Let’s equate ISIS momentarily to Manchester United FC. I know what you’re thinking, the Sir Alex Ferguson and Jihadi John comparison is irresistible. Both ruthless, both departed, and both two time winners of the UEFA Champions League.
Being the die-hard Aston Ham fan that he is, David Cameron decides one day that he’s more claret than blue and takes to the air for repeated strikes on Greater Manchester. Jealousy is a terrible thing. As well as spending time with his children, and an occasional pint of trustworthy old-fashioned beer, Cameron is a football fanatic, so he takes this attack extremely seriously, and manages to exterminate the entire population of Greater Manchester in one big tie-wearing KAPOW. Meanwhile, bombing voyeur perverts SamCam and Gos-Born watch the live stream from Dave’s airborne GoPro, and no doubt wet with drooling saliva, they take to the nearest blue-quilted tax-relieved marital bed for a war-is-fun fuck-athon so hard that the skeletons in the basement haven’t had their ceiling so troubled since George spent a full Sunday “knocking in” his new personalised Gray Nicolls cricket bat in front of Countryfile.
So everyone in Greater Manchester is piled into a mass grave, presumably by whoever is brave enough to be first back into the wreckage – probably the guy from 28 days later. But there are, of course, still enough Manchester United fans in London, Ireland and China to fill out Old Trafford a few thousand times over next week. Or, given that Old Trafford is now rubble and ruin, to instead fill out United’s new home ground – Anfield – shared with old rivals Liverpool FC. War Rhetoric Hysteria creates the strangest kind of unity. A defensive, desperate, adversity-facing, go the extra mile, unconditional, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. emotional payoff kind of unity, that lives in denial.
So “Manchester United FC” becomes “Manchester United United FC”, significantly changing most of the songs and chants. This in turn angers all of the remaining fans who, having come from London, Ireland or China are all too rude, stupid, and yellow respectively to get to grips with even the simplest of the pre-existing sweary, beery Mancunian couplets. While Cameron parks his fighter jet atop The National Portrait Gallery, and Gos-Born hurriedly hides his knotted sheath down a poor person’s throat, United United’s weakened but defiant squad of 9 Cheshire-based (and therefore surviving) superstars poignantly plays out an honourable 1-0 defeat at Anfield, and the club becomes a more extreme, more concentrated version of itself.
As long as we feel an instinctive disparity in the value of a brown person’s life Vs. A white person’s life, we can only fail. Our over-sensitivity and under-exposure to white casualties is what makes us most vulnerable. While we can mentally Tippex over the 12,000 Syrian children we have killed, but weep, or worse “pray” for Paris, our being such part-timers in inhumanity means we will always suffer from elements of shock and “terror” that will not afflict those remaining amongst the brown, desert flies, dropping though they are.
What extremities of sorrow, mourning and tragedy we felt for the relatively minuscule numbers killed in the Paris attacks – 130 people, or the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005 – 52 people or even the comparative super-sizer 9/11 – 2,996 people. Totalling 3,178 casualties. Compare that to what is officially termed “at least” 396,000 deaths in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq combined since 2001, with plenty more ahead. Their deaths do not deter, detract or displace. An Ideology is a different concept to a location. Their living civilians are unheard of, and their dead ones unspoken of. They are used to it. We, Britain are the touchy comedian, the Colostomy-bag-Street-Fighter, we’re my Mum flapping over the lack of Monophonic ringtones on her new Nokia Lumia. We stream great balls of fire at Martyrs and maniacs, and murder “innocent civilians” by the thousand. But should a veiled swordsman run amok in Hyde Park tonight, killing just 4 “innocent civilians” (presumably it’s a ‘No Killing Spree Too Small” Jihadist Handyman over here on the strength of his double-sided business cards) that would be “The Worst Tragedy In Britain For 10 Years” and would bend and break us, and upset and hurt and scare and terrorise us. We are out of our depth. Not In Violence – We’re one of the biggest swinging dicks in the warring world. A little caught between competing with America’s bigger dick and France’s better knowledge of where to put it, perhaps, but a big swinging semi-automatic bonk-on nonetheless. In Emotion, though, and Safety, we’re out of our depth. ‘Their’ smallest attacks cause ‘our’ saddest, most terrorised moments, and we can not cope. It takes such little terror to throw us into disarray.
Some of the simplest of basic principles seemed missing amongst the privileged bomb-voters this week. Two wrongs don’t make a right, revenge is bad, and don’t be racist, amongst others. It’s terrifying that some people yet to learn these social, Primary school parables are those who also decide whether or not to bomb a country. So, if it’s acceptable to say that the Paris attacks justify our bombing ISIS strongholds and the surrounding schools and hospitals, then vice versa, surely? Or is revenge still a whites-only sport? In that case, the only thing wrong with ISIS’ next little bit of terror is that they’ll be coming for the browsers and students and cleaners at The National Portrait Gallery, not for Dave’s jet on the roof. It’s too well protected. My name is Alex, and I’m a Terrorist Sympathiser.