Because I do get angry, despite what some people seem to think. I read your comments. Sometimes I get emails. I’m often moved to reply but, really, what is the point? I don’t want to get drawn into those long tedious exchanges to explain how I want my anger to be a cold anger.
I wish there were more of us that felt a cold anger. Because when terrorist incidents happen, I’m never satisfied with the airstrikes two days later which are a sop to the press and the people. They are just meant to dissipate all the heat. The bombs land as if to say: ah well, that’s our need for revenge satisfied. It has happened too many times over too many years. How many millions did Clinton spend landing cruise missiles on various mule shacks in Afghanistan? And to what end? Politicians use the airstrike as a means to change the headlines, deflect criticism, or to calm the mood. They are political weapons that neutralise dissent at home as much as they inflict a punishment on the enemy.
The fact that my anger doesn’t run hot means a tiny few misread the things I write. Because I believe that we are civilized enough to understand ‘moderation, compassion, and reason’, some seem to think I’m opposed to fighting. Some think it amounts to being soft on terrorism. Worse still, some think I’m trying to explain away those evil actions. That I’ve never done. I’ve never championed moral relativism, excused people of their crimes, or wanted to show compassion to terrorists. Not once. I just want us to be rational in our response. I want us to be rational in the way that the guidance system of a Tomahawk cruise missile is rational or the flight of a sniper’s rifle is rational as it traces our a long parabola between muzzle and target. Being rational doesn’t mean that we’re somehow weak. Rather, it is playing to our strengths: science, technology, and industry. These are the strengths that put us into space and helped us to unlock the gene. You cannot shout at a lump of metal and turn it into a spacecraft. Anger does not make us stronger.
Maybe it’s my own fault if people misunderstand my nuances but, really, misreadings are as much about what people want to read than what they actually read. People are locked in habits of mind that entrap them in false notions of reality. We all succumb occasionally but it’s our responsibility to guard ourselves from them and escape them as soon as we’re trapped. Too many people are seeking justifications for unburdening themselves from the shackles of morality. I just happen to think that by acting from within our moral boundaries we increase the potency of every strike.
So, I’m sorry if my talk about our being ‘moderate, compassionate, and rational’ offends you. I know you want us to be filthy angry, snarling, and shooting from the hip. I just want our eyes fixed on the target. The needle can do more damage than the hammer if applied correctly. And I do want us to apply it correctly. I want it applied correctly because we are better than the people who wish to do us harm. Our culture is better. Our science is better. Our treatment of our citizens is better. Our art and education are better. Our infrastructure is better. Our ability to kill our enemies is also better, as are our justifications for doing so.
None of that implies weakness. It’s why I like to hear rationalists talk. Listen to the forensic approach they take to arguments. There’s none of that twitchy, modish language of the left that really makes so little sense. I don’t believe in that clever intellectualising that is meant to make me feel ashamed for being white or male or even a citizen of Europe. This was an attack on my culture and I think it’s a culture worth defending. It’s just not worth losing by becoming as feral as the people who would wish to drag it down.
But people are too angry for all of this and somehow a few think of me as part of the problem. People tell me that I’m on the left. Others say I’m on the right. I don’t pretend to be either; just foolish enough to think that others could see things the way I see them. There is an emotional attachment to the big bomb theory of conflict resolution. There is an aesthetic appeal to it too. I understand it. At some deep level, I might even crave it. But I also know that we are better than that. I believe in the wisdom of Dr Johnson made familiar by Dr Hunter S Thompson: ‘He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.’ And, I repeat, that we do not make beasts of ourselves is precisely why the jihadists hate us. Every success we enjoy and every single thing of wonder our culture produces is another reminder that their ugly mud and blood medievalism is failing.