9/11 – the employment legacy

Friday, September 11th, 2009 - Blog, Employment, sunday thoughts

9/11 – the employment legacy

Eight Years Past

Today is the eight anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, which resulted in the deaths of 2,993 people, and the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

Personally, it is an important event: at the time I managed people who worked in New York, and I watched everything from the second plane crashing into the north tower live on the various satellite news channels. But also, I take a look back at the event, and think in world history much as thought any loss of life is tragic, the repercussions of 9/11 have had a greater and less stabilizing affect on the world since.

As this is an employment blog, its from an employment position that I will take that perspective

An increase in racism

The first note personally, is the increase in racism, specifically against anyone perceived as a Muslim. As a Christian, to say this disappoints me is an understatement, but it is the fundamentals of miss-understanding which is the shocking factor.

I think looking at it from a wholly personal perspective – I am a British Christian with a Celtic name and family history, who grew up in England looking nightly at dissident Catholics and Church of England members blowing each other and their communities apart in Northern Ireland – the word “enemy” takes on a whole new perspective. Simply, Northern Ireland taught us in the UK that you couldn’t paint a whole community as good or bad. To get to the real reasons of why some people felt that what they faced was best addressed and resolved via an America funded and Libyan sourced ArmaLite or a few kilograms of Semtex, you had to engage with them.

Post 9/11, there was a surge in Christian fundamentalism, particularly in North America, which in effect said: Bible good, Qur’an bad, Muslims are terrorists. Just a thought here, but I wonder if any of those actually preaching this idea had actually read the Qur’an, or even skimmed it? Because, if they had, they would realise that it includes most of the Bible – yes, it evens mentions and praises Jesus – plus a few extra chapters.

Personally, the first people I heard condemn the 9/11 attacks outside the politicians and the commentating news media, were representatives from the Muslim Council of Great Britain on the sofa of the BBC’s Breakfast news the the 10th of September. These deeply religious men also commented that such an attack was fundamentally against the principles of the Qur’an.

The result for us today in the world of employment, is that often I find an increased and heightened awareness of “and where were they born” if I put forward a candidate with what could be termed a Muslim-associated name: even if they have a clear and deep Brummy accent. My concern here is that in both the present and the long term, that what we end up with is an isolated and disaffected young British Muslim community: who on the one hand have at least reduced employment prospects; and on the other hand hear occasional dissident voices in their own community which suggest a way forward through Muslim fundamentalism. If we look at out own 7/7 attacks in the UK, those who took the bombs onto the transport infrastructure of London were unemployed, young, British born Muslims.

The returning heros

The result of 9/11 was the mass mobilization of western armed forces under the banner of NATO into Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 10times more Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq since 9/11, plus those from the armed forces who took part in both combat and legacy policing operations.

The flag-draped coffins of the dead from the returning Armed Forces are tragic, but the process is clear and dealt with under military protocol: a full military honours funeral. The numbers of funerals should shock, but there is at least closure for the hero who gave his or her life. However, the true human legacy of these military campaigns is found in our treatment of those disabled from action, or now finished with their commission and returning to civilian life.

In the UK, so good was our rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, that after Bryn Parry, a cartoonist and former member of The Royal Green Jackets, visited soldiers at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, he knew the scale of the problem. Parry formed the charity Help for Hero’s in 2007, and through simple factual presentation gained a supporting group of public figures, creating a charity to provide services to the required quality that our Government did not.

But what about the walking wounded? Up until last year, we took on and trained new lorry drivers, some of whom were ex-Armed Forces people. They were great: turned up on time, did the job, went home – horribly reliable. But, almost to a man, they broke down mentally at some point. These people were not broken physically, but were mentally – and there was no support for them. We funded a couple of them through counselling, but the affects from fighting and returning to a mundane job in civvy street were long term, and not going to be fixed by an excellent but virtual sticking plaster of six sessions.

It seems to me, that we have not learnt the lessons of Vietnam, and that in a decade or so we will be wondering as a country, why we have a disaffected community of ex-soldiers with large social integration problems

Thoughts for the future

I don’t want, much like with the Holocaust, that we should ever forget 9/11. Further presently, I don’t believe that pulling out of Afghanistan is the answer to the post-9/11 legacy.

But I do think that the legacy we are presently sowing in our own communities is a fundamental insult to those who died in 9/11, and those since who have given their lives towards preserving democracy and providing a peaceful world. Presently, I don’t see a peaceful world or one heading towards it. I just see, through the eyes of disappointed people, a continuing legacy of hate – and I don’t want the fundamentalists to win, do you?

May your God go with you, in peace!

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