Charlie Hebdo and the bounds of decency

By now, we all know that freedom is not free. Freedom has a price. Very often those who run against the tide pay the supreme price for their daring. Many were burnt at the stakes for saying that the earth is round? It did it cost lives to achieve racial equality in most parts of the world and to put an end to slavery? To gain their rights to drive, women fought strong and hard. It took lots of agitation to accept women in the armed forces and even now, there still remains parts of our world where the things some people take for granted are not seen as inalienable rights.

Every reporter dreads that time when a friend has cause to fault their right to write a report. We all dread that rejoinder with a tinge of veracity in it. In the last year, hundreds of journalists were killed in the line of duty. But for every good reporter killed, there are ever more daring ones ready to step into their big shoes. For most reporters in conflict zones, every day is a unique blessing because they never know when they leave home and never return. In every corner of the globe, there is someone or groups of people doing something that they do not want exposed. Reporters go to great lengths to expose these things because they know that the world is better when hidden cupboards are flipped open, spilling its contents.

A lot has happened since the French satirist magazine, Charlie Hebdo became the subject of attack, first in 2011 and again this week. Debates have been held on whether or not the magazine’s editors have gone beyond the bounds of fair comment. There is no hard and fast rule to answering that question. The truth is that truth is bound to make someone uncomfortable. For instance, I wouldn’t walk a tightrope but that is what gives Charles Blondin his adrenaline rush.

While criticism, even fair comment is bound to rile someone somewhere, we must never stop pulling on the elasticity of freedom. The freedoms we take for granted today were distant dreams to those who walk our planet hundreds of years before us, so are the advances we have made. Through tenacity, men have universalized basic human rights, advanced in science and technology, gone to the moon and back and given itself incredible toys to occupy it. We must never stop advancing just because there are those who desire to kick our planet back to stone age. While we should not deliberately tease bullies, we should consciously engage until freedom flows on the surface of the earth without hindrance just as the waters flow into the sea.

The Charlie Hebdo four have paid the ultimate price for their daring. We should not judge them because they are pioneers of freedom of expression. The price they paid on January 7 may become a pillar of reference in another century where man is free to take on anything without fear of repercussion.

Charlie Hebdo Four - Courtesy, Daily Independent, UK

For those out there who believe that they are soldiers of a heavenly being, they should realise that if that being is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, then s(h)e does not need feeble man with all his inadequacies to fight any battle. It is demeaning for theists to believe that God needs them to avenge a slight if as scriptures say, that the omnipresent possesses all the powers to do and undo. They should realise that God can fight his own battle (if any) without human help.

Rest in peace Stephane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, Jean Cabu, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac and George Wolinski. May your exit never stop anyone from pursuing their passion, giving fair comment or following their passions.

Indeed, nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo


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