The city of love where love has never been the priority.
Paris is an amalgamation of antagonisms and contradictions. Within its streets and across its boulevards resides the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the ugly. Paris is a cultural battleground, whose geography is hard-fought between competing ideologies. Its Napoleonic architecture, and other relics of its fallen aristocracy, compete with the modern buildings of capitalism for the audience’s attention. The Paris portrayed in the literature and the movies that haunt our collective memories has, in patches, succumbed to the yearning scream of its forgotten population. The beautiful is marred with the tragic, as antiquated buildings rub shoulders to shoulders with foreclosed shops, abandoned by the failed dreams of previous owners. The graffiti that leaves its mark on the side streets, blooming amongst the darkness, acts as a reminder that those society forget still exist.
Paris is a tale of a city yearning for a past that remains alive only in the self-delusional, and comforting, romanticism of the tourist. The idiosyncrasies of what Paris represents, the values, the culture, the raison d’etre, can only be witnessed in the brisk movements of the city’s serveurs; those men and women who attend the cacophony of tables laid out on the pavements longing the boulevards and avenues. In all other places, most notably, on other faces, the flame of Parisian love has dimmed, as if extinguished by the end of an overpriced cigarette. Just like everything else, it has become too expensive to do damage to one’s health. Vices have become a privilege.
I have been to Paris many times, and each of these times, I come away with a new sentiment. This time, brought to Paris to attend an international convention, I was struck by how familiar the city had become. Of course, the cars were driving on the other side and the calligraphy of the street signs and shops were distinctively continental. However, the content within this world, the avatars that populate this landscape, appeared so eerily familiar to me. Having left London a few hours ago, the feeling of escape, of witnessing something new had not appeared to me.
I could see the same adverts, the same conglomerates of consumer capitalism, and I could see the same victims of these two. The many homeless men and women roaming the streets like shadows unworthy of our pity, reminded me of the same men and women I did nothing for back home. When I listened to the conversations around me, I could hear English or feeble…