Amongst humanity’s many crimes, failure to ingrain tolerance at the foundations of society must sit the highest. The despicable acts of the men responsible for yesterday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris have provoked the worldwide fury, shock and grief that should accompany every loss of human life at the hands of another, but which is often lost in a world desensitised to tragedy. Caught in the excitement of battle, politicians, media outlets and civilians alike climb over one another to stand tallest in defence of our hard-earned civil liberties, calling out a defiant cry; the unwavering right of the braying mob.
As Europe shakes in anger at such a shameful mark against the freedoms that we hold dear, it is important not to lose sight of the failing that we ourselves are all guilty of. Political scapegoating has been exploited since the advent of human interaction, used by majorities to dismiss hardships as the stain of minority groups since the beginning of time. It is an evil that we have born witness to repeatedly, the work of which has disgusted and hurt us as much as any other affliction known to man. And yet it is an evil that we sustain, repeating the mistakes of our scarred past again and again and again.
It is vital to stress that this attack was representative of nothing more than the twisted and distorted minds of those behind the triggers; a catastrophic misinterpretation of an ideology too complex and open to be held accountable for the countless horrors that are attached to its name. This attack was the result of deranged ideology, and yet we seek to align it with religious factions as if it is Islam itself that is poisonous.
The last ten years have seen Europe shell-shocked by global financial crisis, failing to deal with the fear and desperation that it yields, and making little efforts to confront the intolerance and contempt that such feelings of helplessness give rise to. As UKIP leader and man of the oppressed majority Nigel Farage today so recklessly spoke of a ‘gross policy of multiculturalism’, he poignantly symbolised the attitudes that perpetuate social unrest, ignorance and extremism in modern society, promoting secularity, tribal instinct and the hatred that provide deranged opportunists with armies of misfits to fuel their wars.
When grieving for those who have lost their lives to this extremist attack, we should take a moment to remember that they are victims not just of extremist ideology, but of the fundamental societal failings that feed it. We must celebrate cultural diversity just as we celebrate freedom of speech. We must fight for cultural acceptance just as we must fight for human rights. Too much blood has been shed this week, let us not spill more.