#jesuischarlie – Why People Should Read: A Response to the Charlie Hebdo Killings.

My reaction developed slowly. I was at work; the chef mentioned a terrorist attack in France. I got home and read various articles from the BBC. I proofread my sister’s dissertation and picked up thought-lost rugby boots. What I learned angered me. I decided to download a picture onto my phone and post it to various social media accounts with the following text:

‘’#jesuischarlie For me, truth that can be found in fiction, satire and art in all its forms is the best education of all; timelessly teaching us more about humanity and being human than any statistic government, doctrine or ideology ever could.

In other words, if more people fucking read, and read widely, the world would be a much better place.’’

I am going to approach this blog by expanding upon my own words – not because I’m narcissistic or I think this is quotable – but because it was my own reaction and I simply should explain it in more detail. ‘…truth that can be found in fiction…’ I have found that fiction is able to teach me a great deal about humanity, our relationship to history, and the lessons we should be learning from it. I can learn more about war, killing, and why it should be avoided, from one line of Wilfred Owen’s poetry – ‘’What passing bells for those who die as cattle?’’ – Than from one chapter of Max Hasting’s very well written non-fiction about the World Wars. There is also much to be learned about humanities potential in say, a book about a pint-sized human-esque creature strolling, walking, hiking and carrying an item of jewellery from one hole in the ground to another. ‘… if more people fucking read, and read widely…’ Let us say one of the gunmen involved in the attack had read not only the Quran (obviously he was likely to have read other books, but this one had the most impact on him) and had read three. Let’s say the first of these texts was ‘Waiting For Godot’ by Samuel Beckett. Let us say the second was Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in The Willows’. Let’s say he read them one after the other. The first, based around the pointlessness absurdity of human existence, may have induced some sort of existential crisis in the man, and he may have for a moment been depressed. The second, based around a happy collective on anthropomorphic river-bank animals may have smothered him with life-affirming warmth. I have juxtaposed the above comparison a bit ridiculously, but the point I am making is that the combined response that can be drawn from these individual responses to three texts might just have produced a second guess about the total-validity of his response to the Quran. Just maybe. By reading widely, we expose ourselves to different and sometimes competing points of view. With regards to non-fiction, comparing different responses to a particular event or debate from more than one newspaper can be massively advantageous in gaining a broader knowledge of the subject, in order to make a more incisive judgement.   In conclusion… We many not find verbatim fact in fiction, but we can find genuine emotion and feeling as a result of our own response to a text. This is what is communicated and what the author attempts to convey – what occurs between the lines that we as readers fill in for ourselves. With any writing, fictitious or not, we must challenge our own opinions through challenging and comparing the opinions of others to our own. Perhaps most importantly, reading teaches us the importance of context, and how it is vital it is to understand the circumstances in which a piece of writing has been produced. I am simply suggesting that if people, either before they decide to murder self-expressing artists, or write a hate-fuelled post about Islam on the ‘Britain First’ Facebook page (both extreme, antagonistic actions) simply to challenge their own idea’s through books, magazines or online articles. You would be right in saying the problems surrounding the Charlie Hebdo massacre cannot be solved with writing alone. But people have been killed in a response to their own art and self-expression, therefore we must use art positively, as a show of measured solidarity. Post Script… With regard to Islam… The meticulous, planned, thought out Die-Hard-esque terrorism of September 11th now seems to have evolved into a more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous fanaticism. This blog is not intended to be anti-Islamic at all, but it is potentially the most dangerous and reactionary religion in the world in the present day. However, responses to yesterday’s events must be measured and reasonable. I don’t think it can be explained better than through this video here, featuring Christopher Hitchens:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s