Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. – Benjamin Franklin
The above quote is out of context, what follows is not what Franklin meant by these words. Nevertheless, the words ring truer than ever today.
I was eleven years old on September 11th 2001. I came home to find my dad watching the news and I remember asking him what the film was called. This was not real life to me, how could it be? Over the weeks and months and years that followed, I understood more and more of what terrorism is, and why certain people feel that such acts are justified. One thing I never imagined or considered, was that I would write a blog post in the future arguing against those who advocate surrender to this evil.
Let’s be clear about what terrorists want. The current crop of ‘Islamic’ terrorists exist to undermine and destroy western civilisation and culture. This is distinct from other goals such as the creation of an ‘Islamic state’ or extreme policing of morality. The goal of the ‘terrorist’ aspect of these groups is to destroy western culture not through force of arms, which they could never achieve, but by creating the conditions under which Western civilisation will destroy itself.
Many westerners misunderstand the terrorists’ goal, believing that they want people afraid to leave their houses, afraid to go to work, to shut down our societies in a concrete and obvious manner. This is absurd. Only the looniest terrorist would even consider this a possibility. They do however, no doubt find it extremely convenient that many westerners believe this is their goal. Because if one believes the goal of terrorists to be confining us to our houses, they will regard not doing so as a gesture of defiance, all the while failing to see the obvious success of terrorists’ main objective.
Terror can undermine, discredit and sow the seeds of destruction in our culture, our way of life, without ever ‘cowing’ us, without forcing a single one of us to avoid the tube, without making us explicitly afraid at all. What they want is for hysterical overreaction to the minimal threat they pose to create conditions which undermine pluralism, freedom of speech and liberal democracy. I’m sorry to say, they are succeeding.
People are falling over themselves to trade in their liberty and fundamental rights in return for the most negligible of increases in security. That the investigatory powers act could even be suggested with a straight face, never mind passed into law, stands as proof of this. Western societies are taking ever more extreme measures to purchase safety, ranging from demanding our governments let children drown in the Mediterranean rather than potentially pose a threat to us, all the way to actually electing fascists. This overreaction to a threat so minute is capitulation. It is admitting defeat. We are letting terrorists know that we will do anything, including sacrificing our way of life if they will just leave us alone.
Much of this damage is already done. The terrorists have helped to have a fascist elected to the highest office in the world, millions of Americans will lose healthcare, millions of Mexicans will die in failed border crossings, untold numbers will turn to violence in response to the increased campaign against the middle east. Americans have sacrificed so much on the altar of minor improvements in security without considering that it will make the situation worse.
In Europe, fear of terrorism drives eurosceptic and far right lies. The European Union, formed to present a significant barrier to war between European states, is in danger of disintegrating as populations demand border controls to keep them safe. State snooping is pervasive and ever increasing.
And all the while people demand more. The Sun calls for armed officers in every town. Jeremy Vine asked today whether a history of violence and a change of name should warrant permanent surveillance (in response to the Westminster attacker), a move which would have seen Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X on watchlists quicker than even Ali could jab.
Make no mistake, the voices calling for such measures are actively advocating surrender. Every vote which is influenced by fear of a minuscule, inconsequential threat to safety is a victory for our enemies. Every reactionary step the public takes is a step toward capitulation.The deaths by terrorism are tragic, they are horrible, but they are so rare as to barely merit a response. Europe in 2017 is the safest place that has ever existed in all of human history. If we were to advocate a hysterical surrender of rights in response to everything with the potential to claim 94 lives in 17 years we would all be sitting in padded cells drinking Sunday lunch through a straw.
We are sowing the seeds of our downfall at the almost pitiful prompting of cowardly terrorist foes who do not dare to voice their opinions in debate because the most average of European or American schoolchildren could take their worldview apart. Do not listen to surrender merchants like the S*n and Nigel F*rage and Katie H*pkins. Do not give in to fear by demanding intrusive state measures, protectionism and closed borders. Fight terrorism by refusing to allow liberal democracy to die.