I hope I don’t live to see the day that a suicide bombing in a European capital is not a huge and earth shattering news story. It would mean that such attacks had become so commonplace in this part of the world that they were merely absorbed with a resigned stoicism, much like they are now when we hear news of a bomb blast in a Middle Eastern or north African city.
It is no reflection of the value of the life lost in these attacks in the poor world that we no longer drop everything we’re doing and immediately rush to the nearest TV screen. Rather it shows just how battered these societies have been by the most appalling and brutal violence, to the point where it’s barely even news anymore when someone in Nigeria or Pakistan massacres scores of civilians in the course of pursuing their insane religious and political crusade (though such incidents are, of course, still widely reported). More to the point, if it is indeed Islamic State who perpetrated today’s murderous assault on Brussels, then it’s the same people who are responsible for so much of the bloodshed in the Arab and Muslim world in recent years.
Yet instead of recognising this foe for what it is – the common scourge of humanity and civilisation – there are certain factions that are constantly seeking to turn this matter into a judgement on ourselves and our own society. Predictably, the body count had barely been finalised at the Zaventem international airport and the Maelbeek metro station before voices were popping up to wonder aloud where all this outrage and solidarity was when, say, Ankara was bombed last week. It will also be remembered that shortly after the Paris attacks a similar cry went up that the recent suicide bombing in Beirut had been cruelly overlooked in comparison to the response to the mass murder in the French capital. (The cruder postings of this sort even try to make this into an issue of ethnic bias, making the ridiculous assumption that in a major assault on a multi-ethnic country like France or Belgium only “white people” will be killed).
Why does this matter, beyond the mere poor taste on show with this cheap sanctimony in the wake of a terrible attack? It’s because in attempting to relativise and minimise these acts of terrorism they are simply seeking to reinforce their own ideological agenda. Partisans of what, I suppose, we must call the Corbynite left – who tend to be the main offender in this regard – cannot really conceive of rich, privileged westerners as victims. That’s not our role. We are the oppressors and colonialists, who invade foreign countries and are the source of all poverty and injustice in the world. Anything that conflicts with this narrative must either be explained away or diminished.
Anti-EU trolls who leap gleefully on events such as those today as proof that they were right all along about immigration and liberal multiculturalism are no better. All of them are obtuse ideologues, with itchy Twitter fingers and hollow souls. We must attempt to rise above this squalid, narcissistic bun fight and deploy the nuance and perspective that is necessary to comprehend this phenomenon in a serious and meaningful way. As depressing as it is, a look at current events suggests we will be required to do this again and again and again in the years to come.