On this glorious first week of the year, it is worth considering who it is that won the day yesterday, in the 11e Arrondissement in France, so that we may stop them from winning the days and weeks and months and years and decades ahead, or at the very least not join them in their orgiastic banquet, which, rubbing their hands with a broad, satisfied grin, they are already making ready for.
For this sombre celebration, I will borrow the words of a great Author, Romain Gary, who spent his life fighting this battle, as a self-described “champion of the world”, and described these old enemies of humanity in 1962.
Meet the monkey gods:
First comes Totoche, the god of Stupidity, with his scarlet monkey’s behind, the swollen head of a doctrinaire and a passionate love for abstractions; he’s always been the Germans’ pet, but today he prospers almost everywhere, always ready to oblige; he is now devoting himself more and more to pure research and technology, and can be seen frequently grinning over the shoulders of our scientists; with each nuclear explosion his grin gets wider and wider and his shadow looms larger over the earth; his favourite trick is to hide his stupidity under the guise of scientific genius, and to enlist support among our great men to ensure our own destruction.
Then there is Merzavka, the god of Absolute Truth and Total Righteousness, the lord of all true believers and bigots; whip in hand, a Cossack’s fur cap over one eye, he stands knee-deep in a heap of corpses, the eldest of our lords and masters, since time immemorial the most respected and obeyed; since the dawn of history he had us killed, tortured and oppressed in the name of Absolute Truth, Religious Truth, Political Truth, Moral Truth; always with a capital T raised high above our heads, like a scaffold. One half of the human race obsequiously licks his boots, and this causes him immense amusement, for well he knows that there is no such thing as absolute truth, the oldest trick to goad us into slavery or to drive us at each other’s throats, and even as I write these words, I can hear above the barking of the seals and the cries of the cormorants the sound of his triumphant laughter rolling toward me from the other end of the earth, so loud that even my brother the ocean cannot raise his voice above it.
Then there is Filoche, the god of Mediocrity, full of bilious scorn and rabid prejudice, of hatred and petulance, screaming at the top of his voice: “You dirty Jew! You nigger! Jap! Down with the Yankees! Kill the yellow rats! Wipe out capitalists! Imperialists! Communists!” – lover of holy wars, a Great Inquisitor, who is always there to pull the rope at a lynching, to command a firing squad, and the most eagerly listened to; he is to be found in every political camp, from right to left, lurking behind every cause, behind every ideal, always present, rubbing his hands whenever a dream of human dignity is stamped into the mud.
Yesterday, then, was clearly a resounding victory for Filoche (with some help from his brother Merzavka). And as the events of the coming weeks unfold, other champions of the world might remember that no matter whether the “terrorists” are caught, whether or not this law or that law is passed or rejected, whatever glorious or vile articles, comments, tweets and words of wit are written or spoken in response, whether anyone distinguishes themselves with their humanity or lack thereof in these sad circumstances, the only one who has won this day is the monkey god Filoche, who has succeeded in sullying all of us, wherever we are, whatever we do, whatever we dream, whatever we achieve, whatever we strive for.
This is the genius of the beast in us: when it wins, everyone loses, just as much those who think they won the day as those who feel hurt and aggrieved. Its genius is to lower what is good and worthwhile and human in all of us without distinction, to throw mud and shit into the face of humanity wherever it stands, and then sit back and watch as we do its work of rubbing it on ourselves.
What to do then? Don’t join the monkey gods.
Realise that reactions of hatred, however justified, however rationalised, only consolidate Filoche’s victory (and perhaps call out to his brother Totoche to join the fun). This is true whichever “side” you’re on. The beast is on all sides and in all of us. Don’t feed it, at least within you and those around you.
Do not join the ranks of their followers on all political, religious and ideological sides.
Continue to be, do, dream, achieve and strive, and live, a champion of the world – that is also within you, along with the beast.