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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Just passing by

As to Charlie H I have done nothing here at Tone Deaf other than tack on a salutation  to my short story post. Then gone on to Eliot who doesn't quite fit into cartoons, etc, though he might well have said something about religious tolerance given that he wasn't entirely blameless himself in that line.

But I haven't exactly been idle. I've dropped comments here and there in other blogs where constructive dialogue had started. Conscious of my freedom to do so.

Reminding myself that such freedom doesn't sit well with extremists; after all if you're prepared to kill others to get across your point of view, you're not likely to stop short at censorship. And so merely by blogging we were exercising that right which the Charlie H crew paid for so grievously. There are countries where we wouldn't be allowed. Another slogan then:

Charlie Says Use It.

13 comments:

Lucy said...

Robbie, I'll catch up with everything here properly soon. Just wanted to say how much I liked Nebuchadnezzar!

mike M said...

I think Chris Hedges makes some pertinent points in his article at:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_message_from_the_dispossessed_20150111

The hypocrisy of "world leaders" at the head of a rally for freedom of speech is the best cartoon fodder I can think of.

Blonde Two said...

After viewing the events in France from a safe emotional distance for a few days, I had a realisation yesterday that I don't even give a second thought to the blogging freedom that I take completely for granted. The freedom to say what I think and to befriend or offend whom I choose. Imagine if I didn't have that freedom; what would I do? Give up or take the risk? I hope I never have to find out.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'm thinking of Mr. Badawi in Saudi Arabia who is receiving 50 lashes each week for 20 weeks because of what he wrote on his website.

Thank you, Robbie, for bringing to mind the freedom I have to blog, to write.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: I see him as I think Blake saw him as a creature of pathos. Yup, that's me

MikeM: Hedges makes many good points but does not make them all. To do so would blur the picture he wants to paint about oppression.

Why, given that the French are apparently such bastards, would any Muslim wish to live in France; presumably many of them choose to do so.

Is multiculturalism an untenable theory; if it is a goer how do we bring it about without policies of massive reverse-discrimination which - as ever - will make things harder for poor whites.

Speaking of which it turns out that peace in Northern Ireland meant coming up with some gruesome accommodations with the Provos and Sinn Fein. A parliamentary committee yesterday asked Tony Blair (mainly responsible for the peace deal) to apologise for this. What did they expect? That two hundred years of Irish agony would give way to sweetness and light in an instant? They hated the guerilla war and they hate the furtive way it was resolved. Should we go back and start again?

As to the burqa France maintains it is a civil rights issue, that we have a right to see everyone's face, notably in a court of law (Ironically one radical Muslim male gave weight to this point escaping from the French police by dressing up in a burqa, masquerading as a woman. Given the draconian nature of sharia law one can't help feeling he was breaking a regulation or two in doing so).

And yes I acknowledge post-colonial tristesse, as a Brit I have to. We were all bastards in the past (eg, slavery seen as a purely economic argument) though it seems we didn't realise it at the time; the British Empire was thought to be a good thing; going out and administering a foreign territory was claimed to be a noble sacrifice. Eventually we were kicked out and good luck to the kickers. Democracy was embraced but often didn't work, giving way to corruption and tribal strife. The ex-colonialists got the blame, so now we feel guilty and the formerly colonised poor remain poor. What is the realistic solution? I mean I'm not exactly in favour of the system Jahweh introduced after things went pear-shaped in the Garden of Eden.

Most of us would broadly agree with Hedge's diagnosis. But what's the cure? Come on Chris, give us a hint. Something that might work over the next two hundred years. Occasionally the developed nations get things half right; look at the Ebola crisis. By the way, Médécins sans Frontières was created by those bastard French.

Blonde Two: And I hope that, too - on behalf of both of us.

RW (zS): Did you hear I was now the target of a fatwa? Cucumber Growers of Europe, united by the hand-outs they receive from the CAP, have decided I am not according that vegetable the dignity it deserves. I may take to drink. What's that, you say? Well, more drink then.

mike M said...

It may not be apparent from the article I cited that Hedges is a devout socialist. He is. Socialism, and retreat from the Middle East by the West, are his suggestions for remedy. He would like to see massive taxation of the wealthy and an end to the practical occupation of the oil rich Middle East. I'm trying to enlighten myself as to the reasons Muslims are congregated to some extent in France. Seems there was employment there years ago, and certainly problems in Africa. They came, they reproduced, and now they are stuck. It is quite possible to feel too impoverished to move along, too risky. Certainly Muslims wouldn't want to be going to Germany these days. When there is no safe haven, when there is such desperation, events may unfold just as Hedges describes. I've no doubt that the French get things half right...most countries and most civilizations do. Framing imperialism as a "noble sacrifice" is not one of the "right" things that occupiers do. It is a lie to veil the plundering of wealth. Plundering the oil of the Middle East is veiled in contrived concerns about the wants of the occupied. Concern for women's rights in the Middle East. Concern about terrorism. Concern about despotism. I am not Charlie, any more than I was Hustler when a neo-nazi weaned from Christian fundamentalism put a bullet in Larry Flynt. Or am I Charlie, in that I am fully aware that if I say the wrong thing someone will throw me in jail or possibly kill me?

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: We have started a dozen hares here. But here are a few unamplified comments.

Hedges' Socialism was entirely apparent; I commend him for that, people like him are rare these days. But these are dreams not policies, The West to withdraw from Middle East? Great! But where is the political will? In effect we can forget Europe and concentrate entirely on the USA which holds all the cards and needs Saudi's oil. On top of which is the US's powerful relationship with Israel. Reminding ourselves that Israel, without US support, would finally be a shorn lamb with recourse to only one solution when threatened - the bomb.

Since Socialists tend to regard Israel as a Fascist state (ironic that) they shrug their shoulders - let Israel paddle its own canoe. Let those who are left learn to co-exist in a nuclear wasteland. Things are bad at the moment but a Middle East which lacked US "interference" is terrible to contemplate. Yes the US is an empire builder as surely as Britain was two hundred years ago (read Gore Vidal) but there are such things as the balance of power. Once this is broken in the Middle East and it becomes a free-for-all the next step may conceivably be the last - ever.

Muslims in Marseille. You want a pull-out? It happened in Algeria when Charles de Gaulle decided he'd rather govern cheeses than those across the other pond. Remember the assassination attempts? France was a refuge as well as a source of employment for those who lucked out in the post-colonial shambles. Now the economic roof has fallen in and the poor - black and white - are suffering.

Colonialism. Yes Britain expanded for commercial reasons, everybody was doing it two hundred years ago. My irony tried to resurrect the way it was sold to idealistic Brits, notably in India. Post WW2 the Brits were kicked out of India and a good thing too. But the Indians were savvy enough to retain the material legacy the Brits left behind - the civil service, the railways. Now Indians face the problem of trying to bring order to a huge over-populated country based on disparate and mutually suspicious religions (plus the untouchables). Many of the problems are temporarily solved by assassination. Remember Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv? While in neighbouring Pakistan (two parts for the price of one) are you familiar with the Bhuttos? At least we can say it's the locals killing the locals but there's just a leetle way to go as yet.

Tax the rich? Yeah, I'd go for that - and I'm comparatively rich. You too? Good on you. Forget tired old Brit-land as it lurches towards a Disunited Kingdom. The US is the New World, full of shining ideals. Who do you reckon would go for our idea? Let's set up our HQ in the West Virginia Panhandle.

If I'm a cynic it's because I'm old. Once I was a member of a trade union for several decades. It cost me money. Now I need the money to keep me and VR warm. Other matters of a more spiritual nature are just around the corner. If I've got any dignity at all it can only lie in the personal self-reliance of atheism. But how will that stand up to, say, cancer of the colon? The world shrinks when you are old and I envy you your ability to repair the bell-striker in the church tower. If I could do that I'd do it. Even though what went on below the bell would be of no interest.

I've wandered and that too is a penalty of age. I crave your indulgence.

mike M said...

Good points all RR, especially Israel w/the bomb. Indulgence is a small price to pay for continuing education. I wonder if CH will cartoon up something re the 54 people arrested in France for "hate speech" since the "free speech" rallying began. I know. It's complicated.

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: Very civil of you but in the end they were just points. There are no definitive answers; it all depends on how far back in history one's inclined to go. Promises made and then broken by Britain when Palestine was a protectorate (and half of what was to become the Israeli cabinet were members of the Irgun Tsvai Leumi terrorist gang) can be said to have contributed to the present state of affairs. Before that, I blame Peter O'Toole. And or Omar Sharif.

Lucy said...

Late for this one, but that's OK, as I've no wish to go head to head with the two of you, let alone, even at a remove, Chris Hedges, but feeling the need to add some thoughts anyway, which has ended up a post length comment, doubtless two parts. Having said I've no more to say over at mine I'll hi-jack yours instead!

Whether one can go along with Chris Hedges ideology and conclusions, his journalistic experience and credentials are irrefutable, and he certainly paints a desperately grim picture of life in the banlieux, with which more moderate voices here and elsewhere pretty much concur. At one time they only used to riot and burn cars, throw Islamist radicalisation into the mix and you've a far more toxic brew.

In the face of such apparently unbridgeable hostility and alienation, despair and apocalypse do seem the only possibility. Manichaean indeed (and yes, I do know what it means, both in the sense he uses it and the historical one; the last true remaining Manichaeans, the Mandaeans and Yazidi, whose rare, ancient, butterfly's wing of a culture and cosmology is presumably still being brutally destroyed along with them by ISIS in Iraq, has anyone heard?).

The view doesn't altogether take into account the numbers of residents of the banlieux (albeit probably the less desperate ones) from all kind of ethnic, and religious, backgrounds who poured into Paris at the weekend to express their solidarity and outrage at the killings, nor indeed those from, for example, quite comfortable parts of Brighton (where the scariest areas are the poor white ones, in my personal experience) eager to go and have a crack at Jihad (sometimes it seems, having ordered 'Islam for Dummies' from Amazon beforehand). The brothers who committed the attack, as I understand, were abandoned by their parents very young and spent much of their childhood in Rennes, which while it has its rough parts isn't quite the lawless dystopia CH describes. But still, they were clearly open and susceptible to radicalisation, which was long in the making, including in prison.

Though it makes absolutely no difference to the bigger narrative, I do think it's worth noting that in fact, behind the provocative covers (and provoking does not equal inciting), Charlie-Hebdo was often more outspoken than most of the French media about the conditions CH describes. Also that among those killed was Mustapha Ourrad, an Algerian only lately a French citizen (though long time resident), who spoke with an accent but whose mastery of written French was highly valued, and that surviving it the young left-wing Moroccan woman journalist Zineb El Rhazoui, who Charb, the editor, took on during the Arab spring, taking a cut in his own salary to do so - the magazine with its diminishing circulation, waning popularity, court cases etc was always short of money.

Indeed, Charb's 'I care for nobody and nobody cares for me' attitude and stubbornness belied a decent, kind character and strong personal attachments, but personally I found some of his cartoons, like the one about the schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram, pointlessly unpleasant, and yes, offensive, and no amount of allowing for cultural context of the French satirical tradition makes me feel otherwise.

Lucy said...

Part 2!

The 75 year old Cabu, on the other hand, whose particular loss seems to be felt most strongly and personally here, was, to my mind, unexceptionable. He was fiercely anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, critical of all the same French governmental and foreign policy as Hedges, and relentlessly lampooned a particular kind of obtuse, reactionary, racist old Frenchman in his character mon Beauf, as well as gently teasing the idealistic, dreamy young lefties in the form of le grande Duduche. His experiences in the Algerian war made him a lifelong pacifist, and he lent voice and pen to all kinds of other causes such as animal rights and the campaign against the fur trade. He refused, however, to draw for advertising, despite the money he could have made, saying he couldn't really criticise capitalism and the consumer culture then take from it. Wolinski, another old leftie, wasn't averse to doing so and teased him as a 'pure being' for this. He did, however, appear frequently on adult's and children's television, educating and entertaining on politics and current affairs using cartoons to explain and respond to things. Really, as you say of Hedges, the kind of person there aren't enough of any more. But he, and the other older cartoonists and journos, were old style French left, resolutely anti-clerical, seeing religion as very largely an oppressive element which needs to be kept out of public life, a point of view I'm broadly in sympathy with, though I sometimes miss the cosy presence of the old C of E, and find French secularism rather arid and nitpicking. His caricaturing of the prophet, bemoaning the idiocy of his followers,to me, is actually quite sympathetic, though I know that counts for little.

I suppose I'm going on about this because of questioning my readiness to use the 'I am Charlie' tag, and whether I still stand by it. Luz, one of the survivors who drew the latest cover, puzzled over the idea of 'Charlie' as a single unifying idea, said they weren't one entity standing for a single principle, but a loose group with different aims and ideas. (I rather saw the 'I am Spartacus allusion it contains also as referring to the fact that the killers called them out by name to die, in which case I'm not convinced I could be brave enough.) I do still stand by it, because, on consideration, much of what the magazine stood for , I'm not actually ashamed to identify with, as well as with the principle of free speech. Or with speech that is as free as possible. Of course free speech is never absolute; it must be negotiated, frequently wrested from powers stronger and more subtle than those of fundamentalist crazies, and tested by people brave enough to push it sometimes. France has laws against hate speech, holocaust denial, defamation of character etc which are perfectly rigorous. Charlie-Hebdo was inspected in court frequently, including on the prophet cartoons, but there are no blasphemy laws here, and it was deemed that they did not constitute hate speech or break any laws. And I do wonder, what value does reverence, respect or even politeness actually have when it is extracted by violence or the threat of it? Though it seems to me sometimes that old-time religion, like old-time parenting, often doesn't seem to see the distinction between love and fear.

There is a very enjoyable (though to me unbearably poignant) video of the editorial meeting where one of the controversial cartoons was produced at https://vimeo.com/116362234

and a good digest of some of Cabu's work, with some helpful interpretation and explanations, at
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/11/1357057/-The-Charlie-Hebdo-cartoons-no-one-is-showing-you

I'm not providing links to make or score any points, simply to bore you to death, or because they might interest you!

mike M said...

A generous helping Lucy, and I am much better informed for it. Will reread and look over the links. Thank you.

Lucy said...

Thank you too Mike. Please do look at the links even if you don't bother rereading my screed.

With regard to CH making cartoon or other reference to the people arrested for hate speech since the event, yes, I imagine they probably will.