Today on TV news I saw and heard some of the English holiday-makers in Tunisia who had been shot at and many of whom had been killed. One young man had been sitting with his dead partner, holding her hand. He asked an older Englishman “What do I do?” The older man felt for a pulse and said there wasn’t one. The young man said “We were to be married next week.”
The news presenter commented attacks like these led people “to ask a question with no answer: why?” Perhaps the answer is in our colonial past and how it still affects our present.
Every day ‘lucky’ European countries and Australia, that ‘lucky country’ protect their own good fortune by turning away as many as possible of the desperate would-be ‘illegal immigrants’ who try to cross their borders to improve their own lives and those of their children.
Meanwhile poor countries like Tunisia, India and Indonesia are forced to court the tourist dollar from Western European countries and their offshoots, those very western Europeans who once invaded and exploited them. And in the case of oil-rich Middle Eastern countries it appears England, Australia and the USA are still foremost in reinvading and still exploiting their dwindling oil, the use of which also threatens planetary ecosystems, especially beaches.
In our new digital global community it may no longer be socially sustainable for so many of the worlds privileged former colonial powers to treat so many of their impoverished former colonies either as opportunities for further exploitation or as cut-rate playgrounds in which to strut their economic stuff.
The ‘terrorist’ lying dead in Tunisia after shooting 38 ‘innocent’ westerners may have believed that the injustice and inequity inflicted in places like North Africa by former colonisers like the French and British empires, and the present crushing military and technological power of the Pentagon, protecting American interests and corporate capitalism is evil and inexcusable. And that Western civilians, as primary beneficiaries of this misuse of power, can be and should be held responsible for it. Like the Al Quaeda militants who flew planeloads of westerners into the Twin Towers and like so many Isis fighters today, he was prepared to sacrifice his life, another David going up against the super-powerful Goliath of the west.
Perhaps he thought that ultimately people-power will prevail in a struggle of this kind. He may be right; while there are more of them than us, the wealthy westerners who have no answer to the problems of global inequity except to take their dollars and Euros to ‘underdeveloped’ countries and live like royalty within reach of the desperate poor could be increasingly at risk. They showed a photo of this terrorist as a younger man, smiling. He looked as if he had been happy then, before becoming, as they told us on the news ‘radicalised’.
Yesterday I watched a documentary set in Indonesia and called ‘The Act of Killing. A better profile of Western hegemonic ideology at work I’ve never seen. Even the former death squad ‘gangster’, retching now as an old man after trying to turn his ‘heroic’ communist-killings in the mid 1960s into a Hollywood style ‘western’ movie, did not seem like an altogether evil man, not any more – ‘Born Free’ his closing lyrics ran, there was a waterfall, and there were dancing girls.
I was fourteen or so when all of that was going on; I didn’t even know. But ignorance may not be an excuse. I’ve always stood to gain from terrorism sponsored by The West, of which I am a part. I’m now too terrified by what I’ve come to understand about the recent past to set off at this point to the third world to spend my tourist dollars. And Singapore scared me as well, so better stay at home, live lightly as I can, and keep believing global change and global social justice are still possible, and there are solid answers to the disingenuous ‘why’ with which so many in the west respond to what they label terrorism.