Je Suis Français?

Maybe current affairs in the Francophone world struggle to find its way into our Trinbagonian psyche. This is a shortcoming on our part. How can we begin to discuss global competitiveness when we are yet to invest meaningfully in addressing our youth linguistic and cultural shortcomings? #Necessary #Digression . Fuh we, it have rell lessons to learn as a maturing society. Most persons resorted to reposting articles in which they agree on in principle or more simply, made grand endorsements for universal principles that the United Nations and the piper in the street would express such as, “I have the right to Freedom of Speech”. And yes, we have the right to feel offended by someone’s statements. And no, we don’t have the right to kill people. Or do we? War Mongers! At the same time, we must discuss these matters in context in order to make considerations that inform our sensibilities.

In a way, I’m making an attempt to extend a discussion. Think about it like dis: We all have the right to beg for a cheese sandwich. And in a society that boasts high values of civility and French politeness, we may even go as far as saying that there is a way one exercises the right to beg, such as discreetly ringing one’s doorbell and asking kindly. Okay. What I want to tickle our imagination is to imagine the right of a man/woman to not have to be in a position to beg.

The brutal murder of journalists, artists and innocent people is tragic. World War 2.5, which has been waged between the West and their allies against the Muslim world, continues to be disastrous to the global affairs of humanity. Discussing the Charlie Hebdo case as if it were less tragic in light of “murders committed by the West” is dangerous and morally distracting. In the Caribbean, we should give these matters more serious attention because we know the high regard our regional-folk have for European value systems – the good, the bad, and the racist (in the name of nationalism).

And for sure, South Park creators who have produced cartoon satirical pieces of Jesus Christ (and Saddam Hussein) go without acts of terrorism. So, we can safely assume not all of the world goes crazy over cartoons. We do know also that different media articulations in very different contexts may have very different intents and rather unique and extremely harmful consequences. Understanding this, for example, prevents us from sharing Vines and Memes that poke fun and degrade people with disabilities. The reality is that ableism shows that this is no laughing matter when we begin to consider how much by institution and infrastructure we discriminate against persons with disabilities.

France, for many, is put up as a high point of civilization. The Republic postures as a statement of modern civilization. But what is inscribed in this system is that people have a right to benefit from these Republican values – these freedoms and rights. Think about Haiti and history and see how much France treated this as an omission to these French values. History tells us how much these values are not just double standard but tells us how much these values can have foundations built upon anti-religious and racist phenomena. We must agree that some groups are excluded for different reasons in their civilization; I am trying to say that the issue is wobbly, that the ‘freedom of speech’ is a subordinate issue here and make the point that there is a myth in the head of the Jihadist that reins terror and a myth in the head of the French man with the value of the Republic that is inadequate to peoples in it. Therefore, our weakness in the Caribbean is taking Western high points of civilization not as high points but as the ONLY high point and way in the world.

What is the point of Freedom of Speech if we have the freedom to exploit it to oppress others? The part where we come in as a people is to check and test perspectives and opinions in order to ripen the frame of the discussion and the political decisions we make moving forward. Informed debate is necessary and healthy. There is a grave danger in treating a principle as an absolute; we may ignore context and we oftentimes, do not advance an issue for the public. Question for Trinbago people is: Is it possible that we can be a Republic that we are all part of in different ways? When Western media goes at lengths about how Jews feels in Palestine…Which media house explored how French Muslims feel in France? Or, are we playing the game that hegemony and dominance is the order of the day? The problem is deeply structural in French society….like ours…Mon Dieu! On one hand, we need to intensify anti-terrorism security for the people of the world; on the other hand, we need to account for social and economic realities of peoples who are oftentimes excluded from developing the political model of our societies for deeper integration.

Symbolically, the “Je Suis Charlie” solidarity march and French political elites have drawn upon the potent philosophical writings of Voltaire. As we can see, context is important…

Voltaire once wrote:

“If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace.” (In “The Origins of Religious Tolerance: Voltaire” by Wendy McElroy)

Revisiting his work I couldn’t help that the good ole philosophe was challenging hegemony and the imposition of value systems of control. Think about the centralizing of state policies for the ‘common good’…

Special S/O to my Jehovah’s Witness French teacher in my Anglican-governed school who allowed me to present to the class my Internal Assessment for CAPE A’Levels on “La Discrimination Des Musulmans En France”: My little attempt to tell a cautionary tale on extremist terrorism in the name of the God of Secularism.

One thought on “Je Suis Français?”

  1. Excellently written. We can denounce the murder of people and the murder of people’s dignity at the same time. While I sympathise with the sufferers, and those who feel threatened, more than freedom of speech was in stake here and much more than that was protested.

Comments are closed.