'We weep, but we never fear.' - A placard left in Paris. In memory of those that died.
I was planning to sit at home next weekend. I was planning to do nothing. After the events in Paris, however, I've decided to go to a pub. I'm going out. I don't know which pub, and I don't know who will accompany me, but I'm going out. Why? Well, to paraphrase the good Will Hunting, 'fuck them, that's why'. Who are they? They are terrorists and they want us to be afraid.
A terrorist is someone that causes or threatens violence against individuals that represent ideals they find objectionable. The intent of a terrorist is to spread anxiety amongst a population. They are supposed to scare us. The ideal that our present terrorists find objectionable is a tolerant and secular liberalism.
The terrorists find it abhorrent that we have democracy and freedom of expression. They find our tolerance disturbing and our individual liberties intolerable. In a statement claiming responsibility for the egregious attacks on Friday, the so-called Islamic State said: 'The soldiers of the Caliphate...set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe - Paris.' Assumedly, the prostitution and vice to which they refer is our shared culture of tolerance - social, religious, sexual, racial and so on. What they despise about Paris, therefore, is everything we hold dear.
Thus next weekend, in solidarity and defiance, I plan on listening to certain types of music, drinking far too much alcohol, accepting the choice of others not to drink alcohol, and remaining tolerant. I plan on generally exercising my personal liberty. This might seem like a somewhat inadequate counterattack to terrorism, but the act of defiance renders terrorists impotent. Defiance removes the power of terrorism.
The goal of the Islamic State is to frighten us. They want us to sit at home and worry. They want us to fear our neighbours. They want us to fight amongst ourselves. They seek to divide us. We must, therefore, use our individual power to fight back. Our fight exists in the continuity of our ideals.
Go out, drink or don't drink, be merry, talk with friends and converse with strangers. Remain tolerant towards folks from all walks of life. Listen and attempt to understand diverse opinions. Accept other religions, races, genders or sexualities. That tolerance separates us from the terrorist. They can't accept a way of life that differs from theirs. We can. Tolerance is defiance.
Certain folks in our society will choose another option. The far-right, for example, will suggest ridding our society of Islam. They will push draconian, oppressive measures to exploit the inexorable panic that such events hasten. This is a paradox in far-right political thought that always emerges following attacks of this nature. The far-right suggest division. They warn us that if we continue our culture of toleration then the terrorists will win. They are unaware that it is precisely our liberalism and our tolerance that terrorists seek to destroy. Destroying such tolerance, as the far-right suggest, is to award a minor but significant victory to terrorism. To hate another's way of life is to accept the terrorist's mentality, to absorb their callousness and to further their goals. Our tolerance, our solidarity and our defiance will rid these cowards of power.
So, this weekend, go to the pub. Drink booze. Don't drink booze. Accept another's choice either way. Ride the tube for the sake of it. Offer your seat. Help an old man cross the road. Put a quid in a homeless fella's cup. Show empathy. Show kindness. Never look down on another individual unless you're willing to pick them up. Pick them up. Don't judge. Offer a helping hand, not an iron fist. Hug those you love. Hug those you don't love. Hug those you've never met. Stick together. Support one another. Show solidarity. Be defiant. Be human. Don't let them win.