It didn’t happen in our city. Nor in our country. Nor even on our European doorstep.
So how, apart from offering the requisite commiserations, should we respond to an Australian committing horrific mass murder in New Zealand?
Brenton Tarrant, who perpetrated the more murderous of yesterday’s two attacks on mosques in Christchurch, is described as a right-wing terrorist, and the designation seems fitting, the second part definitely, the first part probably.
Now I don’t pretend to be offering a legally rigorous recommendation, but I think a man with Tarrant’s feral, moronic face ought to have been locked up preventively, ideally at birth.
One look at him, and it wouldn’t have taken Cesare Lombroso to identify the man as a violent degenerate who’d commit a gruesome crime sooner or later. The only question left unanswered by this physiognomic exercise in anthropology would have been what kind of violent crime Tarrant would choose to commit.
He and his accomplices chose to kill 49 Muslim worshippers and to wound 48 more, 20 of them badly. The proper civilised reaction to this crime, regardless of one’s feelings about Islam, Muslim terrorism or the British immigration policy, should be that of revulsion.
The first reaction, that is. But, once the initial horror subsided, perhaps one should reflect why those atavistic creatures opted for that particular crime.
After all, if they were driven by some general, primordial bloodlust, they could have achieved a much higher score at a sporting event, during a particularly attractive sale at a large department store or simply in a crowded street.
Their choice of target, then, wasn’t general. It was specific and, however perverse, it was political.
You and I are different, though we too have strong political convictions and even stronger cultural allegiances.
That’s why we’re definitely on the side of the West in its 1,400-year-old conflict with Islam. I can only speak for myself with absolute certainty, but I suspect all of us deplore Islamic terrorism, and most of us identify unchecked Muslim immigration as a deadly demographic threat.
But, being civilised, we aren’t going to express our feelings with semi-automatic shotguns and Armalite assault rifles. We aren’t savages like Tarrant, are we?
Of course we aren’t. So how are we going to bring our conscience to bear on this issue? How can we channel our feelings into a productive conduit?
We can write articles, as I’m doing now – in the full knowledge that I’m preaching to the choir and nothing I write will have the slightest effect on those who sing from a different hymn sheet.
Or we can write indignant letters to our MPs and threaten to vote against them. That would bring some spleen-venting satisfaction, but hardly any other.
The MP’s staff would ignore our missives or at best write a polite and meaningless reply. And even if we then add our vote to a sufficient number of others to vote the MP out, his place will only be taken by his intellectual and moral clone, if sporting a differently coloured rosette on his lapel.
So what recourse do we have, if any? This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely looking for an answer and not finding one.
Moreover, I strongly suspect that the modern liberal state designed on the principle of social contract, first enunciated by Hobbes and Locke, and later developed by Rousseau, offers no tangible answer to that critical question.
I’ve always struggled with the concept anyway, unable as I am to identify where, when and by whom that contract was signed. In any case, that mythical ceremony must have happened a long time ago, so is the contract legally binding for each subsequent generation too?
Assuming this to be the case, one may still be sufficiently pedantic to suggest that every valid contract includes the terms for its termination in case of non-compliance by either side.
So how can the contract between the modern liberal state and the people be terminated if the people feel the state isn’t complying with its terms? Mr Hobbes? Mr Locke? Mr Rousseau? Anybody?
Alas, none of those gentlemen, nor any of their intellectual heirs, provided an adequate answer to that question. One suspects they and other architects of our modern democracy sans frontières believed that voters reconfirmed their commitment to the social contract each time they dropped a piece of paper into the ballot box.
That, however, doesn’t take into account the infinitely widening chasm between the people and the state. And if you think the word ‘chasm’ is an overstatement, just look at the on-going Brexit debacle.
The state, as represented by the institutions of government, hasn’t just ignored the democratically conveyed will of the people, but clearly hasn’t even considered it a legitimately valid factor.
This isn’t just an aberration, as any observer of our political scene will know. It’s the workings of the social contract as it now is – as it has evolved with relentless inevitability.
Nor is it just a British phenomenon. Ours being a globalised world, the same chasm exists throughout the West, mutatis mutandis. The music may be louder or quieter and the dancers may look and sound different – but they all dance to the same tune.
Since no legitimate termination clause has been provided in the social contract, the only recourse left has to be illegitimate. Violence, be it an all-out revolution or a more localised terrorist act, seems to be the only tangible way for the people to register their dissatisfaction with the arrangement.
Getting specifically to the issue of interfaith relations, one doesn’t have to be a savage like Tarrant to feel despair at the creeping Islamisation of the West.
All one has to do is look at the number of the Muslims already in our countries, read the projections for further arrivals, compare the relative birth rates, do some simple sums – and realise that Europe’s indigenous population will find itself in the minority within a couple of decades, four at most.
Of course civilised people like us won’t murder Muslims en masse; on the contrary, we’ll repudiate such acts and mourn their victims. But not all of us are civilised.
Many such Tarrants live in our midst, and, given the unremittingly brutalising effect of modernity, their numbers, both absolute and relative, will grow.
The problem is so obvious that even such morons will have no difficulty identifying it, especially if able rabble-rousers nudge them in that direction. Nor will they fail to realise that the government isn’t only doing nothing to curb the problem, but is actively fostering it.
Since such people aren’t overburdened with respect for the sanctity of every human life, they’ll take to the streets, and blood will flow. The prospect should terrify us all, for when people increasingly take the law into their own hands, they invariably crush it to death.
Any political action, or as often as not inaction, has social consequences. So, while hoping that Tarrant and his accomplices will never walk the streets again and shedding a tear for their victims, we should save a couple of tears for ourselves.
Our governments are playing with fire, which is ill-advised when a tinderbox is so close at hand.