The best bits of a bad job

I’m not going to get into the Charlie Hebdo thing. I don’t have the time or careful articulation to express my feelings accurately. I even had to call it a “thing” to avoid using a term that might be considered inappropriate by one side or the other. And therein lies the problem: people are taking sides.

An incident which should perhaps have the power to be either divisive or uniting seems (disappointingly, but maybe unsurprisingly), being used exclusively as the former, rather than the latter. An opportunity (albeit a difficult one) missed?

There are about a million (I counted and read them all) different “thinkpieces” about the whole thing already, but here are a couple of them which I found most interesting, with a nice passage from each:

From Jacques Rousseau, on free speech:

…it’s a glib, and oftentimes lazy, inference to draw that it’s “religion” that causes these things. I would think it rare that religion per se makes you homicidal, but that instead, folk who are capable of such things will find religious inspiration for doing them.

If your religion allows you to be led to such barbarism, there’s barbarism in you to be exploited. That doesn’t mean that religion X (or ideology X) cannot be a causal factor in barbarism more often than religion or ideology Y.


Other issues are perhaps not as easy or unambiguous as we might prefer. For starters, the right to express a view doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to do so.

Yes. Just like Julius and his “Shoot the Boer” song:

What does it achieve when role models sing Dubul’ iBunu?
And yet these individuals make a conscious decision to do these things. Why? Where is the value in that?

It’s more than just the lack of any positive worth in these actions that depresses me. It’s the fact that these things are divisive and harmful and yet they are completely avoidable. Julius Malema, Councillor Greyling et al. simply need to make better decisions.
So, rather allow Malema to sing Dubul’ iBunu and then rejoice when he chooses not to.

And then this, on the possible deeper motives for the attack, from Informed Comment:

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.

Most of France will also remain committed to French values of the Rights of Man, which they invented. But an insular and hateful minority will take advantage of this deliberately polarizing atrocity to push their own agenda. Europe’s future depends on whether the Marine LePens are allowed to become mainstream. Extremism thrives on other people’s extremism, and is inexorably defeated by tolerance.

It’s an interesting theory. And already, there are reports of “grenades being thrown into a mosque” near Paris.

So what can we take from this?

1. The preservation of the right to free speech is imperative, and
2. One cannot and should not conflate the views and actions of (religious) fundamentalists and extremists with those of everyday followers of religion.

But then there’s this sort of thing:

…rendering those two ideals completely and immediately incompatible. (And angering me quite a lot, as an aside. I’m not about to depict Muhammad, but that’s only because I don’t see any value in doing so (see my wish for Julius above), and most certainly not because Farah says I’m not allowed to.)

So, here’s a third thing we kinda all knew anyway:

3. This isn’t going to be sorted out any time soon.