Beirut and Paris

It’s a couple of days after another mass murder in Paris. I wanted to write something about it, some prose or poetry to try and comprehend or frame the event with what I consider to be sanity, but then I realised I have nothing left to write. After Boko Haram undertook a slaughter in Nigeria I wrote something, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo I wrote something, after the Saudi bombing of Yemen and the numerous attacks in Afghanistan, I wrote something. This time though I’ve nothing new to add in abstracted attempts at communication. No new defence of humanity or appeal to our better natures. Because this feels more like a tired repeat than anything. And the same goes for the reaction to it.

From what I’ve seen and from those I know the reaction seems to have been a positive one. People have almost stumbled over each other to declare their commitment to humanity as opposed to the indiscriminate anger that some people so desperately try to promote. But that’s the reaction of the mass of people, not of those few who wield political and military power within our society. They, as ever, have done their best to play up to the worst instincts of vengeance and ‘big man’ posturing, cheered on by armchair generals and keyboard warriors who’re either too blind or too alone to relate their hasty desires to real human effects.

How many more dead will that self-glorifying alliance lead to? How many bombs and drones and missiles will amount to ‘justice’ for those people to whom the word is free license to sink into the lowest of emotions? I have no idea and to be honest I’m too tired to think about it.

I’m part of an entire generation, spread across the world, which has seen the world defined by endless wars of vengeance which lead no where but to their own repetition. A whole generation which feels it has no power to stop it too. A generation which has marched and clashed with police and argued endlessly to no good result. Our states still march on. Seldom, if ever, pausing in the pursuit of their own bloody grandeur. Anything thrown up to block their path feels like little more than a fleeting relief before the rabidly declared inevitability of the next war reasserts itself. An exhausting cycle which from the grand anti-war marches in London to the Arab Spring has convinced even the most ardent of protesters that even if the motions of opposition are important they’re nonetheless fated to fail.

And all the while the declared target, the commonly accepted bad guys, do exactly the same thing as those we oppose at home. Press-ganging all around them into the conflicts they feed from. Guaranteeing their own prophecies of near eternal warfare by readily and repeatedly inciting it. In Lebanon a few days ago 43 people died in a bombing. Lebanon – a country well versed in what war is and for the most part resolved to avoid it, just as so many are. But their choices are being hacked away already by those who need it to survive.

I’m no pacifist. Those who attacked Beirut and Paris are enemies of all decent and sane people and while they fight there’s no option but to resist them. But the free reign handed to warmongers and murderers, those who hold power in our political world, doesn’t lead to human resistance. It doesn’t fight to do justice to the value of human life, only to serve itself and it’s own sense of political expedience. The struggles that creates are defined by the motives behind it. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and going further back Angola, Iran, Vietnam and a dozen others – we allowed butchers masquerading as moral authorities to turn each into a slaughterhouse. And while we keep handing such people the force of our anger we’ll get nothing different in return. And while we continue to stare myopically at our own anger I’m not sure we’re capable of channelling and releasing that understandable rage at atrocities in any other way.

We need to reaffirm our collective struggle. We need to remind ourselves that our collective anger and sense of injustice is just that – ours. It’s not a tool or gimmick for faux-patriotism and outrage. It’s not there to enable the desires of political or religious leaders, be they self-appointed or elected. It’s for us to express and for us to decide what constitutes justice and I still believe that for most people that emotion, when expressed, finds no greater motivation in anger than it does in the humanitarian desire to alleviate suffering and stand in solidarity with one another. And when we assert ourselves over those whose desires are so contrary to those of humanity we can call for no more wars of expedience. No more expressions of knee-jerk rage that find ready and willing exponents in politicians and leaders eager to display their resoluteness before an eager media audience.

Our resistance needs to be defined by the creation of something more than slaughterhouses to generate new waves of death. Our resistance needs to be that of the mass of humanity against the minority which seeks to command their desperation and emotion. It needs to build where it fights and to fight in service of all of us, not for the greed and power of the few. And only we can do that, the ‘we’ that spreads from Boston to London to Paris to Beirut and to Baghdad. The ‘we’ that should never again be coerced or led to conflict by butchers with nothing more to offer than the act and release of violence scattered over too many of our own.

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