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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Death in Paris

The death by gunshot of one innocent is murder – of 130 a massacre - regardless of where it takes place…it could have been any of us in those cafes and halls of Paris……And anger was my first response – at the preachers of hatred in the mosques dotted around the cities of Europe. I felt sympathy for those who would lock them all up……

But then I found myself asking why I seemed to have had a different response to 130 innocent deaths in places such as Afghanistan and Syria. More than a hundred innocent deaths every day - from American, British, French and Russian missiles in these two countries and so many thousands in Iraq and Libya not so long ago….. I can, of course, blame the corporate media since we view the world through its’ lenses and they simply don’t rate such “incidents” or deaths from “accidental” or “friendly” fire. In that respect, we use the same defence mechanism as so many Germans in Hitler’s time who screened unpleasant or unacceptable “truths” from their consciousness……

True, more than a million British people marched against the Iraq war a decade ago – and some foresaw the radicalization that would come from Western “interventions”.
Even George Bush Senior has spoken openly (at last) about his son’s stupidity in letting his advisers take America (and many in the West) to war…… 

Four years ago, a Romanian journal asked me to reflect on how the world had changed since September 2001. This was the opening of my initial response - 
The attack on the Twin Towers certainly provided the opportunity for the security interests in leading States (adrift after the collapse of communism) to regroup and increase their budgets and power. "Counter-terrorism” became the slogan behind which the State increased various surveillance and control measures over its own citizens. Defence (aggression) budgets and actions boomed; powers of detention without legal redress were increased; a generation of young muslims radicalised; and cultural tensions increased.

But the 2011 attack was by no means the only significant event over the decade. Arguably, indeed, governments and media have used the threat of terrorism to distract us all from vastly greater threats to our security and social harmony which have developed as neo-liberalism has grown apace and threatened to destroy the democratic model which was so painfully constructed in the 20th century.

Earlier that day I had read of the death of one of France’s last remaining intellectuals  - Andre Glucksmann who  was apparently the guy who had suggested to Sarkozy the appointment as Foreign Minister of socialist Bernard Kouchner (warning – the link’s writer is a self-avowed neo-Con) although Kouchner typified a Blairite “moral activism” - and it is his legacy which looks to have come back like a boomerang to hit France…......

France – despite its hostility to the American line on Iraq – has turned out to be more hawkish in Syria…..where even  the UK hesitates….A French book published only last week questioned this......That led me onto another assessment – by Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker 
… when asked to distill Glucksmann’s contribution to French thought,  his friend and younger writer the writer Pascal Bruckner said that it was to put an end to any romance about Communism, but, more important, to reset the tuning of French understanding: he made it clear that building a more ideal world was a less important task than mending the evil in this one.
 I cannot tell you what to be for. But I know what to be against,” was one of Glucksmann’s favorite locutions. It was hard to know how to make a better world. But it was easy to see what was making a horrible one. Designing the ideal order was impossible work. Saving the victims from those engaged in designing ideal orders was not, in truth, as hard as our laziness let us pretend it was.

I suddenly remembered Albert Camus’ 5 letters to a German friend in the book Resistance, Rebellion and Death (1960) which made a big impact on me at University……Written originally in 1943/44 the letters offer a powerful argument against the nihilism of those who practice violence – or rather
I have never believed in the power of truth itself – but it is at least worth knowing that, when expressed forcefully, truth wins out over falsehood
His third letter contains an important message for those of now contemplating Fortress Europe – 
You say “Europe” but you think in terms of potential soldiers, granaries, industries brought to heel, intelligence under control…you cannot keep yourself from thinking of a cohort of docile nations led by a lordly Germany   …....
for us Europe is a home of the spirit…. Don’t worry I shall not fall back on the argument of Christian tradition….that is something you have talked of too much….Europe has another tradition…my tradition, that of a few great individuals and of an inexhaustible mass….two aristocracies - that of the intelligence and that of courage

It is difficult to imagine these days such a dialogue (however imaginary) between a Frenchman and a representative of ISIS and, if it did, the Frenchman would not be expressing philosophical confidence but rather anger and bewilderment….

We need cool heads these days - our elites (British, French or American) have become too polarised in their attitudes...........and seem incapable of exploring Middle East  issues  (in all their admittedly fiendish complexity)in a balanced way. We need Fred Halliday back amongst us…..some of his thoughts on terrorism here

Here is one balanced assessment – another here and a final one from "Salon" whose analysis needs to be absorbed by the hotheads amongst us


the painting is one of a Paris series by Maria Raicheva, a young Bulgarian artist, which hangs on the wall in front of me and always attracts admirers 

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