Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Delicate Flowers & Reasons to Live: Why IS will not be defeated by bomb & bullet.

When charismatic churches are on the look out for new recruits they energetically love bomb them into submission.  This practice involves the congregation enhancing the newcomer’s sense of self-worth making them feel better about themselves thus drawing them inexorably into the circle.  In a much less deliberate way football clubs engender among their supporters a sense of belonging but the analogy is in some respects a weak one.  Football clubs promise no more than the shared joy and sorrow of wins and losses.  They are bigger than the self but not universally bigger.  It is in this respect that there is unbridgeable divide between religious and secular communion.

Religiously motivated terrorism is the opposite of love bombing, it is, literally, hate bombing.  When gunmen rampage through Paris or Beirut or Sousse indiscriminately slaughtering the young for the sin of simply enjoying company, music and sport they send a simple message: the power of our belief and superiority is vindicated by your destruction.  Affirming power through life is undramatic often uncelebrated and, at its essence, defined by selflessness.  Declaring power through death, by contrast, is easy, spectacular and the most selfish act man is capable of.

We are better than the murderously misguided young men who drenched Paris in blood days ago but that is only because we make a choice and it is a choice that has to be made repeatedly.  Do we exhibit the supremacy of civilisation over barbarism by avenging every dead Parisian tenfold or even hundredfold?  Are those for whom IS holds a dark allure or the promise of something more than the dismal reality of their existence deterred or emboldened by retaliation?  Are the escalation of air strikes actually prompted by any strategy at all or are they simply a show of strength for voters and the media?

Nobody would dispute that the first responsibility of a government is security.   Only a fool would agitate against any action a government took that demonstrably increased security but as citizens we are entitled to an explanation of those actions.  Furthermore when those actions impinge upon our liberties or, much more seriously, the lives of others the government should be prepared to submit itself to the most searching scrutiny.

Dropping bombs is easy and it is dramatic: a visible action undertaken far away.  Determining why young people could countenance let alone act upon a desire to abandon families, friends, schools and jobs in a stable functioning democracy to join a murderous movement of misery hellbent on returning the world to the Middle Ages is far harder and is not the stuff of headlines.  Yet killing the allure of IS will surely not be achieved by the sword but by sowing more fertile seeds in those young minds.

Meanwhile what are we the private citizens to do?  The most useful thing we can do is prevail upon our governments not to shed blood like a butcher in anger but only, when absolutely necessary, like a surgeon cutting out a tumour.  We need also to realise that the merits of civilisation can not be detonated in a display of shock and awe.   Instead civilisation is a delicate flower that has taken centuries to take root and flourish and it must never be forgotten that some of its earliest roots spring from the very part of the world that vexes us now.  If we focus our energies and hearts on propagating civilisation then we will not succumb to the terrorists’ provocation.  What young man would choose death if his life was really worth living?

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