There’s been media chatter the last few days that some of the Australians who left the country to join ISIS are now wanting to return. It’s hardly surprising. Many would have rushed off with misguided notions of glory in their head, only to be confronted with the gory and corrupt reality. Illusions die quick when you see someone stoned to death, or your best mate dead on the battlefield beside you. The home they spurned suddenly appears much more friendly.
This morning as I woke up the radio station I listened to posed the question to it’s listeners whether we should allow them back? The unanimous answer of this uneducated and unthinking rabble is that we should not. It was as I expected, but it pissed me off all the same.
They’ve been led into this by our esteemed Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who, when questioned on this, chose to answer ambiguously, at the same time claiming that those wanting to return would be subject to punishment. Given the option to inflame or defuse, Abbott will always inflame.
Unfortunately there is a huge swathe of the Australian population who take their cues from the newspaper headlines. I’m not saying they’re incapable of thinking for themselves, just that it’s something they barely trouble themselves with anymore. I will say it’s the sign of an uneducated mind that accepts swill as gospel, and which disregards (or is ignorant of) both reason and justice.
You can tell that I’m all in favour of letting these people return. In fact I can see many practical advantages of doing so, even disregarding the rightness of it.
One of the sensationalised arguments against them returning is that they will either come back and commit their crimes here, and/or will influence others to do so. Basically, that they’re poison.
I have a more ambivalent attitude than that. For a start I tend to think most who left have probably immature minds that can yet be moulded into a more productive patterns of interaction. I guess we’re talking rehabilitation. The more hard-core of them will be treated accordingly – I’ve no doubt that there are psychopaths who have joined ISIS for the allure of blood.
As for any risk to society, you would expect the necessary precautions would be set in place. In Denmark people like this are welcomed back into society with open arms, by official policy. You can’t expect that here. I would expect that each of these people would be made answerable to whatever crimes they have committed, and whatever penalties handed down leavened with common sense – unlikely, as Abbott will doubtless use this for political capital.
Given the current environment these people can be a powerful tool against ISIS recruitment, if well used. There are reasons why young men up and leave their loved ones to go fight in a distant war. For most of us it’s beyond our immediate comprehension – hence the hostile radio callers. These people have done that though, they know what made them do it – and fortunately, somewhere along the way, they repented of it.
As a society we can choose to remain ignorant and derisive of these things, and continue in our hostile sloganeering (looking at you Tone). Or we can seek to understand. Why does the ISIS call to arms resonate with so many? What can we learn about that, and how can we combat it? These returned would-be terrorists can teach us lot about the journey there and back, and can act as an anti-body when dealing with potential, wannabe terrorists in our own back-yard (who, by and large, seem to be naive kids filled with big ideas – as naive kids always have been). Basically, if we’re clever, we can use these returnees as weapons in the fight against terrorism.
That’s the practical side of it, but really at the heart of this question are basic human rights.
It’s same all over the world these days it seems. The human rights we once took as our birth right have been eroded to the point they are manipulated by the government, and have become ambiguous to the point of acceptance by the average (uneducated) man in the street.
There shouldn’t be a debate as to whether we let these people back in: they’re Australian citizens, of course we do. In a time though when the government casually raises the option of stripping citizenship as they choose, there is no of course about anything.*
In the civilised nation we once were they would be allowed back, and made answerable to any crimes they committed (and not the spurious new laws recently enacted). They would be processed by an independent judicial system, and not be at the mercy of a minister who can strip them of their rights and citizenship. In short, once upon a time, we would have acted with intelligence and justice. As a people we would have accepted this as the right way, the only way. Those days are gone.
As it stands the presumption of innocence no longer exists, and mercy is for the bleeding hearts. They are guilty before they ever set foot back in the country, and may never set foot back here because they are deemed that – without trial or process.
This suits a corrupt government to a tee, and we’re just too dumb to know it.
* The list of rights we have lost, or at risk of losing, are many in the last 18 months since this government came in. There are more everyday. We lose bit by bit, in the classic method, until one day we wake up with insufficient to claim we have true liberty. It happens because we have a government more interested in power than justice, and an opposition that will curry favour to get a share of that power. It happens because our media has become either propaganda, or ineffectually populist. And it happens because the electorate have become conditioned to a certain way of thinking – which, in truth, is non-thinking. We get told by the government and by a compliant media that these things are for our own wellbeing and safety. Please, don’t worry about it. We get images and slogans, repeated over and again like subliminal messages in Big Brother, until we accept them as fact – or at least accept them as being how the world is. Justice is sublimated to expediency. Effect more important than process. It’s a form of mind control. Terrorists: bad. Anzacs: good. ISIS: death cult. Labor: debt. Refugees: unauthorised. And so on. And so people call up radio stations to make rabid statements without regard to any meaningful consideration, and with no thought to the tenets of democracy that were once held sacred.