Category Archives: Europe

2002 – 2017: Le sacrifice de mes convictions.

En 2002, j’avais 18 ans et étant né en avril, j’ai pu voter pour la première fois aux élections présidentielles.

J’ai toujours aimé le vote. Je me souviens très clairement, quand j’étais petit, accompagner mes parents au bureau de vote le dimanche qui se trouvait dans l’école maternelle. On les attendait dans la cour, je les voyais parler à des gens, montrer leur carte d’identité (une chose que je n’avais pas), puis ils allaient dans un truc avec un rideau qui ne laissait voir que leurs pieds. Après, ils mettaient une enveloppe dans une boite transparente, quelqu’un disait quelque chose, ils signaient puis on jouait dans la cour avant de poursuivre la journée.

Voter était normal. Ca n’arrivait pas souvent mais quand ça arrivait, ça faisait simplement partie de la journée. On y allait sur le chemin de la forêt ou du parc, des terrains de tennis ou de la piscine. Ils n’en parlaient pas mais je savais ce qu’ils faisaient et alors que je grandissais, me passionnais pour l’histoire, la géopolitique, la politique, la longue et pénible car fragile construction des démocraties, le vote devenait pour moi le principe même de l’histoire en marche.

L’année précédente, on avait étudié la Ière puis la IIème République, la mise en place du cens qui ne permettait qu’aux riches de voter puis sa disparition sous les coups des penseurs, des philosophes et des grands hommes. L’année même, on avait fini la Seconde Guerre Mondiale et on avait parlé du droit de vote des femmes, puis de la baisse de la majorité à 18 ans. Je voulais faire partie de cette évolution, en profiter comme quelque chose de spécial qui m’attendait.

En 2002, c’était le doute. Mes 18 ans étaient moins de deux semaines avant le premier tour des présidentielles. J’étais lycéen et me sentais quelque part comme un imposteur. Je ne payais pas d’impôts, ne travaillais pas mais la loi me l’autorisait donc j’avais bien l’intention d’exercer ce droit. L’administration prend toujours son temps donc même si j’avais tout fait comme il me l’avait été demandé, receverai-je ma carte en temps et en heure? Oui et ce fut une catastrophe.

Je voulais voter pour m’exprimer vraiment, faire compter ma voix, faire parler mes convictions mais nous sortions d’un gouvernement de Gauche qui, comme beaucoup d’autres, avait trahi ses électeurs. Les jeunes, surtout, avec une précarité accrue qui devait eliminer enfin le chômage, avec des CDD qui n’ont rien changé sauf à rendre ma génération totalement à la merci du patronat.

Néanmoins, je suis socialiste par convictions et non par intérêt donc j’ai voté pour le PS comme j’ai toujours voulu le faire. Enfin, non, pas exactement: entre 12 et 15 ans, j’étais Marxiste. Féministe Marxiste avec l’idée que les femmes devaient prendre le pouvoir pour faire subir aux hommes les millenaires de servitude qu’elles doivent encore supporter. Le lycée et les cours de philosophie m’ont ammené à réfléchir au Marxisme et à m’en détacher pour une approche plus centrée sur le travail en commun que sur la division de la société en factions qui doivent se battre.

Mais 2002 reste 2002 et je me retrouve à dévoir laisser mes convictions derrière moi pour sauver la Révolution française. Je dois laisser derrière mes idéaux, l’utopie et mes rêves d’une France qui change pour soutenir un démocrate corrompu face à un fasciste négationniste. C’est l’histoire en marche. C’est 1914, Jaurès et l’Union Sacrée. C’est 1932 et la resistance aux ligues d’extrême droite. C’est 1940, De Gaulle et l’appel du 18 juin. C’est l’altruisme intellectuel, c’est savoir abandonner ses convictions personnelles pour le bien de la nation, de son histoire, de ce que mes ancêtres ont construit.

Les années qui suivirent, j’ai pensé ce temps révolu. J’ai voté Royal face à Sarkozy, ai quitté la France de Sarkozy pour l’Angleterre où j’y ai découvert et analysé sous toutes coutures le New Labour, une Gauche que j’admirais de loin mais dont les réalités sont loin de l’image qu’elle se donne. Tout comme la France.

Une Nouvelle Gauche qui est très vite devenue l’exemple des autres Gauches d’Europe: une Gauche qui se plit au monde construit par la Droite, qui accepte la mise en retrait de la société face aux impératifs économiques. Une Gauche qui n’est qu’en opposition, qui n’a plus d’idées ou qui a honte de les défendre parce qu’elles ont été détournées par un Bloc qui fut “vaincu sans même avoir à faire la guerre”.

Cependant, à mes yeux, le PS résiste encore donc, depuis Birmingham, je vote pour Hollande aux présidentielles mais les Verts aux législatives. C’est toujours comme ça, je vote “utile”. Pas de dispersion quand c’est une personne pour éviter que 2002 ne se répète. Oui, le traumatisme reste. Puis je vote au plus près de mes convictions pour que les députés représentent au mieux la diversité des courants, des idées, des classes,  des sexes, des origines à l’Assemblée où les lois sont écrites, discutées et votées.

Les choses sont difficiles mais Hollande tient le cap puis arrive Valls et tout bascule. Le New Labour est dans la place, la realpolitik de Gauche qui se veut adulte et responsable, qui regarde de haut l’idéalisme et l’utopie de la Gauche dite traditionnelle, comme senile et paradoxallement immature. Hamon en fait les frais puis Montebourg et surtout Taubira. Pour la première fois, je ne pas pour qui voter. C’est politiciens créent un parti? Je fonce mais ils restent fidéles au PS qui garde cette tradition d’auto-critique.

Que faire? Je le sens dès 2015 comme j’ai senti venir le Brexit et ai quitté l’Angleterre en 2014 avant d’en faire les frais: le PS va à sa mort. Comme quand les Radicaux de Gauche sont devenus le centre droit (UDF) au fur et à mesure du temps et des gouvernements, une nouvelle gauche renaîtra mais sera-t-il temps comme en 1936?

Aujourd’hui, on est en 2017. 15 ans après avoir été obligé de sacrifier mes convictions sur l’autel de la République et rien n’a changé. On sort d’un gouvernement socialiste qui a une fois de plus courbé le dos et a trahi ses électeurs, sans aucun résultat concret. Pire, elle attaque: les électeurs, la démocratie à coup de 49:3 et la dissidence.

La Gauche se doit d’être utopiste et idéaliste, d’imaginer des choses nouvelles. Qu’elle se fasse ridiculiser par la Droite paternaliste et arrogante, c’est une chose mais que le Premier Ministre et les ministres du PS eux-mêmes attaquent cette vision du futur, c’est dévastateur. Qui va nous faire rêver et espérer si la Gauche ne croit plus qu’en la realpolitik et abuse de son pouvoir?

Soudain, Valls est vaincu et les autres aussi. Hamon est là, celui qui a fait les frais de cette trahison et j’espère, je crois à nouveau. Je ne m’attends pas à ce qu’il gagne mais je suis d’accord avec lui, ces idées, son utopisme et son idéalisme parce qu’on ne va nulle part en restant fixé sur le passé et peignant d’une autre couleur des échecs pour les faire passer pour de la nouveauté. Il faut imaginer, inspirer les gens à inventer quelque chose de nouveau.

Cependant, ça reste un choix difficile parce que je ne veux pas avoir l’impression de voter “inutile”, par seul intérêt alors j’y retourne: dans les programmes, au délà des discours – je ne connais que trop la valeur trompeuse des discours. J’étudie les autres et aucun ne s’approche autant de ce qu’en quoi je crois qu’Hamon.

La Droite sous toutes ses formes, on oublie. Cheminades, je pensais sérieusement qu’il était mort. Mélenchon joue de la division et je ne supporte plus entendre dire que c’est la faute d’untel ou untel, sans compter sur son anti-européanisme qui n’a rien de constructif et son admiration non-assumée pour Poutine. Poutou est intéressant, il parle sans mâcher ses mots, sans être bêtement poujadiste mais je n’ai rien vu qui aille au-delà. Macron, c’est simple: j’ai vécu sous Tony Blair donc je connais les réalités de cette Gauche.

Je reconnais qu’Hamon est un peu maladroit quand il s’exprime. Sa performance pendant le débat était misérable mais ca n’enlève à ses idées qui sont les plus proches des miennes. Alors, oui, aujourd’hui j’ai voté Hammon.

Néanmoins, je ne suis pas aveugle ni stupide et je sais qu’une fois de plus, dans deux semaines, 15 après ma première fois, je vais devoir sacrifier mes convictions pour le bien du pays, même de ceux qui ne le veulent pas parce que je ne que connais trop l’histoire.

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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.

 

Brexit: The Pandora’s box is open.

Before I start on the topic, I’d like to point out that I am not here to say whether I am in favour or against Brexit or siding with or against the “metropolitan elite”. As a gay, socialist foreigner who lived and worked in the UK for almost a decade as a language teacher, I belong to this elite that tends to favour remaining in the EU but as a continental working towards a more socialist and fairer Europe, I do see London as the biggest threat to our democracy, the rights and livelihood of everyday people for it has established itself as the spokesperson for the almighty business and neo-capitalism. So I am both, I guess.

Now the news is that, in the midst of uncertainties, the High Court of England and its three judges with lovely wigs have decided that the parliament has the final say on Brexit. Fair enough to remind everybody that democracy is best spoken by the elected assembly.

As an historian, I know all too well the referenda are tools of the popular, authoritarian executive facing with difficulties in pushing their agenda through a diverse elected legislative chamber and therefore grant the good people with a direct voice in the name of democracy. France has had its share of them: Napoleon III used it to become emperor and put an end to the Second Republic, De Gaulle used his prestige and popularity to overthrow the parliament-centred Fourth Republic and install the monarchy-like presidential Fifth Republic instead.

What surprises me is the “Victory!” cry from the Remainers as if everything was finally sorted out and was where it should have been to begin with, i.e. the way they want it to be. The High Court just said they think the parliament must have the final say on the trigger of Article 50. Why are the Remainers convinced it will stop Brexit?

Of course, I am not stupid and I am aware that it’s because they know the parliament would block Brexit. They are certain a majority of MPs regardless of party affiliation are against it and that’s exactly why that woman legally challenged the value of the referendum to begin with.

She basically pulled a Donald Trump. Even if her intentions are deemed more positive. She did not challenge the government or Cameron on the legal weight of his promise and actual proceedings of the referendum when it happened. Although she had months to do it. Months to show and prove that it would be irrelevant in any and every way, that the Commons would have the final say whatever. But because there was a chance things would go her way, she did not. She waited for the results of a perfectly legal, well-conducted democratic process to displease her to finally mount a legal challenge.

The problem is that far from preventing anything, it has instead triggered an absolute political nightmare. I am not talking about political minefield but proper battleground. Yes, MPs are a majority to believe remaining is the right solution but does that mean they are going to vote according to what they believe to be good or what their constituents believe to be good? The High Court decision does not dictate how the Commons should vote, nor does it dismiss the results. It’s saying that the democratic process has spoken and it’s up to the Commons, the legislative branch, and not the government, the executive, to act upon it. It’s not saving the UK of Brexit rather is purely testing its relationship between the people and the elite. The results in the long term may get way uglier than Brexit.

As an MP, you are elected by a people majority to then serve every single person regardless of differences of any kind, so I reckon, and most people who believe in democracy will agree, that the right to do is to check what the outcome of the referendum was in your constituency and vote as such. In that case, the legal challenge is ridiculous because the result would be the same. 52% of the English people voted “Out”, if the MPs are indeed doing their job as expected by proper and respectful democratic process, it should 52% “Out” in the parliament as well, for they are supposed to be the voice of their constituents.

Therefore, the challenge that “selfless, philanthropist” paid for out of her own money (the media seem to think it’s important to point that out) would be remembered as nothing but time wasted, money wasted, more dithering, more restlessness from all sides and more divisions within the country when the effort should be to stand strong and united, not resentfully fighting against something only after it happened.

Or, as Remainers obviously expect, the MPs will disregard the actual voice of their own constituents and vote according to their own agenda, beliefs and fears. Then that legal challenge will be remembered as the moment the parliament, the political and financial elite (the one who can afford to mount such a challenge without going bankrupt) officially and openly became completely detached from its own electorate, from the people who entrusted them to speak in their name and keep their promises to represent them.

That legal challenge is a Pandora’s Box putting MPs in a difficult position: either following the voice of the ones who voted for them or going against it at the risk of losing them altogether. To the far right, most likely.

So they could gamble and argue that many voted “Out” out of anger and spite and actually wanted “In”. They could argue that many did not cast a vote in the first place. They could argue that the current economic uncertainties and bad news have turned the tables. They could gamble and convince themselves that these aforementioned people are now hoping for the Commons to clean up the mess the people have made.

However this is all hypotheses, for the MPs also know that the one and only certainty is all this is that 52% of the people directly said “Out”. 52% from all parts of the political spectrum, all wealth, genders, places and races. 52% who will not take betrayal lightly after they were offered a chance to speak their mind. Some say they could call for a fresh general election to find out but unless they ask the question again, or remodel the whole of English politics into two new parties “In” vs “Out”, or the Labour and the Lib Dem party manage to multiply fish, I don’t see how it’s going to change any outcome.

Referenda are a tricky political move, challenging them is worst.

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.

What is it going to take for us to tackle women’s rights issues seriously?

We were meeting with my local Amnesty International group, discussing the main lines of action for next year: the official ones and the ones we would also like to tackle. My mother brought up women’s rights and she said she wanted the group to also focus on the slow but certain erosion of these very rights and the plight of women.

It was met with a certain level of agreement but no exactly the concern I was expecting. Nor my mother. It was then commented by one of the member, a retired teacher, a woman, who said she did not want to discuss the issue more than three times. Why there should be a status of limitation when it comes to women’s rights, who know?

I know what my mother did “wrong”. The examples she gave to justify this focus were all happening in France. Nothing about the Third World, about women living in slums or deserts or small villages in a savage, undemocratic world waiting to be civilised by us.

And that was the key problem for this member as she is the typical Westerner when it comes to making the world a better place: she thinks the world should become us, basically. She is fine denouncing every single country as long as they don’t belong to the First World. She cringes and always finds excuses every single time when we try to bring the focus on what our governments and institutions are doing to our freedom or how they abuse poorer countries. She says there are bigger issues, I say she doesn’t understand that charity begins with yourself and one should clean up before their own door before complaining that the neighbour’s should be addressed.

My point is, she felt it was not necessary to dwell of the rights of women, especially in our country. We should focus on what she called “actual problems in our countries”, like the refugees crisis because that is a real problem. People die, you know!

What is it going to take for her and the rest of the world to take women’s rights issues seriously?

Women represent 52% of the world population.

If they are a minority in China and soon in India, due to their short-sighted birth policies, there are countries like Russia or Brazil where they are a strong majority. And yet, their daily burden is worsening. As shown, for instance, by today’s news of men, not only gang-raping a 16-year old girl for wearing “the wrong length of skirt”, but proudly posting pictures of themselves and their crime all over social media, to the glee of hundreds of other men who liked and shared the pictures.

Women are responsible for 70% of the world’s production yet earn only 10% of the total income and own 0.9% of the world’s property.

There are 196 countries in the world and only 15 elected heads of state are women.

About 300 million girls are deprived of the very basic education, which means they cannot even write their names rendering them at the complete mercy of the educated males around them.

And going to school is not always a charm when 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to school every single year.

In Nigeria, when a student gets raped by four other students, including her boyfriend, we only focus on why the woman was alone with four boys to begin with.

India is at a breaking point after decades, if not centuries, of women serfdom and abuse. It is only because Westerners were attacked that we really talked about it.

You think it’s all about shaming the Third World? Let’s have a look at our “civilised” societies then.

In Europe, most monarchies still apply the agnatic-cognatic primogeniture rule, which means that a man will always comes first when it comes to accessing the throne, not matter how many older sisters he has. And in case of strict sorority, the first sister who has a son will become the first in line to the throne, only because she has given birth to the next potential king. What a great message to send if you consider that these dynasties claim they are chosen by God.

In the US, girls are submitted to insane school “decency rules” regarding what they can and cannot wear whereas boys can just walk in wearing…clothes. The opening remark of this video is everything.

In the US, whether it is the Congress, the House of Representatives, the Senate, none of these prestigious institutions shaping the most powerful country in the world can managed more than 20% of women.

In our society, when men are free to be and do whatever they want, women can never win: whatever they do, they say, they look like, it’s never right.

In France, if a woman wears too much, she is frigid or a Muslim (cue derogatory tone) and if she wears too little, she is a whore craving for men to fill her every holes.

The French former ministre de l’économie openly sexually harassed a journalist during a Davos conference prompting female journalists from all over Northern Europe to specifically ask not to be sent to France for the harassment of women has become unbearable. The French female journalists and politicians are now in rebellion against the inherent misogyny of the French masculine elite. A behaviour, these old perverts like to call the “French sauciness” as if it were something we were all born with, should be proud of and nurture.

Every single woman I know has a story of abuse.

My mother who was fondled by older classmates when she was at school. She slapped them just to be told 35 years later than showing some cleavage when you are a HR manager is inappropriate. That happened in France…as we lecture Iran.

My grand-mother who was offered an after-school ride by one of her father’s business partner. A man who then wanted her to show some kind of gratitude. She went out of the car before anything happened, thank God!

A friend of mine who has been living in fear for the past two years after she broke the vicious circle and left a violent man who was cheating on her and abusing her physically and psychologically. He went all the way to punching her boss, causing damage to her and her parents’ properties, threatening her friends to the complete inaction of the police.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to official statistics, 25% of women have, are and will experience domestic abuse in the hands of the one they love. Every minute, in the UK, the police receive a phone call dealing with domestic violence and 81% of the victims are women. On average, a woman was assaulted 35 times before she finds the courage to call the police.

The overview of Europe is pretty much the same. Some countries look bad because they actually consider these numbers when others still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge them.

One in 10 women have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, while one in 20 has been raped.

One in five women have experienced some form of stalking since the age of 15, with 5% having experienced it in the 12 months preceding the survey. However, three out of four stalking cases reported in the survey never come to the attention of the police. And having a name for yourself will not make the police be any more understanding or professional.

Of women in the survey who indicate they have been raped by their current partner, about one third (31%) say they have experienced six or more incidents of rape by their partner.

Just over one in 10 women experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15.

These numbers will only tell a partial story as they rely on women’s courage to break the circle of abuse and speak up. Like all these girls and women who don’t exist because they cannot sign their own name, how much abuse “doesn’t exist” because women cannot put words on what they suffer everyday?

On average, in Europe, in every single country, every three days a woman is killed by a current or former partner. If you consider the whole of the UE, that’s 9 women killed every single day.

Every day.

Every. Day.

Remember that, as you are working, eating, walking, cooking, playing or listening to music…As you are living your daily life, 9 woman are suffering, agonising and eventually die of domestic violence. In their own house. By someone they once trusted and loved.

Nine woman. Every day. In the European Union.

As Amnesty International, we are campaigning against oppression, violence, abuse and death penalty. Why, then, can’t we spent more than three days discussing the fate of the people who suffer the most from it?

How many more will have to die for us to finally consider that women are indeed fighting an everyday war and need our help?

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.