Saturday, 14 November 2015

(Don't) Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before - The atrocities in Paris

It saddens me that that in the light of events in Paris I find myself having to post yet another blog post like this (Charlie Hebdo, ISIS, Lee Rigby murder). Social media is in meltdown with two types of reaction. Either that of political opportunism, (Bomb Syria, ban migrants etc), or that of sheer incomprehension and vapid pronouncements of solidarity.

1) These events are not beyond incomprehension
2) These events are not beyond words
3) These events, monstrous as they are, cannot be labelled and thereby dismissed as 'evil'; they are utterly ascribable to the hand of man.

If you want to show solidarity, inform yourself of the ideas and motivations that lead to events like this. Do not wring your hands uselessly and then throw those hands up in the air asking 'how?' Put in some work and you'll have a pretty good picture of how and why. Then and only then might both citizens and their politicians have a better idea for how to cope and deal with this threat.

I have never worked in the armed forces or the intelligence services. I am not an academic. I am not a politician or civil servant. I am just a citizen. For the 30+ years of my adult life, I have looked around me, observed my world and pursued my own study of the state of affairs in certain key areas. After 9/11, the Madrid train bombings and the suicide bombs on the London Underground, the area of Radical Islamic terrorism became one of those key areas for me. I read books (not newspapers). I educated myself. I tried to establish what the different voices and perspectives were saying whether I agreed with them or not. One of the problems with the response of social media is that no one is actually listening to anyone else, rather talking over each other. It absolutely behoves us to try and penetrate all the logics and rationales being advanced by everyone involved in these events. Because until you do, you will never understand what you are confronting.

I wrote a book in 2010 (published in 2011) about these issues. I traced some of the logic behind non-Islamic terrorism of the 60s and 70s, because terrorist logic remains largely the same. (1960s US dissidents/ domestic terrorists The Weather Underground coined the phrase 'bringing the war back home' through their campaign against US domestic targets to make the citizenry experience the same as the Vietnamese during America's military campaign there). I explored at length the depth of emotion behind suicide (domestic as well as ideological) because the theme of death and its ready acceptance is a key factor at work here. I traced the possible journey to radicalisation of your own citizens. And while I didn't predict ISIS and the establishment of the Islamic State, I did probe the notion of a Caliphate as an aspiration within some strands of radical Islam. Again, let me stress, I am not involved in any of the professions who might be involved in analysing such factors. But I did my reading. The book represents many different voices, but not as a mere cacophony, but with each strand untangled.

Read my book or don't read it (I'm not even putting a link to it here, that's not what this piece is about). Read non-fiction treatments as I did in order to end up being able to write a book on the subject. But please, no longer throw your arms up in uncomprehending despair. Arm yourself with knowledge, open up your ears to what the issues are here. Our nations can pull together and show solidarity by putting in the necessary work to inform itself and to help reach informed decisions. Incomprehension is no longer a defence, either in argument or in actuality to meet an armed threat.

Beheadings, suicide bombings, murdering civilians are not evil acts. Because to dismiss something as evil externalises it, makes it appear to originate from some unknowable, irresistible force, when it utterly and inescapably emanates from within men. Such acts are consciously calculated by its perpetrators for their impact. Terror acts are finely calibrated, for inducing fear in civilian populations to both get them to apply pressure to their politicians and to change their way of life; for the PR value in playing to the terrorists' own communities, fostering further recruitment; strategically to extend the war from far away in the Middle East to the cities of Europe, 'so they know what it feels like, so they live in the same state of anxiety'; ergo for revenge as well; to suggest the cause of the terrorists is very much alive and kicking and cannot be defeated... All this is not to say that there were also some impulses as well as ideas and objectives. The guys who shoot people in a concert hall enjoyed it. Guys who use rape as a weapon of war (against the Yazidis for example) enjoy it. Suicide bombers accept death. These are the impulses of serial killers and mass murderers. But unlike serial killers, even those who have some warped logic tying together their actions in their own minds as 'logical', these killers share and are united by their rationales. It is a collective mindset, unlike that of individual psychopaths. So although murderous & violating impulses are at play, they are dwarfed by their ideological motivations.

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