14 September, 2015

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, Part II

I've seen this and similar articles and can't help but feel they are an attempt to once again shore up the murders committed by terrorists; they are, inevitably, accompanied by mockery of the 'je suis Charlie Hebdo' campaign, which had the gall to condemn murders conducted in response to the depiction of Mohammed and general irreverence towards a religion. Those murders and the hand-wringing attempts to justify them remain crass and brutal and idiotic.

Whether intentionally or through outright stupidity - frankly given how consistently the cartoons are misrepresented I suspect it's cynical and deliberate - these articles are missing the point. Charlie Hebdo is mocking capitalism and Christianity - two planks of western civilisation - for failing refugees. The first cartoon is about our own hedonism, represented in the body of an obvious McDonald's parody, and the empty promise of salvation it offers; while we know plenty in garish and grotesque amounts we allow a child to drown, unnecessarily. The second - explicitly about Jesus walking on water while Muslims drown - is about Hungary and Slovakia, who have both very publicly and openly been willing to discriminate against refugees if they happen to be Muslim, and the EU generally, given its lacklustre response to the crisis and the bigoted attitudes commonly displayed towards Muslim refugees.

They are both very striking cartoons, and both very harshly expose our hypocrisy and immorality - we have so much yet pretend we cannot afford to stop a little boy from drowning, we have ostensibly Christian values and yet try to say those values dictate we cannot save lives if they belong to Muslims, that our morality tells us protecting our culture from an imagined threat is more important than human lives. Charlie Hebdo is not mocking Aylan Kurdi, but mocking our indifference to the death of so many people, including him. The one image, the only picture which seems to have gotten through to anyone in Europe that we are failing human beings is the one showing Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf, and yet when anyone shows us this image, when anyone talks about how he would still be alive were it not for our limp and pathetic xenophobia and penny pinching, we are stupid and banal enough to call it exploitative.

Charlie Hebdo has always been extremely supportive of refugees, and has never shied away from showing us what their struggles are: it has always been frank about the human cost of our indifference. As in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, where deliberately provocative images that appeared in Charlie Hebdo - which condemned the attitudes and beliefs of racists and xenophobes by showing us nakedly what those are - the cartoons are cast in the opposite light of the point being made. Articles like these are capitalising on the lack of awareness of British and Americans for the purpose of supporting the murders of cartoonists.

Meanwhile, the central point of these cartoons remains true, and that truth is that before we saw Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the sand we hated him, and the truth is that many still do. How weak do we believe our culture to be that we think innocent people, innocent children, need to die to preserve it? But sure, get cross at a magazine for pointing that out bluntly, instead.

-The Rev. Schmitt., FCD.