As a struggling civil rights activist, there is one thing I have come to learn. Perhaps the most serious mistake that people make is not being patient to carefully review situations that avail and wisely make informed, conscientious choices and decisions.
What does “I am Charlie mean?” I am Charlie could mean one of two things; it could mean that you are (in solidarity with) the victim of a brutal, senseless and cowardly terrorist attack. That is the good meaning and perhaps the meaning that made most people adopt this hashtag.
But the other meaning of I am Charlie is quite different. I am Charlie also means that I do what Charlie does. I am not sure that everybody who embraced the “I am Charlie” hashtag wished/wishes to embrace this other far-reaching meaning and implication of being Charlie.
To say the least, Charlie Hebdo is a very controversial media company. The cartoons it publishes sometimes are provocative, insulting, and are often designed to evoke a reaction by messing with people’s sensibilities. All these of course bring publicity, and bring French Francs.
Now while I neither have the authority nor interest in influencing in any way or even suggesting to people of the very many different and culturally diverse nations around the world how they should interact and where they should draw the line between what they regard as free speech and hateful speech, I know I have the responsibility as a conscientious human being to decide and define what I personally regard as suitable vs. insulting or insensitive.
With the due respect and regard for descendants of the victims of the Jewish holocaust, using that sensibility as an example, I do not think it would be appropriate for any magazine whatsoever to insist on satirical depiction or other comic reference to their chosen sensibility.
In like vein, with due respect to Hindus. If I were in India I don’t think it’ll be a reasonable of me and responsible of me to make jest of Indian reverence of the cow, possibly by making barbecues outside and teasing Hindi Indians, telling them that I am eating their god. Once again I beg their indulgence, as I do not know if even with this representation I might have trampled on their chosen sensibility.
As a third example, while in the United States I use the word gay with certain considerations. Certain behaviors and social and sexual choices are very different in most of Africa from what obtains in America. In Africa for instance and in the Middle East polygamy is normal and an exhibition of freedom, whereas in the United States it is abnormal. Likewise various sexual relationships that exist in the United States are illustrations of freedom whereas in Africa some of these unions and interactions are abnormal. I must at all times as a human being respect the sensibilities of the region where I am, and when I interact on the Internet, the global medium, I should also try my best to respect global sensibilities.
It all boils down to sensibilities. And sensibilities as the word implies are subjective. What one society might regard as freedom, another society might regard as an impingement. One man’s sensibility might not be lethargic to another man.
I believe that except where unavoidable we must learn as much as possible each other’s sensibilities and learn also to respect them. Of course it will be impossible to be always politically correct. Because the seven billion people on earth probably have seven billion different unique sensibilities. But for the larger groups of people, as we become adults we learn the things people are sensitive about and we wisely refrain from insulting them.
So again by answering that, or asking the question, “what’s wrong with the drawing cartoons (satirical) of their sensibilities?” We fail to understand that what may be a sensibility to one might not be to another. People who say cartoons are “simple,” disrespect Art as a means of human expression and communication for “a million” years of human existence. Art is as expressive as spoken and written language.
So the real question is—what is wrong with insulting another person, his family or his values? I believe, everything is wrong with it. You need not insult a person’s dressing/culture, father, mother, father figures, prophetic figures or God above all. Responsible, cultured and civilized human beings do not insult others without cause. This is the A. B. C. of “civilization” that Africa cradled.
As a human being, I respect people’s views; I respect people’s religions, I respect their rights, I even respect their wrongs, so long as they do not affect me. I don’t believe in making a professional livelihood off of upsetting or ridiculing other people. Proverbs 12:18 says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
On making images, certain Bible adherents believe: Deuteronomy 5:8: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
Quran 6:108 says what means: “Believers, do not say bad words against the idols lest they (pagans) in their hostility and ignorance say such words against Allah (the God). We have made every nation’s deeds seem attractive to them. One day they will all return to their Lord who will inform them of all that they have done.”
The only reason why I (or they) may be found forcefully insisting on pushing certain “mere cartoons” is if in reality I am systematically pushing a certain agenda as a political instrument, otherwise, as a civil being, why will I not simply let it go?
Should anyone kill because of cartoon expressions or other insults, verbal or artistic? Of course not. And that is an unequivocal “NO!” I do not believe any properly functioning human being will kill others over insults, however I do not crave the ‘freedom’ to raise my middle finger at people or police in public without expecting sudden and rash responses.
As peculiar examples of intolerance for “mere expressions:” The people of Iran underwent eight full years of the harshest sanctions in human history because of “mere words” their leader said. Likewise, Libya was destroyed not because of what Gaddafi did, but because he “merely” called his people “rats and stray dogs.” We cannot deny that there is power and consequence to expressions in today’s world.
Forty world leaders gathered in Paris for the “Unity rally (assuming what we have seen is actually what this is all about).” Unity, I believe, defined as unity with Charlie Hebdo in both of the fore mentioned interpretations of “I am Charlie,” in occupation and suffering. I am not sure forty world leaders gathered at any post 911-attack function; but that I cannot remember since the tragedy was in 2001. What I do remember clearly and quite vividly, however, was that last week, the same week that the 12 Charlie Hebdo staff were killed, over 2000 peasant Nigerians in the fishing town of Baga, were massacred by the very same brand of extremists as allegedly attacked Paris, and none of these world leaders did so much as comment. So much for “unity,” and humanity, I dare say.
My heart and prayers go to the 2000 and counting dead of the Nigeria #BagaHolocaust, and to the 17 victims of the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack, but #IAmNotCharlie.