banishment, statelessness and the cost of love

14 11 2014

Love may cover a multitude of sins, but wouldn’t prison be better? Or if not prison, the good old days of banishment, when sinners were cast out of the city walls to fend for themselves. Guilty or not guilty, being suspected was enough to pacify the mob. Send them out! Scapegoats, if you like, carrying the sins and fears of the community on their backs. Out of sight, out of mind.

The struggle against fundamentalist jihadists is a real problem for our liberal democracy. Many are genuinely reaching the end of their liberal tether of benevolence and free speech. Deeply and firmly held beliefs about a god other than Economy terrify the policy-makers and the tabloids and therefore everyone else. So if someone sets out to destroy – or even challenge – the way that we live, increasingly the reaction is as fundamentalist and those we are ‘against’.

Just look at the reaction to the Occupy movement in Parliament Square over the last few weeks. Ordinary people challenging the priests of Economy, faced with detention and arrest. For what? Standing? And if we cannot cope with dissension from within, how on earth will we manage dissension that is far, far more serious. Like returning jihadists.

The option the Government want is more powers. Powers to barr them from entry, to take passports, effectively to render them ‘stateless’, someone else’s problem. Banishment. Suspects, that is. Whilst I understand the thinking behind this – how can we welcome home people who have engaged in a war on the other side to ourselves? – love steps in.

Love? What’s love got to do with it?

Love – love as action, love as intentional choice, love as principle – love says that the rights of those we disagree with are just as valid as those we agree with. Love says that a citizen of this country is exactly that – a citizen, therefore afforded the rights of a citizen, which include innocent until proven guilty (remember that?). We are not a totalitarian dictatorship intolerant of dissent or free-thinking; we are a liberal democracy with all the freedoms that brings. And a consequence of that freedom is people are allowed to exist who disagree with us. Who even want to destroy us. 

We cannot allow ourselves to arrive at a place where people can be arrested or de-citizened for being suspected of something, without going through the proper criminal justice system. It can be hard to understand how frightening this policy is unless you put yourself in the place of someone it might apply to, which is unlikely to be the standard middle-aged white males in an office who write this stuff (stereotype alert, apologies). 

Whilst it may pain us to stand up for the rights of people who are different from us or who we vehemently disagree with, love commands us to do so, because love is not sentimental mush but a hard-core challenge to our desire for self-protection and to look after those who are ‘like us’.

Instead of increasingly oppressive edicts from above, the Government needs to work hard at local community level to get alongside and understand what makes young men go to fight in Syria. One way this could have been done is through statutory youth work provision, but the priests of Economy think that is too costly. Sutton’s local council youth budget was cut by over 50% in 2011.

But love is costly, love takes the long view. And love does not banish. 




6 responses

14 11 2014

Reblogged this on webstercamino.

14 11 2014
Just Rod

It is a serious issue needing serious discussion and debate. Policies based on fear will always err on the side of limiting freedoms.
The problem is how does a liberal democracy deal with suspicion of intent.
Good article to get us thinking.

16 11 2014

Thanks Rod, good to hear from you. Most new policies seem to be built on fear on this issue, unfortunately!

16 11 2014

Great post. I agree and disagree on a range of levels with a range of points! Brilliantly argued and brilliantly written. 2 things I know for sure!

16 11 2014

Ooh like a little disagreement now and then! Feel free to say more…

17 11 2014

Difficult to say more about a topic so heavy with controversy…. And hard to disagree with an opinion I share…albeit to a lesser extent perhaps.
I think perhaps that my main reservation comes from your tar brushing “the government”… It feels a little…generalised.
I agree that what we need is for more thought and money and training to be put into the desperately underfunded areas of youth and community, but I also know that there would still be problems around extremist brainwashing.
Love is the greatest thing of all, but I’m not sure that it’s okay to allow terrorists the opportunity to act against communities of innocent people. I’m not advocating a system of no trial, of damnation or condemnation by instinct. But I’m not up for embracing everyone just in case we get it wrong.
It’s a narrow line to tread.
I’m glad I’m not in charge.

Is that enough to disagree with?!


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