Last month, Europe and the Western world in general were ‘shocked’ by the terrorist attacks on journalists from the comic magazine Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. As usual following such events, we were graced by numerous ‘peaceful’ demonstrations and such like ‘democratic’ paraphernalia to mark the contrast between the civilized West and the barbarian Muslim world. Not to mention the huge mediatisation of the events. Many Western leaders gathered in Paris and participated in the demonstration. The slogan of the demonstration was ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). In the aftermath, millions of copies of the comic magazine got sold. This was the people’s way of showing solidarity with the magazine and, more importantly, proclaim their undying support for ‘freedom of expression’. In the midst of all this indignation, the solemn voice of the Pope, perhaps the most emblematic figure in the Christian religion, upon which the Western heritage is built, rose to say that it is not right to provoke people and that if somebody insulted his Mother, they could damn well expect a violent reaction. This was the Pope’s way of saying a very basic thing that should be known and understood by everybody: that provoking people is not right and may lead to deplorable reactions, even in the best of people. Strangely, nobody got this, and some accused the Pope of validating the attacks!
Why can’t the Pope say whatever the hell he likes and in whatever way amuses him. Isn’t this the freedom of expression everyone keeps banging on about? Oh wait a second, perhaps freedom of expression is just for secular things, religious stuff doesn’t have quite the same importance. Even the Pope gets bashed, because this is freedom of expression.
In fact, freedom of expression means you bash people and ideas and things. Especially holy or sacred stuff. The more holy and sacred, the more you should bash it just to hammer that freedom of expression thang right in for those idiots who don’t get it. Hello! This is freedom of expression you moron! Your Mum is a whore, you bastard! Can’t you see that it is freedom of expression? Are you thick or what? Oh you’re just religious. Hang on a second, it is the same thing. All religious people are thick. Furthermore, Muslims are not just thick, because they are not Charlie, but they are also terrorists! What a vile bunch. Down with immigration, chase them all out. Clash of civilizations!
And on it goes, on and on and on. But nobody paused to actually ask: ‘Who the hell is Charlie?’. They all just joined the chorus. I kept asking myself, what does ‘Je suis Charlie’ actually mean? Who is Charlie? Nobody answered. They just went out and bought Charlie. If you want to be Charlie, that’s fine. But for goodness sake, don’t be upset when others who are not Charlie punch you in the face when you piss them off. If you’re not careful, one day, some crazy not Charlie will come along and blow your head off. They shouldn’t do, but such is the way of the world, it is full of crazy people and we must all live together.
If people are genuine about finding efficient ways to live together in harmony, they really need to think seriously about who is Charlie. This needs to be part of the debate, not just how to eradicate terrorism, which is an entirely valid part of the debate also. The cartoons published were just vile. There is nothing brave or smart in using phallic symbols to degrade and ridicule other people’s sacred beliefs. It is childish and stupid. It is not freedom of expression.