Our attention these days is drawn to the Horn of Africa, where another drama has played out to its conclusion even as the fate of the Maersk Alabama’s captain continues to unfold:
One French hostage has died and four others have been freed in a rescue operation by French troops on a yacht off Somalia, French officials say.
Two pirates were killed in the operation and three were captured, the French presidency said.
Officials said the rescue was launched when talks with the pirates broke down and threats became “more specific”.
There are two lessons in all of this. First, regardless of their tendency to be but indifferent allies when their friends are hard pressed, the French refuse to be trifled with when it comes to banditry and terrorism wreaked upon their own citizens. The second is an manifest tendency among sheltered elites to put more faith in their own innate elitism than the shelter that enables it.
It’s not known, as yet, whether the man was killed by his captors or by French military forces who stepped in after negotiations broke down. What is known, is that the yacht was operating in a place it had no rational reason to be:
(The) families on board the yacht, which was reported to be heading down to Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, were urged not to travel through the Gulf of Aden. A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said Florent Lemacon and his wife Chloe were “repeatedly warned” not to travel through the area.
“It is difficult to understand why these warnings were not heeded,” spokesman Eric Chevallier said…
Speaking to French newspaper Ouest France, Mr Lemacon said they wanted to change their priorities in life.
“We don’t want our child to receive the sort of education that the government is concocting for us. We have got rid of the television and everything that seemed superfluous to concentrate on what is essential,” he said.
It’s difficult to see this as anything but simple-headed vanity, even if it’s possible to be sympathetic with the underlying sentiment. It reminds me of poor, young Christopher McCandless, who so took for granted the existential advantages of civilization that he determined to venture out into a state of nature to live in Alaska, and starved to death. Or Timothy Treadwell, who convinced himself that he had a special relationship with the grizzly bears that ultimately devoured him. These were people so used to being protected that they were no longer even aware of the forces that stood between them and entropy.
What is essential, of course, is to preserve one’s life as best one can, and to protect one’s family. To live in the world as it is, and not as we might wish it to be. To decline the luxury of woolly-headed romanticism, endangering other peoples’ lives in the process.
A life entirely without risk is not worth living. But only fools rush in…