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January 22, 2015

Je Suis Charlie and 9/11

By Frank Li via Econintersect  

A horrible tragedy occurred in Paris recently: three gunmen dashed into a magazine office and killed several editors and journalists. I unequivocally condemn the attack and feel sorry for the victims and their families.

Unfortunately for the world, the mainstream media and politicians reacted to the attack incorrectly: rather than trying to fix the problem by having an accurate diagnosis first, they have simply labeled it as an attack on "freedom of speech"!
This reminds me of the 9/11 attack on America in 2001.  
It's time for us to ask the right questions and face the truth about the attack in Paris before it's too late, in order to avoid similar mistakes following the 9/11 attack!
1. Freedom
People yearn for freedom. As a matter of fact, freedom is so essential that I used "individual freedom" as one of the two criteria for an ideal form of government. 
But freedom is relative. For example, 10,000 years ago, human beings roamed freely without any constraints. Then they built homes and settled down, formed their own communities, and introduced various versions of "law and order", all at the expense of foregoing part of their freedom. Two trivial examples:
  1. In America, you can no longer smoke in many public places.
  2. In Singapore, if you spit in public, you face a stiff fine.
There are many types of freedom, such as economic freedom and freedom of speech. To many Chinese, the former has been far more important than the latter, at least over the past three decades.
2. Freedom of speech
I am for "freedom for speech", as much as I am for "freedom" in general. Unfortunately, freedom of speech is not totally free, just as freedom is not totally free. Two examples:
  1. Can any newspaper in America use the N word at will? No!
  2. Can a major political candidate win an election by telling the truth about the 47%? No!
Why not? Because they are offensive, to some at least, and there are consequences to saying offensive things in public!
Two more examples:
  1. Did freedom of speech allow the making of an American movie that clearly insults a foreign king ("The Interview", the Film ...)?
  2. Why did a French magazine publish cartoons insulting a popular religious leader?
Both are offensive, to some at least, but neither has had such severe consequences until the recent attack in Paris!
What's the solution? More insults in exchange for more attacks? Insane, totally!
Here is the real solution: do not carry "freedom of speech" to any extreme!
3. Discussion
With technologies (e.g. transportation and the Internet), the world is becoming smaller. With migration, many countries (e.g. France and America) have become multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-ethnical. Therefore, it's very important that we adapt accordingly, including learning to get along with each other in this new world! Specifically,
  1. We all must be more sensitive to each other, in both words and deeds, in order to minimize misunderstanding and more importantly to avoid any unnecessary conflict, be it racial (e.g. white vs. black) or religious (e.g. Christianity vs. Islam).
  2. We must resist extremists, both on the left, who are obsessed with absolute freedom of speech, and on the right, who argue "do not cave in to a terror regime". Both extremes are taboo!
Most importantly, we must not wage war against a foreign country for the sake of salvaging our own economy. Both France and America are under heavy suspicion of doing just that in the Middle East!
France has been very good to America. Three examples:
  1. King Louis XVI, who was executed on 21 January 1793, was actually the only European monarchy who recognized America before the Siege of Yorktown.
  2. The French were our allies in the American Revolution, which we might have lost without their strong support.
  3. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol of freedom throughout the world!
In return, America should be very good to France. My three pieces of advice to France:
  1. Do not repeat our mistakes after 9/11!
  2. Promote harmony, not confrontation.
  3. Read (or re-read) your classic: The Count of Monte Cristo, in order to understand the ins and outs of revenge.
4. Closing
Do not be fooled by the extremists with their absolutely pure, but totally stupid, version of freedom of speech!
Now, for those Americans who have no faith in science (e.g. Einstein) or in religion (e.g. Pope Francis), but in our Founding Fathers, here is a quote:

Courtesy Frank Li for Global Economic Intersection  (EconMatters author archive here)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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