We’re All Apes. Remain Vigilant.

Nelson Lowhim, Writer & Veteran

Nelson Lowhim, Writer & Veteran

“Aching, nobly, to wade through the blood of savages.”—James Baldwin

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, heart in mouth, I immediately reached out to my friends who lived in that beautiful city. A city in whose cafes I’d written much of my first novel. A city whose museums still sent sparks flying from my bourgeoisie soul and one which I wish to visit as often as possible. Luckily, everyone I knew was unharmed, though all were shaken up.

But then the positioning of holier than thou statements started.

Many people I knew added French flags to their Facebook profile. They then balked when some on the left pointed out the hypocrisy of this reaction and the extra coverage for this terrorist attack while other attacks—usually against darker people—were ignored. A case of “the lady doth protest too much,” if you ask me. Certainly some were distraught for a city they had some connection to—even if it were an aesthetic one. This is assuming they paid attention. Most maintained an ad’s worth of lack of self-awareness and didn’t see their actions as tribal. Instead, they thought themselves standing up for some higher civilizational belief.

As I mentioned, I too had connections, and was worried about friends’ safety in these attacks, but how people reacted was very problematic. I don’t mean that one shouldn’t have the very ape-like reaction to care more for a place one has visited and enjoyed, than a place one hasn’t, but as soon as one is less analytical, all too willing to call the perpetrators evil, to assume innocence of an entire nation or section of the world, well then, this is what I have a problem with. [1]

At my former workplace one person, an intelligent one at that, only highlighted this symptom by saying that they couldn’t believe this happened, “What did they do to them?” (yes, the forever innocent claim) and, furthermore, glad that France was “finally” bombing ISIS.


Again, this view was prevalent everywhere, with the state of innocence assumed. Even those trying to point out other acts of terrorism were being too courtesan and refrained from pointing to State-led terrorism here and abroad, never mind acts of democide via policy and neoliberalism. Just the mention of ISIS attacks as the worst French massacre post-WWII was an attempt at this whitewashing of history, this claim to an evil innocence, ignoring Algerians and how they were murdered by the French State.

That this view was prevalent amongst even my liberal friends only goes to show how sick our society is. One way this manifested itself was how some people expect saints on the other side, but not on their own. A liberal friend told me he would better understand these attacks if only the direct victims of Western bombings carried out these attacks. Never mind the complexity that drives any action, or that empathy—yes empathy—can allow one to act on behalf of another—especially the powerless—or how we would never apply the same rules to ourselves (for example: only the victims of 9-11 or their family members can fight in the coming wars).

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”—James Baldwin

But I’m used to this now, this mindless psychosis. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: we’re all apes, remain vigilant. And the latest round of mass hysteria has only affirmed my views. It’s times like these that I find a refuge in Baldwin’s words. Indeed, I’m telling you to read him if you haven’t already. We’re facing some trying times and we will not fare well if even liberals don’t learn some basic history or human psychology to light the way.


[1] For brevity’s sake, let’s put aside the problematic issue of labels and what counts as “The West” or who exactly to blame for a specific action, never mind who claims it.

Nelson Lowhim is a veteran and writer. He is the author of many novels, short stories and essays to include CityMuse, The Struggle, 1000001 American Nights and the Labyrinth of Souls. You can find more about him and his work at nelsonlowhim.blogspot.com and on Twitter @nlowhim