things that shouldn’t happen

I’m writing this here, rather than on say my facebook page, because it’s easier to do so on what is basically my journal, rather than a medium which is taken to be a public noise generator, even when you aren’t public.

I feel profoundly tired by the after effects of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and like I need to go back in my mind, like I left something behind. It is already 9 days ago, that the news came in of this brutal killing.

The initial reactions for me were shock and grief, as also when something big happens that sinks into the psyche. You know that a significant threshold has been crossed, and something shifts. But I would say again, it was grief. I know some people will think you cannot feel grief for those you don’t personally know, but it isn’t true. You feel grief on occasions, even when it is not personal.

When I first saw the news I shared it, because people needed to know what had happened. And then there was the sense of loss, the sobering, half comprehending sadness. And just the realization that this had actually happened. Obviously what people share at those times looks sentimental, and it’s easy to sneer at, but that’s not the point.

But the second shock came maybe two days later, when I realized (naively) that the leftist commentators had come trotting in on their horses, to tell us how ashamed we should feel, how not good enough in our concern, how actually “racist” our sympathy was, and how racist the dead were.

And then on came the mainstream British news, smoothing down the cushion covers, “balancing” the “issues”, making sure that it acknowledged the problems of causing offence, and disrespecting sensitivities. After an entire group of people were murdered for just that? How exactly do you “balance” that?

But whatever. Does anything really surprise? Well not when I think about it, but what had been grief got frozen in that cold blast of air. At least all the talk of secularism was relevant to the cartoonists’ probable concerns as satirists. But the “deconstruction” of the dead, for the sake of a political point, that really stunned me.

I did read an interesting article in The Big Issue magazine today (but written on the day of the attack), by Robert McLiam Williams, a writer who grew up in a Belfast rent by violence, and who now lives in Paris. He has quite a few interesting and unflattering things to say about the kind if people who resort to this kind of violence.

“You don’t shoot people if you can do the empathy trick. You don’t blow them up. We can talk of people’s trauma, of their history, their culture or their grievance. But to unhesitatingly kill for some half-formed credo is one of the best IQ tests going. An imagination is a vital piece of equipment. I’m not sure a conscience can exist without it”

Robert McLiam Williams

“They killed people who lived to make you laugh. And that is exactly why they killed them. This bears repeating. That is why they killed them. These people were killed by despotic halfwits because they were funny. The universe of funny ran smack into the abysmal depths of the terminally unfunny. They encountered the definitively humourless and the infinitely offendable. And they were massacred”


And maybe that is the thing. Because politics doesn’t allow you to laugh at what it calls serious. It never has. Thus satire. The court buffoon is always outside the whole game. But somehow we all like to think of ourselves as players nowadays, don’t we?

“All day I have watched and heard supposedly left-wing commentators talking urgently of racism and fear-mongering. In truth, such remarks are important, even vital. But on this day, I would humbly suggest that if this is the first of your talking points, then you are in some trouble. Something has gone badly wrong. They killed the funny people because they were funny”


Something has gone badly wrong. It certainly looked that way, for some people. When a room full of jesters are gunned down, and we discuss if their jokes were really worthy of the kind of court we’d create. Is that how we bury the dead? And have we forgotten what a jester is?

But this isn’t a sermon (please no). I just want to find a way back to the grief I felt 9 days ago, and move on.

fire bombed previous offices of Charlie Hebdo by Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0



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