Manchester: Some reflections

Here are some hopefully not too glib or hasty thoughts on the Manchester atrocity.

Of all possible universes, in what fucked-up galaxy does someone sit and watch a concert surrounded by innocent children having the time of their lives and then blow them all up? It seems to be the same appallingly misaligned solar system in which people walk into crowded marketplaces with backpacks containing tightly packed and condensed death. After all, similarly barbaric events regularly take place in Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul. However, for us the Manchester bombing is close to home in several ways. We now have a baby daughter who seems to love music and one day will want to be taken to her first gig. The concert in question is exactly the kind of event my young nieces dream of attending. The social context is all too imaginable, although the grief is almost impossible to contemplate.

Reports describe thousands of people running in blind panic from the sudden carnage, running for the exits. Fleeing is among the basic instincts we possess, and it’s profoundly human to (as many did) offer protection and comfort to the survivors. Thus it would be horribly ironic if the shockwaves from the attack were to rebound on others who have escaped larger theatres of violence. Those who seek to instrumentalise the tragedy, to conduct a banal symphony of hatred against people seeking refuge from other sites of indiscriminate mass murder should be treated with absolute contempt. Hate preachers such as Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins have much more in common with the people who planned and carried this out than with those who died, regardless of their nationality. As for The Sun, in addition to hosting Hopkin’s call for refugees to be massacred en masse, it recently had on its front page a photo of a child refugee along with a demand for his teeth to be checked so his age could be verified. Their mawkish coverage of this event puts me in mind of Oscar Wilde’s comment about sentimentality being the bank holiday of cynicism*.

Like any rational person, I hope they do track down the psychopaths who radicalised the murderer and interrogate all those he came into contact with. There’s little point looking at the Koran for clues to what inspired such evil. After all, the Bible is just as violent. A better indication as to what draws young men to violence is to be found in this recent must-read article on the pull of nihilism:

This self-destructive dimension has nothing to do with the politics of the Middle East. It is even counterproductive as a strategy. Though Isis proclaims its mission to restore the caliphate, its nihilism makes it impossible to reach a political solution, engage in any form of negotiation, or achieve any stable society within recognised borders.

It’s reported that the presumed killer spent time in Libya, and was possibly trained there. Maybe that’s where he acquired and developed his taste for death. Just as it’s very difficult to read about the experiences of those in the Arena, it’s extremely hard to face up to what’s going on there. Countless thousands are held in Isis-run camps in Libya, where they are summarily tortured and killed. I’ve met several people in Rome who escaped. There is a sense in which European citizens are happy for such camps to exist as long as the people in them are thereby prevented from clambering onto rickety boats and trying to reach safety here. We can choose to look away from what is happening but doing so puts in a similar category to German civilians who knew something untoward was going on in the K.Z.. At least they were scared about speaking out. We don’t have that excuse.

I found the BBC coverage of the aftermath of the bombing appalling. There was a total failure to put what had happened into any context. There is a stupid idea prevalent in TV media in particular that attempts to explain events are the same as excuses. This presumably explains why there was a total lack of experts offering some attempt at making sense of the horror. The main news story on BBC London opened with random people on the street offering their feelings of rage and solidarity. Clearly no blame attaches to those people, but the Dianafication of this extremely serious episode is regrettable. We have a duty to address these events in an adult way, at the same time as seeking a means to explain such evil to our children. That doesn’t mean it’s the job of the BBC to treat its grown-up viewers like infants.

At least there was one BBC interviewee who in response to an asinine question from the reporter pointed out that the majority of Isis’ victims are not Europeans but Muslims in the Middle East. Please let’s not fall into the trap of thinking the life of an Iraqi child is worth less than that of a British one, that a bombing of a concert in Manchester is worse than a bomb in a Baghdad marketplace.

Of course, there is the urgent question of how the terrorist got hold of the bomb material. He may well have been trained in the Middle East. As it happens, the US Government has just sold $100,000,000,000 worth of death material to a country which is currently committing genocide in a neighbouring country. It also happens to be the nation that sponsored the atrocity which gave birth to the war on (and of) terror.

One hundred billion dollars buys a lot of Manchesters. It’s a huge investment in murdered sons and daughters, some of them our own. And the arms-dealing President, who hates all Muslims except those who have large amounts of money to invest in pure evil, has more in common with the Manchester terrorist than he does with his victims. As for our own Government, it has made it abundantly clear that basic protection of our lives and freedoms is no longer a priority.

*Although the cynicism of tabloid editors is far surpassed by that of the ‘false flag’ scumbags who claim that the dead children never existed in the first place. People who spread such repugnant nonsense are probably nihilistic enough to go and join Isis, but too lazy and scared to do so, so they find easier and safer ways to destroy lives.