Something has changed for me since the latest terror attacks. Something subtle, yet disturbing. It’s as if the shock and horror of so many innocent lives lost has diminished a notch, as if somehow this has become the new normal.
Paris. Brussels. Nice. Orlando. Manchester. London.
Yet how can we accept terrorism as the status quo?
The same way the world has grown immune to stories about the migrants drowned at sea. Just as America accepts the hundreds of lives lost each day to guns – ten of which are children. And not so different from our increasing immunity to the latest lunacy of its president. It is becoming harder to separate the tragic from the comic.
Perhaps we have become blindé.
Like the armoured vehicle shown here, known in French as ‘un blindé’, we have toughened our exterior. I read that this model, called Titus, was being tested in Paris to transport security forces following the attacks at the Bataclan. It is tough but moves quickly, and can safely carry 13 men and wounded under fire.
It is not uncommon to see heavy artillery on the streets of Paris.
When I first came to France in 1986, Paris was the midst of a wave of terrorism. A bomb went off in a popular store called Tati on Rue de Rennes, killing seven people and injuring 50. Suddenly there were machine gun-toting military and army tanks on the streets. I was frightened and perplexed. Were we at war?
I learned that for the French it is vital to have a show of force at such times, to see that the government is doing something to maintain order — whether to control student riots, to bring an end to massive strikes and demonstrations, or to protect the people from acts of terror. While I was terrified to see so much visible weaponry, most people found the police presence reassuring.
Yet, how can you protect anyone on the street from a maniac behind the wheel of a van? From someone with a hammer or a knife who takes another by surprise? You can’t, of course, and that is why we must grow tougher. Learn to live with the threat. Keep calm and carry on.
Not immune. Not blasé. But tougher none the less.
‘Se blinder’ means to become used to a threat, to toughen up, thicken one’s skin. It also means to go on a bender, to get rip-roaring drunk.
In a weird way that makes sense. Either way, we are feeling less pain.
So what will it be: get tougher or get drunk?
Do you feel you have become ‘blindé’?
@”When I first came to France in 1986, Paris was the midst of a wave of terrorism.” – we were still living in Paris in 1986, and I do recall that “vague”… I was on the Champs-Elysées when a bomb exploded rue Marboeuf… 😦 so, in 2017, we do live une époque anxiogène, most of us try to stay “blindés”, hélas, as life goes on – with ups and downs…
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speaking of getting drunk, well, let’s (re)read Baudelaire’s famous poem:”Enivrez-vous!” 🙂
You are so right! The troubling times have been going on for a long time now. Perhaps Baudelaire’s drunkenness is the best antidote…thanks for reminding me. 🙂
Personally I never feel reassured seeing army in the streets, and I agree it is totally useless against the modern ways of terrorism . It is “de la poudre aux yeux”, a show for electors and progressively makes people find this normal, like cameras everywhere,”Pour votre sécurité”. But in your list putting terrorism beside strikes and demonstrations is weird .The way the French people fought against animality for a fairer society is a part of the civilisation process, while terrorists full of medieval beliefs financed by world finance masters criminals are exactly the opposite, like Trump, a return towards spiritual dark ages, but with a futurist technology .
You see, since the late 70s I saw France slowly losing what her people had fought for,and the best example is healthcare . Yesterday I learnt an old woman I knew died : she felt bad at 11.30, her friend called a doctor, then again, then the firemen who do emergency help, then the “SAMU”, then private ambulances, and at 4.30 PM she was taken to the hospital . Five hours in the same town as all these services . The result is she died at 6 PM .This never happened when I was a teen, before all successive governments started progressively downsizing public services and expenses for the finance criminals’ benefit . Thirty years ago I began saying France was on the way to Thirld Worldization, and look at this yesterday’s story . Fascism and terrorism cradle is misery of the masses, history in many countries shows that .
Your title is more suggestive than you think . For me the link between terrorist morons and world billionaires was always clear and what is funny is in French slang “blindé” also means filthy rich . From blindés in the Cayman Islands to blindés in the streets of Paris, an evocative shortcut …
Thanks Phil! Your comment is worthy of its own post, as usual. 😉 “De la poudre aux yeux.” Very true and a great expression. I suppose the reason I mention terror and demonstrations together is that the flip side of people on the street fighting for good causes is that sometimes the government acts against its own to restore order; not always justifiably. What a horrible story about that poor woman. It is sad that our healthcare services have come to that. I fear living outside of a big city has its own risks, and response time in emergencies is one. As for ‘blindé’, I am delighted to have inadvertently been more evocative than I imagined. Thanks for sussing that one out!
It was not a question of distance for this lady’s death, I told about this because it illustrates the barbarization of a once civilised country . In this “department capital” where she lived there is a big hospital, several cliniques, a huge firemen center, many doctors, several private ambulances . Doctors are less and less numerous and helpful plus they receive strong pressures from the Sécurité Sociale to trigger less expenses, the firemen answered they couldn’t do anymore as before because they had orders to reduce their health interventions to save money and the SAMU answered all their ambulances were busy . Normal since more and more poor people call them nowadays when 20 years ago they would have called a doctor . But there are now far less refunds from the “Sécu”, all is made to direct people to private insurances, and who cares for the subhumans who can’t afford it ? USA,USA, future of (in)humanity .
I just had an almost identical conversation with a new friend (old friend of husband) …. it is a travesty and a tragedy/
I haven’t yet become fully blinde. The deaths each time these animals strike still hurts, especially when they’re children. I do agree though that an armed presence on the streets of large cities can be reassuring and give us the stiff upper lip, carry on as normal attitude.But that’s all we can do really as no-one knows where they’ll strike again. At least they reduce their numbers each time as well. A few less false Muslims on the streets bringing a bad name to the real ones who are sick about the killing too. France has had more than it’s share now Mel, I hope you have a long period of calm.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
Thank you David! Heartfelt as ever, and generous too, as you in the UK have been so hard hit. I know you how you feel, as there is a difference to my reaction to the first news and my heart that swells when I see the pictures of these beautiful young faces that have been taken. So incredibly unfair! Warmest hugs right back to you.
I also remember the wave in the mid-’80s, and again in the mid-’90s. And attacks weren’t limited to France.
Phil makes a good point about fascism’s and terrorism’s cradle being the misery of the masses. I think some of the rejection of the West (ranging from greater religious fervor–which usually is completely benign, let me add–to the surge in wearing of the veil to extremist acts of terrorism) have a root in what was going on in many Arab countries: kleptocratic dictators kept a lid on religion and freedom of speech but allowed women more rights, and Western governments didn’t press too hard about human rights in general. The dictators got deposed (starting with Iran in 1979; see also Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria to the extent it’s an ongoing struggle). Instead of getting rid of the corrupt leader and advancing, there’s a doubling down against the previous regime, a broad dismantling beyond politics. You can see it now in the U.S., too. I recently heard an excellent podcast about how politics turn violent: http://www.wnyc.org/story/episode-5-politics-violent/
The anti-West backlash gets more fuel inside the West because of racism and classism, both of which make a mockery of the Western ideal of meritocracy. Most of the people who have been involved in the attacks have had criminal pasts–they had already rejected succeeding within the system (or had been rejected by it). I don’t believe for a minute that they were religiously motivated. They had chosen violence in order to gain glory because they couldn’t do it any other way.
Quite right. These are not acts of religion but of political hatred. Sadly there are currently a great number of disenchanted people who choose to live with the benefits of a society, yet also to attack it in the most completely negative hateful act imaginable. My answer: still not tough, I’m afraid, but indignant now and wanting to see the voice taken away from these lazy unimaginative monsters. Perhaps we should never have created the label ‘terrorism’ to cover certain acts of madness and murder – it’s all just murder, in whatever name
I couldn’t agree more. The term terrorism isn’t just overused, it allocates special status which isn’t necessarily merited. Every year 3500 women are murdered by their husband/partner in Europe, meanwhile only around 200 lose their lives to terrorism. How often do you hear about the women? It’s not breaking news, no special banners, no front page headlines. No proposition of special government task forces to work exclusively on the issue.
(In response to Posh and to Pink) Yes, it’s all murder, and hate, no matter what inspires it. How to remove the voice? If we stop calling it terrorism, ignore the so-called state that claims responsibility, will that lessen its power to hurt and destroy? It could work for ‘terrorism’ as the perpetrators are most often also suicidal, so what can motivate them if not the glory of having their cause publicly promoted? It’s a worthwhile thought. But for women killed at the hands of a partner? That number is shocking, all the more so because as you say it gets little press. And it’s insidious; we are surrounded by cases of domestic violence without even knowing it. A former colleague of mine is in prison for becoming one of those statistics — he was found knife in hand, half-dead from drugs and alcohol in a pool of his wife’s blood.
(In response to FranceTaste) Good analysis. The mix of the disenfranchised — socially, economically — and religious fervour, however misplaced, is especially toxic. Will listen to the podcast, thanks!
Yes, each period when the majority saw a possible present and future they never followed terrorism nor supported fascism, simple .
That’s just it. I flew to Liverpool a couple of days after the attacks in Manchester. Those that don’t know Britain … Manchester and Liverpool are yin to one another’s Yan, yan to the others yin … it’s a tale as old as time. I expected enhanced security, I expected a city in mourning but what I got was deep sadness but a collective no doubt that the only way is to keep going. London, a city I know very well from years of living and working there I assume is doing the same. And it goes all over the world. Every city dons its armour, every city fits it’s smile against the world. Every city is nonetheless scared, spooked but every city knows it can’t fight every shadow and it should not. The only way is to keep calm and carry on. The only way is to be a little more vigilant but not allow paranoia to seep in. The only way is to stand together shoulder to shoulder, arms linked, hands entwined with every man who doe s not want this. Just as it was in London in the 70s/80s when I first moved there … some things don’t change. Some things rely on our collective humanity to eventually overturn them. In the name of those lost or maimed.
Beautiful sentiments, Osyth. Fully echoed and resonating in my heart!
Interesting post as usual. I agree with do become somewhat immune to all of these attacks…but maybe we do need a certain “carapace” in order to survive listening to the news these days. Though I would still visit Paris & London without fear as otherwise the attackers wins in instilling fear in our routine…
By the way, you shouldn’t forget all of the other terrorists attacks in the Middle-East, Asia and Africa. I find that we tend to think of the attacks in Europe and the US as more important than the ones in Turkey, Iran, and various other countries in Africa and Asia. I am always dishearten that we seem to think that the life of an European is more valuable than the ones on the other continents…Part of it is the fault of the media who barely covers the other attacks and our fault for not caring enough about what is happening in other countries that are far from us. (Suzanne)
Thanks for your thoughts, Suzanne. You make an interesting point about the attacks elsewhere around the world. It is true that we (sitting in the ‘west’) tend to value lives lost here on a higher plane than those in the Middle East and beyond. It is hard to reconcile this attitude with the reality that people in countries like Syria, and so many others, face each day. Yet, I cannot pretend to understand those lives or write about them in this blog. Each human life is as innocent and equal on a moral scale, yet somehow it has to be viewed in a certain social-political-economic context. It is a thorny issue, and I don’t have the answers. But your point is well taken.
What everyone forgets or does not realize is that horrible, tragic events have been going on since the beginning of time.What has changed is that because of modern communication technology, a very competitive media, fighting for it’s life because of instant wordwide communication via the internet, we are instantly made aware of tragic events and the more horrible or larger the more newsworthy. I am not aware of any statistics but in my opinion the number of deaths today from tragic events of all types has not changed significantly over the years, they are just more frequently and swiftly reported.
As to the problems with France’s health care system lack of response to the old woman’s sickness, I would blame that on bureaucratic incompetence or fiefdom protection rather than service reductions for cost control. The money for those troops and tanks on the street has to come from somewhere.Government costs are out of control everywhere and something has to give.Unfortunitely there is little incentive for public organizations to improve efficiency.
Religion has to have an influence on suicide bombers and attackers. Without the rediculous promises of paradise for holy warriors their numbers would certainly be reduced.
I think you are right that atrocities and horrible acts have always existed, and that the instant access to information draws attention as never before, especially as seen through the media looking glass. But I look back to the childhood I had, and have no awareness of any threat that we could be killed by just going to a concert, or visiting a tourist site. Maybe it was there, but I was not aware of it.
I do agree that the infighting and protectionism between various service levels in healthcare is probably responsible for many an unnecessary death, and this needs to change. Our medical professionals need to be fairly paid but also they must take responsibility for delivering a level of care to all citizens. The lack of coordination among these different structures is appalling, but I’m hopeful that this can be fixed.
As for religion, you know my position on that: it is the root of many evils.
So for once, we agree! 😉
There has always been terror of one sort or another – the Spanish Inquisition/the Vikings/the local lord and his droit du seigneur/the IRA/the Blitz/the next village over, kept out by the fence around our village…those are just a few that spring to mind.
People have always been terrorised. I think the difference today is the 24-hour news cycle. When terror is in your face, all the time, it’s hard not to feel terrified. It’s why I don’t watch the news now. I have always been well-informed about current affairs but not anymore; it’s too bad for my mental health.
Going back and forth between the US and Europe, I’m always, always, always struck by the difference between the US reactions–“ooh, let’s trade our liberty for safety”–and the attitudes that I see in Europe, which are closer to “on vous emmerde, les terroristes,” “keep calm and…do something normal,” and the like. Where this American cravenness comes from, I don’t know…