Sunday, April 16, 2017

Freedom -v- Security

In the light of the actions of Khalid Masood, this may be regarded as an insensitive post. I do the sensitive bit at the end. But the fact is that we live in times increasingly dominated by the public interest argument about the relative emphasis civilized societies place on security versus freedom.
Frankly, it is almost never a very honest debate. It depends on one's political starting point. And where in history one chooses to begin the narrative.
Who fired the first shot? Who invaded whom first? Who is due the most retribution? When? And for what? Was it The Crusades? The Moorish push westwards? The desire for oil? Militant Islamic fundamentalism? Migration of Muslims into the West? Fear of cultural and religious differences? The 'militant tendency' of the Islamic faith? The vigorous fundamentalism of Old Testament Christianity? What?
To be fair. To be effective. To live in the real world. For myself. I begin the discussion with where we are now. In which regard, I think it fair to say that the first responsibility of any level of government is to protect all of the individuals who live within the jurisdiction of that level of government.
If we are talking about Great Britain, that 'protection,' in my opinion, means equally protecting the security of people going about what used to be called their lawful occasions. And it means protecting the rights and freedoms of Muslim residents to be Muslim. Of anyone to be who they are.
I do not see the need for choice. Legislators and law enforcement use their best efforts to ensure that folks are safe from any danger. Societal oversight then makes sure that government does not overreach itself in offering protection from that danger. And all citizens remain vigilant to respect the differences between the many different beliefs, religions, cultures, preferences and lifestyle choices of all those living together in a nominally free society.
Beyond that, yes, it is incumbent on all of us who choose to be sentient to look to the causes of hateful difference between us, to see what can be done to minimize the possibility of that hateful difference becoming harmful. Whether to individuals, or to society generally.
It is also incumbent on all of us who choose to care to pay attention to all the possible triggers for violent behavior: emotional issues, lifestyles, environment, belief systems, whatever.
There will be much argument in the coming days about what lay behind this attack in London. That is important. It is why I began this post by addressing that subject. For, to be frank, while a relatively small group of people will be spending their time dealing with the immediate and personal grief following the loss of their loved ones (and my heart very genuinely goes out to them), the rest of us will be engaging in that wider debate about cause and consequence.
I wanted to offer my primer in a discussion which, because of the nature of the times in which we live, will almost certainly involve much heat, innuendo, blatant falsehood, distraction, and toxic hate. This post won't prevent that. But at least it allows me the opportunity for contribution, in what I hope is a calm and measured manner.
All of which said. I do very truly feel terrible anguish for those who died. Those who are injured. Those who suffer, because of loss, concern, worry and the tremendous amount of care that is yet to come. Not least, because the rest of us will likely forget all these good folk, just as soon as the news cycle moves on.
I also grieve for a society. Any society. Which creates a soul, so lost, that he or she feels the only way he or she can feel safe, can express themselves, is the need to engage in violence against another. I feel desperately sorry for a society that stands by and allows them to be so lost. So forgotten. That gets its priorities so wrong.
Perhaps somewhat controversially, I have feelings for the bringer of violence, who died in the violence of his making. He is likely the product of circumstances not all of his own making. We can pretend otherwise. But that will, with respect, achieve little, if we are truly looking for a safer society. I have feelings for anyone who was born in what most people in the world regard as an obviously 'civilized' and peaceful corner of the world. And yet was so troubled, so unhappy, so disturbed, so unsatisfied with that corner of the world, that the way he felt he could best bring meaning to his life was to take the lives of others. He has much to answer for. So do we.
And finally, I feel tremendous sadness that we feel the necessity to elect leaders whose first reaction to episodes such as this attack will almost certainly be to calculate how they can use the episode to maximize their political status.