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Cycle of hate

Posted: 14 November, 2015


The September 11th attacks were my generation's Kennedy moment. I can remember where I was and most of the day and night that followed. I also remember how the internet collapsed under the pressure of people seeking news. CNN, BBC and most other news sites had to revert to plain text HTML, their nascent infrastructure completely unable to deliver up pages with images at a time of crisis. I got most of my news that day over IRC. Channels popped up, people shared links, and Reuters reports were cut-and-pasted from the few people lucky enough to grab a page before the inevitable timeout. We talked and speculated the 'who' and 'what's as the true size and scale of the horror unfolded.

I drove home fairly quickly that afternoon, all of us did, and arrived in front of my TV minutes before the second plane crashed. Laptop on my knee, searching for more news, I watched in silence as the buildings fell.

What I didn't know then was how the reaction to those events would shape the world to come. The war on terror - as unwinnable as the war on drugs - the devastation in Iraq, the destabilization of so many countries.  American imperialism, backed up by the aggression of Europe. Russia no longer in place as a counter-weight.

The attacks gave power to the politics of fear. Public opinion, although divided, acquiesced, granting extraordinary powers to nation states at 'war'. Powers we've yet to unravel and retract. We now live in a world where these countries not only made up the evidence to justify their attacks - so called WMDs - but routinely kill their enemies through state-sponsored assassinations. Long gone are the days of the clandestine James Bond, or even the hope of lawful protections - the right of a trial before peers - now we have pin-point drone strikes of fearsome power and speed, or worse, torture and indefinite internment. The internet no longer collapses at a time of crisis, it's beaming live footage to all our screens with insufferable talking heads asking passers by for body counts, or worse photos of the dead.

What's happening in the middle-east, from the migration to the militarisation, has been fuelled by our politics. Our 'fear'. Our 'backing' of the Neo-liberal agenda. Our greed. And now I worry that it's too late. I worry that we've missed many of the forks in the road where we could have made substantial change, post September 11. I worry about closed borders. I worry about the fact that our financial infrastructure wasn't fixed after 2008, but just sticky-plastered over. I worry about the surveillance state. I worry about climate change. But worst of all, I worry that yesterday's horrific attacks in Paris will just be used by the political classes to reinforce the politics of hate and class-war that have driven us here.

We have to start putting people first, wherever they live in the world. We have to start realising that the market, and private companies, can do nothing positive for us when profit is put before humanity. We have to realise that many of our political institutions - and media outlets - now serve corporations, rather than the rights of the people they were built to represent.

None of this will change if we're blinded by emotions of fear and the desire to retaliate. As natural as those human instincts are, we have to be more humane.

There's been too much death in my life this week. Thursday I found out one of my old Uni friends had passed. The evening was spent talking to friends, shocked at how it could happen. Last night was watching the horror in Paris unfold, fearing the worst for the people I know there.

I miss being young and thinking the world would get better. :(

Hug those close to you. Lift your head up and think about those around you. Don't buy into this bullshit that people only deserve our aid - our social support - if they're willing to work for a minimum wage, that we can't afford to do the right thing for those unable to, that only the people that have the right skin-colour, or live in the right part of the fucking world, or believe in the same God, matter.

Do what the taxi drivers in Paris did: turn off your meters, stop thinking about money, and act like a fucking human being. Give just a tiny bit of a shit about someone else and maybe, just maybe, we can all lift ourselves out of this and get ourselves home safely.