I was out on my Ducati on Friday; you know, Friday the 13th. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and mild, and I was thinking how nice it was for what would probably be the last time I venture out on a motorcycle this year. The sun struck low across the landscape and the trees, which are already mostly bare of leaves, filtered its rays. But they were still strong and sometimes it was hard to see, even though I had cleaned my visor before venturing out.
The contrast in light between the sunny parts of the road and those under the trees, especially those grouped together where they still have their leaved, was huge. It was like switching the lights off as I passed onto the shade.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for four decades now and you don’t do that without learning a thing or two. I was reminded of one on Friday: watch it! It may be beautiful and sunny with perfect dry tarmac out in the open, but under the trees the road will be wet.
This happens because the dew that forms overnight does not evaporate off as it would where there are no trees to insulate it from the sun’s warmth. And Friday was a very good example of the case in point; under the trees it was not only so dark it was difficult for my eyes to adjust, but also it was lethally slippery with damp, and to make matters worse, there were many fallen leaves on the road, just waiting to catch a careless back tyre and flip me over.
I reflected on this and thought it might make a nice philosophical post, you know, Reverend Rod, the atheist minister, droning on somewhere forgotten in cyberspace. But I just noted the headline idea and got on with the day’s work.
The next morning, Saturday, I was wakened by a stack of messages on my phone from my girlfriend, Crissy. It’s quite usual to find one or two, which is sweet, but this time there were many and they were urgent. ‘Are you all right?’ Half asleep, I wondered what she was on about, and messaged back a generic ‘What up?’ To which she responded. ‘Paris. Have you seen the news?’
Well I don’t do television, so no, but I was quickly enough apprised of the situation through Reuters and AP. A terrible black horror born of hatred and intolerance had reached out and stabbed at the heart of this great country. Over a hundred already confirmed killed; now we know it’s much more.
There will be time later to talk about the evil that caused this to happen; how relentless Western interference in the Middle East has turned it into a poisoned sore; how our ambivalence has sent the wrong signals and made us appear weak; how our continual to do business with the appalling state of Saudi Arabia allows them to fund terrorists whose only desire it to kill all non-Muslims; and how our own policy of bombing, then walking away to let the locals repair the damage, time and again, has provided recruits by the tens of thousands for a Dark Age cult of killing and revenge.
But we shall come to that; meantime I wanted to think about the aftermath for those who have lost loved ones. My own son’s 25th birthday is today and I think of all the other young people, those who were there, gathered to watch a metal band thrash.
Sunny days, sunny days, warm dry roads…yet so so slippery under the trees.
Could we have foreseen the tragedy of Paris? Yes of course. We have, once again, been guilty of that favourite European pastime, fence-sitting. We have seen how the streams of immigrants coming from the Middle East are mostly men and we know that amongst them are large numbers of fighters. Are they all now peaceful? We know that as well as a group of radical Islamists who came to Europe specifically to carry out this outrage, there were sleeper cells already here who supported them. We should have known. We should have acted. Instead we did nothing.
As a result we have this. And there will be more violence. And more.
There is an old Thai saying: you are responsible for that which you tame. Our policy of hit and run, of avoiding entanglement, has been a disaster and it is this that caused Friday the 13th in Paris. When we meddled in Afghanistan and then walked away, we turned it into a running sore. When we invaded Iraq, left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced, and then walked away, we left the devastated nation open for the evil ones. Why did we do this? Because the United States had had enough of Saddam Hussein. How had he become so powerful? Because the United States armed him to fight Iran. But rather than be responsible for the untold mess it had created, the United States walked away, and the rest of us did too.
The West, led by the United States, did not like Bashar al-Assad of Syria. So when the opportunity came, we armed those who rebelled against him. And the most powerful amongst them was Daesh, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL. This unalloyed evil is the direct result of Western political intervention. The United States, through the CIA, funded, armed and trained Daesh, and now sits back, happily distant, while Europe bears the fury of the war that America began.
People — many Muslims — who point to Western hypocrisy — are right. We are responsible for killings on an unimaginable sale and, like cowards, we have run away from the mess we created. The Middle East and the Arab world are rich — yet have hardly a functioning state left. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya — all failed states and the cause of this failure is not Islam — appalling though it may be — it is US-led Western policy. We have relentlessly and remorselessly interfered in these states, killing an untold number of people, since before World War Two and we continue, in cowardice and irresponsibility, to refuse to stay behind and clean up the mess that we ourselves created.
From the very first day we began to interfere — as long ago as Suez, or when we propped up the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, through to vaporised babies under retaliatory French bombs today, we have been running up an account of misery that we have simply not paid. Well, now comes the bill.
Enjoy the carefree times as you ride along in sun and warmth; under the trees it is dark and slippery.