Archive for November 2011
Following the news articles surrounding the destruction of Charlie Hebdo’s offices in reaction to some offensive jokes has been fascinating. The reluctance of so many media outlets to completely condemn this behaviour and vilify the perpetrators outright has been astonishing.
For any press outlet in a free country to dare to take the line that the bombing of these offices was a bit harsh but hey they had it coming is utterly ridiculous.
“I’m not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a Mosque or to defecate on a Quran or anything of this kind. I am saying though that religion makes very large claims for itself. Islam claims that it is the total solution to all human problems and that the sooner it is imposed on everyone the better. Well, that’s a point of view. If it’s going to make such claims it has to drop the demand that it be immune from criticism and especially from satire.”
– Christopher Hitchens
This attack on free speech and democracy must be condemned in full and not an inch can be given. I fully understand people have the right to be upset and offended, but this whining tantrum has turned very sinister and dangerous. Offense and respect should not be legal matters and anyone that attempts to impose law by way of petrol bombs, especially if this implies the silencing of a free press, has the children of the enlightenment and the advocates of free speech to face in a fierce and charged debate. I’ll write plenty more on the subject in coming months and years, for now though I will leave the formal discussion on this matter to writers far more eloquent than myself. Like this superb article in Forbes.
While other much more accomplished authors have the time, experience and resources to debate the details I merely offer a deeply passionate emotional response to this incredibly childish and barbarian behaviour.
To the people that destroyed the Charlie Hebdo offices – Fuck You.
To everyone that supports this behaviour – Fuck You.
And most importantly, to those media outlets making snivelling apologies, blaming Charlie Hebdo for bringing it on themselves and to those slowly giving up their rights to criticise and humour others – a very special and overly sized Fuck You Too.
I will not give any space to those that want to impose on my freedom of expression, this is non-negotiable. I support Charlie Hebdo and if you guys want to set up a fund to help rebuild your offices please, please let me know. I will donate.
A chilling article by Lijia Zhang describes an almost alien scenario that is, according to the article, becoming increasingly common in China.
The article describes the tendency of Chinese people to not help other human beings that are in trouble for fear of implicating themselves and possibly facing a ‘Nanjing judge’. The piece explains that there have been a number of cases of people playing the ‘good samaritan’ only to find themselves implicated as the cause of the trouble and ordered to pay costs, fines and presumably a risk of serving time in prison or some form of community service.
The message seems to be that the culture in China is to look out for your own but don’t get involved if it’s not your business.
Now to us highly moral westerners this is an utter disgrace, the idea of ignoring a child who is bleeding to death on your street simply because it is not your child should be harrowingly icy. There is a rather large dialectic, however, that is causing me great pain in leaving it at just that. It is a necessary mental exercise for most people when reading about other cultures to be obliged to attempt to understand them, to attempt to draw parallels with things in your own life and culture that you may be able to gain some insight and understanding.
I suppose that such an act of casual dismissal of life would cause many people to refuse to try to draw parallels as is so often the case when confronted with seeming acts of evil. Perhaps we’re afraid of seeing something of that in ourselves.
It struck me as quite frightening at first when I reflected these acts back onto myself and my own society and I too felt the presumably typical response of repugnancy and denial, but I can’t escape the daunting notion that there could be a rather dark truth lurking within this reflection.
I do walk on by as children die, I carry on with my life as if nothing is happening while children starve, I’ve done nothing to help the victims of the earthquake in Turkey, nothing to help the people rebelling in Yemen or Syria. Nothing to help the the people’s lives devastated the tsunamis in Japan or Thailand. Or the earthquake in Haiti. The list goes on and people over the world continue to live in war torn countries, in strict oppressive regimes and children continue to die of curable diseases. I know about it, I continue to enjoy my life and do very little or nothing to help.
And so do most people I know.
This seems to be the accepted stance of people living in developed western countries. I applaud those that actually fly out to the locations of people in need and administer aid, I really do salute you. For the most of us an ocean, a TV screen and people not speaking our native tongue seems to be enough of a barrier that we can alleviate our guilt by donating £20 per month.
If that’s the way you want to live your life then that’s fine, but do not dare to criticise another culture just because they use a street instead of a TV screen to justify their ignorance.
Another people watching you and your culture may well ask how you can possibly stand by and eat and live well while there is so much horror in the world, horror that you know about and could assist with. They’d be right to ask and we’d be right to hang our communal head in shame. Go ahead, judge the Chinese for this abhorrent behaviour then book a flight out to Uganda for 2 weeks next year and help the Red Cross save some lives.