Kirstein Rummery: Why terrorism shows we need more care in our politics

Professor Kirstein Rummery, who is a General Election candidate in Stirling for the Women’s Equality Party, says male violence and entitlement is the elephant in the room when it comes to terror

AS a candidate running for the Women’s Equality Party for the current General Election, having campaigning suspended twice because of violent terrorist attacks certainly gives you pause for thought. 

Not only are you forced to stop, grieve, and take stock before showing the required determination and resilience to carry on, but you also get to read the analysis with a political view, and watch the other parties’ reactions.

Predictably, we have a mixture of blame and anger emerging. None of the parties have really sought to make political gain from the attacks, although obviously the ruling party, in having to make the first public response, has the upper hand. 

Read more – #GE17 Campaigning resumes with terrorism debate following London attack

Theresa May’s determination to make the ruling Conservative party appear "strong and stable" led to the calling in of the army after the Manchester attack, a reaction that I was personally and politically horrified by. 

Ask the citizens and armed forces of Northern Ireland whether they think armed troops on the ground stirs up hatred and division, or fosters peace.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party took the opportunity to point out that reductions in public sector personnel, particularly the police force, had led to a reduced capacity to gather intelligence and respond to security threats. 

Nicola Sturgeon as the SNP first minister took the opportunity to make a statement about there being no increased threat of terrorism in Scotland, neatly implying that her party’s approach to policing and social justice was responsible.

Blame for the actions of a few angry men followed predictable ideological and political patterns.

What very few people are brave enough to point out is that these acts are acts of male violence. Driven to anger by a deep seated sense of injustice, we see this over and over.

Ukip and the EDL were out in force blaming muslims and "anti-British" values. May blamed extremism and vowed, rather bizarrely, to stamp it out in the public sector. 

Radicalisation following Britain’s role in foreign policy is a theme favoured by the left, although leftwing governments are just as quick to deploy armed aggression domestically and globally as rightwing ones.

What very few people are brave enough to point out is that these acts are acts of male violence.

Driven to anger by a deep seated sense of injustice, we see this over and over. Research on domestic violence, rape and assault demonstrates clearly that perpetrators are driven by a sense of entitlement, injustice and lack of remorse, supported by a male-led culture that reinforces violence and abuse as legitimate male behaviour. 

The only prevention and rehabilitation programmes shown consistently to work are those that address this. Work done to prevent radicalisation and extremism with muslim men demonstrates the same: they are driven by a sense of entitlement and injustice, which is carefully nurtured by male-led groups into a willingness to engage in violent acts.

Any successful programme to prevent and treat male violence relies on care and compassion: teaching men to engage with these feelings as a way of dealing with anger.

Bringing care and compassion to the table is seen in politics as a sign of weakness – because these are "feminine" traits. But any successful programme to prevent and treat male violence relies on care and compassion: teaching men to engage with these feelings as a way of dealing with anger.

Rebuilding societies torn apart by violence shows time and time again that forgiveness, compassion and communication are what heal divisions and enable communities to find peaceful ways of co-existing. Without that, the cycle of anger, retribution and violence continues.

So an analysis of how we respond politically to violent events in our communities has to be built on care and compassion. This is not a weak or ineffective approach – ask any mother how you deal with a toddler throwing a violent tantrum. 

Punishment, particularly violent punishment, doesn’t work: it teaches children that violence is the way to respond to powerful emotions. What does work is enabling emotional learning that finds more constructive ways of dealing with issues: problem solving, communication, engagement, resilience and other "feminine" traits.

The evidence shows that the more women are involved in politics, the more constructive it becomes. Co-operation and problem solving replace political tribalism, divergent perspectives and experiences are drawn upon to find effective policies and solutions.

This is the kind of politics we need in these divisive times. This is why I would urge voters on Thursday to look carefully at the candidates and parties competing for their votes. 

This is the kind of politics we need in these divisive times. This is why I would urge voters on Thursday to look carefully at the candidates and parties competing for their votes. 

Are they engaging in constructive dialogue, in tackling divisions and inequalities, in bringing compassion and care to the table? Or are they angry, resentful, blaming other candidates and parties, marginalising communities and groups, fostering a sense of entitlement and an inability to co-operate?

A vote for a caring compassionate party and candidate is a vote for the only way to stop the cycle of hate.

Picture courtesy of robmcm

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