Whilst the scenes of African illegal immigrants on the Mauritanian and Moroccan coasts who survived the death boats worried human rights organizations, large demonstrations erupted in major American cities in protest against the latest immigration laws that clearly demonstrate racism and aim at reducing the rate of immigration to maintain national and cultural purity.
Meanwhile, the French parliament is discussing the law proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the Minister of Interior, which he called “selective immigration.” The parliament considers the law a request of the extreme right and a contradiction to the notion of “connection to the land” which is the basis of the law of French citizenship.
Such developments and laws that seek to restrict immigration into Western countries, could not be separated from other scenes that are associated with immigration to these countries such as tight inspections at American borders, the prisons of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, as well as the wall that is being built by Israeli forces as a security cordon surrounding the over populated Palestinian areas in order to impose preconditions for a final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
What is the common logic for such scenes that could be summarized under the image of the crowds that Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben considered as a symbol of political modernity in contrast to the Greek concept of the city? The immigrant, the political rebel, and the refugee are all extreme cases that represent the political and social system of the dynamism of globalization. Globalization in turn is paradoxical as it encourages the facilitation of the transfer of capital, yet places many constraints on the free movement of people.
The modern capitalist paradigm, which was based on the industrial revolution, has given birth to the nation-state as a large integrative unit. Consequently, it entrenched a new concept of citizenship based on allegiance to larger political units that suppresses racial or religious loyalties. However, the current phase of capitalism, which is called Globalization or Empire according to Tony Negri’s terminology, has undermined the various socio-political integrative cycles. Moreover, it recently supported the principle of the “state of exception” which gives priority to security over the dignity and freedom of man.
It became clear that the legislations that emerged after the September 11 attacks in the United States and several European states have expressed the aforementioned transformation in capitalism. This transformation is based on two well connected mechanisms: firstly, the transformation of the foreigner into a different being to separate him from the citizen, allowing for a separation between the legal code of human rights of the citizen, and the legal code that permits the ousting of the ‘other’ whether an immigrant, a refugee, or a captive. The second mechanism is the reduction of public freedoms under the pretense of protecting the citizen from terrorism that always comes from the outside (from different cultures and political systems).
These transformations seem temporary and only related to the spread of terrorism, which has hit a number of Western cities; however, in reality, they surpass the phenomenon of terrorism and are related more to the structure and practice of the modern state in the age of globalization. The state has merely become an authority to maintain security and order. The political contract has decomposed, and its bureaucratic, ideological, class, trade unions, and partisan institutions have faltered.
This has led to what Jean Baudrillard called “Rogue Events” to borrow from the term “rogue states” which was used during the Clinton administration. Rogue events refer to what had erupted in a closed system of control where there is no room for effective historical movements or for change. These are merely events of despaired rebellion in the face of a dominant regime, which has no basis or center and is therefore difficult to fight.
These events are no more than symbolical waves of protest against a mysterious force that uses globalization as a weapon against alternative forms of globalization itself. Bird flu, the Tsunami, mad cow disease, natural disasters and the like, according to Baudrillard, are also ‘rogue events’ because they may shake globalization, but could never change the world order. The same goes for the imperial wars, which may astonish us with its high level of technology, nevertheless, could not win against a faceless enemy. Terrorism itself is part of this virtual reality even if it hides under religion and the defense of stolen rights. The war here renders both parties as losers. For the empire, it was doomed to fail because it feeds the enemy that it targeted in the first place with its irrational reactions. The Empire transformed into a killing machine openly baring the symbolical label of “legitimate violence” even if it hid under the attractive banner of “liberating people from tyranny.”
Just as the wars against terrorism in major western cities have transformed into the seclusion of groups under the pretense of protection, they have transformed the so-called “liberated cities” (supposedly liberated from despotism and darkness) into a wreck with civil war adding to its destruction. Meanwhile people are becoming refugees in their own cities and refugees in the centers of torture, in the prisons of Baghdad and Basra.
A few days ago, I listened to President Bush who was proudly speaking about the fact that the United States has achieved almost all of its political goals in Iraq by appointing the first democratic permanent government in the new Iraq. He failed to mention, however, that this government fails to control any areas in Iraq except for the Green Zone where many official institutions are protected by American forces.