Je Suis Charlie

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Current Events, Personal, Society
Tags: ,

Yes, I am Charlie! We all are.

The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo (translation: Charlie Weekly; named for Charles Shultz’s iconic everyman) is not just about freedom of the press; it’s about the right of every person to live free and say what’s on their minds without fear!

It’s also about art; specifically, the art of satire. Since the earliest days of human civilization the number one sign of a tyrannical government, administration, monarchy or any other form of leadership is the suppression of criticism. Even Emperor Nero, for all his many faults would pardon the satirists in advance of their performance so they could present their art without fear of not living long enough to get to their next gig.  In fact, the Muslim author, Al-Jahiz, introduced satire into Islamic texts “based on the premise that, however serious the subject under review, it could be made more interesting and thus achieve greater effect, if only one leavened the lump of solemnity by the insertion of a few amusing anecdotes or by the throwing out of some witty or paradoxical observations. ” [1]

So it affects us all; even more so in our new digital, media-enhanced society because so many of us have become publishers of our opinions. For example; I have this blog. I do not have a huge following (according to the stats my largest audience for any given post was 76— not even enough circulation to get Google Ads interested), but as cathartic and/or narcissistic an exercise it may be, in a free society I have the right to express myself here, in this way, without fear of violence to my person.

So do you when you post to your Facebook page, or throw that inappropriate selfie up on Instagram, or even share you Grandmother’s recipe for pork roll ups on Yummly. We are all publishers in one way or another and it is freedom of speech that allows us to do so.

However, freedom of speech does sometimes bite us in the ass. The same freedom that lets us share what is important to us allows others to share what we would consider offensive. The problem is, if we pass laws that prevent the offensive, idiotic, bigots from having their say then that same law can one day be turned around and used to shut us up as well. It’s why I oppose hate speech legislation. As Evelyn B. Hall expressed on behalf of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” [2]

Je-suis-CharlieSo for the next few days I’ve changed my profile pic and cover photo on Facebook to reflect my grief at the slaughter of four cartoonists and their co-workers in France. I’m no satirist, or even really an author, but I have an opinion and I value the right my society gives me to express it.

Je suis Charlie.


 

[1] Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976), The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-04392-6.

[2] Right now many of you are fuming, “That was Voltaire!” But actually it was one of his biographers Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote the line as an example of Voltaire’s beliefs. It’s been miss-attributed to him ever since.

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