It is mendacious to make moral distinction between the unspeakable brutality of terrorism and the indiscriminate carnage of war and occupation. Both kinds of violence are unacceptable. We cannot support one and condemn the other.
The real tragedy is that most people in the world are trapped between the horror of a putative peace and the terror of war. Those are the two sheer cliffs we’re hemmed in by. The question is: How do we climb out of this crevasse?
For those who are materially well-off, but morally uncomfortable, the first question you must ask yourself is do you really want to climb out of it? How far are you prepared to go? Has the crevasse become too comfortable?
If you really want to climb out, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that the advance party began the climb some time ago. They’re already half way up. Thousands of activists across the world have been hard at work preparing footholds and securing the ropes to make it easier for the rest of us. There isn’t only one path up. There are hundreds of ways of doing it. There are hundreds of battles being fought around the world that need your skills, your minds, your resources. No battle is irrelevant. No victory is too small.
The bad news is that colourful demonstrations, weekend marches and annual trips to the World Social Forum are not enough. There have to be targeted acts of real civil disobedience with real consequences…But remember that if the struggle were to resort to violence, it will lose vision, beauty and imagination. Most dangerous of all, it will marginalise and eventually victimise women. And a political struggle that does not have women at the heart of it, above it, below it, and within it is no struggle at all.
Arundhati Roy combines great personal courage and an unyielding commitment to social justice with the priceless gift of writing both beautifully and directly. This is part of the speech she gave on accepting the Sydney Peace prize in 2004.