That’s the problem with falling in love with a dream girl – they have a habit of becoming real.
– Lord of War
As mentioned in my bio, my academic training has made me a bit of a labels aficionado. I do so for the sake of clarity, so we all have an idea of where we come from intellectually. If nothing else, understanding the general helps put the specifics into context. Though it may be this very practise that has made me guilty of rigidity at times, as I tend to put events and people (gasp!) into confined boxes so as to better compartmentalise my thoughts.
Having unwavering principles is perhaps a by-product of this rigidity, as I truly believe that without principles, one would be forced to react to every and any situation foisted upon one’s self without consideration of how it might compromise our character and long-term well-being. Principles = consistency = integrity = character.
Anyhow, in light of the recent CH events, I am taking issue with much of the surrounding discourses. One’s value of respecting fundamental human rights in others should not be selective, as free speech and solidarity should not be extended only to those with whom you agree. As such, the Je suis Charlie movement, whilst well-intentioned, misses the mark in my opinion. It was not the cartoons that caused the senseless attacks; rather, it was the collective frustration of a radicalised few. An attack on a controversial French magazine by a disturbed few can hardly constitute an attack on “free speech” and “European Civilisation” – necessitating an alienating movement, as claiming so is claiming the latter as essentially superior and further entrenching xenophobia. *cue Edward Said*
I cannot help but agree with Al Jazeera’s Salah-Aldeen Khadr: “Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.” Far from being a sympathiser of any type of extremist views especially where violence is concerned, in a world that systemically dehumanises perceived differences to the point of rendering them voiceless, it should prompt us to refrain from taking extreme positions ourselves on issues that offend our entrenched sensibilities. The mark of an intellectual is the possession of the ability to understand viewpoints one does not agree with, after all. (Recall Voltaire’s views on censorship: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it) Furthermore, the type of solidarity afforded by Je suis Charlie invites yet further ostracisation of those who could take a joke – albeit in bad taste – as well as those who embrace the role of “free speech” in its totality in progressive society. Ultimately, I am not sure if the movement in question would help unite those who deplore violence or divide those who insist on continuing to ‘other’ and paint an entire group with the same brush. Perhaps Je suis Charlie is not for most of us to jump on the bandwagon to claim; we are definitely not all Charlie.
We cannot cherry-pick theories/labels/viewpoints out of convenience (I.e. When it suits our purposes) much the same way we cannot love somebody only when it is convenient for us to do so (I.e. “I don’t love you on days where I simply don’t feel like it”). We ought to strive to stand for our belief systems with vigour, integrity, and conviction. Do something right or don’t do it at all, right?
This is my first official blog post in about ten years and “rusty” does not even begin to describe my erstwhile literary skills. This is one of those moments I wish I could use the trite yet effective “it’s like riding a bike” expression…except I can’t, ha. I am confident I will be able to get back to writing nod-inducing posts. So in the meantime, please bear with me.
* * *
I miss writing. Not having been brought up in a ‘hug and kiss’ culture has shaped my introversion and as such, taught me introspective avenues of expression: the written word. I write for the same reasons wanderers find validation through materialism, substances, exercise, and suchlike. It is only in this realm that I dare to dream, dare to romanticise idealism – a realm where principles have no place to stand. I relish moments that are truly my own. Reading has taught me analysis and empathy by allowing me to momentarily borrow another’s mind: It is good for the soul. Over time, however, I betrayed my first love and left it for the façade of calculating rigidity. Perhaps my having studied Politics was my own version of a compromise to marry my closeted idealism and some semblance of pragmatism.
Solo travel soon became my next great love. Walking around Montparnasse and standing in the exact spot where Hemingway and Fitzgerald met for the first time could only be described as transcendental. Those moments spur my desire to return with somebody dear to share with him just how passionate I am about the things I am passionate about. Again, it is only in writing that I will admit to such romanticism for fear of judgement.
Rekindling with my first love today is putting me at more ease than I have been in years. Perhaps I am more romantic than I tend to lead on.