Friday, 20 November 2015

'Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair'

(I had, originally, planned to write a post on the continual humour of the 'principles and power' that the moderservatives [1] keep going about, but the horrible attack in Paris has changed that. What follows, instead, is a somewhat rambling piece covering my own political journey, ISIS (henceforth Daesh) and why the West is doomed. You have been warned.)

John Quiggin, a while back, noted how although stories of conversions from left-wing positions to right-wing positions is a reasonably common affair you don't often hear of stories that track the other way. Well, you can count me as one of the bizzaros who went right to left (admittedly I'm something of an outlier, having gone from right-wing lunacy to left-wing lunacy). A big part of the story of my conversions is the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the continuing fallout from that enormous clusterfuck.

Back when that all happened it had seemed right to me. Exciting even. Having spent days in school fascinated by war, the tales of glory of World War I and II, here was one about to happen. My lifetime finally had a deciding conflict, of good and evil. Except it didn't quite turn out that way. As time past it became apparent that, whilst Al-Queada were monsters, the West wasn't exactly good. We weren't there out of a genuinely humanitarian mission, but for ulterior motives centering around gaining power in the region. The government had actively lied to us with reports about weapons of mass destruction. It's certainly telling when defenders of these actions (such as Nick Cohen and the late Christopher Hitchens) have to retreat to the 'Saddam was vile fascist, so all of you opposing are fascist sympathizers' as the strongest case they can make.

On the back of that a healthy suspicion and dislike of government emerged, starting me down the process to becoming an anarchist (there's more to it than that, but this was the kick-off for the journey).

All of which leads to Paris. But it's not just Paris, of course, it's everything that now surrounds it. Daesh, as even Tony Blair himself recognizes, was a product of Iraq. Many people, I think, just don't understand how chaotic that country was. I see a number of people citing Graham Woods article on how Daesh are Islamic, very, very Islamic as the authority. And it is an interesting article, though not in the way Woods or the people who cite it think. It's used to support the idea that Daesh are really Islamic, so all the bad stuff results from that. And on some level this is true; the Qu'ran undoubtedly does contain passages that could be read in support of what Daesh does. But then I could pick up the Bible and find passages that support what Daesh does without too much trouble. No, the interesting thing about the article is that, aside from a brief part at the beginning and end, he's actually talking about politics; namely the competition between Al'Queada and Daesh.

The fact is I don't think many people really realize just how chaotic the Bush and Blair jihad, for that is what it was, into the region made the country. When in desperate circumstances people will turn to desperate measures and to people who seem to offer them a solution and a way out. Similarly with the youths who run away; they want to believe in something, or find an identity, so go to somewhere that promises to provide, like some people undoubtedly did when they ran off to join North Korea, or the Soviet Union. Like those people they probably regret soon after, when they realize its not much fun or even close to what they imagined it to be. Undoubtedly, as well, some of them are just horrible shits who have fun doing nasty things. But characterizing everyone that way won't help. There is, after all, a reason why we're often adverse to labeling things as 'evil'. It's a dismissal, not an explanation.

Of course this no longer matters a great deal. As has been made clear, anyone who so much as attempts to suggest that poor foreign policy decisions from the West played a role in this, and that Daesh is composed of something more than just nasty shits, will be told that they are excusing their actions. This is Cameron's solution to the problem he faces. Having always been embittered by the fact that he was halted from assisting Daesh is conquering Syria by bombing Assad he's now determined that, rather than come up with a better plan, he will instead close down debate by ensuring that anyone who speaks out is shouted down as a terrorist sympathizer. For this he will find support from the Blairites in the PLP, who've never forgiven reality for crushing the reputation of St. Tony the Wonderful under it's iron heel and have subsequently refused to engage with reality ever since.

This is, of course, what Daesh wants. They want us to clamp down on people, fuel divides, be paranoid. They want us to increase the conflict. Because they know full well that in a battle of values and ideals they'll lose. The way they win is getting us to go against our own values and drop the hammer of Thor on them. Because defeating people with military might, doesn't prove that our way of life is better than what they offer (as it certainly is); all it proves is that we have bigger and nastier weapons than they do. The lesson learned is that what they need is bigger and nastier weapons. So it goes.

This is our problem. Nobody is going to stop and think that maybe, just maybe, doing what Daesh wants is a bad idea. Maybe, just maybe, we should try and understand the situation and what gave rise to it before we act. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop taking The Lord of the Rings as our blueprint for foreign policy, with the notion that if we just defeat the Dark Lord in the Dark Land order will naturally restore itself, and instead take a lesson from V for Vendetta: that you can't kill an idea with guns. Only ideas can defeat ideas. That's why the crushing of Soviet style socialism was so total.

It's sad. Depressing. Despairing. I don't know how many more unfortunate people will have to die in Europe and in the Middle East before this is over. How many more lives will be disrupted and ruined before it comes to an end. How many more wicked groups will emerge and perform barbarities on others. But to think that it all could have been avoided had someone with power just for a moment said 'hang on, let's go over this again and make sure we do actually understand this and what we're going to be doing'. Even now, nobody is saying this. We'll just keep blundering into the same errors, over and over again, our own civilisation slowly cracking and crumbling, not because of terrorists, but because of us. Because, like children, we refuse to accept that we hold any responsibility, refuse to accept that we have anything to learn.

And that's a sickening thought.

[1] A portmanteau of 'moderate' and 'conservative'; it's the best appellation I've come up with to describe the 'moderates' of the Labour party

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