WE NEED TO TALK

by Alice Thomson

This ominous little phrase is often associated with all kinds of bad news, be it break ups, deaths, illnesses, or something else of equal unpleasantness. In the context of this article, it deserves its reputation. We do need to talk. We all need to talk. And not just small talk. We need quality communication, not empty words and broken promises. There are currently a lot of people in the media who are doing a lot of talking, but to me it’s the same set of regurgitated words. If we’re lucky, they’re slightly reformatted. Strong and stable. Make Britain Great again. For the many, not the few. Change Britain’s future. Britain together. When you repeat the same thing over and over, it loses its meaning.

Britain is not together. Britain is fragmented, divided, and at war with itself. In all my life, I have never seen such a divided nation. The Monday 22nd May attack in Manchester killed 22 people and injured 59. On Saturday 3rd June 2017 another attack was made at London Bridge and Borough Market, killing 7 people and injuring 48. 18 of those people are still in critical condition. That’s two attacks in 12 days. It’s thought that the second attack was a response to the RAF air strike, where a bomb with the words “Love from Manchester” written on it was used. Daesh are responsible for the attacks. But – are we all really to blame?

The word ‘terrorist’ can be a barrier in itself.

The language used to report or discuss these attacks is fuelling them. When we turn an act of murder into an act of war we elevate the status of the attack. By using terms of war, we normalise the behaviour, and the victims become collateral damage of a war-zone, not individuals or murder victims. President Bush’s use of such language after 9/11 is a good example of this. His response created two wars, and cost untold lives. It helped create acts of terrorism. Tarik Kafala, head of BBC Arabic, wants us to stop using the word ‘terrorist’. He believes it is more revealing to describe the acts, and not blanket them with the name terrorism. We learn more and understand better when we do this. The word ‘terrorist’ can be a barrier in itself. Even the United Nations has struggled for years to create a widely acceptable definition of the word. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

We must not forget the effect this has on the Muslim community. We all know that hate-crime doubled after the European Referendum in the United Kingdom. It also doubled in Manchester after the attack. We’re too quick to blame an entire religion for the acts of a few. As Rumi said, “Do good to the people for the sake of God or for the peace of your own soul that you may always see what is pure and save your Heart from the darkness of hate.”

Muslims, like the rest of us, are horrified by these acts of violence. Turning our hate on an entire group of people will only lead to the radicalisation of more people. I’m not in a position to do justice to the discussion of how this group of people feel as a result of current events, but I can imagine.

This article is hard to write. It would be much easier to watch a few cat videos. To create a bubble and escape the mess. But that is part of the problem. Too many of us do that. I’m guilty of it. The propaganda, which is no longer ashamed to be propaganda, that we are saturated with makes it almost impossible to do otherwise. Every time I hear a BBC news notification on my phone I cringe. I scroll through my news feed hoping for a heart-warming video or a funny song. Our fight or flight responses are in overdrive. And with no clear method to fight, it makes sense that we’re all running away.

We need to go onto the streets, into our communities. We need to create a space to talk honestly, to allow ourselves to be challenged and to change.

It’s not just the way the media communicates with us, but also how we communicate with one another. By trying to understand different perspectives, we would not condone the acts, but develop a better understanding of how they came about and how to stop them in the future. As easy as it would be, we can’t be blinded by our fear or anger. We also need to allow ourselves to make mistakes, to be wrong, and to learn. If we are all too terrified to admit our beliefs or actions have been misguided, then we will never be able to allow ourselves to change them. The only way we can do that is to talk to each other. Not just within our safe bubbles of like minded people. We need to go onto the streets, into our communities. We need to create a space to talk honestly, to allow ourselves to be challenged and to change. After all, the world is not filled with good and evil. We all have light and dark within us.

Featured image © BBC News (screenshot)

 


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