Following my last post, Mustafa Dikeç has sent me a link to his brilliant reflections on ‘Hate’ at the Society & Space website here. Written from Paris, it takes us to the heart of modern French society and its divided spaces:
… if we are troubled about what has happened, troubled enough to take a hard look at, rather than falling in love with, ourselves, then it is important to inquire about the conditions that made such a mobilisation of hate possible. In the highly emotional aftermath of the incidents, it is hard not to feel moved by the extraordinary mobilisation of citizens. Newspapers are full of comments about how proud we should be as French citizens, how a united and solidaristic people we are, how the spirit of May 1968 continues despite the attack on its inheritors, how we value equality and freedom of expression, and so on. If all were nice and dandy, then what made such radicalisation of these three French-born and raised citizens possible? Why, a decade ago, did 300 cities go up in flames for two weeks, and what has been done since? How is it that the extreme right has become the second major political force in this land of freedom, equality and fraternity? …
This is not at all to suggest that the murderers’ actions can be justified by the circumstances. But to warn that despite the timely and admirable display of unity under an alleged one and indivisible republic, the French society is deeply divided, owing to its long history of discrimination and the increasing hostility towards immigrants – a poisonous mix of xenophobia and Islamophobia that several French politicians, endowed with the authority of the state, have unashamedly mobilised for their political ends. Muslims are the most stigmatised group of this divided society, spared neither by satire nor political discourse and action.
Mustafa’s essay begins not with the murders in Paris but with a bomb explosion in Yemen, and a second e-mail from Tim Raeymaekers has alerted me to his equally indispensable post ‘”Us” against “Them”‘ over at Liminal Geographies here. Tim moves in the opposite direction to Mustafa, zooming out above the arc of that explosion to provide a contrapuntal geography that reads the murders in Paris in concert with the global violence of contemporary wars, most of them fought under the tattered banners of counter-terrorism, undeclared in their particulars and less than covert in their killing. He ends with this reminder from Teju Cole‘s incandescent essay on ‘Unmournable bodies’ at the New Yorker:
France is in sorrow today, and will be for many weeks to come. We mourn with France. We ought to.
But it is also true that violence from “our” side continues unabated. By this time next month, in all likelihood, many more “young men of military age” and many others, neither young nor male, will have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. If past strikes are anything to go by, many of these people will be innocent of wrongdoing. Their deaths will be considered as natural and incontestable as deaths like Menocchio’s, under the Inquisition. Those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective liberté.