The Dark Side of the Coin

The Charlie Hebdo episode to me highlights the disconnect between East and West. The West loves its freedoms, the concept of democracy and its traditions developed by its civilizations, empires and history. Its glory, however, is lost on the East who, unfortunately, has mostly been the victim of those civilizations, empires and history (since, it is said, that history is written by the victor). To the East, the glories of the West is the cause of its poverty, humiliation and underdevelopment.

America has always considered itself endowed with a messianic destiny to lead all nations to a better world, but its efforts have also been the source of hardship, tragedy and sorrows for the East and, sometimes, even to the West itself. America and its allies believed that Iraq needed a regime-change and ousted Saddam Hussein from power. It viewed the Taliban, once supported by the West, as extremists and bombed them to the boondocks. The West saw these as inspired. The East saw nothing more than neo-colonialism. When Al-Qaida struck in 9/11, there were people in the East who rejoiced caught in images and broadcasted worldwide. The West could not understand why these people would celebrate an attack against a civilian target that killed so horrifically.

Today, the growth of the Islamic State boggles the West. Worse, they couldn’t understand why people who grew up in the West would actually fight for IS. What is it that has so distanced or disenfranchised its own people that they would take up arms for what can only be an enemy of the West?

Charlie Hebdo was keeping alive a French tradition: satire at its harshest. It is founded in their belief that they had absolute freedom of expression to ridicule any and all sacred cows. In France, if not all of the West, they are admired for it; but not all the world does. There will always be those who will be offended by their magazine. To them, Charlie Hebdo would say “too bad.” Unfortunately, there will be those who will spill blood in response.

This is not to say that what happened at Charlie Hebdo was justified, or was something they brought upon themselves. Rather, we have to realize that a coin has two sides and even if we call “heads!” There will be those who are calling for tails. The world is never absolutely how we see it. What we see as good may be bad for others. Two sides of the same coin.


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