Thursday, January 8, 2015

Today We All Must Be Charlie

The shocking massacres of 12 people, including four acclaimed French cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, feels like a new chapter in the struggle between those who champion freedom and those who hate it, although the reality is this fight has being going on for decades.

Still, it was liberating to see squares across the western world fill up with crowds holding banners with the words Je Suis Charlie - I am Charlie, after the attacks in Paris.

In the wake of the attacks we all need to be Charlie. The alternative is to be enslaved, or in the words of Stephane Charbonnier, a cartoonist who was killed in the attacks. "I would rather die standing than live on my my knees."



Sadly, more than half a decade after the world powers tried to build a new order based on human rights after the demise of Nazi Germany, millions of people live on their knees. The war against terror did not end with the death of Osama Bin Laden - indeed he was already becoming irrelevant by the time of his death.

Just a day ago a street magician was beheaded by Islamic State for entertaining crowds in Raqqa. The city of Raqqa was once in Syria but today i'ts the headquarters of a movement that routinely beheads, crucifies and intimidates its populace with its extreme version of the Koran. IS rapes and imprisons women and puts those who fail to convert to its extreme creed to death. IS has a built up a virtual nation state across thousands of miles of Syria and Iraq, but those who vowed to wage the War Against Terror post 9/11, merely tinker with air strikes around its edges.

For the humorless despots of IS or indeed the regime of North Korea that the FBI accuses of cyber hacking over its efforts to disrupt the showing of The Interview, satire is a dangerous instrument because it threatens to expose these evil regimes as ridiculous and to shatter their brittle shield of fear.

However, the motto of Je Suis Charlie needs to go wider than this. It's tempting to see the world as the good guys who believe in freedom being lined up against those who would behead and shoot those who practice free speech. America is built on the foundation of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but the Edward Snowden debacle shows free speech is only free up to a point even in the Land of the Free.

Je Suis Charlie is about the pen being mightier than the sword or the AK-47. It's about our basic freedom to express our opinion however unpopular we may be. Today I am Charlie. We have to be or we will wake up one morning being less than Charlie.

2 comments:

  1. This ISIS situation is an extremely serious world-wide. You wrote about it; I wrote about it (Voltaire). But as I navigate blogs, I read business-as-usual posts, when it should be just the opposite . . . very worrisome.

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  2. yes indeed Kittie - quite terrifying..

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