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and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

Charlie Hebdo tragedy: free speech and its broader contexts

January 14th, 2015

What happened last week in Paris was so shocking it has taken a while for its wider implications to be articulated. But, if you are interested in considering different ways to think about the event, the following article is instructive, together with its links to other posts and articles. I’ll just quote a few lines and then the link can take you to the whole post:

‘The cartoonists now join the growing number of journalists killed ‘in the line of duty’. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that over 1100 journalists have been killed in the last twenty years (with 60 killed in 2014 alone). They include not simply the high-profile murders of reporters by Isil in Syria but also cases like the 16 Palestinian journalists killed by the Israeli army in Gaza together with the 16 reporters killed by US military fire in Iraq. Strangely enough, these latter killings do not seem to have generated the same claims from leading commentators that they constituted a ‘murderous attack on Western freedoms’. Yet the fact remains that it is an outrage – whatever the identity of the assailant or the victim – that a single journalist should have lost their life simply for covering or commenting on a conflict.’

‘Those commentators peddling the argument that the shootings were all about a ‘mediaeval’ determination to stifle free speech and undermine our free media have sought to marginalise the wider political context as if there are no consequences for the ‘West’ of interventions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan let alone the situation in Palestine. In their obsession with the sanctity of freedom of expression, they seek to bury the notion that there might be ‘blowback’ as a result of Western occupation and intervention along the lines predicted by the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, when she talked about how ‘our involvement in Iraq radicalised a few among a generation of young people who saw [it] as an attack on Islam’. But of course it is far more convenient to adopt a ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis and to shunt aside uncomfortable geopolitical realities for the more soothing talk of free speech and absolutist speech rights.’

Read the full article here

9 Responses to “Charlie Hebdo tragedy: free speech and its broader contexts”

  1. Thank you for sharing this article Philip, I found it very interesting and have to agree that I think we are being diverted from the real issue, the war on terror.

    It has also set me wondering about Social Media and how it might be seen as one more step in the dumbing down of the masses. Facebook lit up with ‘Je suis Charlie’ memes, I immediately thought that I needed to show my support and almost put one on my feed, then thought ‘wait a minute, who IS Charlie? Am I really Charlie?’ – and yet to not do so felt somehow like a betrayal of these people, as if I might been seen as siding with the terrorists. I am NOT Charlie, but it doesn’t mean that I feel any less disgust over their deaths, it doesn’t mean I do not believe in free speech. It means I don’t enjoy their type of satire.

    And so yes, we discuss all these things and squabble among ourselves, while we could all be standing together against the perpetrators – which we do, but it somehow gets lessened with all the other chatter. Perhaps it’s better to stand against the one evil than with each of the victims along the way, but that in itself seems to be another whole issue. I did see one meme – an automatic weapon with the words ‘this is not a religion’- with that I can agree! This is such a difficult subject.

  2. The freedom to speak is the freedom to think. Without that freedom, how can anyone meet or know their deity? The suppression of the human, and sacred, faculty of imagery, of speech, of the creation of Art, is the suppression of the human spirit. Crushing us does not make us holy, forgiven or blessed. The Inquisition tried it and failed. Isis and Sharia law will fail in this as well.

  3. Freedom is such an emotive word. We live in a world where freedoms are curtailed for all sorts of reasons; to keep the present system of government rolling over, to keep people safe, to “maintain” education levels etc.

    How much freedom do you need? How much freedom do we really have? How much do subtle manipulatoins restrict our freedoms, e.g. advertising that encourages us to conform, without us really knowing.

    In Australia we have laws that would prevent the publicatoins of those cartoons, for the very reasons that have just been on display in France…..I think it is the expression of “fredom” that we are looking at here. A discussion on the contridictions and hypocricies of different systems and facets of our society is important and necessary,but those cartoons , in my opinion, were more than that. Where is the line between Nasty Vicious and Satire?

    Like others I think the killing of people for drawing those cartoons is shocking, but I also think people need to express their freedoms in responsible ways…..everything those cartoons said could have been said in a more respectful and less antagionistic way. The newspaper had to have a police guard, because of previous actualised threats. The cartoonists knew that their work was inflammatory, and yet they persisted in their expression of “Freedom” to, in this case, its logical conclusion. There are lessons to be learned here. Those who insisted on their “freedon of expression” are dead, along with those who were protecting them. This is the cost of that type of expression. All the theories in the world will not change the logical ramifications. If you continually bait vicious people, they will bite you. (I am not including the whole Muslum world here, only those extremists who were involved)

    I am sorry for all the loss and sadness. This incident of “the expression of freedom” has caused the loss of freedoms, and the solidification of global surveilance…..I think some freedoms are more important than others and the freedom to humiliate and vilify others with a pen is not as important as the lives that were lost, the anxiety it has caused Parisians of all cultural groups and remifications of the increasing sureillance of the global community….

  4. The tragedy in Paris was a shock to the world. Here in Sydney we also recently experienced terrorism. Can there be a purpose behind it all?
    I believe everything that exists is connected, as all Druids do, but how do I get my head around terrorism and its place in the scheme of things? Nothing can be left out as everything is contained within the Oneness of all things. Then the words came to me, “Islam means peace.” I kept saying it in my head like a mantra. How can terrorism fit into the grand scheme of things?
    in Paris, twelve people died at the hands of terrorists. The next day 3.7 million people walked together to show that they will not be beaten by terror. There you have it! The great AWAKENING! Terrorism is waking people up. Humans generally care only for their own family and pets etc, and here we saw millions caring for the victims. This happened in Sydney too. What we are seeing is the birth of the ‘human family’ (Alice Bailey). Joseph Campbell too talked about the ‘society of the planet’. He saw that as the new myth to live by, if humans want to survive on this earth. So here we have it, the birth of the age of Aquarius in action. No one said it would be easy!
    In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is faced with a dilemma. He sits in his chariot at the start of a war. Krishna is the charioteer, and he drives the chariot between the two warring sides. Arjuna sees friends and family on both sides and so refuses to fight. Krishna tells him that he must fight because “It takes a war to open the gates of heaven.”
    We live in a world of duality, good and bad, black and white, but ultimately there is only One. For the two to become one again we take this journey as awakened souls.
    So here we are as a race, waking up and fighting against terror in whatever way we can. This is how the many become One again. The world is waking up.
    Islam means peace.

  5. I’m sorry, but the word Islam means submit or submission. According to the Koran, Peace will only be achieved when all the World has submitted to Islam through any means possible. That is what they mean when they say the world is divided into either peace,Islam(when the whole world is under Islamic rule) or war (as the world is now with many religions, many faiths and secular laws) Let’s just call a spade a spade and stop wallowing in wishful thinking. Islam is a doctrine, not a race and it is political. The goal is stated clearly but surrounded by flowery language, but nevertheless spelled out for us if we take the time to read it. It’s not just stated once but again and again in words and in the deeds of Mohamed who is looked upon as the supreme example to emulate

    . The goal is to subdue or kill the infidels and the polytheists. Unless we submit to Islam we are considered .second class citizens or “dimmies”. Dimmes have to pay a certain tax. They are not granted the same rights and if their women are not covered up in the Islamic fashion then they are “asking for it ” because they are taunting the poor Muslim man who according to Islam has no self control There is no “Love thy neighbor” You are allowed to lie and even encouraged to do so if it furthers the cause of Islam. it may have a spiritual dimension The world is waking up and we want to see the connection between each other as a Human Race but Islam , not the people, Muslims but the doctrine of Islam

    • It isn’t wishful thinking, and I know the story of Islam. I have read the Koran. I was looking at it in a more spiritual way, the purpose behind it. But the people around the world are showing that they want nothing to do with terrorism or war. There has never been peace on this earth. Every period of history has some war or other going on.
      We humans live in a world of duality, constantly dealing with opposites. And here we are, dealing with another one. It never seems to end. Perhaps it has to be this way until we can see oneness. That is what awakening is. That’s what enlightenment is. That’s what Christ, Imam and Krishna is.
      Most of the religions don’t follow the higher path. The Sufi or Gnostic would not kill.
      The Catholic armies were doing the same thing in the past, killing innocents. Round and round we go…..

  6. Sorry-accidentally hit send-I wanted to conclude that of course most Muslims do not follow this doctrine to it’s most literal sense and are upstanding citizens and wonderful people but there is a problem with the Doctrine of Islam. Also the treatment of women in the Koran is a huge problem for me and I think for any modern woman if they look at it closely. We cannot let the genital mutilation continue, and the idea that a woman is worth half of a man with all the male domination that goes along with it. There is a Mecca part of the Koran (the peaceful one)and a Medina part (The political part)and the aborgation of the earlier stances which are peaceful is recommended and by Mohamed.

    Unfortunately, the Doctrine has not been refined or changed at all since it was written because it is considered the direct word of Allah. So for the Radical Islamist, he or she kind find backing from their prophet for their behavior. Enlightenment, not war is the answer. As I write this, I am in a state of fear. That should not be but it is. Spirituality and the waking up of the world and all of it’s peoples is what is happening but not without it’s immense challenges.

    • Because of fear, humans fight back. For example, when they fire rockets from Gaza into Israel, are the Jews expected to sit back? So it is an ongoing tit for tat. Every day is a challenge on earth. It’s been happening for as long as humans have been here. The cause?
      The belief that we are all separate. Yet we are all One, all commected. When people awaken, they dissolve the illusion of separation. They end the idea that there is more than one thing.
      GoGently.

    • I agree with you re treatment of women, MaggieM. I have a live and let live attitude with regards to religions, but I have a problem with them when it affects the lives of others who have no choice due to where and who they are born. Freedom to exercise religious convictions should not be allowed to include passing those on to others or else. We mustn’t be so liberal and accepting that we let others suffer just because something is done under the cover of a religion.

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