“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee/ Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those that thou thinks’t thou dost overthrow/ Die not, poor Death, nor yet cans't thou kill me” – John Donne, Holy Sonnets
The sickening regularity of radical Islam’s attack on Western culture struck with its almost metronomic rhythm yesterday. At the time of writing, over 30 are believed to be dead as a result of coordinated attacks on Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro. There are eye-witness reports that, before the blasts, shots were fired and there was shouting in Arabic.
Most probably this was a reply by the terrorists to Friday’s arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the ringleader of the previous Paris attacks. Most likely two of his henchmen from that earlier atrocity left this calling card of their death cult.
For that is the far larger question, the existential dilemma hanging over the West in general and Europe in particular: how do we confront a death cult that desires our eradication, when Western society at its best is about aspiring to make this life as decent, pleasant, and rewarding as we can for our citizens?
The overriding lesson is that Western society must not lose its nerve; the terrorists are comparatively weak, and are being hunted down by our security services. But as they have proven all too often, they can inflict an ongoing tragic price for us continuing on as before.
If this fearful price in death and lost lives becomes intolerable, only then will the death cult win. Simply put, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise, to cause us in the West to overreact, to make mistakes, to give our pathetic enemies a credence they simply don’t deserve.
I say this in the name of the dead, that we continue with our lives in the West – still the envy of the world – that we protect and cherish our society, showing the rest of the world that we will not be frightened into abandoning our civil liberties, our openness, our optimism. We will not become what our enemies are, however heavy our hearts, however real are our tears.
For in terms of our society, death be not proud. A pathetic death cult such as struck again yesterday can plunge us into grief and misery; but it cannot kill Western society. Only we can do that, by committing suicide, by forgoing the very things that make life in the West so very wonderful in the name of fear.
We must not give death dominion over our society, even as we mourn our victims; that is what our enemies want, what they achieved in our grief after 9/11 in Iraq. I refuse to play by their wicked rules.
Tomorrow I will, as so often, board a flight in Europe. I will think of our lost, I will think of going on, living in an open, economically vibrant, socially exciting world, one that I am prepared to both fight for and to, yes, if it came to it, die for. But this death cult must not be given dominion over a Western society that vanquishes its very way of looking at the world.
We must remember who we are, who they are, and continue as a society to be a tribune of life, openness, and, yes, love. For as John Lennon put it so memorably, love is the answer.