Charlie Hebdo had a very dramatic and ‘spectacular’ start to the New Year. First, it was a cover page with a strange looking God on it, carrying a Kalashnikov. The title was “One year on: the assassin is still out there”. Then it was the cover page picturing the drowned refugee boy Aylan Kurdi and ass groping refugees in Germany, with monkey like-faces, chasing European women. Under the title “migrants” the text read: “What would little Aylan have grown up to be? An ass groper in Germany”
Indeed, a question that we will never know the answer for. What would he really have grown up to be?
Interesting question and all would have been dependent on him, but more importantly to the society and the word he would have grown up in, if the chance was there for him to do so. To answer this question on Aylan is to answer the question of what sort of a world we will have in future. To answer this question on a little boy, we will have to project to the wider world. This is where Aylan’s little dead body becomes more – a lot more – than an object of sadness.
But there is another question for which we know the exact answer: Why will Aylan not grow up to prove our guesses right or wrong?
The answer to this is not in the future but here, today. And it is this question, and our response to it, that would have – in Aylan’s case – helped us to answer the first one. It is too late for little Aylan but many more Aylan’s still have a chance to show us what they could grow up to be.
What would little Aylan have grown up to be? Was the only option for him to be an ass groper?
It really depends, doesn’t it?
Would he have grown up in a safe world living a normal life or would he have been stuck in Direct Provision System, in a bedsit somewhere, ignored and forgotten, turned into a number, feeding into an annual statistics?
Would he have grown up with a sense of equality and fairness or the constant exposure to discrimination and racism? Would he have grown up to live in fear and anxiety? Would he have grown up to be a constant scapegoat for everything bad happening
Would Aylan have grown up to suffer or to live a happy live? Would his mother’s headscarf or his father’s beard be a reason why he would be beaten up?
Would he have grown up having access to free public education regardless of his ethnicity, religion or immigration status?
Would he have grown up to live in a home, like all children should do, or would he be an excuse for governments cutting public housing programmes and creating homelessness?
Would he have grown up to have a job, a decent wage and working conditions, or would austerity and cuts have continued to look after the wellbeing of the rich at the top at the expense of Aylan’s or Peter’s of this world?
Would he have grown up to access public healthcare or would his health be a matter how much his daddy earning? Would he have access to public libraries, social services and all necessary things that we people worked so hard to build?
Would Aylan have grown up watching devastation around the world, wars, terror and killings of civilians, or would have his childhood horrors been a distant memory? Would he have grown up to visit his childhood places free of oppression, invasion and suffering?
Would Aylan have grown up to look forward to visit the beach he had once departed from as a refugee and enjoy the blue waters of the beautiful Aegean as a young man?
Would Aylan have lived in a word, in a Europe that is not one of neoliberal attacks on ordinary people at home and bombardment of people abroad?
Would Aylan have lived to see – and helped to happen – a different world, a world that is for people and not for exploitation driven by profits?
Charlie Hebdo is not interested in answering any of these questions. For them the decision is made already. It is all about their freedom of speech – or rather ‘intellectual’ laughs – to decide what Aylan have grown up to be.
For them, between now and the future, when Aylan would have been a grown man, none of these questions matter. “But, we are not racist”, they claim; “it is just satire” they say. A satire that they can afford, for which millions of Muslims, refugees, migrants have to pay and pay again.
Charlie Hebdo exercises its ‘freedom of speech’ against a little and voiceless refugee boy; a boy who didn’t have the ‘freedom of life’, the ‘freedom to grow up’. His freedom stopped where Charlie Hebdo’s started, stopped on a dinghy, washed up on a touristic beach.
We will never know what his little mind went through, on his last few seconds. But we are sure, if he would have grown up, given the chance, sure he would have been an ass groper. What else, after all he was going to be a refugee, a migrant. He was going to be a Muslim man, destined to assault European women.
You, see, you the silly folk don’t get it! It is all clever satire, by those who can afford to be satirical and for those who are clever and intelligent enough to understand it.
You see, the writer of these lines is a stupid Middle-Eastern migrant man. He doesn’t get it either. It must be his backward culture or the primitive society he was born into. Or you never know, he has beard after all, maybe his religion is the reason why he doesn’t get Charlie Hebdo’s clever satire.
Damn Middle-Easterners. First they take our jobs, then they take our homes, then they invade our borders, given the chance they suck our social welfare dry, they assault our women and then they accuse our satire with racism…
Sure, it’s satire, not racism! Sure we believe you.
As Aylan probably would have believed that he will have a normal and safe childhood, after all, he was on his way to the modern, developed, all glorious Europe…
What would he really have grown up to be?
Why will Aylan not grow up to prove our guesses right or wrong?
What sort of a world Aylan have grown up in? What about millions of other Aylan’s, what sort of a future do they have?
And what do we do, to get there?
“It’s satire, not racism!” What a load of …