Alain Ouzou (right), is a 33 year old Parisian financier, taking part in last night’s Trafalgar Square vigil for the those killed in the Paris massacre. He has been living and working in London since November 2014.
“How did he first hear about the trouble?”, I ask.
He had been at work at 11:40am when “his neice texted him that ‘something is happening…’– whereupon he phoned his father”.
With the atrocity in mind, I ask him what he understands by political freedom.
“It is a complicated question”, he says — very rightly.
But his reasons for attending the vigil for the dead were simple: in his words, “because the terrorists wanted to collapse the freedom of the press to express what they want — even if it is annoying”.
The style of the satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which was targeted, held no appeal for him: “You could laugh at anything with them — sometimes too much.”
Yet, even though he didn’t support everything they did, “he wanted to fight to let them express what they wanted. He would fight so that they could do that”.
He continues, looking at me with simple, irony-conscious honesty: “If I don’t agree with you, we will discuss — not kill each other”.
A “War on freedom” headline appears on a wall mounted TV showing the BBC News Review, as we talk in the pub, just off Trafalgar Square. The headline tells the truth — yet without the disarming potency of Alain’s sense of farce: of the bloody ridiculousness of equating debate with murder: of substituting the pencil for the gun.
A host of cartoonists have, today, given pan-faith peace the last laugh over the Jihadist insanity which ran riot with such mindless cruelty and impotent, tribal compulsion.
Their graphic humour bonds a rainbow coalition of peace; begun, perhaps, with the humble, apolitical, rain-soaked sadness of Trafalgar Square last night: a vigil whose humanity contrasted with the merciless killing of a policeman, wounded and crying on the ground.
“I am sad because the terrorists executed a policeman on the ground — just to do”, continues Alain.
This cold blooded murder, for its own sake, has attacked the whole human race.
Has the world changed?
“Terrorism is not new… Here in the UK you had the IRA. The U.S. had strong feeling of losing freedom (after 9/11). Then they built the Freedom Tower.
I comment on his admirable, super-rational calmness — which he attributes to his high-pressure job as Financial Engineer in the City. Yet, to me, it also captures the easy, drily-ironic profundity for which French culture is famous: and which may, just, be uniting the world with a free openness, capable of defeating both Islamofascism AND racism, equivalent philosophies as they are.
Alain returns to the policeman, shot dead while wounded on the floor: his life needlessly ended as he screamed in pain.
“When you kill the police, you kill the peace — and the democracy.”
Alain’s and France’s profound perspective reflects the world’s: human civilisation has been attacked: along with its life, thought, humour and expression.
Those, now more than ever, will live on.