Can Europe maintain hope of a free, open society? Nous sommes Charlie!
The aim of the Islamist terrorists who committed murder yesterday in Paris is clear: This is their attempt to contribute toward the introduction of a regime that will decide what we can laugh at, what we must believe, how we are to behave, how we are to dress... and what we are to hate. Such a regime is based on contempt for minorities, on fear, inequality, and punishment.
This is an attempt to destroy precisely those values that Europe considers her own. It is an attempt to destroy the hope of what Europe can still be, that it will once again become a good place for life.
Naturally such a regime is not the invention of Islamist fanatics and terrorists. Europe knows this very well from her own history already.
In the fight for the Good, for Truth, millions of people have died in Europe and thanks to Europe. They have died from the Crusades to the Second World War, in concentration camps, gas chambers, and gulags, in Srebrenica and Ukraine.
The critics of present-day Europe say we are once again sowing death around the world. They say that here at home it is no longer calm, dignified, pleasant - no longer a good place for life.
Europe is doubtless in crisis, in many respects. Nevertheless, something persists here which, in today's world, looks more and more like a miracle: An effort to build and maintain a free, open, peaceful society not governed by fanaticism or ideology, whose politics is based on the dialogue between various interests, on respect for minorities and other cultures and values, and on the inviolability of the individual.
Is this effort being steamrolled by the interests of banking capital, corporations, soldiers and stupid politicians? Does it come up against the unclear concept of the European Union, the economic crisis and the problematic euro?
Does this effort not know how to deal with changes in the outside world, with immigrants, with the clash of superpowers? Is it grappling with growing inequality, racism, unemployment and xenophobia?
Yes, these are all real problems of contemporary Europe. However, Europeans doubtless still have several options for attempting to address their surrender.
A new novel has just come out in France by Michel Houellebecq predicting a clash between Muslims and the ultra-right, with the Muslims ultimately victorious. The introduction of Islamic law, or of an ultra-right defense against Islamization, are two options that will lead to the destruction of European values and to restrictions on freedom.
Of course, neither of those options is completely unrealistic when we look at the next decade. This is not just a matter for a fantasy novel.
The third option is to preserve hope. In that sense, the response of the Norwegians to the crazed attack and mass murder by Anders Breivik in the summer of 2011 was pure genius.
On a square in Oslo, 200 000 people gathered after the attack with roses in their hands and promised each other that the solution is not to succumb to fear, the introduction of a police state, panic or suspicion. The only solution is for people to remain just as open and tolerant as they were before the attack.
They are attempting to preserve what they call "the most cultivated democracy" in the world. Is it still possible?
Will the French succeed in this, after Wednesday's attack? Will we?
It definitely is worth trying. We express our sincere condolences to our French colleagues and their loved ones - Nous sommes Charlie!
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