Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Inequalities at the root Will principles of social justice and equality (meaning fairness) finally make it through to the top of global and local political agendas? The news this morning brings at last a focus on the sense of injustice and inequality which facilitates the process of radicalising young muslims. It relates closely to my comment last week: "Terrorism will only gain footholds and accumulate formidable momentum where people experience high levels of persistent inequality and injustice." The chemistry of terrorism is not that difficult to understand and one of its essential ingredients is a sense of unfairness. Shahid Malik said: "where you forget about right and wrong, where you think two wrongs equals a right ... those events are diminishing my ability to put forward arguments against extremism." The UK government stoutly insists there is no connection between acts of terrorism and its own policies - thereby both confirming my view that there is weak political understanding of this principle, and avoiding the question of the extent to which their policies have exacerbated inequalities. For many of us I suspect, the buoyant optimism of 1997-2001, when we had so many incisive and pioneering policy papers and measures, has sunk beneath the greedy centralisation of power and the 'exclusion of exclusion.' It's becoming graphically clear that this is a global crisis. There's something here about ordinary people in their own neighbourhoods facing the consequences of confrontations between frightening forces that are far beyond their powers to influence, and getting pitifully inadequate and belated responses from authorities. Many people in Belfast must be looking on with a sense of long-haul resignation. As if to accentuate that this is not just the Palestinian Territories, or Lebanon, or Birmingham or Walthamstow, here is an article in today's Guardian about the street violence in Sao Paulo: "It is an unrecognised civil war - only they are not political groups involved. It is the poor person versus anybody who has something, and that something need not even be very much."

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