Home Thoughts of Paris
Like many of you I’ve been following the events in Paris over the last few days with a mixture of shock and horror but I couldn’t think of anything useful or insightful to say on this blog. It’s truly terrible to see the levels of cruelty and inhumanity that people can descend to, enough to make one feel ashamed to be human, but the frenzied speculation on the net about the nationality of the assailants – based on very dubious documentary evidence – is’t helping anyone. Whoever they were or wherever they came from I doubt if we’ll ever really know what this murderous gang thought they were going to achieve when they set out on their killing spree on Friday evening. I’d be surprised if any of them could actually articulate their reasons for being involved, any more than a typical British soldier could explain, if asked, what he thought he was achieving by his presence in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It’s a matter of great shame that we have become relatively hardened to the news of deaths abroad. Practically every day we hear of killings of occupying troops, insurgents, or non-combatants in the Middle East or elsewhere but we Europeans seems to pay them little attention now. The sickening bombing of a funeral in Beirut killed 44 people on Thursday, but went largely unnoticed. The death toll in Paris is now at least 129, but this is just a tiny fraction of the number of lives lost to violence around the globe this year.
We live a relatively peaceful life in the West, with the result that it hits us rather hard when we can no longer keep such events at a safe distance in our minds, when they strike on familiar territory, such as was the case for the British in the London bombings of 2005. Only then do we see the horror close-up and personal. The people of Paris have to deal with that reality now, but we shouldn’t forget that in small towns we’ve never heard of all around the world many others are frightened and grieving too, and probably for just as little reason.
I don’t live in Paris, but I have been there many times and do have colleagues who live there, most of them in the suburb of Saclay. They’re all safe and unharmed. There will be many others who can’t say the same thing and my thoughts are with them at this terrible time. It must be very tough for Parisians as they try to restore normality to their lives, but that’s what they must do. The deadly attacks on Friday were not attacks on military targets. They were attacks on a sports stadium, a music venue and some bars and restaurants. The survivors owe it to the dead, the injured and the bereaved to carry on their lives regardless and to refuse to be intimidated by terror. I know that’s easy for me to say. I’m not there. But if London can do it in the wake of the atrocities of 2005, then so can Paris.
I find myself feeling much the same as I did in 2008 after a terrorist attack in Mumbai and in 2010 when the murderer Raoul Moat met a violent end in Rothbury. As I get older memories of places I’ve visited are increasingly precious and it’s deeply unsettling when those memories are corrupted by violence. But I am sure that Paris will survive not only as a place of happy memories for me, nor simply as a symbol of so many of the freedoms that others would destroy, but as a real place where real people continue live the way they want to live, in peace and liberty.Follow @telescoper