I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Handing over the baton

Lucy's far better informed than me about Charlie Hebdo and it would be futile my adding my two sous'-worth. Make sure you read her two-part comment to my post,  Just Passing By, a couple of days ago. Reflect as Lucy has done on the dangers of generalising, on using words like "government", "extremist" or even "cartoonist" and imagining they are in any sense definitive.

I started out exhilarated by people's opinions - a genuine forum. Now I'm exhausted. Blogging has its limitations. What's needed is balance (ie, eighteen-months' research followed by a thousand-page book. Assuming there's someone left to read it.)


  1. Sorry Robbie, shouldn't have dumped it on you like that. Will e-mail presently.

  2. Lucy: Dumping? You are talking to an unreconstructed dumper. Not forgetting that the US has added another (almost onomatopoeic) meaning to this word. What I've done is lay down a hurried and rather shabby red carpet. You know you are always welcome.

  3. Yes! Whichever way you look at it, it has been an exhausting, numbing business. And it will pass! Therein lies our sanity.

  4. Avus/Tom: It will pass, I know. But alas that doesn't mean it will get any better. Within twenty-four hours of the funeral things were getting antsy in Belgium - causing the police to step in at Verviers, get shot at, and kill two in return. Thereafter the Belgian police appear to have arrested everyone they regard as terrorist suspects. It is as well to remind ourselves that Guantanamo Bay is peopled only by suspects - not a hint of due process for over a decade.

  5. Here we've talking a lot about this Pegida group in Germany. I'd heard the word, but now I do want to engage in a bit of research. The incident in Köln made me realize I should pay attention.

  6. I don't see Lucy's two-part post so I will tack my own lightweight opinion to your page. CBC mgmt decided not to reproduce the offending cartoons partly on the basis that if the cartoons were not fit or relevant to their audience two weeks ago, why would they be now? Not everything published or aired on tv or at the theatre is agreeable to me.....on the basis of creativity and cleverness. A lot of Hollywood product is crude, lewd and unfunny in my view......so I don't watch and am not a patron. I thought the newly published "all is forgiven" CH cartoon would have been more effective if Mohammed was silent but had a tear in his eye, for instance. I don't happen to find humour in the Charlie H cartoons, not because of sanctimony. "Yes we can't" on the cover of Mad magazine would make even Obama laugh, I bet. With limits, we agree with the
    right to free speech......we have laws against hate literature and child pornography but generally even a duffus has a right to spew forth. We have arrested suspicious characters in the last week as well, who knows what the authorities know or what they don't? Canada rounded up Japanese and Chinese Canadians during the last war and stripped them of their rights, a paranoid national reaction now deeply regretted. After 9/11 I think I recall the question asked: would you trade suspicion for compassion? A complex subject and streets lined with heavily armed soldiers is horrifying.

  7. RW (zS): Wikipedia brings you up to date on Pegida. If the anonymous manifesto is to be believed its aims seem almost benign at first glance (eg, same immigration policies as the Netherlands and Switzerland) then you get down to the nitty-gritty (eg, zero tolerance towards criminal refugees and immigrants, opposition to political correctness, implementation of asylum laws).

    Pegida has a semblance of legitinacy since it is a registered charity. However the growing number of people at its demos and rallies includes young hoodlums who smash things up. A young Muslim was stabbed to death. I wouldn't want a Pegida member as a German pen-pal.

    Stella: Lucy's contribution consists of a two-part comment to my post Just Passing By on Jan 13. I have re-worded the cross-reference above (in my post Handing Over The Baton) to make this clearer. I do hope you read Lucy's piece; it is both wide-ranging and personal.

    Causing offence is tricky and is obviously beyond legislation. Almost everything anywhere has that capacity. To some people US cars, because of their size and wastefulness, are offensive. As are Hawaian shirts and the opinions of ill-educated evangelists. In moments of bragadaccio I've been known to adapt Oscar Wilde's response when asked whether a specific book was obscene: "It's worse than that, it's badly written." The obvious solution is to avoid things, people, artefacts, etc, that are offensive.

    Freedom of speech has limits: classically no one has the right to (falsely) call out "Fire" in a crowded theatre. But things are murky before we get that far. From the best of motives and a strong sense of history we have turned anti-semitism into a crime; no civilised human being would want anything other but it thus becomes an exception. Similarly with child pornography. Similarly - and much more dubiously (since it can be hard to define) - hate material. In a totally balanced and equal society, able to deal even-handedly with the needs and beliefs of minorities, the rendering of Mohammed in pictures might be considered and acted upon. But no such societies exist, all are subject to the compromises implicit in democratic politics. People have been killed to try and bring this about; it is not perverse of societies to resist such assaults; give in now and who knows what tomorrow may bring?

    I was going to say you cannot be locked up for your beliefs but this is untrue. Beliefs are seen as related to crimes and the net is cast in these broad-brush sweeps by the police. Democracy? Rule of law? The present is horrifying but it is the future that is unnerving.

  8. Our weekend paper prints various readers' opinions responding to the debate on free speech. I quite like this one: " Some would choose not to offend because of fear, others would choose not to offend because of grace. The two should not be confused. I don't have to deliberately offend others to know that I have the right to do so. If I graciously choose not to offend, my freedom is intact."