It is exam time in France. Students should not think of anything but revising their notes from the past semester. Yet, it is hard to concentrate in Paris right now.
The past days have shown the presence of hatred rooted so deep in certain people’s minds that it must make one pause to reflect upon what we stand for in what so many a citizen with a bad memory likes to call the “civilized west”. Mind you, we have had our share of atrocities and barbarism here in the west and pointing fingers now at certain cultures seems ill-fitting given the history of this continent.
However, Europe and with it all of its like-minded countries (I am thinking here foremost but not exclusively of all of North America, most of South America, Australia and New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.) has undergone an evolution of philosophy and values within the past 300 years that could not be greater.
We found ourselves now upon values that we hold to be necessary in order to give each individual the possibility to develop in whatever way he sees fit and to reach his potential. We no longer see opposition and differences of opinion as a threat, but as a chance. We applaud the culture of dispute for in the confrontation of ideas we see the path to new, exhilarating ideas that may shape the future for the better. We have learned that criticism of however great an idea is almost always justified and improvement almost always possible. No single person holds the truth alone, but in letting individuals develop their talents and in letting them think for themselves, we foster a society that compliments each other, where everyone can do what they love and thus excel in the most. We believe that in the end all of society profits from this distribution of roles that everyone has to find for themselves.
At the moment, we are fighting a war like none other before. No territory is off limits, attacks can be years apart, danger is somehow always imminent, the enemy is not a certain government but rather an idea, or the negation thereof. After the horrible events that were 9/11, the world we live in has changed considerably. The term a “turning point in history” therefore seems completely justified. Security has all of a sudden become our main concern, although security from what exactly, no one seems to know. Controls in airports have been increased, security cameras are being installed in public areas, privacy is trampled upon in the name of security. In my opinion, this has been exactly the thing we should not have done. Fear-mongering is the trade of terrorists, their name itself suggest that what they want to evoke in us is terror. Letting this fear get to us and decimating our own liberties in the name of security means the victory is theirs.
I therefore strongly urge everybody to carry on as they have done. Not pre-Paris, but even pre-9/11. Changing your ways because some people incapable of embracing cultural diversity and the multitude of opinions in this world commit acts of terror, helps these people achieve their goals. The minute you think twice about saying what you want to say, the minute you hesitate to go somewhere out of fear, our values are under attack.
I would therefore like to conclude with Benjamin Franklin who stated: “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”
My sincere condolences to all victims of terror, hatred, racism, sexism and bigotry.
Let’s defend our values in the only way we can: by expressing ourselves freely no matter what anyone else thinks of us!