04 July 2005

Words of war
Wednesday June 29, 2005

Maybe we should just blame George Bush. The man who started the very abstract war on terrorism that then morphed into a very real war on people can surely be held responsible for the prevailing obsession with being war-like about everything. Or maybe, he should at least be blamed for a general pervasive macho-ness all over the world, all swagger and no substance.

Today I read in the papers that there is now a campaign called “War on Unruly Teens”. Now which genius thought of that? Or rather, which male genius thought of that? Only men can think that the use of the word “war” is OK, even against young people in our country.

What have our young people done to warrant having adults launch a war against them? What does “unruly” mean? Is this yet another knee-jerk response to bullying in schools?

When we use the word “war” against a group of young people, or any people for that matter, what does that really mean? To George Bush, the war against terror has meant demonising whole communities of people based on their faith, and marching into countries to occupy them, a very twisted way of giving them “freedom”. So when we declare war on “unruly teens”, does that we mean we will have posters demonising groups of young people? Does that mean that we will put young people we deem “unruly” away in order to make them toe the line? Isn’t that what we are doing with National Service anyway?

Young people, especially young women, can rightly feel that some adults must just hate them. They work hard like they are exhorted to; they still don’t get anywhere unless they kick up a fuss. They don’t behave the way adults define good behaviour, they get a war waged on them, funded no doubt by taxpayers’ money. I’m not saying anyone should be excused by bullying but when adults are constantly bullying young people, what example are they supposed to follow? If adults respond to teens by waging war on them, what is so surprising if they respond to weaker kids by also, in a way, warring with them?

Constantly using the word “war” against everything creates an atmosphere that subtly encourages violence and an aggressive way of solving things. People not toeing the line; let’s whip ’em. Women exercising their right to not wear a headscarf, let’s fine them. (Only PAS can try and make themselves sound good by saying they’ve been “considerate” for the past three years). People who stay home reading the Quran rather than going to mosque, let’s call them deviants. (Reading the Quran makes you a deviant? Hello?) Similarly branded are people who praise God through rock music. (For God’s sake, at least they talk about God!)

What on earth is happening? Is this country just going crazy? Obviously nobody believes in the power of education anymore. Perhaps that’s because people who come up with these ideas are somewhat lacking in the same? How does anyone choose their path in life but through education about their options? If we don’t provide them with that education, or if we skew it to only provide the options that we think are right, is it any wonder that they choose the wrong ones?

Or is it, in the style of George Bush, an impatience with approaches to problem solving that require much study and thought, that may take some time to show results, that doesn’t yield much business opportunities for t-shirt and banner makers, that doesn’t lend opportunities for photo taking with VIPs? Let’s get ‘em quick and fast and then move on to the next thing, damn the trail of suffering we might leave behind. There are Dubyas all over the world.

Of course people are going to get upset with me for comparing them with Dubya. But when you look at it; the sheer machoness, the sanctimonious attitudes, the dislike of women, the absolute belief that they have God behind them, the desire to inflict violence upon other people, it all sounds the same to me.

If we are going to wage war at all, why not wars on poverty, on inequality, on injustice? If every year kids do not get duly rewarded for their hard work, let’s wage a war on that obvious injustice. If there is a problem with bullying in schools, why not wage war on the conditions that make this possible, rather than individuals? Why not remove conditions within our society that allows people to bully others weaker or different than them? None of this requires campaigns that even mention war. In fact why not begin by banning the word “war”?

Unless, of course, we really don’t believe in peace.