Wednesday, 1 September 2010

One For The Good Guys

I don't think we can assume that convincing 100% of the world population not to cross over to the "dark" side is doable, or that there is a foolproof way to nip those that do or want to in the bud (although here in Canada, CSIS and the RCMP seem to have their fingers deep enough in enough pies to feel a pulse of a threat and foil it), or even that everyone will be able to honestly view this side as "dark". Neutrality and freewill are not acknowledged in the dominant discourse about terrorism, threats, bad guys, and general war-mayhem type stuff we're supposed to be all riled up about, and prejudiced subjective opinions are whats passing for journalism on the matter these days.

Hot on the heels of the recently foiled terrorist plot in Ottawa, the Canadian public could count on interpretation and analysis to follow in the columns of the two snippy upper class middle aged pillars of public morality at the Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford and Margaret Wente. They could also count on the Globe, for all its past high-flying editorials pleading for press freedom and transparency elsewhere, to immediately disable the comments. They don't mind printing opinionated musings about why muslims, and now Canadian-born muslims, are terrorists, which they are in their right to publish in a society that values free speech, but they are presumably worried about threats from anti-islamic trolls and anti-strong women columnist trolls alike. The authors' pieces, then, must be critiqued in the court of this blogspot blog.

Exhibit A
was about who we are dealing with, what we are dealing with, and why we are dealing with it. Blatchford informed us of the cold hard legal facts - in the closet full of circuit boards terrorism ring, we are dealing with a 30 year old former halal butcher employee welfare recipient mastermind, a doctor, a pathologist, and a fourth suspect. I didn't bother looking into which one was the former Canadian idol contestant. A part that stuck with me was when there were veil clad muslim women having vigil outside the courtroom, and one of them pushed a Canadian journalists' camera away saying she has no morals. Well, she could have had some manners - "Excuse me, could you please not photograph me?".

These suspects were born right here at home yet were a threat in this war far away in a country where most Canadians have never been and will never go to, where 130+ Canadians have perished at the hands of the same Improvised Explosive Devices that these guys were intent on manufacturing. The author claims this shows that despite our best efforts to, some people have not moved on after 9/11. Namely, Muslim Terrorists, who are still out for blood. What is Blatchford's point? That a 21 year old was fighting in Afghanistan over 9/11 and died from IEDs that his own countrymen were manufacturing. Maybe. Yet, I have a hard time mustering up any worry about any immediate threat to my personal security. I know the subtext - that our lax immigration, lax security, naivete about muslims and unwillingness to force them to "integrate" are the villains that created this situation. Mark Steyn will be writing about it in Macleans next month, with an ironic sense of humour, as conservative bloggers everywhere no doubt already have, sans humour. Unlike most people, they are very, very concerned about this.

Over at Exhibit B, in Wente's column, we are perplexed that Canadian born and raised, integrated, successful people could be involved in the planning of a terrorist attack. The typical accepted root causes of terrorism - poverty, marginalization, and living in mountains surrounded by goats and never reading anything but the Qu'ran - do not apply in this case. Which leads Ms. Wente to ask, in a frustrated way, how we could combat such a phenomenon that regular citizens could now apparently be seduced by. She feels that what ails the stereotypical terrorist recruit can be combatted with resources, but if it has appeal among such unsuspecting suspects, what is a society to do? What a great question to ask. It's about as easy as answering questions about god and the afterlife.

I have a hard time figuring out who these women think is stupider - their readers or the alleged perpetrators? Their value judgements are atrocious. Yes, the vast majority of their upper middle class Canadian readership will probably concur with them, but to assume that (terrorism) this is something that can be fought/defeated/intellectually debunked is both pretentious and unrealistic. It presupposes that terrorism is a unified structure you can somehow wage war against. Other false assumptions are that all terrorists are inherently stupid, they are all inherently evil, and that you have to be muslim to be a terrorist.

It is precisely this kind of generalizing that leads us back to nowhere other than "You're with us or against us" and other non-starter prepositions that place humanity into good and evil, right and wrong, virtuous and selfish, WASP and Middle-Eastern. These women clearly do not want to admit that these men weren't stupid, even though their little popular mechanics for islamic martyrs club got shut down. Just like Osama and Moqtada Al-Sadr and Hassan Nasrallah the Ayatollah and Kim Jong-Il are not stupid. These guys know exactly what they're doing. And every time they do something, they calculate the corresponding level blustering rhetoric that's going to come out of Western Leaders, which are then transmitted to the population by the media in layers of bonus indignant editorials and scolding columnists, to say nothing of Michael Savage and his ilk to the South gleefully calling the president a muslim and fanning the flames of intolerance over the ground zero mosque debacle. Slowly, over time, it seeps into the collective consciousness that there are "good guys" and "bad guys" and the good guys need to just buckle down and make the world good for everybody once and for all. In academia and in the foreign policy community, these people are called "hawks". And they want you to believe people doing bad things are part of an entity to be defeated, which we are patently superior to. They must be stupid. They hate us. They want to hurt us.

No, what is stupid is saying these guys are stupid. These guys are not stupid. These guys are well-read, international financiers. They may be eccentric, reprehensible, vile, or islamic fundamentalists, but mayhem and trouble making and killing people does not make them stupid. To hold our civilization, or any civilization in such esteem to say anyone who opposes it is a frothing at the mouth, insane lunatic is to be intellectually dishonest and overly optimistic. Intellectually dishonest in thinking it is impossible to be cold, calculating, ruthless and evil incarnate all at the same time, and in falling for Hollywood's best efforts that these guys always lose. Overly optimistic in thinking you could somehow police the entire world to ensure nobody got any terroristy ideas ever.

Could it be that men and woman act autonomously and behave and decide what to do with their lives as autonomous, rational individuals? Does blood still run thicker than water, or do we have in 2010 the reasoning power to talk ourselves out of loyalty to king and country and homeland?

Well, I'm not going to try to answer that, and I'm not going to generalize. I believe people act for both reasons. I'm just trying to talk, to get a break from hearing the chorus of middle aged columnists in the West dismiss this possibility of freewill entirely again and again. Like, there is no magic equation that is going to figure out why a guy can sing Avril on Canadian Idol and wage jihad. That's why the first headlines said "absurd". People cannot understand how somebody could end up like this, so they just criticize, complain, and launch veiled speculations about what we'll do now that were really not able to trust muslims anymore jumping over to the dark sidem especially when they're becoming more and more integrated and even successful Western ones are waging jihad.

It is difficult to say what makes people sympathize with causes, and even more to predict how far they are willing to go in pursuit/defence of that cause. What made Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell so passionate about the Spanish Civil War to get involved, in a dangerous fight they had no skin in? (They were Republican sidesympathizers, while U.S. companies provided machinery and fuel for the Fascists who eventually won the conflict). In Les Bienveillantesby Jonathan Littell a high ranking Nazi is a Brit who becomes naturalized German. A character in the Nazi regime in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is American. Although the characters are fictional, they are believable. Everyone wants to think there were millions like Tom Cruise in Valkyrie now who knew exactly what was going on and firmly opposed Germany in WWII, but many people knew and admired what they were doing, including (again) US business. Loyalty shifts with goals and priorities - the character Paul Atreides in Dune is a noble heir to a Duke who is supposed to colonize the Fremen for their natural resource, spice, but ends up "going native" and leading them to victory. The betrayals, in all the cases, are grand and shocking, yet represent something which is clearly within our human range of abilities, and the success of these books attest to people being able to relate to that theme.

It's maybe because of my fascination with these stories of shifting loyalties and adopted patriotisms that I find the whole argument to nowhere that muslims are more of a threat ridiculous. There is no way to prove this, and there is also no going back to our society's pre-islamic stage. There's a ton of them, they are everywhere, and you cannot round them up to protect public safety. To do so would be fascist. And look how far ahead two multi-trillion dollar wars have got the west, if it really is that concerned about building "relations" and "goodwill" with them.

Any man has the ability to wreak serious havoc if he puts his mind to it. And Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber did. What about that white Australian dude who was in Guantanamo? I want the media to stop talking about crime perpetrated by muslims as if it has more gravity or represents something more sinister that we have to be "vigilant" and cannot afford to be "complacent" about. You'll never see an article on this subject without those phrases. I wish they could talk about things that actually mattered with the same fervour.

Last weekend, an Israeli settler rabbi said Palestinians were horrible people and should all die in his sermon. Meanwhile, I know a Jewish man who now devotes all his time to being a hardcore Palestinian activist. People think the Dalai Lama is the nicest dude in the world, the Chinese openly call him a terrorist. Russia turned Chechnya into a parking lot under the pretext that it harboured "terrorists". This type of behaviour reinforces stereotypes and justifies ethnic violence and more terrorism. Same thing with the Tamils who I talked about in the last blog. The hysteria that marked the beginning of the previous decade (and that got us nowhere) cannot and should not be repeated in the event of more attacks, but of course they will because they are already now. We have to have confidence in our spy agencies to keep doing such a good job spying on everybody, and remember to keep cool heads if anything ever happens. Anyone can be a terrorist, and by continuing to draw lines between good guys and bad guys in our minds, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of almost ten years ago. Which is what the "manipulators" I mentioned above, the Al Qaedas and rogue states of this world really want. I'm not going to give them the satisfaction of calling them bad guys, nor the satisfaction (for this is what they surely wish for) of me calling myself and thinking of myself as a "good" guy.


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