Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Symbolism – Friday 13 November 2015

Yesterday a friend asked me to be careful that day. She told me it was Friday the 13th. I hadn’t realised yet but replied that this was mere superstition. Yesterday evening I enjoyed a great concert in Amsterdam with my brother. On my way back home I turned on the radio and I realised immediately that something was wrong. While driving it became clear that there was panic in the streets of Paris.

The symbolism of yesterday’s event is sinister. On Friday the 13th, while enjoying a concert of The Eagles of Death Metal, some 100 people were killed, either by their hostage takers or by the police while setting them free. Apparently, dozens are critically wounded. At about 5 other locations in Paris more people were killed. That night, the French President declared a ‘state of emergency’ (FT).

The symbolism will also be clear to the Arab refugees that fled to Europe for safety. They were basically told that “you can check-out any time you like but that you can never leave” (The Eagles – Hotel California). While back home, I briefly worried for the safety of N+Y who live near/in Paris. However, the thought that their father would never let them attend such a concert relaxed me again.

On the radio I also heard a French political scientist telling that an “incident” had been expected for two weeks, that the public had been warned, and that safety measures had been further increased. I suppose a generic warning does not really alter your behaviour. Would I have skipped the concert of Brazilian singer Ed Motta? Don’t think so. In my risk analysis that location would have been labeled ‘low risk’. A concert of The Eagles of Death Metal would classify as ‘high risk’ but I am not a fan.

I suppose the terrorists will be young people, brainwashed by elders. Young people are so eager to take sides in conflicts. I still recall how Y was taking sides in religious and political affairs while knowing so little about history and its context. It always reminds me of the famous saying by Dutch poet C. Buddingh’ (1918-1985): Inspraak zonder inzicht leidt tot uitspraak zonder uitzicht. In English it would sound like “empty vessels make the most noise” or “students should be seen but not heard”.

When the dust of last night’s events has settled, we will hear several people proposing measures that fit in the category ‘gesture politics’ (NL: symboolpolitiek): any ​action by a ​person or ​organisation done for ​political ​reasons and ​intended to ​attract ​public ​attention but having little ​real ​effect (source). 

There is an effective solution though and it’s called ’employment’. Unfortunately, France ranks high on youth unemployment – although fully in line with (the high) EU average (Eurostat table). Being a liberal at heart (though not in the US meaning), I have become cynical about the attitude of politics towards unemployment. Basically, left-wing politicians benefit from unemployed voters. Right-wing politicians are more likely to benefit in elections from creating jobs. Hence, (youth) unemployment and left-wing governments go hand-in-hand. 
The alleged bombing of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 that killed all 224 people on board, will cause havoc on Egyptian tourism, similar to the destruction of Kenyan tourism by Al-Shabaab (QZ). Destabilising economies and then governments is a main goal of terrorism as unemployment is a key source for new terrorist recruitment. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe that is already destabilising the EU, may even help the Russian President to bring Russia closer to its former allies in Eastern Europe once again (source).

There’s no smoke (= symbolism) without fire. Even when it’s a smoke screen.


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