Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Shimmering Hopes

Sometimes, I could kiss journalists. This is such a time. Even if there is no hope left, nothing to be expected from the US government, at least the US journalists haven't forgotten the meaning of intellectual honesty (even if they dare not speak out themselves but simply offer an editorial column to one of their European colleagues). At least they remember they can speak out and set things straight.

(...) How many times have we seen Janet Jackson's breast in the course of a discussion of the limits of family entertainment? How many times have we printed material that Jews might consider offensive in an attempt to define the extent of anti-Semitism? It seems odd that most U.S. papers patronize their readers by withholding cartoons that the whole world talks about. To publish does not mean to endorse. Context matters.

It's worth remembering that the controversy started out as a well-meaning attempt to write a children's book about the life of the prophet Muhammad. The book was designed to promote religious tolerance. But the author encountered the consequences of religious hatred when he looked for an illustrator. He could not find one. Denmark's artists seemed to fear for their lives.

(...) In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules.

On Friday the State Department found it appropriate to intervene. It blasted the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable incitement to religious hatred. It is a peculiar moment when the government of the United States, which likes to see itself as the home of free speech, suggests to European journalists what not to print.

Thank you, Washington Post, for coming clear with such an editorial.

Maybe there's still good luck to be found...

Monday, February 06, 2006

What If the Heavens Were Empty ? (*)

Well, we'd all be better off, for sure.

I've had it with religions. Religions, mark my words. Not faith. Faith is a personal question, an intimate interrogation for every human being to consider and ponder during the course of their lives. Faith is worthy of infinite respect. Religions have shown over the age how unworthy of trust or respect they are, and they continue displaying it for the world to see.

Religions are poison.

Religions manipulate people, take advantage of their weaknesses, of their distress, of a lack of education they themselves orchestrated. Religions hate freedom. They hate choice and they hate doubt. These are all the enemies of religions. Weapons against dogma and the dictates of human institutions of power which claim to speak on behalf of a supreme being.

Religions want to control our lives, our thoughts, they aim at blindfolding us, at locking out our minds, and restrict our apprehension of the world to what they want us to see.

Today, it's parodic cartoons. Bad taste parodic cartoons, I'll give you that. But... So WHAT?


Who do the middle-east governments and the religious fundamentalists think they're kidding when they organize violent demonstrations and start foamiong at the mouth, claiming this is a war of religions?


Not me, and I hope, not you.

These parodic cartoons were published in Denmark. Good. They were published on September 30th, 2005 ! Denmark is a democracy. It has laws, and a solid judicial system. Now, can anyone tell me why the Danish muslim community didn't use the legal path and file a complain with the courts, since they seem to consider those cartoons insulting and offensive?

Let me repeat: why was this matter not brought before the courts and settled there?

Why did the leaders of this muslim community choose instead to wait for a few months, and then spark hatred and violence when they made a small, certainly unplanned, trip to Egypt? Can anyone tell me? To spark chaos, to provoke problems, to make the world an even worse place, an even sadder place?

How nice religions and their leaders are!

And now the Catholics come forth, now they explain how they understand, how there should be limits to parody, how there are things you cannot make humor with. How the sacred should not be touched.

Excuse me, where do you think you're living, my dear Catholic activists? In a theocracy? Ah, no, I didn't think so. We live in a democracy, in a SECULAR society. There is no censorhsip prior to publication. If you have a problem with something, you bring it to the courts and let them settle it. In the meantime, our secular societies guarantee us the right to express ourselves, guarantee us the freedom not to bow our heads before religions we do not recognize. Ah, yes, of course, we agnostics, we atheists, are a very dissonant voice. A problem, a flaw in the system, because of us, religions no longer hold sway. Too bad for them!

Bit by bit, religions crawl back into the political game, they try with all their will and might to regain their old power, to dictate what we may see or not see, hear or not hear. It's time to stand up for our freedoms. Maybe it's already late, but it's time we did anyway.

Oh, and let me finish with a word on our great friends in the US government: darlings, just keep your self-righteous pronouncements for your hypocritical selves, will you? A country which holds freedom of speech so precious it will allow neo-nazis gathering and consider them lawful has no moral highground to say the first word on what are nothing more than parodic cartoons.

Thank you.

Good night, and good luck.

(*) translation of the title of a wonderful song by Alain Souchon, one of the greatest French singers.