Sunday, 18 January 2015

A right not to be offended. An Enlightened View?

Salman Rushdie defending his novel The Satanic Verses said  Nobody  has the right not to be offended , it has been repeatedly quoted in the media these past few days as a defence for CHARLIE HEBDO’s cartoons in general, and in particular those castigating or mocking  Islam.

The Enlightenment’s freedoms certainly allow us , in Great Britain and France at least, not to be bound by the fear or the manacles and chains of  lèse-majesté  so today we are free to offend or mock the Monarchy, equally the Church. I am minded of the words of the Enlightenment philosopher Diderot : Man shall not be free until the last king is hung on the entrails of the last priest such was the hold the Monarchy and the Church had over the common man at the time, before the Enlightenment.

But with the freedoms of the Enlightenment come responsibility, not to replace one intellectual tyranny with another, rather to understand how a free and open society works.  We must take time to understand each other's points of view, it is a case of tolerating,  respecting the other’s point of view, that tenet is fundamental to the liberal democratic society we live in.

My thoughts are  rooted in the cliché I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death to your right to say  it*.  Rushdie can, at face value,  seen to be right but he makes no reference to how a liberal democratic society functions, effectively.  Such societies are founded on mutual respect and tolerance, without either they are doomed to endlessly fighting ideas and beliefs with knives and bombs rather than Enlightened reasoned rational thought.

So, for me, CHARLIE HEBDO was as wrong to create such ugly images not just of Islam but of Christianity and Judaism as their images are unremittingly offensive to and disrespectful of those beliefs.

I'll conclude, for now, not with a cartoonist's drawings but with the words of the French cartoonist - Tomi Ungerer : Mutual respect is after all the key to peace and understanding.

* Voltaire is often quoted as the source but (sadly) he never said it!

Having written this post I am now moving on from posting #JeSuisCharlie in Facebook and Twitter but I'll continue to post in Pinterest from time to time.