Posted by: Corri van de Stege | January 8, 2015

#Charliehebdo: Freedom to express your views and the writing of books

A few weeks back was my eighth blogging anniversary. Amazing. I’ve surprised myself. I wonder how many books I’ve reviewed, how many travel accounts I’ve posed, how many photographs uploaded, how many visitors have come and gone.

In the blogosphere write and post our thoughts without thinking much about it – we take for granted that we can write freely and that no one can stop us. That’s what freedom of speech is about.  What happened in Paris yesterday, where journalists and publicists were murdered in cold blood because they expressed views and opinions that didn’t square with the belief of a few murderous thugs is beyond understanding. It is what our western culture stands for, this freedom of expression. Back in 1980 I could no longer live in Iran, and had to leave after the revolution: we could no longer express our thoughts, fears, feelings or even dress the way we wanted. It is horrible to even think that there are people around who want to shut us up, here in our countries, who want to impose their beliefs by whatever means possible, including cold-blooded murder. They mustn’t get away with it.

Michael PyeOne of my christmas presents was a book by Michael Pye: ‘The Edge of the World – How the North Sea Made us who we are‘. This is a fascinating account of where we hail from and how we’ve developed into who and what we are – and by ‘we’ I mean northern Europeans. I am very much a European and although we have always had plenty of fare on the Romans and the seafaring stories and developments from Socrates to the Odysseus and all that entails (southern Europe), there isn’t really that much around about the early eras of this northern part of Europe. We know that the Vikings were brutal invaders, but were they really just that? How did we all mingle, these tribes I mean, the Anglo Saxons, The Vikings, the Irish and the Germanic Peoples? Pye notes that the Vikings not only created mayhem across large parts of Europe but also left behind a lot of their genes!

The_Venerable_Bede_translates_John_1902There’s a chapter about the book trade in those early days (the 8th century) and how books were valued and painstakingly written and rewritten (by hand, on parchment) to fill the libraries not just of cloisters and convents but also of the royal palaces. You couldn’t access an online store or even a bookshop of course and it wasn’t at all easy to know which books existed and which ones you might want. Bede left us with lots of information and he made lists of the books he had studied and the ones he wrote. Making books took a lot of effort and they required calves (for parchment), ink and colours and pens and they were written out by hand! Just imagine, carefully and painstakingly crafting a whole book that way. But they did and that’s how we learned to love our writing, that’s where it’s developed from, this trade in books and papers and anything written.

We must treasure the freedoms we have, to write and express our opinions, and defend this long history of ours, in Europe as well as across the world.


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