Last night was the first night of my summer holidays. It began will with an outdoor concert in the Iveagh Gardens, where my teenage dream band Pixies were playing a gig.
As a callow youth, I was was firmly ensconced in planet pop – Kylie; Madonna; Mel and Kim; Wham. But I had a ken for Pixies as well. I kept it fairly well hidden – I didn’t want people to think I was pretentious by liking an alternative rock band. But like them I did. Their music contained an element of rage and despair, which suited my teenage spirit perhaps? Pixies and Nirvana were my dirty little secret.
When the opportunity arose to see them I jumped at it. They split up in bitter acrimony over twenty years ago. But like so many bands, reunification becomes inevitable when middle aged rockers look at their pension plans, and realise that their youthful musical excess is what is going to keep them in comfort as the years tick by.
It was a wonderful concert. Almost like a twenty five year school reunion. All those people, in early middle age, flinging themselves about with gay abandon, to the soundtrack of their youth, while keeping an eye on their watches, to make sure to get home at a reasonable hour, to allow the babysitter get home at a reasonable time.
I got home buzzing, and switched on my Facebook, to be greeted by news of new atrocities in France. A lorry ploughed into a crowd of people at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice in the south of France, killing dozens. My heart sank. I turned off the computer and went to bed. Perhaps my motivations were selfish but I didn’t want to wallow in the utter carnage and horror that had taken place, in a beautiful part of France, during what was meant to be a celebration there.
This morning when I arose from my pit, I read some more. And it was heartbreaking. So utterly senseless and savage and unnecessary. I turned my computer off again.
I have a policy with these increasingly regular tales of despair to keep abreast of what has happened in a factual sense. But long ago I made a decision that I was not going to become a mouthpiece for any viewpoint which tries to analyse and diagnose what is wrong with the world.
Of course it is unimaginably devastating for the people affected and their families. But some internet warrior in a one bedroom flat in Dublin isn’t going to solve anything by screaming in the comments section on the internet.
I don’t understand why anyone would think murdering scores of people is something that is justifiable. I don’t know what the correct response to these atrocities is. I feel utterly useless when I read about them. Useless and helpless and very sad.
The theories are manifold. From the ‘this is as a direct result of the west’s involvement in Iraq and the middle east.’ To the ‘Islam is dangerous and murderous’. To the ‘Immigrants out, out, out’ cries of the more racist element of the Brexiters and the Front National and Donald Trump. Some of these theories may have some validity. Some of it is just blind, raging, senseless noise.
I have no idea what can be done to fix this seemingly broken and violent world. The attack in France is so horrific in that someone got into a truck with the specific intent of destroying lives. That doesn’t seem like something that can be predicted or prevented.
I don’t want people to die in such a horrible manner – whether it is in Nice or Baghdad, or Istanbul or Orlando, or Brussels or Bali. I don’t want to blame 20% of the world’s population for the actions of a handful of lunatics. I can’t see how ISIS or DAESH can be stopped, as it is not controlling these attacks – it seems to be lone wolves or lone cells who are adopting this twisted ideology and bringing catastrophe to the countries in which they live. I don’t think that military action is a suitable response. I don’t see how Donald Trump or UKIP or the Front National gaining power and introducing martial law is going to defuse or prevent these situations.
I understand why people will change their profile picture to a French flag to express in their own way, their solidarity with a country they love and identify with. Personally I have always loved France – having lived there for six months when I was eighteen. To a boy from Limerick, the sight of Paris, with Eiffel Tower gleaming over the city in the dark of night will always be magical.
I know that other people also feel despair and helplessness. I have no solutions. Just a feeling of sadness and horror when I see the pictures or read the names of the slain.
I don’t know what can be done to fix this. Absolutely no idea.
But I do know that I can still visit France or Istanbul on a holiday. I can still go to my local Pakistani barber shop and get a 6.99 euro haircut – I’m just back in fact. I will still attend large public events where crowds gather. I will not blame ‘the foreigner.’ I will not be afraid of terrorism. I will try to treat people with respect. I will rock out to Pixies at a summer gig.
There doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do.