A Message From Paris


‘The death cult chose its city well—Paris, secular capital of the world, as hospitable, diverse and charming a metropolis as was ever devised. And the death cult chose its targets in the city with ghoulish, self-damning accuracy—everything they loathed stood plainly before them on a happy Friday evening: men and women in easy association, wine, free-thinking, laughter, tolerance, music—wild and satirical rock and blues. The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding. Their protective armour was the suicide belt, their idea of the ultimate hiding place was the virtuous after-life, where the police cannot go. (The jihadist paradise is turning out to be one of humanity’s worst ever ideas; slash and burn in this life, eternal rest among kitsch in the next).

Paris, dazed and subdued, woke this morning to reflect on its new circumstances. Those of us who were out on the town last night can only wonder at the vagaries of chance that lets us live and others die. As the slaughter began, my wife and I were in a venerable Paris institution, a cliché of the modest good life since 1845. In this charming restaurant in the sixieme, one shares crowded tables with good-willed strangers, visitors and locals in a friendly crush. With our Pouilly Fume and filets d’hareng, we were as good a target as any. The cult chose the onzieme, the dixieme, barely a mile away and we didn’t know a thing.

Now we do. What are those changed circumstances? Security will tighten and Paris must become a little less charming. The necessary tension between security and freedom will remain a challenge. The death-cult’s bullets and bombs will come again, here or somewhere else, we can be sure. The citizens of London, New York, Berlin are paying close and nervous attention. In January we were all CharlieHebdo. Now, we are all Parisians and that at least, in a dark time, is a matter of pride.’

– McEwan. I. (2015, November 14). A Message From Paris. edge.org

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2 thoughts on “A Message From Paris

  1. “The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding.” – Ian McEwan, A Message From Paris (2015, November 14)

  2. Nothing is ever so black and white. For hundreds of years the Western imperial powers enslaved, tortured and killed people who’s conquered lands they lorded over and profited from. Go back to the Crusades, and follow French invasions of north and central Africa. Islam was declared the enemy because it would not Christianize nor bow to the invaders. Moslems drowned in the blood of their friends and families at the hands of crusaders. As to current events, where do the sophisticated weapons used by ISIS and other terrorists come from? Who benefited from their sales? Well, the USA leads the pack at 31% of global arms sales; Russia at 27%; France, Germany and China each clock at 5% – but even 5% is a substantial amount given how much armaments are distributed daily all over the planet. Where are those arms going? Who is the watch dog that keeps the weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists with a history of un-sated “need” for vengeance, whether real or imagined? Yes, cry the beloved country, but where are the people who should say “No” to the arms dealers before those same arms are used to kill within the country’s borders? ISIS; Al Qaeda and their likes are not something that just sprung out of the blue, surprise, surprise: they are the legacy of domination and jack-boot repression in the countries that subsequently could but engender and nurture terrorism. Let’s never forget the lesson of history regarding revolutions: a revolutionary is a terrorist to the oppressor but a hero in the homeland. How easy it would be for me, a French citizen, to feel emotionally self-righteous about yesterday’s events in Paris and to acquiesce to the rhetoric of vengeance. But I owe my allegiance first and foremost to history.

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