In the last years Paris has become the second most important city in my life, after Luxembourg. I’ve been there for business trips, networking, shopping, opera & art, visiting friends, romantic weekends (often all of the above in one go). When I was younger, hungrier and not so picky, I preferred London (similar to many-many Russians), it represented everything you could do or have with your hard-earned money. As if London was telling me at the time “no matter, who you are or where you come from, when you are successful and smart, here is a place to play hard, come over – enjoy it”.
Then I began slowly gravitating towards Paris. If you have lots of money, it does not automatically mean, you’d enjoy Paris. In fact, wealthy tourists complain about Paris all the time. As strange as it sounds, Paris is very much an acquired taste, like oysters, sushi or, maybe, carpaccio. It takes a while to fall in love with it and appreciate all the subtle details, tones, shades and expressions of a Parisian life. Paris taught me a lot about my personality – the food I enjoy the most (cheese and wine), my style aspirations (finding the right balance between simple, comfort and luxury), how I learn (by admiring), where is my stimulation (intellectual challenge and sophisticated debates) or when I sometimes try to fake what I’m really not (agent provocateur).
That’s why I’m so offended and angry about what’s happened at Charlie Hebdo, not only because of the attack, but also how some people push the blame back on the journalists for being provocative or insensitive, as if they almost deserved what happened and should have known better.
The history of humankind produced plenty of great, vulgar and tasteless cartoons, movies or pamphlets featuring presidents, celebrities, gods, Popes and all sorts of holy caws. You don’t like it or don’t approve – just don’t look. Or better yet – look, appreciate why it’s there, widen your perspective, and move on. That’s what a true Parisian would do with Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Almost like Conchita Wurst or Marcel Duchamp phenomena – trying to learn from something you wouldn’t do yourself. True tolerance is not in approving others, it is supposed to be inwards looking, working on your own limitations, overcoming your own fears and stereotypes.
Before we moved to Finland from Russia many years ago, I’d never met a black person or a gay person or even a vegetarian. I’ve never tried oysters or mexican food. Here, I met people, made friends, studied, traveled, worked, tried new foods and evolved. I’ve never felt that Europe owes me anything (well, they could have spent my tax money a bit wiser, no doubt about that, but it’s a purely financial matter). I do believe in tolerance, but I hate how some people are trying to twist it. Tolerance cannot be about forgiving the other person and taking the blame, because you think this is more honorable. That’s called stupidity.
In fact, I think European judicial system is way too soft, and extremists are abusing it. My biggest fear is that the police would catch the suspects responsible for the Paris attack, then some human rights lawyers would argue that those guys due to their unprivileged background and poor upbringing had no other choice in life and the society should have helped them better and therefore there is no guilt, so they would go to prison for a couple of years then get back and plot their next attack. And every extremist in the world would think that Europe is weak and stupid. It’s true that tolerance and critical thinking and freedom of speech are important values. But so is the power of justice. There are very stringent laws and heavy punishment for terrorist attacks. I so much hope these laws would be applied.