I am perpetually disturbed by the use of the word terrorist and every time i hear it i imagine Orwell chuckling grimly. "Terrorist" is as pure an example of Newspeak (the fictional language Orwell created for his novel 1984) as exists today. It is blithely used by virtually every mass media publication or broadcast. And, like the vocabulary of Newspeak, it is designed to compel people to think in simple, totalitarian terms. Once we have labelled someone a "terrorist" we no longer have to think of them as human. And, sadly, i catch myself falling prey to this pervasive and evil piece of common sense. When i pause to reflect, i do wonder about the circumstances that drive people to the awful choices for which "terrorist" is a code. For surely these people once laughed as children, loved as brothers and sisters, dreamed of a better world. There is yet much to understand about the people we so quickly dismiss as "terrorists" and "fundamentalists" and Berger has some compelling thoughts on this which i leave you with:
A crucial question today is: what makes a world terrorist and, in extremity, what makes a suicide martyr? (I speak here of the anonymous volunteers: Terrorist Leaders are another story.) What makes a terrorist is, first, a form of despair. Or, to put it more accurately, it is a way of transcending and, by the gift of one’s own life, making sense of a form of despair.
This is why the term suicide is somewhat inappropriate, for the transcendence gives to the martyr a sense of triumph. Triumph over those he is supposed to hate? I doubt it. The triumph is over passivity, the bitterness, the sense of absurdity which emanate from a certain depth of despair.
From Seven Levels of Despair in Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance by John Berger (NY: Pantheon, 2007), pp. 9-10.