It’s difficult not to fall prey to the anger that tends to envelop us when we hear of the kinds of atrocities that an apparently well-coordinated number of gunmen and suicide bombers managed to pull off in Paris yesterday. Indeed, we should feel anger. Lots of people happily going about their lives on a Fall Friday evening in Paris had their lives shattered by bullets and shrapnel. So many people died. Their families will never recover from the trauma.
There is no excusing the actions of the perpetrators of the violence that shocked Paris yesterday. Their actions were impossibly harsh and barbaric.
Some people find easy and ready explanations for why the men involved in this massacre did what they did. These explanations generally are based on the conclusion that only madmen could do such a thing. That makes it possible to consider such actions idiosyncratic and not rooted in the very fabric of what it means to be human.
That’s not how I explain this kind of disturbing behaviour. These men were not mad. In fact they were willing to put their lives on the line to achieve their own personal sense of immortality but also to secure the immortality of their social and cultural values and institutions, call them Muslim or Arab or whatever, it matters little. Their main goal was to help rid the planet of what they consider the evil of the West. The evil that is the biggest threat to their world. And it is, of course.
Anyone understanding the history of the Middle East, especially during the last few centuries of colonialism and economic imperialism, cannot but conclude that the region has been overrun by European powers for their own aggrandizement producing massive dislocation and displacement of the local people.
Whenever people are trampled upon for the sake of capital accumulation and corporate power there is bound to be disaffection and anger. Push back is going to happen. Some people who don’t have the ‘moral brakes’ that most of us have will push back hard as they did in Paris yesterday. We should not be surprised by that, but reacting as we have historically to such atrocities has not worked to bring the peace most of us crave. Is there anything to be done?
To be continued…