A comment from France after the Paris terror attacks of 13 November.
The initial, overwhelming response to the massacre carried out by Daesh is shock. Words, whether expressing condemnation, disgust, solidarity or contemplation, all fall short of the events themselves. The first instinct is to close ranks. In the face of a terrible attack, a united nation seems to be the only answer.
The majority of politicians repeat ceaselessly, “We are at war”. And all’s fair in war to make sure you win. Some members of the right are even going so far as to say that certain principles of the rule of law should be ignored.
But the reaction that would do the most damage to our democracy is the temptation to ignore politics. Politics is managing the city’s future together, it is a public debate of the solutions to put in place to address real events. Because the more difficult a situation is, the harder it is to see an obvious solution and the more debate and exchange of ideas is needed.
Is there anyone who truly thinks that, today, a combative response will even come close to helping address the challenges we are facing?
Terrorists want to fracture society and in doing so bring about a war between civilisations that they are sure to win. What they want is to put an end to our principles based on the trinity of liberty, equality and fraternity. Yet these principles are already endangered; as much by neo-liberal politicians who put the ever-growing margins of the population at risk, as by security policies aimed at tightening control even further, policies which have, alas, just proven how ineffective they are against terrorism.
Of course, the role of the state is to protect its people, but its way of doing so is not practical and comes from political leanings and goals. It is these political leanings and goals we have the right and the duty to discuss.
A “war chief” president of the Republic? What does France’s military action around the world hope to achieve? Has this already been put to the debate and established? As for external policy, debate is more important than ever on the matters of France’s external policy (for the past few decades and currently) and that of the EU. What is more, all this talk of war, which could quickly become civil war and a fight against “the enemy within”, is never going to heal the massive breaches that exist in French society. Faced with these problems, presenting a united front in the face of terrorism must not segue into false unanimism. What we need to do is use politics to address all the issues we’re faced with.
Translation: Veronika Peterseil