Thursday, January 8, 2015

Romeo India Papa Charlie

Romeo India Papa Charlie: RIP Charlie Hebdo

Today, 3 men armed with Kalashnikov machine-guns stormed into the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. And they assassinated caricaturists, staff members, and cops.

Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of free speech. When the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten published caricatures of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, back in 2005 Charlie Hebdo was one of the first if not the first French publication that dared publish them too, in France. They didn't do it to anger Muslims, though they were intelligent enough to know that it would anger some of them. They did it out of respect for the Muslims who would be intelligent enough to wish they were treated like adults, intelligent enough to accept if not demand that they be treated satirically on an equal footing with members of other religions.

I watched the video of one of the cops being executed at point-blank range by one of the terrorists. It is raw violence and I don't recommend watching it if you are easily upset. I feel sad about the victims and angry at the attackers.

I also feel angry, less of course, at the people who are ignorant enough to say it has nothing to do with Islam and that this is just an act of violence perpetrated by violent people who would/could have acted violently in the name of any other cause. People who say this are ignorant. The doctrine of Islam is violent and some of the branches of Islam (e.g. Wahhabi) encourage a violent interpretation of the texts. But this could not have been perpetrated in the name of Jainism, and this could not have been perpetrated in the name of Chocolate and candy bars. There needs to be a public debate about the violence of the teachings of the Quran and the Hadiths.

Now, everybody is publishing articles or comments on the subject and changing their Facebook profile picture to a picture saying "I AM CHARLIE". I understand it. I understand that people are feeling lost and need to feel united and reassured. But after that, what happens? Not "what happens to the bad guys?" because I don't care now. Our governmental forces are working on it and whatever I write doesn't matter. But what happens to us, the people? Having a tough but fair conversation about Islam seems necessary, but are we able to hold such a conversation? I'm afraid not. I'm convinced not. It would take time, knowledge, and enough honesty from religious leaders to accept admitting publicly that their religion is full of violence.

There's so much more to be said about this. But I'll part with this quote from Steven Weinberg:
"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Friday, January 2, 2015

My humanity and I

The past year, I've been kind of idle as I didn't work. But I invested some of my time in connecting with people and creating bonds of friendship or even mere acquaintances. I have met a few incredible people with depth the like of which you might not imagine. And this has changed some things in me.

I have always been fond of science. I still am. I will probably always be. And as I've had more time to think and in particular think about myself, I made explicit a feeling I've had for a while. I felt like I had lost part of my humanity. It's a bit as if had become like a robot, capable of being efficient in the things I do, but little moved by feelings or emotions.

When your grandmother dies, a grandmother you had been close to in your childhood, and you don't cry, you ask yourself questions and you feel kind of shameful about not crying. Why would normal people cry and why would you not? Is it strength of character, disinterest, or a sign of the humanity you lost?

At least, wondering about it is salutary. It made me question who I think I am, what I want from other people or how I want it, and how much I am able and willing to make changes... or how much I am unable or unwilling to make changes. I realized my humanity is not lost. It is dusty. Very dusty. But it's still here. And I realized, too, that it is OK for me not to behave or feel like everyone else. If I don't cry, then so be it. It doesn't prevent me from wishing well to other people and being there for those who will need a shoulder. And I'll keep looking for more of this humanity and I'll likely find more of it.

Despite saying this, there are still things I didn't share in this article about my feelings. Some emotions or lack thereof that are too shameful to reveal explicitly, and which I'll have to come to terms with. And you? Do you ever experience emotions like this? Do you ever feel guilty for lacking emotions that you think you should feel? If so, are you able to share your experience or is it too sensitive to share explicitly?

Anyway, if you feel like you should look for your humanity, then it shows that you still care about it and that you still have it. So things are looking up.
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