Monday, January 12, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie, #JeSuisAhmed, Mais Surtout, #JeSuisL'Amour

There seems to be too much global unrest lately and I am afraid that in the years to come this will become the new “normal”, unfortunately. I have been following very closely the updates on #CharlieHebdo and I found it interesting to compare different coverage from different parts of the world. While proximity to an event certainly has an impact on how the news is reported on, what I really loved was the solidarity that seemed to form all across the globe.
It doesn't come as a surprise for my family and close friends that Paris holds a special place in my heart. As a young journalism student, I had lots of firsts in this beautiful city - none romantic, but rather cultural and career wise: my first "outing" in the Western world, my first serious journalistic prize, my first time at important cultural points such as Musée D'Orsay and Louvre, Versailles and Jardin Des Tuileries. My first time to see the works of my heroes, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin...And I could continue for hours. So I was truly devastated, seeing the events unfold.
I don’t necessarily approve of the type of sarcasm used by some cartoonists, journalists, TV or Radio stations; nor do I approve irresponsible or sensational journalism. But both as a person and as a journalist, I firmly believe in the freedom of speech. Everyone should be able to express themselves without the fear of being killed or hurt.
Someone summed it beautifully on social media with a quote from Voltaire “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it”. They also pointed out that one of the police officers killed was Muslim and that regardless what his private beliefs were; he died defending Charlie Hebdo’s team. I don’t wish to enter into a debate about right or wrong, when it comes to ridiculing a religion – I think deep down we all have our answers.

But what I do want to draw attention on; is something that seems to spread more and more these days: blame seeking, generalizing and throwing the first stone.  And this is where the irresponsible journalism makes me really see red. If we start hating an entire segment of population, based on their religion, then I am sorry to say, these terrorists are very close to achieving one of their goals. After all, “divide et impera” is really one of the oldest ways of conquering the world. I think it is very important to see that the latest acts of terrorism that we have witnessed globally over the past couple of weeks are not the result of the Islamic religion per se, but rather a manipulation of religion to suit and somewhat provide a motivation for the acts of a few egotistic maniacs, on a mission to achieve power under all circumstances. Let’s be clear, they don’t give a damn about religion, but they rather use it as a tool, manipulating, twisting words and making their lust for blood seem “legit”.

It is very important that we don’t turn against all Muslims indiscriminately, hating the entire population pertaining to one particular religion. I will not pretend to fully understand their culture, but most Muslims that I have come in contact with are peaceful, modest and hardworking people. My GP is Muslim and I trust him with my life on the decision he makes. I would never even think to associate his name with these acts. As for extremism, I think we see it everywhere – all forests have their dry trees.
It is however very disturbing to see sensationalism taking over responsibility; it is frustrating and infuriating to see messages from media magnates, calling for all Muslims to denounce the terrorist acts, as if a regular person could be made responsible for another individual’s thinking. Personally, I think a journalist should reason about the impact that his/her words will have on the masses. Sadly, we have noticed one of the local Muslim businesses being the victim of a suspicious fire. It was one of the best fruit & vege shop in the area, but recently they have been target of ignorance and preconception.

Taking about proximity, it is also very sad to see very little to almost no mention whatsoever of the massacre taking place in and around Baga, Nigeria, where there have been reports of over 2,000 people being killed by Boko Haram. No, the headlines are quoting the sensational stuff – after all - the usual starlets, divas and their shenanigans are much more entertaining. I cannot help but wonder: have we not learned anything from Rwanda?
I think all the time about the kind of world where my kids will find their path in life as adults.
Sometimes it’s beautiful. But sometimes it’s downright scary. And I cannot help but think that there will be a reckoning moment where they will look back, studying history and political events of our times and there will come the damned question: “What did you do about it”? I am not sure yet what I will answer when that day comes.

My kids are still very young and I don’t know what the future holds for them. But one thing is certain; they sure love drawing. Maybe they will or maybe they won't be cartoonists, journalists or artists. Maybe they will or they won't have unusual views.
But I hope they will grow up in a world where they will always feel safe to express themselves without fearing that if anyone disagrees with their point of view, that would be ground enough for killing.

I am still under shock, when it comes to the events in Paris and I am still trying to find my words. I feel that it is very important that everyone finds their voice (and pens - virtual or old fashioned ones) and protests against this blatant acts against Charlie Hebdo's journalists, against freedom of expression and against any human being.
I feel that #IamCharlie but #IamAhmed too and most of all, #IamLove.
 As usual, after a very emotional day, I went to clear my head in the only place I know I can find peace: The Grasslands. The storm was forming just under my eyes, after witnessing the most amazing Kangaroos moment - when our two worlds had a “together” moment: just before sunset, the biggest mob I have seen so far was cooling down at the water trough, playing in the high grass. I couldn’t help but appreciate how everything fell in place, kangaroos and birds were enjoying together the coolness that only the evening can bring. They didn’t even think of running away when I approached them. The world IS and CAN be beautiful, we just have to take the time to notice it and to pass these little moments on. Enjoy the magic of my Grasslands.



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