Friday, November 11, 2005

Went looking for a post and found history

Of course there's always a debate about when history becomes history. Traditionalist though I am, I think history's a present perfect subject- therefore history is what brings us up to now. That's what makes the present so interesting; the fact that events now may be as life-shaping, indeed, must be as life shaping, as events 'then'- whenever that was.

That's why the riots in France (which I assume to be waning) have fascinated me. People have said that riots are part of the culture in France, which may be so, but when people draw comparisons with 1968 trying to reassure, what they forget is that those events actually heralded a new political era in France. The events of 1968 were different in that they involved what we would call traditional protest methods which turned ugly (probably designedly so on the part of the rioters). Still, they indicated profound change. Profound. Change.

More pertinent, perhaps, might be a comparison with Kristallnacht- at least in terms of violent destruction. What's missing in the efforts of the banlieues today, of course, is the really personal, racial and murderous dimension. But I remember being taught about Kristallnacht and being shocked, not by the violence, but by the fact that many people appeared not to realise what it portended. I remember thinking that people don't go around wrecking in that way without having some major intentions behind their actions.

Well, as Adloyada pointed out, we've just passed the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

but she also points out something important, an altogether different type of public protest which, almost incredibly, but somehow predictably, seems to be totally absent from the BBC's pages- a reported 150,000 person march against Al Qaeda in Morocco. In other words, muslims against terrorism- a movement for which we've been waiting and waiting. Adloyada also points out the background to this, which makes it seem a well-founded movement. I noted recently that the laws France has recoursed to were introduced to deal with events outside 'mainland France'- a euphemism for their Empire. Well, Morocco, away along the coast from Algeria where the laws had their baptism, has had things a little more peaceful than Paris just recently.

I find this event incredibly hopeful, even if it is a march with narrow self-interest at its heart (since it's a march inspired by Al Qaeda's expressed intention to kill two Moroccan nationals held by them in Iraq); even if it was a Government blessed event. It's my hope that as radical Islam spread its wings and tries to effectively strong-arm its way onto the political high-table, it will attentuate, losing its mass in areas it considers historical strongholds (eg. Iraq) and finally be snuffed out where it tries its hand at some old-fashioned Caliph-style action. Morocco may have tended to be among the more liberal arab nations, but still, the signs of popular anti-terror feelings are the kind of positive signs it's difficult to detect anywhere in western Europe right now. I might be tempted to say 'about time too'- but you can't say that to history.

Just to make a final point- one reason I care about history is that, though I have no kids of my own yet, I have nieces and nephews (two of each- all delightful, all too rarely seen). I will also (God willing- at 29) live a while yet myself. Mark Steyn makes broadly this point in his latest deeply appealing effort for the Spectator- the personal dimension I mean- and so does a new fave of mine, Tom Tyler on his blog (I will link this blog permanently. I will. I will- and half a dozen others I've taken a shine to). Come to think of it, without the family dimension- the future dimension that only a family can secure-, Adloyada wouldn't be writing her thoughtful and historically sensitive posts for me to make use of.

Btw- an aside. Natalie's biographer was right about something in particular re: yours truly. Can you guess what it is? Eh, Mark? No, actually, seriously, I am not worthy. yet.

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