"I Am A Terrorist..."

by Makoto Hibino
Translated by Emi Koyama
Originally published on November 9, 2001

Select from below:

To truly oppose the war does not simply mean that we do not shoot bullets or drop bombs.

The slogan "we oppose both terrorism and the war" seems perfectly reasonable, but there is something about it that bothers me at anti-war rallies and demonstrations. Do you truly oppose the war? What do you mean by it? Why? Do you truly wish to end terrorism? How will you achieve this? Can we talk about that?

Suicide Attack As An Expression Of Despair

No party has claimed the responsibility for the 9/11 attack. The individuals who hijacked the aircraft consciously crashed the plane into the World Trade Center, fully knowing that they will die as a result. When one behaves in such a way that ze sacrifices hir life, there must have been a deep personal conviction behind such an action. I am struck by the depth of their despair behind the fact that the attackers did not even express in words what that conviction was, as if they believed that words were entirely futile. Or, were they challenging us to think for ourselves what that may have been?
Nonetheless, almost everyone [except Americans, it seems - ed.] understand the meaning of the attack despite the absence of the hijackers' statement. We understand the reason that the attackers targeted the World Trade Center--a symbol of the global economic order known as globalization or neoliberalism--and the Pentagon--the home of the world's most powerful superpower military.

Are We Truly Opposed to the War?

To truly oppose the war must mean something more than simply not shooting bullets or dropping bombs. We will not stop the war by stopping the Japanese Self-Defense Force from being deployed overseas, or even stopping George W. Bush's bombing campaign. To say that these changes would end the war assumes that there were no war going on until our bombs began falling.
Why do large number of people die in Afghanistan, in Africa, and in Latin America? Is it because these people are not helping themselves? That is not true. The sole reason that millions of people are starving despite the fact that enough food to feed the entire planet is being produced is that there is an unjust power relationships in this world. It is the enormously and grotesquely wide disparities in economic status and currency values. Under the name of globalization and neoliberalism, many people around the world are suffering from escalating poverty and starvation (while those of us who live in Japan now eat cheaper and more gorgeous meals than ever before).
Are we to sympathize with victims of bombings, and stay oblivious about the starving victims of globalization? For those who are dying, it does not matter whether their death is caused by bombs or by the systemic lack of food or medicine. Far too many people are being murdered legally by the extreme disparities between the North and the South. And stopping the deployment of Self-Defense Force will not feed those who are starving. Stopping George Bush's bombing campaign will not adjust the unequal economic power balance between Afghanistan and the U.S. or between other Third World countries and the developed capitalist nations.
How can we stop Afghan people from starving? How can we end the global structure in which the vast majority of world's wealth is dominated by a small number of countries? For us to simply oppose the deployment of Self-Defense Force or George Bush's bombing campaign without asking these important questions leaves us pretending that we oppose the war while forgetting the people who are dying due to the "invisible war" waged through economic systems.
My lifestyle today is based on the "invisible war" against the Third World, that is the economic exploitation of the South by the North. I own a computer and a cell phone, use as much electricity and water as I please, and can eat steak or sushi if I want to--all this when I am merely a thirty-something part-time worker. How lucky am I to have been born in Japan!
And yet, I frequently hear others say "for now, let's just oppose the war," as if the war has only recently began. It is the sentiments like those that make invisible the economic war against the people of the Third World that has been ongoing for many decades. Do you, truly, oppose the war?

But There Is Nothing I Can Do About It

I wish I could end unjust deaths in this world. I wish I could end the invisible economic wars, as well as the visible, militaristic wars. Indeed, the economic gap between the Third World and the West is out of control. But how can we achieve such changes?
Honestly, I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. But that is not all: to be perfectly honest, it generally does not concern me very much whether any number of people I do not even know lives or dies. For me, it is going on the date tomorrow, buying a new Macintosh computer, or resolving personal disputes with friends that are of greater concern. I cannot do anything about all the cheap products that flood the market. I do not have a malice intent; I cannot be held responsible for Afghanistan when I have simply been born in Japan and lived ordinarily. There is nothing I can do about it.

The Suicide Attack Made An Enormous Impact

My ordinary life was abruptly interrupted by the suicide attack on September 11th. The suicide attack successfully forced me to think about the harsh circumstances Afghan people face, and the power structure between Japan and the Third World. The 9/11 incident reminded me that, while I may be able to go on life saying "there is nothing I can do about it," people who are being murdered do not have the luxury to do the same.
And it is not just me. Reports about Afghanistan and Middle-Eastern countries in Western newspapers and television news have drastically increased precisely because of the 9/11 incident, and also because the United States military's invasion on Afghanistan under the premise that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attack. Those of us who previously had no interest in understanding the situation of Afghanistan--myself included--now know where Afghanistan is in relation to Pakistan, what the names of its major cities are, and other information that we did not know until recently.
That is the achievement of the 9/11 attack. Without the attack, most people in our society would not have had any interest in or knowledge about Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, the suicide attack made an enormous impact: it was extremely effective and successful in forcing the rest of the world--including myself--to pay attention to the situation in Afghanistan.

I Have No Moral Ground to Oppose Terrorism

Considering all this, I question if I have the moral authority to condemn the attack which resulted in thousands of deaths. At the very least, I am not in the position to say that the hijack attack is wrong simply because it is killing--I did not pay attention while millions of lives were being lost in the economic war. Four million Afghans are starving, with at least a million expected to die from it--I did not even bother to know this fact until after the 9/11 attack. It is opportunistic to oppose killings only when thousands of people die in visible suicide attacks, and neglect millions of people in Afghanistan, Africa, and Latin America who are dying from invisible wars due to lack of food or medicine.

I Am A Terrorist!

I am aware of a "little terrorist" that lives inside myself. That is, whenever I experience neglect, violation, or unjust treatment in my daily life, I lose some sense of basic trust in others or spaces I occupy, and feel hatred and anger toward them. Sometimes I am able to suppress these emotions and make further efforts to be understood, to explain, and to build relationships--but other times, I cannot help but wish the demise of the person who has treated me unfairly.
Humans do not despair or give up simply because of a horrible experience. We do not despair or give up because we were mistreated once or twice, not even when we come across a purposefully malicious individual. But what if we experience the same mistreatment over and over? What if our voices are neglected for years? What if our most sincere requests and complaints are ignored or laughed at?
When I am convinced that no words would be listened to, when I am so isolated that nobody would stand with me, or when everyone looks at me as nothing more than a troublemaker, I am not confident that I can continue to attempt dialogues. When I finally had it enough, and can not imagine any possibility for organizing politically, I cannot deny the likelihood that I will become a "terrorist" of some kind--despite my criticism of such behavior pattern as typically male-gendered response to despair.

Another Terror: Gender Terrorism

Most of us believe that all humans are either male or female, and that there is a meaningful distinction between the two. Those who possess a penis are men and should be masculine; those with vulva are women and must be feminine. Social institutions such as restrooms, public baths, school uniforms, and locker-rooms are segregated by gender because most people believe male and female to be naturally distinguishable. Our society is based on the binary gender system in which our individual lives are referenced to and regulated by the male-female gender distinction. That is, our society is one that is rife with gender terrorism. [Note: Many people in Japan use public baths because they live in houses that lack bath or shower; these public bathhouses are not for making sexual contact.]
Intersex babies experience the direct physical damage of the society's assumption about the binary genders when their genitals are surgically modified without permission so that they would appear more "normal" in shape. Transgender people are treated as a man or a woman against their will solely because of the meanings that the society places on the presence or absence of breasts or the pitch of their voice, while they are denied the right to determine their own gender or whether or not to change their body. Men who are not masculine, women who are not feminine, people whose gender is unclear or undetermined, queers, gays and lesbians--they are verbally and sometimes even sexually assaulted on the street, at work, in classrooms. In this society, women experience discrimination in employment, get paid half of what men make, sexually assaulted in trains, and are rarely taken seriously when they come forward to report the assault. In fact, by simply being perceived to be women, their opinions are discounted and they are expected to act submissive. Those who make their living through prostitution are persecuted.
All of these gender-based coercions are harming the bodies and minds of women and gender outlaws. This is what I call gender terrorism. But unfortunately, these violence based on genders, that is gender terrorism, are considered acceptable in our society, as there has yet to be a wide social acknowledgment that these are unjust violations. For me to fight terrorism also means that I fight against these gender terrorism.

I Do Not Want To Be A Terrorist

I felt perplexed as many activists began organizing against the war. That is, I felt the fear that I will not be able to address issues of gender and sexuality, that of gender terrorism, as stopping the war comes to be seen as the top of the priority for all activists. How many times have I been cut off of because of the supposed urgency of fighting the war--how many times I have been made to stop addressing the misogyny and homophobia within the anti-war rallies and demonstrations under the pretense that they will be addressed later? "We came here to talk about the war, not about sexism. If you want to talk about sexism, go somewhere else."
I do not want to turn into a terrorist. I want to express my convictions instead of giving up trying to have relationships with others. I want to continue to believe that dialogue is possible. That is why I will not remain silent; I will speak what I feel right at this moment. Fighting to stop the war should not be an excuse to not fight misogyny or homophobia.
If we were to truly oppose both terrorism and the war, we must address problems, injustices, and oppressions that occur around ourselves. If I were to truly oppose terrorism and the war, that is if I truly reject terrorism and war rather than simply taking a defiant pose as a fashion statement, it is necessary that I fight sexism wherever I am. Until we transform this culture that erases the voices of marginalized people and leaves them in despair, we will not be able to end terrorism or the war.


To oppose terrorism and the war must not simply mean that we oppose bombings. To oppose terrorism and the war means that we oppose unjust killings of humans everywhere, that we eliminate the enormous economic gap between the Third World and Japan, that we overhaul the global economic order. To oppose terrorism and the war means that we oppose the erasure of marginalized people's voices, that we fight sexism here in Japan, and that we transform the culture caught up in the binary gender system.