Grief, Phnom Penh and Paris

By Martín Guevara

A neighborhood street in Paris.
A neighborhood street in Paris.

HAVANA TIMES – Over the past few days, I have seen a growing number of people publish comments on social networks that criticize the indignation prompted by the terrorist attacks in Paris, claiming that those who express solidarity with the victims do not cover their Facebook profile pictures with Lebanese, Pakistani, Afghan, Iraqi or other flags the rest of the year.

In some cases, the epithets these people use are extremely aggressive, and, in their efforts to provoke those gripped by pain or moved by certain cultural norms, their verdicts include a thinly-veiled accusation of complicity with bomb-dropping imperialism and with the manufacturers of the weapons that were supplied to rogue nations.

I looked at the walls of acquaintances who, at this time, express anger at the condolences offered Paris and claim they are put off by the fact these aren’t offered every day, every minute, in view of the hundreds of thousands, the millions of hungry people and exploited children around the world.

To my surprise, I’ve been able to confirm that not one of them has ever published the flag or a distinctive symbol of those victimized countries, and that none have even mentioned those savage acts of cruelty before these days.

I don’t know about others and I can only speak for myself, but the solidarity towards Paris has to do, in my case, with early impressions that settled in my hypothalamus, from the time of my birth, one could say.

I come from a family that regarded the French Revolution and Paris Commune as the most important events of modern history, and I continue to regard them as such. We were also brought up under the canons of French culture, with some sprinkles of English customs and sports.

The US teachers that Sarmiento had brought to Argentina to modernize its educational system used a French methodology at school. Thanks to this, Argentina had one of the best educational systems in the world for a long time.

Paris was also the city where oppressive monarchs had been guillotined. Opposing the monarchy was a natural impulse in the Americas, but to do so in Europe and to give it a formal, social and lasting framework is something that astounds one to this day, particularly when one is exposed to cases such as Spain, and to the impunity and corruption that persist in the heart of the Crown.

There’s also the fact France was the most beautiful of all, a place where ethics and aesthetics went hand in hand. I have read twice as many French poets as those of any other nationality, including my own. Some, like Rousseau, inspired our independence fighters. Others, like Proust, offered our intellectuals their cannons, while Breton and Aragon impelled our Left, and Beauvoir and Sartre the entire progressive world. As the world unraveled the thought of Balzac and Victor Hugo, Verne and Dumas delighted adolescents and Saint Exupery captivated children. And, while Rabelais and Descartes accompanied thinkers, Artaud and Nerval were the faithful companion of the raving mad.

Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh

Paris is the city where the most tango is played and danced, after Buenos Aires and Montevideo (if Helsinki will forgive me for saying so), the city of streetlights that the neighborhoods of Pompeya and Barracas would kill to have, the city with the best cheeses and baguettes, the city of famous paintings, perfumes, of kisses at parks and sex on the landings of stairs.

And an extremely long list of etcetera’s.

Without the need to visit Paris, many of the values of rebelliousness, solidarity, equality and freedom, as well as comfort and good taste, had been reaching us for generations, thanks to the history of that city. Then came the next impact, when I got to know it in person, hear its language, spoken on the streets that admit of no other tongue, see it as something close to perfection, being exposed to its charms, its night, its afternoons and days, the freedom and culture one breathes there, the poetry…

The food, the wine, the fun, the good taste.

Hence, if the question is whether my cultural formation (or deformation) makes me experience the deaths in Paris more painfully than those in Bangladesh or Eritrea, the sincere answer is: of course it does.

In much the same way, I suffer more over the thirty-thousand killed in Argentina or the Cubans who die in the Strait of Florida, or the crazies or suicidal in Havana who kill themselves, than over the millions who were decapitated in Kampuchea, even though I accept that a million people killed represents something far more serious than the thousands of Argentine or Cubans dead – but I feel closer to the latter. I know it is but a fiction, a trick the brain plays on us, and I know the brutality in Kampuchea is greater…but I identify more with Argentina and with Cuba.

Now, the question I ask those who are upset because of our sorrow over Paris is this:

What should we do? Should we become mobilized in identical fashion in view of all deaths, be it our brothers or the members of a Mongolian nomadic tribe, and, if we can’t do this, should we desist from showing any sympathy for any death, as that would entail discrimination?

One would expect that those who are upset over the selective solidarity shown these countries would be waving the flags of many countries every day of the year, as an act of injustice occurs every instant in every corner of the planet. But, as I said before, none of the people who had negative reactions to these shows of solidarity expressed anything in connection to the other brutal acts – not one flag, not one comment.

I am reminded of some loud-mouthed lefties who were upset with Green Peace, because its members defended whales or polar bears, saying: “Who defends the children of Africa?”

Once, I asked one of these people: “Oh, so you’re fighting both for the children of Africa and the whales…”

“No,” he replied. So I asked: “Then, just for the children of Africa.”

He replied: “No, for neither.”

4 thoughts on “Grief, Phnom Penh and Paris

  • Bashir al -Assad is not a awfully elected leader. He inherited his position from his father who murdered his way into power through military coups.

  • Life is like a boomerang. Whatever you throw out at it, that is what will return to you. The West did not shed any tears when napalm bombs were dropped on the children of Vietnam; the world looked on and did not shed a tear or raised an objection to the bombs rained down on the people of Iraq who did not possess any weapons of mass destruction.The world uttered not a sigh or a word of condemnation when Ghadaffi and his sons were murdered because he refused to be a puppet of the West. Look at what is happening in Syria today? The lawfully elected Government is under attack because its leader has not submitted to the dictates of the Western countries but countries in the same Middle East whose inhabitants do not have the right to vote are called friends and allies. Russia, which has responded to the call of the Syrian Government and has bombed all who are bombing the Syrian Government has shown up the hypocrisy of the West when they charged the Russians of bombing their terrorists. Russia only sees terrorists who are fighting the Syrian Government. So, you see, America and France and England and Turkey and Saudi Arabia are supporting terrorists to overthrow the lawfully elected Government of Assad to impose upon the people of Syria, a Government which is subordinated to the West. It was the West which helped to form ISIS. America helped to form and armed a terrorist group to destroy the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, America has formed and armed many terrorist groups to overthrow Socialist Governments which were lawfully elected in order to protect the interest of a few rich people. The CIA has assassinated many world leaders who looked after the interest of the majority of the inhabitants of the country. America armed and supported Al Qaeda to fight the Russians when they were invited to Afghanistan to assist the Socialist Government of the day. America turned around and assassinated Bin Laden. In the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq, Saddam was supported by the Americans who provided logistics for Saddam; they armed Saddam and then turned around and murdered the same Saddam whom they supported. Look at Luis Posado the bomber of the Cubana Aircraft off the coast of Barbados in1976, killing all on board? Isn’t this terrorist bomber walking the streets of Florida a free man? All those hench men of Batista who murdered, raped, abducted under the Batista regime where did they flee to, isnt it America? Wasn’t it the same America which inflicted so many terrorist acts against the Cuban Revolution killing so many innocent inhabitants of the land? Was it not the CIA which trained Cuban terrorists on American soil to peform terrorist acts on Cuban soil? There is a LAW called the Law of Cause and Effect which says, “As you do unto others, so shall it be done unto you.” You can circumvent man made laws, but you cannot dodge this LAW for it is coming straight at you to exact its pound of flesh. You must face Judgement Day! My departed grandmother used to say, “You spit up in the air, it falls right back into your face.” The Bible says, “What you sow, is what you will reap.” We can all live together in peace and harmony with each other for we are sorely dependent upon each other for our survival. No man, no woman, no country, no island is a power unto themselves or itself. We need each other, so, why not let peace reign? My heart goes out to those who died in France, but I hope that this would be a clarion call for us the majority inhabitants of Planet Earth to wake up and let our voices be heard. The few who own the military industrial complexes in the world must not wage wars which cause we the innocent bystanders to face premature deaths. We have an inalienable right to life.

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself. You are definitely right, emagictman.

  • Guevara’s writings are ever more incoherent. What’s his point? Here, he throws together a stew of rotten and undercooked meats, the various undeveloped and disjointed themes of his essay. It there “machine translation” (Spanish to English) going on here? –or is it just the incoherence of his thought processes? The theme of his latest posts seems to be the hypocrisy of what he calls “loud mouth leftists.” Rather than engage in rational discourse, he prefers to retail in these charged epithets, so much like the other rightists which he seems to be in the process of becoming.

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