You got to look over your shoulder, this is the sobering notion Parisians woke up to this morning. Looking over your shoulder at the store, keeping an eye out when you’re on the street, bearing in mind the possibility of an impending atrocity when you’re at a rock concert. Looking over your shoulder for a machine gun in a driving car, or for a man holding a kalachnikov or a grenade or wearing a bomb. Looking over your shoulder for death from a different world.
No one in Paris wears bombs, it’s not something they do. No one in Paris expects the scene of horror, anxiety and desperation that took place at the Bataclan theater, just like they don’t expect their little girls to be kidnapped from school en masse and disappear forever. This is how things go in Nigeria and Syria, the lands of Boko Haram and ISIS, not in Paris. In Paris, there’s decency, respect, government, law and a healthcare system, that all protect the sanctity of the human life. These were deaths from another culture.
People in Paris today woke up to the understanding that a barbaric culture has boiled over and spilled onto their own. It’s time to get out of the state of obliviousness and acknowledge the cultural problem.
Looking over your shoulder, being on guard for your survival: that’s a state no one in Europe wants to get back to. So much reform and progress have been made in order to achieve a better state. But while forced to consider survival, the most basic of all, Parisians are also confronted with weighty questions of justice and morality, most immediately regarding the flow of refugees from the Middle East: If this ocean of human suffering in need, also carries with it catastrophes the kind of the Paris attack, do you prioritize altruism, or self-preservation? And if altruism ends with demise of that sort, what is the worth of the progress and reform that brought Europe to what it is today?
The people behind the export of barbaric culture are what they are. Just like everything else about them, there’s nothing noble about their grievances. They don’t complain about lack of economic opportunity or about the occupation. They don’t kill because of the stagnation of the peace process or for a certain hijab policy in a French university or a public swimming pool. Their grievances are about the lack of control they get to exercise over others. Their grievances are linked to desire for supremacy that is backed by a religious dogma that has no reservations as to the end, as well as the means.
No one knows how many revolutions and centuries it will take before the culture of the Middle East stirs away from tribalism, extremism and violence, and towards acceptance, respect and peace. Meanwhile, acknowledging that this is a cultural problem means that rather than focusing on personal guilt, we should see a societal system, where cultural codes play an important role, and where participation is not limited to total conviction or exoneration.