Ne craignez pas ceux qui tuent le corps, car ils ne peuvent tuer l’âme.
As I danced, care-free, to the harsh electro of Andy Stott I was missing the news. As I celebrated youth, life and art in one of Germany’s most idyllic cities, people were dying. Only a month earlier, it could have been me. It could have been my friends that are living and studying in the city.
Much has already been said and speculated about the brutal and cowardly attacks on innocent citizens in Paris but there is still more to solve. Many people have been quick to blame, quick to fall to fear of outsiders, quick to turn the horror into validation of their own warped ideals. But that is what “They” want. Who “They” truly are is a tricky truth to pin down.
Last night’s attacks come as a timely and potent reminder of the current state of modern civilisation. Having never before lived close enough to geo-political centres and potential targets, I’ve never stared terrorism in the face quite like I did last night. Sure, the siege on the Lindt Cafe in Sydney last year was one such shock to the system for my whole nation, but nothing on the scale of what has just happened in Paris. To jump on Facebook during the set break of a concert to find friends in Paris running home to cover and news of over a hundred people dead; to get a concerned text from home; to realise that Paris is practically the closest major city to me right now was quite overwhelming and a little frightening.
But fear is the goal of terrorism, isn’t it? Like many strong Parisians I have decided to take an active step towards abandoning this fear. To live a life controlled by concern, to be limited by the danger you feel around every corner, is not something I want to do.
Then again, that’s the reality for millions of invisible people all throughout the world. While the world rallies around Paris, sending love, support and prayers, they turn their back and spit on those who live the reality of war every day. In Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, people live each and every day with the threat of death hanging over them. From the dusty training camps of trained and angry insurgents, from the bomb-infested, poisoned dirt and from the sky where efficient and cold Western machines of war hunt for prey, death and dismemberment comes. To be born into a world devoid of peace and safety is a cruel fate. To be forced to run across countries, swim across seas and fight for your right to exist is even crueler. To finally reach a place of relative safety and then be scorned and vilified for simply surviving is perhaps cruelest of all.
We must remember that the thousands and thousands of refugees coming into Europe this year are running from the very same horror that we have just faced, but on a scale so much more massive. Life for these people is not a vacation, Europe is not their “target”, invasion is not their goal, despite what it may look like to those of us who have never been faced with such a harsh reality. The influx of displaced souls is the result of the actions taken by the powerful and vile; the uncompromising, greedy and inhuman. They teach us to suspect and blame. Even without knowing, we support the endless cycle of cruelty through our fear and hatred, and this cycle is what keeps the wheels on the hellish war-wagon of modern civilisation turning forward, churning, crushing over countless miles of bone and blood. While we shovel each other into the furnace, the pale and slithering drivers of this machine sit pretty.
Fear and suspicion are some of the most defining characteristics of the 21st century civilian, bred into us by a complex and perpetually shadowed world-system. In every part of the world we have largely abandoned the love, courage and desire for peace that reigned in the late 60s, 70s and 80s. The mythical hippies and freedom fighters of yesteryear are gone, it seems. The relative peace and apathy on Western soil of the 90s meant there was no need for them. But in that time of horrible powers have grown. The attacks in 2001 marked the birth of some great, world-eating monster, one that has crawled over every continent and taken us hostage.
I have no answers for any of this. I, like everyone else, am still shocked and in real pain about the recent events in Paris. My heart also aches for the thousands of homeless and desperate brothers and sisters currently trying to find the same peace we all take for granted. For everyone, for all of the little people, the confused, the frightened, the courageous, artistic, rebellious, supportive, calm, spiritual, religious, scientific thinking, I have love.
And that is the most important thing, isn’t it? Love and kindness. We pray for Paris, as it is obvious we should, but we should also pray for those who don’t get the air time. A long history of selective reporting, apathy of the general population and increasing nationalism has left us very inwardly focused. Of course, it is impossible to blame your average person on the street for this state of affairs, it’s just been the flow of things for a long time now. Plus, it’s definitely not an excuse to not care about Paris and other terror sufferers in the West; we definitely SHOULD be supporting each other in this time, but our love extends further than our own white borders. The terror can only stop when the cycle of fear and hatred is broken. When the world comes together, recognises that we’ve all been played and plagued for way too long and that the world is much too small to keep up the killing, then we will be free.
So take the time to grieve, to pray for all the families in Paris and all countries everywhere suffering blows from terrorist organisations. Think of all those who have lost loved ones in senseless violence, but know that there is still more to do. Put your fear and prejudice behind you for the sake of the planet and the people. Make art, ask questions, let your voice be heard and let the drivers of the war machine know that we want the cycle to end. Embrace life while you are alive. Help those who are alive, breathing, loving and bleeding just like you, to live safely and in happiness.
My recent visit to Berlin (which I’ll be sharing with you soon!) allowed me to view the power of the people. From a chaotic time of war and decades of oppression, the people came through thanks to the power of love and kindness. The Wall came down, the city survived and flourished. Kein Ost. Kein West. Nur Uns.
There is hope. Pray for Paris. Pray for the People. Pray for the world.