I didn’t really have any great hopes for this thin volume containing 60 short texts by (mostly contemporary) French writers inspired by the Charlie Hebdo attack, but the five euros I paid for it in the Hyper-U went to a good cause (Charlie Hebdo) and I thought that with 60 writers there was at least a pretty good chance of finding something worth reading. Unfortunately I didn’t really find that much. Much of the book consisted of the usual meaningless platitudes which undoubtedly well-meaning people invariably come out with after such events, along with plenty of unrealistic advice from people who really have no idea what they’re talking about concerning what “we” all have to do to make sure something like this never happens again. Perhaps the words “60 écrivains unis pour la liberté d’expression” should have been enough to warn me that they’d all be saying the same thing. But no, I exaggerate, it wasn’t quite that bad… (more…)
Last week I read reports (e.g. here) of a big demonstration in London (on Saturday or Sunday, the 7th or 8th of February, that wasn’t clear from the reports) by thousands of Muslims protesting against Charlie Hebdo and its ‘insults’ to Islam and the Prophet. I was quite pleased to see photos of people holding up placards saying “Insult my Mum and I will punch you (Pope Francis)” as I’d expected that his words would be used in this way. I would be very interested indeed to know whether that was his intention, or whether he now regrets having spoken too rashly. When he said those words in an interview a few weeks ago it did seem totally spontaneous, but I wasn’t 100% convinced that that was genuine.
All this confirmed for me that my objection to the way most people seem to think about the concept “insult” is more than just a personal annoyance or a theoretical philosophical discussion, but an extremely important issue at the moment – frequently a matter of life and death, in fact – and that it was perhaps time for a general rant on the subject on this blog… (more…)
Last Sunday I spent ages unsuccessfully searching Google for that incident involving Bill Clinton, but today a very similar incident occurred involving Pope Francis. While talking to journalists about the recent Charlie Hebdo killings he said freedom of speech was a fundamental human right and strongly condemned what had happened in Paris, but added that there are limits to freedom of expression and that ‘one cannot make fun of faith’. Having said that ‘such horrific violence in God’s name could not be justified’, he basically went on to contradict himself by adding ‘One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits. If my good friend Dr Gasparri [the guy who organises papal trips and was standing by his side] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.’ What he was actually saying was that a perceived insult can be sufficient justification for physical violence, and that such violence was ‘normal’. His only problem with the Charlie Hebdo killers, then, was that they’d gone too far: punching someone is allowed, but shooting them isn’t. (more…)
Today I just seemed to keep running into examples of human stupidity. This morning P. showed me an article on the site of De Morgen about the current climate of ridiculous political correctness in the UK. Wide-ranging laws against anything that anyone might find ‘offensive’ mean that (according to Terry Jones of Monty Python fame) the film Life of Brian could never have been made nowadays. (more…)
Thursday 8 January 2015
As I passed the pharmacy on the way into the shopping centre this morning I saw a girl who had just come out and was sticking up a photocopied “Je suis Charlie” sign on the wall; every website and newspaper has been carrying that message since yesterday and it’s been tweeted millions of times all over the world. I very much suspect that most of the people saying that ‘they are Charlie’ have never even read Charlie Hebdo (just as I haven’t). I found myself getting annoyed today, mainly because of what had actually happened in Paris yesterday – that anyone could be so crazy as to actually kill someone because he felt ‘insulted’, either personally or on behalf of ‘the prophet’ – but also because of all this “Je suis Charlie” stuff. Those murders had been committed by people suffering from the illusion that symbols are important, and the reaction was yet more symbols. If people didn’t take symbols so seriously then they wouldn’t be so easily insulted, people wouldn’t get murdered and other people wouldn’t have to waste their time and energy making yet more symbolic gestures. These are not the sort of thoughts I feel I could really share with the people in my local shopping centre – I doubt if many would understand. (more…)
An easy and enjoyable read and a good book. Well written, often funny but also a bit depressing, as reading about normal peoples’ lives always is. Quite apart from Paula Spencer’s special problems as (ex-) beaten wife and (ex-) alcoholic, she suffers from the sort of problems which seem to afflict a very large part of the population. She wastes an incredible amount of time and energy worrying about what other people think of her and whether she’s ‘normal’ enough, and trying to adapt herself to others’ expectations. She and the other characters in the book are also constantly worrying about and censoring what they say, in case they insult someone else, hurt their feelings or make them angry (and constantly analysing what others say, and trying to guess their thoughts, to see if they might have any reason to be insulted, hurt or angry themselves!). Life is a minefield of potential embarrassing mistakes and things you might regret afterwards. It’s so depressing seeing how the average human being makes their life unnecessarily difficult!
|read||27/11/2007 – 29/11/2007|