Je suis Charlie

There are at least three ways in which horrific events such as yesterday’s can affect even those of us who weren’t directly involved.

The first is the simplest: we are shocked by the recognition of what it was, a horrific moral outrage. The cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians is always deplorable, but how much more shocking to conduct such an attack in broad daylight, in the heart of a peaceful European city, as a deliberate assault on one of the most fundamental values of our civilisation, and in the name of a religion of peace.

Then there is the second connection. We recognise that the people who suffered are like ourselves. We are as vulnerable to random acts of evil as they were. The bereaved families, the devastated colleagues, the stunned Parisian citizens — these are people in every important way just like us.

But it’s the third connection that’s the most telling, and this is what struck me the most about the massive worldwide reaction to yesterday’s atrocity. It’s not just recognising that the affected people are like us — it’s that they are us. It is a fact about human emotional responses that we are more moved by things that happen to people geographically closer to us than further away, but it’s not just geography. An attack on freedom of the press is literally an attack on all of us. An attack on fellow European citizens is literally an attack on all of us. An attack on part of our community of allies and friends is literally an attack on all of us. If you assault one of us, you assault all of us, from all backgrounds.

It’s telling that the slogan and hashtag that emerged within minutes of the news breaking, spread like wildfire across the internet, and was prominent on the spectacular photos of spontaneous mass public gatherings around the world — including the one I attended in Brussels outside the European Parliament — was not just an expression of solidarity. It was an expression of identity and unity: Je suis Charlie.

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7 Comments

  1. I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “We must remember what we are defending.”
    I’ll go further by saying, we aren’t defending a nation nor its peoples. We are defending their views/opinions, their right to express freely, their right to move freely, their right to democracy and their right to justice.
    In short, basic human rights.
    Justice isn’t dispensed from a gun, that’s revenge. I’m not aware of any god that seeks revenge, only weak humans seek such recourse.

    #jeSuisCharlie

    #notAfraid

  2. The events in Paris rocked France to its roots. The demonstrations of solidarity and feeling happened all across the country.

    In many ways the impact is similar to the impact on the US after 09/11.

  3. If this was an attack out of the blue, motivated solely by a hatred of free speech, than some of what you wrote would be true. But we know that’s not really the case, that this is fallout from long colonial conflicts and resource wars of which Europe is by no means innocent, and which our governments have a really hard time telling the truth about.

    I can only guess why you would decontextualising this as a random act of evil, rather than as predictable consequence of ongoing warfare.

    Does this mean now that printing pictures of Mohammed is not, after all a right wing/fascist attack on multiculturalism and tolerance ?

    Does this mean that we can let Geert Wilders into the country instead of banning him for what he would say – whether you agree with it or not ?

    You’ve either got free speech, or you haven’t.

    –I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “We must remember what we are defending.”—

    What were we defending ? It can’t have been free speech because he didn’t allow it, his predecessors didn’t allow it and his successors won’t be allowing it.

    Has there ever been a society that has total freedom of expression ? I doubt it, regulation and taboo is the norm corralling human expression – yet at times like this you never hear politicians use those two words, which, after all, are pillars of political power.

    I note with interest that in Libya ISIS – yes they are in Libya now – have captured 21 Christians.

    This is the Libya that the French and British laid open to jihadists – hardly the best way to go about winning the war on terror. It would be naive to think we have seen the end of trouble like this.

    I absolutely hope the security services can deal with this kind of threat – I think anti religious expression is precious, hard won, and Charlie Hebdo is just my kind of reading material, but they notably failed in this case despite all the warnings.

    Alarmingly, the CIA officer assigned to hunt Bin Laden says –

    “In many ways, the Islamists are the Western leaders’ best friends in that they give them credible reasons to progressively eliminate civil liberties and continue building the authoritarian states many of them seem to desire.”

    Indeed.

  4. https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/free-speech-and-protest/speech-offences

    Sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA) make it an offence for a person to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress.

    In 2006 the Racial and Religious Hatred Act amended the POA to make it an offence punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, to use threatening words or behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred;

    Broad and flexible sounding laws. I’m sure there are a lot more.

  5. OK that was a bit ranty. However this Europol report

    https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/te-sat-2014-european-union-terrorism-situation-and-trend-report-2014

    tells us that ~~~
    —–
    “A total of 152 terrorist attacks occurred in five EU Member States. The majority took place in France (63), Spain (33) and the UK (35).1 After an increase in 2012, the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 fell below the number recorded in 2011.
    As in previous years, the majority of attacks can be attributed to separatist terrorism. The number of attacks related to left-wing and anarchist terrorism rose in 2013, thereby ending the downward trend observed in previous years. No attacks related to single-issue terrorism were reported in 2013. EU Member States did not report any terrorist attacks specifically classified as right-wing or religiously inspired terrorism for the period 2013. However, in at least two attacks, including the murder of the British soldier, the role of religious extremism appears to be evident. Furthermore, in the UK, an individual motivated by right-wing extremist ideology carried out four attacks, including the murder in the West Midlands.”
    —–

    So, probably, when this year’s terrorism is tallied in December we will find that even including this latest attack religious terrorism has been way, way over hyped, and left wing violence is much more widespread – unless Golden Dawn and our nazi proxies in Ukraine get busy.

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