I couldn’t sleep. That’s not particularly unusual for me, but last night it wasn’t the insomnia which kept me awake, nor the usual mix of nicotine and caffeine coursing through my veins. Last night, it was the rage. I’d made the same kind of mistake I’ve always made. I peered into the vast cavity of the human condition, drip-fed on Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of the terrible events in Woolwich.
Facebook and Twitter need a health warning at times like this..
It’s obvious to everybody that the events in Woolwich were terrible, unforgivable and a whole host of adjectives. I feel deeply for the solider who was killed and their families and friends and the Community-at-large in Woolwich. We don’t really understand the motives for the attack, and we may never understand them, but what is clear to me that people have jumped far too quickly to use the T-word. It’s a word with stigma, and one which rightly causes an outpouring of all kinds of emotions.
My issue is that people are leaping directly from an attack, cowardly and pathetic as this was and calling it terrorism, as if that were a handy heuristic name for ‘motivated by religion belief’ — once you’ve gone there, the rabbit-hole into ‘all Islam is fundamentalism and all Muslims are terrorists and they should fuck off back to their own countries’ isn’t particularly deep or uninviting. Having just typed those words, I think I need to wash my brain — obviously it’s filth of the highest order, but even typing them in satire doesn’t make me feel particularly great — I feel a little dirty, if I’m honest.
I could talk for hours on the true definition of terrorism (Scotty and I debated this point at length yesterday evening, and it was a very interesting discussion to have) but this isn’t the point of this blog post — suffice it to say for now that I think terrorism contains two elements — ‘extraordinary scale designing to cause loss of life and strike fear into the community at large’ and ‘symbolic or explicit reference to a political, social or religious cause‘, and broadly (although we disagree on the particular weighting of those factors), Scotty agrees. As shocking as the events in Woolwich were yesterday, I’m not sure that they are terrorist acts — to me, they are the act of fucking madmen. Again though, that’s not the point, we’re just setting the scene for what followed.
Send in the Clowns…
The Clowns source: telegraph.co.uk
The utter vitriol that has been spouted by these morons in the wake of these attacks has disgusted me — the cause of the rage which kept me awake last night. Reading their Twitter stream was like looking into Sauron’s eye – once I started, I couldn’t stop, with each swipe down my iPhone the anger grew and grew to the point of insomnia. Their response, usually in CAPS was ‘anybody who can — get to Woolwich now!’ — and like the Siren’s song they came. They came to fight the police and get pissed and attempt to vandalise places of worship and fight with ordinary citizens who were equally shocked and appauled at the actions of these two psychopaths as the rest of the country. They came to use such shocking events as a recruitment tool — engaging in the very tactics they supposedly despise when the shoe is on the other foot. If my Facebook and Twitter feeds are to be believed, it’s working, at least to some extent. The number of comments beginning ‘I’m not racist but…‘ and ‘I’m not being funny, but..’ was sickening to behold, as if those four little words allow the speaker to wash their hands entirely of any responsibility for what comes next.
I get it. I get that people are rightly outraged and sickened by what’s happened. I get that when crimes of such a magnitude occur, they engender feelings of anger and rage. I get that. The rage, however, is clearly misplaced. These people are standing at the top of a very slippery slope when they compare the actions of two men to the belief set of an entire religion, and with those four little words they have put the skis on and are headed straight down at pace.
When rage becomes misplaced like this, it begets a false sense of entitlement — “I can do X because I’m so angry at Y” and like the skiier flying down the piste, the steeper and more slippery the incline, the faster and faster the hate begins to snowball. This is how riots start, lest we forget. It is impossible to end in a good place when starting out like that — there are no positive solutions to that particular equation, and nor should there be. These morons come together under this false banner of entitlement, determined to let all the deficiencies in their character play their part in destruction, violence and, at its very core, racism. Dirty, nasty vindictive racism — as if there were any other kind – appears to have gripped the minds of these people and there is to be, in their minds at least, no turning back, no surrender. A siege mentality has been created, and opinions never wavering now — notwithstanding the fact that right now there’s never been a better time to be alive in all of human history, they still see the multicultural mix which has served to define Britain since the last Great War as the enemy.
You don’t speak for me…
Except they don’t say it outwardly — they claim ‘how can we be racist? Islam isn’t a race!’ — I don’t know whether I believe that anybody could be that deliberately obtuse as to really believe that can be true — we know that when ‘semantics’ is the base of your defense to charges levied against you that you’re probably in trouble and should just concede the point. We all know that — those with a modicum of intelligence and the merest soupçon of goodness in our hearts know that. But I’m not sure they do. And that’s why I’m weeping for the state of the nation.
There’s much work to be done and much goodness in Communities all around Britain, fighting against this kind of extremism, on both sides, but until there isn’t a reason for the EDL to be laughed at as roundly as the BNP are (cf Nick Griffin’s Newsnight appearance) then we still have problems. We’ll never be able to predict or prevent random attacks by psychopaths, not without giving up more liberty and democratic freedom than is good for us — but we can eradicate and irradiate the kind of irrational and illogical thinking which causes people to believe that the EDL is speaking for them. It starts with education. It starts now.
source: @MartinBelam on Twitter
Until next time,