The War of Hostages

Hawar Muhammed

In The recent years Erdogan has always had an effective weapon with which he was able to scare Europe: The weapon of immigrants. This weapon is quite different from converting some fanatic group of immigrants to murderers or from fully arming an extreme Islamic group and training some escaped men on Terrorist acts. This time the weapon is the humans themselves, the men in their pure human existence, victims of war who seemed powerless losing everything. In the past few days while the Turkish army in Syria has suffered a fatal blow, Erdogan threated European countries again by this weapon. On the other hand, Turkish president can claim that Turkey voluntarily served several millions of immigrants on its land, offered them shelters and subventions, that means, as they claim, that Turkey as a host country provided hospitality to these strangers, who have left their lands and became homeless because of war and disaster. Now these strangers in their turn became a hostage again, one that can be used in logic of exchange with Europa and the west in general with the aim of forcing Europa to close some reluctant deals in favor of Turkey, because if Europa chooses another option that oft is opening the door for Immigrants then Europa itself becomes a hostage of Immigrants. But in the view of Euro Union, this option is not a rational choice, therefor Europe would rather be a hostage for a Deal with Turkey than a hostage in its home. For Turkey this would mean the risk of becoming a hostage to immigrants itself. This is a strange and complex logic, a logic of Becoming-hostage from more than one side.

Philosophy has already spoken about this paradoxical logic of the game/war of hostages1 . For a Jewish philosopher like Emmanuel Levinas the ethical and political connotations of strangeness compose a first philosophy where the Being is not revealed from now on as an ontological hinterland of the subject, but as the very human state of responsibility towards the Other man: Others such as: the neighbor, the stranger2  or even the hostel; in Levinas’s Term: The absolute Other. The absolute other is unfamiliar, he is from a different race, speaks a different language, believes in another religion, and has other rules and behavior.  He comes to me as an uncalled-for guest, as a homeless or as a passerby. Maybe he is a Fugitive, maybe he is hungery or even a criminal, however he enters into my house and shakes my Ego, then I have to deal with my new situation and with this stranger that has broken the sanctuary of my house. Immigrant is all of this, but when he comes to me, he is naked, uncovered or unguarded. According to Levinas Binge is responsibility toward this distorted face of Other(s), especially in regards with the violent death of Other(s). This is the moment in which the death of Other blames me and makes my Ego feel shy in his castle; such a moment brings down the light on migration and deadly loneliness as eternal displacement that makes me hostage to the pure face of the Other. The Pure face in the Levinas's philosophy is signification “The Face is signification, and signification without context. I mean that the Other, in the rectitude of his face, is not a character within a context”3 . In other words, face means the non-defensive, alone and expelled face of the Other that CAN be able to call me without using language and words because the face itself can speak “face and discourse are tied together. The face speaks. It speaks, it is in his that it renders possible and begins all discourse”4 . Through this speaking that at the same time is calling, the Other becomes familiar to me or my neighbor that obligates me to hold a duty or respond to his demands and by this he reminds me of my responsibility. In Levinas’s view the Heideggerian phrase that it “fallen into the world” means we are “expelled in to the world”; we are these strangers that able just as a guest dwelling and living, for this reason exactly we are not possessor of the world. In this sense the world becomes a central habitation for welcoming and accommodating of the Other. We can’t understand the World if we don’t see him as the extreme possibility of welcoming of who to come, of the Other. This is why the world is essentially not property of someone especially in the stage of human crises and exploration of migration problem. The world belongs to strangers, the ones who are always coming toward us. Richard Sennett argues that the city/world is a foreign society; a place/shelter where strangers meet5 . But is it really true that the cities do not have any possessor? Are the Capitalists not the possessors of the world? Actually Not, the capitalists occupied the World. They are taking over the cities or our planet. If we recognize that the world is a property of capitalists it means that we have already given it to them, but even in this situation the world still stays without a possessor. They take over the World, but they cannot impose their absolute sovereignty, they cannot take it away from strangers, because the world is basically an exile and belongs to foreigners. Here again we can destabilize their security in a different way. In fact, the world has no stable owner. Jacques Derrida explained this logic of possession and dispossession as follow: In the first sight it looks to us that any home has a possessor or a Master, but the essence of home is neither possession nor property, but the possibility of hospitality. Some time it is the home itself, not the Master, that invites someone. When a foreign arrives and enters a house, he imposes the hospitality duty over the home and his Master. He makes himself a guest. This stranger could save the master and liberate the power of his host; it's as if the master, qua master, were prisoner of his place and his power, his identity, his subjectivity (his subjectivity is hostage). So, it is indeed the master, the one who invites, the inviting host, who becomes the hostage-and who really has always been so. And the guest, the invited hostage, becomes the one who invites the person who invites, the master of the host. The guest becomes the host's host. The guest (hote) becomes the host (hote) of the host (hote)6 . In this complex game that looks like a frightening experience, all elements become (The Master, The Home, The Guest) a host and a host of host or a host’s host.

For Levinas love is also an ambiguous relationship between hosts or precisely between hostages. One who loves someone who hosted him. as Jacques Derrida claims, the host/loving person becomes ultimately a hostage to the love of the beloved/visitor stranger, canceling destructively every prospect of possessive possession7. What calling us to hospitality is Love, but we cannot reduce the beloved to an object of sex or authority. Lover in the beginning desires the loving person, but instead he becomes his possessor, he becomes prisoner and hostage for loving person. I become the prisoner of the Other, simultaneously the Other enjoys his sovereignty only when I become his hostage by loving him. If I withdraw myself from his love, then he does not have any individual sovereignty anymore. In this way he becomes a prisoner of my presence, he becomes a hostage of me as a prisoner, or becomes a hostage of a hostage. Then I take my sovereignty again but only as a hostage.

Levinas goes beyond the Hegelian dualism of polarity relationship between Master and Slave and replaces this by a multidimensional relationship between host and guest in the sphere of hostage-ship; ‘‘The absolutely foreign alone’’, says Levinas, ‘‘can instruct us. And it is only man who could be absolutely foreign to me–refractory to every typology, to every genus, to every characterology, to every classification”8. Thus, the Other, the absolute Other who is yet without character is a precondition for my subjectivity and he can construct my responsibility for another once again, initially for another9.

The hospitality as an ambiguous ethical act and as love/hostage-ship is the philosophy of exteriority, exiles and eternal homelessness. It is commiserations for the Others who are on the roads and at the same time, it is strangeness’s songs as an ethical and cosmopolitanism experience.

Today, in relation to the Turkey's hostile steps, we can say that Erdogan is taking advantage from the Immigrants circumstances, he makes them a human weapon, at the same time he claims, in the name of love and humanity, that his country, in accordance with the Human Rights, provided hospitality for the upset people and welcomed these foreigners that might have invaded Europa If they crossed the borders of Turkey. But at the same time, he is taking Immigrants as hostages and transforms them into a weapon, when the Turkey also, as the host country, his sovereignty and his security fall in front of a threat that is Immigrants, that means that Turkey becomes a hostage of these strangers whom in their turn are viewed by Turkey as hostages to frighten this countries that are afraid of becoming a hostage in their homes.    




See: Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality, Anne Dufourmantelle invites Jacques Derrida to respond, Translated by Rachel Bowlby, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California  2000, Pp 109,139.  

Spiros Makris: Emmanuel Levinas on hospitality: Ethical and Political aspects, 20 March 2019.

Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics and Infinity, Conversation with Philippe Nemo, Translated by Richard A Cohen, Duquesen University Press, 1985,  P. 86.

Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics and Infinity, Ibid, 87

Richard Sennet, The Fall of Public Man, In “Emmanuel Levinas on hospitality: Ethical and Political aspects” Ibid.

Jacques Derrida OF HOSPITALITY, Pp.123-125.

Spiros Makris: Emmanuel Levinas on hospitality, Op. cit.

Spiros Makris: Emmanuel Levinas on hospitality, Ibid.

Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics and Infinity, Pp. 95,96


21 Mar, 2020