Politics

Passivity is no longer an option

Paul Gradvohl · 16 January 2015
The shootings in Paris and the massive reaction of the French people reached unknown dimensions in a European post-1945 context. But the targets were not only French. And the answers cannot be limited to one country.

The European Union is part of the picture not only because Donald Tusk participated in the Paris demonstration on Sunday 11th of January, as a symbol of European moral and political solidarity. Polity, security and statehood are at stake, and answers are not so easy to frame.

Polity

Offending caricatures are not accepted worldwide, for example in the US, not to speak of other part of the world. Blaspheme is considered a crime and legal defense of various religious beliefs is viewed as necessary by many constitutional systems. The French Jesuit journal Études showed courage and vision when publishing for a couple of days [http://www.revue-etudes.com/archive/article.php?code=16644] anti-Catholic Charlie Hebdo drawings. The editors explained, among other rationales, that disturbing attacks should not destabilize self-critical persons of faith. The European citizen, including the most convinced among believers, should be ready to accept pluralism and equality among fellow citizens. In Europe this implies limiting the potential control of religion(s) on the public space and institutions, and a strong guarantee of free individual choice. This means, in certain cases, apostasy, conversion, atheism, and limiting public and private restrictions to these.

Security

Security will remain a field of nightmares in Europe for a while. Not because of Muslims as such, but because of violent illegal regimes in Syria-Irak, Nigeria and Yemen, not to speak about the remnants of Taliban power, competing in horror communication, using atrocities to be vindicated on the grounds of absolute and rigorous religious control. This was the impulse that made it possible for individuals to get the proper training and tools, plus instructions through the Internet etc. to kill so many people in Paris. It is no Irish or Basque situation of the 1970’s. It’s a new challenge, where terrorists are not part of Carlos type of cells, are not ideologically consistent, but nonetheless convinced of their right to kill.

The European citizen, including the most convinced among believers, should be ready to accept pluralism and equality among fellow citizens.

Paul Gradvohl

Police is very necessary. But isolation inside the society is key here. And the way rumors are spreading on Charlie Hebdo or Jewish plots to mobilize society against Islam or in favor of Israel (even if Mahmud Abbas was walking side by side with Donald Tusk) is a clear signal of the ability to various agencies to use a feeling of solidarity with people said to be (Muslim) victims of Imperialism. These rumors spread also through channels fueling both radical right and radical left groups, which leads us to the last point.

Statehood

It is an impossible topic inside the EU, and pressures from various foreign countries in favor of national independence against Brussels is part of the stand-off. Beyond the obvious necessity of a common, much more integrated security network, national states pretend to be the only stately institutions of the Union. And answering the killings offers two options. One is to use national mobilizations to foster national (security) answers, one after the other. The other is to rethink the global challenge on the basis of common European values. One of the message during the marches in France, on January 11th, was that no institution was the organizer. It was a private initiative. No political party could pretend to be a valuable actor of it. Couple of days later, the French members of Parliament song the Marseillaise together for the first time since November 11th 1918, and till today behave in a very responsible and restrained manner, avoiding useless arguments.

The bloodshed is not about conflicting civilizations, and the answer cannot be a crusade or isolation. We still pay for wrong answers to 9/11.

Paul Gradvohl

But whatever the French government does, it’s up to all the EU members to strongly put forward the common values, and not only improve technical security cooperation. As Europeans consider private training of military forces cannot be tolerated, as they think weapons should be under control and circulation of citizens should be free, they therefore have to elaborate a new and clearer message encompassing polity and security, that is, the basis of statehood. We need to take time to think. We have to find new paths. The bloodshed is not about conflicting civilizations, and the answer cannot be a crusade or isolation. We still pay for wrong answers to 9/11. Let us start addressing basics, and not forget about the goal: living together in a plural Europe asserting its social model and a renewed scheme of statehood. Economics and shootings made the case, citizens and politicians EU wide will decide about collective failure or common innovation. Passivity is no longer an option.