Moi aussi, je suis Charlie…..

28 01 2015

I’ve refrained from commenting on the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, partly because I’ve been frankly very busy, and partly because I got burnt out arguing with people on FB about what they do not understand about French culture.  Yes, it can be construed that as I have been away more than 50 years – dotted with one brief return in 1980 – I am no longer French, and I agree I certainly feel a lot more Australian than French these days, but if there is one thing I miss about this great country, it is culture.  French culture of course.  I’m not in the least being critical of Australia, there’s no way I’m going to live anywhere else, but throwing prawns on the barbie and watching cricket or footy on the tube is not culture………!

There seems to be a misconception all over the internet that Charlie Hebdo is “anti-Islam”. In fact it is anti-religion, anti-censorship, and anti-authority generally. Like me, really…  Many of its past covers have depicted beloved religious, political, and cultural figures saying or doing obscene things, and would be considered far outside the rules of dignified discourse by basically any Western media. Unless of course, it’s French….

In France (and Belgium where I was actually born) it is par for the course in adult cartooning to “take the piss”.  These obscene cartoons are in no way meant to inspire anger or to convert people to the cartoonist’s preferred ideology; they are meant to tear down the walls of your ego.  Not to mention all the things that you believe make you a good person because you hold them so sacred. They are meant to drag you down to the cartoonist’s level and laugh alongside him or her. A bit like Meister Eckhart’s enigmatic saying, “He who blasphemes praises God.”

This intentional testing of the limits of freedom of speech is one of France’s great accomplishments, in my opinion. After all, ‘Freedom of Speech’ was invented there after the Revolution that destroyed the elites’ wish to not have any such freedom.  Compared to Russia, where it seems the overwhelming cultural consensus is that no one benefits from such obscenity and blasphemy, and blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed or the Orthodox Church is even illegal;  Pussy Riot broke this law and paid the price.  There was international outcry over this, but somehow the consensus about Charlie Hebdo is now that they went too far.  Not in France of course…..  In America, where blasphemy is considered distasteful, plenty of people do it anyway simply to be mean to others and apparently prove how cultured and intelligent they think they are. The tradition of French cartooning does not try to be particularly clever or prove a political point: it merely looks upon all of the world’s attempts to establish order and narrative with the scorn I believe it deserves.

Voltaire, Diderot, and the Encyclopédie are where it all started, but there is much more to the story.  During the reign of Louis XVI, peddlers of porn would gather in the royal court square where due to some archaic law they were free from all censorship, and sell slanderous erotica about Marie Antoinette.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…  Parisians at this time were naive (no internet, remember?), and believed the slander being published.  Marie Antoinette became so hated due to this, the monarchy of 1789 dissolved into violence.  The rest, as they say, is history, and freedom of speech was born.  The maturity needed for all of society to accept obscene fictions as part of the national character was hard-won. An attack on this culture is an attack on France itself.

France is the most feared nation for Islamic extremists precisely because of this cultural freedom; the French demand that sacred cows be allowed to burn, and high and mighty egos set aside, for the shared goals of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  This is a clear repudiation of ignorant, barbaric, and ego-driven terrorism.  The centerpiece of this culture is Charlie Hebdo.  This is why I too join all of France to say “Je suis Charlie” today…….

I’ve lifted some images for your pleasure that show CH is much more than taking the piss from Muslims.  As you can see, the French love bum jokes.  The C word is used constantly in colloquial French, no one ever bats an eyelid….  Irreverance rules, and if Muslims really don’t like it, they can always go back or go some place else.  Like Russia.

 

 

 

UPDATE:
Through reading this very interesting article, I found these two cartoons…..

 

 

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5 responses

28 01 2015
Graham Houghton

Joli coup – tourner en ridicule tout. Ils peuvent aller se faire voir.

28 01 2015
davekimble3

To deliberately try to offend members of your own society (and elsewhere) by ridiculing the things they hold most dear, just to demonstrate the point that you are allowed to, has nothing to do with the high ideals of Voltaire, Diderot and the Encyclopedie, has it?

How does it advance the goal of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité to be offensive without making any argument to back your case?

It’s just a nasty attitude, calculated to create disharmony – the sort of thing you would expect from 14-year boys and punk bands.

I don’t understand why people hold religious values, but it seems to be a sad fact of life. How many Muslims actually learned the lesson from this that in France anything goes? I bet none did. Instead you’ve now got a society seething with hidden discontent. Fraternité ? You’ve gotta be kidding.

Assuming it was French Muslim extremists that struck back, and not the French state itself, or Mossad, or CIA, or nazis, that didn’t help matters either, did it? (Which is why Mossad/CIA might well have done it).

28 01 2015
Don

Seldom do we see satire as good as that shown by many cartoonists. They prick the ego bubble that some people have about themselves. When those of us are unable to laugh at ourselves along with the general public when our bubble is pricked, then we have the problem not the general public.

As far as I am concerned everyone has the right to there own personal superstitions so long as they do not try to impose those beliefs on others. But no one has the right to expect me to show reverence for their superstitions however benign or obscene they may be.

28 01 2015
davekimble3

OK, no one has the RIGHT to expect anyone to show REVERENCE for their superstitions. But how about just a little common respect, out of a sense of fraternity, amounting to no more than saying nothing ?

28 01 2015
MargfromTassie

Nothing compares to the disparagement and hatred of women displayed in hard core pornography. I am not a wuss. I am generally for freedom of speech and I believe in legalised prostitution, but I do believe that hard core porn should be banned.

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