To young people like us, war belonged in history books and on television. War was fictional. Unreal. Intangible. War was the stuff of video games. We quite enjoyed watching explosions at the movies. As teenagers, we spent weekends playing paintball. We learnt how to shoot a Kalashnikov rifle with a joystick playing Call Of Duty. We wore army surplus jackets just to look tough at rock concerts. We weren’t trying to dodge any bullets. We also went to rock concerts for fun, we had stopped rebelling against society. Any society. We weren’t asking for anything. We just wanted to dance. On a Friday night, in November.
We haven’t been conscripted. We don’t know how to protect ourselves, let alone wield a weapon. We’re terrified of military uniforms. But it’s so close to us now. Allow around us, young people our age have been slaughtered.
At night, we heard the humming of helicopters. Alarms sounding. Sirens wailing. So we looked up at the sky. We started to pray feverishly, without believing in God. Because God had seemingly forsaken us on that day. He was nowhere to be found. But we looked up in his direction, just in case.
We thought of all the people who had experienced bombings. We understood why experience cannot be conveyed. All of a sudden, everything looked pointless, superficial and unimportant. For a split second, we disappeared, we died alongside those innocent victims. Our hearts started beating faster, our hands were shaking, our voice broke, we were losing a part of ourselves.
And then we came out, sleepwalking like zombies. We saw people wandering aimlessly, unconsciously glaring at each other, torn between a desire to hug each other and to run without looking back.
Nobody wanted to be afraid and yet… Supermarkets were crawling with people stocking up on bottled water, in case of rationing. A bad memory, like the ones told by a long-dead grandparent who told us about the war when we were young. About fear. About mum being unable to sleep. About dad keeping watch. To young fools like us, they were at best bedtime stories – at worst, a boring history lesson. In 2015, how can my neighbour get shot while drinking a beer on a Friday night?
Attacks on bars. Attacks on sport. Attacks on music. France is wounded and we cry with her. Not knowing how to dry our tears. How to act with intelligence. We can only write.
We wanted to humbly express, on this frivolous and unimportant media, our emotion, our revolt but also our fears, however childish. After a hellish weekend that’s all we have left. We can write, still.
Because all the young people were hurt. It could have been you, or us.
It is an attack on youth. On our last shreds of innocence. They wanted to annihilate us because we were free to have a drink and kiss, without the threat of rope or rape. It’s a war against our conception of pleasure. The French way of life. But no-one can take it away from us. Not even the illiterate murderer, the self-proclaimed soldier of God, who does not dare acknowledge that it is the demon of envy and frustration who is driving him to insanity and destruction.
How many teenagers who hardly knew about Daesh have just senselessly died? Why does no-one speak about them? Aren’t they the first victims of this folly?
By waging a war on youth, they are actually waging a war on life and humanity.
Daesh called us heathens and dubbed our city the “capital of abominations and perversion”.
They believe concerts are places of perversion.
They should know that we will do everything we can to drive them crazy, with our music, our sport and our nights. Those soulless, cowardly barbarians have to realize that no explosive belt, no matter how powerful, can destroy or rob us from our identity. You cannot kill joy.
According to an Arabic proverb, “youth is a fraction of madness”. This fraction of madness can never be taken away from us. It is our identity. Our history. Our source of strength. And above all, it is our future.
November 13th 2015 will be the day our generation discovered war in France. True war. Real ignominy, of the kind that shakes history to its core.
Our collective history.
Let it also be the day when we, young people, realize how strong we are. Because we are the future. It belongs to us. Let us model it in our image. Without fear of judgement or change.
It will be our best response to this historical declaration of war.
Don’t forget. Who are we? We are the Future.