Out and about on dull errands in drizzly unfestive England today, I thought back to last weekend when I was in Paris.
The Dickens line, ‘a tale of two cities’ has never seemed so accurate.
Paris has always been my quick getaway for me time to reboot. I’ve never taken for granted the miracle that is Eurostar, to hop on a train in London avoiding airport mayhem and arrive in the centre of Paris in less time than it can take to get to Newcastle. I’ve even been known to go for the day, where a few hours tricking my senses with different food, streets and sights can make me feel like I’ve had a fortnight a million miles from home.
How different these two Capitals have always felt from each other, and now more than ever after the recent killings in Paris.
After a peaceful, relaxing and invigorating weekend we arrived back at Gare du Nord on Sunday night and as I wandered off to buy last minute bonbons for the journey, I caught sight of the news stand and it somehow summed up the difference in attitudes.
Le Journal du Dimanche urging us to act on climate change and next to it the British Press going with fear, and bombing other countries. What a contrast.
Trouble strikes, one side respond with global understanding and the other with disproportionate hatred and fear. Bizarrely, the side seemingly unaffected are the most reactionary.
The French in Paris seemed more concerned with hosting COP21 and the very real impact that climate change has on our global safety. Even I will admit as somewhat of a republican that Prince Charles’ comments on Syria and how problems there have been exacerbated by climate change are a real wake up call to the world. Everything in our world is connected and to separate issues undermines the effect.
Seeing Parisians out and about with placards about the environment was beautiful , it showed a real mind shift in how humans are interacting and reacting for the benefit of our future.
Yes Paris was quieter than usual perhaps. Or was I merely imagining it?
More astonishingly I missed the usual Parisian snooty eye rolling at my terrible French and I suddenly realised how ‘nice’ everyone was being. I asked my companion, was I imagining that too? No, they really did seem more jovial, friendly and dare I say it, even funny!
Must it always take something terrible to make people be kind to each other? Maybe that is no bad thing. We all need a wake up call or a rock bottom sometimes to realise what is truly important.
Neither me nor my companion watch or read mainstream news, thankfully we are both amongst a growing number of aware individuals who rely on actual news and self awareness to be truthfully informed and live in reality.
Perhaps if the masses were less indoctrinated about the supposed risks of radicalisation and more aware of the real hystericalisation by the media and their governments they would feel less fearful and be more content.
Before we left for Paris, naturally we had heard there had been killings and the heightened security, but we did not dwell on mawkish unnecessary detail or morbid analysing. We decided to leave some time for checking in at Eurostar but felt no more worry than for any other endeavour. Only when we returned did we even delve into the fact we stayed so close to the arrondissement which had seen the worst of the murders.
My trip definitely showed up the dichotomy which has taken on new extreme forms.
Some people asked what I was up to on the weekend and I would say,’ oh a lovely trip to Paris, I have been invited to see the ballet La Bayadère at the Paris Opera House and I’ve never been’.
‘Oh’, they would reply, ‘how lovely, you deserve a break, hope the weather is nice for you’!
Those people are like me and my travel companion, aware and fully informed. Informed by truth, not propaganda. To be self aware is to be world aware and have a grasp of reality as it really is without subjective labels.
Others would look shocked and say, ‘Really? Paris? Now? You will be careful won’t you’?
I found the latter charmingly odd, but nonetheless sad. To be so fearful , to be so enslaved by propaganda is by its very nature a curtailing of ones freedom and joy.
When people tell me they are going to the USA, I may inwardly think many things, but I would never dream of telling them to be careful despite the fact people are shot en masse there like it is a national hobby, in schools, cinemas, or basically anywhere there are any humans. Are we to assume a war on the USA is imminent?
Nowhere is inherently dangerous. Our own minds are the real potential danger zones.
George Orwell in ‘Down and Out in Paris and London‘ rightly wrote,
You just got to say to yourself, “I’m a free man in here” – he tapped his forehead – “and you’re all right.
It is clearer than ever, this divergence of extremes, clear common sense, foresight and compassion versus unfounded fear is the only real conflict that faces humanity, but is perhaps the most challenging.
It is easier for many to be fooled and live in ignorance than to admit they have been duped for so long and so openly by those they trust. But it is no flaw to have been lied to, the only flaw is to keep believing in the face of that truth and acting accordingly.
Some of the bizarre comments that I have heard or been told after the Paris episode have stunned even my unshockable mind.
White middle class twentysomethings telling me they were nervous to get on the London Tube because a Muslim was on there. How one can know the religious thoughts of a stranger by just looking at them would be amusing if it wasn’t actually being done in all seriousness. So called liberals cancelling going to public outdoor activities because ‘someone might do something’.
Now, as anyone who understands the basics of the law of like attracting like, of course ‘something’ will happen if you keep talking about and willing it on. Whether that ‘something’ is good or bad is up to us.
The week that the Paris killings happened, a teenager stabbed another teenager to death in Liverpool, a bomb killed dozens in Beirut. Countless other heinous misdeammonurs took place, human against human. Unspeakable cruelty to animals, children and the environment happened the very same day as it does everyday. But these deaths and acts were not deemed as important or even mainstream newsworthy.
Is this a numbers game? No, it is a labels game.
When you find inner peace and self awareness you see possibilities where others see problems. You see truth amidst lies like they are written in bright neon letters jumping out at you. If we all concentrate on awakening ourselves and those around us, we see that the fake allies are the ones to take a step back from, and the so called enemies are the ones to attend and listen to. It is all a matter of shifting perception. And we all know deep down, perception is made up and impermanent. The opinions yesterday are debunked as the ones today become old hat. We all know what is essentially right. Whether we adhere to it is quite another topic.
If the news had told people, a madman went on a rampage and killed people in Paris it would be a sad tragic event, and all our thoughts would be for the families of the dead. Some more enlightened types might feel compassion for the madman, how sad he must have been to feel so much anger. What was his motive? How could we learn from this?
But because humans use language to make distinctions of killings, some human deaths can be classed as more important than others. Killing German citizens in Dresden was for the war effort, executing despotic leaders or criminals is for the greater good, killing well known figures is assassination, organised killings based on a quest that others may not approve of are acts of terror. They are all just perceptions and labels for killing but how you differentiate, shape entire public opinion.
Until people can order their own minds to be self aware enough to know truth from lie, it is left to the propaganda machines dressed as mainstream media to shape that weak will. To condition the weak and impressionable to be fearful and hateful is a stain on true democracy. To train and educate everyone to know their own minds, and fact from fiction is the mark of civilisation.
How ironic to see the Tricolore flying outside peoples’ windows in the UK and on social media profiles. The idea that one nationalistic tendency was terrorism, but flying flags showing nationalism of another kind is solidarity and compassion. Labels when broken down would be hilarious if the implications weren’t so traumatic.
As a regular visitor to Paris, I know only too well how segregated the city is. How the white bourgeoisie in the centre live their lives emulating the many French films I grew up on. Queuing up for their Banette government regulated baguettes at the same times everyday like they were taught in school. Nothing changes, and that is the beauty and the beast of life. The ethnic ghettos on the outskirts are no go areas with people undoubtedly feeling marginalised and disliked. Even my French friends admit that the French are by and large incredibly racist. This is not a judgement, it is an observation. In their defence, their culture is conservative and rigid and for many, life just is the way it has always been and always will be, and it goes unchecked. To ignore this very obvious fact in light of what happened is missing the point completely. Racism fuels terror, both are based on fear and misunderstanding, but both can be fought with compassion and understanding. Not by taking up camps with Team France or Team Terror.
All those people on social media who thought flag flying showed they care misses the point of unity. It is not about them and us, these false divisions are what have got us into turmoil in the first place.
Visiting Paris and spending money, chatting to people, being nice, being normal, that is what solidarity is. Getting on with life, acting as if nothing has happened. Because be honest, that is how people will act when their reset their profiles and delete the little flags and forget it ever happened. Life continues, and it is only if you let your attention deficit mind get distracted by the next horror that you have in effect learnt nothing, and things will not change for the better. Ever.
I don’t need to read any made up bio of ‘wicked terrorists’ to know whether true or not, what lies in the heart of any killer, whatever their label, is hurt, anguish, isolation and fear.
Is the best way to combat fear with fear? Hate with hate? Even the phrase ‘fighting the war on terror’ is using language which only perpetuates violence.
As Einstein is often quoted,
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
The British hate the French. It is a national pastime for both countries to make fun of the other in sport, politics and culture. When was the last time you saw a British PM and French President co-operate properly on anything?
Watching the sweet but absurd British football fans mumble La Marseillaise when we all know they want to sing crude things about the ‘frogs’ is grotesque inauthenticity. Compassion is for life, not just for high days and horrors.
Yet suddenly a knee jerk reaction of faux solidarity was formed which my optimistic pro EU friends deem as the start of better relations, but in reality forms an apparently legitimate basis to start a conflict in a country which has no real baring on the situation. And is also no more than selfish concern about the UK rather than love for France.
Yesterday we were welcoming Syrian refugees with no idea what is happening for them in their country. Today we bomb the country with no actual enemy in sight, no strategy and no clear real concrete justification. If we take a basic human premise that only killing in immediate self defence is legitimate. Where does this leave us?
In Paris we had not witnessed huge numbers of police in any of the central areas, we had not had our bags checked in every shop, church or building we looked in. Apart from a cursory peering into my handbag as we went to the Opera Bastille and much the same when we went to the Montparnasse Tower all seemed like the usual sedate Paris.
As I braved the cold gusty wind and gazed out over the city from its tallest building, I wondered how London could be so different in the approach to life. Looking at the orderly skyline and wide expanse of blue sky it is in sharp contrast to London nowadays. Perhaps if we were to adopt any Frenchism for now it would be the liberté, egalité, fraternité maxim. The French while good at the liberté part, might also want to refresh their minds on the other two. If we want to stand shoulder to shoulder we need to practice what we preach.
Passing through Kent on the way back to St. Pancras a friend texted to ask about the ‘hoards’ of police and the ‘chaos’ in Paris. I told him to stop watching the news and look at my photos. Did they look like apocalyptic chaos or descent into revolutionary unrest to him?
When we see with our own eyes, and with our own minds, we know the truth.
It is most telling, that the USA seems to have more personal development gurus, whistleblowers and truth-sayers than most. A country with an overt history for celebrating ignorance and brainwashing is making great efforts to redress the balance and this should be applauded. The mind is like a radio, all crackly picking up different stations, when all that is needed is to fine tune and focus, then all is clear.
With a globally connected 24/7 world information can travel at the speed of light. That is its blessing and its curse.
Lies can indeed circulate widely as fact, but truth is also more visible and accessible than ever before.
We are a lucky and blessed generation but are currently like children given a beautiful Fabergé egg and playing humpty dumpty with it. Only when we can learn to hold it and marvel at the beautiful creation in our grasp can we truly appreciate and get the most out of it.