Wednesday, September 24, 2014
No law could ever prevent this...
There is so much hyperbole, propaganda and hysteria being tossed around about ISIL and the threat of terrorism in Australia, that I suspect many of us are simply switching off our TVs and radios. Very complex issues are being reduced to two- and three-word slogans. Everything that happens is being used to bolster one side of the argument or the other.
A couple of nights ago, a young eighteen-year-old Islamic man stabbed two Australian police officers and was shot dead. Today that event is being used by our Attorney-General, George Brandis, to justify the introduction of tougher anti-terror legislation. The Victorian police have something of a history of shooting and killing young men, often young men with a mental illness. Police have been attacked in this country before. What makes this attack a ‘terrorist’ attack? The fact that the perpetrator was a Muslim? Even if it was a terrorist attack, what makes this kind of attack any worse than any other attack upon the police, or any citizen? Why are laws against murder, conspiracy to murder and attempted murder not sufficient for dealing with such a crime?
There is now the suspicion being raised that this young man may not have been acting alone. He may, for instance, have ‘spoken’ to people before going to the police station. He may even have been driven to the police station by someone else. It is important that this event be painted as part of a conspiracy, and not just the actions of a lone individual. This would justify the tougher legislation, because we would then be able to detect such a conspiracy. Assuming, of course, that the conspirators were stupid enough to discuss this over the phone, or via emails and social media, rather than over a Sunday afternoon BBQ.
If he is a lone individual, it is difficult to see how he would be different from any other lone individual who bore a grudge against the police, and decided to act on it. Or anyone with a mental illness who chose to act out on his or her delusional beliefs. How is the threat actually different? And how can any form of legislation ever, EVER, prevent an individual from deciding to act in this way, from whatever motivation?
While I recognise the danger that police face in our society from dangerous and sometimes unbalanced individuals, I don’t think we should overreact to this particular event. I think the police on this occasion probably acted appropriately. They had every right to defend themselves against this attack. The nature of their job obviously places them at higher risk than the average citizen, and they should be appropriately trained and equipped to deal with this. However, I don’t think this attack should be used to justify any kind of tougher law. Tougher laws would never be able to prevent acts like these anyway, although they just might provoke more individuals into attempting them.
In the meantime, let’s not forget that there is a family out there which has lost a son. The family may have lost him before he was killed, if he had, indeed, become radicalised. I can’t imagine what it would be like living with that fear. Or are we perhaps assuming that they, too, are necessarily to blame at some level, just because they are Muslims, and therefore not worthy of our empathy?