When terrible things happen, we all tend to react in a knee-jerk way. Often our reactions are not sensible. In fact, they are nonsense. Here are just a few nonsense reactions to the Islamist attacks on Paris.
There is a sort of right-wing response which says 'the values of our society - which are also universally valid values - are under attack, and we must fight to defend them'. This is nonsense because western culture has been running hell for leather in the direction of moral relativism for decades. You can't have your cake and eat it. You can't on the one hand destroy all moral absolutes, and then on the other hand claim that your 'values' are universal. What are these universal values? If they are really so universal, why must we fight to show other people how jolly right they are? Who are we planning to fight, anyway?
There is a sort of left-wing response which says 'this is not an ideological or religious attack - this has nothing to do with Islam - it's just a bunch of nutters'. This is nonsense, and patronising nonsense to boot, because it claims the right to ignore the stated motivations of the attackers. As uncomfortable as it is for people in the liberal west to face up to this, the murderous followers of ISIS have a good claim to represent a coherent interpretation of Islam. It is of course not the only interpretation, but none the less there can be no doubt: this attack was driven by religion. We only want to deny it because we can't believe anyone would take their metaphysical beliefs so seriously.
There is a (more) right-wing response which says 'Muslims are out to get us'. This is nonsense because it ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not in any way subscribe to the interpretation of Islam which drives these attacks. The majority of Muslims, like the majority of people, want to live in peace and are happy to let everyone else live in peace. Only a fool would imagine that he can paint realistic pictures with a foot-wide brush. Those broad brush strokes only make for nonsense.
There are mirror responses on the left and the right about victimhood. On the right people tend to say 'we - the west - are innocent victims defending ourselves against terror'. This is nonsense in a very particular way. The people killed in Paris were indeed innocent victims of terror. But we as a society are absolutely caught up in a web of international relations which victimizes others across the world, politically, culturally, and economically. Our hands are not clean. On the left people tend to say 'they - the Islamists - are victims driven to these acts by our oppression'. This is nonsense because once again it ignores the attackers stated motivations, and because it implies some sort of moral justification which just isn't there.
All of this nonsense has seeds of truth in it, but I do think we should work harder to get those seeds to grow...