When I scrolled through Facebook last weekend, I saw it flooded with red-white-blue tinted profile pictures along with the occasional blurb angry about other terrorist attacks that went unnoticed. This turned the weekend into a popularity contest. It should not have been.
This highlights a key failure of modern forms of communication. While we can now disseminate colossal amounts of information, more than ever before, it brings about a new form of censorship: drowning in the masses. We have been numbed to deathly tragedies in the Middle East, where they are regular occurrences, but when one happens in the city of love, we all care. This stems not only from colonial and racial prejudice but a biased media that displays human empathy in bursts.
Many no longer feel the same shock and pain about a bombing in a Middle Eastern or North African country than they would have eight years ago. We do not have the appropriate surges of love. This required attention and compassion comes through empathy. This is the state of feeling and perceiving others’ moments of joy and suffering. It is no surprise that people would be angry when they did not know whether people in Beirut or Baghdad were safe because Facebook did not provide the same tools of notification or spreading consciousness. It is precisely that failure that shows us what our next step needs to be.
Evolution is not founded on becoming more and more saintly or more intelligent. Evolution consists of increased consciousness. This means knowing the true meaning of people’s actions and understanding that we often group the views of others under a hateful umbrella without actually empathizing. Religion seems to be a focal point in the cause of these violent actions. Terrorism knows no skin color, religion, nationality, gender or age — it is only the putrid incitement of fear. No religion preaches war and hate against others as a core value. In fact, if we look at the religions of books, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, we distinguish many intertextual references and acknowledgements of each other’s contributions — even Buddhist philosophy that relies heavily on written works. Some people find religion to be a central and guiding light in their lives.
Those who work in popular have the power to establish standard perceptions of populations. As a social species, we must largely rely on our impressions and stereotypes of others. From a socially exiled pinnacle, the fool on the hill groups communities under a distorted status quo that, ignorantly, reaches far and wide. The Islamic State group and those like it flood the media with a hateful distortion of Islam, which in reality should guide 1.5 billion people in peaceful and merciful ways. This is embodied by Adel Termos, who selflessly threw himself on top of a suicide bomber about to enter a mosque in Bourj el-Barajneh, a southern district in Beirut. This hero has not gone unsung. We must see Termos as the loving core of Islam behind the nightmarish veneer cast by hateful bombers and shooters — they, on the other hand, should be forgotten. People around the country need to show that solidarity from a grassroots level brings more life and power than despicable comments from concentrated ignorant portions of a the population.
Paris has been the center of overlapping cultures for thousands of years. Aquinas’, Abélard’s and Aristotle’s thoughts bloomed under the hospices of Parisian thought. The bridge their works built between the religious and the natural world can be repeated in modern times. France has a huge North African and Muslim community that, for the most part, lives in peace with the rest of the nation. I do not fear the terrorists. I fear that the reactions of hateful preachers like the National Front will spark more oppression and hatred.
When authorities can promote a single perception in a broad, sweeping way, it does not bring the value that the sum of multiple diverse perspectives might have. Each religion has contributions, but only together alongside nonreligious views of this world, will we make it whole.
Other media can give heartwarming images in times of strife, like Laurence Hauben’s comments in the NY times”, when I think of Paris, the city I am from, and what it brings to the world, religion is not on that list. I think of good coffee; a buttery croissant in the morning; a nice tartare et un demi en terrasse; couples kissing passionately wherever they please; putting my feet where countless authors, painters and thinkers strolled; a bottle of wine and a guitar tune with friends by the Seine; children from around the world smiling and waving as their boat passes by; taking a Vélib when I miss the last metro or meeting the strangest people on the night bus; the contrôleur du Bonheur from RER B; random poetry selections decorating the subway cars; the Place Saint-Sulpice; the Champs-Elysées at 6 p.m. or 4 a.m.; the skaters and fire jugglers at the Palais de Tokyo; Nuit Blanche; the music festivals; the parks (oh the parks!); the music in the street; the right to not believe in any God, to flirt and smoke and enjoy sex outside of marriage; the smell of warm bread; the vacations; the ability to read any book, to go to school for free, to play, laugh, argue and make fun of prelates and politicians, to love who you want and to tug on the strings of life, only to find the spools to be infinite.
Paris stood strong against the Hun and Mongol hordes, it rose again after the Nazis. It will stand strong and beautiful again after this hate. Let this not only be a cry for Paris, but for love around the world and a city that embodies pluralism, and does not want to overshadow the anguish of others. Instead, it wants to bring a wake-up call to collective appreciation on a global and human scale.
la ville de la lumiere
la ville de l’amour
la ville de la jouissance
et un sourire de tous les jours.
Benjamin Lillian is a sophomore in the College.