Like all terrorist attacks that involve an Islamist element vs non-Islamist secular societies, we get a common call afterwards to focus on unity, not division. It often comes in the form of “Don’t let them divide us”, or “We must remain unified in the face of this terrorist threat”.
All great advice, that I support 100%. The problem is, this can only be supported in theory. In reality, we live in highly divided neoliberal/capitalist societies. The ideologies of neoliberalism and capitalism specifically rely on division and envy and competition. Aside from the inherent need for these ideologies to foster division, the reality is that we have record levels of wealth inequality, and in some respects two-tiered health, education and justice systems.
So, what are we supposed to be remaining “unified” about? Sure, we can all pledge to understand that the majority of Muslims abhor this sort of terrorist violence. But that’s about as far as our unity is going to stretch. What about our unity as human beings towards refugees? What about our unity regarding our commonality as autonomous individuals who are being slowly subjected to greater and greater state/corporate control? Or maybe it means our unity in our national obsession with cooking shows and talent quests.
“Unity”… It’s a great piece of rhetoric, and as is common in times of danger/fear, rhetoric comes to dominate. I’d like us to look past the rhetoric of this “unity”, and question what we really have to be unified about in the current socio-political order.