MORTS DE RIRE, PAS MORTS DE PEUR
Fanatics kill those who laugh. Their crime? They did not die of fright, first.
Huge demonstrations in France to protest the killing of famous humorists, authors, and even of an important progressive Bank of France economist (Maris). And also Jews, just because they were Jews, and police officers, just because they were police officers.
Four million people marched in the streets to demonstrate their support for Freedom of Expression, and the LAIC Republic (with more than 80% approval rating). Forty-seven heads of states and governments joined, including Merkel, British PM Cameron (his first demonstration, ever), and all the important politicians in Europe.
The Marseillaise was sung, again and again, for Charlie Hebdo humorists, some of the fiercest anti-nationalists, ever.
The bells of Notre Dame rang for some of the most Atheist and Pagan thinkers, ever. This is perfectly appropriate: after all, the philosopher Pierre Abélard taught at the Cathedral which stood where Notre Dame now is. Abélard exposed the contradictions of theology, publishing the “Sic Et Non”, the “Yes And No” in 1121 CE. Abélard founded general semantics, among others things, and was famous throughout Europe for his songs.
The attack against Charlie Hebdo was the most severe such attack ever since Francia was founded by the Franks, more than 15 centuries ago. A fact that is striking and true: even the Nazis did not stoop that low (instead they affected a respect for French culture, and that’s how Sartre and company got started).
The Franks clamped down on ”Orthodox Catholic” Christianism, which had devastated the Roman State they were then in charge of saving. The Franks re-established the laic state that ruled before the Emperor Cult and the associated Christian State emperors imposed.
The Franks created their own bishops, and their own saints. This is well documented in bishop Gregory of Tours’ “History of the Franks”. Gregorius was leading prelate of Gaul (Gallia). The Christians fanatics, led by the Pope, would brandish death threats for generations. Ultimately they had to come on their knees, and beg the Franks to chase the Lombards (Long Beards) from Italy. That was 300 years after Clovis imposed a tolerant, laic Christianism.
Laic Christianism? Yes. Actually laic versions of Islam, especially Sufi (such as the one centered on Senegal) already exist. They have been submerged by fanatical version promoted by Saudi Arabia plutocrats, in the last few decades.
France became the “Eldest Daughter” of the senile, murderous Christian Church that had ravaged the Roman mind, Romanitas. So doing, Francia rebuilt Christianism.
(Three centuries after Clovis, Charlemagne attributed land to the Papacy, creating the so-called Papal States; it was well understood that the Pope took his orders from the “Renovated” Roman Empire).
Laicity translates the French laïcité, from Late Latin laicus + French -ité –ity. “Laicus” comes from the Greek “laikos”, meaning, of the people. I am not going to dissert on this now, but “Laikos” stands for “Human Ethology” (to describe it in the contemporary scientific semantics). Our common humanity, in other words.
When an ideology tries to devastate human ethology, Laicity, it should be repressed. Repression is civilization.
France has lost many battle, but is winning the war. This is exactly why Al Qaeda targeted her at her heart, Freedom of Expression. “Frank” means “Free”. The Franks gave their name to the Roman “Francia” they led.
Even the New York Times, in an excellent article by Douthat recognizes that “France is the Crucible of Europe”: “notwithstanding these declinist fears, France isn’t actually irrelevant or spent. Instead, it’s arguably becoming more important, more central to the fate of Europe and the West.
. politically, culturally, even intellectually, events in France over the next half-century could matter more than at any point since before the two world wars. Indeed, more than Germany or Greece or Britain or any other actor, it’s in France that the fate of 21st-century Europe could ultimately be decided.”
Why and How Did France Become So Central To Civilization?
Present day France, at the crossroads of the three main trade routes of Europe, has been continually at war for millennia, and whoever happen to reside there lost many battles. However this central position has fostered tolerance and understanding. Already 16 centuries ago, Celto-Germans, Romans, Jews, Franks, Goths and Burgunds had built a melting pot: many languages were spoken (three Celtic languages, Latin, Frankish, and various Germanic languages), and many religions were practiced (Francia did not have.
By 600 CE all citizens of what is now most of France, Germany and surrounding lands had become “Franks” (following the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 CE).
The Franks, attached to freedom, as all Germans, outlawed slavery over all of Europe. Except in the part of Iberia the Islamists controlled. After the Franks invaded Britain in 1066 CE, not only did they outlaw slavery, but the franks established the basis of a more democratic state.
This made France a natural place for Protestantism: Cathars and Protestants appeared there, centuries before Luther. And for the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment brought not only the republic of the United States of America (with a 5 trillion dollars world war to defeat Britain and give birth to the USA), but also the French Constitution of 1789, which proclaimed all men equal and gave them equal rights, independently of property, race, ethnicity, religion.
The Revolution of 1789 gave rise to the United Nations’ Charter, the very core of today’s civilization. 1789 also gave rise to the present European Union. France originated, and is the natural soul of both enterprises (and not just of the USA).
Let’s go back to Douhat (who embraced several themes I embraced for a decade):
“Then amid these political and economic patterns there’s an important intellectual possibility – namely, that if there’s something beyond the West’s current end-of-history torpor, some new ideological conflict or synthesis, it might emerge first in the place where so many revolutions had their birth.
France has always been a country of extremes – absolutist and republican, Catholic and anticlerical, Communist and fascist. Now it’s once again the place where strong forces are colliding, and where the culture’s uncertainties – about Islam, secularism, nationalism, Europe; about modernity itself – suggest that new ones might soon be born.
The decline has been real, but the future is unwritten. If there is real history yet to be made in Europe, for good or ill, it might be made first in la belle France.”
Not just Europe, the world.
Far from being struck by blind awe, evoking France, and its intellectuals. Actually the devastating notion of “multiculturalism” was born there. Some secondary French intellectuals breathed heavily on the United Nations, in a dumb tradition Rousseau inaugurated, to suggest that any culture, as long as it was different was glorious and to be allowed free reign.
This was Rousseau’s grave error, and it’s not at all what the history of Western Europe suggests. Far from it.
It is the Franks who grabbed and brandished the word “Europe”, when the Islamists launched three furious, massive land and sea invasions of Francia, in the period 721 CE-749 CE. They failed, their armies were totally destroyed, the Arab Caliphate fell (750 CE).
The history of Europe is the history of the progression of ever better ideas (and the annihilation of very bad ones). The Romans outlawed any religions founded on human sacrifices, and tried to make work a universal republic (their failure was due to a global fiscal failure, allowing the rise of plutocracy; so the problem is very contemporary). The Franks threw out religious fanaticism, and outlawed slavery.
None of this would have happened without creative brainwork. Those who don’t understand satire, don’t understand creative thinking. Satire is an old Greco-Roman tradition: consider the Satyricon (Book of Satyr-like thinking”; or consider satire from Horace, Juvenal, Apuleius.). Dionysian thinking and practice was all about satyrs, and satire (Nietzsche recognized its use around 1870, but Dante, Rabelais, Erasmus, Voltaire, etc. are all about it).
France is the country of intellectual extremes because it is the country of debate: one cannot debate persons who are in full agreement. Many French, when launched in a conversation, love to start their sentences with :”Non!”. It’s not that they dislike their interlocutor, but they need to stand, and be opposed (they will often defend the opposite point of view in the next debate).
And that is why Al Qaeda targeted the core of what makes debate possible, Freedom of Expression. Satire, and especially blasphemy, is not just a right super intelligence has. It is not just a duty.
Satire and blasphemy is how super intelligence is born. Imitations never qualified.
Vignettes on the massacre: 1) One the heavily armed thugs took over a Jewish supermarket, on the ground that all Jews should die (that’s more or less implied in the Qur’an, and certainly very explicit in the Haddith: I will roll out the quotes in another essay). The terrorists commandeered one of the cashiers to close the iron curtain. A 21 young Tunisian grabbed the terrorist’s machine gun, armed, aimed, and pulled the trigger. But the gun jammed, and the murderer tore him apart with his AK47 (the terrorist had already killed a “black” policewoman, shooting her in the back, and grievously wounded other people, the day before).
2) An African immigrant introduced many shoppers in the congelation room of the Jewish supermarket, told them to stay silent, locked the door, and cut the power. They were not detected by the terrorist, and all saved.