27 January 2016

Je Suis Désolé

Street art in London, solidarity in the aftermath of horror.
High Holborn, London, 27th January, 2016
Being in France shortly after the horrendous attacks last year it was difficult to explain exactly how everything had changed. There were soldiers and more armed police on the streets, bag searches before going in to public buildings and a general sense of defiance from the populace that life as normal would continue in the face of both existential and physical threats.

This was quite similar to New York in the aftermath of September 11th. Aside from the armed soldiers in Grand Central Station and other public areas, by and large New Yorkers just did what New Yorkers are always telling you they do, they just got on with it.

But in both places despite the concentrated efforts of the citizenry to 'just get on with it', over the weeks and months after it became quite clear that everything had changed. Not because of the attacks themselves, but because of the way in which governing forces took advantage of the attacks to institute their own agenda, and clamp down severely on any opposition.

In the US, the Bush administration rushed through the Patriot Act, invaded two countries, created Abu Graib and Gitmo, legalised waterboarding and torture and killed countless thousands of innocent people around the world in a horror that continues to this day. I remember marching through New York with 100,000 others protesting the war in 2003, and then returning home to see not a single network covering the demonstration. The same number marched that day in Dublin, a further three million in Rome and up to eleven million in all around the world as part of a global protest, and yet on it continued, growing ever worse.

Whatever solidarity the world expressed with the US on September 11th, within two years it had evaporated away completely, squandered by the warmongering of the Washington neocons.

Police headquarters in Paris, defiant militarism in the cold December night.
Rue de la Cité, Paris, 11th December, 2015

In Paris today, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira resigned in protest over draconian new legislation. Following on from the implementation of new emergency powers that grant authorities the right to raid houses and detain people without arrest, trial or judicial oversight (used ahead of COP21 to detain environmental activists and prevent them from organising or attending protests), Francois Holland now wants to be able to strip dual-nationality French citizens of their citizenry, if they are convicted of certain crimes. For Taubira, born in French Guiana, this power would demote whole swatches of French society to second class citizens, signalling a distinction between "pure" French and those with a shared heritage.

And all of this from a notionally left-wing government.

In the days after the Charlie Hebdo attack the whole world marched and proclaimed, "Je Suis Charlie". After last years massacre the world marched again to say, "Je Suis Paris". If the French government continues down this path of Bush and Chaney, hijacking a tragedy to push undemocratic and authoritarian legislation on its people and conducting illegal military operations abroad in an act of shameless and naked disaster capitalism, they too will see the global solidarity evaporate into the night and spend the next decade walking their streets alone.

#JeSuisDesole

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