#JeSuisCharlie is the Bonobo Way
By Dr. Susan Block
The bloody massacre of at least 12 cartoonists and their co-workers in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, the black-clad killers shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they gunned down the human creators of what they deem “obscene”–cartoons—is itself the epitome of obscenity.
Who kills over cartoons? Obviously, these killers. Their actions are the polar opposite of the Bonobo Way of peace through pleasure. I’d call it the Mad Chimpanzee Way of war through terror, except even the most murderous chimps aren’t this bad
On the other hand, the international reaction to the atrocity—an immense, empathic outpouring of grief and deep solidarity, almost orgiastic in its intensity—has been quite bonoboësque. Millions of fellow cartoonists, journalists, artists and free speech supporters are holding candles in vigils all over the world and posting “Je Suis Charlie” (“I Am Charlie”) all over the web. I am one of them.
Some criticize the #JeSuisCharlie meme as disingenuous. True, we are alive, and the Charlie Hebdo 12 are not. But personally, I can relate, having been attacked for “obscenities” of various sorts over the years. As I scan the heart-scorching tweets and headlines, memories of a series of personal death threats from fundamentalist religion fetishists of all the Abrahamic faiths—Muslims, Christians and Jews—flood my brain. I remember the primal fear those threats elicited over a crazy misinterpretation of one of my articles, and how my husband Max and Counterpunch editors, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, chided me to let go and laugh at my useless fear and even write another piece satirizing the bullies, showing their impotence to the world and, especially, to myself. Eventually, the threats subsided, and my brief spell of terror was nothing compared to the terrible fate of these brave cartoonists who paid the ultimate price. Yet the memory draws me closer to them and all who utter the peace-through-pleasure battle cry of “Je Suis Charlie.”
I am Charlie. At least, I could be Charlie, targeted and bumped off for my free expression of politics and/or sexuality. The closeness that I and so many feel to these courageously playful cartoonists is part of what I call the Bonobo Way, the way of connection and great empathy at the heart of the culture of our close genetic cousins, the bonobo apes.
Some have called the killers and those who support them “uncivilized.” Sounds right, but the fact is that murder, war and terror have been an integral part of human “civilization” since its dawning. If we really want to stop or at least reduce the bloodletting, maybe it’s time we look to a whole different animal for inspiration. The “uncivilized,” Make-Love-Not-War bonobos live in a a peaceful, sex-positive, female-empowering society without murder or war. Bonobos may not draw cartoons (yet), though they love to play, which is the essence of cartooning and an integral part of keeping the peace in Bonoboville. If bonobos can do it, can we? Can we at least learn something from studying their example?
Meanwhile, my heart goes out to France, where Max and I have spent many seasons of love and laughter. I hope French politicians do not turn this tragedy into an excuse to conjure up a French Patriot Act limiting all French freedoms, including expression. That would score one for terror.
But the #JeSuisCharlie demonstrations are not protests aimed at politicians. Nor do we gather together in town squares and on social media to send a message to the killers who either couldn’t care less or will just be galvanized into killing more by our attention. We demonstrate and hashtag to “send a message” to ourselves, a big bonoboësque hug of hope and the reassurance that we are not alone. We really need that hug right now.
The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say. So is a vibrator, a dildo, and the finger. These are playful yet powerful Weapons of Mass Seduction. Let us say, with all grace and good humor, “Fuck you!” to those who try to censor us with violence and threats of violence, whether they be religious fanatics, government agents or freelance lunatics. We shall overcome.
© January 7, 2015. Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Dr. Suzy,” is an internationally renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels.