The war machine

Xanana. Lu Olo. (Alfredo.) Warrior-hero nomads.

Last year after reading A Dignidade, José Mattoso’s book about Konis Santana, I returned to a dizzying work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyist Felix Guattari.

My first encounter with Nomadology: The War Machine was in a class about bedouin literature. I’m not sure I had any idea what these guys were getting at.

Deleuze and Guattari, in a compact, sensorily challenging work attempt to provoke the reader to consider how a military and government can co-exist. It may seem like a crazy question. In few places in the world does one exist entirely without the other.

But militaries often developed outside of the state (i.e. medieval knights). D&G’s preoccupation is how the state apparatus can absorb a “nomadic” military order, often with its roots entirely outside of permanent, codified state structures. They argue the war machine can be somewhat co-opted by the State, but will always maintain its “externality.”

President Xanana Gusmão, himself an ex-nomad warrior, was described recently by Lusa wire service as failing to use both his powers as President and his charisma as ex-leader of the resistance. He was quoted as saying,

Part of our society lost its morals, suddenly. It’s an anarchy of mentality. It is not a question of generations.

The people must reject violence once and for all… They no longer fear law and order.

Only a few weeks prior, Xanana mocked Alfredo, asking the Timorese people who was the real war hero, or asua’in.

Beyond Xanana’s admitted confusion over his role, the fight over party symbols on the Presidential ballot has everything to do with this persistent equivalence between the war machine and the ruling party and the State.

It is no coincidence that Lu Olo conducted his first campaign events in his home Ossu, near where he spent the early years of the military resistance to Indonesia. Then he went to Lospalos, the home of a number of FALINTIL heroes, and most recently to Laclubar where he was based for nearly ten years.

The campaign photo is quite rare, as Lu Olo is usually pictured in his Falintil days with pen and not the gun. He was, of course, a secretary and commissar.

Campaigning in Baucau in 2001, ABC quotes Lu Olo

Even to see a [military] uniform makes me sick. Seeing a rifle makes me want to throw it away. I’m tired of fighting. Fretilin wants peace and stability … to build love, to move forward.

Much of the colonial literature seems to indicate that at least in the nineteenth century asua’in, or warrior-heroes, were in many ways like medieval knights. They were convened at war times, and given special privileges and statute within society, but were not considered to possess political power per se.

One of my more interesting informants recently told me that his great-great-great-great grandfather was a hero who was given the liurai‘s daughter’s hand in marriage for his exploits. It was through marriage alliance that a warrior-hero could come to exercise political power. Marriage was a way of turning the nomad into the State, but never the reverse.

Many remarked on the significance of Lu Olo’s wedding in 2002 to a young woman from Atauro (shortly after Taur Matan Ruak, ex-guerrilla, head of the Armed Forces, married Isabel Ferreira Guterres). Even after his marriage, his declarations in 2001, and years of experience in Parliament, why is it that Lu Olo must be portrayed as the warrior?

What happens when the State sees itself as a sedentary extension of the war machine? The State then becomes exterior to its own existence? Or more frighteningly, in this situation, is there a State at all?

One thought on “The war machine

  1. Pingback: The war machine revisited « Return to Rai Ketak

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