The martyr takes his or her stand directly in the Real, short-circuiting
the symbolic and testifying to an alternative truth by repudiating the ways
of the world even unto death. Martyrs take what Walter Benjamin would
call a tiger’s leap into the future, gazing upon the present as though they
were already dead and the present were already the past. The martyr harnesses
the death drive to a cause which might mean more abundant life for
others – an abundance of life which springs from the cessation of his or
her own. This is bound to seem ultra-leftist folly to many of those who
work pragmatically for a more equitable social order, and who must therefore
to some degree abide by the rules of its game. But there is a difference
between working for justice and incarnating it, however negatively one
might do the latter…
A just social order could be founded
only on this solitary, unsociable fidelity to truth.

TROUBLE WITH STRANGERS
TERRY EAGLETON

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