I actually wrote this some weeks ago. But it is still topical. D
I keep seeing posts on the Internet about how it isn’t good that the person or person(s) responsible for the Paris attacks had their passport stamped in Greece. This supposedly means that we are letting terrorists through our borders (well, doh) and by extension there is a growing belief that this may lead people to equate refugees and terrorists. To a certain extent, this is already happening with people quoting Dawkins about how life would be so much better without religion.
The issue is not religion. One can always find excuses for doing something. If there wasn’t religion, it would have been something else. Deity knows that we always find rationalisations. If there wasn’t religion, there would be other stuff, like sexual orientation, dress code, colour of skin, geographical location or the football club one supports. The point is that looking for a simple answer to a complex question leads to stupid, not the right, answers.
Who cares what the reason was? Will people be less dead if there was a reason? Who will decide what is a rational reason and an acceptable one? What if the reason is a culture that cheerfully sells weapons to anyone that would buy them? What if the reason is us, supporting governments who feel no obligation to abstain from using other countries as giant petri dishes for social experiments? What if people we vote for don’t even think about these things, because they were told how to act and react by those who buy their votes for them?
It is fairly easy to blame religion, because it is very comfortable to do so. It requires no introspection and nothing needs to change for us.
Then, there is the next step – terrorists are religious -> they came with the refugees -> terrorists and refugees are religious -> religion equals terrorism -> refugees are all terrorists.
OK. If refugees were all fanatics then there would be no need for them to leave their homes in the first place. Some rudimentary logic should tell us that. Let’s not insult intelligence by suggesting that it is easy or somehow desirable to leave your home, your friends and social networks in order to live like cattle in tents. Let’s not pretend that telling your kids that they will not be going to the same primary school or nursery as their friends and possibly their parents have, anymore, is something one does light-heartedly. Most people love their children and most will do their outmost to keep them from harm. So, why exactly would these people run with barely more than the shirts on their backs towards an uncertain future from an army that essentially shares their beliefs? Did I hear someone say that there are nuances in any religious practice? Well, hello Sherlock. Why the fuck do you think it is any of your business if someone wants to kneel on a carpet five times a day, while they essentially believe the same things that you do (goodwill and peace to all men, help the needy, support and respect one another, etc), and meaningfully contribute to the society they live in?
Are we clear on why, most of us do not agree to be moulded in a certain image by others who never question that image? Because we have a working neuron or two in our skulls. There is absolutely no doubt that all of us have or will allow someone to imprint how things should be and how we should act. The thing is that experience teaches that blindly following someone else’s ideals may lead to disappointment. Ours, that is. I am not even talking about religion, to be clear. I am not even talking about how wrong someone else is. I am sure people derive utility from their beliefs and this may work for many of them. It just doesn’t for me. So, there is no need to judge, when behaviour of others has no large impact on ours. A little tolerance helps there. I know some people who find Mosques to be a blight on the landscape and they do not want to be hearing Muezzins calling the faithful to a prayer. Well, I personally don’t want to hear the bloody church bells tolling on Sunday morning calling all faithfull to mass. It bugs me and does not let me sleep. But I grit my teeth and let people go about their business, because I live in society and it takes all kinds. I also fervently hope that those who impose on me with church bells will find it in their hearts to forgive those who pray to Mecca in the privacy of their own homes or in the building where this practice is meant to be carried out.
So, we have established that there are different levels of religious fervour. If nothing else, that probably means:
terrorists and refugees =/= religious (in the same way or to the same extent).
From there it shouldn’t be hard to postulate: all (terrorists) =/= all (refugees)
There are some individuals who are willing to abuse the willingness of others to alleviate human suffering? Well, doh. This practice is old as dirt. Same thing happens in fake charity appeals and many other types of fraud. The takeaway message is not to stop being human, because someone is trying to make us pay for it. My personal opinion is that we should continue to help, but be aware of the costs. Contradictory to what seems the majority opinion, I do not believe it is feasible or indeed possible to prevent all of anything (be it ice cream melting, or skipping classes, or terrorist attacks). One can however lower the occurence rates. There are, of course, several ways to do this. One of them, that I like, is to give people plenty of facts and help them decide. But who could do that? Funny you should ask. If only there was some process where all members of a country would get a chance to express whom they trusted and asked them to look after their best interests. This fictional person would then have to think about how to best serve all persons living in a specific geographic location. One of their roles would include *thinking really hard* about hard stuff like could it be that there are some people who want to abuse goodwill of others? And, what happens if these people would attempt to use my people’s willingness to help? Hopefully the conclusion might be that, this person working for all the cities in a given geographical location or “politician” to coin a term, would need to speak to their citizens and explain what the consequences are. Now if this “politician” did not have the mental capacity to foresee that something that has been going on for at least 500 years (we have hard proof of that) might occur again, they are not mentally equipped to wipe their own bottom, much less rule over citizens. If they did not think about it, because they were thinking about how to get to the next pay-check and payoff from a friend from the industry, then they abuse the mandate given by the people and don’t deserve our trust.
One question is when. When does a politician tell the people that there might be hidden costs. Should they wait for costs to be incurred, and then say: “Ah, well… we thought people might die. We just didn’t tell you.” Probably not. Should they do it before? I think so. But then the question is what to say. If one says: “… There is a chance that some extremists might slot in with the refugees and commit atrocities in a large European city”, then they have just insured is that at least some terrorists are going: “AHA! That is actually not a bad idea…”. So, what should be said? A politician would have to go on air and say: “You trust me to decide on this and I will. I want to help these people. Let me tell you why I decided this – Helping those who are in need of help is what makes us human. Being kind is its own lasting reward, so it was a no brainer. However, I am also aware that there are always those attempt to abuse the goodwill of others. So to me, the question is whether the risk outweighs the cost. What do you think we should do?” The alternative is to say exactly the same things but the last sentence which is then replaced by: “You decided to trust me to make those decisions for all of us, so I will. We will help,
because. Just because. If someone takes advantage of that, well, we’ll deal with them, but we won’t stop believing that helping those in need is the right thing to do.”