Only two days have gone by since the terrorist attacks in Paris and already you can buy on-line t-shirts, bags, perfumes, hats and other things with the slogan “Je suis Charlie”. At the same time the prices for past issues of Charlie Hebdo have started to rise abruptly on e-bay.
So now, on the same online shops that glorify war through the sale of berets, military medals, clothes and army paraphernalia, you can also buy gadgets bearing the inscription, “Je suis Charlie”.
On one or two websites they even say they’ll donate 10% of the cost. Other sites have responded to messages of protest with justifications declaring:
“We have received negative comments from some French members of the public who believe that we are profiteering from this tragedy, something that has never been our intention. Our only aim has never been to make profit from the sale of these t-shirts but rather to help raise awareness and to support the people of France.”
One is reminded of the well-known Latin phrase, Pecunia non olet: Money doesn’t smell.
The saying has different meaning as “pecuniario” or “money” in Latin derives from “pecus/pecoris” meaning sheep/cattle, because animals in Roman times, and especially bred cattle represented wealth and could be bartered. Sheep, chickens and cattle in general, in times when money wasn’t in use, represented cash notes.
What is less well-known is that to the Roman ear the phrase also sounded like “sheep don’t smell.”
Given the context of globalisation and the observation of our times, marked by the untouchable and powerful law of “market dominance” that considers it legitimate to make profit from anything and anyone, continuing with the Latin pun, one could ask oneself, what kind of sheep could the Romans be alluding to, today?