What began as a war on terror is now the violence of the everyday—as the violent fantasies about Begum remind usby Lyndsey Stonebridge / March 4, 2019 / Leave a comment
Last week, a shooting range used the face of the teenager who joined ISIS, Shamima Begum, as a target. It was posted on Twitter, captioned with the words: “traitors,” “made your choice” and “no remorse.”
“The targets provide some fantastic reactions and conversations and allow people to have some light-hearted fun and bring out the inner child in us all,” a spokesperson for the range said. “The targets don’t always reflect personal opinions and we don’t want to condone terrorism. But after watching the interview with Ms Begum, there was a lack of empathy that she had shown and we decided to listen to our customers and use them as targets.”
Which provokes a question: what kind of everyday violence are we now living?
Sigmund Freud asked himself the same question in the middle of World War One. Writing on the Austrian home front in 1915, he wrote:
In the confusion of wartime in which we are caught up, relying as we must on one-sided information, standing too close to the great changes that have already taken place or are beginning to, and without a glimmering of the future that is being shaped, we ourselves are at a loss as to the significance of the impressions which bear down upon us and as to the value of the judgements which we form.
There is something violent, Freud was saying, about the very time of conflict itself: its images, the things it does to time, to judgment, to being, to our ability to take our moral moorings. Wartime is not only dead and wounded bodies; it is also to be lost in a whirlwind of images attached to feelings—dangerous feelings, which require targets.
Exclusive: a shooting range in Wallasey defends using images of Shamima Begum as target practice because of a ‘record number of requests’ from its customers. It allows people ‘to have some light-hearted fun bringing out the inner child in all” they tell us. More at 10am pic.twitter.com/AzYlhY1ne6
— Victoria Derbyshire (@vicderbyshire) February 27, 2019
Freud was disturbed but not surprised by this everyday violence, happening far from the front. Wartime was not the end of civilization. It was the end of the illusion of civilization. We’re always a mess of conflicting drives, in Freud’s view; always secretly happy that somebody else is doing the dying for us, taking surreptitious pleasure in human pain—hence the power of drama, art, and narrative.
But in wartime, something else happens: that inner violence becomes part of the politics of the everyday.