Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

Je suis Charlie, but only for today.

It was impossible to ignore in all European countries, the murder of the 12 employees of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by muslim extremists. The horrifying news lead to a regained interest in human rights and the freedom of speech, something which the writers and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo relied heavily on.  The following rallies in different countries, the biggest of course being in Paris near the office of the newspaper, gave new impulse to attention to the wrongs in our world. But a question mark has to be placed by some events following the massacre.

A march was organised in Paris on Sunday January 10 to honour the victims. A united front was shown against the actions of those who try to limit the freedom of speech in our modern world. Over 1.5 million people were present and amongst them many world leaders, forgetting their quarrels for a moment, walking arm in arm in front of the French public to show their support. More then 50 nations from all over the world were represented and it almost seems impossible that an extremist attack would ever be able to de-construct the strong bonds that have been formed over the years between all the people of these nations. But there was to be detected some controversy in the actions by some of the world leaders.

Observers noticed that some of the present world leaders were happily joining the march, showing their support for free speech, while at the same time being accused of acts against that same human right in their own country. A short list of whom we are talking about at the moment: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Gabonese President Ali Bongo. In all of the countries of which they form part of the government, journalists are being arrested or forced to leave the country. It is as if for them the only reason to defend freedom of speech is that it is a worldwide trend and used as a vague concept which somehow doesn’t apply to the situation in their own countries.

You can almost hear them thinking: “Je suis Charlie, but only if I don’t have change my own policies.”

Sources:

  • Posetti J., “The Paris unity march shows we must protect freedom of expression, not curtail it further” for The Guardian. Last modified on Monday 12 January, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/12/the-paris-unity-march-shows-we-must-protect-freedom-of-expression-not-curtail-it-further
  • Taylor A., “The free-speech hipocrisy of some world leaders marching in Paris” for The Washington Post. Last modified on Sunday 11 January, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/11/the-free-speech-hypocrisy-of-some-world-leaders-marching-in-paris/

Lazy versus Active Citizens: What is the difference?

By visiting this blog you already show interest in making a change in this world. Hopefully you are going to be active citizen, something I strive for myself. But do we even know what an active citizen is? Might be important to get this clear before we enthusiastically start transforming our lives. According to Oxford Dictionaries an active citizen is someone who “actively takes responsibility and initiative in areas of public concern”. To be honest, this definition is still a bit vague to me, so I’m going to try to give you a better explanation.

A normal, or lazy, citizen is someone who might take the effort to look into the programs of different parties before voting during the national elections, but will not participate in the promotion of one particular party. He will go about his daily life without being concerned about his own society. He will probably complain about certain aspects to fellow lazy citizens, how the taxes are too high, the allowances too low, and don’t forget about those annoying youngsters down the street! But will he do something about it? No. It is all about complaining and hoping someone else will take it upon oneself to change the situation. This person, ladies and gentlemen, is who we call the active citizen.

An active citizen chooses to not just look at our society and accept it how it is, he also sees the faults of it and will not just ignore these or complain about them, but will attempt to do something about it. For example, this person will help with the promotion of a party which promises to lower the taxes, or will campaign for the opening of a youth activity center to make sure the kids stay of the streets. As Staffan Nelson, the current president of the European Economic and Social Committee, said “Active citizenship is the glue that keeps society together”. It is my plan to offer you many different examples of active citizens since it it doesn’t matter whether you devote all of your free time to campaigning for a policy change or just one hour every week volunteering to teach an illiterate adult to read, “it is the commitment to the welfare of society that counts” (Staffan Nelson).

References:

  • Nelson S. Forword to Active Citizenship for a Better European Society. Brussels: EESC, 2012.
  • Oxford University Press. “Active citizen”. Accessed November 14, 2014. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/active-citizen