your right to say it.”
– Voltaire –
PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN
“Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”… the songs of Christmas were still fresh in the collective memory when two masked gunmen armed with AK-47s and other weapons attacked the Paris offices of the French Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people and wounding eleven others.
Another gunman took hostages at a kosher supermarket in a related incident, with a total of 20 people killed, (including 3 terror suspects) and 21 others injured between the 7th and 9th of January 2015 in the deadliest terrorist attack in France in over 50 years.
Charlie Hebdo is a weekly newspaper that has irreverently satirised the extreme right, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, politics, and culture for years, no doubt offending plenty of people along the way. The killings of writers and artists and unarmed, innocent citizens raised many issues, some of them regarding freedom of expression – should it be allowed? Should people be allowed to silence the views of others with whom they disagree – either through repressive laws or by killing them?
JE SUIS CHARLIE
The immediate reaction from cartoonists around the world was the #Je Suis Charlie campaign on Twitter in with pencils and pens responding to weapons and terrorist threat in a thousand creatively thought-provoking ways was a vivid demonstration of how the pen can indeed be mightier than the sword. Those images will be speaking eloquently for a hundred years in a hundred languages.
Possibly the simplest response of all was from Christian Adams from London’s Telegraph where the title: EXTREMIST APPROVED CARTOON was set into the frame of a completely blank cartoon panel.
The violence was hate-fuelled, racist and motivated by a grotesquely distorted vision of religion. In a remarkable response over 1.5 million people took to the streets in Paris today in what has been called the “march against hatred”. People from all backgrounds, religions and colours joined in the peaceful show of solidarity which, along with simultaneous marches across the country turned into the largest demonstration in the history of France.
The attacks raised other issues as well.
SUCCESS OF THE WAR ON TERROR
After 9/11 the USA declared its “War on Terror”
Today, when most public services are experiencing damaging cuts in the name of Austerity, the War on Terror is one budget which has been declared untouchable. It has already cost trillions of dollars and caused millions of deaths and unimaginable suffering.
The only apparent success of the war on terror has been in creating a climate of political fear and enabling the US military establishment to award itself almost unlimited access to taxpayers money.
Tom Engelhardt Professor of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley, in a an opinion piece in the Huffington Post, described the US’s response to the 9/11 bombings and its War on Terror as a total failure in reducing terrorism. He points out that in fact it transformed global jihadism from “a microscopic movement on this planet” to the number-one foreign policy concern.
WE WANT PEACE, THEY WANT WAR
The man in the street does not want violence or war, as the march in Paris today showed, and the marches around the world before the invasion of Iraq showed.. (and the examples go on and on…)
But war can prove extremely profitable to those dealing in weapons of death.
The top five countries profiting from the arms trade are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China.
- USA – 44% – $220.608 Billion Dollars – mostly to Developing Countries
- Russia – 17% – $83.323 Billion Dollars – mostly to Developing Countries
- France – 8% – $41.96 Billion Dollars – mostly to Developing Countries
- UK – 5% – $27.037 Billion Dollars – mostly to Developing Countries
- China – 4% – 17.808 Billion Dollars – to Developing Countries
So as we sit back and contemplate the amazing scenes we witnessed in Paris today and all that they represented – a combined voice against hatred, a call for peace and tolerance, the choice of individuals to care for other human beings they have not even met, a unified vote to respect the values of Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood…
Possibly at this time one of the questions we should be contemplating is whether these values are also the priorities of those who call themselves our leaders.
Or whether they have other priorities.