Sunday 11 January 2015

Today in Paris

There will be hundreds of thousands of good people demonstrating in Paris today, people who believe in an open, free society, who oppose the murder of people for writing or drawing, who oppose the murder of people because they are Jews. However, at the front of the demonstration, the ones most quoted will be leaders who have waged wars that have killed tens of thousands of innocent people, who have enacted laws which discriminate against minorities in their countries, who have tried to ride the anti-immigrant tiger, who have eagerly waged economic war on the poorest people in their countries, and who create alliances with the very regimes who sustain and support the assassins.

If I was in Paris, I would feel uncomfortable - to say the least - feeling that I was marching 'behind' or 'with' such people. Perhaps, physically, actually in the streets it will feel different - that there are two demonstrations - the leaders' one where these rulers wrap themselves in flags hoping that their show of care and sympathy will make them look dignified and honest, and a people's one where they can show solidarity and sadness about citizens like themselves being killed or the free circulation of ideas being stifled.

One particular piece of dishonesty that seems likely to unfold today is the presence of the leader of Israel. Quite apart from his recent record of sending in troops who killed hundreds of civilians, he is there in order to recruit Jews to emigrate to Israel whilst preventing Palestinians from returning to where they came from. All this can only happen through further dispossession of homes and land of the Palestinians. Nothing he says or does today will help make anything better in France.

I suspect that the press will be full of the suggestion the presence of these leaders will be like some great soothing ointment bathing the pustules of bitterness. It's what the press calls 'solidarity'. We will need other kinds of solidarity to arrive at a society that has real liberty, equality and fraternity for all. There will be hardly one leader on show today who really believes in those words. That's the problem.