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Where rhetoric triumphs, political correctness fails

  • Published at 12:01 am March 18th, 2019
New Zealand Terror
This could have been easily avoided REUTERS

Ethno-nationalism has been brewing in the West for too long

Last month, I was at the Changi Airport, Singapore to see off my father who was travelling to Dhaka. It had been a while since I last visited the newly-built terminal at the airport. Mind you, this country keeps experimenting with new technologies every once in a while. And this time around, there were all these new interactive kiosks at the Singapore Airlines service desk. 

Struggling at first, it took the father-son duo only minutes to print the boarding pass from the kiosks. And I kept wondering if I could call this “disruptive technology.” Gone are the days of paying five-six people at the service desk for issuing boarding passes. 

But this convenience has come with a price: Jobs. Gradually, the service industry around the world is witnessing job retrenchments. If there is anything that is taking away our jobs, it’s a disruptive technology and artificial intelligence. 

But hey, who cares about facts?

We live in a post-truth world. Facts don’t matter, rhetoric does. Imagine having to explain this complex world of job retrenchments and corporate profitability to the average American.

Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? 

“Muhammad, the immigrant is taking away our jobs!” That sounds more tempting, especially if you are trying to win elections. When we have misinformed masses suffering from confirmation bias, they only hear the narrative they want to. And the consequences can be deadly.

What we saw at the Christchurch Mosque on Friday reaffirms the fact that irrational fear and hatred, if not contained, will only bleed more.

As the world becomes more ideologically polarized than ever, it’s also time for the liberals in the West to take some responsibility.

Ethno-nationalism has been brewing in the West for too long. The middle-class white Americans in the swing states have never been catered for by the liberal democrats until now.

And, sadly enough, this very political dissent and xenophobia channeled into mass support for Donald Trump in the US elections. 

The ultra-nationalists and the neo-Nazis have finally found a leader who could give them a voice, and he did. Meanwhile, the world also witnessed the rise of far-right white supremacists throughout Europe. Instead of combatting xenophobia and racism politically, our liberal leaders of the West resorted to political correctness more than ever. 

Despite the growing social tensions between the immigrants and the locals, the politics of appeasement and racial identity became the norm.

And it clearly didn’t help. The end result is a fragmented liberal-left politics while the far-right is united by hate against the Muslims.

A case in question could be Sweden -- the country with one of the most generous immigration laws in Europe. Within a span of a year, Sweden, with a population of only 10 million, welcomed more than 160,000 new immigrants. However, the strain on the Swedish welfare economy, the increase in crime rates in so-called “ghettos,” and social unrest made their integration into the Swedish society a failure. 

Sweden’s violent reality had finally given way to anti-migrant sentiments across the country. In 2017 alone, there were more than 36 cases of arson attacks targeting the mosques in Sweden -- some multiple times. The Sweden Democrats, a far-right political party, won more than 17% of the total votes in the 2018 Swedish election, virtually bringing the coalition government to a stand-still. 

The general elections in Austria and Germany also followed the same pattern -- a rise in anti-migrant populist narrative and, of course, hate-crimes against Muslims.

The centre-left coalition in Sweden had successfully created a friendly fire that made words like “refugee” and “Muslim immigrant” unwelcome in Sweden.

March 15 has been a wretched day for humanity.

We have witnessed one of the most horrific forms of terrorism against the defenseless. And trying times often require us to ask the harder questions. Why has social cohesion failed so miserably in Europe? Has the open-door immigration policy failed?

The liberal-left leaders of the West need to reassess their intentions in retrospect. People who are supposed to be on the right side of history cannot afford political experiments as such.

We are way better than that. The horrific massacre that took place in New Zealand could also take place in Sweden, Australia, or Canada where mosques have repeatedly been targets of arson attacks.

We did see it coming, did we not?

The half-hearted integration policies and an over-burdened welfare system are not helping any of the parties. It’s a hard-to-swallow pill.

And there is a need to acknowledge the challenges that come with lax immigration policies. Our absolute political correctness and ego-centric ignorance of centre-right voters are only serving the ethno-nationalist propaganda.

Muslim immigrants are no outsiders. The US -- one of the greatest economies of the world was built and sustained by the first generation immigrants from all over the world. But politically-motivated immigration policies will only cause further internal repression of Muslims. 

And it goes against the very tenets of modern liberalism that I hold so strongly. This holier-than-thou attitude is gradually hurting the Muslims, the very people we promised a better life in the West. And we can’t let it go on for too long.

One life lost in this cycle of hate is one too many. 

Manas Nag is a graduate from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore.