Once again we are faced with the dreadful murder of innocents in a European city, and once again, with, in the media, virtually the sole exception of Jeremy Corbyn, politicians and journalists jump to use the word “evil” to describe this heinous act. Really, this word is bandied about too much, and it has no meaning in this context. If such men are evil, then what of all the people who kill in armed struggle, the pilots who drop the bombs, or perhaps worst, the stone cold killers who order the launch and target of the drones that kill women and children almost every day and have done for decades?
The fact is, misguided, misinformed, and, as Salman Abedi surely was, cynically exploited by the imams and commanders of ISIS and suchlike terrorist organisations, and their online propagandists, I believe that in his confused and angry young mind, he, as all his fellow Islamic terrorist killers among us, sought to bring home to us the visceral reality of having bombs going off in our own communities, our cities, our places of entertainment, killing our innocents, and thus our innocence.
For all I know, he was in a bate about our venal love of the pleasures of the body, our banshee music, and chose his target on that basis. It doesn’t matter. What really set him apart, what laid him open to the blandishments of those cruel deceivers who encourage the desire in their followers to kill infidels, I am sure (though of course I have no proof) was that, even as a second generation Libyan Englishman, he was still an outsider, on the edge of the major society in the only place he knew as home. If you are the head of HR of a company in the UK (except all things IT), how many people of southern hemisphere descent are at the top of your list when recruiting? How often do you invite such people into your home, make friends?
Not that it surprises me if the answer is not much, nor that I am any different, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when multiculturalism was only just beginning to take root. It has taken more than half a century for West Indians to be seen as wholly British and part of the culture. Bharatis, Indians and Pakistanis, are close on their heels, their food has made it to the top of our national cuisine, and the subcontinent seems to provide the majority of our medical staff, and as said, there are loads of people from the sub-continent in the IT and media industries. But even as things progress (as they do, if erratically and slowly), everyone I have ever met or known well from those communities has stories to tell of racial rejection, and often enough out-and-out abuse. Most tell me they accept it with a shrug, unless it is personal or professional, in which case they are rightly indignant, but on the whole they’re used to it, sticks and stones etc. (Women have the same generally jaded expectation of male behaviour, but that’s a different subject).
This low-key, casual xenophobia need not be aggressive as such, and certainly in general doesn’t come close to the racial rejection any foreigner, not only European, gets in Japan or China or Africa, to name a few, but our media reportage, for instance, compounds the feeling that we simply don’t care as much as we should for the damage that is done in our names, when it is killing far-off Arabs and Afghanis, or Yemenis, or Syrians, or wherever modern weapons are turned on weaker fighters and the civilians who live nearby. Whole communities are being included in attacks against the terrorist threat, and as with the current assault on Mosul, it is civilians who suffer most of the maiming and dying.
But instead of seeing Manchester as a lesson to us of what is being done in those countries, we dismiss it as inexplicable, evil, the act of a madman (which it may well be, but that misses the point nonetheless), our journalists and politicians wring their hands and wonder how such people can sleep at night. Etcetera. But it is all too explicable, if never forgivable, and that applies to all sides.
Of course, as Irish politicians grew so fond of saying after leading us into financial ruin, we are where we are. Whatever the causes, there is a focused, organised, and well maintained campaign against the perceived enemies of Wahabbi Islam, and thank Whatever It Is or Isn’t, our security forces have been extraordinarily successful in foiling such plots. It is more difficult now to do their work and it should not be a surprise that this new breed of lone, internet-indoctrinated killer has arisen, ever since the Imam gave his order to use any means to hand to kill infidels, wherever and whenever you can. It is a testimony to humanity that a comparatively tiny minority of humankind takes up the cause. There are really very few people who will offer themselves in the futile struggle of these quasi-Islamic terrorists, when set against a world population of more than 7 billion.
Instead, take heart that the world is heading for secular government not theocracies, and the theocrats of Islam have no more chance of wielding great political power for much longer than the Roman Catholic Church had in the face of the capitalist revolution. I’ve written on this elsewhere, but the upshot is, in the capitalist revolution, we all become self aware of our economic and therefore political status, and that puts an end to people taking instructions from so-called moral leaders.
But until that day, we have a problem. Right now, as said, our rulers choose to deal with terrorism as they might deal with wasps at a picnic, but the only solution that I can see as viable in the long term must lie in preventing those sadly misled young men and women from giving their precious young lives to the dwindling legion of Islamic extremism. We need to start treating our settled immigrant population as equal citizens, our brothers and sisters, and not foreigners in their own land.
Jeremy Corbyn is up a tree as far as economics goes, and his wildly ambitious re-nationalisation programme is being so badly, not to say baldly, stated as to frighten the voters, but he speaks eminent good sense on the two futile so-called wars by which our governments keep us crouched down in fear, and waste our money and often our lives: the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. (I’ll get to drugs one of these days)
We need new thinking if we are to tackle the new world of technology, global community, the ongoing spread of information and disinformation, but above all, try to empathise with the devastating struggle of those weak, economically and socially deprived societies who even as I write this, are faced with the enormous destructive power of the heavily armed nations. We have to make a change in policy (this message too, goes to all sides).
As the Rev. Bruce Kent, erstwhile chairman of CND, once said, “A terrorist is a man with a bomb but no airforce.”