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The Changing of the Guard

18/10/2012 0 Comments

If you look closely, sometimes you can see the hands of the clock moving. That definitive click of the hands does not bring about immediate change, but it indicates that we have moved, irrevocably, from one hour to the next.

As the dust settles on the recent London riots that filled our screens and pages, we have an opportunity to reflect, not just on what happened, but on what those events may actually signify. Subtle but significant changes can happen in the midst of chaos, so that even when the pieces are seemingly put back in place, things are actually different.

As Nietzsche correctly foretold, we live in an age that is defined by ressentiment. Reaction becomes disguised as action; we are defined by those we oppose. “You are bad. I oppose you; therefore I must be good.” Claims of action as affirmation of what Goethe referred to as the ‘One, the True and the Good’ are all too often betrayed by the reality of actual events. You can say what you like, but you will always act out your real values.

The foundation of debate among our leaders is based on denigration of the opponent’s ideas, actions or character, whichever is the easiest target, and always with an eye on the opinion of others, rather than on reaching a real target. In the hall of mirrors, it is all too easy to get lost.

In the chaos of England’s street riots, we were witnesses to a shift. New villains and new heroes emerged, and two tellingly different responses to the helplessness we all feel at certain times.

New Consumers

The consumer age has given birth to the new consumer who is so disconnected from the shared reality of social life that there seems to be no difference between the ‘free download’ and the raid on the neighbourhood store. Surfing on the adrenaline rush of sudden opportunity, people took things just because they could. There was no pause for reflection of right or wrong; those distinctions have become all but irrelevant in a technological age in which the moral imperative has been reduced to ‘if you can do it, then why not?’

The ‘why not’ –ultimately– cannot be legislated, especially in Britain where so many of the defining parameters of acceptable behaviour have for so long been based on the notion that certain things are simply ‘not done’. In the current context of an amoral techno-consumerism fuelled by endless debt, the unseen threads that hold us all in patterns of acceptable behaviour have simply lost their strength.

What we saw as the riots unfolded and spread was the dissolution of those threads under the compelling influence of a new form of rampant consumer nihilism. One could almost hear ‘Money for Nothing’ playing in the background.

The Game is Up

The sleight of hand played by the banking elite seems to be coming full circle, confirming the observation that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. If those boys at the top of the heap are all getting something for nothing, then maybe we should too. And why not?

Spraying worthless digital money into the economy appears to have fertilised the equation that if the money we use to value things is itself worthless, then perhaps all the things are too. The double standards, lying and cheating that is commonplace among our political and corporate leaders has become so transparent that is it meaningless to tell people lower down the food chain to behave any differently.

The fact that this surprises anyone would lead you to think that none of them has ever been a parent. Have they not yet noticed that our children tend to copy our actions rather than our words?

Now that broken homes and fatherless sons have become social norms, it is too late to expect that any sense of good old English values will get passed on from one generation to the next.

The sad truth of the London riots is that everyone was helpless in the face of this new viral form of retail therapy. While the police and the politicians tried to talk a half-decent game after the event, it could not disguise that fact that they let it happen because they did not know what else to do.

Faced with the proposed cuts to their numbers and their budgets, one got the feeling that the police were using the riots, in part, as a way to send a message to the politicians…in true reactive spirit.

While the politicians all chimed in with a chorus of ‘You’ll be sorry now’…and while some of the perpetrators may even have been genuinely sorry, bringing in a super cop from Los Angeles is not a solution. It is too late just to get tough; zero tolerance will in all likelihood produce more criminals who will be imprisoned for just long enough to really learn about crime.

You cannot legislate good character. You can acquire it by keeping company with those people who have it. In todays Britain, these people are not necessarily to be found where you might expect.

People show their true measure in times of difficulty. During the riots, many people lost their property and livelihoods, but none faced a greater test than the families of the three young Muslims men in Birmingham who, after fasting all day, died defending their communities.

The New Guardians

While everyone else was pointing fingers, Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the murdered young men, spoke the words that resonated across the nation. “I’m a Muslim and I believe in Divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate… and now he’s gone… and may Allah forgive him and bless him… that’s all I have to say…”

In the midst of all the chaos, and in contrast to all the chorus of voices trying to blame someone else, these words sang out with the unmistakable ring of truth and wisdom. In that moment he could have said anything. We would have excused him if he had called for justice…or even vengeance.

And yet, when confronted with the majesty of the event, he was able to see the Divine reality of it, and, amazingly, to communicate it in a way that touched everyone who had a heart.

This is the character of the Muslim. You cannot legislate this behaviour, this recognition that God is in charge of all of our affairs, and that He does as He wills.

While the political leaders were helpless in the face of rampant rioters, searching around for someone to blame and punish, Tariq Jahan was helpless in the face of the Divine decree, and he looked for meaning in it. These two kinds of helplessness are not the same.

While the lost sons and daughters of England were laying waste to our High Streets, the Muslims were defending the property and, more importantly, the morality of our country. This is the new reality of Great Britain.

The Englishness of our forefathers, with its inbuilt sense of decency and fair play has long gone. How that happened is another story, and while it may be useful to understand that, it is now more important to recognise that with the presence of Muslims in this country, we have the inheritors of the final revelation from God to mankind.

If we truly desire to bring any greatness back to this country, we would do well to embrace and honour the presence of the Muslims rather than seeing them as Nietzsche’s ‘evil other’ that we oppose in an attempt to make ourselves look good.

We no longer have the necessary ingredients for social renewal from our own native resources. We are fortunate that by the curious turns of history, we have Muslims from all corners of the world as active members…indeed, perhaps even as guardians of our society.

We would do well to see the workings of the Divine decree in this fact, and rather than thinking that it has nothing to do with us, recognise that it may well be bringing us the very wisdom and truth that we rather desperately need.

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