Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Am Afraid

I have no quibble with professing our resolve to maintain the status quo and not succumbing to fear and paranoia. However, I am afraid and I believe the fear is well-founded. I am afraid that Canada has now crossed a threshold, which has a self-perpetuating quality that negates positive intention. Like it or not, this alleged terrorist plot will dominate the news cycle for years, as justice slowly moves toward a full disclosure. This fact guarantees a daily diet of negative influences, which invariably counters any desire to pretend as though things remain the same. The feelings of victimization, unfairness, exploitation may make for regular discussion amongst the Muslim community, while the non-Muslim community debates the merits of inclusiveness and perceived societal chasms. In other words, a constant debate that highlights divisions, despite the fact that the impetus is not representative of the majority.

The interesting aspect to terrorism is the fact that a handful of people can wreak such havoc, not so much with the actual violence, but the threat and the resulting paranoia. To deny this power is too ignore historical precedent, wherein rational detachment is replaced by reactionary fears. Despite our intentions, the change is already occurring and moves us toward a new reality. You don’t get to take back the plot, or the resulting backlash, it is part of the experience and the future is viewed from this lens. With this event, I firmly believe that Canada has lost its innocence and we can expect continued fallout.

I believe that we are slowly heading toward a war of cultures, with the recent events another step that widens the potential. Canada is steadily being dragged into the war on terror in a frontline capacity, as other “western” nations align themselves against the perceived threat which widens daily. As our involvement increases, coupled with the new fear, issues such as national security and war come to the forefront, primarily the domain of right leaning parties. This shift allows for an erosion of progressive values as we desire toughness over tolerance. The forces of division capitalize on the paranoia, which further exacerbates the root problems (see Bush administration).

There are ways to avoid further deterioration, but all signs point to the opposite. The new reality involves tougher security, tighter control, more surveillance with lesser cause, sensational news and tribalism. You don’t go back, the Prime Minister never again wades into the crowd to shake hands with the people, the detachment is now cemented and that isn’t insignificant. Canada will now institutionalize fear and create permanent walls. Things have changed, to pretend otherwise is to deny that events have consequences.


catnip said...

I'm not a fan of the 'I am not afraid' campaign because everybody needs to put this in perspective, afaic.

Historically, Canada - North America, has always been under threat of some homegrown attacks. It's only the ideology of the people involved over the years that have differed. From the FLQ to the KKK etc. we have been dealing with this reality for decades.

It's better to live with caution than fear because fear can be paralyzing. But, standing up and declaring 'I am not afraid' is not going to stop any future attacks. That's for damn sure.

Psychols said...

Powerful post. I think you echo a common sentiment. We are not afraid of terrorists. We are afraid of overreaction within our own nation.

macadavy said...

I hope you're wrong but I fear you're right.

Koby said...

The I am not afraid campaign is off the mark. The chances of one being a victim of terrorism or very small, indeed. However, the damage a terrorist attack will do to our social fabric and economy are huge and the chances of such an attack, a la Spain or London, are not insignificant. One of the things you did not mention is this. If Canada is going to avoid a European like demographic meltdown, Canada will have to keep allowing in large numbers of immigrants. If a terrorist attack does occur, this may no longer be politically possible. We may find ourselves in same situation as Europe. Namely, badly needing immigrants, but unable to do so because it is not politically possible.

One of the things we can do to lessen the chances of such an attack is to leave Afghanistan.

Stephen Harper "We are a target because of who we are, and how we live, our society are diversity our values.”

Pace Stephen Harper, as with US, the major bone of contention Jihadists, both domestic and foreign, have with Canada is not our freedoms, but rather Canadian foreign policy. They do not like us being in Afghanistan. Sure enough that was the motive of the Ontario 17. Needless to say, most of what they say about our motivations for being there and the conduct of our troops is patently false and often absurd. The validity of what these nut bars claim is not the issue though. The issue is does Canada being in Afghanistan greatly increase the chances of Canada being the target of a terrorist attack. The answer is yes. Bin Laden has said we are an Al Qaeda target because we are there. However, much more important is the fact that the chances of the Canadian government, or any other Western government for that matter, being able to prevent groups of disaffected youths from within their own populations from adopting Jihadist identities, or worse is hopelessly unlikely. In other words, whatever the merit of what these nut bars are saying, the chances that they will say it and find domestic coverts, who will act on what they say, is all but guaranteed. This is the part conservatives have gotten right. Jihadist terrorism is reality Canadians must face. What conservatives are not saying though is what this means; it means that we must assume that trying to install democracy at gun point in Muslim countries greatly increases the chances domestic terrorism.

Sometimes this risk will be worth it. However in the case of Afghanistan, for me and for many other Canadians this increased risk is intolerably high price to pay for involvement in a war that is costing us billions, is doomed to failure and in no way furthers our national interests.

Steve V said...

Unfortunately, I think the recent events will only harden opinions and Conservatives will use it as justification for a continued presence in the middle east. We are in a vicious cycle.