The twisted cynic in me felt that the huge demonstration in Paris on Sunday in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo office murders and taking part in it was – and is – rather the cool thing to do and the in-place to be on the afternoon of January 11. And that nasty, nasty, twisted, unhappy cynic also suspects it will only be matter of time before some astute businessman realises there will be quite market for Je Suis Charlie brooches, pendants, necklaces, earstuds, cufflinks, fridge stickers, car stickers, but it will be important to strike while the iron is still hot. I fear the horrible murders and the subsequent outrage will be a question of Charlie who within months. Hope I’m wrong, but …
Something along those lines was also expressed the other day by Bernard Holtrop, a Dutch cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo who wasn’t at the offices at the time of the lethal attack because ‘he hates meetings’. Take a look here (and I’m surprised the story wasn’t also carried by the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian). Holtrop is rather taken aback by all the new ‘friends’ Charlie Hebdo has suddenly acquired. Well, Bernard, bandwagons are like that.
Years ago, I remember all those little red Aids ribbons which everyone and their grandma insisted on wearing ‘in solidarity’ with sufferers and gays generally. You don’t see too many of those these days, the caravan has moved on. At the time you couldn’t move for hearing and reading news of the latest Aids benefit in New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Berlin, naturally attended by the great and good of showbiz and anyone else who could spot a passing bandwagon when she or he saw one. So where are they now? Who today sports a little red Aids ribbon? Arguably the Aids problem is just as bad as it was then, so where are the ‘campaigners’?
Well, largely they have jumped off the Aids bandwagon and jumped onto the global warming ‘we must save the planet’ bandwagon. Oh, and what with ‘advances in medicine’ and the development of new drugs, Aids is no longer the problem it was. Come again? Oh, OK, it is no longer the problem it was in the Western world.
It is, however, just as bad, perhaps even worse, in Africa and Asia. According to the worldwide Aids statistics from Avert.org there are 23.5 million adults and children living with Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa – one in 20 of the populations are affected -, 4 million in South and South-East Asia but just 1.4 million in North America and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and 900,000 Western and Central Europe. So there we have it: what’s the point of holding Aids benefits if we more or less have the problem licked in the Western world? I suppose that attitude does make a certain sense. I mean, if we here in the West don’t give a flying fuck that that three-quarters of a billion folk in the poorer parts of the world don’t have access to clean water – their water source is often the same as where they defecate – and 2.5 billion (check the figures here), what’s a million more Aids sufferers or two? Life’s a struggle, man, didn’t you know that? I mean just how much bleeding do you want this heart to do? Well, I’m a realist and neither expect more blood from those already heavily bleeding hearts nor attitudes to change. But what I can very much do without is the bullshit.
There are many wholly admirable organisations working to try to help Aids sufferers in Africa and Asia (which is a damn sight more than I do), but as a whole folk in the Western world, in their smug hypocrisy, are merely interested in the brownie points to be gained from – well, then its was ‘raising awareness about Aids’. Now it is ‘raising awareness about global warming’ and ‘saving the planet’ and crowding onto the streets of Paris shoulder to shoulder with the great and good to show solidarity with a satirical rag until last week those great and good loathed.
I think that’s what gets up Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Heltrop’s nose so much.