There are some scenes every now and then which are so genuinely appalling that they are cause honestly for cooler heads and basic human empathy to prevail.
The aftermath of the earthquake which struck regions in Turkey in Syria, amassing a death toll that now stands just shy of 30,000, has seen charities and humanitarian organisations of all stripes, rush to give in aid and support to its victims. In moments of difficulty, the geographic distances between the world’s peoples lose their significance, as genuine empathy and care for fellow human beings wins over.
The aftermath though has also revealed the dispositional contempt that settles in the bosom of the European far right. Whilst the world was taken aback receiving images of children being pulled from rubble, newspapers like Charlie Hebdo chose that moment to take jest at the expense of those made homeless. Such callousness has those of conscience aghast.
A few days later, that same heartless potential would be manifest in Merseyside, as far-right protestors assembled outside a hotel housing asylum seekers. Violent clashes would break out with Merseyside police and a police vehicle would be set alight, with protestors reportedly chanting ‘out’ in the direction of the hotel. At the time of writing, 15 arrests have been made as the police investigation continues. This all occurred in the same week as the Shawcross report insists Islamism – whatever that ill-defined and nebulous term is supposed to mean – has been proportionately disregarded by the government’s Prevent strategy.
Many have been able to argue in the case of Charlie Hebdo that the butt of the controversy surrounding the paper had been about free speech. It was somehow still about free speech when French authorities guided by Macron broadcast images gratuitously aggravating and targeting their minority Muslim community on government buildings. That case is now impossible to maintain. Similarly in the UK, the headline grabbing rhetoric surrounding the asylum seekers some would have you believe, reflected genuine and relatively benign policy concerns: various technocratic graphs and legalistic jargon with a mind towards ensuring that the bureaucratic measures were in place to accomdate the influx of people. That – if it was not already – is also now impossible to believe.
‘By their deeds you will know them.’ Indeed, and these recent events serve to unmask this poorly sustained charade. Right-wing bodies have for long served as refuge for society’s disgruntled. Amidst this cost-of-living crisis, policy makers and propogandists continue to act irresponsibly. And so, for what some might call the disenfranchised, that asylum seeker – who has come light of possessions and seeking help – becomes the archetypal bogeyman, responsible for all life’s difficulties and tribulations. The show in Merseyside reflected a blood-stained proclivity in fascistic circles to scapegoat the other in times of hardship.
Much feigned intellectualism on the right is similarly disappointing. It is hard to see it as much other than poorly articulated emotionalism, blaming your neighbour with a beard for the breakdown of your local community, or your lack of identity and purpose. If this disgruntled right-wing was to truly introspect, they would realise that in truth, Muslims are far more in congruency with the Western tradition than the current platter of social values. That introspection, if it might carry them to peruse the past century of European history, would reveal to them stark resonances between them today, and the ‘enemies of freedom’ that the UK fought in the Second World War. The dissonance is damning: idolisers of Churchill, but models of his opposition.
I make a reference to neighbours purposefully here. At a fundamental level, there are ethics and principles of human living that most cultures have always adhered to, and Islam certainly does: you honour your guests, you protect your weak, you care for your neighbour. If the right wing would blame Muslims for the protracted erasure of ‘European’ identity and the erosion of its values, then they should try at least to adhere to them in their treatment of their minorities. Whatever you think about immigration policy, or indeed whatever your views are on freedom of speech, these events are ugly. We can do better.