Ah, yes – I remember what I was going to write about. It was Daniel Dennett’s ‘surely alarm’. He asserts that when people use the word ‘surely’ in an argument or speech, it should trigger an alarm, as it’s a sign that the speaker has not justified their argument.
Mark doesn’t like Daniel Dennett as he says he’s a bit Richard Dawkins-ish: I have no opinion about the man.
But presumably he has a – albeit rather sober – field-day when attacks happen like yesterday’s Woolwich murder:
Muslim groups all over the country have been quick to condemn this and it’s beginning to look like a couple of rogue idiots, although Al Qaeda has been mentioned. I’m still not sure if I believe Al Qaeda exists, but it’s upsetting to see the amount of anti-religious stuff that comes out after an event like this. The level of racism is disturbing too: the eye-witness interviewed on Radio 4 – and presumably on the TV too – used the word ‘black’ in connection with the terrorists at least six times. I doubt she would have used the word ‘white’ at all had they been “white”. As Blake once observed, ‘as a man is, so he sees’ – something I always keep in mind in such situations. Sometimes the way a person describes an event says far more about them than it does about what they have witnessed: and in this case a key factor for the witness was clearly the fact that the men were “black”.
Hm – interestingly, it’s not so easy to find that interview today. Perhaps that’s why…
The wider evil of such actions – beyond, of course, the immediate evil of the killing of the victim and traumatisation of onlookers – is the knock-on effect it has on communities. I suspect – though I don’t know for sure – that there was little racial integration in Woolwich, though the communities may have rubbed along well enough on a day-to-day basis. But an action like this brings hidden tensions to the surface: people feel free to make racist or Islamophobic statements with impunity and ordinary Muslims, who are probably as horrified by this as anyone – feel themselves under threat.
It’s very dispiriting and I can’t begin to fathom what goes on in the mind of someone who can perpetrate an act like this.
However! In the face of terror, let us all do something positive for peace. We may not be in Woolwich, but no matter where we are there’s always something we can do. So talk to a neighbour today. Get to know the people at the bus stop or in the shop. Get involved in community projects. Because, guess what? If we don’t build links in our community then terrorism gets a foothold – and it’ll be coming soon to a neighbourhood near you.
PS I have made a conscious decision to adopt the American word ‘neighbourhood’ in preference to our rather vague term ‘area’. Nothing, however, will induce me to spell it without a ‘u’. I notice, however, that more and more people on-line are using the ‘z’ in words ending in ‘-ise’, such as ‘realise’. Colonisation by spellchecker? I feel another post coming on…