The Aardvark Blog
Paris, Culture, What we leave behind
Paris, Culture, What we leave behind
Like most people I have spent much of my waking time since Friday night pondering the events that occurred in Paris around the Stade de France and in the 10th and 11th arrondissements. Immediate reactions are of horror and sadness. The cries of a woman running from the theatre shouting that she was pregnant in an attempt to save her unborn child. The account of how those in wheelchairs were separated off and executed one by one in a brutal display of callousness. The horror of those sitting in and outside the bars and restaurants, who found their innocent surroundings turned into charnel houses.
But then I started to think beyond the personal tragedies to the nature of the events themselves. It seemed at first that unlike the murders in January, when the killers targetted a Jewish supermarket and the offices of Charlie Hebdo, this series of killings seemed curiously undirected and random.
But on reflection I realise that this was not so. What was targetted this time was our culture and our private pleasures. The great joy that can be had from spending the evening with friends or loved ones, chatting over a glass of wine or eating spicy food. Or standing with other fans in a concert hall, clapping and shouting one's approbation (I am afraid that although my musical tastes are catholic they do not extend to death metal). These are the little moments of happiness, with which we stitch together our lives. Strange though it may seem the attack on the Bataclan theatre, was a garment hewn from the same cloth as the destruction of Palmyra. Different acts in a cultural war that attacks everything - be it ancient or modern - that it considers to be in opposition to itself.
There are many possible responses to these events, and many of them will lead to further events that are neither ideal nor intended. Inevitably our civil liberties will be reduced - whether we agree with these depredations or not they are a fact - and other people will die, or else be roughly treated in the search for information. Those travelling to Europe, as well as many who live here, will come under suspicion (almost all of it unwarranted and hurtful).
But I would like to propose one other response that I think may be of equal use in this most ideological of fights. Let us ourselves reiterate and renew our support for the culture and values that sustain us. Let us spend money (private and public) on those things that our enemies hate so much - music, food, dance, theatre, cinema, literature, art, sculpture and yes even archaeology. If they would destroy a great cultural site in the middle east, let us lend our support to discovering or recovering another. There are so many to choose from. And this project of cultural resistance has already begun with a single fragile act. I urge you to search out on Youtube the video of the anonymous man who towed a piano to the Bataclan theatre, and began spontaneously to play John Lennon's Imagine. Listening to this story on the car radio this morning it made me weep.
Ultimately when all flesh and bone have disappeared, it is a nation's culture that remains. Our enemies understand this, that is why they seek to destroy it, and to destroy it utterly. Why do we not always share this understanding ourselves?
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