Soon, France will dry its tears, finish mourning and life will resume in France. One will need to find out the sequences which helped lead to barbarism, understand how we got there. At the risk of having to relive a similar drama that would plunge France (of all countries?) into even greater sorrow. The line of thought I propose is to analyze the situation from the perspective of culture shock, i.e. the meeting of two concepts which are accepted as legitimate by everyone, and yet are incompatible.
On the one hand, freedom of expression.
This is a concept for which many French citizens fight, and which most French people consider a fundamental right (at the time of the attack against Charlie Hebdo). Freedom of expression is an important value for the entire Western world, but France has added something special to it : the freedom to be impertinent and to mock, which is particularly obvious in the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. French society, still struggling in its powerful hierarchical structure, cannot live without this liberating practice of impertinence and derision of power and authority.
On the other hand, the sacred.
This is a concept as old as time. This is an idea, concept or person that a culture seeks to place above all else in its own value system, without explanation, without justification. The sacred is a signal emitted by one culture with respect to all others to claim: Do not touch this value, because it is too precious to me.
A more scientific definition : the sacred is a notion of cultural anthropology allowing human society to create a separation between the different elements that make up its world. Sacralisation serves to distinguish the profane and the ordinary from what is considered spiritual or divine. In the drama at hand, Islam has warned the West for a long time not to touch the sacred figure of Muhammad.
We are really in the context of a “culture shock” because two respectable notions taken separately are competing in a brutal way on a small territory: culture. On the one hand, French culture defends its irrepressible need to express itself on its own territory, even making fun of religious authority, wherever it comes from.
On the other hand, a religion from the Middle East, demands respect for a sacred image. Barbaric terrorists are growing up on this French soil in a climate of lack of respect for, and ignorance of, others.
By 2060, the world population is expected to reach 9 billion people. We will have to find a way to respect each other, a way to live together in peace on the same, small planet. Even if we don’t fully understand each other’s value…..