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“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”

John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets

Hamoq and hamas

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In Sum

Turning anger into action is necessary to move the powers that be, but that anger is most effective when it is disciplined and intelligently focused (hamas). Uncontrolled, stupid anger (hamoq) mostly undermines your own cause.


Hamza Yusuf, 2000s

The great Islamic activist Hamza Yusuf Hanson distinguishes between two forms of political action. He defines the Arabic word hamas as enthusiastic, but intelligent, anger. Hamoq means uncontrolled, stupid anger.

The Malays could not pronounce the Arabic H, and the British acquired the second word from them. On the streets of Genoa during the 2001 G8 summit, while the white overalls movement practiced hamas, seeking to rip down the fences around Genoa’s red zone but refusing to return the blows of the police, the black block ran amok.

The important thing about hamas is that, whether or not it is popular, it is comprehensible. People can see immediately what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Hamoq, by contrast, leaves its spectators dumbfounded. Hamas may have demolished the McDonald’s in Whitehall on May Day 2000, but it would have left the Portuguese restaurant and the souvenir shop beside it intact.

Hamas explains itself. It is a demonstration in both senses of the word: a protest and an exposition of the reasons for that protest. Hamoq, by contrast, seeks no public dialogue. Hamas is radical. Hamoq is reactionary.

If, like some of the black bloc warriors I have spoken to, you cannot accept this distinction, then look at how the police responded to these two very different species of anger.

On Friday, though they were armed to the teeth and greatly outnumbered the looters, the police stood by and watched as the black bloc rampaged around Brignole station, smashing every shopfront and overturning the residents’ cars. Then, on Saturday night, on the pretext of looking for the people who had caused the violence, the police raided the schools in which members of the nonviolent Genoa Social Forum were sleeping, and started beating them to a pulp before they could get out of their sleeping bags. The police, like almost everyone else in Genoa, knew perfectly well that the black bloc were, at the time, camped in a car park miles away.

It is not hard to see which faction Italy’s borderline-fascist state felt threatened by, and which faction it could accept and even encourage.

If Carlo Giuliani did not die in vain, it was because the Genoa Social Forum had so clearly articulated the case he may have been seeking to make. His hamoq forced a response because other people were practicing hamas.

Hamas instructs us to choose our enemies carefully. Indeed, when actions are clearly focused, then violence toward human beings is far less likely to take place, as it’s harder to forget what we are seeking to achieve.

MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: Tahrir Square and the U.S. civil rights movement.

George Monbiot is an English writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) and Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (2008). He is the founder of The Land is Ours campaign, which campaigns peacefully for the right of access to the UK countryside and its resources. In January 2010, Monbiot founded the website which offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of former British prime minister Tony Blair for crimes against peace.

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