Archive for the ‘speaking’ Category

What does it take for France to get used to fascist junk? Claude Guéant, France’s minister of the interior, provides some help whit that question: “French people have the feeling that uncontrolled migratory flows change their environment, they are not xenophobic but they want France to remain France” (“Claude Géant: Les Français veulent que la France reste la France”, Le Monde, 15 March 2011, linked in “A Paris, Le FN défile ‘en l’honneur des travailleurs'”, Le Monde, 1 May 2011). But what about the French people who do not have that feeling at all? Easy: they are not truly French.


Michel Houellebech to some journalists after getting the “Prix Goncourt”:

“I’m not a citizen and I don’t want to become one. There is no duty towards one’s country, none, people should be told about that. We are individuals. I have no duty towards France. To me, France is a hotel. Nothing more.” (in “Faut-il déchoir Houellebech de sa nationalité française”, Hexagone, November 18 2010)

Maurice Allais, on TV economists, bankers and traders:

“The commentators that I see on TV talking about the causes of the current crisis are usually the same that where invited before to analyze, with total serenity, how good the economy was. They did not announce the forthcoming crisis. Almost none of them propose anything serious to get out of the crisis. But they are still invited to TV shows. I myself was not invited when, more than ten years ago, I was writing that a major crisis with uncontrolled unemployment was about to happen. I am among those who were not allowed to explain to the French what are the real origins of the crisis, while they were dispossessed of any real power on their currency to the profit of bankers. In the past, I did indicate to the hosts of a TV show that I was willing to come and talk about what banks have become progressively today, about the very dangerous role of traders, and about why some truths are not told about them. No response, even negative, was given to me from any TV network for years.” (from Maurice Allais, “Contre les tabous indiscutés”, Marianne, December 5 2009, reproduced in “Le testament de Maurice Allais”, Marianne, October 12 2010).

Luc Boltanski, on the social-racial urge of Sarkozy’s clique and their war against the Roma:

“Political blasphemy consists in shaking moral standards, in proclaiming loud and clear a discourse of hate that is usually censored or hidden. This has always been the strategy of the extreme right. Adopted now by the current power in place, it has two objectives. The first is to remove censorship over hatred. The second is to provoke the moral consciousness of those who are worried by this discourse of hate, to shock them, to make them react so as to tighten the border between the “idealists”, who are depicted as irresponsible, and the “realists and courageous”, those who are truly responsible, those who can speak and act in the name of a silent majority.” (Luc Boltanski, “Nous ne débattrons pas de la ‘question Rom'”, Médiapart, September 13 2010)

This is very much true. But would that mean that counter-blasphemy would be a fair way to respond? Would an intellectual among the “idealists” be compelled to utter something such as, for instance, “Sarkozy, if you like France that much, go and stick it in your ass”? Wow, that would be too wild. A bad idea. (And sticking something in one’s ass is a form of love, after all).

Counter-blasphemy is a difficult political technique.

It’s interesting how the French police contributes to the enhancement of the political education of students at Sciences Po:

“Police reacted with deliberate and overtly racist violence during celebrations in Paris after Algeria’s footballing victory over Egypt last Wednesday, a French student of Moroccan descent has alleged. In an account written on his Facebook page immediately after the events, and re-printed as the lead story in French daily Libération on Tuesday, 21-year-old Anyss Arbib claims he was assaulted for no reason, sprayed with mace and called a “dirty Arab”. Arbib, a fourth-year student at Paris’s elite Sciences-Po (Political Sciences) university, went into central Paris from his home in the northern suburbs of Bondy to celebrate Algeria’s victory with friends. ” (from “Have your say: French police violence”, France 24, November 24 2009)

With special encouragement from the Dean:

“It was not until a day later however, that Arbib decided to publish his account, after Sciences Po dean, Richard Descoings, encouraged him to do so.” (from “Alleged victim of police brutality told by uni dean it was “essential to publicise account”, France 24, November 24 2009)

Even Eric Besson, Sarkozy’s man for immigration and national identity, seems to be looking forward to meet this newly formed politician (see “Le cabinet de Besson contacte le ‘sale Arabe’ de Sciences-Po”, Rue89, November 24 2009). Congratulations to the forces de l’ordre for this pedagogical contribution! Students from prestigious foreign schools in political sciences (here, here, etc.) can now increase their curricula with just a spontaneous encounter with the CRS in central Paris. And it’s free!

Jacqueline Rose concludes her recent LRB review of Rana Husseini’s Murder in the Name of Honour, Unni Wikan’s In Honour of Fadime, and Ayse Onal’s Honour Killing with the following (the whole review is worthwhile reading):

“By the time I had finished reading these ghastly stories, it was the sisters who for me stood out as the heroines. Not the ones who are lamented too late, but those who survive and go on telling the story. For Wikan, Songül Sahindal is the bravest of them all, taking to the witness stand against the advice of her whole family, who were happy to dismiss her and her evidence as insane – ‘a madwoman’s tale’. Bekhal Mahmod, whose sister Banaz was killed in 2006, was the key prosecution witness at the trial of her father and uncle and the first woman in the UK ever to testify at an honour killing trial. Undercover and in hiding ever since, she continues to speak out on behalf of her dead sister (you can see one of the interviews on YouTube). These sisters’ futures will probably not be public knowledge, although Wikan is optimistic about Songül. But trying to follow them, or perhaps just remembering the difficulty of the lives they are now likely to be living, might be one way to keep the issue at the forefront of our minds, and to hold on to what happens next.” (from Jacqueline Rose, “A Piece of White Silk”, London Review of Books, November 5 2009)


Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, expresses the following opinion on today’s strikes in France:

“It’s a big sign that people don’t know where they are, they don’t know what they want. […] They are lost.” (from “Strikers protest French economic strategy”, International Herald Tribune, March 19 2009)

It is very sad that people are lost. It is much better not to be lost. Total is not lost, and this is very good. The lost people are actually very jealous about Total not being lost, and are consequently angry about Total:

“Many people are angry that big companies like the oil giant Total is making staff redundant while simultaneously announcing record profits, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says.” (from “New nationwide strike hits France”, BBC News, March 19 2009)

But this is wrong. The reason why this anger is wrong is that it exposes a lack in the mastery of contradiction. Instead, these people should examine the contradictory aspects present in all things, and thus learn from Total.

Did Christophe de Margerie study Mao during his B-School years, or what?

Online petitions are quite useless. That said, it doesn’t hurt signing one once in a while.

So French-reading followers of this blog might want to catch up on one most favorite theme — cops terrorizing people in planes from France to Africa, see a couple of old posts on that here and here — and sign the petition published by RESF to call for a withdrawal of all charges against André Barthélémy, president of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (a human rights organization) who, back in April 2008, had a word to say (“délit de solidarité”) during a flight to Brazzaville in which some people on board were screaming their complaint to the police agents that forced them in.

An extension of the petition is humbly added here, just in case it works, addressed to the national crew of expulsive efficiency: get lost.

Most people, even those who study and work at the LSE, tend to ignore — or find annoyingly cumbersome — the full title of the School which is ‘London School of Economics and Political Science’. One felt that it was inevitable that the implosion of economies being witnessed at present would have implications for a place that most people call only ‘London School of Economics’. Nobody would have expected, however, that the first shot in an epistemic assault on it would have been fired by HM the Queen during her visit to open the School’s latest building in its relentlessly street-by-street colonisation of Aldwich and Holborn. In a moment that brings to mind the well-known childrens’ story about the emperor’s new clothes, Simon Jenkins of the Guardian describes in a hilarious way here how Her Majesty, talking about the credit crunch asked one of the LSE economics professors ‘Why did nobody notice?’ Her Majesty put into a nutshell an issue that others such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb have spent much more time, text, and effort articulating, sometimes also with hilarious results as the recent priceless BBC TV clash between Taleb and Kenneth Rogoff shows. The difficulty in answering this simple question on the side of economists might force them into a re-assessment of the epistemic toolkit of economics. And it is not just a case of the analytical tools but also about how the economic can be known, accessed, but also discussed. Payback, the latest book by Margaret Atwood described in a recent Guardian review as an ‘intellectual history of debt’, and the project by German film maker Alexander Kluge to make a feature film of Marx’s Das Kapital, might provide some inspiration. The LSE marketing people might be better off re-arranging its name to something like ‘London School of Political Science and Economics’. Then again, LSPSE is not so catchy and LSE is such a well established brand. Maybe, as someone at the LSE itself had commented in the recent past, they might want to consider changing what LSE stands for to something like ‘London School of Entertainment’.

Here’s a good one on transparency:

“If each time we actually are transparent we get such fearful reactions, then we’ve got a problem.” (Anne Lauvergeon, Areva‘s CEO, speaking at a press conference after Tricastin’s nuclear leak, reported in “Réactions en chaîne après l’incident du Tricastin”, Libération, July 19 2008)

And here’s this blog’s humble contribution to Lauvergeon’s problem (another one here): if you are planning to spend some holidays in France this summer, make sure you search the “Avis d’incident significatif” section in this nuclear security log first (and get yourself a geiger counter).