Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Pope says 'non'.

The Pope has caused a stir.  Against the tide of 'Je suis Charlie' he has said effectively 'Je ne suis pas toujour Charlie'.  In all the excitement of solidarity we might forget that 'freedom' is tempered by the impact of exercising the liberty to express our views.  We do it all the time.  There are often things we choose not to say because of its effect on others. We do not wish to hurt them.  It is a self imposed censorship. There is no reason why the press ought not to exercise a similar restraint.  It is particularly so when dealing with stereotypes and actions which might incite dislike or even hatred of others.

We are almost all of us familiar with the process of bullying.  Each individual contribution to it might be small and seemingly insignificant, but the sum total can be profoundly damaging on the victim. This is why when we say  'je suis Charlie' we must be sure what it is we mean by it. It is too easy to consider the impact on a 'community' as being less problematic than an action against an individual. Calling an individual names, hurting them through ridicule has an impact we can see.  In the cloud or fog of ridicule of a community are hundreds and thousands of individuals. And it is made worse when it fosters or presents a stereotype.  They are all like this aren't they?

It is easy enough to be a bully. It is hard to stand against the grain of bullying.  In this the Pope is right to remind us that it isn't simply enough to say 'Je suis Charlie'.  We must also say 'non' to bigotry and hatred.  We must say 'non' to religious intolerance.  We must say 'non' to racism and racist stereotypes.  We must say 'non' to bullying in whatever its guise.  Ridicule is part of the bullies arsenal. A cartoon, a caricature can be as much part of the bullying as can a chant or a remark.

Je suis Chalrie.  Je suis encore Charlie. I believe in the freedom to express views. Mais, Je ne suis pas en faveur de l'intimidation. Je ne suis pas en faveur de l' incitation à la haine.

I say all this not to criticise satire. Let's satirise the satirists. Satire can carry a profound message. Let's be careful of the message.

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