Yes, all lives matter. Hold everything dear.
Maha gives important expression to this hugely important idea of human solidarity. When I experience joy, sorrow, grief, trauma, it is the same kind of thing that other people – in very different situations – experience across the globe. Of course, the expression of joy, sorrow, grief and trauma are culturally mediated and thereby culturally differentiated. But when I experience intense suffering, it is the same feeling – the same complexity of response – that others feel. My trauma is no different from yours – or anybody else’s – in most of the ways that really matter. I am never isolated – privileged – in my suffering. We are united in our human fragility.
The appalling and unimaginable suffering inflicted upon the people of France must be acknowledged. But we also have to acknowledge that others have suffered: in particular, those who have endured air attacks from the West that have undoubtedly destroyed civilian lives and families. When I look at the carnage on the streets of Paris, I see also other streets where the dead and maimed lie unacknowledged. And then I find it impossible not to make a connection between that failure of acknowledgement – and respect – and what happens on the streets of Paris.
Like Maha, I have no easy solutions. But I do think that whatever solutions may – or may not – be found to our global self-inflicted suffering resides in our capacity to seek to understand. Doctors heal – and they have their Hippocratic Oath to guide them; but teachers also have a Socratic Oath which demands that under all circumstances we seek to understand and to encourage understanding. Under the current circumstances that injunction is of supreme importance.
The poet W.H. Auden had a lovely line: ‘We must love one another or die’. Rather more mundanely, I suggest that we must understand one another or die.