Last night, a man walked into the foyer of the Manchester Arena as the crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. Surrounded by the happy faces of children, he detonated a bomb, killing and injuring as many as possible. Others have also died or been maimed, and all deserve the very deepest sympathy and respect — but girls and young women were undoubtedly the main target. It was an Ariana Grande concert. And even if the killer didn’t know who the members of an Ariana Grande concert audience were likely to be, he will have seen them all around him before he chose to end their lives.
Thoughts must be with the victims and with those for whom they were and are the whole world — and in those family homes where (as a friend wrote this morning) ‘a make-up- and clothes-strewn room is silent.’ And thoughts must also turn to the prevention of further atrocities. The act was possible because of particular security assumptions that now should perhaps be revisited. But it was also possible because of certain fantasies that must no longer be indulged. The killer’s intention should have been inconceivable; it was not.
This is what terrorism is. Never accept a point of view from which it might be justified.
I’ve probably spent more time listening to Leonard Cohen than to Bowie and Prince put together, but somehow his death has hit me less hard. I don’t know why. I guess because much bigger things have happened to shake me. This has been a pretty horrible year, all told. Or a pretty good one if you hate the things I love. There was the Brexit vote, which told me that my family weren’t as welcome here as I had once thought. There was the United States presidential election – about which, no words are enough. In the US, the UK, and in France, we have seen the rise of pro-Kremlin nationalists employing a racist and isolationist rhetoric the likes of which I once thought belonged only to the political fringe. This isn’t the world that many were expecting, back in the 1990s when I came of age and I fell under the spell of that eloquence and a voice drenched in resignation and regret.
But it turns out that this is what the future was, and he was right. It really is murder.
The days pass, and I hear him coughing.
When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.
Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.
Alex Massie, 2016
Continue reading “Sometimes rhetoric has consequences”
“Cool means being able to hang with yourself,” he says. “All you have to ask yourself is ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous?’ If not, then you’re cool.”
Dammit, Prince, I miss knowing you were there.
Femme fatales emerged from shadows
To watch this creature fair;
Boys stood upon their chairs
To make their point of view.
I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey;
Lady Stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and dismay.
I spent a fortnight looking for the right words. Today, I realised you’d already written them, before I was born.