Jeremy Corbyn is no saint, nor would he claim to be, but the vitriol in the media is astonishing. He is being touted in the press as a loser, a terrorist sympathiser, anti-monarchist and a threat to national security. He is being shown in photographs apparently cuddling up to the leaders of the IRA, and he is being vilified a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, etc. He had the gall to share a platform with such people in the open, and of course we all know that politicians don’t ever talk to people they don’t like, do they?
Corbyn’s argument is that communication is essential, especially communicating with individuals who do not share your point of view. Addressing grievances that you might think are irrelevant is essential. What is the alternative? Bomb the blighters? Teach them a lesson? Show them who is boss? Yes, that is one way to assert your control over people you may find abhorrent. But this creates more havoc, more hatred, and takes innocent lives. Haven’t we seen this methodology at work in the minds of terrorists, homegrown as well as overseas? Haven’t we seen this methodology at work Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya?
A little slice of history
When we were approaching the year 2000, everyone expected that there would be absolute mayhem, that all computer systems around the world would crash and burn. The media warned of a forthcoming apocalypse, people made plans and preparations, digging out the bunkers, buying survivalist kits, learning DIY and wearing combat suits.
At the time, I worked for a global property firm in London, and I remember the endless meetings dedicated to the problem of Y2K. The board of directors saw to it that contingency plans were safely put in place, but when we reached the year 2000 the computer clock ticked on and business proceeded as usual.
Then a strange email went around the firm, reaching all of its employees. It was two pages long and took a whole lunch break to read and digest, but you felt obliged because it was from one of those worthy, overseas sources. The document caused outrage with its descriptions of the vile Taliban regime, who were in power in Afghanistan at that time. Women in the office were appalled to read about girls in Afghanistan being viciously oppressed. We read about the horrible burka, child marriage, female genocide, institutionalised rape and the denial of education and basic human rights to females. All very useful in convincing me – and others – that the Taliban regime – and any other similarly obnoxious regime – ought to be wiped out, immediately. For two pins I’d go over there myself, armed with a Kalashnikov!
This email from an ambiguous NGO, called for government intervention and achieved its central aim of laying the groundwork for the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan and later of Iraq, (following 9/11). Yes, of course, we had to do something about such evil, of course we had to root out global terrorists, and yes of course, we had to eliminate brutish mediaeval regimes like the Taliban.
Now it strikes me as insane that we were willing to declare war on a nation that had never attacked this country, though we were convinced that its very existence was an insult to civilisation. People watched with varying degrees of satisfaction as the war machine oiled its wheels and got started in Afghanistan, and then expanded into the Middle East with yet more ‘supporting’ documentation from the newly established war firm, Bush n’ Blair. The Taliban’s existence was never adequately explained – where did they come from? Who supported them and who funded them? Nobody thought to ask.
These days I examine the news media with wholehearted scepticism. I feel disgusted by the war industry and the destruction unfolding in front of my eyes; by the endless child killing, for which world leaders no longer even provide justifications.
Why bother? Everyone knows about the arms and munitions industry’s support of ongoing war in the troubled regions of the world. Why bother with the usual jape about liberating the oppressed people of the planet? No one buys it. We laugh at the joke about spreading democracy and freedom; (but it’s really no joke); or what about the one about toppling nasty dictators; or the other about grappling with bloodthirsty terrorists. And then there’s that old chestnut about getting rid of nasties who carry out human rights abuses, like that socialist fellow with the moustache (now dead, gruesome death by all accounts. Oh really? Yes, bayoneted up the … don’t you know!).
Let’s tot it up; soldiers walking the streets to protect us from homegrown terrorists; countless thousands lost overseas, and a few more in Europe, whole societies destroyed, centuries of cultural and religious traditions wiped out overnight; precious cultural and religious artefacts stolen or desecrated, (imagine the Vatican library being ransacked and obliterated), many venerable old buildings destroyed, world heritage sites ruined.
Now, the fight is on our doorstep, with a recent attack on the Houses of Parliament, and mass murder in Manchester. I do not believe that the Conservatives can protect people from such atrocities, or that any government or that promotes unnecessary warfare abroad (and slashes police and security funding at home) can act as a buffer against global terrorism. We have unleashed the terror upon ourselves, disturbed the hornet’s nest of warring tribes and religious factions, who have turned on one another, and are now attacking what they see as the source of all evil, i.e. the satanic west.
Corbyn’s willingness to engage in dialogue, to listen and understand the grievances of other people (such as the IRA) is not only not wrong, it is vital. His willingness to open the debate about what is going on around us, speaks to the understanding of those not impressed with the worn out mantra, ‘strong and stable government’. On what is this so-called stability founded? Social exclusion, ongoing economic and political injustices? Worst of all, cowardice when challenged, as demonstrated by Theresa May’s refusal to participate in important pre-election debates.
No, there is no security in isolationism, exclusion or separation. The ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ mentality is not only ridiculous, it is downright dangerous. We don’t live in airtight nations; we live in a global society where countries are exposed to one another economically, geopolitically and socially. It’s not simply a question of protecting own borders; as though we can raise the drawbridge and keep undesirables out. In any human society, like it or not, we have to work alongside, negotiate with, accept or at least understand other people’s ideas, wants and beliefs; nations as well as communities of individuals; this is the road to peace and stability. Change can happen, but only over time.
Regarding the EU, it may be that a ‘bad deal’ is better than ‘no deal’, the worst of all situations, and an outmoded Trumpism that has no place in today’s world.
What about Corbyn and the EU?
Corbyn’s odd anti-EU stance during the Brexit campaign didn’t do him any favours. It was an opportunity to step up and alter the Brexit narrative. It was an opportunity, (potentially now lost) to fight for the protection of important civil rights enshrined in European law. We are in danger of returning to a Victorian sweatshop mentality and losing touch with progress. What will happen to our anti-discrimination laws, equal opportunities laws, fair labour laws?
Yet Corbyn’s refusal to seize the platform (when at least half of the nation wanted to remain) is not that difficult to understand. Was it not the case that with a politician’s instinct for self-preservation Corbyn chose the safe path, which resonated with his EU scepticism and that of swathes of Labour voters? (They, and Corbyn saw the EU as a gigantic corporatist and pro-capitalist entity while discounting its benefits). Now, sensing that the mood of the nation has shifted, Corbyn is playing his cards closer to his chest. He refuses to rule out a reversal of Brexit, should he make prime minister.
So, Corbyn is a politician to his roots, not entirely trustworthy. Still, this wily manoeuvring may in the long run be beneficial. We need people who can think coherently, argue intelligently, and grapple with far-reaching issues, such as the preservation of the planet and the survival of the human species. At the moment we have a narrow, sectarian, devil-may-care, big business first ideology that guarantees a tax haven for the rich and powerful, and a miserable social and economic mess for the rest.
The divide is clear. There is no doubt that ordinary British citizens will keep on paying through the nose for reckless political and business gambling. We need a serious change of direction, rules of engagement that prioritise peace and prosperity for all, and a leader who refuses to be cowed by the narrow band of stockholders who hold such sway over world politics; oil, military or corporate.
Corbyn is the best candidate on the ticket, right now.
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