My mascara is made my Maybelline and it is awesome – I am complimented everyday on my long natural appearing eye lashes. Every morning as I apply it however I feel guilty as I am aware that Maybelline is owned by the Nestle company who not so many years ago sent sales representatives dressed as doctors in to developing countries to tell mothers that Nestle powdered baby milk (even if mixed with the available unsterile water supply) was better for their babies than breast milk.
Vulnerable women believe doctors, and followed this advice – as a consequence, babies died. So every time I apply my eye makeup I am reminded that (a) the West had a lot to answer for and (b) little things I do daily may be negatively impacting on innocent people globally, (c) no one enjoying the comforts of the developed Western world can say they are not connected in some way (even if it is simply the origins on their make-up) connected to the suffering of those in the developing world.
Although I have never deliberately harmed another human intentionally but my actions, purchases and privileges have a direct connection (often financial and always in my/the Western worlds’ favour) with hideous actions causing death, destruction and suffering overseas – hurting people I don’t know, who we don’t see.
I don’t want any anyone to be hurt – ever – it isn’t nice, it isn’t kind and it doesn’t fit into the world that I want my son to grow in. Driving to before-school care this morning, my son Mandela hears on the news that over 100 people were killed in Paris over the weekend and he wants to know why. I tell him it is a very sad and evil thing that some people have done because they (the perpetrators) have made a very bad decision and this hurt people. I reason with myself – How else does one explain an act of terror to a seven year old?
Then again, like the commercial media – I could explain it like this:
“Muslims are bad and they want to kill all of us because they don’t like our freedom.”
Only Mandela has a prayer mat of his own; many Muslim friends would absolutely never believe that a person would attack and kill based on race or religion. Mandela understands that Muslims and Christians follow the same God and that God tells us to be kind to one another (and to listen to Mummy). Mainstream kneejerk reactions to the dangerous Muslim-Other do not fly with my seven year-old (and he believes in the tooth fairy) which should indicate to the rest of us that we need to look deeper for reasons, for answers and for solutions.
The first to condemn female infanticide …
You know, way back when Mohammad began to spread Islam first within his small community and then gradually more widely across the region he was the first person to officially condemn female infanticide, grant women child-support rights, and the right to vote. Islam was based on the premise that we all belong to one God and peace was paramount.
Islam encouraged its followers to work hard, in the face of adversity. This is called Jihad – which is simply a struggle to do what God has asked of us, against what is difficult, which could mean, if you are a single Mum, simply feeding and educating your children, if you are vain (like me) not focusing on the superficial, but looking deeper; for my Dad, Jihad is going to work 12+ hours every day for 30 years for minimal financial reward only to provide his ten children with greater opportunities than he had. One of the key teachings in the Quran is “whoever kills a soul – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely,” (Al-Quran 5:32).
Islam further teaches:
“Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression,”(Al-Quran 5:2).
“And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness,”(Al-Quran 5:8).
Quran 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct,” prohibiting the harm on any individual. Bombs or any kind are prohibited, as is suicide. Nuclear and biological warfare are also prohibited.
Historically Islamic armies have been instructed “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)
With this in mind, I am looking at Paris. I am looking at London. I am looking at New York. These attacks are at odds with the teachings of Islam. These attacks are indeed at odds with any teachings I have ever heard from any religious group or non-religious person – killing innocent people is abhorrent and to be condemned.
The above, is relatively easy to explain to people, including my seven year old. God tells us to be nice, but he gave us free will (choices I would say to Mandela) but sometimes people are evil and abuse their privilege of choice. Mandela then says “why?”
I could again – explain it like this:
“Muslims are bad and they want to kill all of us because they don’t like our freedom.”
But as Mandela is smarter than this, and even in his limited world experience he knows that we ought not bunch all people of the same religion or race or gender or any other real or perceived grouping together and judge them, I am forced to look for a better answer.
To do this let me take you back to when I was seven, which was during the “first” Iraq War in the early 1990s. I remember I was doing my primary school homework, and as I asked Mum if there were any other wars in history other than the one that Grandpa Coen had been in (which was World War II). Mum told me about World War I which both of my great grandfathers had fought in, the Vietnam War which Uncle Jack had fought in, and the Gulf War which was happening “at the minute” were her exact words. This was 23 years ago, however I still remember feeling shocked that there were still wars going on – have all the grown-ups gone mad? Why were they still fighting, and why didn’t I know about it? Was I safe? These were my questions.
So, somewhere in the Iraq there is a 30 year old who when he/she was seven must have asked her Mum, is there peace anywhere, and why was it not safe for him/her to go to school? I imagine the Mum would have answered as follows “Inshallah (God willing) the war will end soon. But people in the government are fighting over oil, because they can’t agree, and even though God tells us to be kind, sometimes people are evil and make bad choices.” 23 odd years later, this child is an adult who has grown in war-affected turmoil inflicted upon them purely by the accident of their birth in a geopolitically inconvenient location – not because they are Asian, European or Africa, but because they were “there.” I imagine that this now 30 year-old is wondering how and why they have never felt safe, and what they did to deserve it. After all, their Jihad is pretty simple: They go to work, they come home, they raise their kids and they are nice to their elderly neighbour. All of the things that God requires of them.
We bombed the crap out of them, repeatedly, to get oil …
We may be able to come to an answer to this question however if we take a moment and remember that no-one bombed Iraq to gain access to the Quran or anything else religiously based, we bombed the crap out of them, repeatedly, to get oil, and we in the West are not racist or discriminatory – we will steal oil from anyone, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew … We just want oil and money.
We did however need an excuse to do it … No one likes it when a political leaders says “Hey, for the purposes of financial gain, very little of which will be enjoyed by you, my electorate, I propose we declare an expensive and traumatic war on a country who poses no actual threat to us at this stage but who has oil we can use, sell and enjoy.” My son would cut that polly down in seconds – “Mr PM/President, that is not kind. We should share. Maybe we can send them Australian stuff, and they can send us oil.”
As the PM/President is not an idiot (although this is open to constant debate) he tells his electorate: “Islam and its followers are different to us, and can therefore not be trusted. We need to curb their growing strength by force, which will keep us safe and also ensure access to resources which will benefit our great nation.”
Western nations it seems are quick to forget that there are literally millions of people suffering and thousands dying every week just because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and many of these people die for “causes” (when I say causes I am talking about in diamond mines, cobalt mines, as a result of US drones dropping bombs, or as a result of a sales campaign by Nestle) all of which profit the “West” not the “East.” Is it any wonder that there are a certain number of men and women, who are hurt and angry when they see their children and brothers and sisters suffering for no reason other than their birth place whilst the “West” swims in affluence funded by “Eastern” blood?
I am not condoning violence and I am not excusing it, but I am empathetic to the hurt and frustration an entire region may feel after living in fear for their lives for decades. When this suffering takes the form of a deprivation of education, we have angry, hurt and vulnerable people who, as we have seen even within Australia, are ripe for coercion.
We have young people who don’t have education – because they were mining oil for the West, or hiding from bombs – and so they cannot read the Quran. Their religious knowledge is limited, and their prayers consist of “Dear God, please ease our suffering and make our children safe.” Does this sound familiar? Is this not what every parent in the world prays for?
Enter the evil leader with the agenda, who knowing that they can entice such a vulnerable individual into committing a heinous act of violence by convincing them that it is God’s requirement of them – even though the evil leader, and any well-educated individual is aware that it is in conflict to Islamic requirements. The evil leader is then aware that the general populous in the “West” will not question their motives, they will just blame “Islam” as a blanket scapegoat. Divide and rule tactics.
Western leaders are aware that under-educated, vulnerable and starving populations are easy to manipulate into committing violence because they lack any other avenue to better their situations – and let us be honest … if your child is hungry and you can’t help them, you might just go crazy enough to commit an act of violence. We have, as westerners, an option – we could keep people starving and on edge by bombing them as we have historically – which we are aware only ends in more violence.
Bomb the world with butter, bread and educational opportunity …
Or we could – bomb the world with butter, bread and educational opportunity. Meet hostility with hope and understanding. Waking up to France bombing Syria – a nation already ravished by war where thousands of innocents are dying – this is not a solution, this will not end terrorism. This will kill people.
Western leaders are aware that educated, secure, and engaged populations live in peace. We are aware also that terrorist leaders would not be able to entice a well-educated, secure and open-minded individual be they Muslim, Christian or atheist to harm another person. One might argue that these disengaged and vulnerable populations are not our responsibility to support as Western governments/populations. Conversely, one might argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (a) caused as a result of enterprise or trade which we benefit from then it is our business.
One might further argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (b) results in civil unrest or attacks on western countries then it is our business.
One might go further still and argue that when suffering, poverty and deprivation overseas is (c) resulting in kneejerk reactive declarations of war involving multiple countries then it is our business.
Now that we have concluded that:
• those in developing countries are often struggling due to political and business deals which involve Western profits;
• that violence is not the answer;
• that educated, well-fed populations do not engage in senseless violence because they have too much to lose
• that Islam does not cause or encourage terrorism – it is just bad people doing that
• no happy and safe person ever blew themselves up.
I don’t want anyone reading this piece to think that I am victim-blaming or that I don’t care about the victims of the tragic attacks which occurred in Paris last week – I do. I vomited and then cried when I heard the news report.
I am terrified of a terrorist attack which might harm innocent people including my loved ones. But, I am more afraid that the tragedy in Paris will lead to further tragedy elsewhere that women, children, babies, elderly – innocent people – will die for the sins of a few evil men.
I am more afraid that we as Westerners have again drawn distinction between a French death and a Somali, a Syrian or an Iraqi death and placed the value on France as higher.
Perhaps we are targets in Australia – but that means that people are looking at us. If the world is watching us, can we not lead an example for the world?
We are aware that violence is not the answer – let us, as Australia try something else so our children can know a world where they aren’t scared of random acts of violence.
“You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace.” (Franti).
*Josie Young: I am a writer, a community worker, an activist and a lover of all things chocolate and coffee related. More importantly however I am a mother, I have a son named Mandela. As a mother I want to make sure that everything I do – the words I write, the food I cook, the causes I support – makes my son’s future brighter. In 2014, I decided I would write more as another way through which I can fight for the future that my son deserves. One day, in the future, my five year-old son Mandela will look at the world and ask me, “Mama, how could you have stood by and done nothing in the face of such injustices?” When that day comes, I hope I will be able to answer him. I have spent the past ten years working in community development in Tasmania, Western Australia, Adelaide, and Africa. I have also worked with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, interviewing and assessing asylum seekers claims for protection, within Immigration Detention Centres (shame on Australia for the harm we have inflicted on good people), and as a volunteer assisting in humanitarian resettlement. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Public Policy (2007), and a Masters of International and Community Development (2009).
Urban Wronski: The Work of the Devil or something worse?
In January an army of Islamic extremists razed the northern Nigerian village of Baga, killing as many as 2,000 people – mostly women and children who were unable to flee the attacks.
The incident was not reported widely in the popular western press. No collective international outrage was confected. Instead news of the atrocity quietly, quickly, disappeared into the obscenity of our indifference. The media’s failure to even bear witness to the tragedy in Nigeria casts into sharp relief its hysterical obsession with the recent Paris terror attacks.
News of the attacks is quickly swamped by a tsunami of interviews with survivors, experts, authorities and other talking heads. Vengeance upstages understanding; eclipsed is the light of reason, our human need to make best sense of events. Of course it is all too much to take in. Our point of view is hotly contested. Scapegoats block the view-finder. As does the grand dame herself. Paris, the city of light is a formidable celebrity in her own right.
For Francois Hollande, it is self-evident that the attacks were ‘committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet.’ No evidence is required but, remarkably a Syrian passport turns up. It is a fake.
The forged Syrian passport found near a terrorist’s body gulls the Daily Telegraph into saluting Tony Abbott for his prophetic warning as the Murdoch newspaper continues its own campaign against refugees and asylum seekers.
‘Former PM Tony Abbott warned IS terrorists are hiding in a flood of refugees.’ The Tele knows how keen its readers are to find evidence to suit their prejudices. It can’t stop to see if the evidence is real; it has a duty to its readers to be speedy. Besides it’s a free kick for Tony from the newspaper’s endless supply of Abbott-idolatry in its mission to serve even a dud conservative leader at the expense of the truth.
Political types fall over each other with chest-beating promises to ‘bring the culprits to justice’. Francois Hollande makes threats of ‘pitiless’ reprisal. Or ‘Merciless’, depending on your journal du jour. Military types urge leaders to put ‘boots on the ground’. An agile Malcolm Turnbull channels his godly inner crusader, decrying the attacks as ‘the work of the devil’ undertaken by ‘enemies of freedom’, his features display a public, pious outrage.
even the heart on his sleeve is bleeding.
‘The home of freedom has been assaulted by terrorists determined to attack and suppress freedom not just in France but throughout the world,’ the Prime Minister says grandly, adroitly demonstrating that not only does he have the US narrative off pat, as a loyal, freedom-loving Francophile, even the heart on his sleeve is bleeding.
‘This is an attack, as President Obama has said, on all humanity.’ Clearly no local factors must cloud his focus. Or his portrait of an ungodly global jihad that can only be met by force of arms and the upliftingly resolute public singing of La Marseillaise.
Before anyone knows who exactly is responsible, France has bombed a Syrian city. A massive ‘airstrike’ by French jets on an ISIS bastion in Raqqa is played up, feeding some primal, populist narrative of retaliation. Satisfying it is, indeed, it seems, to show the world that you can just go out and kick a few heads. All of which is exactly what ISIS wants to hear. It feeds their myth of persecution by a hostile, infidel, unjust West and boosts recruitment.
For Western allies and lackeys of the US, such as PM Turnbull, the nature of existence is to be engaged in a crusade, a religious war in the name of the freedom god, against an infernal foe.
‘Protecting Australians, protecting freedom, is a global struggle for freedom against those who seek to suppress it and seek to assert some form of religious tyranny. A threat in the name of God, that is truthfully the work of the devil.’
Nonsense is spouted about democracy itself being under attack; the city of Paris showing valour, resilience because that’s what democracies do. Ignored is the reality that the Parisian poor are a permanent underclass, who share a life of grinding deprivation and hopeless misery. The poor people of Paris are, moreover, part of the wretched 8.5 million French citizens who must eke out a bleak existence in grim poverty excluded by class, race and religion from any of the delights of the city of light or the grand promises of the revolution. Marginalised, alienated, dispossessed, by a neocon corporate state they are a fertile recruiting ground for extremists offering some kind of hope.
Suffering and resentment are the birthright of fourteen percent of France’s population. Despite their President’s assertions, Liberty, equality and fraternity are an ironic, cruel joke to those who lack the resources to provide for their daily needs and who daily must battle prejudice and persecution just to survive.
…believed that it is easy to receive benefits…
In a recent survey into prejudices against the poor, seven out of 10 surveyed believed that it is easy to receive benefits, the survey found, yet the truth, as ATD Quart Monde points out, is that officials demand up to 100 documents for an application. 68 per cent of those eligible for the basic unemployment benefit do not receive it.
For all the posturing, however, for all the grandstanding and the indulgent backgrounders featuring ‘Paris on edge’, or citizens ‘being strong’, by bravely going out drinking together in spite of everything, we are no closer to knowing what is going on. Further still from understanding it. Everyone is happy this way. Easier to point the finger at outside agencies than to acknowledge that terror begins at home.
The media will keep this choke-hold on us before serving up the ready-made facile interpretation and shallow analysis which best fits our prejudices, our brief attention spans, our impatience with complexity and depth. We won’t have to think too hard and we can pack up our critical faculties right away. They won’t be needed. They won’t be appropriate.
Questions abound. Why did seven men open fire on completely innocent civilians? Who were they acting for? Did French intelligence know but fail to act? Were they independent locals, as seems most likely or were they instructed by ISIS HQ as the popular press has already decided – with a little help from its friends? Yet what is modelled, what is packaged is a case for war that it is unpatriotic to inspect.
A former NATO Supreme allied commander admiral James Stavridis says ‘there will have to be boots on the ground in Syria to destroy ISIS.’ Just as there had to be boots on the ground to get Saddam Hussein out of the way so that Iraqis could ‘transition to democracy’. And what if our crusade succeeds in destroying ISIS? Whose boots will hit the ground to deal with the group that pops up in its place?
France’s swift reprisal on Raqqa is scripted by Western media eager to exploit our preference for simple narratives. It looks remarkably like the type of bombing it has been carrying out for a month now but you won’t hear ‘More of the same pointless, ineffectual bombing’ as the headline on the news. Despite 2500 sorties in the last month, our air attacks seem to be making very little impact on ISIS in Syria. Yet it’s cost the Pentagon $5 billion so far and counting.
popular media provides the moral outrage to suppress our critical faculties;
The G20, it is reported, will be a rallying call for world leaders to denounce terrorism, another reassuring solution in search of a problem. ABC’s Barbara Miller gives us ‘a city on edge’ while another host chats with witnesses, bystanders and onlookers. An avalanche of ‘feel-bad’ popular media provides the moral outrage to suppress our critical faculties; to recruit us in the campaign against a radical group itself the by-product of our own rush to judgement in Iraq 2003.
Calling ISIS the ‘work of the devil’ downplays our own hand in its creation. When the West was on its last crusade in the Middle East Twelve years ago, we were easily manipulated into falling in with a US foreign policy itself serving the needs of big oil rather better than any other deity. Crying havoc and letting loose the dogs of the media war urgers serves us ill as a civilised people who have as much right to the truth as to our own humanity.
Spare us the saturation bombardment of media stories, interviews and other products and packages. Just focus on reporting exactly what happened. All we need is the evidence. Let us make up our own minds about the all the rest. Or we are simply fighting one form of barbarism with another.
*Urban Wronski was born in England, raised in New Zealand and has been an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a full-time freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.
• Andrew Wilkie: PM must not reinforce failure in Syria/Iraq “The fact is that the terror threat Australia faces today is a direct result of Australia’s foolish involvement in Iraq since 2003, and more recent involvement in Syria. To add to that involvement, or even just continue it, will fuel the existing hatred of Australia and result in more terror attacks against Australians. “It is an undeniable fact that the Middle East has been deeply destabilised by the Iraq War, which we helped start, and by Western support for the Syrian rebels which included Islamic State. To stay involved will just make a bad situation worse. “What we should be doing is better understanding the reasons behind Islamic State’s hatred of Australia and dealing with the threat as an extremely serious criminal matter warranting a robust police and intelligence response. This is now more important than ever because Islamic State is morphing into a global operation and their countries of origin are becoming less relevant.
• Peter van Buren, Ron Paul Institute, here: Paris: You Don’t Want to Read This … stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea …