Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Boston Bombings - One Man's Action can Change the World.

One man's action can change the world, the actions of two men can ruin the world.

There is currently much contention over the capture of and motives of the Boston Marathon bombers. These two young adults and the idealism that inspired them to commit such an atrocious act will be studied for years to come.

I am particularly interested in an article by Adrianna Huffington and in particular her statement "A lot of the who, what, where and how of the bombing and what led up to it have already been answered and, no doubt, more details will eventually be filled in. The why, however, is the more elusive question. But it's also a crucial one. And the why we need answered has to do with more than just questions about Chechnya and Russia, and the conflict between the two. We also need to know why we have so many disaffected young men in our culture, and what compels them to act out that disaffection in violent ways".

I am amused that some of the lessons of history seem to have not been learnt and if we do not learn of our mistakes from the past then we are doomed to repeat them.

Regardless of ideologies and motivation this act is reminiscent of a previous act of terror in Russia. The names of the people involved have similarities. The Russian Tsarnev brothers launched an attack on the public in Boston in a manner similar to an attack by two young adults on the Tsar of Russia in St. Petersburg on March 13, 1881. On this day, a 20 year old anarchist  named Nikolai Rysakov tossed a bomb under the carriage horses of Tsar Alexander II's procession as his bullet proof carriage travelled along the Catherine Canal heading for the Pevchevsky bridge. The blast did not destroy the carriage and Alexander was determined to alight from his carriage and comfort the wounded. Alexander made the sign of the cross and said "Thank God, I am not wounded" and immediately another man cried out "It is too early to thank God" as he ran towards the Tsar and tossed a bomb between his legs. The man was 25 year old Ignacy Hryniewiecki and he fatally wounded the Tsar.

The trauma of his assassination would define the next two reigns of  his son Alexander III and his grandson Nicholas II. Alexander II had ruled as an anomaly. He had ended centuries of tradition by liberating Russia's serfs and was determined to establish representative government in Russia. His two successors did not reverse the emancipation of the serfs and they turned back every other progressive initiative Alexander II had attempted. Russia returned to absolute autocracy until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918. Thirty-six years of repressive imperial rule was followed by seventy-two years of Communist dictatorship were the direct consequence of two home-made grenades.

Does any of this have a familiar ring to it? 

This twin bombing of April 15 has been labelled an act of terrorism by President Obama and the South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: "Either our laws are insufficient or the FBI failed, but we're at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game." Apparently the FBI may have also misspelt a name and the Tsarnev brothers slipped through the surveillance net. Their surname may be Tsarnaev or Tsarnaeva depending on which reports you read. Tamerlan the older now deceased brother at 26 had already been questioned by the FBI in 2011 and had travelled to Moscow in 2012. The younger surviving brother, Dzhokhar was a dedicated medical student who hoped to become a brain surgeon.

Maybe someone should show him pictures of the carnage he caused so that he can use the experience and new knowledge of how bodies look after suffering from explosive damage in his thesis on brain surgery. But I'm sure that the entry procedure to medical school will be more comprehensive than the FBI screening procedure. He might want to consider enrolling with the aviation training school that offered flight simulation training to some of the perpetrators of the Twin Tower's destruction of 9/11. Jeez, he might even take an advanced spelling course to correct his twittering : "Recent entries on what is reported to be his Twitter feed - @J-tsar - include "I'm a stress free kind of guy" on 17 April and "There are people that know the truth but stay silent & there are people that speak the truth but we don't hear them cuz they're the minority", on 16 April.

But this event will be a bonanza for the conspiracy theorists. Mr. Tsarnaev has already told the BBC that the secret services has framed his sons. Is this an attempt by the authorities to heighten our fear of "acts of terrorism" and seek our approval for the introduction of more screening, bugging and surveillance activities that bring us under more control of "big brother"? We are already living in a new age of the "new world order". There is an article suggesting three possible lines of inquiry and they all involve terrorists. There is a web site airing photographs apparently showing the appearance of a mystery unmarked van and men wearing indistinguishable uniforms before and after the bombings, as evidence of a conspiracy. Tamerlan had been tracked by Russian authorities who had warned the FBI in 2011 that he was a "follower of radical Islam". He may also be linked to a triple murder and has a record of domestic violence. It's fortuitous that allegged terrorists are also so incompetent that they cannot use handtools or check their weapons as it seems like another inconvenient inconsistency regarding evidence that 'Federal investigators are trying to trace the handgun, a 9mm Ruger, that the elder Tsarnaev used in the shootout. Two law enforcement officials said that an attempt was made to erase the serial number on the gun and that experts have been unable to restore all eight digits'.   

 I'm surprised that when considering the recent attention on North Korea, that the brothers have not been linked in some way to that state of political unrest. Maybe the brothers can be linked to any of the groups listed on the Canadian website Currently Listed Entities.

However, the bombing event of 1881 seems to have some similarities. The names Tsar and Tsarnev are similar, as is the ages of the perpetrators in both instances, and the Russian connection. It may have occured 132 years and 1 month ago but it did indeed change the political climate of the world and exaberate social tension until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Lisa Miller, writing in New York magazine summed it up well - "Evil may not have a single face, but it can be reliably found within one kind of body: that of an angry man in his late teens or twenties,"  "Angry. Young. Men. The description doesn't explain the motivations behind every notorious bloodbath, but it's a place to start -- perhaps the only place to start."

Maybe it is that angry young men are the only people with the conviction and fortitude to perpetrate such acts. Within their first thirty years of life they have experienced innocence, education, awareness and disillusion, well before the stabilising and potentially demoralising effects of lack of education, divorce, demanding work, unemployment, debt, desperation and instability set in. Maybe these angry young men are the only people who actually follow through with their convictions in an attempt to bring awareness to their own insecurities and the plight of their fellows.

I'm not advocating acts of terrorism nor encouraging conspiracy theories but I'm ever vigilant since the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. Too many laws have been passed by England, Australia and the USA that while seeming to protect us from radical thinkers and their actions may actually impede our democratic progress and our individual rights.

It's encouraging to see and hear debate regarding our freedoms and their stricture. It's reassuring to hear words relating to our democracy such as identification, legitimate, intelligence, surveillance, privacy, security and safeguards included in an article with legitimate questions embracing our paranoia.

Sometimes there are things we must do and sometimes there are things we need to do. I think the key to our successful democratic civilization is to find the correct balance between the two.
"The right things to do are those that keep our violence in abeyance; the wrong things are those that bring it to the fore".
Robert J. Sawyer, "Calculating God", 2000
Canadian science fiction writer (1960 - )