The aftermath of the events in Paris has shown many of the worst things about the current media and social media. I’ve been watching, reading and following with a feeling, primarily, of sadness.

What depresses me the most – and surprises me the least – is the way that the hideousness has been used to support pretty much every agenda. I’ve seen the events used to ‘prove’ that we should leave the EU (‘control our borders’ etc) and that we should stay in the EU (‘solidarity’ with France), that we need less surveillance (it didn’t work this time, why not direct the effort and resources elsewhere) and that we need more surveillance (the threat is real, we must do everything needed). I’ve seen it said that we need to clamp down on Islam, that we need to support moderate Islam, that terrorists are all Muslims, that the vast majority of the victims of terrorism (and of ISIS in particular) are Muslims, that terrorism has no religion and so on. I’ve seen attacks on Corbyn, on Cameron, on a wide selection of journalists and ‘commentators’ for their responses to the events. I’ve seen the blame placed on Syria, France, Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK and of course Israel. We’re at war, I keep reading, though whether with ISIS, ‘terror’ or Islam as a whole seems a little unclear in the words of some.

I see some saying this shows how pointless the drone-killing of ‘Jihadi John’ was, and how this was in part revenge for it, and others saying how it shows the need for more such attacks. I read that this means we need to bomb Syria now – and then how it shows that bombing just makes it worse, and makes us a target. I hear that we’re too soft on refugees, and let the terrorists in under cover – and then that this just shows what the refugees have to suffer at home every day. It’s our fault for being too soft, it’s our fault for being too brutal, it’s not our fault at all.

All I can do is sigh. And feel more sadness. I see the points that everyone has. And yet all I feel is sadness. There isn’t an easy solution to any of this. There aren’t easy answers. There really aren’t, no matter how tempting some of the ideas might be. I wish there were.

19 thoughts on “Paris…

  1. I agree,though sometimes one has to make a decision …..
    and along the the way that means changing ones mind…..
    I have changed mine….
    Imperialism is there to bite our asses
    cause and effect….
    Multiculturalism only works ….. if ?
    u know the answer
    religions are a myth however we live with them….

  2. I believe most sadly that our only solution would be a time machine to go back in time to prevent the ill advised wars that were possibly a catalyst for the creation of these type of heinous acts, Even if it were actually possible, would the powerhouse of oil thirsty decision makers really change anything?

    Many of the migrants stuck in Europe desperately left their own towns and cities at great risk to escape from these same types of murderous acts. After what has happened in Paris it seems sickening that some bigoted people elsewhere want to blame these early victims of similar crimes against humanity as though they were actually to blame.

  3. What you describe is the exercise of the freedom to speak, disagree, debate, explore, discover, learn and unlearn. Media make it possible for me to talk with people I lost for years and only contacted again when the my digital age dawned. They went their way, intellectually and morally, and I went mine. Now we knock the edges off each other. Freedom of speech is our heritage and the response should be hope that out of that babble comes democracy. I like your blog. Bon courage, Paul.

  4. ISIS have declared war on all who do not share their narrow, intolerant take on Islam. We stood, shoulder to shoulder, across political and community lines here in Birmingham last year to stop the Trojan ‘Plot’ allegations from splitting our city like the IRA bombings of the early 1970s had. I trust we will again after what has happened in Paris.

    I was rather chuffed to be invited by Salma Yaqoob, not someone with whom I always see eye to eye, to speak at a public meeting on behalf of and about the victims of that plot, the young people whose lives were being blighted by the spat between Gove and May. One fears that the victims of ISIS in their planned Caliphate are being forgotten.

    There are no easy answers, however, the three pronged plan advocated by Andrew Mitchell and Jo Cox ( seems a good place to start as does the thinking set out by Hilary Benn in his recent speech ( We cannot simply walk by on the other side or pull in our horns, because that will not stop ISIS in building and expanding their Caliphate. Inaction has its consequences. “Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones. But you still have to choose.”

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend’s were.
    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

    Meditation 17, John Donne From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623).

  5. The thing that’s saddened me most is the ludicrous (to me) point-scoring that seems to be happening on my FB feed between people who have chosed to post a new profile picure showing a tricolr and those who have chosen not to do it because people all over the world are suffering similar attacks.

    The frustration of social media is that the best response to this is not join in and fuel the pointless, petty, self-obsessed discussion of such trivia.

    I think this is more to do with people finding self validation and applause for posturing on social media that anything more profound, but the irony is that the judmental ‘othering’ of those who see the world differently from yourself is not compeltely unrelated to the mindset of people who can kill others for ideological reasons. (I am not accusing those who annoy me on FB of being terrorists BWT!)

  6. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Power!
    All of our supposedly permanent institutions are crumbling: banks, education, government, leaders, all failed.
    Those who were once envied – the rich, are now despised because we are starting to realise the only rule is the rip-off and greed is not what it was.
    It’s not rocket science, we need to rethink the way things are done and then maybe, war (another total failure) will end.
    If everyone refuses to fight war will end. The old ways don’t work any more.

    1. Are you speaking of ISIS there? I think they are probably able to sign up to all three slogans.

      Rocket science is not rocket science, it is merely an application of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Quantum mechanics is, of course, of a much more complex magnitude!

      And somehow, I do not think, if those opposing them on the ground refused to fight, that ISIS would lay down its arms too.

      1. You said “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Are you being deliberately naive, someone who can’t see that the conditions that caused this situation were created by the West? Terrorists usually become terrorists after being terrorised. Further war creates reprisals and the whole pointless bloodletting continues until the arms dealers and the bankers want an end. Wake-up

  7. I did, indeed, as I was quoting Newton to point out that rocket science is not complex.

    “Terrorists usually become terrorists after being terrorised.” Your use of usually allows for exceptions. Bin Laden, for example, who was not terrorised by anyone, made a lifestyle choice to stop being a member of an affluent Saudi Arabian family and instead embark on a career to make a misery of the lives of many fellow Muslims.

    ISIS operates like a corporation, a real life SPECTRE, it even issues a glossy annual report that many a City firm would not be embarrassed to distribute at a shareholders’ meeting. ISIS are self motivated and they need no external stimuli or references to past history to goad them into action.

    ISIS, like a mushroom pushing itself through the soil, has appeared within lands long settled by co-religionists. Co-religionists who have mostly lived peaceably alongside followers of other faiths for centuries. ISIS has attacked not just the followers of those other faiths, but their own heretical co-religionists too in seeking to carve out a Caliphate. What have bankers and arms dealers got to do with that, particularly given that one assumes ISIS takes a dim view of usury?

    A naive person is someone showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement. I would contend that your view of this particular matter is naive, in the sense that it is unworldly and overly simplistic.

    1. Me neither, but the world is a complex place and rarely does one event have a single cause. That was the point I was endeavouring to make.

      Some claim that without religion much of past history would have been less bloody, but the Athenians, the Macedonians and the Romans all carved out empires without reference to doing so in the name of any god or gods. The Romans did, in some cases, assert that they had a duty to bring their idea of civilisation to the barbarians. Sound familiar? And the Greeks coined the word barbarian to describe people who barbared instead of speaking good Greek. Thus to them, the Romans were barbarians!

      There were bankers in Rome 2,000 years ago and the upper classes benefited from businesses run by their freedmen and slaves, but matters of business were certainly secondary to ascending the Cursus Honorum. The Cursus Honorum comprised a sequential order of public offices. The offices being a mixture of military and political administration posts. Ideally, a military post would provide an opportunity to show prowess in battle, though not in putting down a slave revolt, so one might argue that the need to spruce up one’s cv was in part behind the extension of Rome’s Empire, even when it was a Republic. A governorship provided an opportunity to make money, at the expense of the governed, to further one’s climb up the Cursus Honorum.

      And as you ascended the Cursus Honorum, in part, through winning elections one might argue Rome’s form of democracy forced those seeking office to seek out glory on the battlefield in order to win votes to the highest of offices, a Consul of Rome. And, if there were Consuls of previous years in your family’s history then you too would be expected to strive for Consular rank. Julius Caesar did.

      Caesar was, without any noticeable qualms at one point in his career, in hock to the richest man in history for money to buy votes and as for the gods, well, he asserted he was descended from Venus. And back then, arms manufacturing was a nationalised industry.

      Pride as much as anything else was a major factor behind the growth of the Roman Empire, but it was not the only one by any means. One suspects the pursuit of power for its own sake was a factor. And I suspect that some members of ISIS are driven by the same urges that drove Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.

      Surely to find a cure to a condition, you must first determine the causes by observation and then consider how best to address those causes? It helps no one, if you start by treating the patient based on pre-conceived notions.

      1. Thank you for the history, I found it very interesting.
        I’m into history myself (see the blog), although I do tend to research it myself – in other words I don’t trust the historians. They are usually more political than factual. I’m in the process of researching computer history that may be of interest to those on paul bernalands blog, some of it was a suprise to me. There’s an “under construction” heading on it, so you can’t miss it.

        I agree that religion has been the cause of more bloodshed that anything else and this is why I have nothing to do with religion – I’m not religious.
        My wife calls herself and me spiritual and yes, it is possible to be spiritual without being religious, there are millions of others who do the same.

        I do understand complexity, but I usually find that the most complex can be broken-down into simple bits of information. Things are made complex – usually by academics and politicians – in order that the likes of me and you don’t understand them.


  8. How you connect my post with “I agree that religion has been the cause of more bloodshed that anything else”, when I was observing how little influence religion had on the growth of three major empires baffles me.

    I think I ought to confess that I am a politician and, although I am not an academic, I make some claims to be an expert in my field. The contention that matters in my field are simple is why too many people with disabilities, lone parents etc are without work. I will not bore you with my insight into politics, the art of government, but my bull ordure detector goes off when people start talking about simple or common sense solutions. ISIS, the KKKK, ukip et al are the ones who say our problems may be addressed by their simple solutions. For example, want to reduce unemployment? Then stop economic migration. It will not, of course, but it does have a certain appeal, does it not?

    I instinctively doubt anyone who proposes simple solutions to complex problems whether they be a Marxist or free marketeer. Indeed, you may break complexity down into simple bits of information, although of course there are fractals to confuse matters, but with regards to ISIS we are talking about why people behave in the way they do. Yes, our approach, whether as historians of or participants in events is subjective. However, history is about more than facts, because history is written by people about people.

    Ever read the reports of a car crash or a street theft? Rarely will all accounts agree 100%, but why should they? More likely than not the observers will have viewed events from different perspectives. No need for any input from politicians or academics for there to be a degree of disagreement about who did what and to whom or why the car skidded off the road. History is a study of 6,000 years’ worth of car crashes. You show me a fact and I will, more often than not, show you one person’s take on events. I can start a story in 1805 to explain the events that led up to the United Kingdom’s declaring war on Germany in 1914. Others may contend that the year of Austerlitz and Trafalgar is less of a starting point than 1789, the beginning of the long 19th Century that ended in 1914.

    You cannot learn about Pepy’s life without reading his diary which by definition is biased. Caesar’s Gallic Campaigns, written in the third person, are not dryly factual, but cross referencing them with other accounts and noting the lack of contemporary literary criticism argues for them having a convincing level of credibility. Of course, they were written by an aristocrat, who was, amongst other things, a politician, a military man, a lawyer, a priest, a legislator, a public benefactor and a historian. However, one should strive not to hold his cv against him! You are prejudiced in how you approach history, even if you only use factual primary sources like rent rolls.

    I follow Paul’s blog, because I know next to nothing about his field of expertise, but feel I ought to know more than I do. I trust his insight into a complex topic, because whilst he makes it comprehensible, he does not turn it into something binary. Matters are rarely black and white. Sometimes the man or woman on the other side of the table has more than just a point, but may be not the only one. May be a compromise is better than holding out for something you may not be able to get in full, today. Sometimes you are completely in the wrong or the other side is, but how do you climb down or, more importantly, help them to do so?

    ISIS is a disturbing human puzzle, because there seems to be no identifiable common ground between them and the rest of humanity. No potential for a climb down or a compromise. Their weltanschauung allows for no alternative take on history so they destroy our shared past without a qualm when, of course, they are not selling it off for hard cash. Their sole war aim, the establishment of a Caliphate (or lebensraum?) in its current location, realistically offers no grounds for negotiation, because we in the West and others cannot hand over someone else’s country to ISIS. In part, because ISIS are saying to those unwillingly finding themselves within their expanding domain, it is our way or the highway. Some people have, understandably, chosen a third way of staying and fighting. This is where we find ourselves.

    May be, just may be an alternative location for their Caliphate might be grounds for negotiation, if they agree to a ceasefire and suspension of all atrocities? However, if they will not adopt such a course of action then the best option would seem to be to stop them dead in their tracks and put them under siege as Caesar did to Vercingetorix at Alesia. Dying in battle as a martyr obviously has its own particular appeal, but starving to death one suspects does not have the same cachet. And starving people out requires little in the way of air strikes or ground fire, it only really requires resolve and patience.

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