The Twentieth century will be remembered not as a century of computers, antibiotics and space travel but as the century that produced Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Auschwitz and the two world wars. The century turned killing into a thriving global industry and spectator sport. In this, some of our favourite political categories and theories, the ones we thought were emancipatory, turned out to be fully complicit. The organised, superbly efficient, collective violence of the century, which killed more than 200 million human beings, was built on psychopathic technologies and a set of nineteenth century ideologies that explicitly sought blood sacrifices as a purificatory ritual. So much so that there was a widespread tendencey to explain away the violence that took place as accidental or unintended distortions of otherwise benign scientific creativity and social theories.
Perhaps naturally, some of the most spirited resistance to the vioelence and some of the most creative uses of militant non-violence too have come during the century. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama too remain the major symbols of the twentieth century. They provide a new point of departure for those determined to look beyond the century's favourite ideas and institutions.