The acts of terror in Paris over the past few days and the resultant groundswell of defiance by the citizens not only on the streets of the capital but in Toulouse, Nantes, Marseilles, Nice and many others all over France have emphasised the values that this nation holds above all else – equality, fraternity and liberty. In fact, one could say they are France’s greatest export, a special gift to the world.
Part of these values is the right to question, to challenge ideas, concepts and beliefs and to object to anything, as long as it’s in a non-violent manner. The freedom of speech, to express one’s thoughts with pen, crayon or keyboard is an essential tonic that prevents the plague of institutional oppression and violence from overwhelming a just society. Satire is possibly the greatest weapon of all.
By allowing a free flow of ideas from all angles, a society paradoxically generates a tolerance of others and of differences of opinion. Obvious religious, gender and class disparities and opposing convictions are deferred from their traditional face-offs and the lines become smudged. In a free society such as France opposing notions of Us and Them, Male and Female, Old and Young, Black or White, Pro- or Anti-, Christian or Muslim are not important. Making them important, however, kills the health of a society and submerges it into the hellish dystopia that Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia currently find themselves drowning in.
Therefore, as free-thinking individuals, it is our duty to stand up to the repression of otherness, and the consequential violence it perpetrates. We all need to pull those pens from our shirt pockets and put ink to paper. We will not hide from the terror. We will fight by being thunderously vociferous. We will shout from the rooftops and mountain peaks that ‘We Are All Charlie!!’