Shakespeare, Islam and Charlie-Hebdo

Illustration for Shakespeare quote

“…For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er”

Macbeth, act 3, sc. 4)

First of all, I should apologize to my 25 readers for dealing with a subject that already generated millions of words, often “stuffing the ears of men with false (or at least questionable) reports”. The ‘25’ number puzzle will be dealt with at the end of this article.

However, for the chosen subject I have one explanation, or at least an excuse. I realize that, “oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse… But, just as the news of the Charlie-Hebdo massacre hit the media, I was reading the extracts of a congress held in Iran about “takfirism”, that is, about who is or isn’t a real Muslim. A theme that is both directly and indirectly connected with what happened in Paris – and with which we will possibly deal in a next blog.

To begin with, as already suggested by many outside the regime media, the attack smells of 9/11 from miles away. When (on 9/11), it was discovered that its architect and organizer was an emaciated Arab with a turban, a beard and bad kidneys. Who, from a cave on the other side of the world, designed an operation worthy of science-fiction, with science-fiction scenarios, resources and coincidences, and executed with science-fictional precision.

And there is a stunning detail, almost copied and pasted from 9/11. It would be funny, were it not for the tragic nature of both events. We must “season our admiration for a while with an attent ear, as the media delivers, upon the witness of the French police, this marvel to us.” The sophisticated French surveillance system discovered the identity of the terrorists thanks to an identity card, casually abandoned on the seat of the escape vehicle, by one of them.

Frenetically running away from the scene of the crime, the terrorist had, evidently, enough time to kill. So he pulled out his wallet, searched for the card and left it in plain view on the seat.

Much like the passport of Mohammed Atta, presumed leader of the 9/11 hijackers, miraculously found, clean and undamaged, among the remnants of the disintegrated skyscrapers.

Oscar Wilde’s “I believe anything provided it is quite incredible” perfectly fits the improbability. Or, more classically, like Antipholous of Syracuse in the Comedy of Errors, you may ask yourself, “...sleep I now and think I hear all this?

I didn’t know of or read any issue of the Charlie-Hebdo magazine. But the cartoons, liberally published on the web, are, in my view, anything but funny. The semi-pornographic representations of a naked Mohammed are poor examples of even poorer taste. Without considering that, by ridiculing the Prophet, the Charlie-Hebdo cartoonists were deliberately offending 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. And they were also simultaneously ridiculing the poverty and the suffering, inflicted upon the Muslim world, by the rapacious and murdering arms of the Empire.

For, in a way unpredictable even 20 years ago, Islam has become the last and only credible opponent of imperial, neo-liberal economics. In other words, it is the only entity that, paradoxically, carries some echoes of the real Left – as opposed to the faux-intellectuals, liberal academics, captains of erudition, publicity seekers and sundry other pundits who, together, constitute the disposable and vendible “Caviar-Left.”

Besides, those who equate the Parisian terror attack to an attack on secularism, may want to ponder on another reality. That in many European countries ridiculing Jesus Christ, as the cartoonists ridiculed Mohammed, would end up with the ridiculer in jail, costing him very hefty fines and creating around himself a vacuum of respect.

Insulting a people because their God is different and because they are poor…. The jackals who mourn the loss of freedom of speech must have forgotten that insult triggers a reaction. That this type of insult, as a Russian saying goes, is a “spit on the soul.” And that some risk death rather than suffering insulted honor to remain un-revenged. “I beg mortality, rather than life preserved with infamy goes a Shakespearean line but the message has a much more ancient history.

Furthermore, in the France of Voltaire, freedom of speech is anything but what it sounds. It is now illegal, for example, even to raise questions about the Holocaust.

French comedian Dieudonne’ has been judicially prevented from performing in public. And yet, listening to the available records of his performances on Youtube, the viewer has to concentrate really hard to find, in his tight Parisian argot, even a hint of satire – such as, for example, asking how many gas-chambers have been reconstructed in the concentration camp museums.

But that is enough for being accused of anti-Semitism. Not to speak of the media silence and justices’ indifference to the recurrent genocidal slaughters in Gaza and West Bank, or to the “NATO” drone killings at weddings and funerals, or to the thousands of civilians killed in Novorussia by the guns of the Ukrainian Junta forces.

So much for Western safeguard of “secular values” and freedom of speech.

It is not even a question of double standards. The media distorts the plainest facts into fanciful and imaginary narratives, leaving behind the sucking sound of a total ethical vacuum.

For, who was the original assassins’ paymaster? Who decided to assassinate Ghadafi, Saddam, to invade Iraq twice, to turn Syria into a killing field, to set permanently in Afghanistan, to resume colonial control of so many African countries?

Starting with the “Mujaheddin” (freedom fighters) and for more than thirty years, the West has created, financed and armed extremist religious groups for its own interests – has supported any repressive, medieval and anachronistic petro-monarchy – has destroyed the few lay regimes, killing their leaders – has re-introduced torture. And now, it remotely kills desert peasants, supposed to be “enemies” (why and how they are so, we are not supposed to know, because of “National Security”).

Who is responsible or a conniver in the death of at least two million people?

For some talk-show narcissists, the slaughtered millions are not worth the life of a cartoonist, because shooting him is shooting against the freedom of expression. As if the regime media gave freedom of expression to any voice that may express an opposite point of view (see above). Not to speak of the Patriot Act (in the US), through which everyone is spied on, conditioned and preventively censured, among the almost total indifference of the citizenship.

Given the current state of media monopoly, freedom of expression means freedom to give voice to the voice of the profiteers. But who will profit from this Parisian carnage?

In more than one cynical way, it was just what the doctor ordered. Though Shakespeare would probably say, Trust not the physician. His antidotes are poison and he slays more than you rob.”

The event removes the attention from Russia and exchanges Russia with a more malleable and less awkward enemy. Considering that the sanctions seriously damage European producers and may, in turn, produce a crack in the new world order.

Furthermore, these days, an external war is indispensable to cover-up the ongoing internal war of the rich against the poor. The cynical invention of an enemy diverts the reaction of the impoverished masses, rendered slaves of the plutocratic oligarchy, andcommanded always by the latest (media-blown) gust. Confirming that, indeed, “such is the lightness of you common man.”

And the enemy is strategically wonderful. It is portrayed as threatening the western and European identity and tradition. A packaged message conveniently hiding the reality that the Thought-Unique (the practical meaning of the “European Union”) is destroying the roots of values established in two hundred years of conflicts and struggles – leaving now behind a vacuum of culture, an Everest of hypocrisy and affectation.

Welcome then the “conflict of civilizations”, at the time when the products of the neo-liberal civilization feel rank, and smell so much to heaven that they begin to even find hints of political opposition, in some quarters.

For, who knows, given the actual impoverishment of the 99%, someone may wonder if there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in neo-liberal philosophy. Something other than the latest smart-phone, built by slaves, and bought by slaves-in training, at prices one hundred times greater than the actual cost – the reward for the rich.

As an Italian writer put it, a conflict of civilizations suggests that a civilization still exists, while it is the enemy who attacks the freedom that we are losing.

About the 25 Readers. In junior high-school in Italy, it is mandatory to read a classic historical novel of the XIX Century, “I Promessi Sposi”, by Alessandro Manzoni. An English version exists with the title of “The Betrothed.” It is an amusing but serious and wonderful rendition of the state of Northern Italy in the 1600, under Spanish domination. I still keep a copy of the novel on my nightstand. In the first chapter, the author indirectly dedicates the work to his “twentyfive readers”. Which was of course ironic as the novel was an instant success and became the best known fiction work in Italian literature. Whereas, my 25 readers are intended literally, though I find the continued and increased visits to this blog, from all over the world, heart-warming.

In the play. Macbeth to his wife as he meditates to consult again the witches about his future prospects.

Image Source. http://enzoapicella.tumblr.com/

About jimmie

go to menu item "about the author"
This entry was posted in Best Shakespeare Quotes, Shakespeare in Politics, Shakespeare on Mass Psychology and Group Behavior and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Badger

    Jimmie I would be very happy to be one of the 25 down here in NZ. Always appreciate your and the Bards take on the world and its machinations. Only worry that you might be right and we are all controlled, manipulated and lied to. What chance does the little man have? Surely power rules to its own advantage.

  • MissCostello

    As always, a breath of fresh air
    in speaking truth. Unlike the ‘Tin Pot Tyrants’ of the west, whose souls (if
    they have one) are mired in blood & lies. ‘By way of deception, thou shalt
    make war’. (The Mossad). Nuff said

  • voltaire1964

    Present Tense said

    I think it’s a complex problem, but, in fact, Charlie Hebdo did lampoon
    Christianity. They did not just mock Islam. They were not targeted per
    se nor were they being especially anti Semitic as they were fairly
    against all religions and not targeting an ethnicity. However, I don’t
    think it’s the best way to counter the problem myself. I may agree that a
    person has the right to free speech, but it can also backfire, causing
    the already prejudiced to become more so. It also, as you’ve suggested,
    simplifies the whole state of the world and what part the west has in
    it.

  • voltaire1964

    Linda Middleton
    Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, said,
    Jimmie, the way I understand your post is to suggest that a cartoon in
    Shakespearean wisdom satirizing the response to the Charlie Hebdo issue
    would focus on the US’s rationale for building up its ammunition against
    Islamic threats. Though I think there is a strong thread of this
    Islamophobia in the U.S., Shakespeare would, I would hope, be wise
    enough to suggest there’s a bigger issue that might be better addressed
    here, as PT has suggested.

  • mel0309

    Jimmie, great stuff as always. Appreciate your ability to tell the truth as it is. Here is a link that you might like to go through