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Tuesday, 23 May 2017


'To think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration.'

Orwell, Politics and the English Language

To discriminate is a moral necessity. It is the first duty of the twenty-first century liberal. It is our only hope. Yesterday, we learned again what a lack of discrimination looks like. The man at the concert lacked the courage, and the intellect, to distinguish between a mass of enemies, and individual human beings. His victims were determined by random chance. It was indiscriminate. It has always been the guiding principle of terrorists all over the world that there is no meaningful distinction to be made between citizens and governments, between systems and individuals, between bystanders and cheerleaders. A terrorist organisation thrives on the perception that their victims could include anyone, at any time: it could be you. Terror is, purely and simply, the failure to discriminate.

But, unlike the killer, the people of Manchester are capable of discrimination. They know the difference between a murderer, a maniac and a Muslim. There are, of course, people who will mock this distinction. They will laugh at attempts to strengthen communities and re-assert human ties in the face of inhuman violence. They will scoff that this is nothing more than a deliberate denial of reality in order to defend a liberal dogma. They will pour scorn on pious do-gooders who want to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent, and they will instead urge that the time for discrimination is over. Lump the good in with the bad, they will say. We can’t take any more chances. We must get tough on the communities that have spawned sadistic, murderous fantasists: they are collectively guilty and must be collectively punished. In their hearts, of course, these old fraudsters know they are perpetuating the problem that they claim to strike at. They know that the planners of an attack such as this depend on those who use language indiscriminately to follow up the attack and do their work for them. They know it, but the temptation to pontificate is stronger than the challenge to engage. The ultimate result is that, slowly but surely, a liberal state loses the ability to discriminate between the guilty and the innocent, and Muslims are encouraged to believe that they have no obligation to discriminate in return.

Discrimination, in the aftermath of Manchester, is hard. We must practise discriminating between a killer and those who share his faith. We must practise discriminating between those who are seeking to solve the problem and those who merely say they are. We must learn to discriminate between the truth, which is hard and painful, and fantasy, which is easy, morally comforting and, eventually, psychotically violent. But if Manchester is still capable of discrimination today, so are we.

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