Dig Two Graves

I’m going to preface this blog post by saying that the events of last week – the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and in Beirut, Lebanon – are utterly inexcusable. The people who committed these atrocities have proven that they lack any compassion or humanity, and their actions should never, ever be defended, no matter the cause they claim. These killers attacked indiscriminately, slaughtering by the hundreds people who had never hurt them – had never done anything wrong, in fact, but live a different kind of life. For that reason, they can never deserve our forgiveness, nor our sympathy.

That being said, the idea of bombing Syria is absurd. In 2003, reason upon reason was laid out before George W. Bush explaining why a war in the Middle East could never result in anything but further violence and pain; these reasons were summarily ignored, and the result is what we see today – widespread chaos and misery, murder, sadism and fear, and the ascendancy of a brand-new plague of terrorism. Aggression wasn’t the answer then, and it isn’t the answer now – escalating military operations in Syria as France has claimed it will can surely only provoke greater violence from our enemies, and fuel the fire of ISIS’ brand of extremism, a brand which paints a picture of a deep and insurmountable divide between Islam and the rest of the world. If we surrender to the idea that these murderers are truly representative of Islam, then we are doing them a favour. Nothing would please them more than the West indulging in the Islamaphobic and racist rhetoric being pedalled by the right-wing press, so let’s clear this up: Syrian refugees were not to blame for last week’s acts of savagery, and neither were Muslims. The bombers and gunmen who so monstrously attacked may ascribe any number of labels to themselves, but just as we do not judge Christians by the acts of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church, so we cannot allow the acts of a small, cruel minority to colour our view of people who live perfectly harmless lives.

We cannot, in good conscience, perpetuate this violence. If we so abhor the terrorists for the damage they inflict on our innocents, then surely we must hold ourselves to the same standards. The people of Syria are, for the most part, victims of ISIS, just like the Parisiens and Lebanese who have recently suffered so greatly. They are faced with the same threat to their safety as we in the Western world are, but for them, the danger is more immediate. How can we blame them for wanting to flee westward, to safer pastures? And equally, how can we make their homeland any more dangerous, and still live with ourselves?

When, in 2014, MPs voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq, I had my doubts. Now, I am more certain than ever that brute force is far, far from being the solution to the risk ISIS poses to the rest of the world. Yes, they need to be stopped, but they are not a single, composite unit to be picked off easily in Syria, and air strikes there can only give rise to civilian casualties, strengthening ISIS’ hatred of the West, leading, most probably, to an increase in the attacks levied against us.

I do not pretend to know how to solve this conflict. All I can do is repeat the wisdom of the quote from which the title of this post has been taken warns – “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

  • Lana Wrigley, ex-Politics Student
    (Now studying at the University of Birmingham)

The F-Word

There are a lot of things that confuse me in this world – the popularity of Crocs, people who think UKIP have intelligent and well thought-out policies, and defenders of the Second Amendment, to name just a few – but one of the things which makes no sense to me at all is the cultural condemnation of the feminist movement.

I’m a feminist. And if you read that and rolled your eyes, or your cursor drifted over to that little ‘x’ at the top of your screen, then I have a question for you: do you actually know what feminism is? I understand that there might be some confusion over the definition, but a simple Google search could have told you all you needed to know.

In the interests of saving time, though, let me lay it out for you:

According to Merriam-Webster, feminism simply means “the theory of the political, social and economic equality of the sexes.” Not explicit enough? Then let’s try the Oxford English Dictionary – “[feminism is the] advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex; the movement associated with this.” 

Now, you wouldn’t think that this is a particularly revolutionary theory.

And yet.

This week alone, Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist particularly know for speaking out against misogyny in video games, was forced to cancel a lecture she had planned to give at Utah State University, after someone claiming to be an USU student sent an email threatening the “deadliest school shooting in American history” if she spoke. This is far from the first violent threat Sarkeesian has received, but it is the first one that has prevented her from doing what she does – namely, promoting feminism. The author of the email wrote “feminists have ruined my life, and I will have my revenge” – an eerily similar sentiment to that expressed by Elliot Rodger before he went on his spree in California, killing six people.

What is it, then, that makes feminism so hard-to-swallow in our society? Patriarchy. The fact is, we live in a world in which men – largely rich, white men – dominate practically every level of society, from the familial to the political. Across the globe, the default face of humanity is male, despite the fact that women make up half the population. In the Houses of Parliament in this country, less than 25% of the MPs are women. In America’s congress, it’s even less – under 20%. The thing is, it is in the best interests of a capitalist patriarchy like ours to perpetuate itself by defaming any ideology challenges it – socialism, feminism, you name it.

Patriarchy is a political system that perpetuates acts of violence against women on a daily basis; rape, murder, abuse, whichever – living as a woman in a global patriarchy, there is a 30% chance that you will suffer sexual or physical violence from a male partner, according to a WHO study last year. But it’s not just women who suffer under patriarchy – as Emma Watson said in her UN speech the other week, “men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.”

The values that patriarchy enforces are harmful to everybody, regardless of gender. Masculinity is just as harmful a stereotype as femininity, it just acts in different ways. When we talk about feminism, men like to bring up the fact that there are cases of male rape and domestic abuse, too, but what they don’t realise is that feminists, by trying to dismantle the patriarchy, are attempting to combat that. Likewise, when discussions of child custody arise, or when young boys are bullied for not being ‘manly’ enough, it is patriarchy which is overwhelmingly at fault.

This is an article which could go on for pages and pages, but I think I’ve said what I needed to. All that remains now is the question of whether or not we as a society can, in good conscience, continue to support such a backwards and damaging system.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

As Weak as We Are Divided – Why “The Sun” Has Made Me Uneasy

Recently, I got into an interesting debate about The Sun – and I mean the newspaper, not the big hot sphere of gas. This discussion was particularly concerned with the front page of the tabloid yesterday, which featured an image of a Muslim woman wearing a Union Flag as a hijab, and the headline, “United against IS.” Now, this bold move by The Sun has received a lot of controversy since its publishing, and I for one can see why.

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It’s the warning implicit in the whole package – if you’re a British Muslim, be prepared to prove that you hate Islamic State as much as the rest of us do, or suffer the consequences. This pseudo show of solidarity, reads, to me, like a challenge to moderate Muslims in the UK, demanding that they stand and explicitly state that the jihadists in Iraq and Syria aren’t acting in their name, or risk being tarred with the same brush by the rest of us. It seems almost as though the paper was giving an ultimatum – either you’re an activist or you’re an extremist, and we’re as much at war with you as we are with Iraq.

This, surely, cannot possibly do anything but feed into the steadily-growing culture of Islamaphobia that is rife in this country. Any non-Muslim reading the paper on that day would have put it down believing that all British Muslims have an obligation to speak up and stand against IS, and that if they don’t, then they are complicit in the horrific acts being acted out by the terrorists abroad. The Sun claimed to be promoting unity with this spread, but how exactly they hoped to achieve it through such uncompromising means is beyond me.

The thing is, expecting British Muslims to stand up to the maniacs in Iraq who have bastardised their religion is all very well and good in the abstract. The reality is though, that these are people who are just the same as any others, who are just as – and arguably more – scared of Islamic State as non-Muslim Brits, who are struggling with prejudice from this country and oppression and hatred in the Middle East, who may have families in Iraq and Syria that could easily fall victim to IS attacks. They may even be people who are resentful of the attitude that seems to have been shown so blatantly in that Sun article, that Muslims are terrorists until proven otherwise. And demanding resistance or dissent from these people is asking rather a lot. Yes, you could argue effortlessly that we all have a duty to speak up against atrocities of the sort that IS commit and yes of course, we should all be doing everything in our power to help put a stop to it, but realistically, how many people have the courage necessary to do so?

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, those who belong to the Resistance are today called heroes, but they were a comparative few. Indeed, even in Nazi Germany, the majority of people – though many objected to Hitler’s actions – stayed silent while he carried them out. The simple matter is that it is hard to stand up to your enemies, no matter how undoubtably wrong or wicked they are.

Does this mean we shouldn’t try? Absolutely not, but what it does mean is that ham-fisted campaigns like those in The Sun are creating expectations which put a lot of pressure on people who hardly need it. Issuing a call-to-arms by deciding that silence is equal to consent and demanding some kind of uprising is the wrong way to go about encouraging vocal dissent. Instead, campaigns like #notinmyname on Twitter which begin within the Muslim community should be encouraged, because the fact of the matter is that you cannot bully or coerce people into resistance – they have to take it up on their own terms.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

Action Against IS – to Bomb or Not to Bomb?

Today at Westminster, UK MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the US in air strikes against the terrorist force IS in Iraq, with only a tiny minority of 43 opposed to the motion.

Now, honestly? I don’t know where I stand on this issue. The actions of IS have, of course, been deplorable, and I don’t think anyone would deny that they need to be stopped – not only because of the immediate humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria, but also because their extremism and brutality has encouraged Islamophobia across the globe – but all I can think is that Western intervention, recently – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Libya – has never quite worked out the way we want it to. This, presumably, is why Parliament said ‘no’ to military action in Syria in 2012. So a part of me wonders how, exactly, this will be different. Hopefully, David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have a better plan than Blair and Bush had back in 2003, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

The thing is, we start with air strikes in Iraq, and, though Cameron has warned that defeating the terrorists could take years, we don’t know how we will end. The Iraqi government has asked for help, and we’re promising to give it, but how can we know with any certainty that our actions will make any impact at all? Is this, as some of the more cynical will suggest, nothing but an empty gesture on our part, or is there a plan, a concrete plan, to defeat these enemies? And how much force is enough force? Do we stop, as has been decided today, with strikes only in Iraq, or push into Syria, too? Perhaps I’m just clueless, but it seems to me that there’s a whole web of issues here, and it will take someone far more qualified than me to even attempt to untangle them.

All I can say is that the shaky political situation in the Middle East seems like it’s been going since the Cold War, and it seems to me as if it will take a lot more than a show of brute force to straighten it out. But, as I said, IS need to be stopped, and if the people we trust to lead us think this will do it, who am I to disagree? I suppose, really, all we can do is wait and find out if we’ve made the right choice – as the venerable John Ramm (this blog’s namesake) might say: right now, it’s just too early to tell.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

What makes Americans attracted to Presidents from Mars rather than Venus and what will it take for a woman to break through America’s most exclusive glass ceiling?

Every year in Luton Sixth Form College the Politics department holds the Politics Prize competition. Last year Adam Deacon won the prize with his article on North Korea. This year Sophy Lelliot won with her excellent piece on the glass women that American females face on the quest for political power which you can read below.

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ABOVE: Sophy Lelliot receiving her Politics Prize from the principal, Chris Nicholls.

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OMG Ed Mili!

Ed Mili has finally grown a pair! I must admit, he made a bold move. After listening to him on Tuesday when he said that the Labour Party would support intervention in Syria if it “was legal”, I thought “right…we’re in.” But no! Mili shocks us all by proposing an amendment to the government’s resolution.

The debate started in the Commons yesterday at 2.30 pm and ended very late into the evening when my BBC app alerted me that the Commons had voted; no! The government motion was defeated 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes!

Mr Miliband has certainly up-graded himself within the Labour Party. As a member of the Party I received an email explaining the amendment put forward and I honestly got really excited for British politics. Historians last night were debating whether the last time a PM was defeated on a matter of peace and war was 1782 or 1855- either way it was a very long time ago! Not only was it an embarrassing defeat, but the fact that Cameron didn’t get full support from his own party and the fact that he recalled Parliament further adds to his embarrassment. Poor guy. If only the Commons had voted logically years ago, arguably tens, if not thousands of Arabs would still be alive today.
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What’s Happening in Egypt?

That is a very stupid title to have, as I’m guessing most of you know what’s happening in Egypt and are following the news, but I couldn’t think of anything better- really not in that imaginative of a mood.

To begin with I just want to inform the reader of who Mohamed Morsi actually is. Morsi is/was the fifth and first democratically elected President in Egypt. He is considered by most to be the first democratically elected head of state in Egyptian history, although his predecessors also held elections, which were generally marred by irregularities and allegations of rigging. He was, however, the first President to have first assumed his duty after an election, as opposed to his predecessors who came into power as revolutionaries e.g. Nasser and as appointed successors, Sadat, Mubarak.

On 30 June 2013, protests erupted across Egypt calling for the President’s resignation, following severe fuel shortages and electricity outages which evidence shows were orchestrated by Mubarak-era Egyptian elites with the intention of causing a coup. This was followed by a threat of the military force which later resulted in a coup on the 3rd July 2013. Now some ignorant individuals, such as John Kerry, believe that this coup will “bring back democracy to Egypt.” Since when has an army coup been democratic? This comment coming from the US Secretary of State is made somewhat more awkward by the fact that the US is apparently the most democratic country, HA. He seemed to backpedal after commenting that “Egypt needs to return back to normal” but hey, we’ll see.

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