Je Suis Charlie

who has damageed Mohammed more

Saturday 1334  –  10.01.15

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Like many other people around the world I have been thinking a lot about the shocking murders, in Paris, of the cartoonists and others who worked for Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper with a circulation of around 60,000.

I have been moved by the tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, facilitated by social media. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is estimated to have been shared on twitter nearly 4 million times in 5 days which is extraordinary.  I shared it myself.

more sacred than religion

Throughout this piece I will also share some of the responses  to the killings, from other cartoonists.

I have read a great deal of cynical comment, in papers, and on Facebook, about “the independentmasses” being used for political gain and the whole response to the killings being orchestrated but I do not believe that; certainly not in the first few days. That opinion belittles the individuals, such as myself , who spontaneously felt this killing was an assault on our own freedom of expression and wanted to show that.

Pen is mighttierFrom what I know of Charlie Hebdo, which was nothing before the attacks on Weds, it is a satirical magazine that is very irreverent, bordering on cruel, in its degree of biting mockery of a wide range of establishment, religious and others figures and organisations; almost certainly not the kind of publication I would buy ( even if I could read French ! ) . Of course I am free to choose whether I read it or not and that’s the crux of the matter isn’t it?  No-one HAS to buy it or read it and that includes those extremists who carried out this terrible act. 

I am very much in favour of a degree of free expression which is surely one of the cornerstones of a civilised world, ( I know that whether ANY of the world is very civilised is open to debate but let’s not be too pedantic ).  The place of satire in the world has been established for centuries and if we look at the definition of it we will see how it can have a very useful purpose.

“Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.”

So bearing that definition in mind we can see that inevitably someone is going to be offended by whatever a satirist writes or in this case draws. Charlie Hebdo was well-known for offending many religions not just Islam; indeed I believe the Catholic Church sued Hebdo several times. more

Whilst an individual has the inalienable right to be offended by what a satirist produces what they do NOT have is the right to insist that the satirist, or any one else for that matter, stops producing material that might offend that particular individual. 

drawing heartOf course with freedom of expression comes responsibility and I would certainly not see hate speech or speech which incites violence as being acceptable.  In this country, and I’m sure in France too,  there are laws which publishers have to follow to protect against those worst excesses and that is as it should be because it certainly would not be safe for everyone to say just exactly what they wanted.  

So it is right that there should be limitations but publishers should not be put in a position where they feel unable to publish something because of fear that they or their staff will be killed if they do.

 To me the outpouring of support was about just this point, showing that people are not afraid and will stand against censorship by extremists.

Not afraid

Satire must survive these killings because it is a powerful tool for scrutinizing organizations, countries and religions , and this is essential to shine a light into the darkest recesses and show injustices that still prevail.  

Islam  is not and should not be above this scrutiny because of political correctness or fear, if for no other reason than there are still injustices carried out in many Islamic countries, for example against homosexuals, which make these countries worthy of scrutiny. Did you know, for example, that apostasy ( declaring self non-muslim in this case)  is a crime in 23 out of 49 Muslim majority countries?  with varied punishments, from child-custody loss, annulment of marriage or fines, through imprisonment or flogging , to the death penalty. 

Issues surely worthy of scrutiny?

He drew first.

Having said that what I definitely do NOT want to see is a backlash against Muslims because of the actions of those murderous extremists. This tweet I saw a few days ago about sums up the injustice in that :-  

Muslim shooter = entire religion guilty

Black shooter = entire race guilty

White shooter = mentally troubled lone wolf

please One final thought which I know seems to go against everything I have said above but which is personally very important to me is about kindness.

Many of you who have been following this blog for some time will know that I think this world needs more kindness not less.

So I have to question how useful unkindness, in the form of vicious mocking of others, really is, in moving humanity forward?  Can you have kind satire?  Probably not and it seems the unkind variety has been shown to produce societal change throughout the centuries so I will just have to live with it and not read it !   

As ever I welcome your thoughts.

Saturday girl signing off ’til whenever.


You can find my photography blog Photomania here 


Here is an invitation to join me on Kiva

and you can read more about Kiva here

rubbing out


A Hand-Up not a Hand-Out

Loans that change lives

Saturday 1338  –  13.12.14

If you are new to my blog take a look at my About page here

Gosh I cannot believe I haven’t posted on this blog for 20 weeks!  so now I have only 1338 Saturday’s left out of my imagined allotted 1500. That’s if I am counting right which is decidedly doubtful as adding up, or in this case taking away, is not my strong point.

What I am going to write about here is one of the things that has been keeping me away from posting. Read on and you’ll find a great idea for a last minute present for Christmas. A gift that just keeps on giving.

( this is quite a long post, I must be trying to make up for all those I missed!  I hope you’ll read to the end or maybe come back a couple of times?  Oh and I am very happy for you to share this post on facebook, your blog or wherever. Thanks)

So…. I am in love again…. No! No! don’t get excited, it’s not another man ! It’s microfinance.

I have fallen in love with the idea of lending money to people in poorer countries to use for all manner of things from latrines or education to growing fruit trees or pigs, from buying solar panels or chickens to  beekeeping or stocking a little shop. 

KivaI wrote about Kiva back in September 2013 when I made my very first loan and you can read that post here 100 Saturdays have gone 1400 to go . I was lukewarm about it at first but a few months ago I became much more involved and rather passionate about the whole idea of microfinance and about Kiva in particular. 

So here’s how it works –

1- You need Paypal set up first because this is how you will transfer money into or out of Kiva . Especially important if you are not in America as Paypal will transfer just the right amount of your currency to make up $25

 2- Choose a borrower – There are thousands of loans available, across 85 countries, and the website is geared up to help you find a borrower, whose story resonates with you, by the use of #tags, sectors, gender and attributes. Kiva is a particularly good way of empowering women.

The fastest way to change society

3- Make a loan – minimum is $25 – you can choose to give a little more as a donation to Kiva to pay staff etc as this is how they get most of their funding. Field Partners (nearly 300 of them) give out the loans  and are mostly microfinance organisations around the world. Many of the Field Partner’s (FP’s ) are not for profit organisations (approx 80%) .

Kiva vets the FP’s and borrowers are carefully vetted by the FP’s, consequently there is a repayment rate of almost 99% which is pretty impressive.

4 – Get repaid. Loans can have repayment times of anything from 6 months to 10 years! The 10 year ones are in Mexico and for planting resin producing trees which will go on producing, and providing income, for decades. These loans are very rare. Most loans are short-term, repaid in monthly installments with some at the end of term e.g after say 14 months

5 – Lend the same $25 again and again and again or withdraw your original money .  :)

we believe talent So why is microfinance necessary?  Because banks are not geared up to lend money to poor people who do not have assets. ( a whole different discussion!!! )

Here’s what Kiva says :-

“Why we do what we do

We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families”

Kiva can be fun too. User led teams have developed on the site, formed by lenders with particular interests; 29,905 teams in all. some with just a few members and little activity, some huge!  Members post loans they think other members might want to support and there are message boards with lots of banter, as well as help from those more experienced on Kiva.  I belong to a few of these teams and here are some of my favourites ( apologies to those I have left out ) :-

 Tree Lovers My own newly formed tiny team of 33 members ;)

We loan because…
Planting and sustaining trees can provide a long-lasting source of income, an important food supply, protection for the environment as well as shelter for wildlife and livestock. All this and they add beauty too.
He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
~Lucy Larcom.

The A+ team which has over 31,000 members and is the Number One team for amount loaned on Kiva – Doing good without God.

“We loan because…
We care about human beings and understand that it takes people to help people.
About us
We are one human family, and we know that people can do good without believing in a god.
The Plus sign in the A+ Team logo reflects the fact that the team comprises Atheists, PLUS Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, and Non-Religious members. A+ is also a symbol of excellence. “
Give Green- Environmental Loans with almost 1800 members
We loan because…
We want the world to be a better place
About us
Made of individual kiva lenders who are concerned about the environmental impacts of their loans. This is a forum to notify each other of environmentally sustainable loans that are needing funding. Sustainable development projects include recycling, solar, re-use, organic agriculture, health, etc.

Half the skyHalf the Sky: Empowering women - with 642 members

We loan because…
we believe empowering women is the key to alleviating social injustice and achieving world stability.
About us
Inspired by the book HALF THE SKY written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, our team is committed to helping curb culturally accepted abuse of women around the world.

 Friends of Bob Harris –   -with over 1700 members 

We loan because…
After stumbling into a job as a luxury travel writer, I saw so much poverty that I decided to turn those paychecks into Kiva loans. Then I visited a bunch of clients, who were amazing, and I’ve written a book about it called “The International Bank of Bob” (Walker/Bloomsbury, March 5, 2013).
I hope the book will get more people to feel a greater understanding of Kiva, a better appreciation of the role of microfinance, and most of all, more connected to the rest of the world.
About us
People who realize that if we switched places with the recipients, they’d loan to us just as happily. So, fair’s fair.

In the 2 teams above you will note that there are books associated with the teams and both books are excellent reads.

International bank of BobHere’s Bob Harris talking about the experiences that led him to support Kiva and write the book

     Bob Harris on TV

He talks about directly funding each individual but nowadays loans are usually disbursed to the borrower before the loan is funded on Kiva and your money is then used to backfill the loan.  This is what Kiva has to say about this _

“A lot of lenders wonder what’s point if the loan’s already been made. But Kiva lender funds are truly making those loans possible. Because Kiva provides Field Partners with capital at 0% interest, we enable these organizations to expand their lending programs, reach new, even more marginalized borrowers, and increase the number of awesome wraparound services they offer, like health care, child vaccinations, financial literacy classes and more “

So if I have you convinced this is a good idea and I hope I have, here’s an invitation link from me. No I don’t get any money for this ! I would just know if anyone had joined from this link which would be cool .

Helen’s Invitation to Kiva

Why not join up and explore the site, you have very little to lose and if you decide to lend, someone else has everything to gain. This is a hand-up not a hand-out. As lenders we don’t choose what people do with the money we lend . They choose and we support them in that choice if we like what they propose… which I find very dignifying. 

You can buy Kiva cards on the site too in multiples of $25 and they make great gifts which can be emailed to the recipient, so it’s not too late ;) 

Kiva Cards

For those who know me well and know my socialist leanings, you might wonder why I am supporting something which smacks of capitalism, it’s pretty much spelled out in the Kiva photograph above which says this “Talent is equally distributed across the human family, but opportunity is not ” 

I am trying to redress that balance, in a very small way, by giving those borrowers I support the gift of self-determination, which I have, only because of an accident of birth.

Finally a health warning – As my Kiva buddy and fellow Kivaholic Bruce might say “helping others to help themselves is seriously addictive and brings great pleasure ! “

“You love more you win”

As ever I welcome your thoughts.

Saturday girl signing off til whenever and have a peaceful holiday season.


You can find my photography blog Photomania here 


Loans that change lives 2