■ 17:45 (UTC±00:00), 16 NOV 2015 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON
What has happened on 13 November 2015 in Paris is certainly disconcerting. This is no way to enjoy the night late on Friday. Much as we are aware increasingly of the risk of attacks that “just happen” in the post-9/11 world, nobody expected things to — boom, just happen like that.
Obviously what happened in Paris is just dreadful — it is just so totally wrong when harmless, innocent lives are taken. The fact it happened just on the opposite side of the English Channel also meant it wasn’t too from home, here in London.
World reaction, though, was just one of outright sympathy. Every city that had a major landmark lit it to the colours of the French national flag. The countries closest to me did so as well. Just as of late, Bern donned its Federal Palace the French tricolour; the same happened in Shanghai with the Oriental Pearl Tower. The news from China, in particular, that they decided to join in this, was encouraging, because hitherto I had thought China to be rather ideologically removed from the rest of the world. But it is a positive sign that the country is being taken seriously as a key player on the world stage these days.
But what took my breath away was how this was done in London. I knew Wembley Stadium lit up in the colours of the French flag. But when I went closer to it, that famous slogan was visible as well — LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ. This was quite a moving moment. These were values that I, as a citizen of a direct democracy, hold dear and near to me as well, not just for myself, but to guarantee that others are guaranteed these rights as well.
To me, freedom is something that just has to be there. Here in Europe I’m afforded freedom of movement across much of the continent, and the freedom to work as well. As long as I don’t go flat broke, I can be in any European centre I want and nobody will stop me. I also enjoy freedom of speech, which is why this site is here, and I’m free to say anything under the Sun as long as I keep it rational — and legal. (That’s why you’ve laws! To keep everything in perfect order.)
I don’t have an Australian passport, but there is one aspect of equality that I totally subscribe to from the folks Down Under — the fair go. I believe everyone should be given a fair go on all things. If it’s not what you like, remember it and don’t do it again in future; if you love it, go whole hog for it. At least I can’t not let you give it a fair go. All students are given a fair go on just about everything.
I also find it crucial we start treating each other as brothers — as birds of the same feather. This could take any shape or form: from helping out people lost in the Tube, to giving generously. Some time back on Facebook, I had a “mini-brawl” with a fellow student from my junior high years about whether or not Britain was good for me, and if I should leave just because of the threat of the Brexit. But when it came down to the crucial moments where she needed help, I instantly gave her precisely the help and assistance she desired. This wasn’t anything new: in 2008, I gave very generously to the disaster relief fund during the Wenchuan Earthquake. During those times where “everything matters”, I always come out for folks in need.
This is why I see those attacks in France as something very serious. It’s not merely people, it’s also values. We’re not talking about political values, but much more about values for all of humanity. Freedom, equality, and being treated as “birds of the same feather” are no political luxuries. They should be afforded to one and all. And this is why, as a citizen of a country in the free world, I not only subscribe to them, but will guarantee them for all of humanity, regardless of where you’re from. ■ ■ ■