“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
The horrifying events in Brussels this week have brought the all-too-predictable backlash from every side of the terrorism debate. Many of the comments are doubtless heartfelt, but are mostly confirmations of opinions and positions already held.
Thus George Galloway hauled out his oft-repeated mantra that the West is reaping the whirlwind of its colonial past; Brexiteers saw the atrocity as proof positive that we would be better off outside the EU, while the Remainers drew entirely the opposite conclusion; Donald Trump and others found further proof of their belief that Islam is the root cause of the problem.
It is the very nature of problems such as terrorism that the search for an exact cause, or an exact “truth”, is essentially a wild goosechase that as often as not serves only to muddy the murky waters still further. All views hold a small element of truth, enough to allow the connection — no matter how tenuous — to be made. From the terrorists’ perspective the resultant chaos reflected in social media is, itself, reason enough to continue their nihilistic path. The seeds of discord are what they seek to scatter, as widely as possible: websites like Twitter have become part of a Hall of Mirrors within which they, too, can bolster their own argument by cherry-picking their own truths.
Division and discord. It might as well be their corporate slogan. Global protagonists such as Vladimir Putin regularly use the same devices to self-serving effect, most recently in the Syrian intervention. Democracy, they reason, is too prone to introspection and self-doubt to be an effective means of governing. As proof, they have only to contemplate the toothless lion that is the United Nations. For all the use it has been in the world’s various conflagrations it might as well have been Trumpton Fire Brigade. Hugh, Pugh, Ban Ki Moon too.
We cannot dis-invent the internet; no more can we undo our colonial past or travel back in time to prevent a peaceful religion branching off into tribal, warring factions. The past is another country. Dwelling on it is counter-productive, like trying to identify individual turds in a shitstorm. Arguably, all of today’s discontent is a by-product of failing to let go of the past.
Let’s live our lives in the possible future, not the irredeemable past.