[-empyre-] Assyrian resonance

Erik Ehn shadowtackle at sbcglobal.net
Fri Nov 7 09:04:33 EST 2014

museveni is known for exerting crowd control by "just killing one or two people" as a ugandan friend pointed out to me. wade into a crowd, kill a couple of folks, and everybody quiets down or disperses. this doesn't always work, but seems to have worked for him in a number of cases... spectacular, specific disasters, broadly instrumental. genocide works to alter the world's relationship to history - stops history for an anti-dramatic period of rest (or a period of concentrating wealth, disguised as rest, as peace, as utopia). so the scale is larger but the principle is similar - kill a minority, spectacularly, and the will-to-change disperses or submits.

performance, on the other hand, strives to humanize the individual, meaning - moves out from the individual to the plural public - plural to the point where the constitution of audience (witnesses, listeners) is a dramatic act itself, meaning - that audience/artists are co-creators of a collective noun - moving from person to persons, a human to human(e).

walk out into a crowd and cause a couple of people to listen to each other, and you are reversing the polarity of genocide. only a polarity - a magnetic trace...

but the only real (sustainable) antidote to genocide that i have ever been able to imagine involves the stillness of listening/self-absenting, versus the stillness of what strejilevich calls the single, numberless death.

On Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:52 PM, Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------

(I sent this to nettime when I started thinking about the
history of the region; I have a number of texts and books
from the late Armand Schwerner, who worked with the
material. I've also been interested in semitic languages
and the history of the early Mid-East. Anyway nettime
refused to present this, calling it 'bog-standard' and
implying the whole area was like this. I beg to disagree;
in any case, here might be something to consider, or it
might be something that's a dead-end.)

The Assyrians publicized their atrocities in reports and
illustrations for propaganda purposes. In the tenth and ninth
centuries BCE, official inscriptions told of cruelty to those
captured. Most were killed or blinded; others were impaled on
stakes around city walls as a warning. The bodies were
mutilated; heads, hands, and even lower lips were cut off so
that counting the dead would be easier. These horrifying
illustrations, texts, and reliefs were designed to frighten the
population into submission.

[...] When surrounding the capital city and shouting to the
people inside failed, the Assyrians' next tactic was to select
one or more small cities to attack, usually ones that could be
easily conquered. Then the Assyrians committed extreme acts of
cruelty to show how the entire region would be treated if the
inhabitants refused to surrender peacefully. Houses were looted
and burned to the round, and the people were murdered, raped,
mutilated, or enslaved - acts all vividly portrayed in the
Assyrian stone reliefs and royal inscriptions in the palaces.
The Assyrian troops regarded looting and rape of a conquered
city as partial compensation. [...]

The annals of Assurnasirpal II vividly described such tactics:

"In strife and conflict I besieged (and) conquered the city. I
felled 3,000 of their fighting men with the sword. I carried off
prisoners, possessions, oxen, (and) cattle from them. I burnt
many captives from them. I captured many troops alive: I cut off
of some their arms (and) hands; I cut off of others their noses,
ears, (and) extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I
made one pile of the living (and) one of the heads. I hung their
heads on tress around the city. I burnt their adolescent boys
(and) girls. I razed, destroyed, burned (and) consumed the

This type of "psychological" warfare was especially convincing,
and the inhabitants, "overwhelmed by the fearful splendor of the
god Assur," surrendered.


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