him because he is a man. She has reason to fear.
She does not feel the same way—on city street or dirt road, in parking lot or field—if she hears a woman's footsteps behind her.
It is the footstep of a man she fears. This moment she shares with every human being who is female.
This is the democratization of fear.
The majority of terrorists—and those against whom they are rebelling—are men. The majority of women, caught in the middle, want no more of this newly intensified form of the old battle to the death between fathers and sons. Always the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives are, in the words of an ancient Vietnamese proverb, "the grass that gets trampled when the elephants fight." Always we mourn, grieve, voluntarily staff emergency food lines and medical centers. Always we beg the insurgents to be careful, beg the officials to be merciful. Even when we collaborate—and we do, either in traditional roles of support or as tougher-than-thou token militants—we do so out of a disbelief, a suspended knowledge, a longing for acceptance, a tortured love we bear for the men we have birthed and sustain. But whether we collaborate or beg, support or oppose, always it is a case of cherchez l'homme.
The explosions going off today world wide have been smoldering on a long sexual and emotional fuse. The terrorist has been the subliminal idol of an androcentric cultural heritage from prebiblical times to the present. His mystique is the latest version of the Demon Lover. He evokes pity because he lives in death. He emanates sexual power because he represents obliteration. He excites with the thrill of fear. He is the essential challenge to tenderness. He is at once a hero of risk and an antihero of mortality.
He glares out from reviewing stands, where the passing troops salute him. He strides in skintight black leather across the stage, then sets his guitar on fire. He straps a hundred pounds of weaponry to his body, larger than life on the film screen. He peers down from huge glorious-leader posters, and confers with himself at summit meetings. He drives the fastest cars and wears the most opaque sunglasses. He lunges into the prize-fight ring to the sound of cheers. Whatever he dons becomes a uniform. He is a living weapon. Whatever he does at first appalls, then becomes faddish. We are told that women lust to have him. We are told that men lust to be him.
We have, all of us, invoked him for centuries. Now he has become Everyman. This is the democratization of violence.
"All politics is a struggle for power," writes C. Wright Mills in The Power Elite, "and the ultimate kind of power is violence."
"Power and violence are opposites," writes Hannah Arendt in On Violence, as if in reply to him. "Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance.... The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor ... the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene."
That substitute has now appeared. As with every major shift in human history, it manifests itself naively, from an unexpected and faintly ridiculous direction. Only after such a shift has demonstrated its energy as a transformative wave does it in retrospect seem obvious and inevitable.
That substitute—that transformative wave at this stage in the saga of the human species—is women as a global political force.
The vast majority of women, cross-culturally and through history, have suffered from and appeared to disagree with C. Wright Mills's definition of violence as "the ultimate kind of power." It's both fact and tragedy that the vast majority of men, cross-culturally and through history, also have suffered from it but appeared to agree with it.
This isn't the first, or even the second, wave of international feminism; it's more like the ten thousandth. Not much is required to realize that: a sense of curiosity, a historical perspective, a willingness to burrow behind the wall of androcentric history, and an openness to understanding the pluralism inherent in feminist politics. The evidence is there:
The twelfth-century harem revolts and the ancient Arab concept of Nusuz, a word specifically meaning "women's rebellion." The Yellow Turban Uprising (200 C.E.) at the end of China's Han dynasty; the White Lotus Rebellion, calling for women's rights (1790s); the forty armies of 2,500 women each marching for women's freedom during the 1851 Taiping Rebellion; the nineteenth-century woman silkworkers' antimarriage societies. The four-hundred-year-long witchcraft "craze" in Europe. The founding of the Argentinian Feminist Party in 1918. The reform movements—on health, on child labor, on prison conditions, on abolition of slavery, on suffrage. The thousands of peace movements—national, regional, international—founded, staffed, and embodied by women. The stubborn women of Greenham Common. The seventeen thousand women assembled at the 1985 Third United Nations World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya—who thundered that peace, development, and freedom were inseparable; seven thousand had attended the first conference ten years earlier in Mexico City, eleven thousand the second in 1980 in Copenhagen; a vertical curve.
The evidence is there. The evidence shows in women who at this moment, in the small towns of the midwestern United States, in the villages of Africa, on the islands of the Pacific, in the cities of Europe, the favelas of Latin America, the plantations of Asia, the refugee camps of the Middle East, are rejecting "the ultimate kind of power"—and rising in numbers and visibility as never before, to demand sanity, justice, joy, an end to violence.
The women who dare to say No.
This is not an oppressed minority organizing over limited grievances, however valid. This is the majority of the human species, insisting that all issues are women's issues. This is feminism.
Biological determinism has for years struck me as a failure of intellectual nerve. So I don't mean to counter sexist theories along those lines with a mirror-image feminist version. We have as yet no truly value-free science, uninfluenced by masculinist (among other biases) prejudice. Consequently—although on certain bleak days I am sorely tempted to agreement with what we feminists have termed the "acute terminal testosterone-poisoning" theory of patriarchal history—I do not make the argument that women are inherently more peaceable, nurturant, or altruistic than men. (For one thing, this permits men the laziest of justifications for their own behavior.) Yet it is undeniable that history is a record of most women acting peaceably, and of most men acting belligerently—to a point where the capacity for belligerence is regarded as an essential ingredient of manhood and the proclivity for conciliation is thought largely a quality of women.
Such a convenient use of women as repositories of pacific ideals (with women all the while kept powerless to incarnate those ideals in the body politic) has allowed men to dwell in a state of political savagery that is alternately denied or affirmed, regarded sheepishly or pridefully, and mostly kept un- or misnamed. Among ourselves, women know quite well that we're not incapable of belligerence, although for many of us, perhaps even most, that knowledge is so alarming that we have distanced it to a degree where we feel uneasy even in expressing anger. Still, the questions must eventually be addressed: If violence is the symptom of despair and powerlessness, then why have powerful men taken such joy in it? More curiously, why have women, suffering greater powerlessness and having greater cause for despair than the most powerless of men, avoided resorting to it on our own behalf? Why is our horror of it so intense? Why are women the ones now doing the naming of political savagery—and the renaming of power in totally different terms?
Perhaps it's because we exist outside that body politic, except as victims or tokens. Or perhaps it's the intolerable outrage felt by the many at watching the entire world destroyed by the few. Whatever the reason, it is this barbaric state of institutionalized violence—so pervasive now as to be virtually invisible—that women and men must confront, if sentient life on this planet is to survive.
We are human creatures, so we use language. Not the lovely mysterious language of the great whales and dolphins, a sophisticated singing that can resonate through ocean depths beyond the soundings of the most acute audio technology. Mere words. Words can create, communicate, clarify, and as effectively as silence, obfuscate.
A relatively new word has entered our usage with unsettling frequency: "terrorist." It's the latest in a litany of words meaning much the same thing: warrior, brave, caballero, samurai, knight, cadre, soldier, villain, hero. The definitions depend, like everything else, on perspective: the eye of the beholder—and the ideological polemics of the definer.
What is terrorism?
It's been called "the politics of last resort." Of course, this characterization has been made by the same men who brought us "the final solution," "the war to end all wars" (World War I), "the end of empire," "the definitive weapon," and "the ultimate deterrent." So we needn't be surprised that the politics of last resort has become commonplace world wide. In Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Latin America, and even in insulated North America, terrorist tactics (so we're told) are on the rise.
Political theorists lament that such extreme acts stem from a desperation over all traditional means of insurgency having failed. Political leaders adopt unyielding, nonnegotiating postures regarding terrorism in public—and then parley secret deals in private. Political analysts try to categorize terrorist individuals, groups, leaders, coalitions, funders, and suppliers—but encounter a company of shifting loyalties, of idealists, mercenaries, fanatics, adventurers, professionals, opportunists, fumblers. Books are written about terrorist cells, networks, hierarchies, arms and munitions transactions. Official hearings are held, think tanks are formed, conferences convened, resolutions and declarations passed. New counterterrorist measures are devised, research-and-development contracts are awarded, state-of-the-art security devices—surveillance equipment, screening and tracing apparatuses, weapons—are invented, tested, patented, manufactured, sold. New jobs are created: airport screening personnel, special task forces in police departments, animal trainers to teach dogs to sniff explosives. Scholarly journals on the subject are founded, psychological profiles are researched, fellowships granted, surveys done, papers published, academic careers furthered. Experts are proclaimed. What Noam Chomsky once termed "the façade of toughmindedness and pseudo-science" masking intellectual vacuity has now descended upon a fresh subject, inventing a bustling growth industry: the study of terrorism.
Meanwhile, other kinds of professionals—the generals and admirals, the CIA, KGB, Mossad, British Secret Service, and Interpol fellows—are involved in "intelligence," that appalling misuse of the word. Meanwhile, too, the infiltrators, agents, and "boys in the field" fix their scornful gaze on the flurry of academic and diplomatic activity. They don't need to study the issue: they're men of action; they know what must be done and are ready to do it.
When solutions are offered us by the people who originally brought us the problem, we do well to be suspicious.
Epidemic poverty spreads in the United States; bankruptcy looms in the industrialized world; famine is entrenched as a normal state of affairs in the Third World. The academic experts continue to examine the causes of terrorism, and to propose responses. Water, land, air, and even the stratosphere become polluted and depleted. Global war is seriously considered a "triage solution" by some in response to such crises. The military experts continue to scoff at terrorism, and to propose strategies.
So terrorism appears to escalate in frequency, sophistication, deadliness, and even spontaneity. The battlefront expands to the supermarket, the airport, the local movie theater and discotheque. "Disinformation" campaigns are mounted by government officials, exaggerating or minimizing statistics as convenient for policy purposes. Rumors are spread, believed, discounted, spread anew. No one is uninvolved or unimperiled. No one is a civilian anymore. Every day, we're told, more and more ordinary people die from terrorist attacks.
Every day, more and more ordinary people live in fear.
Consider the public reaction. In a 1986 national poll, U.S. citizens listed "terrorism" as their number-one issue of concern—ahead of the economy, unemployment, the agricultural crisis, poverty and homelessness, drugs, corruption in government, environmental pollution, and external national attack. This despite the fact that in no one year of the 1980s was the number of U.S. civilian fatalities due to terrorism higher than thirty—far below the number of homicides annually reported in any one of the twenty largest U.S. cities—and despite the additional fact that in 1985, when a total of twenty-three U.S. citizens died in terrorist incidents around the world, one hundred were killed by lightning.
Consider our growing familiarity with the names of targets, places, groups, persons, and causes which until recently meant little to most people. Achille Lauro, Entebbe, Sabra and Shatila, Rainbow Warrior. The BaaderMeinhof Group. Action Directe. The Red Brigades. Jihad. Hizbollah. Black September. The Jewish Defense League. The Aryan Nation. The Shining Path. The Silent Brotherhood. The Bandera Roja. The Army of God. The Contras. The Basque struggle for ethnic autonomy—and that of the Kurds, the Eritreans, the Moluccans, the Kanaks, the Polisario, the Croats, the Armenians, the Walloons, the Tamils, the Miskitos. Abu Nidal. "Carlos." The Reverend Ian Paisley and Rabbi Meir Kahane. Euroterrorism, narcoterrorism, religious-fundamentalist terrorism, ecoterrorism.
Some of the embattled causes have calcified around ancient enmities, like the eight-hundred-year-long Irish agony: the Provisional IRA and the Ulster Defense Association. Others, more recent, already have become yesterday's headlines: the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de la Liberación Nacional) of Puerto Rico, the Tupamaros of Uruguay, the Front de Libération du Québec. And the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Black Liberation Army, the May 19 Organization—all born in the U.S.A.
The schisms within and the conflicts between various factions ought to make us wary of the oversimplistic "international conspiracy" theory—wary of those who claim this is all the doing of the Soviet Union, the handiwork of Fidel Castro, or the machinations of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Certainly some countries support and exploit such groups for their own economic, political, and foreign-policy purposes, but to a lesser degree than Rightists believe, if to a greater extent than Leftists admit. Nonetheless, if blame is going to be laid at the doors of terrorist training centers in Eastern Europe, Cuba, North Korea, or Libya, then the same attention should be paid to Frank Camper's Reconnaissance Commando School near Birmingham, Alabama. One of about a dozen in the United States, this institution offers Rambo-oriented curricula that include courses in how to make time bombs and efficiently execute silent killings, throat cutting, ear removal; how to ambush, patrol, rappel, camouflage, set booby traps; and—in a special predawn seminar—how to commit torture. Graduates are churned out as "men of fortune," ready to fight against Nicaragua's Sandinista government or as plain mercenaries in any other old war they can find. The school happened as well to train the group of Sikhs accused of attempting Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, also thought to have engineered the 1985 Tokyo airport explosion, and also suspected of having sabotaged the Air-India jet that in 1985, with 329 people aboard, plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. The hypothesis of a single international conspiratorial source won't wash as an explanation for terrorism.
Excerpted from The Demon Lover by Robin Morgan. Copyright © 1989 Robin Morgan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Meet the Author
Robin Morgan is the author of 17 books, including The Anatomy of Freedom, The Mer-Child: A New Legend for Children and Other Adults, A Hot January: Poems, and Saturday's Child: A Memoir. A leader of the modern women's movement, she has been a political theorist and activist for three decades.
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