Liberté, égalité, fraternité: when will we cure our obsession with self-destruct?

Today I’d intended to write about the never ending story that is breast cancer: discovery, treatment, reconstruction (or not), revision, reflection and resolve. Those things are, quite literally, close to my heart. But I can’t concentrate on the horrors of breast cancer because my mind has been consumed with the horrors of terrorism and my heart goes out to the people of Paris.


I’ve had two spells working in Paris. The first in the early 2000’s involved regular time in a grand office in the 10th Arrondissement. By day much of my time was spent at my desk, in meetings or running workshops somewhere inside the building. Arriving well before 9am, staying beyond 7pm and failing to stop for lunch would frequently prompt questions and jokes from my French colleagues. “Why do you English always work like donkeys? You are silly to work like this. The French way is far more civilised” they would say. As a guest in my colleagues’ country I couldn’t argue with this so would join them in the joking.

I quickly discovered that the French way was more civilised at every level. Coffee and pastries in a nearby patisserie before starting work, an hour or two for lunch in a local café and then home or more likely out for dinner by mid-evening and an opportunity to explore one of the capital’s many fine restaurants. Dinner, the pièce de résistance, presented an opportunity to partake in another leisurely meal carefully consumed so as to make the most of an evening with family or friends. My French colleagues savoured time with each other as much as they savoured the wine or the food. I didn’t need to be in Paris too long before I began to favour the French way too.

My second spell in Paris arose in the late 2000’s when I worked for France Telecom. Their offices lay just beyond the Periphique to the south of the capital but since that area was largely residential I spent my evenings in Montparnasse. The hotel was good for people-watching and the local cafes and restaurants were vibrant and welcoming. Theatre goers mingled with groups of work colleagues, families mingled with couples and local residents mingled with overseas visitors. The City of Light was a sensuous, sophisticated and sociable place to live, work and play.

Today the City of Light is shaken, sombre and trying to make sense of multiple acts of wanton violence, acts designed to kill, maim and terrorise innocent civilians during a typical Friday evening in central Paris. The faceless, nameless, shameless perpetrators no doubt believe they committed these acts in service of some greater cause, to right some deep-rooted wrong, or to demonstrate conviction to the will and way of whichever god they happen to subscribe to. Whatever the reason, the streets of the City of Light are once again stained with blood and innocent people lie dead or injured.

Modern humans evolved c.200,000 years ago and civilisation (such as it is) c. 6000 years ago. We claim to be the most intelligent species on Earth yet we appear to change at a glacial pace. Our ability to curb our most primitive, tribal and often superstitious belief systems, to learn from the mistakes of the past and fully embrace our diversity is questionable at best. Events like the one in Paris quickly become visible across the globe but look closer to home and you’ll find stories of cruelty, violence, bullying and abuse right on your doorstep.

Humanity seems destined to prove it is the most dangerous, spiteful and debased species that has ever inhabited the planet and Paris, sadly, is the most recent in a long line of atrocities. When will we learn and how many more 13/11’s, 9/11’s or 7/7’s must we endure before we finally cure our obsession with self-destruct?

5 thoughts on “Liberté, égalité, fraternité: when will we cure our obsession with self-destruct?

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  2. I have also noticed that atrocities in India, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Kenya to name but a few do not appear to attract the same global outpouring of grief or the same sense that this is a world issue requiring us to act collectively and cohesively as one world to understand and resolve it. For too long we have lived in the shadow of a minority of people who wield an aberrant belief system as their justification for acts of cold-blooded murder. This is wrong in every way and their indiscriminate behaviour puts at risk other members of the Muslim faith who are no more a terrorist than you or I. I feel lucky to have friends from many faiths, nationalities and races but I fear if the threat of IS and similar organisations is not resolved people like me will be few and far between in 50 years time and by that point the whole world will really be in trouble.

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  3. Tracy, a very timely and honest post against terrorism. Islamic extremism is always on the rise – more so now, as it expands into Europe. More opportunities for their growth have been opened up by the influx of the immigrants. Now that the Press reports about involvement of a recent immigrant in the Paris attack, it may inspire the authorities to create more jobs: to increase more Security personnel to keep an eye on the good conduct of the new immigrants. No doubt these situations would have far flung negative implications on the future generations of Europe! May I say that, according to past experience, when terror regularly struck Middle East, India, Nigeria, etc, the blood spilt by terrorists outside Europe’s borders was treated as none of its business. But when developed cities like Paris, Madrid and London were hit, the entire world rose as one to mourn the victims. The time is not late yet for the world to join together and crush this terrible menace.

    I quote here a paragraph from today’s article in a leading newspaper: “If Europe is today the prime target of Islamist radicals, the blame lies purely on its own doorstep. Most members of the European Union have been hyper-sympathetic towards indiscriminate Muslim immigration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the most outspoken proponent of letting refugees from West Asia into European nations. The UK and Europe have encouraged large-scale Muslim immigration in recent times by ignoring the possibility of a demographic time bomb exploding, which many experts feel will change the nations beyond recognition over the next two decades. For example, in 1998 only 3.2 per cent of Spain’s population was foreign-born. It rose to 14 per cent in 2010. According to recent studies, Europe’s Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015. Yet another study found that in “Brussels, the top seven baby boys’ names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza”.

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