Stories in the previous issue of the Times drew reader’s attention to the link six Algonquin students had to alleged terrorist recruiting efforts between 2012 and 2015. It no doubt has raised fears that Algonquin is well-placed to be vulnerable for such activities.
But that would be giving in to fear.
Fear. It’s all around us. Politics, advertising and news organizations all strive to capture the attention of the public through mind-boggling facts and statistics that make us question the very world we live in. They fight for a reaction and they get it.
The public watches and questions everything. Whether it be refugees and immigrants lining up to take jobs and services, mentally deranged individuals armed with rifles storming through buildings and taking innocent lives, or terrorists from the Middle East, radicalized by foreign religion, murdering anyone and everyone who speaks otherwise.
It’s all called into question by the public and the reason for it is fear.
The rise of the radicalization of Islam coupled with the growing instability in the Middle East is causing issues outside of obvious conflict. The public is becoming unnerved due to it being amplified by the internet. There’s no denying it, the public is scared and it’s visible through the popularity of extremist politics.
The fear is not unfounded. Not a day goes by without word of another attack by the hands of ISIS. With at least 31 killed and 300 injured in the Brussels bombings the levels of panic are quickly rising in Europe, panic that was already in place due to the lack of resources for Syrian refugees and the imminent threat that ISIS holds over the area. Panic that leads to a public needing leadership for the future and someone to blame for the past.
With these situations in mind, however, it is imperative to understand why the public is afraid.
If refugees are accused of stealing jobs in North America, fear stems from the idea that jobs could be in danger. Unfortunately, due to the generalization created by the circumstance, people naturally equate refugees with dangers and ignore the root of the fear itself.
Examples of these roots are many.
In the early 1920s, after Germany’s defeat in the First World War and a looming economic crisis, the public became afraid of military and economic failure. It gave an opportunity for leaders to rise up and gain control. Through this context, Hitler was able to seize the attention of the German people and was able to control their fear, corralling it towards anti-semitism and eventually leading it to the Holocaust.
While this is obviously an example that highlights the extreme consequences of public fear, it’s important to acknowledge this series of events in order to understand where public fear can lead.
In recent history, there are less dramatic but equally as revealing examples highlighting some of the effects caused by public fear. The American people were also subjected to an intense fear following the events of 9/11. It had exposed the American public, along with the rest of the world, to a public display of the brutal reality that presented itself in the form of Islamic extremists.
This fear was taken advantage of, by the war in Iran and war in Afghanistan that were pushed by the United States government in the coming years which inevitably escalated into the complete destabilization of the Middle East and leading to exasperated, scared Americans.
Unfortunately the natural enemy of this, to the American people, was not the series of missteps taken by the government but it was the people and religion at the other end. American people, regardless of skin colour, needed someone to point their finger at and those with brown skin were the unlucky recipients. Al-Qaeda was representative of every person with brown skin as far as the public was concerned and the brown population felt the ramifications.
Sikhs felt forced to rid themselves of their turbans, ignoring their religious beliefs, out of fear of being publicly persecuted. They, Muslims, and Hindus were all left afraid of the potential ramifications of being associated with terrorism.
In some countries and cultures, that fear had turned into an overwhelming hatred.
Thankfully over time, the diversification of society forced people to reconsider their unfounded generalizations and the hate began to cool. Brown-skinned people became more accepted into social settings and began feeling comfortable in western society. Children wouldn’t be called names and compared to murderous criminals in schools. Families felt safe and could live without looking over their shoulder. But it didn’t last for long.
The destabilization of the Middle East is now, once again, in public view. Fear levels are once again rising and the public needs more people to point fingers at, while unlike previously, every westernized country feels the effects. Canadians watch as tens of thousands of refugees escape Syria and land in our backyard, the same backyard that hosts horrifying cases of radicalized youth joining and corroborating with ISIS.
Proof of this fear is ever apparent. The polarization of politics, particularly in the United States, headed by radical fear mongers like Donald Trump, is a symbol of public sentiment. His popularity is no coincidence in relation to worldly events. This polarization has also been witnessed in Canada with Bill C-24 which allows the revoking of citizenship in the case of a convicted terrorist.
As this fear begins to creep back into the minds of the public, a need to remember what was learned through past events becomes of greater importance. This fear is the same as that which allowed for the United States government take advantage of public opinion and wage war in the Middle East. This fear is the same fear that exposed a weakness in the mindset of the German people. It is also the same fear that turned to hate against innocent brown skinned people.
While this fear is not unfounded, it is vital to understand why we fear and to guard that fear from manipulation. We can all celebrate our differences and do what makes us unique. But, let us not forget that we together create this race called mankind.
Do not let fear blind your critical eyes. Not all brown people are radicalized terrorists, do not let fear make you believe otherwise.