Wednesday, 24 May 2017
There is nothing quite like a national tragedy to highlight the paucity of vocabulary that afflicts post-traumatic-state-disorder. It’s as if there is some laid down glossary of acceptable terms to which all public figures must adhere: Together we stand. We are united. They will not prevail. The litany goes on... and on... and on. We must not let hate win, they say, hate having won, decisively, on the day. We are not afraid, they say. But wait, it’s not the hatred that delivered the Manchester murders that is on trial here, but the natural fearful reaction of the bereaved.
You can do vigils, you can do candles, you can even do angry poetry but until the hysteria calms down and we strike back, in cold blood, nothing will ever change. The message being sent to the world? Bomb us, murder us, rape us and rob us for welfare and we will simply lie down and let you do it all again. Yes, we’ll look at you pleadingly and utter the mealy-mouthed borrowed phrases of political simpletons, but we will not lift a finger against you. Come, we are easy meat; our country is yours for the taking. No wonder Christians get persecuted in some countries – they practically beg for it.
Rather than actually fight we will cynically use that word to mean something different. We will fight to understand your pain, empathise with your plight, open up a ‘dialogue’ with your emotions and find a way to your heart. And it doesn’t matter how many of us you kill and how many times you actually tell us that our death is what your ideology demands, we will ignore the simple truth and continue to fight to discover a reassuring way of blaming your actions on ourselves. It must be my fault that daddy keeps hitting me; it must be. He does it because he loves me...
Of course, the authorities are fighting back. Oh yes. They are fighting against the backlash of islamophobia; they are policing imaginary hate crime; they are poised and ready to punish you for your horrified response to horrific events. Bomb a venue, kill 22 people and you need to be understood, but express revulsion at the act and post a social media message of antipathy and you must be sanctioned. Pre-meditated murder is bad, this says, but knee-jerk condemnation of it is worse.
How many more empty words?
‘Don’t let hate win. Embrace. Come together. Stand strong. My heart goes out. My thoughts are with. We pray for. Solidarity. The lost vocabulary of official responses finds its apotheosis in the hollow phrase ‘there are no words’. If that’s the case then tell me, why are we still just talking?