Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Come Back To Haunt Us

After events such as those in France last week, it's natural for people to feel anger. But when anger turns to rage, and rage spawns ignorance, we are in dangerous territory. In Europe, the parties of the Far Right are counselling ignorance. Michael Harris writes:

The leader of the Front National party, Marine Le Pen, is stoking the view that immigration is an “invasion” — a coinage of her father, the party’s founder, Jean-Marie LePen. Her ‘ban refugees’ message is aped by the leader of the United Kingdom Independent Party of Nigel Farage, and the Dutch Party of Freedom led by Geert Wilders.

Among other things, Le Pen wants to bring back capital punishment to protect what she calls the “countrymen.” Islam, she proclaims, is an evil ideology. Perhaps that’s why her father wanted Muslims expelled before they “took over” France.

Predictably, the Harper Right is also counselling ignorance. Enter Michelle Rempel:

Calling the opposition’s position “deeply ignorant,” (both the NDP and Liberals voted against the latest war in Iraq) Rempel went on to advise total ignorance in dealing with ISIL. Don’t bother trying to understand what happened, just experience the horror of it all. Channel the victims. Rempel’s advocacy comes down to this: kill the evil-doers before they kill us. Where have you heard that before?

Stop, for a minute, and consider where ignorance has got us:

After 13 years of the War on Terror, the Rempel Doctrine has given the world a fractured Iraq never far from civil war, a dysfunctional Afghanistan, chaos in Libya, horrendous civil war in Syria, excruciating pain in Gaza, and radicalized an even more vicious strain of fundamentalism that is so bad that it makes Al Qaida look moderate.

That ignorance is most evident in our refusal to consider history and the context that it provides. Eric Margolis, Harris writes, provides both history and context:

Starting with the premise that absolutely nothing justifies the savagery that took place in Paris last week – (and let me stress those words “absolutely nothing”), Margolis educates rather than incites. He points out that France has emerged as one of the most active interveners in the Muslim world, with military operations in Libya, Mali, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Abu Dhabi, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

And behind all that, there is of course the bloody legacy of Algeria, where liberation fighters were tortured by electro-shock occasionally with the assistance of psychiatrists. The French military presence has been so pervasive, Margolis points out that critics have accused the country of a new era of Mideast and African colonialism.

The old adage what goes around comes around applies now as it has always applied. Our problem is that we have forgotten what we sent around the first time. And we fail to understand why it has come back to haunt us.


mogs moglio said...

ya hey if Canadians French men Americans hell NATO would quit bombing the hell out the middle East perhaps we could have peace eh?

Owen Gray said...

It's a nasty situation over there, Mogs. But we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Lorne said...

No matter the appeals to reason and restraint, we seem fated as a species to make the same mistakes over and over and over again, Owen. The Harper regime will clearly exploit this tragedy to its fulllest political advantage.

Owen Gray said...

I keep returning to Mark Twain, Lorne. He understood our species -- its capacity for heroism and for foolishness.

ron wilton said...

My late Irish mother often admonished her children with a comment attributed to Jesus. If memory serves this Jesus fellow apparently said, "When I became a man, I put away my childish things."

I guess it was her way of telling us when we behaving badly,to 'grow up'.
I think we as children are long past time in heeding that advice, sage as it may have been, or not, but I do think as much as I enjoyed the mysterious presence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and all of me mither's Irish leprechauns, trolls under the bridge, banshees, boogeymen et alia, I think we would be better served if we all outgrew whatever fantastical beliefs in the various
parental given mythologies some of us, even as matured adults, revere so religiously.

Owen Gray said...

I'm told that my Irish grandmother used to proclaim, "There's always room for one more," Ron.

These days we seem to be finding reasons to keep people away from the table.

Askingtherightquestions said...

I think Mr. Harris has again concisely hammered it out... a willingness to react without knowledge or fore thought. We are NOT doomed to continually repeat the errors of the past if we are willing to reflect (Ask the Right Questions??) Was this not what the enlightenment was about? When ignorance goes unquestioned (a la Harpers "committing sociology"), we all suffer.

Perhaps what I find hardest to believe Owen, is that after 13 years and untold TRILLIONS of dollars (think the actual "wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the implementation of the war on terror - screening, logistics, facilities, salaries) there has been NO assessment of effectiveness. If you or I came up with such a plan (and such a poor ROI) would we not be laughed out of the board room?

Just askin'

Scotian said...

One could also argue this is as much about the ignorance of science as anything else. In science we understand everything interacts with each other, that actions inevitably have reactions (whether they are equal or not can be a whole other issue depending on what one is referring to, it goes well beyond Newton's law regarding equal and opposite reactions) and that one needs to constantly examine and re-examine ones hypothesis and understandings, especially when new elements occur. It is a whole conceptual framework alien it seems to the modern political conservative mindset (as compared to a more traditional one which used to not only grasp but embrace this sort of thinking and accuse the other side of being the ones unable to use reason, logic, and not being lost in ideological wonderland) in the western world, although I find it most intense here in NA (likely due to the rise and power of the religious right in the USA to dominant power).

One of the things that most infuriates me are those unwilling/unable to distinguish between understand/explanation and condoning/excusing when it comes to issues such as these. Little things like root causes are seen as issues to exploit instead of trying to have serious examination of serious issues. What really irks me are all those self proclaimed holy types on the Christian side going on and on about the evils of the violence these "mooslims" do, while failing to remember the words of their own holy book, violence begets violence when it comes to all that violence western forces have aimed throughout the Arab/Muslim world over the last several decades because of that little itty-bitty resource, oil. Again, not condoning this, just noting it as an inevitable end result of actions taken, same as noting what happens when one releases one pendulum ball in those multiple sets of five.

We used to take pride as Canadians in having these kinds of nuanced political discourses as a part of our basic nature, and we did so throughout the Cold War, which was a far more binary situation (and certainly far more dangerous given the weapons involved) of threat than anything we have seen in this so called War on Terror era. We need to return to that mindset, it was one of the ways we were most of service to the security of the world back then, and it is our best quality for the world today IMHO. Not to mention our own enlightened self interest as a nation for security.

Anonymous said...

My Mother said. "Good over evil." I wish I had remembered to ask her when? Harper is the devil himself.

Owen Gray said...

The Irish -- and your mother, Anon -- knew something about tyranny.

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Scotian, our present government has no intention of returning to that mindset.

It would mean "committing sociology."

Owen Gray said...

When you're sure you have the answers, Asking, why ask the right questions?