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December 4, 2021

Pedagogy of criticism and self-criticism

A year after the carnage on the editors of the satire magazine `Charlie Hebdo’, the cover of the commemorating issue generates new controversy. There is nothing uncommon about that, actually, as the intent is to annoy, to disturb.

`Charlie Hebdo’ is part of the increasingly diminishing galaxy of pamphlet-writing press. Today’s press is counting either on thoroughly neutral reporting – as much as such thing is possible – or on analytically circumscribed opinions. There is also, obviously, the partisan media, that struggles in the name of one party of another, as well as satire media, yet, the accent of the latter mostly falls on the pleasure of having fun than on its vocation of reforming criticism.

Pamphlet is more aggressive, more targeted, more annoying for targeted ones. It may be in poor taste or on the verge of defamation, but it imposed itself as an instrument of democracy based exclusively on the right to criticise.

At the time being, ‘Charlie Hebdo’ has two oversized touches: the one pleading for sexual freedom – that generates its more pornographic expression – and the one against the too aggressive role of religion in society. If we carefully watch its most challenging caricatures in the recent times, we notice, behind an apparent tone of disrespectful blasphemy, that the preferred topic is the denouncing of the betrayal of religious ideals by today’s representatives of the denominations.

The latest of these stirred, once again, the reaction of Catholics, noted by the official publication of Vatican itself, ‘Osservatore Romano’ – and of Muslims. The caricature presents an armed character, with the obvious features of a Christiann god and blood stains on his clothes. The caption – “A year later, (after the murders, editor’s note), the assassin is still free” bears a visible resemblance to the poster of a murder mystery. In other words, the religion is still prepared to cause new victims.

Nonetheless, we must admit that it is a fact. The peaceful image of the “true” Christians that stand for good communion and religious tolerance is not enough to avoid future massacres.
“The blasphemy” of the insult made against God is just a deceiving excuse for the crimes – as it was in the case of the attack that resulted in the death of the magazine’s editors, a year ago.
The image of a God that gets so easily offended is in contradiction with is everlasting power. Could a few harmless satires affect him so deeply?

The one thing that gets affected though is the vanity of people, who do not accept being criticized and who are angered by the fact that somebody places them under a magnifying glass.
By example, imams still do not have a persuasive answer to the question: why do so many Muslims commit so many murders in such an easy-going manner, in the name of their religions? Christian priests are “privileged”: now their religion is the most oppressed in the world, so responsibilities lie to a greater extent on other people’s shoulders, even if the past still burdens consciences.

The truth is that the only way religions managed to enter history was by being limited by an exterior force, to censor their own potential of collective violence. The Occidental secularization, so much blamed by many people – by Orthodoxes, among others – brought this advantage: religious have circumscribed authority. Obviously, tensions are not absent, and the balance is somewhat unstable, but the benefits are obvious for people who put moral responsibility above strict religious affiliations. The proof is that Occidental denominations as well – Catholics and Protestants, first of all – were ultimately forced to accommodate and implicitly to reconsider attitudes that seemed impossible to reform.

People do not commit murders just out of religious reasons. One dangerous fact is the combination of apparently incompatible tendencies, to morbid effect. This is why a more “aggressive prevention” is needed, that would care less about the usual susceptibilities; also, a religious education that would favour criticism and self-criticism is needed.
Any detour to religiously justified violence must be immediately sanctioned by the religious authorities themselves. The lay society must pressure the heads of religious denominations to constantly denounce such incidents. Without any indulgences. The life of a human being is worth more than the vanity of a member of the clergy.

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