Without a doubt, we live in a state of heightened ‘awareness’ of terrorism. Even a cursory glance of the headlines will read stories of people being terrorized by this group of that.
In much of the response to the terrible events in Paris recently, there was much written about the causes of these despicable acts – provocation by a cartoon, colonial overtaking by the West over Islam, disaffected youth, lone wolves – the list goes on.
As I look around, and this is my personal opinion, by looking at the causes of terrorism, one only gets half the picture. Take a car for example. You can investigate how a car was made – its design features, the welds of the joints, the stability of the bolts. You can find out a great deal about a car by looking at how it was made, but it does not answer why the car was made. Of course, we know cars were made to
pick up chicks take us from point a to b, then back again.
If you look at terrorism over the ages (and there are countless examples from different races, cultures and religions), the goal was never just do to something violent. Sure, there are nutcases that get kicks out of being idiots, but the violent acts were not just because a group of people wanted to blow stuff up. There was an end in mind. A change in government. Toppling a regime. Political revenge. The list goes on.
For every violent act of terrorism, there’s a stack of non-violent things happening, but for the same ends. Subtle things. Things that, on their own, you really couldn’t give two hoots about. It could be a label on your Vegemite to say it’s ok for certain people to eat. Perhaps it’s your local pool having nights were women from a particular group to swim on their own. Maybe it’s someone from people group A going to a school run by people group B, and saying they don’t like the cultural symbols of people group B (and asking them to be removed, because they are offensive).
It’s said that evolution is incremental changes over time. Responses to changes in environment, predators, or nutrients all bring about changes in a species. For a species to continue, it must either get stronger or smarter than the opposing force.
We were all shocked by the events in Paris, and rightly so. Like many others, these nutcases that did these horrible things are NOT representative of most of the Muslims living peacefully throughout the world. Many commentators, myself included, believe that events like this, because of a cartoon like this, would NOT happen in Australia. Why? Because there probably would not be a mainstream Australian publication that would publish similar cartoons as those in Charlie Hebdo. Legally, it seems, we’ve lost our ability to offend, and be offended.
For everything we do to change and adapt (tolerate!) to a certain minority, we lose a bit of ourselves. That’s not adapting to a change in our environment. It’s allowing a little more of what we hold to be true to be lost. Make no mistake. There are people and groups out there that HATE liberty, democracy, equal rights and the freedom of speech. Every time we make a special dispensation for a group, we tell ourselves that they deserve something different. We chip away at egalitarianism. Whenever we shut our mouths at the things that offend us, we’ve already lost half the battle.
Terrorism is a despicable act. It incites fear with the innocents. It makes people thing twice about doing the everyday things. Going to a cafe. Scribbling a cartoon. Going to work. Isn’t that what ‘tolerance’ does, though? Make you think twice about having that thought. About writing that tweet. Saying that joke. Asking out loud if parts of a culture, religion or belief are actually compatible with Western ideals?
The aims of terrorism is to change something. It turns liberty into fear, democracy into restriction and free speech into the restriction of speech. It wants to replace what is, with something else.
When the next act of terrorism occurs (and there will be a stack more), think to yourself not what caused it. Offences are caused every day, and the retaliation isn’t a bomb in a cafe. Hurt is caused all the time, and the result isn’t a knife to the neck. Provocation is dealt out hourly, but the result isn’t taking an automatic weapon into a news paper and wasting a stack of people. Think about what the terrorist is trying to achieve – an environment friendly to their thoughts, beliefs and ideas. The next time you think about saying something ‘in polite company’ about your misgivings about a culture, a set of beliefs or a system of ideals, think ‘why are you holding your tongue’. In that moment, you’ll realize that those committing violent acts and those promoting tolerance both want the same outcomes – silencing critique; totalitarianism, submission to a set of ideals and the removal of your personal liberty.