Il y avait une blague au Royaume-Uni, au temps de Bush et Ben Laden. Un sondage avait révélé que l’Américain moyen voulait un leader pro-armes, anti-féministe et anti-gay, un leader qui soit véritablement religieux et qui soit prêt à se battre pour faire le monde à l’image de sa religion. On disait alors : « Voici votre homme » et on montrait une photo de Ben Laden. J’ai toujours beaucoup aimé cette blague parce qu’elle disait en substance que l’Amerique de George W Bush n’était pas l’inverse de l’Al Quaida de Ben Laden mais son complétement. Comme le Yin et Yang se complètent, les puritains et autres fondamentalistes chrétiens vont de pair avec les fondamentalistes musulmans.
Aujourd’hui, la France voulant devenir l’inverse de Daesh et exposer des valeurs inverses à ceux des islamistes ne devient que le complétement de ces mêmes valeurs. Elle ne devient que le penchant occidental de cette mouvance. Nous avons aujourd’hui des fondamentalistes islamistes contre des fondamentalistes républicains ou laïcistes. Pas laïcs, je précise. La plupart des figures qui crient « laïcité » au visage des musulmans sont eux-mêmes des catholiques pratiquants qui continuent à pousser pour que le Vatican retrouve une place centrale dans la vie du pays.
Dans les deux cas, aucun n’a compris les textes qu’ils utilisent comme fondement de leur pensée et de leurs actions. Dans les deux cas, ils détournent le pouvoir de l’Etat (qu’ils ont parfois créé de toutes pièces à ces mêmes fins) pour proclamer et s’assurer de la légalité de leurs actions qui donc « ne peuvent pas être critiquées ». Et dans les deux cas, les femmes sont les premières à souffrir.
Je ne suis pas là pour me prononcer sur le port du burkini en lui-même. Tout d’abord, je suis un homme et je ne suis pas concerné (on verra quand ils commenceront à mesurer les barbes) mais surtout je n’ai en pas assez entendu des sources essentielles (les musulmanes qui le portent et celles qui ne le portent pas) pour pouvoir tirer des conclusions sures car informées. Personnellement, mon problème se situe une fois de plus dans le fait que les femmes sont prises entre deux feux qu’elles n’ont pas souhaités être tirés.
On est arrivés à une situation où, des hommes principalement, ont estimé que si une femme est sur une plage et qu’elle ne montre pas ses cheveux, son décolleté, ses cuisses, son dos, ses bras, ses jambes, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas et qui s’apparente à du terrorisme. Ces pensées aussi ridicules que radicales ont été mises dans des décrets de lois applicables et appliqués par la police.
Quand j’étais petit, et même aujourd’hui, la France était la première à dénoncer ce genre d’abus par les pays arabes. Un des moments dont je me souviens le plus, c’est l’outrage mi-scandalisé mi-désobligeant dont la France a fait preuve quand le billet de 100 Francs, sur lequel figurait La Liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix, fut interdit en Iran parce que l’allégorie a les seins nus. Cette poitrine allait à l’encontre les lois de décences de la République Islamique alors bien sûr, on trouvait ça « ridicule », « pathétique », « scandaleux », « misogyne », « digne d’un régime d’un autre temps dominé par des hommes polygames à longue barbe » et bien sûr, on a beaucoup réfléchit, écrit, reporté – et à juste raison – sur ce que ça signifiait pour les femmes iraniennes au quotidien, des femmes qu’on nous décrivaient comme étant démaquillées au papier de verre.
Aujourd’hui, au nom de la laïcité, je vois la même chose. Je vois des femmes innocentes qui vont sur la plage avec leurs enfants, pas forcément pour se baigner elle-même, et qui sont publiquement humiliées par la police du Pays des Lumières et qui doivent se déshabiller correctement pour une plage ou la quitter tout court, après une amende, bien sûr. Du moment qu’elles sont sur le trottoir, leur tenue est réglementaire mais la seconde où leur pied touche le sable, elles sont soumises à l’indécence laïciste et ce qu’elle porte est illégal. Pas (encore) au niveau de l’Etat même si le Premier Ministre se réjouit, mais au moins sur les plages extrêmement fréquentés et donc traditionnellement les plus conservatrices et xénophobes de France.
Le fait que la France ait des lois vestimentaires (au secours !) qui varient de la plage à la rue n’est pas nouveau : on n’a pas le droit de se balader torse nu, même avec un haut de bikini, dans les rues d’une ville ou un espace public. Un restaurant, un café, un hôtel aura le droit sans appel de vous mettre dehors. C’est une tenue réservée à la plage et éventuellement la Promenade car du moment que vous êtes dans la ville, vous entrez dans « le monde civilisé » et vous mettez un haut qui couvre au moins le buste.
C’est une loi qui m’a toujours procuré beaucoup de plaisir parce que les Britanniques ne comprennent pas. Les Londoniens, ou les habitants des Midlands ou du Black Country, oui, parce qu’ils sont loin de la mer et ne se baignent pas mais des gens de Brighton, Blackpool, Bristol, Bournemouth, Birkenhead (je voulais réviser mes B), ne comprennent pas. Shopping, course, resto, pub…il est normal pour eux de voir en été des hommes sont torse nus et des femmes avec un petit quelque chose qui cache leurs seins. A tel point que les supermarchés sont obligés d’afficher des règles vestimentaires parce que ça commence à faire mauvais genre. Surtout auprès des Européens et autres touristes qui affluent de plus en plus.
Ca m’amuse parce que je dois leur expliquer qu’il s’agit de se couvrir quand on est en société, de ne pas exposer les enfants au corps d’inconnus, de « décence » et je me retrouve à parler comme un ayatollah sur des codes vestimentaires qui sont des valeurs culturelles inexplicables. Néanmoins, personne n’est forcé de mettre un pull ou un blouson. Les choix sont multiples et un petit haut qui cache le nombril satisfera tout le monde.
Cette fois, il s’agit de forcer des femmes à se déshabiller après les avoir fait payer au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme. Je ne vois pas le rapport mais bon, je ne fais aussi pas dans le populisme de bas étage.
Alors comment sort-on de là-dedans ? Parlez aux femmes ! « Mon dieu, quelle horreur ! » je sais, mais que ce soit ce qu’elles portent, comment elles parlent, qui elles fréquent et épousent, comment elles gèrent leur utérus, il est temps de parler aux femmes pour savoir quelles sont les motivations derrière ce qu’elles font. Forcément, ça prend du temps donc pas de gain politique immédiat dans un discours aussi trompeur que dystopiste. Mais surtout, la difficulté est d’enlever l’opinion de gens qui ne sont pas concerné et ça enlève tout d’abord les hommes en tant qu’acteurs principaux.
Je ne dis pas que si les femmes étaient les actrices principales du débat, il n’y aurait donc plus de burkini, je sais juste que dans le débat actuel, ce sont les hommes qui définissent les termes : les hommes islamistes qui appellent au port de la burka contre les hommes laïcistes qui appellent à l’interdiction du burkini (qui n’est même pas prôné par des hommes qui refuseraient volontiers aux femmes l’accès à tout loisir). Et au milieu ? Les femmes qui n’ont pas leur mot à dire doivent suivre les recommandations des uns ou des autres qui parlent et décident pour elles.
S’il y avait une véritable volonté de vivre ensemble, on aurait déjà mis les oreilles aux portes des endroits anodins et souvent ignorés où les femmes sont entre elles et peuvent parler librement. On aurait déjà découvert que tout n’est pas blanc ou noir, pour ou contre, victoire ou défaite, comme le monde forgé par les hommes laisse paraître.
Ecoutez, comme j’aime le faire, les femmes parler de leur quotidien, de la pression qu’elles ont d’être, d’agir, de vivre, de penser souvent de telle ou telle façon. Demandez-leur pourquoi elles font ces choses, et pas seulement aux femmes voilées mais aussi aux Becky with the good hair de tous les jours : celles qui disent détester se maquiller mais qui passent dix minutes sur leur eye-liner tous les matins. Mais faites-les parler d’elles-mêmes, pas de leurs consœurs. Ne laissez pas d’autre prendre leur parole, faites-leur la prendre elles-mêmes pour elles qu’on puisse vraiment savoir à quoi s’en tenir et faire évoluer les choses. C’est alors fascinant ce qu’on apprend.
Vous allez voir que du hijab au burkini, du maquillage au botox en passant par le fer à lisser les cheveux, des exégèses erronés des livres saints aux innombrables articles, reportages, pubs sur ‘Comment faire disparaître la cellulite avant l’été pour un corps parfait en bikini ?’, vous aurez de tout. Des femmes fortes et indépendantes qui le font (ou pas) parce qu’elles en ont envie, parce que ça rend leur vie plus simple ou plus sûres, plus agréables – ces femmes sont d’ailleurs généralement méprisées, ignorées ou ridiculisées. Des femmes plus soumises qui ont intériorisé les attentes religieuses et sociétales (par essence conflictuelles en France) et ne comprennent pas pourquoi elles sont victimes de contradictions dont elles ne sont pas responsables. Et puis, vous aurez la majorité des femmes qui font preuve d’une volonté de fer de continuer à vivre et survivre au jour le jour dans des sociétés dans lesquelles elles ne se reconnaissent pas. Ces femmes, vous allez voir, sont tiraillées entre le ras-le-bol d’être toujours victimes de l’autre et accusées de tout, de ne pas avoir de véritable voix, de devoir se contenter du moins pire, d’un côté, et de la bonne éducation qui les instruit de se taire et d’être polies, de l’autre.
Burkini ou pas, ce n’est pas ma question et je n’ai pas d’avis car je me fous de ce que pensent les hommes sur le sujet, ils ne le portent pas, et les femmes sont partagées. Je ne peux donc pas avoir d’avis informé.
Certaines en rêvent pour pouvoir aller se baigner sans être reluquées et se faire siffler par les hommes, ou ne plus avoir honte de leurs seins qui « ne sont pas fermes » ou de leur « cellulite dégoûtante ». Certaines ne vont juste plus à la plage pour les raisons précédentes donc la question ne se pose pas. Certaines se foutent des gros moches et alcoolisés qui osent les siffler mais elles sont religieuses donc elles le mettent mais pourquoi ? Je n’ai pas eu de réponse à ça. D’autres ont bien compris que le Coran ne mentionne rien de tel donc elles ne le mettraient pas mais elles comprennent que des femmes veuillent le mettre. D’autres savent faire preuve d’empathie et n’ont pas vraiment d’avis, ça ne les dérange pas, elles veulent juste qu’on laisse les femmes tranquilles. D’autres ne savent pas se mettre à la place de l’inconnu et ne raisonnent qu’en fonction de leurs valeurs et sont hostiles. Toutes aimeraient que ce soit un choix. Toutes. Sans exception. Même les conservatrices. On arrive à leur faire dire que ce serait bien que les femmes aient le choix dans leur religion ou la société.
Pour moi, la honte est que la France reste une société dans laquelle les femmes n’ont toujours pas le choix et ce sont toujours celles qui prennent les coups entre les hommes qui font ces choix.
I am not here to talk about what gay people are going to do for it is simple: Keep living and carry on loving.
We have been the victims of all kinds of abuse since the dawn of monotheist religions: we have been denied, ignored, shamed, insulted, persecuted, trialled, imprisoned, exiled, assaulted, tortured in the name of finding a cure, burnt and murdered. And we still are. It has however never stopped us and it never will because we have no control over our heart which leads us to love.
I am here to talk about the desperation of the Right (mainly) and the major religious bodies in trying to condemn the act without having to change their rhetoric. We are told the killer has radicalised on line. No, he has not but right-wingers are all too happy to follow their archenemy Obama, for once. How convenient…The on-line, the unknown, the dark side, the uncontrollable where everything happens and all Evil springs.
Maybe the killer has indeed found a flag to fly on-line, the one of Daesh and the caliphate, but one needn’t go on line to find, hear, read, witness the reasons he proudly advertised as being his motivations: he was outraged by the sight of two gay people kissing. Two men, two women, who cares? His father brought water to the mill. He said his son killed “these faggots” because he was disgusted by them.
There are a lot of things you will solely find on-line but homophobia is not one of them. It is everywhere.
It is in the words and actions of our leaders, in every speech made by right-wing parties. It is in the US Congress, l’Assemblée Nationale, The House of Commons, Der Bundestag and all seats of democracies when debating any kind of laws that would put gay people on par with straight people. In France, MPs used the hemicycle to quote the Nazis almost words for words except that “Jews” was replaced by “Gays” such as: “Gays are the undertakers of mankind.” Putin has erected himself as a leader of the world against homosexuality, turning Russia into a lab of what a country can “lawfully” do to eradicate it. However, most countries did not wait for him to light the bonfire as most of Africa and Asia will kill you for being or suspecting you of being gay.
It is in the street, loud and proud. In France, for example, under the banner of La Manif Pour Tous – The Demonstration For Everyone – populated by people who don’t hesitate to drag their toddlers and under-10s in the streets of the major French cities holding signs saying that they “don’t want to marry their brother”. The link? Gayness, incest, paedophilia…All is linked obviously and proudly shouted by people in the name of freedom of expression.
It is at the core of our societies in the name of religion: Judaim, Christianity, Islam all based on books supposedly mentioning homosexuality as a crime punishable by death. These books are 2000 to 1400 years old and so vague that it can be interpreted as one wish – hence the countless currents, divisions and endless infighting behind three banners: Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Calvinists, Lutherans, Sunnis, Shiites, Yazedis, Jews, Orthodox Jews, Ashkenazi Jews…However, they find their common ground in the God-wanted submission of women and eradication of homosexuality.
Let’s focus a second on Catholicism for two reasons: it is the only one to have an official, universally acknowledged, accepted and followed hierarchy and it prides itself of being the heir of the Ancient Greek democratic process and the inspiration for all modern democratic process. What does it say about homosexuality? A sin. With various degrees of punishment – Hell being the softest as they, thankfully, have no control over where we do or don’t go after we die. They have been fiercely and continuously condemning every single equality law in every single country with an extra layer of hate speech in the name of a God.
What about the killer in all this? The killer’s father was very clear: his son’s mistake was to have believed it was his duty to carry God’s punishment. He should not have done it. It was for God to decide, not him. The death of gay people is justified and a good thing, but just not that way. I’ll let you digest the the failure of our education system and thrive for tolerance as they are constantly attacked by everyone on the right of the political spectrum.
The killer did not radicalise on-line. He didn’t radicalise because his parents are Afghans. He did not radicalise because he was a Muslim. He radicalised because the world is still crusading against something people have no control on: their feelings. And at the head of this crusade are right-wingers and religious authorities whose desperation is growing as days pass.
Indeed, they need to join the chorus of voices condemning the killing by an Muslim because that’s at the core of their scaremongering push for dominance, however the motives are their own rhetoric. How do you condemn someone who justified his killing innocents using what you gleefully preach? How dare the Catholic Church “empathise with families” when they believe their murdered loved ones are now burning in Hell?
So, in addition to trying to come to terms with the atrocities, the past few days have forced us, the LGBT community, to listen to our usual attackers removing the LGBT factor from the picture altogether. The gayness of people is irrelevant in all this, we hear. Suddenly, we are all one, all Westerners in war against the same enemy, radical Islam, or just Islam for most anti-gay people. This is no hate crime which is coming as a direct consequence of their increasingly violent push for institutionalised intolerance and exclusion. What the killer said were his motives was just a cover, it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things, just a detail from a mad man. It’s Daesh, it’s Islam, this is a proper terrorist attack and we are all in this together (and those who disagree are therefore in line with Daesh.)
Bottom-line, deniers will be deniers. The traditionally anti-gay commiserating and expressing sympathy for the families need to move the debate on grounds that are more convenient to them, especially as it erases their hate speech as one of the main sources of the problem. I am not denying there is more to what he did than homophobia. Notwithstanding, it is not bad enough for them to deny us in life, they also deny us in death to protect, if not further, their agenda. This is beyond the pale.
*Self-Righteous Warning on this piece: I am being very holier-than-thou below*
It has been a week and, whereas the news of the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo went around the world quickly, the ins and outs of who, why, where, when, how are starting to sip slowly outside of Western Europe. Especially in the US where, expect for some very informed people on the East coast and some well-done liberal figures, people just don’t seem to get it.
I am not here to have a go at Americans. It’s just that I know a lot of them, and saw a lot of them who decided to talk about it and their reaction towards what happened ranges from baffling to angering, especially from at least 11 Youtubers (all American for some reason) who I had always considered as being clever, informed, sensible, sensitive and on top of things.
Now, I understand people might not know (or care) about the full extent of the assassinations and attack. I understand that people don’t give a crap and have no opinion. I am the same about many things. what I don’t understand is the people who know little but insist on talking about. Why the need to advertise that lack of knowledge and lead others to complete disinformation and twisted truth on the matter? I don’t really understand what’s happening in Nigeria, no matter how much I read about it, so I don’t go and broadcast uneducated opinions about it. Maybe it’s just me…
I follow about 80 Youtubers of various nationalities and backgrounds and some of them addressed the issue of Charlie Hedbo quite well, some were actually funny and witty about it. However I have also been hearing a couple of Youtubers with huge following talking about Je suis Charlie, all with the usual “for those who don’t know…” followed by something that is nowhere near the truth and usually around the description of Charlie Hebdo.
“Charlie Hebdo was the head of a Catholic magazine who was killed for opposing Islam”
“Charlie Hebdo are an extremely islamophobic and racist magazine”.
“Charlie Hebdo are a far-right paper who want to get rid of Muslims”
“Charlie Hebdo have a history of purposefully offending Islam”
“Charlie Hebdo are a bit like the KKK”
“Charlie Hebdo is more extreme than the Tea Party”
And counting. What the fuck?! There is obviously a lack of information (or lack of wanting to get the information, in some cases) and yet, it doesn’t stop them from adopting a very clear positioning throughout the rest of the video.
Yes, I am French so it is easier for me because in France, we have been talking about nothing else for a week. It is not difficult for me to know what happened. Even when you try to just close the newspapers and turn off all media, you will know what, where, when, who, how and what capacity. I understand it is not the case for everyone and, yes, except for some “very serious” media – as some like to call them – not all are running a fully comprehensive coverage of what happened.
Actually, I am not here to decipher on how they got such distorted information. The fact that most of them rely firstly on Twitter to get the everyday news can be a hint. But for God’s sake, if you read the first three lines on Wikipedia about Charlie Hebdo, all the above quotes would not have occurred. For me, that spells “I could not even have bothered to check. I am just going to soliloquise for the sake of it”.
What I am here to mention is their reaction in the face of the backlash they had, mainly from their European following and be able to answer to them because there is nothing I hate more than 100-something character long, hit & run tweets.
Here’s the most common tweets for them:
“No need to be so rude.” I used to get that quite a lot from the students who made a huge mistake, cheated or knew they did something very wrong that has angered others. They turned themselves into the victim of some kind of violence so the focus changes and they get an apology. Less focus on how you said it, not what you said. It reminds me of dog-punching children who got shouted at and who cry after saying “Mummy is so meeaaannnn…” looking for sympathy.
“Okay, I just made a mistake, it’s fine.” Well, no. I do admire you for saying that you made a mistake but the “it’s fine”? That’s a no no! You have hundreds of thousands, millions for some of them, of followers. A lot of them will be teenagers with an even shorter understanding that you have, as an adult. People are using YouTube as a form of media and are trusting you to tell them something correct so saying that Charlie Hebdo is a far-right islamophobic and racist magazine, which is the complete opposite of the truth, is not just a mistake. It’s disinformation and twisted lies. You cannot go denouncing the lies spread by homophobes and racists then do the same and expect nothing in return. Whether you like or not, being a Youtuber with a following gives you a responsibility and if you decide to go on this path of informing and commenting current news – especially the assassination of journalists – you have to look at the facts and be accurate. If you don’t, your uneducated vision of events will do nothing but spread further misunderstanding. People will be increasingly under the impression that the deaths were somehow deserved.
“I say whatever I want, it’s free speech that’s what the whole thing is all about. It’s satire” The “whole thing”?! You obviously don’t understand the “whole thing”. Satire is not just about saying anything offensive that pops into your head willy nilly. Satire is a hell of a work to do because it has to have double-meanings that are conscious; it needs to send out messages that are obvious but also hidden. It needs to get people to think and laugh, sometimes. Seriously, saying that Charlie Hebdo is racist and to say “It was satire, you don’t understand” when people call you on your shit is just writhing, desperately trying to land on your feet when you’re in free fall. As for the freedom of speech, it comes with a responsibility to at least not willingly and unapologetically spread lies. And if you do, people will indeed smack you down. That’s democracy for you. Like we all did with Steve Emmerson from Fox News and his “Birmingham is now Muslim-only city”. Like him, you bow, grovel and apologise for being a clot and a liar. That’s what adulthood and humility is all about. Calling into your freedom to talk bollocks is doing nothing but discredit you even more.
“Alright, I am not making videos anymore…”. The passive-aggressive attempt to make it about yourself. I am wrong, I feel bad about it and need some comfort. Cue the “Not all white people are racists” in the debate about Black Lives Matter. Let’s make it about me!
“You people, always blowing things out of proportions.” There it is, the worst and yet most commonly heard phrase coming from the US at the moment.
We, Europeans, are blowing this “out of proportions.”, as if we were being ridiculous and childish, making a fuss for nothing and trying to draw attention on us unfairly. “Barely 10 people died”, “no kid was killed so it’s fine”, “it’s not like they killed thousands of people” are sentences I heard from many, many American people I know, including friends.
A very close friend of mine told that “this whole Je suis Charlie thing is the worst PR stunt she had ever seen”. PR? For what? Tourism in Europe? Come to visit us, we are nice and liberal. Aw, “for people to buy Charlie Hebdo”… I blocked her email and will be for a while…
First, this “whole thing” happened a week ago. France is still in a national state of shock and wondering so yes, when you go on such territory, be prepare to be dealing with people who take it to heart. It doesn’t make us any less understanding of satire or lovers of Charlie Hebdo. Spreading lies about the nature of Charlie Hebdo, especially to compare them to KKK, is like saying that Kennedy was a “too right-wing anyway” a week after he was assassinated, or that all the girls assassinated by Elliott Rodger in Isla Vista were all “slags and whores to being with”. It gets people to think that somehow, it’s not such a loss. That’s not going to go down well either.
Now, regarding the matter of the killing itself, maybe it’s because that kind of thing doesn’t happen every other three months in Europe. We are not used to our papers filled with news of people all guns blazing barging in somewhere and shooting everything that moves for important or trivial matters. So we are in shock, yes. Maybe it’s out of proportions for the US but please, a bit of empathy to understand that we don’t see this all the time. Patronising us into shutting up is not the answer.
Also these people were not just killed randomly too, they were assassinated, they were targeted for being something, for saying something through the publication of a couple of drawings. It puts everyone else in danger, not just of a bomb, but of being targeted for speaking out, for saying something, for writing something. I never buy into global psychosis, it’s irrational but knowing that people can be targeted for publically expressing an opinion makes me wonder every time I thought of writing something on this blog for the past week. “Can anyone get my email address and more?”
There is something in these attacks that do not make us victims of fate but targets for what we say. In that case, where does it stop? Will it ever stop? In a world where being offended somehow makes you right, will it ever stop or become the norm?
When the bombings in London and Madrid happened, the first thing we thought was that it was retaliation for the illegal war in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people were dying. When France had to live through that wave of terrorist attacks back in the 1980s and 1990s, we knew that it was yet again a matter of geopolitics where we were paying the price for our positions in the Middle-East and especially Iran. It was tit for tat, an eye for an eye.
Today, we just don’t understand why such violence for so little. It’s drawings. Just fucking drawings! People were killed because they published drawings from someone else. We are now in the middle of soul-searching trying to understand the implication of that, which is mainly the attack on free speech. We are not talking about censorship here but death. People dying because they somehow said something that offended others who then decided they deserved to die. To not live anymore, to live orphans and widows behind.
We are “blowing this out of proportion” because the act itself is beyond anything we had before. Sorry we are not accustomed to people regularly deciding on the right to live or die of strangers, it is hard to stomach. We are now rallying to find out the ins and outs of all this so we can prevent this without impeding on the freedom of press or civil liberties, rather through education and understanding. So when we open YouTube to find someone giving out irrelevant and uneducated information with definitive judgements to thousands, if not millions of other people, who are all to ready to listen and believe it, we get angry. Yes.
If only it had been done in a satiric way, many artists are doing it right now and it’s fine because it’s well-thought out, worked on and cleverly put (for most of them) but there was nothing of such in what these very Youtubers broadcast to their following.
I am actually not offended or angry by these Youtubers, such terribly disappointed.
When it comes to terrorism, we are always told that we should not play into their “game” but what does it mean?
I have two main understandings to this statement.
The first one is to avoid what in French we call “La Loi du Talion: Œil pour œil, dent pour dent.” This can roughly be translated as the law of retaliation: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. This is the hardest part for everyone when it comes to dealing with loss and shock, the inner fight against what seems to be the only fair course of acting: retaliation.
La Loi du Talion is the first voice that arises from the sore throat of the ones looking at the blood of the victims. The vox populi forever demands revenge, the criminals have to pay. For murder, we have to find a cherished one of these killers and have them murdered by the grieved the way their beloved were killed.
And this what we must avoid at all costs.
I am not going to say that it’s because it won’t bring their loved ones back – nothing ever will, even civilised justice – or that it will not help with closure and coping with their loss – it might. The reason why I think the retaliation can never work is because bleeding your enemy’s children will only prove them right (1).
The battle for retaliation is always righteous and we will all end up having a good, a noble, a fair reason to harm each other. This is what we see between Israel and Palestine or between the US/UK and the Islamists: every side has become the victim and the executioner at once. Every side can prove the other has harmed them unfairly, unlawfully and therefore claim to be in the right when it comes to destroy their foe.
Once the idea of retaliation has sneaked in, it is almost impossible to call to reason anymore.
La Loi du Talion rests on emotions, it’s a kneejerk reaction. You push me, I push you. Case closed. Let’s move on. We discourage it in school playgrounds and there is a reason for this: this has always been the main source of hatred in today’s world with lethal consequences.
In Europe, this, coupled with nationalism, was the main reasons for countless, increasingly bloody wars, this idea that we always had a score to settle with a neighbour: a treaty that was unfair, a dispute left unresolved, an insult left undealt with, a region they took away from us at some point and we had to get back. The case of Alsace-Lorraine poisoned the relations between the French and the Germans since Louis XIV who conquered it in 1639, in 1870 where the Germans took it back then France took it back in 1918, an episode Hitler took for a terrible humiliation on the part of Germany. Alsace-Lorraine was therefore not “occupied” but “integrated” to the 3rd Reich during the war because it was still seen as a lawful part of Germany. That’s more than 300 years of revenge wars, millions of death to see who would have the last world.
The terrorists are in this logic. They believe they have a score to settle but they need a fight to quench their thirst for death. Thus they are pushing us into our darkest place. They are targeting the meek, the innocent, the ones who represent the most our democracy so we all become the stone-cold, intolerant, empty, calculating, bloodthirsty killing machines they have become a long time ago. They want us to retaliate, to strike harder, deeper. Drop an atomic bomb on Mosul (like some people are suggesting) and you will serve nothing but their purpose. They don’t care for other Muslims, they have been mass-killing them for centuries for disagreeing with their extreme beliefs. But then we will become the executioner again and they will claim yet more reasons to bleed us to the bones. How long will it last? How many innocent will have to die on both sides?
We have to be the ones who know better because they never will. We can’t lecture the world on civilisation and be nothing but barbarians.
We should resist the urge: punch a tree, scream, cry, rally and be with peers who will understand and share our anger so we can let it out but we should never retaliate. We should put our faith into the democratic system we have built, not matter how slow it looks when dealing with our need to avenge. It is slow in appearance because it wants to be fair and meticulous in punishing the right people. Yes, we could decide to punish all Muslims, it would be quicker but we would be no different than the Nazis towards the Jews.
If it’s a war of faith the terrorists want, I am putting my faith in the peaceful democracy we have been trying to build and improve since the voice of the first French philosophe broke out in the opaque midst of tyrannical absolutism.
That’s my second reading of this say: we have to trust our democracy. Not just “trust” but defend, even though they are not perfect because they are the expression of us, the people.
What the terrorists want is to destroy our state, what we built, what we died for, what we fought for for centuries. They loathe it, this state. These “God-less” democracies where everyone can say; think, be, act, wear, eat whatever they want, even women, gays and now, increasingly, children.
If you consider these terrorists, their view of what and how the world should be is based on some twisted interpretation of the prophet’s message back in the 7th century, right at the birth of Islam. That’s almost 1400 years ago in a world where men like them got to rule, oppress, control and kill freely. That’s the world they want and that’s a world we have to never give them.
We have to never play into their games like London and Washington did, for instance. Two countries where the fight against terrorism has, nowadays, given birth to the belief that every citizen is a potential terrorist, where surveillance is everywhere, righteously justified by its creators, praised and widened by the frightened ageing establishment of their parliament. For Washington, London or Canberra, we, the people, all have become a risk for the security of the state. But if the people is the enemy is the state, who is the state serving? Demo-cracy: “the power of the people”. The state must serve the people, not the state itself.
Totalitarism is where the state is serving the state. This idea that every citizen is a threat to the state and must therefore be tracked, watched, can be searched and arrested at all times is the one that rule dictatorships such as North Korea, Cuba, Nazi Germany and USSR – where the dictator is the state. These regimes served an ideology, whereas the terrorist serve a belief.
The idea of state vs individuals is indeed also deeply rooted the theocracy the terrorists want to impose to the world: a state that is the voice of God, a regime where criticising the state is to criticise God, a regime supposedly ruled by the book holding the message of God for the sake of everyone but truly ruled by the men who will have found the means to kill their opponent in the name of faith.
The terrorists want our democracies to become paranoid and unfair because, as the scandals of mass surveillance and the abuse of the Patriot Act have shown, they know it will lead the people to lose faith in the state and forsake it for more extreme views.
We have to protect our liberties, all of them; we have to carry improving not going back to darker more obscurantist times, we have to remind our leaders that when attempting to restrict movements, conversations, expressions, opinions to squash terrorism, they can also undermine our ability to be free, which is exactly what our enemy wants.
Democracy, the power of the people, the freedom of the people, will be our revenge because this is the terrorists’ greatest and darkest fear. We must stand in front of terrorism and tell our leaders that altering our freedom to be, think, speak, act and believe in any way will turn us into our very enemy and hand them the victory.
1 – See History will teach us nothing by Sting:
Convince an enemy, convince him that he’s wrong
Is to win a bloodless battle where victory is long
A simple act of faith, of reason over might
To blow up his children will only prove him right.