Ever since the attacks in Paris on November 13th I, like many others have been frightened. Every time we turn on the TV there seems to be something else to fear, another threat to watch out for. After spending days looking at images of Paris in the wake of such a terrible tragedy it turned out that the horror may not even be over. The shock had barely worn off when more threats were issued. It was now Belgium’s turn to fear an attack. Brussels went into lock down and still remains on high alert as a result of these attacks. Every city it seemed was looking over its shoulder.
It is impossible to know what to do in these situations. Do we stay in our homes and close the curtains? Do we stop traveling to other countries? Do we respond with violence or by shutting others out? Do we look for people or religions to blame? These seem to be the options that are offered when we listen to the news. I don’t know about you but none of these are very appealing to me. If we do these things it feels like these people have already won. It is hard not to feel desperate and hopeless when we see the damage that was caused by these terrible acts of violence. How do we respond to something that is so difficult to understand in the first place? These are the kinds of questions that have been swirling around in my head and earlier this week I finally got my answer.
Fears began to build in Italy next as their “Jubilee of Mercy” was approaching. This celebration kicks off on the 8th of December and thousands of pilgrims will descend on Rome for the occasion. Concerns began to grow that an attack would occur. The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reacted to this threat in a very unique way. In the wake of the Paris attacks and as a response to fears that Italy could be next on the list Renzi announced his plans to spend 2 billion euro. Half of this money will be spent on security and the other half will be used to boost cultural activity. The money will be divided into four parts. 150 million will be spent on cyber-security, and all policemen on the beat will receive an additional €80 a month. However the same will be done for culture. Every 18-year-old will receive € 500 to spend on cultural activities such as theatre, concerts or museums. €500 million will also be spent on improving suburban areas in the major cities. These neighbourhoods tend to be poorer than most. Taxpayers will be able to specify which cultural programme they would like to finance and their money will go directly to it.
This is not a nieve move by the Prime Minister. He is aware that this issue is a very serious one. After all Rome and the Vatican have received direct threats from ISIS groups but Mr Renzi wants to respond in a way that shows them that they are not just going to stop living their lives and succumb to fear. During his speech at the Capitoline museum in Rome Mr Renzi insisted that Italy’s answer to terror would be shown through its cultural efforts.
“They imagine terror, we answer with culture. They destroy statues, we love art. They destroy books, we are the country of Libraries”. Matteo Renzi
I personally think this is a brilliant idea. Terrorism not only attacks us with violence but also with fear. It creeps into our souls and takes away our freedom and our sense of security. This response is a way of not only repairing our cities but also our hearts. The only way to fight terrorism is to live our lives. Perhaps I also seem very naive but I assure you I’m not. I am glad to see half of this money being spent on security that will help to prevent another attack like the one in Paris but I am also glad to see other efforts being made to combat terrorism. I am relieved that Mr Renzi believes that beauty is a better method than violence.
“Beauty is stronger than barbarity” Matteo Renzi
This proposal has only been put forward and there is no telling if it will be carried through. As usual these things are much more complicated but I really hope it is. For some reason this story gave me comfort at a time of deep uncertainty and for that I am grateful. It made me believe that fear isn’t the only response we can have. It gave me back just a little bit of control. I hope that it will do the same for you.