Manchester United? Jun06


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Manchester United?

There’s a lot today about the Manchester bomb. The Irish Times carries front-page photos of two pretty young girls, Saffie Rose Roussos (8) and Georgina Callander (18) who were both murdered by the suspected bomber, twenty-two year-old Salman Ramadan Abedi, “a Manchester-born son of Libyan refugees.” Simon Carswell writes of how Nadia Abdulmalek and Deborah Henley “embraced and cried among a crowd of thousands at Manchester Town Hall at a vigil” even though culturally they are very different. Donald Trump called the bomber a “loser.” Fintan O’Toole writes that “mass murder is easy and the more outrageous it is the easier it gets. Flesh is soft and easily shredded. Lives are fragile and easily shattered. Decency, humanity, compassion are flimsy and precarious. The barriers that separate earth from hell and civilization from barbarism are porous and full of holes…” “Porous and full of holes”?

The editorial says that “even by the standards of the decade…[Manchester] was an atrocity of singular, unspeakable cruelty.” (Goggy used to pronounce it “cruelity” with an added syllable.) Britain, it goes on, “must again confront two grim realities: that the threat of indiscriminate atrocities has become a regular feature of daily life in the world’s major cities, and that free societies cannot entirely eliminate that threat without undermining the very freedoms that define them.” I’m reminded of something Solzenitsyn wrote about America, something about why there was so much (or any) joy and triumph. I’m thinking of The Proud Tower too and how more than a century ago the people we now called Islamic terrorists were known as Anarchists and hoped to changed society or undo it altogether with a single deed, one that would initiate a further series of earth-shattering events and a total realignment of forces and structures. It all came to nothing. If anything, things got worse and within a few years there was a huge rearmament drive by major world powers despite Russia’s proposal for a peace conference, followed by a world war and massive loss of life the likes of which had never been witnessed before.

The paper’s editor writes that these attacks are a sign of IS’s weakening power in the Middle East.

Is it tempting to argue that the West has it coming? Does Britain, even if it hadn’t done anything wrong since relinquishing its empire after World War II (which is untrue), deserve frequent “atrocit[ies] of singular, unspeakable cruelty” because of those historical injustices like their meddling in the Middle East and Africa, their arms sales to crack-pot dictators (the US sold billions of arms recently to Saudi Arabia which’ll sell them on to its allies in Yemen). Regardless of whether or not the West – in this case Britain – deserves it or not, it’s not of course the guilty policy-makers and warmongers like Tony Blair who’ll bear the brunt. It’s innocent people. This is the case in all conflicts; that much is generally accepted as true. What’s more, our moral outrage might be more galvanizing if we (or “they”) were able to stand over their social models, their supposed freedoms we hear so much about. But that supposed freedom isn’t quite as free as we like to say. Our governments  – even the Irish government which allows American troops to land at Shannon (reason enough for an IS hit on Ireland it seems to me) are putting us at risk. Why else was Wikileaks necessary? Why else did millions of people protest against the war in Iraq in the early noughties and then go quiet and disappear once it started? In Ireland people complain all the time about the state of the health service, the corruption of politicians, selling of vital national resources, vulture-funds, banking irregularities (such a sanitary towel of a phrase), gross consumerism, environmental degradation by corporations we support by continually purchasing their products and yet it continues. It continues because we, at intervals, convince ourselves that we are free despite it all and that our model is the best but we continually choose to ignore (with brief and intermittent moments of Bono n’ Bob-sponsored outrage) the cost of our lifestyle and all the lives we’ve disrupted by not risking anything much by protesting against what we know is going on beneath the surface which is of course resource-theft and the rapacity of corporations. So, like Solzenitsyn, I have to wonder, why exactly do we think we’re so right and “they” (and I don’t mean the bombers) are so wrong?  The bombers are evil bastards; they are the darkness. But on this side of the fence we have amongst us our own white-skinned, suit-wearing evil bastards too.