Category Archives: England – Angleterre

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace.

Handsome Harry has a problem: he hates belonging to the most privileged people in the world and says no Windsors currently wants to be king so now let’s have a quick look at the terrible fate that awaits him and his kin.

Being the monarch is a tough job, but someone has to do it, even if reluctantly. In a magazine interview, Prince Harry has suggested that none of the royal family actually wants the throne.

‘Tough job.” There are a lot of tough jobs out there: teaching, working in A&E, driving a bus, collecting bins, cleaning the streets and being a King apparently. Although, I highly doubt those jobs pay over £3 million every month like being a King does. I can’t speak for other professions, but as a teacher, I can expect a good £1.400/month if I take on some responsibilities in addition to my teaching. And that’s a good salary!

Yes the “tough job” Harry is describing currently pays about £40 million/year and, unlike the rest of the good working people of England in their tough job, the Windsors are in line for a raise of £2.8 million/year which adds to a 57% pay rise since 2012. So let’s admit the £40M stand, that’s £3.3 million/month. For the rest of the tough jobs, it’s bleak I am afraid but let’s try to empathise with the fate of the royal family.

Let’s not forget that the Windors’ tough job comes with free accommodation in the centre of London and a myriad of palaces paid off and maintained by the taxpayers. Weddings needn’t be paid for, nor need your birthdays or any other major life events for that matter. You are provided with hundreds of personal servant as well as bodyguards who parade at great expense everyday, a plethora of carriages – some in pure gold and a fleet of cars so large that even your crown has its own.

The question then begs: why? Why do they get to be given so much? What does the tough job involve to come with such perks, money and yet be such a drag?

“We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

My, that modernisation must be a heck of a job, whatever that means in actual fact. Marrying “commoners”, perhaps? That’s modern, ain’t it? No, that’s just because all your parents and grand-parents are cousins and you desperately need to avoid the fate of the Habsburgs or yet another inbreeding-related endemic like hemophilia and mental health issues that came after Queen Victoria and King Christian IX decided they wanted the whole of Europe’s rulers to be their grand-children.

So is it having a beard and playing football with kids in Africa – between two safaris, a hunting trip and some strip snooker in Las Vegas? Charity doesn’t pay (ask Doctors Without Borders), hunting is archaic, and the playing naked and drunk in Vegas is only seen as ‘modern’ by penniless chavs on their quite unenjoyable stag night.

Maybe I am being mistaken on what he means by modernising the monarchy but I don’t see why it justifies a rent-free life at Kensington or Buckingham Palace in addition to the 3.3 millions pounds you get every single month.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

First, his father begs to differ.

Second, “we will carry our duties”, yes you will! That’s we pay you for so if we say “Dance monkey!”, you dance and you don’t get upset because comes to think about it, you have no other purpose whatsoever. Your tough job is not a job, it’s birth right that some people in a far past and who are as much related to you as to me gave themselves after they actually served a purpose. Their life was Games of Throne without the dragons. Whereas yours is a apology of privilege-born blasé laziness. Your academic degrees were given to you, your record in the army is anything but grand and the only reason why you can afford to do so much charity work is because your nan is the Queen so she gets paid £3.3 million/month.

Now, if you really do resent the “tough job” to the extent of going public with it, then remove yourself from the line of succession, give up your privileges, give the money back and live a normal life. But do not publicly go to tell the rest of us who struggle to meet ends and must go by in the shittiest jobs that you don’t want to be something you will be if and when your father, brother, nephew and niece were to die.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace: do not lead your people to actually ponder a world where you don’t exist and where you have no use, for you will be surprised of how extremely livable life is without tending and pandering to the most outrageously over-privileged people the Earth has ever accommodated.

Your tough job…I’ll do it! Let’s swap. Not for a day but forever. I’ll give the 10-, 12-, 15-hour working days, the screaming kids, the insulting parents, the down-looking management and the pay squeeze and you give me the free money, the palaces, the never-ending holidays, the cooks, the fitness trainers, the countless servants and I will do the “tough job”. For that money, for that comfort in life, I will sit on that throne and smile until my teeth come off and the best dentist that ever that was gives me new ones…for free.

As an atheist, I will even graciously bow and blow smoke up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s arse if asked. I’ll do anything so my future can look as worry-free, secured and bright as yours looks everyday. I will do your tough job, Your Highness. Anything, so the only three things I can worry about is: my hair falling, the colour of my ties and who I am dating that doesn’t draw too much of my nan’s wrath.

And, my Lord, I think you’ll find millions of people would do your tough job if they could considering the life it comes with. I am not saying we would forever like it but for £3.3 million/month, I’ll do it for a couple of years then, once I am rich beyond my dreams, I’ll pass it on to the next volunteer and so on and so forth.

Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s modern monarchy.

 

A teacher’s words – First rule of teaching: Enjoy yourself.

I am surrounded by people in my profession who are constantly asking why I spend so much time making “cute” PowerPoint presentations for my lessons. Why the cats, kittens, puppies and  other funny animals memes? Why the omnipresence of colours? All in every shades of blue, white and red with instructions in purple for French lessons. Red, yellow and orange for Spanish. Red, yellow and black for German. Yellow, blue and green for Swedish…

“It takes times, it must be a drag. No wonder you work so much!”

It is true that I can spend 50 hours every week planning for my 25 to 29 hours of teaching. That’s a lot, yes so why not just put some words and occasional fancy font on a couple of slides and go home?! Why am I doing this to myself?

Because I am not. I like it. I need visual stimulation to enjoy something and if I myself don’t enjoy my lesson, who will? That’s whence the very precisely aligned Comic Sans is coming, so are the little pictures on every slide. it’s not just perfectionism and hatred of emptiness, it’s something that brings me joy and a feeling of accomplishment in little things.

The colours came because, for years, I was teaching the same kids but in various languages, sometimes one lesson after another. French then Spanish. Same kids, same age so I decided that beyond the language itself I would make it more obvious for them. We were also changing moods. I took inspiration for respective flags and stuck with it every since.

On the one hand, I will admit that it used to be a drag somehow, at the beginning, but now it’s a reflex and one that allows me to be creative. Language-teaching is not always the most exciting of lessons. It’s hard and painful for all, as teachers, you are facing with kids who get impatient or demotivated very quickly, even in lessons where their native language is spoken, so imagine when everything is in another language. And when it’s Friday afternoon. So you have to constantly resist going the easy way and explain everything in your learners’ native language so you can save time and finish the unit in time for the test.

For the learners, especially teenagers, it can be a killer. Especially considering that a lot of school rationalise timetabling and put language lessons at once. It’s fine if only one is compulsory, better if optional (for the kids, not for the MFL teachers of course) but it’s torture for all when you have to teach Spanish to 30 kids for an hour and twenty minutes, get them out then get the same lot in again, just a couple of minutes later during which you switch to your German lesson. And there we go for another eighty minutes of hard work…

Beyond the mood, the need for a break and for clear, attractive visuals to keep their attention, it’s important to mention that I always have the highest expectations on everyone, regardless. I believe in the brain’s abilities to do and learn and that’s why I also like to somehow soften the blow with visually pleasing slides.

Not just games where they are learning a lot without realising it but also cute pictures of animals and funny cat memes. I love them, they love them, it makes them laugh between two exercises when I keep asking for even more of them. Put a cute kittens and you win over a classroom full of sullen girls.

However, before the kids, it’s for me. It is selfish before selfless for it allows me to be constantly creative which soothes my anxieties and when too tired to think of yet another totally new activity, I know I will always have the envy to google “cat dictionary” and add a little picture on the top right corner on an activity we did a couple of weeks ago.

Indeed, I will grant anyone that it is time-consuming to look through my hundreds of thousands of pictures on the Internet or my files to find exactly what I want and I know I have it somewhere or I know it can be found somewhere but this is something I enjoy doing very much.

“Ten minutes on a picture?!” I hear. No, ten minutes taking some time to let my perfectionist self relax and be inventive, be different. Only I, in the whole of England, would spend twenty minutes on Tumblr less than an hour before my lesson because I have decided I need a caption of Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls or Richard Hammond talking about the trout to simply illustrate the opening title of my Year 9 lesson on how to express sickness.

I could be calling parents, marking books or exams, I am told. Yes, I could but I hate it. That’s a part of the job I loathe beyond anything. Exams are fine but the books…I see them everyday when I go around checking on their work. The parents? Holy Mother of God, have mercy! Not them!

The ones you have to call are the self-righteous ones who hated school when they were little, think their child should be mentioned in the Bible as God or Satan, and believe you’re either a torturer or should do their job of teaching them manners. It says “MFL teacher” on my contract, thank you very much, not “nanny”.

I came into teaching to teach (duh!) because I like what I am teaching (duh!²): languages I want to convey it. It is hard to do so when restricted behind books mainly written by people who have close to no experience with children in a classroom setting such as university-teaching linguists or simply pedagogues. It is hard when you have a very restrictive timeline with yet another boring exam at the end where, in all languages, the writing text always starts with “You write to your penfriend about” something.

They don’t have penfriends and I want to have fun! I want my lesson to be pretty, attractive, colourful, animated. If I am not excited about showing someone what I did, I will not be able to open the door with a smile…Okay, I never smile unless actually amused but I do make jokes and love banter in the classroom and without the witty, always-on-point and creative visuals on the board, I would not be able to do so and set the evermore necessary positivity as, year in year out, teaching becomes harder by the week. The few classes where I have not been able to do it, I hate and I feel the work is far for the standards I expect of myself.

Whatever it is, the first golden rule of teaching is to enjoy yourself and it means whatever you want it to mean. I find pleasure in top-notched visuals, inventive games and the regular listening of songs and little activities around videos. Find yours. It’s doesn’t have to be massive, just a little something that’s for you every single time you teach. You have to take something out of it or you will grow to resent it beyond limits.

I have found that, even when it brings nothing for the kids as such, like a puppy with a mini basket ball to illustrate one sentence about playing sport, if it pleases you, it will please them. Because it is personal, that things will become your signature and if they always take everything for granted and don’t always acknowledge it at the time, they will come to miss it when moving on to the next teacher.

“Sir, I miss your cat memes! And the colours too. That was so nice and fun!” That sentence matters to me much more than “I think you should spend less time planning your lessons.”

The long read: Brexit – After thoughts

Overall.

It’s a “I want to divorce!” not just thrown in the face of the European Union, about whom it is difficult to say how much the people do care, but also, and most importantly for them, from the UK to the UK itself. So of course, there are the usual steps of copying: surprise, anger, denial, inner fighting and inner questioning. However, when there could be a way to find peace and solutions, all I see is bitterness and even greater divide.

The Remainers.

They are the divorcee but the ones I blamed the most. They did not fight enough: arrogance? hubris? taking results granted? “Even a simpleton would see it’s bad to leave”, one said to me. They are the ones who thought they had the upper-hand on all aspects of the marriage, felt threatened towards the end but as they never thought they’d have to try and convince anyone, it was too late. They failed and never managed to convince its disgruntled other half to go along with what they think is the best for both.

Of course they are sore losers. Who wouldn’t? They genuinely believe that their vision is the way forward, not just for themselves but for everyone: old and young, poor and rich, natives and migrants, here or there, alive or to be born.

So, yes, they are sore and hurting. As a European in heart and mind, I understand it goes far beyond saying “yes” or “no” to some what kind of food we want to import or tax rates. It’s about their future falling apart. For them everything is gone by now. Hopes and dreams they never bothered to communicate have been replaced by fear their leaders played on. It backfired, they are the ones to be dreading and angry, not the opposite side.

What I don’t understand is the violence with which they are now attacking the Brexiters who are all dismissed as daft peasants whose racism and xenophobia equal their inability to see what’s good for them. They are good for nothing, they know nothing. Just check..everywhere! “Old”, “without a degree”, “poor”, “illiterate”, “easily fooled”, “intolerant”…

Who are you to talk about tolerance when you are happy to dismiss the choice of a majority and/or demand to be heard again because you have convinced yourself that only you know better?

For me, London encompasses what Remainers are sadly becoming. They could change their old ways of disdain for others whilst contemplating their own achievements and start to listen so they could find empathy and try to find solutions. They could stop looking down on whoever thinks differently and insult everyone who has different views because this is actually part of what lead the second city of the country to vote “Leave”.

The Remainers could try to accept and rebuild under their own terms, if they are so powerful and clever. No, instead, they are dismissing the choice of 52% of voters because it’s not their own, they are wishing the worse on them all the while pushing for a referendum that, this time, will be binding because they are convinced the results will satisfy them, they are pushing their beloved self-appointed beacon of civilisation (London) to part ways with the rest of that “stupid, outdated, backward-looking, good-for-nothing and racist’ country. Not a good way to rebuild and be strong as one.

I might be the harshest on them because I expect better from my peers. And I also know they will manage to get the better out of this situation because they do have the intellectual, economic and political means so instead of punishing the other half, be a better person and try to mend your ways.

 

The Brexiters

The divorcer. They want out, they are fed up, they want their country back, whatever that means.

It’s difficult to picture a Brexiter because I know many and none of them are the same person and I can’t help but feeling that they are going to be the worst affected by this decision and I do have pity for them before anger.

They are the  xenophobes, the ones who unforgivably blame their own failure on foreigners, but they are also foreigners themselves. I know people from outside the EU who say they voted “Leave” because it’s not changing anything as far as they are concerned, but also because they have grown fed up of being told they were stealing British jobs. “Make the continentals go and see if those lazy Brits will actually accept to do their job…That should shake the rust off their racist back!”

The first ones believed Nigel Farage, the seconds bought happily to the Tory rhetoric of skiver vs strivers. They watch Benefit Street populated by lazy white people living the good life on benefits while they are working 15hrs/day to barely make a living and be able to diligently pay their taxes.

I am fascinated by Brexiters as I am trying to understand the scale of their wilful self-harm. A self-harm that comes with a smile and cheer. Why? For months, I have read and watched a lot about them, I have listened to them a lot and there is complete blindness and simplistic thinking in desperation.

There is foolishness too and a gob-smacking amount of narrow-mindness, especially within the older generation, the same who voted “IN” in 1970s and who refuses see the world for what it really is. I am not talking about accepting neo-capitalism and its jungle-like fight for survival for they are the first to champion these views. I am talking about this bovine refusal to leave a time that is not anymore.

When you hear them chanting “Great Britain will be great again”, you see the colonial past behind it where England was dominating everything: if not the world, at least the British Isles. They want to go back to a time before Brussels came in and forced London, not only to cough up the cash, but mostly to consider the other nations of the UK and devote them some power.

Today, they are happy. England is still at the wheel. Scotland said IN, they said OUT…It’s OUT then. Brilliant, we are still in control and will forever be now. Everybody’s happy.

But beyond the nostalgia of the ones who love to rewrite history they never bothered to learn because they “lived it”, there is the desperation of the ones who believed what they were told, did everything they were told to do and got nothing in return. Because they had nothing and still have nothing, they firstly did not buy to the Cassandras in the Remain Camp predicting economic Armageddon. For them, it’s a reality, not an oracle. Nothing has been, is and will be going to be better for them, nor their children and that’s they cannot see that the UK is what it is because of its own politicians, not because of Europe.

Yes, I do feel pity for these ones because they were, once again, used and abused by the ones fighting for power.

 

The politicians.

In a nutshell, when you play with fire you are going to get burnt.

First, Tories and Labour, forty years of blaming the EU for every single of your own unpopular policy is not going to be wiped out within two months of lukewarm campaigning. We like to say that people don’t listen to politicians anymore, it’s true. Most Brexiters think Farage and Johnson are as corrupted and deceiving as the leaders of the Remain camp. But in the long term, words do sink in. The 2010 and 2015 Tory victories were won on scaremongering about immigration, “EU diktats” and making Britain great again. Labour has found nothing better to do than join in or remain silent in fear of losing the votes.

The Brexiters did nothing except believe the endless Brussels bashing and finger-pointing London has been doing since the day it entered. Just look at the opinion of Europe since 1973 and it’s constantly going down, governments after governments. I think the only thing we can admire the Liberal Democrats for is to have always proudly advertised their pro-Europeans stance.

The Labour? Well, it should be ashamed to have let the Tories take control of the debate on the EU they actually endorse. Yes, their reputation is in tatters after they left their own voters behind, became aloof and ignoring of what people wanted (the No to the war in Iraq) but they went the easy way. They could have regained dignity breaking away with Blair and his murderous and corrupted cronies. Only Labour can be the link between the elite and the working class today, through unions mostly, so they could have educated their voters on the benefits of the EU everytime the Tories went on the attack since the 1970s. However, they made the mistake of leaving it to people to figure out the Conservatives were lying and when the damage was done, they became scared of alienating their few voters left further so they just joined the half-baked and outlandish scaremongering of the Tories. No hopes, just fears. That’s not what the Left should be selling.

Speaking of fears, Cameron eventually paid the price by wanting to ride the ones of the voters for political gain. I talked about it earlier but something did not add up during this frankly daft campaign. Europe went from the source of all evil in 2014 to the best thing that has ever happened to the UK in mid-2016. I know he was trying to straddle every Tory fences and have it both ways. We talked about him maybe being a political genius in managing such a feat. No, he became yet another victim of his own making by lighting the fire under a slow-cooker with no pressure valve called “Populism.”

Farage’s and Johnson’s reputations precede them but Cameron is now going to be the one who triggered the end of the United Kingdom and serves him right.

 

The media.

Two words: excruciatingly appalling. I am not talking about tabloids, they think publishing pictures of Xabi Alonso’s half-naked toddling daughters playing on the beach is in the public interest just because their faces are pixelated.

I am talking about the newspapers. Even the Guardian, my favourite. The analysis has been fantastic since the Leave vote but where were they before? Even the most serious newspapers threw proper journalistic investigation to the wind and became an open platform for both side’s dismal scaremongering. I got so fed up with the Guardian’s daily “Armageddon is coming with Leave” that I almost wrote to them to ask them if their columnists had been locked in the basement so no one could actually analyse what was behind the terrible forecasts they were made.

We had a couple of good analysis on how ridiculous it was for the Remain camp to bring in the big guns (Chiefs of IMF, Bank of England, NATO, EU…) to pile up the fear of voting Leave on the poor neighbourhoods of Northern England for the people, even Remainers, distrust these unelected elites and aloof institutions in the first place.

In the face of abysmally poor political debate, I was expecting the serious press to be there to inform us, to guide us and I truly believe the outcome of the vote would have been different had they done their job properly of informing and educating the adults. Instead, they set themselves as nothing but a relay for one or the other side.

The EU.

We’ll be fine. We’ll kick out the UK asap with harsh negotiations to ensure no one else is tempted to leave and regroup as 27. Notwithstanding, there is now only hope that the elite reflects (for more than 2 weeks before the holidays!) and understands that populism is nothing to be dismissed or used for political gain. It is a time bomb waiting to explode. People who are afraid are not all racists or xenophobes, people who hate are not all bad in essence and deserve to be ignored, people who rebel are not all a threat and the majority’s silence does not mean it agrees with you.

We say France is next. I would not be surprised. All above is exactly what is happening with a man who think his winning the majority of votes in 2012 gives him the right to discard his promises, betray his supporters, disregard his own people’s opinions, force laws through the parliament without debate and without even consulting his own rebelling party, and drag everyone who dares fight in the dirt, when not hitting them directly.

This Leave vote is first and foremost a shout to the aloof, down-looking, self-righteous and dismissing elite so it is time people are listened to – which does not mean we have to agree with them. But we need to take time to know them, to educate and stop rushing through for our own greatness (every country wants its EU presidency to remembered) and in the name of “superseding considerations people would not understand”. We will understand, just explain. Yes, it takes time but it will eventually prevent such vote that brings down 40 years of hard work.

 

The UK

Right now, there is healing to be done in the UK. They will never amount to anything if they can’t manage to find a way to be one again. I don’t hold on too many hopes, though.

Firstly because I am convinced Scotland and Northern Ireland are going to break away. When the Tories were elected in 2015, I said it would open a fascinating time as a historian for Scotland and NI would not put up with London’s overbearing unique voice anymore, not with Brussels acting as a shield. Putting up with Tory governments and ministers they have no elected is one thing, being forced out of the EU they want to keep because it made them the proud nations they are today is another and one they will never accept.

Now there is England and Wales plagued by infighting, anger, denial and hatred. Remainers want a new referendum. How can they be so sure people would vote like they want? Why would the second one be more biding than the first one which was an electoral promise kept and planned months in advance by the democratically elected Prime Minister? What if the result is indeed different? What would stop the Brexiters from launching another petition signed by millions for a third one? When will it stop ?

There is talk of forcing the Stay through the Parliament but Cameron was clear on that : the people has spoken. What best way is there to push people towards the extremes by, yet again, having Westminster ignoring the voice of the masses and doing whatever it likes because the outcomes is displeasing them?

Cameron has jumped the boat he stirred into the rocks, the Tories are already tearing each other to piece to get a new leader by October. The Lib Dems are dead silent. The Labour is in disarray as it is its voters in its heartlands that helped the Eurosceptic get what they always wanted. This vote was also a punishment on Tony Blair and his New Labour for it has embraced overbearing London and chummed up with the financial elite to the detriment of the working class. How can they reconnect now?

The Remain campaign said the country would sink if they left. Today, England and Wales need to prove all the forecasts wrong by being strong and united to get make the most of a bad situation. Instead, they are as weak and divided as ever, creating the perfect conditions for the planned Armageddon to happen.

Something doesn’t add up…

When I left England in 2014, the Conservatives were campaigning on a scaremongering programme that struck me, a European citizen, as extremely anti-Europe. The message was that, on top of losing Scotland if Labour passed, voting for anyone but them would worsen the current situation where the UK had become a free pick and mix of assets for all Europeans to abuse and lay bare.

They talked about “Health Tourism” and its outlandish claim that the continentals were the biggest strain and threat to the NHS for it was very easy to take advantage of. Speeches after speeches described how we were all coming to the UK to get free treatment, all paid by the British taxpayers who could not do anything because it was a European requirement to staying in. UK had to go to be able to stop this abuse. Where has it gone?

As a Frenchman, I was told and was hearing, day in day out, that I was stealing British jobs. Please do find a British who would accept to work 12-14hrs/day in a school where they teach French, German, Spanish and Astrophysics. You haven’t since I left? Interesting…

Okay, maybe I was not stealing a job as such but I was still a liability to UK’s full employment because I was here living the life a British could be living and there was nothing Brits could do for letting me live in the Midlands was a requirement to belonging to the EU. The UK had to go to find full employment again. Where has it gone?

They talked about immigrations in the wider terms, a “true invasion” that was threatening the British culture and putting a costly and unnecessary strain on schools, and other institutions, that not only had to teach British children with close to no funding, but take extra time to teach immigrants’ kids what it takes to be British. UK had to go to be able to control its borders for belonging to the EU was forcing them to accept people they did not want and were too high-maintenance. Where has it gone?

They were criminals too, that was the problem, the government said. Brains are fine…ish, money’s always welcome but it’s poor criminals who were flooding the shores of Albion and the UK not being able to deal with them the way it actually wanted to because it had to conform to some European convention on Human Rights. Rapists, paedophiles, child-killers, abusers, wife-beaters, drug dealers…Multiple times criminals that UK was forced to set free or treat fancily at great costs of money and lives. UK had to go in order to regain control on its own policing – presumably to accommodate rich dictators and despots in London empty luxury flats. Where has it gone?

Being British, money needs to be at the centre of anything: we heard about billions of pounds given to European technocrats who would then use it to spoil lazy French farmers or undeserving Greek struggling public servants. UK had to go to regain control of its finance, stop this robbery in plain sight and ensure the money it was making would stay within its borders and used as it wishes. Everyone was suffering: from the worldwide British banks to the house prices of everyday people. Where has it gone?

Weeks, months, years of tension building up between London and Brussels with Westminster throwing around accusations and thriving for independence in a copycat way Edinburgh did a year before with London.

Where on Earth has it all gone?! The continentals sucking up the NHS dry, the freed paedos and their Human Rights, the immigrants stealing jobs driving wages down and house prices up, the billions unfairly fed to Brussels…Are all these problems the Conversatives mentioned in 2014 really solved? Where is 2014’s plucky Britainia who stood up to Hitler and would again rise to save and inspire the world in resisting European invasion in all its forms?

In a desperate campaign where both sides are akin to Jehovah Witnesses (We are all going to die! Do join us if you want to…who knows?), the Conservatives are suddenly listing all the benefits of the EU: security, money, power. If the UK goes, it’s the WWIII at once, billions lost, taxes up, years of the worst economic downturn ever predicted – by experts who did not even see the economic crisis coming in the first place.

In a nutshell, from the worst thing that has ever happened to the UK, EU is now the best.

What happened? Something doesn’t add up. Were they lying at the time or are they lying now?

I go for both.

Sadiq Khan: a person above all else.

A lot of questions have been asked to me since Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London and all have to do with his being a Muslim.

I live in France where most of our immigrants for the past 60 years have been coming from Muslim countries and yet, we still can’t seem to be able to get our heads around the fact that one of them has managed to reach such a position. “How brave of them to vote for…him. I mean…you know…”, we say as we still call “immigrants” the great-great-grand-children of these who left what was still colonies.

No! I don’t know and frankly, I am not interested in what you “mean”…

On the English side, people have been asking why the continentals are so obsessed with his religious beliefs. A bit hypocritical I have to say, considering the headlines of most of their tabloids but It is true that the headlines from Europe’s newspapers looked like the Tory campaign with the indissociable words “Sadiq Khan” and “Muslim”.

We are obsessed the same way the world was when Paris elected her first gay mayor. It was everywhere because that’s what we do: we put people in boxes that comes with expectations and prejudice. These boxes were called “minorities” until the people living within them decided to call themselves “communities” in this schizophrenic idea that letting the differences define not only what they are but also who they are…well, that would allow them to somehow eventually make these differences irrelevant. Maybe…

However, what I see instead is the “majority” using this idea of community to further exclude them, bringing the minorities to work even further for a place in the system they are no longer a part of as if they had some emancipated. Some going as far as excluding themselves from the rest of the society altogether and turning against it with inconceivable violence.

But I digress.

The fact is that: when one manages to go beyond the hindrance the “minority” tag erects in our Western society, when someone makes it against the odds of our narrow-mindness, we are surprised and that’s all we can talk about. And not really in a good way so far.

First, there is our sickening self-congratulation. Bétrand Delanoë, Barack Obama, Sadiq Khan: all were used by their respective countries as proof that these very countries were now beacon of modernity, acceptance and forwardness in a world of neighbours they could legitimately look down on. We do the same for every woman reaching a position of responsibility; she is here to prove we are not that sexist. The same way Obama was used to prove to the world that the US are not racist. Yeah…

In this, these people are still defined by their status of minority that was bravely disregarded by the good majority of the West who has been giving them a chance to prove they can make it. That’s why “Sadiq Khan” and “Muslim” were inseparable in most news outlets. He’s a poster for something new about us: we are not the bastards we thought we were.

Yes, we are! Because he was elected in London, a city so diverse that the concept of majority doesn’t apply. Because his opponent’s campaign used his personal religious belief to attack him and it worked. Not in London as a whole but in the rest of the UK and Europe, yes! And very well with that. I mean, his being a Muslim is all we knew of him! Hence and because such a thing would never happen anywhere else than in a city like London or Berlin. Not even Paris.

Secondly, we talk and talk and talk but we forget that Sadiq Khan’s biggest achievement is being overlooked: he has managed to be himself, an individual person beyond the realm of communitarianism.

Being gay, I know what the “community” does to you. You will find support when isolated and endangered in the face of intolerance and rejection but you are also sucked in and you lose your individuality. I have never liked what we call “the gay community” as such because there’s a sense of autarky that comes with belonging. As the community looks to be stronger on its own, you lose yourself in the name of something bigger that needs to be as homogeneous as possible because this is where it finds its strength.

The problem with the community steaming from the status of minority is that we often look for a common enemy to soften our inner differences. There is the need to level out, to standardise, to all be the same so we can present a united front, in mind and appearance. People are no longer individuals, they are members who abide by the same rules for a common purpose: to gain recognition.

I am not damning communities as a whole but I do distrust it as much as I distrust establishment in the way that both are looking to deny my identity: one through what it means to be gay and the other through the need to impose nationalism.

I see myself in Sadiq Khan, like I did in Bétrand Delanoë before, because they too refused these terms. They did not run as a member of their communities for the purpose of bringing their peers to national acceptance, They ran as themselves. Plain and simple.

The Tories tried to reduce to Khan to his religion – like UMP tried to abuse Delanoë’s homosexuality – and it failed. Not because the whole of the Western world has suddenly decided to be tolerant of anything, rather because Khan has proven that he was not different because he belonged to a community but because he is an individual: he had a history to tell in which Islam belongs but we actually don’t know much about it, except that he has always fought against the ones who prey on people’s uncertainties and doubts about belonging. He had an actual programme with clear policies that went beyond his own interests and the ones of his religious peers, he had ideas and he defended them.

In being his own creation, Khan has never been divisive but always uniting. He talked to everyone and did not target certain people for gain – expect his being a Londoner, obviously. He has managed to make people forget that he is a Muslim and see the individual beyond all labels. I am even sure some people who voted for him did not know he was Labour until they took the ballot. And that is the victory we should celebrate.

This London’s Mayor race was the victory of the individual above all categorisation, whatever they might be: gender, sex, religion, ancestry, skin complexion. It is the victory of one man as his own who managed to appeal to people as their own.

Seasons greetings from sharks. Oh joy!

I am, at the moment, experiencing of the joy of British life, even though I left England six months ago: the debt collectors.

As a Frenchman who has always paid every single of his bills the second they arrived, I heard of it but I never knew what they were. Also, the companies who put themselves willingly in debt to blindly chase you later are strictly forbidden in France and many countries on the continent.

My issues? The usual with companies in England. Everyone has a story like this.

I called my mobile company in July to say I was moving back to France…forever! – They tried to put my account in sleep or offer me an international deal. Well I am leaving England forever, that’s for sure and I told them it had to be closed before I was closing my UK bank account on September 26th. The agent said okay, he had done it. I thought that was quick but frankly I was more used to deal with HSBC who have excellent customer service so I did not see anything into it. He told me I would get an email and a letter. I realised months later than I got none of it.

So one day, on late October, I get some news from my former landlord in England saying that they got a letter from Orange: I owed them more than £100 and something about debt collection which I knew nothing about. I called them, they say they have no record of the cancellation. Of course, they don’t. It went smoothly with BT, the gym, the RSPCA, the British Humanist Association, the GALA…I was stupid to believe everything would go fine, wasn’t I?

For this is quite a common practice with Internet and mobile companies, especially from the agents on the customer service who are disposable, even more so when they are cancelling contracts. I told them that they say they are recording phone calls so they find it back and they will have confirmation And Orange tells me they are not responsible for the mistake their agents are doing. And that I should have double-checked. Come again?! My job was teaching, not double-checking if Orange’s agents are working well. That’s the job of Orange’s management.

Then I am dropped out of nowhere into payment services where they ask for an account in England. I told them I don’t live there anymore , it’s like talking to a hole in the ground. At some point, she even asks me if I can just give a friend’s bank details and give them the money back. Are you fucking mad?!

I even go to an Orange boutique in France (Orange is what used to be France Télécomes) to ask for help and they tell me it might be the same name but it is not the same entity. I also discover that Orange actually disappeared when they merged with T-mobile into EE. Whatever…

So nothing. They ain’t gehin’ nofin’ from me!

Then in mid-December, a letter again in England from Buchanan Clark and Wells – or something, there are some loose Ns and Ss I don’t know where to put – and I discover the debt collectors. For those on the continent who don’t know, these people are the opposite of the debts collectors we have here who are buying the debts of people in difficulty to banks, merge them and come up with a relief payment plan. They help people. Not in England.

In the UK, these companies are willingly buying the debts from “struggling” companies to chase the everyday people. So that Buckman Church and Wollop thingy got a call from EE, they gave EE the money and now I actually don’t EE anything but I owe it to Butt Cleft and Waffles.

That’s a fantastic move from EE – completely supported by the government – because if they dealt with it directly, I would have a valid claim. The Internet is filled with lazy, dishonest people yes, but also people like me who have never missed a payment, never been overdraft in their entire life, who are doing everything right, in time, following proper procedures but suddenly find themselves forced to pay some money they don’t owe and don’t have because it turns the companies are useless at best.

With Buttocks, Cocks and Willies, EE would have to deal with the claim themselves and face the reality of their rogue practice. A common practice again. It happened to me with Virgin as well when I moved from London to Birmingham and they refused to change the name on the account. I called them two months in advance, twice then the landlady called them five times and everytime: “It’s okay, we’ve done it”. They never did and it took three extra months to finally get it done so I paid the phone and Internet for a place I was not living in anymore. I paid that time because I was afraid, just moved to England but swore to never deal with Virgin again and convinced countless friends to do the same.

This is time, no.

As far as EE is concerned, they literally gave the hot shit to someone else who was rogue enough to buy a debt. I called Bleak, Cancer and Wither to tell them that I was not living in England and explain why I did not owe that money but they cannot understand anything else that “What are you bank details?” and they don’t care, to be honest. All they see is that I owe them money. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know exactly what they did to get that negative balance, I do know that they couldn’t give a fuck about what happened. They just want the money and that’s an end of it.

EE did what all companies are doing in England, they flee their responsibility and liability by putting the fruits of their mistakes in the hands of others. When it comes to EE, they got the money they wanted, they got rid of the problem so they don’t have to be sharks and bastards, and they can keep their hands clean. Some company will do the job for them.

I would like to meet the people who found those debt collecting companies, to ask them lengthy questions about every aspect of their life, childhood and education. It must be a fantastic insight into the dark places of neo-capitalism.

In France, it is a forbidden. A company will have to be the bastard and go the justice system themselves. There is no being a coward and letting the bullies do your dirty work. They will have to get the bailiffs in themselves and they will have to sit and listen to their potential failings in risk of tarnishing their reputation.

Now I am waiting. I am anxious by nature so I am a bit worried sometimes. I think about it once/day but that’s what I do with money anyway. My family and friends do not seem fazed at all. They all told me to just let it go and ignore it. I didn’t and called various helplines and specialists in England and France but the maze of the justice system between countries, especially with the UK, has rendered them irrelevant. They don’t know what could happen. They know my landlords are protected because I don’t live there and it’s my name that is soiled, not theirs.

I left the UK months ago ensuring that when my bank account was closed, it was the end of everything, I could finally bring closure and it turns out UK’s rogue capitalism is like cancer, it comes back when you don’t expect it. Especially around Christmas.

PS: This is not a “Awww, please, commiserate!” post. I am  not that kind!

They see Nazis everywhere.

There is a quite interesting study showing that when an argument breaks up between two people who don’t know each other (well), there is about 70% chance one party will bring up Hitler to justify the validity of their argument against the other. Something on the lines of “Hitler thought the same as you so that proves you are wrong”. Usually, it tends to close the argument. For all the wrong reasons, obviously.

Interesting but I went to check on that years ago. I wish I had kept all the links of my research but that was not something I was doing at the time, unlike today. So I went to check this research and it turned out, when the researchers tried to broaden their findings into population whose first language was not English, the percentage of probability that Hitler pops up decreased dramatically. There is something there.

Back in 2008, when living in Blackpool, I was browsing Youtube for a good rendition of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” of the Queen of the Night and came accross the Tölzer Knachenbor. It’s a Bavarian choir of boys who sing famous opera pieces. This year, for instance, they performed for FC Bayern München at their Christmas dinner. One of their most famous boys is Robin Schlotz who was singing that Mozart aria. He was also singing Stimme des Waldvögels, a short aria in one of Wagner’s operas. I love that little interlude so I copied the lyrics and posted them on Facebook. Sigfried is mentioned in the lyrics so almost all my English friends told me I was “having a little Nazi nostalgia.”

I played dumb and I asked why they were saying such a thing. They replied that “it’s because Hitler was a friend of Wagner” – he wasn’t. Wagner’s operas are the essence of German romantism that came with the birth of Germany as a nation and the need they felt to find common roots after centuries of fratricidal wars and struggles. They, and Wagner too, went to find them in Germano-Scandivanian mythology along with Odin, Thor, the Valkyries and Sigfried as the half-god hero, a tracing paper-made Germanic Hercules.

The issue is that Hitler followed the same movement and the Nazism rely heavily on this symbolism of German romantism, therefore the mythology. The swatiska cross is the symbol of Thor, after all, whose nickname was Barbarossa (ginger beard), which was also the code name of the invasion of the USSR. So today, in England, any mention of these symbols or Wagner or any author, composer, writer, musician that inspired Hitler will make you more or less a Nazi. There is something there. Certainly no common sense.

Still looking for classical pieces on Youtube, I came across, in Mars this year, a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria sang by Maria Callas. The comments were littered with accusations and insults directed towards her: she was a Nazi, a Nazi-sympathiser, she was glorifying the Nazism…The name attached to these comments were all English-based. Mostly English names the likes of Sean, Billy, Bob, Britany, John…Once again, the fact that she was singing in German meant that she “was a Nazi”, she “was advertising Nazism” by speaking the language regardless of the fact that it’s a religious, catholic hymn to the Holy Virgin. They could not see behind the German language and, for them, everyone living in Germany before 1945 is a Nazi. Schubert, Göthe, Schiller, Beethoven, all of them. There is something there.

Last August, I found a picture of the European monarchs together at Queen Victoria’s funerals and I posted the pictures on Tumblr. I really liked the picture, some of them, like the King of Belgium, were bloody handsome. Yum! And as a tag I made the mistake of saying what I thought: “Loving the boots!” For the rest of the week, it was a torrent of abuse from various anons accusing me of being a Nazi. For some, you see the bad English but mainly the endless diatribes accusing of wanting Jews to be killed were in very good English. Same kind of reaction from some friends when I asked them if one could find such horsemen boots nowadays and all, expect one, of my English friends told me: “Yes, in a Nazi shop.”  There are boots worn by European kings of all nationalities at the beginning of the 20th century because they rode horses! What the fuck does it have to do with the Nazis? “They wore the same kind of boots”. Yeah, they also were all wearing military outfits, does that mean that all soldiers are Nazis?

And why is Word forcing me to put a bloody capital letter to that dreadful n-word?!

The only way I can explain this obsession with finding, seeing Nazis everywhere is, what I mentioned earlier, the fact that they still cannot get over their victory over them 69 years ago.

In the UK, and especially England, “the War” is mentioned constantly to such an extent that even the German ambassador got fed up with it. Only to be called a “sore loser” and a “kill-joy”. That’s English international diplomacy for you.

Every year, “the War” is the first thing the boys in the school I used to teach use to taunt the German students when we went to German and when they came to England. Boys who were as young 11, 12 years old were stopping what they were doing, purposely going to see German students in the playground to ask them “How does it feels to lose the War?”. In present tense. Not in the past. It’s still happening right now.

You have to go more than three generations in their family for anyone to have actually experienced WWII but still the kids in the playgrounds of England find nothing better to do that asking young Germans about their country’s defeat in 1945. The same kids who asked me what USSR was.

The second question is: How many people are Nazis in your family? (present tense again!)

The third: How many Jews did you kill?

And parents never understood why we never managed to convince German parents to do an exchange with our grammar school. The school had to satisfy with a visit. It’s a common problem with boys all over England.

In the media, if you mention Germany to say they are in some way “worst” than the UK, everything will be fine because in their minds, this is how it should be. The winner takes it all and the loser has to forever suffer. Where it cracks is that the reality is different and it annoys the English. When Germany reinvented itself, made amends, has been fighting its demons for 70 years which allowed the Germans to move on, to find the confidence to be strong again, to use their qualities for the good, the English have not. There are still stuck in 1946. Stuck in a world where they set the tone.

It looks impossible for them to move on because this victory is everything. It finally lead England, its lesser partners in the UK, its former colonies, its colonies and dominions to be the ones who were going to rule the world. Before London and Washington were just another player along with Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo but with France and the Netherlands humiliated and irrelevant, Germany and Japan in smoking ruins, and Canberra raising from the ashes of Indonesia, they took the reins on what would become the Western World. The world order we are living in today is the one of Yalta where “the winners of the war” decided on what would become of the future. And the winners were solely London, Washington and Moscow. With Moscow “defeated” in 1991, today’s crackling world is what English-speaking London and Washington created between 1945 and 1960 politically, economically, sociologically. Moving on from 1945 would mean moving on from this order, moving on from their dominance towards a fairer leadership.

In England, Churchill is still everywhere.  Politicians of all beliefs are using and abusing his spirits. He doesn’t matter how much he drank, how many cigars he smoked, how horrendously sexist and cheap as a man he was, he’s the victor. He’s the man every mean should aspire to, every woman should want to serve and marry. When Scotland was about to vote on independence, one of Westminster’s main arguments was “We defeated the Germans together, we can’t let our little differences tear us apart”. The victory still serves as a gathering call for the English and the like-spoken world.

When it comes to the Germans, the English have this schizophrenic attitude towards them. They admire them, they envy them, their work ethic, the stability of their political system. They envy their comfort, their way of life, and German high-skilled manufactured products are a sign of wealth in a country that advertised de-industrialisation as a way forward. For the upper middle-class whose imperative is to show its status, buying a German car is the door to acceptance: they are expensive, they are stylish, they are luxury cars the poor cannot afford but they don’t have this old-fashioned, old farty geezer or cheap footballer feeling about them like Jaguar or Aston Martin. And they remain affordable for them, unlike Rolls Royce, which is owned by BMW anyway.

The English also try to relate to them by all means now that they are the powerful. Every week, you will hear that their monarchy is German because they are descending from the House of Hannover. They are as German as the Tudors were French but they share something. When it turned out Angela Merkel was nothing like the “silly minger” the English tabloids were depicting her as, the English jumped to remind the world that they too had a “strong woman Prime Minister who changed their country and the world for the better”. Oh dear…

Now, try talking about how well Germany is doing right now and you will see the discussion end quite quickly with an annoyed: “Yeah, we kicked their arse and we will do it again if we have to!” or “Hey, they lost and we won so…”

So what?

“Well, we got Hitler at the end.”

There we are…

The bottom line is that next year, it will be 70 years since WWII – or the War. People who can talk about the realities of “the War” will have to have been born in the early 1920’s so that about…no one. And still, mentioning German culture makes you a Nazi in the UK.

“Without freedom from the past, things can only get worse.”