There are millions  marching on the streets of Paris and all across the country. They are showing a solidarity with the  journalists and cartoonists murdered  at the offices of a satirical magazine. In France , people are allowed to freely express any opinion and there is a freedom to say what is on your mind . You might not want to read or see these expressions of opinion but you have the completely free choice not to. You would not be forced to buy the satirical magazine, for example ; you would n’t be forced to  go to a cinema and watch some old existential New Wave film either. If you didn’t like sushi food , no one would herd you into a Japanese restaurant and force you to eat raw fish tit-bits or some hosomaki.

There are laws of course .You wouldn’t be allowed to smack someone in the face , no matter how you felt about them . There would be consequences .You certainly wouldn’t be encouraged to buy some high-powered weapon and decide to kill someone you didn’t particularly like.

What we are really seeing is a clash of two absolutely differing cultures . There are many Christians and Muslims whose religion is a very private affair which they follow quietly. There are other Christian and Muslims who tack their religious beliefs onto a political agenda and attempt to force that down the throats of the rest of us .We see that with fundamentalists both Catholic and Protestant here in Ireland and we see it with  certain Muslims throughout the world who are finding great difficulty in living in a 21st century secular way . No one is asking them to change their views , mind.Most people just don’t want their views forced down their secular throats.You might ask yourself how can anyone holding an extreme view like that actually live in the modern world.Why would anyone with views like that actually want to live in the West at all? The strange thing is that they obviously do.

France’s  republican motto is  “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”…that is liberty freedom and brotherhood..

“Liberty consists of being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man or woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights.Equality, on the other hand, was defined by the 1789 Declaration in terms of judicial equality and merit-based entry to government .The law must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible to all high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.”

I suppose we could debate all day what “does not harm others” actually means. I think that it means to physically hurt anyone without provocation or to uncritically  denigrate them personally  ; not necessarily their critical faculties or beliefs. It is also an assumption that everyone in the society  believe they live in the same “cultural century” with similar moral and cultural  mores.If someone has an esoteric religious belief system or starts a personal  cult that is outside of this “physical reality” , those outside those  religious belief systems are allowed to question these religious  and social beliefs  in light of 21st century knowledge and now find themselves opposed  by an “anti-knowledge” and  an anti intellectual  agenda . In fact they are now opposed by what amounts to a cult of indoctrination . We have Christian fundamentalists who believe that the earth is very young and that in face of all knowledge to the  contrary… it is only 6000 years old . Anyone with a modicum of education knows that this is arrant nonsense. That does not stop these fundamentalists believing otherwise , so you could argue in that context , that they are insane.Should we lie down and pretend otherwise?I don’t think so. I think we should question that belief, especially if it threatens to destabilise society.

Something similar is happening with some Muslims ; not all.They are very obviously attempting to turn the clock back to a simpler time ,when there was an easily understood set of community rules for living .Living life in a simpler pre-industrial time.; a place in time that really does not exist any longer in the West. In  Muslim North Africa , you might see old bearded men with a scrawny little ill-fed donkey pulling a little cart , much as he might have done for a thousand years . The only difference is that the cart might have rubber tyres. You’ll probably not have seen one  of those lately anywhere  local , for maybe half a century or more .The modern science -based technology is readily consumed but the ancient pre-science beliefs still persist.

These Muslim  beliefs  also involve dying and joining a visionary leader after death, much like Christians believe in going to a heaven . In light of   education ,though, there are many who think this is a nonsensical thing  for anyone to believe, if not completely insane, but simply think that such a belief has its uses as  a social  balm in an otherwise hard, cold  world. It is also a social glue that offers continuity. It should be a harmless fantasy but many take its poetry as actual  fact and soon face may conundrums and conflictions in trying to square a circle. They have every right to  their beliefs but they are not allowed to kill people in pursuit of them , otherwise we would all live in an endless  bedlam of blood-letting forever.

Artists ,writers and thinkers  retain the freedom to laugh and question absurdity and are protected to do so by law.That is why millions took to the streets in support of the murdered cartoonists and writers.  You might ask yourself why anyone who didn’t think like that would actually choose to live in a place like France …or anywhere else in the West for that matter, where there was freedom of speech, thought , debate and artistic expression..That is certainly not the kind of world they are comfortable in but it is the kind of world that  millions  think of as  their home.

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