What an amazing and courageous act by the French police officer in Trèbes this week. The word ‘hero’ is used so widely the days that it often looses its real meanin…however in this case, it seems highly appropriate. In one sense people may feel that the terrorist is dead and ‘got what he deserved’, however the problem with this and other islamic-related terrorism which we all face, is that death for them is a good outcome as they are – in their ‘16th century way of thinking’ – martyrs. I am not sure how ‘western society’ can and will reconcile this, in term of justice and perhaps any retribution or ‘moral revenge’ that is needed by the societies affected.
According to William Randolph Hearst, “Freedom of speech is not only the boon but the basis of democracy – not only the gift but the guarantee of liberty and security – not only the privilege but the protection of a free people”. This is interesting and, of course, is largely true. However the line between what is and what isn’t free speech seems blurred or rather too flexible these days in a time of changing and perhaps declining, values. Recent examples of free speech from its ‘home’ at speakers corner in London, would indicate that what was reasonable and acceptable, no longer seems so and must be controlled, but by whom? In the recent case, clearly by the police acting according to government policy and a rather overblown nanny state? The parameters of the ‘realm’ of what is and what is not ‘acceptable’, are now moving ever closer to (or being driven towards) our own private lives and homes and begin to resemble scenarios predicted in 1984 by George Orwell.
In the light of the events in Trèbes, we need to look carefully at the differences between ‘free action’ and free speech, as the consequences of both are becoming – or being driven – much closer.