Sunday, 15 November 2015

Good God, under starry skies we are lost

11 September 2001, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania

And a peaceful decade thereafter? Is my memory that short or had there been no spectacular terrorist attack in Europe since then until last Friday? Until I went to bed on Friday around half past nine p.m., no news from the radio turned on had reached me. The tidings I woke up to yesterday were at first more horrible than when the whole picture of the massacre sank in.

In terms of scale and atrocity of the attacks in Paris compare to acts of violence committed in Madrid and London, but one difference deserves to be noted. In Paris victims were folks who sought entertainment, while in Madrid and in London the fatalities and the wounded were public transport passengers. As I attempt to put the attacks into psychological perspective, I wonder whether who terrorist target to kill, instils more or less fear into the society. Commuting to work or school or moving around the city is one of down-to-earth, repetitive everyday activities one cannot avoid. Going to a concert hall or sitting about outside cafeteria is what one associates with pleasure, breaking away from and forgetting for a moment about the daily grind. Would you suffer more if you realised you could be murdered by terrorist on your way to work or when you go out to relax?

When it comes to pure politics, the attacks will quite likely stoke up anti-migrant sentiments across Europe and send support for xenophobic right-wing lunatics on the rise. Those urging to close borders and stem the uncontrolled flow of migrants will not necessarily become more audible, but more will listen to them. A cool-headed analyst would remind you the 9/11, Madrid and London attacks were carried out well in advance of wave of migrants at the gates of Europe. Countries becoming targets of terrorists have one thing in common – they have got involved into the war against terrorism.

A noteworthy question which naturally comes up in such circumstances is how to crack down on ISIS, the vengeful and vindictive enemy. The simplest solution which comes to mind is dropping a nuclear bomb on the territories of Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS. Simple solutions, however, tend to be silly and do more harm than good. The example above has two primary drawbacks: firstly, nuclear bombing would involve deaths of thousands of innocent civilians (not yet killed or driven out by the ISIS soldiers from their homes), secondly it would trigger brutal retaliation, conceivably even a doomsday. ISIS is not confined to territories it controls but has its envoys spread far and wide across the world and ready to hit no matter how high the price to pay would be. The most reasonable way to combat ISIS would be, in my opinion, to cut them off money they rely on to come by. Let’s face it. ISIS lacks natural resources it could sell, it also does not produce anything, it can only destroy, but in order to get hold of the weapons and keep control over its territory it needs financial resources from the outside. The only question is who their sponsors are and what their reasons behind supporting ISIS are.

Is it (yet another) the end of the world as we know it? After a much more dazzling 9/11 attacks the world looks broadly the same as before them. The main observable difference are the meticulous security controls on the airports, for many passengers being a pain in the arse and oddly enough not abided by in many less civilised airports, as evidenced by the recent tragedy in Egipt.

The world needs to face several challenges with terrorisms coming to the fore as one of the core perils to the Western civilisation in the 21st century. We need to live with it and carry on, otherwise terrorists will win the most important war, the psychological one. I remember well how may parents were scared in March 2004 (it was during my first school year of commutes to Warsaw), when trains exploded in Madrid and many feared that trains of Warsaw underground could also be attacked, since Poland had sent its army to Iraq and Afghanistan… There’s no other way than coming to terms with a risk of being killed by a terrorist, which is anyway probably lower than the chance of being killed in a traffic accident.

Dedicated a few hours of the weekend to the New Employer, with nothing in return. More reflections on this next week…

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