I want to say something about this. But I don’t want to start this blog off with a screed bashing religion. Though I will say, simply, that religious extremism is created by religion. To make a distinction between the two is just like saying “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Which is also nonsense. But the important thing to me is this: what kind of a jackal targets artists? Of course, they were — I suppose “clever” is a word — enough to understand the power of art, that one man with a pen can do more to reduce the influence of Islam than a hundred men with guns; they knew (I am sure because they were told; I have no doubt that these men were clever only at one or more removes) that mocking Mohammed was a genuinely powerful way to oppose their tyrannical world-dominating ideological dreams. Okay, fair enough: but wouldn’t anyone with a functioning capacity to reason recognize, as well, that the way to fight art is with art? Art, because it is ideas made tangible, visible or audible or edible or what have you, has the power to influence people, to persuade them, to change their minds and therefore their actions, their allegiance, their pride or fear or loyalty. Actions do not have this power, except as they represent and present ideas. This is why you have to fight ideas with ideas. You can, in most cases, fight actions with actions — even a pacifist like me wouldn’t argue that shooting one of those degenerate bastards would have stopped him from killing those innocent people. But once the dispute has escalated to ideas, there are essentially no actions that can win the day. Even overwhelming military force, like the Soviet Union brought to bear against Afghanistan, or like the United States used against the Native Americans, didn’t — couldn’t — eliminate the opposing ideas, the peoples who believed they should be free from tyranny and oppression. I had a student last year who defines herself as a warrior for the Navaho nation, because she represents and defends her people, even now, generations after the physical conflict was ended with irresistible aggression.
What I’m saying is: you can shoot an eighty-year-old man like Georges Wolinski, but you can’t stop the rest of us from doing the same thing he died for. And your attempt to do so is only going to make more people fight you: with words, with pictures, with demonstrations and protests and gatherings. And as long as you’re shooting bullets, and I’m throwing words, in the long run: I’m going to win. Because you just made me right. When one of us is pushed down, we all must stand up. Peace is created only in unity. There are times and places for individuality and conflict, and I’m certainly not arguing that we should all join the Collective and be assimilated; but while ideas will conquer actions, only unified opposition of the overwhelming majority can actually stop armed conflict. Everything else will only escalate it, or else passively condone it, and allow brave and innocent people to die in vain. We all have a responsibility, especially those who create art, especially those who would make the world a better place. We must stand up, we must speak out. “We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than to live like a rat.” — Stephane Charbonnier
Here I am.
Je suis Charlie.