The people who committed the atrocities in Paris are unspeakable beings, pitiful scum, socially and sexually constipated cowards and bullies, and there can be no possible excuses for what they did. We can only hope and pray that they burn in hell for all eternity and that anyone who is contemplating or preparing similar attacks is caught quickly and put out of circulation for good. We must also hope that there are enough people at the top of our states who have some sense of what human rights are and why they came into existence in the first place so that we can preserve some vestige of civilisation rather than falling straight into the terrorists’ trap.
There is no excuse whatsoever for what the evil bastards of Isis did in Paris. But once again it is necessary to point out the distinction between excusing an atrocity and making an attempt to understand how it came to happen and what the consequences might be. France is unambiguously part of the civil war in Syria, being the only country apart from the US currently bombing Isis in Syrian territory. There is a sense therefore in which these attacks were the equivalent of a retaliatory bombing raid. The people who died were innocent in the same way as Syrian civilians, who are faced with this kind of barbarity ever day, are, or as the residents of London were during the Blitz. The French Government, however, is complicit. The point is not simply to stop attacks in Europe and keep the war safely contained several hundred miles away — it is to end the war. Do I know how to do this? No, I don’t, but it is undeniable that this is the context in which the horrifying bloodbath took place. It is not an isolated incident carried out by a bunch of random psychopaths. It is a spilling over of the Syrian civil war. The fact that these attacks took place in a city where people were simply enjoying an entirely innocent night out should give us cause to reflect that the Middle East is not a desert. The places being bombed by our governments contain cafes and other places where ordinary people gather and chat, laugh, stretch their legs and where little children play with balloons and scream when they’ve had too much Pepsi.
The point about the connection between what happened in France, what is happening elsewhere and how it is connected with what the French Government is doing in other countries is explored extremely eloquently in this piece by someone in Beirut. The level of solidarity being expressed around the world is striking, as it was at the beginning of the year in relation to Charlie Hebdo. I’m seeing posts on Facebook by people expressing sorrow, solidarity and anger about the events in Paris who never usually post about injustice or violence elsewhere. Is this a good thing? I genuinely don’t know. I presume that everyone is aware that it’s not only French lives that matter in this world. Could it be that in the case of the UK the fact that it took place in Paris has triggered a Diana effect? Or perhaps just that the cultural connections between the two countries are so deep. Maybe I’m being a little unfair but promoting symbols of Frenchness while ignoring the equally barbaric attacks in Beirut and Baghdad does partly play into the hands of Le Pen, who’s obviously dancing for joy right now as she has just been granted a license to embark on a festival of racist hatred and quite possibly a free pass to the Presidency. I am aware of the danger of constructing paper tigers on the basis of very little evidence but I am also acutely aware that the people I choose to have appear on my social media timelines are people with whom I broadly agree — if I chose to peek outside my bubble it is very obvious that tendencies that I find slightly worrying are being played out with fury elsewhere.
We must express solidarity with the victims and the families and friends of the victims of the barbaric attacks. But we are not one with Le Pen, with the press which attacks refugees, or with the French police who over the last few days have launched another series of brutal attacks on people in Calais, on men, women and children who are in many cases escaping from places where events like those in Paris are a daily occurrence, only to find that the countries providing the weapons and carrying out the bombing raids have their doors firmly fermée. It bears repeating again and again: the terrorists who carried out these attacks are working in league with the racists who attack refugees. Blaming refugees for the attacks, as many have instinctively done and as certain sections of the media are keen to do, is like trying to deal with a serial killer by going after the families of his previous victims. Those on social media expressing a desire to kill Muslims would be best advised to go and join Isis, as that is exactly what they have been doing for the last few years. This issue is one in which horrifying ironies and contradictions abound, and none of us is immune.
There is another level of tragedy to the events in Paris which I haven’t yet seen explored anywhere in the media (update: there is now an excellent article on this very subject by the editor of The Ecologist here). As it happens Paris should have been on everyone’s lips over the next few weeks for a totally different reason. For what it’s worth, at the start of December talks will take place on the subject of the changing climate. As at previous such conferences, certain governments and a great deal of corporate lobbyists are very keen that nothing be agreed at the conference which might in any way come to threaten their GDP or their profits. There is now a good chance that the activities which have been planned for months to put pressure on the delegates to introduce measures to respond to the multiple and exponentially accelerating crisis the world faces will have to be scaled down or may even be outlawed. There have been incidents, particularly in the UK, of climate activists being treated as criminals and even prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation. The same has happened in the UK and in France to people trying to provide help to refugees — many of whom are, lest we forget, Isis’ victims. As things stand, corporations such as Exxon, Shell, Volkswagen, BP and so on will be able to go on contributing freely to carbon emissions, in the process making sure that in the future there will be many more hashtags expressing solidarity and concern for the victims of future hurricanes, floods, forest fires and droughts without anyone thinking to point the figure at those at the head of those corporations who were fully aware of the consequences of their actions but decided to pull the trigger anyway. Time will tell that such organisations will be the cause of much more death and destruction than the psycho death cult of Isis, and unless we begin to come to terms with the connections between their actions, our behaviour and the floods of refugees escaping northwards around the globe, there will be no-one left to protect us when our time comes.
So who stands to benefit from the events in Paris, apart from a certain death cult spread throughout the Middle East? Not the pricks who did it, because they are mercifully dead. Fascists like Le Pen, Farage and Trump will already be thinking in terms of shiny golden epaulets and which particular salute to adopt. Arms dealers and oil barons will be thinking about how best to cash in. In the meantime, there are people fighting Isis and trying to establish some sort of meaningful democracy in the Middle East. Last week the Kurds managed to win a series of strategic victories against Isis. Maybe in addition to expressing sympathy for all the victims of terrorist attacks, in Paris and elsewhere, one of the most valuable things we can do to combat terrorism in the future is to look for ways to support them.