Charlie Hebdo & Uncomfortable Freedoms
As I listened to the news of the murders at Charlie Hebdo I cried. Battling with writers block at the time I was forced to confront the very free and ephemeral nature of my struggle and that my fear was solely for my own lack of productivity rather than persecution for the outcome of my labour. Anyone who puts their creativity ‘out there’ from blogging to fine art runs the risk of ridicule or dislike alongside the possibility of appreciation. Tracey Emins 1998 ‘My bed’ seems to evoke particular vitriol. Perhaps the gamut of responses is to be more expected in the world of social media where anonymity can afford for speedy and unconstricted ideas to find a mass audience in seconds, but to once again know that people had in the 21st century lost their lives for expressing themselves, their politics, art and ideas was a confronting reality. As a therapist who writes it was particularly poignant to hear that one of those who lost their life was the psychoanalyst and columnist Elsa Cayat.
As someone with strong connections to North Africa I am aware of the polarisation that is often underlined in moments like this, and the inevitable backlash against Islam from those who fail to see the actions of extremists as distinct and non-representative. We can only hope that the long-term legacy of this tragedy can be a reassertion of freedom not reductionist constraint.
In extremis and trauma the casualty is always the capacity to think, to play and explore. The brittle and defensive often compels us to more primitive ways of being; survival, fight, flight, or freeze. In the words of Malala Yousafzai to the UN General Assembly in 2013 “We realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced”. Her response to a regime that sought to exterminate her both as individual and symbol tells us that it is precisely in these moments of oppression and terror that we need freedom of speech, art and creativity, something of ambiguity that leaves us with questions and a sense of not knowing. This is the opposite of traumatic shock. In our transaction with art and literature we are free to choose to look and engage or look away. Around the world there are those losing their lives for that which many of us take for granted. I hope that we can honour their courage by fighting to maintain the place for equality of expression and difference in the written, spoken and visual, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
There are lots of ways to invest and you may know that Liechtenstein (with a population of less than 40,000) is one of those countries that provides the opportunity for “offshore investing”. Offshore investment is essentially a decision to defer paying tax until it suits the investor to do so, often when their income or assets or both mean that they do not pay tax at the highest possible rate. You may have read reports that some well-known French have decided to leave their country due to a 75% rate of tax. Be warned though, HMRC have become increasingly concerned about tax evasion and the distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion seems to be deliberately blurred by Government making advice to use “tax avoiding schemes” considerably more prone to investigation by HMRC.
Liechtenstein has entered into an agreement with HMRC called LDF -or Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, essentially an initiative to report income to HMRC if it is believed that UK tax is thought to be payable. In short, this is a window of opportunity for those with assets held in Liechtenstein to report their upaid tax to HMRC. In other words, people that know tax is due but have not declared income or assets to HMRC can do so and not suffer the usual penalties for tax evasion (which can include a spell in prison). The window of opportunity closes on 5th April 2016 – so plenty of time for the moment, but I would advise anyone in this position to get on with the process.
This should not be confused with an entirely different opening for a different Lichtenstein, the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The Tate Modern are showing a new exhibition from 21st February and you can now book tickets. Lichtenstein would have been 90 this year. As an investment, Roy Lichtenstein is very collectable, in May last year a piece called “Sleeping Girl” sold for nearly $45m at Sotheby’s in New York. So making sure that you don’t muddle your Lichtenstein with Liechtenstein will make a significant difference to your wealth. If you fancy a look at Sotheby’s in action, there is a significant evening auction in London on 12th February with works by Basquiat, Richter and Bacon.