Now that the dust has settled . . .

I love humour. I think the ability to laugh at ourselves, each other and the world around us is the last stand we have against insanity. Intelligent humour. Gallows humour. The black humour of policemen at terrible crime scenes. The uncontained snorts of giggles of school kids standing outside the Head teacher’s office knowing that they’re about to be expelled and deep shit is heading their way. Often, looking out at the world, to be able to laugh at it, to laugh in the face of it, is the best way to try and understand the often pointless mess we live in. Humour often saves us from rage. I don’t have the energy for raging. Laughter is better for the soul and the brain.

When it comes to getting me into bed, I don’t care about looks, I don’t care about money… just make me laugh. I’m not alone in that. It’s how technically ugly men can have beautiful wives. Humour goes straight to the heart and soul of us. I value nothing better than a good joke.

There have been plenty of evenings however, when, while clutching my sides in laughter with friends, talking about some farce exploding on the Internet, whatever issue Twitter is hashtagging or over-reacting to, I’ve quipped something WAY over the line, barbed – cruel even – but still INCREDIBLY funny obviously. When the giggles have died down, there’s normally a sigh, followed up with, ‘Well, that’s not one for sharing on Twitter!’ And I never do. Because I don’t want the horde coming for me, even if the joke perhaps has a valid point at its core. I don’t want to feel the rage at my back. I like an easy life.

And that is why, come the terrible events of January 7, 2015, I did not, on any social media platform, write the words: #jesuischarlie.

I understand the sentiment. The need to stand together, to wave candles in the wind. To show support. But I am NOT Charlie. I’m not even brave enough to put an edgy pointed joke on Twitter for fear of reprisal. If those jokes were to make people come after me with with repeated death threats and guns? HELL, NO.

I work with words. I understand the power of words. But the words are only words if there is nothing behind them. No bravery. No risk. I remember teaching The Crucible to some year tens and they didn’t get it. They just kept saying, ‘But why didn’t he sign his name and live?’ To be fair, it was hard to answer. I would have signed in no time at all. Just like I wouldn’t have worked for Charlie Hebdo no matter how important I think it is that the world has that kind of satire in it.

Every now and then, while work avoiding, I write something on this blog. If this blog was going to get me 50 lashes a week, I can tell you now – faster than you could pour me a glass of white wine or I could drink it – this blog would be GONE.

Those people, those Raif Badawis, John Proctors, and those Charlie Hebdo journalists – they’re a rare breed, and we shouldn’t forget that. We, 99.9% of us, are not those people. We are the people who hashtag #bringbackourgirls for a few weeks and then think we’ve done our bit.

But I’ve thought a lot about these men and women in the past few months. These people who believe in the power of words and images to make the world a better place, to make us better thinkers, to the point that they are prepared to back them with their lives.

And I’ve reached the conclusion that No, Je ne suis pas Charlie. To claim to be so insults their memory.

But I sure as shit can aspire to be Charlie.

I think that serves them better.

Now for fuck’s sake, someone make me laugh;-)

SP x

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About sarah

Writer of supernatural and crime fiction for Gollancz in the UK. I've written six horror novels and my first thriller, A Matter of Blood, wa View all posts by sarah

10 responses to “Now that the dust has settled . . .

  • kinginascent

    Reblogged this on kinginascent and commented:
    Sarah Pinborough is funny, thoughtful and honest about herself. She also writes fiercely.

  • hitchcocked

    A beautiful blog, your musings are quite admirable. As to making you laugh, a good joke is quite subjective but how about, ‘What’s the score in the vegetable FA cup? Answer – Brocolli 3 Mange tout. See what I mean, but then I’m not a stand-up comedian just a lover of good writing, also subjective.

  • dominicmakinmovies

    I think we all need to try and be Charlie but it’s eaier said than done. Those cartoonists were as brave as anyone I have ever known of. In our own way we have to confront the killers’ actions. This is to not shy away from criticism, satire and activism against them.

  • Peter Miles

    So:-
    A man walks into a chemist and sees an elderly lady behind the counter. As a man of the world this doesn’t phase him at all and he requests “A packet of condoms please.” The assistant says “Certainly Sir but what size would you like?” “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never been asked that before and I have no real idea.” So the lady says “Well sir, my sister and I have been running this business for forty years and we only sell the very best products, which do indeed come individually sized. May I suggest that you place it on the counter, I will give it a couple of strokes and then assess what size you require.” So the customer does as requested and the shopkeeper calls over her shoulder “Ethel, a packet of large condoms please!” The man leaves with his purchase feeling quite pleased with himself.
    The next customer comes in and, again, asks for a packet of condoms. A similar exchange takes place and the lady calls “Ethel, packet of medium condoms please!” and the customer departs.
    Then a very young lad comes in and, looking nervously around, says “Um, do you have any male assistants?” The counter lady looks him firmly in the eye and says “Young man, my sister and I have been running this shop for forty years and I can assure you that nothing you can say will cause me a moments concern. Now, what can I do for you?” Somewhat startled the lad says “Well, I would like a packet of condoms please.” So, again, the matter of size is explained and the lad is most taken aback “Oh, Oh, I never knew that they came in differents sizes” he stammers. “Well young man ours do because they are only the very best. If you’re unsure what you require then I strongly suggest that you place it on the counter, I will give it a couple of strokes and see what will best suit you.” So, hesitantly, the customer does as requested. The counter assistant calls back “Ethel, damp cloth please!”
    Now, I hope you’re laughing.

  • Peter Miles

    And, that aside, another good post from you. Thought provoking and real.

  • Simon Bestwick

    I JeSuisCharlied at the time… but like you, I don’t know if I’d have the guts to risk my life in that way. (To be fair, I don’t know if the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists ever really thought they were putting themselves in the firing line to that extent.) I used to think I’d have been like George Orwell and gone to fight in the Spanish Civil War against Fascism… nowadays I suspect it’s wishful thinking on my part. Thank you for another wise – and bloody honest – post.

  • mangozoid

    ‘Tis a deal — at Edge Lit 2015… lol — you know you HAVE to!

  • jmh

    I’ve tried to be a little more outspoken, a little more brave about what I put out there, but like you…if it brings death threats and other mayhem into my life, it usually isn’t worth it. If a news story I write helps people, then it’s worth it. If 2000 people think I’m witty on Twitter…not so much.

    Great post!

  • Anna

    I just want you to know I loved your book”Behind Her Eyes” I was hooked from page one. How in the world did u think of that ending? I be never read anything even close to that kind of ending. Thank you for a wonderful reading experience!!!

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