Saturday, March 13, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Spain united in sorrow and anger

Who done it? Islamic revolutionaries? Basque nationalists? Or a bunch of working class youths out for a good time? At least the spontaneous mass demonstrations send the message that most of the world is thoroughly sick of terrorism: revolutionary chic is over.

For the past four decades cute little revolutionary groups could count sympathy and support from right-thinking left-wing Americans and others intent on registering a protest against colonialist imperialism, capitalism and white, western, male hegemony. Any nationalist movement could be squeezed into the Revolutionary Template as an oppressed racial-ethnic-religious minority fighting for independence against colonial-oppressive-privileged overlords. Jewish settlers in Palestine against the British mandate, Algerians against the French, Irish Catholics against Irish Protestants, Mau Mau against the colonial government and, more recently, everyone against the American Cowboy. Any street gang or band of thugs could gain support by making ideological noises, preferably Marxist, as the Black Panthers discovered.

Now it's wearing a little thin. Spain is a respectable EU country and the Basques are not an oppressed minority group struggling for independence against an oppressive racist, colonialist regime.

I have nothing against violence per se: if the benefits outweigh the costs so be it. But what have these revolutions accomplished and how do the states of affairs they're brought about compare with other possible worlds? Without Soviet subsidies, Cuba is an economic basket case. Israel is a land-hungry racist state, perpetually at war. Kenya is an impoverished, corrupt, crime-ridden hellhole. The US, with all its natural resources and other advantages, is a socially backward anomaly amongst affluent nations where 40% of the population is functionally illiterate and there are beggars in the streets. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are doing much better. As for the goals of the Islamic revolution , there is nothing to recommend them: the aim is to expunge Western influence and turn the Islamic world into a puritanical theocracy.

Anyway, I'm making a bet now, though not a big one: I don't think that Eta or Al-Qaida as such was responsible for the bombings in Spain. I think it was a group of young lower-class males, a street gang, with a few romantic middle class hangers-on, who picked up an eclectic assortment of ideologies and possibly some financial support from "revolutionary" groups.

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