Flowers of Mourning With so many deaths in the Middle East and now in Europe too, and more being planned as the clamour for military action grows, this is a time for mourning and for flowers, not just in Paris, but also in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Kabul and everywhere where this carnage spreads. Around us, here in Europe, we can sense the fear. The fear is not just individuals fearing that a jihadist might appear on the street and injure or kill one with a bomb or a bullet. It is more than that. It is the fear that things are getting worse. There is a widespread suspicion that the events in Paris will not be the last of their kind. Although many people are crying out for an escalation of the bombing in Syria, there are not many people who seem to seriously think that such a course will reduce the number of jihadists. It may change the way they operate. Their present leaders and heroes may get killed, but will that make future jihadist activity less or more? Many people are saying that the recent events are on a par with the 7/11 events in New York and that the response should be similar, but did that response then reduce jihadism? The present manifestation, in the form of IS, appears to be a more potent force than Al Qaida ever was and the Middle East is certainly no safer or in less chaos. Basically, that response failed and did a lot of damage in the process. Will more of the same do the trick now? It seems unlikely.

Seedbeds of Desperation There are currently three problems. One is the rise of IS in Syria. Another is the flood of refugees trying to enter Europe and the third is the bombings in Paris. These problems are related, but not always in the simplistic way that the media project. The events in Paris were not committed by new immigrants, nor by people coming to Paris from Damascus; they were committed by people coming from Brussels. Mostly these are second or third generation immigrants, born and brought up in a European city. Usually, when immigrants come from a poor country to a rich one they try to integrate into the culture of the host country. Their children do so even more. In this case, however, the opposite has happened. Instead of integrating more than their parents, these young people have become more alienated and vulnerable to seduction by militants  identified with an enemy of the country where they live and to which they should, by now, feel they belong. Something has gone wrong. Somehow, we have failed to absorb these youngsters in the normal way. Rather than easing their passage into becoming Europeans, we have driven them to desperation. Dropping bombs in the Middle East is not going to solve this problem. Greater efforts are needed to integrate existing settlers into European society and we must not make the same mistake with the new wave as we have evidently made with the last one. Promoting a wholesome sense of citizenship, opportunity and participation is vital.  Avoiding making the same mistakes all over again, however, is not going to be easy in the current climate of inter-communal hostility and suspicion that is, understandably, growing in Europe.

Flowers Once in a Different Cause At the same time as pondering these difficult questions, my mind also wanders back to earlier in my life when flowers symbolised love and peace and the idealism of young people was not recruited  to acts of hate, but to ones of spontaneity and delight in a widespread movement toward the creation of a more liberated society and culture. It has since become fashionable to ridicule that movement for its wild idealism, but is the present situation better? What does our money and status oriented society offer to alienated young people? Flower power became the slogan of resistance to militarism and, more constructively, of efforts to build a more communal, tolerant, counter-culture. All that was gradually lost as, on the one hand, political activism became sharper and more confrontational, and, on the other hand, the constructive aspects of the movement were largely subverted by consumerism or sapped by the drug culture. Nonetheless, they were heady and hopeful days. They say things go in cycles and, wistfully, I wonder if we might now be on the cusp of a new wave of idealism and the possibilities of a different kind of culture might start to bloom once again as sparks of light amidst the increasingly gloomy shadows of the deteriorating political situation. If this is more than a complete fantasy, then Eleusis will certainly be one of those sparks and one of those flowers.

New Flowers Of course, it such a renewal occurs it will not be for people of my age to dictate what form it shall take. With some perspective drawn from experience we may be able to contribute something, but the impetus, if it comes, will surely come from young people themselves. In every generation there are causes that attract youthful enthusiasm. Many years ago it was the enthusiasm to go and fight in the Spanish Civil War - mostly on the side that lost. Then that wave petered out with the rise of an even more deadly war all over Europe. Then, in the aftermath of that terrible conflict, a generation of hope was born. I was one of that generation. I am still hoping. There is, of course, a certain wisdom in abandoning hope and accepting the world as it is, come what may. I have learnt a little of that wisdom too, but one cannot completely abandon the sense that one was born for a purpose and that that purpose has something to do with creating the conditions for new flowers to grow and thrive and in this I don't think I am completely alone.

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Comment by Elja Stoel on November 24, 2015 at 22:35

Yes.... carefully take care of the flowers and weeds at Eleusis.... and sow new flowers... the wind will spread some seed to new places....


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A vous autres, hommes faibles et merveilleux

Qui mettez tant de grâce a vous retirer du jeu

Il faut qu'une main posée sur votre épaule

Vous pousse vers la vie, cette main tendre et légère

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