Category Archives: Xenophobia – Xénophobie

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.

Taking to the streets for the future

Trump was elected and his targets are taking to the streets and, as well the usual bastards who are just here to break and create mayhem, I see something else the protesters have to deal with: the Trump electorate who are attacking them. They compare the situation to Obama’s (re-)election forgetting something crucial but they are happy to compare the two so let’s do just that.

Like Meghan Tonjes said, Obama was not perfect – no president ever was and none of them ever had a smooth ride. He made mistakes, some of them that undoubtedly endangered the economic security of people, via his support to some trans-border treaties for example. But one cannot deny that Obama was a uniting force and therefore provided a feeling of safety for the people of America as a whole. During his campaigns and presidency, when addressing the country, he addressed the country, all of it, not some part of it, pitting people against one another which is exactly what Trump did.

So when people say:
“-When Obama was reelected, we did not make a fuss. We shut up and sucked it up!”

I reply: Damn right you did!

And by the way, No! You did not shut up and got on with it. You kept going on about questioning his Americanness, from his policies to his very birth, you kept associating him with Bin Ladin because their name were close and even after he personally gave the order to gave him killed, you carried on with your usual spewing of conspiracies about him being an ally to Islamists. I don’t call that “shutting up” and “sucking it up”, I call it constant defamation in order to undermine someone just because you disagree with him and you don’t like him. Beyond disagreement or dislike, why these constant attacks?

Because that’s all you had. Obama never gave you ground to feel your freedom of being yourself, of existing, of living in the US was endangered. Maybe you felt that your freedom of carrying a gun was in danger but he never targeted you as a person. When he was elected, you didn’t feel your future, the ones of your family and friends was at stake.

Had Obama campaigned with declarations the likes of “When I am elected, no matter what institutions say, every person I personally consider a racist, I’ll have them fired, put in prison, deport and make sure they never set foot on the American soil again!”, I would have understood you taking to the streets to show your anger because that would have been a direct threat to some of you, and not just your passions, but your very existence as Americans.

You did not take to the streets because Obama was uniting, he went above all types of differences to reach you, appeal to you, talk to you whoever you were whereas Trump is divisive: he doesn’t look at America as one big ensemble constantly moving and reinventing itself but rather a monolithic heterosexual WASP block-like majority who has to reluctantly make room for change by putting up with and giving up privileges to minorities. I am not saying that his whole message but that’s most of it.

His campaign was to change how America is perceived by chopping through it with an axe, extracting the heterosexual, able WASPs and appeal to them by pitting them against every single other type of people: African Americans, Black Caribbeans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, non-Christian religions, and even men v women.

To show the damage it does, I will direct to what Clinton said about you when she made the unforgivable mistake of, once, playing into that rhetoric by targeting Trump’s voters saying that “half of them were deplorable”. All of you Trump supporters went up in arms and lashed out. She made the mistake of once being divisive and a lot of people voted for Trump as a result.

That’s why people are in the streets today. To show  the rest of the world that there is more to America than Trump, his ilks and his rhetoric. To show that he doesn’t represent every American but also because they are genuinely scared for their future as they were targeted, not for their opinions or what they did as a living or who they voted for, but for who they are: the colour of their skin, who their heart has feelings for, the birthplace of their parents or even their own. Trump made it openly and proudly clear that all these aspects of identity no one can change, including heterosexual WASPs, were a problem.

If I take the LGBT community, the anguish goes beyond the fear of the resurgence, normalisation and possible formalisation of bullying, it goes to the heart of the family they have built after we had evolved into better, more tolerant human beings – or so we thought – and so I still hope.

Will their marriage of love remain legal or will they have to live underground again?

Will the children they have adopted, they love, nurture and to whom they are giving a chance to finally be happy remain with loving parents or will the family be woken up on January 1st by the sound of social services kicking their way into their home to the snatch the kids away forever because from now on, family can only be defined by blood affiliation and in a heterosexual marriage?

Lacking empathy, lacking the crucial ability of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can mock the LGBTQ community for asking such questions but you cannot stop the fear and the anguish we have because we don’t know what the future holds. And it goes well beyond having a job or owning your own house or gun.

Maybe not the same questions, but the same feelings are running through the Black, Asian and Latino communities. What does the future hold for them? And that’s a question you never had to ask yourself as a consequence of Obama’s being elected. That’s why you did not take to the streets and we are. Looking down on us will not make it go away or will it make you feel better about yourself.

Le burkini: Messieurs, fermez-la!

Il y avait une blague au Royaume-Uni, au temps de Bush et Ben Laden. Un sondage avait révélé que l’Américain moyen voulait un leader pro-armes, anti-féministe et anti-gay, un leader qui soit véritablement religieux et qui soit prêt à se battre pour faire le monde à l’image de sa religion. On disait alors : « Voici votre homme » et on montrait une photo de Ben Laden. J’ai toujours beaucoup aimé cette blague parce qu’elle disait en substance que  l’Amerique de George W Bush n’était pas l’inverse de l’Al Quaida de Ben Laden mais son complétement. Comme le Yin et Yang se complètent, les puritains et autres fondamentalistes chrétiens vont de pair avec les fondamentalistes musulmans.

Aujourd’hui, la France voulant devenir l’inverse de Daesh et exposer des valeurs inverses à ceux des islamistes ne devient que le complétement de ces mêmes valeurs. Elle ne devient que le penchant occidental de cette mouvance.  Nous avons aujourd’hui des fondamentalistes islamistes contre des fondamentalistes républicains ou laïcistes. Pas laïcs, je précise. La plupart des figures qui crient « laïcité » au visage des musulmans sont eux-mêmes des catholiques pratiquants qui continuent à pousser pour que le Vatican retrouve une place centrale dans la vie du pays.

Dans les deux cas, aucun n’a compris les textes qu’ils utilisent comme fondement de leur pensée et de leurs actions. Dans les deux cas, ils détournent le pouvoir de l’Etat (qu’ils ont parfois créé de toutes pièces à ces mêmes fins) pour proclamer et s’assurer de la légalité de leurs actions qui donc « ne peuvent pas être critiquées ». Et dans les deux cas, les femmes sont les premières à souffrir.

Je ne suis pas là pour me prononcer sur le port du burkini en lui-même. Tout d’abord, je suis un homme et je ne suis pas concerné (on verra quand ils commenceront à mesurer les barbes) mais surtout  je n’ai en pas assez entendu des sources essentielles (les musulmanes qui le portent et celles qui ne le portent pas) pour pouvoir tirer des conclusions sures car informées. Personnellement, mon problème se situe une fois de plus dans le fait que les femmes sont prises entre deux feux qu’elles n’ont pas souhaités être tirés.

On est arrivés à une situation où, des hommes principalement, ont estimé que si une femme est sur une plage et qu’elle ne montre pas ses cheveux, son décolleté, ses cuisses, son dos, ses bras, ses jambes, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas et qui s’apparente à du terrorisme. Ces pensées aussi ridicules que radicales ont été mises dans des décrets de lois applicables et appliqués par la police.

Quand j’étais petit, et même aujourd’hui, la France était la première à dénoncer ce genre d’abus par les pays arabes. Un des moments dont je me souviens le plus, c’est l’outrage mi-scandalisé mi-désobligeant dont la France a fait preuve quand le billet de 100 Francs, sur lequel figurait La Liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix, fut interdit en Iran parce que l’allégorie a les seins nus. Cette poitrine allait à l’encontre les lois de décences de la République Islamique alors bien sûr, on trouvait ça « ridicule », « pathétique », « scandaleux », « misogyne », « digne d’un régime d’un autre temps dominé par des hommes polygames à longue barbe » et bien sûr, on a beaucoup réfléchit, écrit, reporté – et à juste raison – sur ce que ça signifiait pour les femmes iraniennes au quotidien, des femmes qu’on nous décrivaient comme étant démaquillées au papier de verre.

Aujourd’hui, au nom de la laïcité, je vois la même chose. Je vois des femmes innocentes qui vont sur la plage avec leurs enfants, pas forcément pour se baigner elle-même, et qui sont publiquement humiliées par la police du Pays des Lumières et qui doivent se déshabiller correctement pour une plage ou la quitter tout court, après une amende, bien sûr. Du moment qu’elles sont sur le trottoir, leur tenue est réglementaire mais la seconde où leur pied touche le sable, elles sont soumises à l’indécence laïciste et ce qu’elle porte est illégal. Pas (encore) au niveau de l’Etat même si le Premier Ministre se réjouit, mais au moins sur les plages extrêmement fréquentés et donc traditionnellement les plus conservatrices et xénophobes de France.

Le fait que la France ait des lois vestimentaires (au secours !) qui varient de la plage à la rue n’est pas nouveau : on n’a pas le droit de se balader torse nu, même avec un haut de bikini, dans les rues d’une ville ou un espace public. Un restaurant, un café, un hôtel aura le droit sans appel de vous mettre dehors. C’est une tenue réservée à la plage et éventuellement la Promenade car du moment que vous êtes dans la ville, vous entrez dans « le monde civilisé » et vous mettez un haut qui couvre au moins le buste.

C’est une loi qui m’a toujours procuré beaucoup de plaisir parce que les Britanniques ne comprennent pas. Les Londoniens, ou les habitants des Midlands ou du Black Country, oui, parce qu’ils sont loin de la mer et ne se baignent pas mais des gens de Brighton, Blackpool, Bristol, Bournemouth, Birkenhead (je voulais réviser mes B), ne comprennent pas. Shopping, course, resto, pub…il est normal pour eux de voir en été des hommes sont torse nus et des femmes avec un petit quelque chose qui cache leurs seins. A tel point que les supermarchés sont obligés d’afficher des règles vestimentaires parce que ça commence à faire mauvais genre. Surtout auprès des Européens et autres touristes qui affluent de plus en plus.

Ca m’amuse parce que je dois leur expliquer qu’il s’agit de se couvrir quand on est en société, de ne pas exposer les enfants au corps d’inconnus, de « décence » et je me retrouve à parler comme un ayatollah sur des codes vestimentaires qui sont des valeurs culturelles inexplicables. Néanmoins, personne n’est forcé de mettre un pull ou un blouson. Les choix sont multiples et un petit haut qui cache le nombril satisfera tout le monde.

Cette fois, il s’agit de forcer des femmes à se déshabiller après les avoir fait payer au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme. Je ne vois pas le rapport mais bon, je ne fais aussi pas dans le populisme de bas étage.

Alors comment sort-on de là-dedans ? Parlez aux femmes ! « Mon dieu, quelle horreur ! »  je sais, mais que ce soit ce qu’elles portent, comment elles parlent, qui elles fréquent et épousent, comment elles gèrent leur utérus, il est temps de parler aux femmes pour savoir quelles sont les motivations derrière ce qu’elles font. Forcément, ça prend du temps donc pas de gain politique immédiat dans un discours aussi trompeur que dystopiste. Mais surtout, la difficulté est d’enlever l’opinion de gens qui ne sont pas concerné et ça enlève tout d’abord les hommes en tant qu’acteurs principaux.

Je ne dis pas que si les femmes étaient les actrices principales du débat, il n’y aurait donc plus de burkini, je sais juste que dans le débat actuel, ce sont les hommes qui définissent les termes : les hommes islamistes qui appellent au port de la burka contre les hommes laïcistes qui appellent à l’interdiction du burkini (qui n’est même pas prôné par des hommes qui refuseraient volontiers aux femmes l’accès à tout loisir). Et au milieu ? Les femmes qui n’ont pas leur mot à dire doivent suivre les recommandations des uns ou des autres qui parlent et décident pour elles.

S’il y avait une véritable volonté de vivre ensemble, on aurait déjà mis les oreilles aux portes des endroits anodins et souvent ignorés où les femmes sont entre elles et peuvent parler librement. On aurait déjà découvert que tout n’est pas blanc ou noir, pour ou contre, victoire ou défaite, comme le monde forgé par les hommes laisse paraître.

Ecoutez, comme j’aime le faire, les femmes parler de leur quotidien, de la pression qu’elles ont d’être, d’agir, de vivre, de penser souvent de telle ou telle façon. Demandez-leur pourquoi elles font ces choses, et pas seulement aux femmes voilées mais aussi aux Becky with the good hair de tous les jours : celles qui disent détester se maquiller mais qui passent dix minutes sur leur eye-liner tous les matins. Mais faites-les parler d’elles-mêmes, pas de leurs consœurs. Ne laissez pas d’autre prendre leur parole, faites-leur la prendre elles-mêmes pour elles qu’on puisse vraiment savoir à quoi s’en tenir et faire évoluer les choses. C’est alors fascinant ce qu’on apprend.

Vous allez voir que du hijab au burkini, du maquillage au botox en passant par le fer à lisser les cheveux, des exégèses erronés des livres saints aux innombrables articles, reportages, pubs sur ‘Comment faire disparaître la cellulite avant l’été pour un corps parfait en bikini ?’, vous aurez de tout. Des femmes fortes et indépendantes qui le font (ou pas) parce qu’elles en ont envie, parce que ça rend leur vie plus simple ou plus sûres, plus agréables – ces femmes sont d’ailleurs généralement méprisées, ignorées ou ridiculisées. Des femmes plus soumises qui ont intériorisé les attentes religieuses et sociétales (par essence conflictuelles en France) et ne comprennent pas pourquoi elles sont victimes de contradictions dont elles ne sont pas responsables. Et puis, vous aurez la majorité des femmes qui font preuve d’une volonté de fer de continuer à vivre et survivre au jour le jour dans des sociétés dans lesquelles elles ne se reconnaissent pas. Ces femmes, vous allez voir, sont tiraillées entre le ras-le-bol d’être toujours victimes de l’autre et accusées de tout, de ne pas avoir de véritable voix, de devoir se contenter du moins pire, d’un côté, et de la bonne éducation qui les instruit de se taire et d’être polies, de l’autre.

Burkini ou pas, ce n’est pas ma question et je n’ai pas d’avis car je me fous de ce que pensent les hommes sur le sujet, ils ne le portent pas, et les femmes sont partagées. Je ne peux donc pas avoir d’avis informé.

Certaines en rêvent pour pouvoir aller se baigner sans être reluquées et se faire siffler par les hommes, ou ne plus avoir honte de leurs seins qui « ne sont pas fermes » ou de leur « cellulite dégoûtante ». Certaines ne vont juste plus à la plage pour les raisons précédentes donc la question ne se pose pas. Certaines se foutent des gros moches et alcoolisés qui osent les siffler mais elles sont religieuses donc elles le mettent mais pourquoi ? Je n’ai pas eu de réponse à ça. D’autres ont bien compris que le Coran ne mentionne rien de tel donc elles ne le mettraient pas mais elles comprennent que des femmes veuillent le mettre. D’autres savent faire preuve d’empathie et n’ont pas vraiment d’avis, ça ne les dérange pas, elles veulent juste qu’on laisse les femmes tranquilles. D’autres ne savent pas se mettre à la place de l’inconnu et ne raisonnent qu’en fonction de leurs valeurs et sont hostiles. Toutes aimeraient que ce soit un choix. Toutes. Sans exception. Même les conservatrices. On arrive à leur faire dire que ce serait bien que les femmes aient le choix dans leur religion ou la société.

Pour moi, la honte est que la France reste une société dans laquelle les femmes n’ont toujours pas le choix et ce sont toujours celles qui prennent les coups entre les hommes qui font ces choix.

What’s to be French?

Officially France recognises both birth right and jus soli. It means that one will automatically have the French nationality provided that one of his parents is acknowledged as French by l’Etat Civil (through blood lineage, then) but also anyone born on French soil is given the French nationality.

It is being discussed at the moment because the instauration of both rights in the constitution is dating back after WWII and it has been applied to every child of immigrants who came to France The problem we are having is that, for the first time since WII, we are not only dealing with immigrants but with refugees.

The very important difference between an immigrant and a refugee is that the first has made the decision to move countries in order to find better opportunities, better life or just to find something new, like I did when moving to England.

Immigrants have the will to stay for a long time, to settle, to integrate. They are here to stay, their decision is, for the majority, a life-time decision. They find jobs, pay taxes and it is fair to give the French nationality to their children born in France, who after all, speak French, read, watch and listen to French, go to French schools, abide by French laws. To give people who are born and raised in France within French values a sense of belonging from the very beginning.

A refugee, however, is different. They have no intention to stay. I am saying they don’t contribute, are unwilling to integrate or that they will never (want to) stay but most of them are living with hope that what the plague that forced them to abandon their home will end soon and they will be able to go back home and rebuild their lives. That’s just for the ones who are stationing in France. We also have hundreds of thousands, millions maybe, transiting through the country to reach some family and friends that will help and shelter them in another country, like the UK.

What do we do when one if these refugee women gives birth in France then? Should jus soli apply? Why? Why not? My real question is: Do the parents really care that their child is French? Do they want their children to be French? Will the child ever want to be French? Will there be consequences when they go back to a country that might not acknowledge him/her as one of their own? Will they be forced to give it up to be accepted when they never asked for it?

And what does that mean for the child to be French?

Having the French nationality does not open to automatic economic rights – unlike what Marine Le Pen has been saying. Believe me, I know! Ten years in England meant ten years without a cent given to the French state in taxes so when I came back, no amount of passport, ID card or birth certificate allowed me to receive any money. I want a place to live? A chance to be reimbursed my medical expenses?  Protection if I lose my job? Well, I had to get a job to begin with. My French nationality never gave me any economic rights, no. You earn them.

However, being French automatically gives you certain can-do’s (along with the have-to’s), such as the right to express yourself, i.e: vote and that’s an issue. Although the numbers of refugee babies automatically born French are a far cry from dramatic, there are babies out there who are French because they were born in France and maybe they will never know or actually never care. Some will have never spoken a word or French, lived in France or even cared for France. What do we do about them? Do we give them the right to vote anyway? If anything happens to them later on in life in another country, is France’s responsibility to protect them?

That’s a question I don’t know how to answer. At the moment, the state has inadvertently responded to it by allowing the “striping of nationality” in the constitution under certain circumstances dividing even more the country between those who are sure to remain French and those walking on the plank. Maybe a review of the situation when the child is 18 could be good, like in Germany. I don’t know…

The other major issue with being French is the problem between what the law says and what the people are ready to accept. As usual with a country, the capital is setting the tone and I will mention my cousin to show something about France and its conception of identity.

My cousin was born in Paris more than 30 years ago. His parents moved there when they were late teenagers, he has lived his whole life in Paris, has no intention to move, has always been working in Paris itself, have been paying taxes to the city of Paris yet he’s not “un Parisien”.

Why? Because his father was not born in Paris but in Boulogne. His mother was born in Paris but her parents weren’t. To have the right to call yourself a “true” Parisien and to be acknowledged as such by the “true” people of Paris, you have to be the fourth generation in a row to be born and to have lived in Paris.

So despite his mother and himself being born in Paris, he is not un Parisien. All because his father is form Boulogne and grew up in Versailles, his grand-mother is from Chamberry and grew up in Saint-Cloud, his grand-father is from Tours and grew up in Saint-Cloud as well. As for the rest of the family, we come from Tourraine, Périgord, Jura, Lyon and Savoy.

Well, expend that to the whole of France and you know why people who were born in France, whose parents were born in France are not considered as French but called “Imigrants of Third Generation”, all because their grand-parents are from Algeria. Even when the State officially acknowledges them as French, and Algeria was part of France when their grand-parents were born – but at the time, no jus soli, just birth right so they were still “Arabs”.

That’s the core of the identity problem in France. The State acknowledges you as French but as far as the French are concerned, they will check on your ancestors to find out if your claim to Frenchness withholds the 100 years landmark or 4 generations born and to have lived in France.

This idea of time based on a mix of blood and land doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is actually one of the most archaic way to decide whether someone deserves to be something or not. It started with the Greeks. To have the right to become a citizen in Athens, to have the right to express yourself and vote, you had to prove that your father and grand-father were born and lived in Athens. Then later, as the system got older, you could only be a citizen if your father and grand-father were themselves citizens. Or be an exceptional character. But nothing new is protecting one’s right to be privileged.

In the US, one likes to list their Italian quarter of blood mixed with eighth of Irish blood, sixteenth of Swedish, all in half Cheerokee because they are no real definition of what it is to be American. The nationality doesn’t even match the name of the country for the US know they are a country of immigration.

In France, schizophrenia is the norm. “The Republic is one and indivisible” so everyone is French by either birth right or jus soli or both. By this definition, being French should be fairly open from the Flemish of the Lille to the Basque of the Bayonne yet in real life everyone still has to prove their blood has been purified by 100 of living on the French soil before they can be allowed to call themselves French by the “true French” – whoever we are. Celtic Gaulois by soil? Germanic Franks by blood? Romans by language? Austrians by croissants?

A good integration of immigrants is not just about them making an effort, but also about a rethink of what it takes and means to be French. It means teaching the French and the immigrants that being French has nothing to do with time and blood, rather will, tolerance, open-mindness and contribution from both parts.

One quota for one ubiquity

In our minds, the word quota is associated with restrictions and therefore the idea that what is subjected to a quota is somehow negative.

When quotas are mentioned, it’s mainly to remove or restrain something: we want quotas on migrants so the country can cope with the new arrivals and isn’t “submerged”, we have quotas on our food production in Europe because over-production is by definition waste and money thrown out of the window, we have quotas on the number of soldiers Germany or Japan can have so we never have to fight yet another World War “because of them”…Our mindset is that quotas are for the great and the good in that they limit something that could be potentially damaging.

No wonder in this mindset that even feminists or people fighting against racism and segregation see quotas as the wrong solution to making the plagues they are fighting disappear. They say they favour education rather than imposing something on the white man to end his dominance. And I agree but we need to do both.

Education is indeed the key: let’s make girls understand that there are not limits to what they can do and what they can be interested in, let’s teach to boys accept it. Let’s make people understand from a very young age that the colour of your skin has no bearing whatsoever on your personality, your ability, and that being a Christian does not make you any more tolerant or enlightened than belonging to other religion. Just to name a few examples.

Hackneyed clichés, yes, because most of us agree with them and we are working towards them. Towards tearing down the narrow sides of the boxes in which we put people so we have to make a an effort to actually get to know them for who they are rather than relying the shallowness of prejudice and making life-changing assumptions based on what we see.

I disagree in that we need quotas because we cannot afford to wait another 50 years for the narrow-minded white men currently in power to all wither away and finally get the new generations in. Also these new generations, these young girls and women, these people of different skin colour and religion need role models to look up to. Not just in fiction but in reality so they can see that everything is possible as long as you are a human being, not just a born white and male.

However, we need to change how we deal with quotas. As the LSE puts it in their last report after Ireland’s decision to impose certain quotas, we have been making a mistake with our discourse. We have used quotas to force women on men making women in power the issue when the problem we want to address is the over-representation of men.

Putting a quota on women forced the focus on the under-representation of women  but, in that way, it also pits against one another all the ‘minorities’ looking for fairer representation or share of power, because it’s not just women who are under-represented in Western countries. If we have a quota on women, we need a quota on black people, one on Asian people, one on gay people, one on Muslims, one on Jews, one on single parents, one on young people so our institutions, at least, do represent the society they have a duty to serve. So everyone gets a genuine voice: all the under-represented individuals of the Western societies who still have to rely on aloof, unconcerned white men when it comes to life changing laws and decisions.

I am not saying that all white men are unable to understand and serve greater purpose that the ones of their own kind but it does take a great amount of enlightenment and empathy to make selfless decisions that could possibly even trigger the end of your own privilege. And such men are few and far between, especially in Right-wing circles and increasingly an endangered species on the Left.

The economic plight of the young and single mothers, the half-baked solutions to fight racial prejudice, the constant questioning of abortion and women’s rights, the rise of Islamophobia and racism, and the ever-slow recognition of the gays as normal people all spring from the dominance of one group of people: the white, heterosexual, Christian male, old “enough to have experience”. That very male who has never been a majority when it comes to number but has been playing on dubious scientific and religious beliefs to impose and justify its privilege across the world.

All inequalities today find their source in the fact that people in position of responsibility have very little to no idea what it means to live with these prejudices and economic conditions they have created. Provided they actually care and are not completely blinded by their eagerness to ensure the order that favours them remains unscathed, which they unfortunately mostly are.

How many times was I told, as a gay man, that there were “more important things to deal with” than my right to marry? That may not be the focus of straight white males who like to make people think they have a duty as “a real man” to flee marriage like the plague but it does matter to me. And the fact that it’s not the mighty economy doesn’t make it any less important.

I am all for quotas but we need to use them in a constant manner: to contain a problem. And the problem is the ubiquity of white men in all public and private, national and International institutions and bodies.

What we need are not countless quotas to address the fair representation of women, each skin colour, each religion, each sexuality, each level of wealth but a quota on “males in power”. One quota limiting their presence. If we do, it will force us to genuinely look and prepare for viable alternatives for the present and the future.

The question is: will the white man be enlightened and selfless enough to dare put the spotlight on himself as a problem we need to solve?