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Monday, August 01, 2005

This too shall pass

In the 20th century we have seen various “isms” come and go. Amongst the most destructive were fascism and of course communism. As history has demonstrated time and time again, any fanatical ism usually ends up have the direct opposite effect of what its leaders and followers originally espoused.

Take fascism. Hitler’s “thousand year Reich” lasted a mere dozen years. And as blood soaked as those years were they brought about the utter destruction of Hitler and his henchmen. Instead of the eradication of the Jews, there emerged the new nation state of Israel, something that likely would not have happened if not for the Second World War and the horror of the Holocaust.

Then there is Communism which was supposed to be about ending the oppression of working men and women and bringing about a better world. Instead it delivered mass starvation, executions and death camps which claimed the lives of approximately 100 million people during the 20th century.

Unfortunately this particular ism still survives in a few corners of the world. In China it survives in name only. You still have one party rule, but that party now serves to encourage rather than discourage capitalism and economic growth in China. In North Korea an estimated one million Koreans starved to death, thus adding to communisms deadly toll in the 21st century and in Cuba an aging Fidel Castro hangs on by jailing political opponents and courting western tourists and their much needed dollars.

But Communism is on the way out. Sooner or later North Korea will collapse, much the same way as East Germany did. As was the case with West Germany, South Korea will simply absorb its economically hobbled neighbour and move forward as one nation. Sooner or later Castro will die of old age and with it will go his one party rule.

But the latest death cult to emerge is Islamic Fundamentalism and a loose terror organization called Al Quaida. But like communism and fascism it seems to be bringing about the opposite effect of what it has intended.

Through its terror attacks in New York, London, Bali and Egypt, there is growing concern and anger amongst mainstream Muslim communities around the world. Best of all a growing number of Imams, including quite a number here in Canada have been speaking out against the Al Quaida terrorists.

So rather than rallying support in the Muslim world, the terrorist actions are serving to isolate those religious leaders who put forth a fanatical version of Islam that is based on hatred and fear rather than love and respect. In short by killing innocent men, women and children the terrorists have served only to desecrate and discredit everything they stand for in the eyes of a growing number of people around the world.

That is why it is important that we in the West do not overreact to what the terrorists are doing, because that is exactly what they want us to do. For example, I do not think it was mere coincidence that the bombings in London occurred just as the United States congress was debating whether or not to renew the ironically named “Patriot Act.”

These Islamic terrorists know that the light of freedom emanating from the Western World is a powerful beacon. In Iran which has spent almost 30 years run by a repressive theocracy you will find the most pro-western populace in the Middle East outside of Israel.

If out of fear we are foolish enough to turn our western democracies into police states then the terrorists truly will have won. I for one have no desire to see my children and grandchildren grow up in a repressive police state any more than I would want to see them grow up in an 8th century Caliphate. In either scenario the lunatics, or more specifically psychopaths and sociopaths, end up running the show.

We have already had one tragedy where a young Brazilian man was mistakenly shot dead by London police. Given the way the police act in Brazil, including dealing with homeless street children by killing them, it is not entirely surprising that when confronted with armed police officers this innocent young Brazilian man ran away in fear. He paid for that decision with his life.

Having done consulting work for a number of security companies, I am well aware of the technology that is available to unobtrusively scan for explosives and weapons. It is that technology that we should be investing in. We will also likely have to put up with more in the way of closed circuit television cameras or CCTVs as they like to say in Britain.

Although I don’t like it, I am willing to put up with this added level of electronic surveillance on public transportation systems in order to make these systems safer for commuters. It would also serve to greatly reduce the kind of criminal activity that has, for example, occurred at several Skytrain stations in the Greater Vancouver area.

What we should not be willing to do is give up any of our rights as citizens in a free and democratic society. This means that our police must remain at all times accountable to the public it serves. Yes the police in Britain made a tragic mistake, but they also have achieved a number of remarkable successes in terms of finding and arresting those associated with the terrorist bombings.

Meanwhile the best example the world has yet seen is the stoic attitude of the British people themselves who refuse to be cowed by these psychopathic terrorists. As Winston Churchill defiantly declared to the Nazis during the Second World War, “You do your worst and we’ll do our best.”

Finally one of the best things to come out of the recent wave of London terror bombings is to help encourage the IRA to give up its cache of weapons and utilize democratic rather than terrorist methods to achieve their political objectives.
Again rather than causing the unraveling of the western world, Al Quaida’s terrorist attacks have inadvertently helped end one of the bloodiest problems that had plagued the English speaking world throughout the late 20th century.

Will there be more terrorist attacks? Almost certainly and they may even occur here in Canada as well. But no matter how bad things get this latest fanatical ism will also be relegated to the dust bin of history.

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