We have twice rented apartments in rue Amelot. That's a street that runs at the back of the Bataclan Theatre. It's also only a couple of streets from the former Charlie Hebdo offices which were attacked in January. Last time we were in the area was in early February this year, soon after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. We were very moved to see the great piles of flowers and messages at several sites in the streets, where people had left tokens of their support and sorrow at the events.
The Bataclan Theatre in February 2015.
Now this area has once again been the ground on which the members of a cult have shown themselves for what they are. Killers, willing to die themselves and completely lacking in human understanding of community or freedom. I can't identify with these people at all. Their cause seems nihilistic, not sacred, and designed to concentrate power in the hands of a few megalomaniacs. The perpetrators of the violence come across as pawns, their victims randomly and tragically unlucky.
The Cirque d'hiver, which served as a first aid station in the early hours of 14 November.
I suspect the terrorists are young, lack self esteem, are often intelligent but easily influenced by emotional arguments. They clearly see no real future for themselves and so are willing to die for a cause they have been carefully groomed to see as glorious. Once that grooming process is underway it is incredibly difficult to rehabilitate these people. All over the world we need to somehow let them know that they do not need to go down the route of extremism and that violent death is not glorious.
The monument in the Place de la République, which today sports a banner made by locals which says 'J'être humain'.
There is much criticism of organised religion, especially Islam, being bandied about, but I think we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am not attracted to organised religion myself, but those involved are not necessarily bad or stupid people. Often quite the opposite. I was relieved to see that many senior Muslim figures have unequivocally condemned the killings and disassociated themselves and their religion from the event. That has not always happened in the past when similar events have taken place.
Unfortunately the way of the moderate is not glamorous, not loud, not dramatic enough to hold the attention of some bored hot-blooded passionately politically minded youngsters. We need to be very careful to try to direct that passion positively, for good, and to demonstrate how much we value our young people and their ideas and energy. Above all we need to work to create situations where young people can be meaningfully involved in their communities and the wider world. The media, teachers and the authorities are particularly important for setting the tone, but we all need to support them (and let them know we are watching). It can be hard and seem pointless, but I don't know how else we end the violence.
********************************A State of Emergency has been declared France wide. The prefecture has created a Crisis Unit and departmental security has been stepped up. Special temporary exhibitions have not been closed, but bags will be searched on entry and jackets must be removed. Police and security patrols have been increased around exhibitions, stations, shopping centres and places of worship. The public have been asked to avoid spontaneous gatherings in the street, apart from the officially sanctioned gathering to support the victims of the attack at 6.30 pm in Tours. Cultural venues and sporting facilities have been closed for the weekend, games and events cancelled. Some public libraries are closed.