Amid the horror, the blood, the anxiety that have now gripped Paris, one single decision lacerates the soul as a fragile, pathetic, emotional confession of impotence: the French frontiers have been closed. A small police gesture that suspends centuries of conquest by the largest freedom of movement made in modern times, spreading out to the world starting from France itself, the France of individual rights: the right to move freely through the world. A small police gesture, the likes of which we can only remember being applied in Europe during the World Wars.
Reduced to its essence, beyond the violence and fear, the latest act of terrorism that has struck Paris can effectively be told through this small, single measure.
We can all close our doors, hide in our houses, do our best to control our own territory in order to identify and strike those attacking us; but those who attack us are already here. They are men and women with legal passports to our country, men and women who grew up here, or who gained access by blending in with thousands of victims, immigrants fleeing the terrorist violence that has gripped their own homelands. These men and women know everything about Schengen, about Europe, about our customs and habits, the places we love to go on vacation, the bars, restaurants and cinemas or dance halls where we spend our evenings and weekends. And they look just like us: they dress and act like us.
This way they don't even have to wear masks. Nor do the need to organize major undertakings like the attack on the Twin Towers. All they need is to be given or buy a submachine gun, then walk out onto the street and take the life away from someone who is drinking a coffee. All they need is a friend at the airport. Or a little bit of explosive so they can blow themselves up in the most crowded spot they can find.
This is the new brand of terrorism into which ISIS, or whatever you want to call them, has evolved. These are no longer lone wolves, but they're not big organizations either. They are rather small groups, with light, simple organizations, determined to kill as many people as they can and die doing so -- simply showing up wherever they can find the highest number of victims.
The kind of operation we saw in Paris is the same kind we've seen for months. We've seen the same combination over and over again. Young people with machine guns, nothing covering their faces, walking out and killing whoever they encounter on the sidewalks of Paris, are the same ones we saw on the beach in Egypt, shooting at tourists in bathing suits, or at tourists in Bardo National Museum in Tunisia. Simple explosives loaded by anonymous hands onto a Russian plane that exploded over Sinai are the same explosives that the kamikazes brought on their bodies into a sports stadium in Paris. Small groups, quick steps, already dead before they begin shooting, just like those who attacked Charlie Hebdo.
It's an extraordinary evolution in terrorism, compared to the massive operations that Osama Bin Laden dreamt of.
Extremely dangerous evolutions, because when all was said and done, Osama thought and planned like a military tactician, and was as a consequence somehow identifiable and combatable. This new breed of terrorism is simply a massive flow without any physical definition, an underground river that emerges and disappears because it is already inside our society, as well as outside, borderless, devoid of structure, devoid of even the most basic desire to live and reproduce.
It is the most dangerous form of organization we have yet encountered. And it is all an almost exclusively European phenomenon: because its roots are here; it has studied here, in European schools; and because in the end it is here that this terrorism will discharge all its hate.
The Third World War, whether you want to believe it or not, is already underway. It is accelerating, and Europe is its theater. The Old Continent, as they call us, has once again become the most dangerous place in the West. We must be ready for anything.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.