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The amnesia of Western violence

Many groups/communities that expose state violence, Islamophobia, social injustices, unequal pay, envionmental degradation, Israeli colonial practices and racism are labelled as deviant.


The response in Western-centric countries to the RussiaUkraine crisis displays duplicity, racism and supremacy. The conflict is also presented as unusual. Since the crisis started, journalists from the US to Europe have been at pains to point out that the violence on European soil is unexpected. It is common to hear questions about why the violence is taking place in a ‘civilised European […] city’ and to ‘people with blonde hair and blue eyes’. The sentiments of journalists echo the mood of politicians and the public in the West. How can it be happening here is the bewilderment! The emotional shock is because of centuries of indoctrination by Eurocentrics that violence is the preserve of non-Europeans. Hence, the violence of blue-eyed on blue-eyed and blonde on blonde in UkraineRussia shatters the myth of Europeans as peaceful, progressive, and modern.

The Eurocentric construction of non-Europeans as unreasonable and dangerous has also justified the mantra of ‘war for peace’. From colonialism to the ‘war on terror’, violence has taken centre stage, the first instrument in resolving a dispute with non-Europeans. Violence on the ‘Other’ in the periphery is understandable and necessary. However, this rationale has repercussions. There is a wealth of evidence suggesting atrocities on the colonised have impacted pra-ctices in the European metropole. This is not a claim to a direct correlation between the stru-ctures, attitudes and practices of Eur-o-pean colonialists being represented in the metropole. There are complexities; nevertheless, one cannot deflect from Western modernity — as a social thought and political structure — as a product of colonialism. If the ‘Rest’ have become an unrestricted hunting ground for the West, those practices have eventually reared their ugly heads in its midst.

The European-initiated wars of 1914-18, 1939-45 and the Holocaust are savage examples. Unfortunately, the resort to violence is not only part of a colonial past but also came to the fore in the war on terror. The past two decades of the war on terror have raised a new generation steeped in violence as a means of resolving conflict. The war on terror era has also assembled structures — the military complex, security industry, snooping technologies, think tanks and political institutes — geared to legitimise violence. However, each time in Europe renditioning is accepted — there is the whitewashing of extrajudicial killings; imprisonment without trial is sanctioned; the creation of refugees normalised; carpet bombings celebrated; coups championed — the barbarity in the periphery boomerangs to corrupt the metropole.

Three violations are particularly pertinent: of law, human rights and construction of the enemy. The practices of ignoring international law, bypassing the UN and democratic mandate in the war on terror are coming home to roost. When the thin line of law is transgressed ‘out there’ routinely, the ugly practice became a means ‘internally’. It is now being exercised in the Ukraine-Russia crisis. The war on terror also remains infamous for differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims. The binarism of the Muslim figure is practised in the heart of Europe to mark out refugees. The UK has given France £54 million in an attempt to stop refugees from non-European countries. At the same time, it is spending nearly £2m on welcoming Ukrainian refugees and paying £350 a month to any British host housing a Ukrainian. Britain has also temporarily blocked other overseas aid payments because of prioritising Ukraine. While the racist nature of hu–manitarian aid and refugee policies is unquestionable, the pra-ctice of dif-ferentiating between the deserving and the worthy of killing is a legacy of the war on terror. It is also a reformulation of the European fascination with creating purity of race. Now, the early 20th-century scientific practice of eugenics is giving way to sociopolitical strategies. Binarism is also visible in the marking and treating of political activists within Eurocentric metropoles.

Many groups/communities that expose state violence, Islamophobia, social injustices, unequal pay, environmental degradation, Israeli colonial practices and racism are labelled as deviant. These groups and individuals are subjected to political violence by stripping them of their citizenship, freezing their assets, renditioning, deporting, imprisoning and even denying them the right to protest. At one level, Eurocentric pundits are shocked by the violence amongst Europeans because of the amnesia of Western violence. On another level, they never thought about their dirty practices in the periphery of colonisation, occupation, starving, looting, raping and killing becoming their way of solving problems everywhere.