The Pattern Emerges

Dressler, Marie (Dinner at Eight)_01

So, at last I can reveal — inspired/distressed by recent events in Paris, I’ve written every blog post this week around the admittedly wide-ranging themes of violence and freedom of expression. Of course, it might actually be harder to write articles which did NOT touch on either subject, but there it is.

Meanwhile, on Facebook I swore, as a satirical act, to murder anyone who draws a caricature of Marie Dressler. Unpick that: am I comparing the prophet Mohammed to a 1930s grande dame of the screen? No. I am comparing the act of drawing a cartoon, with the act of drawing a catoon.


(We only know this is meant to be TPM because of context and because the magazine said so. But it is up to the viewer to decide meaning, so if you find this image offensive, simply accept it as a drawing of a random bloke. Problem solved!)

Accusations that the magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons which are racist are hard to gainsay — nothing to do with the intended message of the cartoons, which were often deliberately provocative, shooting out barbs in all directions, not so much a coherent argument about topical issues as a surreal mash-up of current concerns, immediately recognisable as offensive in intent, and therefor not particularly offensive to anyone who gets it. The racism comes from the actual physical attributes assigned to Arab figures in Charlie cartoons — big noses, always supplied with a few dots to represent pores. While the caricaturist’s stock-in-trade is grotesque distortion and exaggeration of physical traits, it does become racist when you move from goofy portraiture of, say, Bill Cosby, in all his specific qualities, to a cartoon grouping together all the perceived attributes of one race. Imagine the equivalent drawing of a stock black person, for instance. In fact, the difficulty may stem from the mere idea of discussing Arabs as some kind of unvarying unit. Or from the magazine assuming that anybody, from the editor on down, is qualified to draw cartoons.

But this is, in fact, irrelevant to current events since the massacre was not motivated by ethnic slurs but as revenge for caricaturing of The Prophet Mohammed. An entirely — ENTIRELY — separate issue. Did France’s colonial behaviour in the past influence events? Did the West’s recent wars of aggression? Absolutely. Though probably not as much as social injustice in modern France, which produces a disaffected underclass including many immigrants and their descendants, to whom violence might seem the best/only option for attaining some sense of self-worth, however twisted that is.

My take on this is that Islam has a firm rule against such representations — so serious adherents to this religion, if they wish to remain within its arms, should not make drawings of TPH. However, this rule does not, cannot and should not apply to anybody outside the faith. If I sketched the prophet, I would not be drawing the representative of Allah. I would be drawing a person I assume probably lived a long time ago, but who had no more connection to the divine than anyone else. That’s who he is to me, because I’m not a Muslim.

Far be it from me to dictate to anyone else, but I would like to see Muslims accept that the daubings of unbelievers have no real relationship to the Prophet they admire and the God they worship. What is ultimately required is an acceptance that the unbeliever is entitled to his or her unbelief. Liberal Muslims already accept this in principle, but there is a reluctance to go the next step and say, “If you trash my beliefs I’ll find that rather disgusting, but specific cultural requirements about not representing figures of religion do not apply to people who don’t share that religion.”

There is a danger I may be mansplaining, or whatever the white western secular liberal version of that is. There is something iffy about saying “This is a western democracy and if you come here you have to follow OUR rules,” as if there were no possibility that an incoming culture could have a POSITIVE influence. But Europe is multicultural, so to get along at all we may have to put up with people disrespecting our deepest beliefs (After all, how do you disrespect a belief? Simply by NOT SHARING IT.) I happen to be very fond of freedom of expression. If you suggest limiting it, you are offending MY deepest values. But you know what? I still won’t kill you for it.


Pontiff: “I’m-a puncha you inna face!”

Via Facebook ~

Fiona:Watching the news. The Pope comes on and says he’ll punch anyone who insults his mother. “What about turning the other cheek?” says D. Me – “He’s Italian. Of course he’ll punch you if you insult his mother.”

Amendment – He’s Argentinian. But he’ll punch you if you dis his mum. Just accept it.

Me: He’ll turn his other cheek and then punch you while you’re distracted by it.

Travis Reeves:  of course, you’re all wrong. The biblical reference you’re making is frequently misinterpreted. The point is not to turn away from the insult, but to offer the other cheek AS WELL.

Me: So in this instance what he should do is discover a second mum for us to insult.

Travis Reeves: Depending on your interpretation, you could hit one person four times as it is. This Pope is starting to sound like a thug.

Me: He could adopt twenty mums, say you’ve insulted all of them, and kick the crap out of you.

Travis Reeves: Mother Mary, Mother Theresa…

Me: Once you start down that route, it’s total war…

Fiona: Mother Marie Dressler…




3 Responses to “The Pattern Emerges”

  1. Holy Church of Mary Dressler, I like the idea

  2. A Church of Marie Dressler? That’s something YOU need never worry about!

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