Are we going to have to cut ourselves off from the news and other media, in order to hold on to our mental equanimity? This week has been particularly hard for consumers of the news media, like myself. Many people thought that the evil that threatened the world had been eradicated with Hitler’s defeat, but it seems that we were mistaken.
Over one hundred and thirty schoolchildren massacred in Pakistan in the name of a creed that calls itself a religion of peace. A lone gunman holds forty people hostage in a Sydney café, also in the name of that so-called religion. Speaking after the event, and the deaths of two of the hostages, the Australian Prime Minister labeled it a ‘death cult.’ Perhaps it is, but if only all those terrorists would take his word for it and simply bump themselves off the world would undoubtedly be a better place. Sadly, their cult glorifies the deaths of others, the ‘unbelievers,’ rather than their own, though they’re prepared to die if it involves the deaths of those who do not share their beliefs.
Of course, not all adherents of Islam follow its extremist version, and thank goodness for that, but the minority that does casts a dark shadow over the entire global civilization, and that is what is so depressing.
A friend who attends a clinic at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus told me that when waiting for the bus she always stands together with the Muslim women (many Arabs go to that hospital for treatment), feeling that any terrorist who decides on the spur of the moment to ram his (or her) car into the people waiting at the stop will not aim at their co-religionists. She may have a point.
Israelis continue to go about their daily lives, possibly deceived by the sunshine and a sense of false confidence. The people who tend to be targets for knifings, axings and other acts of aggression tend to be easily identifiable as Jews – ultra-orthodox men, soldiers, settlers in the West Bank. The feeling that at all times one has to be on one’s guard is not a comfortable one, but in Israel we have learned to live with that kind of situation on a daily basis.
But Australia? Why there? It’s far away from the Middle East and all its troubles, and if anywhere in the world ever seemed safe from the scourge of Islamic terrorism it was there. Now the Australian authorities are calling the perpetrator ‘a disturbed individual.’ However, he posted the Islamic flag and creed on the window of the café which was the site of his attack. Disturbed? Or perhaps just a believer? I’m prepared to go along with the idea that all terrorists are disturbed individuals, but it would require an awful lot of psychologists to sort that one out.
In an extended essay, John Gray recently wrote in the Guardian newspaper that it is futile to seek to eradicate what Western leaders naively term ‘the forces of evil,’ as cruelty and conflict are basic human traits, and when one such movement is suppressed it will generally be replaced by another. When repressive regimes such as those of Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein are overthrown they tend to be replaced by anarchy. Reluctantly, I have to agree with him, especially when the photograph at the top of his article shows the good-looking, innocent faces of a group of German boys belonging to the Hitler Youth movement in 1939. If the entire German nation could happily support a movement as evil and oppressive as Nazism why should we be surprised to find less-educated and uncultured individuals in other parts of the world subscribing to similar ideologies?
The bottom line seems to be that an ideology that preaches the superiority of one individual, nation or creed over another seems to sanction actions that are perceived as abhorrent and savage by people brought up to believe in equality, liberty and the eventual triumph of good over evil. The thought that the former may eventually overcome and overthrow the latter is one that is both depressing and possibly naïve.