22 March 2016

Terrorism as a Sign of Progress

Terrorism in Europe represents progress.

Before you accuse me of insanity or a lack of empathy, give me a few sentences to make my argument.

Today in Europe was tragic. Roughly 30 people were killed by a fringe group with no political power in Brussels.

100 years ago in Europe was much worse. Roughly 2 million were killed in just the first half of 1916. By its end, World War 1 had killed 17 million and wounded another 20 million.Not 30 casualties. 37 million. (And a comparable portion of today's global population would be over a 100 million.)

100 years ago, widespread, destructive violence was national policy across Europe. It was on-going for years and was institutionalized by groups who held power and had hopes of seizing even more territory and power.

Today, destructive violence is the policy of terrorist groups who have no hope of seizing power anywhere in Europe.

Violence is being marginalized.

If we look at today's events in light of the months immediately prior, it is obvious that things are getting worse. Last week, no one was killed in a bomb blast in public places in Europe. Today was a terrible day.

If we look at today's events in light of decades prior, it is obvious that things are getting better. A century ago the first world war was creating casualties at an unprecedented rate. 70 years ago, the second world war was killing and wounding people in even larger numbers. 30 dead would have been a relatively great day (or, more precisely, a relatively less awful day). During the six years of World War 2, there were an average of nearly 30,000 casualties per day. Not 30. 30,000. Every day. For years.

People like Donald Trump seize on our lack of perspective and ignorance of history to claim that things are bad and getting worse. Because of deteriorating events we have to radically change and give up power to leaders who will keep us safe in return for that power, they tell us. That narrative is nonsense. Don't listen to aspiring leaders who tell you that things are getting worse and that the only route to safety is to become more violent ourselves and to give these aspiring leaders more power. That's the sort of story that starts with a lie and ends with bad policy.

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