Category Archives: Social understanding – Aspects culturels

I am unpatriotic whore, apparently.

The first time my “whoring” became apparent to me was 15 years ago when my parents invited a couple of friends over. The discussion at the table, at which I was expected to stay, somehow ended up on my speaking English on the Internet: have status in English on MSN chat for instance, taking active part in English-speaking forums about footballers I fancied and more broadly on my listening to practically only English.

The husband had objections and I can’t recall exactly how it came to that but I said: “Using English is also easier to communicate and look for things you need.” To which he replies “So you are prostituting yourself.” He had the idea that my speaking English on the Internet instead of sticking to French, and especially using English when French could be used (i.e. on MSN with some of my French friends) was like a prostitute who can’t be bothered to get a proper job to make a living. She instead opens her legs because she is certain to get the money and akin to her, I was willingly selling out my culture, myself, my identity to get what I want instead of sticking to my language, no matter whom I was interacting with, because it is easier that way. I should be working hard to establish myself as I am but instead I was sleeping with the boss to get there.

As I was mentioning this very conversation to a friend, she bounced back on my use of English, something I never used with her, but when she fathomed the scale of my willingness to learn it, speak it and use it, she simply asked “Why do you want to lose your mother tongue?” For her, actively learning and enjoying the speaking of another language to which I had no family ties whatsoever was an act of forsaking my own language. In her mind, I couldn’t have both. One was going to take over. It wasn’t about whoring myself to get it easy anymore but willingly rejecting my whole self for unfathomable reasons.

The questioning of my patriotism came with another former friend. “Former” because there are certain things I only take from foes, not friends. Again, we were on the subject of my listening to almost exclusively English-speaking music. She was going through my CD collections – no MP3 players at the time – and ruing the absence of French but for a couple of artists out of a 100 or so. She asked why and my answer prompted her to tell me I was “unpatriotic”. I was buying music, giving money to some strangers that are the very reason why French musicians struggle. I was part of the problem regarding the suffocation of anything native in the face of the American music industry. More, I was betraying my culture when I could be expanding it. I was serving the enemy.

I have been wondering why these people reacted as they did for the past 15 years. Not that it’s the first or only time I have been getting that kind of remarks but they usually come from people who call themselves “proud, real French”. The either country-side-living or poorly-educated or highly nationalistic person who, for various reasons, reject anything foreign on various degrees of violence and easily buy into the American invasion. All the while never going to a single French movie because they are “boring”…

I get that at work at the moment. For the first time, I am not in teaching languages but took a job at a supermarket because the next country I want to move to is very expensive so I need massive savings, and I am surrounded by people who don’t speak English. When I do, even and mostly to myself, most of them have this knee-jerk rejection of it. Fear of someone who knows more? Feeling of exclusion? Both I think.

However, those three people aforementioned belong to a type of population I know very well, due to my travelling and living abroad: the bi-nationals. The man is Franco-German, the former friend was Franco-Vietnamese and the other is French but both her parents are Argentinians who moved to France as teenagers.

Most bi-nationals I know embrace both their cultures, languages and the question of identity is one that resolved itself easily: I am a citizen of the world. I am a human being. Borders are irrelevant, languages are relevant in that they open doors and help you in life. If nationalities are two boxes on paper, they are endless opportunities in real life. A former colleague whose mother is Jamaican and father French, because born in Guadeloupe, was once asked the usual question: “What do you prefer most? Being French or Jamaican?” She replied that this type of questions was akin to asking: “Who’s your favourite, your dad or your mum?” This is irrelevant and ignorant.

A bi-national will appreciate and critique their culture equally but for very different reasons and the questions of identity, culture and belonging is a open pick & mix buffet. You take what you like in whichever side you wish. For instance, when talking about homosexuality, she said she was more French because France embraces same-sex marriage but when it comes to race issues, she was more Jamaican because, unlike in France, she was not “black” in Jamaica, just a normal person.

Nevertheless, not all bi-nationals are like that, as shown by the people who called me a prostitute who was unpatriotically forsaking my whole heritage for something I had no reason to embrace. They belong to the bi-nationals for whom the question of identity has been a black or white issue and they were faced with choosing sides for a variety of reasons so it took me to know them to try and understand their apparent rejection of anything but France and French, although they should be the expression of multiculturalism.

The husband, for instance, was born from a German father and a French mother. First, as a child whose father is the foreigner, he spoke little German. It’s something I noticed amongst all my friends, either parents or children in multicultural families: if the mother is the foreigner, the child will more likely be bilingual and open to both his heritages. Fathers tend to speak their native language less for reasons I still need to explore. So he grew up speaking just a bit of both languages and when his father left his mother, the conflict of love became one of cultures. In the rejection of his father, it’s also Germany and everything that comes with it he forsook. Hence the name-calling: for him, my tending to another culture is abhorrent, a betrayal to France who “gave birth to and nurture me”. He chose France and French because, in his mind, they are family and one cannot belong to two families. I was indeed just a whore, trying to please some stranger culture by overly speaking its language because I had concluded that the English family was more profitable.

The former friend has both Vietnamese parents, she spoke, ate, drank, sang, read, danced Vietnamese culture but this was the privacy of her home. Outside, casual racism based on her looking Asian, and therefore being “Chinese” – because, of course, all Asians are Chinese – led her to work extra hard to integrate to France and become she could never look “it”, she would forever act and sound it. She therefore ended up internalising extreme ideas as to what makes a good French person and a bad one. I was the bad one, she was the good one because I embraced English culture when I should have done what she has always been told to do and eventually did: solely embrace French culture and eventually leave the rest behind. I remember her saying she was fighting with her parents because she would not marry a man from Southeast Asia, and she refused to carry on with learning Vietnamese. She was the product of our idea of assimilation of immigrants centered on the concept of leaving your roots behind altogether in order to become someone else, someone new, someone fitting for the role, someone who would not think twice if the day of confrontation with your ancestry would come. You would defend France because you have become French through steps I was overlooking. Maybe because I had the privilege of being French by ancestry…

The second one was the same somehow, except she only took in the words, not the outrageous nationalism needed to compensate others’ racism based on her looks because her family is of Spanish descent. The parents spoke perfect French after 30 years in France. they had jobs, they owned a house, she was a high-achiever at school. If the name was Spanish, they were nothing but fully integrated into the French society. The perfect immigrants, some would say. “You would not know they are not French”

If the parents spoke Spanish to each other, they spoke French to their daughters. If she enjoyed her Argentinian heritage through music and dancing, she however had this idea of having to make a choice between two options. I think it comes again from the idea of opportunities in life. Being as French as possible had probably been carved into her head by her parents so to ensure she had the best chances but it also meant she couldn’t possibly understand that my love of English was not making me any less French than I am, I was just expanding my horizon as wide as her had always been on the international scale.

I have now become very wary of these types of bi-nationals who, for reasons usually not fully understood by them, are overly patriotic and judgmental when it comes to embracing more than one culture. French politics is a perfect example with people like Sarkozy (Hungary) and Manuel Valls (Spain) who were sometimes as damning of social, cultural diversity and foreigners as the far-right can be. For me, this is one of the far-right’s and racism’s greatest victory: to have made some immigrants and their children willingly reject their own culture, reject multiculturalism as fake and treason to the soil you live on, point out variety as source of a problem instead of a solution.

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Objectification: How do you cope?

I have been objectified. It’s one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced and now I wonder: how can women put up with this?

It all started as a little personal project I decided to undertake for my own pleasure first. I take black and white pictures of the same thing on various backgrounds representing various everyday tasks such as shopping, DIY, gardening, teaching, cooking, baking…

The process is quite a long one because I want all the pictures to be framed the same way but as I am using my phone from above, I have no preview of what I am photographing until I see it so I tend to take up to 20 pictures every time. I then compare it with the original one before I edit it to black and white.

After about a dozen of them, I decided to share them on social media at a rate of once/week so I have time to work on new ideas and keep the flow running steadily. However, now, I don’t want to anymore, because the first reactions I received were men admitting getting off on the pictures and asking for more…now! Two of them were actually begging. I removed the comments and block them but the damage was done.

There is no nudity involved whatsoever. I would understand their reactions, had I started posting pictures the likes of Kyle Krieger’s but the most you can see of me is a bit of my ankles. The rest is the main subject, not sexual, on backgrounds that, as I said, are nothing but common: a watering can and a shovel, some fruits and groceries next to a shopping bag…For me, it is some kind of art on which I spend a lot of time. I guess the point of art is to trigger feelings and emotions but never, even for a second have I thought it could be seen as remotely arousing or sexual.

I know we live in a society that sexualises everything. A woman cannot breastfeed anymore without half the people out there being outraged as this “disgusting display of open porn”. Still I don’t understand how women manage to carry on when they are subjected to this on a daily basis.

So I asked my mother, who I know is the subject of everyday objectification by men just because of her looks, and she said the ‘Monica moment’ in Friends is normal for women. The moment where she is asked to make a meal as part of an interview to work as a chef. The owner is a downright pervert who finds women working with dirty hands and food arousing and has no boundaries when it comes to turning Monica into an object for his own pleasure.

She told me everything you do, are, say, the way you behave will be subject of sexual objectification by someone somewhere…Suddenly, I can’t shift that vision of Richard in Ally McBeal who finds the flesh under women’s neck or arms arousing. I found it cringe-worthy at the best of time. Now I understand the intended comical effects and sociological reflection, the fact that it says more about him and society than it does about women but the cringe lingers.

Akin to Monica and Richard’s objects of desire, you are just being you with no ulterior motives. You are living your life as you do and suddenly it hits you in the face: that guy who stares at you, the one who makes constant comments, the ones who go as far as to try and touch you as if you were nothing but the button to their hormone switch.

Now that it happened to me, not only do I feel violated and discouraged to post more material, which I enjoy making, but I can’t help but thinking that maybe my being overweight or speaking with an accent or even the clothes and perfumes I wear are as many hormone switches to some people out there. They are not all perverts for they obviously know how to keep it for themselves but my view of the world has changed and my question stood: How do women cope?

My mother just replied: You just live your life. Yes, you know it’s there, everyday, lurking behind you. So you try to understand, you rationalise it, you find it disgusting anyway so you fake it until you are with your peers and can finally let out all your anger and disgust because what alse can you do? Never go out anymore? Hide yourself? Useless! Some men find inaccessible women to be a sexual fantasy anyway… (The growing trend of “Arabic women in burqa having sex” on the Internet proves her point.)

The fact is: there will always be someone who finds something sexual: high heels, pearl necklaces, pregnancy…; suits, beards, glasses, nerds…That’s not the problem, desire is a natural urge. The issue is perversion: the lacking of that social skill that makes you fathom where the boundaries are between your urges and how they should manifest in everyday life. In that case, the fact that you don’t have to openly express every single one of them every single time.

What I have come to learn with this very innocent series of pictures is that when it comes to open and proud objectification, there is no winner, just people who think it’s their right to act up on their urges. I also learn to once again rely on women to find a way out of and find the strength to carry on so I will post more pictures and carry on blocking the ones who can keep their boners out of their trousers because at the end, it’s about me, not them.

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.

 

Just sayin’ – You pervs!

A young teenage girl, let’s say she’s 12 or 13, is walking past you during a hot day wearing short shorts. You then hurry to tell the people with whom you are how inappropriate it is for her to wear something “so revealing” when she is “that young”. You can “almost see her arse.”

Now, let me be clear, man or woman: akin to people who think women who breastfeed should hide, the problem is not with her but with you and only you. For you sadly belong to those people who cannot help but see sex everywhere. In the bare breast of a mother as well as in the thighs of a 12 year-old girl.

Solution? Spent less time shaming young girls because you see them as nothing but sexual lumps of flesh who should cover themselves more in the name of decency. “I wouldn’t let my daughter wear this!” All the while shaming Muslim women for wearing too much. And work on yourself. What you will find is not going to be appealing but deal with it!

Men and women: The stripper discrepancy.

Let’s address a fundamental question here:

Why is it okay for the media to show a male model stripping to cheering women when it’s morally unacceptable to show a women stripping to cheering men?

Why is it okay for women to objectify men but not okay for men to objectify women?

In a nutshell, that’s because very few women actually objectify men whereas very few men manage to see beyond what sexually arouses them.

As a gay man in my 30s, I got to experience both sides when living in England and I have to say there is a massive difference in how the model/stripper is treated. Maybe I have been living in Care Bears world but unlike men, I have never witnessed women calling the stripping man names such as “fucker”, “cunt”, “slag”, “whore”, “piggy”, “bastard”, “dirty little slut” et al.

I have never heard women say to the stripping man: “You want it, don’t you? I know you do, you dirty pig! To suck my pussy! Yeah, that’s right! All you really want is me to sit on your face so I can shove your nose in it. Come on, baby, open your mouth and taste my juice. We both know that’s why you’re here!”

I have never seen a women crossing the lines that were clearly marked. Never have we had to even restrain a female friend because she simply decided it was better to disregard what we talked about, what the agency told us beforehand and just shoved her hand in there to grab the guy’s penis or force him to perform a sexual act right here, right now just because she pays the price. That’s rape, by the way.

With women, the ambiance is of fun. Genuine fun. Little alcohol and a lot of laughter in a mostly bright environment. Once, the room was dark but all the other couple of times, it was fully lit and we could all see each other very clearly. I never felt disgusted or disgusting. On the opposite, the point was to, indeed, enjoy the amazing body of a man who worked hard to get it, but mostly to have a fun and to make fun of the most prudish girls by making the guy dance on them as they were cringing whilst also laughing.

My female friends would talk with the guy afterwards like a normal person after he put his clothes back on. We would share drinks and would talk to him, he would become part of the guests until he had to go to his next job.

We would pay him for his stripping as a entertainer and we would always acknowledge his humanity. Some have thought otherwise, I am sure, but we never acted like we owned him for the time he worked for us. Of course we had his body in our head and we talked about it with him too, trying to hide the fact that we did crave for him to pound each of us until we turned blue. Nevertheless, he was never meant to feel like just a piece of worthless meat designed solely for our most unbalanced sexual fantasies, or as an morally reprehensible accessory we would share in secret as mean to bound us further.

Whereas all the abhorrent talk and insults I mentioned before is what I have always witnessed with men. With men, it’s squalid, insulting, disgusting. You always find yourself in some weird places in the badly-lit backstreets of towns, in a room where you cannot see anyone else but the girl doing what is essentially a job to pay the rent, the food for her kids or her studies. Do any of the men present ever think of that as they shout insults? Does it ever cross their mind that the moving body in front of them is living beyond these walls, has a life and has a story to tell? No. And not because they are inherent low-lives but because they drink to behave as such.

Indeed, unlike with women, there is this constant need for alcohol with men because of course behaving like beasts doesn’t come naturally to humans anymore. Education means inhibitions that will only go away with drugs.

With men, I witnessed what we have normalised as “locker room talk”: this competition in being the one who will degrade the stripping woman the most, this bounding in the secrecy of doing together something they know to be wrong or reprehensible. This “Bros before hoes” mentality where the “hoe” will pay the price of the men becoming “bros” – sports being the cesspit of this type of masculinity.

Personally, I have seen married men having to be pushed back by bouncers because they always want to put their hands where they know they mustn’t. I have seen friends of mine in long-term relationships becoming nothing but sex on legs, rubbing their crouch, if not just plainly masturbating within less than a minute after the girl started.

There are many reasons to explain the difference in behaviours and why women very rarely objectify men like that men objectify women. One of them is how men and women behave towards finding a mate to begin with, as women are told very early that finding the “right one” is an essential goal in their life. Therefore every “alpha male” is not yet another fuck on the way to menopause but a potential father. It is deeply carved in the psyche of society and women so competition between women will be to be the most attractive to that man, the most wife-material and that’s not by drinking, swearing and assaulting them that it will occur. Men don’t have this kind of expectations regarding women and themselves.

Actually, speaking of gender education, what I am saying is not entirely true for men are changing. In November, the Guardian published an article showing that men do not enjoy the debauchery of stag-dos anymore, a study that comes after travel agencies have noticed a change in stag-dos pattern and what men do before they get married: no stripper, it’s all about arts and wine.

What these studies show is a trend towards the end of objectification altogether as brotherhood is being redefined. We thought men enjoyed objectifying and found it acceptable, we thought and still think it is the norm within between men, as shows the question I am addressing. In fact, no matter what Mr Trump and over-60s ilks might think, do, say and pretend, it turns out, overall men actually don’t enjoy it. As men are ever more educated towards gender equality and being in touch with their feelings and the ones of others, they find objectification more and more degrading for the woman and also for themselves. They don’t enjoy being reduced to senseless beasts anymore.

Now, we are a long way from a group of men platonically inviting the female stripper to join them as a guest to their party but we are getting there in terms of mutual respect. And aside the sexual roasting of footballers and other sportsmen, I can’t help but also seeing American series like Friends which, more than a decade ago, were already showing the decline of a brotherhood and male friendship built solely around the sexual objectification of women. And as far as sisterhood is concerned, it is defined within the realm of femininity, not towards or at the direct expense of men.

In the meantime, this difference between men and women,  the difference in how they see and treat the other gender stripping, how much of their humanity they actually acknowledge, the difference is what part the other gender plays in the definition of brotherhood and sisterhood is what makes women enjoying a man stripping morally more acceptable.

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.

 

Freedom of speech is not a jail-free card.

Let’s get straight to the point and let me say that not every opinion that pops into your head is worth being expressed as it popped and freedom of speech is never some kind of wildcard for these thoughts to be worth anything.

Sure, it’s easy to just splash out everything that comes to our mind willy-nilly under the umbrella that we live in democracies and it’s therefore our right to do so. We can all do it because we are all humans, we all have our moods and all feel strongly about this and that.

For argument’s sake, I can take to Twitter and troll every religious stranger I find and call them names until the letters disappear from my keyboard because I am gay and therefore unfairly oppressed by every single religious authority in the world. My freedom of speech entitles me to retaliate, no matter how violently I strike even people who are innocent, didn’t say anything and never asked for trouble. I can also use every opportunity to scream and shout that Trump is an old twat with the face and the hair of a kangaroo’s scrotum, with policies and moral standing to match because he represents everything I disagree with and, again, my country’s constitution entitles me to express my opinion, whichever.

On more trivial matters, it’s also my right to go on every Youtube channel I follow and spew brutal hatred everytime a Youtuber I watch makes a video that displeases me in any way – even small.

In other words, it’s my right to play by the alt-right rules of self-entitlement and encourage my peers to do what I do and harass everyone I feel to be inferior because different from me or in disagreement with me, to purposely look for things I know to hate and spam the dislike buttons before filling the comment sections with the cheapest, most homophobic, sexist, racist and xenophobic “opinions” – or insults as we commonly call them.

But I don’t, even when I experience red urge of hatred, like everyone does. I just don’t do it. And it’s not because I live in a yoghurt commercial where everything is bright and fabulous but because I have been taught, I have learnt and have understood where the line is between thinking something and expressing it and how to cross that line in an adult, respectable and respectful way. I have understood that when it’s perfectly okay to have these thought, when it’s your freedom to express your opinions, there is a way to do it that requires some extra work, yes.

Some will say I am censoring myself, that my leftist political correctness has left my dry and unable to have relevant opinions, that I am fake because I never really speak my mind but always coat it in sugar to offend anyone. No, I do speak my mind but I do reflect upon it and how to convey a useful message that keeps the essence of what I think without imposing myself on others through a series of word punches.

I could spam comment sections with anger, resentment, spite and petty hatred every time when aggravated but I have learnt to reflect and ask myself: What’s the point? What is violence in words going to bring to the debate expect even more anger and division? Are people really going to change their way because I have plainly attacked them? Have I ever changed my way under the weight of insults or have I instead become ever more determined to eventually be my true self because of these attacks?

I have learnt that nothing good ever comes out of speaking your mind as it is when it is solely negativity. I will go further and say that I have grown convinced that there is nothing in our society that actually justifies plainly cheap and purposely hurtful thoughts to be put into actual written or spoken words.

I know the answer to such remark: “Censorship! It’s my freedom of speech!” No, it is not. It’s just you trying to coat your complete lack of empathy and civility in yet another blanket of outrage and self-victimhood. How far will your anger lead you?

Vomiting everything your brain produces for everyone to see, read and hear is not freedom of speech. Doing so is called being childish and having missed the point of school as a place where you should have learnt there is a difference between personal life and social life. Your personal life is your family and friends where you are indeed not only entitled to an opinion but where you can decide the degree to which you want to express it. Your peers will then judge you for that in a way that will be on par with how you expressed yourself.

What is important to understand is that social life rhymes with social peace. It means that there are rules that need to be followed, while being positively challenged, all in a constructive way where you don’t deliberately antagonise everyone, rather work towards us evolving into even better beings as a whole. If you actually think we are better human beings without gay marriage and you want me to listen and respect your opinion, don’t bark it, don’t result to insulting me to justify my being treated like a second-class citizen. If you do, don’t blame me for not being heard.

Explain yourself, show your reasoning behind your opinion/passion and we’ll talk, we’ll debate in an attempt to build something. And quoting a book is not an explanation. It’s yet another blanket on top of freedom called religion. We are both sophisticated human beings that went to school, you should be able to express yourself in your own way without resulting to point blank out-of-context misquotes.

The need for a civilised conversation is not censorship or muzzling of anyone, it stems from the fact that unlike your family and friends who can cut you off and refuse to acknowledge you if they think you are toxic, society as a whole cannot ignore you. On the opposite, a democracy has the mission to include you so it teaches all of us that we have to live with you, interact with you, respect your despite our differences.

The social rules of speech are not here to censor you but to push you to evaluate and reformulate your raw thoughts in order to express it in a way that will bring something to the debate rather than a plain insult because you feel strongly about such and such topic.

It is true that in a world where freedom of speech justifies and forgives everything, even the most racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic insults thrown in air in a tantrum, that vision I just talked about is not the current trend, although it is important to point out that it is actually the most used. Not everyone spills hatred like an oil company spills oil. Companies, institutions that fire people for being openly, proudly, dangerously and threatenly racist are under attack for supposedly bridling freedom of speech with political correctness and I support them.

My way is depicted as “leftist”, “soft”, “ineffective”, “fake” and the reason why we it don’t and won’t win elections anymore, because it’s political correctness v freedom of speech. But I believe it goes together and if political correctness means acting like a grown-up and be articulate and mindful of one’s words for the sake of everyone, I am happy to be leftist, soft and political correct and so should everyone.