Friday, 24 May 2013

On the Off Chance that One of You Might Hear Me - Liz Kessler

Yesterday morning, I read a blog entitled So you’re a racist. Let’s talk about that. As I was reading, I thought no – no, you’re wrong. Racists should never be given a platform. I don’t want to read their words and they shouldn't be allowed any avenues for expressing them. They don’t listen. They don’t want to change their views. All that ever seems to happen when I engage with them is that I get upset, frustrated and ultimately disillusioned about the human race. And I’m not going to do it.

Then someone I know wrote, ‘If you’re not English, f*** off,’ on their Facebook status. My first reaction, when I’d picked myself up from the shock, was that I no longer wanted this person anywhere near me or my life in any way, ever again. And then I thought about the blog, and I found myself wondering if perhaps I could try it.

Well, this is my attempt to do that. So yeah, ‘M’ – this is for you. But it’s also for the many, many other people who, like you, jump on the handiest scapegoat and the easiest target to prop up their beliefs, and in doing so, only spread the hatred even further. The hatred that has upset you so much in the first place.

I think it would be safe to say that the majority of the UK – and probably the entire world – feels incredibly angry and outraged and upset about the horrific attack on the soldier Lee Rigby. Many people have jumped onto the bandwagon that is being recklessly driven by extremists and racists all over the internet. The one where you get to blame Muslims, or non-UK people, or black people – or basically anyone outside the tiny, safe circle of your precious, selfish life. By doing this, you think you are standing up for what is just and right. But you are in fact doing the opposite. You are throwing petrol on a fire that is already raging and in danger of burning out of control.

Don’t you see that?

Responding to this horrific attack with racist and xenophobic abuse only spreads more hatred and anger, and ultimately more violence. It doesn’t solve anything. The men who did this have committed a despicable, vile and utterly horrific crime. But their race has nothing to do with it. The country they were born in has nothing to do with it. Their religion, their colour. Those things are not the enemy – they are smokescreens being used to hide the reality of what they have done - which is an act that is as low a thing as a person can do. If we use their actions to fuel racism and xenophobic hatred, we are playing directly into their hands. We are perpetuating a war that they are proud to fight in.

We must do everything we can to deny them that achievement. Their horrific actions should not be used to stir up hatred and fear of the enormous numbers of law-abiding and good-hearted people who might share the same colour, birthplace or even religion.

If there is any way to fight against atrocities like this, it is in taking the opposite approach to the one that so many people seem to have jumped to. It is to spread more tolerance, more understanding, more generosity of heart and spirit. Not more hatred, more violence and more extreme views.

The people who we should look to are those like the woman who went over to the dying soldier in the midst of the atrocities and prayed for him. The Muslims who turned to twitter to tell the world that this act was not done in their name. The ones who have posted and reposted words such as Mahatma Gandhi’s, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."

So M – if you’re reading this, and if others like you are reading it, I hope that there might be one tiny thing in it that has made you stop and think about your views, just for one moment. I know that it devastates you to think that there is a two-year-old boy who one day will be told why he has grown up without a father. You are a good person who feels things deeply. Use that to make this world a better place for him, not a worse one.


laurjames said...

So very well said. I love this. What I love a little less is that I feel the need to share this on my FB timeline, where I have a 'friend' who could benefit from reading it.

Personally, I have to believe that people just react like this out of fear. They're looking for a voice that will make them feel safe again, so I can kind of understand why the ones shouting loudest might make them feel that way. But for me reassurance is found in voices that are less confrontational but just as impassioned, like this post right here. Sharing this everywhere.

Lynne Garner said...

Well said - was something myself and him-in-doors were talking about last night. I don't think it helps when images of the attackers are everywhere. It just reinforces the stereotypes.

notmyyearoff said...

REALLY well written. It was very shocking and scary to read some of the views of people straight after this happened. And in some cases its even more shocking that it was coming from close friends.

JO said...

Extremes come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and religions. Blaming one ethnic group, or one religion, for the deranged behaviour of two individuals makes no sense at all.

We are enriched by listening to different ideas, dipping our toes into multicultural waters.

Which is why posts like this are so important. The voices of reason - there are enough of us - can (and must) drown those who shout for misplaced vengeance.

Anonymous said...

How you can say that the people who did it were vile and not even "human" when they truly believe that they did it for justice? Yes from our perspective it was a meaningless life lost of a innocent soldier, but the murderer himself pointed out in footage that there are Muslims like him being slaughtered at a much greater rate by the British. But we as Brits don't care a jolt about that because they're not our problem. I really liked your post but it's hugely hypocritical to condemn the murderers (in my own opinion), but not to acknowledge that the British too are killing thousands of innocent people (or innocent by one man's definition anyway). One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Liz Kessler said...

Thanks for these lovely comments.

'Anonymous' - I actually thought quite hard about whether to include the line that you have objected to. I understand you having an issue with it, but the reason that I decided to leave it in was because this kind of behaviour does not fit with my definition of what it means to be human. Not only the murder but the glorifying it, the parading it, the revelling in it - this behaviour disgusted me so much that it made me not even see them as part of a species that I could associate with.

As to your other point. I totally agree that the British army have been responsible for terrible injustices and crimes throughout history - as have many other countries and individuals. That is a separate issue from the one I am discussing here and is irrelevant to my argument. The whole point of what I'm saying is to try to stop the cycle of blame and retaliation.

Thank you for your comment though, and I appreciate the opportunity it gave me to clarify why I said what I said.

Lucy said...

Your Facebook 'friend' might want to look at their comment again. The men we are talking about are English.

Liz Kessler said...

Yeah Lucy, sadly that point was completely missed, along with so many others :(

Susan Price said...

Completely agree, Liz.
In answer to Anonymous: Yes, the British Army are being used to kill Muslims abroad - and many thousands of British people protested about that. Few citizens on the street have much power over their governments.

Killing one unarmed soldier in retaliation hasn't recalled the British Army: nor will it.

Violence breeds violence.

And the Muslim Taliban trash the rights of a great many muslims. How has murdering a British soldier helped them?

I happened to be reading Christopher Brookmyre's 'A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away' and came on this passage:

'All terrorists are w*****s. Whatever flags they wrapped themselves in, whatever religions, histories or myths they attached to their crusades, they were, to a man, just w*****s. They told themselves and anyone bored enough to listen that they were in it for the glory of their cause or the welfare of their 'people' (few of whom were ever consulted...) but the truth was that they were in it because they liked killing people...

'The...politicians could be relied upon to on on TV and denounce every terrorist incident as 'cowardly.' The perpetrators would be smirking...But it WAS cowardly. Planting bombs in unguarded places {or murdering one unarmed, unsuspecting man} took no balls at all...'

Whereas the courage of the women who peacefully intervened was astounding.

Andrew said...

Hhmm. Looks like middle england speaks on this....

One of my interests is cars.., fettlings them, enjoying them. Long, long ago I owned several Triumph sports cars pretty much in succession. A TR4,a TR5, a TR6. I'd spend long hours in a garage attending to their needs. At one point, I did two jobs just so I could afford to run the TR5.

I'd meet up with other enthusiasts of the marque.

40 years down the way, I regularly use, and contribute to the Triumph TR internet forum. And yet, when I declined to go along with the labelling of people as 'scum', I suddenly found myself referred to as a tw*t and a pr**ck.

And when I further commented that I see little recognition in mainstream media that the foreign policies, and the actions of the soldiery, of this country might just have a lot to do with reaping the consequences..... , there was a considerable foaming of mouths.

Maybe if your starting point were to be that the actions were murderous, and abhorrent there may be room to move. Because the labellig of people takes you nowwhere good.Imo.

Liz Kessler said...

Andrew - I take your point, and I think you are right to make it. Calling these men 'scum' does nothing to advance my argument, and if it is a barrier to others seeing what I am trying to say then I would prefer to stick to describing actions rather than labelling people. I have actually edited a couple of lines in my post after thinking about your comment.

By the way, you might want to take a little bit of your own advice re judging people. I am not 'middle England' (whatever that is anyway). I'm an individual expressing my own views on something that shocked and horrified me on many levels, and I think that both I and the people in the comments (including you!) have expressed ourselves with respect and decency.