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Outside the Bataclan concert hall on November 14, 2015: “Neither the media nor the government response inspires hope” (©Marc Piazecki/Getty Images)

According to an astonishing footnote on page 285 of the second volume of Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher, President François Mitterrand, when asked by King Fahd for permission to build a mosque in France, is said to have replied: “Your majesty, if you permit one church to be built in Saudi Arabia, I shall let you build a hundred mosques in France.” Unimaginable now. Another reason to feel nostalgic for the wily old bird, as some of us, to our own surprise, now do.

If France had actually applied the principle of reciprocity instead of permitting the poisonous tentacles of multiculturalist ideology to creep further and further into the political and social fabric, despite the cherished principle of laïcité, perhaps things would now be very different. But then again, perhaps not.

There is little to rejoice at either in people’s reactions or in government responses to the slaughter in Paris on November 13, nor much to contribute to the gaiety of nations, so we do our best to appreciate what we get. In the latter category there was the demonstration in the Place de la République protesting against the ban on demonstrations. The price of pork is apparently down by 22 centimes a kilo; people obscurely feel that this must be significant but no one can suggest why. A Femen activist stripped to the waist in front of the memorial to the victims at the Bataclan theatre, but again, no one can work out what she intended to convey by this. An organic farm in the Périgord was searched by the police, by order of the prefect of Dordogne, for signs of terrorist activity. Nothing was found and the owner wonders what they expected: exploding vegetables? The Pope caused his shoes to be left with others in the Place de la République to protest against too much climate, which he thinks causes poverty, which in turn causes terrorism. Or perhaps the other way round. John Kerry, who has delivered himself of similar opinions, did not, as far as anyone is aware, leave his. Nor did Barack Obama.  

All this cheers us up slightly (though the spectacle of heads of state worrying more about climate change than about terrorism does not evoke much hilarity) now that it’s too cold to sit defiantly outside on café terraces. You do see people on terraces, but they are there to smoke, poor souls. We still go out to restaurants as much as we can, but it doesn’t feel quite as defiant, somehow, as sitting out on the terrace. And we can’t afford to eat out indefinitely. So the restaurants feel a bit empty — the clientele “fluctuates”, the owners say — as does the Metro. At the  first performance of the opera after the attacks, we all sang the “Marseillaise”, which, in spite of the idiocy and hypocrisy, was uplifting to the spirits. For a while  people displayed a tendency to burst into patriotic song at the slightest pretext but they seem at last to have stopped, perhaps afflicted by seasonal laryngitis.

As for rejoicing, neither the media nor the government response inspires hope. As in January 2015 after the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket, at first both shied away from pronouncing the word “Islam” in any connection with the attacks and the air was thick with the mantra “pas d’amalgame!” (between the attacks and Islam). But perhaps a tiny glimmer of hope can be discerned in the reactions of ordinary people.

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