Charlie Hebdo: The West should face up to its own guilt

Phillip Dexter says that religious fundamentalism is given life by the fascist nature of the global capitalist order

Who are we? Barbarians or democratic socialists?

It is in the nature and essence of terrorism that it is a fundamentally reactionary phenomenon. Terrorism always and everywhere acts ultimately in the interests of the ruling class, the rich, the powerful, the ruthless and the greedy. Even if the soldiers who carry out these acts do so in the misguided belief that somehow, their actions will help their cause, all the evidence, the weight of history, shows that this is not true. There is no nation, no country, no ethnic, sexual or any other identity, no religious belief, no human life that has not been affected by terror negatively.

The history of human kind is one of bloody, brutal, vicious and merciless terror. The most common victims of this terror are ordinary people. Security, intelligence, steel plates and bulletproof cars do not protect workers, the poor, children and others. Hence the challenge we face. Acts of terror serve one purpose only. They write in the visible and visceral blood and gore of humanity the contradictions and challenges we face.  This is done to strike terror into the heart of the masses. It is done to tell them that reason and democracy, human rights and freedom, will never prevail. Terror is a strategy to further the interests of the few over the many.

There can be no justification of the killings of the radical satirists and cartoonists of Charlie Hedbo. I will never agree with anybody who says that because they, or I, or anybody, insulted a religion, a belief, a view, a person, any person-a King, a Queen, a President, anybody-that theirs or my or anybody's death is justified. I, you, we, they-anybody- has the right to say anything without death as a consequence. Freedom of speech is not absolute, but the death penalty for speaking out is unacceptable.

 Many have died for the right to speak. In our country it was a little more than two decades ago that the penalties for speaking freely were harsh and included extra-judicial as well as judicial execution. The limits of free speech obviously include those of eliminating hate speech. Insults and name calling, unless they are racist, sexist or similar, are the stuff of satire. Many priests, presidents, most royalty, are liars, fools, murderers and thieves. The people, the masses, have the right to make fun of them.

But the call for "freedom of speech" and the defense of this right, by those in Europe and America today and even in places such as South Africa, while such calls ought to be welcome, are opportunistic. We should not be "Charlie", if our anger and indignation is only prompted by the terror on our doorstep. We should only be "Charlie" when there is a universal call and action for an end to all terror, whether by the gun, the pen that consigns people to death or the market that does the same.

Where is the call for solidarity with those who have suffered the devastation of the White, European, American, colonialist, imperialist, neo-liberal, pro-capitalist, Christian, straight agenda that has perpetrated the terror that has brought us to where we are and reaped the financial and economic benefit of it? How can we talk of terror if we do not acknowledge the terror of the genocide of slavery, the ripping apart of Africa, South America, North America, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia and even the terror of nation-building in Europe itself?

Where is the call for freedom from hunger, poverty, and dispossession? Why is it that the rights of those who wish to speak, are elevated above of those who wish to eat, sleep, to live?

It is true that this terrible act of brutality against a disparate group of radicals, anarchists, socialists and even downright problematic people, has shocked Europe and the West to its core. Well, in truth, liberal, middle-class people in these countries. Let's face it-the various acts of terror-whether by those who live in the proverbial metropolis of the developed world, or those who live in the periphery of the under-developed world, are myriad.

One could easily get lost in all the themes, memes, metaphors, similes and lessons to be learned. But then again, that's not human nature as it is socialized in this White, European, American, colonialist, imperialist, neo-liberal, pro-capitalist, Christian, straight world many of us live in. Therein lies the rub.

To put it bluntly, why is it that the death of less than 20 European people, who admittedly were significant intellectuals and activists, has occupied the attention of Europe and parts of America to such a degree? Why is it that Right Wing, proto-fascist marches against Islam are so well attended? Why is it that Europe invades the Ukraine to little or no denunciation? Why is it that the "Middle-East", "North Africa", Venezuela, Peru and other parts of the world have their sovereignty violated, the people of these countries have their bodies ripped apart by guns, bombs, chemical weapons and the like, to little or no concern of those who call themselves "Charlie"?

Before that it was Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, "West", "East", Southern "Africa. Not to mention Chile, Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua before that. `Before that it was the Jews, the Gypsies. And before that it was "Africa", "America", "Australia", "Asia", "the Orient", and "the East". Rwanda, Sudan. South Africa, Palestine, Saharawi.  And so many more.

And always it has been the Black people, the non-Christian, the gays, the lesbians, and the "disabled". Always the Other. It goes on and on. Murder, genocide, slavery, rape, dispossession, abuse. It never stops. It's never an issue. Until it's you. Every now and again, somebody notices because it is their friend, their brother, their neighbour.

But by then it's too late. The choice, as Marx put it, is between barbarism or a society of democracy and socialism. For as long as we have the disparities of power, wealth, land, food and shelter, those who wish to mobilise the ‘have not's' through terror will prosper. Recently, some of those on the "Left", or what's left of the Left, have suddenly awakened to the fact that it is the complacency of real radicals, the lack of activism, the failure to organize and mobilise, the failure to present a principled and coherent critique of the current world disorder, that is the reason for the rise of terrorism.

Interpretations of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or any other religion, that promote fascism and terror are inspired by the powerlessness of those trapped in the ignorance, poverty and disease of the underdeveloped world. They are given life by the fascist nature of a global capitalist order that thinks nothing of bombing Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq or Syria back into the stone ages.

When people are made to live the life of primitives, eking out a pathetic existence in the face of the vast opulence and greed of the mainly Christian, capitalist, predominantly White "West", then it is hardly surprising that they will be prepared to behave like primitives and simply seek the annihilation of those who dominate them. We must ask ourselves, who are we? If the answer is that we only protest at the terror against ourselves, then we are simply well educated barbarians. The consequences will surely follow.

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