Forty years of people – in the face, down the phone, over the radio – means
I have seen and felt and thought a lot about humans. When people describe themselves as unshockable, I suppose in one way it’s good. It means you put yourself into witness mode and pay attention without taking time out to recoil.
But in another way, it’s not so good, indeed quite a bad thing – on the same spectrum as compassion fatigue. It means you have switched off and moved back self protectively.
As is so often the way, the best place to be is somewhere between the two, able to register and record your shock but able to realise your own part in it, shelve that till later, and pay attention.
What shocks me most about the abduction of 200 schoolchildren in Nigeria is that the only Muslim voice I have heard raised in regret is that of a young woman shot at and wounded by her own zealots for wanting an education. I have not heard one Muslim man, from mosque member on up, jib at kidnap, intimidation and emotional cruelty (both to the children and their families). Is this perhaps a media shortcoming, as in file under “least said, soonest mended”, don’t stir up the considerable Moslem population in this country for fear of provoking trouble?
The most shocking thing I ever heard about Islam is that the only unforgivable is apostasy – denying or leaving Islam – and it’s in the headlines right now, embodied by a woman held in prison, her husband ill (he has MS), her older child with her, her second baby born there. She describes herself as Christian but the legal code of the country claims that, as her father was Muslim, so is she. Thus she is denying Islam.
I am not big on interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Wars begin that way and whether you are pro or anti war, as far back as you care to go in human history, war is expensive in every way. The apologist Blair does not convince me.
You may express disapproval, repugnance, appal but unless you are a national of the country concerned, it is not your business. Because of religious or spiritual conviction, you may want to help in the fight or the consequences of the fight
– and they are at least as bad as the fight itself, numbering starvation, displacement, injury and deprivation among the evils. But if you are living outside that country, in another country, you have a primary duty of care to where you live.
If we are going to try and offer an alternative to Islamic radicalisation in our schools and on our campuses, then we already know there is a movement to counteract.
I do not envy anybody involved in this. I admire Muslims who offer their caring services, I respect Muslim communities who offer financial and every other kind of practical help. But I worry that one kind of brother – a religious and cultural one – is seen as more important than the people of the country where they live.
I have never forgotten a Muslim who wrote inveighing against me as the worst example of Western woman, saying he would never allow his women to be anything like the women of the west. There was an address, I wrote to acknowledge his point, saying that we must agree to differ and asking, if we were all so foul, why was he living here ? He replied. Here, he said, he had a house. 20 years ago, I threw the hateful letters away. Now, I think I would be writing to his local council.
No I will not be voting for UKip, one of whose few advantages seems to be the media ease of Mr. Farrage. I strive to remain patient in the face of Europe’s sadly predictable move to the right, where the further east you go, the more splintered and convoluted become political notions of history, class, memory and fear.
I am shocked that the voice of reason is so out of fashion.
I am shocked that so few politicians can work with the media.
I am shocked that we have such a gap between what we hear and what we need to hear.
I am shocked at where we are, not because it is unexpected but because it is unacknowledged.