The New Zealand atrocity, following on the Kenyan attacks in January, highlight how we, all of us, continue to witness extremist violent actions. Sadly we now have another 50 dead atop of all the others directly and indirectly murdered in this or that cause. Add in the conflagrations appearing in the Indian subcontinent and the seemingly perpetual fight against terrorism in the Middle East and we see just how we are reaching new levels of numbness toward violence.
Both the New Zealand and Kenyan callous attacks brought forward talk of watch lists and pre-emptive intelligence, further increased security protocols at any places that may be targets.
Security guards at checkpoints with massive amounts spent on Harsco barriers protecting those who may be targets.
But have we not all become possible collateral damage in these acts of extreme violence?
Regularly it is political figures or symbols of political agendas being protected. Supposedly this is to protect people, institutions, working to address the issues driving extremism.
And yet too often these people are removed from the realities driving people into the arms of extremist exploiters of their frustrations and vulnerabilities and it is reflected regularly in how they propose reactions that are definitely not solutions.
The New Zealand attack showed extremism is multifaceted and multifarious; we are seeing a breakdown of our very social ethics.
We are all targets for what are becoming more and more indiscriminate attacks. Yes, the New Zealand attack was aimed at a particular religion. The reaction of the Jewish community in North America, reflected back, building on, the Islamic support following the Pennsylvania synagogue attack of October last year, was to immediately show solidarity.
Solidarity against extremist violence, but how do we build solidarity to forestall having to react to more war by stealth? To reinforce values of decency where there is respect and reciprocity as we all seek to build dignity — Dignity for ourselves, our families and the communities we identify with and in.
The point being made is we are creating the dystopian world these extremism want. Every action may not be designed to create these reactions; but it is happening.
A major issue is the inequities we now face where people are starting to realise their aspirations are not going to be met.
The American dream dying as power consolidates with the few controlling the means of generating astronomical wealth.
Brexit in the UK with people thinking they are ‘taking back control’ — of exactly what when they type on a computer made by a US registered company, manufacturing parts across Asia and assemble in China for the profits to go into this or that off shore bank account.
The disillusionment of social democracy as manipulation of simple voting leaves winners and losers as power is controlled politically and used to build economically.
The breakdown of community is fuelled by the sense of being targeted; regularly this targeting is designed to drive wedges between people living amicably, sharing a common desire to achieve for their families.
New Zealand and East Africa are starkly different. East Africa is, sadly, a place of violence; but much of it is not terrorism as set out by the USA driving an agenda under its ‘Global War on Terrorism’. Day to day violence is perpetrated in countless settings where headlines are not made. Latest reports emerging from South Sudan highlight not just deaths but the brutality of rape as a weapon further targeting women already, invariably, defenceless against rampant boys with guns.
However, it is not the headline grabber politicians want where they can espouse immediate actions against a few where extremism is being bred because of the failings to provide to the many.
Who are possible violent extremist?
Given the massive amounts of social media seeking to distort views, the people who can become perpetrators of violence are legend. In places such as South Sudan, when a level of impunity is itself a matter of criminal negligence, warring factions built on ethnic mobilisation carry out atrocities. This is repeated across much of the Sahel where fragile states fail to control their territories. Even in middle-income countries, there is an element of growing inability to hold people accountable for actions leading to a further breakdown in the rule of law. Contentiously, it is posited, this type of behaviour is being allowed to insidiously creep into the high-income countries where we have witnessed attacks on people because, for example, they use a language not of people’s liking. Examples of Roma speaking people attacked on London streets go alongside Hungarians attacking English speakers in Budapest — Attacked simply for ‘being different’ without delineating what is ‘the same’?.
New Zealand’s actions following the Christchurch massacre have shown how to unite and reflect we are stronger together. No mention of the gunman’s name or his agenda. Actions reflective of New Zealanders being New Zealanders. Actions to further control the means of killing and forestall extremism.
We have allowed our minds to be manipulated by the few seeking to plant a fear of the unknown. Like many others, I have been forced to embrace the unknown and lived to contemplate how we are to take forward our own selfishness in societies’ seeking panacea solutions. Writing as a person who has stood at the wrong of a gun, been bombed by aircraft, felt the percussion of bombs blowing up people in the name of this or that cause, watched fearfully as youths bundled through markets attacking innocent people and witnessed mob justice as repercussions happened against people; justice is swift and rarely without further consequences when adrenalin is pumping. Action creates reaction, extremist actions will cause extreme reactions, and the pendulum is swinging out of control.
Fear is a powerful thing, power without consequences is fearful.
Gisenyi — one of numerous refugee camps as a consequence of genocide. Social and environmental ramifications continue 25 years later
There are those in power who are calling for uniformity as means to control not as a way to have a core around which we can celebrate diversity. British people had collective belief, a uniform understanding, of common decency and being open to those who came and contributed to the furthering of the Great in Britain. Now we hear the refrains of terrorism, fighting extremism, without contextualising this against other risks for personal safety. Xenophobic blaming as an easy target rather than looking to work and building greater dignity for people being left behind with an ever diminishing capability to voice opinion or influence decision making.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely
What are the different groupings to be considered as breeding grounds for such extremism?
Does the answer lie with the manner we are acting supporting politicians who call for the propagation of violent acts in reprisal to extremism? Do they not see and realise the social malaise they have at home will be the breeding ground of more violence? How long before we see the deployment of armed forces on home (put in where ever you wish to call home) soil? Politicians will always find justifications to keep themselves removed from the harder work of delivery to people. Just ask Blair, Bush and Cameron regarding dropping bombs on Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria and providing armaments to whoever in perpetuating the Yemeni deaths and destruction rather than delivering tangible benefits on ‘education, education, education’ at home.
Without getting into the deeper points regarding the issues we are experiencing with social capitalism and democracy, the actualities we face are inequity and the projection of panacea solutions by politicians marketing themselves more than dealing with the realities we all face and we have elected, charged, them to deal with.
A quote from Edmund Burke ‘Make the revolution a parent of settlement and not a nursery of future revolutions’. Sadly, we are seeing a revolution in terms of how those in power seem to exercise power without living up to the commensurate responsibility. We have witnessed a rise of, shamefully, countenancing actions that do not fit to the logical processes fitting with constitutional or legal processes let alone the social norms of at least telling some truth in making political statements. Lies, lies and damn statistics as Churchill reinforced; now we see figures picked and quoted as if they were facts. Other times people do not question the veracity of figures and statements as they pander to their particular views and need for a panacea, easy, solution to what are very complex, interwoven issues.
It is against this backdrop where some people are picking elements of messaging and calls to action to justify their own ill informed and dangerous agendas. Not too much of a step to radicalisation and the mind manipulations of extremists who have people undertaking violent actions.
There should not be a revolution but the halting of the insidious slide of ignoring the rule of law and protocols has to happen.
There does need to a massive set of shifts in how we reinforce the institutions now constantly under attack. In the UK, key politicians, who have used these self same institutions to set up their part in the inequity, are now fuelling extremism with their disrespect of policy, protocols and the rule of law. Their garrulous rhetoric is reinforcing blocs and regularly instils calls to action a few individuals have taken to extremes. Theresa May is ridiculed as, insidiously, her incompetence and ineptness have allowed radicals to sponsor extremist behaviour. Tommy Robinson now has the biggest following of any active political figure; his propaganda has an underlying set of messages many more are reinforcing and exploiting.
In essence, extremism is everywhere and being fuelled by mainstream short-term thinking of people in positions of leadership no longer offering direction for the mainstream.
The Internet connectivity is offering niche appeal to ‘your’ views and opinions and hardening of positions rather than seeking the dialogue required to forestall the insidious slide.
A slide from activism to benefit society and radical thinking challenging complacency to the expounding and tautology of views people will use to justify zealous actions. Zealous actions leading to a fanaticism exploited by extremist manipulating the minds of those closed to social inputs. Extremists beyond social inputs and now with a narrow agenda driven to undertake desperate, harsh, appalling, violent, action.
No peace without justice
Social justice will only come with respect, by those in power, for all of us.
Not the pious condemnation of violent extremism from behind bulletproof glass and Harsco barriers while proposing, propositioning or inciting, directly or indirectly, yet more cycles violence propagating more extremism.