The Paris and Beirut attacks shook us all. Being from India, I am no stranger to such attacks by terrorists. Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad are some of the Indian cities that have recently witnessed destruction and violence similar to that which occurred in Paris and Beirut. Each such occurrence hurts each of us, not by the stat-flashes in neon on screens or in the ticker on news channels, but by the deconstruction of the basic human condition in the tales that comes across, fleetingly, as if in whispers in the wind. The tales of those who had gone to a concert or a football game only to have their lives taken away mercilessly. As if by the drop of petals of blood on the waters of a Universal Consciousness, the perturbations are far reaching and the ripples seldom die down very soon. They remain imprinted in our minds and make us question, make us introspect about our essential human state.
There is evidently a degradation of social order and human sensibilities in a much larger setting than in Paris or Beirut. This is not addressed by making Facebook profile pictures tri-chromatic, which naturally makes other colors conspicuously inconspicuous; for one, it keeps the void, the darkness in the lack of human conscience and compassion hidden behind the Tricolore, in this case. One needs to see the black in the IS flag, the black in the fumes coming out of bombed cities, the black of the night when Paris was attacked, for what it is. I feel that it is not about the colors but the void just as much as it is not the humdrum but the silence that can truly establish our understanding, anguish and oneness with the victims and their family.
This may well be the beginning of a ‘piecemeal WWIII’, as mentioned by His Holiness Pope Francis, but there is still hope. Hope remains until we seek to question what gave rise to all this and where we could possibly go from here. Would aggression truly help? Is offense always the only answer to offense, hate for hate? Is it even viable economically and for the long term and given the nature of attack and counter-attack? When one side has a hit-and-run, guerilla style of warfare, can bombing cities to target diffused IS modules (with collateral loss of innocent lives) bear the results that are being sought?
Even though I may not agree with many of Jeremy Corbyn’s positions and ideas, I certainly would like to share a poem that he so rightfully recited at his annual commemoration at a war memorial in his Islington constituency. The poem is Wilfred Owen’s ‘Futility’:
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Unfortunately, ours is a volatile world. We have elements in the World today that possess weapons that can cause great destruction, and some of them have no qualms in using it for effect disproportionate to the cause. In such a scenario, the concept of a deterrent is certainly needed but so is the need for strategic and contained action. The need to see when to strike and when not to. The need to gauge when it could possibly be futile to strike at all. In this case, France has every reason to go all out in demolishing the IS but can it? This is a much more fundamental question than just whether it can demolish the terrorist group. It seeks to address whether France can cut at the root of the problem, the cause of such radicalization, the valve, so to say, of the supply-lines for the recruitment of insurgents, using such action. Of course such action is needed when circumstances, such as these so arise. One just needs to also think of ways to prevent it in the near future and cut off the oxygen to the fire of insurgency and terrorism in the near future. Rather, ways to remove the wick altogether, as well.
It is certainly encouraging to see that lately there has been introspection by a fair few. Certainly the existing cosmopolitan nature, tolerance and generation of opportunities in society in most of Europe and in major portions of the World can certainly stall the radicalization of youth. But I believe more can be done and should be done. Education, empathy and empowerment is the way forward, according to me. After the Arab Spring revolutions, the power vacuum that remained could have been used to put in place effective governance, good education, healthcare and welfare systems and sound administration. It was the lack of this and the persistence of this political vacuum which allowed groups such as Daesh to rear their head. Only education and empowerment can show youth the way of peace, in the truest of terms.
For the rest, who have seemingly lost the way, this seems to be a point of no return.