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Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:01 PM

Why I am not Charlie

There is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it. Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not the same as to become them. This is true on the simplest level: I cannot occupy someone else’s selfhood, share someone else’s death. This is also true on a moral level: I cannot appropriate the dangers they faced or the suffering they underwent, I cannot colonize their experience, and it is arrogant to make out that I can. It wouldn’t be necessary to say this, except the flood of hashtags and avatars and social-media posturing proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie overwhelms distinctions and elides the point. “We must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day,” the New Yorker pontificates. What the hell does that mean? In real life, solidarity takes many forms, almost all of them hard. This kind of low-cost, risk-free, E-Z solidarity is only possible in a social-media age, where you can strike a pose and somebody sees it on their timeline for 15 seconds and then they move on and it’s forgotten except for the feeling of accomplishment it gave you. Solidarity is hard because it isn’t about imaginary identifications, it’s about struggling across the canyon of not being someone else: it’s about recognizing, for instance, that somebody died because they were different from you, in what they did or believed or were or wore, not because they were the same. If people who are feeling concrete loss or abstract shock or indignation take comfort in proclaiming a oneness that seems to fill the void, then it serves an emotional end. But these Cartesian credos on Facebook and Twitter — I am Charlie, therefore I am — shouldn’t be

Erasing differences that actually exist seems to be the purpose here: and it’s perhaps appropriate to the Charlie cartoons, which drew their force from a considered contempt for people with the temerity to be different. For the last 36 hours, everybody’s been quoting Voltaire. The same line is all over my several timelines:



“Those 21 words circling the globe speak louder than gunfire and represent every pen being wielded by an outstretched arm,” an Australian news site says. (Never mind that Voltaire never wrote them; one of his biographers did.) But most people who mouth them don’t mean them. Instead, they’re subtly altering the Voltairean clarion cry: the message today is, I have to agree with what you say, in order to defend it. Why else the insistence that condemning the killings isn’t enough? No: we all have to endorse the cartoons, and not just that, but republish them ourselves. Thus Index on Censorship, a journal that used to oppose censorship but now is in the business of telling people what they can and cannot say, called for all newspapers to reprint the drawings: “We believe that only through solidarity – in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely – can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech.” But is repeating you the same as defending you? And is it really “solidarity” when, instead of engaging across our differences, I just mindlessly parrot what you say?
http://paper-bird.net/2015/01/09/why-i-am-not-charlie/

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Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why I am not Charlie (Original post)
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 OP
Tuesday Afternoon Jan 2015 #1
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #2
Tuesday Afternoon Jan 2015 #3
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #4
Tuesday Afternoon Jan 2015 #5
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #6
JustAnotherGen Jan 2015 #7
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #8
seabeyond Jan 2015 #9
brer cat Jan 2015 #10
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #11
Tuesday Afternoon Jan 2015 #13
mountain grammy Jan 2015 #12
shaayecanaan Jan 2015 #14

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:09 PM

1. Thank you for posting this. Puts into words what has been circling in my mind these past days =


I am offended when those already oppressed in a society are deliberately insulted. I don’t want to participate. This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do. Yet this means rejecting the only authorized reaction to the atrocity. Oddly, this peer pressure seems to gear up exclusively where Islam’s involved. When a racist bombed a chapter of a US civil rights organization this week, the media didn’t insist I give to the NAACP in solidarity. When a rabid Islamophobic rightist killed 77 Norwegians in 2011, most of them at a political party’s youth camp, I didn’t notice many #IAmNorway hashtags, or impassioned calls to join the Norwegian Labor Party. But Islam is there for us, it unites us against Islam. Only cowards or traitors turn down membership in the Charlie club.The demand to join, endorse, agree is all about crowding us into a herd where no one is permitted to cavil or condemn: an indifferent mob, where differing from one another is Thoughtcrime, while indifference to the pain of others beyond the pale is compulsory.

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Response to Tuesday Afternoon (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:20 PM

2. Yeah I really like this post

She brings up Voltaire's--a satirist extroidinaire--who has been quoted so often lately rabid anti-semitism

Nobody wishes Voltaire had been killed for his slanders. If some indignant Jew or Muslim (he didn’t care for the “Mohammedans” much either) had murdered him mid-career, the whole world would lament the abomination. In his most Judeophobic passages, I can take pleasure in his scalpel phrasing — though even 250 years after, some might find this hard. Still, liking the style doesn’t mean I swallow the message. #JeSuisPasVoltaire. Most of the man’s admirers avoid or veil his anti-Semitism. They know that while his contempt amuses when directed at the potent and impervious Pope, it turns dark and sour when defaming a weak and despised community. Satire can sometimes liberate us, but it is not immune from our prejudices or untainted by our hatreds. It shouldn’t douse our critical capacities; calling something “satire” doesn’t exempt it from judgment. The superiority the satirist claims over the helpless can be both smug and sinister. Last year a former Charlie Hebdo writer, accusing the editors of indulging racism, warned that “The conviction of being a superior being, empowered to look down on ordinary mortals from on high, is the surest way to sabotage your own intellectual defenses.”

Of course, Voltaire didn’t realize that his Jewish victims were weak or powerless. Already, in the 18th century, he saw them as tentacles of a financial conspiracy; his propensity for overspending and getting hopelessly in debt to Jewish moneylenders did a great deal to shape his anti-Semitism. In the same way, Charlie Hebdo and its like never treated Muslim immigrants as individuals, but as agents of some larger force. They weren’t strivers doing the best they could in an unfriendly country, but shorthand for mass religious ignorance, or tribal terrorist fanaticism, or obscene oil wealth. Satire subsumes the human person in an inhuman generalization. The Muslim isn’t just a Muslim, but a symbol of Islam.


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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:34 PM

3. #Notinmyname

The campaign of muslims that do not feel represented by a certain type of islam.


#NotInMyName: ISIS Do Not Represent British Muslims
youtube.com 1:20

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Response to Tuesday Afternoon (Reply #3)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:46 PM

4. Yes

I was talking to a Muslim friend, and he says the same thing. He also thinks immigrating (he's an immigrant) means becoming part of the culture you've chosen-- not giving up your religion of course, but becoming a part of the people-- a citizen. He says that's very challenging to do in a culture of hate.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #4)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 01:53 PM

5. assimilation, yes. with an equal exchange of ideals, mores and cultures. NOT appropriation.

which is done disrespectfully without regard for the minority peoples.

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Response to Tuesday Afternoon (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 02:02 PM

6. +1000

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 03:09 PM

7. The entire thread including op needs a kick/rec

But I love that image.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #7)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 03:13 PM

8. ...

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 03:40 PM

9. I an with gen... The whole thread is excellent and agree. Do not tell me I have to believe the

 

Hateful or ignorance to be disgusted by the violence acted on these people. I have been bothered with the conversation, myself. It does not hold true

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 03:48 PM

10. Excellent post.

I find it quite amazing how many people have *told* us what we are allowed or not allowed to say about this killing, while they are screeching about upholding free speech. It is free speech only when it is what they want to hear. Makes me think the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists died in vain.


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Response to brer cat (Reply #10)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 04:08 PM

11. And that what makes the situation even more horrible

Found this on FB--satire that emphasizes the horror

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #11)

Sun Jan 11, 2015, 02:30 PM

13. wow. love that. thanks for posting it.

and Yes, Sadness for all of humankind. Just. So. Sad. about it all. All. Of. It.

Make it stop.

How?

Please, everyone. Just stop it.

Now!

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Sat Jan 10, 2015, 08:47 PM

12. K & R and thank you for this post

I've been trying to say the same thing over the last few days, but anyone I say it to doesn't seem to understand what I'm saying.

A friend told a story about a friend of his who made the Muslim call to prayer, followed by automatic weapon fire his ringtone, and some people in the room applauded and laughed. Some looked confused and I said, so shooting people for praying is funny? I just don't get it. So much hate in the world, it just can't go on forever.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Tue Jan 13, 2015, 08:31 AM

14. wow

Didn't think I would ever agree with you this emphatically. Top thread.

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