In one sense, those who carried out the terrible atrocities in Paris this weekend have won: I’m afraid. Not of them; I grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. I was nearly blown up more than once during my childhood, so ISIS don’t frighten me (in that way, at least). No, I’m afraid of my government, and those of other European countries and what they’re going to do now in response. I’m afraid that there will be an inevitable knee-jerk reaction and tightening of security; further reduction of our freedoms; more profiling of those who are ‘different’. It’s a cliché to say that this is exactly what the terrorists want but it’s a cliché for a reason, and in their hurry to answer the calls of Something Must Be Done, our leaders enact bad legislation that divides communities, provokes fear, and yet does nothing to make us safer.
I’ve been a member of Liberty for some years now and I’ve never been more convinced of the necessity of this organisation and those like it. In the inevitable melee to come, we need calm heads who will think beyond the next headline in a way that politicians today seem unable to do. People who will be a voice reminding our leaders what values they’re supposedly protecting and speak truth to power in a way that will be very unpopular in certain sections of the media. Shami Chakrabarti and her colleagues at Liberty are brave people, braver than me, and I hope that they, and others like them, will be able to stand up to the calls to give up freedom in favour of security. If they can’t, I fear that we will, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, end up with neither.