Tag Archives: US

No blanket blame for a blanket ban

As the two weeks have been passing, anger has been mounting to the rhythm of the unmitigated flow of Trump’s Staline-like presidency. I love how we say “draining the swamp” for what we happily call “political purges” in other countries such as China, Myanmar, Turkey or North Korea.

In the face of all, I think one of my biggest frustration is the impossibility to blame Americans for what’s happening. Akin to when they elected Bush for the first time, it was so easy and cathartic to turn to them, blame them, shame them, shove their nose into their shit for having elected such a blithering idiot and puppet of the rich and powerful.

They would be so relieving to be able to do it right now but we can’t because the fact of the matter is: they did not elect Trump. An outdated, dysfunctional system did.

The people itself voted for Clinton but, as the remains of a war fought back 150 years, an unequally put together electoral college has elected Trump. Therefore, as the blanket ban on all Muslims based on nothing tangible keeps rolling back and forth, the world can’t turn to Americans and gleefully point out that they are now the Bastards of the Decade. “Deal with it, you brainless, murderous and incestuous Yankees!”

They are not and we can’t be cheap. Like all of us, the majority of Americans has been victim of an extremely complicated political minefield that the forefathers of America thought would blow up in the face of anyone like Trump before they ever get a chance to become president. Instead, that leviathan handed him the keys of the kingdom.

So what now? Well, we can only wait and be better people. Remember Michelle Obama and try to resist our urges to blanket blame when a man the majority did not want blanket bans.

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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.

Internet neutrality or the fight to avoid an economic, Orwellian dystopia.

L’autre côté de l’Atlantique est en émoi…ain’t it, though?

Back from holidays and already I am being told emotions are running high on the other side of the Atlantic prior to the upcoming decision regarding Internet neutrality. It’s an issue we don’t have…yet, in Europe for things are done differently. That was my understanding of the problem when I encountered it the first time on YouTube and my first reflex: we don’t have it here, sweet old Europe.

From what I have been hearing and reading, the Internet providers want to be able to decide what content should be completely and utterly available and what should be limited in speed, space and what should be put behind a toll to be accessible. Some people say it is to protect children because obviously the “only thing that will be blocked” is anything paedophilia, and limited is extreme porn.

Tempting but why don’t we have the same here then? And why are major Internet websites up in arms? Why are Youtubers campaigning? Why are Tumblr, Yahoo, Google et al trying to convince us that it will be a very bad decision? Are they all really defending paedophilia and extreme porn? Reductive I feel, but of course it is the first argument raised, shouted and thrown at the face of every opponent by these Internet providers.

From what I have been reading more carefully, and the reason why we don’t have the debate here, is the nature of these very providers. In Europe, if you want to access the Internet, you call an telecommunication company like Orange (formerly France Telecom), T-mobile, Free, BT or Talk Talk. They are companies dealing with telecommunications. Some of them like Sky are also television and media companies and some of them will belong to bigger media companies (like Bouygues Telecome who owns TF1 and produces films) but they are few and far between. In the US, however, if you want the Internet, you will go and ask Time Warner for instance. I thought I misunderstood when I heard an American Youtuber mentioning his Internet provider so I asked a friend of mine living over there. She confirmed that it is quite the normality for a big film corporation to also be an Internet provider.

What she also explained was that, behind the wishful thinking of blocking nasty content, they are very annoyed with the rise of Internet-based media like Youtube or Netfix used by the younger generation and spreading fast to more and more users, therefore diverting their potential customers away from traditional TV and cinema where these companies do most of their business. The problem is that the bridges between the entertainment industry and the media industry were built before they could do it themselves, this via the Internet. It went too far too quickly for them, they did not foresee this and they are trying to do some damage control by gaining access to the what they think is the source of their problem: the Internet, the land where media and entertainment merge with the word “free”, in all it meanings.

If the law passes, Time Warner would be able to put some kind of speed toll on Youtube or Netfix, whilst making their own content (films, shows they produce) very easy to watch, free and high speed. They can easily make their customers request and pay for some completely neutral content to be unblocked on their account. Anything can be off limits if it doesn’t serve the purpose of the company, which is to make profits above all. I know I sound like a communist but the general assemblies where ever-growing results must be announced in front of shareholders are not the place to talk about the weather and what the company can selflessly do to save the poor children of Africa…It’s all about the money and how to make more.

Now, I don’t know what it means for us Europeans. In the UK, I know what it means, yes. If the law passes, two weeks later, it is rushed through Westminster.

The question raised in the US by every opponent is of course to know to what extent their life will be made impossible and one-sided by these companies seeking control of the Internet. It’s not just about movies or downloading porn, it’s about accessing information, being able to express yourself freely and have normal access to the everyday things we have been accustomed to do. What if the next CEO of Time Warner is a homophobic, sexist, Republican? Will Time Warner allow its customers to access anything LGBT-related in any way, shape or form? Will people like me be able to write about feminists issue without being blocked at the last minute by their Internet provider and told they are breaking the rules thus cannot upload anything? Will left-wing newspapers be forced to censor themselves in order to avoid being blocked by their provider? Will people be able to access articles, information that criticises Time Warner? Will people be able to access neutral, genuine, varied information about their town, city, countries, the world or will it be filtered through the cable?

“You cannot access these articles that say the war in Iraq has been killing more than 500,000 people because we don’t agree with it and we think you should not as well.”

What if one these companies decide to create a banking branch? A supermarket branch? Will their customers using Internet banking with another bank be able to access their accounts without the whole thing taking hours? Will people be able to shop on the Internet to a different (cheaper, better or whatever supermarket) without having to restart four times before the speed is so slow that it fails everytime they try to save their cart?

There is a genuine worry, the practical and ethical worries. What I don’t understand is that within the arguments used by the opponents of this law, no one ever mentions the double standard. I know American are very bashful and sometimes it feels like they would not even criticise their country on the day of being unlawfully executed but is everyone that blind?

The US are parading the whole world pointing its finger, naming and shaming every country where the government is restricting access to the Internet for whatever reason. This is “anti-democratic”, it’s “authoritarian”, it’s “1984 again”, it’s “betraying their population” and first and foremost, it’s ridiculous because it is inapplicable. When the Chinese government blocks access to Google , when Iran cracks down on social media used by the young dissidents, when Russia blocks some content, the US are up in arms denouncing dictatorships and brandishing its fist in the defence of all oppressed. However, when private companies are openly trying to reduce access to the Internet, it’s fine, it’s a fair democratic process. They even have endless arguments to defend every bit of it.

Is it because I am getting older and am becoming more aware or are they really getting completely insane?

My mother always says that some people are always quick to spot the lash in someone’s eye but cannot see the beam in their own. That is not beam the US have anymore but a fully-grown redwood tree.

It’s the double standards that drive me up the wall, like the childless Pope saying that not having children is selfish. When politics is involved, it’s a shame! When economics is involved, it’s perfectly acceptable. The message the US are sending to the world is that, if you want to control access to the Internet, do not do it as a government. It’s 1984! It is an attack on democracy and Washington, which will ipso facto be  your enemy.

If you wish to control the Internet access to millions, its content, its message, be a private company, abuse the democratic system, make yourself a saviour or even just justify it through the economics. Say it’s about money. Say it’s about survival, that jobs are at stake and it’s only fair game in the capitalistic jungle. Washington will grant you its time and efforts.

“Quand on sait pas, on va pas” – When we don’t know, we don’t go.

*Self-Righteous Warning on this piece: I am being very holier-than-thou below*

It has been a week and, whereas the news of the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo went around the world quickly, the ins and outs of who, why, where, when, how are starting to sip slowly outside of Western Europe. Especially in the US where, expect for some very informed people on the East coast and some well-done liberal figures, people just don’t seem to get it.

I am not here to have a go at Americans. It’s just that I know a lot of them, and saw a lot of them who decided to talk about it and their reaction towards what happened ranges from baffling to angering, especially from at least 11 Youtubers (all American for some reason) who I had always considered as being clever, informed, sensible, sensitive and on top of things.

Now, I understand people might not know (or care) about the full extent of the assassinations and attack. I understand that people don’t give a crap and have no opinion. I am the same about many things. what I don’t understand is the people who know little but insist on talking about. Why the need to advertise that lack of knowledge and lead others to complete disinformation and twisted truth on the matter? I don’t really understand what’s happening in Nigeria, no matter how much I read about it, so I don’t go and broadcast uneducated opinions about it. Maybe it’s just me…

I follow about 80 Youtubers of various nationalities and backgrounds and some of them addressed the issue of Charlie Hedbo quite well, some were actually funny and witty about it. However I have also been hearing a couple of Youtubers with huge following talking about Je suis Charlie, all with the usual “for those who don’t know…” followed by something that is nowhere near the truth and usually around the description of Charlie Hebdo.

Such as:
“Charlie Hebdo was the head of a Catholic magazine who was killed for opposing Islam”
“Charlie Hebdo are an extremely islamophobic and racist magazine”.
“Charlie Hebdo are a far-right paper who want to get rid of Muslims”
“Charlie Hebdo have a history of purposefully offending Islam”
“Charlie Hebdo  are a bit like the KKK”
“Charlie Hebdo is more extreme than the Tea Party”

And counting. What the fuck?! There is obviously a lack of information (or lack of wanting to get the information, in some cases) and yet, it doesn’t stop them from adopting a very clear positioning throughout the rest of the video.

Yes, I am French so it is easier for me because in France, we have been talking about nothing else for a week. It is not difficult for me to know what happened. Even when you try to just close the newspapers and turn off all media, you will know what, where, when, who, how and what capacity. I understand it is not the case for everyone and, yes, except for some “very serious” media – as some like to call them – not all are running a fully comprehensive coverage of what happened.

Actually, I am not here to decipher on how they got such distorted information. The fact that most of them rely firstly on Twitter to get the everyday news can be a hint. But for God’s sake, if you read the first three lines on Wikipedia about Charlie Hebdo, all the above quotes would not have occurred. For me, that spells “I could not even have bothered to check. I am just going to soliloquise for the sake of it”.

What I am here to mention is their reaction in the face of the backlash they had, mainly from their European following and be able to answer to them because there is nothing I hate more than 100-something character long, hit & run tweets.

Here’s the most common tweets for them:

“No need to be so rude.” I used to get that quite a lot from the students who made a huge mistake, cheated or knew they did something very wrong that has angered others. They turned themselves into the victim of some kind of violence so the focus changes and they get an apology. Less focus on how you said it, not what you said. It reminds me of dog-punching children who got shouted at and who cry after saying “Mummy is so meeaaannnn…” looking for sympathy.

“Okay, I just made a mistake, it’s fine.” Well, no. I do admire you for saying that you made a mistake but the “it’s fine”? That’s a no no! You have hundreds of thousands, millions for some of them, of followers. A lot of them will be teenagers with an even shorter understanding that you have, as an adult. People are using YouTube as a form of media and are trusting you to tell them something correct so saying that Charlie Hebdo is a far-right islamophobic and racist magazine, which is the complete opposite of the truth, is not just a mistake. It’s disinformation and twisted lies. You cannot go denouncing the lies spread by homophobes and racists then do the same and expect nothing in return. Whether you like or not, being a Youtuber with a following gives you a responsibility and if you decide to go on this path of informing and commenting current news – especially the assassination of journalists – you have to look at the facts and be accurate. If you don’t, your uneducated vision of events will do nothing but spread further misunderstanding. People will be increasingly under the impression that the deaths were somehow deserved.

“I say whatever I want, it’s free speech that’s what the whole thing is all about. It’s satire” The “whole thing”?! You obviously don’t understand the “whole thing”. Satire is not just about saying anything offensive that pops into your head willy nilly. Satire is a hell of a work to do because it has to have double-meanings that are conscious; it needs to send out messages that are obvious but also hidden. It needs to get people to think and laugh, sometimes. Seriously, saying that Charlie Hebdo is racist and to say “It was satire, you don’t understand” when people call you on your shit is just writhing, desperately trying to land on your feet when you’re in free fall. As for the freedom of speech, it comes with a responsibility to at least not willingly and unapologetically spread lies. And if you do, people will indeed smack you down. That’s democracy for you. Like we all did with Steve Emmerson from Fox News and his “Birmingham is now Muslim-only city”. Like him, you bow, grovel and apologise for being a clot and a liar. That’s what adulthood and humility is all about. Calling into your freedom to talk bollocks is doing nothing but discredit you even more.

“Alright, I am not making videos anymore…”. The passive-aggressive attempt to make it about yourself. I am wrong, I feel bad about it and need some comfort. Cue the “Not all white people are racists” in the debate about Black Lives Matter. Let’s make it about me!

“You people, always blowing things out of proportions.” There it is, the worst and yet most commonly heard phrase coming from the US at the moment.

We, Europeans, are blowing this “out of proportions.”, as if we were being ridiculous and childish, making a fuss for nothing and trying to draw attention on us unfairly. “Barely 10 people died”, “no kid was killed so it’s fine”, “it’s not like they killed thousands of people” are sentences I heard from many, many American people I know, including friends.

A very close friend of mine told that “this whole Je suis Charlie thing is the worst PR stunt she had ever seen”. PR? For what? Tourism in Europe? Come to visit us, we are nice and liberal. Aw, “for people to buy Charlie Hebdo”… I blocked her email and will be for a while…

First, this “whole thing” happened a week ago. France is still in a national state of shock and wondering so yes, when you go on such territory, be prepare to be dealing with people who take it to heart. It doesn’t make us any less understanding of satire or lovers of Charlie Hebdo. Spreading lies about the nature of Charlie Hebdo, especially to compare them to KKK, is like saying that Kennedy was a “too right-wing anyway” a week after he was assassinated, or that all the girls assassinated by Elliott Rodger in Isla Vista were all “slags and whores to being with”. It gets people to think that somehow, it’s not such a loss. That’s not going to go down well either.

Now, regarding the matter of the killing itself, maybe it’s because that kind of thing doesn’t happen every other three months in Europe. We are not used to our papers filled with news of people all guns blazing barging in somewhere and shooting everything that moves for important or trivial matters. So we are in shock, yes. Maybe it’s out of proportions for the US but please, a bit of empathy to understand that we don’t see this all the time. Patronising us into shutting up is not the answer.

Also these people were not just killed randomly too, they were assassinated, they were targeted for being something, for saying something through the publication of a couple of drawings. It puts everyone else in danger, not just of a bomb, but of being targeted for speaking out, for saying something, for writing something. I never buy into global psychosis, it’s irrational but knowing that people can be targeted for publically expressing an opinion makes me wonder every time I thought of writing something on this blog for the past week. “Can anyone get my email address and more?”

There is something in these attacks that do not make us victims of fate but targets for what we say. In that case, where does it stop? Will it ever stop? In a world where being offended somehow makes you right, will it ever stop or become the norm?

When the bombings in London and Madrid happened, the first thing we thought was that it was retaliation for the illegal war in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people were dying. When France had to live through that wave of terrorist attacks back in the 1980s and 1990s, we knew that it was yet again a matter of geopolitics where we were paying the price for our positions in the Middle-East and especially Iran. It was tit for tat, an eye for an eye.

Today, we just don’t understand why such violence for so little. It’s drawings. Just fucking drawings! People were killed because they published drawings from someone else. We are now in the middle of soul-searching trying to understand the implication of that, which is mainly the attack on free speech. We are not talking about censorship here but death. People dying because they somehow said something that offended others who then decided they deserved to die. To not live anymore, to live orphans and widows behind.

We are “blowing this out of proportion” because the act itself is beyond anything we had before. Sorry we are not accustomed to people regularly deciding on the right to live or die of strangers, it is hard to stomach. We are now rallying to find out the ins and outs of all this so we can prevent this without impeding on the freedom of press or civil liberties, rather through education and understanding. So when we open YouTube to find someone giving out irrelevant and uneducated information with definitive judgements to thousands, if not millions of other people, who are all to ready to listen and believe it, we get angry. Yes.

If only it had been done in a satiric way, many artists are doing it right now and it’s fine because it’s well-thought out, worked on and cleverly put (for most of them) but there was nothing of such in what these very Youtubers broadcast to their following.

I am actually not offended or angry by these Youtubers, such terribly disappointed.

I am not anti-capitalist, I’m pro alternatives.

I am not anti-capitalist. The same that I am not anti-communist. There are good and bad things on both theories. I am anti-definite solutions.

I am anti-black-or-white vision of the world, where two poles have to fight against each other to win over the other because as someone born in the early 1980s, I have been have living through this very situation and what we have been witnessing since is the radicalisation of each poles and the disappearance of alternatives.

I am against what I called “anglo-saxon capitalism” as much as I was against the “Stalinist communism”. I am against that type of extreme, objectivist capitalism that claimed to have been leading the Western World against the Eastern Block, that has created “World organisations” to serve its purposes (like the IMF or the World Bank), the one that has always disregarded and ridiculed the Third World as disposable resources, the one that claimed victory over the USSR in 1991, the one that saw the fall of the USSR as a confirmation of its own perfection, the one that has radicalised to such an extent that it has declared itself inseparable from the idea of democracy, that it doesn’t understand why the world still hasn’t fully embraced its objectivist vision and has declared all its critics as socialist terrorists.

The problem I have with this neo-classical capitalism is that it’s as corrupted and deceiving as the idea of communism and socialism promoted by the USSR. We are today, the “Western countries” – it’s quite revealing that we actually never stopped calling ourselves like this – we are in the same dysfunctional situation the USSR was 20 to 30 years before it collapsed, with a system that profits only a fraction of its elite and an increasingly policing and prohibiting State at the mercy of that very elite, a State that has forsaken its citizens it began to see as potential threats to the survival of its own establishment. The only difference is that this capitalism is giving us the illusion of choiceless plenty whereas that communism led to choiceless empty.

My problem with this type of capitalism is that it has declared its world domination, effective from 1991 to infinity so it should be applied to every aspect of everyone’s life across the world regardless of culture differences.

You will find out that the main actors of “anglo-saxon capitalism” shrug away the idea of culture difference, they are as intolerant and violent towards this idea as the Nazis were. It’s a chick thing…culture…nobody actually got time for that French philosophers crap. How European to be talking about culture instead of focusing on real issues, isn’t it?!

Culture is a major part of the problem because, although it is made to move and evolve, although it can change, discard bad aspects of itself and take the good ones of another culture, it takes time. It works on a time scale that has become foreign to the capitalism championed by the English-speaking world.

Everything is culture and the resistance that frustrates London, Washington and Canberra, the resistance they like to drag in the dirt, ridicule and humiliate is nothing but people looking at the alternatives, trying things out, leaving the negative on the side and embracing the positive of everything, anglo-saxon capitalism included. We hear sometimes the English economic establishment saying that it is childish from people to pick and choose when the economy is concerned, we either take or leave it, we either are on their sides or not. The world is a playground for the bullies. “You’re either with us or against us”. What a choice!

The issue today in the world is that London and Washington understand and define globalisation as “Do exactly what we do. Live like we live. Work like we work. Love like we love. Eat like we eat. And everything will perfect”. This is not globalisation, this is standardisation.

Globalisation has always existed. The movement of men, goods and economy have always been a human activity. To say that it is new is a mistake, goods have always been exchanged throughout the world despite languages and cultural differences, we always traded with our friends and foes, economic actors have always been moving around, especially in a world of constant war.

What is new is the standardisation, the idea that we all have to do, to be, to think the same and the model we are told we have to follow is the American way of life. This is the will for the whole of mankind to be fashioned to the WASP model and unfortunately, people are not ready to just do it. What we do, and what the Americans and British find very frustrating, is take what we like from the WASP way of life but refuse to embrace what we dislike. It’s not childish, it’s not condemnable, it’s not to be ridiculed, this is normal cultural behaviour. Forcing a culture on another one is the best to antagonise everyone.

The anglo-saxon capitalism has been mainly defined by Adam Smith and British or American philosophers. The neo-classical capitalists are saying that we should go back to the “birth of capitalism”, to capitalism in its genuine form. What they willfully ignore is that capitalism existed before, Adam Smith just defined it, he put some rules on it. The same way some people said that we needed to rationalise Nature. Evolution did not start with Darwin, he just explained it then we went from there. At the time of Adam Smith, there was also a need  to rationalise a normal human behaviour of making money and trading.

What we overlook is the fact that he defined it in catholic Scotland and protestant England, in the mid-1700s where people were desperately pushing the case for industrialisation. This was a world strongly dominated by single-minded ideas and censorship, a world where slavery and colonialism were considered normal, even a force for good, a world where Europe, divided and fratricidal, was ruled by absolute monarchs chosen by God with the right of life and death over anyone and everyone, and a wider world of which we knew almost nothing about. He put some ideas in his definition of capitalism that would be pleasing enough at the time so he was not imprisoned, exiled or censored and ideas that were current 300 years ago.

The same fashion the laws of Nature have been written by men to suit their understanding and justify their dominance, capitalism have been defined by the British and the Americans who have made it evolve into a diktat everyone should follow because they won over their natural enemies, socialism and communism. These laws of Nature and laws of capitalism are extremely restrictive and definite because they had to serve a purpose at the time and had to be as unnegotiable as a religious dogma.

Thankfully, we have moved on from these so-called laws of Nature which were supposed to support the fact that the white man is the acme of evolution and that everything is nature is about fight for power and domination. We have sorted the good and the bad, we have understood that these laws were in fact bad reading of Nature made to justify our crimes, intolerance and present the powerful’s march to greater power as the way things are supposed to be, therefore fighting against it would be “naturally unlawful”.

Science has brought enough proof and evidence to show the complexity of Nature, a complexity we are still discovering and that makes writing ‘its laws’ virtually impossible. We could have stopped at Darwin and the ones who have badly interpreted some of its rushed work to understand nature and evolution, or Linnaeus to explain the human race but we did not. We scientifically looked for alternatives in the face of the atrocities committed in the name of their theory.

We have discovered that unlike what neo-classical capitalism is saying, not everything in Nature is about being the most powerful, that there is no such thing as the “jungle law” or “the rule of the most powerful” in Nature. Lions don’t kill everything, destroy and pillage everything in the savannah. There are rather endless expressions and mechanisms of solidarity between species, races and kinds because everything is about balance to ensure its own survival.

Only fire is eating until it dies. An apparent domination but Nature grows back after. Humans are fire. A fire who, in 18th and 19th century industrialist Britain, looked and defined an economy theory that would justify slavery, colonialism and the destruction of its own environment and today this theory is as obscurantist and deaf as it can be.

The failure of communism does not mean the victory of its strictly opposite vision. It means we should look at something else now, something less extreme, more including. Marx’s vision was just as aggressive and narrow-minded as the ideology he was trying to counter. It was: let’s see what capitalism do and let’s do the exact opposite. Its failure should have been a wake-up call for this type of capitalism.

It’s time we look at alternatives now. Not to capitalism as such because I believe it is inherent to human nature. We have to look at alternatives within capitalism, in the face of all the atrocities and suffering brought by the very narrow-minded, fossilised, aggressive, domineering and over-bearing anglo-saxon version of capitalism. We need cool heads to be able to see objectively what is good and bad in that vision of capitalism that is ruling the world, putting entire countries to their knees, sealing the fate of millions of innocent people for the profit of the very few, and reducing democratically elected heads of state and parliaments to irrelevance.

The fact that a single judge far away in the US forced into default Argentina, an entire, democratic country with 42 millions inhabitants, to the profit of American hedge funds without a flinch for the Western countries, the IMF or the World Bank shows how destructive this type of capitalism is. It’s 42 millions people facing unemployment, poverty, insecurity, for the profit of a hundred or so rich Americans. Baffling.

We don’t do Halloween, we do much more.

There seems to be this idea in the minds of many in the US that the blue print of the whole American life-style and traditions should be copied and paste on to the whole world. “Why not? We like it, they have to as well.”

I am talking about Halloween in that context and the reaction of sympathetic, slightly patronising sadness I get everytime I am asked about it and I say that I have never put on a costume and gone trick-or-treating on October  31st. There is sadness but there is also judgment.

“Awww, I’m so sorry! Poor French kids, I can’t believe they are deprived of so much fun…”

I’m sorry, what?! “Deprived”, you said?

Then they explain that it’s terrible for the kids because Halloween is so much fun for them, they get to dress up, to go and get sweets and it’s so “great” and they are “so excited”. They love it, we love it, everybody loves it so they don’t understand why the whole world still hasn’t joined in the fun! It’s so exciting!

Americans are always very excited about things they do and obviously still under the spell of having been called “the Promise Land” in the 1800s.

I was watching Ellen yesterday and Daniel Radcliffe got exactly the same reaction when he said he had never celebrated Halloween. There is pity and the idea that we all should do it because, even if we don’t care, it’s not about us, it’s about the kids and it’s about fun. “Duncha wanna have fun?”

This ethnocentric attitude would be nice if it were not so demeaning and righteous regarding how different cultures are.

I am French and yes, we don’t celebrate Halloween.

We are not against Halloween as such, except for some old farts who think we should also ban Christmas because “it’s lost its meaning” and call it “Presents day” or worst “Materialismas”. I am not against Halloween, I actually like the tradition behind it, the chasing of the demons before All-Saints day.

In France, it’s coming and going of course because of course there’s a huge marketing push (that’s annoying!). I mean the shops are happy to be selling costumes and sweets, and yes, the appeal for the kids to be monsters and get free sweets is fantastic. However, on the morning of October 31st, I went to the supermarket and it was business as usual. No decoration, no sales on sweets and costume props, no special department dedicated to Halloween. Only a poor employee, they dressed up as a witch, was standing on a corner, bored, handing plastic bag, with a couple of sweets and a ghost drawn on it, to some toddlers with their wary-looking parents.

On the night, no house was decorated, no one came to ring the bell and I can’t remember anyone who knocked at our door for the past 30 years asking for sweets. Halloween doesn’t take off and not because we try to resist it but because it’s just not what we do. Maybe one day it will be, but for now, very little parents take their kids around the streets at night because they know that getting a couple of Werthers Original or Vicky mints will be a night to remember.

I don’t know how we translated “Trick or Treats?” but I do know  most of the French kids are not aware that you’re supposed to retaliate if the person doesn’t give you anything. Actually, I can bet most of the kids don’t even know you have to go from door to door to get the sweets. Many parents will buy a pack of sweets for their kids and just give it to them because “the TV said it’s Halloween and it says I have to get sweets, mum!”

But there is no need for pity or emotionally-charged, narrow-minded judgments on how the French treat their kids either.

In France, on December 6th, on St Nicholas’ Day, the official first day of the month of Christmas, kids will get some sweets and chocolate. In my family, we bake gingerbread cake with my mum. I am not taking about the hard, five-spice, teeth-breaking gingerbread used for the house but the Northern German soft, moist, loaf of gingerbread with candies orange peels, strong honey and iced with warm milk and granulated sugar. The loaf of which you cut big slices on which you spread some thick Normand butter and add some more honey.

On January 6th, the English-world gets nothing? Awwww, that’s terrible because in France and other Catholic-tradition countries, we celebrate the three Wise men with the Epihany. We stuff our faces with Galette des Rois, a big cake made up of layers of puff pastry and stuffed with frangipane. And because we love it, we celebrate all week: at school, at work, when the parents, with the grand-parents, with the cousins…Every single person you meet is an excuse to eat that cake warm because inside is a figurine and the one who gets it is the king or the queen for the day. Poor little American children who are so cruelly deprived of a chance to be kings and queens!

On January 1st, we traditionally get “les étrennes”: a gift of money from our parents as a reminder of an old tradition, the gift of money given to orphans by the people at the beginning of each year. American kids get nothing? Aww, that’s terrible! How dare you deprive them from such a generous gesture?

On Mardi Gras, except for some places in the US with a strong French tradition like New Orleans, no one dresses up and celebrates. We do! Fat Tuesday is traditionally to stuff your face with as much fat and sugary food as you can before the Lenten season. You try to make it merge with Shrove Tuesday but it is just not. In France, it’s not a bank holiday but there is always a carnival so even if you’re at school, you dress up, you parade in the street with music, your friends, your family, your teachers, you sing, you shout. Then we all gather in the town square or a park to watch a huge figure of wood or cardboard built, by the kids at school, to be burnt off. Now we also have fireworks. It’s brilliant! Poor American children who are so cruelly deprived of so much fun!

See? It’s easy for me to list all the occasions of celebration in the French culture and highlight the terrible deprivation the Americans are enforcing on their children by not embracing every single one of them.

Every culture has countless traditions and occasions to celebrate and I have no problem with people not knowing about it. I knew very little about how much celebration and bonding were involved during Ramadhan’s nights before teaching kids who were Muslims from South-East Asia. I knew nothing about Eid so I asked them and we compared cultural practices because it’s okay not to know. But passing judgments…really?

Bottom line, there is a difference between not knowing about one’s own traditions and wilfully ignoring them. There is a difference between not knowing about someone’s culture and pitying them for not having the same one as yours then trying force your own traditions in their face in the name of “fun”.

Get your minds out the gutter.