[FOUNTAIN]When destruction comes for no reasonThe statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid in Copenhagen has often been targeted for destruction. Since it was erected in 1913, the statue has been beheaded twice, had its arms broken once and been covered with paint six times. In 2003, the year the statue turned 90, vandals used explosives to loosen it from its base, and it was found floating in the harbor. The municipal authorities managed to restore it each time, but the Little Mermaid, which is visited by more than a million tourists each year, is still the target of anonymous vandals.
Most likely, the Little Mermaid has no idea why she is being attacked. What is the point of terrorizing a creature from a fairy tale?
The word “terror” derives from terrere, a Latin verb meaning “to frighten.” In recent years, the words “terror” and “terrorism” have come to be used interchangeably. The term “terrorism” first appeared in 1798, in the Dictionary of the French Academy; the reference was to the “reign of terror” of the Jacobins, who brutally repressed the royalists in the last days of the French Revolution.
But terror’s history dates back considerably farther than that. The ancient Scythians evoked terror by drinking the blood of their enemies. In the first century A.D., a terrorist organization called Sicarri attacked Jews who they believed were collaborating with the Roman authorities. From the 11th century to the 13th, radical Islamic groups in Persia hired assassins to murder Christian leaders. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Red Terror, conducted by the revolutionaries, and the White Terror, by the counterrevolutionaries, were rampant.
For most of history, terrorists targeted specific enemies and special interests. But after the 1960s, terrorists began to attack individuals indiscriminately. To create the greatest impact at the least cost, terrorists began to take such extreme measures as hijacking airplanes and launching suicide bombings in public facilities. With the emergence of these new kinds of attacks, the meaning of terrorism was expanded. The latest Encyclopedia Britannica defines terrorism as “the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.”
Naturally, the change has meant that the possible targets of terrorism are almost infinite. Like the Little Mermaid, the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and of last week’s bombings in London were subjected to destruction by no fault of their own. That is what makes terrorism unforgivable, regardless of the cause. What is most regrettable is that innocent people will be sacrificed again.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.