Daily Musings — 28th February 2017

It’s time to get serious. This morning I was at the Imperial War Museum in Elephant & Castle.

To be honest, what I saw, it didn’t shock me. There wasn’t much I wasn’t already aware of, but to see it laid it in front of my own eyes, left me feeling angry and very much heart broken.

The main reason I came was to see the “War on Terror” exhibit. The events leading up to and post 9/11 will continue to shape our world for many years to come and thus I was very interested.

In the exhibit, you see pictures and plans of the camps and prisons used to detain subjects, you hear testimony about the torture as well seeing letters and correspondence.

Honestly, torture doesn’t work. I have mixed views on John Oliver, but in this segment, he hits the nail on the head. Studies and reports have questioned the benefit of using torture. And if it gains little, what is the point of using it? It will served to be used as a propaganda tool. The world can be thankful Trump is willing to defer to Mattis on the issue. Thankfully, the Secretary of Defence doesn’t believe in the practices. What was alarming was that several British citizens, were placed on control orders, basically meaning they were under house arrest. No person with one of those orders was ever prosecuted of a terror related crime. How much of taxpayers’ money was wasted on maintaining these control order houses?

Many people believe an idea cannot be defeated and that is the issue in fighting radical organisations. A close friend of mine is Peruvian and we have in the past discussed the insurgency of Marxist guerrilla group, Sendoro Luminoso. Shining Path in English. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, the terrorist group were responsible for plenty of destruction in the country. But under the leadership of Alberto Fujimori, they were slowly defeated and Peru today is much safer. So it is possible.

I also visited the Holocaust exhibit.

I spoke recently about the rise of Holocaust denial. The exhibit really hit home what happened in Europe throughout the 1930s.

It was well worth re-examining the Nazi’s rise to power. Adolf Hitler became Chancellor as Hindenburg thought he could control him. Once there, Hitler began subverting democracy. He banned literature and press that he didn’t agree him, he used fear following the Reichstag fire to pass the Enabling Act. Which re-affirms my view that articles and books that people don’t agree should never be banned, even the most vulgar of publications, must be defeated with ideas.

As for The Holocaust itself, I can’t put into words how I felt reading about some of the incidents and viewing some of the pictures. I don’t need to tell you how evil everything that happened was though. Thankfully, there was still humanity involved, I learnt of a Peruvian student, whose uncle was the Interior Minister, who helped a family from Munich reach Peru safely. Stories like this and those of Oscar Shindler and the actions of diplomats in other parts of Europe give me hope.

But there is another thing. The Holocaust wasn’t a sudden event. It was the culmination of centuries of antisemitism. In 1096, Peter The Hermit lead peasants on the People’s Crusade. On their way through France and Germany, one third of the Jewish population was killed. The Church leaders overwhelmingly condemned the killings, with attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice, but a large Jewish community had a lot of its’ number whipped out.

In 1492, Jews were forcibly expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. The same happened in Britain in 1290 under King Edward I. Blood libels began circulating in Norwich in 1140, with reports Jews were ritually sacrificing Christian children. Progroms occurred throughout Eastern Europe during the late 1800s. The Ottoman Empire had welcomed Jews as refugees, but they were still subject to antisemitism, such as a massacre in Baghdad during 1828.

This is why the Jewish people needed and gained a state. For centuries, much of Europe turned a blind eye whilst Jews were persecuted. Now the Jewish people of these world have a safe haven in their home land, where they can protect themselves.

With a rise of Holocaust denial and rising antisemitism throughout Britain and much of Europe, it is important to remember what happened and why it happened. No genocide should be forgotten — The Holocaust, Armenia, Bosnia, Rwanda and to deny it ever occurred, is quite frankly disgusting.

A common theme links the War on Terror and The Holocaust. Fear. Now, I will talk about fear in general in this part. Fear is natural. Reality is cold and harsh and there is plenty to be scared about. Some of these are rational, some of these are false alarms and some are just stupid. That doesn’t change the fact that fear exists. We all fear something. This may be a danger to ourselves, our loved ones or the whole country. It exists and we need to move on from that.

It’s how we respond and deal with that fear that makes the difference. This is what defines who we are and gives us our humanity. There are three ways you can deal with fear. Firstly, you can think entirely with your heart. This can satisfy your conscience but in the long term can have disastrous consequences. If this were a perfect world, we would all probably behave in this way. Though, sadly, it isn’t.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can bury your head in the sand, deny it’s a problem, let someone else deal with it. Do this and you are sleep walking to disaster, Europe did little for centuries while Jewish people were being persecuted.

Acting too cold can lead to a ticking time bomb, it could lead to bitterness and resentment.

But there’s enough pain and suffering in this world, there’s a midway. One where you are practical about the problem and work in a pragmatic way to deal with it, but retain humanity and compassion when you need it.

Crucially, you cannot let fear dictate you. Torture is animalistic and according to the evidence, pointless. But fear drives humans to that point. We become so similar to the thing we are trying to defeat. In the darkest times, we must remember our principles and what we stand for. The moment we cave in to the fear is the same moment we lose what it means to be human.