«Je suis Charlie » a slogan or a rallying cry, that errupted on the social networks just a couple hours after last year’s Charlie Hebdo attacks. “Je suis Charlie” I was never sure what it meant and I’m not sure if it means much now, but it seemed to catch the mood of the moment: it embodied the nation’s universal democratic republican values and our resistance and defiance of all those who would seek to destroy those values.
Emblazoned on T shirts, badges, stickers and placards in the popular mass demonstrations in the aftermath, the slogan seemed to have some value, but in the weeks and months that followed it became no more than a worthless fashion statement.
In the wake of November’s terrorist massacres in Paris, there was no throwback to “Charlie”. After the government declared a state of emergency, the country was on lockdown, demonstrations were forbidden and in a way, the nation was robbed of the popular post Charlie outpouring that was so badly needed – a mass public show of solidarity and mourning.
It was no coincidence that the 13/11 attackers carried out their massacre on the Place de La République – the site of the January 11th post Charlie gatherings – the massacre of the innocents in that very place which had become a symbol of resistance – just the name “Republique” was symbol enough.
One year on and almost 150 deaths later, this national state of emergency has been prolonged, the police have been given new wide ranging powers of arrest and detention in the fight against terrorism, there are thousands of soldiers on the streets, French warplanes are carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and we are living in a state of fear and paranoia.
One year on from Charlie, this is a good time to get those old “Charlie” T shirts out the bottom draw, or find the Charlie lapel badge lurking in the deepest, darkest recesses of your handbag – unfurl the Charlie flag and be Charlie again – We have to try and capture that zest of naïve popular defiance once more – we need it now more than ever. We need the Charlie spirit.
“Charlie Hebdo” (if you needed reminding) was a satirical cartoon magazine, founded back in those heady, pseudo revolutionary days of 1968 when students battled riot police on the streets of Paris, and France misbehaved for six weeks in May and June.
Very little is now left of that time, when students and workers shook the French state to its very foundations. “Charlie Hebdo” was perhaps the last vestige, an repository (some might even say a charnel house) of anarchic values. Those slogans of 1968: “It is forbidden to forbid” or “Be realistic and ask for the impossible” were maintained in the satirical life support system that was Charlie Hebdo – well, we need that spirit now and right now on the home front, in what our president (François Hoolande) has qualifiedaas a “war” against ISIS (and I hesitate at using capitals).
The pen is mightier than the sword and ridicule can kill, but so can an AK47. When I think of those whom we call terrorists and when I think of “Charlie Hebdo”, I imagine that last scene in Rumple stiltskin, when the poison dwarf has helped the poor peasant girl weave straw into gold and he is about to claim her baby. If the newly wedded princess can guess Rumplestiltskin’s true name she can keep her baby, and if not, then the diminutive devil claims all. The peasant/princess correctly guesses Mr R’s true name – but only after someone else has heard it and told her, and in the ensuing scene, teased by the princess, Mr R dances angrily around the room in ever decreasing circles until he disappears through the floor. I always think that this story pretty much illustrates the relationship between ISIS and Charlie Hebdo. As the former are ridiculed by the latter, they turn in ever decreasing circles of hate and anger until they disappaear.
ISIS cannot stand ridicule. What is an ISIS terrorist other than a pathetic and misguided soul, who needs an AK47 to exist. A person with so little love in their lives that they are consummed by hate. Add to this, a person with so few prospects in their own land that they feel the need to destroy that place they blame for alienating them. Yes, I think ISIS is full of losers and this is why they will lose, but only if we get a bit “Charlie” again.
I’ll be back tomorrow to explain my ISIS Vs Rumplestiltskin theory