The words come from an old Scottish folk song. It’s more poignant, today, for many reasons, to talk about the ‘young chevalier’.
In France, the phrase ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) has suddenly flown up in front of many faces. Without humour, we are all dead, is a phrase that rings true in my head. Just yesterday, I wrote about how Jamaicans have a great life because they are constantly laughing (more than many other people). It relieves and redirects stress.
Like many, I was shocked to hear of the shooting in Paris, France, of 12 staff, including four cartoonists, at the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. I’ve read the magazine on occasion, when in France. I’m a great lover of satire. I grew up in the era of Monty Python, Spitting Image, and Private Eye. Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye, issued a statement yesterday: “I am appalled and shocked by this horrific attack–a murderous attack on free speech in the heart of Europe….They paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty….Very little seems funny today.”
In Jamaica, we often take for granted the freedom to express ourselves, especially in our printed media. Our cartoonists are, and have been, amongst the most vicious I have seen anywhere.
They play a vital role, in poking fun at leaders and those making views public, and highlighting traits that we often would prefer not to see.
It’s fitting that among the powerful reactions to the killings have been cartoons that depict the pen as mightier (than the gun, if not sword, in this case). We will have our favourites. One of the first I saw, by David Pope, is still the one that hits me hard.
Again, in keeping with how modern life turns, Mr. Pope circulated his image and thoughts by Twitter–the fastest way to spread a message around the world, I think.
I also liked Darrin Bell’s drawing of the gunman slaying a pen, and being surrounded by them, as if under attack. Lastly, I like Banksy’s or Lucille Clerc’s drawing, which I saw late last night. (There’s some question who actually penned the drawing.)
I am not a journalist, in the traditional sense of someone who is employed to write. But, in the world of so-called ‘new media’, I am very much a journalist–I write and publish almost every day. If I say it’s a challenge, that’s because I have to create my own content. When I get an occasional column or letter printed in a regular newspaper, it’s just an extension of what I now do, regularly.
I’m not short of opinions. I also am not reluctant to air them, publicly. However, one thing I found out early, as a blogger, is that many people who do not like my opinion are not afraid to threaten me, at least, verbally. I’ve never taken those as idle threats. There needs to be motive, and that shows it. Whether opportunity and action follow is not just down to me. In general, I do not get a lot of abusive reactions, but that can change at the drop of a word. Sitting at my keyboard, or jotting notes, or tapping words out on my phone, I have learned that my views can rile, annoy, and put me up as someone to attack, even mildly. I cannot control other’s opinions and actions, but I have to live with my own views. Some don’t like that, for reasons too many to describe. That’s the world as it is.
I have also noted, and it disturbed me much more in the past, that many who are most vociferous also want the cover of anonymity. I have never been shy to say that allowing anonymity in social media is a ticking bomb. If you have a view, stand by it, as who you truly are. Yes, there are many ways to mask identity, but the mere bother of having to verify identity deals with many of the opportunists. Anonymous comments on my blogs, often went nowhere. How does one interact with a blank space?
Those who claim that their positions stop them from being frank and open, are looking for weak cover. I don’t need to rant about it, but like with most things, if you fess up and deal with the consequences many problems don’t seem so great.
Those who killed the staff at Charlie Hebdo may be caught soon, but that does not remove the threats to the rest of the staff, or to anyone else. Like grains of sand blown by wind in the desert, more are coming behind. Whatever reasons people find for wanting to do others physical harm they are difficult to dislodge with reasoned argument, or even silence. Remorse and regret are not the stuff of such people. Fear is also something to which they have become numb.
On the other side, those who face the threats shouldn’t cower. It won’t change attitudes. So, better to stand strong. Sticks and stones will break bones, and clearly words (and images) do hurt, too.
One of Charlie Hebdo’s editors, who died, Stephane (‘Charb’) Charbonnier was aware that its satire put the publication in the radical’s cross hairs, but he said he didn’t care: “I am not afraid of retaliation. I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.” Those were his words in 2012.
No joke intended, he lived up to his word, to his death.