The first response to the events in Paris must be to fully face the horror, the fear, the despair, the sadness. Our heartfelt sympathies are with those killed and injured, their families and friends and loved ones; with those who were not injured but are traumatised by the violence, and with those who helped put an end to it; and with the Muslims and refugees living in the West, many of whom must be especially nervous and fearful of reprisals and blame. But eventually, we will have to pull ourselves together and move on, not least because giving in to fear and terror is precisely the aim terrorists have in mind. And as our mainstream media and ruling political class so often insists, in this case rightly, we can’t allow the terrorists to win. When we can breathe easily again, our minds will turn to what can be done to prevent such atrocities happening again. In our political and social climate, the only decent answer will sound like wishy-washy, hippy bullshit, but it is really and truly the only pragmatic, hard-headed and efficacious one. It is compassion.
It goes without saying that what happened is morally unjustifiable, truly reprehensible and repugnant – but the simple-minded explanations and the violent and merciless solutions that we will hear proposed in the following weeks and months will not suffice, and are insulting to thinking people everywhere. Whether we like it or not, the people who carried out these atrocities are motivated into action by a moral code – they think they are trying to ameliorate a greater evil perpetrated by Western governments. By telling ourselves that these people are just ‘brainwashed’ or plain ‘evil’ is the stuff of self-deceit and it prevents us from asking the most obvious, but uncomfortable questions: ‘Was it anything I did?’
The fact that we wholly disagree with what they did and stand for only makes it all the more important that we ask this question seriously and think about the answer deeply. It’s a shame, but we do not expect any inner-contemplation, feeling or compassion from the “practical” people who comprise the political class. These people seem incapable of anything other than grandstanding and portraying themselves as innocent victims rather than as the Machiavellian war-mongers they actually are. This self-deception has to be challenged and we implore them to consider a moral and spiritual truth that they might perhaps be familiar with: ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us’. Or as the front cover of the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the previous terrorist attack in Paris put it, “Tout est pardonné”.
Compassion and forgiveness: this is the only basis on which we can move forward as a human race.–Dave and Stuart