The monstrous Charlie Hebdo massacre has served to renew a broader societal debate about freedom.
While it’s easy enough to show up at a rally in Paris bearing a “Je Suis Charlie” sign in sympathy for victims of the attack and in support of freedom of expression, the defense of freedom is not secured amidst the drama of mass demonstrations. It occurs in the daily decisions people make when not under history’s apparent gaze.
When days after the massacre, the satirical newspaper released an edition on whose cover the prophet Mohammed was pictured displaying a “Je suis Charlie” sign while shedding a tear, it was making a statement that its free speech rights would not be silenced.
When shortly thereafter, the British TV network Sky News refused to show that image—its camera cutting away from a French interviewee trying to hold it up, while the British newscaster actually apologized to the audience for possibly offending anyone—it was narrowing the scope of liberty in the U.K.
The same goes for the Oxford University Press which announced poorly-timed new guidelines to its authors not to use pig, sausage or pork-related words for fear it might offend Muslims and Jews. A British Jewish spokesman quickly pointed out that Jews are prohibited from eating pork, but using words or images of pigs or pig products are unproblematic, as is other people’s pork consumption. A Muslim member of parliament called the guidelines “absolute utter nonsense.”
Once again, small, almost unseen actions that occur every single day account for gains or loss of freedom, and it behooves all of us to act with courage and common sense to draw those lines.
But it is not only freedom in a political sense that is under theat. How are we doing on financial freedom?
I thought about that in reading a provocative interview Research editor Gil Weinreich had with Axel Merk on ThinkAdvisor.