Je Suis Charlie – Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

I am Charlie, we are all Charlie. Never let freedom of speech die.

I am Charlie, we are all Charlie. Never let freedom of speech die.

Je suis Charlie, nous sommes tous Charlie. I am Charlie, we are all Charlie.

I was supposed to carry out some major updates on Café Spike yesterday; suffice to say that as events unfolded in Paris during and after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, it got pretty hard for me to focus on humour. I didn’t feel it appropriate, out of respect for the victims who were callously murdered for having the temerity to poke fun at a religious Godhead.

Following my initial revulsion I looked at the footage with a slightly more clinical eye. The masked gunmen certainly didn’t appear to be the cowards the far right would have us believe. They acted with well drilled military precision, not dissimilar to a special forces unit or a SWAT team, and to my untrained eye my guess would be that they were wearing body armour, aside from being heavily armed. These guys looked like experienced urban fighters.

Why did they commit this atrocity? Sure, I can understand that they were righteously indignant over Charlie Hebdo’s blasphemous treatment of their spiritual leader, but the crux of the matter remains that 12 people were gunned down because the shooters couldn’t deal with the fact that somebody who didn’t share their beliefs had the audacity to mock them for their extreme fanaticism.

Mockery of the great and the good is something of a European tradition. We all do it, or at least most of us do, and we take it for what it is – poking fun at the pompous and the self-righteous. It’s called satire. Not many people do it well, but those who have perfected their craft do it very well indeed, often striking a nerve or two along the way. The vast majority of us just tend to have a laugh about it and then move on. It’s like a tennis match – you win a point, then you lose one. It’s just a game.

Nobody in their right mind would ever suggest that the Jimmy Carrs, Frankie Boyles or Russell Brands of this world should be murdered because they caused offence to a particular group or individual. Most people see it for what it is – a publicity stunt, or simply a bad error of judgement when men like these cause offence. We cringe inwardly occasionally and then we get on with our lives. It’s the British way, and the European way.

As the day unfolded, so began the arguments, from the guarded; “Charlie Hebdo knew what they were doing and they brought this on themselves” to the outright fanatical; “We should declare war on all Muslims.” My response to both of these reactions in turn would be – no they didn’t – and – no we shouldn’t.

My opinion obviously won’t carry a great deal of clout, and if I’m honest with myself it isn’t the most intellectual analysis, simply my own interpretation of what I see – as an ordinary Joe – going on in the world around me. I wouldn’t dream of condoning or justifying in any way what happened in Paris, but there is one word which sums up most of what I see as being wrong with the world:

Extremism.

Extremists of all stripes, be they right wing, left wing, Christian, Muslim, Governments, the global media, dictators, bankers, industrialists, power brokers, serial killers, paedophiles, – they all share a common and rather despicable human trait; they refuse to countenance any form of compromise, only believing in one way. Their own way. And to a man they are ruthless and ready to kill at the drop of a hat in order to pursue their own warped agendas. Most of us just want to live our lives in peace and freedom, yet the truth is that our freedoms are being chipped away at, and that our little piece of terra firma diminishes a little in size as the clock ticks through the days, weeks, months and years.

It’s been said that satire is the ultimate weapon of the weak against the powerful, but satire is just clever words and pictures – it doesn’t come equipped with body armour and assault rifles.

If the gun really is more powerful than the pen – no matter who is pointing that gun – then we may as well just put down our pens and wave the white flag as we are marched to our respective places of execution, for then the lunatics have not only taken over the asylum – they’ve started the purge.

Martin Shuttlecock. 07/01/2015

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