It is impossible to remain indifferent to this terrorist attack which took place on January 7, 2015 at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and in which 12 people lost their lives and many others were injured. It is very touching to witness this honorable coming together and to sense the solidarity from people around the world paying their respect to the victims who lost their lives in the name of freedom of speech.
Such a tragedy can only stir a lot of emotions and reactions in each and everyone one of us but in my case, it was a very strong feeling of indignation. In addition, I harbor a very deep frustration regarding the fact that, as always, it requires such an extreme situation (as this one was) for the collective conscience of people to be ignited, and for the walls of differences to crumble in order to ask questions – hopefully in a different way – in order to try to find new, real solutions to unresolved problems.
Within a small passage of 24 hours after this attack, I couldn’t help but also feel a very strong sense of anger as I watched this situation being reduced to a simple problem of religious “integrism” fighting against the freedom of speech. To me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, I cannot help but think – while watching protest groups forming in different cities, reading people’s comments online, listening to our politicians and media forums- of the word ‘hypocrite.’
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely condemn this barbarious act which took place, and I am a fervent defender of freedom of speech, especially when the intention is to make people think and bring consciousness to people’s minds. However, I remind myself of the facts behind this situation: Basically, two people strongly disagreed with another’s ideas very different to theirs, who then expressed this opposition with heinous violence. Unfortunately, they expressed themselves with kalachnikov rifles and took lives but the question I wonder is where does violence really start on a day-to-day basis? When do we denounce violence? Only when people are injured or lives are lost?
This act undoubtedly represents an extreme expression of lack of tolerance on the terrorists’ parts towards ideas, basic freedoms involving journalists, cartoonists as well as their team members. But on a daily basis, are we not ALL GUILTY of the same crime of a lack of tolerance and a lack of open-mindedness towards others’ frames of references and their differences, whatever they may be?
Today we condemn the violence with which these extremists tried to shut Charlie Hebdo up… But what about public and media intolerance inflicted on “trouble makers” who dare to think differently or dare to BE DIFFERENT? Do we not try to shut them up one way or another?
Are the majority—who think alike—only worthy to express their respect? Where is the tolerance in this? Is this a political party leading by example? Just looking at the numbers, the ideals of the Democrats and Republicans have been ineffective over the last few years for our country [France]. However, they seem to be more legitimate in being listened to it seems. Although the media and political parties are not trying to suppress the extreme Republicans with kalachnikovs and do not take lives, they try to steal freedom of speech from minorities.
Exposure tactics would not turn people into racists. Indeed, the media could air hours and hours of the extreme speeches but I would personally never subscribe to their political views as I strongly disagree with any extreme ideas as this does not leave room for tolerance and REAL communication. Do the media and political parties have so little trust in the intelligence of the people masses to have the capacity to make informed decisions, that they feel the need to decide for us by censoring certain ideas? Do they think we are that gullible and easily influenced? Have they not ever tried using weapons such as conditioning the public with fear to manipulate public opinion to get votes or sell newspapers in order to shut up minorities with non-conformist ideas? This is what I call hypocrisy…
We absorb and create so much violence on a daily basis with words, actions, legal attacks, etc. that it seems that we have become desensitized… But WHO creates all this violence?
Only “the enemies”? Only terrorists? We don’t even seem to realize how much violence we are surrounded by. And it sadly takes a terrorist attack to wake us up. In reality, the expression of differences is still not welcomed the way it should be in a common context. It is often condemned with some kind of violent act to silence the “opposition.” Of course, since in most cases words or acts do not kill or injure people in ways that are obvious, we let this violence happen whether the differences concern opinions in education, religion, culture, politics, etc…
Are we REALLY all Charlie, or do we sometimes find ourselves on the other, critical side when we ourselves judge, attack, condemn, criticize and attempt to suppress others in one way or another when others don’t think or act like us?
Would a true sign of respect not be a step towards tolerance since it is because of a lack of this that they lost their lives? So that messages like the ones shared by Charlie Hebdo can from here on be welcomed by everyone as a simple acceptance of different viewpoints without anyone ever having to feel defined, mocked or offended by a picture, a text or anything else? Respect is where each person is truly secure, aware and confident with his own value so he never has to feel threatened by differences…
As sad and tragic as this situation is, I honestly believe that if EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US was responsible for working on–on a daily basis–our own personal tolerance before reacting to the actions of others, we would live in a very different world. If EACH AND EVERYONE OF US worked on our open-mindedness and accepted the differences in others, it would be a good start towards a better world. With integrity, if EACH AND EVERYONE OF US refused any act of violence, whether this concerned a difference of opinions, feelings, words or actions of others, then we could live in a more harmonious environment. We could start to become an example for those confused souls who only know how to express disagreement through violence. This would be an environment in which we would not have to invest in PROTECTION AND SOLUTIONS TO REPAIR WHAT IS BROKEN by putting more policemen on the streets. Instead, we could start building an environment in which we would only have to concentrate on PREVENTION from the youngest age… I believe that this is how we could create a truly peaceful world.
I am not here to lecture anyone but I do practice what I preach. I have already done a lot of work on myself on this subject and this is why I feel legitimate to share my thoughts. However, there is still one person in my life who is still trying very hard to impact my life in a negative way and with whom I am still finding it very hard to feel tolerant towards 100 percent of the time. This is why, until I manage to do so, I will not feel totally congruent in carrying the “I am Charlie” symbol now adopted by millions throughout the world. This symbol which opposes what the terrorists did to Charlie Hebdo and which also condemns censorship of the freedom of expression. Indeed, I personally don’t feel justified enough to do so according to my own appreciation of this situation and I would, therefore, not feel legitimate in doing so. As long as I still sometimes lack genuine tolerance and harbor negative thoughts (in my case against this one person I can still not accept with all her differences), then I don’t feel qualified to claim my own Charlie Badge.
When I can set my emotions aside, I manage to be completely tolerant of all my fellow citizens unconditionally and I accept each individual for who they are, where I do not judge; I remind myself that this is where each person is at, and it is their own way to deal with a situation. But I wanted to share a different perspective about this so that others can see this situation with different eyes as, in my opinion, we are not all Charlie as we would all like to think. Maybe the real problem in terrorist attacks and wars actually lies somewhere else…
If this article has stirred different kind of reactions, emotions or thoughts in you, be it positive or negative, or has at least startled you, or if it has at least caught your attention, then I am really pleased as I have applied my freedom of expression, too. I am curious to discover to what degree of tolerance my non-conformist ideas are welcomed.
One of the main ingredients of The Metaptitude is Tolerance in order to help each person acquire TRUE OPEN-MINDEDNESS where the acceptance of the frame of reference of others is key. This “acceptance” being undertaken is a capacity of total respect, where empathy of the other’s viewpoint is found in order to collectively find solutions, which will satisfy all parties, and is paramount whether this concerns your personal or professional life.
Severine is a trained psychotherapist and business coach practicing in France. This article can be seen in full on her website, META’ptitude.
A video (currently only in French) will shortly be made available FOR FREE so that you can start making your first steps towards more tolerance if this is your wish…
My intention by taking the time to share my thoughts here is to offer a different perspective on things and to allow people to be more conscious of themselves, their thoughts and their actions on a daily basis in order to live a better life.