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Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Manchester Attacks Should Cause Major Changes. Anything Less Means No Justice.

Over the past few years, the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks have caused increasing levels of anger and frustration among the good people of the Western world. After each attack, we hope and pray that it would be the last, and that some miracle would happen to save us from having to see any more. But that miracle never comes. The Manchester attacks have caused a particular sadness and anger in many people, because many of the victims were children. Only the most evil and depraved beings (I won't use human here because they are not) would even think of doing something like that. While many people have sadly become sort of numb towards terrorist attacks in recent years, the Manchester attacks have shocked us out of our dangerous complancency, because it begs a fundamental question. If the West cannot even guarantee the safety of its children, what values does it still stand for?

Given the gravity of the situation, many of us demand major changes. Major changes in the way we, as a society, talk about the situation we are in. Major changes in government policies aimed at bringing an end to the terror threats. And yet, those major changes have not happened. The way our leaders seem to go on their business as usual almost makes me miss George W. Bush. At least he appeared serious enough about the need to tackle terrorism (even though he probably wasn't, in reality). Compare that to Donald Trump, who doesn't seem to have done anything much about the biggest issue of our time having already spent more than four months in office. I will not mince my words here: from what I see, Donald Trump is not strong enough on terrorism. The 'Make America Great Again' crowd needs to stop giving him a free pass on this issue.

Our cultural leaders and commentators aren't much better, though. While many have shown great passion for tackling climate change, the same cannot be said about tackling the threat of terrorism. While climate change may cause losses of life decades down the track, terrorism has already caused many deaths to date. If there is an urgent need to address climate change (and I believe there is), why isn't there an even more urgent need to address the terror threat? Can you seriously look into the eye of a mother who has just lost her daughter, and tell her that terrorism is a less important issue than climate change?

Here are three major changes I would like to see. It's the very least we can do at this point in time.

We Need to Talk About the Issue of Racism and Disaffection
Many experts have said that the perception of racism and disaffection among young Muslims living in the West is driving them towards radicalisation.

I agree that we have to address the racism and Islamophobia that is present in our communities. It is not OK to discriminate on the basis of race or religion, ever. In addition, it is not OK to dismiss the religious practices of ethnic minorities. For example, non-Muslims should refrain from commenting on headscarves, let alone calling for restricting their use. Governments and politicians should also follow these rules: don't ever behave like former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

On the other hand, the campaign to increase the perception of racism everywhere needs to be stopped. If the perception of racism is an important driver of radicalisation, causing people to see racism where there is none would potentially lead to more radicalisation. Moreover, promoting divisive theories in a time where we need to be united against an existential threat like terrorism is really inappropriate and irresponsible. We probably need to let go of things like microaggression theory and cultural appropriation theory, if just for the sake of our collective safety.

We Need to Talk About the Causes of Terrorism Frankly
The racism of the far-right and the political correctness of the far-left have both served to muddy the waters, when it comes to talking about the causes of terrorism. The far-right would like to paint all Muslims with the same brush, in order to justify their exclusionary outlook. On the other hand, the far-left would like us to tip-toe around the fact that some people appear to be born with an inclination towards evil. Both approaches are not helpful. We need to be able to frankly discuss the causes of evildoing. There appear to be both causes related to society, and causes related to personal factors.

We Need to Prioritize the Fight Against Terrorism. All of Us Together.
I understand that we all have things that we care about the most. For me, it is the concept of liberty and the twin ideals of liberalism and libertarianism. But still, we need to be able to unite in the fight against terrorism, whatever our creed. I remember that, post-911, the Western world was able to do that for a while. Why can't we bring that back?

No matter where you are in the West, you would have noticed a return of the protest culture of the 1960s and 70s in recent years. 2017 in particular has seen many mass protests, with the Women's March being perhaps the most famous one. Why can't we also have a march in solidarity against terrorism? Right or left; white, black or brown; gay or straight; male or female; Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, everyone should be welcome in such a march.