Nous sommes tous Charlie

9 Jan


I'd rather die standing


Helen Razer has an interesting piece here today on why we are not all Charlie, in which she argues quite rightly, that ridiculing terrorists and murderers does absolutely nothing to stop their hideous activities. Jokes, she observes, do not prevent wars, and personally I can find nothing in the least amusing about the actions of murderous ideologues of any persuasion. The recommendation that I laugh at terrorists seems to have its origins in a thousand sentimental Disney movies in which evil doers crumble into dust in the face of hearty laughter from their potential doe-eyed victims. This crackpot notion has always irritated the shit out of me.

Satire, though, has its place and god forbid we should ever be without it, but in and of itself it cannot and does not prevent anything, though it obviously can cause terrible, unthinkable consequences for its purveyors.

If the slaughter of the French cartoonists tells us anything, it is that we are at war with those who would silence us. This war is waged on a continuum. At its extreme, as in Paris yesterday, it robs those who would speak of their lives. No matter how objectionable or unaesthetic their cartoons may have seemed to some people, they did not deserve to die for expressing their opinions.

At another place on the continuum legal threats are employed by those who can afford it, to silence those whose speech is in some way perceived as a threat. Governments use their power to refuse to allow the accurate recording of our history. The voices of Australia’s Indigenous first peoples have been scandalously omitted from the narratives of our country. The voices of women have frequently suffered a similar fate. Silencing is a tool as powerful for the orthodoxy as it is for extremists.

In my experience, if you have a public voice there is always some fucker who wants to shut you up. When they don’t murder you, they threaten you with ruin. There are people in this world who cannot bear to hear,and cannot bear to listen, and cannot bear to sit across a table from you and sort it out. These people are cowards and liars, and sometimes they are literally murderers.

In this sense, Je suis Charlie. Nous sommes tous Charlie, or potentially Charlie.

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees,” said Stéphane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, quoting the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. He did die standing. Whether you admired their work or not, Charbonnier and his colleagues died standing and this matters, this counts, this is why they must be honoured, and this is why we are all Charlie, because any one of us at any time could find ourselves at risk for speaking our truth, and sometimes, some of us who refuse to live on our knees will, one way or another, die for it.


29 Responses to “Nous sommes tous Charlie”

  1. Marilyn January 9, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Not too many in Australia want to die on their knees, they would rather jerk them. Charlie though was a racist through and through and should have been condemned for the racism and his cartoons were not funny.

    I had a nervous habit as a younger woman of laughing when I described the abuse my parents dished out, it was because I couldn’t quite believe anyone could be so cruel.

    But the Australian media hypocrites who pulled a cartoon depicting the vicious truth of jews watching Palestinians being slaughtered and treating it like a picnic now claim they love free speech.


    • paul walter January 9, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

      I’ve a cartoon up on my FB which has a $75 million jet dropping a $350, 000 bunker bomb on a raggedy $20 Afghani tent. Where was the whine about terrorism in the media, after thousands of these incidents?

      A high offical from the US claims it is the worst terrorist attack since 2005, but didn’t the Helicopter gunship massacre that Manning and
      Assange are persecuted for kill twice as many a good deal less worldly than Charlie and the crew, later on?

      So it was a nasty unscrupulous attack, but given the way the world works it was only a matter of time before fanatics fed up with the treatment of Muslims in Europe and the Third World would see the opportunity to get cred with Muslim populations, who despite their fearsome reputation in the press, have actually come out in large numbers to protest the attack.

      Free speech, what a conditional hoot, in a world riddled with propaganda, most of it churned out by oligarchs in the West.

      Better the West took time out finally to take a look at itself instead, some thing that should have happened after 11/9.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson January 9, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

        I absolutely agree with your last sentence. I also doubt it will ever happen


      • Novel Activist January 11, 2015 at 11:56 am #

        So Paul, when two Sunni supremacists of French/Algerian descent kill cartoonists for insulting their prophet, you think the war in Iraq/Afghanistan is relevant – just to muddy the waters and obscure the fact that this was an act of fascist thugs.


        • Marilyn January 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

          There is no sense of history in the tiny minds of some is there? Do you think after France colonised Algeria and slaughtered over 1 million people and then treated French Algerian citizens like cockroaches for decades might have something to do with it?


          • Novel Activist January 12, 2015 at 8:50 am #

            No Marilyn, I don’t. Below I mentioned the Algerian feminist Marieme Helie Lucas, who shares my views and who has been the victim of Islamist thugs herself. Talk about tiny minds – bet you don’t even know about the Algerian intellectuals, persecuted in their own country, who found refuge in France?


    • Novel Activist January 11, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      Charlie was not racist. This is a ridiculous assertion. It attacked everyone and everything.


      • paul walter January 11, 2015 at 6:14 pm #

        Fool. Have you seen the cartoons? .. are you are aware of what century this and why we need less idiot Alan jones types and a bit of a sense of responsibility with tabloid writing?


  2. Mayan January 9, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    There cartoon wasn’t “pulled’, but the SMH did publish an apology which can be found at:

    The cartoon appears to have been based on a fusion of unrelated images, which were shown in some media outlets together to give a false impression that Israelis were watching stuff blow up on video screens at the beach. That never happened. Sadly, there is a long stream of reporting and photoshopped pictures from that time which give a false account of what happened. Such alteration of the record to suit a narrative is not at all similar to cartoons, no matter how crude, in Charlie Hebdo, which worked to offend almost every part of humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson January 9, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      What is of great concern to me is that humanity increasingly thinks it has a right not to be offended and that excessive punishments should be inflicted for the imagined crime of “offence.”


      • Mayan January 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

        And not only in religious matters. Look at the multiplication of “trigger warnings” and attempts to silence contributions from various people because they aren’t members of an “oppressed group”. Silencing can take various forms, of which violence is only one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn January 11, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

        But the west doesn’t just commit offence, they have been slaughtering muslims and invading their countries for centuries while no muslim country has ever invaded the west.

        I watched the first part of a new US series about “”Negroes”” and discovered for the first time that some of the first slaves were new muslim converts.

        Robert Fisk wrote a great article about this, so did the New Yorker. I suggest you read them.


        • Mayan January 11, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

          Actually, the muslim world has definitely invaded the west in the past. They took over Spain and parts of France. From the other direction, they reached as far as Vienna, repelled by the Polish army.

          The story of Islam is one of conquest. It begins with Mohammed waging war against those who wouldn’t convert to his whims, chopping off heads, taking women as slaves and so forth. Through the Middle East and northern Africa, existing peoples and their cultures were either erased or subjagated and forced to convert. Iran, formerly Persia, was happily Zoroastrian until the Arabs conquered them and forced them to convert and die.

          Claims of colonialism by the Muslim world, especially the Arab portion of it, are little short of dark comedic farce when viewed through the Qu’aran’s own account of those times, and the various historical accounts of their conqests.

          The USA first waded into foreign military adventures to stop Islamic pirates from preying on shipping along the African coast. The predations and slave takings from coastal European towns are notorious. The involvement of Muslim slave traders in the trans-Atlantic slave trade cannot be forgotten, nor can the continued existence of slave trading in those parts, nor the practice of taking slaves today in places such as Nigeria.


          • Novel Activist January 12, 2015 at 9:10 am #

            Not to forget either Mayan, that IS has re-established slavery. 😦


          • paul walter January 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

            It’s good backgound but doesn’t address the question of Western Exceptionalism..unless Western Civilisation is the spiritual Bastard Child of the worst aspects of Medieval Islam. (No, it doesnt help to seek refuge in the claim of mainstream Roman Jewish and Greek’antiquity as the basis for the West: these people used to do genocide as well).

            No more trolling, eh?


        • Novel Activist January 12, 2015 at 8:59 am #

          Well Mayan below, reminds us that Islamist imperialists did indeed invade Europe – actually across three fronts: west, up through Spain, into France (where they were stopped as far north as Tours) and undertaking slave raids as far north as Ireland; up the centre through Sicily; and through the east, via Greece and the Balkans. Did you know that there was even a mosque built inside the Parthenon?

          As for the slave trade. Seriously Marilyn? The Arab slave trade in Africa preceded and post-dated the European slave trade by some centuries. They even provided slaves to the first Europeans. And during their imperialist expansion into Europe they enslaved millions of Europeans.


  3. paul walter January 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    The last seige ended with more hostages than gun people killed- all those elite police, still the plan to rescue the hostages some how wasn’t quite up to scratch…



    • Novel Activist January 11, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      The four hostages were killed before the police arrived.


      • paul walter January 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

        You forgot the question mark.


  4. Novel Activist January 11, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    One of the best explanations of Charlie Hebdo I’ve read. It explains why this is so important to the French.

    “There is an old Parisian tradition of cheeky humor that respects nothing and no one. The French even have a word for it: “gouaille.” Think of obscene images of Marie-Antoinette and other royals, of priests in flagrante delicto with nuns, of devils farting in the pope’s face and Daumier’s caricatures of King Louis-Philippe, whom he portrayed in the shape of a pear. It’s an anarchic populist form of obscenity that aims to cut down anything that would erect itself as venerable, sacred or powerful. Such satirical humor has little in common with the kind of witty political satire with which Americans are familiar today through watching Jon Stewart or John Oliver. While not apolitical (attacks on Marie-Antoinette surely had a political valence), gouaille does not seek to stake out a political position or mock one political party to the benefit of another. It is directed, rather, against authority in general, against hierarchy and against the presumption that any individual or group has exclusive possession of the truth.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter January 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      But France is now supposedly multi cultural except that it, like most other western nations, has botched the managingof social processes necessary for it to work for a community and its members, because very powerful people have, for varying reasons, a vested interest in promoting feral culture war situations, a bit like the Tea Party or Abbott.

      The humour would have worked better in earlier time when everyone understood the rules of the game.

      Class warfare disguised in ethnic warfare, it is.

      Wouldnt an interested person be overjoyed to read say, a Roland Barthes account of what this has been all about?


      • Novel Activist January 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

        Or the words of another Algerian, the feminist Marieme Helie Lucas, the founder of ‘Women Living Under Muslim Laws’, which has been agitating for women’s rights and who has found a home in France away from the Sunni supremacists now disrupting much of North Africa.

        “The humour would have worked better in earlier times when everyone understood the game”

        Meaning what? That the indigenous French should modify a centuries old tradition so as not to upset a few Sunni fundamentalists? Fuck that.

        This isn’t about class warfare. It’s about Sunni supremacists/Salafi fascists doing what all fascists have done – use violence to impose their will.

        “As Helie-Lucas and Maryam Namazie wrote in an online petition in denunciation of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a statement rapidly signed by activists from Iran to Sudan, “What is needed is straight-forward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilization….”

        At least WLUML has moral clarity about who the real enemy is.

        “I also blame some liberals and left-wingers – and even human rights advocates – in the West who have for years apologized for Islamism and Islamist ideas, painted Islamists mainly as victims with legitimate grievances standing up to the West, or defenders of Muslim culture, rather than extreme right wingers with guns determined on squashing human rights. These Western apologists have justified everything from the burqa to theocracy in the name of cultural relativism – appalling many intellectuals of Muslim heritage who are determined instead to buck extremism. Some of these voices were heard again in the U.S. media yesterday emphasizing the “offensiveness” of Charlie Hebdo’s content. In Western academia, this apologia has often been a politically correct stance, what Mahnaz Afkhami decries as “Islamic exceptionalism.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn January 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

          What mindless unmitigated crap. Do any right wingers have any frigging sense of history or just jerk the knees.

          All the ranting about the big murderous woman terrorist who was out of France a week before anything happened and surely did not kill anyone in Paris, Katrina Lawson and the others actually shot by the cops here.

          Meanwhile the US is drone attacking Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria with impunity. Everything is connected, not just the drivelling nonsense of the racists in the west.


          • Novel Activist January 12, 2015 at 9:05 am #

            But this writer is NOT a right-winger. WLUML is a left-leaning, feminist rights organisation made up primarily of women of Muslim heritage. That you would dismiss their voice says a great deal about your ideological confusion – such that you become a supporter of the Muslim far-right.


        • paul walter January 11, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

          I find the Western Exceptionalism of the USA, French, Australian and
          and Israeli, etc sort infinitley more sinister and problematic and incomprehensible

          The last commenter, Marilyn, was
          abolutely spot in exposing your repulsive double standard.


  5. paul walter January 13, 2015 at 2:01 am #

    Interesting sequel to it, as Hollande bans Netanyahu from attending the march, despite political brawls behind the scenes- in the end Hollande is so miffed by what Haaretz’s Richard Silverstein calls Netanyahu’s “boorishness” that he invites Palestine”s Abbas, who wasnt on the original list, instead.


    • paul walter January 13, 2015 at 2:07 am #

      Sorry, the journal is Tikun Olam


  6. Fi May 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Came to this thread very late in the day after searching for pieces by muslim secularists.

    After reading the above debate and the ‘arguments’ made by the latter two against Novel Activist – all I can do is shake my head in wonder at the depths of rank stupidity being plumbed here.

    Post colonialism? Just look at the way the most stupid and pompous of the white western left airbrush the muslims who don’t fit their ‘narrative’ out of history, out of debate, out of their minds altogether.

    I say this as a member of the left. I come from a tradition where you just stood up to all you saw that was wrong. All of it. A valuable form of multi-tasking that some seem to have forgotten. We are being caught in a pincer movement between two sets of extremists – the far white right and the far right muslim supremacists. Any whiff of favouring one over the other feeds them both and they are growing exponentially, dragging us all with them to a battlefield of their imaginations/making called the ‘clash of civilizations’.


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