Yesterday’s tragedy in Nice has brought the usual wave of condemnations by world leaders — and the usual wave of those wanting to talk about violence in Kashmir or Palestine or wherever the writer feels the lack of the world’s attention, as though grieving for one made it impossible to grieve for the other. The truth is, every violent death is a tragedy; and we grieve all men, women and children murdered by human malice wherever they may be. But France is close, and many of us have walked along the Promenade des Anglais or taken part in 14 July celebrations. It is therefore easier for us to identify with what happens there than it is with countries we may not have visited or lived in. However, if our identification goes no deeper than mere sentiment, I think we are missing the point.
Almost anything can be used to kill — in this case, a truck or lorry — but it requires the intervention of human thought and intention to turn that vehicle into an instrument of destruction. If, as is currently being suggested, the perpetrator of the Nice attack was some sort of Islamist terrorist, we are again confronted with our failure to combat Jihadist ideology with any powerful ideology of our own. There are times when it seems we would rather be quiescent than confront such a perversion of human values. I say human advisedly, because I think one of our biggest mistakes is to take Islamist propaganda at face value. It is not zeal for God that motivates such murderers but lust for destruction, to which religion gives a superficially acceptable cover. Wringing our hands and talking limply about Islam being a religion of peace will achieve nothing because it does not touch the root of the problem. The root of the problem is human anger, human grievance, the human desire to be something in a world where, by and large, one is perceived as nothing.
This morning, as we pray for those killed or injured in Nice, perhaps we could also spend some time reflecting on the origins of violence, in ourselves as well as others. What makes us angry? What do we use to justify our anger? How does our religious belief (if we have any) bolster or undermine our justification of our own conduct? The brutality of IS shows what happens when all restraints are shrugged off in the illusory pursuit of a religious ‘purity’ that cannot be. Are we consumed with a similar zeal? It may not be religious purity we are after, but is there something else that drives us and maybe threatens to wreck other people’s lives as well as our own?
Bro Duncan PBGV
Bro Duncan PBGV, a.k.a. Ch. Soletrader Dunc’n Disorderly, was put to sleep yesterday morning after a brief illness. I intend to write a blog post about him sometime in the next few days. He was 5 when he came to us. Anyone who has photos of him in his younger days which they would allow me to use, please get in touch.