As is my New Years tradition, I'll be posting about a dangerous trend. In 2015 I observed a general sloughing off of responsibility, specifically as it relates to Syria. Media coverage this year has focused on the xenophobic reaction of the west to developments in the Middle East, rather than looking at the relationship as significantly more influenced by the role of western powers.
It's easy to look at events like the Paris shootings and blame the Middle East. An oft-misunderstood region of violence and division, the Middle East and Islam are seen as the hotbed and forces of radicalistion respectively. However, this ignores the roles played historically by the Ottoman Empire, by the various pacts before and after the First World War, the creation of Israel, and American and Soviet intervention during the Cold War.
It has been easy for western countries to forget (conveniently) about their past imperialist histories in order to posture as victims. It fits in with cultural values (or presumed cultural values) about openness, multiculturalism, and secularism.
If we look back to the 1930s, the parallels with antisemitism are significant. Surveys from the period show that the vast majority of Americans were opposed to welcoming Jews facing persecution in Europe. Canada was no better having refused the St. Louis, a ship full of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. In 2015 we have seen the majority of American governors oppose the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Thankfully in Canada the process of welcoming 25 000 Syrians is well underway.
What's not being talked about is why there is such a need to fight against not only intolerance, but also incorrect assumptions about complicity. #notallmuslims has been a rallying call, responding to voices from Donald Trump to #jesuischarlie. Moreover, Mosques and Muslim leaders have been forced to go on record condemning the actions of terrorists associated with their faith. While these acts show that Islam is not monolithic, it does strike me as peculiar.
Why are we not exploring this from the other angle, looking at the west and complicity? Why are we not asking our leaders to condemn the actions of their forebears? Why do we continue to support Saudi Arabia and Isreal? Why are the incursions into the Middle East ongoing?
This reminds me of one of my favourite historical debates. Who shares responsibility for the Holocaust? Hitler and his inner leadership? The military and the SS? Everyone in Germany? People outside of the Third Reich?
There is no clear answer, and I feel that in twenty years we will be looking back at this period asking the same questions. It's easy to look back an contemplate how horrific actions came to be. How did supposedly ''good'' people not resist? Mass movements, and in particular mass movements centered on hate and violence, do not appear at random: they are generated incrementally.
Let us wake up to what is going on so that we can reverse the tide of hatred and fear. Here's to 2016.