Another horrific explosion wrecking the lives of scores of people forever. Another scene of devastation, loss and soul searching. As I type, 84 are dead, but with these things, many more will have been found to have lost their lives in Nice by the time the day is out.
On TV, radio and wretched social media, where significant political figures express their horror at the carnage in 140 characters or less, there is no attempt to make sense of what is going on. In the faux outrage and sorrow that spews forth, one key question seems to escape everyone’s lips.
Why does it always seem to be France?
The French cannot claim to have exclusive rights on having a large Muslim population. Britain, Switzerland, Spain and Germany all have sizeable numbers who follow the religion. The French cannot also claim to be the only one with a disenfranchised or impoverished Muslim population either. Nor that it was the centre of an empire that treated its colonies with contempt. And it certainly cannot claim to be the only one bombing Syria and it actively campaigned against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by the US and UK.
Yet, despite this, in the last 12 months there have been 15 attacks in the country in four years and the only state in Western Europe to have been repeatedly hit. This cannot be a coincidence and whilst all her Allies across the continent will stand shoulder to shoulder with their Gallic brethren surely the question must be raised about why them. For if there is an answer then there are ways to potentially stop more attacks.
For me, there are several key historical and social reasons why France is being stalked by death in this way. Historically, France was an utter bastard to its colonies. Places like Algeria suffered horrifically from barbaric treatment by the French who, just in that war alone, killed between 1-1.5million people. Where the UK quietly retreated from its empire, France fought tooth and nail to keep theirs. This devastating war lingers long in the memory of those who suffered and there has never been either contrition or sorrow by France for what it inflicted on these people, many of whom now live in districts across the country.
This inability for France and its people to accept that it was a pretty horrific country to live under for anyone that wasn’t white and French still remains in the culture today. The ghettos that have been created and the lack of integration between groups has fostered deep suspicion and hatred between faiths and races. Lob in the horrific poverty that many Muslims, second generation migrants and immigrants live in then there becomes a horrible recipe for hatred and fear.
Then there is the French long held belief that secularism is the key to integration of divergent communities. “Laïcité” as it is known, is a fundamental part of France for over a century – where state and religion are separate. This separation has led to the outlawing of public displays of religion – something that rankles deeply amongst devout religious communities who like to wear their religion with public pride. Again, this contrasts massively with the UK view of adopting a multicultural approach where there is a much more laissez faire approach to how you display your religion and your beliefs.
Then yes, there is Syria. Despite not going to war against Iraq or Afghanistan, France has now arrived at the war party and been a passionate bomber of Syrian Islamic State areas. If you cannot attack the planes that bomb you, where can you attack instead to get your revenge?
And the things is France has been the the one (along with Belgium) to be the ones who seem to treat Muslims worse than any other country. Combine historic colonial abuse of Muslim populations, today’s widespread domestic discrimination, ghettoisation and poverty, a fervent belief in secularisation and a heavy aerial bombardment of a radical Islamic enclave and factors together and you have a smouldering cocktail for why France, above all countries, will be the target for continual attacks of today’s barbaric nature. This is not to excuse what goes on, but try to understand, explain and eventually help solve the issue.
The sad problem is, no one dare look at the problem this way. Hollande cannot and dared not say or do anything that looks ‘weak’ – especially when the far right and Marie Le Pen are breathing down his neck and elections are next year. And none of France’s allies will whisper quietly in her ear to say ‘take a look in the mirror love, you might see the problem is staring you in the face’. Instead, there will be more harsh rhetoric, more revenge bombing that will lead to more fear, more hatred, more death and more terrorism.
No one, it seems ever wishes to learn.