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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 31 January 2015


Most of France, and indeed much of the world, identified itself with the ravaged #CharlieHebdo magazine through the recent #JeSuisCharlie campaign.  Everyone who took to the streets in the  #JeSuisCharlie campaign with such righteous indignation declared: I have every right to say what I want and not to be attacked for my speech, opinions and convictions.  A noble and understandable stance, but what if they were identifying with the wrong people?

I am protected by an impressive and comprehensive Bill of Rights in South Africa.  It gives me all the rights ascribed by the world to Charlie Hebdo, subject to certain limitations going to decency and hate speech.  The rights are all agreed by people, and some accord with the rules of natural justice and arguably Gods laws.  I therefore don't need to be and I don't particularly want to be Charlie Hebdo.  In identifying with Charlie Hebdo, I am saying not only that I have freedom of speech, but that I may offend and abuse whomever whenever.

The truth is that I am my own person, following and honouring my own values and living my life as well as I know how.  Whilst I operate vis-a-vis 
my fellow citizens in the context of the Bill of Rights, and respect the latter, I don't hold a man-made set of ideals as the thing that defines me.

What defines me is a set of personal values which determine how I honour, respect and treat my family, colleagues, friends, relatives, fellow human beings and, not least of all, myself.  I am defined by the place I hold in the Universe and my connectedness with it and all that it contains.

If I behave like Charlie Hebdo, I disconnect at many levels with other human beings.  So, whilst some people negotiated my right to behave in that way, quite frankly "Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo: Je suis Andrew".

Who are you?

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