Saturday, 18 June 2016

Conspiracy theories, religious extremism, excuses

and more excuses, wild theories, bigotry, hatred, political extremism, mental illness....and more. I think I have heard it all this week.
There have been all sorts of statements flying around in the news media, on social media, and in the community. Our politicians have been making "careful" statements about "the situation". Anyone "speaking out" is liable to be criticised.
I met a Muslim friend in the post office yesterday. We gave one another a hug - and it felt good. Other people stared at us - perhaps because she wears long grey garments and the hijab. She is a very traditional Muslim in many respects but I know there are things that worry her. I also know that she has been poorly treated because of the way she dresses. It's her choice. It wouldn't be mine but it is hers. 
Ramadan was tough this year. Her children are teenagers now. They are questioning all sorts of things. Her daughter won't wear the hijab to school. "And I can't make her do this. It has to be her choice."
Her son refuses to fast during Ramadan. He says it is not a healthy choice for an active teenage boy.
I wonder what, if anything, her children believe - and whether they will grow back into their religion as they get older. I also wonder what her husband thinks. I have only met him a few times - and briefly at that. He's quiet when I am there. I have no idea what he is like at home.
I wonder too what I would think if my friend's son was suddenly arrested for plotting some sort of terrorist act or, worse still, participating in one. I suspect the immediate reaction of some people would be "oh, he's Muslim. It was bound to happen at some time."
I think I'd wonder if he had become influenced by other people. Is his love of soccer what causes him to listen to the coach when he talks to the team about eating properly - and thus not fasting during Ramadan?
We can't always know what influences other people. Wild conspiracy theories don't help. They are rarely accurate. But I also know that trying to remain silent on some issues is not helping. Those "careful" statements about "the situation" can make matters worse. 
When the police suggest that, yes they are investigating "X" or "Y" theory rather than "Z" too many people will take it as fact.  It doesn't matter to them that it is only a line of investigation. If it fits with their own beliefs so much the better.
This morning I had an email from a friend in England. He told me that certain theories were being pursued in respect of the death of Jo Cox. He doesn't know if any of them are true. He just wants them to make a thorough investigation. He is more worried about the mental health of some of his clients and the way the media reporting is affecting them. I would be worried too.
I know I need to view media reports through a different sort of lens. I need to ask,
          "Where is the evidence for that statement?"
Finding the evidence can be hard but I have to do it. It's the only responsible thing to do.


Adelaide Dupont said...

This is something the UK does very well.

Inquiries and enquiries and investigations.

The two I remember the most were the Kelly inquiry [2004] and the Shipman Inquiry [2005].

And of course Rotherham.


"We cannot always know what influences other people" but we can be open about ours and what might not be ours originally.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is a tricky one about how to report mental illness if there are awful crimes associated.
Personally I think we don't know enough about how mind and emotions work together, mental illness isn't nearly as well understood as physical, seems to me. I notice in my amateurish way that some people who have extremely unpleasant and extreme attitudes can function normally enough to live alone, seem reasonable and decent to those who don't know them, get involved in organisations and plan and carry out behaviours which are exactly what they intend to do (as this man seems to have done). Not sure I'd consider those people mad, they might just be deeply unpleasant, cruel, egocentric or amoral. Those who are utterly unable to cope with everyday life, have disorders of perception, and act in ways that other people find bizarre, probably have difficulties and it would be cruel to punish them as if they were in control when they actually aren't. In any case, it seems so tough on people with mental problems to be lumped together with someone who has committed a vile crime, as if they're just the same or something..

Jodiebodie said...

Jenny makes a good point about the differences between the involuntary effects of mental illness (and perhaps the medications to treat them as well) and the totally voluntary and purposeful intentions of people who are not mentally ill even though they may be emotionally unbalanced.

I remember reading or hearing a statistic that most people with mental illness are overwhelmingly NOT a danger to society.

catdownunder said...

They are probably not even a danger to themselves Jodie - just different