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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Recipie for Disaster: They Killed an Innocent Man

Reports are now flooding in from all varieties of news agencies that the plain clothes police officers in London shot and killed an innocent man at point-blank range. The murdered man was a 27 year-old electrician, Charles de Menezes.

While the British authorities initially insisted the dead man had direct ties with the suicide bombers, it has now turned out that the only crime committed by the Brazilian was the level of melanin in his skin. In Britain these days, it is unhealthy to appear as though you are from a third world country.

Terrorism has taken its desired effect. It has struck fear in the hearts of an entire country and despite assurances from the Mayor of London that they would not be manipulated by terrorists, this slaying of a man who was lying down after he tripped is evidence enough that the entire country is on edge.

How incredibly sad it is that an act as devastating as suicide bombing can have such a chilling effect on the public; to the bombers, their cause is worth dying for. To the authorities their cause is worth killing for.

Sir Isaac Newton was a 17th century scientist that postulated a set of 'Laws' to describe what he observed regarding bodies in motion. Another concept introduced by Galileo was that of inertia.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Newton’s Third law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

While both concepts are very real and demonstrable as scientific phenomena, they accurately reflect what is happening regarding terrorism; the terrorists have initiated an action aimed at disrupting daily life in Britain – this most recent killing of an innocent man is evidence that they have succeeded.

Further exploration of the concept of inertia is that bodies have a tendency to remain in the same motion or even, lack of motion that they were originally in. The inertia I refer to now is the tendency of society to continue un-interrupted unless some action initiates a change. Here are the facts as they have been reported;

1] The original terrorists were young, male and second-generation citizens whose families emigrated from Muslim countries.

2] These descendants lived in communities of London that concentrate other citizens with similar backgrounds.

3] Most disturbing is the reality that each of the men dealt with the effects of racism in Britain – the result was they felt alienated from their country of birth.

4] They saw and heard direct accounts of suffering by people who share their religious beliefs, language and physical characteristics at the hands of a coalition formulated by Britain and the hated United States.

5] They saw a far superior enemy in Britain and the US which could never be challenged on the battlefield but they did realize they could cause more damage by creating psychological stress on the public at large.

Disaffection and disenfranchisement led these young men to take drastic measures in acting out against heir fellow citizens because they simply could not see themselves as assimilated members of their society. They did not feel welcome in Britain so they re-aligned their loyalties to the people whom they see to be suffering in Iraq. They directed their violence toward the inertia that has left them legal aliens in their country.

The suicide bombers' action addressed the inertia of racism and segregation in Britain. The equal and opposite reaction - apparently logical but still flawed has led the British Authorities to kill an innocent man in their aggressive reaction to the violence perpetrated by suicide bombers. Newton's Second Law, while aimed at physical phenomena, seems to very aptly describe the psychology of terrorism and bigotry.

The inertia perceived by Muslim descendants who suffer the effects of second-class citizenship in their own country has caused them to take drastic action in order draw attention not only to their plight but that of the people whom they feel most similar to – the citizenry of Iraq.

By no means am I claiming that what the deluded bombers are doing is right or even just. My aim is to understand what has happened in order to determine if there is a way to avoid any further acts of sabotage and destruction. There is a reason behind everything people do - we simply need to understand their motivations. Such motivations are like ingredients that have caused this most recent recipe for disaster. Knowledge of the ingredients that have led to such destructiveness and devastation gives us the power to understand how it came about. Moreover, such knowledge arguably arms us with the ability to work out a way of determining what not to do so that terrorists are not encouraged to kill themselves and their victims as a means of drawing attention to their cause. Such dramatic attention serves the purpose of not only victimizing the people directly affected by injury and death but by the psychological impact on everyone as it demonstrates to every citizen that they too are vulnerable to random acts of violence.

The violence taking place in Britain just like the violence taking place in Iraq and the terrorism that took place in America on 9/11 are all similar in that they point to desperate actions of people who feel there is no other way to address their problems. They feel a lack of empowerment and thus react violently against the governments who they hold responsible by attacking those government's otherwise innocent citizens. The collateral damage is aimed at effecting changes. Unfortunately they seem only to reinforce long-held prejudices against the people who most desperately want the change.


At Sun Jul 24, 10:15:00 AM MDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Joe. You hit the nail on the head with Newton's Laws - it's a good way of looking at it. Hadn't thought of that; thanks!

The Brazilian government is shocked and demanding justice for the killing. Damn straight.

On racism, again, great point. Racism borne of a culture where imperialism and colonialism built the nations of The West and are still very much ingrained in the culture has played a large role in all of this - not just fostering anger towards The West, but also the killing of an innocent man (shot 5 times in the head while held down - wonder if he'd been taken for questioning were he white), and resulting in poor coverage of the bombings in Egypt (a larger tragedy than London, but the amount of comparative coverage would lead you to believe otherwise).

All of this disturbs me greatly. I wrote a bit on this at LB, and had an interesting back-and-forth with 'anon', who was clearly offended at my allegations that we all suffer our ingrained racial biases from time to time. I guess it's hard to look in the mirror sometimes, but this is our culture, this is The West, and it's up to all of us to make an effort to do something about its ingrained mentality.

Appreciate the post, Joe, and the links. Thanks for making us all think - which is the key to affecting any level of change.



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