Why Paris Won't Be Different

Yesterday in school, I had a lesson about literature and movies in Germany during the Third Reich and after watching a clip from Die Feuerzangenbowle I wondered aloud, how people in 1944 were able to make such a superficial entertainment movie during that time, despite everything that was going on around them. One student responded wisely by noting that this is always the case, not just in Nazi Germany of the 1940s. I was caught surprised by that comment and had to admit she’s probably right. That same day, I went to see Steve Jobs at a cinema and came out afterwards highly entertained, almost energetic, already thinking about what to write about it. Then I heard the news of Paris. The student’s comment became almost prophetic in retrospect and though I don't want to claim to have anything profound to say about the attacks of last night, I can’t help but share my thoughts, even if it’s just for myself.

Like most people, I’m shocked and saddened by what happened in Paris. People have suffered and died for nothing, basically, and it’s tragic to see the images and hear what has happened. But once the official statements and the social media machinery starts, other feelings join that initial reaction, anger and annoyance. Because everything repeats itself, as it always does. Politicians say the same things, people say the same things and everyone pretends that the seriousness with which they say, will change something. But often it’s just a kind of show, a sense of wanting to be part of something bigger, of belonging, especially when it comes to the mass condolences.

Then there’s the statements of “Democracy will never be destroyed this way” and “We’ll always fight in unity” and that, again, is just meaningless self-deception. Democracy is an ideology for which wars have been fought for decades and no matter what you think of it, just using the word this way won’t change anything.

Another term people are throwing in the hat right now is “war.” “This is war now.” “We’re at war.” What does that mean? What are you trying to achieve by saying that? Is that what we need? Have we been too soft as some idiots surely will claim now? Haven’t we learned anything from the wars of the last decades? No war, no military intervention, no counter-attack will stop this. I’m going out on a limb and call this a fact. Look at the words Hollande was using this morning. “We’ll be merciless.” I understand the anger on some level, but where do you think this will lead? Merciless, really? That’s what democracy means now?

But this is just how these things go. We are all very sorry, some are very angry, we’ll hunt down some pseudo-terrorist leaders and claim we’re making progress until the next bombs go off and we’ll start all over again. We’ve been there before, many, many, many times. It didn’t work. Daniel Quinn wrote in Beyond Civilization that the thinking in our culture always is

If it didn’t work last year, let’s do MORE of it this year.

That’s exactly what we’re seeing now, yet again.

Look, I don’t excuse what IS is doing, they’re following the same beliefs that they are able to change something with their methods, even if they’re not. But I do believe that both sides work with their own fundamentalism that will bring more bloodshed and violence. No one is talking about solutions, only about security and ideological battles. We’re reacting as we always do, by ignoring the background and history of these attacks, pretending that we are better and more civilized and with the authority of having the upper hand, of fighting back. Nothing good has ever been achieved by this.

And don’t even ask me about the ignorance we display when it comes to similar or also terrible attacks in parts of the world we consider “less civilized”. Where was the public outcry and unity when Boko Haram almost erased the town of Bama off the Nigerian map in March 2015? But because it’s France and because it’s the “civilized West”, we are supposed to be more upset, more saddened, more offended. And already politicians start talking about refugees as if this has anything to do with it, as if many of the refugees haven’t actually fled the IS in the first place. That’s ignorance on the highest level and shames anything we boast about democracy and civilization.

I don’t want more war. I don’t want a world for my daughters, in which people kill each other in the name of any ideology, instead of trying to find common ground, in which we repeat the same shit over and over again, instead of trying something new. I’m sure many people would say that it’s hard to explain the terrorist attacks to your kids, but the way we react is not easier to explain. But we shouldn’t fall back on the banalities we’re recycling since 9/11 and beyond. We should finally start to realize that we are not achieving anything and that doing the same things, just in a more radical way, won’t achieve more. Am I hopeful? Not in the short run. The next days will show nothing new, I guess. But I believe I’m not the only one who is tired of going through these motions, that more people are willing to reject our patterns, looking for a new vision that is more than just words.