As a writer, my instinct was to write something about the atrocities (opening fire on unarmed people with assault weapons is an atrocity in any language except that of the criminally insane), but I paused, thought for a moment, and decided against doing so. Why, I asked myself, should I add my tiny, insignificant voice to the clamour of outrage, when it was - and is - all already being said, and repeatedly? What is the point of stating the obvious? A moment's thought on that subject (mixed with a liberal dose of cynicism) brought some guesses to the fore, but there seems to be little point in pouring scorn on a machine which, on this story, is all but out of control. I mean: 'How to help the survivors of Paris' - seriously?
What troubles me about the stampede towards the moral high ground (I know they're galloping - it's getting pretty crowded up there) is that the dust being kicked up is obscuring the different perspectives on the whole issue. Also, anyone attempting to swim against the stream will be condemned by the mob mentality - witness, for example, teh criticism (and of course, abuse) of anyone declining to replace their FaceBook profile picture (that most important of all symbols) in favour of a French flag, or even worse, presenting their arguments for not doing so...
As a writer - and someone who, having witnesed and having been involved in more than enough conflicts to last a long lifetime - I have no interest in provoking conflict. Online, I've voiced my view on the media coverage of the incident, and how it differs so wildly from the coverage of equal or worse atrocities in developing countries. Even that felt like treading a fine line between peace and conflict.
Why? - well, because our social media world is becoming a place where, sadly, mob rule is the norm. Forays outside of our small groups of friends risk attracting internet trolls and their companions. This week, we are expected by the internet mob to show unconditional support for the people of Paris and France (English MPs even conducted business in French for a short time as a show of 'solidarity', for goodness sake!).
I happen to think that the real story is much broader than that: it's about the nature of war and the modern industrial world's inflated sense of isolation from acts of war. Civilian casualties inflicted by NATO bombings, for example, have been all but forgotten. It would seem that the value of a human life is dependent entirely upon geography - or maybe, skin colour. It's always been true, of course - how else, after all, could the plight of the displaced and illegally occupied Palestinian population be so effectively ignored, and for so long? The real issue is huge: it's about the nature of human values.
Paris will never be entirely forgotten, but in a few short weeks the machine will find a new 'cause' with which to flood our collective consciousness. The bereaved will always feel the pain and horror of their loved ones' deaths, but the truth is that the world will continue to grind around on its axis and its orbit, and the human race will continue to make the same kinds of appalling mistakes. Perhaps there is something to write about, but not yet - not until the loudest voices have been distracted by the next spectacular and exciting story.