Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
Indeed, and such tempting times are coming around rather too often these days.
A couple of weeks ago The ZMan put up a post on the subject of Venezuela, in which he observed:
The other thing worth mentioning is Venezuelans are not campus snowflakes. The murder rate is twice that of our worst cities. It’s hard to know the exact figures. The government is so corrupt, no one can trust their numbers. Even so, it is one of the most dangerous countries on earth. It is safe to assume that the people are willing to employ rough justice, but somehow they are unable to do anything about their government. There are protests and minor street rebellions, but not at a level high enough to destabilize the government.
I thought about this for a few days and eventually took it up with a Venezuelan colleague, who reckoned the middle classes are the ones protesting and the violent underclasses have yet to be completely hacked off with the government. This makes as much sense as any other explanation. Of course, even the violent underclasses are not suicidal and won’t attack the government head-on. Trying to climb the palace gates or charge a tank is stupid, and will get you killed. But perhaps they may not have to.
In looking at the footage of the protests in Venezuela, I wondered how the police were staying loyal and firing on the protesters. Presumably they are being paid, and the pay is worth it. Thus far, nobody has made them rethink this position. It appears that the police (and judges, and other agents of the government) can do their job and then go home at night without being too worried that their house has been burned down with their wife and kids inside. But if you look at Colombia in the 1980s or swathes of present-day Mexico, you can see that forcing people to rethink their day-jobs is quite possible.
However, in both Colombia and Mexico it took the opposition moving beyond mere protests and criminality into forming paramilitaries. Moving things closer to home, this is exactly what the IRA (or more accurately, the PIRA) did in Northern Ireland: formed a paramilitary and started picking off soldiers, policemen, judges, lawyers, and others who they believed were representatives of the government. They even attacked their families, thus raising the stakes even higher.
Unlike the Venezuelans, the IRA weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and resort to murder and intimidation. Perhaps we’re dealing with different cultures or a different situation, or perhaps – as my Venezuelan mate suggested – a different class of people. I didn’t know any IRA paramilitaries, but I can’t imagine they were middle class. One of the more minor reasons they lost their grip on the place was that the province got wealthier and the middle class grew: it’s easier for paramilitaries to recruit hordes of young men with no prospects, less so if they’re going off to university and into engineering jobs immediately after.
Clearly a lot of people are upset by the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, just as they were by the other dozen or so massacres that Islamists have carried out in Europe in the last few years. Nobody expects anything to change, and they won’t until the population has had enough. The government isn’t going to change anything, and – as Brendon O’Neill’s piece implied – their chief concern is the masses getting so angry that they start demanding something be done. So far the government has managed to keep a lid on things, but as these terrorist attacks keep mounting up and the same meaningless platitudes are mumbled by police and politicians after each atrocity, the harder this will be.
At this point, the British government will be hoping that the outrage over Islamic terrorism doesn’t get taken up by those who are willing to get their hands dirty and are competent. So far it is a section of the middle classes and a handful of rather dense skinheads who are the most upset, and neither poses much threat to a policeman smashing in somebody’s door for posting something nasty about Muslims on Twitter.
I noticed this morning that the army is being deployed around the country at “sensitive sites”, which I expect means places where politicians hang out. When the British first sent the army into Northern Ireland it was ostensibly to protect Catholics from Protestant violence, and they were welcomed by the Catholic communities. This didn’t last long, and soon British soldiers were seen as very much the enemy. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was ostensibly neutral but the IRA – perhaps with some justification – believed they were firmly on the side of the Protestants, who enjoyed the backing of the mainland government. This meant that The Troubles were as much about the maiming and murder of policemen and soldiers as unionist Protestants. It will be interesting to see what the army’s mission is, and whether this will evolve in a worrying manner, e.g. British soldiers being asked to “protect” hotbeds of Islamic extremism.
I think we’re about to enter into what will prove to be a rather interesting period of British history, in which two questions will be answered:
1) Are there enough people in Britain willing to get their hands dirty, as the IRA were?
2) Will they make policemen, politicians, and possibly even soldiers pay a heavy price for doing their jobs?
I am unsure about 1), but I suspect the answer is no. The middle classes are too large, their lives too comfortable, and they have little experience of violence. The criminal classes are happy to dish out the violence, but as in Venezuela they are not much interested in politics and aren’t going to take up the cudgels on behalf of anyone else.
But if the answer to 1) is yes, then I suspect the answer to 2) will also be yes. The first sign of things going badly wrong in Britain might not be a mob firebombing a mosque but a policeman or judge winding up in a ditch, throat cut, with a note stuffed in his pocket.
Either way, this isn’t going to end well.