Friday, 15 February 2008

Soft Spot?

LONDON (Reuters) - Multicultural Britain is a "soft target" for terrorist attacks because its aims, values and political identity are divided, a leading defence think-tank said on Friday.

In a report strongly rebutted by the government, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said: "We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."

The report, based on the findings of former military chiefs, diplomats and analysts, concluded: "The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy."

"The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity," the RUSI report said.

"That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate.

"This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority, which, in misplaced deference to multiculturalism,' failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism."

Labour MP Keith Vaz said the report was wrong to blame multiculturalism for fostering terrorism."I think one of the problems with this report is that they've not actually looked at our multicultural society to see what benefits it has given the country. It hasn't been a soft touch for terrorism," he told BBC Radio.

What an interesting little nugget of journalistic gold this turns out to be. The responses to this will be interesting. On one hand we will have Daily Mail readers and the like, rubbing their hands in glee, crying “Yes! Yes! We were right! Multiculturalism is terrible!” On the other we will have “public” organisations (highlighted by Keith Vaz (who I’ll come to later)) like the Government who will decry the study as hogwash.

The study reveals a two-fold truth about modern British society. The great experiment of multicultural Britain has not worked. This is a fact. I have written about it several times in the past, and I do not believe that having tolerance and diversity shoved down our throats, endlessly highlighting everyone’s differences and foibles while ensuring that no dares upset anyone else, is not bringing the people of the (allegedly) “United” Kingdom any closer together as a people. Quite the opposite. It is driving us apart. The religious become ever more cocooned within their faiths, immigrants are not tasked with having to fluently speak the language of the land (resulting in them keeping to extremely insular native speaking groups), the mention of skin colour always comes in the most sickeningly apologetic fashion, and no white straight married English born father dares even open his mouth any more on any subject other than sport or cars. Even talking about other white people can cause outrage these days, with Wales or Scotland having semi-constant chips on their shoulders about some barely existent television “personality” (a contradiction in terms in most cases) cracking a joke about them. The only thing that the Union is still in a majority agreement over is that they all still hate the French. (And I disagree with them on that).

But the overlords in Whitehall continue to press ahead with their dogma. If no one ever feels hard done to, no one can ever be upset and thus we’re a good Government (putting aside the massive distrust, regular scandals, civil liberties infringement, culture of spin and general incompetency that they have come to embody under Blair & Brown). This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, it is only minorities that seem to be privileged to this kind of protection. Take for the example, the uproar caused over “Jerry Springer: The Opera” being broadcast by the BBC. Christians hated it. Plenty of people (and many prominent public figures) said “Get over it, change the channel and shut up.” Now, contrast this with the furore over the Jyllands-Potsen Muhammad cartoons. I didn’t hear a single public figure utter a peep. No one in a prominent position said – as they should have – “Get over it, don’t read the paper and shut up.” The spineless Jack Straw even had it outlawed for British papers to reprint the cartoons, fearing it might upset or offend British Muslims. France, Germany and plenty of other civilised nations reprinted them in protest. They made it clear to anyone who was protesting against free speech and freedom of artistic expression that it wasn’t going to wash in their land. So why the British climb-down? Why did the British not care about upset Christians, but wet the proverbial bed over angered Muslims?

Diversity. If no one ever feels hard done to, no one can ever be upset and thus we’re a good Government.

My opinion is that both groups should have shut up because they’re outraged based on a belief system that not everyone else shares, so it’s tough luck. (Blasphemy in a religion only applies to followers of that particular religion. Jews don’t call Christians blasphemers for eating pork, so Christians shouldn’t call atheists blasphemers for saying there is no God). The outcome of both debacles however, was this: Christians who were outraged felt that the establishment didn’t care about them, so withdrew just a little bit more from an active role with non-Christians. Rational Muslims who were upset over hardline radicals calling for the beheading of infidels felt that the Government was pandering to nutcases and withdrew just a little bit more from an active role with non-Muslims.

Another good example would be the Government sponsored rebranding of “Islamic terrorism” to “violent extremism”. Now, if it was a group of non affiliated Arabic psychopaths who were threatening to kill people, who were being unjustly branded as Muslims just because they’re Arabs, I would understand. The problem here is that the psychopaths trying to kill innocent people ARE Muslim. Just as we would call the Westboro Baptist Church (God Hates Fags/God Loves Dead Soldiers) lot Christian nut jobs/fundamentalists/psychos we have to call these Muslim nut jobs/fundamentalists/psychos the same thing. They read and follow the teachings of the Qur’an -they have an extremely literal interpretation of it, but they still read and follow its teachings – they pray five times a day, they believe that Allah is the one true God and that Muhammad is his Prophet. They are Muslims. Insane Muslims, but Muslims non-the-less. You cannot change what you are calling them just because it may upset the vast majority of Muslims that are not psychopaths. That distances them from confronting the fact that these people come from an extremist branch of their religion, and are speaking on behalf of all of them. It is their job to be openly critical of them, condemn them and do something about them as much as it is a Christian’s job to be openly critical and condemning and do something about the WBC pigs.

Of course, whenever multiculturalism gets bought up, the first thought into someone’s head/topic of conversation is Islam, because it is the hot topic with most coverage. I have just provided a perfect example of this as my last three paragraphs focussed on nothing but. However there are other aspects that disprove or affirm multiculturalism (depending on your perspective). Britain’s Indian and Chinese communities (I will not refer to their specific religions because it is only the monotheists that feel the need to do so), have been here for decades. Never a peep was made from them about their objection to having to work in a shop that sells beef. Never was a drive made by public services to print information on signs in their native language. Never was the word “diversity” or “multiculturalism” used. Granted, racism was tolerated a lot more throughout society, and they should never had had to live with that, but throughout the late eighties and nineties, when racism was regarded as the vile filth that it is, there was never, ever a problem between the Government or the communities. Everyone managed to live together side by side, black, white, brown, yellow, green, whatever.

So what was different then? Differences were not harped on about, emphasised and celebrated all the time, that’s what. There were no quotas for employers to ensure that a certain per cent of their workforce was of a specific ethnicity (the concept of institutional racism is difficult here, but employers should be tackled on why their workforce is the way it is, not made to hire a specific number irrespective of their eligibility), there were no lawsuits against Tesco making sure that Hindus didn’t have to handle beef at the checkout. They understood the way things were, and if they didn’t like it they didn’t do it. That is multiculturalism working. Just left to do its thing, no complaints, everyone being able to get along. “If you’re not interested in this aspect of my culture, fine. I don’t particularly care for that aspect off yours. We both understand and are happy” Bigots were still dealt with in the firm handed fashion that they should be, racism was not as big a problem. There were no divided communities.

"I think one of the problems with this report is that they've not actually looked at our multicultural society to see what benefits it has given the country.” This is what Keith Vaz said, and I would pose the question to him and you: Since multiculturalism has become a Government sponsored initiative name me one benefit it has given to society.

I can think of none. It has divided communities, pushed ethnicities, sexualities and capabilities apart further and further. It has demonised the majority and made the minority above any question of wrong doing. It has increased tensions between groups because a white skinhead that doesn’t particularly care for brown people can no longer just ignore them, privately hate them and go about his business. Now he has to celebrate them. He’s a fool for hating someone based on skin colour anyway, but what’s going to make him angrier; their existing or he being forced to celebrate their culture?

That’s what leads to a country that is a soft target for terrorism. Communities don’t help each other out, they do quite the opposite, they avoid one another and stick solely with their own. Many towns in areas of the north are developing clearly segregated white areas and ethnic areas. White people are complaining that they are in danger of becoming a minority in Leicester (who cares? If you don't like it, move). Muslims find they have more in common with terrorists that may kill them than they do with the people they acutally kill. Multiculturalism is driving a wedge through this country. A big, multi-pronged wedge. Identity is becoming more based on your cultural make up than who you are, allowing terrorists to slip unseen through society, hidden the veil of being Arabic/Indian/Russian/Chinese/Romanian/Polish etc. People are so afraid of being upset by something that may offend their sensibilities that businesses and institutions are trying to avoid them. Policemen have been advised to ask community leaders for advice before arresting an Islamic man. And they are. "We don't want to riisk upsetting the community." They say. "What you should be doing is telling the community to start behaving like adults and understand that police aren't out to arrest all of them, just the one suspected murdering psycho in their midst that's giving them all a bad name." Say I. You're not apologising to people, instead you're telling them to grow up.

And that’s what we need to do. Grow up. Develop a backbone, stand up and speak for yourself as an individual, not as a sheep. Not as part of a group of solely like minded people. Stop being offended by anything that contradicts your sensibilities. Stop tolerating others like you being offended by anything that contradicts your sensibilities. Stop letting others tell you what you should and shouldn’t be offended by. You’re an adult, with your own opinion. Use it.

“Are we in this thing alone, or are we in it together?”


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Torture: The Problem

Government Sanctioned Torture: The Problem

This is a vague follow up to a question I posed some time ago to friends on Facebook; “Do you agree/approve with the state sanctioning torture as a form of interrogation on persons who may be a threat to national security?” The comments that were returned - public and private (as a result I will not name any names) – proved interesting, for there seemed to be no definite consensus on whether it was agreeable or not. A lot of people seemed to raise the logical issue as a major point that it has not been proved to work; that the victim will tell the interrogator anything in order for the ordeal to stop. The question of morality seemed to follow next, which seemed to take into account the concept that if the torture was guaranteed to get results, then it was harming those who intend to harm you, and therefore was perhaps a little more forgivable, but still diminished your side’s argument. I even had a couple of opinions come in that it was okay given that “the enemy” had murderous intent toward Westerners and our way of life and thus they essentially excused themselves from any kind of Geneva convention type reprieve (though I’d wonder what these peoples opinions on Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay would be).

My two cents are as follows: Torture as a form of interrogation is wrong. Any information gained through methods of torture during an interrogation should be disregarded.

My reasoning: The concept and act of torture in any form Is and should be reprehensible, from both a physical/psychological and moral standpoint to any civilised person. Morally, I believe it reduces the West’s self regarded position as a force of good to absolute rubble. We cannot preach to and lecture other countries about the importance of recognising human rights acts and Geneva Conventions when we turn a blind eye to them whenever we find it to be in our own interests. The only way to claim the moral high ground is to prove you have sufficient morality to be there, and not just when it is convenient.

I honestly believe that we have to have to moral and testicular fortitude to resist such cheap forms of interrogation. I honestly believe that we open minded, progressive members of a liberal, (partially) free, democratic and Western society owe it to ourselves to reject the notion that any kind of torture as an acceptable method of interrogation at every turn. Just because organised people in other parts of the world want to kill us does not mean that we should stoop to their level in a way of defending ourselves. Fire is not fought with fire, as many people would argue; it is quenched and defeated with water – its antithesis. For example, they force hostages to commit horrendously degrading acts, make them endure solitary confinement, beat and physically abuse them. So we resort to solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and water boarding. In response they begin decapitating hostages, so we incarcerate them on a desert island near Cuba and throw away the key. They line babies clothes with semtex to create mobile, remote bombs to assasinate unsuspecting victims (regretfully, this is no exagerration; this was how militants attempted to blow up the late Benazir Bhutto on the day she returned from exile to Pakistan), so what do we do in response? We have already lost any semblance of moral high ground, we are already plumbing the same barbaric depths that they are, so do we just carpet bomb a city? Kill all our prisoners in the most gruesome, fear inspiring way? What do we do? While this idea remains hypothetical, the events mentioned are, of course, real on both sides of the conflict. Violence only begets more violence, and the West imitating its enemies not only destroys its moral credibility, but also turns it into the exact same thing it is attempting to prevail against.

On the Western side of the torture debate, the practice of waterboarding is regularly mentioned; a process in which the victim is subjected to an experience where they believe they are drowning. The toughest suspect has lasted a little over thirty seconds under this practice before cracking, and defenders in the U.S, U.K and Israeli Governments (which have all used the practice, or information gained from the practice) have repeatedly asserted that it is not torture as it inflicts no physical injury on the victim and leaves no long lasting mental trauma. Now, in the first instance this is where the fundamental problem of the victim telling the interrogator exactly what they want to hear raises its head, as anyone who thinks they are drowning will confess to anything in order to end the ordeal (and will probably be pretty traumatized as well). But the second instance, which comes in the form of a question, is far more important, and far more revealing about the true opinion on the matter; for those who may sympathise with the concept allow yourself to answer this question: Would waterboarding - the method where you believe you are drowning and about to die - be torture if someone did it to you?

I think we both know the answer, and that is where the argument for torture – particularly water boarding - as an interrogative method crumbles. If it were done to any Westerner, civilian or military, by any Middle Eastern nation, it would be decreed as torture outright. It would be declared as brutal, cruel and horrific. There would be no shades of grey, it would be simple black and white. It was when the Nazis and the Viet Kong used it in the World War II and the Vietnam, and it still is now. Just because some prime real estate in New York was destroyed changes nothing. If you want to call yourself ‘right’, ‘good’, a ‘liberator’ and a ‘bringer of freedom’ you have to act like it. All the time.

Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.
Winston Churchill

A patriot supports his country all the time, his Government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain