Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Girl like any Other

The recent terror attacks in Paris called to mind the Terror of an earlier epoch. During the French Revolution in the late18th century a rigid, murderous ideology swept through the capital, a death-scythe of single-minded intent whose purpose was to purify the population of its royalist contagion. This first, politically driven phase gave way to factional conflict and, for much of the populace, a series of gruesome entertainments at the foot of the guillotine.

History shows that Terror (for this, read also terrorist and terrorism) eventually consumes itself from within. The high-minded diatribes of disenfranchised peoples who have access to weapons, as a result of a failed Western, colonial style military strategy, eventually polarize faction by faction until the only remaining option is political dialogue with those against whom the war was waged.

In the aftermath of the recent attacks, reports emerged of a more personal aspect of some of the suicide bombers. A man recalled entering the men's toilet at the stadium to see a terrorist (as it transpired) standing staring into the mirror. Sweat poured down the man's face, the expression of which was described as "anguished". The bomber, rather than walk into the stadium crowds, walked outside and detonated the suicide belt.

And later, during the following manhunt for those terrorists who had escaped, the search led to the St Denis area in north Paris, where key terrorist organizers were found to be hiding. A young woman there also detonated her suicide belt. She was found to be the cousin of the terror leader.

Police had called up to her to ask about her 'boyfriend', to which she responded, "He's not my boyfriend!" There was a sense of humiliation in the woman's response, as though her commitment to the cause had been relegated to the level of gender stereotype, but that she was too far into the process to turn back.

Afterward, her friends were astounded to learn of her involvement in the group, describing her as "full of life" and eager to join in simple, fun activities with her friends. A girl like any other, they could only think that she had been "brainwashed" by her idiot cousin.

A man whose wife was killed in the attacks posted a moving tribute to her in the form of a video letter, directed to the terrorists, in which he reiterated the love he still felt for his wife, a love, he said, that would eventually carry him to her again, to join her in "the heaven of free spirits" which they, her killers, would never know.

Love, death, chance encounters, ideals without mercy, a great sadness over all.


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