Charlie’s tragedy energized deeper feelings amongst Europeans; back to basics?

Last Sunday 1.5 million Parisians, 4 million in total in France, marched as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack at the headquarters of the satirical weekly newspaper "Charlie Hebdo". (EC Audiovisual Services, 11.1.2015, Paris)

Last Sunday 1.5 million Parisians, 4 million in total in France, marched as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack at the headquarters of the satirical weekly newspaper “Charlie Hebdo”. (EC Audiovisual Services, 11.1.2015, Paris)

With a superfluity of hypocrisy and a thirst for positive media exposure the European political leaders marched last Sunday in the streets of Paris, to tell the world ‘Je suis Charlie’. It’s most uncertain if anyone of them knew what the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ was before the atrocity in the premises of the journal. Bernard Holtrop, the prominent Dutch cartoonist who works for Charlie and other media under the pen name Willem, said: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.”

This is the old French tradition of blasphemous mockery that Charlie embraced right from the 1970s when it first appeared, succeeding the Hara-Kiri magazine. This last one was banned for scorning the death of General Charles de Gaulle. Its burlesque and anarchic humor was targeted against politicians, the Pope, the capitalist society and the establishment in general. Charlie came at the center of the world paying a dear price, with the lives of its people.

The substance of reaction

This tragedy gave substance to the up to then theoretical jihadist terrorism threat against Europe. However the target proved to be very dear to Europeans. It was the menace against the freedom of expression that brought last Sunday four million French to the streets. It’s cynical but true to say, that if the target was a police station, the people’s response would have being different.

It was really a mighty reaction by a nation that remembered what they have stood for in the European pantheon and the western constellation. Of course the millions who decided to march didn’t do it because their leaders had asked them to. It was quite a spontaneous demonstration of people’s power.

An environment of crisis

The wider politico-economic environment undoubtedly has something to do with the way the French people reacted to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. This reminded us all why France is considered as the political academy of Europe. History has proved that social action in France has always pushed things to their limits. Absolute egalitarianism succeeded the absolute kingdom and then again the empire was brought down by the people. The very French character of the Charlie Hebdo and the reaction to the calamity it suffered couldn’t have happened in Germany or in Britain.

There is more to it though. Nowadays, France is considered as the European patient. And the French people feel it in multiple ways politically, economically and socially. The two latest heads of state, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande are considered much shorter than what people expect their President of the Republic to be. On top of that everybody in the country feels that France is not well and that Germany dictates the terms of the European game. This felling of national discomfort must have played a decisive role in the dynamic way the French reacted to the barbaric attack against the originally and characteristically French Charlie. It represents their culture and their much cherished freedom of expression. That’s why the French people said loudly ‘not any more’, France can stand up and here it is, nothing can divide her

Repelling the merchants of terror

This was a peoples’ answer, not only to the jihadist terrorists but to everybody who tries to bully France. Muslim fundamentalism and jihadist terrorists were not targeted by the millions who took it to the streets. Only Marine Le Pen and her likes tried initially to exploit the massacre to enrich the racist political mutant product they sell, but soon realized that this was not wise at all, and cut it. It was not wise, because a lot more was at stake, after those multiple bloodbaths. Much more than what Le Pen thinks she represents. It is as if the French people wanted to tell everybody, ‘don’t dare to take advantage of our problems’. It’s certain that Berlin must have been shocked not only by the murders, but also by the French response.

Since France didn’t bend to bloodstained terror, it is certain that it won’t bend to anything else. In some ways the same happens nowadays to Greece. Greeks appear not to mind at all the threats hurled to them from Berlin, that if they don’t vote ‘wise’ on Sunday 25 January, they might be ousted from the Eurozone and lose the euro. Still, they seem ready to vote for SYRIZA, the party which defies the country’s creditors, the largest amongst whom is Germany. The Greeks have lived so long with economic terror, that they are not afraid of it anymore. It becomes clear then that Peoples cannot be terrorized. It seems that some circles had forgotten that.

People stand up

This can be a very good background to decide a different future of the European Union now. People should be placed again in the middle of the picture. For example, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank may now decide to buy more government debt and thus help some Eurozone countries relax the austere measures they apply for five years a bit. The cost to save the euro area and its mega-banks cannot be borne only by the debtor nations. Even the champion of this horrible exercise, Ireland, cannot tolerate it any more. The Irish denied paying a penny more for the water supply.

It’s the turn of the creditors to either accept a haircut on their debt or concede to some more inflation and growth, in order to alleviate the burden of the debtors indirectly. This can be done by substantial purchases of state debt by the ECB, much more than the €500 billion that it is reportedly ready to print and circulate. Already the Governor of the Bank de France, Christian Noyer, openly adopted yesterday this policy defying directly his German counterpart. Probably he was inspired by the 4 million French people who marched last Sunday for France. Charlie’s tragedy seems to have energized some deeper emotions in some Europeans.

 

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