Another attack in Paris.... and the extensive media coverage unintentionally helps the terrorists by sensationalizing the information, and treating such attacks as terrorism instead of crime. The aim of terrorists is, of course, to destabilize society by spreading fear and stimulate antagonism against immigrants and especially, muslem immigrants, so that jihadists can more easily recrute disenfranchized locals with their narrative of 'the West' being against 'Islam'.
As we know, it is not religion turning people into killers of innocent people, but individual personal frustrations and psychopathological problems, which are then wrapped in religiously-informed myth (mostly entirely misunderstood) to enhance an abject criminal deed towards the level of heroism for a worthy cause.
As we also know, it is not religion making people religious, but the other way around: people have religious / spiritual instincts and needs, and finding a religious form to express them.
When, years ago, North-Irish terrorists tried, over long tragic periods, to undermine British society and politics with terrorist deeds, they were treated by the British media as crimes, thereby removing the political overtones of such deeds. It would be much better if the media today would follow that example and thus de-politicize the avelanche of these crimes perpetrated by entirely deranged individuals.
What we now see in the West is the rebellion of the disenfranchized masses, neglected by the political elites who seem to have mainly supported big business and globalization without providing enough protection for the 'losers' of what only can be called wild capitalism. The rise of populism, which finds expression in extreme rightwing parties entering governments, is also being stimulated by terrorist attacks, which - for the masses - seem to be the result of both immigration and globalization, the same causes of the wide-spread distrust and suspicion of 'the system'. All this results in a strong backlash towards nationalism, rekindling neofascist ideas and emotions, anticultural and anticivilizational movements, and will relate terrorism again and again to muslems - since most of the attackers claim to represent Islam. If borders will be closed to any immigrants, hoping to stop incoming terrorists, that is forgetting that most of the attackers are home-grown young petty criminals, finding in the jihadist narrative an 'ideal' which gives 'meaning' to their miserable life. Closing borders and condemning 'Islam' will not stop these people, as re-nationalization and the cultivation of 'das Volk', an entirely fake idea and loaded with destructive potential, will only offer more munition to attackers of Western / European society.
If, in Europe, nations of the European Union will leave the union (as the French Front National intends if they win the elections), this will not offer any solution to the problem. The only direction in which something of a solution can be found, is the Westernization of immigrants, and in Europe: Europeanization, with drastic educational programs which already happen in Germany, and the reinforcement of a European, not a national, identity. What could be done against these undermining attacks? I see only the necessity of at least doubling police forces everywhere, working together with the armies to protect public space, and an ever closer collaboration between nations on the points of information and policing, in the context of EU institutions. What is needed, alas, is a society that will look like a police state, where the presence of authorities is not there to suppress the people but to protect them. However unpleasant, it cannot be escaped, until the breeding ground of terrorism within Europe has been treated effectively. Also, freedoms will have to be restricted and limited, as already is happening in terms of self-censorship. (One would wish that the media would begin to censor their own coverage of terrorist attacks, as to stop helping terrorists with their sensationalism.)
If everywhere in Europe nationalism and rightwing politics win the day, this will isolate immigrant communities and add to the breeding ground of aggression and discrimination. It will set in motion a downwards spiral which will, if not stopped, end in civil wars all over the place and the breakdown of economies and the accessibility of public space. But if more rational ideas will prevail, this may help reform the EU, create a different momentum towards unification where social justice will undercut the instinctive but self-destructive movements of the masses who vote for the extreme right.
What does all this mean for culture? It underlines the strong necessity for culture to work towards a reinforcement of European, or/and Western, identity, towards civilizational values as expressed through mimetic art, reminding audiences of their humanity and the civilization they inherited. The West, including Europe, is in a crisis not only of politics (democracy underming itself), but of values and identity. This is something to be dealt with by all the thinking and artistic elites, to mobilize all the civilizational forces which are still there and embodied in the best of what Western civilization has achieved in the past. In political terms, this will have to include a thorough reform of aims, to begin with the awareness of the obligation to make sure that everybody in society has access to the basic assets which have been fought for over the ages, in short: a more socially-just politics instead of the wild capitalism we see today. That does not mean a totalitarian society but a free society with a strong legal system protecting civilians against both the inroads of economic exploitation and the regulation of the effects of globalization in such a way that there are no victims of what is seen as 'progress'.
At the heart of all these problems lies the strange fact, that Western civilization as it has developed over time, has reached a universal level of humanistic values, which can be implemented everywhere on the globe. Western, free, democratic, liberal, secular society however, merely creates an overall framework based upon universals that leaves most of culture untouched. Hence the possibility of people living in the West, well-adapted to these universals, and in the same time living in the style of a non-Western culture. Where these cultural values clash with the overall Western framework, they are adapted, simply because that makes life easier. And that is something that is happening all the time. This means that religion or culture are no longer part of the overal Western civilizational framework, but belong to the private sphere. In this direction, certainly a lot more research and exploration can be done and results formulated which can clarify, for both the Western locals who don't understand their own society, and for non-Western immigrants who need to understand and adapt.
The distinction between these two levels: the overall framework of universals and the cultural and religious level, is a key to understanding both the predicament of the West and of the process of globalization.