Sunday, 29 November 2015

Learning from history? It'll never catch on...

Imagine this scenario if you will: People in England, including the leaders, consider the country to be under threat by the "other religion". The fear of the "other religion" may not be entirely unreasonable when one considers that countries where this particular faith is the state religion have already been involved in wars with England, and these countries represent an ongoing threat of future wars against this green and pleasant land.

England, with the able assistance of government propaganda, is gripped by a fear of an invasion by the "other religion". People are genuinely fearful that the "other religion" will become the state religion and the principles of this religion will form the basis of English law.

The leaders deal with this perceived threat by throwing vast sums of money at the military in case there is an attack on English soil. They also go apeshit with surveillance and censorship. Spies are operating in England as well as in the countries that support the "other religion". Texts and other paraphernalia from the "other religion" are forbidden. Adherents of the "other religion" are forced to worship in secret and can even be arrested under the guise of national security laws.

Ironically, most adherents of the "other religion" in England go about their business peacefully, practicing their faith privately. They are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs or running businesses. For the most part, they are not remotely interested in proselytising, even though such evangelism is part and parcel of the "other religion".

This is what happened in England in the 16th century. The leader of the country was Elizabeth I. The countries that threatened England included France and Spain and the threats were real and did indeed result in war. The spies of Elizabeth I infiltrated people's private lives. The punishment for practicing the "other religion" included execution for treason by some of the most hideous means imaginable. The "other religion" was Catholicism.

There was even a massacre in Paris at the time - it is estimated that 3,000 French Protestants were killed in Paris on St Bartholomew's Day in 1572 and an estimated 70,000 more were killed across the whole of France. A grim religious civil war gripped France and Huguenot refugees fled the country in fear for their lives, with many finding a safe have in England.

It all sounds a bit familiar.

Despite the horrendous bloodshed - or possibly because of it and the growing popular discontent with a bloated and distant monarchy - the French Revolution ultimately came about in the 18th century and plenty of its seeds were sown with the events of 1572 onwards. From this, a secular France was achieved and freedom of speech was one of the principles of the revolution.

Except now we have a fearful French leadership, a France that, for now, is banning public demonstrations in the wake of the terrible events on November 13. It was heartening to see people in Paris defying this stupid ban this weekend, refusing to be as scared as Francois Hollande appears to be. Excellently, 10,000 people who planned to be part of the global climate marches placed their shoes at the Place de la Republique instead. Regardless of your views on climate change, if you love freedom of speech, this is something to be applauded.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, some people are calling for banning the burqa and increased surveillance even though neither of these things stopped the latest Paris attacks. Over in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders is moronically calling for the Quran to be banned even though banning books is not just profoundly anti-freedom and propagates ignorance, but is as useful as a fishnet condom now we have the newfangled internet. Then again, Wilders is also calling for Jordan, a country that has done some heroic things in terms of coping with Syrian refugees, to be renamed Palestine, so he is not to be taken seriously.

And it's not as if the world is even capable of learning from very recent history. Raqqa, the current target du jour for the west, was bombed by Syria last year. I don't know whether you've noticed but it achieved sod-all.

If I genuinely thought airstrikes would be an effective way to stop those pathetic Daesh losers, and if airstrikes didn't keep killing innocent civilians just as Daesh does, I wouldn't have a huge issue with it. But I am not convinced they will do anything more than create more radicalisation and add to the refugee crisis. And there are reports that Daesh is now encouraging their pitiful fans to travel to Sirte in Libya instead of Syria, where they are also entrenching themselves. It is a grotesque game of whack-a-mole and not one that we can simply bomb our way out of and expect peace at the end.

Airstrikes are generally popular with people who are highly unlikely to be standing underneath one. Attacking from on high comes across as a sanitised form of warfare, like a big video game, one where you don't have to look the people you are killing in the eye. It could well be that boots-on-the-ground warfare, the kind of warfare that has a more targeted approach, will prove more effective in breaking up oil supply lines, in stopping weapons getting into the hands of Daesh, in retaking the Syrian oil installations than flattening Syria - and no doubt Libya next - from on high.

And then then there is the paucity of discussion about an endgame. What should Syria look like if Daesh is ever neutralised? What sort of government should be in place? Are there any plans for job creation and rebuilding the shattered economy?

After Turkey shot a Russian plane down, people seemed to divide into Team Turkey and Team Russia, as if either country has covered themselves in glory of late, and as if the issue is so simplistically binary.

We have Turkey, a nation unfit to be in NATO and certainly unfit to attain EU membership any time soon, complicit in the sale of Daesh oil while continuing their campaign against the Kurds.

And we have Russia, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, is more interested in keeping Assad in power, particularly as he will uphold the 2013 oil and gas deal which is great for Russia but would deny Syria the opportunity to achieve greater energy self-sufficiency.

Energy self-sufficiency would be a tremendous thing for Syria if it ever attains its dream of democracy that started out in 1945 and has been comprehensively shat on ever since. Energy self-sufficiency would also mean Syria is not dependant on Saudi oil - and it is dependence on Saudi oil and revenue from weapons sales that keeps the world passive when it comes to dealing with that absurd kingdom's violent, conservative, oppressive Wahhabism, the very ideology that Daesh spreads in its bid to recruit people.

I don't claim to have the answers to this unholy mess but I am sure that failing to learn from centuries of human history and pushing for simplistic solutions are not going to make the problems go away any time soon.

1 comment:

  1. All very true. I have and continue to stdy and research the Great War in detail and have also taught WWII, and conflict Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam etc. I am utterly convinced that the resource to war or the use of violence achieves nothing except planting the seed for future conflict.