I keep getting emails from concerned friends in the United States asking me if I am “safe” or other words that translate to words very similar in meaning to that word of warm certainty : “safe”. Apparently the reason is that, to the American world, the French world is going up in flames.
To these concerned friends I have given a fairly consistently similar answer: “We Parisians just don’t give a shit”.
Which is true. Life is going on here in pretty much the same manner as it always has, that manner having been so beguiling to me that a significant amount of my paltry net worth continues to be spent to allow me to periodically don the mantle of being a resident of the City of Lights.
So I could have just said to my friends in my email responses something such as that. I could have said “no, I haven’t seen any gas stations being torched or terrorists lurking here and there; I had to read The Economist for that”.
But I haven’t said that.
And there is a reason.
Being “safe” is extremely low on my list of personal priorities.
Being “safe'” (the word needs to be uttered by the person asking if one is “safe” with a sort of whimper, to make it an authentic query as to one’s “safeness” and to show the queryer’s grasp of the futility of the question in the great cosmic spectrum of “unsafeness”) is tantamount to telling – whoever it is that one should aspire to be “safe” from (the terrorists come to mind, but I am so old that I can remember when “teenager” was a term of opprobrium that described a creature walking the streets in waylayance of decent law abiding – older – citizens) that they have won the day. If one wants to be "safe", those entities – whomever they may be – from whom we all need to be “safe”, have won the day, the battle, the month, the year, the century, the millennium; they have won all of whatever it may be that those of us on the “other side” hold dear and sacred; so I don’t want to be “safe”. “Safe” seems to me to be too much like “dead”, but “dead” in an eerie zombie-like form.
So we Parisians just don’t give a shit.
But the French government does, and I think I am kind of glad of that.
Because the government’s manifestation of “giving a shit” takes the form of military personnel in full temperate zone camouflage fatigues armed with short barreled, obviously automatic, machine guns.
However, this is a two-sided coin.
One side – the one that I really subscribe to – is “good; they are ready to lay the fuckers low, whoever the fuckers may be, and I guess I can jump behind a tree if I happen to be at a fucker- elimination site”.
Even I, who love guns, and view – at least the ones with wooden stocks and their beautiful pistol cousins – as works of art, am mildly rattled by three, four or five young Frenchpeople walking around (like little flocks of green, brown and black plumaged birds - and iat some locations multiple flocks of them) with the full fire power of all of WWII in each of his or her hands.
But then, I have said that I don’t want to be “safe” as the word in quotes is be defined by me. So being somewhat rattled takes the place of being "safe".
And there seem to be a lot more police sirens than I have ever heard, but Paris is not only the City Of Lights, it is the City Of Police Sirens so maybe I just am guilty of faulty memory.