Saturday, 16 July 2016

Now, here's the way I see it.

In the space of a few moments you can find out how many people have died as a result of acts of violence against civilian populations which fit the current description of Terrorism. Here’s a list of place names that have suffered the worst events so far in July:

Nice, Baghdad, Dhaka, Al-Haskeh, the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi and Aleppo.

At least 560 people have been killed in these six events, the vast majority being civilians. All of these deaths will be the result of nation states taking actions which had foreseeable consequences. To suggest that “no-one could have predicted what would happen when x did y” is not usually factually correct. To suggest that the violence we see today around the globe is not the result of the activities of nation states such as the USA, Russia, Britain, China and France is to deny all the evidence that history provides us with. It is banal, mundane and obvious. That does not stop our rulers and their mouthpieces from denying that it is the case.

Violence on an industrial scale is now the norm. The First World War made it clear enough. The Second World War showed how the process could be refined and made more efficient and varied. The Nazi Blitzkrieg, the Allied Bombing Campaign, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And the rest. The USA, Russia, Britain, China and France manufacture and sell weapons of remarkable complexity, sophistication and brutality. These weapons are being used each and every day to bring about the deaths of perfectly peaceful human beings. The situations in which they are used are the result of centuries of exploitation by a comparatively small, wealthy and powerful number of humans who are unconcerned by the steady deluge of murder.

In the 1950s, in his book The Future of Mankind, Karl Jaspers described how the USA and the West had to prevent the USSR from spreading its totalitarian regime across the globe. According to him, the resistance of totalitarianism was more important than the continued existence of the human race, since what good is being alive without freedom? Read today it seems naïve to suppose that the regimes of the West are any less totalitarian than that of the USSR. To suppose that totalitarianism must always take the form of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia is to have a distinct lack of imagination. The tools of repression and coercion are many and varied. The West exports its more homicidal tendencies to the places that it needs to exploit to acquire the raw materials necessary for its continued survival. Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Saddam Hussein, Nicolae Ceausescu were, one supposes, staunch supporters of freedom. Unless you happened to be from the country they were ruling. Export repression, import liberty.

North Africa and the Middle East are where we can look today to see the results of this process. The effort to secure control over oil supplies and markets for weapons has not been entirely without incident. Whether these bumps in the road are intentional or not does not diminish the opportunities they present. Given the willingness of nations to send millions of people to their deaths in the 20th Century it would take a remarkable amount of optimism to suppose that this tendency has somehow vanished. To suppose that governments would actually try to take rational steps to end the relentless, grinding, pulverising hell of it all is to suppose that they would do something that was not in their best interests. It is worth bearing in mind that your best interests as a peaceful citizen do not entirely correspond to your government’s best interests (as if you imagined that this was not the case).

Is it entirely mad to suppose that events such as we have just seen in Nice are as necessary to the process as the atrocities in Baghdad, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen and all the rest? If the threat of violence was not felt as keenly as it is, would it be possible to continue the brutal exploitation of the rest of the world under the guise of protecting a country’s own population? At the height of the colonial period the domestic populations of the colonial powers would be either ignorant of the oppression and murder which was perpetrated by their country or sanguine about it due to ideologies of racial superiority. Now that ignorance is harder to maintain (although not that much harder) there needs to be another justification for a country’s actions, justifications such as acting in self-defence when attacked by an enemy nurtured and strengthened by the same country’s activities. And this is not a suggestion that vast conspiracies are at play behind the scenes; everything is there to see if you look.

Terrorism is not the result of some infernal immaculate conception. The terrorist attacks which have been the dominating narrative of the 21st Century so far are not without cause. The solutions so far have failed, demonstrably so. It is banal, mundane and obvious. When the next attack happens, wherever that happens to be, it is highly unlikely that the response will be anything that has not been tried so far. The certainty is that more people’s worlds will come to an end as the result an elite who are unaccountable, inaccessible and above the concerns of you and me. It is to be hoped that at some stage, before humanity succeeds in murdering itself entirely, this state of affairs will change.