Today the Western world is reeling from the events in Paris where dozens of human beings died and hundreds have been injured.
The horror of mass killings has once more hit Europe and Western media has provided 24 hour coverage, providing every single detail time and time again, generating in the minds of the people watching, listening and reading a sense of despair and impotence. More sinisterly the coverage turns to issues of religion and immigration, creating more fear, more mistrust and more insecurity.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Facebook users have changed their profile picture to superimpose the picture of the French flag in an act of solidarity with the people of France. And once more the roots of the problem are avoided and ignored. The media blames religion and refugees, pointing to Islamic State as the root of all evil.
Yet, those of us fighting for global justice have a different point of view. Quoting the Stop the War coalition from the UK, “The response of the western governments and other major powers has been for more war. President Hollande of France has talked of a ‘pitiless’ war against terrorism. The idea that bombing will end terrorism is refuted by the history of the last 14 years. It has already led to an increase in Islamophobia and to attacks on civil liberties which will likely target Muslims above all.”
Let’s be clear: these acts of terrorism are the results of 25 years of wars in the Middle East. And these wars are the result of the policies of an economic system that puts human life below almost any other value.
So today, changing our profile pictures to include a French flag is not the appropriate response, no matter how well intentioned the gesture is, even if it might make us feel better temporarily and make us feel like we’re doing something positive, because yesterday and every other day for the last 25 years we haven’t been standing in solidarity with the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine or with the people of Kenya, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan and all the other countries of the world where atrocious acts of terrorism have taken place every day.
Today the appropriate response is to ask from where are these guns and bombs coming? Who is financing these people? Who is creating the terrorists and what is the source of their anger and frustration?
Of course we denounce the killings and the violence, every human being with a conscience denounces these things. But denouncing is not enough, showing solidarity is no longer enough.
What is required now is a search for and identification of the true culprits and to do this we need to look beyond the Western media and their manipulation of public opinion. We need to look to the 1%, the global elite, those who control the financial system. We need to look at why there is poverty in the world while 100 people own 50% of the world’s wealth. We need to change the values of our society and put the human being in its rightful place as the central value and concern.
What is required now is a response that comes from active nonviolence; a true rebellion against a violent system; a response that is channelled from the physical repugnance we feel in this world that is so violent.
Until we do this we will continue to have events such as the one in Paris, and changing our profile pictures will do nothing to stop it.