To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
Robert Louis Stevenson, El Dorado
Young Parisians are so French,
They love Patti Smith.
Adam & The Antz, Young Parisians
Paris. I booked before the events of Friday the 13th, and am not about to change them now, for better or worse. I leave today. An acquaintance of mine has just returned from the City of Lights, and tells me it has the air of an occupied city. Occupied by whom? I wondered silently. At present, with armed police and the military on the streets, we can only reply that it is occupied by the government. Perhaps this was always the aim.
Conspiracy theories now, with the blooming, swarming arrival of the internet, are ten a penny. The Jews, the space lizards, George Soros, the Illuminati, Bilderberg, the Freemasons, Common Core, the Jews again; many parties have a claim to be running history, hopefully all together, a big, happy evil family, from some Ian Flemingesque sunken island hideaway. But the people who are actually running history, or at least this chapter, are hidden in plain sight, like Poe’s purloined letter.
Let us grant that we are on the cusp of a global recession. With the apparatus of leveraging so extended, this type of slump would presumably dwarf the Great Depression of 1929. If we are, do we really believe that the elites aren’t aware of its imminence? And if they are so aware, can we honestly believe that they won’t wish to prepare for the consequences of this type of economic implosion? I think not.
We are often informed by government that if we don’t go about our business as usual just because the shadow of ISIS, as military Islam is called this month, hangs over us like the sword of Damocles, the terrorists will have won. But is it they who have won? The terrorists are here, in Paris and Brussels and London, perhaps Madrid, Rome and Stockholm, because those same informative governments have recently effected the first wave of what may turn out to be an Islamic reconquista, the age-old revanchist dream of Mussulman empire made real, and among whose vanguard our enemies – one of our enemies – are travelling. Cui bono?
I am staying a week in Montmartre, in the dix-huitieme, close to Sacré Coeur. It is a largely Muslim area. The governor of my local pub lived and worked in Paris for a decade. While he was jotting down a list of bars and restaurants for my perusal, and I told him where I was staying, he replied;
“You’ll be alright. They don’t bomb their own.”
So we see how politics really is beginning to creep into the quotidian. The whole place has a very Weimar feel about it just now.
Good cous-cous, was the opinion of a journalist friend of mine who has lived in Paris for many years, although not as long as the 35 years that have passed since last I saw him. We have arranged to meet, and he has promised we shall eat hare. I am unreasonably excited about this. Part of the point of my trip is to eat well, my own diet being unadventurous. The only time I have eaten hare it was disguised in a pie whose sauce was so rich I didn’t know if I was eating hare or horse.
The culture. Isn’t this supposed to be what the jihadi hates? The freedom, the democracy, the semi-clad women, the drugs, the gay scene, music? Note that the press went into overdrive for Brand Islam in the wake of the Parisian slaughter. Every effort was made to emphasise alleged hard drug use by the attackers, that one of them had frequented gay bars as a rent boy. You see? They really do share our values. They aren’t real Muslims at all.
I always feel a shudder when I hear David Cameron, or John Kerry, or Angela Merkel, or Francois Hollande, or Theresa May, assure us that various incidents have nothing to do with Islam. The founder of ISIS had a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. He claims every action of the waking day performed by a jihadi – which all Muslims should, must become – is guided by Islam and the Koran. Who can lay claim to expertise here?
I first went to Paris when I was eighteen. Myself and a friend ended up in a youth hostel after trying to get some nuns to take us in for the night. Their Christian charity did not extend to two British punk-wannabees with leather jackets. We met punks, in 1979, outside the Pompidou Centre, who took us to the banlieue to listen to Sham 69. We blagged our way into a Clash gig and spent the later evening getting pissed with them in their dressing-room. We visited a dance school that had been a Baader-Meinhoff safehouse. We blagged our way into a Dali exhibition in the Pompidou Centre, and I saw Dali. I looked up past an upside-down café, to a figure looking out over the balcony. The radio-antennae moustaches were a dead give-away. He must have seen me, too. We slept in a park when the money ran out.
Paris, then. I’ve passed through it many times since, en route au Sud, au Provençe. I was there a few months ago as a stop-off to Munich with my cronies The Flying Martini Brothers, aka (when we got to Munich) The Rolling Steins. But I haven’t spent time there for over a third of a century.
I am told that the international climate change knees-up is on Sunday and Monday, which is doubtless why I’ve had to pay a piratical sum for my ticket. The ultimate irony…
My journalist friend has put me on to a book about the Algerian War, and I must investigate further. There is a lot of scrabbling around for root causes with Islam. There are root causes, but they are not economic. They are historical.
Allez! A Paris!