After the terrible attacks in Belgium yesterday, we are yet again presented with a choice. We can choose to think things through, be reasonable, and be a tolerant society who doesn’t judge based on skin colour or creed. Or, we can choose to be dominated by fear, make irrational decisions which make us feel safe, but really achieve nothing. We can move into our own fantasy, where everything the “west” does is correct, without question, and anything the “other” chooses to do is quite obviously wrong. But is that really going to solve our problems?
Terrible events like these, which we have seen far too often over the past few years, test us. They test how tolerant we are, how patient we are, and how judgemental we are. At first, the choice seems obvious: act without mercy to protect our own way of life. But when you think about it, doesn’t that make us just as bad as those who we label as terrorists? In some ways, they are acting without mercy to protect their own way of life. The only difference is the side we’re on. It makes sense that we should be on the right side, and therefore anything we do to protect ourselves can be justified. Is that the way we should be acting though, without thought or reason?
Please don’t take what I just said as condoning the actions of these people who have acted without remorse and killed hundreds of innocent civilians to further their own beliefs. The point is, that instead of immediately acting in whatever way first comes to mind to protect ourselves, perhaps we should think about what we’re doing. Think about who we’re demonising, and who we might be harming.
After events like these, it’s easy to call for extreme actions to protect ourselves. But in doing so, we too become extremists, just on the opposite side of the story. You can argue that these extreme views serve to “balance out” the views on the opposite side, but all we’re really doing then is dividing society. Dividing society kills the progress we’ve made over the past century to become a more tolerant and accepting society. We’ve settled our differences before, but usually only after great suffering, so why can’t we try and avoid that suffering by settling our differences now, before it’s too late? What’s stopping us from acting as a coherent society and bringing people together in unity, rather than alienating them for their differences.
As I’m sure many people do, I feel fear after attacks like these. Nowhere near the kind of fear felt by those who were in Belgium yesterday, who saw horrors that no person should have to see. The fear I feel is for the future. Because if we make the wrong choice today, and choose to make irrational decisions and divide society, we slide further down a slippery slope. The more divided we make society, the further we push our own “extreme,” the more normal that becomes. It begins a vicious cycle, where our actions need to be more and more extreme to avoid seeming complacent. But what will that achieve? A futher divided society, pushing people further to the edge, alienating even more, and still not creating a feeling of safety.
Now is not the time to be making decisions about our future. Now is the time for mourning the loss of life seen in Brussels, and coming together to support each other. I’m not claiming to have the answers to the problems that are plaguing our world, there are people with a lot more knowledge than me who are better positioned to figure these things out. I just hope that they take the time to think things through, and act in a way which doesn’t divide or discriminate without reason, but really does make us all safer, now and into the future.