Another day, another mass act of violence against civilians.
Another few hours to speculate – is it an Islamic terrorist or a Nazi? Or someone with no ‘reason’?
As if that’s all there is to find out.
And another few hours to watch with grim fascination as the far left/right echo chamber toil yet again to squeeze a tragedy into their ever ready orthodoxy.
The tinfoil right wondering if they can claim it as an act of Islamic terror and use it to dog whistle against refugees and call on all Muslims to denounce the radical fringe yet again, despite them having as much in common with mainstream Islam as the Westborough Baptists have with your local Uniting Church.
The left waiting to pump out some defensive memes denying that there is any problem with the extreme edges of Islam at all and come up with a compassionate hashtag. “Look over there, some people of the Islamic faith helped me when my car broke down. We don’t really have a problem here at all” – #westandwithlove
Someone else saying its all about mental illness. That’s not much help in a world that is day by day making us ill.
But what if we all took our heads out of the sand and decided the “who” didn’t matter as much as: Why, What and How?
Put simply, what if we stopped trying to blame people for it and decided to try to stop it?
And isn’t it worth a try? Violence against civilians is toxic and corrosive. These are assaults on democracy, humanity, liberalism and peace. The erosion of faith in public spaces in the streets we walk in every day is the kind of thing that leads throughout history to wars. Big wars.
It’s not the 21st Century we wanted either. It’s feeling more like the last one. To butcher a phrase from a certain movie, it’s like the 30’s but with less hope.
So what would we do if we really wanted to cut off the oxygen of radical Islam or wannabe Nazi’s or whoever the next group of weirdos are who want to fly planes into buildings, shoot down passenger aircraft or open fire in a gay nightclub?
You could go back to the bargain that brought us 70 years of peace after the Second World War – serious weighted multilateralism. A strong United Nations made bargains that bought the world back from the brink then and it could heal us again. You’d undo the damage and the erosion of power which set in with the ridiculous invasion of Iraq. You’d have a worldwide leaders’ summit to take a deep dive on extremism and violence tasked with developing binding multilateral approaches to weapons, racism and the erosion of democracy.
For a start the sale of weapons outside of tight military arrangements between responsible governments would be banned everywhere. From the United States to Iraq. No guns to civilians. No guns to ordinary police. No mortars sold in the Ukraine or Peshawar. No weapons to anybody except the keepers of peace.
The sale of armaments outside of the framework and used to kill civilians would be chased down with all the force of an international military tribunal or the hunt for biological weapons.
You’d lower the tone of violence at both ends of the spectrum immediately.
You’d then remove the causes of violence and hate. There would be a war – but not on “terror” which loves war anyway – but on racist, sectarian and religious coercion and prejudice that targets any civilians based on inherent characteristics. A war on fear itself. The outcome could be a new Convention which allows States to treat strongly against any State party or group fostering religious, political or racial hate.
You’d have a summit between Western and Islamic political and religious leaders to lay some boundaries and some markers. Don’t want to admit there is a problem? Goodo – we’re not buying your oil again. Hello Tesla cars. Other sanctions to follow. And please take start taking responsibility for your own region thanks all the same.
It would be illegal to trade with or sell arms to States that persecuted Christians, Muslims, racial, political and religious minorities, women, gays or anyone else who was peacefully going about their lives.
The West would go back to being the shining light of democracy again. We’d observe the Geneva Convention and exert a slow, steady and inexorable pressure towards freedom and democracy so that people never feel the need to resort to guns over the ballot box. We’d come down on bad governance in places like Zimbabwe and also start to call it out in China. Torture and coercion by the State would be as bad a crime as violence against a State.
Whistle blowing and information freedom would be a virtue and we’d set Snowden and Assange free, hang medals on them and ask them to chase down every crooked arms trail and despot in the world. And the drug trade too.
Groups like Amnesty would be the best funded NGO’s in the world because their threads of morality and decency are what really keep us civilised and decent.
There would be pressure and money thrown at the Middle East and Israel to force a peaceful amicable two state settlement of the dispute that has acted like a cancer on the world for 50 years. Both would be told to start some serious adulting.
Will it happen? No. The United States, Russia and Germany like their guns and profit immeasurably from selling them. The Islamic states will hold to their prejudices and keep hanging gay people off cranes, selling arms and funding groups to undermine Israel. War is good for oil sales too. China will insist in some ill-defined brand of Asian values which don’t quite mean democracy thank you very much while not exerting the influence they could have as a world power. The hard right in Israel wouldn’t touch it and the radical elements on the other side have every reason to hope they don’t.
And yet all of it could happen. We couldn’t end the pull of violence against civilians tomorrow but we could start to shape a world where it was harder and a lot less likely.
We’d just need to want to.
(These are my personal views as an opinion commentator)
Craig Wallace is a marketing manager and project coordinator with Nican a national community organisation and has been a community leader with various organisations for more than a decade. He is the President of People with Disability Australia, a leading cross disability rights organisation in Australia and is a member of the ACT BLITS business group.