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Security, safety, justice

You certainly have heard about the January 7, 2015 tragic shootings in Paris of 12 cartoonists, journalists and staff of newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The day after that, I received emails from friends worldwide, notably from Australia, expressing their profound sadness and sympathy — describing such brutal act as a bloody offence against freedom of speech, liberty and peace. My responses included notes on immigration, identity, social inequality and education.

Global solidarity poured in instantly and there was a historic gathering of heads of states and communities in Paris on the 11th. Virgils and gatherings of support and commemorations took place in many cities in France, England, the USA and other countries, which were moving and impressive.

During that week, my French friend apologised for being late in responding to my email because she was distressed with what happened in Paris. I was intrigued by her testimony that I asked her if I could publish her write-up. I have translated it in English, and the French version follows after.

“I do not agree with what you write, but I will defend to death your right to write about what you think.” This was written in the 18th century by Voltaire who experienced life in prison and exile for his writings that displeased people in power.

Satirical drawings have a long tradition in France and had its first golden age in the late 19th century when the style was already provocative. However, drawings and cartoons were primarily of politicians, the Church and those who enriched themselves by dishonest means exploiting the weak and vulnerable.

In the 1970s, many people – including my uncle – read satirical newspapers. The main issue at that time was sexual freedom, and journalists did not hesitate to take stance on certain issues regarding this. Consequently, the Catholic Church was an easy target as it was not in the position to retaliate. That situation disturbed me a lot but led me to question my beliefs and take responsibility for my views and actions without fear of being criticised and laughed at.

Satirical newspapers, in their nature and style, insult anyone. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose and, unfortunately, what happened in Paris cost them dearly.

Muslims began to be interested in cartoons thirty years ago when figures, like Ayatollah Khomeini and his cronies, implemented an iron fist policy in Iran. But since any representation of the Prophet is prohibited in Islam, these cartoons had upset the Muslim communities. The freedom of expression, as we know it in democratic countries, insulted and angered those who do not come from such tradition. These people demonstrated and expressed their concerns; but because freedom of expression is guaranteed in the French constitution, their complaints were unsuccessful and they had to abide by the court’s decision.

In the current Internet age, this subject has been taken to infinity to stir the resentment of Muslims towards the West.

Offenders are often young from single-parent families (no father at home) who turned against anyone and everything that represents the Authority. They are ideal prey for fundamentalists who offer them the experience of a heroic fight. The attacks in Paris were perpetrated by fanatics who are not representatives of the French Muslim community. They were consequences of conflicts from the outside and of the stupidity and hatred expressed in the use of guns, which murdered Jews, police officers of African and Maghreb origins, elderly journalists and volunteers. These victims were only ‘violent’ in their newspaper cartoons; in their lives, they were exemplary people who were committed to tolerance:
Charb, 47 years old, cartoonist, lived with Jeannette Bougrab (daughter of an Algerian soldier).
Cabu and Wolinski, 80 years old and 76 years old respectively, cartoonists, were volunteers for a financially-troubled newspaper.
Bernard Maris, economist, was the son of Maurice Genevoix (the first writer who broke the official story about the war in 1914). Bernard worked for the magazine Alternative, campaigned against capitalism and was an entertaining yet serious journalist at France Inter.
Patrick Peloux, the doctor who escaped the attack because he was late, was the one who raised the alarm about the death of thousands of elderly people during the summer of 2003 heat wave.

On January 7, we understood that the freedom of expression, one of the most valuable achievements of our history, is threatened. The holding of events supporting and demonstrating solidarity around the world has been a great consolation.

In the weeks that followed, our country was saturated with debates. Companies and businesses are weakened by mass unemployment. The National Education has the task of transmitting egalitarian, republican and secular values. How do we maintain community cohesion? How do we deal with threats?

The entire Western world faces these challenges, and that’s why so many heads of state were present in Paris on 11 January 2015.

“Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous écrivez, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit d’écrire ce que vous pensez. ” 

Cette phrase a été écrite au 18 eme siècle, par Voltaire qui a connu la prison et l’exil pour des écrits qui ont déplu pouvoir en place.

Le dessin satirique a une très longue tradition et a connu un premier âge d’or à la fin du 19 eme siècle. Le ton était déjà féroce, mais les dessins visaient principalement les politiciens, l’Eglise, et ceux qui s’enrichissaient par des moyens peu honnêtes, en exploitant les plus faibles.

Dans les années 1970, beaucoup lisaient des journaux satiriques, en particulier mes oncles. Le grand sujet à l’époque était la liberté sexuelle, et les journalistes n’hésitaient pas à se mettre en scène dans des  positions sans équivoque. Comme ils ne craignaient aucune représailles, les attaques contre l’Eglise Catholique étaient sans pitié. Tout cela m’a beaucoup dérangée à l’époque, mais cela m’a amenée à m’interroger sur mes convictions, et à les assumer mieux, sans craindre les rires. 

Les journaux satiriques collectionnent les procès pour injure à personne.  Ils ont parfois gagné, parfois perdu, et cela leur a coûté très cher.

Les musulmans n’ont commencé à intéresser les dessinateurs que depuis une trentaine d’années quand des personnages comme l’Ayatollah Khomeini et ses comparses ont jeté sur l’Iran un voile de fer.
Mais dans la religion musulmane, la représentation du prophète est interdite. Donc des dessins ont beaucoup dérangé les communautés musulmanes. D’Europe.  La totale liberté d’expression, issue d’un long cheminement évoqué plus haut, blessait des personnes qui ne sont pas issues de cette tradition. Il y a eu des manifestations et des procès. Comme la liberté d’expression est garantie dans la constitution française, les plaignants n’ont pas obtenus gain de cause, et ils ont su respecter la décision des tribunaux.  

Les délinquants sont des souvent jeunes en manque de père, qui se retournent contre tout ce qui représente l’Autorité. Ils sont des proies idéales pour les fondamentalistes d’orient qui leur offrent les mirages d’un combat héroïque. Les attentats de la semaine dernière sont les échos de conflits qui ont lieu en Orient. Ils ont été commis par des fanatiques qui ne sont pas représentatifs de la communauté musulmane française. La bêtise et la haine s’est exprimé par leur armes, puisque des juifs ont été assassinés, une policière noire, un policier maghrébin, des journalistes très âgés et bénévoles. 

Les victimes n’étaient violents que dans un journal, dans leur vie, ils étaient des personnes exemplaires, engagés pour la tolérance.

Charb 47 ans, dessinateur, vivait en couple avec Jeannette Bougrab, fille de Harkis. 
Cabu  80 ans et Wolinski 76 ans, dessinateurs, travaillaient bénévolement pour un journal en grande difficulté financière. 
Bernard Maris économiste, était le gendre de Maurice Genevoix, le premier écrivain qui a voulu écorner la légende officielle autour de la guerre de 1914. Bernard Maris écrivait dans la revue Alternative, il militait contre le Capitalisme. Sur France Inter, il était surtout drôle et incisif. 
Patrick Peloux, le médecin qui a échappé à l’attentat, car il était en retard, est celui qui a donné l’alerte au cours de l’été 2003, quand à cause de la canicule, des milliers de personnes âgées sont mortes en silence. 

Le 7 janvier, nous avons compris que la Liberté d’Expression, un des acquis les plus précieux de notre histoire, est menacé.

L’importance des manifestations de soutien, les témoignages de solidarité dans le monde entier ont été un grand réconfort.

Dans les semaines qui ont suivi, le débat anime notre pays. Notre société est affaiblie par le chômage de masse. L’Education Nationale peine dans la transmission des valeurs d’une République égalitaire, fraternelle et laïque. Comment maintenir la cohésion des communautés ? Comment résister aux menaces ?

Ces défis concernent tout le monde occidental, et c’est pourquoi tant de chefs d’Etats ont tenu à manifester leur intérêt en étant présent à Paris pour la grande manifestation du 11 janvier 2015. (By Catherine Pochet)

Lest We forget!

Flight and Depression

First and foremost, our condolences to families, relatives and friends of the 150 passengers on board Germanwings A320 Airbus flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf that went down in a French mountain. According to media reports, the victims included 72 Germans (16 were school students), 51 Spaniards, and those from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the US and Venezuela.

The following is AirlineRatings.com’s 2015 annual list of the world’s 10 safest airlines: Australian airline Qantas (“Continues to lead the industry with safety innovations and its fleet is now the youngest — 7.9 years,” AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas tells CNN). The others, in alphabetical order, are: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. (http://edition.cnn.com/ 2015/01/06/intl_travel/world-safest-airlines).

Lufthansa owns Germanwings, and its reputed safety measures didn’t prevent a psychotic deed from killing innocent people. The cockpit voice recorder’s information suggests that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz took over the control of the plane and crashed it. There have been reports of Lubitz’ depression as the reason for such tragedy. This incident, no doubt, will make airline companies more stringent when hiring personnel and conducting compulsory mental and psychological examinations of all flight crew members (in addition to the physical ones).

About 350,000,000 people globally are affected by some forms of depression; 70% of adolescents who have a depressive disorder by the age of 18; women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime (the loss of a partner from death, divorce or separation are a main contributing factor); 6.9% of all American adults had at least one depressive episode in 2012 and 50% with major depression don’t seek treatment. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/20/ depression -statistics_n_6480412.html).

BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine has published results of a research that compares social conditions with depression in 18 countries across the world. Detailed interviews with over 89,000 people produced data showing that 15% of the population from high-income countries (compared to 11% for low/middle-income countries) were likely to have depression over their lifetime. Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) were especially high (over 30%) in France, the Netherlands and America whereas China (12%) had the lowest incidence while it’s almost 36% in India (http://www.biomedcentral.com). It should be noted that there are still taboos held against depression and other mental problems whether you’re in a developed or developing nation which lower down diagnosis rates and statistics.

Depression is considered a mental disorder and its most common signs are: loneliness, feeling of guilt or low self-esteem and tiredness, disinterested professionally and socially; loss of desire for pleasures; disturbed sleep or appetite and lack of concentration. It can be long-lasting or recurrent and impairs a person’s ability to cope with daily life. Severe cases of depression can lead to suicide (worldwide, 5% -20% of depressed patients suicide). A mild depression can be treated without medicines whereas moderate or severe one may need medication and professional treatments. Most specialists believe that psychotherapy treatments (whatever the type) takes only 10-20 weeks, and from two to four weeks for antidepressants to start having an effect (six to 12 weeks for full effect).

Depression affects our families and communities and should be dealt with care and without shame. Let’s continue to talk more about this..

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