Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Hero in the Line of Fire OR Commentator Extraordinaire

[Update Jan 7, 2018: Today marks three years to the day since the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. We should not and dare not forget...] RT

Today's poem was written several years ago. Tragically, it will resonate today with believers in the Freedom of Speech worldwide.

What appears to have been yet another barbaric act of terrorism in Paris on staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing and injuring a number of people, including two police officers, is a terrifying reminder of the times in which we live. There is NO excuse for it whatever.

The killers were reportedly heard shouting what translates as ‘We have avenged the prophet’; a prophet who would have been appalled to have His name so abused.

Humour, especially satire, will always be controversial, but should never be allowed to fall victim to either political correctness or any socio-cultural-religious persuasion. It is one of the most effective Weapons of Peace by which various elements of society can be freely criticised. The keyword here, of course, is ‘freely’. All of us - especially writers and journalists - must feel free to criticise wherever and whenever they feel criticism is justified. Others, of course, must be similarly free to agree or disagree.

Any attack on Free Speech is an attack on us all. We can but trust the perpetrators of this latest horrific event will be tracked down and brought to justice.

I love Paris and the French people. My thoughts and sympathies - as I imagine those of all my readers - are especially with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Paris earlier today. May they draw on the power of love to help them through the coming hours, days, months and years with the kind of strength and courage that epitomises the very best of human nature.

Where certain elements of any society are inclined (as are all of us, up to a point) to take its beliefs as 'written on tablets of stone' these are - and always will be - a legitimate target for satire if only to encourage us be less inflexible and/or dogmatic. We need to regularly review our perspectives on life, including those on the society in which we live, and at the very least draw attention to any perceived failings. Isn't this what a free press - indeed, free speech - is all about? This, too, I fear has been increasingly under threat for some years, especially by a significant (but vocal) minority who so love to play this or that socio-cultural-religious card...

This poem is a villanelle.


Where society a hypocrite or liar,
politics the ultimate blame game,
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

Invariably, no smoke without fire,
(point the finger, give it a name)
where society a hypocrite and liar

Global warming, threat more dire
for all those repudiating the same;
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

World leaders negotiating its mire
(power among the perks of fame)
where society a hypocrite and liar

Religion taking AIDS toll higher,
its rhetoric loud, reasoning lame,
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

Drugs-arms dealers loath to retire,
(Greed, the name of the game);
where society a hypocrite and liar,
find a sharp-tongued ally in satire

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2017

[Note, written in 2009, an earlier version of this poem first appeared in Tracking the Torchbearer, Assembly Books, 2012; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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