The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Search Engine

Membership Services
   General Info
   Financial Info
   Director's Info
   Members' Info
   Official Publications
   Director's Publications
   Ask Dr. SETI ®
   Reading Lists
Technical Support
Press Relations
   Fact Sheets
   Local Contacts
   Press Releases
   Photo Gallery
   Internet Svcs

Guest Editorial

Je Suis Charlie
by Elisabeth Piotelat

When I was a little girl, there were only 3 channels on our TV. The second of them broadcast Cosmos and recreA2. Carl Sagan showed me the universe. On Wednesday afternoons I watched recreA2, waiting for such cartoons as Captain Harlock and UFO Robot Grendizer. These cartoons were introduced by a singer called Dorothée. While she was singing or speaking, we saw caricatures of her, exaggerating her big nose. They were drawn by a cartoonist named Cabu. He was my nice friend, a kind of brother for all kids in France.

In 2014 I watched the remake of Cosmos, presented by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I read a lot of debate about religion and was surprised. Why is evolution a problem? It's science... I sometimes thought American people are rather crazy. Here in France none of the Cosmos episodes was ever discussed or criticized.

Last month, Cabu and 11 other people were killed. Why? Just because they were going on doing the same job as scientists: using the pen (still mightier than the sword) to represent the universe, in a weekly magazine called Charlie Hebdo. It would be very difficult to send any of a Charlie Hebdo's cartoons to ETI, because we would have to explain what a "caricature" is.

I knew that there was a big difference between the real Dorothée's nose and the one drawn by Cabu. I understood the meaning of "caricature". I'm not a sociologist; I'm not an economist; I don't have time to travel all over the world to understand what happens in Gaza, Moscow or Baghdad. So I read Charlie Hebdo from time to time. When I subscribed, I received the bath towel seen here:


Of course, there's no cactus at the North Pole. White bears don't read newspapers while sipping ocean water. I would never ask someone to post this image on a spacecraft, like the Pioneer 10 plaque. But, isn't this a rather fair representation of global warming, one of our main problems here on Earth, were we have icebergs, oceans, sand, cactus, and hopefully some white bears?

In 2014, I was that stupid white bear, peacefully reading Charlie Hebdo without being conscious that any of us could disappear within a few days. On the 25th of December, I smiled at Neil DeGrasse Tyson's clever tweets about Newton.

Since the 7th of January 2015, I'm not smiling anymore. I'm hiding my sadness behind "Je suis Charlie". We French people are crazy, because we don't debate evolution or religion. We simply kill. I had no debates about Cosmos, because most people I know didn't watch it. My friends on social media share my point of view. We have no debate.

I'm Charlie because I want to provoke, in order to make people doubt. I live near Paris, and want my Muslim and Catholic neighborhood to be motivated to think about Charlie Hebdo's cover, and about intelligent life in the universe. The child I was in 2014 died with Cabu, Charb and the other victims of this senseless violence. My planet Earth is not the same any more. Cognito ergo sum.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

Click to email the Webmaster
| Home | General | Memb Svcs | Publications | Press | Technical | Internet | Index |
entire website copyright © The SETI League, Inc.
this page last updated 7 February 2015
Click for top of page
Top of Page