Perhaps a more apt question is to ask what breaks a human being to be able to kill other human beings? I sit holding the Talking Stick for I know my voice is just one of many differing perspectives on this question. I ask the question because what is being proposed to stop terrorism in the world, preventing Muslims coming to the West is both oppressive and entirely unworkable. Clearly the Muslims being vetted for 8 years to the enter the USA, and now banned, are not terrorists. Yet their banning from the USA basically tars all Muslims with the same brush and is profoundly unjust.
I would like to write here of how I nearly became a terrorist in my early adult years and why that was. Perhaps if we understand what drives people, what leads them to a breaking point, a justification of such radical action there are other ways we might prevent terrorism.
I grew up under the Apartheid Regime in South Africa and was always very anti it. I remember being shocked at age 7 after seeing African children living in shacks with flies in their eyes not even trying to wipe them away any more. Their eyes were dead as if they had no hope even though they were only children. It made a deep mark on my soul. Through my teenage years I saw two African men being beaten up by the police. The first was surrounded by white people laughing and jeering on a busy Saturday morning in town as the policeman hit him, and it didn’t look like it was going to end at any time soon. I shouted ‘you fucking bastards’ at the white people and ran away. The shame of being white ran deep.
I saw another African man wrapped in a thick rope from neck to toe being dragged by a police van down a steep hill. One policeman was outside the van laughing. My hatred and fear of the police ran very deep. I felt ashamed I hadn’t done anything to help the man but I never spoke about it.
All the young men of my age were conscripted to the army including my brother and it changed them. They were forced to do mindless things like scrub floors with tooth brushes so that they would obey any order. Their own will was destroyed. They were brain washed to be able to kill without feeling. I saw a change in my brother, he has seemed haunted ever since and suffered with mental health problems. I remember he told me on one of those nights we drank too much so we could talk, how the army smashed African people’s front doors down in the middle of the night in the townships, terrorising ordinary civilians. He described how a police dog had ripped out a woman’s intestines at Johannesburg Station as she waited to catch the train home. He couldn’t cry, perhaps he would even say it didn’t effect hi, but I cried for him for years and years.
It was 1987 when I left school. I applied to Cape Town University to do Political Journalism. I was accepted but was warned that if I wrote anything against the Apartheid Government I would be blacklisted and banned from writing again. I made the choice to leave South Africa and come to England. My parents were British so I could get a passport. On my to do list was to join the ANC when I got to England. I was angry and young, I wanted to change the world and I wanted Justice and Equality.
According to the Apartheid Government when I grew up Nelson Mandela and the ANC were the personification of evil and we were fed on a daily diet of this propaganda as we, the White privileged children, grew up. We were taught we were naturally more intelligent, more worthy and even more loved by God than African people were. Our privilege was some kind of divine order so we didn’t have to have a conscience, we didn’t need to question it. I didn’t meet very many happy white South Africans – most lived in a blur of alcohol and other addictions. Its not easy to repress the human in us for any length of time.
As it happened when I reached England I was recruited by a left wing party walking down the street. I learnt a lot from reading books about politics and philosophy from this political organisation over about 5 years. Their main aim was to educate people to challenge the Capitalist system at the level of ideas, and a lot of it made sense. Whatever you think of Karl Marx he was totally spot on about the failings of Capitalism. Ultimately though I abandoned Marxism because it could not encompass all that being a human being is. The emotional and spiritual aspects cannot be ignored or used against us.
When I was 29 years old I had a big shamanic awakening. As part of this journey I travelled back to South Africa. By mistake I had booked us into a B&B that turned out to be next to an army barracks in Pretoria. On going to the bar in the evening I found to my horror we were occupying the same space as a group of soldiers. There was one woman in particular who now worked for the ANC government who we got talking to. This unexpected night on the town with the soldiers was actually very healing, an opening of my mind to the possibility that not all people in positions of authority were cold oppressors. One man talked of his profound respect for the San tracker who had been part of his work for many years. Great Spirit showed that night that we are all human, no matter what side of the fence we believe ourselves to be.
I do feel that a new way of living in harmony with the Earth and others will emerge, is emerging. I certainly experienced that over my short life time and I know others have too including both North Americans and Muslims in the UK that I have personally spoken with. Here I am again so many years later, picking up the Pen of Justice and writing from the heart. If we ask this question ‘how do we stop people breaking so they resort to acts of terrorism?‘ we may find some lasting solutions for peace in the world finally.