On Paris, words failing and remembering

It’s like a horrible football match, teeing back and forth — you bomb us, we’ll take a plane; your drone gets lucky, we’ll go on a city-wide killing spree. The kind of night where you don’t want to go to bed, because you know the news will be worse when you wake up.

And then you try and join the dots between Paris and Beruit and Raqqa and Wembley, where a supporter of a paramilitary organisation addressed 60,000 people, apparently unconcerned by this fact…

And my thoughts go to, of all people, Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, and how words failed them, as their countries failed them, as their civilisation failed them, how they had to flee because they no longer fitted, their cosmopolitan dreams died at the fists of those who wanted systems more than elegance, control more than life. How the realisation that there was nowhere they could live, nowhere they could speak, eventually killed them.

And how lucky we are that this is so rare in our world, that we mostly die quietly of being old and tired of our world; rather than suddenly, randomly. This is what’s really meant by the world getting flat — being reminded that is as easy for ‘us’ to die unexpectedly as it is for ‘them’.

Turns out we’re all in an intifada. We just didn’t realise until now. But even intifadas end.

And amid all the hot takes about barbarians at the gate, the concealed carryists, the neo-colonialists and the never-could-quite-hide-it racists spouting off with a gleeful sorrow you can taste; the Californians lecturing us on what you can say right now; and — the majority — the pleas for calm and peace and for the pain to go away, it occurs to no one to think of the things that really matter.

That it’s not just good and bad. That we are in danger of forgetting that we have almost forgotten what we learnt 70, 100 years ago. Of silence, of power, of love.

Hunger, Fire, Harrumph.

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