I wouldn’t normally post something like this so soon after traumatic events, but in recent months I’ve been reflecting a lot on my past life as a peace studies researcher and its relevance to the world around us today. So I feel my personal contribution or response to the attacks in Paris should be grounded in that past, as much as in my human reaction to hearing that ordinary people have died.
For people trying to understand how and why the events in France happened/keep happening – we will all read and hear a lot of the same old arguments in the next few weeks. Very little of it will really give us the details about what fuels the decisions of the gunmen and suicide bombers. We will all be told that more money and military means should be applied to controlling the dangerous world around us. And frequently the narrative develops that if you try to understand the causes, you are excusing the actions of extremists.
Actually, understanding is the only hard, concrete, practical way to find an end to the cycle of violence. People who reject the idea of understanding in favour of condemnation and knee jerk reaction are preventing an effective response to security issues that affect ordinary people like us.
If you really want to get an appreciation of the context and some of the truly radical shifts we need to make to change our world together, look at Prof Paul Rogers writing at openDemocracy.net:
- His thoughts about the likely consequences of the escalation in air stikes – https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/airstrike-harvest
- His reflections after the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier in 2015 – https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/france%27s-trauma-hard-question
Or the book he published about 15 years ago that accurately predicts the kind of migration and extreme violent reactions we are seeing this year – “Losing Control – Third Edition: Global Security in the 21st Century”
None of this “excuses” the actions of people who kill ordinary innocent people, wherever they live in the world, Paris, Gaza, Israel, Syria, New York, London, Bali… but if we want to stop that happening, we need to act on the causes – the very complex multi-dimensional causes – not the symptoms. Or we will simply keep feeding and multiplying the conditions that create people who want to attack us. We can all do things to affect this – and they range from the Parisians opening their homes to stranded tourists, to those people creating local food, energy and trading systems to develop a more sustainable world, or finding ways for high tech to empower communities through a detailed but accessible understanding of the issues in their neighbourhoods so that they can have greater impact and leverage in the political system.