De Rome à Pyongyang: Attention, un triomphe peut en cacher un autre (From Rome to Paris, London to St Petersburg, New York to Dehli and Pyongyang, the stones will cry out Titus’s infamous crime)

24 février, 2013
http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~ncureton/pictures/RomanHoliday/images/P1010095.jpgS’ils se taisent, les pierres crieront! Jésus (Luc 19 : 40)
La pierre qu’ont rejetée ceux qui bâtissaient est devenue la principale de l’angle. Psaumes 118: 22
Mardochée ordonna à tous les juifs de célébrer tous les ans le quatorzième et le quinzième jour du douzième mois, en commémoration de ce qu’en ces jours, les Juifs ont eu raison de leurs ennemis ; que les jours de douleur se sont changés en jours de fête, et il recommanda d’en faire des jours de joie et de festin. Les juifs firent des illuminations, des  fêtes joyeuses, des réjouissances et des festins… et s’envoyèrent réciproquement des présents…, et firent des dons aux pauvres. Car Haman, fils d’Hamdatha, de la race d’Agag, persécuteur de tous les juifs, avait eu le projet de les exterminer tous, et il avait jeté des pour c’est-à-dire des sorts  pour connaître le jour qui lui serait le plus favorable pour les anéantir…, c’est pour cela que ces jours de fêtes s’appellent Pourim. Esther 9:20-26
D’après tout le contenu de cette lettre, d’après ce qu’ils avaient eux-mêmes vu et ce qui leur était arrivé, les Juifs prirent pour eux, pour leur postérité, et pour tous ceux qui s’attacheraient à eux, la résolution et l’engagement irrévocables de célébrer chaque année ces deux jours, selon le mode prescrit et au temps fixé. Ces jours devaient être rappelés et célébrés de génération en génération, dans chaque famille, dans chaque province et dans chaque ville; et ces jours de Purim ne devaient jamais être abolis au milieu des Juifs, ni le souvenir s’en effacer parmi leurs descendants. Esther 9: 27-28
[Nous te sommes aussi reconnaissants] pour les miracles, la rédemption, les haut-faits, les actes salvateurs, les merveilles, les consolations et les batailles que Tu as faits pour nos pères en ces jours [et] en ce temps, au temps de Mardochée et Esther dans Suse la capitale, lorsque Haman le mauvais s’est élevé contre eux, qu’il a demandé de détruire, tuer et perdre tous les Juifs, jeunes, vieux, femmes et enfants en un jour, le treizième jour du douzième mois qui est le mois d’adar, et de piller leurs biens. Toi, dans Ta grande miséricorde, Tu as anéanti son conseil, corrompu ses pensées et Tu lui as renvoyé son salaire à la figure. On l’a pendu avec ses fils à l’arbre. Bénédiction spécifique de Pourim
Il n’y a pas de preuve tangible qu’il y ait la moindre trace ou le moindre vestige juif que ce soit dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem ou dans le voisinage immédiat. Communiqué du ministère palestinien de l’Information (10 décembre 1997)
Le mur d’Al-Buraq [Mur des Lamentations] et sa place sont une propriété religieuse musulmane…[Il fait] partie de la mosquée Al Aqsa. Les Juifs n’ont aucun lien avec cet endroit. Mufti de Jérusalem (nommé par Yasser Arafat, Al Ayyam [journal de l'Autorité palestinienne], 22 novembre 1997)
Le mur d’Al-Buraq est une propriété musulmane et fait partie de la mosquée Al Aqsa. Hassan Tahboob (Ministre des Affaires religieuses de Yasser Arafat, dans interview accordée à l’agence de presse, IMRA, le 22 novembre 1997)
Ce n’est pas du tout le mur des Lamentations, mais un sanctuaire musulman. Yasser Arafat (Maariv, 11 octobre 1996)
Tous les événements liés au roi Saul, au roi David et au roi Rehoboam se sont déroulés au Yémen, et aucun vestige hébreu n’a été trouvé en Israël pour la bonne et simple raison qu’ils n’y ont jamais vécu. Jarid al-Kidwa (historien arabe, au cours d’un programme éducatif de l’OLP, juin 1997, cité dans Haaretz le 6 juillet 1997)
Jérusalem n’est pas une ville juive, en dépit du mythe biblique qui a été semé dans certains esprits…Il n’y a pas d’évidence tangible de l’existence juive d’un soi-disant « Temple du mont Era »…on doute de l’emplacement du mont du Temple…il se peut qu’il ait été situé à Jéricho ou ailleurs. Walid Awad (directeur des publications pour l’étranger du ministère de l’Information de l’OLP, interviewé par l’agence de presse IMRA, le 25 décembre 1996)
Abraham n’était pas juif, pas plus que c’était un Hébreu, mais il était tout simplement irakien. Les Juifs n’ont aucun droit de prétendre disposer d’une synagogue dans la tombe des patriarches à Hébron, lieu où est inhumé Abraham. Le bâtiment tout entier devrait être une mosquée. Yasser Arafat (Jerusalem Report, 26 décembre 1996)
[La Shoa] est un mensonge des Sionistes concernant de soi-disant massacres perpétrés contre les Juifs. Al Hayat Al Jadeeda ( journal de l’Autorité palestinienne, 3 septembre 1997)
[Notre but est] d’éliminer l’Etat d’Israël et d’établir un Etat qui soit entièrement palestinien. Yasser Arafat (session privée avec des diplomates arabes en Europe, 30 janvier 1996)
La lutte contre l’ennemi sioniste n’est pas une question de frontières, mais touche à l’existence même de l’entité sioniste. Bassam-abou-Sharif (porte-parole de l’OLP, Kuwait News Agency – Agence de presse koweïtienne, 31 mai 1996)

Attention, un triomphe peut en cacher un autre !

En cette fête des Sorts (Pourim) où nos amis juifs fêtent leur délivrance d’une énième tentative de génocide …

Au moment même où la mémoire et l’existence d’Israël sont à nouveau menacées par le régime terroriste qui sert actuellement de gouvernement aux descendants des mêmes Perses …

Et où tant le Carter noir de la Maison Blanche que le Sauveur de l’Afrique à l’Elysée n’ont d’yeux assez doux pour les nouveaux génocidaires et de mots assez durs pour les descendants de Mardochée et d’Esther qui tentent aujuourd’hui à leur tour d’en éviter la répétition  …

Pendant que nos médias mercenaires prennent un malin plaisir à dénoncer chez les victimes régulièrement désignées à la vindicte publique par le Machin leur "complexe d’Auschwitz" et leur "mentalité du ghetto"…

Quel incroyable retour du refoulé que ces vieilles pierres originellement assemblées pour célèbrer le triomphe des pilleurs du Temple de Jérusalem …

Et qui via leurs multiples imitations à travers les siècles et la planète

Continuent, près de 2000 ans plus tard et  justement sans le savoir, à crier l’ineffaçable premier forfait du général romain Titus et de son père Vespasien

Mais aussi la réalité, aujourd’hui à nouveau niée, tant de l’ancienneté de sa présence continue que de l’existence de son Temple à Jérusalem et en Israël …

Et surtout l’invraisemblable résilience de ce petit peuple comme de ses textes fondateurs

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Arc_de_titus_frontal.jpgLe sénat et le peuple romain au divin Titus Vespasien, Auguste, fils du divin Vespasien.

Titus, Rome, c. 81

Monument, remarquable en termes de religion et d’art,
avait été affaibli par l’âge:
Pie le septième, le souverain pontife,
par de nouveaux travaux sur le modèle de l’exemple antique
l’a commandé, renforcé et préservé.

• L’année de son saint règne le 24 e •

Pius VI, Rome, 1821

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Entry_of_Napoleon_III_into_Paris_by_Theodore_Jung.jpegValmy Jemmapes Fleurus Montenotte Lodi Castiglione

Arcole Rivoli Les Pyramides Aboukir Alkmaer Zurich

Heliopolis Marengo Hohenliden Ulm Austerlizt Iéna

Friedland Sierra Essling Wagram Moscowa Lutzen

Bleutzen Dresde Hanau Montmirail Montereau Lagny

Napoléon, Paris, 1806

http://wpcontent.answcdn.com/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9a/Gapon_u_Narvskoy_zastavy1.jpg/250px-Gapon_u_Narvskoy_zastavy1.jpgAlexander I, Saint-Petersbourg, 1814

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Wellingtonarch2008.jpgGeorge III, Londres, 1825

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1b/Washington_Square_by_Matthew_Bisanz.JPG/391px-Washington_Square_by_Matthew_Bisanz.JPGLet us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.— Washington

William Rhinelander Stewart, New York, 1892

http://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/19582bnew2bdelhi2bindia2bindia2bgate2brajasthan2bcamel2bcorps2brehearsal2bwire2bphoto.jpg?w=450&h=347"To the dead of the Indian armies who fell honoured in France and Flanders Mesopotamia and Persia East Africa Gallipoli and elsewhere in the near and the far-east and in sacred memory also of those whose names are recorded and who fell in India or the north-west frontier and during the Third Afghan war."

George VI, Dehli, 1931

http://www.comtourist.com/images/large/north-korea-04/pyongyang-arch-of-triumph-01.jpgKim Il Sung, Pyongyang, 1982


Norman Rockwell: Pourquoi Rockwell dut quitter le Saturday Evening Post (Why Rockwell had to leave the Post)

21 février, 2013

Unfinished original UN tribute that later gave The Golden Rule ("Do unto others, 1961)

The Golden rule (Ce que vous voulez que les hommes fassent pour vous, faites-le de même pour eux. Jésus (Luc 6: 31)
George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants. Norman Rockwell

Quel meilleur moment que la Journée internationale de la langue maternelle pour reparler du peintre américain Norman Rockwell !

En ce jour où nos amis bengalais commémorent la manifestation étudiante du 21 février 1952 contre l’imposition de l’ourdou comme langue nationale par le gouvernement pakistanais, première étape de la longue lutte qui aboutit près de 20 ans plus tard à l’indépendance du Bengladesh …

Comment ne pas repenser à l’oeuvre longtemps contestée et souvent encore méconnue de ce peintre pour l’égalité des droits civiques et ce qui est devenu aujourdhui le nouveau fétiche de la "diversité"?

Et notamment, comme le montre bien la notice que lui consacre l’excellent site de vulgarisation historique Pop History Dig, sa longue lutte personnelle pour tenter d’imposer, dans des situations autres que serviles, des personnages issus des minorités ethniques sur les couvertures du Saturday Evening Post …

Avant son départ, en désespoir de cause, pour le plus tolérant Life magazine et les fameuses oeuvres qui le feront entrer dans l’histoire …

Dont le célébrisime "The problem we all live with" de 1964 (en double page intérieure de Life, souvent en tournée nationale et que nous n’avons justement pu voir lors de notre toute récente découverte du musée Rockwell dans l’est du Massachusssets) …

Qui, évoquant magistralement le véritable chemin de croix qu’avait dû subir jour après jour et pendant toute une année la première élève noire  d’une école blanche de New Orleans, lui avait d’ailleurs été inspiré par le compte rendu qu’en avait fait cinq ans plus tôt un autre artiste quintessentiellement américan, John Steinbeck, dans son livre de voyage sur l’Amérique ("Travels with Charley") …

Mais également son presqu’aussi célèbre "New kids in the neighborhood" de 1967 où, toujours son incroyable souci du détail, il réssussait à évoquer à la fois la probable future entente entre les nouvelles générations de nirs et de blancs et, dissimulé dans un coin de son tableau (le regard suspicieux derrière le rideau d’une maison – qu’on ne voit probablement d’ailleurs que sur l’original du tableau lui-même), le long chemin qui restait encore à faire pour la génération de leurs parents …

Sans parler de sa non moins fameuse toile oecuménique intitulée "La Règle d’or" (Faites aux autres"), retravaillée d’un premier tableau abandonné fait précédemment en hommage aux Nations Unies où il réussit à placer nombre de ses voisins mais surtout son épouse récemment décédée portant dans ses bras le petit-fils qu’elle n’eut jamais le temps de connaitre …

Ou, encore moins connus, son “Southern Justice” (ou “Murder in Mississippi") de 1965 pour Look, au sujet de l’assassinat de trois activistes des droits civiques, deux blancs et un noir, évoquant la très forte mais souvent oubliée implication de nombre d’étudiants juifs aux origines de ce qui allait devenir le Mouvement pour les Droits civiques …

Ou son "Blood brothers" de 1968, évoquant après l’assassinat de martin Luther king les victimes (encore une fois un blanc et un noir) des émeutes qui avaient suivi et finalement non publié par le magazine …

“Rockwell & Race” 1963-1968

Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.

The recent display at the White House of Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, depicting a famous school desegregation scene in New Orleans, has properly drawn national attention to an iconic moment in America’s troubled civil rights history.

Rockwell’s painting focuses on an historic 1960 school integration episode when six year-old Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshals past jeering mobs to insure her safe enrollment at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby was the first African American child to enroll at the school, and the local white community – as elsewhere in the country at that time – was fiercely opposed to the court-ordered desegregation of public schools then occurring.  Rockwell’s rendering focuses on the little girl in her immaculate white dress, carrying her ruler and copy book, as the four U.S. marshals escort her.  The painting also captures some of the contempt of those times with the scrawled racial epithet on the wall and the red splattering of a recently thrown tomato.

Rockwell’s portrayal first appeared to wide public notice in January 1964 when it ran as a two-page centerfold illustration on the inside pages of Look magazine.  The painting ran as an untitled illustration in the middle of Look’s feature story on how Americans live, describing their homes and communities.

The context of the Ruby Bridges scene rendered by Rockwell had been heavily reported in print and on television in November 1960, with the anger of the mobs that day burnished deeply in the public mind.  Magazine readers viewing Rockwell’s piece in 1964 would likely recall the unhappy context of young school children being heckled and needing federal protection.

July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office. White House photo, Peter Souza.

In 2011, President Obama had a hand in bringing Rockwell’s original painting to the White House, as did others, according to the Washington Post, including Ruby Bridges herself, the Norman Rockwell Museum which owns the painting, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Some quiet lobbying helped bring the painting to the White House, suggesting it be displayed there at the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ admission to the Frantz school.  “The President likes pictures that tell a story and this painting fits that bill…,” explained a statement in the White House blog.  “In 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on…”  However, at the time of the painting’s White House display, some reporting had erroneously stated the Rockwell piece had initially appeared on thecover of the January 14th, 1964 Look magazine.  That is a forgivable mistake given the fact that so much of Norman Rockwell’s work frequently did appear on magazine covers, most notably at the Saturday Evening Post.  But the error raises an important question, nonetheless.  Why didn’t the Rockwell painting of the famous civil rights incident run on the cover of Look magazine or some other magazine?

Well, therein lies a whole other tale, or at least a part of the story not often told – about how depictions of race and civil rights evolved in American art and popular magazines during those times.  By way of presenting some of that story here, the article that follows will look at the history of Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges piece; three other works he did related to race and civil rights; and how Rockwell, his magazine sponsors, and popular magazine publishing dealt with race and civil rights in the 1940s-thru-1960s period.  First, some background on the artist.

Norman Rockwell

Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell grew up in New York city, and as a boy dreamed of becoming an artist.  By the time he was ten he was drawing constantly.  He soon dropped out of high school and enrolled in art school, first at the National Academy School, but by 1910, at the prestigious Art Students League.  After graduation he did some of his first work for Boy’s Life magazine.  In 1916, Rockwell did his first cover for Saturday Evening Post, then one of America’s premiere weekly magazines.  For nearly the next fifty years, he would continue making much-loved Saturday Evening Post covers, most depicting everyday scenes of 20th century Americana.  Rockwell in fact, would do more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post through 1963.  But that’s only part of his story.

1929: Girl & Doll’s Heart.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1958: The Runaway.

Rockwell’s cover subjects for the Post ranged across American daily life – from a young boy in a doctor’s office awaiting a curative needle or teenage girls gossiping at a soda fountain, to a rookie baseball player reporting to play his first game or a worn-out politician at the end of a hard day of campaigning.  Some of Rockwell’s covers dealt with aspirational themes and democratic values.  In 1942, in response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made his famous “Four Freedoms” series, each of which also ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover – Freedom of Speech (Feb 20, 1943), Freedom of Worship (Feb 27, 1943), Freedom from Want (March 6, 1943), and Freedom from Fear (March 13, 1943).

During this period as well, his Rosie the Riveter cover for the May 29th, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and another depicting a “liberty girl” for the September 4th, 1943 edition, helped the government recruit female workers for the war effort during WWII.  Some of these paintings traveled around the country in the mid-1940s, shown in conjunction with the sale of government war bonds.  “The Four Freedoms” series reportedly brought in a tidy sum of $132,992,539 in war bond funds.  Rockwell also did poster art for the U.S. Office of War Information in conjunction with the war bond drives.

While Rockwell’s name became practically synonymous with the Saturday Evening Post, he also did art for other publications, including: Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Literary Digest, Look, Country Gentleman, Popular Science, and others.  Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of some 80 magazines.  His work also appeared in numerous advertisements and he became well known for illustrating the Boy Scouts of America annual calendar. (Galleries of Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post are found at a number of very good websites, a few of which are listed at the end of this article in “Sources, Links & Additional Information”).  In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell in particular — and other artists at the Saturday Evening Post as well — became chroniclers of American culture and America’s culture past as nostalgia.  Rockwell worked at the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post’s reign as a magazine powerhouse, when circulation reached 4-to-5 million copies a week, and when a Rockwell cover alone could boost non-subscription sales by 250,000.  For millions of magazine readers in those years, Norman Rockwell became a household name in America, even if many art critics at the time didn’t regard his work as “serious art.”

Civil Rights Subjects

“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.

Rockwell appears to have been first nudged toward civil rights as subject matter in June 1943 when Roderick Stephens, an African-American activist and head of the Bronx Interracial Conference, wrote to Rockwell urging him to do a series of paintings to promote interracial relations.  Stephens had been moved by Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” and was worried at the time that urban race riots would ensue in major cities like his own New York, touched off by the migration of southern blacks to major cities.  Race riots, in fact, had then already occurred in Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  Although Stephens expressed his admiration to Rockwell for his “Four Freedoms,” he noted that two of the freedoms – “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” – were, for most blacks at the time, freedoms denied.  Stephens proposed that Rockwell do a series of paintings to be printed and circulated as posters, just as the “Four Freedoms” had been, to promote racial tolerance, featuring subject matter that would illustrate the contributions of blacks to American society and how they helped realize the Four Freedoms.  Stephens believed Rockwell was an artist who could make a difference at the time, and could help “advance racial goodwill by years,” offering art to point up what was then in American practice, a restricted conception of freedom.  Rockwell is believed to have replied to Stephens, but he never embarked on Stephens’ proposal, more or less rejecting the series idea, explaining to Stephens  the difficulties he had encountered creating the “Four Freedoms” series.  But there may have been more to it than that, as Rockwell was then laboring under restrictions imposed by The Saturday Evening Post.

Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.

Rockwell’s venturing into controversial material such as race and civil rights did not come until later in his career, after he had left the Post.  Like other artists of the 1940s and 1950s who did commercial art and magazine illustrations, Rockwell was bound by certain publishing covenants and restrictions, written and unwritten, that determined what could and could not appear in magazine covers and illustrations.  The Saturday Evening Post, for example, would only allow minorities to be shown in servile roles.

In a 1971 interview with writer Richard Reeves, Rockwell explained the unwritten rule laid down by his first editor at the Post: “George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants.”  Lorimer was Rockwell’s editor at the Post for his first twenty years there.  The Rockwell cover illustration at left from the December 7th, 1946 Saturday Evening Post illustrates the rule in practice.  The scene, which is also known as Boy in Dining Car, shows a young boy in a railroad dining car studying the menu with purse in hand, trying to determine the proper payment and tip for the black waiter.

Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.

In addition to the 1946 Post cover above, Rockwell also did other magazine covers and illustrations from the mid-1920s through mid-1940s that depicted African Americans in various roles, usually in minor or servile roles, and sometimes not facing the viewer.  Among a few of these Rockwell pieces, for example, are: The Banjo Player, an illustration for a Pratt & Lambert varnish advertisement appearing inside The Saturday Evening Post of April 3rd, 1926; Thataway, a March 17th, 1934 cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a young black boy pointing to the direction taken by a thrown rider’s horse; Love Ouanga, a June 1936 illustration for a short story in American Magazine depicting a beautiful, stylishly-dressed young African American woman in a church scene contrasted against more coarse and country dress of other farming and working African Americans also in the scene; Full Treatment, a May 18th, 1940 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a wealthy man being attended to by a barber, manicurist, and a black shoe shine boy; The Homecoming, a May 26th, 1945 cover for The Post depicting a returning military veteran arriving home to a scene of welcoming family and neighbors that also includes an African American worker; and Roadblock, a July 9th, 1949 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a moving van that is blocked by a small dog in an urban alley scene with a variety on onlookers, including some black children.

Continuing into the 1950s and early 1960s, publishing art and mainstream magazines generally were slow to portray African American success stories and the civil rights struggle.

Cover Art, 1950s

1947: Jackie Robinson.
1947: Jackie Robinson.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Segregation story.
1954: Segregation story.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when the civil rights movement was struggling for recognition, the American art community – then involved with modern art and abstract expressionism – was generally not at the ramparts fighting racial discrimination.   Nor, for the most part, were America’s most popular magazines in that era featuring African Americans on their covers or doing prominent stories on civil rights.  In its May 8th, 1950 edition, Life magazine featured a photograph of baseball player Jackie Robinson on its cover, the first individual African American to be so featured by that magazine.  Robinson had become the first African American to break the color barrier in professional baseball three years earlier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Time magazine, for its part, had used an artist’s rendering of Robinson on an earlier cover in September 1947.  Back at Life, meanwhile, actress Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American woman to be featured on a cover at that magazine, for the November 1st, 1954 edition.  Dandridge was then appearing in her Academy Award-nominated best actress film role in Carmen Jones.  A few stories on segregation also appeared on major magazine covers in the mid-1950s.  On September 13, 1954, Newsweek ran a cover story on segregation in schools, showing a white and a black child in a Washington, D.C. school.  Time magazine put Thurgood Marshall on the cover of its September 19th, 1955 issue, Marshall then having risen to notice as chief counsel for the NAACP arguing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (see “Brown vs Board…” sidebar, later below, for more details).

A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing  “Approved Killing” story tagline.
A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.

Look, another pictorial magazine similar to Life, and also popular in the 1950s, had rarely if ever used cover art that solely featured an African American.  There were black sports stars shown  on Look covers occasionally – such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson – but usually as one among five whites in a framed, six-photo layout.  Look did give cover billing to a few articles on racial issues in the 1950s.  On the cover of its January 24th, 1956 issue, Look ran the title of an article by William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.”

Although there was no mention of race in the title, and it ran on a somewhat incongruous cover featuring the U.S. teenager (partially shown at left), the “shocking story” inside was truly shocking.  It was the story of the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old Chicago boy who was savagely beaten, shot, and mutilated by white men in Mississippi while the boy was visiting relatives there.  Till, a brash kid who knew nothing about the realities of the South, made the mistake of whistling at a white woman at a local country store.  Later abducted from his relatives’ home, Till was brutally pistol-whipped and dumped into a river, his body tied to a heavy metal fan.

Click to read at PBS.org.
Click to read at PBS.org.

Two white suspects – Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam – were later tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in less than two hours.  Their defense attorney had called on the jurors to honor their forefathers by not convicting white men for killing a black person.  Back in Chicago, Till’s mutilated body was displayed at an open-casket viewing.  No mainstream print publication in America at that time published the gruesome photos, although a few black-owned publications did, provoking outrage throughout African American communities.

Inside the January 24th, 1956 Look magazine, the article by author William Bradford Huie covered the Till murder and he also interviewed the two suspects, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, who were paid $4,000 to tell how they killed Emmett Till.  In the article, the two suspects – then safe from conviction after having been acquitted in their friendly Mississippi trial – confessed to the crime.  A year later, in its January 22nd, 1957 edition, Look published a follow-up article on the killing, also by William Bradford Huie, entitled “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?”  That story reported that blacks in the local community stopped using stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, putting them out of business, as both men were also ostracized by the white community.

'56: Slavery/Segregation.
’56: Slavery/Segregation.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1963: Negro in America.
1963: Negro in America.

Cover Art ( cont’d)

On September 3rd, 1956, Life magazine featured a cover story related to slavery and segregation – “Beginning A Major Life series – Segregation,” stated Life at the top of the cover.  Time magazine featured Martin Luther King on its cover February 18th, 1957, as King was then in the news for his leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.  Later that year, on October 7th, 1957, Time and Life both featured the school integration conflict at Little Rock, Arkansas with National Guard troops shown on their covers.  By the time of the Freedom Riders in 1961, a Newsweek cover story featured photos and quotes from three key players in the controversy: U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mississippi Governor, John Patterson.  For its June 28th, 1963 edition, Life featured a cover photograph of the wife and child of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral. Evers, a Mississippi organizer, was shot in the back in his own driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member.  In July 1963, Newsweek published a special issue on “The Negro in America,” picturing an unnamed black man on the cover.  In smaller type on the cover, Newsweek further explained the focus of its series with the following: “The first definitive national survey – who he is, what he wants, what he fears, what he hates, how he lives, how he votes, why he is fighting … and why now?”  For its September 6th, 1963 issue, Life magazine featured a cover story on the historic August 1963 “march on Washington” with a photograph of two of its leaders, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, shown standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  And as the civil rights movement received more national notice throughout the 1960s, along with urban unrest, more magazine covers followed.

13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.

Rockwell & The Post

Norman Rockwell, meanwhile, was experiencing change at The Saturday Evening Post.  By the early 1960s, the frequency of his covers there had slowed – down to a half dozen or so a year – and the magazine was experimenting with new formats.  Still, after more than 40 years of his cover art being featured for millions of Post readers, Rockwell was clearly an asset to the magazine.  In fact, for the February 13th, 1960 issue of the magazine and its cover story, he was the featured star and title subject.  The cover used his famous “triple self-portrait” and gave full billing to a beginning series of articles about him for the magazine taken from a new autobiography written with the help of  his middle son, Thomas Rockwell.  Shown at right, the cover taglines for that issue of the Post explained: “Beginning in this issue: America’s Best Loved Artist Finally Tells His Own Story… My Adventures As An Illustrator.”  Yet Rockwell was chafing at the Post by this time, and his days there were numbered.

1960: Window Washer.
1961: Artist at Work.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1963: Nehru of India.
1963: Nehru of India.

Through the early 1960s, Rockwell continued doing Post covers.  In 1960, for example he did five more Post covers in addition to “triple self portrait,” shown above,  three of  which offered traditional subjects: “Repairing Stained Glass,” April 16, 1960; “University Club,” August 27, 1960; and “Window Washer,” September 17, 1960 (with the washer ogling the secretary).  Two more Rockwell covers that year were portraits of the 1960 presidential candidates – U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  The magazine by then had begun shifting to more portraits of famous people as cover material, and was also using more cover photography rather than illustrations or paintings.  Rockwell cover portraits, in any case, held their own at the Post, and included others in the early 1960s,  among them: Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, January 19, 1963;  Jack Benny, entertainer, March 2, 1963; a serious portrait of President John F. Kennedy to accompany a cover story on his foreign policy challenges, April 6, 1963; and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.  Other more traditional Post covers by Rockwell in the early 1960s included: “Artist at Work,” Sept 16, 1961; “Cheerleader,” Nov 25, 1961; and “Art Connoisseur” of January 13 1962, showing a middle-aged man in a museum observing a Jackson Pollack-type painting (this issue also had cover billing for a story inside the magazine entitled, “The Little Known World of Our Negro Aristocracy.”).

Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.

One interesting departure for Rockwell from his normal Saturday Evening Post fare during the early 1960s – and a sign of  his more liberal inner concerns – came with the April 1st, 1961 cover that appeared under the title “The Golden Rule.”  This illustration actually had its genesis, in part, during the late 1940s when Rockwell had set out to do a painting honoring the United Nations (UN), an organization he admired and found hopeful for solving world problems.  For the UN painting, Rockwell had in mind something that would highlight the cultural, racial, and religious tolerance of the organization, and he had visited the UN Security Council Chamber for ideas and sketches.  His first efforts yielded a charcoal drawing of several major-nation delegates debating from their seats in a brightly lit foreground.  Behind the delegates, in the shadows, was a crowd of more than sixty people – a cross-section of men, women, and children from around the world, some in native dress.  But Rockwell had difficulty with the UN delegates agreeing to sit for the drawings, and he also had his own dissatisfactions with his art, so he set the project aside.  Some years later, in 1960, he resurrected the project, then changing its composition somewhat and using “the golden rule” as theme.  He also incorporated the phrase “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” directly into the painting using gold lettering.

Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.

The painting – which ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover on April 1st, 1961 – became a further expression of Rockwell’s inner values and interests, marking something of a turning point in his relationship with the Post, not the least of which was his depiction of people of color.  African Americans were also included in the painting and placed in prominent positions – one as a Ruby Bridges-type young girl in the foreground holding her schoolbooks to her chest, and another as a middle-aged black man in a white shirt in the upper right corner looking out at the viewer.  Art critics have noted that these African American depictions were positive portrayals that broke with the traditional servile stereotypes at the Saturday Evening Post.  And along with the other Asians and Africans shown, were Rockwell’s way of following his  conscience and “integrating” a Saturday Evening Post cover on his own.  Rockwell also incorporated a portrayal of his second wife, Mary, in the painting.  Mary was the mother of their three sons and had passed away in 1959.  She is shown in the right middle of the painting holding their grandson she never saw.  Rockwell is believed to have completed this painting in November 1960.  He was later presented with the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the painting, a citation he treasured.

Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.

By late 1963, Rockwell was about to embark on a career change.  He was in his 60s by this time.  The cover art at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much continued to focus on Americana and everyday life as it had in the past.  Inside the magazine, however, there were contemporary stories of the day; the magazine was slowly changing.

Still, Rockwell had become frustrated by the limits the Post had imposed upon his art, especially regarding political themes and social concerns.  By then he had begun thinking about and moving on to other subject matter.  So in December 1963, he ended his near half-century with the Saturday Evening Post. 

Rockwell’s final cover for the magazine appeared in mid-December 1963.  It was actually an earlier portrait of John F. Kennedy he had done during the 1960 presidential campaign which the Post republished in a special memoriam issue that ran after Kennedy’s assassination.

Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.

Rockwell at Look

In December 1963, at the age of 68, Norman Rockwell signed on with Look magazine.  Look covers at the time dealt with contemporary subjects, celebrities, and general topics of the day, using mostly photographs.  A sample cover from December 1963 appears at left, this one also mentioning a civil rights story inside that edition.

Major circulation magazines in the early 1960s were beginning to feel the competition of television.  Collier’s had ceased publication in 1956, and even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling the heat.  Yet, Life and Look – the “picture magazines,” as they were sometimes called – remained strong, with solid advertising revenue.  Look by the mid-1960s would have some of its best years for sales and circulation.

When Rockwell began doing work for Look, Dan Mich was editor there. Mich was a supporter of thought-provoking journalism, and along with art director Allen Hurlburt, they gave Rockwell freedom to pursue his “bigger picture” interests, as he called them.  Look wanted to use Rockwell’s art as a compliment to current reportage and that gave Rockwell opportunity to pursue subject matter that interested him.

Rockwell’s third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, a fervent liberal, was an influence on Rockwell’s work through the 1960s, as was his friend and psychiatrist Erik Erickson.  And Rockwell himself, despite being tagged “conservative” by association with his Saturday Evening Post covers, had his own internal guideposts and values, as already noted above.  Rockwell was clearly more liberal/progressive than many of his Saturday Evening Post followers might have realized.  Some who knew him described him as a “strict constructionist,” especially so when it came to American values.  No surprise then, if given a subject and a free hand where American ideals such as freedom and equality of opportunity were at stake, his brush would be on the right side of those concerns.

Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans,  November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.

And so it was with the Ruby Bridges episode from 1960.  Rockwell came to this particular controversy somewhat after the actual event had occurred.  The date of his painting, The Problem We All Live With, is 1963 and its use in the illustration in Look magazine appeared in January 1964.  So the Ruby Bridges painting was a studied affair for Rockwell; a project he had worked on for some time and given considerable thought to.  In November 1960, at the time of the actual incident, there had been television and news reporting of the event. Rockwell no doubt made use of this reporting and the news photographs of the event.  He also employed models to work from as he painted.

Prior to the first integration actions in New Orleans – and there were two schools involved and several black students; three at another school – politicians in Louisiana, including the state’s governor at the time, segregationist Jimmie Davis, had maneuvered to prevent and forestall the integration.  In September 1960, the schools there opened initially as segregated.  By November, however, the courts had set a deadline to begin school integration, but parents did not know which schools would be involved

“Brown vs. Board…”
Landmark Case: 1954
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.

The racial integration of American public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder named Oliver Brown who wanted a better education for his children.  Brown had sought the opportunity for his daughter to attend a whites-only school that was closer to his home than the local school for blacks.  An earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision dating from 1896 had allowed for the establishment of racially-segregated schools, which the court had then deemed acceptable under the constitution, calling them “separate but equal.”  Yet most of these schools were not equal.  A long legal battle – a court fight consolidated with other similar cases using the name Brown vs. Board of Education – eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (and who later became a Supreme Court justice).  The court unanimously ruled in Brown’s favor on May 17, 1954, and the case became a landmark ruling in ending segregation, not only in schools but throughout a wide variety of public venues.

A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.

Putting the new law into effect, however, would take years.  Initially, as Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, federal marshals — and sometimes federal troops — had to be used to enforce the law, as in the case of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans.  In 1956, U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools.  After a series of appeals, Wright in 1960 set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade.  The New Orleans School Board then tested black kindergartners to determine the best candidates.  Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected; four agreed to proceed.  On November 14th 1960, Bridges integrated the William Frantz School (the other three children were assigned to the McDonogh 19 School).

Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges

Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.

Once it was revealed which schools in New Orleans were the ones chosen for the court-ordered integration, sidewalk protests ensued and white parents promptly removed their children from those schools.  However, at Ruby Bridges’ school – the William Frantz school — there were also two white parents who chose to keep their children in the school: a Christian minister’s five-year old daughter, Pamela Foreman, in kindergarten, and another white child, Yolanda Gabrielle, age six.  In addition to the jeering of Ruby, these white kids and their parents were also jeered and harassed, even beyond the school grounds.  Neighbor turned against neighbor and it got pretty ugly in those communities.

Rockwell, no doubt knew about all of this and likely read news accounts of the protests.  On November 15, 1960, The New York Times reported the greeting Ruby and her mother received as they arrived that day: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to integrate’…”

Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.

As four U.S. marshals arrived with Ruby and her mother, they walked hurriedly up the steps to the school’s entrance as onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.  On the sidewalk that day, assembled mothers and school students were yelling at police, some carrying signs, one held by a young boy that said, “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School.”  Another placard that day read: “Save Segregation, Vote States Rights Pledged Electors.”

The white parents kept up their boycott of the schools the entire year, and the protests and jeering continued periodically.  On December 2nd, 1960, for example, housewives demonstrated at the William Frantz school, one standing with a placard that read “Integration is a Mortal Sin,” citing a biblical scribe as source.

Rockwell’s painting, of course, does not capture all of this, nor was it intended to.  His focus appears to be solely on the girl, placed at center, giving no special notice to the marshals, other than they were needed, as he portrays them as anonymous and headless, from mid-torso down.  The setting around the little girl is ugly and threatening, but she is innocent and perfect, as her white dress and ribbon-tied hair suggest.  As far as she is concerned, she is just going to school.

1962: Steinbeck book.
1962: Steinbeck book.

One description of the 1960 New Orleans school integration protests that Rockwell may have read prior to or during his work on the Ruby Bridges painting was John Steinbeck’s observations of the episode, offered in his 1962 best-seller, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  “Charley” was Steinbeck’s dog and traveling companion during his road trip around the United States.  Travels With Charley was published by Viking Press in the mid-summer of 1962, reaching No.1 on the New York Times nonfiction best- seller list October 21, 1962.  In part four of that book, Steinbeck recorded his reactions on coming to the New Orleans communities where the school integration controversy had flared, and he came away gravely saddened by what he saw.  In his book, Steinbeck offered a detailed account of Ruby Bridges’ arrival at the elementary school and her handling by the U.S. marshals:

“…The show opened on time.  Sound of sirens.  Motorcycle cops.  Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school.  The crowd seemed to hold its breath.  Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round.  Her face and little legs were very black against the white…The little girl did not look back at the howling crowd but from the size the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn.  The men turned her around like a doll, and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big…”

November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana;  one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”

Steinbeck had come to New Orleans in part to see the “cheerleaders,” as he called those then protesting New Orleans’ school integration, and he describes what he found first hand, as he witnessed some of the protests:

“…No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted.  It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. . . . But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate.  In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before.  Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?…”

Steinbeck wrote that he knew “something was wrong and distorted and out of drawing” in what he had seen in New Orleans.  He had formerly counted himself as a friend of New Orleans; knew the city fairly well, had his favorite haunts there, and also had many treasured friends there – “thoughtful, gentle people, with a tradition of kindness and courtesy.”  Where were they now, he wondered – “the ones whose arms would ache to gather up a small, scared, black mite?”  Answering his own question, he wrote:

“…I don’t know where they were.  Perhaps they felt as helpless as I did, but they left New Orleans misrepresented to the world.  The crowd, no doubt, rushed home to see themselves on television, and what they saw went out all over the world, unchallenged by the other things I know are there….”

Another influence on Rockwell at this time was likely Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst at the Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Rockwell then lived and worked.  Erikson treated Rockwell occasionally for bouts of depression, was Rockwell’s friend, and also had a passion for civil rights.  Erikson was a colleague and mentor to a younger child psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who had begun working with Ruby Bridges and other children in the early school desegregation cases in 1961.  Coles had found that segregation had damaged the self-esteem of the little girls, and by 1963 he had written a series of articles beginning in March for The Atlantic Monthly magazine profiling Ruby Bridges’s experiences during integration of the Frantz school.  He also published The Desegregation of Southern Schools: A Psychiatric Study, a short book.  Erikson may well have made Rockwell aware of these at the time he was painting The Problem We All Live With.

Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964  focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities –  city, farm & suburb.
Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.

It appears Rockwell began working on the Ruby Bridges painting sometime in 1963, also finishing it that year.  The editors at Look decided to use it in their January 14th, 1964 edition.  On the cover of that issue, a portion of which is shown at right, Look featured photos of American homes in various urban and suburban settings, along with a few family shots, billing its cover story as: “How We Live: Up in the city, Down on the farm, Out in the suburbs.  In homes packed with pride, prejudice and love.”

There was no special mention or billing of Norman Rockwell’s painting on the cover.  The illustration would be found in the middle of the magazine as a full two-page spread with no accompanying text.  In the table of contents it was billed under “art” with the title “The Problem We All Live With.”  It appeared amidst a series of articles with titles such as: “Their First Home,” “Down On The Farm,” and “Their Dream House Is On Wheels.”  One of the stories focused on Theodore and Beverly Mason, a black family living in a mixed community in Ludlow, Ohio.

Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”

Rockwell’s former Saturday Evening Post fans, coming upon this painting in Look, may have been quite surprised.  In fact, the painting did elicit reaction from Look’s readers, as the magazine received letters from those who were deeply moved by it, as well as those who were angered by it.  Some analysts would later note that precisely because Rockwell was an artist dear to the hearts of many conservatives for his renderings of Americana and American values, that his “new” work on civil rights subjects may have made some of these same fans think twice about America’s racial problem at that time, helping them face up to racism.  Rockwell himself would later say of his change in subject matter: “For 47 years, I portrayed the best of all possible worlds – grandfathers, puppy dogs – things like that.  That kind of stuff is dead now, and I think it’s about time.”

March 23, 1965, Look cover.
March 23, 1965, Look cover.

Rockwell appears to have been quite comfortable with what he offered in the Ruby Bridges painting.  In fact, in a letter he later wrote to the NAACP, Rockwell offered the illustration to the civil rights group, suggesting they reproduce the illustration as a poster to publicize their progress and accomplishments.  It is not known here what the NAACP made of this offer, or if the illustration was ever used as Rockwell suggested.  Rockwell, in any case, had more work to come on civil rights issues; work that would also be published by Look magazine, two of which are explored below.

Apart from Rockwell’s work, Look also published cover stories on civil rights issues in that period.  On March 23, 1965 the magazine featured “The Negro Now” story by Robert Penn Warren on its cover, describing its content with a series of questions, also on the cover: “How far has the Negro come?,” “What is the South ready to concede?,” “What happens next in the North?,” “Can we move forward without violence?,” and “Who speaks for the Negro now?”

Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.

“Southern Justice”

Another step that Norman Rockwell took with his civil rights painting in the 1960s, came when he ventured into depicting violence then occurring in the civil rights movement.  In 1964, he began work on a painting inspired by the murder of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi in June of 1964.

The three young men – James Chaney, a 21 year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20 year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24 year-old white Jewish organizer and former social worker also from New York – were helping to register black voters in Mississippi.   Initially, the three men were reported missing.

Within days of their disappearance, the story made national headlines, as President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive search.  However, it turned out that shortly after midnight on June 21, 1964, the three civil rights workers were murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided in their plot by a local police chief.  All three were beaten and then shot, and their bodies not located until August 8, 1964, found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.

Rockwell began work on his “Murder in Mississippi” in 1964, a painting which later used the name of the Look article that it ran with, “Southern Justice.”  Rockwell typically worked on several projects at once, but with this project, he bore in on the work exclusively for five weeks straight.  The painting, which depicts the horror endured by the three young men as they were being beaten, uses a barren, isolated rural scene as its setting, likely at the end of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  The scene is lit only by an unseen torch.  One man is portrayed by Rockwell lying on the ground, presumably beaten, but trying, with one arm, to push himself up from the ground.  Another is standing in the glow of the attacker’s torch trying to help his colleague, who appears beaten and near death.  Analysts of this painting have noted that Rockwell, rather than actually showing the murderers in the scene, casts them instead as six ominous shadows approaching from the right, indicating that the young men are outnumbered, and also perhaps, symbolically, indicating the problem is a larger societal issue.

Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.

In considering this piece, the editors of Look were more taken with Rockwell’s initial sketch for the illustration and favored it over the finished painting, using it in the magazine.  The editors felt the coarser version offered a more powerful, emotional interpretation.  Rockwell at first disagreed with their choice but he did allow the sketch to be printed.  In the June 29, 1965 edition of Look, it ran as a single-page illustration alongside a one-page article by Charles Morgan titled, “Southern Justice,” which focused on “segregated justice” in the South, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders, other civil rights murders and beatings in the South, and the absence of black judges in Southern courts.  Rockwell’s illustration was captioned as “Philadelphia, Miss., June 21, 1964.”

As with the Ruby Bridges episode, Rockwell no doubt learned of this civil rights story through the media accounts and newspaper reporting of that day.  On June 22, 1964, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the incident using the following headlines and description: “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered….”  After the three workers were found dead, however, local officials in Mississippi refused to prosecute the suspected killers.  The U.S. Justice Department then charged eighteen individuals with conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights (by murder).  Seven were found guilty on October 20, 1967, but with appeals, did not begin serving their 3-to-10 year sentences until 1970, with none serving more than six years.  Three other suspects had been acquitted, but no further legal action ensued in the case until pressure was brought decades later, in June 2005, when the state of Mississippi prosecuted and convicted Edgar Ray Killen – who planned and directed the killing – on three counts of murder.

May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.

Look magazine, meanwhile, went on to do other stories on civil rights issues.  Less than a year later, on May 3, 1966, Look ran a cover story on the Ku Klux Klan showing a hooded Klansman on the cover wielding two flaming torches.  Rockwell had done some other work for Look in 1965 following his Southern Justice illustration.  For the July 27, 1965 edition of Look, Rockwell did an illustration to accompany an article on President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program for the poor, entitled “How Goes the War on Poverty.” Rockwell’s illustration featured a “helping hand” clasped to another’s seeking help, superimposed over a background of diverse faces with a quote from President Johnson lettered into the painting: “Hope for the Poor, Achievement for Yourself, Greatness for Your Nation.”  In the following year, for the June 14, 1966 edition of Look, Rockwell did the cover art and four other pieces inside the magazine helping to illustrate a story on The Peace Corps – “J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy.”  Rockwell’s cover piece included a profile of John F. Kennedy and others who actually served in the Peace Corps (some of whom also modeled for Rockwell as he did the painting), including one African American female.  All were shown on the cover in profile looking left, with Kennedy in front (see cover above).  Rockwell had thrown himself into the Peace Corps project, actually visiting Peace Corps volunteers in action in Ethiopia, India, and Colombia during 1966 as he created several narrative scenes of them at work.  But Rockwell would also do more civil rights work the following year, also published in Look.

Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Story: Negro in Suburbs.
Story: Negro in Suburbs.

“New Kids…”

The May 16th, 1967 issue of Look magazine was billed as “A Report on Suburbia” – with added tagline, “The Good Life In Our Exploding Utopia.”  Look’s cover for that edition also listed the line-up of suburban-related stories inside: “Parties and Prejudices,” “New Styles and Status,” Morals and Divorce, and “Teenagers in Trouble.”  One of the stories to follow was by Jack Star, entitled “Negro in the Suburbs.”  Mrs. Jacqueline Robbins, a young black housewife who then lived in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Forest, Illinois with her chemist husband, Terry, 32, and their two sons, was quoted as saying, “Being a Negro in the middle of white people is like being alone in the middle of a crowd.”  A Rockwell illustration — entitled New Kids in the Neighborhood — ran in the middle of that article.  “Although Negroes are still a rarity in the green reaches of suburbia,” reported the Look article, “they are emerging from nearly all the large metropolitan ghettos with increasing frequency.”  In Chicago during 1966, the story explained, 179 Negro families moved into white suburbs – more than twice as many as in the previous year, seven times as many as in 1963…”

Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.

Rockwell’s full, two-page illustration inside this suburban-themed issue focused on a “moving-in” day scene for a new black family freshly arrived in some unnamed white suburb.  In his painting, Rockwell uses black and white children as his focal point.  The two sets of children are standing in front of a moving van sizing one another up.  The two African American kids are presumably brother and sister.  The three white kids – two boys and a girl – are kids from the neighborhood.  Rockwell has included common elements for all the kids – the boys have baseball gloves, the girls each wear ribbons in their hair, and both groups have a pet.  For the viewer, meanwhile, there is little escape, as Rockwell involves them quite directly with the central question, essentially asking them to complete the picture; asking them to think about how the interaction between these kids, their parents, their community and the larger society will unfold.

Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.

Students of Rockwell have noted that he often used kids in his illustrations, sometimes as neutral arbiters and non-judgmental conveyors of life situations – but also as a means of reaching out to mainstream audiences to prod, send a needed message of some kind, or raise a pointed question.  Rockwell’s two groups of kids in this painting might be seen as surrogates for the larger society, each group trying to decide what to do and whether or how to conquer that middle distance.  The issue in the New Kids painting, of course, is not only the relationships that may ensue between the kids in the weeks and months ahead, but also the larger slate of societal and democratic issues that integration then posed for the nation and its future.  The kids, in any case, are usually not the problem.  As Ruby Bridges has remarked from her own experience with integration in Louisiana, “none of us knows anything about disliking one another when we come into the world.  It is something that is passed on to us.”  Rockwell, it seems, also tried to convey some of that, featuring childhood innocence amid adult turmoil, or just letting children be children.  But Rockwell was also capable of more direct messages, using tougher themes and subject matter.

“Blood Brothers”

A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.

In June 1968, during a conversation at a party, Norman Rockwell hit upon an idea for a painting.  Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April that year, there had been rioting in more than 100 U.S. cities, with a number of people killed and injured.  Rockwell was thinking of a scene resulting from this urban unrest, and he called his editor at Look, Allen Hurlburt, to get preliminary approval and begin work.  What Rockwell began to sketch were two dead men on the ground – one black and one white – both bloodied and beaten,  found on a ghetto street after a riot lying parallel to one another, their blood co-mingling in a pool on the ground.  According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, “Rockwell hoped to show the superficiality of racial differences – that the blood of all men was the same.”

Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”

Rockwell continued working on the project though June 1968 when Allen Hurlburt at Look suggested that Rockwell change the ghetto scene to a Vietnam battlefield scene.  Rockwell then had the two men in essentially the same position, now dressed in military uniform, presumably killed in action during the Vietnam War, their helmets cast beside them on the ground.  In war, of course, there was no discrimination; death and injury came to soldiers the same way, no matter if they were black or white.  At this point the painting began to be known as Blood Brothers.   However, later that fall, the editors at Look decided not to use the painting.

Rockwell wasn’t happy with the decision, did some soul searching and talked with friends about the painting, but set it aside and moved on to other work.  But later that year, Rockwell received an invitation from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights group founded by students at the University of Chicago in 1942.  CORE was active in desegregation protests and sits-in from its founding, and became a leading civil rights group in the 1960s, especially in the South, and also helped sponsor the 1963 March on Washington and other events.  CORE wanted Rockwell to do an illustration for a Christmas card that the organization likely planned to use to send to its membership or perhaps for fundraising.  But Rockwell did not send the group a typical Christmas or Holiday-themed illustration.  Instead, he sent them the Blood Brothers painting.  CORE, in any case, was happy to have Blood Brothers.  However, it is not known how CORE used the painting or whether the group reproduced it for other purposes.  One account has reported that the painting is missing from the CORE collection.  The earlier studies and sketches Rockwell did for the painting are still held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Rockwell RFK sketches.
Rockwell RFK sketches.

Rockwell, in any case, had been a very busy man in 1968.  He had done portraits of all the presidential candidates for Look magazine that year – President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy for the Democrats, and Ronald Regan, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon for the Republicans.

Also in 1968, Rockwell’s Right to Know – a painting of a diverse group of citizens addressing their government – was published in Look’s August 20th edition.  The 74 year-old artist had a number of other projects ongoing that year as well, including advertising work and illustrations for a children’s book.  He also found time that year to appear on the Joey Bishop Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Belated Recognition

Norman Rockwell continued painting through his 70s.  However, it was only in his latter years that his work began to be recognized for its artistic value.  During much of his professional life, especially during his Saturday Evening Post years, Rockwell’s work was dismissed by many art critics who regarded his portrayals of American life to be idealistic or too sentimental.  They did not consider him a “serious painter;” others believed his talents were wasted or put to frivolous purpose.  Yet time would work in Rockwell’s favor.

Today, his body of work, stretching over more that 60 years, is highly regarded and continues to be studied by scholars while  thousands flock to Rockwell exhibitions wherever they appear.  During his lifetime Rockwell completed some 4,000 original works, some lost to fire.  In addition to his several hundred magazine illustrations and covers for Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other publications, he also did illustrations for more than 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; made annual contributions to the Boy Scouts of America calendars between 1925 and 1976; did illustrations for the Brown & Bigelow publishing and advertising firm between 1947 and 1964; completed numerous illustrations for booklets, catalogs, movie posters, sheet music, stamps, and playing cards; and also painted a few wall murals.  His portrait work in later years would involve a number of famous figures, among them, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne.  He also did a few unexpected pieces, such as a 1968 album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their rock-blues recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

In 1969, having lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for last quarter of his life, he agreed to lend some of his works to the Stockbridge Historical Society for a permanent exhibition.  Word soon spread that his works were on display there and attendance grew annually, into the thousands.  By 1973, then in his late 70s, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his collection, placed initially in a custodianship that would later became the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.  In 1977, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Gerald R. Ford, recognizing his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”  The following year, on November 8, 1978, Rockwell died at his Stockbridge home at the age of 84.  An unfinished painting remained on his easel.

Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.
Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.

In July of 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative series of five Rockwell works including “Triple Self Portrait” and “The Four Freedoms.”  In 1999, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”  Rockwell’s work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York city from November 1999 through February 2002.

Today, Norman Rockwell originals fetch millions at auction, and in recent years the values have been jumping.  Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting, used for a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1943 shown at right, was sold twice in recent years – once in 2000 for $2 million, and when resold again in May 2002, escalated to $4.95 million.  His Homecoming Marine sold for $9.2 million at auction in May 2006.  And in November 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York, Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million.  Collectors of Rockwell art today include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others.

1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum  in Stockbridge, MA – with visitors now trending upwards of 160,000 annually – holds the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art, including some 574 original works as well as the Norman Rockwell Archives of photographs, fan mail, and other documents.  Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting – The Problem We All Live With – featured at the top of this story, is on display at the White House from June 22 – October 31, 2011.  Thereafter it is scheduled to rejoin the Rockwell museum’s traveling exhibition, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.”

Other stories at this website dealing with magazine art and magazine history include: “FDR & Vanity Fair” (cover art in the 1930s);  “Murdoch’s NY Deals” (history of New York magazine, 1970s);  ”Remington’s West” ( art & John Hancock advertising, 1959); and “Christy Mathewson” (art & John Hancock advertising, 1958).  Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  September 23, 2011
Last Update:  September 26, 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Rockwell & Race, 1963-1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 22, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
"Thataway" – March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction in 2006.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s "Truth About Santa" or "Discovery,” captures the complete surprise of a crestfallen young boy who has discovered Dad’s Santa suit. SEP cover, December 29, 1956.

DeNeen Brown, “Iconic Moment Finds a Space at White House,” Washington Post, Monday, August 29, 2011, p. C-1.

“Norman Rockwell,” Wikipedia.org.

Richard Reeves, “Norman Rockwell is Exactly Like a Norman Rockwell,” New York Times Magazine, Sunday, February 28, 1971, p. 42.

“Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post Covers in Order of Publication,” My-Mags.com.

Katy Reckdahl, “Fifty Years Later, Students Recall Integrating New Orleans Public Schools,” Times-Picayune,(New Orleans, LA), Saturday, November 13, 2010 (with photo gallery).

Angelo Lopez, “Norman Rockwell and the Civil Rights Paintings,” EveryDay Citizen.com, February 11, 2008.

Kirstie L. Kleopfer, “Norman Rockwell’s Civil Rights Paintings of the 1960s,” Master of Arts Thesis, University of Cincinnati, Department of Art History of the School of Art, College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, Cincinnati, Oho, May 16, 2007.

“Killers’ Confession: The Confession in Look,PBS.org (Reprint of January 1956 Look article, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,”by William Bradford Huie).

“Freedom Summer: Newsweek Civil Rights Covers,” DailyBeast.com, 2011.

Richard Halpern, Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence, University of Chicago Press, 2006, 201pp.

“Rockwell’s Four Freedoms: The Historical Context,” Fulbright American Studies Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Rockwell’s Four Freedoms: The Paintings Evolve,” Fulbright American Studies Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Four Freedoms (Norman Rockwell),” Wikipedia.org.

“Building Bridges,” Teachers College, Columbia University, June 1, 2004.

Ken Laird Studios, “The Problem We All Live With” – The Truth About Rockwell’s Painting,” HubPages.com, 2009.

Leoneda Inge, “Norman Rockwell And Civil Rights,” North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC, Friday, December 17, 2010.

Andy Brack, “Rockwell Painting Nudged Nation,” LikeTheDew.com, January 18, 2010

Robert Coles, “In the South These Children Prophesy,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1963.

Robert Coles, The Story of Ruby Bridges. New York: Scholastic Press, 1995 [ Tells the story of Ruby Bridges’ first year of school through words & illustrations; for children, ages 4-8 ].

Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes, New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

“Ruby Bridges,” Wikipedia.org.

“‘Brown v. Board at Fifty’- When School Integration Became the Law of the Land,” Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Claude Sitton, “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered…,” New York Times, June 24, 1964, p. 1.

Joseph Lelyveld, “A Stranger In Philadelphia, Mississippi,” New York Times Magazine, December 27, 1964, p. 139.

William Bradford Huie, Three Lives for Mississippi, Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2000 (first published in 1965).

Shaila Dewan, “Former Klansman Guilty of Manslaughter in 1964 Deaths,” New York Times, June 22, 2005.

“Look Magazine on ‘Suburbia’,” America on the Move, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Inst., Washington, D.C.

Louie Lamone (American, 1918–2007). Photographs for New Kids in the Neighborhood, Exhibitions: “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera,” Brooklyn Museum.

Laura Claridge, Norman Rockwell: A Life, New York: Random House, 2001.

Brian Lamb, Conversation with Laura Claridge, author, Norman Rockwell: A Life, Booknotes-TV (video), C-Span.org, October 11, 2001.

“Norman Rockwell, Cover Gallery, 1920s,” CurtisPublishing.com.

“Norman Rockwell, Cover Gallery, 1940s,” CurtisPublishing.com.

“Norman Rockwell Biography,1953 Through 1978,” Best-Norman-Rockwell-Art.com.

Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell, Artist and Illustrator, New York: Abrams, 1970. (includes reproductions of 600 Rockwell’s illustrations).

Norman Rockwell, My Adventures as an Illustrator: An Autobiography, Indianapolis: Curtis Publishing, 1979.

Anistatia R. Miller, “Norman Rockwell,” Illustration, 1994 Hall of Fame, Art Directors Club, 1994.

Maureen Hart-Hennessey and Anne Knutson (eds), Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, New York: Abrams, 1999.

G. Jurek Polanski, Review, “Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People” (at Chicago Historical Society, Feb 26 – May 21, 2000), ArtScope.net.

“The U.S. Civil Rights Movement,” Photo Gallery, State.gov.

Linda Szekely Pero, “Norman Rockwell, Year by Year – 1968,” Portfolio, Magazine of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Autum, 2004, pp. 8-14.

Carol Vogel, “$15.4 Million at Sotheby’s For a Rockwell Found Hidden Behind a Wall,” New York Times, November 30, 2006.

Jack Doyle, “Rosie The Riveter, 1941-1945″ (WWII & women’s rights icon), PopHistoryDig.com, February 28, 2009.

Ted Kreiter, “Norman Rockwell: Getting the Real Picture,” SaturdayEvening Post.com, 2009.

Carol Kino, “The Rise of the House of Rockwell,” New York Times, February 4, 2009.

“The Art of Rockwell” (Gallery), New York Times.com, February 2009.

CBS News, “Lucas and Spielberg on Norman Rockwell,” CBS.com, July 10, 2010.

Brooklyn Museum, Teacher Resource Packet, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, November 19, 2010–April 10, 2011.

The Saturday Evening Post: Norman Rockwell Covers,” My-Mags.com.

Life Covers: Civil Rights,” Photo Gallery, Life.com.

See Also, These Stories:

Jack Doyle, “Dylan: Only A Pawn…, 1963″ ( Bob Dylan’s Medgar Evans song & other civil rights music, w/video link ), PopHistoryDig.com, November 23, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “Strange Fruit, 1939″ ( Billie Holiday song history & bio ), PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “Motown’s Heat Wave, 1963-1966″( pop music history, 1960s), PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005″ (Brooklyn baseball statue of Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese), PopHistoryDig.com, June 29, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “When Harry Met Petula, April 1968″(television, music & civil rights history), PopHistoryDig.com, February 7, 2009.

Voir aussi:

Norman Rockwell

Once upon a time there was the American dream…

The artist’s paintings on display in New York next to the photos from which they were taken. The photographic sets were mounted with impeccable attention to the details.

His extraordinary capacity to render the atmosphere of an epoch. His commitment to civil rights behind an apparent naivety

Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I live in Crestwood, an idyllic neighborhood in the city of Yonkers, which is just north of the Bronx. Here, many years ago, Norman Rockwell, (New York, 1894 – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1978) the great American artist, had chosen to depict the local train station in one of his magnificent paintings (Commuters, 1946). When I saw it for the first time I realized why he had become an icon in the American art world. The painting was “alive” in all senses. Not only were the images carefully studied and replicated, but the overall feeling of the composition conveyed the mood, the characteristics of that community at that time, or at least it gave the impression of doing so. I admired his work without realizing what it really entailed.

It took a visit to the exhibition Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (one of Norman Rockwell Museum’s traveling exhibition, on until April 10th at the Brooklyn Museum) to open up a new world to me about his painting techniques and his deeply professional artistic approach to reality as he chose to reproduce it.

I always knew he used models for his paintings, but never realized that he staged their positions, photographed them and then painted them, always retaining the original idea, but adding his own particular twist to the images. He used these photographs as building blocks for his compositions, allowing him to develop flawless images which have enhanced and beautified the covers of many popular American magazines and advertisements for almost 60 years. In the exhibition, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, some of the artist’s photographs (spanning from the early ‘40s to the late ‘60s) are placed alongside his paintings, drawings, and commercial illustrations to enlighten us about the working process of one of America’s most beloved artists.

A superlative narrator of the American way of life through his popular illustrations, Norman Rockwell stood for what is right in American life even when he portrayed scenes that depicted controversial situations such as struggles for civil rights, the war on poverty and discrimination.

Rockwell, unlike Walter Molino in Italy, aimed at something more than to illustrate an episode or an attribute of the society of which he was such an outstanding member. He may have been appearing to recreate endearing and adorable images of little girls dealing with approaching adulthood, boys’ exchanges with bullies and children’s escapades. His illustrations or paintings, which always brought a smile to the face of the viewer, clearly give the first impression of having been just simply created for the visual enjoyment of the readers. Observing his work, though, we may notice two major tendencies developing through the years. The first is the complexity of the pictures, which tended to acquire more and more details, and the second is the depth of the message that came with the image. His details allow for an educational experience about the specific decade in which the painting was produced. Nothing is left to chance. The clothing, the gadgets, the cars, the houses and all the particulars that pervade his creations are true to life and reflect his exactness. In the painting New Kids in the Neighborhood(1967), for example, the cat that the little black girl is holding in her hands is white, while the puppy alongside the white kids is black, a silent comment on the unimportance of color, and both the black boy and the white one carry baseball gloves, a common bond that will allow for the overcoming of prejudice.

Moreover, Rockwell also stood for an America free of the bigotry, discrimination and racism which had characterized it throughout his lifetime. He expressed what the common decent citizen of that country felt and was sometimes too timorous to articulate: America was a beautiful country, but changes had to come, as they eventually did. He was criticized at first for his adamant pro-civil rights stand and his portrayals of delicate situations aimed at awakening the American fairness, in which he undoubtedly believed. However, even that criticism could not damage his powerful and undisputed artistic reputation.

His art was more than messages about the rights of the underprivileged. The America one may see and appreciate through his magnificent art work is a sanguine, true to itself, sometimes slightly kitsch but always fascinating, intriguing and unique America, the land of liberty, Coca Cola, skyscrapers and the bald eagle, the land of Norman Rockwell. That is why, even today, as I pass by Crestwood station, I can’t help but smile, reliving that image in my mind as if it was the first time.


Idées chrétiennes devenues folles: Après le mariage,… le génocide pour tous ! (Australian aborigenes: why there were no stolen generations)

6 février, 2013
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
Je crois que le moment décisif en Occident est l’invention de l’hôpital. Les primitifs s’occupent de leurs propres morts. Ce qu’il y a de caractéristique dans l’hôpital c’est bien le fait de s’occuper de tout le monde. C’est l’hôtel-Dieu donc c’est la charité. Et c’est visiblement une invention du Moyen-Age.  René Girard
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le "soldat inconnu". Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
Ecoutez-les: ils disent eux-mêmes qu’ils sont devenus des étrangers dans leur propre pays. Si les pouvoirs publics veulent vraiment les aider, tout est à repenser. Savez-vous pourquoi les toilettes de leurs maisons sont bouchées? Parce qu’ils utilisent des pierres pour se torcher, comme avant dans le désert. Il faudrait des toilettes sèches, et autre chose que ces préfabriqués dessinés pour un couple et deux enfants occidentaux et totalement inadaptés à un mode de vie clanique! Marj (infirmière)
C’est difficile d’accepter l’aide des Blancs. Mais la situation ne pouvait pas durer ainsi. Les filles vendaient leur corps contre de l’essence à sniffer. Et, maintenant que le flot d’alcool s’est ralenti, il y a moins de femmes battues. Mavis Malbunka
Il est temps de sortir du statut de victime pour embrasser une culture de responsabilité. (…)  Ce dont souffrent aujourd’hui les Aborigènes, c’est de leur dépendance envers l’Etat providence, qui fait d’eux des assistés. Nous devons rejoindre l’économie de marché. Et, pour cela, le gouvernement doit s’engager, dans le long terme, sur l’éducation, la formation, l’accès à la propriété privée. Noel Pearson (chef aborigène)
Ancien stockman – le cow-boy australien – il parle avec nostalgie de sa jeunesse, du temps où les clans vivaient autour des fermes qui trouvaient, contre des vivres et un peu d’argent, à employer tout le monde. C’était avant que les syndicats n’imposent un salaire minimum qui a conduit les fermiers blancs à se débarrasser des Aborigènes, main-d’oeuvre devenue trop chère, réduite dès lors à tendre la sébile à l’Etat providence. (…) Le seul défaut de cette intervention, c’est qu’elle aurait dû se produire plus tôt": chargée par le gouvernement de superviser l’opération, Sue Gordon ne cache pas son agacement face aux "sempiternelles critiques". Parce qu’elle connaît bien le dossier des violences sexuelles dans les communautés, cette magistrate pour mineurs d’Australie-Occidentale sait qu’il y avait urgence. Aborigène élevée chez les Blancs, elle a été une "enfant volée". Arrachée à l’âge de 4 ans à sa famille, elle n’a revu sa mère et sa s?ur que trente ans plus tard. Victime de cette politique d’assimilation forcée, elle en mesure toutes les facettes: "Petite, je n’ai pas connu de fêtes de famille, mais ça m’a donné une chance de réussir. Ce n’est pas à moi qu’il faudrait demander pardon, mais à ma mère. Et c’est trop tard." Sue Gordon regarde vers l’avant: "Les Aborigènes ne pourraient plus vivre à part dans un Etat séparé, comme certains font mine d’y croire. Notre seule issue, c’est celle de l’intégration. Et cela passe par un effort sur l’éducation, afin de rattraper notre retard. L’Express
Australia deserves this place in the academic literature because our past policies towards Aboriginal children were comparable to those of Nazi Germany. “It did not involve killing, but its ultimate objective was the same as Hitler’s was for the Jews; namely, that at the end of the process the target group would have disappeared from the face of the earth. Hence it is impossible to con­clude otherwise than that Australia in the 1930s was possessed of an administrative culture that in reality practised geno­cide. Paul Bartrop (Deakin University)
In its first ten years from 1999 to 2009, the quarterly Journal of Genocide Research published twelve major articles of this kind about Australia. This was more than three times as many as the journal car­ried in the same period on the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia. In Volume 10, Issue 4, 2008, no fewer than three of the seven articles were on Australia: one on the Stolen Generations and two on colo­nial history. Indicting Australia for genocide has become an aca­demic obsession.
Settler-colonies like ‘Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, the United States, and Canada’ led the way in setting out to achieve what the Nazis also set out to achieve, the displacement of indigenous populations and their replacement by incoming peoples held to be racially superior. Ann Curthoys and John Docker (Australian National University)
It is disturbing for an Australian to discover that debates about genocide often do not move very far beyond the classic area of study—Europe under the Nazis—before someone mentions the antipodes. Genocide is a crime, in other words, for which Australia is listed among the usual suspects. Alan Atkinson (University of New England)
I can understand why they took me, Mum and dad were terrible when they were on the grog—in fact we were dead scared. Former inmate of the Cootamundra Aborigi­nal Girls’ Home (1994)
I asked Mum about that, and I did some reading (…) It was mustering time at the station and, of course, all the young girls were on the rails watching musterers catch and brand calves, cheering them on and all that. So that’s her interpretation of running wild. (…) They were watched and chaperoned all the time. If they wanted sex with a white man, they’d have to sneak off somewhere. (…) At Jigalong, they have laws and they are given husbands when the time is right. They wouldn’t have let the girls have sex with the white men working around the fence.He’s distorting history again to serve his purpose. He needs some publicity. Doris Pilkington
You can never criticise or attack Aborigines or their culture because it would incite racism against Indigenous people … I now see how this view simply perpetuates the idea that Indigenous people are helpless victims, with no personal responsibility for their actions. I also feel absolutely disgusted with those who hold the view that ideology must come before the plight of children. Anonymous correspondent
One of the sustained fantasies about traditional Aboriginal society is that, until colonisation, life for Aboriginal people was peaceful and idyllic. The idea that violence – sanctioned and illicit – was the norm has been cast by the defenders of the myth as a racist misrepresentation of a noble society. I believe those who have attacked those of us who want to deal with the direct and indirect factors contributing to the abuse of children, suffer from a form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’. Psychologists use this term to refer to an emotional bond that develops between hostages and captors. It is a familiar problem for victims of abuse: wives who still love their husbands despite domestic violence; victims of incest still attached to their molesters; prison inmates who turn on each other rather than their guards. The critics of the intervention have become dependent – from a distance – on perpetuating the lot of those who are suffering the most. (…) Solidarity for its own sake takes pre-eminence, and does not permit a clear-cut rejection of wrong doing. This line of analysis informs the outrage at the Australian Defence Force (ADF) being used in the intervention. It must have been easy for John Howard’s spin-doctors to predict that the pro-symbolic Aboriginal activists and their supporters would interpret the use of the army as another ‘invasion’. Few understand the long history of Indigenous involvement with the ADF. It remains one of their largest employers, and has a long history of working closely with remote communities, in areas of operation larger than many countries.
My own research and investigation alerted me to three additional contributing factors driving some communities into the inner circles of hell: illicit drugs, other addictive substances and pornography – all imported into Aboriginal communities since the 1970s. Along with the ‘rivers of grog’ and the debilitating alienation that results from permanent unemployment, they have helped cripple many in the Aboriginal population, and ‘very high rates’ of cannabis use contribute to the epidemic of suicide. Illicit drugs had a similar impact on black American communities following the civil rights movement. There, the pandemic of illegal drugs brought drug wars, communities bristling with arms, high death tolls and the disintegration of community life, although zero tolerance policies stalled these trends in some places. The impact of illicit drugs and substances on Aboriginal communities over the last thirty years cannot be under-estimated. Along with the flood of pornography, their contribution to the present disaster demands more than the present intervention can deliver. Gambling also demands urgent attention. In most remote communities, men and women huddle in circles, throwing their money into the ‘pot’, to be lost or won on a single card. Almost all of a community’s income can disappear overnight. It is these practices – violent anti-social behaviour, excessive and harmful use of drugs, alcohol and other substances, use of pornography (especially in the presence of minors), gambling, and the resultant neglect of family life and children – that Pearson is targeting with his campaign for personal responsibility. (…) It is not just the historical and continuing exclusion from the economy, or lack of intergenerational capital, or vicious governments, but the practices of Aboriginal people themselves that transform mere poverty into a living hell. Australia is enjoying an economic boom driven by the rocketing demand for raw materials, but Aboriginal people – who live in areas from which many of these minerals are extracted – are spiralling into permanent poverty and marginalisation.
It seems almost axiomatic to most Australians that Aborigines should be marginalised: poor, sick, and forever on the verge of extinction. At the heart of this idea is a belief in the inevitability of our incapability – the acceptance of our ‘descent into hell’. This is part of the cultural and political wrong-headedness that dominates thinking about the role of Aboriginal property rights and economic behaviour in the transition from settler colonialism to modernity. In this mindset, the potential of an economically empowered, free-thinking, free-speaking Aborigine has been set to one side because it is more interesting to play with the warm, cuddly cultural Aborigine – the one who is so demoralised that the only available role is as a passive player. The dominance of the ‘reconciliation and justice’ rhetoric in the Australian discourse on Aboriginal issues is a part of this. The first Australians are simply seeking relief from poverty and economic exclusion. Yet, in the last three decades, rational thinking and sound theory (such as development economics) to address the needs of Indigenous societies have been side-tracked into the intellectual dead-end of the ‘culture wars’. This has had very little to do with Aboriginal people, but everything to do with white settlers positioning themselves around the central problem of their country: can a settler nation be honourable? Can history be recruited to the cause of Australian nationalism without reaching agreement with its first peoples? Paradoxically, even while Aboriginal misery dominates the national media frenzy – the perpetual Aboriginal reality show – the first peoples exist as virtual beings without power or efficacy in the national zeitgeist. Political characters played by ‘Aboriginal leaders’ pull the levers that draw settler Australians to them in a co-dependent relationship. The rhetoric of reconciliation is a powerful drawcard – like the bearded woman at the old sideshow. It is a seductive, pornographic idea, designed for punters accustomed to viewing Aborigines as freaks. It almost allows ‘the native’ some agency and a future. I say ‘almost’ because, in the end, ‘the native’ is not allowed out of the show, forever condemned to perform to attract crowds. The debate that has surrounded the Emergency Intervention has been instructive. It has exposed this co-dependency. It has also revealed a more disturbing, less well-understood fault-line in the Aboriginal world. The co-dependents in the relationship seek to speak for the abused, the suffering, the ill, the dying and those desperately in need who have been left alone to descend into a living hell while those far removed conduct a discourse on rights and culture. The bodies that have piled up over the last thirty years have become irrelevant, except where they serve the purposes of the ‘culture war’. But in the meantime, the bodies of real people continue to pile up, human lives broken on the wheel of suffering. How much longer will this abuse of Aboriginal people be tolerated?  Marcia Langton
The 2002 film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Phil Noyce, is advertised as “a true story”. It is anything but. The film tells at least ten major untruths. (…) The three girls Molly, Gracie and Daisy were not taken by surprise and removed by force from Jigalong. The violent removal scene in the film is entirely fictional. The girls’ mothers knew beforehand they were to go with Constable Riggs and, without any protest, they reluctantly acquiesced in the removal. The girls left Jigalong on horseback, not locked in a motor car. (…) The Western Australian Chief Protector, A.O. Neville, did not remove the girls as part of some government plan to “breed out the colour”. Molly, aged 14, and Gracie, aged 11, were removed because they were having sex with the white fence workers who stopped at the Jigalong depot overnight. Fifteen years earlier, Molly’s mother had done the same with a young English fence inspector, who soon moved on. At the time, in all Australian states, under-age white girls were removed for the same reason. 3. Daisy, aged 8, was removed because she was betrothed to marry a full-blood Aboriginal man old enough to be her grandfather. In traditional Aboriginal society, girls this age could be married. They had sexual relations immediately. Daisy could be removed from Jigalong under the 1905 Aboriginal Act because she was a half-caste girl. Had she been a full-blood Aborigine she could not have been legally removed and would have had to go through with the marriage. The lay missionary Mary Bennett told the Moseley Royal Commission in 1934 that if full-blood girls who married at this age conceived, the babies always died either before or during childbirth, and the child mother often died with them. (…) The Moore River Settlement was not an institution solely for children, as the film depicts. It was a welfare settlement for Aborigines of all ages. Most of its children went there with their parents. When the three girls arrived in 1931, unaccompanied children were in a minority, comprising only 64 of the 400 inhabitants. Between 1915 and 1940, an average of only ten unaccompanied children a year were sent to Moore River. In 1931, Molly, Gracie and Daisy were three of only four children in the whole state sent there, out of an Aboriginal population of 29,000. Keith Windschuttle
Not only is the charge of genocide unwarranted, but so is the term “Stolen Generations”. Aboriginal children were never removed from their families in order to put an end to Aboriginality or, indeed, to serve any improper government policy or program. The small numbers of Aboriginal child removals in the twentieth century were almost all based on traditional grounds of child welfare. Most children affected had been orphaned, abandoned, des­titute, neglected or subject to various forms of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Historians have given Western Australia a particularly loathsome reputation, but when you examine the records you find the majority of children placed in state Aborigi­nal settlements were from destitute families and they went there with their parents. In New South Wales, some children became part of an apprenticeship indenture program to help Abo­riginal youth qualify for the workforce. A significant number of other children were vol­untarily placed in institutions by Aboriginal parents to give them an education and a better chance in life. (…) None of the policies that allowed the removal of Aboriginal children were unique to them. They were removed for the same reason as white children in similar circumstances. Even the program to place Aboriginal children in apprenticeships was a replica of measures that had already been applied to white children in welfare institutions in New South Wales for several decades, and to poor English children for several centuries before that. (…) In some states officials treated Aboriginal people who lived on reserves, government stations, and on state-funded missions, depots and settlements as though they were the equivalent of white inmates of welfare institutions. I have no desire in this book to defend these last measures since they effec­tively treated Aborigines as second-class citizens. However, the criti­cal question in the debate over the Stolen Generations is not whether all Aboriginal policy was free of discrimination. Rather, it is about why some Aboriginal children were removed from their parents. The answer was the same for black children as it was for white. They were subject to the standard child welfare policies of their time. This is not to say the laws were all the same for black and white children. In some states they were quite different. Nonetheless, the intentions behind the laws that allowed the state to remove children, whether black or white, were the same.(…) full-blood children were rarely, and in many places never, removed from their parents. By the early decades of the twentieth century, most Aborigines in the southern half of the Australian continent were people of part descent, but in the north­ern half, full-descent populations predominated. In the Kimberley district and the Northern Territory, half-castes constituted a small minority of indigenous people. From Federation to the Second World War, the policies of the Queensland, West Australian and Commonwealth govern­ments were to preserve full-blood Aborigi­nal com­munities inviolate. By the 1920s and 1930s, when it became clear the full-blood population was not dying out as previously thought, but was actually increasing in some places, these govern­ments estab­lished reserves of millions of acres and passed laws forbidding Europeans and Asians from entering Aboriginal commu­nities, employing or remov­ing full-blood Aborigi­nes without permission, having sexual relations with them, or pro­viding them with alcohol or opium. Overwhelmingly, in the north of the continent, the Aboriginal children subject to removal policies came from the minority of half-castes and those of lesser descent. They were removed for both traditional welfare reasons and to help them gain some education and training for the workforce. In the local idiom, the latter was known as “giv­ing them a chance”. The only full-blood children taken into care were those chronically ill, dangerously malnourished or severely disabled, but this was uncommon. Less urgent cases of child abuse and neglect among full-bloods were ignored and simply regarded as Aboriginal business.
This is yet another reason why the charge of genocide is untenable. The United Nations Convention on Genocide, Article 2, defines acts of genocide as those “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. Half-castes and those of lesser descent did not constitute any such group. Their identity varied enormously. Some saw themselves and were treated by others as Aborigines, but there were many who did not. In some communities, full-blood people accepted half-castes; in others they were not regarded as true Aborigines at all; in some cases, half-caste babies born to tribal women were routinely put to death. (…) many half-caste people (…) did not identify as members of a distinct racial commu­nity, and indeed, were more concerned to emulate white people and live like other Australians. To say there were no Stolen Generations is not to argue there were no forcible removals of Aboriginal children from their fami­lies. There were many forcible removals in the period under discus­sion, just as there are today. The children of parents who neglected them, who let them go hungry, who abused them with violence, who prostituted them, who let them run wild with no supervision, or who drank themselves into an alcoholic stupor while leaving the chil­dren to their own devices, all faced forcible removals—often by the police and occasionally under scenes of great duress. Academic historians and Aboriginal activists, however, have redefined all these legitimate removals as rac­ist and genocidal. Only by this means have they been able to mount the semblance of a case. A detailed study of the surviving individual case records in New South Wales in Chapter Two reveals an array of reasons for removal far too broad to fit into any single-minded bureaucratic program. Some Aboriginal children do have genuine grounds for griev­ance, but they are not alone. In the rough justice of child welfare policy, white children could be treated harshly too, especially if their mothers were unmarried. Until as recently as the 1970s, such children, white or black, were frequently removed on grounds that we would not approve today. Before governments began paying pensions to unmarried mothers in the 1970s, children could be deemed neglected because they lacked a father, and thus a means of support. Until then, unmarried white teenage girls who fell pregnant were strongly pressured by both church and state to give up their babies, who were often taken from them at birth and adopted out to other families. But in these cases the child’s fate was determined not by its colour but by its illegitimacy. There was a common presumption throughout Australia that unmarried teenage mothers, black or white, could not and should not be left to bring up the children they bore.
Some people removed as children remember their former family life as a time when they were happy and well cared for. They recall their removal as an event of great trauma. There is no reason to doubt they are telling the truth. Some of their testimony is inher­ently convincing. They could not possibly have invented the kind of trauma they described. There were others, however, who remembered trauma from another source—their own homes (…) The statistics of child removals (…) reveal that those most commonly affected in New South Wales were not the very young but those at workforce entry age, which in rural districts in the first half of the twentieth century was normally thirteen, fourteen and fif­teen years. This was because of the influence of the state’s apprentice indenture scheme. In Western Australia and the Northern Territory the age of the few separations correlated with primary school age. This was because many part-Aboriginal children in these regions were sent by their parents to board at government and religious hostels and institutions that sent them to school. Whatever their circumstances, it was rare for babies and infants to be removed. In one archive of 800 children removed between 1907 and 1932 in New South Wales, only seven were babies aged twelve months or less and only eighteen were aged between twelve months and two years. Some governments had poli­cies that strictly forbade removing Aboriginal babies unless they were orphans or urgently needed hospitalisation for disease or malnutrition.
The case records show that a clear majority of children removed in New South Wales returned either to their families or to Aboriginal communities. In fact, welfare authorities gave the older ones assistance such as money for the rail fare home, and usually accompanied the younger ones on the train. In other states, especially Western Austra­lia, gov­ernment institutions like the notorious Moore River Settle­ment and religious missions across northern Australia admitted the majority of child inmates with their parents. Institutions for indigent Aborigines of all ages have been widely but wrongly characterised by historians, television producers and film-makers as homes exclu­sively for children, when they never were. Rather than acting for racist reasons, government officers and religious missionaries wanted to rescue children from welfare camps and shanty settlements riddled with alcoholism, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Evidence throughout this book shows public servants, doctors, police and missionaries appalled to find Aboriginal girls between five and eight years of age suffering from sexual abuse and venereal disease. They were dismayed to sometimes find girls of nine and ten years old hired out as prostitutes by their own parents. That was why the great majority of children removed by authorities were female. The fringe camps where this occurred were early twentieth-century versions of today’s notorious remote communi­ties of central and northern Australia. Indeed, there is a direct line of descent from one to the other—the culture of these camps has been reproducing itself across rural Australia for more than 100 years. Government officials had a duty to rescue children from such settings, as much then as they do now. From the perspective of child welfare officials, the major problem was that state treasuries would not give the rele­vant departments and boards sufficient funds to accommodate all the neglected and abused children who should have been removed. Keith Windschuttle
In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the two greatest villains in this story were A.O.Neville and Cecil ‘Mick’ Cook. Both publicly endorsed a program to "breed out the colour" with the ultimate aim of biologically absorbing the Aboriginal people into the white population. This was an obnoxious policy that well deserved Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Neville as a fastidious, obsessive bureaucrat in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence. However, it was also a policy that had only a minor focus on children. It was primarily concerned with controlling Aboriginal marriage and cohabitation patterns in order to foster the rapid assimilation of part-Aborigines. To define the policy as part of the Stolen Generations thesis is a mistake. In any case, it was almost a complete failure. In the ’30s, marriages arranged by these administrators totalled less than 10 a year. Neville proved as inept at rounding up children as he did at match-making. The Moseley royal commission recorded in 1935 that over three years, the one government settlement in the state’s south at Moore River took in only 64 unattended children. This was out of a total Aboriginal population in the state of 19,000. It was less than 1 per cent of all Aboriginal children in the state. Neville dealt with handfuls of children, not generations. The only successful program from this era was the NSW Aboriginal apprenticeship system, which operated from the 1880s to the 1940s. It provided real jobs and skills and gave young Aborigines a way out of the alcohol-soaked, handout-dominated camps and reserves of their parents. Indeed, it is a policy that could well be revived today to rescue children from the sexual assault and substance abuse prevalent in the remote communities. Keith Windschuttle
The United Nations convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide (and I quote from Article 2) as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Such as; Killing members of the group Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Nations, 1948)  (…) Yehuda Bauer, a leading authority on the Holocaust, argues that the definition in the Genocide Convention contains a fundamental flaw. This flaw she says “Is the failure to distinguish between policies which aim at cultural suppression and those which seek to achieve their ends through physical destruction” This to me means that the intention if whether or not a group means to wipe out another groups matters. If the intention is to force another group to assimilate to their culture, (i.e Colonizaion) That this should be thought separately and not just under the one label being Genocide. (Markus 2001, p2) Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University agrees with Bauer, that the current definition of genocide is too broad and policies of assimilation are being labeled as genocide which he thinks is incorrect. He defines genocide as; “The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its partial physical destruction and including selective mass killing.” Under this definition Should Australia be labeled as genocide? Historian Keith Windschuttle in his book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History writes that Australia should not be guilty of Genocide, but perhaps the lesser crime of Ethnocide which Markus defines as; “The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by suppression of its culture, language, and religion, but stopping short of physical destruction.” I’m not too sure that Australia’s colonial history fits entirely into Markus’s definition of Ethnocide. We often think of the Aborigines as one ethnic group, but in fact they are made up of various ethnic groups, who have had vastly different experiences. For sure some of the crimes against some Indigenous groups could be argued to be Ethnocide and not Genocide, but perhaps not all of them. In his 2001 article “Genocide in Australia”, he compares the experience Indigenous Australians endured from the British, and the experience the Jewish peoples had with the Nazis during the second world War. He concludes that the Jewish people endured not only genocide but the more extreme crime of “Holocaust” which he writes is “The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its total physical destruction and including killing all members of the group.” (Markus 2001, p5) I’m sure many people would agree that what happened to the Jew’s in World War Two was different to what happened to Aboriginal Australians from the British. If this is true then is it right that the term Genocide be given to both accounts? the governments official position on this issue is that what happened to the Indigenous populations during Australia’s colonization was not and should not be called genocide, but was in fact a by-product of colonialism from a time where the western world was ignorant to the cultural ideologies of indigenous peoples. In December 1992 Paul Keating was the first Prime Minister to publically admit the terrible crimes of Australia’s past. He said: “It begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion” (Polya, 2008) This message was not humbly accepted by all Australians. Keith Windschuttle refers to the colonization as a hard step towards “progress. He was actually opposed to the Apology Kevin Rudd gave back in 2008. He says “The apology confirmed Aboriginal people’s core identity as victims of injustice, rather than potential beneficiaries like everyone else of the prosperous, liberal, democratic, egalitarian society. Which was established here since 1788.” (Windschuttle, 2010) Funny he should call it an egalitarian society established in 1788. I’m not sure that it was for Indigenous Australians, or the majority of women for that matter. Windschuttle thinks that the apology confirms aborigines as victims and perhaps they are! I would argue that the apology is an important step forward in allowing the victims of injustices to move forward. Professor Colin Tatz is an Australian scholar who is well known for his writings on Genocide studies. His thinks the Australian governments avoidance of the word Genocide is ridiculous. He says, “They talk about pacifying, killing, cleansing, excluding, exterminating, starving, poisoning, shooting, beheading, sterilizing, exiling, removing – but, avoid the term genocide. Are they ignorant of genocide theory and practice? Or simply reluctant to taint “the land of the fair go” with so heinous and disgracing a label?" If our history fits UN’s definition of genocide, then why don’t we call it as it is? The he biggest killer of Indigenous Australians was the introduction of many diseases from the arriving convicts and settlers. Diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, tuberculosis, whooping cough, influenza, pneumonia, measles and venereal disease seriously depleted Aboriginal numbers on the continent. The numbers of deaths purely from disease is unknown. However the combination of disease, loss of land and direct violence are estimated to have reduced the Aboriginal population by around 90% between the years 1788 and 1900. What is contested on this issue, is whether or not these Disease’s were deliberately exposed to the Aboriginals‘ as an act of extermination. Colin Tatz wrote: “it is likely that infection of the Aborigines was a deliberate exterminating act as no one has yet refuted this hypothesis.” Keith Windschuttle disputes this argument. He wonders if the soldiers and settlers even understand enough about “Germ Theory” to know how to spread diseases? And Wouldn’t it have spread purely by making contact with them? A point that has been widely documented is that during the early decades of colonial history, Australian governments had said that they looked forward to a date when Australia would one day be racially pure, home only to the White race. (We all know the time in German history where this sort of racist dogma was also used) When disease struck the Aborigines, it was thought that they would all eventually die-out. Governments did not actively facilitate this by performing mass killings, but little money and effort was used for aboriginal peoples needs. So, can disease be considered a form of genocide?? Well it depends.. some scholars like Markus say the “killings must be deliberate to be considered as genocide”. So it depends on whether or not the disease was introduced deliberately. Others like Matthew Storey argue that “genocide does not require malice”. I think this is a good point because although the Nazi’s performed terrible crimes, they didn’t think that they were evil people or that what they were doing was evil. They thought they were doing good and believed they had a sacred duty to the world to get rid of the Jews. Lucas Marie

Enlèvements d’enfants à leurs familles avec leur accord pour cause d’abus sexuels ou de mariages prénubiaux présentés comme enlèvements forcés, pretendu plan d’éradication de la race aborigène, lieu d’accueil présenté abusivement comme camp pour enfants seuls exclusivement …

Après le mariage,… le génocide pour tous !

En ces temps étranges où, à l’instar des calendriers d’antan, chaque jour a son lot de saints martyrs …

En cette journée où, hasard du calendrier, coïncident les trois fêtes des Samis scandinaves, du Waitangi néozélandais et du Bob Marley jamaïcain …

Et après la Nakba palestinenne et bien sûr le soi-disant génocide amérindien …

Comment ne pas repenser à cette sorte de psycho-drame qu’avait rejoué la société australienne il y a six ans quand l’Etat était intervenu pour mettre un terme à toutes sortes d’abus notamment contre les enfants aborigènes du Territoire du Nord ?

Et, suite au célèbre roman de Doris Pilkington de 1996 adapté au cinéma en 2002 sur les prétendues "générations volées" de la génération de ses parents, au débat régulièrement ravivé en Australie par médias ou films interposés sur le prétendu génocide aborigène?

Mais aussi à ce si singulier souci de la victime qui fait toute la grandeur de cette société occidentale judéo-chrétienne …

Comme sa vulnérabilité à toutes sortes de dérives et chantages plus ou moins intéressés ?

Aborigènes

L’état d’urgence

De notre envoyé spécial, Jean-Michel Demetz

L’Express

23/11/2007

Alcool, drogue, violence… Face aux maux qui accablent les premiers habitants de l’Australie, le gouvernement fédéral a décidé d’intervenir dans le Territoire du Nord et de rompre avec l’assistanat. Mais comment s’adapter à la modernité sans se perdre?

Tel le serpent luisant des mythes aborigènes, le ruban d’asphalte rompt l’immense monotonie de la terre rouge du désert. De la route, seuls quelques chameaux retournés à l’état sauvage animent cette étendue désolée, parsemée de buissons et d’acacias, que trouble quelquefois un willy willy, cette mini-tornade de sable, source de tant de contes mystérieux. Dans ce c?ur géographique du continent austral vivent les populations les plus marginalisées du pays. A deux heures de voiture d’Alice Springs, Hermannsburg, une ancienne mission fondée pour arracher au nomadisme les premiers habitants du désert, somnole, loin du monde. A l’embranchement où commence la piste, un large panneau enjoint aux résidents de ne pas battre leur femme. Et, dès l’entrée du bourg, des canettes de bière jonchent le sol.

Une population marginalisée

455 000 Aborigènes, soit 2,5% de la population australienne totale et présents dans tous les Etats. Mais, dans le Territoire du Nord (où ils sont 52 000), ils représentent 30% de la population et détiennent 49% des terres.

60% ont moins de 25 ans. Leur espérance de vie est inférieure de dix-sept ans à la moyenne nationale.

Leur état sanitaire est mauvais.

1 prisonnier sur 5 est aborigène.

Le revenu par foyer: 60% de celui d’un non-Aborigène (en moyenne).

4% des Aborigènes ont un diplôme universitaire (21% des Australiens).

Aucun Aborigène ne siège au Parlement fédéral.

En septembre dernier, le Premier ministre australien, John Howard, est venu à Hermannsburg. Il a expliqué pourquoi le gouvernement fédéral avait instauré, trois mois plus tôt, des mesures d’urgence dans les communautés aborigènes du Territoire du Nord ravagées par l’alcoolisme et l’anomie. Il a raconté comment des commissions d’enquête avaient mis au jour l’ampleur des violences, y compris sexuelles, à l’encontre des femmes et des enfants – bébés inclus. Il a justifié le plan d’action conçu à Canberra pour les townships de cette lointaine province largement désertique, vaste comme trois fois la France: prohibition de l’alcool et de la pornographie, retenue à la source d’une partie des allocations sociales – seule ressource de la plupart des Aborigènes du désert – afin de prendre directement en charge les frais de cantine des enfants, délaissés par des parents devenus dépendants de la drogue ou du jeu, pénalités en cas d’absentéisme scolaire, examens de santé systématiques pour les mineurs, renforts de police. Il a rassuré aussi en affirmant que l’armée avait été mobilisée dans cette opération juste pour des raisons logistiques – certains peuplements sont distants de centaines de kilomètres du commissariat le plus proche. "Car, quand on a entendu que les militaires allaient intervenir, ce fut la panique, raconte Gus Williams, un grand-père bombardé, grâce à ses talents passés de chanteur de folk, à la tête du conseil local de Hermannsburg. Le bruit s’était répandu que les soldats venaient nous arracher nos enfants." Un cauchemar récurrent, qui remonte à la politique, mise en place du début du xxe siècle aux années 1960, qui consistait, en vue de favoriser l’assimilation des Aborigènes, à enlever à leurs familles des milliers de gamins noirs afin de les placer dans des foyers blancs ou des orphelinats. Pour beaucoup, le souvenir de ces "enfants volés" reste une blessure ouverte.

Mavis Malbunka: "C’est difficile d’accepter l’aide des Blancs, mais la situation ne pouvait pas durer ainsi."

"Le Premier ministre ne nous a pas promis l’arc-en-ciel, concède le vieux Gus. Mais il m’a écouté quand je lui ai dit que nous aurions besoin d’un centre d’accueil où les femmes battues pourraient trouver refuge quand le grog [terme local pour désigner l'alcool, la bière avalée par packs entiers] rend les hommes fous." De fait, le plan d’urgence ne semble pas, pour l’heure, avoir changé grand-chose à Hermannsburg. Une travailleuse sociale confirme que les adolescents continuent de boire à la fête organisée pour eux le vendredi soir. Et que nombre d’enfants sniffent encore l’essence, quand bien même les services sociaux fournissent un encadrement extra-scolaire généreux – ce jour-là, des footballeurs sont venus de la ville pour échanger des balles avec les gamins. Au dispensaire, Marj l’infirmière, une solide Néo-Zélandaise, aux prises avec une recrudescence de maladies sexuellement transmissibles et des cas de femmes battues, ne s’en étonne guère: "Ecoutez-les: ils disent eux-mêmes qu’ils sont devenus des étrangers dans leur propre pays. Si les pouvoirs publics veulent vraiment les aider, tout est à repenser. Savez-vous pourquoi les toilettes de leurs maisons sont bouchées? Parce qu’ils utilisent des pierres pour se torcher, comme avant dans le désert. Il faudrait des toilettes sèches, et autre chose que ces préfabriqués dessinés pour un couple et deux enfants occidentaux et totalement inadaptés à un mode de vie clanique!"

Repenser de fond en comble la question aborigène, c’est l’ambition justement affichée par le Premier ministre, résolu à rompre avec quatre décennies d’assistanat. Longtemps, à des milliers de kilomètres du désert, sur la côte, dans les banlieues ourlées de plages de sable fin où se presse l’Australie multiculturelle, tout occupée, le week-end, à suivre le match de cricket et à organiser le barbecue familial, nul ne se souciait de ces concitoyens-là. La plupart des Australiens n’ont jamais vraiment approché d’Aborigènes. Certes, le grand public s’enthousiasme pour les exploits de la championne olympique Cathy Freeman, les jeunes cadres jouent à spéculer sur les ?uvres des peintres aborigènes exposées dans les galeries de Melbourne ou de Sydney, et les adolescents élisent la chanteuse Casey Donovan comme l’Australian Idol de l’année. Mais de là à se mobiliser pour l’amélioration de la condition des premiers habitants du continent…

Herman Malbunka: "A l’époque des Vieux, nous ne connaissions pas tous ces problèmes."

C’est pourquoi l’initiative gouvernementale, lancée en juin, en a surpris plus d’un. Après onze années aux affaires marquées par une relative indifférence, le Premier ministre, John Howard, a en effet défendu l’ingérence du pouvoir fédéral dans les affaires du Territoire du Nord avec des accents dignes d’un acte de contrition. Ne rien faire face à la "tragique détérioration des normes sociales" serait inexcusable: "Nous avons notre Katrina, ici et maintenant", a-t-il déclaré, se référant aux violences commises à La Nouvelle-Orléans frappée par l’ouragan et à l’impuissance des pouvoirs publics à y faire face. Plus encore, ce solide conservateur, qui, malgré toutes les pressions, a toujours refusé de présenter des "excuses" aux Aborigènes pour les torts passés, a solennellement promis, en même temps qu’il appelait ses concitoyens aux urnes le 24 novembre, un référendum en 2008 ou 2009 pour inclure dans le préambule de la Constitution la reconnaissance d’un "statut spécial" comme première nation. Il a rendu hommage à l’apport de la culture indigène au génie australien. Un double geste de "réconciliation" immédiatement salué par l’opposition travailliste.

Dans les communautés du désert, l’interventionnisme musclé du pouvoir fédéral est diversement apprécié. A Ipolera, quelques familles se sont installées autour d’un point d’eau. Mavis et Herman Malbunka surveillent un de leurs petits-enfants juché sur un poulain. "C’est difficile d’accepter l’aide des Blancs, soupire-t-elle. Mais la situation ne pouvait pas durer ainsi. Les filles vendaient leur corps contre de l’essence à sniffer. Et, maintenant que le flot d’alcool s’est ralenti, il y a moins de femmes battues." Lui acquiesce: "A l’époque des Vieux, nous ne connaissions pas tous ces problèmes…" Ancien stockman – le cow-boy australien – il parle avec nostalgie de sa jeunesse, du temps où les clans vivaient autour des fermes qui trouvaient, contre des vivres et un peu d’argent, à employer tout le monde. C’était avant que les syndicats n’imposent un salaire minimum qui a conduit les fermiers blancs à se débarrasser des Aborigènes, main-d’?uvre devenue trop chère, réduite dès lors à tendre la sébile à l’Etat providence. Herman espère déjà la seconde phase promise par les autorités: "Plus d’éducation, plus de formation, c’est indispensable pour nos jeunes qui veulent aller à la ville." Certes, sa femme, Mavis, est fière de montrer comment elle sélectionne, dans les différentes espèces d’eucalyptus alentour, ici des feuilles, là des racines pour se soigner, là encore des vers blancs, gourmandise qui croque sous la dent. Mais elle aussi sait bien que l’avenir de sa descendance se jouera ailleurs.

Les premiers Australiens

60 000-40 000 ans avant Jésus-Christ Arrivée probable des premiers habitants de l’Australie.

1788 Début de la colonisation britannique.

1962 Les Aborigènes obtiennent le droit de vote.

1967 Par référendum, les Aborigènes deviennent des citoyens désormais recensés.

1971 La justice récuse la notion de droit foncier indigène: l’Australie d’avant la colonisation était terra nullius.

1992 La justice, par l’arrêt Mabo, reconnaît les droits de propriété préexistant à la colonisation.

1998 Le Native Title Amendment Bill limite la revendication foncière aborigène.

A Alice Springs, le ton est autrement critique. Directeur du Central Land Council, l’organisme représentatif des propriétaires coutumiers de la région, David Ross blâme "une intervention précipitée et sans vision à long terme", même s’il reconnaît que les mesures sur l’alcool et l’annonce de renforts de policiers sont bien accueillies. En ville, des activistes préparent une manifestation contre les dispositions en vigueur, sous la bannière: "Halte au génocide!" "Rendez-vous compte, s’étrangle Jackie Baxter, militante de l’association Générations volées: parce que je vis dans un towncamp [une banlieue d'Alice Springs bâtie voilà trente ans pour loger les nomades attirés par la ville], je n’ai pas le droit d’ouvrir une bouteille de vin avec mon barbecue dans mon jardin. Ce n’est pas de la discrimination raciale, ça?" Eileen Hoosan, elle, ne comprend pas pourquoi la retraite de son mari, qui a servi dans l’armée, est désormais soumise à des prélèvements automatiques pour payer le loyer ou la nourriture. "L’argent promis [1,2 milliard de dollars australiens] ira nourrir les bureaucrates", s’insurge la militante Bard Shaw. Directrice de la radio indigène Caama, Jennifer Howard fustige "l’absence de concertation et de consultation préalables, qui auraient dû précéder l’adoption des mesures d’urgence". "Normal, opine Owen Cole, patron d’Imparja TV, la télévision indigène. Le gouvernement n’a qu’un but: regrouper progressivement les communautés isolées dont l’entretien lui coûte cher. C’est injuste." Objecte-t-on que l’exode rural touche aussi l’Australie des petites villes de fermiers blancs que la réponse fuse, automatique: "Mais c’est nier notre rapport spécial à cette terre…"

Sue Gordon: "Notre seule issue, c’est l’intégration."

Le discours est rodé. Il mêle culpabilité de l’homme blanc, revendication d’un traité, droit à la souveraineté, restitution de l’ensemble des terres… C’est la même antienne que symbolise, à Canberra, face au Parlement, la "tente de l’ambassade", une baraque où, depuis 1972, Isabel E. Coe entretient la mystique du "feu sacré, conscience de nos ancêtres, qui guide notre peuple" et où elle vitupère "Howard le dégueulasse, qui a tué tant d’Aborigènes" (sic).

"Le seul défaut de cette intervention, c’est qu’elle aurait dû se produire plus tôt": chargée par le gouvernement de superviser l’opération, Sue Gordon ne cache pas son agacement face aux "sempiternelles critiques". Parce qu’elle connaît bien le dossier des violences sexuelles dans les communautés, cette magistrate pour mineurs d’Australie-Occidentale sait qu’il y avait urgence. Aborigène élevée chez les Blancs, elle a été une "enfant volée". Arrachée à l’âge de 4 ans à sa famille, elle n’a revu sa mère et sa s?ur que trente ans plus tard. Victime de cette politique d’assimilation forcée, elle en mesure toutes les facettes: "Petite, je n’ai pas connu de fêtes de famille, mais ça m’a donné une chance de réussir. Ce n’est pas à moi qu’il faudrait demander pardon, mais à ma mère. Et c’est trop tard." Sue Gordon regarde vers l’avant: "Les Aborigènes ne pourraient plus vivre à part dans un Etat séparé, comme certains font mine d’y croire. Notre seule issue, c’est celle de l’intégration. Et cela passe par un effort sur l’éducation, afin de rattraper notre retard."

Noel Pearson: "L’Etat providence a fait des Aborigènes des assistés. Nous devons rejoindre l’économie de marché."

Comment s’adapter à la modernité sans se perdre? La réponse apportée par Noel Pearson, un chef aborigène du cap York, à la pointe nord-est de l’île-continent, a influencé le Premier ministre. "Il est temps de sortir du statut de victime pour embrasser une culture de responsabilité, prône ce jeune et brillant universitaire, détesté par nombre d’activistes indigènes. Ce dont souffrent aujourd’hui les Aborigènes, c’est de leur dépendance envers l’Etat providence, qui fait d’eux des assistés. Nous devons rejoindre l’économie de marché. Et, pour cela, le gouvernement doit s’engager, dans le long terme, sur l’éducation, la formation, l’accès à la propriété privée."

Qu’il soit conservateur ou travailliste, le nouveau cabinet sorti des urnes du 24 novembre saura-t-il entendre cette recommandation? La bureaucratie de Canberra est-elle capable d’imaginer une politique sur mesure? A l’heure où l’Australie, emportée par la croissance de l’économie chinoise, connaît un boom sans précédent, il lui reste à prouver qu’elle est capable de réserver l’investissement minimal afin d’assurer l’avenir de ses premiers habitants.

Voir aussi:

The Ten Big Fictions of Rabbit-Proof Fence

Keith Windschuttle

May 2010

The 2002 film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Phil Noyce, is advertised as “a true story”. It is anything but. The film tells at least ten major untruths.

1. The three girls Molly, Gracie and Daisy were not taken by surprise and removed by force from Jigalong. The violent removal scene in the film is entirely fictional. The girls’ mothers knew beforehand they were to go with Constable Riggs and, without any protest, they reluctantly acquiesced in the removal. The girls left Jigalong on horseback, not locked in a motor car.

2. The Western Australian Chief Protector, A.O. Neville, did not remove the girls as part of some government plan to “breed out the colour”. Molly, aged 14, and Gracie, aged 11, were removed because they were having sex with the white fence workers who stopped at the Jigalong depot overnight. Fifteen years earlier, Molly’s mother had done the same with a young English fence inspector, who soon moved on. At the time, in all Australian states, under-age white girls were removed for the same reason.

3. Daisy, aged 8, was removed because she was betrothed to marry a full-blood Aboriginal man old enough to be her grandfather. In traditional Aboriginal society, girls this age could be married. They had sexual relations immediately. Daisy could be removed from Jigalong under the 1905 Aboriginal Act because she was a half-caste girl. Had she been a full-blood Aborigine she could not have been legally removed and would have had to go through with the marriage. The lay missionary Mary Bennett told the Moseley Royal Commission in 1934 that if full-blood girls who married at this age conceived, the babies always died either before or during childbirth, and the child mother often died with them.

4. The speech in the film to a Perth ladies charity society by actor Kenneth Branagh, playing A.O. Neville, was never made by the real Neville. The words did not come from a transcript found in any historical archive but were created for the film by screenwriter Christine Olsen.

5. When the girls were removed in 1931, Neville did not have control over the marriages of all the Aborigines in the state. The Western Australian government never gave him either the legal authority or the funding to manage Aboriginal people’s affairs in the way the film alleges.

6. The Moore River Settlement was not an institution solely for children, as the film depicts. It was a welfare settlement for Aborigines of all ages. Most of its children went there with their parents. When the three girls arrived in 1931, unaccompanied children were in a minority, comprising only 64 of the 400 inhabitants. Between 1915 and 1940, an average of only ten unaccompanied children a year were sent to Moore River. In 1931, Molly, Gracie and Daisy were three of only four children in the whole state sent there, out of an Aboriginal population of 29,000.

7. The Moore River Settlement was not, as the film portrays it, a prison. Most Aboriginal people went there voluntarily and temporarily to gain access to welfare. Between 1930 and 1934 Moore River admitted 1067 people, but over the same period 1030 people voluntarily left.

8. On their great trek home, the girls were not pursued by a sympathetic black tracker.

9. They did not receive any help along the way from a sexually-exploited Aboriginal domestic servant.

10. They did not cross the north-western desert unassisted, nearly perishing in the process. The girls were eventually brought home to Jigalong by a white cattle station contractor, riding on his camels.

The filmmakers did very little original research themselves. Instead, their main source the book written by Molly’s daughter, Doris Pilkington, called Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996), which they adapted with creative licence. If history teachers insist on discussing this topic, they will find the book a much more reliable resource than the film. Indeed, Pilkington did a good job of research and most of what she says is backed by evidence. Her only serious mistake was to believe that the Moore River Settlement was an institution exclusively for children. Her book does not contain a number of the film’s anachronisms about Neville’s ad­ministration and, unlike the film, does not invent scenes for dramatic effect.

All the above information about the three girls is discussed in more detail and with complete references to sources in the Preface to The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations. Chapter Eight contains a detailed account of the number of admissions, policies and conditions at the Moore River Settlement.

In December 2009, the film’s director Phil Noyce and screenwriter Christine Olsen responded in the press to my criticisms of their work. Noyce said I was “either extremely lazy or just plain dishonest” in my examination of the evidence (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 2009, p 4). To establish their case, Noyce and Olsen produced a letter by the Superintendent of the Jigalong depot, A.J. Keeling, written on July 10, 1930. Although Keeling had earlier argued for the removal of the three half-caste girls because they “were not getting a fair chance as the blacks consider the half-castes inferior to them”, in this letter he reconsidered his position. “They lean very much towards the black and on second thought I don’t suppose there would be much gained in removing them.” But the letter does not prove anything. When he received Keeling’s letter in July, Neville did not act on it. He did not take a decision to remove the girls until five months later. The real catalyst was a letter he received from a different source. On 9 December 1930, Mrs Chellow of Murra Munda Station near Jigalong wrote to him about Molly and Gracie’s behavior. “I think you should see about them as they are running wild with the whites”. It was only after receiving this letter that Neville put in motion the procedures that would eventually see the girls sent to Moore River in July 1931.

At the time, ladies like Mrs Chellow could not frankly discuss sex­ual matters in an official letter, but there is no doubting the message she wanted to convey. “Running wild”, when applied to girls, was a contemporary euphemism for promiscuity; “running wild with the whites” meant Molly and Gracie were having sex with the whites. Doris Pilkington disputes this. She responded to my interpretation by saying her mother told her “running wild” simply meant that the girls were watching musterers catch and brand calves, “cheering them on and all that”. (The Australian, 15 December 2009, p 7) It is understandable that Mrs Pilkington would want to defend her mother’s reputation but women of Mrs Chellow’s generation (like my own mother and her friends, who commonly used the term to describe promiscuous teenage girls) knew well what it meant. The phrase came from the title song of the 1923 American musical review “Runnin’ Wild” by Arthur Gibbs, Joseph Grey and Leo Wood. Anyone in doubt about its contemporary meaning should check out the movie Some Like it Hot where Marilyn Monroe sings a very raunchy version.

Voir également:

Australia

Why There Were No Stolen Generations (Part One)

Keith Windschuttle

Quadrant

Most Australians would be taken aback to find that whenever academics in the field of genocide studies discuss history’s worst exam­ples, their own country is soon mentioned. The March 2001 edition of the London-based Journal of Genocide Research indi­cated the com­pany Australia now keeps. That edition carried six arti­cles, in the following order:

“The German Police and Genocide in Belorussia 1941–1944. Part 1: Police Deployment and Nazi Genocidal Directives”, by Eric Haberer

“Comparative Policy and Differential Practice in the Treatment of Minorities in Wartime: The United States Archival Evidence on the Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman Empire”, by Rouben Paul Adalian

“Final Solutions, Crimes Against Mankind: On the Genesis and Criticism of the Concept of Genocide”, by Uwe Makino

“The Holocaust, the Aborigines, and the Bureaucracy of Destruction: An Australian Dimension of Genocide”, by Paul R. Bartrop

“Did Ben-Gurion Reverse his Position on Bombing Auschwitz?”, by Rich­ard H. Levy

“Kalmykia, Victim of Stalinist Genocide: From Oblivion to Reassertion”, by François Grin

According to Paul Bartrop of Deakin University, Australia deserves this place in the academic literature because our past policies towards Aboriginal children were comparable to those of Nazi Germany. “It did not involve killing,” he admitted, “but its ultimate objective was the same as Hitler’s was for the Jews; namely, that at the end of the process the target group would have disappeared from the face of the earth.” Hence he declared with confidence: “It is impossible to con­clude otherwise than that Australia in the 1930s was possessed of an administrative culture that in reality practised geno­cide.” In its first ten years from 1999 to 2009, the quarterly Journal of Genocide Research published twelve major articles of this kind about Australia. This was more than three times as many as the journal car­ried in the same period on the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia. In Volume 10, Issue 4, 2008, no fewer than three of the seven articles were on Australia: one on the Stolen Generations and two on colo­nial history. Indicting Australia for genocide has become an aca­demic obsession.

Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission made this charge notorious when in April 1997 it published Bringing Them Home, the report of its National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The report accused Australia of breaching the United Nations convention on genocide. For its historical analysis, the Commission relied heavily upon the work of a small number of university-based histori­ans. Since then, the number of academics and academic programs in this field has grown exponentially to cash in on the demand created. Today, very few countries, and certainly no others of our size, devote the quantity of university resources that we now do to geno­cide studies. The field is concerned not only with the Stolen Genera­tions but the so-called invasion of Australia and the genocide alleg­edly inherent in establishing British settlement here.

The underlying agenda of this academic pursuit is not simply the study of genocide, let alone its analysis or prevention. Its aim is political, to argue that our own society and those like it, that is, Britain and the United States, are every bit as bad as Nazi Germany. In the 2001 edi­tion of the academic journal Aboriginal History, editors Ann Curthoys and John Docker of the Australian National University wrote:

Settler-colonies like ‘Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, the United States, and Canada’ led the way in setting out to achieve what the Nazis also set out to achieve, the displacement of indigenous populations and their replacement by incoming peoples held to be racially superior.

International academic book publishers know there is a market for such material. For their anthology Genocide and the Modern Age, edi­tors Isidor Wallimann and Michael Dobkowski commissioned a chapter exclusively on Australia. The only other countries singled out to this extent were Turkey, which got a chapter for its 1915–17 massacres of the Armenians, and, of course, Germany, which generated several chapters on the Holocaust. In the ten-volume series Studies on War and Genocide, edited by Omer Bartov of Brown Uni­versity, seven of the books commissioned were on Nazi Germany, two were general volumes about genocide in various places, but Aus­tralia was the only other country given a volume of its own, Genocide and Settler Society, published in 2004 and edited by Dirk Moses of the University of Sydney. Observing this publishing trend, University of New England historian Alan Atkinson commented:

It is disturbing for an Australian to discover that debates about genocide often do not move very far beyond the classic area of study—Europe under the Nazis—before someone mentions the antipodes. Genocide is a crime, in other words, for which Australia is listed among the usual suspects.

More recently, the focus on Australia has only intensified. In Blood and Soil, a world history of genocide published in 2007, the Austra­lian expatriate historian Ben Kiernan of Yale University devoted more attention to the alleged genocidal activities of Australia than to any other nation or region. His book had 61 pages about Australia, compared to the Armenian massacres (21 pages), the Nazi Holocaust (39 pages), the Japanese atrocities in East Asia (31 pages), the Soviet Terror (26 pages), China under Mao (27 pages), and the genocides of Cambodia and Rwanda (32 pages). Four of Kiernan’s maps depicted scenes in Australia, the same number as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Rus­sia and Maoist China put together. In 2008, Paul Bartrop repeated his earlier accusation. As co-author of the two-volume work The Dictionary of Genocide, he wrote the entry “Australia, Genocide in”. He again applied the term genocide to the Stolen Generations, saying its use in that context “could be sustained relatively easily”.

In March 2009, one of Australia’s best-known historians and essay­ists, Inga Clendinnen, reviewed the book Guilt About the Past, a col­lection of lectures by German novelist Bernhard Schlink. The lec­tures discussed how the modern German nation, now two generations dis­tant from the Second World War, should approach the question of guilt for the Holocaust. Clendinnen was disappointed with the book, and wrote, almost as an aside: “I had hoped the lecture titled Forgive­ness and Rec­onciliation would speak to our situa­tion in this country.” In other words, literary reviews and intellec­tual discussion in this country now toss off the comparison between Australia and Nazi Germany as if it were so familiar one can now speak about it in shorthand—“our situation in this country”—as though any possible debate is over.

The argument of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations 1881–2008 is that Australia does not deserve this reputation. While the case against genocide for the Stolen Genera­tions has already produced several effective critics, most notably anthropologists Ron Brunton and Kenneth Maddock, journalists Paddy McGuinness, Paul Sheehan and Andrew Bolt, and two former Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, John Herron and Peter Howson, a full defence of the charge has yet to be mounted. This book is longer, more detailed, and much less reader-friendly than it ought to be to gain a wide readership. But to address the full range of arguments made by the prosecution there was no alternative but to proceed comprehensively and forensically. That could only be accomplished properly by a complete re-examination of the foun­dation on which the case was originally made: its claim to be histori­cally true.

My conclusion is that not only is the charge of genocide unwarranted, but so is the term “Stolen Generations”. Aboriginal children were never removed from their families in order to put an end to Aboriginality or, indeed, to serve any improper government policy or program. The small numbers of Aboriginal child removals in the twentieth century were almost all based on traditional grounds of child welfare. Most children affected had been orphaned, abandoned, des­titute, neglected or subject to various forms of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Historians have given Western Australia a particularly loathsome reputation, but when you examine the records you find the majority of children placed in state Aborigi­nal settlements were from destitute families and they went there with their parents. In New South Wales, some children became part of an apprenticeship indenture program to help Abo­riginal youth qualify for the workforce. A significant number of other children were vol­untarily placed in institutions by Aboriginal parents to give them an education and a better chance in life.

Moreover, there is no fall-back position for those who want to argue that, even if the removals might not have quite amounted to genocide, they were still done for racist reasons. In Chapter Three, I demonstrate in an analysis of welfare policy for white children that none of the policies that allowed the removal of Aboriginal children were unique to them. They were removed for the same reason as white children in similar circumstances. Even the program to place Aboriginal children in apprenticeships was a replica of measures that had already been applied to white children in welfare institutions in New South Wales for several decades, and to poor English children for several centuries before that.

Chapters Three and Eight also discuss several pieces of legislative discrimination against Aboriginal people and their children that derived from the system of Aboriginal protectionism in the first half of the twentieth century. In some states officials treated Aboriginal people who lived on reserves, government stations, and on state-funded missions, depots and settlements as though they were the equivalent of white inmates of welfare institutions. I have no desire in this book to defend these last measures since they effec­tively treated Aborigines as second-class citizens. However, the criti­cal question in the debate over the Stolen Generations is not whether all Aboriginal policy was free of discrimination. Rather, it is about why some Aboriginal children were removed from their parents. The answer was the same for black children as it was for white. They were subject to the standard child welfare policies of their time. This is not to say the laws were all the same for black and white children. In some states they were quite different. Nonetheless, the intentions behind the laws that allowed the state to remove children, whether black or white, were the same.

One critical point that has always been avoided by the historians of the Stolen Generations is that full-blood children were rarely, and in many places never, removed from their parents. By the early decades of the twentieth century, most Aborigines in the southern half of the Australian continent were people of part descent, but in the north­ern half, full-descent populations predominated. In the Kimberley district and the Northern Territory, half-castes constituted a small minority of indigenous people. From Federation to the Second World War, the policies of the Queensland, West Australian and Commonwealth govern­ments were to preserve full-blood Aborigi­nal com­munities inviolate. By the 1920s and 1930s, when it became clear the full-blood population was not dying out as previously thought, but was actually increasing in some places, these govern­ments estab­lished reserves of millions of acres and passed laws forbidding Europeans and Asians from entering Aboriginal commu­nities, employing or remov­ing full-blood Aborigi­nes without permission, having sexual relations with them, or pro­viding them with alcohol or opium.

Overwhelmingly, in the north of the continent, the Aboriginal children subject to removal policies came from the minority of half-castes and those of lesser descent. They were removed for both traditional welfare reasons and to help them gain some education and training for the workforce. In the local idiom, the latter was known as “giv­ing them a chance”. The only full-blood children taken into care were those chronically ill, dangerously malnourished or severely disabled, but this was uncommon. Less urgent cases of child abuse and neglect among full-bloods were ignored and simply regarded as Aboriginal business.

This is yet another reason why the charge of genocide is untenable. The United Nations Convention on Genocide, Article 2, defines acts of genocide as those “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. Half-castes and those of lesser descent did not constitute any such group. Their identity varied enormously. Some saw themselves and were treated by others as Aborigines, but there were many who did not. In some communities, full-blood people accepted half-castes; in others they were not regarded as true Aborigines at all; in some cases, half-caste babies born to tribal women were routinely put to death. Chapters Seven and Ten discuss evidence about many half-caste people who did not identify as members of a distinct racial commu­nity, and indeed, were more concerned to emulate white people and live like other Australians.

To say there were no Stolen Generations is not to argue there were no forcible removals of Aboriginal children from their fami­lies. There were many forcible removals in the period under discus­sion, just as there are today. The children of parents who neglected them, who let them go hungry, who abused them with violence, who prostituted them, who let them run wild with no supervision, or who drank themselves into an alcoholic stupor while leaving the chil­dren to their own devices, all faced forcible removals—often by the police and occasionally under scenes of great duress. Academic historians and Aboriginal activists, however, have redefined all these legitimate removals as rac­ist and genocidal. Only by this means have they been able to mount the semblance of a case. A detailed study of the surviving individual case records in New South Wales in Chapter Two reveals an array of reasons for removal far too broad to fit into any single-minded bureaucratic program.

Some Aboriginal children do have genuine grounds for griev­ance, but they are not alone. In the rough justice of child welfare policy, white children could be treated harshly too, especially if their mothers were unmarried. Until as recently as the 1970s, such children, white or black, were frequently removed on grounds that we would not approve today. Before governments began paying pensions to unmarried mothers in the 1970s, children could be deemed neglected because they lacked a father, and thus a means of support. Until then, unmarried white teenage girls who fell pregnant were strongly pressured by both church and state to give up their babies, who were often taken from them at birth and adopted out to other families. But in these cases the child’s fate was determined not by its colour but by its illegitimacy. There was a common presumption throughout Australia that unmarried teenage mothers, black or white, could not and should not be left to bring up the children they bore.

Some people removed as children remember their former family life as a time when they were happy and well cared for. They recall their removal as an event of great trauma. There is no reason to doubt they are telling the truth. Some of their testimony is inher­ently convincing. They could not possibly have invented the kind of trauma they described. There were others, however, who remembered trauma from another source—their own homes: “I can understand why they took me,” one former inmate of the Cootamundra Aborigi­nal Girls’ Home told an interviewer in 1994. “Mum and dad were terrible when they were on the grog—in fact we were dead scared.”

The problem with the Stolen Generations thesis is that child­hood recollections constitute the only credible evidence its adherents have provided to make their case. But no amount of child­hood anecdotes can establish the argument’s central thesis that the intentions of the authorities were both criminal and racist. That accusation was embedded in both the words of the term. The adjec­tive stolen said the removals were deliberately intended to achieve an illegal result. The noun generations said this objective was tar­geted at a particular line of people across successive age cohorts. The childhood memories of individuals are not enough to establish that governments had such intent or such perseverance. Indeed, memories of childhood trauma are consistent with forcible removals for the same welfare reasons as white children.

The case for the Stolen Generations needed a convincing account of government policies towards Aboriginal children. However, this book’s examination of the primary source evidence reveals there is a void at the very core of the case. There was no unequivocal statement by anyone in genuine authority that child removal was intended to end Aboriginality. The only support for that proposi­tion has come from creative interpretations of selected statements taken out of con­text by politically motivated historians. Moreover, the lack of gov­ernment words on the subject was matched by the lack of govern­ment action. The handful of places allocated for the care of Aborigi­nal children, the tiny budgets that supported the gov­ernment boards and departments, and the archival records that show how small a frac­tion of the Aboriginal population they affected, all render the thesis completely implausible.

Another of the central claims of the academic historians who created this story was that children were taken by authorities as young as possible so they would never inherit Aboriginal culture. “The younger the child the better,” according to Henry Reynolds, “before habits were formed, attachments, language learnt, traditions absorbed.” In the SBS Television series First Australians, scriptwriters Beck Cole and Louis Nowra confidently declared: “Between 1910 and 1970 an estimated 50,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families. Most were aged under five.” None of those who make this assertion have ever backed it with proper evidence, such as a breakdown of the ages of the children sent to vari­ous institutions. This is not surprising. For the available evidence shows the opposite was true.

The statistics of child removals in this book reveal that those most commonly affected in New South Wales were not the very young but those at workforce entry age, which in rural districts in the first half of the twentieth century was normally thirteen, fourteen and fif­teen years. This was because of the influence of the state’s apprentice indenture scheme. In Western Australia and the Northern Territory the age of the few separations correlated with primary school age. This was because many part-Aboriginal children in these regions were sent by their parents to board at government and religious hostels and institutions that sent them to school.

Whatever their circumstances, it was rare for babies and infants to be removed. In one archive of 800 children removed between 1907 and 1932 in New South Wales, only seven were babies aged twelve months or less and only eighteen were aged between twelve months and two years. Some governments had poli­cies that strictly forbade removing Aboriginal babies unless they were orphans or urgently needed hospitalisation for disease or malnutrition.

Another deception is the assertion by historians that most children were removed permanently, that they were never meant to see their parents again. “The break from family, kin and community must be decisive and permanent,” Henry Reynolds has written. “If young people could return to their families the effort had been wasted.” Chap­ter Two provides good evidence that this was untrue. The case records show that a clear majority of children removed in New South Wales returned either to their families or to Aboriginal communities. In fact, welfare authorities gave the older ones assistance such as money for the rail fare home, and usually accompanied the younger ones on the train. In other states, especially Western Austra­lia, gov­ernment institutions like the notorious Moore River Settle­ment and religious missions across northern Australia admitted the majority of child inmates with their parents. Institutions for indigent Aborigines of all ages have been widely but wrongly characterised by historians, television producers and film-makers as homes exclu­sively for children, when they never were.

Rather than acting for racist reasons, government officers and religious missionaries wanted to rescue children from welfare camps and shanty settlements riddled with alcoholism, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Evidence throughout this book shows public servants, doctors, police and missionaries appalled to find Aboriginal girls between five and eight years of age suffering from sexual abuse and venereal disease. They were dismayed to sometimes find girls of nine and ten years old hired out as prostitutes by their own parents. That was why the great majority of children removed by authorities were female. The fringe camps where this occurred were early twentieth-century versions of today’s notorious remote communi­ties of central and northern Australia. Indeed, there is a direct line of descent from one to the other—the culture of these camps has been reproducing itself across rural Australia for more than 100 years. Government officials had a duty to rescue children from such settings, as much then as they do now. From the perspective of child welfare officials, the major problem was that state treasuries would not give the rele­vant departments and boards sufficient funds to accommodate all the neglected and abused children who should have been removed.

The Fate of the Stolen Generations Thesis in the Courts

The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.

—Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, House of Representatives, February 13, 2008

[I]ntegration of part Aboriginal children was not based on race; it was based on a sense of responsibility —perhaps misguided and paternalistic—for those children who had been deserted by their white fathers and who were living in tribal conditions with their Aboriginal mothers. Care for those children was perceived to be best offered by affording them the opportunity of acquiring a western education so that they might then more easily be integrated into western society.

—Justice Maurice O’Loughlin, judgment in Cubillo and Gunner v. Commonwealth, Federal Court of Australia, August 2000, para 162

If the Stolen Generations story were true, its members should have had many victories in the courts, now that the tide of opinion is firmly on their side. The charges involved serious breaches of the law—false imprisonment, misfeasance of public office, breach of duty of care, and breach of fiduciary and statutory duties—and human rights lawyers and Aboriginal legal aid services have been lining up for years to take their cases. Yet only one claimant has ever been successful before a court: Bruce Trevorrow, who in 2007 was awarded $525,000 by the South Australian Supreme Court. Given the huge size of the potential client base, and the fact that Aboriginal people and their lawyers have had a grievance about the issue for more than twenty-five years, the lack of legal success is tell­ing. On its own, it is enough to seriously question whether there really were any Stolen Genera­tions.

In his apology in the House of Representatives in February 2008, Kevin Rudd avoided any use of the term genocide but he did accuse the parliaments of the nation of enacting racist statutes. That accusation, however, was untrue, as either Rudd or his speechwrit­ers would have known were they familiar with either of the two major test cases on the Stolen Generations. The best-known of those cases, Cubillo and Gunner v. Commonwealth, was decided by Justice Maurice O’Loughlin in the Federal Court in August 2000. Counsel for the applicants, Ms M. Richards, had submitted that the Northern Terri­tory in the 1940s and 1950s had a policy called “the removal policy” and “the half-caste policy”. She said that, because it targeted only half-caste children, it was based on race rather than welfare. It was pursued “without regard for the welfare of individual children or their indi­vidual circumstances”. In his judgment, Justice O’Loughlin said:

I cannot accept that submission; it failed to recognize those decisions of the High Court to which reference has already been made that classified the legislation as beneficial and protectionist; it failed to recognize that there was then, as there is now, an acceptance of the need for special legislation and special consideration for Aboriginal people. Finally, there was absolutely no causative link connecting ‘race’ to a failure to have regard for the welfare of children. The existence of one does not preclude the existence of the other.

What the judge meant by “those decisions of the High Court to which reference has already been made”, were several verdicts, the most recent of which had been Kruger v. Commonwealth; Bray v. Commonwealth. That was a judgment made by the full bench of the High Court in July 1997 but which today is largely unknown outside legal circles. Yet it was the major case that considered whether the removal of Aboriginal children amounted to genocide. Although handed down only two months after the Bringing Them Home report accused the nation of that very crime, most news media and virtually all members of the political commentariat ignored it. Since then, they have pretended it never existed. I discuss its findings in more detail in Chapter Ten, but let me observe here that five of the six judges commented specifically on the question of genocide. Counsel for the plaintiffs argued that the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Ordinance of 1918, which permitted the Chief Protector and Director of Native Affairs to remove and detain all Aboriginal people in the Territory, including children, thereby breached the United Nations Convention on Genocide. All five judges rejected the claim. Justice Daryl Dawson said:

there is nothing in the 1918 Ordinance, even if the acts authorized by it otherwise fell within the definition of genocide, which authorizes acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any Aboriginal group. On the contrary, as has already been observed, the powers conferred by the 1918 Ordinance were required to be exercised in the best interests of the Aboriginals concerned or of the Aboriginal population generally. The acts authorized do not, therefore, fall within the definition of genocide contained in the Genocide Convention.

Justice Michael McHugh concurred:

The 1918 Ordinance did not authorize genocide. Article II of the Genocide Convention relevantly defines genocide to mean certain acts ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such’. The acts include ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group’ and ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’. There is, however, nothing in the 1918 Ordinance that could possibly justify a construction of its provisions that would authorize the doing of acts ‘with intent to destroy, in whole or in part’ the Aboriginal race.

In short, when they tested specific policies before the Federal Court, and when they argued the general intentions of the parliaments and legislators before the High Court, the historians and political activists who invented the notion of the Stolen Generations proved incapable of substantiating their case. As far as Australia’s highest courts are concerned, the central hypothesis of the Stolen Generations is legally extinct.

The only legal cases with any potential credibility would be those made by individuals such as Bruce Trevorrow, who was unlawfully removed from his family and suffered badly as a result. But as Chapter Twelve demonstrates, the Trevorrow case did not confirm the Stolen Generations thesis. Instead, it provided yet more evidence to disprove it.

How Many Children Were Removed?

Even though one forced removal would be regarded today as one too many, the numbers in the Administrator’s report, if accurate, do not support an argument that there was a large scale policy of forced removals occurring in this period.

—Justice Maurice O’Loughlin, judgment in Cubillo and Gunner v. Commonwealth, Federal Court of Australia, August 2000, on the paucity of child removals in the Northern Territory in the 1940s and 1950s

In the Prime Minister’s apology, he said the total number of children wrongly removed between 1910 and 1970 was “up to 50,000”. He said this meant between 10 and 30 per cent of Aboriginal children had been “forcibly” taken from their parents. The Bringing Them Home report claimed that between one in ten and one in three Aboriginal children were “forcibly removed”. In reality, these claims were unwarranted guesses. Indeed, the Human Rights Commission seriously misrepresented some of the principal research it used to reach the higher figure. As an example of the rate of removal, it reported the findings of one study made in Bourke:

Dr Max Kamien surveyed 320 adults in Bourke in the 1970s. One in every three reported having been separated from their families in childhood for five or more years.

That was not the study’s rate for the separation of children “from their families”. What Kamien actually found was this:

Between the ages of 5 and 14 years 34 per cent of the 320 adult males and females interviewed had experienced the absence of one parent for more than five years. Absence of both parents for the same time period was recorded in 5 per cent of males and 7 per cent of females.

Moreover, the great majority of the “absences” recorded by Kamien were not forcible removals. Most occurred simply because the fathers were away from home, working on rural properties. Of children separated from both parents, Kamien found the most common reason was not to lose their culture but to go to hospital. In four of the other six studies it cited, Bringing Them Home seriously misreported the results. Of the remaining two studies, one was unpublished and no one else can find any record of the other. Chapter Thirteen examines the charade of research interpretations on which the Human Rights Commission made its “confident findings”.

My own estimate of the total number of Aboriginal children taken into care in the period from 1880 to 1970 is provided in Chapter Thirteen. The total is 8250. “Taken into care” means Aboriginal children separated from parents and placed in government, church and charitable institutions, plus the very small numbers placed into foster care and adopted by white families. The figure represented 5.2 per cent of the Aboriginal population at the 1976 census of 160,000.

This total is not offered as a counter-estimate of the number of the Stolen Generations. The argument of this book is that there were no Stolen Generations. The figure is an overall estimate made from the surviving records of children separated from their families for substantial periods under the broadest range of conditions, both volun­tary and involuntary, and for all kinds of reasons, both positive (educa­tion and hospitalisation) and negative (neglect, destitution, sexual abuse, and the death of parents). The total and the proportion are much lower figures than are usually claimed but they demonstrate another theme of this book. Rather than governments being over-zealous, the reality was the opposite. Everyone who worked in Aboriginal child welfare complained that the states and territories did not do nearly enough, especially in the period from Federation to the Second World War. There were always many more Aboriginal children badly in need of welfare, education and health services than governments were willing to fund.

The most offensive numerical assertion in this debate, that the removal of children was on a scale large enough to be genocidal, is not just wrong but embarrassingly wrong. In the first half of the twentieth century, when university historians and Bringing Them Home assured us governments were doing their best to eliminate the Aboriginal race, its population grew substantially. In the period nominated by the Human Rights Commission as the worst affected, 1910 to 1970, the Aboriginal population of Australia grew by 68 per cent from 83,588 to 139,456. Growth was particularly strong in those regions where governments were purportedly determined to absorb half-caste and other part-Aboriginal people into the white population. In New South Wales, the Aboriginal population grew by 65 per cent from 1915 to 1940. In Western Australia, the supposedly “doomed race” of full-descent people in the north of the state did not decline at all, while in the southern half of the state, where part-Aboriginal people predominated, their numbers were up no less than 120 per cent between 1900 and 1935. In both cases, their populations grew at a faster rate than that of white people. Chapters Two and Seven have the details. If the Stolen Generations thesis is true then the Australian Aborigines are the only people in world history to have suffered genocide in the midst of a boom in their population.

Education versus Institutionalisation

There is another good reason why it was not the policy of governments to remove Aboriginal children from their parents: they wanted the children to go to school. Governments pursued this objective with far more action and money than they ever gave to child removal. In the 1880s all Australian colonial governments instituted compulsory education for children of school age. All parents, of whatever racial or ethnic background, were required to enrol their children. In New South Wales, the Department of Public Instruction constructed schoolhouses and employed schoolteachers on all the twenty-one Aboriginal stations set up between 1893 and 1917. It also provided schools and teachers on any of the 115 Aboriginal reserves that had enough children of school age to justify it. On those reserves where there were not enough children for a dedicated school, the Aborigines Protection Board insisted they must go to the local public school. In the early years, it tried to coerce Aboriginal parents into sending their children to school by withholding rations if they refused. In its later years, it tried a more conciliatory approach by giving all Abo­riginal children a hot midday meal at school.

In the early twentieth century, it was true that much provision for Aboriginal schooling was substandard. Many Aboriginal children received a lower-level curriculum than whites. In some parts of New South Wales and Western Australia, protests by white parents about Aboriginal standards of hygiene and disease (including, as I demonstrate in Chapter Four, cases of venereal disease among Aboriginal primary school children) meant some public schools refused to enrol them. Nonetheless, the number of places governments provided for Aboriginal children who lived with their parents and went to school, compared to the number of places governments funded at welfare institutions for those removed from parents, is telling. In New South Wales in the 1920s and 1930s, there were only three welfare institutions designated for Aboriginal children. One at Bomaderry housed twenty-five infants to ten-year-olds, the second at Cootamundra accommodated fifty girls aged up to thirteen years, and the third at Kinchela housed fifty boys aged up to thirteen years. At the same time, some 2800 Aboriginal children in New South Wales lived with their parents and attended public schools. That is, there were twenty-two times as many places for Aboriginal children at public schools than at welfare institutions.

In the Northern Territory in the 1950s, virtually none of the approximately 8000 full-blood Aboriginal children either attended school or were housed in a welfare institution. For part-Aboriginal children the government pursued a policy of integration and assimila­tion. But even here, there were between two and three times as many part-Aboriginal children living with their families and attending schools than housed in welfare institutions. In 1959, for instance, there were 815 part-Aboriginal children at Northern Territory schools and 315 part-Aboriginal children in institutions. Of the latter, many were sent by their parents to be boarders while they went to school. Chapter Ten discusses the role played by the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin and St Mary’s Hostel in Alice Springs.

On the grounds of school policy alone, no one can argue that the government was conducting a systematic program to destroy Aboriginality by stealing children from their families. The existence of this disparity disproves the core allegation of the Stolen Generations thesis.

Why There Were No Stolen Generations (Part Two)

Keith Windschuttle

The Origins of the Myth

The empirical underpinnings of Bringing Them Home derived largely from the work of white academic historians. The Human Rights Commission did no serious research of its own into the primary historical sources. Co-authors Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson also declined to hear any evidence that might have contradicted their preferred interpretation. They did not call witnesses from the many still-living public officials responsible for child removal to hear or test their reasons for their policies and practices. The Commission’s only original contribution was to solicit the testimony of 535 Abo­riginal people who had been removed from their parents and who spoke about their own experiences. While many of these stories were completely believable in what they said about what happened and how they felt, it is nonetheless true that when these witnesses were children they were not in a position to comprehend the question at the centre of the accusation of genocide, the motives of government policy-makers.

Moreover, some of these informants made claims that should never have been published. In Bringing Them Home, the anonymous “Jenni­fer” claimed one child at the Cootamundra Girls Home was beaten to death by the staff, who then secretly disposed of the body. As Chapter Five argues, this assertion deserves no credibility whatsoever and, indeed, was a malicious defamation of the matron at the time, Miss Emmeline Rutter. History books have reproduced other tall tales from allegedly stolen children that could not possibly be true. One gave a vivid first-hand account of 500 children supposedly rounded up in 1938. The alleged aim was to remove all the half-caste children in the Kimberley district to the West Australian government’s Moola Bulla station. However, as shown in Chapter Eight, the entire population of half-caste people in the Kimberley at the time, adults and children, amounted to just 500 and the station’s records of the full-blood and half-caste children it accommodated and fed at Moola Bulla that year numbered only sixty-one; most of them had been sent by their parents to go to the station’s school.

Some of the most celebrated books by Aboriginal authors about supposedly stolen children also provide serious grounds for contention, especially the works of Margaret Tucker and Sally Morgan. These and other stories told by well-known Aborigines Lowitja O’Donoghue and Charles Perkins are discussed in Chapter Six. I also discuss there the influence of the Communist Party of Australia, which few people realise played a key role in making some Aboriginal authors famous.

The idea that the removal policies had a racist component and were aimed at ending Aboriginality did not originate in Aboriginal testimony. Indeed, until the term “stolen generations” first appeared in 1981, there had been no popular tradition among Aboriginal people that employed either the term or the concept. In the 1910s and 1920s, parents on some state-funded Aboriginal stations in New South Wales and South Australia did disagree with the government finding employment for their teenage children as four-year indentured apprentices. But these complaints were not about the removal of babies or young children. Moreover, these parents knew their children would be gone for a fixed term and then return.

The person who initiated the idea that the government wanted to destroy Aboriginality was a then unknown white postgraduate history student, Peter Read. He alone was granted the vision denied to all who came before him. In the course of just one day, he wrote a twenty-page pamphlet to make his case. His original title was “The Lost Generations” but his wife advised him to substitute the more attention-getting adjective, stolen.

Read’s publication, The Stolen Generations, was published in 1981 and was noticed within social policy and legal circles, but not much else. The critical turning point in the attitudes of Aboriginal people did not come until two years later. Read’s colleague in the Link-Up social work organisation, Coral Edwards, addressed a meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council to ask for funding for their new service. To the forty, mostly middle-aged Aboriginal community leaders, who until then had been ignorant of any racist separation policy, Edwards’s speech came as a bombshell. Mothers had not voluntarily given their children away, she said. Rather, “the govern­ments never intended that the children should ever return”.

It is not difficult to understand the immediate appeal of such an explanation to many Aboriginal families, especially to those who had grown up on welfare communities and segregated housing estates with high rates of crime, alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse. This new version of events was deeply comforting. The myriad problems in their own lives no longer derived from the failings of their families or the bad choices they made themselves. Mothers had not given their children away, fathers had not left their children destitute or deserted their families or been so consumed by alcohol they left them vulnerable to sexual predators. Siblings and cousins had not abandoned their communities because they thought their way of life hopeless. Instead of reproaching themselves, Aborigi­nes could suddenly identify as morally innocent victims of a terrible injustice. Their problems could all be blamed on faceless white bureaucrats driven by racism. Read’s interpretation has since come to be believed by most Aboriginal people in Australia.

That does not make the story true. Indeed, as an historical interpretation of government policy in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, it was poorly founded from the outset. Its creator once boasted he had read “all the thousands of childcare records of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board”. However, Read could not have done anything like the investigation he claimed. His research for The Stolen Generations was so shoddy he was completely ignorant of the existence of one government and mission-run institution in New South Wales that housed Aboriginal children for nineteen years, and he attributed to another institution a fifteen-year history that bore little relationship to what it actually did. Chapter Five provides the details. He drew selectively on the individual case files of removed children to bolster his case, but misrepresented the total picture. He provided false information about the age of children concerned and the proportion of them who never returned to their families and communities. He selected from government minutes and reports a small number of apparently incriminating quotations, took them out of context, and gave them a meaning their originators never intended. What little support for his thesis he could find he exaggerated out of all proportion. He claimed the Ward Registers of the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board openly revealed the real motives of those in charge:

The racial intention was obvious enough for all prepared to see, and some managers cut a long story short when they came to that part of the committal notice ‘Reason for Board taking control of the child’. They simply wrote ‘for being Aboriginal’.”

My examination of the 800 files in the same archive found only one official ever wrote a phrase like that. His actual words were “Being an Aboriginal”.

In the early twentieth century, according to Read, the Australian authorities began to realise the Aborigines were not “dying out” as once thought. Instead, the number of half-castes and others of part descent were increasing. So instead of being rid of the Aboriginal race by natural causes, governments decided they had to do the job themselves. “In the long term, Aborigines were not wanted — anywhere,” Read wrote. “Their extinction, it seemed, would not occur naturally after all, but would have to be arranged.” One of Read’s academic colleagues, the historian Heather Goodall, said the New South Wales government tried to do this by deliberately reducing the Aboriginal birth rate. This was, she claimed, the publicly declared reason the Aborigines Protection Board introduced its policy of youth apprenticeships:

The Board stated quite openly in its reports and minutes that it intended to reduce the birthrate of the Aboriginal population by taking adolescent girls away from their communities. Then it intended that the young people taken in this way would never be allowed to return to their homes or to any other Aboriginal community. The ‘apprenticeship’ policy was aimed quite explicitly at reducing the numbers of identifying Aboriginal people in the State.

Goodall did not give any specific source for her claim. Instead, she referred readers of her book Invasion to Embassy to the Aborigines Protection Board’s annual reports for the period 1906 to 1923. I read the board’s reports not only for the years she suggested but also for its entire eighty-five years of existence, looking for any comment about its intention to reduce the Aboriginal birth rate. I could not find anything of the kind. Instead, the board explained its apprenticeship policy in 1924 in the following terms:

[The Board’s] object is to save the children from certain moral degradation on the reserves and camps, and to give them a chance to reach maturity, after which they are given every facility to return either on holiday or permanently, according to their wish, to their own districts, where they are expected to take up suitable employment. Here they have an opportunity of meeting people of their own colour, and in many instances they marry and settle down in homes of their own.

The board also defined its policy in very similar terms in its minutes of June 1919 and its annual report of 1925–26. Chapter Three quotes them in full and examines the board’s real objectives. In short, the board saw a period of apprenticeship as the key to gaining employment, and the best way for Aboriginal youth to get off welfare and live independent lives in the modern world. It wanted to put an end not to the Aboriginal race but to Aboriginal dependency.

The Human Rights Commission used Read, Goodall and other academic historians as its major sources of information on government policy, thereby replicating their omissions, mistakes and falsehoods. Bringing Them Home reproduced a passage from Pat Jacobs’s biography of A.O. Neville, which quoted the West Australian Chief Protector apparently announcing that in the “best interests” of Aboriginal children he intended to remove as many as possible from their parents: “I say emphatically there are scores of children in the bush camps who should be taken away from whoever is looking after them and placed in a settlement …” This quotation, however, was a truncated version of what Neville actually said. His full sentence was:

I say emphatically there are scores of children in the bush camps who should be taken away from whoever is looking after them and placed in a settlement, but on account of lack of accommodation, and lack of means and additional settlements, I am unable to exercise the power which the Act definitely gives me in this respect.

In other words, instead of a declaration of intent to remove scores of such children, Neville’s full statement was actually an explanation why he could not remove them. As Chapter Eight shows in detail, he never had the funds to remove more than a handful each year. The same was true of the Chief Protectors in other states. None of them ever had enough money to remove all the genuine child welfare cases within their domain, let alone attempt as immense a task as eliminating the Aboriginal race.

That did not mean, however, that Aboriginal institutions were as impoverished as historians have painted them. Though conceding that they were not as terrible as the mass extermination camps of Nazi Ger­many, historian Anna Haebich nonetheless claimed: “Aboriginal people in Australia’s refugee camps and gulags faced for a far longer period the daily reality of starvation, disease, chronic ill health and often early death.” It is true that the Moore River Settlement in Western Australia was a vermin-infested dump, and some of the remote missions in the tropical north ran short of food supplies in the wet season and during periods of prolonged drought, but they were not typical. The best Aboriginal stations had superior buildings and more amenities than many white working-class people in the outer suburbs and country towns at the same time. Some institutions for Aboriginal chil­dren had swimming pools, gymnasiums, tennis courts, film projectors, radios, record players, pianos and telephones decades before many white people. Chapter Five contains details. In the midst of the 1930s Great Depression, the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board used unemployment relief funds to provide its La Perouse Reserve with new buildings designed by the Government Architect, to plant it with trees and shrubs from the Sydney Botanic Gardens, and to connect every home with fresh water and sewerage. The State Government Tourist Bureau thought so highly of the refurbished La Perouse it listed it with Bondi Beach among Sydney’s recommended visiting spots for overseas tourists. In the 1950s, the Church of England’s St Mary’s Hostel for Aboriginal children at Alice Springs, located in a former wartime recreation centre for servicewomen, was another model of its kind that attracted busloads of tourists.

The Best-Concealed Conspiracy in Australian History

On top of the awkward fact that the Aboriginal population grew strongly throughout the period it was supposedly subject to genocide, there is another oddity about the Stolen Generations. Why did this not become a public issue before Peter Read emerged on the scene in 1981? If, as the Human Rights Commission claimed, its origins went back to 1910, why didn’t earlier Aboriginal activists make a fuss? At the high point of Aboriginal radicalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the attempt to put an end to Aboriginality by removing children never received a mention in any major agenda of Aboriginal political grievances.

During the lead-up to the successful 1967 constitutional referendum to give the Commonwealth powers in Aboriginal affairs, not one of the political activists campaigning for reform mentioned stolen children as an issue to be rectified. In 1970, neither the ten-point Policy Manifesto of the National Tribal Council, nor the Platform and Program of the Black Panthers of Australia, nor the 1972 Five-Point Policy of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Parliament House, Canberra, or any other political manifesto of the time, mentioned stolen children, let alone the genocide that Aborigines had purport­edly been suffering for the previous sixty years. Aboriginal activists of that era proved very adept at gaining attention from the news media and very capable of articulating their case. Black Panthers spokesmen included Gary Foley, later a university lecturer, Paul Coe, subse­quently a barrister, and Dennis Walker, son of one of Australia’s leading literary figures. They and their colleagues were politically astute enough to mount the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House—an inspired piece of political symbolism—yet could not recognise the genocide and child stealing taking place right beneath their noses.

A greater mystery is that some of the best-known of an earlier generation of Aboriginal activists had been in an even better position to see what was going on. In the 1940s and 1950s, William Ferguson, Walter Page and Pearl Gibbs actually served as directors of the Aborigines Welfare Board of New South Wales, one of the very organisations then committing the purported genocide. Yet they never realised what was happening. Of all people, they were the ones who should have identified it first. How could they possibly have missed it? If the Stolen Generations story was true, then at that very time, right across Australia, in all states and territories, scores of white welfare officials, backed by parliamentarians and senior public ser­vants, were forcibly removing Aboriginal children to put an end to Aboriginality. How did these hundreds of white people, for a period of more than sixty years, maintain the discipline needed to keep the whole thing so quiet that Aboriginal activists like Ferguson, Page and Gibbs were oblivious to its existence? Why did no one leak the truth? A conspiracy on this scale must have been the best-kept secret in Australian history. On these grounds alone, the inherent implausibil­ity of Read’s thesis should always have been self-evident.

“The Criminals Who Enacted the Programs”

In presenting a more realistic version of this story, part of my task includes reassessing the reputations of those who worked in the field in those years. We need to know whether the white people who determined Aboriginal policies in the past, and those who provided direct-contact services to Aborigines—welfare workers, missionaries and other members of religious orders, police officers, nurses and matrons in children’s institutions, the managers of Aboriginal reserves and stations—deserve the status they now have. Historians today treat them as little better than the officers and guards at Belsen and Treblinka. They do this even though the historical record reveals that some of the most influential of them emerged from humanitarian organisations, religious societies and political movements that had long worked in support of indigenous peoples. As Chapter Seven demonstrates, although historians have misrepresented the roles of the Chief Protectors A.O. Neville in Western Australia and Cecil Cook in the Northern Territory, their careers as administrators nonetheless leave little to admire. But it is a very different story with most of those employed in the front line caring for Aboriginal children. The determination of some historians to destroy the reputations of the latter people is contemptible.

Free from any risk of defamation suits from their now dead subjects, and speaking from the comfort of tenured university positions with six-figure salaries, academics such as Peter Read, Anna Haebich and Raimond Gaita have written of “the criminals who enacted the programs” and applied labels such as “sinister”, “hated”, “monstrous” and “psychopathic” to people like Emmeline Rutter, Ella Hiscocks, Sister Kate Clutterbuck, Sister Eileen Heath, Amelia Shankelton and Father Percy Smith who spent much of their adult lives under the same roofs and conditions as the orphaned, abandoned and unloved children they worked to save. Similarly, Colin Tatz, a professor of genocide studies, defamed the famous Aboriginal tenor, the late Harold Blair, by associating him with a scheme that ostensibly offered Aboriginal children Christmas holidays by the sea, but whose pur­ported secret agenda was to adopt them into white families.

The Human Rights Commission’s inquiry treated such people unjustly. As I show in several places in this book, the Commission’s public hearings declined to call as witnesses public officials and welfare workers who could have contradicted its predetermined conclusions. The Commission only sought evidence that confirmed its prejudices. It only wanted to hear from those claiming to be stolen children and never gave their “captors” the chance to answer the charges. Yet when some of the latter who were still living came before properly constituted court hearings, they easily disproved the accusations. This was particularly true in the Northern Territory, as Chapter Ten demonstrates in its discussion of the failed test case of Lorna Cubillo and Peter Gunner.

Some prominent Aboriginal people engaged in child welfare have been quietly airbrushed from history because their activities contradict the Stolen Generations thesis. One of them was Aunty Molly Mallett, a member of the Cape Barren Islander community descended from the Tasmanian Aborigines. As Chapter Eleven discusses, Mallett moved to Launceston where she provided government-approved foster care for orphaned and neglected Cape Barren Islander children. From the 1950s to the 1970s, she fostered so many she “lost count”. Even though she had far more experience than anyone else in the plight of these half-caste children, the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry never called her as a witness. Bringing Them Home declined to even mention her role, preferring its readers to believe the children were all placed with white families and in white institutions.

Many of the politicians who decided Aboriginal policy in the period of so-called genocide were anything but faceless. By far the greater number of them owed their allegiance to the “progressive” or Left side of politics. One thing the university historians who established this story kept largely to themselves was that most of the legislation they condemned was passed by Labor governments. In New South Wales, the 1915 Aborigines Protection Amending Act, which allowed the Aborigines Protection Board to remove children without recourse to a hearing before a magistrate, was the work of the first Labor government in the state, headed by James McGowen and W.A. Holman. The Act’s 1943 amendment, which allowed Aboriginal children to be fostered out to non-indigenous families, was intro­duced by the Labor government of William McKell, one of his party’s favourite sons who later became governor-general. In Western Australia, A.O. Neville was appointed Chief Protector in 1915 by the state’s first Labor government headed by John Scaddan. The 1936 Act that purportedly entrenched Neville’s proposals for “breeding out the colour” was the product of the Labor governments of Phillip Collier and John Willcock.

In contrast, when a proposal for “breeding out the colour” was put to the conservative government of Joseph Lyons in 1933, it wanted nothing to do with it. As noted in the preface, this proposal has been wrongly linked to the question of child removal when, in reality, it was wholly confined to controlling the marriage of adult Aborigines of part descent. As Chapter Seven records, the Lyons government treated it with disdain. In August 1934, the responsible minister, J.A. Perkins, told the parliament:

It can be stated definitely, that it is and always has been, contrary to policy to force half-caste women to marry anyone. The half-caste must be a perfectly free agent in the matter.

Not one of the historians of the Stolen Generations has ever quoted this statement. It disproved yet more of their claims about the genocidal objectives of Commonwealth government policies in the 1930s.

Some prominent radical political activists of earlier eras were com­plicit in policies and activities that historians and the Human Rights Commission now characterise as racist and genocidal. For instance, in the 1967 constitutional referendum, one of the leading campaigners for the “Yes” vote was Faith Bandler, then a familiar figure in radical and Communist Party circles. In January 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd awarded Bandler Australia’s highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for her work on behalf of racial minorities. It is not widely known today but in 1959 Bandler adopted an abandoned two-year-old Aboriginal boy into her non-indigenous family. She raised him until he was twelve. At the time, none of her Aboriginal political colleagues thought she was doing anything wrong. To accuse Bandler of committing a racial crime for this act, let alone being a party to genocide, would be absurd and offensive. We should offer the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty to everyone else who acted from similar motives, whatever their political background or racial origin.

When their track records are examined more closely, many of those white people engaged in Aboriginal affairs a century ago become unexpectedly familiar. They were the religious and political evangelicals of their time, determined to do good works for others in order to give meaning and substance to their own lives. They bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the white lawyers, academics, social workers, journalists and political activists who do the same today. In short, accusers and accused are the same kind of people. The big difference is that those charged with crimes against humanity actually did something tangible to improve Aboriginal lives. Their accusers have offered only bogus history, feigned compassion, and empty symbolic gestures.

Today we inhabit a censorious age in which the present generation presumes it alone has wisdom and virtue. We pride ourselves on our moral and intellectual superiority to all the generations before us. We assume the right to condemn the past for not sharing our currently fashionable moral postures. Nonetheless, all those in the past respon­sible for Aboriginal policy and child welfare still deserve a proper hearing, with their names and reasons fully disclosed so we can judge the decisions they took in the light of the prevailing attitudes and oppor­tunities of the time, as well as what we know about their characters through the full record of their public lives.

Ultimately, however, it is the reputation of the nation that is at issue. Thanks to the determination of academic historians and state education curriculum boards, Australian schoolchildren have by now largely succumbed to the prevailing version of this story. Many have learnt to despise their own country for this episode and to be ashamed of the Australian past. Australians abroad are saddled with a reputa­tion for racism comparable to white South Africans in the era of apartheid. Aboriginal people themselves are taught the arrival of the Europeans brought so much violence and heartbreak they should never allow themselves to be fully reconciled to Australian society.

The philosopher Raimond Gaita has claimed that, if the Bringing Them Home report is accurate, the case for genocide is over-determined. My book argues that the only thing over-determined is the case against genocide. Not one of the major contentions made by the Human Rights Commission, or the bevy of academic historians upon whom it relied, stands up to scrutiny. Bringing Them Home is probably the most unreliable and deceptive public document ever produced in this country. Unfortunately, it has also been one of the most influen­tial. It claimed to have uncovered a whole class of victims, children forcibly removed from loving parents whose lives were thereby ruined. In reality, the greater victims have been those generations of Aboriginal children who, thanks to the report’s subsequent influence on social workers, child welfare officials and children’s court magis­trates, have since been left too long in violent, destitute and sexually abusive families for fear of creating a “new” Stolen Generation. An historical fiction has created a real-life social catastrophe, whose appalling consequences are now verified by government and judicial inquiries, time after time.

Black and White Perspectives on the Apology

“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.” Here was the word, used twice in two quick sentences by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that everyone in those ranked, packed galleries had come to hear. There was, quite audi­bly, the exhalation of breath. That same release—the hope of an expul­sion, really, of a national burden—could be felt across the country, in public gatherings before giant screens in places such as Melbourne’s Feder­ation Square and Sydney’s Martin Place, to clubs and parks in small towns and school classrooms everywhere.

—Tony Wright, Age, Melbourne, February 14, 2008

For all the reasons given in this book, I believe the parliamentary apology by Prime Minister Rudd in February 2008 was indulgent and unwise. In the short term, of course, the massive and favourable media coverage made it a public relations success for him and his govern­ment. It satisfied the millions of suburban voters who have always had goodwill towards Aboriginal people, who wanted racial reconciliation and an end to bad feeling over this issue. But in describing Aboriginal child welfare policies of the past as the “great stain” on the nation’s soul, Rudd not only defamed a great many people from his own side of politics, but did no favour to Aborigines either. He added further fuel to the politics of permanent grievance on which the hard men of Aboriginal activism have long thrived. The apology confirmed Aboriginal people’s core identity as victims of injustice rather than potential beneficiaries, like everyone else, of the prosperous, liberal, democratic, egalitarian society estab­lished here since 1788.

It is clear, however, that my views on the topic are very much in the minority, and are likely to remain so for some time. The above account from Tony Wright in the Age captured quite accurately the popular response. Throughout the country, there was a collective sigh of relief from the majority of white people at the discharge of what had felt like a national burden.

A small minority of whites, however, were anything but relieved. Among the members of Australia’s intellectual culture, the failure of Rudd to use the term genocide or to offer any reparations remained burning issues. The philosopher Raimond Gaita insisted that aca­demics, journalists and lawyers would not drop their demands:

Even if Kevin Rudd believes (as clearly he doesn’t) that some of the Stolen Generations were victims of genocide, it would have been foolish for him to have said so on the day when he offered them a prime ministerial apology. It would have been unnecessarily offensive to many Australians who would understandably have been hurt as much as they would have been scandalised …

It is, however, inconceivable that Abo­rigines and their fellow Australians will stop thinking for long about which concepts are necessary to describe their past truthfully. Discussion of genocide will then be unavoidable. It would be a “moral, intellectual and political disaster” if academics and others were to censor themselves because minds slam shut or to refuse to discuss outside academe whether the Aborigines were the victims of genocide.

Even though this book disputes all Gaita’s other interpretations of this topic, what he says here is true. The charge of genocide does hurt and does scandalise most Australians. And all those white academics, journalists and lawyers who have supported the accusation are determined to persist with it, no matter what.

Aboriginal political leaders initially greeted the apology with high emotion. The visitors’ gallery of Parliament House was packed with Aboriginal identities, who gave the Prime Minister a standing ovation. Many, including Lowitja O’Donoghue, wept throughout his speech.

After the moment had passed, however, it is doubtful that the apology changed any Aboriginal minds at all. Later that morning, O’Donoghue and Aboriginal spokesman Patrick Dodson gave interviews to journalists, calling for a more material response. According to the Age:

Mr Dodson described the apology and Mr Rudd’s speech as a watershed. ‘The sincerity that he brought to that has moved many hearts of indigenous people across this country,’ he said. But he added: ‘Any group of people who have been treated badly under laws made legitimately by the Crown deserve to pursue compensation judicially, legally or politically and they deserve our support.’

Ms O’Donoghue, while declaring herself ‘very proud’ of Mr Rudd for keeping his promise to apologise, also took issue with the government over its refusal to compensate people taken from their families. And she warned that extra money to tackle indigenous disadvantage in areas such as health and education should not be a substitute for compensation.

Other Aboriginal activists treated the event with cynicism. Gary Foley, one of the radical identities of the 1970s and now a historian and lecturer in indigenous studies at Victoria University, was interviewed by the Melbourne Historical Journal:

“How do you think the apology should be taught at universities?"

“I think it should be taught in Political Science classes as an example of the duplicity and deceit of politicians. And it should be taught in psychology classes in terms of how a nation appeases itself of its guilt. And it should be taught in drama school as a classic example of Australian political comedy. And it should be taught in driving school as a magnificent example of defensive driving and evasive tactics and manoeuvres. It should also be taught in kindergartens as a fairy tale.”

Meanwhile, out on the streets where Aboriginal people congregated, some young men had little time for irony. The Northern Territory News reported:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s national apology to the stolen generation has sparked a spate of racial violence in Darwin. Five people had to be admitted to hospital after one brawl. The Caucasian men were attacked by a group of 10 Aboriginal men, who demanded that their victims ‘say sorry’. A 28-year-old Territory woman watched helplessly as her friend was king-hit and kicked to the ground outside a Darwin 24-hour eatery on Sunday morning. She said three men ran at them from across the road, when they looked at the group yelling at two women. ‘They just started king-hitting him. They got him on the ground and then two others came over and started kicking him,’ she said. ‘They kept screaming that we were not sorry at all.’

This is an edited extract from the introduction to The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations 1881–2008, Macleay Press, $59.95, 656 pages, published in December 2009.

Voir enfin:

Trapped in the Aboriginal reality show

Re-imagining Australia

Marcia Langton

Griffith REVIEW

Jean Baudrillard generated international controversy when he described in his essay ‘War Porn’ the way images from Abu Graib prison in Iraq and other ‘consensual and televisual’ violence were used in the aftermath to September 11, 2001. Strong words – perversity, vileness – sparked in his brief, acute analysis: ‘The worst is that it all becomes a parody of violence, a parody of the war itself, pornography becoming the ultimate form of the abjection of war which is unable to be simply war, to be simply about killing, and instead turns itself into a grotesque infantile reality-show, in a desperate simulacrum of power. These scenes are the illustration of a power, without aim, without purpose, without a plausible enemy, and in total impunity. It is only capable of inflicting gratuitous humiliation.’

This made me think about the everyday suffering of Aboriginal children and women, the men who assault and abuse them, and the use of this suffering as a kind of visual and intellectual pornography in Australian media and public debates. The very public debate about child abuse is like Baudrillard’s ‘war porn’. It has parodied the horrible suffering of Aboriginal people. The crisis in Aboriginal society is now a public spectacle, played out in a vast ‘reality show’ through the media, parliaments, public service and the Aboriginal world. This obscene and pornographic spectacle shifts attention away from everyday lived crisis that many Aboriginal people endure – or do not, dying as they do at excessive rates.

This spectacle is not a new phenomenon in Australian public life, but the debate about ‘Indigenous affairs’ has reached a new crescendo, fuelled by the accelerated and uncensored exposé of the extent of Aboriginal child abuse. Shocking accounts of brutal sexual assault and murder – including those by Children’s Court Magistrate Sue Gordon in Western Australia, Alice Springs Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers, and journalists Nicolas Rothwell, Tony Koch and Suzanne Smith – have become almost routine. The 2007 Northern Territory inquiry and report, Little Children are Sacred, by Rex Wild QC and Pat Anderson, was the tipping point.

More than a century of policy experimentation with Aboriginal people climaxed when the Howard Commonwealth government sent a special police taskforce, troops and emergency medical staff into the Northern Territory. On August 7, 2007 it passed more than five hundred pages of legislation – special measures that subvert the authority of the Northern Territory in the most extraordinary federal takeover in Australia’s history.

In some critical respects, the outcome of this renewed debate is what many have been recommending for decades: protective interventions to prevent the abuse, rape and assault of Aboriginal women and children, and decisive action against the perpetrators. The federal legislation and emergency taskforce were a slap in the face for the Northern Territory Government, then led by Chief Minister Clare Martin. It was a bracing ‘vote of no confidence’ in her government’s capacity to deal with the crisis, and the responsibilities for which Territory governments had received generous Commonwealth funding for decades.

Indeed, the redistribution of these funds to the privileged white electorates that kept Martin’s government in power became evident when data from a special project by the Council of Australian Governments at Wadeye revealed how Northern Territory governments have failed to use Commonwealth funds for their intended purposes: ‘far less is spent on [Aboriginal Territorians] per head than is spent on the average Territorian.’ The education deficit was acute – for every dollar spent on each Territory school child, 47 cents were spent on each Aboriginal child at Wadeye. ‘To those most in need the least is provided,’ the study concluded.

Although the Northern Territory Government receives special funding to improve the lot of its disadvantaged population, it was the Commonwealth rather than the Territory Government which became the villain in the public debate about the Emergency Intervention. There is a cynical view afoot that the intervention was a political ploy – to grab land, support mining companies and kick black heads, dressed up as concern for children. Conspiracy theories abounded; most were ridiculous.

Those who did not see the intervention coming were deluding themselves. It was the inevitable outcome of the many failures of policy and the flawed federal-state division of responsibilities for Aboriginal Australians. It was a product of the failure of Northern Territory governments for a quarter of a century to adequately invest the funds they received to eliminate the disadvantages of their citizens in education, health and basic services. It was made worse by general incompetence in Darwin: the public service, non-government sector (including some Aboriginal organisations) and the dead hand of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) all presided over increasingly horrible conditions in Aboriginal communities.

The combined effect of the righteous media campaign for action and the Emergency Intervention has been a metaphorical dagger, sunk deep into the heart of the powerful, wrong-headed Aboriginal male ideology that has prevailed in Indigenous affairs policies and practices for decades. My hope is that, as the evidence mounts of the need for a radical new approach, the shibboleths of the old Left – who need perpetual victims for their analysis to work – will also be dismantled.

IN 2006 AND 2007, Howard government ministers and advisers made several decisions. They would no longer stomach a policy regime whose many failings resulted in endemic poverty, alienation and disadvantage, and sickening levels of abuse of Aboriginal women and children. They rolled out a policy revolution. With the dis-establishment of ATSIC and the removal of elected commissioners whose public reputations were in tatters following allegations of rape, corruption and incompetence, a new order swept in.

The appointment of professionals and business people to an advisory National Indigenous Council led by Dr Sue Gordon put new emphasis on ‘practical outcomes’. At the top of the list was intervention in the epidemic of child abuse. Gordon was appointed to head the intervention taskforce, an initiative that has fundamentally altered the balance of federal-state relations in Indigenous affairs. This, whatever one may think of its shortcomings, may be the greatest opportunity we have had to overcome the systemic levels of disadvantage among Aboriginal Australians.

The events of these two years have been remarkable. Extraordinary characters have been drawn into a circle of hell, complete with political chicanery, a Dante-esque dance of old enemies once divided by gender and politics, and disingenuous public performances by a voyeuristic audience. The former prime minister, John Howard, and his Indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, played a key role; however, much more interesting were the actions of several of the divas involved in delivering long-awaited attention to Aboriginal children in remote communities: Nanette Rogers, Sue Gordon, Clare Martin and Marion Scrymgour. Watching events unfold has been alternately exhilarating and distressing.

Rogers had been the Crown Prosecutor in Alice Springs for over twelve years, committed to social justice issues since her days as a young solicitor in Redfern. In 2006, her patience with the criminal justice system in the Northern Territory, and its capacity to deal with child victims of violence and rape and abuse, snapped. Her comments on May 15, 2006 were reported globally – BBC News led with the story: ‘Abuse rife at Aboriginal camps … horrific levels of sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities, including the rape of a baby.’

Rogers was no stranger to these issues. In 1993 she described the failure of the system to deal with these victims in an account not substantially different from that which shocked the world when, thirteen years later, she denounced the system that allowed rapists and murderers to escape punishment and continue their violent activities. As a young solicitor with the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service, she and veteran campaigner Jane Lloyd presented a paper at an Institute of Criminology conference on rape. They set out the plain facts, which were already widely known and acknowledged: ‘About one-third of the Aboriginal female population in the Northern Territory is being gravely assaulted (including sexually assaulted) in a year.’

Reading that paper again after so many years, it struck me that most of the factors contributing to the astonishing rates of rape and violence against women and children – ‘rivers of grog’, easy access to pornography, a lackadaisical approach in the court system with a callous disregard for victims – informed the current intervention.

The notes supporting Rogers’ nomination as a Northern Territory finalist for 2006 Australian of the Year observed, ‘The accumulated effect of defending men who abuse women and children weighed her down and Nanette became a prosecutor and coordinator of a Victims’ Support Unit. In doing research for her doctoral thesis, she identified the emphasis placed on customary law in placing the offender in the best light, at the expense of the voice of the victim. She found that violence against women and children had become entrenched in many communities and that many crimes go unreported, the victims too afraid to speak out. Nanette took the difficult decision to release her findings to the public so as to raise awareness of this crucial social and legal issue.’

The aspects of the crisis Rogers brought to public attention are undeniable and yet they are denied repeatedly by some Aboriginal men and women who ignore these issues in favour of pursuing theoretical definitions of rights. Like their supporters in groups such as Women for Wik, few have ever lived in the desperate remote area communities they seek to represent and seem to be oblivious to their actual conditions.

THE ROLE PLAYED BY the media must be acknowledged. A few journalists raised public consciousness about the state of affairs in distant Aboriginal communities. The media blitz following Rogers’ heartfelt speech in 2006 was a blow to self-satisfied participants on both sides of the debate: the romantic defenders of Aboriginal ‘self-determination’ and the uncivil deniers of the right of Aboriginal people to coexist with settler society. Nicholas Rothwell summed up the reality that many had ignored, dismissed or denied: ‘Domestic violence and sexual assaults against women and children define the boundaries of human experience in many of the larger and more troubled bush communities – and these dreadful plagues are constantly reported, yet no action ensues.’

In June 2006, ABC journalist Suzanne Smith began reporting the evidence that the Aboriginal community at Mutitjulu, near Uluru, was being terrorised by a ‘predatory paedophile’ who traded petrol for sex with young girls and ‘other men in the community, many with convictions for violent crime, made it difficult for people to expose the sexual violence, the drug trade and the petrol trafficking’. Rogers’ colleague Jane Lloyd was working with the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yangkutjatjara Women’s Council and added, ‘They also target children who do not have strong family, who come from dysfunctional families. So these men are not going to be challenged by the fathers, by the uncles of these children’. Mantatjara Wilson, an Aboriginal elder, explained, ‘We live in a war zone, a big war. We are living in Australia but it is just like the war in East Timor. We suffer rapes, kidnaps, murders, arson, the torching of houses’.

When, on May 15, 2006, Tony Jones introduced Rogers to a national audience, he twice warned the viewers of Lateline that her accounts of violence were extremely graphic and might (should) offend viewers. ‘Why do you think there’s been such a long silence about this particular issue in central Australia?’ he asked. Rogers replied with a triple volley: ‘I think there are a number of reasons for that. The first is that violence is entrenched in a lot of aspects of Aboriginal society here. Secondly, Aboriginal people choose not to take responsibility for their own actions. Thirdly, Aboriginal society is very punitive, so that if a report is made or a statement is made implicating an offender then that potential witness is subject to harassment, intimidation and sometimes physical assault if the offender gets into trouble because of that report or police statement.’

At this point, Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Mal Brough was still hesitant. He had told the ABC, ‘Australians may not be ready to hear about children being raped.’ Jones asked Rogers whether she disagreed. ‘Yes, I do. I feel very strongly that everybody needs to know about it.’

She detailed the traumas and horrors and focused on several cases: a four-year-old girl drowned while being raped by a teenager who had been sniffing petrol; two very young children – including a seven-month-old baby – sexually assaulted by adult men, while their mothers were elsewhere drinking alcohol. Both children needed surgery for their injuries. Another baby was stabbed twice by a man attempting to kill her mother. In yet another case, a teenager witnessed his grandfather being stabbed repeatedly in the throat. ‘These kids see violence as an everyday part of their life and many of them become violent themselves.’ Rogers said young men were given status in the community and not held accountable for their actions, and that she had ceased being a public defender because she was ‘sick of acting for violent Aboriginal men’.

Miranda Devine, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, asked, ‘Why did Tony Jones feel the need to ask Rogers, "Are you worried that the information itself may be abused by tabloids and racists even, shock jocks – the sort of people who will take information like this and exploit it?" Are there really people so morally confused that they see opposition to the rape of babies as a "shock jock" phenomenon?’

The question Devine should have asked was, ‘Are there really Aboriginal people so morally confused that they see the rape of babies as normal and not warranting any intervention?’

I am sad to report that the answer to that question is ‘yes’. There are such people, and it is them – rather than snivelling racists or the ‘shock jocks’ who exploit Aboriginal misery for fame – who undermine attempts to prevent the rape of Aboriginal children and other crimes against our most vulnerable citizens.

After these reports a chorus of denialists jumped in to defend ‘Aboriginal culture’, accusing ABC journalists of racism. Brian Johnstone – for many years press secretary to the late Bob Collins, a former Northern Territory senator – was a prominent and vociferous critic. As a journalist with the National Indigenous Times, Johnstone characterised Smith’s report as ‘99 per cent fact free’. He trivialised Rogers’ evidence and Smith’s courageous reporting in a rancorous attack on their integrity, evidence and motives and provided various justifications for the violence they identified and sought to prevent. He suggested the ABC had vilified Aboriginal culture with racist and unsubstantiated reports by ‘journalists who cannot be bothered looking beyond the sensation and mistake a "conspiracy of silence" for a journalistic conspiracy of disinterest’.

Only a man who has never tried to console a rape victim, or her mother, or tried to take a victim to a police station, could utter such nonsense. Johnstone’s tirade followed public reports of the paedophile preying on children at Mutitjulu which six people from the community described. Later, Smith interviewed Mantatjara Wilson and Rex Wild:

Wilson: I know that man sells petrol to children. This huge problem wasn’t started by the children. The problem was started by the people who sell petrol to get children started on petrol sniffing and then induce them to have sex for it.

Wild: We refer to that person, I don’t think by name, but we refer to the Mutitjulu episode, and we do give particular reference to the source of the original idea that there should be an inquiry.

Smith: He says a senior man was preying on under-age girls.

Wild: All we’re saying is an offender is a perpetrator and a child abuser.

Smith: And he says Muntajara Wilson who he describes as an elder from Mutitjulu had the right to speak and was brave to come forward, along with other whistleblowers.

Wild: They should be proud they’re making statements and out there doing something. Of course they should be proud of that.

SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER the first reports of child abuse on Lateline, Clare Martin finally joined the fray. On August 8, 2006, she appointed a Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, co-chaired by Patricia Anderson and Rex Wild, to find better ways to protect Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. What occurred between May and August that year exposed Martin’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with her Aboriginal constituents.

Martin finally settled in Darwin in 1990 after two short periods there as an ABC journalist. She was from a Sydney Catholic family, educated at convents on Sydney’s North Shore and at the University of Sydney. In 1990 she unsuccessfully contested the seat of Casuarina in Darwin’s northern suburbs, where the largely white population had determined the outcome of Territory elections for decades. The Country-Liberal Party was always ready to use ‘race’ issues to ensure it held on to power. In 1995, Martin won the blue-ribbon Country-Liberal seat of Fannie Bay, named for the city’s wealthiest suburb, home to the Casino, Mindil Beach markets, Darwin Turf Club, the Sailing Club and East Point Recreation Reserve.

Martin became Labor leader in 1998 and led the party when it won government for the first time in Territory history on August 18, 2001, with a one-seat majority – of Aboriginal candidate Matthew Bonson. Other Aboriginal candidates also elected for the first time – Marion Scrymgour and Elliot McAdam – joined John Ah Kit in the imposing Territory parliament. But it soon became clear the Martin government would be much like the one it displaced. Labor ‘true believers’ who manned polling booths and kept the flame burning heard whispers that ‘this one is for the northern suburbs’, with no concessions on Aboriginal issues. So it proved to be.

More than six years later, on Sunday, November 25, 2007, counting in marginal electorates added more seats to the crushing tally won by the Australian Labor Party in the federal election the day before. Warren Snowden won an increased majority in his seat of Lingiari, a vast electorate covering much of the Territory. The next day, he and Martin were reported demanding that the Emergency Intervention stop, the Aboriginal work-for the dole scheme be reinstated, restrictions on alcohol sales lifted, and the permit restrictions which had isolated Aboriginal communities from the economy and Australian society, be reinstated. Their call fell on deaf ears, although Snowdon was soon appointed Minister for Defence Science and Personnel.

Later on the day these comments appeared, Martin and her deputy Sid Stirling resigned. Paul Henderson and Marion Scrymgour became the new leaders of the hybrid political formation the Northern Territory has become since it was granted self-government in 1978. Scrymgour became the most senior Aboriginal parliamentarian in Australia – Deputy Chief Minister of a territory in which more than a quarter of the population is Aboriginal.

This was followed quickly by a spill of the chairman’s position at the powerful Northern Land Council. Wali Wunungmurra, a cousin of the East Arnhem leader and former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu, became its chairman. The next day, Norman Fry resigned after eleven years as CEO of the Council. These rapid responses were local earthquakes and signalled the end of a vain, symbolic response to a crisis that demanded practical action.

It is a public secret up north that Martin opposed Yunupingu and all he represents. Her avoidance of the unavoidable responsibility as chief minister to understand Aboriginal society and its customary laws, including those relating to polygyny (marriage arrangements in which an older man has a number of wives) contributed to the loss of confidence in her leadership.

In Arnhem Land, her opposition to Aboriginal customary law is seen as a false conflation of child abuse with customary laws relating to marriage, although the relationship between traditional patterns of conflict may not be irrelevant. The conservative side of politics was no more comfortable with customary law, but after the scale of the crisis became undeniable, it responded with action and money. The conservatives at least understood the relationship between passivity, alcohol, substance abuse, and declining social norms. Their exasperated solution to send in the army, stop alcohol abuse, quarantine welfare to ensure the money was spent on food and close down the work-for-the-dole scheme, the Community Development Employment Program, did not convince Marion Scrygmour, but she agreed something had to be done.

At the time of writing in early December 2007, it remains to be seen whether newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will honour his apparently heartfelt commitment to the intervention. In the week before the general election, he retreated from his earlier commitment to hold a referendum on Aboriginal rights. The danger now is that old-left thinking will again prevail. I believe that those opposed to the intervention are morally and politically wrong. I fear they represent the small, comfortable white clique in the Territory whose cars bear stickers declaring ‘I fish and I drink and I vote’ and the ‘big men’ in Aboriginal communities who harvest votes for their Labor mates.

I’ve seen the bodies of battered children as well. I’ve looked in the eyes of some of these children and seen the plea for help. We can’t fail children any more.

– Charlie King, Family and Community Services advisory consultant, Lateline, June 18, 2007

BECAUSE OF THE CONFUSED media noise from the Aboriginal commentariat, I am often asked whether the reported crisis is ‘real’. It is, and it has been a crisis for decades in some areas, as many reports have shown and the current inquiry investigating the spate of child suicides at Fitzroy Crossing reminds us.

What I have learnt from trying to answer this question comes not from the question itself, but from those who ask: Turkish taxi drivers, Aussie lawyers, overseas visitors, and other decent family people with a genuine concern for children in an age of global sexual abuse of the most vulnerable. They may have no direct experience of Indigenous affairs and its nasty politics, but they read the newspapers. Those convinced that nefarious intentions drove the intervention often know something about Indigenous affairs – but not much, just enough to adopt a fashionable cynicism and purported horror about the abuse of human rights. The taxi drivers, lawyers and tourists ask first about the fate of the Aboriginal children living in remote communities and then why this situation was allowed to develop.

Until Alison Anderson, another Labor member of the Territory government, elected in 2005, spoke out in late October 2007 in an interview with The Australian, those living in the seventy-three communities affected by the legislation had been silenced by the Aboriginal commentators and their supporters who do not live in poverty and the accompanying crisis of violence, drug and alcohol abuse. Those with long experience in these communities write to me with pleas like this from a woman in Central Australia:

One interesting fact is that in the whole of the remote area out from Alice Springs there is only one Family and Community Services worker. There are positions but they are not filled. Also since there has been no doctor or policeman at Mutitjulu since last year, and Wingellina has had no nurse for ages etc. We would like to contribute to a discussion on the current developments. From my experience I would suggest that anyone who holds a job on a remote community should submit to a criminal record check and also have a check to see what they got up to on their last Aboriginal community. There is a history of people going from community to community criss-crossing the borders and mucking up (fraud, obstructionist behaviour, and general incompetence). They can do this because the turnover out bush and in town means there is no community ‘memory’. Youth suicide is on the increase, childhood and youth obesity is pretty bad. The diet is terrible.

The Australian public cannot understand the scathing criticism of the intervention by the red, black and yellow warriors. This is understandable. The first instinct of an ordinary person is concern about children whose awful situation is now constantly reported. Many members of the Australian public are horrified about their situation. They cannot understand why there is so little concern about the almost unbelievable levels of neglect and abuse of children. The better informed doctors and lawyers who have worked in these communities say, ‘The intervention is not perfect but it is more important to engage in order to improve outcomes than to waste the first nationally agreed, bipartisan opportunity to ensure adequate levels of medical care and policy attention to other critical areas.’ Another correspondent wrote to me:

During the Howard era there was at least an understandable argument made by some along the lines that to highlight the outrages occurring in Territory Aboriginal communities and elsewhere would only encourage political opportunism by the Howard Government … but what justification can there possibly be to override the imperative of acting immediately, whilst ever the vulnerable remain exposed to present danger? … what reason could any sensible person now have [after the Howard government lost the election] to attack the core elements of the intervention intended to safeguard the weak and the vulnerable? There is clearly an attempt being made to engage with Territory Indigenous communities [to] increase community involvement in and control of the measures … Yet from all accounts the (mainly white) naysayers appear more emboldened than ever to continue the fight against the intervention in its entirety. Who are these people, and what do they think they are fighting for?

Another correspondent wrote to me about her conversion from the viewpoint that ‘you can never criticise or attack Aborigines or their culture because it would incite racism against Indigenous people … I now see how this view simply perpetuates the idea that Indigenous people are helpless victims, with no personal responsibility for their actions. I also feel absolutely disgusted with those who hold the view that ideology must come before the plight of children’.

The level of ignorance of the extent of the crisis contributes to the public cynicism questioned by my correspondent. One of the sustained fantasies about traditional Aboriginal society is that, until colonisation, life for Aboriginal people was peaceful and idyllic. The idea that violence – sanctioned and illicit – was the norm has been cast by the defenders of the myth as a racist misrepresentation of a noble society.

I believe those who have attacked those of us who want to deal with the direct and indirect factors contributing to the abuse of children, suffer from a form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’. Psychologists use this term to refer to an emotional bond that develops between hostages and captors. It is a familiar problem for victims of abuse: wives who still love their husbands despite domestic violence; victims of incest still attached to their molesters; prison inmates who turn on each other rather than their guards.

The critics of the intervention have become dependent – from a distance – on perpetuating the lot of those who are suffering the most. A related emotional response is the ‘small kindness perception’ – the search for hope by people trapped in extremely abusive situations. The reconciliation rhetoric offers hope of ‘kindness’ to Aboriginal people trapped in nightmarish conditions from which escape seems unlikely.

There is something else to understand about their rage. Many of the strongest critics of the intervention have a sense of identity and dignity based on being in an oppressed ‘racial’ collective. As Aboriginal people, they feel they share the suffering of other Aboriginal people. I cannot quibble with this basic ontological characteristic of being a member of an oppressed group. The problem arises when there is a presumption of shared experience and willingness to overlook the moral, ethical or even rational view of particular behaviours. Solidarity for its own sake takes pre-eminence, and does not permit a clear-cut rejection of wrong doing.

This line of analysis informs the outrage at the Australian Defence Force (ADF) being used in the intervention. It must have been easy for John Howard’s spin-doctors to predict that the pro-symbolic Aboriginal activists and their supporters would interpret the use of the army as another ‘invasion’. Few understand the long history of Indigenous involvement with the ADF. It remains one of their largest employers, and has a long history of working closely with remote communities, in areas of operation larger than many countries.

It was not coincidental that Sue Gordon, the leader of the intervention in many respects, served in the army for many years. Knowledge of ADF experience in Aboriginal communities makes a more benign interpretation possible: rather than being a typical Howard ‘wedge’, it could be that the army was recruited because of its administrative, organisational and logistical competence and experience.

I am not arguing that the use of the army is a tactic I support or would adopt. It is not sustainable in the long term. But this short-term tactic may be the ‘wake-up call’ that leads to sustainable strategies, few of which have been seen in remote Australia and even fewer ever adequately funded. My observations are merely analytical, to help understand the political responses to the intervention and the hysterical opposition to it.

They want to the absolutely wake up to themselves and have a good long think where they’re going and what they’re doing with Aboriginal people. Nothing is going to be left once all the elders go. What Aboriginal culture is going to be left alive?

– Dawn Bradbrook, resident of Mutitjulu, wife of a senior traditional owner, Lateline, June 21, 2006

WITH THE EXCEPTION of experienced native title and land rights practitioners, and a small number of anthropologists, Aboriginal customary law is not well understood. There is little real understanding of how the violent abuse by Aboriginal men of women and children has reached such stomach-churning ferocity and regularity. The use of customary law as a defence by legal counsel representing Aboriginal rapists and murders is the truly offensive insult to Aboriginal culture and people.

Aboriginal society is sliding into a terminal state of under-development. While the crisis intensifies, the rhetoric is generally symbolic. There has been heated discussion about ‘practical’ versus ‘symbolic’ reconciliation – some argue for one but not the other, some claim we can have both. Others, including my friend and colleague Noel Pearson, director of the Cape York Institute for Leadership and Policy, understand that this is a false dichotomy, and that there is a ‘radical centre’ in which both practical and symbolic aspects of the problem of Aboriginal under-development and its history are implicated.

There are those who cling to ideas of reconciliation and still hope that recognition of Aboriginal culture will save them, their own kin are dying too young as a result of illness, alcohol and drug-fuelled violence and suicide. On the other side, neo-conservatives steal Pearson’s ideas and impose punitive measures on entire populations trapped in alcohol and substance dependency, deprive them of economic capability and subject them to a miserable, violence-ridden existence on the margins.

While Patrick Dodson and others cling to ideas of reconciliation and plead for recognition of the culture they hold dear the rhetoric remains much as it was twenty years ago, with a focus on ‘unfinished business’, ‘cultural identity’ and ‘honest talk’ and this soft, essentially meaningless tirade of euphemisms and metaphors is pitted against the hard politics of community life.

I was present at the first meeting at the Gumatj settlement at Dhaniya in Arnhem Land when the former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and his adviser, Russell Patterson came to discuss Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s objections to the legislation and the intervention. On the verandah of his house on the shores of the bright blue sea of Port Bradshaw, Yunupingu and Brough talked as Pearson and I listened. Yunupingu spoke about his never-ending responsibilities to care for family members who failed to make the shift from dependency to self– sufficiency. He did not discuss money in his dealings with the men from Canberra. At the next meeting, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Peter Shergold visited Gunyangara as well. No strings were attached and there was no coercion, as the red, black and yellow warriors alleged, assuming that this man could be manipulated. Yunupingu himself had worked out the clever solution to the land problem which he set out in a Memorandum of Understanding. But as he has said in later interviews, he wanted services for his community on an equal basis to the rest of Australia and was thinking about his obligation to people who knock on his door night after night asking for food for their hungry children.

At the time of Dodson’s criticism of this agreement in a speech at the Brunswick Town Hall on October 12, he did not know that Yunupingu had also proposed a referendum to recognise Indigenous rights in the Constitution. Pearson, who had convinced Howard of the need for a referendum on Aboriginal rights, sought to warn Dodson, before his speech that there was much more at stake than had been reported.

A fortnight after Dodson’s address, Yunupingu confronted opponents of the intervention in a lecture at the University of Melbourne Law School on October 26. He appealed for realpolitik. He does not regard reconciliation as a process, but considers it will come about as a result of argument, negotiation and agreement, when both parties meet as equals, neither asking special favours of the other: ‘Reconciliation does not come about because we agree to sit down and talk. Reconciliation only comes about when we have talked and reached an understanding. It is at the end of that process, when we shake hands and go off into our day-to-day lives. That is when we are reconciled; reconciliation does not come just from turning up to a meeting place.’

Yunupingu explained his decision to sign the memorandum to resolve his opposition to the five year lease imposed over the Gunyangara township by the legislation. His solution was a simple, elegant one that overcame the potential human rights abuse of the compulsory acquisition provisions in the new statute: the Gumatj Association, a corporation of traditional owners, would issue the lease. Three months earlier, Dodson had argued in The Age:

A more effective proposal [than the intervention] would be to transfer community settlements to the Northern Territory Government under a ninety-nine-year lease arrangement. This transfer would enable the delivery of a wide range of citizenship services to Indigenous communities while providing a development approach for housing investment. It would also seek to offer a long-term vision for a partnership with Indigenous communities where they would be given an increased role and responsibility over their lives and futures. In such a possibility, and in such a vision, sexual abuse, violence and dysfunction within Indigenous communities where they would be given an increased role and responsibility over their lives and futures …

After two weeks of intense negotiations, Yunupingu achieved all of this and kept control of his land. At the same time, he was successful in setting the Howard government on an unexpected course towards constitutional reform and economic empowerment, which is unlikely to be repeated.

IT MIGHT APPEAR that the divide between Aboriginal people in the northern and remote areas and those in the big southern cities has never been starker. This is true to an extent. Ad hominem attacks were rare when we tackled amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1987, the Native Title Act in 1993, and again in 1997. When they did erupt, they came from Aboriginal people with well-known personal agendas. We dismissed them as self-serving, their rhetoric aimed to please an ineffectual crowd of followers.

This time, the harsh, personal attacks have some intellectual content, and however shallow, cannot be ignored. The disinformation, lies, slander and defamation revolve around several assumptions: that John Howard ‘wedged’ us and we were naïve victims of electoral politics; that financial or other inducements were offered to benefit us personally; that we were coerced into adopting the positions that we have publicly expressed. None of these is true. They are easy to disprove. But the court of public opinion is a kangaroo court, not one amenable to facts.

The day after Yunupingu’s Melbourne address, Joel Gibson reported breathlessly in the Sydney Morning Herald that the prime minister had driven a wedge between prominent Aboriginal activists over the intervention. There are, as some journalists are delighted to report, two camps on these matters, one concerned with symbolic outcomes and the other with the practical. In reality, the two camps are divided by historical issues: those who have lived through the many tragedies and their aftermath in remote Australia committed to preventing the destruction of their societies in a haze of alcohol and drug abuse; and those with cosmopolitan urban experience who have allowed libertarian leanings, and deep political disappointment, to confuse their logic. Whether the motives of the latter group were a general suspicion of John Howard, hatred of his government’s record or motivated by a genuine concern for the fate of the children is difficult to determine from the public record.

There are critics with a genuine concern about the extent and implementation of the intervention and the achievement of its stated outcomes, including prominent residents of remote communities, but their response has been to support the intervention and advocate measures to ensure its sustainability. To understand the false dichotomy in which ‘reconciliation’ politics were pitted against the steps needed for Aboriginal economic development, it is helpful to examine a few ideas that may turn the tide of misery.

A sustained critique, analysis and body of evidence have been launched at this alcohol and drug-fuelled disaster over the past decade by Noel Pearson. The virility of the opposition to the solutions developed by the Cape York Institute is testament to the self-deluding ideology to which Pearson’s opponents cling. They ignore the unassailable facts in hundreds of impoverished Aboriginal communities across remote Australia: radically shortened lives; the highest national rates of unemployment; widespread violence, endemic alcohol and substance abuse; the lowest national levels of education; and lifelong morbidity for hapless citizens suffering from heart disease, nutrition and lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes.

In Griffith REVIEW 16: Unintended Consequences Pearson set out the main contributors to the ‘descent into hell’ of Aboriginal society four decades after the 1967 referendum recognised our citizenship: removal of Aboriginal stock workers to the fringes of towns; increasing dependence of welfare and an unfettered right to alcohol. He showed how policy changes to remove economic discrimination, improve access to social welfare and ensure that Indigenous Australians had equal rights had damaging consequences.

I came to the same conclusions almost two decades ago. My own research and investigation alerted me to three additional contributing factors driving some communities into the inner circles of hell: illicit drugs, other addictive substances and pornography – all imported into Aboriginal communities since the 1970s. Along with the ‘rivers of grog’ and the debilitating alienation that results from permanent unemployment, they have helped cripple many in the Aboriginal population, and ‘very high rates’ of cannabis use contribute to the epidemic of suicide.

Illicit drugs had a similar impact on black American communities following the civil rights movement. There, the pandemic of illegal drugs brought drug wars, communities bristling with arms, high death tolls and the disintegration of community life, although zero tolerance policies stalled these trends in some places.

The impact of illicit drugs and substances on Aboriginal communities over the last thirty years cannot be under-estimated. Along with the flood of pornography, their contribution to the present disaster demands more than the present intervention can deliver. Gambling also demands urgent attention. In most remote communities, men and women huddle in circles, throwing their money into the ‘pot’, to be lost or won on a single card. Almost all of a community’s income can disappear overnight.

It is these practices – violent anti-social behaviour, excessive and harmful use of drugs, alcohol and other substances, use of pornography (especially in the presence of minors), gambling, and the resultant neglect of family life and children – that Pearson is targeting with his campaign for personal responsibility. Former Health Minister Tony Abbott was right when he said, ‘There is much evidence that the extremes of Indigenous ill-health result from social conditions that no amount of improvement in health services can ever really deal with … Nanette Rogers’ account of the routine sexual abuse of children and horrific violence against women was, as she said, "beyond most people’s comprehension". Aboriginal people’s incapacity to address these issues was, she speculated, the result of constantly being overtaken by new tragedy: "It might be the suicide, it might be the fatal car accident, it might be the death of the twenty-year-old from heart disease, because of diet, failure to thrive, lots of grog, petrol or whatever. All of those tragedies … overtake a community," she said. "So yes, it was a dreadful thing that the six-year-old was anally penetrated and killed but then something new takes its place within a very short time."‘

To expect that people who reel from one traumatic event to another can enjoy the much-lauded Aboriginal ‘rights to self-determination’ while their own community and the larger society repeatedly fail them is an indulgent fantasy. It is also an indulgent fantasy to require ‘consultation’ before intervening to prevent crimes being committed.

It is not just the historical and continuing exclusion from the economy, or lack of intergenerational capital, or vicious governments, but the practices of Aboriginal people themselves that transform mere poverty into a living hell. Australia is enjoying an economic boom driven by the rocketing demand for raw materials, but Aboriginal people – who live in areas from which many of these minerals are extracted – are spiralling into permanent poverty and marginalisation.

WHILE WRITING THIS ESSAY, I appealed to the newly-elected Rudd government to continue the Emergency Intervention and maintain the strategies most likely to stop the horrors that plague Aboriginal communities. In response I was pilloried by Aboriginal people who responded with letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald with sentimental, blame-shifting nonsense. These were later posted on the webpage of Women for Wik, a group of high profile women supporting ‘Aboriginal rights’ who seem, despite extraordinary levels of education and achievement in public life, to be misinformed and misled about the nature of the crisis.

Then on December 10, 2007 another heart-breaking tragedy was reported by Tony Koch: the rape of a ten-year-old Wik girl in Aurukun by three adult and six juvenile Wik males which was treated by the Queensland criminal justice system as barely a cause for concern. District Court judge Sarah Bradley expressed utter contempt for the girl and basic norms of humanity when she imposed twelve-month probation orders, and failed to record a conviction against any of the nine who had pleaded guilty. After all that has been said about the far too many cases like this that end up before the courts, and many, many more that are never reported, it was almost more than I could bear to read Bradley’s sickening statements that this child ‘probably agreed’ to have sex with them.

As is so typical in such cases, several of the nine are from the ruling families of Aurukun where anti-social behaviour, which varies from day to day only in its intensity and detrimental outcomes, is called ‘riots’. If the dysfunctional behaviour was merely riots, rather than murder, rape, incest, assault, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, then there would be no justification for the recommendations over the years to end welfare payments without conditions and government funding without positive outcomes. It would be a fair bet that each of the adults who pleaded guilty to raping this child was receiving a government payment, leading to the conclusion that dysfunctional Aboriginal behaviour is financially supported by government funding.

It is justifiable to conclude that an apartheid regime has been created wherever Aboriginal communities are quarantined by remoteness, welfare dependence, a racist criminal justice system and government officials who entrench this expensive social pathology with dysfunctional policies. The most disgusting of these is judicial leniency in sentencing Aboriginal murderers and rapists. This rewards serial rapists and murderers. Instead of jail sentences that would apply to anyone else, they are freed often after a laughable lecture, or sent to a prison where living conditions are often better than in the communities they come from. They are released into the same communities where their crimes were committed and recidivism takes on a special meaning: the younger sisters or cousins of their original victims are the next in line to be raped.

I have two questions for the Women for Wik (and the cowardly men who hide behind their skirts): what suggestions do you have that could prevent incidents like this that took place in the heart of Wik country? And, will you now cease using the name of the once proud Wik people, who now endure a vicious, violent and miserable existence thanks to the failed sentimental policies you advocate?

IT SEEMS ALMOST axiomatic to most Australians that Aborigines should be marginalised: poor, sick, and forever on the verge of extinction. At the heart of this idea is a belief in the inevitability of our incapability – the acceptance of our ‘descent into hell’. This is part of the cultural and political wrong-headedness that dominates thinking about the role of Aboriginal property rights and economic behaviour in the transition from settler colonialism to modernity.

In this mindset, the potential of an economically empowered, free-thinking, free-speaking Aborigine has been set to one side because it is more interesting to play with the warm, cuddly cultural Aborigine – the one who is so demoralised that the only available role is as a passive player. The dominance of the ‘reconciliation and justice’ rhetoric in the Australian discourse on Aboriginal issues is a part of this.

The first Australians are simply seeking relief from poverty and economic exclusion. Yet, in the last three decades, rational thinking and sound theory (such as development economics) to address the needs of Indigenous societies have been side-tracked into the intellectual dead-end of the ‘culture wars’. This has had very little to do with Aboriginal people, but everything to do with white settlers positioning themselves around the central problem of their country: can a settler nation be honourable? Can history be recruited to the cause of Australian nationalism without reaching agreement with its first peoples?

Paradoxically, even while Aboriginal misery dominates the national media frenzy – the perpetual Aboriginal reality show – the first peoples exist as virtual beings without power or efficacy in the national zeitgeist. Political characters played by ‘Aboriginal leaders’ pull the levers that draw settler Australians to them in a co-dependent relationship. The rhetoric of reconciliation is a powerful drawcard – like the bearded woman at the old sideshow. It is a seductive, pornographic idea, designed for punters accustomed to viewing Aborigines as freaks. It almost allows ‘the native’ some agency and a future. I say ‘almost’ because, in the end, ‘the native’ is not allowed out of the show, forever condemned to perform to attract crowds. The debate that has surrounded the Emergency Intervention has been instructive. It has exposed this co-dependency. It has also revealed a more disturbing, less well-understood fault-line in the Aboriginal world. The co-dependents in the relationship seek to speak for the abused, the suffering, the ill, the dying and those desperately in need who have been left alone to descend into a living hell while those far removed conduct a discourse on rights and culture.

The bodies that have piled up over the last thirty years have become irrelevant, except where they serve the purposes of the ‘culture war’. But in the meantime, the bodies of real people continue to pile up, human lives broken on the wheel of suffering. How much longer will this abuse of Aboriginal people be tolerated? ♦

Voir de plus:

Don’t let facts spoil the day

Keith Windschuttle

The Australian

February 09, 2008

IF the Rudd Government apologises to the Stolen Generations it should not stop at mere words.

It should pay a substantial sum in compensation. This was the central recommendation of the Human Rights Commission’s Bringing Them Home report in 1997.

The charge that justified this, the report said, was genocide. This allegedly took place from the 1910s until the late ’60s right across Australia. In some parts of the commonwealth it was still going on in the ’80s.

None of the politicians who plan to apologise next Wednesday can avoid the term genocide. It is embedded in the very meaning of the phrase "Stolen Generations".

Bringing Them Home found indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes so they could be raised separately from and ignorant of their culture and people.

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The ultimate purpose, it claimed, was to endthe existence of the Aborigines as a distinct people.

Bringing Them Home claimed "not one indigenous family has escaped the effects of forcible removal". Hence it recommended that virtually every person in Australia who claimed to be an Aborigine was entitled to a substantial cash handout. The Bruce Trevorrow case in South Australia provided a benchmark for what that sum should be, a minimum of $500,000.

The Aboriginal population today numbers almost 500,000, living in about 100,000 families. Those who are serious about an apology should back it with a lump sum payment of $500,000 to each family, a total of $50 billion. Only an amount on this scale can legitimately compensate for such a crime and satisfy the grievances of activists such as Lowitja O’Donohue and Michael Mansell.

The parliament cannot take those bits of Bringing Them Home it finds congenial and ignore the rest. The report’s logic is impeccable. If children really were systematically removed to end the existence of Aborigines asa distinct people, then the crime was definitely genocide. As Raymond Gaita has argued, quite accurately, if Bringing Them Home is a true account, the crime of genocide is "over-determined".

There is no doubt that the majority of Aboriginal people today believe the Stolen Generations story is true. If parliament agrees with them, but fails to offer compensation, it will reduce next week’s apology to a politically expedient piece of insincerity that yet again humiliates Aborigines by showing we do not take their most deeply-felt grievances seriously. It is also worth observing that by apologising, the Rudd Government will go a long way towards demolishing one of the Labor Party’s strongest calls on loyalty: its sense that it alone offers a historical progression towards "the light on the hill". One thing the university historians who first established this story kept largely to themselves was that the major pieces of relevant legislation were all passed by Labor governments.

In NSW, the 1915 Aborigines Protection Amending Act, which allowed the Aborigines Protection Board to remove children without recourse to a hearing before a magistrate, was the work of the first Labor government in the state headed by James McGowen and W.A.Holman. The Act’s 1943 amendment, which allowed Aboriginal children to be fostered out to non-indigenous families, was introduced by the Labor government of William McKell, one of his party’s favourite sons who later served as governor-general.

In Western Australia, the 1936 Act that historians claim allowed A.O.Neville to implement his policy of "breeding out the colour" was the product of the Labor governments of Phillip Collier and John C.Willcock. By apologising, Kevin Rudd and his colleagues will be effectively trashing the reputations of their party’s predecessors.

The problem with the Bringing Them Home report is not its logic, but its facts. As regards NSW, the story of the Stolen Generations was largely formed in 1981 by the historian Peter Read, then of the Australian National University (now at the University of Sydney). Read’s work had an enormous influence on Aboriginal communities by saying institutionalised children had not been failed by alcoholic parents who neglected to provide them with food and shelter.

It was all the work of the white man, of faceless white bureaucrats who wanted to eliminate the Aborigines.

Bringing Them Home did no original research of its own in NSW. Instead, it relied upon Read’s writings. It quoted verbatim his claim that the files on individual children removed by the Aborigines Protection Board confirmed his case: "Some managers cut a long story short when they came to that part of the committal notice ‘Reason for board taking control of the child’. They simply wrote ‘for being Aboriginal’."

If it’s pretended this was commonplace, however, it is a serious misrepresentation. In a debate with Read last year at the History Teachers Association’s annual conference, I asked him how many files bore those words. He confessed to the audience there were only two. When I investigated the same batch of 800 files in the NSW archives, I found there was only one. Its words were "Being an Aboriginal". There were two others with the single word "Aboriginal".

I also found that, although popular songs and the Bringing Them Home report gave the distinct impression that most children were removed when they were babies or toddlers, there were hardly any in this category. The archive files on which Read relied show that between 1907 and 1932, the NSW authorities removed only seven babies aged less than 12 months, and another 18 aged less than two years. Fewer than one-third of the children removed in this period were aged less than 12 years. Almost all were welfare cases, orphans, neglected children (some severely malnourished), and children who were abandoned, deserted and homeless.

The other two-thirds were teenagers, 13 to 17 years old. The reason they were removed was to send them off to be employed as apprentices. In reality, the NSW Labor governments were not stealing children but offering youths the opportunity to get on-the-job training, just like their white peers in the same age groups.

Read knew these Aboriginal youths were being apprenticed, though he never admitted they constituted the great majority of those removed. He claimed the authorities regarded them as stupid and consigned them to degrading jobs: the boys to agricultural work and the girls to domestic service. But at the time, this is where most white Australians were also employed. These were the two biggest single employment categories for men and women. The government was not asking Aborigines to take occupations any more onerous or demeaning than those of hundreds of thousands of their white countrymen.

Moreover, these teenagers were not removed permanently, as the charge of genocide infers. The majority of them returned home to their families when they turned 18 and their apprenticeship was complete. The archival records show this clearly, and Read found the same when in the ’80s he recorded a little-publicised oral history of the Wiradjuri people.

Yet in 2002 he could still claim publicly: "Welfare officers, removing children solely because they were Aboriginal, intended and arranged that they should lose their Aboriginality and that they never return home."

There is another very good reason why it was not the policy of the government to remove Aboriginal children from their parents: it wanted them to go to school. It pursued this objective with both action and money.

The NSW Department of Public Instruction constructed schoolhouses and employed schoolteachers on all the 21 Aboriginal stations set up between 1893 and 1917. It also provided schools and teachers on any of the 115 Aboriginal reserves that had enough children of school-going age to justify it.

On those reserves where there were not enough children to warrant a dedicated school, the Aborigines Protection Board insisted they must go to the local public school. In the early years, it tried to coerce Aboriginal parents into sending their children to school by withholding rations if they failed to do this. In its later years, it organised for all Aboriginal children to have a hot midday meal at school.

In contrast, in the ’20s and ’30s, there were only three welfare institutions in NSW designated for Aboriginal children. One at Bomaderry housed 25 infants to 10-year-olds, the second at Cootamundra accommodated 50 girls aged up to 13 years, and the third at Kinchela housed 50 boys aged up to 13 years.

At about the same time, about 2800 Aboriginal children in NSW lived at home with their parents and attended public schools.

The 125 places at the welfare institutions represented a mere 4.5 per cent of all the places provided for Aborigines at public schools. On these grounds alone, no one can argue that the government was conducting a systematic program to destroy Aboriginality by stealing children from their families. A similar ratio of schools to welfare institutions operated in most other states, where the same conclusion deserves to be drawn.

In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the two greatest villains in this story were A.O.Neville and Cecil ‘Mick’ Cook. Both publicly endorsed a program to "breed out the colour" with the ultimate aim of biologically absorbing the Aboriginal people into the white population.

This was an obnoxious policy that well deserved Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Neville as a fastidious, obsessive bureaucrat in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence.

However, it was also a policy that had only a minor focus on children. It was primarily concerned with controlling Aboriginal marriage and cohabitation patterns in order to foster the rapid assimilation of part-Aborigines. To define the policy as part of the Stolen Generations thesis is a mistake. In any case, it was almost a complete failure.

In the ’30s, marriages arranged by these administrators totalled less than 10 a year. Neville proved as inept at rounding up children as he did at match-making. The Moseley royal commission recorded in 1935 that over three years, the one government settlement in the state’s south at Moore River took in only 64 unattended children. This was out of a total Aboriginal population in the state of 19,000. It was less than 1 per cent of all Aboriginal children in the state. Neville dealt with handfuls of children, not generations.

The only successful program from this era was the NSW Aboriginal apprenticeship system, which operated from the 1880s to the 1940s. It provided real jobs and skills and gave young Aborigines a way out of the alcohol-soaked, handout-dominated camps and reserves of their parents. Indeed, it is a policy that could well be revived today to rescue children from the sexual assault and substance abuse prevalent in the remote communities.

If Rudd led a real Labor Government, he would be more concerned about emulating the down-to-earth policies devised by his party’s predecessors among the old cream of the working class than pandering to the misinterpretations of the recent academic historians who created this issue.

Keith Windschuttle’s The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Two will be published later this year.

Voir enfin:

Genocide in Australia?

Lucas Marie

Thinking out loud

In the 2001 edition of the academic journal Aboriginal History, editors Ann Curthoys and John Docker wrote:

“Settler-colonies in ‘Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, the United States, and Canada’ led the way in setting out to achieve what the Nazis also set out to achieve…

the displacement of indigenous populations and their replacement by incoming peoples held to be racially superior.”

The question which I will try to discuss is:

“Should we classify the events of what happened to the indigenous Australian population, from the colonization of Australia, as Genocide?”

The definition of genocide over the past 67 years has adapted and changed and therefore the definition is often contested amongst academics. When a country or state is accused of genocide it’s no light accusation and various opinions are voiced to dispute the interpretation and details of the events. Perhaps this may be because of the many contrasting definitions, or maybe as genocide is such a strong and negative label no country would lightly accept it.

To be categorized with other groups such as: Hitlers Germany, Pol Pots Cambodia and the Hutu’s Rwanda is seen as a terrible blight on ones country, and not many proud Australians would like to see us in this group.

So then, what can we say is or is not genocide?

The United Nations convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide (and I quote from Article 2) as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Such as;

Killing members of the group

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group

Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

(Nations, 1948)

Now anyone with some historical knowledge of the colonization of Australia might have had some alarm bells going off when hearing some of these points. I did. However Yehuda Bauer, a leading authority on the Holocaust, argues that the definition in the Genocide Convention contains a fundamental flaw. This flaw she says

“Is the failure to distinguish between policies which aim at cultural suppression and those which seek to achieve their ends through physical destruction”

This to me means that the intention if whether or not a group means to wipe out another groups matters. If the intention is to force another group to assimilate to their culture, (i.e Colonizaion) That this should be thought separately and not just under the one label being Genocide. (Markus 2001, p2)

Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University agrees with Bauer, that the current definition of genocide is too broad and policies of assimilation are being labeled as genocide which he thinks is incorrect. He defines genocide as;

“The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its partial physical destruction and including selective mass killing.”

Under this definition Should Australia be labeled as genocide? Historian Keith Windschuttle in his book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History writes that Australia should not be guilty of Genocide, but perhaps the lesser crime of Ethnocide which Markus defines as;

“The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by suppression of its culture, language, and religion, but stopping short of physical destruction.”

I’m not too sure that Australia’s colonial history fits entirely into Markus’s definition of Ethnocide. We often think of the Aborigines as one ethnic group, but in fact they are made up of various ethnic groups, who have had vastly different experiences. For sure some of the crimes against some Indigenous groups could be argued to be Ethnocide and not Genocide, but perhaps not all of them.

In his 2001 article “Genocide in Australia”, he compares the experience Indigenous Australians endured from the British, and the experience the Jewish peoples had with the Nazis during the second world War. He concludes that the Jewish people endured not only genocide but the more extreme crime of “Holocaust” which he writes is

“The attempt to bring about the disappearance of an ethnic or racial group by deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its total physical destruction and including killing all members of the group.” (Markus 2001, p5)

I’m sure many people would agree that what happened to the Jew’s in World War Two was different to what happened to Aboriginal Australians from the British. If this is true then is it right that the term Genocide be given to both accounts?

the governments official position on this issue is that what happened to the Indigenous populations during Australia’s colonization was not and should not be called genocide, but was in fact a by-product of colonialism from a time where the western world was ignorant to the cultural ideologies of indigenous peoples.

In December 1992 Paul Keating was the first Prime Minister to publically admit the terrible crimes of Australia’s past. He said:

“It begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion” (Polya, 2008)

This message was not humbly accepted by all Australians. Keith Windschuttle refers to the colonization as a hard step towards “progress. He was actually opposed to the Apology Kevin Rudd gave back in 2008. He says

“The apology confirmed Aboriginal people’s core identity as victims of injustice, rather than potential beneficiaries like everyone else of the prosperous, liberal, democratic, egalitarian society. Which was established here since 1788.” (Windschuttle, 2010)

Funny he should call it an egalitarian society established in 1788. I’m not sure that it was for Indigenous Australians, or the majority of women for that matter. Windschuttle thinks that the apology confirms aborigines as victims and perhaps they are! I would argue that the apology is an important step forward in allowing the victims of injustices to move forward.

Professor Colin Tatz is an Australian scholar who is well known for his writings on Genocide studies. His thinks the Australian governments avoidance of the word Genocide is ridiculous. He says,

“They talk about pacifying, killing, cleansing, excluding, exterminating, starving, poisoning, shooting, beheading, sterilizing, exiling, removing – but, avoid the term genocide. Are they ignorant of genocide theory and practice? Or simply reluctant to taint “the land of the fair go” with so heinous and disgracing a label?” (Tatz, 1999)

If our history fits UN’s definition of genocide, then why don’t we call it as it is?

The he biggest killer of Indigenous Australians was the introduction of many diseases from the arriving convicts and settlers. Diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, tuberculosis, whooping cough, influenza, pneumonia, measles and venereal disease seriously depleted Aboriginal numbers on the continent. The numbers of deaths purely from disease is unknown. However the combination of disease, loss of land and direct violence are estimated to have reduced the Aboriginal population by around 90% between the years 1788 and 1900.

What is contested on this issue, is whether or not these Disease’s were deliberately exposed to the Aboriginals‘ as an act of extermination. Colin Tatz wrote:

“it is likely that infection of the Aborigines was a deliberate exterminating act as no one has yet refuted this hypothesis.” (Tatz, 1999)

Keith Windschuttle disputes this argument. He wonders if the soldiers and settlers even understand enough about “Germ Theory” to know how to spread diseases? And Wouldn’t it have spread purely by making contact with them? A point that has been widely documented is that during the early decades of colonial history, Australian governments had said that they looked forward to a date when Australia would one day be racially pure, home only to the White race. (We all know the time in German history where this sort of racist dogma was also used)

When disease struck the Aborigines, it was thought that they would all eventually die-out. Governments did not actively facilitate this by performing mass killings, but little money and effort was used for aboriginal peoples needs. So, can disease be considered a form of genocide?? Well it depends.. some scholars like Markus say the “killings must be deliberate to be considered as genocide”. So it depends on whether or not the disease was introduced deliberately. Others like Matthew Storey argue that “genocide does not require malice”. I think this is a good point because although the Nazi’s performed terrible crimes, they didn’t think that they were evil people or that what they were doing was evil. They thought they were doing good and believed they had a sacred duty to the world to get rid of the Jews.

For those of you who don’t know what the Stolen generation means here a quick summary. During the early 1900’s there was lots of racial discrimination against aboriginals. Not that I’m saying there isn’t any today as there still is. Though it was much worse during this time, and not only did they not care much about them, but people thought that aboriginals were eventually going to die out from disease. In 1909 an Act called “the Aborigines Protection Act” gave the government the right to take Aboriginal children from their families. In 1915, an amendment to the Act gave the government more power and allowed them to remove any child without parental consent and without a court order.

(The Stolen Generations, 2010)

It’s not known precisely how many Aboriginal children were taken away between 1909 and 1969. And because of poor record keeping many Indigenous people could never find their original family members. Their origins, and their history has in a sense been stolen from them. Hence the term “Stolen Generation”. Almost every Aboriginal family has been affected in some way by the policies of child removal. It’s said that taking children from their families was one of the most devastating practices of Australia’s colonization and it’s had profound repercussions for many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. (The Stolen Generations, 2010) In 1909, C. F. Gale, the Chief Protector in Western Australia, wrote;

“He would not hesitate for one moment to separate any half-caste from its Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring”

And in 1905 W.E Roth , the Chief Protector of Aboriginals in Queensland said;

“In his view if left to themselves, the half-caste girls became prostitutes and the boys cattle thieves“

(Jones, 2002)

This is the sort of racist rhetoric said by government officials during this time and as I’ve said before their ignorance has negatively affected future generations. They came up with many reasons for why they did this, and much of it is contested, most of the reasons involved the protection of children who they said were being abused by their Aboriginal families.

So, The Stolen Generation as genocide?? Well under the United Nation’s definition it seems everything we know about the Stolen Generation fits there definition of genocide. Then why isn’t it called genocide?

Keith Windschuttle says the “so called story” of the Stolen generations of Aboriginal children, is a myth which was invented by left-wing academics. His conclusion is that the charge of genocide is unwarranted and so is the term stolen generations. He writes:

“Aboriginal children were never removed from their families in order to put an end to Aboriginality or, indeed, to serve any improper government policy or program. The small numbers of Aboriginal child removals in the twentieth century were almost all based on traditional grounds of child welfare” (Corr, 2002)

He argues that Aboriginal Mothers voluntarily gave their children to the government so that they could have an education which would give them a better chance at life. He does agree that the laws back then were different for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, however he says that the policies to remove children from their parents were the same for black and white families. That if a child experienced violence, sexual abuse, was abandoned, etc then they were removed and this wasn’t based on the families race.

His other reason for the accusation of Genocide being unwarranted is that the United Nations Convention on Genocide, Article 2, defines acts of genocide as those “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. And half-castes (people of mixed race) did not constitute any such group. He says in some places half-castes were treated as Aboriginals and in others they weren’t and that because of this, the accusation of genocide is not consistent and therefore not valid. (Corr, 2002)

I’m not too sure about Windschuttle conclusion, although it’s well known that they did target children of mixed descent, it was believed that these Aboriginal children could be assimilated more easily into white society because of their mixed race. I think that if this can’t be classified as genocide, then it at least warrants the crime of Ethnocide which I defined earlier.

Was genocide committed in Australia? The answer rests largely on the definition used. Even though this isn’t included in the UN’s definition, maybe one of the reasons why what happened to the Indigenous peoples has not been widely acknowledged is because it did not occur in one place at one time. But rather over many years in many different locations across Australia. This is quite unlike many other famous examples of genocide.

I have argued that the labels of ‘ethnocide’ and ‘genocide’ could be given to certain events in the history, however do you think that path is worth going down? Some scholars would say absolutely not, Others say yes and are desperately trying to have it recognized as Genocide. What do you think?

References

“The Stolen Generations.” (2010), http://www.racismnoway.com.au/teaching-resources/factsheets/52.html.

Anonymous. “Australia’s Stolen Generations.” (2006), http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/stolen-generations.html.

Corr, Robert. “Australia’s Genocidal Past.” Keith Windschuttle, denialism and the truth of the whole (2002), http://www.redrag.net/uploads/genocide.pdf.

Hinton, Alexander Laban. Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. London: University of California Press, 2002.

Image. Colin Tatz: playthegame.org, 2005.

Jones, Adrian. “Debates on ‘Genocide’ in Australian History.” (2002), http://hyperhistory.org/images/assets/pdf/genpdf.pdf.

Markus, Andrew. “Genocide in Australia.” Aboriginal History 25 (2001): 57-69.

Nations, United. “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” (1948), http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html.

Polya, Dr Gideon. “Australian Aboriginal Genocide Continues Despite Historic Apology.” (2008), http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190208.htm.

Tatz, Colin. “Genocide in Australia.” Genocide Research 1, no. 3 (1999): 315-52.

Wikipedia. “Definitions of Genocide.” Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definitions_of_genocide.

Windschuttle, Keith. “Why There Were No Stolen Generations.” (2010), http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2010/1-2/why-there-were-no-stolen-generations

Voir par ailleurs:

Walkabout

un film de Nicolas Roeg

Critique de film

L’histoire

Deux enfants occidentaux assistent au suicide de leur père et sont ainsi abandonnés dans le bush australien. Survivant tant bien que mal dans le désert hostile, ils rencontrent un jeune aborigène en plein « walkabout », cette errance initiatique rituelle.

Analyse et critique

Pour sa première réalisation en solitaire (1), Nicolas Roeg, déjà notoirement réputé dans le milieu du cinéma britannique comme monteur, caméraman ou surtout directeur de la photographie, se rendit en Australie pour y adapter (avec le dramaturge Edward Bond, auteur d’un traitement d’une quinzaine de pages) le roman The Children, écrit sous le pseudonyme de James Vance Marshall par Donald G. Payne. Si la grande ligne directrice de l’intrigue de ce roman de littérature jeunesse est conservée par Roeg et Bond (deux enfants perdus dans le bush rencontrent un adolescent aborigène en plein « walkabout »), l’esprit en est lui substantiellement modifié. En effet, comme son titre original l’indique, le roman de Marshall s’attarde avant tout sur le parcours initiatique des deux enfants, livrés à eux-même suite à un accident d’avion, et qui apprennent grâce à leur impromptu guide à découvrir les dangers et les trésors de la nature pour y survivre. L’essentiel du film est manifestement ailleurs, et comme souvent, les intentions se révèlent dans les différences voulues par les adaptateurs : alors que la société « occidentale » est totalement absente du roman, elle encercle le film de Nicolas Roeg par un prologue et un épilogue signifiants. ; de plus, les enfants ne se retrouvent pas seuls dans le désert par « accident », mais s’y trouvent abandonnés par le suicide de leur père ; enfin, alors que les relations avec l’enfant aborigène sont dans le roman essentiellement axées sur l’initiation et la découverte de la nature, le film y ajoute de manière appuyée une dimension « découverte de soi », érotisation des corps et perte de l’innocence comprises. Pour résumer, et avant donc d’entrer dans le détail, il est donc évident que loin du « gentil » périple initiatique imaginé par Marshall, le film de Roeg dresse un dur portrait de la société des hommes, qui détruit et corrompt ses enfants comme ceux qui lui sont étrangers.

Victime durant le 19ème siècle d’une colonisation britannique bien moins pacifique que ce que l’histoire avait dans un premier temps affirmé, le peuple aborigène avait pendant plus d’un siècle subi la main-mise des colons sur ses terres et sur ses enfants. En 1869, une loi fut en effet érigée pour autoriser la saisie d’enfants métisses à des fins d’assimilation complète, la pratique de la langue aborigène leur étant notamment interdite. L’espèce aborigène était considérée par les colons blancs comme étant à éradiquer, et jusqu’en 1928 (et le massacre de Coniston), les expéditions de « représailles » contre ses représentants n’étaient pas rares. Ce n’est qu’au milieu des années 60 que des mouvements sociaux se dressèrent pour défendre les droits des aborigènes, et face à une mobilisation populaire massive, ils furent enfin recensés comme citoyens australiens suite à un référendum de 1967. Simultanément, grâce notamment aux travaux de l’anthropologue William Stanner venant rompre ce « Grand Silence » visant à délibérément les omettre de la mémoire collective australienne, la politique d’ « enlèvement » des enfants aborigènes à leurs familles prend fin en 1970. Lorsque Nicolas Roeg entame son projet, la question de la place des aborigènes dans la société australienne est donc particulièrement d’actualité. Par ailleurs, son film occupe une place importante dans l’histoire du cinéma australien par la manière dont il traite le personnage même de l’aborigène : jusqu’alors, la place qui lui était réservée était limitée à celle du pisteur primitif ou à l’indigène menaçant… et était d’ailleurs la plupart du temps interprété par des comédiens blancs au visage peint. Le fait d’accorder une place aussi essentielle à un protagoniste aborigène (incarné par un comédien lui-même natif) et de consacrer une bonne partie de l’intrigue (ainsi que le titre du film) à un aspect aussi important de leur culture était donc assez révolutionnaire. A ce sujet, laissons l’écrivain-ethnologue Bruce Chatwin nous résumer le principe du Walkabout tel qu’il le décrit dans son indispensable Chant des pistes : « Je ne me souviens pas du moment où j’ai entendu l’expression Walkabout pour la première fois. Mais il m’était resté l’image de ces noirs « civilisés » qui, un jour, travaillaient heureux dans une station d’élevage et qui, le lendemain, sans un signe d’avertissement et sans bonne raison, prenaient leurs cliques et leurs claques et disparaissaient dans la nature. Ils abandonnaient leurs vêtements de travail et partaient ; pendant des semaines, des mois voire des années ; ils traversaient à pied la moitié du continent, parfois uniquement dans le but de rencontrer un homme, puis ils revenaient comme si rien ne s’était passé. »

Pour l’observateur étranger, le walkabout semble, à première vue, une errance mystique liée à une insaisissable culture étrangère. Mais Chatwin entreprend de se le faire expliquer le principe des « itinéraires chantés », ces labyrinthes de sentiers sillonnant le monde. « Les mythes aborigènes de la création parlent d’êtres totémiques légendaires qui avaient parcouru tout le continent au Temps du Rêve. Et c’est en chantant le nom de tout ce qu’ils avaient croisé en chemin — oiseaux, animaux, plantes, rochers, trous d’eau — qu’ils avaient fait venir le monde à l’existence… (…) En théorie, du moins, la totalité de l’Australie pouvait être lue comme une partition musicale. Il n’y avait pratiquement pas un rocher, pas une rivière dans le pays qui ne pouvait être ou n’avait pas été chantée. (…) En amenant le monde à l’existence par le chant, les ancêtres avaient été des poètes dans le sens grec du mot poiêsis, la « création ». Aucun abori¬gène ne pouvait concevoir que le monde créé pût être imparfait. Sa vie religieuse tendait vers un but unique : conserver la terre comme elle était et comme elle devait être. Celui qui partait pour un walkabout accomplissait un voyage rituel. Il mar¬chait dans les pas de son ancêtre. Il chantait les strophes de l’ancêtre sans changer un mot ni une note — et ainsi recréait la création. »

Ce réseau de lignes invisibles faisait également office pour les aborigènes de voies de communication. « Ce que les Blancs avaient l’habitude d’appeler le walkabout, le « voyage à travers le pays » était, en pratique, une sorte de bourse-télégraphe de brousse, qui permettait de faire circuler des messages entre des gens qui ne se voyaient jamais et qui pouvaient mutuellement ignorer leur existence. »

Cette composante culturelle et mystique du voyage des deux enfants, qui dans son illustration flottante permet à Nicolas Roeg de mettre en place un certain nombre de figures qui deviendront récurrentes de son style atypique, n’est cependant pas ce qui semble intéresser le plus le cinéaste, et le moins que l’on puisse dire est que Walkabout, s’il a le mérite de poser un regard sur le peuple aborigène, n’est à son égard ni indulgent ni optimiste. Dans sa description des aborigènes (et personnage principal exclu), le film se concentre ainsi surtout sur deux des travers les plus notoires dans lesquels sont tombés les aborigènes au contact du monde occidental, à savoir l’alcoolisme et le commerce folklorique, avec ces objets manufacturés « genuinely australian ». Walkabout n’est donc pas un film pro-aborigène, et on peut même douter qu’il soit « pro » quoi que ce soit, car là n’est pas son propos : le regard est froid, et oscille entre une forme implacable de darwinisme (l’inadaptation du mode de vie aborigène les voue à la disparition) et une lucidité guère plus complaisante avec la société contemporaine.

Sur le premier point, Roeg ose d’audacieux montages parallèles sur les gestes du chasseur aborigène (en particulier, lors du découpage d’une proie, avec un boucher blanc en action), comme pour montrer la similitude des comportements humains, mais aussi et en conséquence, la désuétude du mode opératoire de l’aborigène. D’ailleurs, vers la fin du film, le chasseur silencieux, traquant sa proie à sa façon patiente et ritualisée, sera interrompu par une jeep de chasseurs blancs venant abattre froidement du gibier à distance avec un fusil à lunettes. L’aborigène, perclus d’incompréhension et de désabusement, ira s’allonger symboliquement au milieu des ossements de ces bêtes abandonnées, avant d’aller mourir lui-même…

Concernant le choc des cultures, lorsque les enfants rencontrent l’aborigène, on croit un instant que la spontanéité et le besoin feront naître entre eux un dialogue plus fort que les mots. Mais si le petit garçon balbutie quelques termes d’aborigène avec fierté, la différence fondamentale qui existe entre eux ne s’effacera jamais, les cloisons demeureront à jamais (un fameux plan en plongée dans la maison abandonnée illustre ceci à merveille, la chorégraphie des mouvements montrant le garçon noir et la fille blanche se croiser sans arriver à jamais se trouver dans la même pièce). Lors de leur première reprise de contact avec le monde occidental, les enfants seront repoussés par un habitant méfiant, qui ne leur ouvrira pas la porte, qui n’écoutera pas leur histoire et qui finira par les chasser, quand bien même son langage est pourtant le même. L’incommunicabilité est inhérente à l’homme, quel qu’il soit, et les cloisons qui nous séparent ne font au fil de nos vies que se renforcer.

Symboliquement, le film s’ouvre donc (et d’ailleurs se clôt aussi) sur un mur, ou plutôt sur un dédale de murs. Les hommes y courent, se croisent sans se voir, se marchent presque dessus… Quand ils lèvent les yeux, leur horizon est bouché par le béton ; quand ils tendent la main, c’est pour toucher des barrières. De l’autre côté du mur, il y a la virginité aride de la nature, dont le fragile silence peut à tout instant être dévoré par l’intrusion humaine : c’est après avoir éteint sa bruyante radio que le père tirera sur sa fille – laquelle radio demeurera longtemps dans le désert le seul lien des enfants avec leur ancien monde – et le petit garçon n’aura ensuite de cesse d’occuper le vide sonore par des chansons ou des histoires. L’homme peut ainsi presque se voir comme un parasite, dévorant l’espace autour de lui, l’asservissant pour y abandonner ses sinistres vestiges (outre ce paysage sublime griffé par un immonde lotissement entraperçu au détour d’un plan, le film est hanté par les sinistres squelettes de voitures, d’usines ou de maisons abandonnées). Il y a de l’amertume sociale dans ce constat, indubitablement. Mais là où le film de Nicolas Roeg devient carrément cruel, c’est qu’il a laissé entrevoir à ses protagonistes un bout de paradis, pour ensuite l’en priver. L’allégorie de la perte de l’innocence liée au passage à l’âge adulte a pris de multiples formes dans l’histoire du cinéma, mais celle-ci possède une force d’autant plus poignante qu’il s’agit d’entrevoir la beauté, l’innocence ou la volupté dans sa forme la plus pure, pour ensuite redescendre froidement dans un monde laid, cynique et matériel. Si l’épilogue – qui alterne le regard évasif de l’enfant devenue femme (et donc à jamais perdue, en quelque sorte), ces murs désormais infranchissables et ce retour en arrière mental vers l’idéal, le tout sur un poème de A. E. Housman évoquant « le pays du bonheur perdu » – est l’irrémédiable point final du film, la séquence-clé en est évidemment le bain nu de la jeune femme dans cette vasque paradisiaque (2), cet instant évanescent où le monde s’offre dans ce qu’il a de meilleur pour mieux ensuite s’enfuir à jamais. Mentionnons également ces mystérieuses phrases, « en français dans le texte », qui encerclent le film : au mystérieux « Faites vos jeux, messieurs dames, s’il vous plaît » ouvrant la première séquence post-générique répond un « Rien ne va plus » en panneau de fin. Evidemment, le film se délecte de l’équivoque sémantique de cette dernière tournure. S’agit-il d’évoquer la société humaine comme un incertain jeu de roulette ? S’agit-il de dire que le monde ne tourne plus rond ? S’agit-il de prétendre qu’il est trop tard pour revenir en arrière ? Ou s’agit-il d’attendre que la boule s’arrête enfin, pour enfin constater le résultat de nos mises aveugles ? On se gardera bien ici d’apporter une réponse formelle à cette énigme.

Autre point majeur de divergence avec le roman de James Vance Marshal, Walkabout insiste également sur le langage des corps et sur la tension érotique qui naît entre la jeune femme et l’aborigène. C’est lors de bousculades très enfantines que Roeg s’attarde pour la première fois sur des points de l’anatomie des protagonistes dont ils semblent alors prendre conscience, par contraste avec la nudité « naturelle » des familles aborigènes montées en parallèle. Par quelques gros plans, Roeg montre la beauté des corps, la sueur sur la peau du jeune noir ou les courbes naissantes de la fille, et la venue de la nuit fait germer une lubricité non encore canalisée dans leurs esprits ; les branches elles-mêmes en viennent à évoquer la rondeur d’un fessier ou le galbe d’une hanche… Plus tard, c’est presque dans un état de transe que le garçon se livrera à une parade nuptiale mortelle pour sa belle effarouchée. Là encore, Nicolas Roeg se confrontait à un important tabou social dans l’idée même d’une sexualité « inter-raciale », d’autant plus qu’il s’agissait, au-delà de primes pulsions adolescentes, de la reconstitution symbolique d’une cellule familiale « originelle » (la mère blanche / le père noir / l’enfant blond). La scène du bain de Jenny Agutter évoquée plus tôt, suit par ailleurs une séquence quasiment indépendante du reste du film montrant une équipe de scientifiques vaguement œuvrer dans le désert, les hommes n’étant concentrés que sur les cuisses ou le décolleté de leur collègue féminine, là encore probablement pour mettre en parallèle les comportements « primitifs » qui animent aussi bien les occidentaux civilisés que les aborigènes adolescents.

Cela a déjà été rapidement évoqué plus tôt, mais en sus de ce érotisme latent, Walkabout est également parcouru par une réelle tension macabre. Dans le roman, la Mort revêtait une dimension éminemment mystique ressentie seulement par le jeune aborigène, qui en venait presque à mourir par auto-persuasion. Dans le film, baigné dans une atmosphère sonore assez lugubre (entre l’instrument traditionnel aborigène, le didgeridoo, et une partition à la limite du psychédélisme de John Barry), la Mort se voit concrétisée par ces deux suicides « inexpliqués » venant encadrer le parcours des enfants. Entre les deux, ceux-ci évoluent dans un cadre assez oppressant quoiqu’à ciel ouvert, la nature n’étant jamais montré comme un havre de paix, mais bien comme un monde menaçant, de violence et de morbidité, où le soleil est un brasier dévorant, où des reptiles rampants s’entre-dévorent et où la minéralité crée d’insurmontables enceintes. La respiration du film est d’ailleurs donnée par des transitions tenant du formulaire de zoologie, qui confèrent à l’œuvre une étrange et insaisissable pulsation. Car évidemment, par l’étroitesse de son dispositif dramatique, Walkabout est un film qui tient tout entier à la force de son montage et de sa mise en scène. Le premier n’est pas dénué d’audace, et alternant d’impertinents montages parallèles avec des transitions inventives (ces pages qui se tournent pour avancer dans l’histoire du petit garçon) vient donner au film son rythme singulier. La seconde, témoignant du passé de photographe de Nicolas Roeg, propose un travail insolite sur la texture, sur les couleurs, sur les cadrages ou sur la lumière, et loin du simple livre d’images (certains plans étant au demeurant assez sublimes), renforce l’étrangeté d’un film à nul autre pareil.

Plus que jamais, Walkabout demeure une œuvre assez unique, porteuse d’un regard singulier et toujours énigmatique (David Gulpilil lui-même a avoué ne pas posséder toutes les clés de son personnage). Plus qu’une simple randonnée donc, une expérience envoûtante sur des routes peu empruntées, entre anthropologie et mysticisme, qui, si elle peut laisser sur le bord de ses chemins de traverse, ne risque pas de laisser son spectateur indifférent.

(1) Performance avait été réalisé en 1968 en collaboration avec le peintre Donald Cammell.

(2) Pour l’actrice Jenny Agutter, adolescente vedette dans son pays à l’époque du tournage, cette scène fut également une sorte de passerelle vers des rôles plus… adultes ; face à son inhibition, Roeg réunit une équipe de tournage la plus réduite possible, invitant ensuite tout le plateau à aller à son tour se baigner nu…


Antichristianisme: British Airways débouté par la Cour européenne pour avoir tenté d’alerter le monde sur l’ultime scandale de la crucifixion (No cross, please, we’re British)

6 février, 2013
Nous, nous prêchons Christ crucifié; scandale pour les Juifs et folie pour les païens. Paul (I Corinthiens 1: 23)
"Dionysos contre le ‘crucifié’ " : la voici bien l’opposition. Ce n’est pas une différence quant au martyr – mais celui-ci a un sens différent. La vie même, son éternelle fécondité, son éternel retour, détermine le tourment, la destruction, la volonté d’anéantir pour Dionysos. Dans l’autre cas, la souffrance, le "crucifié" en tant qu’il est « innocent », sert d’argument contre cette vie, de formulation de sa condamnation.  (…) L’individu a été si bien pris au sérieux, si bien posé comme un absolu par le christianisme, qu’on ne pouvait plus le sacrifier : mais l’espèce ne survit que grâce aux sacrifices humains… La véritable philanthropie exige le sacrifice pour le bien de l’espèce – elle est dure, elle oblige à se dominer soi-même, parce qu’elle a besoin du sacrifice humain. Et cette pseudo-humanité qui s’institue christianisme, veut précisément imposer que personne ne soit sacrifié. Nietzsche
Pour restituer à la crucifixion sa puissance de scandale, il suffit de la filmer telle quelle, sans rien y ajouter, sans rien en retrancher. Mel Gibson a-t-il réalisé ce programme jusqu’au bout ? Pas complètement sans doute, mais il en a fait suffisamment pour épouvanter tous les conformismes. René Girard
Il convient de voir dans les Ecritures judéo-chrétiennes la première révélation complète du pouvoir structurant de la victimisation dans les religions païennes ; quant au problème de la valeur anthropologique de ces Ecritures, il peut et doit être étudié comme un problème purement scientifique, la question étant de savoir si, oui ou non, les mythes deviennent intelligibles, comme je le crois, dès lors qu’on les interprète comme les traces plus ou moins lointaines d’épisodes de persécution mal compris. (…) Ma conclusion est que, dans notre monde, la démythification tire sa force de la Bible. Réponse inacceptable pour ceux qui pensent que tout ce qui risque de placer la Bible sous un jour favorable ne saurait être pris au sérieux par les vrais chercheurs, car il ne peut s’agir que d’une approche religieuse – et donc irrationnelle – qui n’a strictement aucune valeur du point de vue de l’anthropologie. (…) Et pourtant, y a-t-il quelque chose qui soit plus naturel aux chercheurs que de traiter des textes similaires de façon similaire, ne serait-ce que pour voir ce que cela donne ? Un tabou inaperçu pèse sur ce type d’étude comparative. Les tabous les plus forts sont toujours invisibles. Comme tous les tabous puissants, celui-ci est antireligieux, c’est-à-dire, au fond, de nature religieuse. A partir de la Renaissance, les intellectuels modernes ont remplacé les Ecritures judéo-chrétiennes par les cultures anciennes. Puis, l’humanisme de Rousseau et de ses successeurs a glorifié à l’excès les cultures primitives et s’est également détourné de la Bible. Si la lecture que je propose est acceptée, notre vieux système de valeurs universitaires, fondé sur l’élévation des cultures non bibliques aux dépens de la Bible, va devenir indéfendable. Il deviendra clair que le véritable travail de démythification marche avec la mythologie, mais pas avec la Bible, car la Bible elle-même fait déjà ce travail. La Bible en est même l’inventeur : elle a été la première à remplacer la structure victimaire de la mythologie par un thème de victimisation qui révèle le mensonge de la mythologie. René Girard
Si le film avait été projeté avant-guerre en Pologne, il aurait déclenché des pogroms. Meïr Weintrater (directeur de L’Arche)
Pour l’islam (…) j’aime bien leur symbole, le croissant de lune, je le trouve beaucoup plus beau que la croix, peut-être parce qu’il n’a pas quelqu’un de cloué dessus. Pat Condell
Je voulais que le choc provoqué nous fasse reprendre conscience du scandale de quelqu’un cloué sur une croix. Par habitude on n’éprouve plus de réelles émotions face à quelque chose de véritablement scandaleux, la crucifixion. Mgr Jean-Michel di Falco (évêque de Gap)
Mais, à bien y réfléchir, cette représentation est-elle pire que le symbole habituel du Christ sanguinolent sur une croix, les poignées transpercés par des clous, et le torse tranché par une lance ? Le Post
La juridiction du Conseil de l’Europe estime que les tribunaux britanniques, qui ont débouté Nadia Eweida de ses recours contre son employeur, n’ont pas ménagé un juste équilibre entre son désir de manifester sa foi et la volonté de la compagnie d’imposer un code vestimentaire. En clair, que ces tribunaux avaient accordé «trop de poids» au souhait de l’employeur de véhiculer une certaine image de marque. Elle relève également que des employés appartenant à d’autres religions pouvaient au même moment porter un foulard islamique ou un turban sikh… À partir de 2007, quelques mois après le départ de Nadia Eweida, British Airways modifiera sa politique, autorisant finalement des symboles religieux comme l’étoile de David ou la croix. Depuis, l’hôtesse a été réintégrée. Trois autres chrétiens britanniques, qui s’estimaient victimes de discrimination dans leur vie professionnelle, ont en revanche été déboutés. Dans le cas d’une infirmière en gériatrie, Shirley Chaplin, qui se plaignait aussi de ne pouvoir porter sa croix en pendentif durant ses heures de service, les juges de Strasbourg ont estimé que les raisons de sécurité invoquées par l’employeur – notamment le risque de contact du pendentif avec des blessures ouvertes – devaient prévaloir. «Je trouve que les chrétiens sont très marginalisés sur leur lieu de travail, a réagi dans le quotidien The Telegraph Mme Chaplin, qui avait préféré quitter son emploi plutôt que d’enlever sa croix. D’autres croyants peuvent montrer leur foi en arborant certains vêtements ou bijoux au bureau, pas les chrétiens.» Le raisonnement de la cour de Strasbourg a été le même avec Liliane Ladele, officier d’état civil qui refusait de célébrer les partenariats civils entre homosexuels et Gary McFarlane, qui refusait de conseiller les couples gays au sein d’une association de psycho-sexothérapeutes. L’un et l’autre mettaient en avant leur droit à «l’objection de conscience» au nom de leur foi chrétienne. Mais «la politique de leurs employeurs, a souligné la Cour, poursuivait le but légitime de garantir les droits d’autrui, tels que ceux des couples de même sexe, qui sont aussi garantis par la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme». Le Figaro

Attention: un scandale peut en cacher un autre !

British Airways débouté par la Cour européenne pour avoir tenté de rappeler au monde l’ultime scandale de la croix?

En ces temps et ces pays étranges où, nouveau conformisme oblige,  un turban sikh ou un foulard islamique ne provoque pas plus d’émotion qu’un pendentif astrologique …

Mais où après, on s’en souvient, le tollé soulevé par le film hyperréaliste de Mel Gibson sur la Passion du Christ …

Une petite croix au cou peut déchainer l’ire bureaucratique et vous valoir d’être renvoyé de votre emploi (merci Frogs save the Queen)…

Comment ne pas voir, au-delà de l’évidente souffrance de croyants empêchés de vivre leur foi, l’ultime preuve de la remarquable puissance de scandale que semble avoir conservé le christianisme?

Une hôtesse de l’air a gagné le droit de porter sa croix

Stéphane Kovacs

Le Figaro

15/01/2013

La Grande-Bretagne a été condamnée mardi par la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme pour avoir interdit à une hôtesse de British Airways d’arborer ce symbole religieux durant son service.

Ce n’est qu’une petite croix en argent, mais pour la compagnie aérienne britannique British Airways, c’était un symbole religieux beaucoup plus ostensible qu’un turban sikh ou qu’un foulard islamique. Nadia Eweida, une hôtesse chrétienne copte qui avait préféré, en 2006, quitter la compagnie plutôt que de renoncer à son pendentif, tient aujourd’hui sa revanche: la Grande-Bretagne a été condamnée mardi par la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH) de Strasbourg.

La sexagénaire a obtenu 32.000 euros pour ses frais de justice et en réparation de son préjudice moral. «Merci Jésus!, s’est-elle écriée à l’énoncé du verdict. Cela signifie que les chrétiens sont à égalité avec leurs collègues d’autres religions, et ne doivent pas avoir honte de leur foi.» Quant au premier ministre britannique David Cameron, il a tweeté qu’il était «très heureux que le principe de pouvoir porter des symboles religieux au travail ait été confirmé».

Cette hôtesse anglo-égyptienne travaillait depuis 1999 pour British Airways. Selon le code vestimentaire de cette compagnie, le personnel féminin devait porter un chemisier à col montant, une cravate, et pas de bijoux visibles. En 2006, quand Nadia Eweida décide de porter son pendentif sur son chemisier, elle est aussitôt mise à pied.

Droit à «l’objection de conscience»

La juridiction du Conseil de l’Europe estime que les tribunaux britanniques, qui ont débouté Nadia Eweida de ses recours contre son employeur, n’ont pas ménagé un juste équilibre entre son désir de manifester sa foi et la volonté de la compagnie d’imposer un code vestimentaire. En clair, que ces tribunaux avaient accordé «trop de poids» au souhait de l’employeur de véhiculer une certaine image de marque. Elle relève également que des employés appartenant à d’autres religions pouvaient au même moment porter un foulard islamique ou un turban sikh… À partir de 2007, quelques mois après le départ de Nadia Eweida, British Airways modifiera sa politique, autorisant finalement des symboles religieux comme l’étoile de David ou la croix. Depuis, l’hôtesse a été réintégrée.

Trois autres chrétiens britanniques, qui s’estimaient victimes de discrimination dans leur vie professionnelle, ont en revanche été déboutés. Dans le cas d’une infirmière en gériatrie, Shirley Chaplin, qui se plaignait aussi de ne pouvoir porter sa croix en pendentif durant ses heures de service, les juges de Strasbourg ont estimé que les raisons de sécurité invoquées par l’employeur – notamment le risque de contact du pendentif avec des blessures ouvertes – devaient prévaloir. «Je trouve que les chrétiens sont très marginalisés sur leur lieu de travail, a réagi dans le quotidien The Telegraph Mme Chaplin, qui avait préféré quitter son emploi plutôt que d’enlever sa croix. D’autres croyants peuvent montrer leur foi en arborant certains vêtements ou bijoux au bureau, pas les chrétiens.»

Le raisonnement de la cour de Strasbourg a été le même avec Liliane Ladele, officier d’état civil qui refusait de célébrer les partenariats civils entre homosexuels et Gary McFarlane, qui refusait de conseiller les couples gays au sein d’une association de psycho-sexothérapeutes. L’un et l’autre mettaient en avant leur droit à «l’objection de conscience» au nom de leur foi chrétienne. Mais «la politique de leurs employeurs, a souligné la Cour, poursuivait le but légitime de garantir les droits d’autrui, tels que ceux des couples de même sexe, qui sont aussi garantis par la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme».

Voir aussi:

Christian woman wins landmark religious discrimination case over wearing cross at work, but ECHR rules rights of three other Christians were not violated

Nadia Eweida claimed she suffered discrimination at work because of her faith

Terri Judd

The Independent

15 January 2013

Downing Street is under increasing pressure to re-examine the law on religious symbols at work after Strasbourg judges upheld the right of one Christian worker to wear a cross while rejecting that of another.

In what appeared to be mixed messages from the Government, No 10 insisted the “law as it stands strikes the right balance” before Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement would be examined to see if a change was needed.

In a controversial landmark case, the ECHR ruled British Airways had breached Nadia Eweida’s human rights, in particular her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, when it banned her from wearing a crucifix before changing its uniform policy to accommodate the 60-year-old.

Ms Eweida, a Coptic Christian from Twickenham in south-west London, said she felt “vindicated” after the court decided she had been caused “considerably anxiety, frustration and distress” and ordered the Government to pay her £26,600 in damages and costs. However, judges ruled the rights of three other Christians were not violated by their employers. They included NHS nurse Shirley Chaplin, 57, banned from wearing a cross on health and safety grounds, as well as marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane and registrar Lillian Ladele, who both said their religious values prevented them from dealing with same-sex couples.

The judgement was welcomed as a victory for “common sense” by equality experts as well as gay rights and secular groups but caused outrage amongst Christian organisations, who insisted it created a hierarchy of rights.

Welcoming the ruling in Miss Eweida’s case, Mr Cameron tweeted: “Delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld – ppl shouldn’t suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs.”

But a disappointed Ms Chaplin, who was transferred to a desk job by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital for failing to remove a crucifix, called on the Prime Minister to honour the comments he made last July that an employee’s right to wear religious symbols at work was “an absolutely vital freedom”.

Mark Hammond at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said the Government should look at possibly changing the law to take the European Court judgment into account. However, a Downing Street said: “The law as it stands is fine but we will look at the judgement to see if it needs to be changed.”

Mr McFarlane , 51, of Bristol, lost his job with Relate in Avon after saying during training he would not be able to provide sex therapy to gay couples. Ms Ladele, 51, was disciplined by Islington Council in north London when she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships. Ms Chaplin, Mr McFarlane and Ms Ladele are planning to appeal.

Ben Summerskill at gay rights group Stonewall, said: “Gay people are entitled to nothing less than equal treatment.”

Voir également:

Case Comparisons: Why Nadia Eweida won her religious discrimination case over wearing cross at work

The Independent

15 January 2013

Nadia Eweida

The 60-year-old was sent home by BA in 2006 for wearing a cross. She returned to work after BA changed its uniform policy. ECHR judges said BA’s amendment of the uniform code showed it was not crucial.

Shirley Chaplin

The nurse, 57, was moved to a desk job by Devon and Exeter NHS hospital after refusing to remove a crucifix. ECHR judges rejected her claims, deeming it a health-and-safety issue.

Gary McFarlane

The counsellor, 51, lost his job with Relate after saying he felt he could not offer therapy to same-sex couples. The ECHR ruled against him.

Lillian Ladele

The registrar, 51, lost her job with Islington Council because she said she could not conduct same-sex civil partnerships. The ECHR said the council’s action was “legitimate”.

Voir par ailleurs:

CINÉMA Passion, de Mel Gibson

De nombreuses réserves dans les milieux juifs et chrétiens

Henri Tincq

 Le Monde

31.03.04

LES APPROBATIONS les plus bruyantes de Passion, dans les milieux religieux français, viennent des catholiques traditionalistes et de la Fédération évangélique (en marge de la Fédération protestante) qui lance une campagne d’évangélisation et prévoit de distribuer à la sortie des salles 40 000 CD-Rom. Mais, hors ces mouvances minoritaires, les réactions sont très réservées dans la communauté juive, dans les Eglises protestantes et catholique.

Un film antisémite ? La malédiction suggérée dans l’Evangile selon Matthieu (« Que son sang retombe sur nous et nos enfants ! » ), dont les juifs et les catholiques américains avaient demandé le retrait, a été maintenue. Mais la phrase en araméen n’a pas été traduite dans la version sous-titrée en français.

Membre du comité exécutif du Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF), Richard Prasquier estime ravageuse l’image de ces grands-prêtres juifs qui « manipulent » la justice romaine, crient à la mort de Jésus, l’accompagnent au lieu du supplice : « C’est l’image du complot des sages de Sion », de celles qui, au Moyen-Age, suscitaient des émeutes antijuives. Les effets risquent d’être dramatiques « chez les chrétiens peu convaincus par le changement de regard de l’Eglise officielle sur le judaïsme » et chez les jeunes musulmans pour qui le Jésus de Gibson sera le « petit Palestinien » martyrisé par Israël. Auteur d’ouvrages sur Jésus, Gérard Israël est révulsé par l’invraisemblance historique du film : « La crucifixion était un supplice païen qui faisait horreur au peuple juif. Suggérer que celui-ci, qui a horreur du sang, ait pu se complaire dans le sang dégoulinant et bouillonnant de Jésus est une pure folie ! »

Secrétaire de l’épiscopat catholique pour les relations avec les juifs, le père Patrick Desbois est inquiet de la campagne de l’extrême droite intégriste qui célèbre chez Gibson « le retour au vrai Jésus » et met en cause la compréhension du judaïsme issue du concile Vatican II (1962-1965). Si, dans Passion, la responsabilité romaine est engagée, « les donneurs d’ordre sont bien les juifs. Le diable représenté chez Gibson par une figure androgyne ne circule que dans les rangs des juifs. Ce film est ainsi plein de messages subliminaux rejoignant les plus vieux clichés antisémites ». Pour Meïr Weintrater, directeur de L’Arche, si le film avait été projeté avant-guerre en Pologne, « il aurait déclenché des pogroms ».

Les Eglises ne veulent pas faire à ce film le cadeau d’une réaction officielle. Mgr Lustiger a déjà pris ses distances avec une représentation « hollywoodienne » de la mort de Jésus ( Le Monde du 27 mars). Une note, signée du père Philippe Vallin, secrétaire de la commission doctrinale de l’épiscopat, salue l’ « engagement personnel et la sincérité » du cinéaste, mais conteste son option théologique : Gibson a « isolé » la passion de la prédication et de la résurrection de Jésus et il montre une croix « inimitable, repoussante, absurde ».

UN ÉVANGILE « GALVAUDÉ »

Ce film, « obscène » par sa violence, est « antichrétien », tranche le jésuite Paul Valadier, théologien du Centre Sèvres. Gibson méconnaît les Evangiles, dit-il dans La Vie du 25 mars : « Jésus ne nous sauve pas parce qu’il reçoit des coups (…). Quand il demande à son père de pardonner à ses bourreaux, on a l’impression, dans le film (…), qu’il légitime le sadisme humain, qu’il lui donne un sens (…). C’est absolument contraire à l’Evangile. » Les responsables catholiques se disent heurtés que Gibson ait pu à ce point « galvauder l’Evangile », alors que les Evangiles traitent les souffrances de Jésus « avec la plus grande pudeur ».

Les réactions sont plus nuancées dans la famille protestante. Si les protestants de tradition réformée sont heurtés, ce n’est pas d’abord par la multitude des références à la tradition catholique (survalorisation du rôle de Marie comme corédemptrice), mais par la violence étalée : « Ce film est à l’Evangile ce que la pornographie est à l’amour, dit Gil Daudé, de la Fédération protestante. L’obscénité de la brutalité et l’abondance de sang occultent le sens. Lisez plutôt l’E vangile. »

Président de l’Alliance biblique, Claude Baty est aussi ulcéré par une théologie contestable : chez Gibson, « la Passion n’est plus un mystère, mais une performance morbide », qui laisse peu de place à « la possibilité d’une réponse personnelle autre que le dolorisme. Ce film ne peut être un film d’évangélisation ». Productrice de « Présence protestante » sur France 2, Claudette Marquet est plus indulgente : « Le film est insupportable, barbare. Mais cet acharnement contre l’innocent est une figure de l’humanité moderne. » Cette Passion est « l’expression d’une foi qui n’est pas la mienne, corrige-t-elle. Gibson lit l’Evangile à travers la mort de Jésus. Pour moi, le récit évangélique est d’abord écrit à partir de l’événement de la Résurrection ».

Voir encore:

CINÉMA Passion, de Mel Gibson

La plus LONGUE séance de TORTURE jamais contée

 31.03.04

Si cette nouvelle version de la Passion du Christ est controversée pour des raisons historiques et théologiques, le réalisateur de « Braveheart » a d’abord réalisé un film qui apparaît comme une longue mise en images de la violence et de la souffrance physique

ECI n’est pas un texte sacré, ceci est un film. Abrutissant, violent, inhumain, mais juste un film. Son réalisateur peut bien prétendre avoir été guidé par l’Esprit saint, tout ce qu’on voit, ce sont des images projetées sur un écran, qui obéissent à une volonté, celle de Mel Gibson.

Au long de sa carrière d’acteur, l’Australien a souvent joué la souffrance physique, accumulant une somme de blessures qui, si elles avaient été vraies, s’il avait été militaire, lui auraient valu des décorations. Mais il a utilisé le produit de ses peines factices pour réaliser des films. Le deuxième, Braveheart, se terminait par le supplice du personnage principal ; le troisième, La Passion du Christ, est tout entier consacré à la destruction d’un corps. A jour, il a rapporté 250 millions de dollars à son auteur.

Après deux plans de pleine lune, un travelling compliqué à travers des oliviers baignés d’une lumière bleutée tourne autour de la silhouette du Christ. Déjà il est ravagé par la douleur, sale comme on l’est au cinéma – les cheveux plaqués sur le crâne, de la terre sur le visage. Le temps qu’un démon androgyne avec un asticot dans le nez vienne le tenter, que ses disciples s’endorment, que Judas reçoive ses trente deniers, et les soldats viennent l’arrêter. Ils le frappent au visage et son oeil droit se ferme pour ne pas se rouvrir pendant les deux heures à venir.

Déjà La Passion du Christ n’est plus affaire de mots, de verbe. De James Caviezel on ne saura pas quel genre d’acteur il est. Il parle à peine pendant les trois premiers quarts d’heure. Arrive, au milieu du film, la séquence centrale. Ce n’est pas la comparution devant le Sanhédrin, qui a déjà eu lieu. Ni la montée au Golgotha, ni la Crucifixion elle-même. Cet interminable quart d’heure tient en un verset de l’Evangile selon Jean : « Pilate prit alors Jésus et le fit flageller. »

De cette phrase, Mel Gibson fait dix minutes de boucherie high-tech. Les effets spéciaux permettent aujourd’hui de faire croire à une peau qui se déchire sous les coups de joncs puis d’un fouet lesté de tessons de poterie. Peu à peu, par la magie du maquillage, du faux sang qui coule à flots, le corps de James Caviezel est transformé en une masse rougeâtre d’où émergent des borborygmes. Ce corps défiguré et aphone souffrira encore les coups de l’escorte qui le mène au calvaire, les chutes sur le chemin, les clous, tous mis en scène avec une infinité de détails, jusqu’à la douche de fluides organiques qui inonde les soldats au pied de la Croix lorsque l’un d’eux transperce le flanc du Christ.

On s’étend sur ces détails parce qu’ils font la matière et l’essence de ce film. La souffrance physique, le dégoût et la colère qu’elle suscite sont les moteurs du désir de Mel Gibson de faire un film de la Passion. On le voit aussi à son embarras lorsqu’il s’aventure dans des retours en arrière vers la vie du Christ, ou lors d’une évocation ultra-sulpicienne de la Cène. A ce moment, la passion destructrice qui anime le film s’étiole en une représentation simplette qui ferait passer La Tunique ou Ben-Hur pour des monuments d’exégèse.

CONTREBANDE

Ces interludes sont de toute façon très brefs. Sans cesse il faut revenir au supplice, distendu dans le temps à force de ralentis, assourdissant d’effets spéciaux sonores (sans parler de la musique pseudo-ethnique de John Dabney). Cette macération dans la représentation de la torture n’est pas faite pour inspirer la méditation, le recueillement ou la réflexion. Il s’agit de porter le spectateur jusqu’à un état de révulsion qui abolit la pensée.

Et c’est là que Mel Gibson fait passer en contrebande, masqué par son fantasme sadomasochiste, toutes les petites saletés qui vont avec sa vision du monde. Il y a d’abord cette histoire de langues mortes rendues à la vie. Peu importe finalement que les légionnaires en Palestine aient parlé grec plutôt que latin, comme dans le film, ou que l’accent araméen de Monica Bellucci (Marie Madeleine) ne soit pas tout à fait conforme à la diction en usage il y a deux mille ans. Plus remarquable est la volonté du metteur en scène de mettre la parole hors de l’entendement direct de l’auditoire, à la manière des tenants de la messe en latin. Cet artifice lui permet aussi de ne pas sous-titrer la phrase criée par la foule après que Pilate prononce la condamnation à mort : « Que Son sang soit sur nous et sur nos enfants. »

Cette ellipse dans les sous-titres ne change rien à l’affaire. Tout dans le film est disposé de façon à induire la responsabilité collective des prêtres et du peuple de Jérusalem dans la mort du Christ. Avec sa tête d’officier des marines, Ponce Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov) respire l’honnêteté et la faillibilité face à la duplicité de Caïphe et de ses acolytes. Et du bon larron à Simon de Cyrène, les seuls juifs dignes de la sympathie du metteur en scène sont ceux qui reconnaissent la divinité du Christ.

Si l’on veut une preuve du mystère qui entoure la représentation de la religion au cinéma, on la trouvera dans l’évidence suivante : il y a moins de grâce dans toute La Passion du Christ du catholique Mel Gibson que dans un seul plan de L’Evangile selon Matthieu de Pasolini.

Voir enfin:

Anthropologie biblique (1):

déconstruire la violence construire la paix

Nordnet

Marie-Louise Martinez

Le vingtième siècle par ses guerres, ses deux totalitarismes meurtriers, le déchaînement des conflits ethniques, par la prolifération d’un désordre mortifère (en économie, en politique, et dans les principales institutions de la vie quotidienne), par la progression des agressions interpersonnelles et des pulsions auto-destructrices, aura remporté la triste palme des âges dévastateurs. Il aura vu aussi s’accroître la demande légitime d’en finir avec une violence pour laquelle le seuil de tolérance a considérablement diminué.

La pensée biblique et particulièrement le christianisme, nous permettent de comprendre et de critiquer la violence, ils nous montrent quelles sont les voies pour en sortir. Exigentes, difficiles, mais pas hors de portée pour l’homme, elles lui demandent un effort de compréhension et conversion personnelle et collective auquel chacun sent bien qu’il devrait consentir.

Curieusement, devant la faillite des idéologies, on pardonne difficilement au christianisme d’avoir tellement raison. Je soutiendrai que c’est la perspicacité et la justesse mêmes de son message qui impressionnent et qui fâchent le plus les mentalités. Cette vexation post-moderne pèse sur le discrédit actuel du judéo-chrétien dans la société plus encore que l’anticléricalisme invoqué ou les critiques à l’égard d’un passé historique de domination et bien au-delà d’une crainte peu fondée sur l’éventuel retour de l’ordre moral. L’intuition intime et inavouable que le message biblique est porteur d’un indéracinable processus de vérité, révolte et enrage les consciences actuelles.

Heureusement cette clarté porte aussi ses fruits théoriques et pratiques : une anthropologie fondée sur le message judéo-chrétien se fait de plus en plus évidente, cohérente et explicite. Elle est de plus en plus appelée à s’exprimer et à se manifester à tous les niveaux de la vie culturelle. J’en vois un des signes les plus prometteurs dans l’articulation lumineuse et complémentaire entre l’anthropologie du sacré qui démantèle les mécanismes de la violence et l’anthropologie de la personne qui met à jour les règles de la relation et de la vie bonnes.

L’anthropologie de René Girard, en effet, reprend les hypothèses de l’anthropologie scientifique du sacré ébauchée par Durkheim, Mauss, Dumont, et les portent à leur incandescence maximale à la lumière du texte biblique. Elle nous indique avec chaque fois plus de force et de profondeur depuis 50 ans, jusqu’à l’éclatante démonstration de Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair (Grasset 1999), comment la pensée chrétienne ‘déconstruit’ (c’est à dire dévoile et démonte) les processus de la violence et du sacré, sous leur double forme d’exclusion et d’indifférenciation.

L’anthropologie philosophique de la personne, développée ces dernières décennies avec bonheur par des auteurs aussi divers que Buber, Marcel, Mounier, Lévinas, Ricoeur, Jacques, etc. nous donnent les outils pour penser les alternatives. Ces modèles théoriques sont des praxis depuis toujours mises en œuvre et actualisées dans la vie de certains. L’œuvre de Jean Vanier et de l’Arche en constitue une illustration éminente. Ces témoins privilégiés parmi d’autres de la vigueur spirituelle chrétienne, nous offrent quelques clés en illustrant l’étonnant message des Béatitudes évangéliques, si violemment rejeté par Nietzsche et la modernité comme morale des faibles. Ils donnent à voir les effets théoriques et pratiques de la notion de personne, ce trésor de la pensée chrétienne, partageable et partagé avec d’autres. Cette anthropologie pratique et théorique nous permet sans doute de définir les issues à la violence pour l’individu, dans la relation interpersonnelle, et la relation sociale.

Cette (re)découverte d’une anthropologie susceptible de critiquer la violence dans la culture et dans ses différentes institutions (famille, école, médecine, justice, entreprise, etc.) comme de poser les règles d’une alternative pour la relation bonne, est précieuse. Cette " bonne nouvelle " encore inouïe mérite d’être (re)considérée non seulement par la communauté chrétienne (qui n’en a pas toujours été à la hauteur), mais par tout un chacun, quelle que soit sa tradition.

Assumer cette anthropologie ne va cependant pas de soi parce qu’elle demande d’affronter les préjugés. En exigeant une transformation des conduites individuelles et institutionnelles à contre-courant des facilités de la pensée dominante, le message chrétien est devenu aujourd’hui objet de répulsion. Il est d’autant plus gênant qu’il est inclassable : s’il ne flatte pas les penchants de la modernité, et encore moins de la post-modernité, il ne peut pas non plus faire bon ménage avec la nostalgie réactionnaire. A cela rien de nouveau, mais ce qui est totalement neuf c’est l’ampleur et la radicalité du phénomène dans ses enjeux. Cette déconstruction là est difficile car elle ne saurait se satisfaire de la poudre aux yeux et des paillettes des jeux de mots de l’intellect. A l’instar de Paul, elle demande une conversion du regard (Vite tombent de ses yeux comme des écailles ; Ac. 9, 18, trad. De Chouraki) et de la praxis personnelle.

Car nul n’échappe à ces questions. Comment se fait-il que les prédictions de la modernité et des idéologies du progrès soient tellement en faillite ? Comment comprendre le désenchantement des désenchanteurs, devant un retour en force du sacré le plus archaïque et superstitieux qui envahit le social ?

Pourquoi ce retour du sacré avec le cycle infernal de l’indifférenciation et de la différenciation violentes, à tous les niveaux de nos sociétés ?

Comment (re)découvrir et mettre en actes les alternatives de paix et de réconciliation non-violente ? L’enjeu civilisationnel est grave et le défi est .majeur, on ne pourra pas le relever sans les ressources de l’anthropologie biblique. On se contentera ici d’en souligner quelques aspects.

Dans un premier temps, on rappellera brièvement les impasses actuelles.

Dans un second temps, on verra comment l’anthropologie de la violence et du sacré (Durkheim, Dumont, mais surtout René Girard) donne de l’intelligibilité à ces apparents paradoxes.

Dans un troisième temps, on constatera la pertinence inouïe du corpus de textes évangéliques et chrétiens pour dévoiler et déconstruire, démonter et dénoncer les mécanismes de la violence sous ses deux visages. On pourra apprécier quelles indications sont données par l’Evangile et la pensée chrétienne dans la recherche d’une alternative véritablement non-violente.

Enfin, on définira le processus triangulaire de l’émergence de la personne dans une relation qui intègre l’exclu et qui permet la sortie de la rivalité, de la concurrence. On appréciera tout ce qu’apporte l’Arche dans l’actualisation de cette découverte.

1) Les impasses actuelles ou les désenchanteurs désenchantés

Depuis la philosophie des Lumières et le culte du progrès on nous prédit un devenir radieux où l’homme, enfin libéré des superstitions et de l’obscurantisme entretenus par les religions, serait dégagé de la haine, de la violence, des croyances et des conduites irrationnelles. Rendu tout entier à sa nature bonne, il pourrait enfin s’occuper efficacement du partage des biens de ce monde une fois qu’il ne serait plus détourné par les dangereuses et vaines illusions de ‘l’opium du peuple’. Or il n’est pas difficile de constater que ce schéma simpliste est radicalement démenti par la société actuelle.

Aujourd’hui, malgré une incontestable progression du souci de justice et malgré une montée en puissance de la reconnaissance des Droits de l’Homme sur la scène nationale et internationale, on semble assister à une situation de crise généralisée. On perçoit une montée endémique de la violence et de l’inquiétude à son égard, à tous les niveaux.

De plus en plus de troubles s’observent au quotidien, dans la vie familiale, le travail, la vie institutionnelle et sociale. De plus en plus de personnes semblent hantées par l’inquiétude, le stress, les conflits psychiques de tous genres. La violence à l’école fait toujours la une des médias, elle semble résister à tous les traitements les plus onéreux de la situation. La violence dans la famille surprend de plus en plus. Les faits divers qui défraient la chronique, montrent une déstabilisation des liens les plus structurants de la communauté, le lien de conjugalité, de parentalité et de filiation semblent, devenus très problématiques. On parle aussi beaucoup de violence dans l’entreprise : une situation de stress liée à la concurrence et à la compétition économique et sociale se généralise. De plus en plus de travaux de sociologie du travail montrent les situations de harcèlement moral : on ne supporte pas ceux qui sont dissidents, différents, meilleurs ou plus vulnérables. Une perte générale des repères moraux autorise et encourage l’agression psychique. Sous prétexte de tolérance on laisse faire et cela peut aller jusqu’au suicide de la personne harcelée quotidiennement. Christophe Desjours a parlé de ‘la banalisation de la souffrance’ et Marie-France Hirigoyen de ‘perversité morale’. On constate en France un accroissement inquiétant de la consommation d’anxiolytiques et d’antidépresseurs. La médecine, et la psychiatrie en particulier, doivent faire face à l’augmentation constante des manifestations suicidaires ou des troubles de la personnalité. L’exclusion sociale, résultat non seulement de ce que l’on a pu appeler l’horreur économique mais aussi de la dissolution du lien social dans les réseaux habituels de la solidarité (famille, école, église, associations, etc.), est de plus en plus préoccupante. Les prisons ne désemplissent pas. Cette surpopulation témoin de la crise est très troublante, non seulement par sa quantité, mais aussi par la qualité des nouvelles formes du crime. Il n’y a pas seulement une sur représentation de pauvres et d’immigrés, il y a, venant de tous milieux sociaux, de plus en plus d’individus désemparés et nuisibles pour eux-mêmes et pour autrui. Le nombre des toxicomanes, des pédophiles, de ceux qui sont incarcérés pour agressions incestueuses, étonne. Des personnalités, en proie à toutes les confusions qui semblent avoir perdu tous repères prolifèrent. Leur traitement d’ailleurs n’est pas sans poser problème au système carcéral. Car si la pénalisation doit envisager la protection des victimes, il s’agit aussi, de trouver des réponses plus justes au niveau de la prévention, de la réparation et de la réinsertion sur les plans médical, éducatif et social pour le sujet pénalisé.

Des formes nouvelles de la violence se manifestent aussi à l’égard des personnes handicapées, même si les lois démocratiques en faveur de l’intégration progressent incontestablement. Nos sociétés attachées au principe égalitaire s’efforcent heureusement d’affirmer les droits de tous les citoyens (quelles que soient leurs caractéristiques physiques ou de santé) à bénéficier des biens de la société. Mais en réalité, et parallèlement à ces avancées indéniables, monte une volonté d’éradiquer la maladie et le handicap qui se traduit souvent par des attitudes et des propos eugénistes. On a quelquefois l’impression d’une régression plus que d’un progrès.

De même est-on surpris au niveau de la recomposition des attitudes religieuses. Les grandes religions semblent effectivement subir une certaine désaffection mais on constate le retour diffus et profus à une religiosité syncrétique de bazar. Les attitudes sectaires les plus aberrantes et les plus dangereuses se multiplient. Suicides et meurtres sectaires, empoisonnement des lieux publics par des gourous paranoïaques, rituels sataniques macabres, profanation des lieux de culte et des cimetières, font le quotidien des médias. Notre millénarisme est marqué par le retour d’un religieux frelaté, dégradé et païen (voir les travaux de Mgr. Hyppolite Simon).

Le positivisme du XIXème siècle nous avait annoncé une issue paisible et prospère hors du religieux grâce au christianisme dont Hegel disait qu’il était ‘la religion de la fin du religieux’. Pourtant ceux qui comme Weber ou Gauchet [1] avaient prédit le ‘désenchantement’ et la désacralisation du monde, ont de quoi être désappointés. Aujourd’hui les désenchanteurs déchantent. Ils ne savent plus à quoi référer cette résurgence de l’irrationnel, cette prolifération de religiosité et cette déferlante de désordre, d’indifférence et d’indifférenciation qui ne menace pas seulement les églises mais dévaste aussi les autres institutions (famille, école, etc.) de la cité laïque et républicaine.

On ne pourra pas comprendre les paradoxes de la situation actuelle et notamment cette tentation d’un retour au sacral le plus archaïque et le plus violent sans recourrir aux analyses de l’anthropologie de la violence et du sacré.

[1]Gauchet Marcel ; Le désenchantement du monde ; Gallimard ; 1984

Anthropologie biblique (2):

déconstruire la violence construire la paix

Marie-Louise Martinez

2) Le retour de la violence et du sacré

En effet, les hypothèses de l’anthropologie de la violence et du sacré donnent beaucoup d’intelligibilité aux apparents paradoxes actuels.

Les efforts pour sortir d’un ordre sacral injuste, hiérarchique et ségrégatif ont de fortes chances d’instiguer un désordre mortifère qui ramène de nouvelles évictions, exclusions. Comment sortir du retour du sacré et de son antique cycle fatal ? Comment comprendre le naufrage des révoltes modernes et post-modernes sur les rives du sacré le plus archaïque ?

Il fallait d’abord voir que la violence, telle Janus le dieu romain à la double face, se manifeste sous deux formes. Emile Durkheim le premier a montré ces facettes alternatives et complémentaires. Il y a alternance de la violence institutionnelle (comme établissement d’un ordre reposant sur la domination des puissants, l’éviction de certaines victimes, relayé par les institutions et leurs appareils) avec la violence anomique. Celle-ci semble se déployer sans règle (a-nomos) et engendre sourdement des conflits à tous les niveaux (inter-communautaires, inter-personnels ou même intra-psychiques et vécus dans l’intériorité de chacun). Durkheim constate une sorte de mécanisme alternatif dans le social : plus la violence institutionnelle baisse et plus la violence anomique monte résultant de la crise des institutions et de la carence de médiations fortes.

Les doubles faces de la violence et du sacré

L’anthropologue Louis Dumont a poursuivi et approfondi ces analyses. Les sociétés traditionnelles [2] (à l’instar de l’Inde) reposent sur un ordre établi, fortement inscrit dans le sacré (sociétés hiérarchiques, du grec hieros = le sacré). Elles régulent et évacuent tout risque de désordre et violence anomique en ségréguant et en séparant les castes, les groupes d’âges et les sexes, par des interdits très méticuleux. Elles instaurent la vie sociale autour de rites qui reposent en bout de course sur le sacrifice. Une prudente séparation ritualisée grâce au système sacrificiel permet la cohésion quasi organique et holistique du social. Le christianisme avec son principe égalitaire sape les bases du système sacrificiel. L’attaque de la violence institutionnelle et sa déligitimation au nom de l’autonomie et du respect des personnes laissent libre champ aux dérives anomiques qui menacent chacun dans un contexte général de perte des repères antérieurs. Avec le défi d’un difficile équilibre à respecter entre le collectif et le singulier, une société moderne des individus [3] en résulte. Pour le meilleur et pour le pire, doit-on s’empresser d’ajouter.

Le meilleur, consiste incontestablement dans l’exigence accrue de conscience, de justice égalitaire, de liberté et d’autonomie personnelles. Le pire, c’est la montée d’un désordre provenant de la baisse des interdits.

En effet, le système sacrificiel conjugue des rites et des interdits. La vie sociale est rythmée par l’alternance du temps ordinaire et du temps de fête. Tantôt les interdits contraignants sont respectés, tantôt ils sont mis entre parenthèses, inversés, abolis par les rituels. Les interdits prescriptifs et négatifs, séparent minutieusement les personnes et les groupes selon des règles toujours différentes et méticuleuses. Les rituels au contraire subvertissent et recréent la confusion. Comme dans les carnavals, le chaos y reste (presque) toujours sous contrôle de la communauté. La communauté se souvient de l’ordre fondé par le désordre surmonté. Quand le système sacrificiel est fort, cette alternance, loin de le mettre en danger, l’étaye et le consolide encore. Mais lorsqu’il est fragilisé, l’alternance profane/ sacré ne vient plus jouer son rôle régulateur. Les fonctions et les significations des interdits prohibitifs ou prescriptifs se brouillent, leurs contraintes s’affaiblissent. Il en résulte une inquiétude endémique engendrée essentiellement par la compétition déployée entre les individus. Chacun est confronté aux autres, sans le recours des interdits et des fortes médiations du système hiérarchique traditionnel. Ce désarroi est à son comble dans les sociétés modernes qui se retrouvent démunies pour affronter les dérives de la promiscuité égalitariste des individus.

Les études de L. Dumont développent une réflexion fort intéressante sur les totalitarismes comme formes modernes du mal démocratique, fièvres enflammées par la rivalité exacerbée. La compétition de tous contre tous dans l’individualisme moderne et dans le darwinisme social comme avatar de l’idéologie moderne, encourage une comparaison généralisée entre individus. Les communautés se mesurent et elles se réduisent réciproquement à un seul facteur le clan, la race ou la classe. La haine des rivaux dans l’indifférenciation ambiante se polarise alors sur ‘ce qui fait la différence’.

Ces modèles explicatifs anthropologiques et sociologiques malgré leur capacité d’élucidation restent encore mécanistes et positivistes. Ils laissent dans l’ombre l’engendrement de la fièvre indifférenciatrice au cœur des conduites humaines. René Girard [4] reprenant la réflexion de l’anthropologie scientifique du religieux, parvient à saisir les ambivalences et les renversements des processus de la violence et du sacré, dans leur complexité. Le texte littéraire lui a dévoilé les processus du désir mimétique en amont du sacrifice et le texte biblique, en aval, lui a révélé le dépassement du sacré violent. Grâce à cette audace intertextuelle, inter et transdisciplinaire, l’anthropologie dispose désormais d’un schème unique au grand pouvoir explicatif. C’est sous le terme de ‘bouc émissaire’ que René Girard a décrit l’ensemble du processus de la violence et du sacré. Le désir mimétique engendre la violence indifférenciatrice, le sacrifice et le système sacrificiel la régulent et la contiennent. L’affaiblissement du système sacrificiel la réactive. On ne doit cependant pas s’y résigner. A certaines conditions l’homme peut dépasser cette violence meurtrière comme le texte biblique y engage.

[2]Louis Dumont ; Homo hiérarchicus ; Gallimard ; 1966

[3] Louis Dumont ; Homo aequalis ; Essais sur l’individualisme ; Seuil ; 1983

[4] René Girard voir : Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque ; Grasset ; 1961.

La violence et le sacré ; Grasset ; 1972.

Critique dans un souterrain ; L’Age d’Homme ; 1976.

Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde ; Grasset ; 1978.

Le bouc émissaire ; Grasset ; 1982.

La route antique des hommes pervers ; Grasset ; 1985

Shakespeare, les feux de l’envie , ( traduit de l’anglais par Bernard Vincent) ; Grasset ; 1990.

Quand ces choses commenceront…entretiens avec Michel Treguer ; Arléa ; 1994.

Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair ; Grasset ; 1999

Les hypothèses de René Girard rendent intelligibles les mécanismes cycliques de la violence et du sacré :

La violence " essentielle " de tous contre tous, provient du mimétisme constitutif entre les hommes. En introduisant le désir comme principe explicatif des conduites humaines Girard sort du positivisme sans perdre l’acquis du rationalisme scientifique.

Les hommes sont des modèles de désir les uns pour les autres, là réside la clé de l’évolution prodigieuse de l’espèce. La longue enfance du petit d’homme rend inévitable cette imitation-admiration qui permet l’apprentissage et la socialisation. Mais le désir mimétique pour les mêmes objets (de territoire, d’avoir, d’amour, de pouvoir, de savoir…) bon en lui-même vire très vite à la rivalité catastrophique. Le désir mimétique facteur de solidarité vient alors perturber la cohésion. La promiscuité rivale lorsqu’elle n’est pas contenue ni protégée par des barrières et des interdits débouche sur des conflits meurtriers entre individus ou communautés. La société est impossible tant que les hommes ne peuvent se réconcilier et pactiser. Le sacrifice d’un bouc émissaire joue un rôle fondateur de la société et de la culture. C’est l’union sacrée du " tous-contre-un " qui fédère la communauté et lui permet de se ressouder dans l’unanimité autour de la victime (individu ou groupe). Les mythes comme discours de la communauté qui proclament l’événement inaugural et les (mé)faits de la victime héroïque rendent possible la culture et la fondent. La coopération des hommes est autorisée par cette violence fondatrice sur laquelle reposent la culture et ses institutions comme système sacrificiel.

En effet, tant que la relation entre les hommes est perturbée par des rivalités désordonnées de tous contre tous, la crise empêche le travail des institutions et la prospérité culturelle. La violence sacrificielle avec les rites qui la prolongent et la rappellent, les interdits qui la contiennent et les mythes qui la supportent, provoque une pacification qui autorise la reprise des échanges et la normalisation du travail. Les relations entre les hommes sont facilitées par les médiations du système sacral et religieux qui relient les hommes (religere) en instaurant entre eux des liens vivables. Les interdits permettent la séparation et les rites les rapprochements par le rappel de l’unanimité sacrificielle.

Dans les sociétés traditionnelles, le système sacral est fort. Le processus du bouc émissaire est une régulation normale, il opère tout à la fois dans la totale méconnaissance et dans l’évidence légitime. Les différentes institutions de la culture sont fondées et reproduites par des victimes, les interdits et les rites assurent la stabilité du système. Le retour éternel du sacré n’est que cette perpétuelle succession de la crise indifférenciée et du sacrifice différenciateur.

René Girard, a montré comment le christianisme avait opéré une critique du sacré violent et du système sacrificiel et comment il demandait de sortir radicalement de la violence. Le sacrifice violent est critiqué depuis longtemps par le texte judéo-chrétien et une certaine issue à la violence est possible quoique soumise à une longue évolution, personnelle et culturelle, toujours susceptible de renversements, de complications, d’exacerbations et de régressions. Les solutions proposées sont très exigeantes et difficiles à mettre en œuvre tant sur le plan individuel que sociétal. L’influence du christianisme sur les sociétés a donc entraîné des modifications bien mitigées.

Dans les sociétés modernes travaillées par la démystification et la révélation opérées par le judéo-chrétien, le processus du bouc émissaire est dépourvu de toute légitimité. Ce démantèlement du système sacrificiel traditionnel ne va pas sans contradictions. La société des individus qui a remplacé la société hiérarchique sacrale est rongée par les violences anomiques. Les interdits et les rites qui séparaient et reliaient les individus se sont dissous. Le lien social est tantôt menacé par la rupture tantôt par la prolifération.

Les risques de violence sont aujourd’hui démultipliés :

Les individus, jusque là séparés en catégorisations étanches et en hiérarchies cloisonnées et sacrales (Dumont) se mêlent et se rapprochent dans leurs revendications. Les médiations anciennes du système sacrificiel avec leurs interdits et leurs rites se dissolvent, laissant les individus tour à tour ou simultanément dans une promiscuité aliénante et une solitude éprouvante. Ces pathologies extrêmes et également mortifères du lien social alternent ou se conjuguent. La violence inévitablement accrue par l’indifférenciation s’enfle au moment même où les moyens de la limiter se sont amenuisés.

La régulation sacrificielle par l’antique mécanisme du bouc émissaire, en effet, n’a pas cessé d’opérer, mais elle s’exerce dans la mauvaise conscience. Elle est sorti des gonds du champ du sacré et du religieux pour envahir la totalité des espaces publics et privés. Elle est de moins en moins efficace, ce qui conduit, paradoxalement, à une sorte d’emballement et de surenchère. Les moyens de la violence sont chaque fois supérieurs avec le perfectionnement technologique. Enfin, les susceptibilités et les sensibilités s’hypertrophient. La tolérance à la violence s’amenuise, rendant chaque fois moins supportable la " banalisation du mal ".

Les hypothèses anthropologiques de René Girard nous semblent donc particulièrement bien venues pour donner de l’intelligibilité aux mécanismes de la violence et du sacré dans leurs paroxystiques rebondissements actuels. Mais ce faisant elles soulignent aussi cette prodigieuse intelligence des processus anthropologiques qui émane du texte biblique. On comprend mieux comment la saisie complexe des ambivalences de la violence par le biblique peut apparaître paradoxale. Inévitablement, cette perception subtile est délicate à entendre et elle prête tour à tour le flanc aux critiques unilatérales.

Le christianisme pris entre les feux de la critique

Pour saisir les paradoxes de la violence il faut comprendre le lien entre les différents processus qui la composent. Pour la dépasser, il faut refuser ensemble l’un et l’autre des deux visages de la violence, les renvoyer dos à dos et s’engager résolument dans la recherche de véritables alternatives. Les mentalités modernes borgnes et manichéennes ne veulent à l’exclusive voir qu’une seule de ces formes. Elles focalisent et dénoncent une face au détriment de l’autre qu’elles occultent et escamotent. Tour à tour ne voyant que la violence institutionnelle ou le désordre anomique, les manichéismes de ‘gauche’ ou de ‘droite’ coopèrent au sempiternel retour de la violence et du sacré. Tantôt sous les feux de l’une et de l’autre critique, le christianisme comme pensée de la complexité n’est jamais épargné. C’est pourtant au moment même où il semble le plus méconnu et maltraité qu’il démontre le mieux sa pertinence. Paradoxale vérité qui le préserve finalement de tout triomphalisme.

La violence sacrale : une critique de gauche ?

Le christianisme qui traverse dans son histoire des épisodes violents (croisades, inquisition, guerres de religion, antisémitisme) ou rencontre des tentations oppressives (réaction, conservatisme) d’imposition d’ordre social et politique violent, n’échappe pas à la critique de la violence sacrale.

Ces excès commis au nom de la religion sont dus à une mauvaise interprétation de l’Evangile et du corpus néo-testamentaire plus qu’à une propriété intrinsèque du message chrétien. Le message originel est facilement préservé de cette accusation. Quoi de plus clair contre l’oppression et l’injustice que le Magnificat (Luc 1 51-53), quoi de moins ambiguë que l’épître de Jacques (4, 13-17, 5, 1-6) en faveur de la justice sociale ? La critique du cléricalisme comme du ritualisme hypocrites et superficiels sont sans appel chez Matthieu. l’Evangile critique le religieux ancien, sacral, violent, sans complaisance aucune.

Anthropologie biblique (3) :

déconstruire la violence construire la paix

Marie-Louise Martinez

Pourtant cette critique du religieux archaïque, non par la sortie hors du religieux mais par la voie étroite d’un religieux doux et non violent, peut paraître timide à nos contemporains. D’autant plus qu’une telle position délicate, par nature inconfortable et difficile à assumer, est souvent remise en cause par des tentations sacrales et intégristes qui viennent rigidifier et déformer le message. Ainsi le judéo-christianisme a-t-il pu être quelquefois saisi par ce qui le précédait et contre quoi il se définissait.

Pour venir à bout de ces accusations, il faut alors assumer la critique du passé et du présent et s’engager dans une démarche de repentir et de réconciliation. L’Eglise comme institution instituante est toujours appelée à dynamiser l’Eglise comme institution instituée.

On peut alors vérifier que l’issue évangélique au religieux archaïque par le religieux doux n’est pas une demi-mesure. Elle est en fait la seule dénonciation véritablement radicale du sacré archaïque violent. Les impasses actuelles du profane athée en sont une preuve assez éloquente. On a vu qu’elles restauraient le sacral violent et païen, renouant avec le cycle fatal de la violence et du sacré.

La défense du message évangélique sur le front des critiques progressistes, est toujours délicate mais elle est, somme toute, aisée et naturelle.

Sur l’autre front, la défense est beaucoup plus difficile.

La violence indifférenciée : une critique de droite ?

La seconde critique, d’inspiration plus conservatrice et traditionnelle, est, en effet, bien plus redoutable. Elle consiste à incriminer le message évangélique et néo-testamentaire dans sa spécificité même et non simplement dans son interprétation abusive. Celui-ci serait porteur des ferments de désordre et d’indifférenciation égalitaristes qui destabilisent gravement les équilibres civilisationnels antérieurs.

La société indienne, hiérarchique, avec ses castes, s’est toujours méfiée des menaces de désordre et déstructuration que le christianisme portait en lui. De nombreux pays du tiers-monde ou les pays arabo-musulmans, redoutent les valeurs de la démocratie, des Droits de l’homme et leur aspiration à l’universel issue du christianisme. Pour Nietzsche, le christianisme inaugure une " morale d’esclaves " qui vient porter un coup fatal à l’héroïsme aristocratique et déployer l’ère des revendications " victimaires ". Le sacrifice dyonisiaque lui semble plus propice à la santé et à la vigueur de l’espèce et des civilisations que cet éloge des faibles porté par les Béatitudes (Matthieu 5, 3-11). Dans la Généalogie de la morale, il disqualifie le texte judéo-chrétien porteur des contre-valeurs contraires à la vie et à la pulsion vitale. Il choisit le sacré païen archaïque : " Dyonisos contre le crucifié : la voici bien l’opposition. Ce n’est pas une différence quant au martyr- mais celui-ci à un sens différent. La vie même, son éternelle fécondité, son éternel retour, détermine le tourment, la destruction, la volonté d’anéantir, dans l’autre cas la souffrance, le crucifié en tant qu’il est l’innocent sert d’argument contre cette vie, de formule de sa condamnation "[5]

. L’interdit du sacrifice porté par le judéo-christianisme, apparaît à Nietzsche (ou à certains penseurs de la bio-éthique actuelle qui prônent un " sain " recours à l’eugénisme et à l’euthanasie) comme une menace pour l’avenir. " L’individu a été si bien pris au sérieux si bien pensé comme l’absolu par le christianisme qu’on ne pouvait plus le sacrifier : mais l’espèce ne survit que grâce aux sacrifices humains… La véritable philanthropie exige le bien de l’espèce – elle est dure elle oblige à se dominer soi-même, parce qu’elle a besoin du sacrifice humain. Et cette pseudo-humanité qui s’intitule le christianisme veut précisément imposer que personne ne soit sacrifié " (op. cit. pp. 224- 225) Le message égalitaire et universel, en effet, n’est-il pas déjà potentiellement gros des dérives actuelles : égalitarisme, individualisme outrancier, victimaire, globalisation, indifférenciation, voire dé-différenciation ?

Il faut bien le reconnaître avec Chesterton [6] et Bernanos : le monde moderne est pétri d’idées chrétiennes devenues folles.

Pourtant le christianisme ne peut sans se dénaturer, renoncer à l’aspiration égalitaire ni à la juste dignité de chaque personne. Si l’enfer moderne est pavé de bonnes intentions chrétiennes, il faut en assumer la critique et affronter la responsabilité de comprendre en quoi consiste la violence et les moyens de l’alternative.

Le projet apologétique pour laver le christianisme des accusations injustes et manichéennes qui pèsent sur lui doit attendre : seul le temps permettra de ‘démêler le bon grain de l’ivraie’. C’est dire autrement que le temps travaille pour lui. Pour autant ce temps doit-être actif et créatif.

Comment refuser de voir cette vérification que l’histoire apporte aujourd’hui à la pensée chrétienne et à son anthropologie ?

3) La déconstruction chrétienne de la violence

L’Evangile manifeste un savoir subtil et avisé sur la violence, il anticipe largement le savoir anthropologique qu’il éclaire. C’est tout le mérite de l’anthropologie de René Girard que d’avoir su rendre au christianisme les lumières qu’il avait conféré à l’anthropologie. On le redécouvre chaque fois que le savoir scientifique et philosophique parvient à mettre à jour la violence fondatrice puissamment recouverte par les voiles de la méconnaissance. Encore fallait-il avoir l’audace de voir et de reconnaître cette lumière qui nous éclaire et qui nous ‘crève les yeux’. L’Evangile " dévoile " la violence dans ses processus et la déconstruit au sens fort, c’est à dire qu’il en démonte les mécanismes pour leur ôter toute légitimité. Il renvoie dos à dos les deux " faces " de la violence témoignant contre elles pour proposer des pistes alternatives.

[5]Nietzsche : Œuvres Complètes, Vol XIV Fragments posthumes, début 1888-juin 89, Gallimard, 1977, p. 63 (ce passage et celui qui suit ont été cités par René Girard dans Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair , Grasset ; 1999)

[6] G. K. Chesterton ; Orthodoxie ; 1908 ; 1984 pour la trad. Française ; Gallimard ; " Le monde moderne est envahi de vieilles vertus chrétiennes devenues foles " ; p. 44 ;Gallimard, 1984 ;

Georges Bernanos ; La France contre les robots ; Plon ; 1970 : " Faire exploser l’Evangile dans un monde saturé d’idées chrétiennes amoindries, déformées, dégradées, rajustées à la mesure des médiocres- ou parfois même détournées de leur sens, " devenues folles " comme disait jadis Chesterton- cela ne se peut que par un miracle. Ce miracle nous sera-t-il donné ? ", p. 183.

Témoigner contre la violence sacrale :

L’Evangile prolonge et accomplit la dénonciation du sacré ancien, déjà largement opérée par le judaïsme : non pas les sacrifices ni les holocaustes sanglants mais un cœur pur. (Ps, Isaïe, etc.).

Il saisit bien la fonction régulatrice du sacrifice. Caïphe énonce la règle du bouc émissaire qui est de limiter la violence : " Il est de notre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour que le peuple et la nation ne périssent pas tout entiers " (Jean 11, 48b). La fonction réconciliatrice n’échappe pas : " En ce même jour Hérode et Pilate devinrent amis, d’ennemis qu’ils étaient auparavant " (Luc 23, 12).

Il dénonce sans complaisance l’aspect injuste et hypocrite du système sacrificiel : " Malheur à vous car vos pères ont tué les prophètes et vous leur bâtissez des tombeaux " (Matthieu) ; " Malheureux êtes-vous scribes et pharisiens, hypocrites parce que vous ressemblez à des sépulcres blanchis à la chaux à l’extérieur. Ils ont belle apparence mais à l’intérieur ils sont remplis d’ossements et de toutes choses impures " (Mat. 23, 27)

Jésus déconstruit le processus sacrificiel, il le démonte et en dénonce l’inefficacité profonde. La paix construite sur le bouc émissaire est mauvaise et fragile, cette " paix du monde " est vouée au retour perpétuel du sacral. " Comment Satan peut-il expulser Satan ? …si Satan s’est jeté contre lui-même et s’est divisé, il ne peut pas tenir, il est fini " (Mc. 3, 23-24) Satan comme hypostase du mal ne serait-il pas en grande partie constitué par le stérile et maléfique cycle sacrificiel ?

Mieux vaut, dès lors, assumer un salubre conflit plutôt que cette paix sacrale soudée sur le dos de victimes :" Je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix mais l’épée " (Mat. 18, 6). Jésus préfère la séparation plutôt que la fusion entre les gens, cette confusion qui n’est que l’autre face de l’antagonisme est toujours une collusion contre des tiers qu’elle exclue : " Oui, je suis venu séparer l’homme de son père, la fille de sa mère, la belle-fille de sa belle-mère… " (Mat. 16, 34)

Cela implique un savoir sur la médiation (sur ce qui sépare pour réunir mieux) et notamment sur la médiation structurante des grands interdits essentiels : " Je ne suis pas venu abolir la Loi mais l’accomplir ". Les grands interdits précédemment énoncés par la Bible ne sont pas caduques, ils renferment un savoir prudent sur l’homme, ils indiquent ce qui est à respecter : la vie de l’autre, ses biens, son désir. " Tu ne convoiteras rien de ce qui est à ton prochain ", on peut alors se tenir à la bonne distance qui permet l’amour. On est loin du romantisme post-moderne " Interdit d’interdire " et de sa critique imprudente et inconsidérée des institutions. René Girard l’a minutieusement montré dans son dernier livre. Il faut respecter les interdits, non par ritualisme hypocrite mais parce qu’ils sont une leçon de vie bonne. On peut alors, enfin, à cette condition, envisager l’alternative radicale à la violence : " C’est la paix que je vous laisse, c’est la paix que je vous donne ce n’est pas à la manière du monde que je la donne " (Jean 14, 27)

La paix véritable n’est pas l’illusion du consensus qui dénie tout conflit et tout désaccord. Cette dernière, on sait qu’elle est la plupart du temps signée contre des boucs émissaires. La bonne paix est un réel dépassement : elle prend au sérieux l’intérêt anthropologique du système sacrificiel mais l’oriente dans le sens de la recherche de réconciliation. La Cène dans les Evangiles synoptiques institue l’eucharistie (étym. : la bonne offrande) comme un partage ‘symbolique’ qui instaure pourtant la présence ‘réelle’ par le sacrement et la manducation des espèces (le corps et le sang de la victime). Cette seule évocation faisait horreur aux juifs qui avaient depuis longtemps dépassé le sacré sanglant anthropophagique. On peut pourtant considérer l’eucharistie comme un subtil savoir anthropologique, une reconnaissance de ce qui déjà animait le sacré archaïque dans son meilleur aspect, une récapitulation de tout le chemin de l’anthropogenèse (Voir Pierre Gardeil : Quinze regards sur le corps livré ; Ad Solem ; 1997). Une de ses significations anthropologiques est la commémoration d’une longue quête à travers la violence pour dépasser la violence. Véritable mémorial qui se souvient de la longue transformation de la violence sacré pour l’orienter résolument vers l’issue. L’Evangile de Jean, n’ignore pas cette nécessaire récapitulation " ceux qui ne mangent pas ma chair et ne boivent pas mon sang .. " fait l’impasse sur l’eucharistie et la Cène. Il présenter en leur place le lavement des pieds comme signe de dévouement total au service de l’autre, dégagé de toute allusion au sacré violent. Là, le commandement de charité suffit : " Je vous donne un commandement nouveau : vous aimer les uns les autres ; comme je vous ai aimés, aimez-vous les uns les autres " (Jean 13, 34). C’est encore l’Evangile de Jean qui décrit le plus précisément ce dépassement radical du sacrifice dans et par la Passion. La ruse de la croix ne consiste-t-elle pas à remplacer le sacrifice à la troisième personne (celui de la victime comme tiers exclu de la collusion des complices), par le don de soi à la première personne : celui du martyr (" ma vie ‘on’ ne me la prend pas mais c’est ‘moi’ qui la donne ").

Dès lors, le témoin (martyr) accepte de plein gré la violence qu’il subit non par goût doloriste masochiste (" Père éloigne de moi cette coupe ") ni par souci revanchard pour humilier ou maudire celui qui inflige la souffrance : " Père pardonne leur parce qu’ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils font " (Luc 23, 24). C’est parce qu’il faut bien en passer par là, boire la coupe jusqu’à la lie, pour démonter le mécanisme et le faire voir dans toute son étendue. Le Témoin déconstruit la violence et montre l’alternative au prix de sa vie : " je ne suis venu dans le monde que pour rendre témoignage à la vérité " (Jean, 18, 37). Le martyr chrétien vit une imitation non orgueilleuse de la Croix comme moment suprême de la déconstruction du mal " Ô mort où est ta victoire ? ".

La Rédemption est une ruse sublime elle détourne le sacrifice violent, le retourne comme un gant et lui donne une autre signification. Elle le convertit en sacrifice doux : le don de soi. Elle prend Satan (dont la signification anthropologique est pour une grande part le processus sacral, selon la magistrale hypothèse de René Girard) à son propre jeu pour en subvertir intimement le sens " par la mort il a vaincu la mort ". Tel est pris qui croyait prendre ! À Malin, malin et demi ! Le vieux sacrifice violent est désamorcé. Sa signification ici est retournée en vie renouvelée au profit de la vérité nouvelle : " Nul n’a plus grand amour que celui-ci : donner sa vie pour ses amis " (Jean 15, 13).

Témoigner contre la violence mimétique essentielle

Le sacré doux, issu de la Rédemption, permet alors le rétablissement d’une communion bonne, bien au-delà de la réconciliation sacrificielle violente soudée par de communes hostilités. " Jésus allait mourir pour la nation et non pour la nation seulement mais encore afin de rassembler dans l’unité les enfants de Dieu dispersés " (Jean 11, 48). La communion désormais dépasse la communauté particulière pour toucher aux confins de l’universel.

Encore faut-il que la communauté soit unie dans la médiation du Médiateur par excellence : " afin que tous soient un. Comme Toi, Père, tu es en moi et moi en toi, qu’eux aussi soient en nous " ; Jean 17, 21). La médiation de celui qui se présente comme l’imitateur du Père et qui ne se dresse pas devant l’autre comme le modèle-obstacle tout puissant et auto-engendré. Elle opère dans la double dimension verticale et horizontale.

C’est en cela que cette communion est structurante : elle diffère complètement de la médiation interne où les hommes prétendent s’unir dans un pacte sans tiercéité transcendante. Ils courent alors le risque d’être livrés en proie au mimétisme qui les hante et les déchire. Sans la médiation externe, l’autonomie (refus du maître et du seigneur) et le rêve d’égalité, pourtant engendrés par le corpus judéo-chrétien sont-ils viables ? Paul dans Galates II, 4, 25 peut dire " il n’y a ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a ni homme ni femme " il ne craint pas la confusion indifférenciatrice puisqu’il est sûr de la Médiation externe par excellence : " car tous vous ne faites qu’un dans le Christ Jésus ".

La grandeur prométhéenne de l’homme moderne qui rêve de maîtriser la génération et de dompter la mort, sans les Béatitudes, peut-elle semer autre chose que l’horreur ? Sans la médiation transcendante, quel est le destin des vertus chrétiennes ? Peuvent-elles échapper aux folles dérives ?

Le mimétisme et la médiation interne qui confondent les hommes font partie du processus cyclique de la violence infernale, ils sont caractéristiques du Diable. Dans Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair René Girard explore les significations anthropologiques de Satan. Il y voit une hypostase du sacrifice violent comme de la séduction du désir mimétique avec ses impasses qui abusent et trompent l’homme : l’ensemble du processus du bouc émissaire.

Dès l’origine du texte biblique, Satan, en effet, est dévoilé comme le tentateur menteur qui abuse l’homme. Il instille insidieusement la rivalité envieuse qui préside à la chute " Vous serez comme des Dieux " (Gen 35). La rivalité et l’envie sont les vrais mobiles de la haine homicide (Caïn et Abel, Joseph et ses frères, Job, etc.).

Dans l’Évangile, Satan est la traduction d’un mot grec scandalon, qui signifie la pierre d’achoppement, l’obstacle sur lequel on bute. Selon René Girard cette notion biblique élucide le rôle du rival comme obstacle sur le plan anthropologique. Le scandalon fascine et attire, on revient obstinément se heurter à lui pour son plus grand malheur. Pierre devient objet de scandale et obstacle pour le Christ quand il le tente en le dissuadant de vivre jusqu’au bout le processus de la Passion.

Scandaliser un enfant c’est perpétuer la chute et le mal. Si l’adulte a la dignité suprême de devoir servir de modèle à l’enfant au cours du processus éducatif il se doit d’assumer ce rôle qui permet l’anthropogenèse autant que la psychogenèse. Notre époque scandalise les enfants quand elle veut abolir la distance inter-générationnelle ou inverser les modèles. Le refus de la transmission n’est-il pas l’abandon de l’enfant à la violence anomique qui ravage le groupe de pairs sans médiations externes ? Ne condamne-t-on pas l’enfant à la désaffiliation et à la désymbolisation, le menaçant dans sa santé mentale et morale, lorsqu’on le livre à ses passions sans recours éducatif? L’historien Philippe Ariès a montré comment " l’enfant roi, devient l’enfant proie ". Retour au sacré archaïque d’un Chronos dévorant ses enfants.

Aussi l’Évangile dévoile-t-il et déconstruit-il cette autre face de la violence qu’est le mimétisme trompeur et indifférenciateur. Notre époque voit bien la violence du sacral mais elle refuse de voir l’indifférenciation qu’elle laisse proliférer.

Nombreux parmi les victimes de cette indifférenciation sont ceux qui pourraient dire avec le démoniaque gérasénien " Mon nom est légion ", tant ils sont hantés par l’autre non su comme tel qui les habite, les aliène. Ils sont livrés aux conflits internes qui les déchirent (Marc 5, 9). La crise aujourd’hui, touche les paroxysmes de l’indifférenciation, ou de la " dé-différenciation " (Monette Vacquin) elle attaque l’altérité, entre les générations, les genres, les espèces, les règnes. Le génie génétique ne rêve-t-il pas de maîtriser le devenir au risque de nous précipiter dans les pires dérives mimétiques de l’indifférenciation?

Dans " Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra ", Nietzsche appelle de ses vœux, de façon prophétique avec cent ans d’avance, en quelque sorte, les temps héroïques que la recherche et le développement techno-tcientifiques actuels nous laissent entrevoir :

" À présent l’homme supérieur devient maître, la montagne de l’avenir humain va enfanter. Dieu est mort, nous voulons que le surhomme vive ! "

Son idée est que le sacré disparu, l’homme affranchi et désenchanté pourrait enfin donner libre cours à son essor créatif. En effet, l’homme a heureusement bravé certains interdits et vieilles superstitions du sacré archaïque. Mais tous les interdits peuvent-ils de façon démiurgique être balayés impunément ? L’homme peut-il s’affranchir de la génération sexuée, avec le clonage ?

A l’horizon de cette tentation de toute puissance pointent l’indifférencié, la mort et le retour du sacré ancien. Les désirs, fussent-ils philanthropiques (transformer les pierres en pain pour calmer la misère), butent sur l’obstacle de l’idôlatrie de l’homme. Cette dérive est formellement dénoncée par l’Évangile notamment à travers l’épisode des tentations du Christ par Satan dans le désert. " Tu adoreras le Seigneur ton Dieu, et à lui seul tu rendras un culte " (Luc 4, 8).

Cette même toute-puissance peut inspirer le génie génétique jusqu’à la menace du retour au sacré païen avec ses impasses meurtrières à l’endroit même où on croyait l’avoir abandonné. Francis Crick éminent biologiste qui découvrit avec Watson la double hélice de l’ADN n’hésite pas à braver l’interdit majeur du " tu ne tueras point " : " Aucun enfant nouveau-né ne devrait être reconnu humain avant d’avoir passé un certain nombre de tests portant sur sa dotation génétique ; s’il ne réussit pas ces tests il perd son droit à la vie " . Et l’homme est défiguré.[7]

Certaines bio-éthiques modernes recommandent de s’affranchir de l’interdit de tuer, en fin de vie ou à ses débuts. Or, cet interdit du sacrifice de l’autre, porté particulièrement par le texte biblique, " ce Sinaï inscrit dans le visage de l’autre " (Lévinas) pourrait bien être l’ultime rempart de l’humain.

On ne peut pas, on le pourra de moins en moins, se passer du texte biblique et particulièrement de l’Évangile pour donner de l’intelligibilité aux impasses actuelles indifférenciatrices et meurtrières de la bio-éthique (entre autres domaines).

Le désir mimétique est trompeur, séducteur, diviseur (diabolon), accusateur, il conduit au sacrifice de l’autre. Comment sortir des impasses et des pièges meurtriers du désir mimétique ? Là encore l’Evangile donne des réponses.

La sortie de la violence par la voie des Béatitudes

L’Évangile tient la recette infaillible : en renonçant à ses prestiges, en cherchant, sans se mentir, la dernière place, celle que personne ne convoîte, on sort de la rivalité et de la ruée compétitive avec ses conséquences meurtrières.

Ce renoncement n’est pas pure stratégie : cet abandon, ce détachement, cette pauvreté, procurent, effectivement, la paix et la vraie joie (Béatitudes). Le " quiétisme " de la spiritualité chrétienne est inscrit au cœur du message Évangélique. Ce renoncement aux affres passionnelles et aux trépidations illusoires du mimétisme, sans pour autant jamais refuser l’action ni l’engagement, pourrait bien être dans les temps à venir, la ressource de plus en plus indispensable.

C’est encore le renoncement qui désamorcera les bombes à retardement de la réciprocité mauvaise. Tous les conflits ne sont pas inconditionnellement prônés par l’Evangile, seul est valorisé celui qui permet de sortir de la confusion ou de la collusion complice avec l’autre. La plupart des autres conflits sont vains, allumés simplement par les ‘feux de l’envie’, la réciprocité mauvaise et ses emballements. Il faut alors tout faire pour en sortir et désamorcer l’escalade.

On désarmera l’autre, en étant soi-même désarmé (Les moines de Tibhirine ; J-M Muller). On le déstabilisera, sans forcément le provoquer, en cassant les réflexes de sa garde : " À celui qui te frappe sur une joue tend l’autre ! " (Luc 6, 29). On instaurera un type d’échange différent, un don au-delà du don (pardon) : " Aimez vos ennemis, faites du bien à ceux qui vous haïssent ! " (Luc, 6, 8). Quand le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle, quand il ne s’agit pas de témoigner pour la vérité, c’est à dire dans la plupart des dérisoires conflits mimétiques, on fera tout pour préserver la vie, la sienne et celle de l’autre. (Quand il venait te dépouiller, donne lui en plus l’autre tunique qu’il ne convoîtait pas, pour la route !).

4) L’alternative d’une contre-culture de paix et de non-violence : l’émergence de la personne

L’Évangile nous livre un savoir étonnant sur la violence, avec lui les pans entiers du mal, de ses pauvres ruses et de ses vains artifices, s’effondrent. Oui nous voyons vraiment " Satan qui tombe comme l’éclair " (Luc, 10, 18).

Mais comment s’affranchir plus radicalement de la lignée du vieil homme ? Comment en finir avec nos vieilles cultures caïniques, fondées sur le fratricide et organisées par l’antique règle sacrificielle ? Comment sortir de l’emprise de l’ennuyeux Satan : " Vous avez pour père le diable, et ce sont les désirs de votre père que vous voulez accomplir. Dès l’origine, ce fut un homicide : il n’était pas établi dans la vérité parce qu’il n’y a pas de vérité en lui.. " (Jean, 8, 42-44). Comment sortir de tout cela pour se tourner vers la joie des personnes : se réjouir enfin " de ce que vos noms soient inscrits dans les cieux " " (Luc, 10, 20) ? Comment trouver la règle d’une nouvelle anthropogénèse non-violente, celle de la vie bonne ?

Il faut et il suffit de changer d’anthropo-logique, de se déprendre des réflexes mimético-sacrificiels. Sans doute plus facile à dire qu’à vivre !

Il faut et il suffit de ‘convertir’ son désir : l’opération sera tant physique, économique que spirituelle. Cette métanoïa est un retournement de tout l’être : se soustraire à la polarisation des prestiges, s’extraire à la gravitation d’une orbe pour entrer dans une autre, moins brillante mais plus lumineuse et libératrice. Pour le christianisme cette conversion n’est pas volontariste, elle est le fruit d’un dialogue entre la liberté et la grâce, d’un consentement au don.

L’imitation de Jésus demande un sursaut initial d’abandon et de dénuement " Les renards ont des tanières et les oiseaux du ciel ont des nids ; le Fils de l’Homme, lui, n’a pas où reposer la tête " (Luc, 9, 58). Il s’agit d’entrer dans un tout autre ordre de valeur : " celui qui est le plus petit parmi vous tous c’est celui-la qui est grand " (Luc 9, 48). " Quiconque parmi vous ne renonce pas à tous ses biens ne peut être mon disciple " (Luc 14, 33). Mais quelles récompenses ultérieures !(Luc 18, 30)

Chaque verset évangélique renferme des ressources inouïes pour construire une stratégie de non violence.

L’anthropologie de René Girard a contribué à faire voir la place unique que jouent le judéo-christianisme et la révélation chrétienne, dans la compréhension et la sortie de la violence. Ces analyses qui soulignent et illustrent la portée anthropologique de l’Evangile éclairent le message sans jamais réduire le texte. Les disciplines scientifiques, littéraire, philosophiques, exégétiques sont convoquées sans jamais arraisonner le texte biblique. C’est lui au contraire qui porte à l’incandescence leurs lumières. L’œuvre de René Girard nous ouvre une voie prometteuse et incontournable pour la déconstruction de la violence dans les institutions humaines. Si de prime abord elle peut sembler se détourner de la réflexion et l’instrumentalisation des solutions alternatives, elle nous renvoie résolument vers la bonne voie pour les chercher. Heureusement certaines notions de la pensée et de la spiritualité chrétienne, inspirées directement par l’Evangile, fournissent les aides nécessaires. L’essentiel de ce chemin (chemin de vie s’il en est !) est inscrit dans le programme anthropologique que constitue la notion de personne, au sens complexe du terme que lui donne la pensée chrétienne.

La personne et la vie bonne

Un travail, à la fois réflexif et pratique, sur la manière non-violente d’être ensemble et de vivre la relation bonne est indispensable. Les règles qui inspirent la réflexion et la pratique de cette vie bonne peuvent être trouvées dans un savoir sur la personne. La personne ici ne veut pas seulement dire l’individu ni le sujet. Elle désigne le " je ", le sujet singulier, mais aussi, la qualité de relation que l’on entretient avec l’autre " toi ", " elle ", " lui ", singulier et pluriel. La personne c’est tout à la fois la relation intersubjective, dans ses caractéristiques et le résultat de ce processus relationnel. Pour Paul Ricoeur [8] , la personne est le " soi ", c’est à dire le pronom réflexif de toutes les autres personnes. Plus qu’une simple étiquette lexicale cela implique une attitude, une posture intime d’intériorisation de l’autre de sa place et de la trajectoire accomplie à travers la distance intersubjective entre je et l’autre. Non seulement l’individu singulier dans sa singularité mais la qualité de la configuration relationnelle, interpersonnelle ou communautaire qui permet son émergence. La recherche de cette relation bonne demande, dans l’amitié, l’amour, l’accompagnement éducatif ou thérapeutique, du respect, de la confiance, un souci de la bonne distance, un art de la médiation averti sur les impasses de la médiation interne. Cette bonne distance demande de découvrir les trois places essentielles de toute relation et de les convertir de la collusion contre (deux contre un) à la coopération pour (deux pour un). Tous les auteurs qui ont médité sur la notion de personne depuis Saint-Augustin (Emmanuel Mounier, Emmanuel Lévinas, Paul Ricoeur, Francis Jacques, etc.) ont souligné à quelque titre la configuration triangulaire de la personne.

L’homologie de la structure triangulaire en positif et sa symétrie inversée avec les processus de la triangulation mauvaise de la violence et du sacré, (médiation perverse ou exclusion du tiers) nous remplissent de stupeur. Les mécanismes de la violence et du sacré seraient comme le négatif qui laisse voir en filigrane et par contraste, la personne comme alternative positive. Sorte d’épiphanie de la lumière dans sa posititivité par le contraste de l’ombre, comme le négatif photographique révèle le Visage du suaire de Turin.

Cela n’étonne plus lorsqu’on se rappelle que la personne est une notion profondément inspirée par la théologie chrétienne. Un programme de vie bonne ‘je suis la vie, le chemin ‘, instruit tant par la théologie christologique que par la théologie trinitaire. Nous trouvons dans la notion de personne, ce trésor de la pensée chrétienne, le schème le plus évident de ce processus de conversion. La personne, déjà présente dans le corpus biblique mais surtout comme notion développée par les débats conciliaires dessine assez bien la dynamique relationnelle qu’implique la vie bonne en conversion.

Et si la notion est profondément et essentiellement chrétienne, elle n’en a pas moins été travaillée par d’autres disciplines et d’autres références théoriques (le droit, le théâtre, la grammaire, etc.). Ce qui la rend d’autant plus universellement partageable. Il est impossible ici, de faire le point sur ce concept central de notre civilisation.

Nous pouvons cependant tenter de saisir deux traits essentiels de cette notion qui en font non seulement le concept central d’une anthropologie de la déconstruction et de la reconstruction, mais un chemin de vie, spirituel, intellectuel et moral.

Y a t-il quelqu’un ou personne ?

La personne se définit négativement : elle n’est pas quelqu’un, ni un statut, ni un rôle, ni un personnage. La personne se gagne dans le renoncement joyeux, sans affectation ni masochisme. " Si quelqu’un veut venir à ma suite qu’il se renie… Qui veut sauver son être le perd " (Marc 8, 34-35). Elle se joue à qui perd gagne et dans le don au profit de ceux qu’elle aime. Elle se comprend dans la crise, au cœur de la situation critique.

" Ecce homo " : voilà l’homme. Ces paroles sont attribuées à Pilate au moment où il s’apprête à livrer le nazaréen à la vindicte de la foule en furie (Jean). La personne se comprend elle-même dans la déconstruction du processus mimético-sacrificiel. Elle est ce qui exhibe le mal et lui résiste, sans complaisance " victimaire ". Camus en son temps l’avait souligné, c’est quand il est en situation " foracique " (de procès, d’accusation) quand le forum fait chorus contre lui que l’homme révèle sa véritable condition.

Dans sa fragilité, sa nudité, sa pauvreté, voilà l’homme dans sa vérité. L’homme peut vouloir cacher son manque à être. Il est alors conduit au meurtre par désir mimétique, volonté de puissance et transcendance déviée.

Dans cette humanisation non-violente, alternative, la personne refuse l’inhumain, elle témoigne de l’humain par la non-compromission obstinée avec ce qui est indigne de l’homme. Dans une culture caïnique tournée vers la mort, orientée par le nihilisme, la personne vit une contre-culture de paix. Cette négation vaut une plus grande affirmation. Cette voie apophatique (9] de la définition de la personne a été largement explorée par la philosophie d’Emmanuel Mounier, elle coïncide étrangement avec celle de la déconstruction de la violence. La capacité de dire oui à la vie se mesure à celle de dire non à ce qui avilit l’homme. Dans l’aveu de son propre désir mimétique la personne consent à sa conversion, elle peut alors accueillir l’autre comme soi-même.

Le choix d’intégrer l’exclu.

La personne n’est pas l’individu qui feint l’autonomie ni l’indépendance dans le mensonge romantique. Loin d’occulter l’autre et la relation fondatrice à l’autre qui nourrit son existence, la personne se définit dans et par la relation. De cette relation dans une co-création conjointe se dessinent et émergent, à l’interface, le soi, l’autre et le social " dans le souci de soi de l’autre et de l’institution juste " (Paul Ricœur). La relation, facilement blessée par les pathologies du lien, sera restaurée, choyée. La relation de la personne contourne et subvertit la règle de l’anthropogenèse violente instaurée par la culture caïnique. Celle-ci est schématisée par la triangulation du deux contre-contre-un. On y voit la collusion fusionnelle de deux (au moins) s’affairer contre l’expulsion d’un ou plusieurs. Ce processus varie selon les circonstances interpersonnelles et institutionnelles (famille, école, entreprise, prison, etc.) où il se déploie. Il a cependant pour caractéristique constante de créer des ravages et des dégâts qui humilient et meurtrissent l’humain.

Quel que soit le rôle relationnel occupé dans la triade, on est blessé par cette " intersubjectivité dégradée " (Gabriel Marcel). La culture caïnique est fondée sur le déni de la faiblesse, elle se perpétue par le mensonge, la rivalité, l’exclusion et l’irresponsabilité vis à vis de l’autre " suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? " (Gen, 4, 9). La relation personnelle, répond à l’appel adressé à l’homme dès l’origine. On peut s’élever à la protection et à la responsabilité devant la faiblesse en soi et en l’autre. Véritable source d’énergie et de force puisée dans une solidarité nouvelle. Pacte d’inventivité où tous rivaliseraient, mais dans une saine émulation et s’uniraient dans une union sacrée, non pas contre le tiers exclu mais pour son accueil, afin que " pas un seul ne se perde " (Jean, 18, 9). Les fondements du sacré ne changent pas, le désir mimétique et l’union sont là mais leur sens change radicalement on est passé du sacré violent au sacré renouvelé et non-violent. La configuration de base d’une triangulation bonne pour l’anthropogenèse non violente se souvient du formidable modèle de la théologie trinitaire. Là chacun partage avec l’autre le souci du tiers pour et par qui ils sont mis en communication. C’est la perfection de la relation juste, celle du plus grand amour, la circumcession de la relation trinitaire comme modèle idéal où chacun intercède auprès de l’autre en faveur du tiers non plus exclu mais élu.

Dès lors, une véritable anthropologie relationnelle devient possible. Elle permet, grâce aux pistes girardiennes, de " déconstruire " la crise et la violence, et grâce aux règles d’un agir relationnel de la personne de " reconstruire " un vivre ensemble alternatif pour sortir de la violence.

Pour moi la rencontre avec Jean Vanier et avec l’Arche est déterminante car elle me donne à voir un laboratoire, une mise en acte, un agir vécu, de la personne. Il n’est pas indifférent que Jean Vanier soit un philosophe personnaliste spécialiste d’Aristote et de Thomas d’Aquin. Il est encore plus significatif que son action à l’Arche en faveur des exclus soit inspirée d’une spiritualité franciscaine et d’une lecture passionnée de l’Evangile de Jean et des Béatitudes. Là où l’anthropologie de la violence et du sacré nous montre que la communauté s’est toujours soudée sur l’éviction d’un bouc émissaire, l’anthropologie de la personne nous montre comment advenir et émerger d’un processus de confiance et de solidarité autour de celui qui jusque-là était rejeté. La vie quotidienne à l’Arche, comme communauté ouverte, permet non seulement de comprendre pourquoi et comment cela est possible mais surtout d’en expérimenter la joie profonde.

Conclusion:

Lire la Bible et particulièrement l’Évangile aujourd’hui c’est découvrir des ressources incontournables et indispensables pour sortir de la violence. Loin de devoir être cantonné à l’usage d’une communauté précise, ce texte par sa force, sa lucidité et son actualité, peut atteindre sa vocation universelle sans gêner un abord plus laïque.

L’anthropologie mimétique du sacré, a permis de discerner dans le texte chrétien un savoir précis et anticipateur sur les processus du désir mimétique, de ses dérives violentes dans l’indifférenciation et de la réconciliation sacrale qu’il opère autour d’une victime fondatrice. Nous y avons trouvé des matériaux de dévoilement et de déconstruction de la violence actuelle, passée ou à venir..

L’anthropologie relationnelle de la personne nous a suggéré quelques voies pour construire une contre-culture de paix tournée vers la restauration d’une relation bonne, ouverte et solidaire. Elle nous a permis d’entrevoir l’épaisseur d’un processus puissamment interface où se construisent conjointement et dans le même mouvement la réalité de l’homme sur le plan du sujet, du groupe et de l’espèce.

Ces deux démarches ne sont pas des instruments théoriques épistémologiquement hétérogènes et incompatibles. Elles ne se posent pas de l’extérieur pour l’intelligibilité du texte évangélique, plus intimement, elles en semblent émanées. C’est pourquoi, loin d’être étrangères entre elles, ces deux approches théoriques issues du même corpus se complètent et se répondent étonnamment. Elles sont modélisables par deux figures triangulaires. L’une, celle du sacré archaïque correspond à la collusion contre, tandis que l’autre la coalition pour pourrait fort bien renvoyer à l’essentiel du sacré non violent. Un sacré sans doute partageable avec toute communauté, malgré (ou grâce à) ses racines judéo-chrétiennes, et compatible universellement. De toutes façons tout aussi difficile à réaliser, pour chacun quel qu’il soit, et quelles que soient ses convictions ou ses références théoriques, sans le recours de la Grâce.

Ainsi l’on peut voir comment de bout en bout portées par une anthropo-logique inspirée du religieux biblique, la déconstruction de la violence et l’émergence de la personne sont relayables par les concepts de l’anthropologie scientifique et philosophique.

Loin d’être des pures théories elles demandent une expérience et une pratique personnelles de rupture avec les vieux mécanismes de la trop humaine humanisation. Ce difficile arrachement et ce long enfantement ne pourront venir que de l’acquiescement en chacun à cette part nouvelle où, selon la formule de Pascal, l’homme passe infiniment l’homme.

Notes

[7] cité par France Quéré L’Éthique et la vie ; Odile Jacob ; 1991 , p. 172

[8] " Soi-même comme un autre " ; Seuil, 1990

[9] Voir ici le bel article de Marie-Étiennette Bely " La notion de personne chez Emmanuel Mounier. Approche apophatique et mystique " ; Revue des sciences religieuses, Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg ; Janvier 1999


Gaza: Lequel te semble avoir été le prochain de celui qui était tombé au milieu des brigands ? (Gaza’s latest war shows off French exception in all its misery)

24 novembre, 2012
http://f1.movinstream.com/uploads/videos/GwcSnmYithf.jpgEt qui est mon prochain ? Jésus reprit la parole, et dit : Un homme descendait de Jérusalem à Jéricho. Il tomba au milieu des brigands, qui le dépouillèrent, le chargèrent de coups, et s’en allèrent, le laissant à demi mort. Un sacrificateur, qui par hasard descendait par le même chemin, ayant vu cet homme, passa outre. Un Lévite, qui arriva aussi dans ce lieu, l’ayant vu, passa outre. Mais un Samaritain, qui voyageait, étant venu là, fut ému de compassion lorsqu’il le vit. Il s’approcha, et banda ses plaies, en y versant de l’huile et du vin ; puis il le mit sur sa propre monture, le conduisit à une hôtellerie, et prit soin de lui. Le lendemain, il tira deux deniers, les donna à l’hôte, et dit : Aie soin de lui, et ce que tu dépenseras de plus, je te le rendrai à mon retour. Lequel de ces trois te semble avoir été le prochain de celui qui était tombé au milieu des brigands ? C’est celui qui a exercé la miséricorde envers lui, répondit le docteur de la loi. Et Jésus lui dit : Va, et toi, fais de même. Jésus (Luc 10 : 25-37)
Car j’ai eu faim, et vous m’avez donné à manger; j’ai eu soif, et vous m’avez donné à boire; j’étais étranger, et vous m’avez recueilli;j’étais nu, et vous m’avez vêtu; j’étais malade, et vous m’avez visité; j’étais en prison, et vous êtes venus vers moi.Les justes lui répondront: Seigneur, quand t’avons-nous vu avoir faim, et t’avons-nous donné à manger; ou avoir soif, et t’avons-nous donné à boire?Quand t’avons-nous vu étranger, et t’avons-nous recueilli; ou nu, et t’avons-nous vêtu?Quand t’avons-nous vu malade, ou en prison, et sommes-nous allés vers toi?Et le roi leur répondra: Je vous le dis en vérité, toutes les fois que vous avez fait ces choses à l’un de ces plus petits de mes frères, c’est à moi que vous les avez faites.Ensuite il dira à ceux qui seront à sa gauche: Retirez-vous de moi, maudits; allez dans le feu éternel qui a été préparé pour le diable et pour ses anges. Car j’ai eu faim, et vous ne m’avez pas donné à manger; j’ai eu soif, et vous ne m’avez pas donné à boire; j’étais étranger, et vous ne m’avez pas recueilli; j’étais nu, et vous ne m’avez pas vêtu; j’étais malade et en prison, et vous ne m’avez pas visité.Ils répondront aussi: Seigneur, quand t’avons-nous vu ayant faim, ou ayant soif, ou étranger, ou nu, ou malade, ou en prison, et ne t’avons-nous pas assisté?Et il leur répondra: Je vous le dis en vérité, toutes les fois que vous n’avez pas fait ces choses à l’un de ces plus petits, c’est à moi que vous ne les avez pas faites. Jésus (Matthieu 25: 35-45)
Ce qui m’a motivé, c’était la parole de Jésus « vous êtes le sel de la terre » qui signifie que vous devez nous engager; vous ne pouvez pas rester dans votre église. Vous devez vous engager dans cette situation; le sel doit être inséré dans la blessure, dans l’endroit qui n’est pas en règle, qui est en difficulté. C’est là où vous devez aller. Cette idée d’engagement dans la politique est une pensée que Jésus a déjà exprimée dans la parabole du bon Samaritain. Quelqu’un a été battu et git là sur le chemin, ceux qui l’ont battu sont partis, et maintenant deux hommes venant du temple s’approchent, détournent la tête et s’en vont. Jésus dit qu’ils sont coupables non parce qu’ils [ont fait quelque chose] – ils n’ont rien fait, ce n’est pas eux qui l’ont battu – mais parce qu’ils ne l’ont pas aidé. Si nous nous contentons de laisser le monde tranquille et ne nous engageons, nous sommes tout aussi coupables que ces deux hommes qui, comme l’a dit Jésus dans cette parabole, se ont détourné les yeux et n’ont pas voulu en entendre parler. Vous devez vous engager parce que vous êtes le sel de la terre. Christian Führer
La charge, ou le poids ou le fardeau de la gloire de mon voisin devrait être portée tous les jours sur mon dos, une charge si lourde que l’humilité seule peut la porter et que le dos des orgueilleux en est rompu. C’est une chose sérieuse de vivre dans une société de possibles dieux et déesses, se rappeler que la personne la plus ennuyeuse et la plus inintéressante à qui vous parlez pourrait un jour être une créature qui, si vous pouviez la voir maintenant, vous seriez fortement tentés de l’adorer, ou bien une horreur et une corruption telle que vous ne pourriez à présent rencontrer, si cela était possible, que dans un cauchemar. Tout au long de la journée nous nous aidons, dans une certaine mesure, à atteindre l’une ou l’autre de ces destinations. C’est à la lumière de ces écrasantes possibilités, c’est avec la crainte et la circonspection propres à celles-ci, que nous devrions considérer tous nos rapports avec l’autre… Il n’y a pas de gens ordinaires. Vous n’avez jamais parlé à un simple mortel. Les nations, les arts, les civilisations sont mortelles, et leurs existences sont par rapport à la notre comme la vie d’un moustique. Mais ce sont avec les immortels que nous jouons, travaillons, que nous épousons, méprisons et exploitons – horreurs immortelles ou splendeurs éternelles…. Cela ne signifie pas qu’il nous faut être perpétuellement solennels. Il nous faut jouer. Mais notre joie doit être de ce genre (et c’est, en fait, le genre le plus joyeux) qui existe entre ceux qui se sont, dès le départ, pris mutuellement au sérieux  — aucune désinvolture, aucune supériorité, aucune présomption. CS Lewis
Je suis né dans un pays qui n’existe pas, Je suis né sur une terre qui n’est plus à moi, Une terre occupée, une terre piétinée, Une terre autonome sur le papier, Je suis né sous les You-Yous et les cris de joie, Je suis né après bien d’autres dans le camp trop étroit, La mer était ma frontière, mon sanctuaire, Pour oublier les colons et le blocus et la misère, J’ai grandi bercé au son des récits de l’exil, J’ai grandi au creux des vies suspendues à un fil, Le fil d’un espoir tenace dans l’impasse, Un jour oui la tête haute nous aurons notre place, Nous aurons notre place, nous aurons notre place. J’ai grandi trop, trop, vite entre deuil et oubli, J’ai grandi en tutoyant l’horizon infini, Le sable chaud sous mes pas me portait vers l’au delà, Je serai si grand si fort, on ne verra que moi, J’ai vécu à Gaza sans jamais en sortir, J’ai vécu de jours en jours sans remords ni soupir, Malgré les barbelés le couvre feu les blindés, J’ai chéri au fond de moi le rêve d’en échapper, Le rêve d’en échapper, le rêve d’en échapper. J’ai vécu les vagues humaines de l’intifada, J’ai vécu cortèges et grèves drapeaux à bout de bras, Nous chantions à pleins poumons notre passion, Tandis qu’au dessus de nous paradaient leurs avions, Je suis mort, a-t-on menti, d’une balle perdue, Je suis mort assassiné par un homme inconnu, Qui croyait faire son devoir en tirant dans le brouillard, Sur des ombres ennemies aux armes dérisoires, Je suis mort comme milles autres, mille après mille avant, Je suis mort un soir d’automne, un soir de ramadan, Mais je ne voulais que vivre, vivre libre, Je ne voulais qu’être libre, je ne voulais qu’être libre, Je ne voulais qu’être libre !! Jean-Pierre Filiu (Une vie de moins)
J’étais diplomate, premier conseiller à Damas, et ils avaient fait une tournée régionale avec des dates à Damas et Alep. Nous sommes restés proches depuis cette époque et je leur ai proposé ce texte, qu’ils ont choisi de mettre en musique et en images. C’est une chanson qui raconte l’histoire touchante d’un être humain qui a grandi à Gaza. Chacun y mettra ce qu’il veut. Le seul message, c’est qu’on n’oublie pas Gaza. Pour le reste, il n’y a pas de mode d’emploi. Jean-Pierre Filiu
Le premier symbole auquel s’attaque la chanson est la valeur supérieure de la vie dans le judaïsme avec le titre, « Une vie de moins », qui suggère le peu de cas que les Israéliens feraient de la vie des Palestiniens (comme si une vie de plus ou de moins ne changeait pas véritablement la donne). Ce titre désacralise ainsi l’un des principes fondamentaux du judaïsme en vertu duquel "Celui qui tue un homme tue toute l’humanité". Richard Pasquier (Crif)
La bande de Gaza accueille aujourd’hui sur 360 km2 un million six cent mille êtres humains. Plus de la moitié des habitants de Gaza ont moins de 18 ans et, dans leur écrasante majorité, ils n’ont jamais pu sortir, même une seule fois, de leur territoire de naissance. Pas une famille n’a été épargnée par la violence : dans chaque foyer de Gaza, au moins un membre a été tué, mutilé, blessé, ou emprisonné en Israël. Malgré cette succession de souffrances, les habitants de Gaza sont d’une hospitalité émouvante et d’une générosité insigne. La seule richesse de Gaza, ce sont ces femmes et ces hommes, attachants et touchants, et cette richesse se livre sans compter.   Les jeunes de Gaza et de Palestine ne veulent au fond rien d’autre que les jeunes de partout ailleurs. Une vie normale, libérée de l’angoisse permanente. Une existence délivrée de l’ombre des milices et de la menace d’Israël. Une vie digne, en sécurité et en paix. Il est temps d’entendre cette génération Palestine et de la comprendre. « Une vie de moins » lui est dédiée. Mediapart
La liberté d’expression a des limites, tout le monde vous le dira. Il est bien sûr légitime de publier des caricatures du Prophète de l’islam, de conspuer l’islam à longueur de colonnes, de considérer les musulmans comme des « ennemis de l’intérieur » qu’il nous faut dénoncer, en revanche, critiquer Israël devient de plus en plus risqué. Dans un article publié le 15 octobre sur le site du Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF) intitulé « Une chanson qui risque de promouvoir la haine d’Israël chez les jeunes », l’auteur prend à partie la chanson « Une vie en moins », du groupe Zebda, dont les paroles ont été écrites par Jean-Pierre Filiu. Il écrit : « Le premier symbole auquel s’attaque la chanson est la valeur supérieure de la vie dans le judaïsme avec le titre, “Une vie de moins”, qui suggère le peu de cas que les Israéliens feraient de la vie des Palestiniens (comme si une vie de plus ou de moins ne changeait pas véritablement la donne). Ce titre désacralise ainsi l’un des principes fondamentaux du judaïsme en vertu duquel “Celui qui tue un homme tue toute l’humanité”. » Ainsi donc, les auteurs de la chanson ne sont pas seulement des anti-israéliens, mais des antijuifs, soit des antisémites. Accusation qui devient habituelle contre tous ceux qui critiquent la politique de l’Etat d’Israël. L’auteur de ce texte ne réalise pas (ou peut-être, au contraire, le fait-il délibérément) le danger qu’il y a à assimiler Israël aux principes du judaïsme. L’armée israélienne, qui envahit le Liban en juin 1982, qui réprime par la force les Intifadas, qui attaque encore le Liban en 2006, défend-elle les valeurs du judaïsme ? L’Etat qui a utilisé la torture à grande échelle défend-il la valeur supérieure de la vie humaine ? En le prétendant, l’auteur favorise tous les amalgames entre Israël, le judaïsme et les juifs du monde, pris en otage par une politique dont ils ne portent pas la responsabilité. Alain Gresh
C’est le cri d’un enfant de Gaza mort sous les balles d’un soldat israélien. Qui raconte sa vie dans un clip, sous un emballage graphique ciselé. « Je suis né sur une terre qui n’est plus à moi, une terre piétinée, une terre occupée…pour oublier le blocus et la misère, j’ai grandi bercé au son des récits de l’exil. » Et pour finir. « Je suis mort à ce qu’on m’a dit d’une balle perdue, je suis mort assassiné par un homme inconnu qui croyait faire son devoir en tirant dans le brouillard sur des ombres d’ennemis aux armes dérisoires…" Traduisons: Israël, l’occupant qui prend plaisir à piétiner le peuple arabe de Gaza, est un tueur d’enfants. L’accusation des Juifs d’assassiner les enfants trouve ses racines pluriséculaires dans le vieux discours antisémite chrétien, avant de faire les beaux jours du nazisme et d’imprégner aujourd’hui l’islamisme radical. Le martyr Merah, saisissant par les cheveux la petite Myriam Monsonégo, 8 ans, et lui collant le canon de son arme sur le front, rétablit enfin l’injustice faite aux enfants palestiniens. Sylvie Bensaid

Au terme de deux semaines de souffrance du peuple israélien …

Mais aussi, pour le peuple de Gaza, de la part de leurs tortionnaires de dirigeants …

Où, triste exception française, la Patrie autoproclamée des droits de l’homme et sa claque médiatique se sont à nouveau trouvés aux abonnés absents

Quand, intellectuels et artistes en tête, elle ne prend pas part, dans la ville même qui nous donné le tueurs d’enfants juifs Merah, aux pires détournements

Retour, en guise de réponse à la célèbre question du docteur de la loi à Jésus concernant qui était son prochain, sur le fameux sermon du grand apologue du christianisme et disciple de Chesterton CS Lewis

Si vite oublié parce qu’ayant eu la malchance de mourir le même jour que Kennedy et Huxley …

Et dont, surtout du côté français, on ne connait plus que l’oeuvre de fiction pour enfants

The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis

Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in THEOLOGY, November, 1941, and by the S.P.C.K,

1942

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.

The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.

But there is one other important similarity between the schoolboy and ourselves. If he is an imaginative boy he will, quite probably, be revelling in the English poets and romancers suitable to his age some time before he begins to suspect that Greek grammar is going to lead him to more and more enjoyments of this same sort. He may even be neglecting his Greek to read Shelley and Swinburne in secret. In other words, the desire which Greek is really going to gratify already exists in him and is attached to objects which seem to him quite unconnected with Xenophon and the verbs in μι. Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. No doubt there is one point in which my analogy of the schoolboy breaks down. The English poetry which he reads when he ought to be doing Greek exercises may be just as good as the Greek poetry to which the exercises are leading him, so that in fixing on Milton instead of journeying on to Aeschylus his desire is not embracing a false object. But our case is very different. If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

In speaking of this desire for our own far- off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. Hence all the nonsense that Mr. Shaw puts into the final speech of Lilith, and Bergson’s remark that the élan vital is capable of surmounting all obstacles, perhaps even death—as if we could believe that any social or biological development on this planet will delay the senility of the sun or reverse the second law of thermodynamics.

Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. But is there any reason to suppose that reality offers any satisfaction to it? “Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.” But I think it may be urged that this misses the point. A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called “falling in love” occurred in a sexless world.

Here, then, is the desire, still wandering and uncertain of its object and still largely unable to see that object in the direction where it really lies. Our sacred books give us some account of the object. It is, of course, a symbolical account. Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience. The scriptural picture of heaven is therefore just as symbolical as the picture which our desire, unaided, invents for itself; heaven is not really full of jewelry any more than it is really the beauty of Nature, or a fine piece of music. The difference is that the scriptural imagery has authority. It comes to us from writers who were closer to God than we, and it has stood the test of Christian experience down the centuries. The natural appeal of this authoritative imagery is to me, at first, very small. At first sight it chills, rather than awakes, my desire. And that is just what I ought to expect. If Christianity could tell me no more of the far-off land than my own temperament led me to surmise already, then Christianity would be no higher than myself. If it has more to give me, I must expect it to be less immediately attractive than “my own stuff.” Sophocles at first seems dull and cold to the boy who has only reached Shelley. If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.

The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly, that we shall be like Him; thirdly, with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; fourthly, that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and, finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe—ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God’s temple. The first question I ask about these promises is: “Why any of them except the first?” Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. I think the answer turns again on the nature of symbols. For though it may escape our notice at first glance, yet it is true that any conception of being with Christ which most of us can now form will be not very much less symbolical than the other promises; for it will smuggle in ideas of proximity in space and loving conversation as we now understand conversation, and it will probably concentrate on the humanity of Christ to the exclusion of His deity. And, in fact, we find that those Christians who attend solely to this first promise always do fill it up with very earthly imagery indeed—in fact, with hymeneal or erotic imagery. I am not for a moment condemning such imagery. I heartily wish I could enter into it more deeply than I do, and pray that I yet shall. But my point is that this also is only a symbol, like the reality in some respects, but unlike it in others, and therefore needs correction from the different symbols in the other promises. The variation of the promises does not mean that anything other than God will be our ultimate bliss; but because God is more than a Person, and lest we should imagine the joy of His presence too exclusively in terms of our present poor experience of personal love, with all its narrowness and strain and monotony, a dozen changing images, correcting and relieving each other, are supplied.

I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?

When I began to look into this matter I was stocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation’ by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards. I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years. prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures—nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.” I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back. But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike. In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised. I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

And now notice what is happening. If I had rejected the authoritative and scriptural image of glory and stuck obstinately to the vague desire which was, at the outset, my only pointer to heaven, I could have seen no connexion at all between that desire and the Christian promise. But now, having followed up what seemed puzzling and repellent in the sacred books, I find, to my great surprise, looking back, that the connexion is perfectly clear. Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants I have begun to learn better what I really wanted. When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as “the journey homeward to habitual self.” You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.” A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being “noticed” by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (I Cor. viii. 3). It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully re- echoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to any one of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words: “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more— something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.

And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind, and still more the body, receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountain-head that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialized and depraved appetites we cannot imagine this torrens voluptatis, and I warn everyone seriously not to try. But it must be mentioned, to drive out thoughts even more misleading—thoughts that what is saved is a mere ghost, or that the risen body lives in numb insensibility. The body was made for the Lord, and these dismal fancies are wide of the mark.

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Voir aussi:

Une vie de moins, une chanson pour Gaza
Sylvie Bensaid
Tribune juive
24 octobre 2012

Jean-Pierre Filiu professeur d’histoire à Sciences Po, spécialiste de l’islam et auteur d’une Histoire de Gaza (Fayard, 2012), vient d’écrire une chanson assassine, « Une vie de moins » interprétée par le groupe Zebda, que Mediapart a présenté en avant-première.

C’est le cri d’un enfant de Gaza mort sous les balles d’un soldat israélien. Qui raconte sa vie dans un clip, sous un emballage graphique ciselé. « Je suis né sur une terre qui n’est plus à moi, une terre piétinée, une terre occupée…pour oublier le blocus et la misère, j’ai grandi bercé au son des récits de l’exil. » Et pour finir. « Je suis mort à ce qu’on m’a dit d’une balle perdue, je suis mort assassiné par un homme inconnu qui croyait faire son devoir en tirant dans le brouillard sur des ombres d’ennemis aux armes dérisoires… »

Traduisons: Israël, l’occupant qui prend plaisir à piétiner le peuple arabe de Gaza, est un tueur d’enfants. L’accusation des Juifs d’assassiner les enfants trouve ses racines pluriséculaires dans le vieux discours antisémite chrétien, avant de faire les beaux jours du nazisme et d’imprégner aujourd’hui l’islamisme radical. Le martyr Merah, saisissant par les cheveux la petite Myriam Monsonégo, 8 ans, et lui collant le canon de son arme sur le front, rétablit enfin l’injustice faite aux enfants palestiniens.

Jean-Pierre Filiu

Qui est M. Filiu? C’est un ancien fonctionnaire, un diplomate, un universitaire polyglotte. Il croule sous les diplômes, les reconnaissances universitaires, les publications scientifiques et grand public. Il fait par-tie de l’aristocratie nationale bureaucratique et universitaire. Sa chanson porte à l’incandescence les secteurs les plus sensibles et les plus pathologiques de la nation.. Combien de nouveaux tueurs va-t-on devoir à M. Filiu, à sa chanson et à son clip ?


Société: Cachez cette différence que je ne saurai voir (When in doubt, sexualize or butcher the quote!)

21 novembre, 2012
http://vulpeslibris.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/victorians.jpg?w=280&h=443Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus-Christ. Paul
C’est dingue ! Si on n’est pas branchée sex-toys, si on n’aime pas parler de masturbation en gloussant autour d’un mojito, et qu’on ne cumule pas les amants, on est… nulle. Anonyme
It’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality. Volkoh
"Hooking up" is a common phrase among young people today, but as journalist Stepp (author of Our Last Best Shot, 2000) discovered, the term is nebulous in meaning. Covering a range of sexual behavior, hooking up can mean anything from kissing to intercourse, as well as everything in between. Stepp conducted extensive interviews with young women in high school and college to find out how this casual approach to sexual encounters is affecting a generation. What she learned is that in large part hooking up had supplanted dating, with both young men and women eschewing deeper relationships for casual encounters with little or no commitment involved. Stepp looks at how the culture of today fosters these attitudes, noting that when young women are expected to excel at school and have numerous outside activities, many feel they don’t have time to form a deeper bond with a significant other. Eye-opening and powerful, Stepp’s book also offers empowering advice for women as they navigate today’s sexual landscape. Kristine Huntley
What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, "my plaything" and "my bitch." Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the "yucks". Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way (…) In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, « He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize." And goes on to tell them, "In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long." It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere. In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: « Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? » And: « Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination. » The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame. Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. "Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering." In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes. And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all. Kathy Dobie
Suppose that everything we think we know about ‘The Victorians’ is wrong? That we have persistently misrepresented their culture, perhaps to make ourselves feel more satisfyingly liberal and sophisticated? What if they were much more fun than we ever suspected? As Matthew Sweet shows us in this brilliant study, many of the concepts that strike us as terrifically new – political spin-doctoring, extravagant publicity stunts, hardcore pornography, anxieties about the impact of popular culture upon children – are Victorian inventions. Most of the pleasures that we imagine to be our own, the Victorians enjoyed first: the theme park, the shopping mall, the movies, the amusement arcade, the crime novel and the sensational newspaper report. They were engaged in a well-nigh continuous search for bigger and better thrills. If Queen Victoria wasn’t amused, then she was in a very small minority . . . Matthew Sweet’s book is an attempt to re-imagine the Victorians; to suggest new ways of looking at received ideas about their culture; to distinguish myth from reality; to generate the possibility of a new relationship between the lives of 19th-century people and our own. Inventing the Victorians (Book presentation)
Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ "ridicule and ellipsis" link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous! (…) Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external. Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The "loss" of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a "loss" of male "virginity"; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been "broken" for the woman has, for the man, been "fixed." I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.(…) It strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women? I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame. Classical values
In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of "virtues" into "values," Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality: This mutation in the word "virtue" has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus "Victorian values" have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as "limbs," and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries. In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. "The woman who draped the legs of her piano", one historian solemnly informs us, "so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat". In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians. Classical values

Refus de la différence, quand tu nous tiens!

Découvert sur le net …

En ces temps étranges de parent 1 (ou A) et de parent 2 (ou B) …

Et en ce bientôt meilleur des mondes de mamans (porteuses) ou de putains remboursées par la sécu

Cet intéressant site de réinformation culturelle (Classical values) qui prétend, ô périlleuse mais louable ambition, "mettre un terme à la guerre culturelle en restaurant les valeurs culturelles" …

Où l’on apprend par exemple comment pour mieux enfoncer un livre déplorant la véritable mise au ban de la virginité dans certains milieux, un critique du Washington post n’hésite pas, au point de la dénaturer complètement voire de lui faire dire le contraire de ce qu’elle disait vraiment, à charcuter une citation …

Ou, alternativement, comment,  pour ridiculiser la prétendue obsession de la même virginité de nos arrières-parents victoriens, certains de nos historiens trop crédules ont pu prendre pour argent comptant les plaisanteries des Victoriens eux-mêmes (sur leurs cousins… américains!) et ainsi, pour des générations après eux, sexualiser malgré eux les pieds de leurs pianos …

Shaming the unshattered?

Classical values

March 03, 2007

Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ "ridicule and ellipsis" link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous!

The book in question is Laura Sessions Stepp’s Unhooked, and as Volokh makes clear, the butchery of the quote renders her thought almost incoherent.

Here’s the mangled (and subsequently ridiculed) WaPo quote:

Your body is your property…. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?

Yeah, that makes very little sense. But here’s what’s omitted:

Your body is your property. No one has a right to enter unless you welcome them in. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? Is your body worth less than a house?

And here’s Eugene Volokh:

The second sentence (the omission of which the Post noted with the ellipses) explains why we’re talking about nonconsensual rock-throwing. In this paragraph, the author seems not to be faulting fully consensual, enthusiastic casual sex, but rather casual sex of the sort that is at least not entirely welcome (a characteristic that I take it the author thinks is not uncommon in casual sex). Many young women, the author is suggesting, let men have sex with them even though they do not fully "welcome them in," perhaps because they feel pressured by the man or by social expectations. Not-fully-welcome sex is not the same as rock-throwing, but at least the analogy is closer than it is between presumably enthusiastic "hooking up" and rock-throwing.

The fourth sentence (which is also omitted in the Post review, though conventions of quotation allow the omission not to be marked with ellipses) then tries to tie the body with the house: They aren’t the same (for instance, in the sense that they’re both great places to have a party), but rather they’re both valuable, and your body is if anything even more valuable. Again, not a terribly convincing metaphor, but not as zany or worthy of derision as some might think. Among other things, try the lampoon quoted above on the whole paragraph:

I don’t think Stepp’s broken window analogy is either zany or worthy of derision, although I understand why others would. I suspect that those who derided the analogy are only pretending not to understand it, and I think they wouldn’t want to get it (and would claim not to get it if someone explained it). That’s because the broken window analogy goes to the center of the difference between the sexes that people imagine can be dismissed. Therefore, it’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality.

The broken window analogy (to a woman’s loss of virginity) is hardly new. Ask anyone who studied art history.

There’s Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher, Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, and I even found a cute little narrative about the subject coming up in an art history class:

She is actually relieved to be in Art History discussing Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, even if there are idiots in her class. The girl with the jewel-encrusted crucifix obscuring all her other features insistently claims the girl in the painting signifies the masses, and the broken pitcher is their broken relationship with Christ. The cocky guy who has missed half the classes since joining his frat, is spinning the class all off on a tangent somehow connecting the broken pitcher to unemployment rates during the Great Depression. Stupid.

Sighing, she is patient, sighing again and again as she digests her so-called peers’ comments and systematically discards their worth. The class wallows in a pit of circular reasoning. Just as she is about to reach her limit and set them all straight, the teacher says, "What if it’s about sex? What if the pitcher is her virginity?"

Silence blooms. Her classmates look at each other, some giggling.

I don’t know whether the teacher planned on show-and-tell, so I’ll complement her lecture by adding Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher:

It’s tough to unwrite Art History, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external.

Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The "loss" of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a "loss" of male "virginity"; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been "broken" for the woman has, for the man, been "fixed."

I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.

As to what is going on in the mind in the mental or moral sense, that’s more complicated. The WaPo reviewer touches on a favorite subject of Classical Values, and that is sexual shame:

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Look, I’m more against sexual shame than anyone I know. Seriously, I am not kidding; just poke around the blog.

But I have one question for the WaPo writer. Since when is a dog in heat (actually, it should be "bitch in heat") an ugly image? The reason I’m asking is because I’m harboring a bitch in heat right now, and Coco does not take kindly to being called ugly by the MSM! She’s not ugly, and she leaves plenty to the imagination. Well, maybe not when she’s waving her little vagina around and her tail curls and the coat of hair on her butt gets all wrinkly and slitherers forward in anticipation of a tie-up. But even that is not without it’s charm, at least for a shameless relativist like me. The bottom line is that Coco is not ugly, and I don’t consider any of this shameful. (Although I suspect the WaPo might be trying to shame Ms. Stepp.)

I keep saying that what we call the Culture War is really a war over sex, because I think it is. At the heart of that, though, is a war over sexual shame. While I don’t know whether Ms. Stepp is trying to instill feelings of sexual shame as the Post says, I do know that plenty of people are very frustrated by the absence of sexual shame in others.

The problem is, as I keep saying, you can’t feel what you don’t have, nor can you expect that if you’re disgusted with something, that others will share your disgust. Sometimes, I think there’s on one "side" a demand that others not be disgusted by things which disgust them, while on the other "side" there’s an equally shrill demand that they be disgusted by things that don’t disgust them.

Right now though, I’m feeling a little disgusted by the lack of honesty in the way this argument is being addressed, because it just isn’t being addressed. People yell at each other’s tastes or what they perceive as a lack thereof, and they don’t even seem to realize that what they’re doing is demanding not accommodation or tolerance of their tastes or disgusts, but a sharing of them. While this strikes me as an unreasonable argument, there’s no way to discuss whether it’s a reasonable argument if people aren’t even aware that it is in fact an argument.

Take Leon Kass’s wisdom of repugnance. Please!

No seriously, let’s take it, because I’ve devoted time to it and gotten not very far. There is no question that sexual shame varies from person to person, as do sexual tastes. From a previous post, here’s Martha Nussbaum, interviewed by Reason’s Julian Sanchez:

Unlike anger, disgust does not provide the disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for the purposes of public argument and public persuasion. If my child has been murdered and I am angry at that, I can persuade you that you should share those reasons; if you do, you will come to share my outrage. But if someone happens to feel that gay men are disgusting, that person cannot offer any reasoning that will persuade someone to share that emotion; there is nothing that would make the dialogue a real piece of persuasion.

Reason: As a follow up, can you say something about how that cashes out into a critique of communitarian ideals?

Nussbaum: The prominent defenders of the appeal to disgust and shame in law have all been communitarians of one or another stripe ([Lord] Devlin, [Amitai] Etzioni, Kass), and this, I claim, is no accident. What their thought shares is the idea that society ought to have at its core a homogeneous group of people whose ways of living, of having sex, of looking and being, are defined as "normal." People who deviate from that norm may then be stigmatized, and penalized by law, even if their conduct causes no harm. That was the core of Lord Devlin’s idea, and it is endorsed straightforwardly by Etzioni, and, in a rather different way, and in a narrower set of contexts, by Kass. My study of disgust and shame shows that these emotions threaten key values of a liberal society, especially equal respect for people and for their liberty. Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy.

While I think trying to make someone feel shame who does not feel it is a waste of time, my point is that even if you put sexual shame aside, in logic something is being given up by a woman that is not being given up by a man. To deny this denies reality.

Denial of reality has a way of annoying me, but it’s even more annoying when it’s done in the name of reality.

But I think there’s something more going on than denial. I think the attempt to tar Ms. Stepp with the accusation that she’s fostering sexual shame obscures something else which Eugene Volokh mentioned, and that is the pressure of what he calls "social expectations."

From the Amazon book description:

In Unhooked, Stepp follows three groups of young women (one in high school, one each at Duke and George Washington universities). She sat with them in class, socialized with them, listened to them talk, and came away with some disturbing insights, including that hooking up carries with it no obligation on either side. Relationships and romance are seen as messy and time-consuming, and love is postponed-or worse, seen as impossible. Some young women can handle this, but many can’t, and they’re being battered-physically and emotionally-by the new dating landscape. The result is a generation of young people stymied by relationships and unsure where to turn for help.

If it is true that some of the young women doing this cannot handle it, then I wonder why. I haven’t read the book, but might another form of shame be going on?

Is it possible that not wanting to have sex might be considered shameful in some circles? Might there be a stigma attached to virginity?

Apparently, there is. And it didn’t take me long to find it. Here’s the (U Va) Cavalier Daily’s Kate Durbin:

Having or abstaining from sex is a personal decision. Like drinking alcohol or eating meat, it is a choice that each person must make for him or herself, free from the pressures of peers and society in general. No reason need be given as to why someone chooses to abstain from sex, just as no reason need be given when someone chooses not to consume alcohol. Personal decisions are just that — personal. They should be respected as such. Virgins, angered by the negativity surrounding their choices, should seek to change societal attitudes instead of spending time enumerating the reasons they chose to be a virgin.

[...]

….if society is really so open when it comes to sex, why is it that virginity remains such a curse for those college students choosing it? For whatever reason, abstaining from sex has somehow come to be a socially isolating factor, making virgins feel like their choices are somehow viewed as wrong.

As long as current attitudes about sexual choices persist, refraining from sex will continue to be seen as some kind of problem. Having sex or not having sex is a personal choice. This fact must be accepted and respected by our generation.

Hmmm….Virginity a curse? At the University of Virginia at that!

Oh the irony!

I don’t know how typical the above complaint is (there’s more, of course, and it seems to be a response to another column poking fun at virgins), but as someone who is against sexual shame, I try to at least be consistent about it, and it strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women?

I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame.

Voir aussi:

Without Victorian modesty, even pianos can get carried away!

Classical values

March 13, 2007

In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of "virtues" into "values," Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality:

This mutation in the word "virtue" has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus "Victorian values" have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as "limbs," and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries.

In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. "The woman who draped the legs of her piano," one historian solemnly informs us, "so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat." In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians.

I have a minor correction. While I must necessarily take no position on the perpetuation of satire by gullible historians (lest I get into a conflict of interest), and I cannot claim to know who is right about sexualizing the Victorian penchant for covering piano legs, I can state with some confidence that the historian Himmelfarb criticized was not the first to sexualize the piano.

Unless the Victorian satirists were first, I’m afraid the credit must go to Salvador Dali, who did a pretty good job of it back in the 1930s:

Once again, here’s "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano" (1934):

atmospheric_skull_sodomizing_a_grand_piano.JPG

And from the same year, here’s "Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal’s Nest":

SkullWithLyricAppendage.jpg

I don’t know whether this means the couple had a child or just merged with each other, but the presence of the bedside table indicates some that some sort of ongoing intimacy occurred.

I scrupulously take no position on whether any of this could have been avoided had the piano been appropriately covered.

And at the risk of being anthropopianomorphic, I have to venture that Dali might have been using the pianos as some sort of substitute for his own libido, or maybe his sex life. Because in the same year he painted the indisputably sexualized pianos, he also painted "Cardinal, Cardinal!":

cardinal.jpg

Note the same bedside table. The man (IMO) is clearly Dali, and he’s leaning towards the bedside table at the same angle as the skull does. His shirt even looks like a skull! Not only that, he’s holding a pitcher (the breaking of which artistically symbolizes lost virginity), and seems unable to put it back where it belongs. The uncovered woman is of course his wife Gala. (A divorcee who could not be considered virginal by any definition.)

As to what the reference to the "exact temperature of a cardinal’s nest" might mean, I’m tempted to speculate that it might involve a failure of the human fertility cycle, and I’d note that by 1934 Gala seems to have left her fertility cycles behind her.

Whether Dali was making any judgment about virtues or values (or what that judgment might have been) I’ll leave to others.

Politics is surreal enough as it is.

(I’ve tried not to politicize art, but the piano meme seems to have legs.)

MORE: While I wasn’t thinking about her when I wrote the post, a Hot Air commenter named OBX Pete says that Hillary Clinton looks like a piano:

I’ve seen her legs and believe me you don’t want to see them. If you take a picture of her and crop everything above the waist she could be mistaken for a grand piano. Actually she is doing us all a favor by wearing those pantsuits.

On the other hand, she has to work with what she was born with (as we all do) so she can’t help it if she has piano legs. I’m more concerned with that ultra-liberal mind.

I looked into this and discovered that it’s worse than I imagined — to the point where the Urban Dictionary includes Hillary in the very definition of "Piano Legs":

1. piano legs

Disproportionately thick calves and/or ankles on a woman with otherwise normal body weight.

No wonder Hillary Clinton always wears pant suits. She’s got a humongous set of piano legs.

Voir également:

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (by Laura Sessions Stepp)

Going All the Way

 By Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

The Washington Post

February 11, 2007

UNHOOKED

How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both

By Laura Sessions Stepp

Riverhead. 288 pp. $24.95

Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

Articles, op-ed pieces and radio shows have been devoted to the sexual practice of "hooking up," but Washington Post reporter Laura Session Stepp’s Unhooked is the first book on the phenomenon and, one hopes, not the last. For when someone takes such a volatile aspect of young people’s lives and puts it under a microscope — or in this case, a concerned, disapproving gaze — you want the large, well-lit view.

Stepp follows three high school girls and six college women through a year in their lives, chronicling their sexual behavior. These girls and women don’t date, don’t develop long-term relationships or even short, serious ones — instead, they "hook up." Hooking up, Stepp writes, "isn’t exactly anything." It can "consist entirely of one kiss, or it can involve fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse or any combination of those things. It can happen only once with a partner, several times during a week or over many months . . . . It can mean the start of something, the end of something or the whole something." If that sounds as if hooking up can mean almost anything but "fried fish for dinner," Stepp goes on to offer something more definite: What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, "my plaything" and "my bitch."

Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the "yucks."

Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way: In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people — a very different thing. Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone ), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity. And of course, there is also lust, something this very unsexy book about sex doesn’t take into account. In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, "He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize."And goes on to tell them, "In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long."

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. "Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering."

In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes.

And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all.


Société: Vous avez dit pervers narcissique? (I am come to set a man at variance against his own household)

5 novembre, 2012
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus
Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie. G.K. Chesterton
Le souci des victimes est devenu un enjeu paradoxal des rivalités mimétiques, des surenchères concurrentielles. René Girard
Malheur à celui qui n’annonce pas les mauvaises nouvelles ! La condamnation par des juges italiens des spécialistes coupables de n’avoir pas prévu le tremblement de terre d’Aquila nous montre jusqu’où mène notre pathologie contemporaine du principe de précuation; comment il habille d’oripeaux modernistes l’antique sacifice du bouc émissaire. Chez nous aussi, la justice est de plus en plus sollicitée, non pour dire le droit, mais pour exercer les vengeances collectives, panser les souffrances, occulter les réalités, abattre un adversaire. (…) On somme la justice de dire la science; et l’histoire aussi (…) La justice sert à tout. Des parents de terroristes attaquent la police, qui a commis le crime d’abattre des dangereux armés jusu’aux dents qui se vantaient d’exécuter des enfants d’une balle dans la tête. (…) Personne ne veut être le méchant; le juge est sollicité pour donner un brevet de gentillesse. Eric Zemmour
C’est une pathologie rare. Ces temps-ci, on a trop tendance à voir des dynamiques de bourreau-victime un peu partout. Serge Hefez dit que, depuis que Le Harcèlement moral, la violence perverse au quotidien, de Marie-France Hirigoyen (2), est sorti, son cabinet est plein de patients qui viennent parler de leur PN de conjoint, de parent, de boss… Jean-Charles Bouchoux pointe, lui, du doigt un mal de l’époque : celui de vouloir chercher un coupable à tout, et à tout prix, pour payer à sa place. Attention, ce n’est pas parce qu’il y a du mensonge, de l’infidélité ou de la froideur qu’il y a forcément un pervers. L’idée de manipulation, qui préside à la destinée de ce personnage, est difficile à cerner. Le PN est le Tartuffe de Molière. Son apparence est trompeuse: on le croit sincère et plein d’empathie. Cela fait de lui ce que Michel Onfray appelle un "délinquant relationnel". Pour autant, le terme ne figure pas dans le répertoire des maladies psychiatriques. C’est un concept psychanalytique et non pas psychiatrique, formalisé par Paul-Claude Racamier dans les années 1980. (…) "Nous vivions autrefois dans une société oedipienne, mais on a tué Dieu et on ne l’a pas remplacé. Nous sommes donc plus que jamais dans une société narcissique qui manque cruellement de pères", analyse Jean-Charles Bouchoux. Les pervers pourraient être plus nombreux qu’autrefois, selon lui, à cause du déclin de la fonction paternelle. Nous serions en effet passés du patriarcat au matriarcat. L’Express

Vous avez dit pervers narcissique?

Concurrence mémorielle, dérives du principe de précaution dans la recherche scientifique, juridicisation des rapports avec les responsables politiques, excès de sacralisation de la parole de la victime notamment des enfants …

En ces temps où les dérives victimaires prennent des proportions proprement épidémiques

Retour, à l’occasion de la sortie d’énièmes ouvrages qui lui sont consacrés, à  la dernière accusation à la mode et intarissable succès médiatique ou d’édition garanti …

A savoir celle de perversion narcissique …

Les pervers narcissiques en dix questions

Elvira Masson

L’Express

02/11/2012

Qui sont ces "vampires affectifs", comment les repérer et, surtout, comment s’en débarrasser ? Alors que de nouveaux livres viennent étayer le propos, notre enquête sur le phénomène.

A en croire les discussions de bureau, ils seraient des millions. Quiconque souffre d’un chef de service tyrannique, d’une soeur médisante ou d’un fiancé de mauvaise foi crie au PN. Parce que, quand on jargonne psy, c’est PN que l’on dit. Et, à en croire également l’inflation de livres consacrés au sujet, il se pourrait bien qu’ils soient plus nombreux que jamais, tant notre société exacerbe l’individualisme… bien qu’il n’y ait aucun chiffre pour le prouver.

Mais, d’abord, qu’est-ce qu’un pervers, en langage psy? "C’est quelqu’un qui pense avant tout à sa toute-jouissance et qui, pour la satisfaire, transforme l’autre en objet. Quant au narcissisme, c’est un mal très contemporain ; c’est être tourné sur soi-même au point de l’obsession", répond le psychologue Serge Hefez. Avant d’ajouter: "Nous sommes dans un instant de civilisation où l’estime de soi est très importante, mais, là, elle devient pathologie."

Rappelons que le narcissisme est sain en soi, car il nous permet de nous construire. Comme l’explique le psychologue clinicien Didier Pleux, auteur de De l’adulte roi à l’adulte tyran (Odile Jacob), "il est tout à fait normal de bien s’aimer et d’avoir une petite dose de narcissisme, car c’est un présupposé fondamental pour accepter les autres et les aimer à leur tour. Mais les narcissiques sont, eux, incapables d’empathie. Le "sentiment de l’autre" leur est étranger. Ils ne ressentent jamais de culpabilité, de gêne, s’il leur arrive de blesser autrui, de le gruger, de le manipuler."

Le narcissisme est sain en soi, car il nous permet de nous construire

Le PN est pire encore: il n’est que manipulation et désir de nier l’autre, en même temps que recherche sans fin de l’autre pour le vampiriser et se valoriser à ses dépens, donc à des fins d’exploitation. Ceci est d’une violence inouïe, mais insidieuse. Car le pervers est un merveilleux comédien, un Dr Jekyll et Mr Hyde en puissance, qui, pour ne pas tomber dans la schizophrénie, instaure une relation schizophrène. Un être qui agit "par-derrière" et dont on se dépêtre avec la plus grande difficulté. Avec l’aide et sous le contrôle de Jean-Charles Bouchoux, psychanalyste, auteur des Pervers narcissiques (Eyrolles), tâchons, en dix questions, de saisir les contours de cette pathologie dont on parle tant… Et de cesser de crier au PN sans raison.

1- Y en a-t-il plus qu’avant?

C’est une pathologie rare. Ces temps-ci, on a trop tendance à voir des dynamiques de bourreau-victime un peu partout. Serge Hefez dit que, depuis que Le Harcèlement moral, la violence perverse au quotidien, de Marie-France Hirigoyen (2), est sorti, son cabinet est plein de patients qui viennent parler de leur PN de conjoint, de parent, de boss… Jean-Charles Bouchoux pointe, lui, du doigt un mal de l’époque : celui de vouloir chercher un coupable à tout, et à tout prix, pour payer à sa place. Attention, ce n’est pas parce qu’il y a du mensonge, de l’infidélité ou de la froideur qu’il y a forcément un pervers.

L’idée de manipulation, qui préside à la destinée de ce personnage, est difficile à cerner. Le PN est le Tartuffe de Molière. Son apparence est trompeuse: on le croit sincère et plein d’empathie. Cela fait de lui ce que Michel Onfray appelle un "délinquant relationnel". Pour autant, le terme ne figure pas dans le répertoire des maladies psychiatriques. C’est un concept psychanalytique et non pas psychiatrique, formalisé par Paul-Claude Racamier dans les années 1980.

2- Pourquoi pourrait-il y en avoir plus qu’avant?

"Nous vivions autrefois dans une société oedipienne, mais on a tué Dieu et on ne l’a pas remplacé. Nous sommes donc plus que jamais dans une société narcissique qui manque cruellement de pères", analyse Jean-Charles Bouchoux. Les pervers pourraient être plus nombreux qu’autrefois, selon lui, à cause du déclin de la fonction paternelle. Nous serions en effet passés du patriarcat au matriarcat. Or, il existe bien une fonction paternante et une fonction maternante (qui n’ont pas forcément à voir avec le clivage homme-femme, d’ailleurs), dont la coexistence est cruciale pour la bonne construction psychique.

3- Pourquoi et comment devient-on pervers?

Le pervers a gardé une structure infantile. Citons un exemple donné par Jean-Charles Bouchoux. Un homme demande à sa femme de monter avec lui en voiture, il fait une marche arrière et emboutit la voiture de sa femme, garée juste derrière la sienne. Immédiatement, il se retourne contre elle et lui dit: "Mais pourquoi étais-tu garée à cet endroit? !" Il se comporte comme un enfant qui ne supporte pas d’être pris en défaut. Il ne supporte pas le conflit intérieur et, dès qu’il en rencontre un, il le projette sur l’autre.

le psychopathe n’a pas eu de père et le pervers a eu un mauvais père

Freud disait que les enfants sont des pervers polymorphes qui passent par divers stades, l’exhibitionnisme par exemple, pour se structurer psychiquement. Parce que le père, ou la figure paternelle, n’a pas joué sa fonction d’apprentissage de l’altérité, que la mère a toujours nourri l’enfant sans jamais le sevrer, au sens figuré, l’enfant ne formule pas de désir et ne connaît pas la frustration. Son surmoi ne peut donc pas se constituer. Or le surmoi fait appel aux valeurs morales. Le PN n’en est pas totalement dépourvu – contrairement au psychopathe -, mais la frontière est ténue. En schématisant, et au sens figuré, le psychopathe n’a pas eu de père et le pervers a eu un mauvais père qu’il ne peut plus entendre. Cela dit, ce dernier peut devenir psychopathe en cas de rupture, amoureuse, familiale, professionnelle…

4- Quels sont les signes qui permettent de le repérer?

Rappelons que la perversion narcissique ne concerne que les adultes: un enfant ne peut pas souffrir de cette pathologie puisqu’il n’a pas encore terminé son développement psychique. Le pervers a pour objectif de restreindre, de soumettre et d’avilir sa victime. Mais ses méthodes sont sournoises. Pour ne pas devenir fou, il pousse l’autre à le devenir. C’est un flatteur et un énorme séducteur. Il va dire : "Je t’aime, mais…" et citer toute une liste de raisons pour ne pas vous aimer. Il n’a pas d’empathie et ne reconnaît jamais ses torts. Il passe son temps à dénigrer sa victime. Il reproche à l’autre d’être coupable de torts qui sont en réalité les siens. C’est ce qu’on appelle l’identification projective. Un mécanisme qui rend la victime impuissante jusqu’à ce qu’elle en comprenne le fonctionnement. C’est évidemment quelqu’un qui ne s’excuse jamais. C’est ce qui peut le différencier d’une personne à simple tendance tyrannique.

5- Peut-on être "légèrement" PN?

Le besoin de tout critiquer en permanence, d’être dans un dénigrement systématique signe en effet une tendance perverse. Le propre des "vrais" pervers est qu’ils ne consultent jamais. C’est précisément quand ils ne le sont pas assez, ou légèrement seulement, qu’ils consultent. Là, le psy doit être très vigilant, ce qui ne suffit pas forcément tant le pervers en puissance est manipulateur et joue les victimes. Car, si le psy commence à le déculpabiliser, celui-ci deviendra pervers. Le psy doit même laisser son patient face à sa culpabilité !

Le besoin de tout critiquer en permanence signe une tendance perverse.

6- Peut-on être pervers au travail,mais pas dans le couple, et inversement?

C’est parfaitement possible. On peut être un toutou au travail et un tyran à la maison, et l’inverse. Le pervers fonctionne sur le clivage : ceux qui me ressemblent sont bons, ceux qui sont différents sont mauvais. Il a peur de se couper en deux. Ce clivage peut ne s’exercer que dans une sphère. On peut n’être pervers que quand on est amoureux. On peut très bien également ne l’être qu’avec son conjoint et pas avec les enfants, et inversement.

7- Un pervers peut-il rendre pervers?

A l’exception des enfants, qui n’ont pas encore établi pleinement leur structure, il ne peut pas rendre l’autre structurellement pervers. Pour le devenir, il faut y être prédisposé. Le pervers nous pousse à la dépression, à la violence, à la maladie… Il s’agit bien souvent de réponses conjoncturelles. Il peut être normal de répondre ponctuellement à une agression par un mécanisme pathologique, ça ne fait pas de nous des pervers. Cette question en induit une autre: n’est-il pas pervers de traiter quelqu’un de pervers? La réponse, selon Jean-Charles Bouchoux, est qu’en effet "il est tentant d’attribuer à l’autre ce que l’on sent en soi".

8- La victime du PN porte-t-elle une part de responsabilité?

Il existe des traits communs aux victimes de manipulateurs. Elles sont généreuses, sincères, ouvertes aux autres, font facilement confiance, mais sont souvent à la recherche d’une relation qui les aide à se structurer. Elles préfèrent s’inscrire dans le désir de l’autre plutôt que d’exposer le leur. Dans certains cas, les victimes ont un penchant masochiste. Elles ont souvent en commun avec les pervers une faille narcissique, mais la leur est plus ou moins profonde. Chez elles, celle-ci peut être simplement conjoncturelle.

La victime, à l’inverse du pervers, projette de l’amour

La victime, à l’inverse du pervers, projette de l’amour et, souvent, renarcissise son partenaire, ce qui la rend d’autant plus insupportable pour le pervers. Elle est habitée par le doute, le désir de faire mieux, d’être à la hauteur. Ce qui peut la conduire à surjouer son personnage. Mais il est très délicat de parler de responsabilité. N’oublions pas qu’elle reste une victime.

9- Comment le neutraliser?

"Tuez-le, il s’en fout. Humiliez-le, il en crève", écrit Paul-Claude Racamier dans Le Génie des origines. Si vous vous mettez en colère face à lui, surtout en public, il retournera cette agressivité contre vous et profitera de la situation pour affirmer que vous révélez enfin votre vrai visage, que vous venez d’apporter la preuve de votre dysfonctionnement. Mais si vous le blessez, l’humiliez (sachant que la victime le fait rarement, parce qu’elle le protège), en démontrant que c’est lui qui est mauvais, Paul-Claude Racamier explique qu’il pourrait entrer dans une phase suicidaire. L’idéal est de couper court à toute relation avec le PN. En réalité, il n’y a pas d’alternative. Et il ne faut surtout pas tenter de se justifier ; il tâcherait immédiatement de retourner la rhétorique contre vous. La seule chose que l’on puisse lui dire, c’est : "Mais qui es-tu pour me dire ça?" Il faut renoncer à comprendre, également. Nous avons tous besoin de formuler: "S’il agit ainsi… c’est parce que…", or il n’y a pas de "parce que".

10- Un PN peut-il guérir?

On ne soigne pas son conjoint, ni ses parents, ni son chef de service. Le PN n’est jamais soignable par sa victime. Or la victime souffre parfois du "syndrome de la réparation". La thérapie est envisageable, mais le PN est tellement manipulateur – il érige la manipulation au rang de norme – que les réussites sont rares…

A lire les nouvelles parutions Les Relations perverses, par Claire-Lucie Cziffra. Eyrolles, 18 euros. Pourquoi m’as-tu abandonné(e) ? par Jean-Charles Bouchoux. Payot, 15,50 euros. De l’adulte roi à l’adulte tyran, par Didier Pleux. Odile Jacob, 22,90 euros. Et toujours Les Perversions narcissiques, par Paul-Claude Racamier. Payot, 13,50 euros. Les Pervers narcissiques, par Jean-Charles Bouchoux. Eyrolles, 18 euros.


Présidentielle américaine/2012: Mormonisation ou simple désobamisation? (Mormon moment or anything to get rid of Obama?)

16 octobre, 2012
Un sondage Quinnipiac indique que 36 % des citoyens se sentiraient « mal à l’aise » devant un président mormon. Contre 13 à 15 % seulement dans l’hypothèse d’un président catholique ou juif.
Les mormons ont finalement été acceptés en tant que citoyens « normaux » et présidentiables, au delà ou en dépit de leurs particularités. Rejoignant les catholiques, qui avaient attendu jusqu’en 1960 pour qu’un des leurs – John Kennedy – devienne président, les juifs, définitivement banalisés avec la candidature du sénateur Joe Liebermann à la vice-présidence, en 2000, ou les Noirs, adoubés avec Obama en 2008. La clé de cette normalisation ? Le comportement dans la vie quotidienne et dans la vie publique. En tant que mormons, les mormons sont « bizarres » : mais vu de l’extérieur, c’est le cas de toutes les religions. En tant que voisins, collègues, patrons, employés, électeurs, élus, ils ont en revanche appris, tout au long du XXe siècle, à être des Américains comme les autres. Et même un peu plus que les autres. Michel Gurfinkiel
Le mormonisme, comme d’autres églises nées lors du "Grand réveil chrétien", est un mouvement austère. En règle générale les mormons ne fument pas, ne prennent pas de drogue, ne boivent pas d’alcool, ni de caféine -et donc pas de sodas caféinés. On ne danse pas non plus sur les derniers tubes de hip-hop ou de rock and roll. Bref la vie dans l’Utah peut apparaitre austère pour le reste de la population américaine. (…) Néanmoins, le fait que la candidature de Mitt Romney soit viable prouve une certaine tolérance du peuple américain à l’égard du fait religieux. Elle renforce aussi l’image de l’église mormone comme faisant désormais partie de la norme des paysages religieux et politique du pays. S’il s’installe à la Maison-Blanche, ce serait un événement novateur sur le plan religieux, même s’il n’aurait pas pour autant tout à fait la même importance que l’élection de John Fitzgerald Kennedy, premier catholique à être élu président des Etats-Unis en 1960. Olivier Richomme
Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies—a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time. Stephen Mansfield
If Americans understood Mormonism a little better, they might begin to think of Romney’s faith as a feature, not a bug, in the Romney candidacy. If anything, Romney’s religion may be the best offset to the isolation from ordinary people imposed by his wealth. It was Romney’s faith that sent him knocking on doors as a missionary—even as his governor father campaigned for the presidency of the United States. It was Romney’s position as a Mormon lay leader that had him sitting at kitchen tables doing family budgets during weekends away from Bain Capital. It was Romney’s faith that led him and his sons to do chores together at home while his colleagues in the firm were buying themselves ostentatious toys. Maybe the most isolating thing about being rich in today’s America is the feeling of entitlement. Not since the 19th century have the wealthiest expressed so much certainty that they deserve what they have, even as their fellow citizens have less and less. To be a Mormon, on the other hand, is to feel perpetually uncertain of your place in America. It’s been a long time since the U.S. government waged war on the Mormons of the Utah Territory. Still, even today, Mormons are America’s most mockable minority. It’s hard to imagine a Broadway musical satirizing Jews, blacks, or gays. There is no Napoleon Dynamite about American Muslims. David Frum

Book of Mormon, Big love, Sister wives, Angels in America

A quand une comédie musicale vantant la promiscuité ou la paresse légendaires des noirs?

A la veille d’un nouveau débat crucial qui pourrait lui aussi puissamment contribuer à l’arrivée du premier président mormon à la Maison Blanche …

Mais après, pour les membres d’une religion à la fois méconnue mais intrinsèquement américaine, une longue histoire de discrimination (chasses à l’homme de l’Ohio et du Missouri, massacres d’Illinois, exil dans le désert de l’Utah, ou, plus politiquement correctement, les moqueries actuelles) avant, tout récemment, l’émergence politique (direction de la majorité démocrate au Sénat avec Harry Reid), médiatique, littéraire ou artistique (avec Glenn Beck, Stephen Covey, Stephenie Meyer ou Katherine Heigl) …

Retour, avec Michel Gurfinkiel, sur cette normalisation que représente l’entrée d"un des leurs …

Dans le club très fermé non seulement des  "présidentiables" mais désormais – qui peut encore en douter? – des "éligibles" …

Présidentialisation qui en dit cependant tout aussi long sur l’incroyable rejet ou déception que suscite de plus en plus un président qui, avec les dérives que l’on sait, nous avait été vendu comme un véritable messie …

USA/ Un mormon à la Maison Blanche ?

La religion mormone est « bizarre ». Mais les mormons sont bons voisins, bons collègues, bons citoyens. Ceci compense cela.

Michel Gurfinkiel

September 20 2012

Il y a désormais une chance sur deux pour que le prochain président des Etats-Unis soit un mormon : Mitt Romney, le candidat républicain, est à la fois un « mormon historique », issu d’une famille acquise à « l’Eglise des Saints des Derniers Jours » dès le XIXe siècle, et un « mormon engagé », qui a mis sans cesse ses talents au service de sa communauté. Il a même exercé les fonctions d’évêque, c’est-à-dire de dirigeant régional.

La plupart des Américains assurent qu’ils ne tiendront pas compte de cette appartenance religieuse au moment de voter. De même qu’ils n’ont pas tenu compte de la race d’Obama en 2008. Mais que valent ces affirmations « politiquement correctes » ? D’après un sondage Gallup, 5 % des Américains ne voteront en aucun cas pour un Noir ; le rejet atteint 6 % pour une femme, 7% pour un catholique, 9 % pour un juif, 10 % pour un Hispanique ; mais dans le cas d’un mormon, il atteint 22 %. Une enquête Pew donne un chiffre plus élevé encore : 25 %. Et un sondage Quinnipiac indique que 36 % des citoyens se sentiraient « mal à l’aise » devant un président mormon. Contre 13 à 15 % seulement dans l’hypothèse d’un président catholique ou juif.

Le mormonisme peut être considéré, à bien des égards, comme la religion américaine par excellence. Il est né aux Etats-Unis, voici près de deux cents ans. Ses livres saints – le Livre de Mormon, publié en 1830, censé être un « Troisième Testament » , mais aussi de nombreux autres textes mystiques publiés par la suite – ont été rédigés en anglais. Ses prophètes, Joseph Smith Jr. et Brigham Young, étaient américains. Sa ville sainte, Salt Lake City, se situe aux Etats-Unis. Et l’Utah, un Etat du Far West, constitue sa terre sainte.

Mais par ailleurs, le mormonisme a quelque chose de bizarre, sinon même de subversif. Il a longtemps pratiqué la polygamie. Jusqu’en 1890, il tentait de faire de l’Utat un Etat théocratique indépendant, en marge de l’Union américaine. Certaines de ses cérémonies religieuses se déroulent dans des temples majestueux – reconnaissables des flèches culminant à plus de cent mètres – mais fermés aux non-adeptes. L’Eglise est organisée de façon pyramidale ; les membres lui versent en principe 10 % de leurs revenus et lui doivent, à l’âge de vingt ans, deux années de « service religieux », d’apostolat, aux quatre coins du monde. Enfin, les mormons pratiquants s’abstiennent de toute substance excitante : drogue, ce qui ne saurait être blâmé, mais aussi alcool ou tabac …

Leur théologie ne suscite pas moins de questions. Les mormons se réclament de la Bible et de Jésus. Mais leurs livres saints prêchent une religion radicalement nouvelle, selon laquelle chaque être humain est appelé à devenir Dieu. Pour la plupart des prêtres et pasteurs américains, ils ne sont pas vraiment des chrétiens.

L’un dans l’autre, cependant, le parti républicain a fait de l’ « évêque » Romney son candidat. Dans la mesure où ses caciques ont les yeux fixés sur les simulations de vote, cela signifie que les mormons ont finalement été acceptés en tant que citoyens « normaux » et présidentiables, au delà ou en dépit de leurs particularités. Rejoignant les catholiques, qui avaient attendu jusqu’en 1960 pour qu’un des leurs – John Kennedy – devienne président, les juifs, définitivement banalisés avec la candidature du sénateur Joe Liebermann à la vice-présidence, en 2000, ou les Noirs, adoubés avec Obama en 2008.

La clé de cette normalisation ? Le comportement dans la vie quotidienne et dans la vie publique. En tant que mormons, les mormons sont « bizarres » : mais vu de l’extérieur, c’est le cas de toutes les religions. En tant que voisins, collègues, patrons, employés, électeurs, élus, ils ont en revanche appris, tout au long du XXe siècle, à être des Américains comme les autres. Et même un peu plus que les autres. L’une des raisons pour lesquelles, en ce début du XXIe siècle, Romney a été investi par le parti républicain, c’est que 74 % des mormons votent républicain.

Voir aussi:

EXTRAITS DE «LES MORMONS» D’ALAIN GILLETTE

La place de la question mormone dans l’élection américaine

Candidat dans la course à la Maison Blanche, Mitt Romney n’a jamais caché ses convictions et son attachement à sa religion : le mormonisme. Alain Gillette, dans « Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet » (Desclée de Brouwer) nous éclaire sur une religion peu connue en Europe mais qui touche de plus en plus de personnes aux États-Unis. (Extraits 2/2).

Les mormons développent dans 185 pays leur Église de Jésus-Christ des saints du dernier jour, avec quelque 300 000 conversions annuelles. Leur prosélytisme très actif, la campagne de Mitt Romney dans la course à la Maison Blanche en 2012 et la construction de leur premier temple en France métropolitaine, réservé aux sacrements les plus élevés, traduisent ce dynamisme.

Des tables d’or que Dieu aurait confiées près de New York en 1820 à un jeune paysan, Joseph Smith, les mormons ont tiré une prodigieuse puissance financière et politique. La conquête théocratique de l’Ouest, la polygamie, une colossale entreprise généalogique pour baptiser les défunts, de vives controverses et l’impact profond d’Internet sur la stratégie de cette singulière Église comptent parmi les épisodes retracés ici, d’une incarnation religieuse et totalitaire du rêve américain.

Dans ce livre, sans parti pris ni complaisance, Alain Gillette nous aide à mieux connaître les mormons, notamment ceux des pays francophones, leur religion et leur impact sur la société américaine.

Extraits de Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet d’Alain Gillette

Un sondage réalisé par PEW en novembre 2011[1] a conclu que :

- le facteur mormon allait jouer dans les élections primaires contre Romney, à l’époque talonné par Herman Cain et Newt Gingrich ; il l’a néanmoins emporté ;

- mais ce facteur ne devait pas jouer pour l’élection présidentielle elle-même, le clivage démocrate-républicain à propos de Barack Obama étant jugé si brutal qu’il estompe la question mormone ;

- 50 % des électeurs à travers les États-Unis disaient alors ne pas savoir grand-chose, voire rien du tout, du mormonisme, une baisse peu significative par rapport à 2007 (52 %) compte tenu de la marge d’erreur; 51 % (inchangé) considéraient que c’est une religion chrétienne, mais très différente de leur propre religion pour 65 % d’entre eux;

- sur ces bases, le facteur mormon jouerait aux primaires mais pas perceptiblement à l’élection présidentielle elle-même.

Pour ne pas être taxé d’anti-américanisme primaire, on peut citer deux universitaires américains, dont un mormon, pour qui « l’ironie est que les suspicions que le public américain continue à entretenir à propos des mormons – leur intolérance, leur homogénéité sociale, leur religion fondée sur des révélations continues – correspondent en réalité à l’intolérance religieuse et au manque de respect pour la diversité sociale aux États-Unis[2]».

Confronté à l’intolérance il y a un demi-siècle, John Kennedy a prouvé qu’il ne prenait pas d’ordres de l’autrement puissante Église catholique américaine (distance que sa vie privée confirmait…) ni ne soutenait le réseau diplomatique du Vatican ; et pourtant, la crainte perdure face à l’hypothèse d’un président Romney qui serait sous influence politique des Saints des derniers jours, et qui apporterait le soutien du Département d’État à leur œuvre missionnaire.

La peur de la différence demeure à l’œuvre. Des responsables et des sites évangélistes américains, dont certains proclament que « Joseph Smith était sans doute un cas psychiatrique ou un menteur », écrivent pourtant que le dialogue avec l’Église est devenu très souhaitable. Les sondages donnent à penser qu’ils sont minoritaires, une majorité de ces confessions demeurant sur ses gardes, voire doutant de surcroît que Mitt Romney soit un mormon parfaitement orthodoxe et rassurant en matière idéologique. Ses résultats aux élections primaires en auraient souffert dans les États où les Églises évangéliques sont influentes et où les attaques de ses adversaires républicains ont fait flèche de tous bois antimormons.

[1] . Sondage réalisé du 9 au 14 novembre 2011, 2001 adultes (marge d’erreur globale: 3%), Romney’s Mormon Faith Likely a Factor in Primaries, Not in a General Election,Washington, DC; PEW Research Center.

[2] Lee Trepanier et Lynita K. Newswander, op. cit., page 51.

Ancien journaliste à Europe 1, Alain Gillette, qui a vécu dans l’Utah, est un spécialiste de l’audit des politiques et des organisations publiques et internationales.

Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet d’Alain Gillette, Desclée de Brouwer (27 septembre 2012)

Voir encore:

"Si Romney, mormon, est élu, ce serait novateur sur le plan religieux"

Primaires républicaines : Romney reprend la main

INTERVIEW – Mitt Romney, le favori à l’investiture républicaine, est mormon. Quelle est la place de cette église aux Etats-Unis ? Quelles en sont les valeurs ? Est-ce un handicap d’être mormon dans la campagne électorale ? Les réponses de TF1 News avec Olivier Richomme, professeur de civilisation américaine.

Olivier Richomme est maître de conférences en civilisation américaine à l’Université Lyon II. Il a écrit plusieurs livres sur les Etats-Unis. A paraître : Obama, président : quel bilan ? (Presses de Sciences Po).

TF1 News : Comment définir aujourd’hui les mormons américains ?

Olivier Richomme : Le nom complet de leur église étant l’Église de Jésus-Christ des saints des derniers jours, cela traduit un positionnement complexe vis-a-vis des églises chrétiennes. C’est une église un peu à la marge. De leur côté, ils se définissent comme des chrétiens issus du protestantisme. Mais les chrétiens les considèrent à part.

TF1 News : Pourquoi ?

O.R. : A l’instar de certains mouvements évangéliques apparus au 19e siècle lors du "Grand réveil chrétien", les mormons ont leur propre prophète, leur propre livre, en l’occurrence le "livre des mormons" au lieu de la bible. Même s’ils partagent la foi dans le Christ et des valeurs communes avec les autres chrétiens, certaines de leurs positions les placent en périphérie des groupes traditionnels. Ceux-ci les perçoivent donc essentiellement comme une "secte" -le mot n’ayant pas la même signification négative qu’en France- réfugiée dans l’Utah.

TF1 News : Quels sont les raisons de ce fossé ?

O.R. : Tout d’abord, comme nous venons de le voir, le fait qu’ils ne se basent pas sur la bible. Ensuite, vient le problème de la polygamie. Certes, après avoir été autorisée au début du mouvement, elle a été interdite dès la fin du 19e siècle -il est possible néanmoins qu’eller reste encore présente, de manière très marginale, dans les secteurs les plus reculés de l’Utah. Mais, surtout, dans la représentation que se font les chrétiens de l’Eglise mormone, ils gardent en tête qu’elle a été tolérée, voire encouragée, par le passé. A leurs yeux, les mormons d’aujourd’hui ne peuvent donc pas être de bons chrétiens. La croyance mormone que les Amérindiens sont les descendants des tribus perdues d’Israël n’arrange rien. Toutes ces petites choses différencient les mormons et expliquent l’anathème dont ils sont en partie victimes aux Etats-Unis de la part des chrétiens.

TF1 News : Quelles sont leurs principales valeurs ?

O.R. : Ils partagent les mêmes valeurs morales que les évangéliques, avec notamment l’opposition à l’avortement et au mariage homosexuel. Mais ils sont néanmoins soupçonnés d’être moins fermes, moins sincères en ce qui concerne l’adultère. Les évangéliques noirs les critiquent de leur côté en raison de la longue ségrégation de leur clergé.

Plus globalement, le mormonisme, comme d’autres églises nées lors du "Grand réveil chrétien", est un mouvement austère. En règle générale les mormons ne fument pas, ne prennent pas de drogue, ne boivent pas d’alcool, ni de caféine -et donc pas de sodas caféinés. On ne danse pas non plus sur les derniers tubes de hip-hop ou de rock and roll. Bref la vie dans l’Utah peut apparaitre austère pour le reste de la population américaine.

Enfin, selon l’interprétation de l’histoire d’Abraham qui aurait donné à Dieu 10% de son cheptel, les mormons donnent au moins 10% de leurs revenus à leur église. Selon eux, ce que l’on reçoit provient de Dieu, et il faut donc lui redonner. L’Eglise mormone (ndlr : six millions de membres aux Etats-Unis) est ainsi très riche.

TF1 News : Sur le plan politique, être mormon a-t-il un impact sur Mitt Romney dans la bataille présidentielle ?

O.R. : Pour les primaires, c’est gênant puisqu’il a du mal à gagner la confiance des évangéliques. Or il est déjà boudé par les conservateurs sociaux qui le jugent trop centriste puisqu’il a été gouverneur du Massachusetts, l’Etat probablement le plus à gauche du pays. Tout ceci pèse au niveau politique. Au Congrès, il ne peut par exemple compter sur l’appui que de quelques élus de l’Utah. Mais le choix étant limité, il devrait néanmoins l’emporter. Ensuite, cela devrait moins peser contre Barack Obama, même s’il aura toujours du mal à mobiliser la base des conservateurs sociaux et des évangéliques. Ils donneront moins, s’impliqueront moins dans la campagne et pourraient s’abstenir le jour de l’élection.

Néanmoins, le fait que la candidature de Mitt Romney soit viable prouve une certaine tolérance du peuple américain à l’égard du fait religieux. Elle renforce aussi l’image de l’église mormone comme faisant désormais partie de la norme des paysages religieux et politique du pays. S’il s’installe à la Maison-Blanche, ce serait un événement novateur sur le plan religieux, même s’il n’aurait pas pour autant tout à fait la même importance que l’élection de John Fitzgerald Kennedy, premier catholique à être élu président des Etats-Unis en 1960.

Avant le Nevada, Donald Trump rejoint Romney

Le magnat milliardaire du BTP et animateur de télé-réalité Donald Trump a affiché jeudi son soutien à Mitt Romney. "Mitt est coriace, il est intelligent, il est mordant. Il neva plus laisser toutes ces mauvaises choses se passer dans ce pays", a-t-il expliqué. Ce ralliement est considéré comme un soutien de poids pour l’ancien gouverneur du Massachusetts dans la course à l’investiture.

Celui-ci devrait confirmer son statut de favori avec la primaire du Nevada, qui aura lieu samedi. Déjà vainqueur dans cet Etat en 2008, il y devance largement dans les sondages son principal concurrent, Newt Gingrich.

Voir de plus:

It’s Mormon In America

Romney’s religion just might be his greatest asset.

David Frum

The Daily Beast

June 11, 2012

Voters are likely to know two things about Mitt Romney: that he’s rich and that he’s a Mormon. At the same time, more than one fifth of Americans tell pollsters they won’t vote for a Mormon for president. Yet if Americans understood Mormonism a little better, they might begin to think of Romney’s faith as a feature, not a bug, in the Romney candidacy. If anything, Romney’s religion may be the best offset to the isolation from ordinary people imposed by his wealth.

It was Romney’s faith that sent him knocking on doors as a missionary—even as his governor father campaigned for the presidency of the United States. It was Romney’s position as a Mormon lay leader that had him sitting at kitchen tables doing family budgets during weekends away from Bain Capital. It was Romney’s faith that led him and his sons to do chores together at home while his colleagues in the firm were buying themselves ostentatious toys.

Maybe the most isolating thing about being rich in today’s America is the feeling of entitlement. Not since the 19th century have the wealthiest expressed so much certainty that they deserve what they have, even as their fellow citizens have less and less.

To be a Mormon, on the other hand, is to feel perpetually uncertain of your place in America. It’s been a long time since the U.S. government waged war on the Mormons of the Utah Territory. Still, even today, Mormons are America’s most mockable minority. It’s hard to imagine a Broadway musical satirizing Jews, blacks, or gays. There is no Napoleon Dynamite about American Muslims.

This uncertainty about Mormonism’s status in America no doubt contributes to the ferocious work ethic typical of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons are taught to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” in the words of Mormon scripture. Stephen Mansfield, the (non-Mormon) author of The Mormonizing of America, explains: “Mormons believe they are in life to pass tests set for them.” The passage of repeated tests leads to self-improvement, ultimately to the point of perfection. In the words of early Mormon leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” From the point of view of Christian orthodoxy, that idea may be unsettling; as a spur to effort, it’s unrivaled.

Like their Calvinist forebears, Mormons are inclined to interpret economic success as an indicator of divine approval, a fulfillment of the Book of Mormon’s promise that the faithful will “prosper in the land.” This prosperity gospel may explain some of Romney’s defiant pride in his material success. Yet Romney’s attitude toward money seems also to have been shaped by the LDS church’s emphatic hostility to conspicuous consumption and lavish display.

According to his biographers Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Romney was horrified when one of his Bain partners purchased himself a private plane. Yes, Romney bought a $55,000 car elevator. But for every story of a rich man’s extravagance, there are many more of Romney’s frugality: patched gloves, dented cars, and $25 haircuts.

If Romney’s attitude toward money is influenced by his church, so is his outlook on how money should be used to help those in need. Mitt and Ann Romney have donated millions to the LDS church, a substantial portion of which has gone to its own internal welfare state for members in need. Unlike government aid, those who receive LDS welfare are expected to “give back”; they contributed almost 900,000 person-days in 2011. Here may originate some of Romney’s skepticism about federal welfare programs.

Of course voters may also want to weigh some of Mormonism’s more worrisome features. Just as 19th-century Mormons found themselves in profound conflict with the United States over the issue of polygamy, so could the theologically grounded commitment of today’s LDS church to one-man-one-woman marriage place its members on a collision course with the 21st-century American mainstream, which increasingly accepts same-sex marriage.

And then there is the uniquely problematic character of Mormon scripture, which makes claims about people, events, and even whole civilizations for which there is no external evidence at all. Many Mormons maintain their faith by insisting that the best evidence of ultimate truth is found in a personal feeling that one’s beliefs are correct. As a businessman, Mitt Romney was a brutally realistic analyst. But on the most important questions in his life, he may have closed his mind to unwelcome facts.

Yet, all told, the influence of Mormonism on Mitt Romney’s attitude and outlook is far more positive than negative—and far more positive than millions of anti-Mormon voters seem to understand.

Voir aussi:

Mormons Rock!

They’ve conquered Broadway, talk radio, the U.S. Senate-and they may win the White House. Why Mitt Romney and 6 million Mormons have the secret to success.

Walter Kirn

Newsweek

June 5, 2011

"If you want to get the Mormon view of the extended Mormon moment…" The New York Times declared in an article Thursday, "there are few better places than this combination of a white-shirt pilgrimage to Mecca and a G-rated version of Bonnaroo."

The setting described by the Times’ Peter Applebome is the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a big-budget production put on annually by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that tells the story of its sacred text, the Book of Mormon. The show, which is staged at the foot of the hill where Joseph Smith says he found ancient prophetic writings recorded on golden plates, draws thousands of Latter-day Saint viewers from across the world each summer. The show is drawing national attention this year partly because of another popular – albeit significantly less G-rated – Mormon-themed musical on Broadway. That production’s success, along with the presidential campaigns of two LDS candidates, have shed an unusually bright spotlight on the Mormon community, a phenomenon Newsweek examined in its June 13-20 cover story, below.

Say what you will about him, but Mitt Romney doesn’t do, or not do, anything by accident. Take June 2, when the former Massachusetts governor traveled to a quaint farm in Stratham, N.H., to “announce” his foregone conclusion of a 2012 presidential campaign. Romney has to overcome several mountainous challenges before capturing the Republican nomination, and so he spent most of the day trying to reduce them to molehills. To thaw his icy persona, Romney passed out his “famous” family chili and surrounded himself with bales of hay. To account for his moderate governing record, he reminded listeners that the Bay State legislature was “over 85 percent Democrat.” And to soften concerns about “Romneycare,” he admitted it was “not perfect,” then repeated his mantra about it being “a state solution for a state problem.”

But there was one challenge—a challenge that could alienate the kind of Republicans who vote in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina—that Romney didn’t address: his Mormon faith.

No question the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “having a moment.” Not only is Romney running again—this time, he’s likely to be competing against his distant Mormon cousin Jon Huntsman Jr. The Senate, meanwhile, is led by Mormon Harry Reid. Beyond the Beltway, the Twilight vampire novels of Mormon Stephenie Meyer sell tens of millions of copies, Mormon convert Glenn Beck inspires daily devotion and outrage with his radio show, and HBO generated lots of attention with the Big Love finale. Even Broadway has gotten in on the act, giving us The Book of Mormon, a big-budget musical about Mormon missionaries by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q writer Robert Lopez that, with 14 nominations, is expected to clean up at the Tony Awards on June 12.

But despite the sudden proliferation of Mormons in the mainstream, Mormonism itself isn’t any closer to gaining mainstream acceptance. And nowhere is the gap between increased exposure and actual progress more pronounced than in politics. In recent weeks NEWSWEEK called every one of the 15 Mormons currently serving in the U.S. Congress to ask if they would be willing to discuss their faith; the only politicians who agreed to speak on the record were the four who represent districts with substantial Mormon populations. The rest were “private about their faith,” or “politicians first and Mormons second,” according to their spokespeople.

The evasiveness extends even to presidential candidates. In late 2007 Romney traveled to Texas A&M to soothe evangelicals with a speech that downplayed the distinctiveness of Mormonism. “It’s important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America,” he said, “we share a common creed of moral convictions.” Since then, Romney has rarely commented on the subject.

The more moderate Huntsman, meanwhile, has repeatedly deflected attention from his Mormon roots, telling NEWSWEEK in December that religious issues “don’t matter” and that the LDS church doesn’t have a monopoly on his spiritual life. He and his wife “draw from a lot of sources for inspiration,” he said. “I was raised a Mormon, Mary Kaye was raised Episcopalian, our kids have gone to Catholic school, I went to a Lutheran school growing up in Los Angeles. I have [an adopted] daughter from India who has a very distinct Hindu tradition, one that we would celebrate during Diwali. So you kind of bind all this together.”

One could argue that Romney and Huntsman, like their Mormon colleagues in Congress, are right to take religion off the table; after all, many politicians are all too eager to exploit it. But ignoring voters’ concerns about the Mormon faith won’t make them go away—and by trying, Romney and Huntsman may miss an unprecedented opportunity to dispel misconceptions, blunt biases, and make real progress. A new Pew poll finds that nearly a quarter of respondents would be less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. And then there’s the independent anti-Mormon ad mentioning polygamy that helped sink Matt Salmon’s bid for the Arizona governorship in 2002. “A lot of people still don’t completely understand what we [Mormons] believe,” Salmon tells NEWSWEEK. “In the voting booth, they will use whatever factor they can.”

In a vacuum, some people will inevitably conclude that Mormonism is too weird for mainstream America. But just because Romney and Huntsman aren’t making the case for their faith doesn’t mean there isn’t a case to be made. The pro-Mormon argument doesn’t have anything to do with the quirkier aspects of the sect’s history and practices (special underpants, magic spectacles); the accouterments of any religion can seem wacky when scrutinized in the public square. Instead, it centers on the distinctive values and characteristics that have come to define Mormons outside the church walls—in their communities, in their careers, and in the culture at large. Those inclined to think of Mormons as a band of zealots bent on amending the Constitution to outlaw cappuccino may never be convinced. But the rest of us might benefit from hearing the country’s most prominent and influential Mormons tell the truth about their faith: that the distinctiveness of the Mormons is actually the secret of their success.

Mormonism’s astonishing growth from its founding 181 years ago in upstate New York to its current status as the fourth-largest religious denomination in America, with just over 6 million members domestically and about 14 million worldwide, has been fueled by a ferocious underdog energy derived from an experience of brutal persecution. The hostility was largely a reaction to the new religion’s long list of unusual beliefs and practices. Mormonism’s founder, the self-declared prophet Joseph Smith, claimed to have translated a new work of scripture (the Book of Mormon) from text written on golden plates he found buried in the ground. The book told the story of an ancient Israelite civilization in the Americas, including a post-resurrection visit from Jesus Christ. Many other revelations followed, including the most notorious of all: the one advocating “plural marriage,” or polygamy.

The sect’s unusual beliefs, like the wives of its leaders, multiplied rapidly, provoking opposition everywhere the Mormons turned. First they were chased from Ohio, then from Missouri, where Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, fearing the church’s opposition to slavery as much as its embrace of polygamy, declared that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.” The expulsion from Missouri led to Illinois, where Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered at the hands of a mob on June 27, 1844.

The sect might have perished then and there had Brigham Young not stepped in to succeed Smith, leading its members on a grueling 1,300-mile exodus from the boundaries of the United States to the barren desert south of the Great Salt Lake. Even after the church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, opening the door to statehood for Utah, Mormons remained very much on the cultural and religious margins.

Today the legacy of that marginalization continues to mark the Mormon outlook on the world. “As somebody who grew up in Utah,” says Dave Checketts, the Mormon former CEO of Madison Square Garden, “I always felt like there was a little bit of a chip on the shoulder. We feel like we’re really good citizens, good people, and misunderstood.” Social and cultural insecurity has also served as a goad to Mormon productivity and achievement. “If you look back at the church’s longtime history,” notes Checketts, “there’s evidence of a certain level of diligence and hard work and a will to overcome adversity.”

The desire to avoid asking for assistance from non–Mormons has also influenced the church’s structure, which requires nearly every member to contribute to the common cause. Mormons worship together for hours on Sundays, perform spiritual and economic outreach to members of the Mormon community, and pay a tithe (one 10th of their income) to the church. Some spend additional hours performing secretive rituals and sacraments (including vicarious baptism for the non-Mormon dead) in specially consecrated temples. In an age of spiritual consumerism, when many people regard religion as a therapeutic lifestyle aid, faith is often expected to serve the individual. For Mormons, it’s the other way around.

The result is an organization that resembles a sanctified multinational corporation—the General Electric of American religion, with global ambitions and an estimated net worth of $30 billion. The church runs and finances one of the largest private universities in the country (Brigham Young University). Many members serve two-year missions abroad for the church, acquiring fluency in foreign languages (and foreign cultures) along the way. (Mitt Romney learned French on his mission to France, while Jon Huntsman picked up Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.) More than many other faiths, the Mormon church prepares its members to engage intelligently with the broader culture and the wider world.

But the roots of Mormonism’s distinctiveness go beyond the church’s history and organizational structure. They go all the way down to some of the church’s unique theological doctrines. The Mormons believe, for example, in “eternal progression,” which means both that God himself was once a human being and that we can follow his example to evolve into gods ourselves. This progression toward ever-higher stages of divine perfection extends beyond death, continuing into the afterlife.

For Kim Clark, a Mormon and former dean of the Harvard Business School, this doctrine explains a lot about the church’s drive toward economic and educational achievement. “Your whole eternal identity as a person is defined by eternal progression,” says Clark. “We know that…there will be opportunities to grow and learn and become like our heavenly father, to do what he does. That’s a very powerful thing.”

Theological commitments also influence the way members of the Mormon church engage in politics. Members vote Republican in overwhelming numbers. (The McCain-Palin ticket carried heavily Mormon Utah with 63 percent of the vote.) It’s hardly surprising that support for low taxes and a minimum of government regulation would appeal to a community that once endured severe government-sponsored oppression. Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sees an even deeper connection between his faith and his economic and political views. According to Mormon tradition, God and Satan fought a “war in heaven” over the question of moral agency, with God on the side of personal liberty and Satan seeking to enslave mankind. Flake acknowledges that the theme of freedom—and the threat of losing it—runs through much of Mormonism, and “that kind of fits my philosophy.” (Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared, “I am a Democrat because I’m a Mormon, not in spite of it,” his is a minority view among members of the faith.)

On social issues, many Mormons enthusiastically take part in what evangelical activist (and former Nixon accomplice) Charles Colson calls the “ecumenism of the trenches”—the practice of conservative Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons toiling side by side as allies in the culture war against secular liberalism. Still, the differences, and tensions, among the groups are real and deep, and not only because Mormons think of their religion as a “restoration” of genuine Christianity after an 1,800-year apostasy that produced both Catholic and Protestant forms of the faith. The church goes far beyond its comrades in the culture war in holding that an ideal marriage—one between a man and a woman, undertaken as a sacrament in a Mormon temple—is forever binding, with marital vows, and procreation, extending into eternity. This view of marriage motivates some of the church’s most controversial public stands—the most recent being its backing of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Taken to an extreme, the peculiarities of Mormon history and belief can lead to the antigovernment conspiracy theorizing of Glenn Beck and the John Birch Society, which enjoyed support in Mormon circles during the 1950s and ’60s. But the same constellation of views can lead toward -consensus-building moderation. Think of Mitt Romney’s stint as governor of liberal Massachusetts, when he championed health-care reform. Jon Huntsman showed similar instincts when he accepted President Obama’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. In the words of Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and a practicing Mormon, Romney and Huntsman are typical of what happens when prominent members of the church spend time “in environments where Mormonism is simply not a part of the everyday equation.” They blend in.

And therein lies the paradox of Mormonism in America today. Consider the TV and Internet ad campaign recently started by the church: a range of people describe their everyday lives and finish up with the phrase “And I’m a Mormon.” Church spokesman Michael Purdy describes the ads as an attempt to downplay Mormon “otherness.” The message: Mormons are just like everyone else.

Except that they’re not. And it is their distinctiveness that is influencing the broader culture. David Neeleman, the Mormon founder and former CEO of JetBlue Airways, brought lessons from his church to his company, donating most of his salary to a fund for needy employees and regularly shedding his suit and tie for a flight attendant’s uniform. Management guru Stephen Covey has sold millions of books translating core elements of the upstanding, upwardly striving Mormon outlook into a method for becoming a “highly effective” person. Stephenie Meyer’s extraordinarily popular Twilight novels and films give vampires a Mormon makeover, with a lead character, Edward Cullen, serving as a sexy model of moral purity and chastity. And the list goes on

Politics—the field with perhaps the greatest potential to change how most Americans view Mormons—has yet to catch up. But while national figures such as Romney and Huntsman are still reluctant to highlight their Mormon faith, other politicians are starting to see their Mormonism as a selling point. Matt Salmon is one of them. After losing to Janet Napolitano in 2002, partly because of that independent polygamy ad, Salmon, a former congressman, retreated from public life for a while. “They put signs up beneath my signs saying ‘Don’t Vote Mormon,’?” he recalls. “If you did that with any other religion, you’d be crucified.” But now Salmon has decided to run in 2012 for his old congressional seat—and he’s refusing to “hide” from his heritage. “Our Mormonism is fundamental to who we are, whether in business, politics, or our daily activities,” he says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I love to serve and would love to serve again. But if I have to shade over who I am and what I really believe and how I think to be successful, then I don’t want to be successful.”

With McKay Coppins, Andrew Romano, and David A. Graham

Voir enfin:

Excerpt from The Mormonizing of America, by Stephen Mansfield

by TNB Nonfiction

LOS ANGELES

14 August 2012

There are nearly seven million Mormons in America. This is the number the Mormons themselves use. It’s not huge. Seven million is barely 2 percent of the country’s population. It is the number of people who subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. London boasts seven million people. So does San Francisco. It’s a million more people than live in the state of Washington; a million less than in the state of Virginia. It’s so few, it’s the same number as were watching the January 24, 2012, Republican debate.

In fact, worldwide, there are only about fourteen million Mormons. That’s fourteen million among a global population just reaching seven billion. Fourteen million is the population of Cairo or Mali or Guatemala. It’s approximately the number of people who tune in for the latest hit show on network television every week. Fourteen million Americans ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant in 2011. That’s how few fourteen million is.

Yet in the first decade or so of the new millennium, some members of the American media discovered the Mormons and began covering them as though the Latter-day Saints had just landed from Mars. It was as though Utah was about to invade the rest of the country. It was all because of politics and pop culture, of course. Mitt Romney and John Huntsman were in pursuit of the White House. Glenn Beck was among the nation’s most controversial news commentators. Stephenie Meyer had written the astonishingly popular Twilight series about vampires. Matt Stone and Trey Parker had created the edgy South Park cartoon series—which included a much- discussed episode about Mormons—and then went on to create the blatantly blasphemous and Saint-bashing Broadway play The Book of Mormon. It has become one of the most successful productions in American theater history.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Mormons sat in the US Congress, among them Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. Mormons led JetBlue, American Express, Marriott, Novell, Deloitte and Touche, Diebold, and Eastman Kodak. Management guru Stephen Covey made millions telling them how to lead even better. There were Mormons commanding battalions of US troops and Mormons running major US universities. There were so many famous Mormons, in fact, that huge websites were launched just to keep up with it all. Notables ranged from movie stars like Katherine Heigl to professional athletes to country music stars like Gary Allan to reality television contestants and even to serial killers like Glenn Helzer, whose attorney argued that the Saints made him the monster he was. The media graciously reminded the public that Mormon criminals were nothing new, though: Butch Cassidy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame was also a Mormon, they reported.

Most media coverage treated this “Mormon Moment” as though it was just that: the surprising and unrelated appearance of dozens of Mormons on the national stage—for a moment. More than a few commentators predicted it would all pass quickly. This new Mormon visibility would lead to new scrutiny, they said, and once the nation got reacquainted with tales of “holy underwear” and multiple wives and Jewish Indians and demonized African Americans and a book printed on gold plates buried in upstate New York, it would all go quiet again and stay that way for a generation. In the meantime, reruns of HBO’s Big Love and The Learning Channel’s Sister Wives would make sure Mormon themes didn’t die out completely.

What most commentators did not understand was that their “Mormon Moment” was more than a moment, more than an accident, and more than a matter of pop culture and fame alone. The reality was—and is—that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reached critical mass. It is not simply that a startling number of Mormons have found their way onto America’s flat-screen TVs and so brought visibility to their religion. It is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints has reached sufficient numbers—and has so permeated every level of American society on the strength of its religious value—that prominent politicians, authors, athletes, actors, newscasters, and even murderers are the natural result, in some cases even the intended result. Visible, influential Mormons aren’t outliers or exceptions. They are fruit of the organic growth of their religion.

In 1950, there were just over a million Mormons in the world. Most of these were located in the Intermountain West of the United States, a region of almost lunar landscape between the Rocky Mountains to the East and the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountains to the West. The religion was still thought of as odd by most Americans. There had been famous Mormons like the occasional US Senator or war hero, but these were few and far between. There had even been a 1940 Hollywood movie entitled Brigham Young that told the story of the Saints’ mid-1800s trek from Illinois to the region of the Great Salt Lake. Its producers worked hard to strain out nearly every possible religious theme, a nod to the increasingly secular American public. Though it starred heavyweights like Vincent Price and Tyrone Power, the movie failed miserably, even in Utah. Especially in Utah.

Then, in 1951, a man named David O. McKay became the “First President” of the Latter-day Saints and inaugurated a new era. He was the Colonel Harlan Sanders of Mormonism. He often wore white suits, had an infectious laugh, and under- stood the need to appeal to the world outside the Church. It was refreshing. Most LDS presidents had either been polygamist oddballs or stodgy old men in the eyes of the American public. McKay was more savvy, more media aware. He became so popular that film legend Cecil B. DeMille asked him to consult on the now classic movie The Ten Commandments.

Empowered by his personal popularity and by his sense that an opportune moment had come, McKay began refashioning the Church’s image. He also began sharpening its focus. His famous challenge to his followers was, “Every Member a Missionary!” And the faithful got busy. It only helped that Ezra Taft Benson, a future Church president, was serving as the nation’s secretary of agriculture under President Eisehower. This brought respectability. It also helped that George Romney was the revered CEO of American Motors Corporation and that he would go on to be the governor of Michigan, a candidate for president of the United States, and finally a member of Richard Nixon’s cabinet. This hinted at increasing power. The 1950s were good for Mormons.

Then came the 1960s. Like most religions, the LDS took a beating from the counterculture movement, but by the 1970s they were again on the rise. There was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a symbol of Americana when Americana was under siege. There was Mormon Donny Osmond’s smile and Mormon Marie Osmond’s everything and the three-year run of network television’s Donny and Marie in the late 1970s that made words like family, clean, talented, patriotic, and even cute outshine some of the less-endearing labels laid upon the Saints through the years. New labels joined new symbols. A massive, otherworldly, 160,000-square-foot Temple just north of Washington, DC, was dedicated in the 1970s, a symbol of LDS power and permanence for the nation to behold. Always there was the “Every Member a Missionary!” vision beating in each Saintly heart.

By 1984, the dynamics of LDS growth were so fine-tuned that influential sociologist Rodney Stark made the mind- blowing prediction that the Latter-day Saints would have no fewer than 64 million members and perhaps as many as 267 million by 2080.3 It must have seemed possible in those days. In the following ten years, LDS membership exploded from 4.4 million to 11 million. This may be why in 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The Mormons—a misguided cult in the view of most traditional Christians, most Baptists in particular—had to be stopped.

They weren’t. Four years after the Baptists besieged Temple Square, the Winter Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City. This was in 2002 and it is hard to exaggerate what this meant to the Latter-day Saints. A gifted Mormon leader, Mitt Romney, rescued the games after a disastrous bidding scandal. A sparkling Mormon city hosted the games. Happy, handsome all-American Mormons attended each event, waving constantly to the cameras and appearing to be—in the word repeatedly used by the press at the time—“normal.”

The LDS Church capitalized on it all. It sent volunteers, missionaries, and publicists scurrying to every venue. It hosted grand events for the world press. It made sure that every visitor received a brochure offering an LDS guided tour of the city. Visitors from around the world read these words: “No other place in America has a story to tell like that of Salt Lake City—a sanctuary founded by religious refugees from within the United States’ own borders. And none can tell that story better than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Largely unchallenged, the Mormon narrative prevailed.

What followed was the decade of the new millennium we have already surveyed. Mormons seemed to be everywhere, seemed to be exceptional in nearly every arena, seemed to have moved beyond acceptance by American culture to domination of American culture. At least this was what some feared at the time.

But Mormons did not dominate the country. Far from it. Remember that they were not even 2 percent of the nation’s population as of 2012. True, they were visible and successful, well educated and well spoken, patriotic and ever willing to serve. Yet what they had achieved was not domination. It was not a conspiracy either, as some alleged. It was not anything approaching a takeover or even the hope for a takeove

Few observers seemed to be able to explain how this new level of LDS prominence in American society came about. They reached for the usual answers trotted out to account for such occurrences: birth rates, Ronald Reagan’s deification of traditional values, the economic boom of the late twentieth century, a more liberal and broadminded society, even the dumbing down of America through television and failing schools. Each of these explanations was found wanting.

the Mormon Machine

The truth lay within Mormonism itself. What the Saints had achieved in the United States was what Mormonism, unfettered and well led, will nearly always produce. This was the real story behind the much-touted “Mormon Moment.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had risen to unexpected heights in American society because the Mormon religion creates what can benevolently be called a Mormon Machine— a system of individual empowerment, family investment, local church (ward and stake level) leadership, priesthood government, prophetic enduement, Temple sacraments, and sacrificial financial endowment of the holy Mormon cause.

Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies—a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time.

These hallmark values and behaviors—the habits that distinguish Mormons in the minds of millions of Americans— grow naturally from Mormon doctrine. They are also the values and behaviors of successful people. Observers who think of the religion as a cult—in the Jim Jones sense that a single, dynamic leader controls a larger body of devotees through fear, lies, and manipulation—usually fail to see this. Mormon doctrine is inviting, the community it produces enveloping and elevating, the lifestyle it encourages empowering in nearly every sense. Success, visibility, prosperity, and influence follow. This is the engine of the Mormon ascent. It is what has attracted so many millions, and it is the mechanism of the Latter-day Saints’ impact upon American society and the world.

Mormons make achievement through organizational management a religious virtue. It leads to prosperity, visibility, and power. It should come as no surprise, then, that an American can turn on the evening news after a day of work and find one report about two Mormon presidential candidates, another story about a Mormon finalist on American Idol, an examination of the controversial views of a leading Mormon news commentator, a sports story about what a Mormon lineman does with his “Temple garments” in the NFL, and a celebration of how Mormons respond to crises like Katrina and the BP oil spill, all by a “Where Are They Now?” segment about Gladys Knight, minus the Pips, who has become—of course—a Mormon.

Mormons rise in this life because it is what their religion calls for. Achieving. Progressing. Learning. Forward, upward motion. This is the lifeblood of earthly Mormonism. Management, leadership, and organizing are the essential skills of the faith. It is no wonder that Mormons have grown so rapidly and reached such stellar heights in American culture. And there is much more to come.

The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield, © 2012. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, TN.

_________________________

STEPHEN MANSIFELD is the New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of Barack Obama. He is also a popular lecturer and speaker. His latest book, The Mormonizing of America, has already begun shaping the religious discussion surrounding the 2012 presidential race.


Présidentielle américaine/2012: Vous avez dit postracial? (Racial demagoguery from the seventies to Obama)

11 octobre, 2012
The ironic result is that the election of the first black president may well have moved us further back in removing race from politics than forward. Sherrilyn A. Ifill
It’s often said that those who are unduly bothered by gays are latent homosexuals. Isn’t it possible that people obsessed with racism are themselves racist? Treating blacks like special-needs children, liberals bury them in ludicrously gushy praise. Ann Coulter
 This isn’t a story about black people—it’s a story about the Left’s agenda to patronize blacks and lie to everyone else. Ann Coulter
For decades, the Left has been putting on a play with themselves as heroes in an ongoing civil rights move­ment—which they were mostly absent from at the time. Long after pervasive racial discrimination ended, they kept pretending America was being run by the Klan and that liberals were black America’s only protectors. It took the O. J. Simpson verdict—the race-based acquittal of a spectacularly guilty black celebrity as blacks across America erupted in cheers—to shut down the white guilt bank. But now, fewer than two decades later, our “pos­tracial” president has returned us to the pre-OJ era of nonstop racial posturing. A half-black, half-white Democrat, not descended from American slaves, has brought racial unrest back with a whoop. The Obama candidacy allowed liberals to engage in self-righteousness about race and get a hard-core Leftie in the White House at the same time. In 2008, we were told the only way for the nation to move past race was to elect him as president. And 53 percent of voters fell for it. Now, Ann Coulter fearlessly explains the real his­tory of race relations in this country, including how white liberals twist that history to spring the guilty, accuse the innocent, and engender racial hatreds, all in order to win politically. You’ll learn, for instance, how a U.S. congressman and a New York mayor con­spired to protect cop killers who ambushed four police officers in the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s mosque, the entire Democratic elite, up to the Carter White House, coddled a black cult in San Francisco as hun­dreds of the cult members marched to their deaths in Guyana, New York City became a maelstrom of racial hatred, with black neighborhoods abandoned to crimi­nals who were ferociously defended by a press that assessed guilt on the basis of race, preposterous hoax hate crimes were always believed, never questioned. And when they turned out to be frauds the stories would simply disappear from the news, liberals quickly switched the focus of civil rights laws from the heirs of slavery and Jim Crow to white feminists, illegal immigrants, and gays, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz was surprisingly popular in black neighborhoods, despite hysterical denunciations of him by the New York Times, liberals slander Republicans by endlessly repeating a bizarro-world history in which Democrats defended black America and Republicans appealed to segregationists. The truth has always been exactly the opposite. Going where few authors would dare, Coulter explores the racial demagoguery that has mugged America since the early seventies. She shines the light of truth on cases ranging from Tawana Brawley, Lemrick Nelson, and Howard Beach, NY, to the LA riots and the Duke lacrosse scandal. And she shows how the 2012 Obama campaign is going to inspire the greatest racial guilt mongering of all time. Présentation de "Mugged" (Ann Coulter)

Vous avez dit postracial?

Passé réécrit, vidéo d’un tabassage supposé remontée, enregistrement bidonné, fausses accusations de viol contre des policiers ou des étudiants blancs, attaques antisémites, émeutes prétextes 

Alors qu’on apprend que, contrairement à ce qui avait été annoncé par une administration qui n’en est pas à ses premiers "arrangements avec la vérité", il n’y avait pas eu de manifestations devant un consulat américain bien trop peu protégé avant l’attaque d’Al Qaeda qui se termina par le lynchage de l’ambassadeur et la mort de trois de ses adjoints  il y a deux semaines …

Et qu’après son premier et catastrophique débat électoral et des sondages désastreux y compris dans les états importants ou indécis de Floride ou Virginie ou même dans l’Illinois (merci James) tant la notoire arrogance que le refus explicite de préparation d’un président prétendument postracial mais de fait élu sur sa couleur et n’ayant jamais hésité à ressortir la carte raciale ne peuvent toujours pas être critiqués sans voir les critiques accusés immédiatement de racisme …

Pendant que, dans une élection plus que jamais polarisée racialement, le candidat républicain se voit quasiment privé de voix noires qu’une agence de sondage reconnait avoir sous-évalué ses échantillons blancs …

Retour, avec le chroniqueur Thomas Sowell, sur le dernier ouvrage d’Ann Coulter qui revient sur plusieurs décennies de chantage au racisme d’une véritable génération de chasseurs d’ambulances

Race Cards

 Thomas Sowell

Real Clear Politics

October 9, 2012

If you are sick and tired of seeing politicians and others playing the race card, or if you are just disgusted with the grossly dishonest way racial issues in general are portrayed, then you should get a copy of Ann Coulter’s new book, "Mugged." Its subtitle is: "Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama."

Few things are as rare as an honest book about race. This is one of the very few, and one of the very best.

Many people will learn for the first time from Ann Coulter’s book how a drunken hoodlum and ex-convict, who tried to attack the police, was turned into a victim and a martyr by the media, simply by editing a videotape and broadcasting that edited version, over and over, across the nation.

They will learn how a jury — which saw the whole unedited videotape and acquitted the police officers of wrongdoing — was portrayed as racist, setting off riots that killed innocent people who had nothing to do with the Rodney King episode.

Meanwhile, the people whose slick editing set off this chain of events received a Pulitzer Prize.

Even the Republican President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, expressed surprise at the jury’s verdict, after seeing the edited videotape, while the jury saw the whole unedited videotape. Even Presidents should keep their mouths shut when they don’t know all the facts. Perhaps especially Presidents.

Innumerable other examples of racial events and issues that have been twisted and distorted beyond recognition are untangled and revealed for the frauds that they are in "Mugged."

The whole history of the role of the Democrats and the Republicans in black civil rights issues is taken apart and examined, showing with documented fact after documented fact how the truth turns out repeatedly to be the opposite of what has been portrayed in most of the media.

It has long been a matter of official record that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats, in both Houses of Congress, voted for the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Yet the great legend has come down to us that Democrats created the civil rights revolution, over the opposition of the Republicans.

Since this all happened nearly half a century ago, even many Republicans today seem unaware of the facts, and are defensive about their party’s role on racial issues, while Democrats boldly wrap themselves in the mantle of blacks’ only friends and defenders.

To puff up their role as defenders of blacks, it has been necessary for Democrats and their media supporters to hype the dangers of "racists." This has led to some very creative ways of defining and portraying people as "racists." Ann Coulter has a whole chapter titled "You Racist!" with examples of how extreme and absurd this organized name-calling can become.

No book about race would be complete without an examination of the role of character assassination in racial politics. One of the classic injustices revealed by Ann Coulter’s book is the case of Charles Pickering, a white Republican in Mississippi, who prosecuted the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s.

Back in those days, opposing the Ku Klux Klan meant putting your life, and the lives of your family members, at risk. The FBI had to guard Pickering and his family. Later, Pickering went on to become a federal judge and, in 2001, President George W. Bush nominated him for promotion to the Circuit Court of Appeals.

As a Republican judge, Pickering was opposed by elite liberal Democrats in Congress and in the media who, in Ann Coulter’s words, "sent their children to 99-percent white private schools" while "Pickering sent his kids to overwhelmingly black Mississippi public schools."

Among the charges against Pickering was that he was bad on civil rights issues. Older black leaders in Mississippi, who had known Pickering for years, sprang to his defense. But who cared what they said? Pickering’s nomination was defeated on a smear.

"Mugged" is more than an informative book. It is a whole education about the difference between rhetoric and reality when it comes to racial issues. It is a much needed, and even urgently needed education, with a national election just weeks away.

Voir aussi:

Excerpt of Ann Coulter’s ‘Mugged': Racial Double Standards at MSNBC

Ann Coulter

September 25, 2012

How about Chris Matthews? He is an aggressive bean counter when it comes to the number of blacks at Tea Parties—as if the Tea Partiers can control who shows up at their rallies.

Blacks as a group are overwhelmingly one-party voters. Jews have more Republicans. As a result, any group that espouses Republican principles obviously isn’t going to have a lot of black people—although probably more than the schools Chris Matthews’s children attended.

While living cheek-by-jowl with the nation’s capital, which happens to be a majority black city, Matthews’s kids managed to go to schools that are probably about 3 percent black. When Matthews had an opportunity to associate with blacks by sending his children to public schools, he chose not to. His obsession with race is all about self-congratulation. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

The Tea Parties weren’t as white as Chris Matthews’s office. They weren’t as white as Matthews’s neighborhood or television audience. (It’s doubtful that even Eugene Robinson watches Hardball.)

This is New-York-Times-Charlie-Rose-PBS thinking. We’re not racist, they are. This pompous self-perception allows liberals to be offensively, self-righteously preening in the positions they take, such as demanding school busing for other people but sending their own kids to private schools.

If we attended a party at the Matthews home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, how many blacks would we see? Could we at least wave to the black neighbors? The New York Times write-up of his son’s wedding included a panoramic shot of the church, showing nearly a hundred guests. Not one of them is black. You may check for yourself here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/fashion/weddings/04vows.html?pagewanted=all.

A Republican saddled with the facts of Matthews’s life would be convicted of racism in five minutes.

No one is required to be a friend to someone else because it’s good for society, and people should be able to hire anyone they please. But you better have your own house in order if you’re going to run around accusing everyone else of racism based on a dearth of black associates.

Like Matthews, New York Times columnist Tom Wicker made a career of proclaiming that America was a deeply racist country. But he sent his own kids to lily-white private schools and then retired to the whitest state in the nation, Vermont. Wicker being so right-thinking and the scourge of racists, people were curious about why he didn’t send his kids to New York public schools. Did he just screw up? Asked about the hypocrisy of sending his own children to sanitized private schools, Wicker said, “It gives me a lot of intellectual discomfort, but I am not going to disadvantage my children to win more support for my views.”

It’s not a question of winning support for his views, it’s whether he really held those views to begin with. The surest proof of racism is not what people say, but what they do. The only thing in his whole life Wicker could have done that wasn’t just running his mouth was to send his kids to public schools, and he didn’t do it. On what basis did Wicker have a right to self-congratulation on his racial attitudes? Because he worked especially hard to make sure other people’s kids had to go to crime-ridden schools?

It’s often said that those who are unduly bothered by gays are latent homosexuals. Isn’t it possible that people obsessed with racism are themselves racist?

Treating blacks like special-needs children, liberals bury them in ludicrously gushy praise. In a field where the competition is brisk, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow stands out. When not spinning conspiracy theories, Maddow can usually be found patronizing her very, very special black guest, Melissa Harris-Lacewell with fulsome, flowery praise.

Harris-Lacewell (who became Melissa Harris-Perry toward the end of 2010) is professor of being a black woman, which is one of the most demanding, hardest-to-qualify-for positions at any university (you have to be a black woman). She is never treated like some regular nerd guest. Maddow is compelled to tell her she’s “amazing,” “wicked smart” and “one of the smartest people I’ve ever talked to about anything, anytime, anywhere.” (Then again, the smartest person at MSNBC is the guy who replaces the toner, so that last one might not be false praise.)

Excerpted from MUGGED: RACIAL DEMAGOGUERY FROM THE SEVENTIES TO OBAMA by Ann Coulter by arrangement with Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © Ann Coulter, 2012.

 Voir encore:

On Libya Cover Up: Hillary Clinton Told Video Story While Body Of Ambassador Was Next To Her

Charles Krauthammer

Real Clear Politics

It’s beyond a disconnect, it is utterly damning. There are two scandals going on. The first is the coverup. We now know, and they knew earlier there was no mob, there was no demonstration, there was no incentive about the video. It was all a completely false story. This was simply an attack of our men who infiltrated and killed our people.

So everything that Susan Rice said was a confection, it was an invention. And as you showed, it was repeated again and again. You had Hillary Clinton speaking of the video as the body of the ambassador was lying next to her. Then you had Susan Rice spinning the tails. You had the president of the United States addressing the [U.N.] General Assembly more than two weeks later talking about the video, the insult to Islam, et cetera. You have this entire story going all along. They’re trying to sell the video, they’re trying to sell extremism and they’re trying to sell all of this at a time when they know it isn’t true. So that’s number one. That’s a scandal and I think it has to do with the fact that they were spiking the football over the death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda a week earlier in Charlotte and this is a contradiction of it.

The second scandal is the lack of security at the site before. So what happened before? And I think that what happened was the administration, it wasn’t a lack of money that they withdrew all the support and they didn’t put up the required barbed wire and the fences and all of that. It was under the theory which starts with Obama at the beginning; we don’t want to be intruders in the area, we don’t want to be oppositional, we don’t want to have a fortress in America, we don’t want to look imperialist. We want to blend in with the people and help them build. That’s a noble aspiration and that was the motive for having very light security, but it was a catastrophically wrong decision to do it in Benghazi in a no man’s land in Dodge City and it cost us the lives of the Ambassador and three other Americans.

Voir enfin:

The Dividends of Romney’s Debate Victory

More Republicans than Democrats are registering and voting early in several battleground states.

Karl Rove

Real Clear Politics

October 11, 2012

How big an impact did Mitt Romney’s performance in last week’s debate have? Huge. Mr. Romney not only won the night, he changed the arc of the election—and perhaps its outcome. Surveys have him leading the RealClearPolitics average of polls for the first time since securing the GOP nomination in mid-April.

Prior to Oct. 3, Mr. Romney trailed President Barack Obama by an average of 3.1 points in national polls tallied by RealClearPolitics. Since the debate, Mr. Romney now leads Mr. Obama in the RCP average by a point, 48.2% to 47.2%, and the bounce is likely to grow. By comparison, Sen. John Kerry was widely seen to have bested President George W. Bush in the first 2004 debate (held on Sept. 30 of that year), but he never led in the RCP average in October.

OpinionJournal: The Vice-Presidential Debate

The WSJ editorial board’s live commentary and analysis of tonight’s debate begins at 9 p.m. ET.

In seven of the past nine presidential debate series, the challenger has gained more in the polls than the incumbent (or the candidate of the party in power). The first debate generally frames the series and establishes whether the bounce will be large or modest. Mr. Romney’s bounce is significant.

It’s unlikely that Mr. Obama will do as poorly next Tuesday at Hofstra University in New York. His supporters are demanding that he be more aggressive. He will be, telling AM radio’s Tom Joyner on Wednesday that he’d been "too polite" in the first debate.

But if the president is as angry and negative in the Oct. 16 debate as he has been on the campaign trail the past week, he will damage himself again. It’s hard in a town-hall format like next week’s to attack, and too easy to come across as mean and nasty. Also, alleging that Mr. Romney is a serial deceiver—as the president and top advisers are doing—is a hard sell. Mr. Romney came across last week as practical and thoughtful, authentic and a straight shooter.

A record 72% in the Oct. 8 Gallup survey said he won the debate, compared with 20% who thought Mr. Obama did. Voters would not have awarded such a lopsided victory to a liar.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

An Oct. 7 Pew Research report found that before the debate, Romney voters were four points more likely than Obama voters to give the election "a lot of thought." After it, Romney-voter engagement was 15 points higher than that of Obama voters. This enthusiasm gap already expresses itself in voter registration and is now influencing early voting.

In the eight battleground states that register voters by party, Republicans have maintained their advantage or cut into the Democrats’ in all but one (Nevada). Since September 2008, Republicans have kept their registration advantages in Colorado and New Hampshire. They’ve added more new Republican registrations than Democrats did in Florida, Iowa and North Carolina. And they’ve lost fewer voters from the rolls than Democrats did in New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

About Karl Rove

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Fox News Contributor and is the author of the book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web atRove.com. Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

Click here to order his new book,Courage and Consequence.

Republicans are also getting the better of Mr. Obama in early voting. In 2008, Democrats made up 51% of the North Carolina early vote while Republicans were 30%. This year, Republicans have cast 54% of the ballots returned so far, Democrats only 28%, according to state data compiled by George Mason University’s Michael McDonald for his United States Election Project.

In Florida, 46% of absentee ballots returned by September’s end came from Republicans (compared with 37% in 2008) while just 38% came from Democrats (they were 46% of the total in 2008). More Republicans have requested absentee ballots in Colorado, a state where Democrats edged out Republicans in early voting last time.

Republicans have also made up ground in Ohio. For example, in 2008 Democrats requested 5% more absentee ballots in Franklin County (Columbus), 4% more in Greene County (Xenia), and 11% more in Wood County (Bowling Green). This election, Republicans have more ballot requests than Democrats in these counties by 5%, 19% and 1% respectively.

The Romney campaign saw a $12 million surge in online contributions following the debate, and major GOP fundraisers are again opening their checkbooks. True enough, Hollywood stars and rich San Francisco liberals wrote big checks during Mr. Obama’s two-day California swing this week. But it isn’t clear what overall impact the president’s poor debate performance will have on his fundraising. The small Internet donors that produced an eye-popping $181 million fundraising total in September may be disappointed in his debate skills and waiting to see if he improves.

During the GOP primary, one of Mr. Romney’s chief selling points was his skill as a debater. He picked a powerful moment to display this strength. The debate at the University of Denver qualifies as among the most consequential in history. It might end up as the election’s decision point.

Mr. Rove, a former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, helped organize the political action committee American Crossroads. He is the author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).


Antisémitisme/France: "Les juifs, ils ont tout, même Coca-Cola" (Will massive Muslim immigration definitely mark the end of "happy like a Jew in France"?)

23 août, 2012
Heureux comme Dieu en France. Traduction de l’expression allemande, à l’origine yiddish, wie Gott in Frankreich leben qui implique que dans un pays tôt déchristianisé, Dieu n’aurait d’autre souci que de profiter de la vie sans avoir à se soucier de ses ouailles. Wiktionnaire
Ils ont tout, c’est connu. Vous êtes passé par le centre-ville de Metz ? Toutes les bijouteries appartiennent aux juifs. On le sait, c’est tout. Vous n’avez qu’à lire les noms israéliens sur les enseignes. Vous avez regardé une ancienne carte de la Palestine et une d’aujourd’hui ? Ils ont tout colonisé. Maintenant c’est les bijouteries. Ils sont partout, sauf en Chine parce que c’est communiste. Tous les gouvernements sont juifs, même François Hollande. Le monde est dirigé par les francs-maçons et les francs-maçons sont tous juifs. Ce qui est certain c’est que l’argent injecté par les francs-maçons est donné à Israël. Sur le site des Illuminatis, le plus surveillé du monde, tout est écrit. (…) On se renseigne mais on ne trouve pas ces infos à la télévision parce qu’elle appartient aux juifs aussi. Si Patrick Poivre d’Arvor a été jeté de TF1 alors que tout le monde l’aimait bien, c’est parce qu’il a été critique envers Nicolas Sarkozy, qui est juif… (…)  Mais nous n’avons pas de potes juifs. Pourquoi ils viendraient ici ? Ils habitent tous dans des petits pavillons dans le centre, vers Queuleu. Ils ne naissent pas pauvres. Ici, pour eux, c’est un zoo, c’est pire que l’Irak. Peut-être que si j’habitais dans le centre, j’aurais des amis juifs, mais je ne crois pas, je n’ai pas envie. J’ai une haine profonde. Pour moi, c’est la pire des races. Je vous le dis du fond du cœur, mais je ne suis pas raciste, c’est un sentiment. Faut voir ce qu’ils font aux Palestiniens, les massacres et tout. Mais bon, on ne va pas dire que tous les juifs sont des monstres. Pourquoi vouloir réunir les juifs et les musulmans ? Tout ça c’est politique. Cela ne va rien changer. C’est en Palestine qu’il faut aller, pas en France. Karim
Ce sont les cerveaux du monde. Tous les tableaux qui sont exposés au centre Pompidou appartiennent à des juifs. A Metz, tous les avocats et les procureurs sont juifs. Ils sont tous hauts placés et ils ne nous laisseront jamais monter dans la société. "Ils ont aussi Coca-Cola. Regardez une bouteille de Coca-Cola, quand on met le logo à l’envers on peut lire : "Non à Allah, non au prophète". C’est pour cela que les arabes ont inventé le "Mecca-cola". Au McDo c’est pareil. Pour chaque menu acheté, un euro est reversé à l’armée israélienne. Les juifs, ils ont même coincé les Saoudiens. Ils ont inventé les voitures électriques pour éviter d’acheter leur pétrole. C’est connu. On se renseigne. (…) Si Mohamed Merah n’avait pas été tué par le Raid, le Mossad s’en serait chargé. Il serait venu avec des avions privés. Ali
En fait, tout est écrit dans le Coran. Le châtiment des juifs, c’est l’enfer. L’histoire de Moïse est belle. Dieu lui a fait faire des miracles. Il a coupé la mer en deux pour qu’il puisse la traverser. Mais après tous ces miracles, les juifs ont préféré adorer un veau d’or. C’est à cause de cela que ce peuple est maudit par Dieu. Je parle avec mon père de ces choses-là. Parce que parmi les autres musulmans, il y a des sectes, des barbus qui peuvent t’envoyer te faire exploser je ne sais où. Alors je mets des remparts avec eux. Je suis fragile d’esprit, je préfère parler de ça avec ma famille, elle m’apporte l’islam qui me fait du bien. Djamal
Je suis d’une génération pour qui l’antisémitisme était mort avec la Shoah. Je n’avais pas pensé qu’il reviendrait d’ailleurs. La première fois, c’était en 1998 dans une classe de 5e. Lorsqu’on a abordé le chapitre sur l’islam, une gamine a râlé : "On ne fait que quatre heures sur l’Islam, alors que l’année dernière, on a fait les Hébreux pendant au moins dix heures ! De toute façon, moi j’aime pas les juifs." Je suis tombé des nues. Ce n’était que le début. Au tournant des années 2000, deux évènements ont libéré la parole : le 11 septembre et la seconde Intifada. Je me souviens précisément du 12 septembre 2001. La plupart de mes élèves étaient atterrés, mais l’un d’eux avait déjà une explication "complotiste" : "Il n’y avait pas un juif hier dans les tours, c’est eux qui l’ont fait." Pour une minorité, c’était "bien fait pour les Américains et pour les juifs". Presque toujours, ces propos viennent d’enfants issus de l’immigration et se réclamant de l’Islam. (…) En salle des profs, quand je soulevais le problème, on me parlait du malaise social et de la politique israélienne, quand on ne me prenait pas pour un réac de droite. Le déni est ce qui m’a le plus choqué. (…) On m’a dit que j’inventais, que je dramatisais, que je manipulais mes élèves pour leur faire dire des horreurs. Au motif qu’elle est au côté des opprimés, la gauche n’a pas voulu voir le problème. Ça a été une claque pour moi, que mes amis politiques ne réagissent pas. Ceux qui s’étaient levés sur Carpentras sont restés assis et muets. Pour eux, ces jeunes sont des victimes sociales et ne peuvent donc pas être antisémites. Comme si l’on ne pouvait être les deux à la fois. Et puis, j’ai l’impression que pour certains, l’idée que des juifs sont victimes est lassante. Du genre : "C’est bon, ils ont déjà la Shoah, de quoi se plaignent-ils encore ?" Avec la minute de silence après la tuerie de Mohamed Merah dans une école juive, les choses ont changé. Combien de jeunes ont refusé de respecter cette cérémonie, au motif qu’on n’en fait "pas autant pour les enfants palestiniens" ? Beaucoup de profs en Seine-Saint-Denis, et plus seulement les profs d’histoire dans le huis clos de leurs classes, ont découvert cet antisémitisme. (…) Ces enfants sont les premiers à dire "le racisme c’est pas bien", mais ils ont une vision communautariste de la société. Pour eux il y a d’un côté les "Français", c’est à dire les blancs et les juifs, et de l’autre, eux. Quand un garçon me dit "les racistes du PSG c’est que des juifs !", il est dans un degré de confusion tel que l’incantation morale n’a aucun poids. Il entend probablement toute la journée que les juifs sont riches, puissants, racistes et tirent sur des enfants palestiniens, alors que Ben Laden et Merah sont des héros. Iannis Roder (professeur d’histoire-géographie, Saint-Denis)
The Toulouse massacre did not bring French anti-Semitism to a halt. It actually increased. (…) The immediate reason for Jewish pessimism in France (…) may be the Toulouse massacre last March: the murder in cold blood of three Jewish children and a Jewish teacher by Mohamed Merah, a Muslim terrorist, on their school’s premises. This crime, instead of instilling more compassion and understanding towards the Jewish community, has actually generated more anti-Jewish violence and hate talk, as if Merah was not seen as a vile thug but rather as a model by parts of the population. There were no less than six cases of aggravated assault on Jewish youths or rabbis in France from March 26 to July 5, including one case in Toulouse again. According to the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations (CRIF), anti-Semitic incidents of all sorts have increased by 53% compared to the same period last year. (…) The connection between Muslim immigration — or Muslim-influenced Third World immigration — and the rise of a new anti-Semitism is a fact all over Europe. Muslims come from countries (or are culturally attuned to countries) where unreconstructed, Nazi-style Jew-bashing dominates. They are impervious to the ethical debate about the Holocaust and the rejection of anti-Jewish stereotypes that were gradually incorporated into the European political discourse and consciousness in the second half of the 20th century (to the point that lessons on the Holocaust are frequently dropped from the curriculum at schools with a plurality or a majority of Muslim pupils), and are more likely than non-Muslims to engage in assaults, attacks, or harassment practices directed at Jews. Moreover, Muslim anti-Semitism reactivates in many places a dormant, but by no means extinct, non-Muslim European anti-Semitism. Once Muslims are unopposed, or at least unprosecuted, when they challenge the historical veracity of the Holocaust or when they refer to the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an authentic document, a growing number of non-Muslims feel free to do the same. (…) Muslim immigration is nurturing European anti-Semitism in more surprising ways as well. One unintended and ironic consequence of European Islam’s demographic growth is that Jews are frequently amalgamated with Muslims. Many people use a widespread concern about a growing influence of Islam in Europe as a way to hurt Jews as well, or to hit them first. (…)  to wrest Europe or any historically Christian part of the world from Christianity; recognizes the supremacy of state law over religious law in non-ritual matters; and sees Western democracy — a polity based on the rule of law — as the most legitimate political system. But Europeans are not culturally equipped to understand such nuances or to keep them in mind (far less than the Americans, who are more religious-minded, more conversant in Biblical matters, and more familiar with the Jewish way of life). (…) And what usually originates as a reaction against difficulties linked to radical brands of Islam quickly evolves into a primarily anti-Jewish business. (…) Earlier this year in France, during the last months of the conservative Sarkozy administration, a debate about the rapidly growing halal meat industry led to attacks against the kosher meat industry as well, complete with uncomely remarks about “old-fashioned rituals” by then-Prime Minister François Fillon. While Fillon subsequently “clarified” his views, the Sarkozy administration upheld its support for some kind of “tagging” of “ritually slaughtered meat,” a European Union-promoted practice that would prompt commercial boycott of such food and thus make it financially unaffordable for most prospective buyers. Since kosher meat regulations are much stricter than halal meat regulations, religious Jews would be more hurt at the end of the day than religious Muslims. (…) In Germany, a rare case of malpractice by a German Muslim doctor in a Muslim circumcision led a court in Cologne to ban circumcision on children all over Germany on June 19, on the quite extravagant grounds that only legal adults may decide on issues irreversibly affecting their body, except for purely medical reasons. Which is tantamount, in the considered issue, to denying parents the right to pass their religion to their children. Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately filled a bill to make religious circumcision legal in Germany, and it was passed on July 19 by the Bundestag (somehow, German conservatives are nowadays more genuinely conservative than, say, their French counterparts). But according to a YouGov poll for the DPA news agency released at about the same moment, 45% of Germans support the ban, while only 42% oppose it. In an even more ominous instance, Judaism has been singled out in a protracted intellectual debate in France since early June, as the fountainhead, past and present, of totalitarianism and political violence and thus as a more dangerous religion than radical Islam. (…) The second half of the 20th century was a golden age for French Jews, both in terms of numbers (from 250,000 souls in 1945 to 700,000 in 1970 due to population transfers and natural growth) and in terms of religious and cultural revival. There was only one shadow: the French government’s anti-Israel switch engineered by Charles de Gaulle in 1966, in part as a consequence of a more global anti-American switch. The 21st century may however be a much darker age. After a first wave of anti-Jewish violence in the early 2000s, some Jews left for Israel or North America. Emigration never really ceased since then, and may soon reach much more important proportions. Michel Gurfinkiel

L’immigration massive de musulmans finira-t-elle par définitivement refermer la page du "heureux comme un juif en France"?

Alors que cinq mois après l’infâme tuerie de Toulouse, la déclassification partielle du dossier Mohamed Mérah semble contredire de plus en plus la thèse de l’ancien patron de la DCRI, Bernard Squarcini, d’un loup solitaire autoradicalisé en prison au profit de celle du membre d"une véritable  "mouvance salafiste radicale toulousaine" et "d’une fratrie d’islamo-délinquants" aux contacts multinationaux, autrement dit  l’arrivée d’une "nouvelle génération d’islamistes toulousains" …

Et qu’entre multiplication des incidents et agressions comme des graffitis ou tags à sa gloire, les mois qui ont suivi son équipée sanglante (sept victimes dont trois dans une école confessionnelle juive) continuent de démontrer la complaisance que semble encore susciter le djihadiste toulousain dans au moins une partie de la communauté et notamment de la jeunesse musulmane …

Retour, avec un dossier du mois dernier du Nouvel Observateur, sur ce nouvel antisémitisme dans lequel semble s’installer durablement la France (ou plus largement l’Europe) comme la violence qui en résulte et que doivent subir au quotidien de plus en plus de nos concitoyens d’origine juive …

Mais aussi plus inquiétant, alimenté par le flot continu d’antisionisme diffusé quotidiennement par nos médias et l’internet (mais nos intellectuels ne sont pas en reste) et sous-tendant tout cela …

L’incroyable degré de confusion mentale, comme le rappellent un professeur d’histoire de Saint-Denis ainsi que l’éditorialiste Michel Gurfinkiel, dans lequel semblent vivre, sans hélas exclure le reste de la population en général, nombre des membres de ces nouvelles générations d’immigrés d’origine musulmane …

"Les juifs, ils ont tout, même Coca-Cola"

04-07-2012

Sarah Diffalah

REPORTAGE – A écouter parler Karim, Djamal et Ali, l’hégémonie de la communauté juive sur le monde serait incontestable…

Nouvel Observateur

Devant le centre Petit Bois de Borny, un quartier à trois kilomètres de Metz, il y a Karim, 23 ans, Ali, 29 ans, et Djamal, 21 ans. Ils sont une dizaine à s’activer autour de leurs voitures pour installer un drapeau espagnol sur un capot : ce sont des supporters de la Roja, l’équipe de foot espagnole. Interrogés sur la communauté juive, ils n’éludent aucune question. Au contraire. Le flot de préjugés est incessant, le débit rapide, le ton emporté, parfois railleur. Des juifs, ils n’en côtoient pourtant pas, mais les certitudes sont enracinées, à chaque fois appuyées par des exemples aussi imaginaires que précis.

Lobby juif, théories du complot, conflit israélo-palestinien… Tout se mêle, en boucle, maladroitement, confusément. Pour eux l’hégémonie de la communauté juive sur le monde est incontestable. Extraits de la conversation.

- Karim : Ils ont tout, c’est connu. Vous êtes passé par le centre-ville de Metz ? Toutes les bijouteries appartiennent aux juifs. On le sait, c’est tout. Vous n’avez qu’à lire les noms israéliens sur les enseignes. Vous avez regardé une ancienne carte de la Palestine et une d’aujourd’hui ? Ils ont tout colonisé. Maintenant c’est les bijouteries. Ils sont partout, sauf en Chine parce que c’est communiste. Tous les gouvernements sont juifs, même François Hollande. Le monde est dirigé par les francs-maçons et les francs-maçons sont tous juifs. Ce qui est certain c’est que l’argent injecté par les francs-maçons est donné à Israël. Sur le site des Illuminatis, le plus surveillé du monde, tout est écrit.

- Ali : Oui, c’est vrai. Ce sont les cerveaux du monde. Tous les tableaux qui sont exposés au centre Pompidou appartiennent à des juifs. A Metz, tous les avocats et les procureurs sont juifs. Ils sont tous hauts placés et ils ne nous laisseront jamais monter dans la société. "Ils ont aussi Coca-Cola. Regardez une bouteille de Coca-Cola, quand on met le logo à l’envers on peut lire : "Non à Allah, non au prophète". C’est pour cela que les arabes ont inventé le "Mecca-cola". Au McDo c’est pareil. Pour chaque menu acheté, un euro est reversé à l’armée israélienne. Les juifs, ils ont même coincé les Saoudiens. Ils ont inventé les voitures électriques pour éviter d’acheter leur pétrole. C’est connu. On se renseigne.

- Karim : On se renseigne mais on ne trouve pas ces infos à la télévision parce qu’elle appartient aux juifs aussi. Si Patrick Poivre d’Arvor a été jeté de TF1 alors que tout le monde l’aimait bien, c’est parce qu’il a été critique envers Nicolas Sarkozy, qui est juif…

- Ali : Si Mohamed Merah n’avait pas été tué par le Raid, le Mossad s’en serait chargé. Il serait venu avec des avions privés.

- Djamal : En fait, tout est écrit dans le Coran. Le châtiment des juifs, c’est l’enfer. L’histoire de Moïse est belle. Dieu lui a fait faire des miracles. Il a coupé la mer en deux pour qu’il puisse la traverser. Mais après tous ces miracles, les juifs ont préféré adorer un veau d’or. C’est à cause de cela que ce peuple est maudit par Dieu. Je parle avec mon père de ces choses-là. Parce que parmi les autres musulmans, il y a des sectes, des barbus qui peuvent t’envoyer te faire exploser je ne sais où. Alors je mets des remparts avec eux. Je suis fragile d’esprit, je préfère parler de ça avec ma famille, elle m’apporte l’islam qui me fait du bien.

- Ali : Ici, il y a des salafistes, des "chameaux", ce sont des musulmans mais ils ont le cœur noir.

- Djamal : Les juifs devraient dire pardon à Dieu l’unique. Quel dieu ? Je ne sais même pas ce que c’est le judaïsme. Il faudrait leur demander.

- Karim : Mais nous n’avons pas de potes juifs. Pourquoi ils viendraient ici ? Ils habitent tous dans des petits pavillons dans le centre, vers Queuleu. Ils ne naissent pas pauvres. Ici, pour eux, c’est un zoo, c’est pire que l’Irak. Peut-être que si j’habitais dans le centre, j’aurais des amis juifs, mais je ne crois pas, je n’ai pas envie. J’ai une haine profonde. Pour moi, c’est la pire des races. Je vous le dis du fond du cœur, mais je ne suis pas raciste, c’est un sentiment. Faut voir ce qu’ils font aux Palestiniens, les massacres et tout. Mais bon, on ne va pas dire que tous les juifs sont des monstres. Pourquoi vouloir réunir les juifs et les musulmans ? Tout ça c’est politique. Cela ne va rien changer. C’est en Palestine qu’il faut aller, pas en France.

- Ali : Mais s’il y a des gens qui veulent engager le dialogue entre musulmans et juifs, c’est pour calmer les tensions. Dans les autres grandes villes, c’est pire. C’est vrai que certains Arabes foutent la merde, ils nous salissent. Nous, on n’ira jamais agresser des juifs. J’ai rien contre eux en fait, c’est contre les sionistes. J’ai déménagé il y a sept ans, mon voisin est un juif, mais je ne parle pas de cela avec lui. Ils nous boycottent. Dans le centre-ville, il y a une boîte tenue par une personne de la communauté juive, et bien elle ne veut pas d’Arabes dans son club. C’est comme ça.

- Karim : A Borny, il n’y a pas de juifs. C’est très bien comme ça, il n’y a pas de problème.

Voir aussi:

Le jour où une élève m’a dit : "Moi, j’aime pas les juifs"

05-07-2012

Iannis Roder

prof d’histoire-géo

Iannis Roder est professeur d’histoire-géographie à Saint-Denis. Les réflexions antisémites, il en entend régulièrement dans les salles de classe et s’interroge : comment expliquer un tel phénomène ? Le Nouvel Observateur publie cette semaine un dossier spécial "Antisémitisme : ce qu’on ne veut pas dire" (édition du 5 juillet), où vous pouvez retrouver ce témoignage.

Édité par Maxime Bellec Auteur parrainé par Isabelle Monnin

Je suis d’une génération pour qui l’antisémitisme était mort avec la Shoah. Je n’avais pas pensé qu’il reviendrait d’ailleurs.

"Il n’y avait pas un juif hier dans les tours"

La première fois, c’était en 1998 dans une classe de 5e. Lorsqu’on a abordé le chapitre sur l’islam, une gamine a râlé : "On ne fait que quatre heures sur l’Islam, alors que l’année dernière, on a fait les Hébreux pendant au moins dix heures ! De toute façon, moi j’aime pas les juifs."

Je suis tombé des nues. Ce n’était que le début. Au tournant des années 2000, deux évènements ont libéré la parole : le 11 septembre et la seconde Intifada. Je me souviens précisément du 12 septembre 2001. La plupart de mes élèves étaient atterrés, mais l’un d’eux avait déjà une explication "complotiste" : "Il n’y avait pas un juif hier dans les tours, c’est eux qui l’ont fait." Pour une minorité, c’était "bien fait pour les Américains et pour les juifs".

Presque toujours, ces propos viennent d’enfants issus de l’immigration et se réclamant de l’Islam. En 2002, un garçon m’a expliqué que "Hitler aurait fait un bon musulman". Cela fait dix ans que je sais que c’est là, latent chez certains. Dès qu’on évoque la Shoah ou qu’ils comprennent qu’un des personnages est juif, ça sort.

Par exemple, cette année, Ousmane, 15 ans, alors que je parlais de Léon Blum : "Il est juif, qu’il crève !" Comme ça, direct. Je l’ai envoyé chez le proviseur qui a convoqué sa mère. Elle a pleuré et décidé de le changer d’établissement. Plus tard, des copains d’Ousmane m’ont rapporté ses propos : "Roder, il s’est énervé pour rien, un truc de fou." Il ne voyait pas le mal.

Pourquoi nie-t-on cette réalité dramatique ?

En salle des profs, quand je soulevais le problème, on me parlait du malaise social et de la politique israélienne, quand on ne me prenait pas pour un réac de droite. Le déni est ce qui m’a le plus choqué.

Avant, dans les années 80, au moindre soupçon d’antisémitisme, l’indignation était immédiate. Je me souviens de la manifestation après la profanation du cimetière juif de Carpentras, en 1990, tout le monde était dans la rue. Là, personne, rien.

On m’a dit que j’inventais, que je dramatisais, que je manipulais mes élèves pour leur faire dire des horreurs. Au motif qu’elle est au côté des opprimés, la gauche n’a pas voulu voir le problème. Ça a été une claque pour moi, que mes amis politiques ne réagissent pas. Ceux qui s’étaient levés sur Carpentras sont restés assis et muets. Pour eux, ces jeunes sont des victimes sociales et ne peuvent donc pas être antisémites. Comme si l’on ne pouvait être les deux à la fois.

Et puis, j’ai l’impression que pour certains, l’idée que des juifs sont victimes est lassante. Du genre : "C’est bon, ils ont déjà la Shoah, de quoi se plaignent-ils encore ?"

Avec la minute de silence après la tuerie de Mohamed Merah dans une école juive, les choses ont changé. Combien de jeunes ont refusé de respecter cette cérémonie, au motif qu’on n’en fait "pas autant pour les enfants palestiniens" ?

Beaucoup de profs en Seine-Saint-Denis, et plus seulement les profs d’histoire dans le huis clos de leurs classes, ont découvert cet antisémitisme. Désormais, j’ai le sentiment que la communauté scolaire sait, et peut commencer à se demander comment lutter contre ces préjugés.

Que faire contre ce fléau ?

Ces enfants sont les premiers à dire "le racisme c’est pas bien", mais ils ont une vision communautariste de la société. Pour eux il y a d’un côté les "Français", c’est à dire les blancs et les juifs, et de l’autre, eux. Quand un garçon me dit "les racistes du PSG c’est que des juifs !", il est dans un degré de confusion tel que l’incantation morale n’a aucun poids. Il entend probablement toute la journée que les juifs sont riches, puissants, racistes et tirent sur des enfants palestiniens, alors que Ben Laden et Merah sont des héros.

Voir encore:

Voyage au bout du nouvel antisémitisme

Isabelle Monnin

le Nouvel observateur

03-07-2012

Un jeune juif a été roué de coups dans un train entre Toulouse et Lyon. Dans la France de 2012, ils sont de plus en plus nombreux à subir cette violence au quotidien. L’enquête du "Nouvel Observateur".

C’est une goutte. Le 11 juin à Paris, Elie M., 12 ans, a dit à ses parents qu’il faudrait changer de nom : au collège on l’avait traité de "sale juif". Le 30 avril à Marseille, deux jeunes garçons ont été interpellés dans la rue : "Nous, on est pour la Palestine, on n’aime pas les juifs, on va tous vous tuer, on va tous vous exterminer, sales juifs que vous êtes." Puis ils se sont fait casser la gueule. Le 8 juin à Sarcelles, un adolescent a été insulté par trois jeunes : "Ferme ta gueule, sale juif." Il s’est défendu ; l’un d’eux l’a tenu au cou pendant que les deux autres le frappaient. Ça ne fait pas de bruit, une goutte, on ne l’entend que si on tend l’oreille.

Le 26 mars à Paris, un enfant de 11 ans portant tsitsits, ces franges traditionnelles, a pris des coups de poing au visage à quelques mètres de son école. "Sale juif", a dit son agresseur. Le même jour à Rillieux-la-Pape, dans le Rhône, en rentrant de la synagogue, un rabbin a été insulté par une bande de gamins de 12 ans environ. Ils lui ont jeté des pierres.

"J’aime pas les juifs, c’est comme ça"

Quatre jours plus tôt, Mohamed Merah avait été abattu par la police à l’issue d’une équipée sanglante dans laquelle il avait tué sept personnes dont trois enfants juifs et un rabbin dans une école confessionnelle. Chaque fois c’est pareil : on pense que l’horreur d’un crime éteindra les mauvais instincts. Mais l’émotion, pour être générale, n’est jamais unanime. Au contraire. Le djihadiste toulousain est devenu un genre de héros pour une petite minorité. Des tags à sa gloire, un peu partout, ont fleuri. Lors de la minute de silence imposée dans toutes les écoles en hommage aux victimes de l’école Ozar Hatorah, de nombreux incidents ont été répertoriés.

A Caussade, dans le Tarn-et-Garonne, une collégienne a dit : "Pour les juifs, je m’en fiche, mais s’il y a des Arabes, on peut le faire. J’aime pas les juifs, c’est comme ça." Convoqués, ses parents l’ont soutenue : "Vous ne faites rien pour les Palestiniens." A Marseille, une famille a été prise à partie par un doctorant en physique de 24 ans. Fils d’une universitaire et d’un ingénieur, il voulait "parler de la Palestine" avec le père de famille et lui a cassé la mâchoire. "J’ai vu à sa tête qu’il était sioniste", a expliqué à ses juges celui pour qui Mohamed Merah était un "résistant". Il a été condamné à un an ferme.

"Un climat"

Une goutte dans un océan d’actualité. Une de plus. On aimerait l’oublier, la laisser tomber puis sécher dans son coin, la dédaigner. Mais elle revient toujours, avec une régularité de métronome. La France n’en a pas fini avec l’antisémitisme.

Bien sûr, les juifs n’ont pas le monopole de la crainte. Ils ne sont pas la seule communauté à souffrir d’agressions de toute sorte. Ils ont moins de soucis que d’autres pour trouver un logement ou un travail. Mais s’ils portent une kippa, ils ne peuvent plus se promener sans peur dans certains quartiers. Des rabbins se font chahuter, on leur pique leur chapeau en passant, quand on ne les insulte pas. Les jours de shabbat, où les plus pratiquants des juifs sont les plus visibles et aussi les plus vulnérables (se déplaçant à pied et sans téléphone portable, pour respecter le dogme), les incidents se multiplient.

Dans certains quartiers populaires des régions parisienne, marseillaise ou lyonnaise, il y a, comme on dit, "un climat". Pas forcément une tension. Mais "un climat", malsain. Une vieille femme, vivant depuis toujours dans son immeuble à Marseille, trouve un matin la mention "sale juive" sur sa boîte aux lettres. Romy H., à Cannes, se demande si sa voisine, qui râle sans cesse contre ses "odeurs de cuisine" et trouve que la mezouzah qu’elle a mise au seuil de sa porte conformément à sa tradition religieuse dégrade les parties communes, n’a pas "un problème avec les juifs".

La plupart des incidents ne vont pas jusqu’à la violence et ne se terminent pas dans le sang comme début juin à Villeurbanne lorsque trois juifs ont été attaqués par une bande. Ce jour-là, l’un d’eux a été frappé à la tête avec un marteau. En général, il n’y a même pas de quoi porter plainte : à quoi bon prendre le risque de représailles pour si peu ?

Grand défouloir

C’est obsédant, une goutte. Ca peut rendre fou. Le récit de ce nouvel antisémitisme, diffusé à la vitesse du clic, va plus vite que le cheval au galop du shtetl d’antan. Les médias sont accusés d’être les amis des Arabes et donc, par paresseuse et injuste translation, forcément antisémites. Dans les boîtes mail, les listes de diffusion, mayonnaise anxiogène, font tourner en boucle les incidents, les amplifient.

De l’autre côté, le Net charrie son torrent de haine loin de tous ces médias (les mêmes) accusés immanquablement d’être dans la main du "lobby juif". Les modérateurs des sites internet le savent bien, qui doivent bloquer l’accès aux commentaires dès qu’il se passe quelque chose au Proche-Orient : la Toile est le grand défouloir des haines. Cette hypersensibilité se double parfois d’une maladresse, voire d’une tendance paranoïaque à faire de tout acte contre un juif une preuve indiscutable de l’antisémitisme rampant.

Le nombre d’acte antisémites flambe

Pour désamorcer les critiques en exagération, le Conseil représentatif des Institutions juives de France (Crif ) s’est doté en 2003 d’un outil de comptabilisation des actes antisémites validés par le ministère de l’intérieur. Le Service de Protection de la Communauté juive (SPCJ), enregistre et centralise toutes les plaintes.

Dans l’obs : Antisémitisme, ce qu’on ne veut pas dire, par Laurent Joffrin

En 2011, 389 actes ou menaces ont été recensés, contre 466 en 2010. Ce qui fait dire à Ariel Goldmann, vice-président du Crif et porte-parole du SPCJ, que "depuis dix ans on est systématiquement à plus de 300 actes par an". Depuis le début de l’année 2012, et surtout depuis l’affaire Merah en mars, les chiffres flambent : fin mai, déjà 268 actes répertoriés, dont 78 actions violentes (dégradations, violences sur personne) et 190 menaces et actes d’intimidation (tracts, tags, injures).

La majorité des signalements se situent à Paris, en Ile-de-France, en banlieue lyonnaise et à Marseille. "L’antisémitisme d’extrême droite est plus organisé, selon le service juridique de la Ligue internationale contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (Licra). Celui des banlieues semble plus spontané, non prémédité : ils se promènent, ils voient une kippa, ils se lâchent…" Comme si les uns disaient tout haut ce que d’autres pensent tout bas.

Un antisémitisme souvent le fait de jeunes se disant musulmans

Ca revient toujours sur le lieu de son crime, une goutte. Eternellement par le même chemin. Si l’antisémitisme aujourd’hui est souvent le fait de jeunes issus du Maghreb ou d’Afrique noire et se disant musulmans, il n’est pas éloigné de l’antisémitisme occidental, si banal et florissant dans les années 1930. S’y ajoute la mélasse politico-religieuse transposée du confit israélo-palestinien et de l’antiaméricanisme. Mis à l’envers, le logo de Coca-Cola voudrait dire : "Pas d’Allah, pas de Mecque" en arabe. "On m’a même expliqué très sérieusement que lorsqu’on débouche une bouteille de Coca, on entend le mot "juif" !" sourit un professeur.

Ainsi, comme un démon increvable, l’antisémitisme renaît toujours, crachant les mêmes clichés (le-juif-est-riche-puissant-solidaire), grimaçant la même haine (éradiquons-le-juif), mélangeant sa mauvaise bouillie (le-juif-tue-les-Palestiniens). Pour Nicole Yardeni, du Crif de Midi-Pyrénées, ces jeunes perpétuent un antisémitisme très virulent dans le monde arabe, que les juifs issus d’Afrique du Nord ont connu autrefois et que les jeunes Arabes de France ont dans leurs mémoires. Le cliché du juif et de l’argent est plutôt fort dans le monde chrétien. Dans le monde arabe, on assimilerait plutôt le juif à la femme, c’est-à-dire à l’inférieur."

Le 14 mai, dans le métro parisien, Roger O. a été agressé par un homme noir qui lui a dit : "Salope, tapette, tu es juif : tu as vu comment tu es habillé ?"

Qui est juif ? Qui est musulman ?

Des clichés, Isabelle Wekstein, avocate de confession juive, en a entendu depuis qu’elle fréquente les établissements scolaires avec Mohamed Ulad, un réalisateur d’origine marocaine. L’idée de départ est simple : demander aux élèves lequel des deux est juif, lequel est musulman. Un garçon, s’adressant à Mohamed Ulad :

- "Vous, monsieur, à 100%, vous êtes juif . A cause de votre coupe de cheveux."

Combien y a-t-il de juifs en France, d’après vous ? demandent-ils ensuite aux adolescents.

- "Au moins 30 millions, répond une fille, mais ils se cachent, on ne le sait pas."

Se souviennent-ils d’Ilan Halimi, ce jeune juif supplicié par le "gang des barbares" de Youssouf Fofana ?

- "Oui, c’était un Israélien qui a été tué parce qu’il avait de l’argent, les juifs sont riches. S’il aurait [sic] été juif, Fofana serait pas parti en prison à vie, les juifs s’en sortent mieux que les Noirs et les Arabes."

"Il y a quelques années, l’antisémitisme de ces jeunes se référait a u confit israélo-palestinien, dit Isabelle Wekstein. Aujourd’hui, il ressemble de plus en plus à celui des années 1930." Pour le président de la Licra, Alain Jakubowicz, "la ‘dieudonnisation’ des esprits qui gagne dans les banlieues n’est pas moins dangereuse que la lepénisation dont elle est le complément d’objet direct".

La tentation du repli

C’est destructeur, une goutte. "Le grand trauma de la communauté juive reste la vague d’antisémitisme des années 2000-2002 dans les banlieues, analyse l’historien Tal Bruttmann. Une partie de la communauté s’est sentie abandonnée par le gouvernement Jospin et a basculé à droite. Elle reproche à la gauche de ne pas se détacher de cette idée bien-pensante selon laquelle une minorité ne pourrait pas elle-même se montrer raciste. Or c’est bien le cas, et c’est vrai dans les deux sens : la hausse de cet antisémitisme-là conforte le racisme et l’islamophobie d’un certain nombre de juifs."

Depuis dix ans, le nombre d’enfants quittant l’école publique pour des écoles juives ne cesse d’augmenter. Ils sont 30.000 aujourd’hui (sur une communauté globale estimée à 600.000 juifs), repliés derrière les murs protégés de ces établissements. "Les gens se demandent s’ils doivent rester", assure Sammy Ghozlan, responsable du Bureau national de Vigilance contre l’Antisémitisme. Des jeunes s’inventent un avenir ailleurs, aux Etats-Unis, les plus anciens se disent qu’ils pourraient aller vivre en Israël. D’autres s’alarment d’une montée des tensions : "On ne sait plus comment tenir nos jeunes qui chaque samedi se font insulter en boîte de nuit, dit Michèle Teboul, responsable du Crif Marseille Provence. Notre équipe de foot ne peut plus participer aux compétitions, ça tournait chaque fois au pugilat. Mais nous ne pouvons pas les priver de tout."

A Toulouse, les jeunes ont un numéro de téléphone où appeler pour obtenir de l’aide : des amis arrivent alors en scooter, "pour faire nombre". Ariel Goldmann veut nuancer :

On vit très bien son judaïsme en France, mais il y a des endroits où c’est plus difficile. Ces endroits sont difficiles pour tout le monde, nous ne prétendons pas en être les seules victimes."

Toujours la crainte d’en faire trop et d’alimenter cette idée ancrée qu’il n’y en a que pour les juifs. Alors beaucoup se taisent, effacent le graffiti sur la devanture du magasin casher, réparent la mezouzah dix fois dégradée, ne veulent pas faire de vagues.

"L’un d’eux l’a poignardé à plusieurs reprises"

David, lui, est corse. Il y a deux ans, il était avec un de ses amis sur un banc, dans un square du 13e arrondissement de Paris, quand une dizaine de jeunes gens les ont pris à partie. "Soudain l’un d’eux a crié : ‘Sale juif’. Je pense qu’il avait vu l’étoile de David autour du cou de mon ami. Ca a été comme un top départ. Ils l’ont roué de coups de pied et de poing et l’un d’eux l’a poignardé à plusieurs reprises dans le bras. Ils disaient : ‘On va te saigner, sale juif’. Avant cela, comme beaucoup de gens, je pouvais penser que les juifs sont dans la victimisation, qu’ils exagèrent. Depuis cela, je sais que l’antisémitisme existe. Ils l’auraient tué si je ne les avais pas finalement fait fuir. Juste parce qu’il est juif. Ils ont été arrêtés, ils avaient entre 15 et 17 ans."

A Marseille, on raconte l’histoire de cette vieille dame de 83 ans. Cambriolée, elle a vu son voleur revenir après son forfait. "Il a dû voir sa mezouzah en sortant", souffle Michèle Teboul. Alors, il l’a violée. "Ne me fais pas ça, je suis tunisienne comme toi", suppliait la dame. "Tu n’es pas tunisienne, tu es juive", lui aurait dit le violeur. Confondu par son ADN, il a été arrêté. Il a 15 ans. C’est monstrueux, une goutte.

Voir enfin:

French Jews/ No Future

 The Toulouse massacre did not bring French anti-Semitism to a halt. It actually increased.

 Michel Gurfinkiel

 August 12, 2012

“Any time young people approach me in order to get married, I ask them various questions about their future. Eighty percent of them say they do not envision any future in France.” This is what one rabbi in Paris told me last week. I heard similar statements from other French rabbis and lay Jewish leaders: “We have a feeling the words are on the wall now,” one leader in the Lyons area confided to me. “It is not just our situation in this country deteriorating; it is also that the process is much quicker than expected.”

Even the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, may be sharing that view now. A philosopher (holding a prestigious French agrégation degree in philosophy), a graduate of the French Rabbinical School in Paris, and a former student at some of the most orthodox yeshivoth (Talmudic academies) in Jerusalem, Bernheim was until recently very eager to reconcile traditional Judaism with Europe’s “open society.” He has just devoted a book to France as a nation and how Jews can contribute to France’s public debates (N’oublions Pas De Penser La France), and in 2008, the year he was elected chief rabbi, he coauthored a book on Judeo-Christian dialogue (Le Rabbin et le Cardinal) with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.

Despite all that, Bernheim suddenly warned Jewish leaders a few weeks ago about a growing “rejection” of Jews and Judaism in France, something he linked to the global passing of “Judeo-Christian values” in French society as a whole.

The immediate reason for Jewish pessimism in France and for Bernheim’s change of heart may be the Toulouse massacre last March: the murder in cold blood of three Jewish children and a Jewish teacher by Mohamed Merah, a Muslim terrorist, on their school’s premises. This crime, instead of instilling more compassion and understanding towards the Jewish community, has actually generated more anti-Jewish violence and hate talk, as if Merah was not seen as a vile thug but rather as a model by parts of the population.

There were no less than six cases of aggravated assault on Jewish youths or rabbis in France from March 26 to July 5, including one case in Toulouse again. According to the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations (CRIF), anti-Semitic incidents of all sorts have increased by 53% compared to the same period last year.

President François Hollande and Minister of the the Interior Manuel Valls must be credited for taking the present anti-Semitic crisis seriously, a noted departure from the ambivalent attitude of the last socialist administration of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ten years ago. On July 22 — on the seventieth anniversary of the “grande raffle” (“great round-up”) of Jews by the Vichy government police in 1942 — Hollande drew a parallel between the Toulouse massacre and the deportation and mass murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust. As for Valls, he not only repeatedly acknowledged that “there was an upsurge of anti-Semitism in France,” but on July 8 went so far as to stigmatize the “most stupid, most dangerous new anti-Semitism” brooding among “young and not-so-young people” in the “neighborhoods” (a code word for Muslim enclaves). Quite a bold statement, since the Socialist party and the Left at large primarily derive their present electoral edge in France from the Muslim vote. Valls and his staff may also have inspired several no-nonsense reports on anti-Semitism that were recently published in the liberal, pro-socialist press.

The connection between Muslim immigration — or Muslim-influenced Third World immigration — and the rise of a new anti-Semitism is a fact all over Europe. Muslims come from countries (or are culturally attuned to countries) where unreconstructed, Nazi-style Jew-bashing dominates. They are impervious to the ethical debate about the Holocaust and the rejection of anti-Jewish stereotypes that were gradually incorporated into the European political discourse and consciousness in the second half of the 20th century (to the point that lessons on the Holocaust are frequently dropped from the curriculum at schools with a plurality or a majority of Muslim pupils), and are more likely than non-Muslims to engage in assaults, attacks, or harassment practices directed at Jews. Moreover, Muslim anti-Semitism reactivates in many places a dormant, but by no means extinct, non-Muslim European anti-Semitism. Once Muslims are unopposed, or at least unprosecuted, when they challenge the historical veracity of the Holocaust or when they refer to the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an authentic document, a growing number of non-Muslims feel free to do the same.

Muslim immigration is nurturing European anti-Semitism in more surprising ways as well. One unintended and ironic consequence of European Islam’s demographic growth is that Jews are frequently amalgamated with Muslims. Many people use a widespread concern about a growing influence of Islam in Europe as a way to hurt Jews as well, or to hit them first.

Clearly, there are outward similarities between Judaism and Islam. Both religions originated in the Near East, and are — as of 2012 — related to Near or Middle East countries. Both use Semitic languages. Both insist on rituals, particularly in terms of gender roles, family life, or food, that do not fit with the current mainstream European way of life

However, differences between Judaism and Islam may outweigh similarities. As far as Near Eastern or Middle Eastern countries are concerned, Muslims turn to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the strongholds of anti-Western hatred, while Jews turn to Israel, the super-Western “start-up nation.” In terms of ritual, kosher slaughtering — a quasi-surgical operation — is as remote from halal slaughtering as from secular slaughtering. Jewish circumcision is performed on newborn babies and is much closer to secular prophylactic circumcision (as it is largely practiced in the United States) than to Islamic circumcision, which is performed on boys in their preteens or early teens. And when it comes to relations between politics and religion, there is simply a chasm between the two religions. Judaism (including Orthodox Judaism) is not interested in mass conversion; does not seek to wrest Europe or any historically Christian part of the world from Christianity; recognizes the supremacy of state law over religious law in non-ritual matters; and sees Western democracy — a polity based on the rule of law — as the most legitimate political system.

But Europeans are not culturally equipped to understand such nuances or to keep them in mind (far less than the Americans, who are more religious-minded, more conversant in Biblical matters, and more familiar with the Jewish way of life). Jules Renard, an early 20th century French writer, wrote about his cat: “I keep telling him to hunt mice and let the canaries alone. Very subtle guidelines, I must admit. Even intelligent cats can get wrong on this issue.” And decide that eating canaries is easier and more satisfying than hunting mice. Regarding Judaism and Islam, most Europeans are like Renard’s cat. And what usually originates as a reaction against difficulties linked to radical brands of Islam quickly evolves into a primarily anti-Jewish business.

Earlier this year in France, during the last months of the conservative Sarkozy administration, a debate about the rapidly growing halal meat industry led to attacks against the kosher meat industry as well, complete with uncomely remarks about “old-fashioned rituals” by then-Prime Minister François Fillon. While Fillon subsequently “clarified” his views, the Sarkozy administration upheld its support for some kind of “tagging” of “ritually slaughtered meat,” a European Union-promoted practice that would prompt commercial boycott of such food and thus make it financially unaffordable for most prospective buyers. Since kosher meat regulations are much stricter than halal meat regulations, religious Jews would be more hurt at the end of the day than religious Muslims. The reason why French conservatives were so fond of tagging is that a 2009 poll shows a 72% rejection of “ritual slaughtering” writ large. And Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, dwelled on that issue for a while.

In Germany, a rare case of malpractice by a German Muslim doctor in a Muslim circumcision led a court in Cologne to ban circumcision on children all over Germany on June 19, on the quite extravagant grounds that only legal adults may decide on issues irreversibly affecting their body, except for purely medical reasons. Which is tantamount, in the considered issue, to denying parents the right to pass their religion to their children.

Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately filled a bill to make religious circumcision legal in Germany, and it was passed on July 19 by the Bundestag (somehow, German conservatives are nowadays more genuinely conservative than, say, their French counterparts). But according to a YouGov poll for the DPA news agency released at about the same moment, 45% of Germans support the ban, while only 42% oppose it.

In an even more ominous instance, Judaism has been singled out in a protracted intellectual debate in France since early June, as the fountainhead, past and present, of totalitarianism and political violence and thus as a more dangerous religion than radical Islam.

The charge was made in Le Point, an important right-of-center newsmagazine, by Michel Onfray, a commercially successful dabbling philosopher and a long-time supporter of the radical Left, who himself reviewed and approvingly quoted Who Is God? (Qui est Dieu), an essay by another controversial author, the former diplomat Jean Soler.

In the 1970s Soler, who holds an agrégation degree in Greek and Latin classical studies but was never academically trained in anthropology, Semitics, or Near Eastern history, applied a structuralist approach to the study of Jewish rituals and won some polite applause from French, Israeli, and American scholars. Later on, when structuralism fell out of fashion, he sort of remixed his early work with neo-Marcionite currents in 19th century and early 20th century German and French Biblical criticism which claimed there was no spirituality at all, and indeed no real monotheism, in the Old Testament, a narrowly “tribalist” book. Or that everything spiritual in the Old Testament was a transplant from other cultures, either Pharaonic Egypt or Indo-European Iran.

Very few people in France realize what Soler’s later writing is really about, and that his approach or sources do not fit present academic standards. Even fewer people are aware that the neo-Marcionite hypothesis to which Soler has switched and which Onfray supports exerted a major influence on Nazi anti-Semitism (including the so-called “German Christian” movement) and remained after 1945 a major polemical tool in neo-Nazi or post-Nazi circles. So much so that the media had no qualms engaging for weeks in multifaceted debates and discussions about the Soler/Onfray contentions and thus, for all practical matters, promoted them.

The second half of the 20th century was a golden age for French Jews, both in terms of numbers (from 250,000 souls in 1945 to 700,000 in 1970 due to population transfers and natural growth) and in terms of religious and cultural revival. There was only one shadow: the French government’s anti-Israel switch engineered by Charles de Gaulle in 1966, in part as a consequence of a more global anti-American switch. The 21st century may however be a much darker age. After a first wave of anti-Jewish violence in the early 2000s, some Jews left for Israel or North America. Emigration never really ceased since then, and may soon reach much more important proportions.

Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.

© Michel Gurfinkiel & PJMedia, 2012


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