On the Ridiculousness of the Cameroonian Charlie

Imagine my shock when I found out that all these years I had been calling many of my Cameroonian friends and acquaintances by the wrong name. I mean, they were Moluas and Brendas and Ondoas and Frus and I was under the impression that I had heard these people correctly when they introduced themselves, that my eyes were O.K when I read their names on Facebook and my memories of our school days back in Cameroon were  intact.

I found out I’d been living a lie.

I found out that many of these people were, in fact, named Charlie.

And who can blame them for wanting to shed their identities for Charlie?

You see, Charlie is this really exemplary person who shines bright as the champion of  the right to free speech. So deep is the commitment to this right, Charlie will defend your right to say what you want, even if Charlie deeply disagrees with what you are saying or perceives it  to be harmful to society. Charlie is full of  selflessness and compassion and the global human spirit which reaches across desert and ocean to share in the pain and suffering of others.

It was confusing. Surely, this must have been a case of dissociative identity disorder à la Frankie and Alice, because I have distinct memories of instances where these same people or groups of people barely noticed or vehemently supported the suppression freedom of expression for the marginalized groups in our communities, in the name mostly  of tradition and religion.

I think this  dissociative identity disorder afflicts us Cameroonians/Africans, both at home and abroad this is how it usually goes:

Something happens on the global stage and explodes across our social media platforms. Carried away with the bandwagon frenzy, we join the hashtags, change cover and profile pictures. Update statuses showing solidarity, write tomes and think pieces  on our blogs. Our celebrities are all over it and we applaud them for using their fame to do something the way western celebrities do. We talk about it with friends at school and at work and bond over the shared unity of purpose. Our bodies just di jollying as we feel connected  to the world. We are the global village. Creatures of the information age.

None of the above is bad.

The problem lies in the fact that often, quite often, too often – we do not display the same dedication to dissecting causes that actually do carry some importance to us as Africans. Often,  we fail to turn the analytical lens with which we examine these issues on ourselves. Quite often, the issue at hand, the reason for our outcry affects us marginally, if at all. And too often, we display a breath-taking amount of intellectual dishonesty when discussing these issues.

Allow me to illustrate.

So two islamist extremists enter the main offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France and kill pretty much the whole editorial staff. We know what followed. We all witnessed it. We all were a part of it.

Many of us discovered our inner Voltaires, and based our newly discovered reverence for the right to free expression on the quote which although often misattributed to Voltaire, was not by him:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Ok, Fine. Petit Voltaires.

Where were you when Eric Lembembe (Cameroonian journalist and LGBTI human rights activist) was found dead after having been tortured? Were you Eric then? Where were you when Alice Nkom, first female lawyer in Cameroon, a woman who has dedicated much of her career to fighting for the rights of LGBT folks in the country, and who has received death threats and threats of arrest for her trouble, was recognized for her work and massively criticized by Cameroonians everywhere? #JeSuisAlice any one?

The same people who would declare #JeSuisCharlie, are the same people who will tell an African woman not to speak her mind else she might not find a husband or it is unbecoming for a woman to be so outspoken. I di wait man wey e go send me some nonsense private message this year. Just try it. #JeSuisFindPalavaWoman

Oprah-welp

The same people who will declare #JeSuisCharlie will talk about how certain books, music videos, magazines, imagery etc, imported from the West  are destroying the fabric of our society.

You, Catholic, Presbyterian and other member of bigger denomination will declare #JeSuisCharlie, but will you stick your neck out and defend Evangelist Apostle Theophilus of Christ, Senior Pastor of Church of the Categorically Saved – International (CCS – International) preaching loudly at the bus stop  if a policeman arrested him for the heck of it?

You don’t have to like what they say or approve of it, but the spirit of Charlie demands that you stand up and defend their rights to express those views just as visibly as you did for Charlie. Charlie who despite the nobility ascribed to him, invests a lot of energy lambasting a holy figure as precious to the eyes of some, as Jesus is to many of you.

You want to laugh at the presidents who traveled to France to march in solidarity? Laugh at yourselves first, because you are cut from the same cloth.

I’ll keep an eye out for all you Charlies this year. And believe me when I say that I will be there, exercising my Charliehood to remind you of why you are not, in fact, Charlie.

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22 thoughts on “On the Ridiculousness of the Cameroonian Charlie

  1. bonbon acolisé

    Drops the mic and waltzes away. Well said

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Picks up mic, wipes it and hands it back to you…
    Waiting for more Palava😆👌

    Liked by 1 person

  3. great post and quite impressive..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mmmhhhh , there are more than one sides to a story….how ever , well written.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on The Last Immigrant and commented:
    Findpalavawoman has spoken and I approve!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ashawo Man Pkin

    Je ne suis pas Eric, ni Alice, ni Charlie et non plus Theophilus of the Church of the Categorically Saved, why? because wetin concern me?
    While your peice is well written, you seem to forget one litttle titbit “your neck is responsible for your head and only for your own head”. If Molua, Fru, Besong, Ondoa, Nde, and god knows who else want to become Charlie for which ever reason, wetin concern me ? If Alice Nkom decides to be the voice of the voice-less ( and I do appreciate her efforts) wetin concern me … she took up the charge … what ever happens to her is her responsibility… same too if you decide to piss of some Islamist, you need to be ready for what ever comess your way …
    Action and the resulting reaction are equal …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, indeed my friend. But then, there was their action and this is my own reaction, carried out by my head on my neck 😉 We live in an interdependent society, as much as we sometimes like to think otherwise and while we are responsible for our actions (or lack thereof) they also affect other people. A little more sensitivity to and honesty about this fact is all I’m asking for here

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