The beauty of the Parisian night is akin to little else; a city of allure and romance, moving ceaselessly along the winding curves of the Seine and on into the long evening. This was broken to a state of disrepair last night, in a city still reeling from events at the turn of the year. As the sound of shots charred the November air, people rose, startled from their night-time pursuits into a state of fear. The world woke to the news of ruthless attacks on the French capital whilst the fragility of a nation is once more brought unwillingly to the fore.
As a concept, love is all encompassing and all-inclusive yet its principal city is on lockdown. Soldiers are spread across the capital, and France is operating on a state of national emergency. When men transgress against each other, the effects are there for all to see; innocent blood and the gloves of a surgeon lie together on the road outside the Bataclan concert hall.
The most shocking part of the events of last night is that, in the grand scheme of things, it is no longer a shock. It is a devastating blow against our beliefs, our values and our families; the attacks represent the worst atrocity in Europe in over a decade. Reports vary in a manner consistent with events of this nature, but most organisations agree that the death toll has reached 130 and is still climbing.
Yet here we are, a mere ten months after attacks on the Charlie Hebdo publication. In a cyclical manner which both sickens and infuriates, Europe began and ended the year mourning. Has Western civilisation learnt its lesson? The last fifteen years are plagued by systematic assaults on peace, love and freedom. The gunmen entered the city with ease, selected their targets at liberty and carried out the attacks unchallenged.
What questions this poses on national security and our current ability to combat extremism remain to be seen. Paris has been left devastated, and it is no slippery slope to assume that the UK is next. The reported death of ‘Jihadi John’, Isis’s most prized propaganda possession, is certainly a ray of light on a dismally grey day, but is it enough? I think we know the answer to that one.
It is a precarious situation; many will automatically tarnish all Muslims with the same poisonous brush. Such libellous claims are insulting to liberty, to assimilation and to Islam, and only seek to drive us further apart. Blaming all members of a religion for the acts of a select few is both ignorant and senseless.
The demands for swift justice from certain corners of society will be unrelenting; such acts of brutality only serve to drive the intolerant further away from the democratic masses. We must ask ourselves however – have we been tolerant for too long? Across the Western world, there is active resistance to combative action in far-off lands, and it is understandable to see why. However, do we continue to let prejudice and hatred breed in dark corners of the world, and then stand aghast as the very weapons of war we abided are used against us?
Paris is a city of immense cultural significance, and the images of soldiers standing guard over Notre Dame Cathedral is both haunting and instinctually wrong. To shatter that purity with the mechanics of war and ideology is not just an assault on Western civilisation, but on the most basic of human instincts. According to David Cameron, we are ‘shocked but resolute, in sorrow but unbowed’. Nous Sommes Unis. Admirable sentiments, and due in light of the deaths of 130 innocent men and women. With every attack, the call to arms gets louder though – and it’s getting increasing difficult to ignore.