Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The choices of Brussels and its bombers

I almost didn’t write anything about the Brussels bombings, because, what else is there to say that hasn’t already been said?

Most of the world’s newspapers are running copy-and-paste stories with only the names and details of previous and similar attacks changed. Islam, of course, is at the centre again. And it doesn’t matter whether the author writes to condemn Islam, defend Islam or draw attention to the “good” people of the religion. It’s all been written before and I’m sick of it.

The facts are simple: three bombs killed more than 30 people and wounded 200 others in the heart of Europe. One attack was at the Brussels international airport while a second targeted the metro line nearby. Two explosions appear to be suicide attacks, making them the sixth and seventh suicide bombings in Europe’s history (the first five occurring during the November 2015 Paris attacks).

A third suicide vest was discovered in the vicinity of the airport. A police raid on a house in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek also uncovered another explosive device, chemical products and an Islamic State (IS) flag. A manhunt is now underway for a man captured on CCTV footage at the airport.

But I’m not going to discuss the details further. I’ve already pointed out on multiple occasions why the war on terror is so hard to fight, how terror attacks are the new normal and the attraction of “soft targets” to terrorists such as airports and metro subways. Nowhere is safe, that’s always been true.

All the expected talk of multiculturalism’s failure or the influx of millions of refugees, both “breaking down the cultural norms of Europe”, will be enjoyable dinner table conversation (it’s also a good way to lose friends, and that’s always been true too).

The way I see it, the only question worthy of an answer won’t be asked. It’s not a difficult question because it goes to the core of both individual and collective psychology. The question is one everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives: Who do I wish to be in the future?

Five years or ten years will come regardless of the answer, so isn’t it best to take control now? Because like it or not, we are all choosing our future with every daily action. Everyone must ultimately choose who they are, or else it will get chosen for you.

This stretches from how one’s anger is dealt with, whether to buy that morning coffee, pausing to let someone cross your walking path, staring a few too many seconds out the window, eating at 1pm rather than 1:05pm or picking up a book instead of the TV remote. All are choices and we make millions each day, down to the millisecond.

Those attackers in Brussels made a series of unbroken choices leading all the way to pressing the button on their explosive vests. The people waiting in line at the security desk made a series of unbroken choices until they stood looking bored in the long queue. Every word I write here is a result of choices to include them on the page. And you, dear reader, made a choice to read this story.

It’s a pleasant fiction to believe that fate or luck causes all events. It’s comforting because it removes guilt and culpability, replacing them with ambivalence and resignation. It also denies the agency of the individual. Because to believe “everything happens for a reason”, and for that reason to be fate, is superstition and religious. It is the default mode for frightened humans who only wish to get through life without thinking about how alone they really are. It is a poisonous comfort.

The truth is all choices are binary. An action is either taken or not taken. Grey areas do not exist, and if anyone points out some grey then you are looking only at a lie. Everything is a choice, everything you do is your choice. And yes, that’s frightening, but would you have it any other way?

So what choices did Europe and Europeans make which lead to explosions in Brussels? I’m not interested in whether they are at fault for not accommodating the immigrants more effectively. I’m interested only in asking who or what does Europe wish to be in the future.

Because the millions of EU social policies are all interconnected. It is disingenuous to isolate policies of multiculturalism, for instance, and blame them for specific events in the bloc. A society can’t organise multiculturalism without the spider-web of preceding ideas and laws built around it. Each of those laws and ideas required choices – to take the action or not. That is what is important.

In reality, the Europe of 2016 has grown into exactly the construction it wished to become five or ten years ago. Whatever the benefits or dangers of this present construction are details. The only thing that matters is that Europe made a series of unbroken choices. The bloc now looks to 2021 or 2026 and asks what it wishes to become by the time those years roll around, and a new series of choices will be made to achieve this goal.

Of course arguing over those choices is crucial because they affect every one of the 503 million EU inhabitants. And amongst them is a myriad of groups with differing conceptions of what they wish Europe to look like in 2021. There will be sympathisers of the Brussels attackers too, adherents of a specific Islamic doctrine advocating world domination and the removal of all “infidels”.

Those Islamic fanatics are also making choices towards achieving who they wish to be in the future and how they want Europe to be. From their perspective, their choices are outweighing the choices of Europeans and that is at the core of the scenario. Europe is changing to accommodate the cultural ideas and norms of a new set of people. There are unambiguous consequences for this.

If I’m correct about choices, then this is not a dark conspiracy. It is the direct result of unbroken series of actions taken by an entire continent. This did not happen to Europe as a result of misfortune.

On that logic, what we are witnessing today is precisely the result of choices made five, ten and twenty years ago in Brussels. We can shake our heads in wonder and befuddlement, yet ultimately this has nothing to do with fate or luck. The Europe we see now is the Europe its citizens wanted and now they have to deal with those choices.

Every day you must consciously choose who you are. Choose.

1 comment:

Malcolm Hansen said...

Can't disagree with that!!

I just hope Europeans understand that, as otherwise they are at risk of making the wrong choices all over again, which would be an even greater tragedy!