I caught flu three weeks ago. Not bad flu; not two-weeks-in-bed-with-a-temperature flu (it was just four days); not pneumonia-as-a-fun-extra flu (been there, done that). Just a mercifully brief bout of yuk.
Woozy-headed I surfaced just in time for the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish supermarket attacks in Paris. Woozy-headed I’ve been following the fall-out from my cosy English home. It’s none of my business you might say. But it is my business because no man is an island, in Donne’s words: “Any man’s death diminishes me, / Because I am involved in mankind, / And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; / It tolls for thee.”
“Je suis Charlie”, “Je suis Ahmed”. Streets packed with support for freedom of speech. World leaders not actually leading a march but looking as if they were (while lined-up in a cordoned-off street behind massive security for their photo-op). That same photo in an ultra-orthodox Jewish paper but with the (few enough anyway) women photo-shopped out. Right wing terrorism against mosques. A Muslim hero who saved Jewish shoppers by hiding them in a cold room. MI6 demanding more powers. Cameron demanding control of all online interactions. Arms and armour companies’ and security firms’ share prices soaring. Murdoch’s Fox News exerting it’s freedom to spout utter bollox by telling the world that Birmingham UK is “totally Muslim” with Sharia Law. Murdoch himself tweeting that all “Moslems” should decry extremists. (Perhaps all Christians should apologise for the KKK, which claims to be a Christian organisation?) Boko Haram (which apparently translates as “Western education is forbidden”) meanwhile rampages through northern Nigeria with barely a mention on mainstream media while IS continues its savagery in Syria and Iraq but Western media are bored by that, now. Comedy character Al Murray (actor as a common man) will stand against Nigel Farage (public school educated banker, pretending to be common man) in Thanet. It’s a bit like dreaming a very badly synched episode of The Comic Strip while over-dosed on cough meds.
There’s a difference between healthy scepticism of what’s in the media and buying in to conspiracy theories but our politicians and media are blurring the lines. If I said that was a deliberate blurring I’d be teetering on the edge of my own conspiracy theory. But the blurring is much to the advantage of vested interests. Keep the majority of us anxious, confused, uncertain and we’re too bemused or scared to do anything. It’s that Orwellian 1984 scenario of who are we at war with today? Who will we target in response? Those they offer us on a plate: “scroungers”, illegal immigrants, potential terrorists. The latter will not be far right British groups but far more easily visible “Islamists”. That mistrust and hatred will alienate enough Muslim youth to keep up a supply of “potential terrorists”. It’s a circular effect. How do we break it?
Saudi Arabia is Britain’s ally. This is clear from the way our government bend over backwards to keep on good terms with the authoritarian absolute monarchy. Vast sums of oil and money pour between it and The City. Yet Saudi Arabia has incubated al-Qaeda and IS. It’s a country where women cannot vote, drive or go out alone. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently in prison and due 950 lashes (he received 50 already last week). What was his crime? Blogging about free speech.
Je suis Raif Badawi.