In the middle of the night, BBC reports of the armed attack on Charlie-Hebdo‘s Paris office. Twelve dead, among whom well-known collaborators who were participating in the weekly editorial meeting: Char(bonnier), Wolinski, Cabu, Tignous, Honoré, Maris.
I’m very moved to hear about these deaths in Paris because I grew up reading Pilote with my brothers. Pilote was one of the first steps in being weaned away from the Catholic youth press (Fripounet when I was little, then Cœurs Vaillants) and the discovery of irreverent forms of discourse that had a strong impact on us in the backwaters of my Catholic, left-leaning, Breton-speaking, Brittany: Hara Kiri, later Fluide Glacial, and finally Charlie-Hebdo. Not to mention Le Canard Enchaîné for many years. Among our heroes in the political and artistic sense were Reiser (died in the 80s) and those killed today and whose names bear repeating: Wolinski, Cabu, and later, Char, Tignous, and Maris (“Oncle Bernard”), an economics professor and journalist (commentator on economic matters: “J’ai tout compris à l’économie” on France-Inter radio). Cabu had long been drawing for Le Canard. I always looked forward to his strip.
I am trying to understand why I react so strongly to this planned attack on a satirical, in-your-face newspaper that was in great financial difficulties (not for the first time). Aside from the attachment one forms in youth (my brother and I couldn’t wait for Thursday when we would get Pilote and negotiate the sharing of the reading), there is the sense that the huge catastrophes that have been happening for a very long time in Irak, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Mali, without forgetting the big problems in France, are intimately tied to this attack on the freedom to think, speak, and draw. There is also the overwhelming feeling of being embarked or dragged along in a much longer story in the making since the sixteenth century, of slow, often monumentally tragic separation of religious and political or rational discourses. A story and history in which the fear triggered by the sound and fury may drive away the brave, hidden, fragile hope that a fuller life lies ahead in the will to share resources and make peace without submission or humiliation. This belief and hope in a broader and deeper use of reason or ratio, including its caustic use, seem exclusive. Indeed, I opt for reason and suspend or reject religious revelation as being a handy, often venerable, and wrong shortcut to authoritarian allocation of goods. Yet I remain confused because I also feel that the deployment of reason is partly a luxury. A splendid power that was hard earned from within the crucible of religious conviction, and that has all too quickly been narrowly turned at the service of self-satisfied conquering greed.
Many demonstrations are planned in French cities. See Charlie-Hebdo @ twitter where maps and times are available.