Je Suis Charlie

I read about what happened in Paris to the cartoonists.
I care a lot about comedy, satire, illustration, freedom of speech. I like the message of solidarity that the Je Suis Charlie is sending out.
The worst thing would for people to get scared and try to tame their art.
It surprises me that there are people in this country who don’t believe in freedom of speech, and who still have a ‘Well, they asked for it’ attitude.
Culture isn’t a given – it is a thing that is created, and maintained because people believe in it. Otherwise our culture will be like the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth- no roads were built leading to it, and it was neglect to the point that the mob wanted to tear it ALL down rather than repair it.
So I think this is a time for people to think about what culture they want to live in, and how much they care about it.
It’s the job of artists to help people to re-imagine buildings and cultures. Even neglected buildings can be rescued and reimagined. I think similarly – people who live in our culture, and who don’t care about freedom of speech – can be helped to re-imagine it. Some new lighting, some planting, a glass lift to the top floor. Plus people will appreciate the building more if they see how hostile anywhere else is!
We need our creative culture, so we have to make it a brick house. People were shot, and it is awful. The important thing is to keep the building secure. Art is our power, and they know it too or they wouldn’t be attacking it.
The men with guns probably don’t know what satire is. It would be really difficult to explain to them, because the cultural differences are so vast. It’s a problem. People are really angry because of the war, and I guess that has motivated the reaction.

Joan of Arc’s Understanding


And then she clearly understood
If he was fire, oh then she must be wood.

When I was little and listening to this song, this was the only bit I didn’t like. I enjoyed the drama of her death, but I did not like her clear understanding that she was wood! I think I was at the age when I had just started to identify myself as a girl. I just hated the idea that she suddenly thought she was wood instead. It seemed like such a stupid thing to say. Yes, I could understand that he was fire, but it seemed to be a great, wild leap of logic to mean that made her wood.

I clearly understood she was a girl, and if I had met Joan of Arc at this time I would have told her ‘No, you are not wood. You are a girl, like me!’

I still feel a bit like that. It does seem slightly uncharacteristic that she would say she is wood – or just something to be consumed by Fire. But I think it is about her bravery in facing the very difficult reality of what is coming next. Rather than pretend she is not destined for the flames – she accepts it. I think this could be said to represent man facing his mortality head on.

At the beginning of the song she was in a state of unknowing – as suggested by her dull armour. Now she has met Fire, she enters a state of knowing – ‘clearly understood’. In order to keep the multiple meanings of Fire open, Cohen suggests that what she understands is simply – that she will meet the Fire, and whatever Fire may be, it will be able to burn her very well.

We are forced to combine the imagery of the effect of fire on wood, and it’s effect on our heroine. This is a powerful way to tell the listener what will happen, because it means we use our own experience of what burning looks like – and apply it to a scene we can only imagine.