On last week’s episode of The News Quiz Extra, Jeremy Hardy, one of the comedians on the show, was commenting on the fact that people’s stories about their holidays are boring if the said people had a good time. He indicated that being taken hostage or involved in a terrorist situation is much more likely to engage your audience because good holiday stories are boring. I paraphrase. You can listen here. It’s a comment that has more poignancy now.
Please do not think for one moment that I am “having a go” at Jeremy Hardy. His was a comment made at a time before the events occurred in Paris but after numerous other incidences in which holiday makers have been caught up in terrorist attacks – the one they are discussing on the show being the Russia airliner seemingly brought down by a terrorist bomb. It’s just that listening to him speak actually began to give me the framework upon which to hang these words. Up until listening to him talk I had nothing. Before the events in Paris I had a few things I wanted to talk about. They all seem secondary at the moment. They are all matters of import to me: John Key’s continued arseness, The idiocy of people watching Jeremy Corbyn during the Armistice Parade. The upcoming tour of music venues by Prince and a piano. The fury evident in much of New Zealand’s grassroots music scene. They all weigh heavily with me but they all appeared to be … formless … in the wake of events in Paris.
In 2001 I was in HMV when a chap received a text on his mobile phone and he turned to the man at his side and said, “A plane’s flown into a building in America.” That was all. This Saturday, I was driving a minibus back from cricket and the radio said “social media has gone into meltdown over events in Paris. We’ll keep you up to date with news as we receive it…” and then it went back to music. It was only once I had got back home and switched on talk-radio that I learned of what was occurring. I had no words. My mate said his daughter had asked him why these men were doing this. He said he had replied, “I don’t know.” He asked what else he could say. Exactly. What could he say?
When you think back over the major terrorist attacks that have struck The West – and I stress that strongly – since 2001 you have…? Madrid and London – attacks on commerce (the commute), Paris – Charlie Hebdo; and, the murder or attempted murder of film makers/journalists in The Netherlands and in Denmark – attack on free speech; The shootings at a Jewish school in Southern France – religion, and the murder of Lee Rigby, in London – the killing of a soldier. These all appear to have a purpose…if my daughter was to ask me why these attacks happened, I would be able to say “well…” Do you know what I mean? (And please excuse me if my sloppy brain and research has omitted any other attack)
Against this, of course, you have the countless, countless (and largely unreported/unrecognised) attacks across the Middle East, Africa and Asia (except when it involves holiday destinations like Bali/Egypt and there are Western casualties) which are arbitrary/barbaric/callous/specific/thoughtful/random and hateful which fall into this second category the West is now realising. The attack in Tunisia against a holiday resort, these attacks in Paris against sport, dining and music. They are without meaning. They cannot be explained in any rational way. They are arbitrary/callous/specific/thoughtful/random and hateful. They leave one feeling without words.
You want to rail against the subject. You want to scream defiance. You want to look this in the eye and demand “why?” – and expect a response. One of the victims of the Paris attacks wrote that the killer didn’t speak, that their eyes said everything. I would want to compel them to explain their eyes. I would want them to explain the killing of a concert crowd, of a sports’ fan, of a family out dining….or of a father and child out at a market. I would like to hear the words they use. I would like to hear the rhetoric and the argument. I don’t think for a moment that I would be able to reason with them. I don’t believe I would be able to convince them of their folly. I don’t think that with reasoned argument and witty repartee I would be able to undo the indoctrination. I would just like to actually hear the words come out of the mouth of the 20 year old, the 30 year old, the 40 year old who believes this is an act of goodness. … Not that anything good would come if it.
Stephen Fry wrote about the three most powerful words in language. Three words. It’s from one of the articles in his Paperweight book. He writes about an episode of Star Trek and the three words are not “I love you”, as you may imagine but are in fact, “please, help me.” It’s about hope, you see. If things are hopeless, well … and today, for much of today, things have felt hopeless. I’m wondering whether Jeremy Hardy’s words will help to … ‘heal’ isn’t the right word … that his words will help me cope with what’s happened in Paris. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I still come to the evening with a sense of despondency hanging over me.
Perhaps for all this 999-odd of them, I’m still without words.
I do have these words:
Before there is a backlash, do take the time to remember every religious atrocity committed in the name of the god you are most familiar with/attend a church for/most identify with and then shut the fuck up and sit back down.