Saturday, 25 March 2017

Turn Of Events

Sometimes these blogs almost write themselves (if you know what I mean). At the beginning of the week I was trying to figure out how I would interpret Turn Of Events, but the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday has pointed the way (as it did for Adele and Kath on Thursday and Friday).

What turned Adrian Elms, later Adrian Ajao and ultimately Khalid Masood into a terrorist? By all accounts the 52-year old had led a problematic, often violent life. He was brought up in leafy Kent among affluent surroundings. He was a bit of a tearaway as a teenager. His first wife divorced him because he was a 'controlling psychopath' and she lived in fear of him. His mother had had nothing to do with him for the last twenty years. He had a string of petty criminal convictions and had spent four terms in prison, during one of which he converted to Islam.

Normally when a troubled soul adopts a religious belief it is in an attempt to give greater meaning to his/her life, to become a better if not a different person. Is that how it started for Mr Elms/Ajao/Masood? Did his reading of the Koran (one of the great religious treatises) not teach him that all life is holy?

Faith systems are all very well in their place but what is required is a questing and a questioning spirit and a sense of perspective. One of the dangerous tendencies of fanatical organisations is to blur the divide between the religious and secular worlds, imposing the strictures of the former on the latter. Such organisations, like any tyranny, can only succeed in doing so through a combination of unquestioning adherence and sheer terror. It seems they usually gain a foothold via the former and then stamp down with the latter. That's certainly the impression I have of how the Taliban and the ISIS caliphate work; ditto fundamental branches of Christianity in less enlightened times and totalitarian secular states in the 20th century.

It has to be assumed that the man was disturbed, imbalanced, highly impressionable to be so taken in by the twisted mantra of religious fundamentalism that he would launch a one-man crusade against the seat of British democracy. Maybe he was living out a delusional fantasy and the fifty dead and injured souls were just unfortunate collateral in his movie. Kurt Vonnegut, bless him, would have put it all down to a surfeit of bad chemicals. Maybe Elms/Ajao/Masood was in need of a little medication. By all reasonable assessments he would be classified as a fairly fucked-up individual, albeit an intelligent one. Clever fucked-up individuals are the hardest to counter, as events at Westminster showed.

Did he feel that we, as a community, had failed him somehow? Did he even think of us anymore as his community or was he striking a blow in some kind of misguided holy war against foul Britannia? We shall have to wait and see. We may never find out.

The important things in the aftermath of such a heinous act are two-fold: to stand strong and to learn. Unity in the community is what is required. If anybody can give the appropriate lead to Londoners, Sadiq Khan is the man. As for learning the lessons, that's more complicated. The security services will analyse and make changes to procedures. Society as a whole needs to think about why such things happen at all and we probably need to take a good look at ourselves in the first place. None of the learnings will be easy. Some of them will not be pleasant.


Today's poem tries to give a sense of the senselessness of the destructive urge as perpetrated on a daily basis in parts of the world less liberal and ordered than our own.

The Speed Of Dark
The space where my car stood
was ominously empty,
a heart-stopping moment;
cats and chickens patrolling
where its shadow should have been.
No sign, no clue.
If you were in my shoes
you'd want to kick them off.

'You can have any colour
as long as it's black,'
the salesman had said,
that rusty old Henry Ford joke.
It's called giving the people
what you want.
Fifty down and fifty a month
for as long as the future might be.
Fool poverty -
limited options based on limited means.

Stolen to order for those
whose snake words squirt venom
into troubled souls,
it was driven racing away,
packed with destruction
and pressed into carnage.
I watched it explode
again and again on the evening news,
my trusty old Henry Ford joke,
killing fifty, maiming fifty more;
heart-stopping moments.

It's called giving the people
what they deserve
by those arrogant zealots
who are breaking the bonds of humanity...

Never underestimate the speed of dark.


Thanks for reading. I wish you a peaceful week, S ;-)
Reactions:

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow!

Anonymous said...

Such a difficult issue. Hard to know what could be done to stop such individuals. I really liked your poem, sad and moving.

Anonymous said...

Love the poem Steve.

Steve Rowland said...

I found watching the funeral of PC Keith Palmer an incredibly moving experience. Today we are all one.

Anonymous said...

Top blog. Powerful poem. Like it.

Anonymous said...

Another London bridge attack. How desperately sad.