Faced with the barbaric terrorist acts that have destroyed the lives of so many people in Paris, our immediate reaction is to be completely shocked and experience immense pain. But we have to turn this response around. During all great trials, it is calmness and solidarity that allow us to rebuild, not displaying vengeance and resorting to violence. French people and other citizens of the world need to come together in goodwill, and not respond with fear. Together, we must envision constructive solutions to promote fundamental human values especially towards those who have been neglected, particularly with regard to their education.
Of course, faced with so much horror, we tend to think we have a moral right to enact vengeance. Not responding with a reprisal could be seen as a lack of concern for the victims. But, as Gandhi said, if we adhere to the law of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," the world would be full of blind and toothless people. We cannot stop hatred with violence.
Compassion allows us to express unlimited empathy for the victims and their loved ones and also permits us to free their spirits from being executed again by hatred and cruelty. We need to ask ourselves what series of events over the course of time led to this terrible situation. We have allowed nurseries of resentment to emerge where recruiters can provide young people with the illusion that meaning can be found in their lives through fanaticism and violence. This situation is also the result of inequalities that continue to grow between continents, states and at the core of each society. As one of the advisors to the White House recently told me, global inequality is one of the principal causes of global insecurity.
When the Americans left Afghanistan after the Carter administration, through their foreign spokesman Zbigniew Brzezinski they promised to reconstruct hospitals, mosques, schools and nothing was done. So many examples like this abound.
To prevent these kinds of aberrations, it is crucial to promote access to education, healthcare, respect for others and the equality of women. But we have, through inaction on these scores, helped to produce an alienation that favors a tilt toward extremism. And when the forest catches fire, we feel helpless. We now have to make up for lost time and act to prevent more chaos.
Resignation leads to discouragement and passivity. Resilience paired with fortitude will mobilize the necessary resources to transform adversity through wisdom and compassion. As for fear, we can surmount its power with cooperation and solidarity. A more altruistic society is also less vulnerable: people are much stronger working together than when isolated, frightened and suspicious. We will promote confidence through inclusiveness. But we will never achieve this if entire sectors of society are ignored and if populations are neglected, and history is not studied.
One source of hope comes from the evolutionary history of violence. We experience outbursts of horror, like the recent one in Paris, but globally, due to the progress of democracy, the elevated status of women, and the development of peaceful exchanges between countries, violence has declined around the world.
At this time, we should all heed the words of Martin Luther King: "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." We need to turn our minds to wishing and working towards the goal that hatred, cruelty, and intolerance may vanish from the hearts and minds of those who are under the influence of these inner poisons. There can be no outer disarmament without inner disarmament, no outer peace without inner peace.