I was taken aback recently to learn of a serious proposal to set up a school for Gays. While a firm supporter of not stigmatising minorities – as a child of an unmarried mother at a time such things were scandalous, I know just what that means – I felt that this was simply a bridge too far. In fact I believe it could be counter-productive, harming the very people it was designed to protect; a classic case of the law of unintended consequences. Humans across the world belong to a single family. If you remove certain sections of society from the mainstream and create an environment in which they circulate for substantial and formative periods only among people of their own preferences you risk encouraging the majority to believe that they really don’t want to belong to the mainstream. We know the aims of Gays in making this proposal are laudable; they wish to experience and benefit from an education free from the slings and arrows of a taunting minority. But the answer, I fear, is not to remove them from the orbit of the bullies but to bear down and educate bullies into accepting that it is they – the bully – not their victim, who is the problem. It was never more clear to me than during my army service in Northern Ireland that if people are ghettoed from their fellows they will not relate to them and, as a consequence, would be capable of doing terrible things. And there, job discrimination was total – in schools, churches, policing, pubs, town halls, housing and just about anything else you could think of. The first question that any employer asked of you was, “are you Catholic or Protestant?” We saw in blood where that led.
Social attitudes can be turned full circle. We know this from things we have already achieved. Do you remember that ‘Carry On’ film in which a partying group of young medics came out and piled into an open-topped sports car and roared off? The noisy, raucous group were all the worse for drink. We thought, at the time, it very funny and so did the producer. Neither he nor we would think that now. In fact we are appalled that we ever thought it so. In similar vein was the ubiquitous glamorising of smoking on the silver screen. Also, look at our previous indifference to the disabled; we never bothered to put wheelchair access into anything. Then, just let a landlord – as happened when I first lived and worked in London – try putting in his window a sign reading ‘No Blacks, Irish or Dogs’. All hell would break loose. Women’s prospects have improved immeasurably from what they were and so have peoples’ of other races. I could go on. Indeed, some might argue that in today’s Britain your life chances might be improved if you were not of Caucasian stock. Racial, religious, gender and disabled abuse have all joined the bonfire of the unacceptable, as has hate language. Also that pernicious culture of being able to touch women up and, worse, and get away with it is thankfully at an end, though I do wonder if we are right in pursuing old men to the grave. But I acknowledge that justice must trump everything and you could argue that they were lucky to have got away with it for as long as they did before justice finally caught up with them. Finally, while we’re at it, let’s remember that poor unmarried mother whose family once turfed her out. That was not a million miles removed from stoning her.
My point in highlighting all this is to show that Europe in times past – often with us as flag-bearer – has had very backward attitudes. In addition to this we have been exceptionally cruel, physically as well as emotionally. It therefore ill behoves us, as we make progress, to lambast the Muslim world for its tardiness. The whole world hardly needs to take lessons from us in this area. There was a time, which lasted for seven hundred years, when Muslim Spain led the world in virtually all the sciences. While it was rescuing and translating almost all the Greek classics, we were transporting ourselves across the Mediterranean Sea and despoiling their prosperous, peaceable lands in Palestine. Our ‘great’ King Richard (The Lionheart) – who spoke no English and spent only a few months out of his eleven-year reign in England, bankrupting it in the process – wrought such cruelty on Crusade that even today Muslim mothers will quieten their little ones by saying “shhh… King Richard is coming”. He once decapitated 5,000 prisoners on the beach at Acre. Strange it is then that of all our many illustrious monarchs he is the only one honoured with a statue outside Parliament. An unfathomable people we are for making such a judgement. And in terms of cruelty, no Muslim country that I am aware of ever matched our grisly hanging, drawing and quartering routine, nor Bloody Mary’s 300+ burnings at the stake in a five year period, nor Vlad the Impailer’s bestial cruelties, nor the horrors of the 30 Years’ War.
It is very true that we have today a terrible problem – to put it mildly – with certain crazy Muslim men, but we have had our share of crazy men, even if they have not specialised in running wild on the streets with butchers’ knives and Kalashnikovs. The sheer magnitude and level of depraved brutality which our own continent has exhibited throughout the recent century should humble us considerably in our dealings with the rest of humanity. It certainly does not qualify us to hand out advice as though it is coming from on high, and as though we approach the world’s problems with clean hands. However, it is my belief that it is this very barbarism which has made Europe determined to do things differently in the future.
It may not seem so but we are moving into a kinder, more caring world. Not only have we such institutions now as the International Criminal Court, whereby previously unchecked rulers can be held to account, but we show concern and provide help when manmade or natural catastrophe overwhelms one of our brother countries. This is new. Every country now acknowledges that it has a duty to work towards some sort of a welfare state for its people. This, too, is new. Making war without United Nations authorisation is an option becoming increasingly difficult for sovereign states.
Social networking, Skype, emails and the instant availability of facts and information – as well as the next day delivery of goods on eBay and Amazon – makes ours a more joined-up world than it has ever been. And we are only at the beginning. Within three generations, virtually the entire human race will be able to communicate with each other in a universal language. What incredible good fortune that it happens to be our own which will be that medium – and what business opportunities that should present us with if we have the wit to seize them!
Meantime we must hold our nerve as we navigate through what undoubtedly will be treacherous waters, finding ways of containing and then rolling back the bone-headed fanatics who seek excitement on foreign battlefields as well as at home in the misplaced belief that their warped vision is the future. Yet we must do so without compromising our essential liberties and bring our Muslim brothers and sisters on board. Their thinking, young people, in particular, want all the same things we have, including democracy. We must find ways of getting them to prevail over their rogue elements and bring them on board too.
The recent shocking events in Norway have affected us in a particularly unusual way, as we have long come to view the Scandinavian family in a special light. Although they may once have been among the most violent people ever to walk the earth, that was a very long time ago; like so many others whose characteristics have changed beyond all recognition – think Romans, Germans, Japanese – we now regard the Norsemen as paragons of virtuous and peaceful living. If such an event can occur in such a region then it can occur anywhere. But perhaps I miss a vital factor here; perhaps I should restrict my comments to the developed world. Why do I say this? I say it because we have not yet heard of an outrage of this sort in Africa, Latin America or the East. And we have not heard of it in the countries of the Mediterranean basin.
A common feature of all the perpertrators of these crimes is that they are loners. They do not come from integrated and loving families; they have chips on their shoulders because they feel themselves neglected and unwanted. Their parents, in pursuit of notions of equality and a right to continue the hedonistic lifestyle of youth, even after they have ‘committed’ and produced children, do not want to be burdened with the sacrifices of parenthood. Forget the cover which hatred of the outsider provides – in this case Muslims. If they didn’t exist it would be the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, or other such minority groups. The loner has to have something to hang his grievances on.
One factor which distinguishes this atrocity from the others is that the killer had no wish to kill himself. For a start – with his warped thinking – he believes he is acting in a righteous cause and need have no bad conscience. To him, the end justifies the means or, as Stalin put it: ‘A single death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic.’ And in that respect he is no different from the Jehadists. What’s more, he is young and will, due to Norway’s 21-year maximum jail term, be walking the streets again in his early fifties (during this time he will be enjoying some of the cushiest prison conditions in the entire world). Also what is different is that he has left us a veritable mountain of his private thoughts via the internet. He has spent years cataloguing everything. His ‘manifesto’ alone runs to an astonishing 1,430 pages, the majority of which will no doubt be rambling nonsense. We shall further have a chance to analyse his twisted logic in minute detail in one-to-ones during the months and years ahead.
What this sad and tragic tale seems to say to me is that government policies throughout the developed world must be skewed to resurrect the values associated with strong and stable families. Parents must be brought to understand that if they produce children they must stand by them; that they must make sacrifices to ensure that they have happy memories of their childhood to draw on and to know that they were loved and cherished. It is a bitter harvest indeed that we are reaping as a result of the decades following the fifties, when adults were free to be as promiscuous as they pleased – thank you, pill – and to pursue a ‘me, me lifestyle’. And don’t tell these people about duties; they only want to hear about rights.
A decade of waiting has finally yielded a result: Osama bin Laden is no more. A trial, while superficially appealing, would have been a nightmare for a whole host of reasons. The Muslim world must accept that the level of wickedness Bin Laden was responsible for could only have merited one just outcome.
Saddam Hussein went to the gallows following a trial by his own people; it would have been altogether differently perceived if the trial had been arranged by the Christian West. There would have been no trial like it since Oliver Cromwell arraigned his own king in 1649, and like Charles, Osama would have ended up—at least among his own people—a martyr.
This outcome will not see the end of Muslim terror by its unbalanced, extremist wing, but it has decapitated its loudest, most sinister proponent. To quote Churchill, after the long awaited victory in the Egyptian desert: ‘Now this is not the end; it is not even be beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’.
Although a necessary task has been accomplished, there should be no gloating from the West. A few more years of evading his pursuers would have turned Bin Laden into a latter-day Robin Hood, and if he’d never been run to ground the West would have seemed supine as well as hopelessly incompetent.