The recent events in Paris, and now in Texas, where Muslim extremists have deigned themselves judge, jury, and executioner against people who made jokes they feel were offensive, have had me thinking about the cultural differences between the secular West’s and the Islamic world’s views regarding satire and irreverent humor. The Islamic view holds that certain things are sacred, and should be barred from being the subjects of comedy. The western view generally rejects this notion, and believes that nothing is, in essence, too sacred to be the subject of a joke.
The notion that nothing is sacred, and the fact that satire has become, in the west, not only acceptable, but a treasured mechanism for engendering social change, did not happen overnight. Centuries of religious oppression and violence led to a more enlightened view. The age of Enlightenment brought us the notion of a truly secular society, and led us out of the Dark Ages where the Catholic Church, one of the worst criminal organizations in history, terrorized people based upon vague interpretations of mythological bullshit. The Enlightenment was a response to what everyone was starting to see was a wrong way of doing things. This manner of thinking, that rationalism and reason should be our guides rather than centuries old superstitions, is a deeply held value that exists at the core of western society. It is important to us, and we must continue to value and treasure it.
The Muslim world is currently residing in its own Dark Ages. I hope it soon emerges and billions worldwide can be liberated from the cloak of darkness under which they now reside. However, western society must not tolerate an attack on its values. We have a long tradition of satire and humor that holds nothing sacrosanct. From Voltaire, to Wilde, to Twain, to Vonnegut, to Monty Python, western society has decided to embrace those who shine a humorous light at the darkness. We’ve worked hard to get to the point we’re at now, despite that we’ve often been our own worst enemies. Now is not the time to relent progress.
Anyone who does not like this fact should feel welcomed to leave, for while we accept your right to be offended, we clearly do not accept your perceived right to NOT be offended.