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The real ‘struggle of our generation’ is not terrorism

The real ‘struggle of our generation’ is not terrorism thumbnail

Sir Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square should be removed to a museum. All busts and portraits of the great man in parliament and the prime minister’s residence should be taken down and placed in storage. Why? To discourage his successors from slipping their tiny feet into his shoes.

Churchill was right when he claimed, in June 1940, that “upon this battle depends the survival of … our own British life”. Those who have borrowed the sentiment are in most cases wrong. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, Isis, Islamic extremism; none of these were or are existential threats to the life of this country. But all were inflated until they appeared so, invested with almost supernatural power by prime ministers hoping to be cast in bronze. This inflation, as we discovered in Iraq, has consequences.

On Monday, David Cameron maintained that confronting Islamic extremism is “the struggle of our generation”. We must pursue this struggle in the spirit with which we “faced down Hitler”. Yes, Islamic extremism is real. Yes, it creates genuine problems and presents genuine threats. But to claim it as the struggle of our generation suggests a total collapse of perspective.

In terms of mortal risks to people in this nation, it might rank among the top 50, but that’s probably stretching it. Diet, smoking, alcohol, loneliness, the slow collapse of the NHS, child poverty, air pollution, traffic accidents, lack of exercise, even the wrong kind of bedroom slippers are likely to kill far more people in this country than Islamic terrorists will manage. All (except the last) should demand more resources and political effort than are deployed to confront Islamic extremism. In the longer term, climate change, antibiotic resistance, soil loss and nuclear proliferation by states (including our own) are orders of magnitude more dangerous. But a Churchillian struggle against an identifiable enemy is grander and more glamorous than the battle against faceless but much greater threats. It is also politically less costly, as it offends the interests of neither corporations nor billionaires.

This is not the only sense in which Cameron’s claim is presumptuous. What, in his mouth, does “our” generation mean? “It cannot be right,” he said in the same speech, “that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths”. That’s true, and it applies as much to Eton as it does to faith schools in Birmingham. On social media, Cameron’s Bullingdon Club photograph is circulating, attached to another quote from his speech: “there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain – and who feel little or no attachment to other people here.”

There’s serious intent behind the joke. The former Republican analyst Mike Lofgren, disgusted with what his party had become, said this about the economic elite in the US. “The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.” We suffer the same curse: a ruling class whose wealth lies offshore, and which identifies more readily with a transnational elite than with the other people of this nation. On behalf of this elite, the government now gives away £93bn a year in corporate welfare: a sum bigger than the deficit. It champions the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; a graver threat to the interests of this nation than Islamic extremism presents.

A failure to tax property effectively has fuelled a rise in house prices so severe that entire English regions are becoming almost uninhabitable to the poor. When Cameron warns that “there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds”, he could have been talking about posh London boroughs or villages in the Cotswolds or the Chilterns, rather than estates in Bradford or Oldham. Segregation in this country is primarily along economic, not religious, lines, but you can look in vain for a government policy to address it. The benefits gap the government has just tightened will drive the poor out of ever wider areas of England.

And if, as Cameron suggests, there’s a generation in this country engaged in an epic struggle, it’s certainly not his. Young people have been systematically disadvantaged by government policy – especially the latest budget – as both their benefits and the fruits of their labours are transferred to their seniors. Again, there’s a dangerous segregation developing here, between the young, excluded from the living wage, housing benefit, university maintenance grants and any hope of buying a home, and the elderly, with their rising pensions, winter fuel payments, property banks and new tax breaks. The government seeks only to widen the gap.

For perspective, you must look elsewhere. A global survey published last week by the Pew Research Centre found that while the people of North America, Britain, Australia, Japan, France and Germany see Isis as the greatest threat they face, most of the countries surveyed in poorer parts of the world – Africa, Latin America and Asia – place climate change at the top of the list. Even in Turkey (where, as the bombing on Monday suggests, the terrorist group is a real threat), more people said they were “very concerned” about climate change than about Islamic State. The nations least threatened by Isis rank this risk the highest. This is media-driven madness, an epidemic of transcontinental paranoia, that governments are happy to foment and exploit.

Men like Cameron, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper won’t engage in generational struggles with real existential threats – climate breakdown first among them – for fear of alienating their sponsors. They have learnt all the wrong lessons from Churchill’s legacy, seeking to invest themselves with belligerent glory while forgetting his ability, at crucial moments, to place the interests of the nation above the interests of his class.

So, as Hitler is reborn with a thousand faces, a new “struggle of our generation” emerges every six months, and all around us existential crises are ignored

20 Comments on "The real ‘struggle of our generation’ is not terrorism"

  1. paulo1 on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 8:23 am 

    This is an absolutely excellent article and I heartily concur.

    I would just like to add, “starve the beast when you can”, have some realistic preps in places and those should include some cash and firearms”.

    Being hidden with personal defense options is a great leveler, imho. Also, there should evolve some more ‘no go zones’ for these parastic oligarchs, (and I am not talking about Chicago sw).

    Don’t mind me, I am just getting pissed off. Too many 2016 election stories, I guess. On one hand we have crooks and narcicists running for President, or Scott Walkers wanting to destroy any vestiges of Union defenses left. The media has been bought and paid for years ago. The foxes are in control these days, and there is only one thing to do with a hen house raider, imho.

  2. ghung on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 8:26 am 

    “Men like Cameron, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper won’t engage in generational struggles with real existential threats….”

    ….while ignoring that these imbalances ultimately resolve themselves (or not) through violent revolution, either widespread or in the form of protracted domestic “terrorism”. Not funny, that.

  3. BobInget on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 8:48 am 

    WASHINGTON — One of the nation’s most recognizable names in climate science, Dr. James Hansen, released a new paper this week warning that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming may be “highly dangerous” for humanity.

    The paper, which will be published online in the European Geosciences Union journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion later this week, projects sea levels rising as much as 10 feet in the next 50 years.

    The paper notes there is evidence indicating that average temperatures just 1 degree Celsius warmer than today caused sea levels to rise 16 to 30 feet and fed extreme storms thousands of years ago.

    Hansen and 16 co-authors drafted the paper as a message to policymakers that current greenhouse-gas reduction goals are not strong enough. World leaders have committed to limiting average warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal articulated in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and reiterated by G7 leaders in June.

    “The message for policymakers is that we have a global crisis that calls for international cooperation to reduce emissions as rapidly as practical,” wrote the authors.

    Their projections are based on an anticipated accelerated melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica due to rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The melting ice sheets will put more cold, fresh water into the oceans, changing circulation patterns and ultimately causing even more melting of the ice sheets — thus causing sea levels to rise much, much faster than other projections have forecast.

    “We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century,” the scientists wrote. “Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating.”

    Hansen, who was the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies until April 2013 and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, has been warning about climate threats for years. He’s moved from dispassionately investigating the science to actively advocating for specific solutions to the problem. As Eric Holthaus at Slate put it, Hansen “is known for being alarmist and also right.”

  4. joe on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 8:50 am 

    Smoking is not trying to take over the worlds last reserves of easy oil.

  5. Makati1 on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 10:14 am 

    Insanity is rampant in Western leadership. Intelligence is missing. Too bad that most of them also control nuclear weapons.

  6. JuanP on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 10:19 am 

    I will just address the title’s article because I have to leave and say that I have never given a crap about terrorism and I think the War on Terror is as bogus as the War on Crime and the War on Drugs. I will read the article later since Paulo recommends it.

  7. idontknowmyself on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 11:02 am 

    From my personal observation of the youth (18 to 25 yo) they don’t seem interested in participating in this society and do the bare minimum. T

    They seem to know that all the wealth is owned by the older generation. The youth issue is not a terrorist issue, it is a wealth distribution issues.

    It is the older generation that own the wealth and are not willing to share it with the younger generation. They used the terrorist threat to control the younger generation desires for changes.

    They seem interested in seeing the system crash more then anything.

  8. Davy on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 11:17 am 

    Wakky Makky, looking at what they are doing in China currently I I think you are the pot calling the kettle black.

  9. Dredd on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 11:40 am 

    “Churchill’s legacy” is that he was instrumental in a substantial way in causing the current addiction to petroleum fossil fuels (The Universal Smedley – 2, Viva Egypt – 2).

  10. apneaman on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 12:51 pm 

    How does one prep for fire? Are any of you prepper/homesteaders taking precautions to protect your property from wildfire? This shit is not going away.

    The Fires This Time

    “An appalling amount of the Northern Hemisphere is on fire. At the beginning of this month, 314 wildfires were raging in Alaska alone. They have seared 5 million acres so far this year and have torched up to half a million acres in a single day. Meanwhile, to the east in Canada’s Northwest Territory, hundreds of fires were raging in the permafrost zone, having covered over two million acres by the end of June. The forested northern provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan were similarly afflicted — 522 fires in northern Saskatchewan alone by June 30, nearly four times as many as last year in the same period.”

    “A new study published last week confirms that wildfires worldwide are larger, more numerous, and their season is longer every year; and that it is all a direct consequence of climate change. Hotter and drier conditions, beginning earlier each spring, have over 30 years doubled the area of the planet’s surface that is vulnerable to wildfire; and have lengthened by 18% the average length of fire seasons worldwide.”

    “But the most ominous thing about these fires is that they are not merely an effect of climate change, they are a cause. The burning of the forests and tundra is releasing astounding quantities of carbon, stored for centuries in the wood and the permanently frozen subsoil. Melting permafrost releases methane, a greenhouse gas many times more destructive of the world’s climate than carbon dioxide. The fires are in fact a feedback mechanism, accelerating climate change as climate change accelerates them.”

  11. apneaman on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 12:53 pm 

    WAR IS A RACKET 1935 Gen. Smedley Butler- Chapter One: War is a Racket

    “This is Major General Smedley Darlington Butler’s 1935 classic piece on what war is all about in reality. This is a must hear for any of those people who still believe war is fought primarily for freedom, sovereignty, democracy, God & country, and a whole host of other propagandistic “reasons”.

    War is fought for the economic benefit of the very few at the expense of the very many, even at the expense of generations not yet born.”

  12. Boat on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 1:42 pm 

    Problems in the US: we develope the most drugs but pay a higher price for them than the rest of the world. We export 10’s of billions in grains and food stuffs and yet pays the most for them. And still get blamed for energy use. This guy says food for the poor/welfare is more than the 478 billion deficit. He is right.
    China spends 150 billion on defense, Russia, 70 billion. US 620 billion and that does not count war spending. Add FBI, CIA and other organizations/Homeland Security, were up to over 1 trillion. We could cut that in 1/2 easy and bingo no deficit.
    Tax compliance is another issue that costs those of us who pay our tax over 420 billion per year. Interest on the debt is 420+ billion per year. Just thought Ya’ll needed a little more perspective. Easy fix’s that just need a little will and less fear.

  13. Davy on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 1:57 pm 

    Ape man, I don’t get bad scared about much. Fire is one of those things that is scary. Part of my pasture management practices is controlled burns. No burn is really controlled you just hope it can stay controlled. I have been burned by a fire that turned on me. It happened quick and it was nothing like these forest fires in size. I have the highest respect for fire fighting crews.

  14. apneaman on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 2:13 pm 

    Davy, I just don’t see the resources to fight these fires being available for that much longer. As with most things in this new reality it’s best to look to yourself. Maybe some local planning even if it has to be unofficial and the natives have some sense of reality.

  15. apneaman on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 2:51 pm 

    Climate Refugees — Extreme Weather Displaced 157.8 Million People From 2008 to 2014

  16. apneaman on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 3:20 pm 

    Climate change found to increase human conflict and violence

    “A growing field of research is finding correlations and connections between climate change and outbreaks of human conflict.

    A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), reviewed 55 studies into climate change and cases of human conflict. The statistical analysis concluded that changes in temperatures and precipitation patterns systematically increase the risk of both inter-personal violence (murder, rape, assault) and inter-group (civil conflict, war) violence.”

  17. Makati1 on Wed, 22nd Jul 2015 10:02 pm 

    Forest fires are natures way of clearing the land for other uses. Not going to stop now. Natives had nothing they couldn’t move when fire threatened. Their home materials, food and clothing came from the forests they lived in. Easily replaced if necessary.

    Modern man has homes filled with stuff they cannot throw on a horse or on their back, and leave in a hurry. Too bad, but that is the cost of ‘civilization’.

    My suggestion: Keep a backpack filled with necessities, and the ‘valuables’ that you can carry, during fire season. And a tank full of gas in the car. Same thing I tell my daughter in Florida for hurricane season. Be prepared to lose it all without a backward glance.

  18. zaphod42 on Thu, 23rd Jul 2015 12:11 pm 

    Good item selection, and some very good comments. Thanks to all.

  19. BobInget on Thu, 23rd Jul 2015 12:36 pm 

    Apneaman blames climate change for human conflict. It’s documented, there’s a direct line between drought (read hunger) and ‘human conflict’. Long before seas overwhelm low lying land masses, we see eccentric weather patterns disrupting subsistence farming.

    Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley linked climate change to the rise of ISIS earlier this week. Conservatives pounced. Score this round for O’Malley.
    For three years now, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Indeed, when a major peer-reviewed study came out on in March making this very case, Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley said it identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought.
    Titley, a meteorologist who led the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change when he was at the Pentagon, also said, “you can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.”
    Compare the words of Admiral Titley — former Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (!) and currently Director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risks. — with O’Malley’s (video here):
    “One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria and the rise of ISIS was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms — or rather, the conditions — of extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence.”
    Let’s run through the science underpinning what O’Malley, Admiral Titley, and others have said.
    We know that the Syrian civil war that helped drive the rise of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) was itself spawned in large part by what one expert called perhaps “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent,” from 2006 to 2010.
    That drought destroyed the livelihood of 800,000 people according to the U.N. and sent vastly more into poverty. The poor and displaced fled to cities, “where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011,” as the study’s news release explains.
    The March 2015 study, “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” found that global warming made Syria’s 2006 to 2010 drought two to three times more likely. “While we’re not saying the drought caused the war,” lead author Dr. Colin Kelley explained. “We are saying that it certainly contributed to other factors — agricultural collapse and mass migration among them — that caused the uprising.”

  20. BobInget on Thu, 23rd Jul 2015 1:01 pm 

    Will Californians form up militias of righties and lefties to overthrow their State government should this four year drought become more or less permanent? I doubt it.
    Governor Brown isn’t a dictator. The state lawmakers are for the most part, not crippled by corruption..

    This isn’t 1862. Most of us, East and West, North and South are in it together.
    When effects of Climate Changes can no longer be ignored, it’s my belief we Americans will
    argue and name call and complain but when one state or region needs help, unnaturally we help.

    How far back can we go to blame Climate Changes for wars? If you asked a Mayan Indian
    400 odd years ago, what answer?

    How about overpopulation?
    Imperialistic colonization?
    Taking more from deep underground then a family group requires. Is this exploitation or just
    ‘job creation’?

    As for organized ‘terrorism’, what’s new?

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