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Manifestation for Peace and Freedom

The cartoonist Willem of Charlie Hebdo has been rather critical of the #jesuischarlie movement, referring to some as hypocrites and saying that many of the people have never read Charlie Hebdo. He said this in English on a rather interesting edition of BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House on Sunday 11th. In a preview, it was also suggested that the upcoming issue of Charlie Hebdo will be about this. [Broadcasting House podcast, until roughly the end of February 2015]

I suppose this attitude is not unexpected in a publication that takes a certain sort of glee in annoying people, but what the staff of Charlie are perhaps missing here is that this issue is way bigger than they are. This is not just about Charlie Hebdo. I confess, I read it once and I more or less did not understand a lot of the cartoons. Mom said that the British equivalent might be like a French person trying to understand Punch.
And yes, it is true that the various leaders may well appear as hypocrites if somehow one manages to have their head so far up their posterior quarters that they manage to utterly miss the big picture. Yes, Willem, we can all be satirically rude. ☺ That said, this is France. This is not a country run under a severe religious doctrine, this is a modern progressive country with a selection of freedoms and beliefs that have been fought for. Yet, by the simple act of mocking a religious figure, seventeen people are now dead.

Why?

We are many and we are different and there are many who will fail to agree on many things. Stick me in a room with Marine Le Pen, I'll happily tell her what I think of nationalist policies in a global world. We likely won't agree on anything. We might even end up shouting about how stupid the other is. That's a long way from taking a life over such disagreements, or worse, over perceived notions of having taken offence at something. The very premise of the National Front offends me, but I'm not going to go on a rampage over it.
Do we not have the ability to express our thoughts and feelings openly? Sure, other people may think we are stupid, other people may laugh at us, but they have the right to do that just as much as we have the right to say whatever it was we wanted to say in the first place.

This is what the solidarity is about. Not for Charlie Hebdo specifically, but for what it was that they represented. This is also why people in other countries, people who have never seen or heard of Charlie Hebdo before (and probably wouldn't get most of the jokes either), are also showing solidarity.

When we say "je suis Charlie", we are not saying we are Charlie. We are saying we are standing up for the rights of western people in western countries to be able to have opinions, even disagreeable ones, and to be able to express them without the fear of deadly retaliation. Note that this doesn't make us all somehow automatically correct - Nigel Farage is a moron for implying that the motorway was full of immigrants (and countless other examples that it would hurt my head to even remember), but he ought to be free to be a moron without worrying that an immigrant will come along shoot him in the back. Some will agree, some will say "get a grip", and more or less life goes on as before. He can speak, I can write, Cabu can could draw.

That is why we are all Charlie.

Today, there were large demonstrations ("manifestation" in French, or "manif" for short) in Paris. Closer to home, smaller local demonstrations.

The turnout was maybe two hundred, maybe three hundred.

The Mayor of the town read his piece, then we observed a minute of silence for those who died defending liberty and poking fun at stuff.

He then led us on a symbolic walk around "town hall".

Afterwards, everybody French sung La Marseillaise. I opened and closed my mouth completely out of sync. No, I don't know the words. Forgive me, I don't even know the words to God Save The Queen...

Along the way, the local fire crew turned up and announced their presence with the siren. Tactful! The fire truck spent the first half of the proceedings parked across the road. An effective measure against dumb people trying to drive through the middle. It probably won't surprise you but at the beginning, a bloke in a white van did exactly that. Coupla'hundred people on the road and he doesn't think to turn around. Typically White Van Man.

It was a small gesture. There was some media (I think ZenithFM radio and some girl with an upmarket video camera and a skirt almost shorter than her jumper) but given that this activity happened up and down France, I can repeat what I said earlier - We are many. For what it is worth, mom wore a great big bobble hat with PEACE written across it. I only have one photo with mom sort of in it as she spent a lot of the time either trying to listen to the Mayor (the PA wasn't very loud) or prodding me for things I should take photos of.
So, in recognition of that... A little bit of fame for something extremely appropriate:

 

After the manifestation finished (peacefully, not a hint of trouble), we went to McDonalds because I didn't feel like cooking anything to eat. It was there that I saw what must be one of the most ill judged and stupid things that I have seen in a long time (and thanks to Mom for spotting it before me).

Remember, McDo is often threatened by random acts of terrorism as they are often perceived to be representative of American capitalism.
Remember, all of France is mourning the deaths of seventeen people at the hands of extremists.
And today, demonstrations around the country involving millions of people.

Now look at the table.

Who thought that was a good idea?

 

 

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David Pilling, 16th January 2015, 16:27
It's rare to get local activity provoked by current national events. I recall after Princess Diana died - books of condolence appearing in the supermarkets - very surprising and a sense of the whole country moving as one. The day after 9-11 people looked at one another - wow did you see that but that was all. 

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