“Always tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember anything.”
Mark Twain

Roughin' it

Charlie Hebdo


I was still living at home … late teens or early twenties. It was a Saturday morning. I was still in bed in my room. I could hear my father helping my younger sister with her math homework. He was explaining vigorously (both my sisters and I ended up crying more than once under the burden of my fathers helping explanations) and she wasn’t getting it. It was escalating. I heard him raise his voice, almost shouting to her something like “how can you not understand?” It concluded with my sister not understanding … and crying. I jumped out of bed, sped out of my room and went to yell at my father. I was angry at him for attacking her.

HE was the more mature, more knowledgeable, more experienced, more responsible, more evolved human being. HE wanted to help her. HE failed to do so … he couldn’t find an explanation she could understand. HE was confused and frustrated because she wasn’t understanding him. HE chose to escalate, using more force thinking that would lead to understanding. HE chose to blame her for not understanding. HE failed to take responsibility for not being able to explain himself. HE tried to blame a young girl for his failure.

Almost all the views I’ve met (from what little media I consume) about the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris seems to dance around Islam. I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before so the first time I had a taste of some of its published works was in this article. I was disturbed by the images … not of the attack … but of the cartoons.

In my reflections on Israel I have stated that I believe that a cultural struggle is taking place. It isn’t just between Muslims and Jews. In Israel itself I see it between orthodox Judaism and secular people too. In my current village I see different flavors of Christianity as a limiting force (brings thought and debate to dead-ends). Islam seems to be gathering more attention on the global stage than other religions (though that may be a function of global attention rather then Islam), but the struggle that is taking place is beyond religion. It is also not about civilization (as this article frames it) … but about older civilizations and newer civilizations.

I believe the makers of Charlie Hebdo come from a newer and better civilization than the civilization that the three murderers came from. I do believe that a civilization that upholds free speech is better than a civilization that does not (and that a civilization that uses free speech responsibly is better than a civilization that uses it callously). I also believe that a more advanced civilization has a responsibility towards a less advanced civilization. I believe it is the more developed civilization that is responsible for caring for the less developed. It is up to the people who have learned the value of free speech to communicate it to those who have not.

The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo tell me that responsibility was neglected. Their cartoons are a violent form of communication. It doesn’t matter how true or noble or valuable their ideas are if they are violently communicated. It didn’t matter that my father knew mathematics, it did matter that he was unable to communicate his knowledge to my sister.

The struggle that is represented in this tragic event is very real. It is a battle between ideas and the outcome is inevitable … old, obsolete, irrelevant ideas are going to die. But does this struggle have to be violent, do we have to live within violent metaphors of war?

Can we choose to live in a story where we are all part of a continuous evolution of human society? Can we choose to treat each other (especially those less privileged to live in circumstances that induce evolution) with respect? Can we collectively remember that the more advanced forms of civilization we are striving for rest on the shoulders of the civilization we are leaving behind? Can we care for our older ideas (as we care of our elders) and put them to rest peacefully instead of murdering them violently?

When I posted this image I did not know it related to the Charlie Hebdo incident … I thought it was a good metaphor for much of what is breaking in the world.


It seems to be a popular meme  that a pencil is mightier than a gun. If that is the case then can it be that a cartoon that murders an idea is as if not more violent than a gun that murders a man?

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Pema Chödrön

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