The 'War on Terror' is the crusade of our times, with the sticky black Holy Grail forever lying below the rocks of the next Middle Eastern horizon. Dominating our political and journalistic landscapes for nearly the entire 21st Century as yet experienced, it feels hard to relate this fervent and thinly-veneered-with-reluctance collection of wars and ostensible consolidations of security to the world as it was before then. History can be edited by the victorious, of course, but often they need not bother. Often, we only see in the past that which seems the most relevant at a feverish glance. Of course, no matter how sure you are of the book's contents, never judge it by its cover.
Anyone who thinks 9/11 was the start of all this can think again. Yes, it was a big atrocity that cost many lives and demolished several very large buildings, not to mention two aeroplanes, all full of people who were as scared as you would expect to be when living your final seconds with your colleagues in the wreckage of crashed kerosene-laden aluminium flying machines and a collapsing, burning mix of desks, computers, documents, floors, ceilings, glass and reinforced concrete. By all means the USA had every right to be angry and to try and track down the people who did it and bring them to account. So did the UK when a bus and a few tube trains suddenly found themselves in several more pieces than they should have been, complete with the dashed remains of commuters on the pavements of London. Of course the police felt edgy, of course the government felt it was right to increase surveillance. Gut instincts can always be trusted, and this was all far worse than anything before, right?
A look back at the First Iraq War, the Vietnam War and the still as yet unconcluded Korean War are enough by themselves to show us that there are so many worrisome similarities between now and then, and many people individually will recognise that too. Even more worryingly, there are similarities with the Second World War and even the First. Have we learnt nothing?
Perhaps more appropriate is that we all know what we have learnt from those conflicts, but feel powerless to effectively bring about the enormous kinds of changes that each of these conflicts made us realise we needed. In the meantime, whilst still agonising over how such changes would be arranged, we were caught up in the next war and the next, each time maybe having made tiny glimmers of progress, but well below the threshold to overcome the negative impacts of the conflicts themselves. That is to say, we were metaphorical snails in a well, moving a metre up the wall in the day and sliding at least a metre, sometimes more and sometimes a little less, back down at night. But what sort of wall is this anyway? Is it even a well?
The blinkered politicians believe they see all they need to see. They see the light at the top of the well without stopping to check if it is a well. They climb as fast as they can, forever seeking the political high ground their forebears gained and lost with high regularity. For to be the country whose war is the cleanest and most decisive in their favour, whose reasons are the most just and who just happens to land the most resources at the end of it all, is to be crowned the paragon of societal achievement, is it not? Have you not then found the Holy Grail? Do you not then deserve to live forever as an empire built on the glory of the people who did it 'right'? And if you or your forebears didn't do it right, perhaps a little fudging of the records can make up the difference... literally.
This eternal grail-chasing has led to many theorists claming that the leaders of the so-called Free World are attempting to assemble a New World Order, citing all sorts of old boy's clubs, secret societies and symbolisms that date back to the Ancient Egyptians. Perhaps some of the people in charge have even kidded themselves into thinking that that is what they are doing, as some kind of grandiose justification for their shortcomings, by calling the whole debacle some kind of bigger and holier work in progress. After all, it worked for the Constantine and Roman Empires with the Church. If your empire is too full of bodges and holes to survive as one, convert it into a religion, since religion relies very heavily on the impossible to prove it is the perfect hiding place. Of course, initially there will be several candidates of groups and clubs that give the elite feelings of security and safe-haven, just as there were many interpretations of the teachings of Jesus and of Muhammad. Not that the alternatives ever fizzle out, but eventually a canon is selected that takes centre stage. That process can be seen happening today as the motifs of Capitalism and the Free Market have vied and mingled with the far more obscure Aristocratic and Masonic approaches to create some kind of weird hybrid that heavily is America. Other countries try either to join this club and be part of the American Dream, or to opt out and be forever anathema, liable to being selected as a potential location for the Holy Grail.
With all this talk I would readily be accused by some people of being some kind of extremist. But I haven't finished yet, and I politely request that if you think that way of what I have said so far, you at least hear me out before setting your opinion in mental stone.
The people of the Muslim world are, by and large, like the people of the Western World and all the rest of it, good and sensible people. After all, most people don't spend their days worrying to any great degree about what is happening in the struggles for power somewhere beyond their own daily concerns. It doesn't make any common sense and doesn't get things done. But just as the USA has the Westboro Baptists and various other groups whose religious fervour comes at the expense of tolerance, so too the Muslim world has its fair share of nutjobs who would sooner declare a jihad than research why that's a bad idea.
So when two planes were deliberately flown into the biggest two fingers ever stuck up against anyone who disagrees with free market capitalism, naturally, actually having or having not carried out those attacks was neither here nor there; any 'nutjob' group who had to say something and wanted to impose their opinion of exactly where the American 'Empire' could stick its tools and temples of world economic control would jump at the chance to claim it was them. So whether it was Al-Qaeda or not made no difference, they claimed they did it. Osama Bin Laden got all the notoriety he wanted for an unknown level of planning and/or effort, and revelled in it, laughing from his fortified house in Pakistan as the Americans brought their pals from Europe into a sequel of a repeat of the world's most unwinnable war. There wasn't even a Holy Grail here, just some joker with a beard and a revenge price on his head. It didn't even matter when he was unceremoniously shot and spirited out to sea. He had given the new 'church' a new inquisition to complete, a witch hunt that cared not for the truth, only for an excuse. One that could carry on long after every one of the original extremists was dead and in a satisfyingly spread out pattern of smithereens, because every time you blow up someone for an opinion they hold you will martyrise them and galvanise their friends and family to want to do something about the oppressors.
Yes, the Taliban were terrible people and so was Saddam Hussein's regime. But remember who put them there. People who thought they had captured the Holy Grail last time round, and wanted someone with a local and friendly face to keep control of it for them. So what is so different this time round? You set up new 'democracies' which struggle to get to their feet and to find a decent example after so long without one while you yourselves dismantle your own democratic values and end up sliding back down the well into a pool of power and greed of your own making. You dug this hole yourselves and had the gall to drag everyone else into it with you, who were mutually and desperately dragging you down with them as they too failed in the same ways. What goes up must come down, so let's get real.
You want an exit from this situation, yet you fail to listen to the example of one of the most influential men in whose name you often fight. Jesus, we are told, though the historical accounts are about as reliable as a third rate tabloid's sex scandal magazine insert, said we should 'turn the other cheek'. A lot of people have interpreted this as unpalatably meaning we should take whatever our enemies or those in charge throw at us and be thankful. To lie down and be a doormat, never question and just let things happen to us. This is, of course, not very likely to be what he meant. The true meaning is something we would have to have been there to see at the time, not something we can over hope to find by lingering in the same places some two thousand years later and vociferously claiming we have a God-given right to a certain strip of land because someone did something profound there once. However, we can get our common sense hats on and consider what would actually work.
Seven years ago or so, I made friends online with a person who lives in Alabama. We shared hobbies and a little scientific interest, but it became clear that when we discussed politics, we had very different views. He was a right wing gun carrying American, and I a leftish-wing wind turbine-hugging Brit. By traditional stereotypes, you would have expected us to have argued and not seen eye to eye on many an issue we discussed outside our hobbies. Yet, I was not about to allow these differences to stand in the way of a friendship that to me mattered more, and nor was he. Over the years between then and now, we discussed and debated, often with opposing viewpoints, but when something was not yet reconciled between us, we agreed to disagree and left it for a while. Each of us would then learn more from other sources for a while, and on each subject we revisited, we subsequently understood better why each of us thought that way we did about, say, Barack Obama as a fit or unfit president, about green energy, oil, education and gun control, amongst other things. Neither of us won. If either of us had won, the other would have to have lost. We learned that to get on in this world, we must recognise not only the art of the compromise but also that the truth often lies somewhere between the different viewpoints, and it is OK for that truth to turn out to be quite a long way from what you thought. In some ways, I can say that when I felt hurt that such an opinion could exist about something I cared so passionately about, I turned the other cheek. The reward I got was that my erstwhile foe within that debate would turn the other cheek too. Only by recognising this could we then both say we hadn't won, as such, but had learned a lot from one another.
Every country in the world has a rich history, a huge reserve of intellect and understanding in all sorts of fields. Some of the subjects brought up in debate in some countries will be heavily warped by prejudices imposed from years of warring and fighting, greed and grail-seeking. The way to bring peace isn't a final snap through those warped opinions, to try to do so only warps them yet further. It is to get to the root causes of the differences, to find the truth and not just try to treat symptoms. Defence is not achieved through who has the pointiest sticks. It is achieved through parallel open development of adept ways to reach a truthful understanding that all sides can agree on to the detriment of nobody. If we all share and lend one another a hand, we will have no need to go hunting for grails and can dig our way diagonally out of this well. Co-ordination requires co-operation. Co-operation requires listening for the truth in what you might have otherwise branded lies. Nobody sets out in this world to lie, lies are symptoms of desperation. If someone is desperate, they need a hand to hold, not a slap in the face. All nations have done something wrong in the past. But as Jesus apparently said, 'an eye for an eye and we all will soon be blind'. And then who will there be left to look out for people?
Imperial Deification Not Required
I know this will be a bitter pill for many politicians so entrenched in their 'glorious' battles around the world to swallow. But we at the Pirate Party aren't entrenched much yet. We have the advantage of relative freshness on our side, which comes with a sense of perspective. We can use this to show the world that perhaps it really does need a New World Order, but one that is actually new, rather than just a repeat of the old ways of burying a stale empire, albeit updated for the twenty-first century. Let's show how it should be done and set a New World Example. We needn't turn our old empires into religions. We don't need empires any more. We don't need to search for the Holy Grail any more. We have found it and it's neither black nor sticky. It's transparent, open, always accountable has to be filled slowly and evenly with the truth and belongs to everyone. It is the conscience.