Category Archives: Capitalism – Capitalisme

Education. Education. Education.

I am being asked, as a “Liberal” – whatever that means, what we should do to protect our values against the ones of the people who don’t think like we do. Especially, when these values are of openness, tolerance and freedom for all.

The answer to just block the ones who don’t believe the same as we do is very “in” these days but I do believe in education and empathy, first. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand where they come from so to fathom their thinking and eventually modify it.

I grant you that such a feat is easier for me as a gay man living in a Western society where the religious, no matter how much we order it to shut up, still condemns and calls for the ban of everything they disagree with.

I also lived in many countries where I have experience in shutting up, looking at local beliefs and culture, and try to position myself within it as well as I could without imposing my view.

I would say that’s the first we need to do when immigration is concerned: a French immigrant like me needs to understand that our rejection of monarchy doesn’t mean the rest of the world must behave their monarchs. I disagree with monarchy. It’s everything I stand against: privileges given at birth, social immobility, laziness and the epitome of people who believe they are entitled to living off the state sucking millions up just to look presentable. And they can’t even manage that for some of them.

However, unless specifically asked, I don’t go around Spain, nor did I in England, with a soap box calling Spaniards and Britons idiots and serfs for having a king or a queen and demanding their head on a platter. How Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the whole of Scandinavia and the UK understand their own state is their own choice and I must respect it or leave it.

Do I mean immigrants who don’t want to abide by our rules should leave or be deported? No and yes. For me, it all depends on the idea of choice and open-mindness. I would say to a Westerner riling against a country they have just moved in that if they are not happy to see two men kissing or women wearing bikinis that they are free to go back to where they come from. With an immigrant from most Middle-Eastern or African countries, I wouldn’t do as such. I would educate first. The double standard is justifiable by the difference in education and environment that leads to two words I used before “choice” and “free”.

Why would I tell off a Westerner? Because I know they had access to a differentiated educational system that has taught them about the freedom of choice. A system that has laid out all the possibilities, has explained the world at great lengths, that has creates endless opportunities and freedoms within a wider democratic system where the key is for citizens to take their destiny in their own hands as much as possible and learn to be responsible.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but after seeing, like I did, an American, born-again Christian in the streets of Paris calling for homosexuals to be banned from getting married, I would, as I did, confront them and tell them to fuck off home.School has taught them many ways and they have willingly chosen one. If it’s incompatible with the ones of a country they also chose to live in, why are they here?

To Westerners, yes but to Muslims for instance, no (-ish). Why? Political correctness? For fear of being labelled racist?

No just because I understand where they come from and the need for reeducation. First-generation immigrants in our Western countries are coming from countries where education is not about choice and opportunities, it’s about repeating and maintaining. Their schools don’t teach critical thinking but dos and don’ts in an overall political environment that is violent and intrinsically unfair and unjust.

These people are coming to our countries fleeing hardship, wanting a better life but with mindsets carved deep into themselves, sometimes literally. The answer to this, I often hear, is deculturation. Especially for the first generation so their children can be fully assimilated.

Parents are asked to leave their culture behind, for their own good too, and take on the new one but what is culture? Your language? Your religion? Your dress code? Your eating habits? As a French atheist living in Spain, should I convert to Catholicism and go to church? When I lived in England, should have I become a Anglican and bow to the Queen? Am I refuse to integrate and assimilate by rejecting Catholicism or my subjecting to the Windors? No. It’s more than that, I am said, but no one can define it.

That’s the point of culture: it’s all the untold rules that we grow up with and make us behave a certain way. In Spain, people think it’s weird when I address them using the second person plural but in France, it’s borderline insulting to address someone you don’t know using the second person singular. Yet we are all share the same Latin roots with just a small mountain range between us.

How do we fix the problem? Education. Education. Education. Let’s consider some key questions I heard from good-willing people thinking some immigrants are a danger to our values: How do we make sure Muslims are not antisemitic? How do we ensure Asians are not forcing their girls into marrying older strangers? How do we ensure African girls are not excised? How do we ensure religious immigrants are not homophobic?

We do what they do in Norway, for instance, we educate them. We listen to their thinking, debate with them, show them something different, teach them critical thinking and acceptance for it doesn’t come naturally, it’s always nurtured. And sometimes, often, we play into their weaknesses of bowing to diktats and say: “Because that’s the way things are done here. So think for you have two choices: You stay and accept it or you go back to where you came from.” A hard choice for most of them but it’s a choice at the end, one that will put them in control of their own destiny, often for the first time.

Cynics from the Right will come me a utopist for thinking we can ever reverse mindsets. Why would they think otherwise? They, themselves, think the solution is to go back to a past they have fantasised.

Cynics from the Left will tell me that we can’t even get Western Christians to be gay-friendly and our own society to accept full men/women equality so immigrants…I get where they come from but all the more reasons to keep trying. We cannot stop human progress and we will learn from ourselves.

Some will point out that I’m being very optimistic when talking about our educational system, that, in more and more countries, it’s being privatised so critical thinking is now a danger to the blind acceptance of a evermore unequal, neo-capitalist society in the name of making money.

I agree and I also see that countries resulting in blanket bans and camps are the ones where education is anything but a priority.

 

En bref: Rien de smart…

L’usine d’Hambach qui fabrique la Smart a décidé de passer à la semaine de 39 heures mais payée 37 heures. Mes questions ne sont pas sur le fait que le patronat va faire travailler les employés et cadres pendant deux heures gratuitement mais sur comment ils vont rendre ces deux heures productives, puisque c’est l’intention avouée.

Tout d’abord, les commandes sont en diminution constante. Dire aux clients (potentiels) que le personnel va travailler plus pour rien ne va les faire se ruer sur la Smart. A moins qu’ils fassent pareil avec le prix de la voiture neuve : Une Smart de 10 000 € pour 5 000 €.

Et encore ! Elles sont encore plus laides que les premières voitures coréennes qui nous ont été vendues il y a 10 ans et, ma belle-sœur en avait une, effroyablement peu fiables. La sienne a passé la moitié de sa vie au garage et lui a coûté en tout quatre fois le prix d’achat en réparations diverses.

Maintenant, il y a la question des heures que le personnel va devoir faire en sachant très bien qu’il n’est pas payé. Ils s’attendent à quoi à la direction ? Une sorte de miracle altruiste de leurs employés?

Je suis professionnel sur le bout des ongles dans mon boulot, quelqu’il soit, mais je sais aussi que deux heures dans la semaine travaillées sans salaire ne seront et resteront que des heures de présence, même pour moi.

Ce sont deux heures à ranger et nettoyer mon bureau tous les jours, passer plus de temps sur chaque coup de téléphone, quelques minutes de plus à chaque pose, m’assurer que mes vêtements de sécurité soient bien, très bien, vraiment très bien mis ! (Revérifions une fois encore pour être sûr…) Prendre toujours le temps de faire un brouillon d’email avant de l’envoyer, des pauses toilettes plus longues, une double voir triple vérification de tout ce que je fais, une marche moins rapide dans les couloirs entre deux salles, deux taches ou deux collègue, compter les trombones pour vérifier les stocks…Tous ces trucs débiles ou cet administratif de second catégorie qu’on laisse trainer parce que ce n’est pas la première des premières des priorités.

Parce que deux heures par semaine, c’est donc 120 minutes, donc 24 minutes par jour à travailler sans être payé. 24 minutes ? 12 le matin et 12 l’après-midi, c’est facile de ne rien foutre, surtout quand on sait qu’on n’a rien à y perdre, c’est déjà fait.

Plus de précipitation, plus de « perte de temps », il y en a plus mais surtout fini les heures supplémentaires. C’est 39 heures et pas 39 heures et 1 minute. Car on sait très bien que quand la loi ou les accords d’entreprise tablent sur 35 heures, la grande majorité des français en font bien plus. Surtout les cadres. Mais il y avait un côté donnant-donnant des deux parties avec un certain encouragement à travailler plus ou gagner plus : là, le lien est brisé, on travaille plus pour gagner moins.

Il y a aussi la question de l’emploi et de sa qualité : les gens vont partir dès qu’ils en auront l’occasion. Les experts, les qualifiés, les gens qui savent ce qu’ils font et ce qu’ils valent vont partir parce qu’ils savent qu’ils trouveront mieux ailleurs. Il restera à Hambach les démotivés et mécontents qui trouveront toujours une excuse pour dire qu’ils sont obligés de rester.

C’est bien comme conclusion d’entretien de fin d’année, non ? « Vos objectifs pour l’année prochaine : Franchement, je suis là parce que je suis obligé de rester. »  Et quant aux futurs employés, les plus qualifiés n’accepteront pas ce genre de contrat donc il faudra se contenter à nouveau du vivier le moins qualifié qui, lui seul, acceptera de venir travailler mais qui partira aussi à la première chance.

Donc bonne chance à Hambach ! Avec un personnel démotivé et de moins en moins qualifié, c’est la recette parfaite pour une productivité accrue…

Free Internet? Please, and I want Adblock to go with it.

I read this article today saying that Adblocking could “remove” £12bn in advertising by 2020. I don’t see you can remove something that is not there to begin with but let’s go with it.

The following picture show you all the related articles where Adblock is basically the new evil and its users should be rebaptised Damian or at least accept their mothers to be called Rosemary.

ScreenHunter_002

As you can see Adblock is everywhere. Including on both my current laptops, all my former and future ones.

Before I go into why I have Adblock, my issue is: 100 000 000 devices have it. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that one device = one person, are these people living miserable lives because we have no adverts? Have we stopped buying cars, clothes, food and other goods because of that lack of something that is talked about as if it was essential to our survival? Have we completely isolated ourselves from the rest of the world by not force-feeding ourselves with ads on a regular basis? Have we all become hermits refusing to give in to materialism and over-consumption? Are we unaware of what’s new and are therefore doomed to eternally live in the past? Are we now in a parallel world? Do we even exist?

The answer to these questions is obviously “No.”

100 million people. That’s a country-worth of people beyond borders, culture, language, age, gender who can live a normal life without ads so what are they for in the first place?

Ads have been presented as a way to keep us inform of novelty. They are is aimed at the people to encourage them to make the right choice because choice is endless today and how are we ever going to be able to make the right one if an advert doesn’t show us the light?

These words are not mine but the ones of a friend who works in advertising. When he told me that, I couldn’t help but remembering the Eddy’s rant from Ab Fab at another PR person:

“You! You attached to that crap-ad man over there. The king of bastardisation that just takes everything that is ever real and and genuine honest and original to attach it to a toilet cleaner! I don’t more choice, I just want nicer things!”

That’s excatly the point we make in one of the articles you see above: we don’t like the ads and it turns out we don’t need them, we can make choices of our own through experiencing and searching. We needn’t be force-fed.

Nothing has changed in terms of advertisement between today and yesteryear. They still are as patronising, infantilising, irrelevant, stupid, deceiving as they always were so we don’t believe what they say. We heard it all before. They have been watched on TV, listened to on the radio, read in newspapers and magazines. My generation grew up with them in the background of everything like a mosquito buzzing in your ear on a hot summer night when you try to sleep. We have learnt to ignore them, change channel, flick through, leave the room. We have also grown wary of their ridiculous claims and terrible acting that makes want to hammer the TV and the radio to dust, the same way we end screaming in the night and fumigating the whole room to oblivion.

Take any ad to sell us cleaning products. Jesus Christ! I cannot believe these desert of intelligence are actually the outcomes of countless meetings and millions of pounds. All for talking toilets?!

“Please someone! Just make shut the fuck up!”

Now we can! That’s the difference. It’s brilliant and it’s Adblock! I can actually enjoy watching, listening, reading without someone telling  me my life is over if I don’t get the latest Tampax. The one that allows me to climb on my boyfriend’s shoulders because I don’t want to cross the river with my shoes…I am man, why do I care?!

It’s not about skipping anymore, it’s about removing them altogether, enjoying the freedom away from their overbearingness and contempt.

When they don’t completely overshot and encourage my best friend, a Polish Catholic, to go on a dating website for single Muslim women just because she is friend with an Algerian guy on Facebook, they reduce all of us to nothing but wallets that need to be emptied. We have to buy! What are we waiting for?! 30% off on all vitamin C complements at Tesco’s, it’s madness!…Madness? Really?! Do I need that much vitamin C?  Can’t I get strawberries?

Well that’s perfect, the next ad shows me there is a Buy one get one free offer on all strawberry boxes at Sainsbury’s! That’s madness!…Are they any good or half rotten as usual?

And that’s when ads don’t actually cost money per say. Having a I-phone 4S, I don’t have the adblock app so I cannot read the Guardian when outside because most of my data roaming goes to download endless banners I never see on my laptops. That’s my own money down the drain for ads I don’t care for.

There is also the fancy graphics. Once I was cut out of the Guardian website for three weeks because the main advert was some kind of gif/video that couldn’t load. So I kept getting the “Sorry, the page did not load properly, we try again”…for almost a month! I played Wordfeud and sod trying to keep informed.

So yes, we have Adblock to be free of all that and to be able to enjoy something that is proudly and loudly advertised as free. And the truth comes out. The ads have nothing to do with us and everything to do with companies: the ones selling their products and the ones being paid to allow them to sell their products on their “free” platform. The ads are the key to Free Internet.

If social media are free, YouTube is free, newspapers are free on the Internet, it’s because the companies are buying advertising space. Just like they do on TV. Like we say in French: Tout se paie.

Hence the vilification of Adblock: it’s a threat to Free Internet. Without ads, everything will have to be actually paid for or will be doomed to disappearance. I and all the other Adblock-lovers are killing free internet, it’s our fault if websites close for lack of revenue.

In the UK,  the culture secretary said “the fast-growing use of software that blocked advertising presented an existential threat to the newspaper and music industries”. We are selfish, irresponsible bastards, it turns out.

Maybe I was naive but for me Free Internet meant free as uncensored, unedited by anyone expect creators accordingly to their own will and desire. For me, when someone puts something on the Internet and claim it is free, it is free, end of. There are no strings attached.

But I understand now. The word “free” has two meaning: freedom and not-to-be-paid-for. And the fact is: they don’t actually come together. Youtube is free to use for us but relying heavily on private cooperation to find revenues, they also have imperatives that come with this imperative.

Nothing has changed, it’s traditional media all over again but within the new media. Except for one glitch in the system: Adblock. So in the face of dissent, companies are realising that the Internet is more flexible, at the day of the end people have the power and won’t give in. So it turns out not to be the goldmine they expect to dig dry and they have second thoughts. And everyone is panicking.

That brings my final existential question about Internet: how can you pretend to be the essence of Free Internet and Internet Neutrality when the availability of your content, its independence and transparency are depending on the whims of private companies?

If your independence and transparency are threatened by the unwillingness of your audience to be force-fed ads made by and allocated for private companies, what you do doesn’t sound “free” and “neutral” to me, rather dependent and heavily controlled.

Private companies have an agenda. There is nothing such as selflessness when it comes to them – whatever they do. They have money to make, an image to build and maintain, customers to reach and I know, because I owe many blogs, that ad space also means a line of editing. I was offered countless times and always refuse. The temptation is great but I know that means sacrifice and bias.

I also learned about that through some of my favourite YouTubers who talk openly about the process of sponsored videos for instance. The fact is that every single sponsored video has to be reviewed by the company prior to being posted to make sure there is nothing that would could potentially be damaging to them – directly or indirectly.

Others said they have been contacted by companies willing to do business just to back down when they found out the channel was run by a gay couple or a hijab-wearing girl or a feminist activist. Nothing is free and rarely innocent when companies are involved. They put their money when the mouths are speaking what they want to hear.

What is killing the Free Internet and its Neutrality is not adblocking but its utter reliance on the money of private companies. What’s killing the Free Internet is that it hasn’t been able to truly find a viable alternative to actually be genuinely free. There is a whole part of the Internet that has truly failed in providing a new model and bowed to ones who run everything in the real world so they also have the reins in the virtual world.

We, however, have made a decision: we want to be free of ads and be careful, Le Monde, other news outlets and social media that are trying to force them on us, look at what happened to TV and you’ll find you are not irreplaceable. Time to go back to the drawing board but there is hope: we are ready to pay for the lack of ads, see Netflix.

How to reach the Millennials?

Last week, I was at the regional assembly for Amnesty International and a decision was made to target the 18-35 year-olds, especially on the campaign regarding the treatment of the most vulnerable refuges. Cue the debate on how to reach us with all the usual clichés about us, the so-called Millennials. It is true to say that I was the only 30-something in a room full of late Baby-boomers and people in their early 50s.

First and foremost, no. We are not apathetic, uncaring and careless, heartless and utterly materialistic. We are a generation that has been told to shut up about our problems because “no one had ever had it so good”: the big bedroom with a queen’s bed just for us when our parents had to share, the game consoles, the mobile phones, the clothes, the shoes, the things, the more things, the even more things. We have choice and education.  We can make anything and achieving everything. We do not have a path to follow like our elders rather a path we can make for ourselves. We are just too lazy and accustomed to comfort to do it.

But rather than fight and work hard, we find excuses in ridiculous “diseases” like anxiety, depression…Fake ills that we pretend to be paralysed with when we should just strap-on a pair and get on with it. We are told we’re just good at shouting loud enough to get what we want. A generation raised to be more attuned with its emotions, our deepest turmoil have yet been deemed childish and irrelevant. “What are you complaining about again? We gave you the last Playstation, haven’t we? We bought you a car, haven’t you? Isn’t it what you wanted?”

Is it? Yes, it is but not because we truly believe it would make us happy but because we grew up and was raised by a generation that was in fact the one who genuinely had it good. Millennials are not the ones who think ownership is the key to happiness and true freedom because we don’t owe anything and yet manage to be happy in a way. Nothing I have is mine except for my two cheap laptops, my phone and a couple of plants.

I live at my mother’s, I drive one of her cars, I eat the cheese she buys, I tend to the house and garden she owns, have Sunday naps on her couch. I only managed to buy my very first bed last year. I was 31, what an achievement! And yet, the mattress was the one my mother bought years ago.

I am 32 and like many of peers, I haven’t got anything. Nor have my cousins. Our parents do. My grand-parents do. Hence the double standard of constantly showering your children and grand-children with things they do really want or actually need, to jump on your wallet at their every whim and then label them spoilt and ungrateful. Maybe because we have discovered that there was more to life than counting your blessings. The older generations raised us in their world of endless plenty, we abode by their model of endless consumption until the day we became “too old for this” and suddenly the world fell on our shoulder.

There is a sense of betrayal. Not because I don’t have as many gifts as I used to but because I did everything I was told and yet, I still don’t fit in and I am not the only. I studied, got two Masters, went abroad for ten years, worked terrible jobs, made myself completely exploitable to managers and shop-owners because I was told it was the way it has to be to gain experience. Now, I am 32, stuck in an endless roller-coaster of temporary contracts, never knowing what I will earn the next three months or if I will actually still have a job that helps me scrap a little of money to put aside to leave doomed France again.

We work like dogs for jobs that don’t pay, for managers in their 50s who use and abuse their power to get the best out of us for the least money, all the while telling us that they would be forced to let us go if we went all the way with our claim for better working conditions.

No, we are not unreachable, lazy and expecting everything to be given to us. We just don’t belong to the world as the Baby Boomers and the 1960s-born people have built and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the way they want. We don’t recognise ourselves in the box they have put us in, in the path they have still managed to back might for us. We are rebelling as we refuse to abide by their definition of what we are and what we should be. This is not tantrum, this is just doing what they did in the late 1960s and the 1970s: becoming our own self as a generation.

And it takes time. It took time for women to realise they were not alone in their misery, to organise, to talk about it and finally to claim.  It will take time for us all to realise what we are all experiencing: living under the rules of States that were built to only cater for the needs of our elders and policed to protect their privileges.

In this black picture, there is positivity in that we are all looking for alternatives we can call our own, for something to do in this world so despite the ignorant jibes, we are actually way more accessible than the previous generation. It just takes a bit of finding out how to communicate with a generation that highly flexible, skilled and adaptable.

First, stop with the labelling of ‘right’ and ‘left’ or any extremes when it comes to politics. It’s not that we are not interested in politics as such. Look the French youths besieging the squares of Paris, fighting for their future. We are interested in politics, we do talk about it but there is nothing out there that offers the flexibility we need. How can you interest young, educated, informed people with an  ever-increasing Manichean message from people who are constantly condescending towards us?

I mean, just consider the people we have to choose from: our parliaments plagued with a majority of men wearing black suits, even in blistering summer, using big words to hide the tree in the forest, and bluntly telling us we are “fools for believing their promises” and we should have known better – Thank you, Nick Clegg! Why can it never be straightforward? Why I am “childish” for asking? That’s the problem: not only have we been deceived too many times but mostly these people don’t speak to us and when they do it’s from their ivory tower.

When the President or the Premier blabber endless speeches on the age of retirement and the security in old age, they don’t speak to us who can’t even find a job to begin with. Politicians have become like the adverts we have grown with: it’s noise in the background for things we are given by our parents but do not actually need. They are akin to commercials selling us insurance when we have no house, no car, no job, no children…

Secondly, stop trying to use traditional media. TV is for little kids who have no control over what they watch, and our parents and grand-parents. I don’t watch TV and actually don’t understand the point of it. It is anything but flexible and open for a generation that multi-tasks easily and like the pick-and-mix of everything, from food to sources of information. TV and radio are nothing but tight-scheduling of things one can never double-check, having to sit there doing nothing, not having any control over what we are fed. You have to be at one place at one time or you’ll miss it. What on Earth is that in a world with Internet on the tip of your fingers and its everyday pick and mix? You read, watch, play, listen to any time, any place.

Instead of labelling us as scattered, undecided, disorganised and not knowing what we want, use our flexibility, our desire to see more, our craving for change for the great and good because it makes us open-minded, more tolerant and willing to find our place in the world. A place that has not been pre-determined by anything: place of birth, money, skin complexion, gender…We have been raised to believe it is possible and the way forward, and we still believe it. We want to believe it.

The move from Amnesty International is the right one because they are not right or left, Christian or Muslims, high or low, men or women. They are all of it and much more. They are everything and anything we, the Millennials, want them to be: a place to find and fight our way. As political parties rot under their own contradictions and need to please the ones with money and power (anyone but us), Amnesty International is the opportunity for us to be someone, beyond our name and our job.

All they have to understand is that we are not children, but adults. Adults who need be addressed like adults, not irresponsible tantrum-throwing brats.  Adults who want to build the future they were promised but that has never materialised because it turns out we have become a threat to the privileges of older generations. Adults who are looking for new ways to exist, have a voice and express it. Adults willing to be something and do something for the world. Adults who are just one click or one finger-tap away from them.

The Health Inquisition – Dogmas and heresies

As outlandish as it may sound, I have been working on these few pages for months. Translating feelings into thoughts is harder than I imagined. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the religion behind our current Health Inquisition because, although they appear as one to name, shame and aim for the destruction of the likes of me, they are also akin to all mainstream religions: made of countless little sects, each with its own mind-set regarding how we should all be absolved, find solace and eventually salvation in the form of body-shape uniformity.

Let’s look at the different sects within the Food Religion, shall we?

Normality – Needs to be converted!
Atkins diet – Next, please.
Low calorie diet – What’s a calorie? Can I grow them myself?
Low fat diet – Sounds good but the pasta is pretty bland.
Low salt diet – Fish pee in sea water!
Low carb diet – My brain can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes at once.
Low fibre diet – Hello, bowel cancer.
South Beach diet – Getting ready for Spring Break.
Gluten-free diet – I feel like gasworks.
Vegetarian diet – Are cakes alright? There’s butter and eggs in there…
Vegan diet – Look at my Instagram! I look great naked!
Organic diet – Is “fair trade” the same?
Locavore diet – It’s all about tending to my neighbour’s wallet.
Palaeolithic diet – Because life was so good back then, tape worm especially.
Juices cleanse – Eating is for weaklings!
Just cleanse – Let the settlers invade you and kill everything. Very popular in the US and Australia.

What do preachers, or “food experts”, say?

Fat is bad for you – I knew that.
Sugar is bad for you – Don’t care!
Chocolate is bad for you – F*** you!
Bread is bad for you – What about toasts?
Milk is bad for you – Can I milk rice?
Water is bad for you – But…aren’t we made 75% of it?!
Alcohol is bad for you –  Yeah…My mum said the same about my boyfriend.
Fruits are bad for you – My doctor said that about apples.
Meat is bad for you – Even?…you know…
Fish is bad for you – Sharks don’t even eat them.
Vegetables are bad for you – What’s in guacamole?
Cooked food is bad for you – Too expensive to heat up nowadays anyway.
Raw food is bad for you – No mini sushis?! How not 2015!
Vitamins supplements are bad for you – Vegans are gonna die?
Proteins are bad for you – So I can’t swallow?
Products without the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what Glamour says.
Products with the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what the Guardian says.
Products without the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what my local farmer says.
Products with the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what his neighbour says.

What are the pillars of these sects? – Super Foods, with a big F…for fudge!

Superfruits – Scomiche! 😀
Supervegetables – Mister Peanuts for the win.
Superfat – Rude!
Supernuts – Starring Rocco Siffredi.
Supervitamins – Always buy one get one free.
Supermen – If only!…

Seriously, does anyone actually know what they are talking about?

Because frankly, it seems to me that we are living a world, the Western World, where we have completely lost touch with the reality of what food and eating is. Is it our living in endlessly-sprawling urban spaces where the only wild nature visible is in cages and the rest is constantly unrooted to make place for the neatly trimmed and the visually pleasant? Have we grown so far away from a field that we don’t even know what’s what and are left to the mercy of some experts with credentials they created for themselves as a mean to find health salvation?

When I hear urban people talking about food, it does seem like it. American Youtubers are the best, I have to say. They will believe absolutely anything and preach it the next day.

Every month, newspapers are filled with statements and counter-statements based on some research, all about the same things. Every month, there is a new food dogma we should all embrace for it will save our lives, or at the least add a couple of decades to our life-expectancy in our quest to immortality. We are buzzing: a new diet, a new way of life, always “better”, always “healthier” than the previous one, always calling the anathema on the heresy we had been happily following for the past 30 days. Until the next month, when yet another research shows we had all been fooled and heretics: this time, THIS is the real food dogma.

How have we become like this? How have we become so lost that even reasonable people are ready to believe that milk and bread are the sources of all our diet problems when that’s what humanity has been surviving on for the best part of dozens of millennia?

There is, first and foremost, the lack of education and our desperate need to fit in our society’s very tight jeans, bikinis and zero-size clothes. Desperation in the face of the everyday bullying and finger-pointing we enjoy so much will bring people to do anything: from genuinely believing that we can milk almonds to popping dieting pills that will burn your body to death. We have not become but remain completely gullible in the face of someone or something that promises the never-ending of social acceptance and who wants to be an ostracised heretic? So we go to the gym like our ancestors went to church and read dieting books like they read the Bible in latin. We don’t understand a word of it but it’s the only key to happiness. Apparently…

But then again, who to believe? All these scientists, doctors and researches, isn’t it their job to advise you, to guide us? Why should have we believed anyone critical of his findings when the name Atkins came with the title “Doctor”? It did not matter he was fat and obviously a clear case of “Do what I say but don’t do what I do’, all because stars were raving about the weight loss. And we all know that’s the key to making Earth an present paradise. The true believers don’t go to church anymore, they can fit in Victoria Beckham’s clothes.

We know now, Atkins was just another con artist who surfed on the wave of low self-esteem and desperation millions of us suffer from. You’d think we’d listen to those who have been telling us to stop with this fanatic nonsense and just be sensible. No, we just moved on to another diet coming from the findings of yet another research, another doctor, another scientist who, if you look closely, mostly turn out to be have been sponsored generously and selflessly, of course, by the food industry.

That’s my issue with these research papers. We do have genuinely independent research published by various institutions and they pretty much say all the same thing: Mutatis mutandis. Everything is poison, nothing is poison, the dose is poison. You can eat everything as long as you remain sensible about it. Get your 3 liters of water, whichever, your 5 to 7 fruits and veg every day, whichever, 20 to 30 minutes of exercises, even walking the dog in the park, avoid processed meals, and prepare your own food. Even burgers, as long as you don’t go to McDonalds to buy them, don’t eat them everyday and prepare them yourself, you’ll be fine.

Why isn’t it enough then? Why don’t we do just that and go on with our easily accessible and sound healthy living? Because this is not religion, this is sensible advice and that’s how it is advertised. No sensationalism, no celebrity so where’s the dream, the impossible? The fast weight loss? The promise of a better sex life?

So we turn to “the research from an American university” published with a parade in every newspapers and all languages. The issue is that most of these various research papers are not independent: they serve a purpose. A company or someone trying to cash in on our needs for a quick solution and the avoidance of having to take responsibility for our own problems. If it doesn’t work, we’ll hang them by the feet in the main square anyway.

Look carefully and you’ll find out that behind an American research on how bad fat is for you often lays the money of a soft-drinks and sweets company. And vice versa with a research on the terrible effect of sugar sponsored generously, and selflessly, by a butter-producing giant. It’s not just our naivety or wilful ignorance that’s the reason, it’s also that food is now a battlefield on the constant wars of neo-capitalism. Everyone is riding the wave on its own boat trying to shoot everybody in sight with pseudo-science for it’s the first who can land on the shores to preach to the hurdled masses.

You think we were desperate to fit in, not as desperate as the food industry to cash in on whatever and whoever we decide to believe is good for us. Food giants will to any length to make us believe that they are the healthy option. I mean Nutella is advertised as a healthy option for breakfast for the kids and no one sees a problem in that!

The issue is the food industry and everything that comes with it. First, the language: we blame the food rather than everything they are allowed to put in or on it to make it grow faster, stronger, better. “Bread is bad” but it’s not bread that is bad or gluten, it’s the pesticides we spread the wheat with that are the real problem. And the alternative? To genetically modify it. What a treat! So yes, bread and gluten seem bad, and for some people they are, because we can’t process it anymore.

It’s the same with the milk, the eggs and the meat. They have been the base of our eating habits and have allowed us to develop our brain, make our bodies stronger and more resilient, to expend our life expectancy. The food itself isn’t bad. Unlike all the chemicals the food industry has been lobbying to make legal so we can feed the animals we keep in terrible conditions in the modern farms at the lowest costs.

Then we are back to us, who are now consuming food like we consume everything: the more the better but in a world where everything costs, we want meat for nothing and, cheap meat will make you sick or/and fat.

I understand the fact that we are blaming some foods while calling other “superfoods” which no one actually fathoms. I understand that we have to start somewhere when it comes to changing our habits and unfortunately, we are born and bred in this fundamentally Manichean society built on monotheism where there is no time for sensibility, only knee-jerking preaching. The debate has become solely about pitting something against something else, about dogma against heresy. Fat vs sugar. Meat vs fish. Fruits vs vegetables. Cooked vs raw. Milk vs vitamin supplements.

As the language of food is now akin to the one of all religions, one needs to consider its countless holy scripts with a pinch of salt, or sugar if you prefer. Except for actual poisons, there is no bad or good, black or white, healthy and unhealthy because even the healthiest can become dangerous when consumed without moderation. It’s called orthorexia and like all orthodoxies, it does more harm than good in the long term.

Orthorexia divides, creates new boxes, new barriers, new prejudices as we are working toward brining all the others down. Right now, the divide between “healthy” and “unhealthy” seems to be for the greater good, but all divides and categorisations were until we realise they are helping no one except a tiny minority, the ones who benefits from the apartheid: “the ones on the right side”.

20 years down the drain

I have been a Europhile for the past 20 years.

When I was 11, I decided that I was not a Frenchman born in Versailles rather a European born in France.

I have believed in Europe. I have loved Europe. I have fought for Europe. I have defended and argued in favour of Europe. In 2005, I shouted, cried and ranted so much in favour of a Yes vote to the French ratification of the European Constitution that it seemed I had taken the weight of a continent on my shoulder.

I have believed in Europe for I have been convinced that we indeed had finally put our fratricidal past behind us. That we have learnt from it. That we have learnt to stop pointing fingers at each other, constantly trying to get pay back and to avenge something that was done to us before.

I have believed in Europe because we were ready to try and work together so we can truly help each other and find new ways, new solutions, new beginnings.

I have believed in Europe because I have had the conviction that after our centuries-long enterprise of bleeding and burning the whole world to its knee, we had matured, changed our ways and now have had to show the world that our past selves were wrong and we can indeed live together in solidarity and peace. Because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters, and only dysfunctional families are ready to disown and let their kin die alone.

I have believed that these dark times were behind us.

Why? Because that’s what I was taught Europe was for.

Ever since I was born, I have listened to teachers, politicians, philosophers, journalists, writers, my mother telling me about the mission Europe has: to defend democracy against its enemies, whatever their shape or disguise, to protect its citizens against the peril of misery, humiliation, famine, economical decadence for our past had shown all too well whither such plights always lead.

I have argued for the past 20 years that Europe is humanity’s one chance to show that the world is not the unforgiving, ruthless jungle the neo-capitalists like to portray to justify their murderous greed. I have argued that being together and talking about problems, rather than bringing each other down to brutal and silent submission with weapons or bank account closures, is the proof that we are actually naturally inclined to working together, to helping each other.

For the past 20 years, I have fought for a Europe that would finally put the people in charge of their fate above politics and money. A place where the everyday man, woman and child will not have to suffer from the bad decisions that were made from above, without or against their consent because everything will be in their hands.

I have had a dream of a Europe where we, the people, could genuinely decide our fate in a truly democratic system. A system that would value, respect and listen to the opinion of the citizens it relies on in order to ensure the life they live is the life they actually choose.

For 20 years, I have replied to its critics by saying that yes, it is not perfect, but we are working on it and that everything that is being done is for the good of the European people. I have said time and again that at the end of day, the European Union is and will be true to what it preaches: a transparent democracy dedicated to us, to our better life and better future. A genuine democracy that will only serve the genuine interest of the people.

Today, it’s 20 years down the drain.

Today, I am shattered, angry, disappointed and ashamed.

Today, I can’t believe I bought into all these fancy concepts politicians had been throwing around to get us on board a project that, eventually and again!, turned out to only serve the rich and powerful.

Today, I cannot believe I fell for it. I feel like such a fool.

Today, Europe has proven to be ruled by money. Again. It’s nothing new. And I have been used, abused, deceived and mislead.

Today, in the name of democracy and the better future, the people of Greece, a democracy itself, will see €50bn worth of “valuable” public assets taken away from them and from their democratically elected politicians forever. They will never see them again because investors are refusing to embrace the monster they are themselves feeding, they are refusing the first rule of capitalism as defined by their beloved Adam Smith: you have to take risks and tough beans if you fail.

Today, the democratically-based European Union has made the decision to turn a blind eye and to forsake its fundamentals and ideals of democracy, citizenship, freedom, sovereignty, equality, solidarity to give way to the Eurozone and its unelected and unaccountable, financial ilk: the Eurogroup and the ECB, seconded by the almighty IFM, where Washington holds 16% of the vote when 85% are needed to reach an agreement.

Today, the European Union has made the conscious decision to disregard the voice of the Greeks, to betray all of its citizens and prove its enemies right by what it calls the Monetary Snake destroy a hard-earned democratic sovereignty.

The European Union is now nothing less that the League of Nations Wilson had created after WWI to ensure “peace and prosperity” in Europe but which silently oversaw Germany being sacrificed on the shrine of peace because it was in fact dominated by France and all the other winners of said war and they all had a bone to pick with the evil Germans.

It did not matter that Germany was a young and fragile democracy, like Greece, which, like Greece again, had become the complete opposite of the autocratic regime it was before the war. It was not enough. We needed more to soother our grievance and the League of Nations gladly let Germany suffer to oblivion in the hands of its creditors. All because everyone seemed to agree that they were at the time the biggest threat to our peace and prosperity.

Like Greece today with its bailout, the puny democratic power was forced to accept every single humiliating, undermining and dangerous clauses of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty would legalise further humiliation and would force the country’s economy to its knees as it faced having to literally pay back all the damaged it had caused.

I remember reading about the rise of Hitler and the fall of Weimar when I was 15. I remember reading about the invasion and occupation of the Rhur by the French in 1922 that triggered the spiralling downfall. A unilateral and unstopped decision made on the basis that Paris was not getting the money Berlin was supposed to pay back on time.  I remember reading about the endless vicious circle of the young German republic’s economy, its hands tied in the back by this peace-preaching League of Nation led by vengeful winners.

In history lessons, we are repeated again and again that all these measures to ensure Germany would rightly pay for what it has “alone” caused was one of the main cause of WWII as it pushed Hitler to be democratically elected in 1933. In the name of peace, the League – like the EU today – never lifted a finger, on the contrary, it became the accomplice.

I have believed in Europe because I have thought we had understood this. And we had, for a moment. After WWII, all countries, including Greece, agreed that the stupid war reparations and the finger-pointing at one people and blaming it above all others were creating nothing but ever-growing antagonism, hatred and resentment. It was making us ever weaker. We needed to work together so we cancelled the debt. We had matured. I thought…

 

However, today it’s Versailles and the occupation of the Rhur again. The people of Greece are facing with exit and misery or endless misery in the hands of the people they were taught and told to trust.  In the 1920s, the League of Nations just watched as we pushed Germany down the drain and now, in the 2010s, the European Union just spectates as we push Greece down the drain.

The banks want their money back after eight years of bad investments they gladly jumped on and austerity they happily championed, all without results they swore would show. Regardless of all the hurt they have been doing to Greece since 2008, no matter that Greece is now enduring a situation akin to the US before Roosevelt decided to make the State intervene, they are now going to get what they want and dismantle the State even more. End of.

How? By using the one bit of Europe that has never been touched by democracy yet: the Euro and its institutions. These have been called to openly overrule Greece’s democratic regime, like we did with Germany in 1922 as the banks are getting ready to open the tilt and take whatever they think ought to be theirs whether the Greeks agree or not.

When it comes to greed and destructive capitalism, history has taught us nothing. Once again, we have set countries against each other, people each other, North v South in a flourish of damaging, uneducated stereotypes feeding endless xenophobia for throwing their people against their people is the best way economics has found to hide the fact that we actually have nothing to say on the matter.

20 years.

Until weeks ago, I was still arguing that we were truly looking for a solution that would benefit the people above all but now that “we have a deal”, I don’t believe it anymore. Until weeks ago, I was still arguing against the people who were saying that our leaders were not interested in working for the great and good of everyone, rather just for themselves. But today, I am not sure especially when I see the ones shouting victory in the name of the union.

Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, is righteously standing there telling us that it’s all about saving the union, it’s about fairness and doing the right thing, it’s about the sake of the other millions of us but then it turns out that the tax heaven-based private company which will be handling the Greek public assets and managing the burning sales is chaired by him.

To me, this man’s commitment into ensuring Greece pays every single cent given with interests is actually driven by his desire to get a piece of the cake. The biggest one, in that. And no one is lifting a finger! The fate of millions of people, from new-born babies to ageing grandmothers is resting in his sole hands, despite the Greeks refusal and I hear “Bravo!”.

Junker, as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, spent years resisting, fighting and lobbying against clearer, better defined, more integrated European tax laws that would put an end to his country playing with the system and remaining a tax-heaven and now he’s standing there on his plinth of hypocrisy telling us that the Greeks are only reaping what they sowed by not playing by the rules. And no one is lifting a finger!

And our leaders. They have been calling us to vote during European elections because it is “our future”. We have been told that our voice matters and will make a difference. Yes, that’s until money is involved and suddenly there are superseding considerations we cannot possibly understand so our voice is irrelevant. Is that their idea of democracy? You serve the people unless you get scared, ignore us, serve the markets alone, screw it up but because we did vote for you, it’s actually our fault so we pay the prize for generations to come.

I have come to understand they are calling us to vote just to be able to lecture Russia or China from their high horse when shit hits the fan. “At least, I am here by the will of the power…I don’t care for it says but I am better than you.”

20 years that I have been defending a fraud, the building of a union that clearly puts its cherished, richest few before the livelihood of millions of its citizens because they have convinced themselves and trapped themselves in an economic understanding where they have reduced the States to irrelevance so these very few are now the only, untouchable, precious key to our well-being.

Today, however, it’s not time for me to argue for the destruction of the union.

I am now a Euro-sceptic because I trust what is accountable to the people, which the Euro institutions are not. There are the enemy of social-democracy.

I am not however a Europe-sceptic. I still want to believe in the dream because I am socialist. Call me utopist, drag me in the dirt, frankly do your worst if it makes you happy.

If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. – Paul Mason

The time has come to make the union accountable to what it has been preaching: democracy, solidarity, equality, peace and well-being of its people above all else.

It is time to change properties: to fight against the Euro and for the European Union.

The European Union: what about democracy?

I love Europe. I am a deep Europhile. I made the decision when I was about 12 to not be a French person born in the region of Versailles, rather a European born in the country of France. There are many things I strongly disagree with when it comes to how the European Union is evolving and whence it is going but I do believe in the union.

But right now, it is facing a test that could well undermine my faith in it and its future altogether: Greece. It’s the test of how much actual democracy the European Union is willing to embrace, how much the machine is willing to listen what its citizens aspire to.

I understand that the European Union is first and foremost an economic union. It was built after WWII to make the countries depend to each other to such an extent that none could not break away easily and declare war to get its way. The vision, mainly pushed by the French and the Germans, was that if you force a country to need a neighbour, problems will have to be discussed with words and patience rather than fought with guns and tanks, which is what we did for millenniums. And what we are trying to avoid again in Ukraine. Yes it takes a lot of time and it’s not “news-worthy” but it’s saving millions of lives.

From the 1950s, we first made sure we had to rely on each other for coal, iron, steel, oil, crops then we extended it to the rest of the economy and together, despite the economic crisis, we are still the strongest economy in the world, whether bankers and investors, Tories and Republicans like it or not.

There is now a will for a political union because it is true that it would make things easier. I am very divided and dithering on this issue for I see pluses and minuses in both cases. Although this political union doesn’t exist yet, what does exist throughout the EU, what is written in all founding treaties, what is a key criterion to enter is to respect democracy, to promote it, to protect it, to defend it at all costs.

Now, the Greeks have decided to vote for a left-wing party. It was not rigged, they just went to the polls and actually voted in the true spirit of all democratic elections. It is actually quite amazing of them because in times likes this, people easily stop voting or/and put the blame on everything foreign then have this middle-class reflex of going conservative and choosing right-wing, racist and xenophobic parties. Hence, the rise of Front National, UKIP and all far-right parties in the rest of Europe, including Greece with the Golden Dawn. This is not something new, it happened all across Europe in the crisis-ridden 1930s and whereas France just managed to save its democracy in 1932, nor Italy neither Germany and Spain could.

Nevertheless, the Greeks pulled a French 1936 and went with hope and change. They chose people who were offering something new, they believed in people whose argument was not to go back to some supposedly better times where “foreigners, Muslims and Jews were not here” but to try yet another way, a way that would embrace all the positive values the West is ever-boasting. Everyone in Europe was only talking about the Golden Dawn but they did not win. Greece did not choose fascism, they chose democracy. They chose to put hope and positive change before anything else. And this is why they are now testing the EU. If you listen to what our leaders say to the world, what the Greeks did is the essence of Europe so in the face of such an election, Europe should be proud to be yet again a beacon of hope.

However, I hear nothing but condemnation and scaremongering. Now, I am not surprised that people such as the Tories in England are the first one on the soap box saying that Greece’s vote is threatening the future of Europe. Frankly, no one across their shores take them seriously anymore. Their euroscepticism and desperate alliances with extreme far-right, Nazi-loving, Holocaust-denying parties have rendered them the biggest threat to the UE and no one except for Britain’s electorate is fooled by their Cassandra song.

What I am shocked with is the reaction of the other leaders who jumped to say that the election was not going to change anything. What is that supposed to mean? I know right-wing leaders in Southern Europe are trying to contain what they call “contagion”, as if voting for the Left was some kind of new plague following its usual  path of destruction from the East of the Mediterranean sea to the arctic shores of Norway. I guess for the Right, it is.

However, the reactions from leaders, mainly across Northern Europe, basically means that the voice of the people is irrelevant in the face of economic matters. It doesn’t matter what the people of Greece says, it doesn’t matter how they vote, how we all vote, our fate is sealed: the investors want their money back and they are going to get it. End of! It’s not just patronising, it is plain dictatorial but made acceptable by economic circumstances and definitely not what the EU was built for.

You cannot go and dismiss millions of people democratically voting for a change in their everyday life, for wanting their suffering to stop, just because it disagrees with your way to deal with problems. And if you do, don’t come and complain that people are not voting anymore. The message various leaders have sent for the past three weeks, not just to the Greeks but to their own citizens is: your vote, puny people of Europe, is irrelevant in the face of the economic machine.

Worst still. They try to justify it by saying that the Greeks need to “take responsibility” for the mistakes their leaders made in the past. Greece spent decades having very little to choose from when it came to politicians with a big corrupted clan on the Right and a big corrupted clan on the Left but they voted anyway so now, we don’t want hear anything. You were stupid enough to believe them, you will pay for it. It doesn’t matter if you decided to go for a change, you will still pay for it. Even if it means, you can’t feed your kids.

This is where my faith turned out to be resting on sand for me. I understood Europe as a beacon for democracy and it turns out to be nothing but yet another tool for carnivorous, extreme capitalism where millions of innocent people who are trying to just live their lives, feed themselves and their kids must be sacrificed to protect the assets of a few and allow them to seek and exert revenge. The EU is now accomplice to making its own entire countries, millions of its own people suffer, starve and cry from babies to dying people regardless just because a few want a proper return on their investment.

Now they are even some talks of pushing Greece out. The implications are huge: for Greece itself who will have to suddenly be fending for itself after 30 years in a deeply integrated, continent-size economy, it means having to go back to its own currency after 15 years using the Euro, it means having to rewrite all the treaties…For the EU, it means that a country that has not gone with fascism but chose democracy is being kicked out just and only for not agreeing with right-wing, economic orthodoxy.

Personally, I am baffled by such threats. Not just because they are a million miles away from what the everyday Europeans want but also because other countries have never faced anything like that despite flirting with fascism or threatening the very existence of the EU.

If you take the UK, for instance. The Tory government has spent the last five years claiming high and proud how much they hated the EU, how willing they were to get out of it, launching insults after insults on anything European. Today barely 30% of the UK want to stay in the EU. Their politicians have joined forces with people even the Front National would not consider, they have been vetoing major treaties and decisions that could have saved us time and hassle dealing with the crisis just because “in exchange” they are demanding all the treaties to be revised. They even want to get rid of one of the first fundamental rules of the EU: the right to free movement.

You’d think that such a country would be on the verge of being kicked out. Well, no. Everyone o the continent I have been talking to is willing to have it kicked out. We, continentals, are all fed up with the UK and its school-playground behaviour when it comes to working as a team but all our leaders are bending over backwards, spending hours in pointless negotiations, millions of Euros in specialised lawyers to maybe tweak the treaties so we can us all, 27 countries, find a way to accommodate one of us, who has clearly said he would not work with us. And why? Because the UK doesn’t just agree with the right-wing, capitalist orthodoxy, it created it, it’s promoting it world-wide. The UK is the biggest advocate for the policies the EU is using “to punish” the people of Southern Europe.

Today Greece is on the verge of being kicked out of Europe for choosing democracy over fascism, for putting the suffering of its people first, for daring to ask for a change, for having opened a door to an alternative. Europe must find the strength to remember that this is why it was created in the first place. Forsaking Greece is forsaking every single European citizens, it’s denying that their voice matter when it comes to be, work and live together, it is saying that Europe is not democratic, it is proving our enemies right, it is burning democracy in the altar of the economy. It’s making the 1930s again.

There might be a will in our leaders for Greece to get out but when you talk to the people, they don’t feel the same way. People have empathy before calculation, it doesn’t make them irrelevant or worthless. For me, denying the choice the Greeks have made is indeed the death of the European Union as a democracy but despite what the powerful people say today, History will judge and show that it’s not because of Greece rather because of our elected leaders have betrayed us by making the conscious decision to listen to the people only after serving the interests of capitalist agents.

If they do want to save the EU, they have to put democracy first and listen to the people. Not ignore the economy but understand that it’s supposed to serve us, the people, first. If they did listen, they would find out that there is one way for Greece: to stay and to be carefully listened to. That’s what we, the people, want.