I’m home from work and I’ve been able to formulate a few thoughts. I have tried not to talk about religion though, because I still need to get things sorted out in my head about that. I’m not shy about my dislike of the Abrahamic god; he’s a dick. Just because you’re god is a mass murdering wanker doesn’t mean you should be. (I came to this conclusion many years ago, after reading the Bible, rereading it last year did not change my sentiments on the subject).
Actually, scotch that, lets talk about religion then we’ll get on with the politics. The vile specimins of humanity that carried out these attacks do not represent all Muslims any more than Fundamental Protestants or conservative Catholics represent all Christians, etc. My personal opinion is that if your god condones mass murder that’s a god you should avoid. Unfortunately people draw on their beliefs to validate their hatred of others; religion cannot be taken out of the equation, but it is more complex than religious = bad, not religious = good. Let’s not forget that this is about human beings not Europeans against Middle Eastern people, or Muslims and Christians, or secular vs. religious. People will focus on the religious element and ignore underlying causes for these atrocities, because it’s easier to say that this group or that religion are evil,than to look at the history, the reasons behind the behaviours, the contributing factors, the reason people turn to religion to justify hatred.
Nothing can excuse the terror attacks yesterday and Daesh are rightly universally condemned for their actions. My heart breaks for the dead and injured, and their families.
The difficulty we face is how we counter this threat without turning on the innocent and without betraying the values we claim. In one fell swoop whoever organised and committed these acts of horrendous violence has given the governments of European countries and the U.S. all the reason they need to intervene once again in the Middle East; they’ve given an excuse for those same governments to indulge in further draconian measures against their populations; encouraged xenophobia in already xenophobic people; and may increase pressure on already marginalized communities.
I don’t generally like the idea of intervention in other countries, it hasn’t turned out well at all from what I can see. One tyrant is replaced with another, but they’re not called a tyrant because they happen to be friendly to Western objectives. In Syria, for example, Assad has been responsible for terrible crimes, but he’s okay with western governments for various reasons that can be traced back to oil. In Syria, Daesh are preferred (compared to the Assad regime) by some Syrians as marginally less murderous than the Assad regime, except in Kurdish areas, where the Kurds are fighting against both Daesh and the Assad regime, because they’d prefer not to be wiped out by either group. Many thousands are dead or displaced, thousands of Syrians are in refugee camps in Turkey and other neighbouring countries or are struggling to cross into Europe where they feel safer. Many are heading to Germany, through Greece or the Balkans, in conditions that are horrendous and for which they aren’t prepared, that’s if they make it across the Mediterranean alive.
There’s been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing among governments about whether or not we should get involved. The consensus has been to keep out of it, except in Russia where Putin decided to intervene on behalf of the Assad regime. They have been accused of bombing the Kurdish forces, deliberately attacking the regimes opponents, but the Russians also claim that they’ve pushed Daesh back and destroyed equipment. It’s hard to know who to believe, although I can’t stand Putin (I have a terrible prejudice against warmongers and murderers) so I’m inclined to view his claims sceptically.
How do we decide whether to intervene or not? At what point do we get involved, in what capacity and too what purpose? And what will we put in place afterwards, to whose benefit? Another tyrant? or the people of Syria? Will it turn in to another Iraq, where no stable post-war arrangement was in place before allied forces removed Saddam Hussain, or Afghanistan, where the Taliban who were removed (and originally armed by the U.S. in the 1970’s) are killing again.
The government here in the UK have been trying to pass a Surveillance Bill that will allow them to to keep everyone’s communications data – web browsing history, text messages, What’s App messages etc. for a year; will these attacks tip the balance in the Bills favour? What other measures will the government try to pass?
Let’s move on from governments to people, shall we?
Almost as soon as news of the Paris attacks got out people begun to blame refugees or French Muslims who have been radicalised; it got nasty quickly and remains so. People who are already xenophobic are going to use this as another excuse for their bigotry and ignorance. Hate is already spreading. I heard a French interviewee on BBC News this morning say he ‘didn’t want to blame refugees but’, so yes he did want to blame refugees. That’s not a helpful message, to say the least. Those in a desperate situation, refugees running from terror in their homelands, have found themselves pushed into the sea by Daesh and are then pushed back by Europe. The situation is cruel; refugees come to Europe in the hopes of safety, only to find themselves blamed for the acts of the people they’re running from. Daesh recruits by manipulating vulnerable individuals to their cause, people who think they have nowhere else to turn because nobody understands them. If we react with fear, treating victims of violence with cruelty, we run the risk of pushing reasonable people in to Daesh’s arms.
There are those who say we should stop letting ‘them’ in at all. Firstly, nice way to dehumanize victims of violence. Secondly, why punish the innocent majority because a minority are genocidal? One of my acquaintances on Facebook made a good analogy: hooligans get in to football matches along with genuine fans, do we then ban live football matches? The answer is fairly obviously, no, of course not, you have sufficient security to screen out the hooligans and be prepared if anything does occur. The same thing applies to refugees.
What can we do?
There’s only one solution; sit down and talk. With a cup of tea and biscuits. It’s only by talking, by trying to understand the reasons for other people’s actions that conflicts can be resolved. Looking at the immediate cause won’t do any good though, because the underlying causes will remain. People need to keep asking why? Seek the cause. In order to do that you might have to go back a couple of generations or a few hundred years, trying to find the foundation of the disagreement that caused the violence. I can only think of archaeology as an analogy; when you look through a soil section at a dig you see the traces of land use and occupation going back millennia, but then you have to look up and around, and ask, why here? What is it about this particular spot that makes it suitable for whatever land use you see in the section? Only by understanding both the immediate and the greater reasons can a full picture be drawn.
But the only way to start is to put down the guns, leave the explosives alone and park the drones, and in the words of the Doctor:
Before I get angry at the stupidity of the world again, I’m turning off the news and going to watch episode 4 of ‘The Lost Kingdom’ again. Alfred is an arrogant idiot. Guthrum isn’t much better.
Edit: added a couple of analogies