rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Paris attacks: Unimaginable horror but imaginable violence

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Image: Twitter/@Alex_T_Smith

rabble is expanding our Parliamentary Bureau and we need your help! Support us on Patreon today! 

Keep Karl on Parl

The unimaginable happened last night in Paris.

Unimaginable: people randomly targeted on a night out, gunned down either senselessly, or as an act of revenge against a government’s foreign policy. Or both.

Either way, families and friends now mourn the dozens dead in Paris, the victims of tragic, unimaginable acts.

Unimaginable. Unimaginable for whom?

Violence is only unimaginable for the most privileged among us.

Watching the horror unfold in Paris last night, unimaginable wasn't what I thought about. It was: imaginable. Because in a society where violence against women, radicalized people, queer people, trans and non-binary people is the norm, violence isn't just imaginable, it's something we think about. All the time.

Imagine not feeling safe at a concert. Imagine not feeling safe at a café.

I do imagine that. Regularly.

Patriarchy and white supremacy define who is and who is not allowed to feel safe. These two forces operate together to give some people the privilege of demanding security while at the same time, reminding everyone else that they’ll never feel entirely comfortable or safe.

The height of freedom in the West is our personal safety. Random acts of terrorism are so evil, so barbaric precisely because they shake the collective notion of security to its core.

This is why terror tactics and terrorism are so effective. With the dominant media frame in the West driven by white men, terrorism is so horrible not because of the effect, but because it exposes how unsafe we really are.

Most of us are never safe: from gendered or racialized violence, from car accidents, from whatever. But when the men who frame the narrative discover what it's like to live under constant threat of violence, it's as if there could be no act more horrible than this.

Safety is the ultimate privilege that humans can seek. Throw in a little bit of capitalism and safety becomes something that people try to buy. Our deepest fears are exploited and we're told to mitigate our fears through purchasing things, or even worse, through supporting the manufacturing of weapons and war machines. We're told to support wars because through war, we have won our freedom.

Indeed: we bought our freedom on the beaches of Normandy, in the trenches.

Terrorism is so effective because it exploits the fact that these old lies live on. The safety and security espoused by men in power and reinforced by journalists comes crashing down with small, coordinated violent acts. For short, tragic moments, the veil drops: the safety that we're told that we feel vanishes and we're all exposed. It feeds a cycle that helps justify actions that will never, ever stop the violence.

The machismo on which terrorism has been formed elicits an escalating war of words and sabre rattling. Immediately following the attacks, French Prime Minister François Hollande said that France considers the attacks to be "acts of war" and that the French state will be "merciless" in its response.

Good news for ISIS: gasoline is being poured on a fire. Terrorism incites war, which incites more terrorism, inciting more war. The people lose. The arms manufacturers win big.

Despite the oppressions, prejudices and beliefs that are layered on top of our identities, average people still feel empathy in the face of tragedy. When the layers are cut away, it really doesn't matter how people die: earthquake, terrorism, train disaster etc., death is death and a tragic occurrence is tragic.

The best among us can see that refugees are risking everything to find the safety and security espoused by Western nations, real or imagined.

The best among us can see that Black students at universities across the United States are simply trying to go to school in safety and security, in the face of violent threats made against them.

The best among us can see that resisting violence against women is an attempt to fight patriarchy and restore some balance to the power structures that continue to oppress and even murder women.

We know that more people die in this world at the hands of their spouses than by Western-defined terrorism. We know that more Americans have died by the end of a household firearm than in all World Wars combined. We who anticipate violence against ourselves can imagine the horror of a random act of violence.

There is little doubt that the tragedy will be used by Western nations to justify new attacks on civil liberties, and all citizens will find themselves less free under the guise of national security. But even then, some will remain more safe, more secure than others.

Regardless, the old adage remains true: none of us are free until all of us are.

And so, it's up to us to resist the violent cycles of patriarchy and white supremacy that feed international war machines that are so intimately connected to the way the West governs itself and polices the world.

rabble is expanding our Parliamentary Bureau and we need your help! Support us on Patreon today! 

Keep Karl on Parl

Image: Twitter/@Alex_T_Smith

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.