Charlie Hebdo

Following the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the OECD Secretary-General has expressed his condolences and support, on his behalf and that of the Organisation’s staff, to President Hollande and the French authorities. He also indicated that the OECD deplores this action, which is fundamentally opposed to the values we hold dear.

I’m writing this after coming home from one of the many spontaneous demonstrations in France following the murder of the journalists and staff of Charlie Hebdo. I saw many people in tears. The magazine probably wasn’t well known outside the French-speaking world, but it was on Al-Qaeda’s death list after publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed, and the journalists knew they were potential targets.

Provocation was Charlie Hebdo’s trademark, and with their satirical texts and illustrations, they managed to offend, outrage and insult most ideologies, institutions and belief systems at one time or another. They didn’t spare the OECD, defining it in this article as the intellectual framework that unites the technocrats who run things, a think tank at the origin of recommendations and a certain number of tools that claim to be neutral but that lead to the implementation of certain policies. On the other hand, Charlie Hebdo could also quote the OECD as an authority as they do here.

That’s what democracy is about. You don’t have to approve of the other, but you should be ready to recognise that they may have something interesting to say, even if you don’t agree with them. Or as the great Arab philosopher al-Kindi put it, “We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth and discover it no matter what source it comes from”.

One of the victims was Bernard Maris, who taught economics at Paris-8 University and Iowa University. He had a wonderful talent for explaining complex notions in simple language, and pointing out what was wrong with conventional wisdom. In his newspaper, television and radio work, he argued for a world that was more just, where money didn’t rule everything, and we didn’t destroy the planet for some short-term benefit. Like his friends and colleagues, Bernard Maris’ fought against inequality, injustice and oppression.

The world is a sadder place without the mockery of brave, clever, funny people like them.

Originally published on OECD Insights on 7 January 2015. 




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