In light of the horrific murder at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, I came across an article about some leaked emails that uncovered Al Jazeera’s internal editorial debate amongst their staff. The composers of this email chain expressed their opinions, which are very different from each other, because of their diverse ethnicities around the world. These emails indeed highlighted differences in their belief systems, as they reflected upon the Charlie Hebdo incident–a cultural clash to a violent extreme…
Everyone knows that Asian cultures are more repressed compared to western ones. But, on the flip side, the disciplines were there based on respect and thoughtfulness. We Asians were taught to respect others before we get respected. Any criticism must be expressed carefully, sometimes using ancient phrases, expressions, metaphors, and/or humor to keep it subtle. Otherwise, it can be easily perceived as insults.
In Asian cultures, insult is perhaps the most significant form of disrespect, equating to bullying and oftentimes worse than physical assault because of the psychological effect it can cause someone. There are many stories where one would rather die, commit suicide than be insulted in order to protect his/her honor or dignity.
In countries that champion freedom of speech and expressions, unfortunately, their laws also protect insults.
While Pope Francis condemned the murders, he warned against insults. He also said, with freedom comes greater responsibility–He is right–The responsibility to protect and respect other people’s rights and space.
We have the right to bear arms, doesn’t mean we can go around killing other people…
We have the freedom of speech and expression, doesn’t mean we can go around hurting other people.
Words and expressions of criticism, if not careful, can be easily perceived as insults. And hurtful insults can escalate into another world war! Because, like murder, it can pierce a heart.
In the case of Charlie Hebdo, I would never make a drawing or write words like that. Because, for one, religion is people’s spiritual lives. Secondly, satire is often taken out of context, becoming untruthful and perhaps insulting. If there’s an issue that I must criticize, I would carefully and thoughtfully craft the criticism in a way that wouldn’t offend others. It’s tough to do… But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for the sake of peace.
That’s just me… So…
Violence is terrorism. But I am not Charlie.