Saturday, July 09, 2005

London 4 

Update 1: Our British correspondent, writer Phil Craig, reports from a London bus:
It's hard to sit here without picturing the double-decker with its roof peeled off. But people are getting on with it. Virgin Radio is playing a series of audience requests -- 'I'm Still Standing', 'I Get Knocked Down Then I Get Up Again', and even -- in history's first recorded use of a Blondie song as a counter-terrorism anthem -- 'One Way or Another...I'm Going To Get You'.

I switch to BBC Radio Four and the momentary euphoria fades. To the cheers of the British middle classes in some suburban Town Hall, pop producer Brian Eno is explaining how we brought this on ourselves because 'We allied ourselves to America, which has done nothing but destroy liberty and antagonise Moslems'.

'Which Moslems?' I want to shout. 'The millions who voted in Iraq, the millions more who yearn for our freedoms in Iran, or who marched so bravely in Beirut?' Of course not. He means the ones he had read about in the Guardian and the Independent. But I'm sad to say that Eno reflects what most of my left-of-centre TV friends have been saying for years. How did the poison ever go so deep into the British Intelligencia?

Still, Hitchens is on fire in the Daily Mirror, that old tabloid stalwart of the British popular left that has abandoned Bush-bashing for a couple of days.

What are Eno and the other antiwar writers and pop stars really doing? Grovelling at the feet of those who despise the culture that he and I and everyone else on this bus love, the one we celebrated in Hyde Park on Saturday, a thousand years ago. And the people who blew up the tubes and buses yesterday? They despise that world -- his world -- of fun, freedom, hope, love, sex, drugs and rock n roll. I switch back to Virgin and I find myself whispering along [I'm British after all] to the Clash:

'London calling to the faraway towns,
Now war is declared - and battle come down'.

Please make it true.
And one other thing, when we talk about grievances. Whenever this issue is raised by the "But" crowd ("Terrorism is bad, but..."), there is a large (very large; the size of an elephant in a room) and unspoken assumption being made that the grievances voiced by the terrorists, presumably on behalf of the larger community, or at least used by them as excuses for their actions, are legitimate. The assumption is unspoken because that saves the trouble of actually analyzing and judging the claims made on us by others, as well as the implications of these claims. It is, arguably, partly a result of the continuing haunting of the Western intelligencia by the specter of the noble savage ("the other" is virtuous, therefore always rights), combined with a fair dose of moral relativism (cultures are different but equally valid; who are we to judge?), and generously sprinkled with some lingering post-colonial guilt.

So what of the demands? Palestinian state is a fine idea, but what if it turns out to be yet another dysfunctional cleptocratic dictatorship? What is the end here - the statehood or the plight of the people? Besides, terrorists are not agitating for the two state solution - they want one state, Palestinian one, from Jordan to the Mediterranean, with Jews one way or another gone. Is that the acceptable outcome? After all, that's what the people want. And if these particular occupied territories should be returned to the Muslim people, what about all the others like East Timor or Spain? And if not, then why not, since Muslims have as good a claim on them as they have on Palestine?

End of the Western occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is also a fine idea, but the only viable alternative is the return to Baathist fascism or Taliban theocracy or a combination of both. Is this a good thing? What about the people - why should they be condemned to continue to live in hell? - surely not because they want it, because they don't, no more than we would want to live under Hitler or Stalin; surely not because that's "their" culture, because I always thought that the left stood for universal human values; and surely not because unless they can change their plight themselves they "deserve" to live under despots - the left is never this callous to the plight of the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged at home, so why should it be to those in other countries?

And what of other claims - should Kashmir become a part of Pakistan? Should southern Philippines become a separate Muslim state? Or southern Thailand? Or western China? And if that's the case, why shouldn't Lebanese Christians have a country of their own? Or Christians and animists in southern Sudan?


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?