Je suis...?

Kicked off by the Paris killings, “Je Suis Charlie” and the pencil protests were symbols of solidarity with the cartoonists. Quickly others, shocked and angry at the latest Charlie cover, were protesting, and demanding limits to free speech. Here Jot explores both sides and asks who am I in this, and who are you?

To recap briefly, a satirical magazine (“Charlie Hebdo”) published cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, and the killings were in reprisal for the cartoons, then the “survivor’s issue” was a reprisal for the killings. With rising tensions all round, the media reported angry and fearful counter-reactions in communities across the globe, while politicians attempted to keep everyone calm. Many of us are left disturbed or confused, asking where are we in this? Let’s try to discover our position.

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Where does this leave us?

For what it’s worth, as one who gave up on religion in 1971, I follow a secular and optimistic path towards peaceful co-existence. Armed with the UN Charter for Human Rights, and taking to heart the best human ingredients from the world’s religions (such as kindness, tolerance, respect, common good), this gives us much that we need to support a better life for everyone.

Now as we find ourselves caught in conflict, we might take a harder look at the assumptions and attitudes that inform us when we encounter the “other”. When the reflex to fight and kill the “other” becomes inescapable, perhaps hardwired from 200,000 years of conflict, what can help us rise above this?

The chance we each have is just to make a personal choice: give in to our inner caveman with a violent “tribal” reflex, or step back and focus on a greater common good that can embrace them and us. What can we find to strengthen us on this path towards peace? Right now I am clinging to a basic humanism (belief in how people are at their best), and two simple moral codes: “do unto others”, and “embrace the greater common good”.