Parisian youth inspire new French resistance
War and destruction are dominating the debate after the weekend’s attacks. But the diverse, lively youth of the city have responded with a strong, peaceful defiance. Are they right?
The bustling 11th arrondissement is home to what Parisians call ‘bobo’ — bourgeois bonhomie. It is bursting with stylish cafés, art galleries and vintage clothes shops. The area’s multicultural population teems with a youthful spirit, and sites such as the Place de la République have close ties to France’s revolutionary history.
But on Friday night, the peaceful district was plunged into terror by Islamic State. Men with assault rifles attacked restaurants, a suicide bomber hit the Café Voltaire, and scores of rock fans were mown down at the Bataclan concert hall.
There were six targets across the city, all cultural centres with young victims. ‘They struck at the heart of Paris,’ said one bartender.
Dr Louise Hefez, who survived an attack at Le Carillon Bar, admitted that she was ‘sure’ she would die. But when asked how she thinks of the killers, she was quietly defiant. ‘I want to resist the terror; I don’t want to live in a world where I am scared.’
While the police hunted for suspects, and politicians launched counter-attacks, the spirit of resistance emerged among the ordinary citizens of France. Those with spare bedrooms opened their doors to stranded victims using the hashtag #PorteOuverte. Dozens lined up to donate blood at hospitals. Outside the Bataclan, a man played John Lennon’s Imagine on a piano marked with a peace symbol.
That same symbol was merged with the Eiffel Tower by the artist Jean Jullien, and the design quickly became a way of expressing solidarity and sympathy for the people of Paris. Flowers and candles began to line the streets. ‘We are one’, said a handwritten sign alongside the tributes. ‘Peace for Paris’, said another. Then: ‘We weep but never fear’.
Young groups of friends repeated the sentiment, returning to the bars and outdoor terraces of the 11th Arrondissement on Saturday, despite a call for Parisians to remain indoors. ’We decided to come here on purpose to show that we are not afraid,’ said one man, ‘that we will not be cowed by terrorists.’
Vive la résistance
‘Peace for Paris’ is an admirable sentiment, but to refuse to fight force with force is desperately naive, some say. Of course Paris wants peace and liberty — but when that tranquil soul is under threat, it must fight back to protect itself.
But perhaps the youth of Paris has tapped into a real solution, insist others. Military responses have not worked in the past, and reacting in fear to Islamic State will only create divisions among society — and IS will recruit more adherents. Insisting on love and support is a radical response to an old problem — the next generation of Parisians must embrace their own unique joie de vivre to create a better society.
- Imagine you are living in Paris. How would you respond to the attacks at the weekend?
- Can there be a peaceful solution to Islamic State?
- Paris is renowned for its love of literature. Write a poem for the people of the city, offering comfort and inspiration during a troubled time.
- The French capital is no stranger to violence — earlier this year, it was shaken by the attack on the offices of its satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Choose a particularly difficult period of French history, and write a summary of the city’s response.
Some People Say...
“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”Mahatma Gandhi
What do you think?
Q & A
- How can I show my support?
- It is easy to share one of the symbols of solidarity for Paris on your own social media pages, and many Parisians have expressed gratitude for this outpouring of love. Perhaps even more worthwhile — and, possibly, more difficult — is to continue to celebrate the same joie de vivre that was targeted in Paris. Accept each other’s differences, take pleasure in the many freedoms you enjoy, and find the courage to show compassion for everyone around you.
- What will happen next in Paris?
- The French president Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency which could last months. But the life in the city goes on: the Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors yesterday afternoon, lit with the colours of the French flag.
- 11th arrondissement
- Paris is divided into 20 districts, known as arrondissements, beginning with the first in the very centre. They then spiral outwards in a clockwise direction.
- Place de la République
- The square was named after the Republic of France in 1879, a few decades after the French revolution. It is often the site of political demonstrations in the city.
- Islamic State
- The terrorist group — IS or Daesh — has claimed responsibility for killing more than 130 people, and injuring more than 350 on Friday 13 November.
- Café Voltaire
- Voltaire was a French enlightenment writer and philosopher, known for his attacks on the Catholic Church and fierce advocacy of free speech.
- While France was occupied by Germany from 1940-1944, a group of rebels known as the Resistance helped to provide assistance and intelligence to the Allies, at great risk to their own lives.
- The second verse of Lennon’s song calls on its listeners to: ‘Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people/Living life in peace.’