I’ve said before that “If you want to find the truth, assume that everybody is lying, but if you want to solve a problem, assume that everybody is telling the truth.”
Today, I find this relevant.
We have what appears to be a recurring pattern. A terrorist attack takes place, whether it’s on the WTC in New York, or (with much lesser casualties) at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and the reactions have, by now, become fairly predictable; the world condemns the murder of innocent civilians, the attacks are labeled Islamic Terrorism, the Muslim world at large, for fear of being lumped in with terrorists are quick to condemn the attacks and the attackers in the harshest ways possible, making it clear that no such attacks on innocent lives can be considered Islamic at all, that Islam is a religion of love & peace like Christianity, the Western world gets divided between those who say that there’s a problem, and those who exploit the attacks to ‘prove’ that Islam is a barbarous hateful religion, or that Arabs are inherently a barbaric backward people or both….after all…how can anybody justify such an unprovoked attack?
The truth is that these attacks have never been unprovoked. Now, heads rear, and people rise in anger and indignation because surely, if one says the attacks are provoked, then one is, essentially, excusing them. To tight minds, this seems like an inescapable conclusion, but only to very tight minds who either by intent or by foolishness, choose not to investigate the deeper issues, this reactionary attitude, the righteous indignation born, unfortunately, of blind or willful ignorance, will do nothing to solve the problem.
When attacks on Muslims are called ‘racial,’ some leap to the defense, saying that Islam is a religion, not a race, and, as far as that goes, it is true. However, when people in the West generally think of Islam, they do not think of the Muslim converts in the United States or Germany. Mostly, and I doubt anybody would care to dispute this, they think of vaguely ‘brown’ folk; Arabs, Malaysians, Iranians, etc. The fact of the matter is that MOST Muslims, are in fact, of darker skin. The attack on Islam is often seen and can easily be seen as racism that is ‘protecting’ itself under the cloak of religious disagreement. Why? Because you cannot ask a man to change his skin color, but you could certainly ask him to abandon his faith. People like Bill Maher can get away with attacking Islam regularly because his racism is veiled behind an intellectual, not racist, veneer.
Think I’m exaggerating? How about this little gem:
The attacks are not unprovoked. To the ‘brown’ Muslim mind, the West has been at war against ‘Muslims’ as a race or as a religion for centuries, and this, it must be underlined, has not stopped.
You’ve all just gotten used to it.
You’ve gotten used to American drones murdering innocent people in over 100 countries worldwide, but they do not make the news headlines, and you have learned not to care. Drone strikes are estimated to have killed around 2,400 people in the last 5 years. Since 2004, they have killed more than 3,200 people in Pakistan alone – less than 2% of those are ‘high-profile’ targets. Even then, what exactly does the Western mind have to say about assassinating ‘high-profile’ targets whose guilt has not been proven in a court of law? How and when did this become acceptable?
The stories of drone victims are out there, and yet – for the most part, they are ignored. To those people, it is not a stretch to think that the USA has declared war on them. It is the truth. Here is an open letter sent to United States President Obama asking why a man’s mother was killed by a drone. If you have not read it, perhaps you should. This blog post isn’t going anywhere. You can come back to it. I’ll be here.
Now you might, after such an interlude, be asking, what does this have to do with France? Or with Charlie Hebdo? How is this relevant?
It is easy to lump the Muslim world as one, and just as people do so by ignorance or by racism, it is equally easy for the victims of a global (if apparently not news-worthy) war to also lump their aggressors as one. First of all, it must be acknowledged that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were, quite frankly, racist, hateful, and offensive. When taken in the context of a global war on Muslims, Charlie Hebdo can easily be seen as one of the propaganda arms of that war. Let’s put it another way; during World War 2, would the ‘Allies’ have considered Joseph Goebbels a legitimate assassination target? He was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, and, in that position, he certainly helped nurture the racism on which Hitler rose to power and then went on to murder millions. In this context, it is fair to ask if Goebbels would constitute a legitimate target. By extension, in the context of a global pseudo-racial war on Muslims, it certainly makes sense (if you consider the victims of that war) to ask whether or not racial propagandists such as the cartoonists and editors of Charlie Hebdo are, in fact, legitimate targets.
But again, you might ask, is it reasonable to assume that a pseudo-racial war is ongoing?
Consider this tweet by Sally Kohn –
And more so, to consider that it got more than 60,000 retweets and was favorited over 40,000 times. To pretend that there is no issue is folly. This is also reflected in the book The Geography of Thought, written by Richard Nisbett and published in 2004. The author how the U.S. Media’s reactions to a school shooting differed from that of the Chinese. In the U.S.A., the media did, as Sally Kohn generally remarked, cover it as an isolated situation, much was told about how the boy was anti-social or liked violent video games (ignoring the fact that such video games sell in the tens of millions and do not, in general, create mass murderers and that such incidents are not common in other countries despite the availability of games there…), the U.S. media’s narrative was that of a disturbed child, a, as Sally describes mentally troubled lone wolf.
The Chinese media, in this case, did a much better job of actually investigating the issue. They tried to connect the narrative of the boy with the narrative of the culture as a whole, the school bullying, the violence not only in games but in television shows, the normalization of violence, and the availability of guns; they tried to explain his actions within a broader context. This Chinese attempt at understanding was taken badly back at the United States, as though the Chinese were exploiting a tragedy to badmouth the United States. However, as the author of the book states, this is exactly how the Chinese media also covered a mass murder that occurred in China. The Chinese were not trying to exploit a tragedy at all. They were, like most Asians are conditioned to do since birth, simply looking at the broader context of actions. The book describes various examples and studies that demonstrate this to be the case, and I highly recommend you give it a read. It’s enlightening in many, many ways.
This war is happening, can easily be seen elsewhere; the very existence of the United Nations Security Council attests to it. The absurdity is galling. The nations most responsible for producing weapons, the nations whose main claim to membership is that they were the first to possess weapons of mass destruction, are the member states. We cannot fail to note, and remind those who are too young to keep the memory in their present awareness, that one of those countries, the United States, is, to this day, the only country in the world to have used atomic weapons on civilian populations, twice.
A noted German historian once made waves by saying that the only reason Europe found Hitler so appalling was that his victims were not Black Africans. The statement was controversial because it exposed the deep-seated hypocrisy of ‘Western’ humanitarianism. This is the same humanitarianism that, for instance, got the democrats in the United States to agree to bomb Afghanistan because, after all, it was better for Afghan women to be bombed than to be forced into wearing veils.
The war is ongoing, and it is waged consciously by those in power and unconsciously by regular government-trusting white Americans who are not unkind but who are made ignorant by the media and by their own blaring ethnocentrism. I generalize, and certainly, this is not the case for many Americans, but those who are better informed know full well that apart from themselves, the generalization holds. This war is waged by the military in Iraq, it is waged by drones in Pakistan and Yemen, it is waged by proxy against Palestine, it is waged by the police force in Ferguson and New York, and it is waged to a greater extent by networks like Fox News, and only slightly more subtly by networks like CNN and the BBC, whose coverage of Israeli aggression in Palestine often lacks the word ‘Occupation.’
It is easy for Western viewers to consider these all different conflicts, but to the middle eastern mind – they are one and the same. To many, the fact that you don’t see them does not eradicate your complicity nor your accountability. The Western countries, as they are referred to, by which we usually mean the United States and Europe, constantly claim, despite much evidence to the contrary, that they are true democracies. This claim, when heard by victims in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Palestine, is tantamount to saying that the people of those countries support the injustices and atrocities committed in their names since that is what being a ‘democracy’ means.
There is a war on terrorism, and the attack on Charlie Hebdo, just like the attack on the WTC in 2001, must be seen as part of it. It is an ongoing war, and it is terrorism on terrorism.
In the wake of the WTC attack, many people in the United States asked a valid question “Why do they hate us?” and there was a chance, a hope – that this would (despite the gruesome motivating event) to an awakening of sorts. That Americans and the Western world at large would understand that these kinds of attacks were a reaction, and not an action, that they were part of an ongoing war, that despite being terrorist attacks, they constituted, for many, a war on terrorism.
George W. Bush led the way to further misunderstanding when he then assumed himself to have answered the question with his ridiculous answer; that the terrorists attacked the WTC because they hated ‘Freedom’…
This was so ridiculous an answer that we have to go back and see how Osama Bin Laden responded, and it was this; that if they hated freedom, then they would have attacked Norway, or was it Finland? I forget. In any case, one of those northern European countries where people can pretty much do as they please. The point is that Osama, tall and sickly as he was, understood one thing better than George W. Bush; that the USA is not a shining beacon of freedom, despite what Fox News and Sean Hannity would like you to believe. However, idiocy rules, and in quick order, things went back to normal! Most people assumed that the question had been answered!
The gung-ho ruled, and still rules, and will continue to rule as long as the causes of these issues are not examined and investigated. It will continue to rule as long as you ignore legitimate grievances and assume that you are good and that the people attacking you are bad and that that is all there is to it. These kinds of conflicts will continue so long as you claim to be a democracy but are ignorant of the injustices and atrocities committed by your governments. The blame will fall on you, not because you are free or democratic, but because you are complicit.
Again, if you want to find the truth, assume that everybody is lying, but if you want to solve a problem, assume that everybody is telling the truth.