For someone of my generation, Paris is the centre of the universe. Not solely because of les événements de mai 1968, seminal although these were for a left-leaning student back then. Nor yet because of the exciting literary and philosophical developments of the time – Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Merlot-Ponty, Foucault; writers and thinkers for whom I still – unfashionably – have huge respect. Nor even because I have had such great times in the city over the years, visiting the galleries, the museums, the brasseries and the restaurants.
It is because Paris epitomizes a cosmopolitan joie de vivre. It is a city with a young, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population. And it is this which made it a target.
The terror was not directed at the bourgeoisie. The restaurants chosen were not the Michelin starred establishments in the swanky 1st and 16th arondissements, but vibrant bars in the 10th and 11th. The concert chosen was not the opera, but the Jewish-owned Bataclan which was hosting the Eagles of Death Metal, whose name references the soft rock of the Eagles and the head-banging of heavy metal, but whose music is neither.
As Professor (of philosophy) Justin Smith of the University of Paris wrote, “Fundamentalists hate oxymorons”.
As many have pointed out, this has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with fascism.
What we are seeing, and it is not restricted to Daesh, is fascimentalism. It is a world view based on a Manichean dualism. Good and evil. Black and white. Cut and dried. One or the other.
There is no room here for irony or oxymorons, and no room for those of us who treasure nuance, who reject totalism.
My concern is that, in this rejection, we reinforce the dualism of us and them. And it is not that simple.
That's the whole point.
Today from the everysmith vaults: As so often in such times, I turn to JS Bach: currently The Art of Fugue, arranged for string quartet by Robert Simpson and played beautifully by the Delmé Quartet.