Friday, November 13th, the world was turned upside down by ISIS’ attack to Paris. France paid a toll of 129 dead against the thousands of victims that ISIS has made so far. However, the dead in France make more noise than all the other. It’s not difficult to understand why. Anybody has the right to be shocked and angry at those deaths. Anybody has the right to be angry at the closest dead, or at the dead of their choice. That’s human nature: we feel connected to those who share something with us, not with the entire universe. As I see it, you can raise the French flag and you will be honoring all the dead. A flag is nothing but a symbol. Hope, sympathy and sorrow are universal feelings, instead. They are the same in any corner of the world, whatever the color of your skin, whether you pray one God or multiple gods, whether you’re gay or straight, man, woman or any shade in between. Pain, death, joy and love make us all the same – humans and not humans alike. Isn’t this the very essence of unity in diversity – and ultimately, the very essence of the divine? We use symbols to convey bigger meanings, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is to use these symbols to divide us. What’s wrong is not seeing the big picture.
France has reacted as any other Western country that has suffered a direct attack from terrorist groups before: war. And this is a fact. Let’s start from here.
Silence in the storm
We all react differently to tragedies. When something really touches me I tend to stay silent. Before speaking up, I listen. I try to understand what’s happening. Emotions don’t need many words. Ideologies do. What I have seen on the social media over the last two days was an explosion of ideologies that little had to do with facts or sorrow. While I was following the news – in English from CNN and in French from France24 – I have read a flourishing of self-styled pacifists and moralists that only pursued their personal agenda of achieving some more followers. That’s depressing.
In the general mess, I much appreciated people who continued to post their normal pictures of meals and daily life.
The risk, when social media inform in place of books, is that extremisms come out from nothing and also seem plausible. Paradoxically, they act under the same principle of ISIS propaganda. And that’s not a case that the lefts often come out to be blind-sided by their own ideologies, often forgetting the facts and recalling selective memories. Whatever doesn’t match their ideal picture of justice, is left out.
This time, I have chosen not to listen to any Italian news. And yet, by chance, I came across a short piece of interview: a journalist went to the Jewish ghetto in Rome, asking people if they feared terror attacks during the upcoming Christian Jubilee. Two aged Jews answered the interviewer with a smile: “We have been living in fear for two thousand years.”
I smiled back to the screen. The truth in these simple words was overwhelming.
Is there a good violence?
It seems that France – and other Western countries – are discovering hot water. Only when they taste the same attacks as other countries have had – over the latest century, completely unheard and despised for not acting on diplomacy -, they feel hurt and react in the worst possible way. As they are who they are, they feel entitled to react to violence with violence.
Don’t misunderstand me: I think that we must defend ourselves. I’m no Gandhi. I think that bad guys must be stopped and punished. I think that killing is wrong. Always. Animal or human. And, as much as I can, I act accordingly. I believe in justice, though. And I believe that if I am attacked, I have the right to defend myself, at the expenses of the attacker. I also think that if I am in the position to defend other people being attacked, I have to do so. If someone is in real danger, you protect them, no matter what religion they are, no matter if they’re blue or green or striped. It’s a human instinct. You don’t just turn your face to the other side and wait for things to happen. You catch the bully and lock them up, so that they can understand what they’ve done. You give them a chance and a lesson at the same time. Sometimes, for some crimes, death is too forgiving. Life is harder on the victims than death is on the their violators. You might disagree with me, but I believe that the death of the other is not for us to decide.
I don’t think my positions are extreme.
How moderates become terrorists
Some time ago, I asked myself a simple question, and I tried to answer as honestly as I could. Let’s say tomorrow someone came and occupied my house. Inside, I have all of my belongings. What would I do? Kill them? I don’t think so. Think of it practically. What would you do? I think I would try any other way to have back what’s mine. But if that doesn’t work, I’d just leave and start all over again from scratch. Is that unfair? Yes, of course it is. But I value life more than property. Money comes and go, while life… we have only one and I think we should make the best out of it. Is it worth haunting one’s existence over property? Not to me. Would you send your children after the right to that property? Not me. I praise future more than past. What’s past is past and I think that we must let it go for a better future. Not to say that I wouldn’t ruin my children’s life for something that happened before they were even born. That’s the type of attachment that only serves one’s ego – not justice – and ruins generations. I would try to teach my children not to violate other people’s rights, instead – not to have the same wrong repeated. Because the jerks die out, eventually, and if we don’t replace them with other jerks, the world will be a better place for them.
Nonetheless, it seems that social media don’t agree with this. Most of the people seem to think that the abused have the right to abuse and kill back over and over again. They call themselves pacifists and lefties, but at the sound of a key word that triggers their ideology, they become hate speakers. How is that? I guess they don’t realize what they’re doing. During these days, I have seen people speaking up for peace, peace for Syrians, peace for France, peace for Palestine. What do they know of Syria or Palestine? And what do they know – really – of France? I fear that many don’t know France any better than Syria. All they know is what they mindlessly share from someone else. And they believe it, as is.
When history is ‘taught’ by social media
Personally, I felt offended by many of these posts. Children dying and hurt are used consciously to upset people. That’s why they should’t be used. I don’t approve of a children in difficulty that are slapped in the face of the crowd, Never. It’s against all ethics. Decency is something social media lack. We don’t need to abuse the victims again and again, feeding an endless horror show. We don’t need to speak to the guts of people levering on the lowest human instincts to obtain justice. This is what many Conservative parties do and are accused of. The techniques are – dangerously – the same. Left and Right are no different in this. And moderates like me are crushed in the middle. Offended by both stupidities.
Offended by hate speech on both sides. Offended by the use of pictures of Palestinian children as well as that of a pair of boobs to promote a commercial. I’m not offended by science as I’m not offended by the cry of the Imam. I’m not offended by a soldier that shoots to protect a defenseless civilian. I’m offended by those people who have never opened a book and exercised silence to better understand the world we’re in. I’m offended by those that are blinded by their own stupidity and that never asked themselves some basic questions. I’m offended by those people that are so wrapped in their ideologies that they think to know better than anybody else. I’m offended by those who use symbols to divide and tag. And I’m saddened by those that judge with no understanding and pretend to save the world.
That’s true… But has it ever been easy? I think it’s easier now than 50 years ago. Is it any easier for a muslim to be a muslim? Or for a buddhist? Or for a pagan? I don’t think so. People have been abused and tortured for whatever twisted reason. And little had to do with spirituality.
Outdated practices and the abuse of civil rights are a human thing and have nothing to do with a most intimate sense of spirituality of the single person. We live in an unfair world. But we can improve it. We can do that, if we learn to read the signs and symbols we carry forward not as marking a difference, but as bearers of a culture – a way to interpret reality – that deserves to be known by the other. More knowledge is better than little knowledge. Little knowledge is better than no knowledge at all. Fundamentalism spurs from the lack of knowledge, understanding and confidence. Not the opposite.
The importance of being different
Just yesterday, while I was heading to the bank, I parked the car in the city center. I went to the machine to pay for my ticket, and crouched on the ground there was a homeless holding a cup. He was dark skinned, eastern features. I dropped 50 cents in his cup. As I did so, I heard him saying something, almost chanting. I didn’t know what he said, it was in a foreign language, but that made me happy. And I remembered a friend, in Seattle, that always carried some little bags with spare coins to drop at the corners for the homeless. That made me happy too: to do something – even if little – for someone you don’t even know. How is it that to loose something makes us feel better?
If we conceive the divine as a deeper connection with what surrounds us – humans, non-humans, the visible and the invisible – a deeper conscience and empathy with each other is possible. Being so different from each other is our richness. Diversity is what can make us savvier, more understanding, and ultimately happier.
In this world, the only thing we can’t afford is to be ignorant. Know, understand, remember, forgive, forget. This is what can make us great to each other.
Categories: Where we stand
Tags: in the news.