At the n+1 website, the ever insightful Pankaj Mishra examines the Western press's bellicose, self-flattering responses to the Paris attacks, which seem to dispense entirely with history, if not reality. An excerpt:
Now, as the wars of the Middle East bleed across Europe, the maniacal cries of “Allahu Akbar” are met by a louder drumbeat of “Western values” and confidence-building invocations of the West’s apparent quintessence, such as the Enlightenment. Yet again, as Sontag warned, “the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality.” Many writers and journalists have chosen to man the barricades of cosmopolitan sensuousness against the barbarians. Rejecting the popular hashtag #prayforParis, a former Charlie Hebdo illustrator claimed on Instagram that “our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy!” His old magazine later crowned the numerous odes to Parisian joie de vivre on its front page: “They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne.”
Such proclamations, which make it seem as if bourgeois amenity is available to all in the West, oddly match the outbursts of adolescent jihadists about western “decadence.” Meant to console and fortify, they also obfuscate. The West, or even Paris, is obviously too complex and varied to be signified by the Enlightenment or the Holocaust, let alone Dom Pérignon. The most stalwart ally of vehemently secular France in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, a fundamentalist theocracy: the true parent of ISIS. And the hapless civilians of Raqqa, fully exposed to a flailing president’s machismo, know too well that the French have weapons as well as champagne.
Fourteen years after September 11, the reality-concealing rhetoric of Westernism participates in a race to extremes with its ideological twin, in an escalated dialectic of bombing from the air and slaughter on the ground. It grows more aggressive in proportion to the spread of the non-West’s chaos to the West, and also blends faster into a white supremacist hatred of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims (and, often, those who just “look” Muslim). Even more menacingly, it postpones the moment of self-reckoning and course-correction among Euro-American elites who seem to have led us, a century after the First World War, into another uncontrollable and extensive conflagration.
Image via n+1