Je pense donc je suis (I think therefore I am)- the philosophical statement by René Descartes which has been a fundamental part of Western philosophy, was never more evident than yesterday, with mass vigils held all over in France. People held up placards in support of the slain Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonists, placards that said ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). As indeed we all are. For if we are not allowed our opinions, our own peculiar devices of reasoning, our ability to rationalise, to satirise, to argue, to lampoon, then how far removed are we from amoebae?
The brutal attack brought into focus the freedom that the Press enjoys. Should this freedom be curtailed? Should fundamentalists be allowed to take away the power of reportage? As cartoonists the Charlie Hebdo journalists had a long convention of dissing authority. In fact, to quote BBC news “Charlie Hebdo is part of a venerable tradition in French journalism going back to the scandal sheets that denounced Marie-Antoinette in the run-up to the French Revolution.” So, all these people were doing was their job. Something that these homegrown fanatics did not find palatable.
Listening to the various debates on the radio and Television, I was struck by the immense courage and resolve shown by the French. This was not just an attack on the Press, it was an attack on their national character. A character that has the tripartite motto- Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. It made them resolute to never give up on these. They were, in effect, cocking a snook at these terrorists, showing them that they stood in support of their fallen brothers, and the principles they died defending.
But what of the rest of the world?
Will there still be cartoonists brave enough to take on the ire of the radicals? Will there still be journalists willing to be unbiased about Islam? Will this (and all other similar attacks) unleash a different kind of monster, vilifying all Muslims, or will better sense prevail, and people see this for what it is? An ugly, horrific off shoot that has no basis in reality or religion?
That remains to be seen. In the meantime, for each of these murdered journalists, may another hundred stand up and take their place. To send the vermin scurrying back to their holes, reaching for cover, scared of exposure, of public ridicule, of the destruction of their jihad against innocents. For, after all, the pen is mightier than the sword.