WAR by Janne Teller
If you want a relationship to last, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is this: never use emotional blackmail. Saying ‘if you love me, you’ll do [whatever]’ is not a sweet romantic gesture, but an attempt to use someone’s emotions as a weapon. Used repeatedly, it convinces the victim that you only care about his emotions insofar as you can manipulate him to get what you want. In the end, it causes pushback - the victim decides that he doesn't care what you think or feel any longer.
On the larger scale, emotional blackmail has been replaced by ‘weaponised empathy.’ This is probably best described as an attempt to wring the public’s heartstrings to get them to support a policy that is almost certainly unwise. (The proof it is unwise lies in the failure to put forward a coherent argument that doesn't rely on de facto emotional blackmail.) Those who choose to oppose the policy are blasted as heartless monsters, causing others who might agree with them to shut up in a hurry. Again, it causes pushback - in many ways, growing resistance to weaponised empathy helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.
War is a piece of emotional blackmail that, in the end, is an unconvincing read.
It follows the story of a British refugee who has to leave his country and take up residence in the Middle East, following the collapse of British society. One of the minor annoyances in this book is the lack of a coherent rational for either the collapse or war with Denmark - Denmark! Doesn’t anyone know Britain’s historical enemies are the French? So far, so good - the author does a good job of making us feel for him and his family. But, like so many other pieces of weaponised empathy, it only works by removing nuance from the equation. The refugees are painted in a saintly light. Cold experience tells us that this isn't true.
Yes, it is easy to feel sorry for people who are forced to flee their homes. But that does not excuse bad behaviour in the host countries. The author barely nods to this - she admits the existence of inter-refugee scrabbles, but not the epidemic of thief, assaults, rape and outright murder that has plagued Europe since the refugee crisis began. It is easy to understand, even in the author’s limited presentation, why the local Egyptians might begin to tire of the British presence, perhaps even want them driven back to Britain. And who could possibly blame them?
The author could, of course. She is, like so many others of her ilk, safe and protected - to use Peggy Noonan’s term - from the realities of the world. When they meet the ‘Other’ - if I can borrow an SJW term - they meet someone educated, someone polished in the way of the world - someone cosmopolitan in the truest possible sense. They do not meet people with medieval ideas on women, people who believe that a woman who wears a short skirt is a whore who’s just asking for it. Even with the best will in the world - and that is lacking - the cultural clash alone would cause far too much disruption.
The blunt truth is that sympathy has its limits. It tends to fade - and vanish altogether - when someone feelings exploited. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that you give your friend a loan to help him get back on his feet after a personal crisis. How pleased are you going to be when you discover he’s wasting the money on booze, hookers and drugs? And are you going to give him more money when he comes crawling back to you?
So-called ‘refugees’ - economic migrants would be a better term - in Europe have behaved badly, very badly. If you happen to be dependent on someone, it is sheer insanity to alienate them. And yet, they have managed to alienate vast numbers of the host population. Just because someone got the short end of the stick, as SM Stirling put it, doesn't mean they’re automatically the good guys.
If I had to flee my country - God forbid - and go to a refugee camp, desperate to avoid returning home until it was safe, I like to believe that I would find a way to be useful. I would hate the idea of doing menial work, but I would do it because I wouldn't have a choice. The idea of just sitting around - or turning into a criminal - is absurd. I have lived in a couple of very different countries to my own. It isn’t that hard to avoid making myself unwelcome.
Why, then, should bad behaviour be tolerated?
The current problem now is that vast numbers of Europeans believe - and they might not be wrong - that a significant fraction of the migrants are moochers, looters, rapists, terrorists or generally unpleasant scumbags. This alone would be bad enough. But even worse, they have also become convinced that the governments are either unable or unwilling to address the crisis, when they’re not causing it. Virtue-signaling by multi-millionaires like JK Rowling does not convince them they’re wrong. They know that such millionaires are protected from the world.
BREXIT and Donald Trump - and the rise of nationalism across Europe - is a direct response to weaponised empathy. No one feels sorry for refugees any longer.
In short, War is a piece of propaganda. And a bad one.