I wonder if the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand would have done what he did if the conservatives were engaged and felt part of the larger society in New Zealand’s political system.
The gunman is said to be an ultra-conservative person. No decent person whatever your political leanings or religion will commit the kind of crime he did. It was a lone attack and an evil crime and, frankly, no different from all the other terrorist attacks on communities of other faiths and nationalities.
But, would this gunman have been emboldened to commit such a hate crime if the far right conservatives were regarded as part of society rather than pushed into a corner? The trend in Western developed nations is to encourage multi-culturalism and respect of non-White cultures and religions. Political parties in these nations have the support of a majority of the people and that is one of the reasons for an open immigration policy allowing displaced immigrants to seek refuge in their countries and settle down there.
In the process, however, the conservative segments of the population have been, at best, sidelined if not altogether ignored. Now they have begun to assert themselves. In Germany, a new far-right party — the Alternative for Germany (AfD) — was founded in 2013. In 2017, for the first time, it won 94 seats in the Bundestag. It is the largest German opposition party and opposes Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union’s (centre-right) immigration policy and is known for its euroscepticism and belief in the alleged dangers posed by Germany’s Muslim population.
France’s far-right populist party, the National Party, after suffering several defeats in general elections, has rebranded itself as the Reassemblement National Party in the hope of winning more support for its conservative agenda of national sovereignty, native inhabitants “first”, euroscepticism, and strict immigration laws. Recent polls seem to suggest that it is ahead of French president Emmanuelle Macron’s LREM Party for the EU parliament elections in May.
Across Europe and in the United States, the far right conservatives are gaining ground in elections. The conservatives put Donald Trump in the White House.
If left and liberal political parties had been more engaging of conservative voters, I wonder if Trump would have become President of the United States. Left and liberal parties tend to totally dismiss the conservative segments of voters. The result in the US was Trump as President. In Europe and Australia, the tension continues between the far right conservatives and the left and liberals.
Whatever one’s political leanings, it is a dangerous trend to ignore or dismiss segments of society just because their beliefs don’t coincide with those in power. Disenfranchised voters or citizens will find some means to express their resentment or anger or discontent. People of all walks should be engaged and find some political representation. Otherwise, they may be driven to extreme acts in order to legitimize their cause or causes.
Rebel groups and terrorists are good examples of people who resort to violence in order to assert themselves. Modern-day politics understand the value of engagement and for that reason, many governments are prepared to negotiate with rebel groups and some are even accepted into the political systems or given autonomy as in the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas who became interim leaders of an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines.
The only people no one should engage with are terrorists and murderers because they are motivated by hate. It doesn’t necessarily follow that engagement will prevent terrorists and murderers. But, it will improve the morale of conservative communities where hate-inspired terrorists and murderers somehow move around quite freely. Perhaps, as a result of engagement, more people will feel less hate and be less driven to hate speech and action.
Everyone else should be engaged. The chances of working amiably with people who are very different are greater when we can engage them. To do that, however, requires developing emotional skills sets so that we can reach out to them. We may not agree with them but we can reach out. That simple gesture, perhaps, is all that is needed to include people rather than exclude them and drive them to extremes.