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DW2 It’s still too confused to think clearly but herewith early thoughts on the events of last night.

Atrocities committed by guns seem almost old fashioned and preferable to that which happened last night in Nice. Guns belong on the other side of a legal divide. We can simply discount them, if we so wish, because they hard to get and the getting of them usually involves shady blackmarket deals with individuals who are themselves shady and so very blackmarket. That a terrorist can use a truck to kill 84 people beckons us to another reality. ‘What next?’ we are right to ask and the truth is that we simply don’t know. And it’s that not knowing that makes Nice particularly frightening.

9/11 was another such moment when a thing of modern everyday life was turned on us but there is an order of scale between an airliner and a truck. That a truck can kill this many people makes for a shocking statistic. Yet the reality is that in a violent world, there’s very little that can’t be turned into a weapon. Cavemen used bones and sticks. Start from there and work your way through the whole of human history and there’s little invented that can’t be used to kill.

It’s too easy, then, to say Nice was a ‘tragedy’. Tragedies involve something that wasn’t designed or of human making. Atrocities are not tragedies. They are atrocities. There is a reason why our language has two words to describe two different types of terrible event.

A tragedy is being born in the wrong time or place, with a condition that affects some innocent life. A tragedy is a stroke of bad luck and the only bad luck was that of the people caught up in this outrage. Yet, perhaps, even to say it was ‘bad luck’ is itself to misrepresent it. Those people should have been in the right place at the right time. To say otherwise means admitting that there is nowhere where we should gather and think ourselves safe. We should not give the terrorists the advantage by suggesting that gathering together to celebrate Bastille Day was bad luck. It wasn’t bad luck. It was a deliberate assault on normality. It was the theft of a state of mind that should be natural to all of us: safety in numbers, social order, and even civilisation itself.

The problem is that we all live with a very insular view of reality. The world was always capable of such atrocities and it always will be. The world hasn’t changed, merely out perception of the world. Nice involves a momentary shift in perception but it’s noticeable how quickly the false reality snaps back.

One moment stood out in the hours of coverage last night. On Sky News a witness to the attack spoke at length. Perhaps she was allowed to speak too long in the gap that always occurs between the story breaking and proper information emerging. The woman found herself searching for things to say. At one point her self-awareness seemed to disappear and she made an unguarded comment. She said, to paraphrase, that the atrocity had ruined what had been a nice day of shopping and she had no interest in the lovely things she had bought.

The instinctive reaction was the reaction that erupted on social media. The woman was being called out for ‘first world’ privilege. Yet, with hindsight, it wasn’t the witness who was suffering a problem of perspective but they people who went to Twitter to abuse her. Not being in the heart of the atrocity, they could speak and think like rational people viewing the event through the lens of their false reality.  In the heart of the moral storm, nothing can or does make sense. Shock makes us do and say the most terrible things. Really, it is first world privilege to not realise this and to respond accordingly.

A day later, then, it makes no sense to say simply that it was a tragedy or a crime or even that we should think of Nice. That again is to bracket the events and treat them as being discontiguous from the reality that surrounds us. Nice was and is a facet of the totality and each of our realities is part of the reality of Nice. That’s not just to mean that you or I could have been part of the events but that we all share a responsibility for finding a solution and the best way, as always, is to begin here with calm words and some serious reflection.




7 Comments on "Some words on Nice"

  1. i am glad you have written something David. Like you I am trying to make sense of the senseless. 9/11 saw Aeroplanes used as instruments of Murder and Mass casualties, 7/7 saw the underground and buses used to the same effect, Madrid it was trains and in Israel they have used Cars as weapons and now tragically in Nice a Lorry has been used to randomly mow down 84 innocent people some of whom are Children. France has been here before in 2014 Islamic Fundamentalists ran over 21 people in Nantes and Dijon. I concur with Mudar Zahran the Secretary General of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition who said today. “There is no such thing as “a lone wolf” in terror; behind each terrorist is a community that tolerates radicalism; incites and oppresses reformists.”

    It is those who use language that incite others who poison our World and their words of hate and division lead to acts of barbaric murder. This is the evil ideology that values death and not life that has to be defeated. It is in my view wrong for the Prime Minister of France to allegedly say “France has to learn to live with terrorism” Surely no country has to learn to live with terrorism and the whole civilized world has to work together and recognize this is all our problem.

    All I feel is that we cannot every time there is an atrocity just light candles, lower our flags and hold vigils and remember the dead. How many more have to die and suffer before this Evil is rooted out and destroyed. Too many have died at the hands of those who are Evil Cowards. The Civilised World needs a joint plan of action and to say enough is enough we can no longer stand by and see our people slaughtered by Lorries, Cars, Planes, and Trains or gunned down on beaches restaurants or in shopping Malls. Brussels, London, Madrid, Tunisia, Tel-Aviv Boston Istanbul Orlando Jerusalem etc. etc. . . . . There is a common theme here. It is a problem for the whole of the civilised world.

  2. Peter Kennedy | 15th July 2016 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    The attack in Nice has demonstrated an unfortunate fact that no politicians are willing to admit, that it is impossible to protect members of the public against a random act of terrorism. After 9/11 sharp objects were banned on board aircraft, after Richard Reid we are forced to take off our shoes so that they can be x-rayed. Cameras take pictures in the street, telephone calls are monitored, Internet activity is recorded and yet, still, there are senseless killings. What next? Will they ban trucks from city centres or will everyone who gets behind something bigger than a Fiesta be forced to have a background check?

    Eventually this will backfire. The object of terrorism is to terrorise yet I am not terrified, I am angry, and I am not the only one. My anger is not directed towards the Muslim population, I have Muslim friends and, to a man, they are all decent law abiding people who regard the events of yesterday with horror. No, my anger is because of the closed borders, the security & surveillance and the loss of personal liberty forced on us by governments who are unable to defend us from random acts of murder.

    Find a new way to fight this, because what we are doing now is not working.

  3. Lesley Lubert | 15th July 2016 at 5:37 pm | Reply

    In the time of Hitler, trains were used to transport millions of people to the gas chambers. I doubt many guns were needed to kill these terrified people.
    Fear is the over-riding emotion which prevents people fighting back. I often wondered how a few mad men can cause such horrific atrocities. What if the masses had fought back, history would have no doubt looked different.
    Now we are faced with a very different kind of terrorism. A creeping kind of cancer, one you cannot see until it is too late, that is the danger.

    We are unable to stop events like this happening.

    One, and perhaps the only solution is to deal with it where it emanates from.

    Until we have peace in the middle East, and people can return to their countries, homes and villages this will not stop.

    In the past we have acted when we shouldn’t and not acted when we should. We are now afraid to do the right thing for being accused of doing the wrong thing.

    Pandora’s box has been opened and it cannot be closed again.

  4. I agree with Peter and the sentiments expressed by him up to the last sentence, “we” for me is the UK not France. In the UK since 2007 there has been one person killed by islamic terrorists, Lee Rigby. To put that into context, more people have been killed by lightning in the UK in that same time period. That suggests that our security forces are doing a damned good job of identifying and preventing threats from materialising into incidents.

    There are lots of calls to do something but beyond an intelligence led approach to detection, anti-radicalisation initiatives and trying to get the muslim community on board what can be done without making the problem worse?.

    France has a big problem not only with the effectiveness of their anti-terrorism effort and their porous borders but with the way they interact with what is a considerably larger muslim community than we have here in the UK. The French police have poor relations with this community and French government policy serves only to stoke up the hornets nest with measures such as banning veils in public.

    It is interesting to see once again how our media handles a major attack that kills French people compared to one that kills non europeans, 292 people killed in the Baghdad bombing on 3rd July and 181 people killed in terrorist attacks in Turkey this year with relatively scant coverage.

  5. Firstly I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the families of the victims. Yet another terror attack carried out by a citizen of a European country where a certain % of the population doesn’t exactly believe in the democratic values of their new home.

    I agree that it’s very difficult for the security services to identify “lone wolf” attacks in advance though presenting the perpetrator of the Nice atrocity as such, when he had so much weaponry in the truck, is questionable.

    I also agree with those who say that we must continue our celebrations, our holidays, our mundane activities as usual because that is our way to combat such extremists. I just have one question to the French security services – considering the recent history in the country didn’t anyone believe that such an attack was a possibility? Why was the truck allowed to park there without inspection? Why wasn’t the area closed off to all traffic during the Bastille Day celebrations? Perhaps he could have been stopped with more accurate police work.

    The use of vehicles as weapons is hardly new and has been happening in Israel for a long time. Of course the world press ignores these attacks, considing them “justified” because of the political conflict. The appalling incitement carried out by the Palestinian government has been largely ignored by the EU and others.

    As someone so rightly said – attacks in Baghdad, Turkey, Pakistan and on a smaller scale in Israel are hardly mentioned in the media. Apparently some blood has less value than others.

  6. Perhaps people calling this a tragedy evoke an older sense: the one involving fatal flaws of human character.

    • Maybe that’s true but even in Shakespearean tragedy the flaw was usually something determined from the beginning: Hamlet’s indecision, Macbeth’s fate sealed by the witches, even Othello’s otherness which he could not escape. In the modern sense, I think ‘tragedy’ is a word like ‘evil’ that’s used too often as a way of pushing problems into the deep grass. Label something as a tragedy means almost the same as making it an ‘act of the Gods’ or something we needn’t think too deeply about because it is out of our hands.

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