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  • Katia Campbell & Camille Gelb

A non-journalistic perspective on the Paris attacks

Moyan Brenn, 2010

Photograph: Flickr / Moyan Brenn

If you think this is going to be one of many other articles on the Paris attacks, well, think again, because what we want to do is to give you an insight on why and how it has affected us and our daily lives more than anything else before it.

This article has been written from a French young adult’s perspective by Katia Campbell, 18, and Camille Gelb, 19, both part-time Parisians, part-time Warwick Politics students. We both have families in Paris, friends in the 10th arrondissement, favourite restaurants next to the Place de la République, and our favourite spot on the Canal St Martin. We have seen our friends perform in the Bataclan. We have chilled at the terrace of the Carillon and chanted “IÇI C’EST PARIS” at the Stade de France, which probably explains why this tragic event has affected us more than anything else this year.

After these attacks, contrary to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, we feel unsafe walking down our own streets, taking the tube, going to the mall, going to the cinema, and even hearing an innocent bang from children playing. These attacks were not only perpetrated upon our city, but on our culture and our way of life. The ‘Spectator Sport Warfare Theory’ – which supposes that for the West, war is a distant concept that we only witness through the lenses of our TV screens, desensitising our perceptions and limiting our grasp of the horror of war – is no longer valid.

130 people died that night, with another 368 injured, but it could have been absolutely anyone. From Camille’s brother who lives five minutes away from the Bataclan, to her football fan friend who was at the Stade de France, or Katia’s friend whose family owns the Petit Cambodge… It could have been, and actually was, anyone. And then some people call us hypocrites for changing our profile pictures to the French flag.

Of course, a Lebanese life is as important as a French life. Of course, the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria are just as horrifying, but we cannot help the fact that these attacks move us more than anything else happening further away. In our opinion, it is also understandable that European capitals show support to Paris as this tragedy directly affects the security of Europe as a whole. Indeed, it matters because the Schengen Area has worked so hard to abolish frontiers between European countries. Although the Schengen Area has its benefits, notably economic ones, it has ultimately degraded the overall level of European intelligence recoverable, as it makes it more difficult to control and monitor the wanderings of potentially dangerous people. As a matter of fact, there is little to stop a weapon from being transported from Belgium to France.

So yes, you could say that ISIS has partially achieved its aims. We are scared, the atmosphere is gloomy, and Parisians are even ruder than usual. Overall, the general mood has changed but there is no courage without fear. To them Paris might be “the capital of abomination and perversion” but to us, even when burning, Paris remains the city of love, the city of lights, and the capital of joie de vivre.

Fluctuat Nec Mergitur – tossed by the waves, but does not sink.

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