Everyone remembers a great teacher. One explanation might be the rarity of such people; another, that great teaching doesn’t feel like teaching, but something closer to immersion.
It is disheartening therefore that the great governmental euphemism of our age may well be, ‘lessons must be learned’, which rather suggests learning is not taking place at all.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s terrorist attack in Reading, where Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah fatally stabbed three gay men enjoying an evening in the park, it took Priti Patel exactly two days to put us out of our misery:
We must make sure we learn the lessons from what has happened over the weekend, to prevent anything like this from happening again.
Au contraire Priti, we’ve had enough lessons.
David Cameron warned there were ‘lessons to be learnt’ from 9/11, specifically on how to deal with violent Islamic extremism; lessons sadly ‘not learned’ in time for 7/7. We thought we’d ‘learned lessons’ from the Boston Marathon bombing, but were back to the drawing board when it came to Lee Rigby.
We were still trying to ‘learn lessons’ at the time of Charlie Hebdo, but despite the entirety of Europe coming together, linking arms in a mass hokey-cokey, and declaring enough was enough, it wasn’t enough.
The French response was ‘muddled’ during the Nice attack. Europe still had ‘lessons to learn’ after the Paris attacks, while the government was left scratching its head in the wake of the Manchester bombing; at least the NHS had learnt something.
The police were fortunately a little more prepared for the London Bridge attack of 2019, but only because an identical attack had been carried out two years previously. And then of course there were the Home Office and police failures surrounding the Parson’s Green terror attack.
Even by the standards of coma patients, the West’s reaction to Islamic terrorism has been unresponsive. Why would we learn from Reading, when we refused to learn from all the others?
Instead of reacting to terror attacks we now merely pretend to act, with Oscar-worthy recitals of sorrow. We send ‘thoughts and prayers’, for which Sadiq Khan must surely own the patent. We hold minute’s silences, and candlelit vigils. We get down on our knees, which to be fair we are rarely off these days. We recycle our hashtags, and don’t look back in anger – anything to avoid the truth: we are at war with Islamic terrorism, a war in which only one side has shown up to the battlefield.
Despite their claims, our governments have failed to learn the lessons from the past 20 years. Does fault lie with the teacher? No. Islamic jihad is an outstanding instructor, unwaveringly consistent in its message. It has the same M.O. – it kills people. It uses the same vocabulary, ‘Allahu Akbar’. And it sets the same homework: get serious, or comply.
No, it is not with the teacher, but the pupil with whom fault lies: sometimes you just have to accept the student is either brainless, or simply does not wish to learn.
In fairness to the pupil, we live in an age where learning is greatly discouraged, especially learning the wrong truth. Take former Equality Tsar, Trevor Phillips, who was fine popularising the term islamophobia. When he sat down and examined the beliefs of British Muslims however, he was forced to conclude Britain was in a ‘life and death struggle’, and here’s why:
- 52% believe homosexuality should be illegal
- Almost half believe it’s unacceptable for gays to teach
- An estimated 100,000 sympathise with suicide bombers
- Almost a quarter would like to see areas where sharia law takes precedence over British law
Phillips was naturally expelled from the Labour Party, because (you’ve guessed it) of islamophobia.
Learning is further exacerbated when senior figures like Met assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, desperately deflect attention to the ‘rise of far-right terrorism’. No matter how uncomfortable the facts, Home Office figures are crystal clear: MI5’s watchlist has doubled this year to 43,000 – 90% of whom are jihadis.
For politicians, there is no greater teacher than the ballot box. And since our government enjoys ‘learning lessons’, perhaps the British people could set them some homework:
- Why are jihadis being released early back onto the streets of Britain?
- Why are foreign criminals, like Saadallah not immediately deported upon release?
- Why are illegal migrants arriving daily at Dover, and not being sent back?
There comes a point when the syllabus has been covered, and there are no more lessons to learn. Britain has reached that point. If the government is too weak to make defence a top priority, I suspect the British people will elect one that will. Lessons indeed must be learned, even the unpleasant ones.