The world woke up on 7 January to shocking scenes from La Ville-Lumière, footage of masked gunmen in the street shooting at police after massacring twelve people over a f**king comic. Within days, the survivors of Charlie Hebdo reaffirmed their defiant stance, saying the dead would have wanted them to go on. What utter bullshit. The dead would have given anything to step back in time and obliterate those juvenile cartoons, to have gone to work that day and endured a meeting or two, chatted over the watercooler, and then gone home to their families. Let the living speak for the living, and not the dead.
Here is Australia, where freedom of speech is not enshrined in our Constitution, we rely on the common law to say what we think. At least, we have since 1992, because apparently freedom of speech wasn’t much of an issue until those leaky boatloads of ‘illegal immigrants’ began to arrive. Now we have hate groups organising anti-Islamic rallies at suburban shopping centres, posting Fourth Reich filth on the internet, and quietly recruiting among the disenfranchised of Western Sydney. So far, no arrests. In response, several hundred members of the Muslim community rally against Islamophobia in the streets of this fair town. Ten arrests. Maybe freedom of speech in this country depends on whether the majority like what you’re saying.
I wonder how Voltaire would apply his famous maxim (“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”) to the current state of affairs, given that he was the Charlie Hebdo of his day, and even wrote his famous tragedy Le Fantisme ou Mahomet in “opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect”. Voltaire was Islamophobic?? I don’t think so: he was speaking out against fanaticism, and happened to find in Islam a perfect example. It would surely apply just as aptly to Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler and any number of popes.
It all just makes me a little nervous. Where to from here? We certainly live in interesting times. I, for one, think people should be free to express their opinions without the Damoclean sword of criminal prosecution hanging over their heads. I should be able to critique our woefully incompetent Prime Minister without fear of being dismissed from my occupation. I should be able to rely on my fellow Australians to stand up on a bus or a train and come to the aid of someone being vilified by some thong-wearing, mullet-headed, Southern Cross tattooed, VB guzzling dipshit who doesn’t like hearing somebody speak a language he doesn’t understand, putting aside the fact that most of these people struggle to understand English. I should be able to do all of these things, but can I?