I’ve been trying to write some material on the horrible Paris attack last week since it happened. As with all my material I didn’t want to write something that vilifies the victims of the attack or to blame anyone other than the killers or to demonise satire or to not say this or definitely say that. I realise I haven’t been able to write anything because I’ve been stuck on exactly what I think about it all too. It’s taken me nine days to realise that I think lots of things and actually, that’s probably quite alright, us being humans and having the capability to think about lots of things all at once. It’s made me realise just how narrowly comments are judged at the moment. We need opinions immediately and those must be clearly defined. Everyone is either a ‘fascist’ or a ‘libtard’ and we must know immediately if you think events are wrong or right at which point you’ll be told whether you are wrong or right or both.
It feels easy to blame technology for this. Before the advent of being able to shout your comment into the world immediately, we would all see a story on the news, then the next day maybe read some comments on it in a paper. After that you’d mull over it for sometime afterwards, until with hindsight you realise the extent of the events impact and went back to reading books and playing with sticks or whatever it is we did in the olden days. I am not a technophobe as anyone who subscribes to my Twitter feed and is constantly bombarded by the nonsense I free from my brain onto there, will know. I laude over the immediacy of finding out about things. From news to Marvel film rumours all the way to NASA updates and, as today, a video of an ermine hiding in a tree. But I rarely look away from it and so the bombardment of information never stops long enough for me to actually think about any of it.
Take the Charlie Hebdo attack. On the day it happened, I heard about it, and found it upsetting. However I was also travelling between places and whilst trying to process the information about the attack was equally, if not, more annoyed – and please don’t judge me for this – with the amount of people who decided to keep standing at the tops and bottoms of staircases at every train station and airport I went to. Stairs are from going up to somewhere or down to somewhere, or for slinkys, or Escher paintings. Or, at a stretch, making someone’s death look accidental. They are not for standing at the top of as someone with a heavy bag needs to traverse them. So my selfish mind had little time to contemplate the future of satire, the threat of terrorism or deaths of innocent people because I was horribly absorbed in huffing at strangers and mumbling rude words at them under my breath as I barged them out of the way. That evening I met someone who was visibly shaken by the whole event and it was only then I stopped to look at the news properly and realise the scale of what had happened.
Every day since then I’ve been told by social media and news and commentators that it was the fault of the muslim nation, or of extremists, or of the cartoonists themselves, or of satire, or freedom of speech or previous wars or Western society or Arabic society or the media or hundreds of other possible causes. I’ve sat and read blogs and articles and tweets and watched many a tv shouting match about it. I’ve been told that we shouldn’t satirise somethings or we should satirise everything or that satire isn’t funny anyway so why is anyone bothering? That the Hebdo cartoons were racist anyway or they weren’t racist within context or that they weren’t funny anyway so why does it matter? That the extremists were Muslim so its the fault of all Muslims even though these two were extremists which means their religion was of no consequence because they were awful people who just wanted an excuse to do what they did. That we should all be scared of constant terror and save freedom of speech unless it’s speech that the leader of that country doesn’t like in which case you can go to jail or be executed by police. That I am Charlie or I’m not Charlie but I am Ahmed but I’m definitely not someone else as that’s an arrest-able offence too if you’re a French comedian (albeit a rubbish and odd one) again despite the defence of freedom of speech. Also what about all the other millions of awful things that are all happening that we are currently ignoring?
I’ve tried to take all that in. Tried to. It’s exhausting and confusing and mostly unhelpful. What I think I’ve decided is that it was a very sad event that has had wonderful support from real people and allowed terrible hyperbole and fear mongering from media and governments. That it’s no one’s fault except the killers, that satire must be seen within context, that media always judges deaths and murders by their proximity to us and how they can use it, and that I suppose it’s nice that everyone’s learned a bit of French. Oh and that none of this excuses people who think it’s ok to stand at the top of the stairs.
Mostly though I’ve become very aware that this need for instant commentary is really bad. These things take time to think over and understand. First thoughts are never the wisest. I’m generalising there. They might be for some people, but that was my first thought so I wrote it down, therefore vaguely proving my point. With any luck I’ll have worked out exactly what my thoughts on it all are in order to write some material soon. Of course by that point other awful events will have happened that I’ll have had to have immediate thoughts on before they too get swept away under more happenings. Je suis fatigue.
The actual best blog I’ve read all week on the awful Charlie Hebdo attack is this one by Dorian Lynskey: http://33revolutionsperminute.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/1463/ …
This one by Dave Cohen is grand too: http://www.chortle.co.uk/correspondents/2015/01/13/21627/how_to_be_a_proper_charlie
To find out if I ever manage to make that material happen and work, come see me live. Join my mailing list at www.tiernandouieb.co.uk