Unappeasable Grievances

Harry thinks Galloway may have done for himself now.The thought had occurred to me. I saw both his grandstanding (get me, I’m defiant, I’m brave, I’m passionate, I’m taking the unpopular view) in Parliament and his ridiculous performance on Newsnight – thanks to good old C-Span which (amid the desert of dreck that is US cable tv) has shown Newsnight in its entirety the last couple of days, and the news conference with Ken Livingstone and Ian Blair yesterday. What can I say? He comes across as an obstinate buffoon. (Of course, I already thought he was that, a predisposition which must shape how I view him now.)

Hitchens is a relief from obstinate buffoonery. (Drink-soaked ex-Trotskyist popinjayism goes head-to-head with obstinate buffoonery. How I wish Galloway had accepted that challenge.)

I remember living in London through the Provisional IRA bombing in the 70s. I saw the very first car-bomb explode against the Old Bailey in 1972. There was no warning that time, but after a while a certain etiquette developed. And, even as I detested the people who might have just as soon have blown me up as anyone else, I was aware there were ancient disputes involved, and that there was a potential political solution. Nothing of the sort applies in this case. We know very well what the “grievances” of the jihadists are.

Well, some of us do. Others of us apparently don’t. Others insist that the ‘grievance’ is the war in Iraq and that if it weren’t for that, all would be peace and harmony. A view which at the very least overlooks some hard facts about chronology, as many people have pointed out.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won’t abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor’s liberation from Indonesian rule.

The grievance of seeing, I would add, not just unveiled women, but mobile women, out of the house women, working women, studying women, autonomous women, talking women, thinking women, arguing women, free women, running women, lawyer women, doctor women, scholar women, strong women, teacher women, journalist women – unsubmissive women. Women who own themselves as opposed to being owned by men, women who decide for themselves rather than asking men for permission. That’s a huge, colossal, festering, obsessive grievance; clamping down on wild out-of-control women is the first thing that happens when Talibanists win.

The grievances I listed above are unappeasable, one of many reasons why the jihadists will lose. They demand the impossible – the cessation of all life in favour of prostration before a totalitarian vision. Plainly, we cannot surrender. There is no one with whom to negotiate, let alone capitulate.

Just so. The grievances are unappeasable. That was the point of my rhetorical questions to Tariq Ali yesterday. It’s not possible to surrender, because the demand is for a nightmare life. A life of being buried alive – almost like being stuck in a Tube tunnel 250 feet below ground, forever.

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