Home First half of 2015 – Oil, the Middle East, Charlie Hebdo… Last resilience tests of the Western “model”: commit suicide or adapt

First half of 2015 – Oil, the Middle East, Charlie Hebdo… Last resilience tests of the Western “model”: commit suicide or adapt

In the absence of a Europe able to indicate the true ways of the future[1], the « world before »[2] is hardening, locked into its “serious thinking” ideologies (ideologies are always “serious thinking”, moreover) and repeat the recipes of the past ad nauseam. In doing so, the “world afterwards” is finding itself transformed: it will be less multi-polar, more Chinese, and the part that will be the West, will be visibly reduced… In fact, it’s not a Faustian[3] bargain that is sought; but it’s really its soul that the West is in the process of losing, in its fantasy of immortality. The secret of resilience[4], however, lays in the ability to adapt; but, to understand that, it still necessary to have assimilated Darwin’s[5] theory of evolution and to have stopped believing in creationism[6].

In this first quarter of 2015, the « world before » and the « world afterwards”, instead of passing from one to the other, will coexist in a monstrous temporal overlap. It’s that, rather than save itself, the West seems to have decided to save the mechanisms and players of its omni-dimensional crisis: financial markets, banks, the Dollar, NATO, unilateralism, ultra-liberal democratism, etc. However, a new system is emerging (China, the BRICS, a new Europe, the Internet) which is going to count in the management of these huge problems, this first quarter of 2015. The outcome of this struggle will determine the nature of the second quarter: the beginning of “the world before’s” adaption to 21st-century realities or the destruction of all the systems malfunctions (a totalitarian development), eventually creating (maximum five years) the conditions for a violent disappearance by collective suicide which Europeans well know what it means.

For the public part of this GEAB’s issue, our team chose to present the chapter speaking about the “Charlie Hebdo” case.

To be and not to be Charlie

Our team had anticipated that the explosion of tensions in the Middle East would have a rapid impact on European societies, bringing great risks to our democracies[7].

The European crisis, as we have often said, well beyond the intrinsic value of the individuals who compose it, has revealed a structural weakness in the European political system technically disconnected from its citizens. The great fear that Europe had in 2014 of going to war with a neighbour led, in 2015, to a real return of politics: we saw a Juncker Commission that decided to legitimize its political decisions, national governments finally aware of the need for political union, highly mobilized citizens.

All this would be rather reassuring if conditions had stabilized. But this is not the case since Europe is preparing to sustain a series of shocks associated with terrorist activities that are sure to be perpetrated by individuals or groups of individuals living in Europe but poorly integrated and connected to the terrible developments that the Middle East is currently experiencing. Now, in such a context, the return of politics can take an undesirable shape.

The year has quickly brought itself up to date with this bloody attack against the employees of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and the murderous chase which followed. Obviously, the event is an opportunity to usher in a racist outbreak in France, but also in the whole of Europe and beyond, combined with the introduction of draconian measures.

But for once, Europeans were entitled to a nice surprise: almost exemplary crisis communications led by François Hollande, capitalizing on the more acceptable fears (that of a social explosion), managed to change the collective emotional reaction a priority with racist hints to a demand for non-linkage, no libertarian drift and union.

On 11 January, a rally of almost four million citizens in France and throughout the world, as well as the presence of 40 heads of state at the head of the procession, is truly an historic event and conveys a truly positive message, whatever one thinks of the true motivation for the gathering.

Actually, in fact, many questions arise on what has really reunited all these people: a mixture of a reaffirmation of badly understood republican principles and true concern for the preservation of democratic values, an expression of exasperation vis-à-vis a poorly integrated Muslim community and a will to bring together the moderates of all the religious communities, seeking order and seeking freedom, lack of discrimination and tolerance,… there was a little of everything in this rally. But regardless, the dominant message is generous and its success.

But this major gathering is not the end of the story. Anti-Muslim acts have multiplied since the attack; the police are on red alert and the young of Arabic origin are being checked hand over fist; ideas of a European style “Patriot Act” crisscross society; once again the Muslim community is offended by a front-page publication on the current issue of Charlie Hebdo caricaturing their Prophet… so many reactions which will inevitably feed the ranks of identity fanaticism and increase the risk of violence.

Furthermore, the demand for freedom of expression is in the process of ending the lock which had been placed on criticism of Israel and the Jews. If the cartoons of Mohammed are no longer racism, then many “jokes” may no longer be called “anti-Semitic” too. On the merits, this release of the right to mock and criticize others is probably a good thing but it comes at the worst possible moment. Everyone knows that 2015 runs huge risks of racist and anti-Semitic drift (since we must distinguish between the two). And just at this moment, the safeguards of intergroup communication have been lowered[8].

However French and European laws, born out of a history of religious wars and intolerance, do not advocate complete freedom of expression. This claim is actually modelled on the US where freedom of expression is absolute and sacred[9]… even if it’s only respected in the context of non-public expression. The organs and public figures have, in turn, speech extremely controlled by the famous “political correctness” especially, particularly on all questions of minorities and religion. In Europe on the other hand, “political correctness” is applied less precisely because freedom of expression has a legal framework here.

One thing is certain, if European Muslims are forced to accept what corresponds to very strong cultural baiting[10] in a context of public expression which remains tightly controlled for other cultural groups (homosexuals, Jews, etc…), there will be division. The challenge is to balance the freedom of expression in order that it doesn’t degenerate into provocations and racist abuse from all sides; all the same it’s going to be necessary to reiterate the rules of communication which are certainly free but also responsible.

Beyond the great, generous impulse of 11 January, countless questions remain on how to stem the wave of racist and terrorist violence that has begun to sweep over Europe, with respect to our democratic principles. This is the big challenge in 2015…Subscribe to the GEAB



[1]     In this global systemic crisis, Europe had an historic role in accompanying the emergence of a multi-polar world it naturally resembled. The Ukrainian crisis has, in part, stripped it of this capacity to facilitate the transition. The forces that oppose the exercise of this role are immense and despite the efforts of a growing number of European players, it is likely that nothing clearly positive will emerge during the first half of the year… But the test of European resilience is in progress, many indicators still give hope and so we reserve our anticipation of the second-half’s characteristics until later.

[2]     The term the “world before” comes from Franck Biancheri’s book, The World Crisis: The Path to the World Afterwards (éditions Anticipolis, 2009) and alludes to the Western system which was put in place after the Second World War, a bi-, then mono-polar system, centred on the US and whose inability to adapt to the emergence of a multi-polar world – which it has nonetheless contributed to bring about – is exposing the planet to the greatest dangers.

[3]     A character from popular German folk tales who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a second life of pleasure and ease, but that will eventually be saved by love. Source : Wikipedia.

[4]     The ability of a system to recover its initial properties after change. Source : Wikipedia.

[5]     Strangely, this theory, which is nevertheless scientifically proved, is the subject of a growing rejection by our society. Source : NouvelObs, 12/06/2012

[6]     A religious doctrine, usually opposed to the preceding scientific theory, consisting of raising the Existing or the Everlasting God. Source : Wikipedia.

[7]     Last month we wrote : «Beyond the chain of events that a regional scale conflict would have on the entire planet, a particularly worrying point for the time being taking into account the consequences that the outburst of hatred between this region’s communities would have on Europe. The verbal violence between Jews and Arabs is already huge, sporadically degenerating into more serious clashes. The explosion of anti-Semitism and racism is inevitably on the EU programme if the tensions develop in the way we have anticipated above. And this violence will also inevitably lead to the tipping of our weakened democracies which will be unable to stem it other than outside the rule of law also» Source : GEAB N°90, 15/12/2014

[8]     The re-publication by the anti-Erdogan newspaper, Cumhumuriyet, of Charlie Hebdo cartoons, is a deplorable example of these provocations’ destabilizing potential and the use made of it by the media driven by obscure interests. In the current Middle Eastern chaos, such a provocation, designed once again in the hope of weakening Erdogan’s power, amounts to treason. In fact, the Turks don’t have the excuse that the Europeans have of not being aware of the symbolic content of these cartoons. With this unexpected development we are seeing the dramatic chain of events in which Europe and the world are caught. Source : BBC, 15/01/2015

[9]     Source : Wikipedia

[10]    Don’t forget that depiction in general is forbidden by Islam. The Muslims’ integration in modern and Western societies of the image is therefore a reality… even if they have difficulties in following the reasoning to its logical conclusion and to accept the most forbidden representation, that of the Prophet, a depiction which also shocks moderate Muslims, it’s a fact. In reality, asking Muslims to accept these cartoons is not an acceptable request for them to “secularize” but the unacceptable one of “self disbelief”. This is where the shoe pinches, we must be aware of it if we want to find a solution to the impasse in which we find ourselves.

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