Sunday 16 December 2018
Pass the snooper's charter now, or London will be next
If we are serious in our sympathy and solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks, we over come our squeamishness — and act nowA massive French flag is raised atop the Space Needle in Seattle Photo: AP
By Dan Hodges
1:20PM GMT 15 Nov 2015Follow
We have a routine now. Almost a ritual.
First there is the shock. Then the horror (we no longer bother with disbelief; we’ve too much experience of these things now). Then there is the fear. And we do feel fear, though we know we mustn’t show it.
And then come the expressions of sympathy and solidarity. For the sake of brevity, let’s call it “the solidarity phase”.
Here, we excel. It is during the solidarity phase we truly come into our own. Someone has already produced a symbol – perfect in its simplicity – of the old CND peace emblem, shaped like the Eifel Tower. Within 24 hours the globe’s landmarks were lit up in the colour of the French flag. How do they do that? Do they have a lighting plan of the world’s flags on file somewhere?
Peace for Paris pic.twitter.com/ryf6XB2d80— jean jullien (@jean_jullien) November 13, 2015
I think part of the reason we have become masters of this post atrocity art is the birth of social media. It’s almost as if it was invented to facilitate communal expressions of sympathy and unity of this kind.
And they are important, and they are wonderful. A couple of days after the 7/7 attacks, my wife and I went on holiday to France. The first place we stopped was for lunch in a tiny hotel just outside Rouen. We’d been sat down for about five minutes when the manageress came up and said “Are you from London?”. “Yes,” we replied. “We are all so sorry” she said. And then walked away. No great scene. No big fuss. Just a simple expression of collective support. And it made us a feel good. In a strange way, it also made us feel more safe.
So they are important. Our hashtags, and our twitter avatars, and our vigils in Trafalgar Square.
But they are not enough. Dear Jesus, if only they were. If only we really could defeat terror with a stoic commitment to keep calm and carry on.
People sing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, during a vigil in front of the French Consulate in Chicago Photo: AP
But we can’t. And nor can we continue to marshal our collective will to defy those who bring carnage to our streets after the fact.
Our response to terrorism ebbs and flows. At it does so on a tide of blood. When an attack occurs we frantically dial through our emotions, and demand “something must be done”. Then after a few weeks we dial them down. We retrench. “We must keep things in proportion,” we tell ourselves."If we are serious in our expression of sympathy and solidarity, then we must act"
And we convince ourselves that immediacy is our enemy. The immediate aftermath of each appalling atrocity should not be our guide to the decisions that must be taken in the months and years ahead. We must wait till the sawdust has finally been swept away, and the shattered glass replaced, and the Facebook pictures of the dead have faded from our minds, before we act.
And again, it’s not enough. It is not enough to simply ask time to silence the screams, and erase the images of bodies piled upon one another in the streets.
If we are serious in our expression of sympathy and solidarity, if we are serious about confronting those men who lined up the disabled patrons of the Bataclan and then gunned them down, then we must act. We must expand the same collective energy we utilise proclaiming “Je suis Paris” demanding concrete action. Or at least, not demanding inaction.
In the coming weeks the government’s surveillance bill will be passing through the Commons. If we truly believe in standing in solidarity with Paris, we must let it pass. We must demand it passes.
In the coming weeks there will be a renewed debate about striking Isil in Syria as well as Iraq. If we truly believe in standing in solidarity with Paris we must support those strikes. We must demand those strikes.
Over the next few hours it will emerge that some of the attackers entered France posing as refugees. And if we want to stand in solidarity with Paris – and defend the sanctity of asylum – then we are going to have to review Europe’s open border policy. Indeed, we must demand a review of that policy.
And that will be too much for some. It will be too much for many of those who have expressed in millions of personal ways their own horror at the events of Friday night.
Which is fine. Until the next time. When we will again fashion our hashtags, and illuminate our buildings.
An perhaps next time it will be the Union flag that defiantly cuts through the night. And the rallying cry “Je suis Londres” that unites the world in solidarity.Follow @telegraphnews
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