Remembering Charlie Hebdo

3 years ago today was quite possibly the day that summed up to a tee, just how far Religious Extremists would go to further their ridiculous agenda.

“On 7 January 2015 at about 11:30 local time, two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with rifles and other weapons, they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which took responsibility for the attack. Several related attacks followed in the Île-de-France region, on 7-8 January 2015. On 9 January 2015 was the Hypercacher Kosher Supermarket siege, where a terrorist murdered four Jewish hostages and held fifteen other hostages.”

Sourced  from Wikipedia

I think back to that day and remember how, for just one day, everyone in the Western World seemed to be on the same page. Political lines were erased; there were no “Left v  Right” arguements, no “SJW v anti-SJW” debates. The only thing that seemed to matter was that EVERYBODY knew that this was indefensible, and barely ANYBODY was trying to excuse the actions of these animals.

Free Speech was important and neccessary, including the right to ridicule Religion without consequence.

The sad thing was, it didn’t last long.

A week after the massacre, according to a report in The Telegraph (link here) the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in France ran a poll that showed that 4 in every 10 people polled thought that Charlie Hebdo had gone too far by publishing the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

4 in 10. Let that sink in for a moment.

Though I believe in God, I’m not a huge fan of organised religion. Put simply, I think it causes more problems than it solves. However, I DO believe in respecting the fact that people have strong beliefs and that when those beliefs are challenged or openly ridiculed, that those people will either defend them or ignore them. Do you believe every word of the Bible, the Quran or the Torah? All power to you; just don’t try and shove it down my throat and don’t try to hold me to the same moral standards as yourself.

Defending your religious beliefs through discussion and debate is one thing. Slaughtering people because they drew a cartoon of your Prophet is not a reasoned reaction.

ThePenIsMightierThanTheSword28CartoonistsPayTributeToTheVictimsOfTheCharlieHebdoSho

Yet still to this day, people insist that Charlie Hebdo should not have published the cartoons. To me, that says everything about the mindset of the “Left” and the “Woke” of us in western society; ready and willing to mock Christianity for being out-dated and archaic, yet among the first to defend any kind of insult to Islam. Ask someone who thinks that the cartoons shouldn’t have been published, about the violence that followed and you’ll get a half-baked response consisting of “but it’s mocking their religion” and “they shouldn’t have killed them but…”

It reeks of cowardice and the inability to be able to say anything negative about religious extremism.

It also has a more chilling undertone to it:

It’s justifying the outcome.

Are we so cowed and afraid to stand up to religious extremists that we’re willing to gloss over violence and slaughter? Have we really digressed to the point where we can’t even poke fun at the things that seem to some as beyond credible?

You need look no further than the likes of Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel for an answer to those questions.

Free speech is the very foundation upon which any society should be built. It allows us to develop and progress; to express ourselves fully and bring popular AND unpopular ideas to the forefront of human discussion. It is essential for the progression of our population, as without it, we are surely doomed to die out as a species.

If you can mock one religion, then you can mock them all.

WITH NO EXCEPTIONS.

You don’t have to like it. But you DO have to accept it.

At this moment, 3 years after the fact, I feel that as a society we can no longer say:

“Je suis Charlie”

But hopefully, with a little backbone, we can throw off the blanket of cowardice and fear and once again claim the right to be able to say:

“Nous sommes Charlie”.

 

RANT OVER

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
Christopher Hitchens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Akayed Ullah: The man from Brooklyn

Lone-wolf.

Local-man.

Brooklyn resident.

These are the terms that have been used to describe the man who tried to blow up and kill potentially hundreds in New York city today.

At the very moment that Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo were speaking at a press conference on the streets of New York, Sky News was naming the botched Bomber as Akayed Ullah; a 27 year old Bangladeshi who had been living in Brooklyn for the last 7 years.

Sky News told it exactly like it was.

And that’s the only way it should be.

Enough now. Enough of this bullsh*t.

Enough of this idea that the identity of the perpetrator of acts like this should be shielded from us for as long as possible.

We’re not stupid.

Tell it like it is CNN, New York Post, Mayors’ Office, Governor Cuomo.

Let us know who these people are straight away.

I know it embarrasses you lot when it turns out NOT to be a White Nationalist committing these acts.

That doesn’t mean you have to deny the (mostly) inevitable.

 

RANT OVER

Hints and Tips for the Middle-aged Traveller

My wife and I take my kids on holiday abroad at least once a year, generally to an All Inclusive Beach resort with slides and pools, in order to let the kids have limitless fun, me have limitless beer, (or at least the option of limitless beer; I don’t allow myself to drink more than one or two in front of my kids because, well, responsibility?) and it allows my wife to feel good about having 6 plates of food from the buffet because her first plate was a salad. When I hear people say that taking kids on holiday is one of the most stressful things you can do, I honestly believe that these people just aren’t doing it properly.

When my children’s Mother and her Husband take them on holiday however, it’s the most stressful time of my life. They’re off enjoying themselves in the sun, leaving me at home to watch the clock while awaiting their return, scouring the News for anything “Terroristy” happening. Before I met my wife, these week-long torture trials were exhausting and lonely; filled with paranoid visions of my kids slipping beside the pool and braining themselves, becoming the next Madeleine McCann, or simply walking in front of a Terrorists bullet/truck/suicide vest.

Horrible, horrible times.

My wife, being the “sensible one” in the relationship, only managed to sit through one year of this obviously self-inflicted torture I was putting myself through and decided that when the kids go away with their Mother the following year, we were going to have our own little break somewhere. Just me and her, visiting cities and places we’d always wanted to see, but couldn’t go to because, well; which 9-year-old kid wants to go to Vatican City?

We were going to go travelling.

Since then, me and the wife have ticked off quite a bit of our Bucket Lists, and learnt a lot about the right way and the wrong way to go travelling, especially at our age.

You see, it’s different travelling when you’re in your teens, or early twenties. You can hop on a plane with barely any money and only a backpack full of tie-dye T-shirts and have a spontaneous, yet amazingly self-enriching time.

When you hit your forties and fifties, you can’t be as carefree and as “like, totally Random” as the young-uns. You need to plan, and you need to know your limits.

So with that in mind, here are some tips for the Middle-aged Traveller from someone who is fast becoming a “dab-hand” at this travelling mallarkey.

1) Leave your guilt and worry at home.

The first time we went away without the kids I felt terrible, and it led to me not being able to relax and enjoy the first couple of days of our trip as much as I should have. “What kind of parent leaves their children whilst trotting the globe?” I asked my wife while crying into my ridiculously over-priced, and to be honest, appallingly tasting Aperol Spritz. What I failed to understand was that I wasn’t leaving my kids; they were busy sunning themselves in Ibiza with their Mother, and that I was on this trip to try to ease my own suffering about them not being with me.

Silly boy.

The fact was, as my wife calmly (through gritted-teeth) told me, was that the kids were never going to be with me during this week anyway, so I may as well enjoy it.

So, if like me, you have kids from a previous relationship and you go on a “Couple’s Vacation” when the kids aren’t scheduled to be with you, then don’t feel guilty. Make the best of a bad situation and enjoy yourself.

If, however, you have kids and simply choose to leave them with family, friends or the Neighbours’ Dog to enable you to placate your wanderlust, then you are disgusting and don’t deserve to have children at all. (I’ll leave it to your interpretation as to whether this is a joke.)

2) Find the nearest Pharmacy

Let’s be honest with each other here. You’re middle-aged, and with that comes certain issues surrounding your health. I don’t want to hear this rubbish about how many miles you cycle a day (no doubt dressed like a wannabe member of the GB Cycling team) or how often you go to Spinning Classes, which, I only recently found out had nothing to do with knitting or sewing. It’s irrelevant. When you hit a certain age, your body slowly begins to wind down and fail you at key times, and being abroad certainly doesn’t help.

Think you can walk for miles on cobble-stone paths and climb hundreds of steps without passing out?

Think you can drink foreign beer and enormously generous servings of spirits and liqueurs without having the hangover from hell?

Think you can still eat rich, spicy food and not follow-through when you fart?

Think again.

The Pharmacy is your friend.

3) Don’t punch the “Lookie-Lookie Men”

We’ve all wanted to do it.

The thing is, I did it.

I’m not immensely proud of it, but at the same time I still believe the guy deserved it. Thankfully, the Venetian Police saw it that way too.

Basically, we’d had 4 days of “Lookie-Lookie Men” trying to sell us their wares; from plastic roses to reduced price tickets to museums, to light-up toys that you shoot into the sky which illuminate most major European cities at night. One guy, obviously sick of being ignored by the throngs of tourists, decided that he was going to stop my wife in her tracks and place a plastic rose across her breasts, citing the old rule “if you touch it you have to buy it”. To be slightly fair to the guy, I think he was aiming to put it in her hands, but ended up with his hand buried deep in cleavage valley. One Bruce Lee style punch to the chest later, and the guy was lying on the floor trying to attract the attention of his fellow “Crap-sellers”, who were starting to move in on our position looking to aid their fallen comrade. If not for the Police, who shooed them all away and told me with a sympathetic yet stern look to “beat it”, I might have ended up at the bottom of the Grand Canal with a dozen plastic roses stuck up my arse.

Remember to keep your cool. Italian Police aren’t normally known for their sympathy towards tourists.

Especially English ones with Football shirts on…

4) Don’t over-do it

Like I said earlier, you’re not as young and fit as you think you are. Being in a different country, and being amongst younger travellers will give you a false sense of your own abilities. Seeing other, younger people enjoying themselves and seeking adventure after adventure, throwing caution to the wind and just “going for it” is the path down which the Middle-aged Traveller will fail.

Spectacularly.

If you want to join the group of sweaty, dirty-haired students on a gap-year at the next table, who invite you to get drunk with them on the local speciality booze, then that’s up to you. (Just so you know; they’ll invite you to either make fun of you, or steal your wallet, and you’ll accept to try to “re-live your youth” and convince your friends back home how cool and hip you now are. You will achieve neither.)

My advice is, don’t do it the night before you plan to climb to the top of Il Duomo in Florence.

Other tourists don’t like stepping over sick in such a tightly enclosed space.

5) Treat your significant other as a Guinea Pig

Most couples usually have one partner who is significantly more adventurous than the other, and that’s fine. If everyone was the same we’d be pretty bored. Don’t get me wrong, you should let go a bit and try new things whenever you travel, but being abroad can really make people let go of their inhibitions; sometimes with disastrous consequences. If you’re the least adventurous one in your pairing, you’ll probably also be the one who doesn’t like spending too much money on things, especially on new things that you might not like. Enjoy yourself by all means, but use your head. Nobody wants to blow their money in the first couple of days. You need some security, right?

Here’s my solution. Oh, and this is for the “Less adventurous” partner to read, so if that’s not you, look away now.

Let your partner indulge their adventurousness. Convince them that they do want to try that drink that you’ve heard so much about, but are too frightened you’re not going to like. Have a taste of theirs, and, if you like it? Get one next time. If you don’t? No harm no foul. If your partner doesn’t like it?

“Oh dear, that’s a shame. Just hold your nose when you drink it, you won’t taste it.”

Money saved and adventures had. That’s a win in my book.

6) Don’t go with other couples

At the very least, couples who are having relationship issues.

This one really is a no-brainer. The last thing you need in a country you’re unfamiliar with is the “troubled couple” kicking off with each other and having to spend the entire time playing Devil’s Advocate. The guys end up going their own way, getting drunk in the middle of Prague and relive their Lad’s Holiday from 1994 by climbing into the Krizig fountain.

The girls on the other hand will be drunk in a wine bar, telling each other how much they hate men while crying on the shoulder of some “friendly locals” who are plying them with more wine.

Ok, maybe the last scenario was slightly over-the-top, but at the very least, both couples will want to do different things spend so long debating where to go first, they end up staying in a Pub all day getting sozzled or end up going their separate ways anyway.

It’s all a bit dramatic for my liking.

So there you are, I’m sure there are more hints and tips out there, but these are what I deem to be the important ones.

So, get yourselves on Groupon (very cheap as long as you live in London) get a holiday booked, remember these pearls of wisdom and you’ll be fine.

Honest.

RANT OVER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror: the forbidden discussion

Here we go again people, here we go again. Another week on the Terror express that is sweeping Europe and the World. And it ain’t slowing down.

1 killed and several injured in Charlottesville, USA

15 killed and over 100 injured in Barcelona, Spain.

2 killed and 8 injured in Turku, Finland.

So where next? Where will be the target for the next over-the-top statement of ideologies?

The easiest way to answer that one is to grab a map, open it up, close your eyes and point.

It could literally be anywhere.

And that’s one of the two things that are scaring me the most.

The other? Not being able to talk about it.

You’re racist if you say it’s Islamic terrorism, and a Snowflake if you say it’s White Supremacy.

You’re an Islamic sympathizer if you say it’s not Islamic Terror and a Nazi if you say it’s not White Supremacy

It’s “bloody immigrants” say some people.

It’s “Lone Wolves” say another.

It’s everything to do with Islam/White Supremacy.

It’s nothing to do with Islam/White Supremacy.

Who do you believe? What opinion should you have?

Personally, I think all of these statements play a part in seeking an answer.

Does that mean I hate Muslims, Immigrants, or “foreign people”?

Does it mean I sympathise with Nazis or White Supremacists?

Absolutely not. I abhor anyone who uses their Race, Religion, Creed or Morals to justify killing and harming other people.

What I hate is that people are killing and maiming innocent people across Europe and the rest of the World and nobody can tell me why. Throwing out terms such as Nazi and Islamic Terrorist are equally useful and useless.

They are useful when they are describing people who openly adhere to the title that they are being given; James Earl Fields Jr is a Nazi and a White Supremacist who used his beliefs to justify killing Heather Heyer and attempting to kill many others, and the Terrorists who ran over people in Barcelona are Islamic Terrorists as they are using Islam as an excuse to justify their actions.

They are useless when you label an entire group, Race or Religion the same as it’s extremists. The majority of ALL races are decent people and we need to remember that. The majority of ALL Religious ideologies are decent people, and we need to remember that also.

There’s good and bad in every group of people in the World, no matter how many catergories you divide them into. The trick is to single out the bad ones and not worry about upsetting an entire group.

The good will always outweigh the bad unless we continue to label entire groups the same as their worst elements.

The bad, however, will outweigh the good if we continue to think that our own group is perfect and free from judgement.

Nobodies Race, Religion or ideology is perfect, and that is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

We need to condemn the worst elements of all the World’s ideologies – even when it’s our own.

RANT OVER

 

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