Mort de Nelson Mandela: Mandela ou l’anti-Arafat (Robben Island was a tremendous school in human relations – the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with)

6 décembre, 2013
http://www.rightsidenews.com/images/stories/December_2013/Editorial/US_Opinion/320x276xANC_MANDELA_COUPLE_JOE_SLOVO_COMMUNIST.jpg.pagespeed.ic.naRfeQ9VR6.jpgNelson Mandela (L) is embraced by PLO leader Yasser Arafat as he arrives at Lusaka airport February 27, 1990.  REUTERS/Howard BurdittJe ne saurais trop insister sur le rôle que l’Église méthodiste a joué dans ma vie. Nelson Mandela (23e anniversaire de la Gospel Church power of Republic of South Africa, 1995)
Sans l’Église, sans les institutions religieuses, je ne serais pas là aujourd’hui.  Nelson Mandela (parlement mondial des religions, 1999)
Nous qui avons grandi dans des maisons religieuses et qui avons étudié dans les écoles des missionnaires, nous avons fait l’expérience d’un profond conflit spirituel quand nous avons vu le mode de vie que nous jugions sacré remis en question par de nouvelles philosophies, et quand nous nous sommes rendu compte que, parmi ceux qui traitaient notre foi d’opium, il y avait des penseurs dont l’intégrité et l’amour pour les hommes ne faisaient pas de doute. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Fatima Meer, 1977)
J’assiste encore à tous les services de l’Église et j’apprécie certains sermons.  Nelson Mandela (lettre de Robben island)
Partager le sacrement qui fait partie de la tradition de mon Église était important à mes yeux. Cela me procurait l’apaisement et le calme intérieur. En sortant des services, j’étais un homme neuf. (…) Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Ahmed Kathrada, 1993)
J’ai bien sûr été baptisé à l’Église wesleyenne et j’ai fréquenté ses écoles missionnaires. Dehors comme ici, je lui reste fidèle, mais mes conceptions ont eu tendance à s’élargir et à être bienveillantes envers l’unité religieuse. Nelson Mandela (1977)
La relation entre un homme et son Dieu est un sujet extrêmement privé, qui ne regarde pas les mass media. Cela dit, les institutions religieuses m’ont aidé à garder le moral pendant mon séjour en prison. Les prêtres nous rendaient visite régulièrement pour célébrer la messe; plusieurs sermons nous ont renforcés dans notre détermination. Les religieux ont fréquemment agi comme des intermédiaires entre les prisonniers et leurs familles, aussi. Et l’Eglise a veillé à nous fournir des livres, quand l’administration pénitentiaire les autorisait. Nelson Mandela (interview à l’Express, 1995)
The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence. Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, "Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence." Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, "Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor …" Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle. Nelson Mandela (Time, 1999)
Trois modernes ont marqué ma vie d’un sceau profond et ont fait mon enchantement: Raychandbhai [écrivain gujarati connu pour ses polémiques religieuses], Tolstoï, par son livre "Le Royaume des Cieux est en vous", et Ruskin et son Unto This Last. Gandhi
In planning the direction and form that MK would take, we considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. Because it did not involve loss of life it offered the best hope for reconciliation among the races afterward. We did not want to start a blood feud between white and black. Animosity between Afrikaner and Englishman was still sharp fifty years after the Anglo-Boer War; what would race relations be like between white and black if we provoked a civil war? Sabotage had the added virtue of requiring the least manpower. Our strategy was to make selective forays against military installations, power plants, telephone lines, and transportation links; targets that would not only hamper the military effectiveness of the state, but frighten National Party supporters, scare away foreign capital, and weaken the economy. This we hoped would bring the government to the bargaining table. Strict instructions were given to members of MK that we would countenance no loss of life. But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Mandela (Long walk to freedom, 1995)
He needed that time in prison to mellow. Desmond Tutu (Sky News)
Perhaps the most difficult case to make is that of the ANC in South Africa. If ever a group could legitimately claim to have resorted to force only as a last resort, it is the ANC. Founded in 1912, for the first fifty years the movement treated nonviolence as a core principle. In 1961, however, with all forms of political organization closed to it, Nelson Mandela was authorized to create a separate military organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In his autobiography Mandela describes the strategy session as the movement examined the options available to them: We considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. These fine distinctions were lost on the court in Rivonia that convicted Mandela and most of the ANC leadership in 1964 and sentenced them to life imprisonment. For the next twenty years an increasingly repressive white minority state denied the most basic political rights to the majority black population. An uprising in Soweto was defeated, as was an MK guerrilla campaign launched from surrounding states. In 1985, the government declared a state of emergency, which was followed within three weeks by thirteen terrorist bombings in major downtown areas. Reasonable people can differ on whether or not the terrorism of the ANC was justified, given the legitimacy of the goals it sought and the reprehensible nature of the government it faced. The violent campaign of the ANC in the early and mid-1980s, however, was indisputably a terrorist campaign. Unless and until we are willing to label a group whose ends we believe to be just a terrorist group, if it deliberately targets civilians in order to achieve those ends, we are never going to be able to forge effective international cooperation against terrorism. Louise Richardson
In the end, Mandela was arrested before the armed struggle reached that stage. Then, as he languished in prison—a powerful symbol, but no longer accountable as a commander—terrorism did come to the fore. The infamous Church Street bombing in 1983, for instance, targeted the South African Air Force headquarters, killing 19 people and wounding 217, among them many innocent bystanders. When at last the white South African government, facing the possibility of wider civil war and pressured by international sanctions, turned to Mandela for secret talks, it could do so knowing he had the authority to negotiate without the taint of direct involvement with the carnage. His combination of pragmatism and humanity was key. The Daily Beast
Crucially, Mandela was open to escalation to terror tactics and guerrilla war. The ANC’s 1982 attack of the Koeberg nuclear plant — yes, crucial infrastructure — killed 19 people. Unsurprisingly, the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Mandela himself was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008. Natasha Lennard
Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst. After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. (…) Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage. The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam. Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims. WRONG! Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Deroy Murdock
Envoyé à la cour du roi, Rolhlahla se prépare à assurer la succession à la chefferie, à l’école des pasteurs méthodistes d’abord, puis, en 1938 à l’University College for Bantu de Fort Hare, seul établissement secondaire habilité à l’époque à recevoir des «non-Blancs». Les fondateurs blancs de Fort Hare entendaient former une élite noire capable de servir leur dessein colonial. Mais face à la conjugaison d’esprits éveillés, l’épreuve de la réalité étant la plus forte, l’université «bantoue» s’est transformée en pépinière du nationalisme d’Afrique australe, d’où sortirent notamment les frères ennemis zimbabwéens Joshua Nkomo et Robert Mugabe ou le «père de la Nation» zambienne, Kenneth Kaunda. (…) Fondé à Bloemfontein en 1912, l’African native national congress (ANNC) avait abandonné son initiale coloniale «native» (indigène) en 1923 pour devenir ANC. Largement inspiré par les idées légalistes du promoteur de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, Booker T. Washington, l’ANC avait entrepris d’informer la communauté noire sud-africaine sur ses droits ou ce qui en restait, faisant aussi campagne par exemple contre la loi sud-africaine sur les laissez-passer. (…) En 1951, Tambo et Mandela sont les deux premiers avocats noirs inscrits au barreau de Johannesburg. L’année suivante, ils ouvrent un cabinet ensemble. En 1950, les principales lois de l’apartheid ont été adoptées, en particulier le Group areas act qui assigne notamment à «résidence» les Noirs dans les bantoustans et les townships. Le Supression communist act inscrit dans son champ anti-communiste toute personne qui «cherche à provoquer un changement politique, industriel, économique ou social par des moyens illégaux». Bien évidemment, pour l’apartheid il n’y a pas de possibilité de changement légal. Mais en rangeant dans le même sac nationalistes, communistes, pacifistes et révolutionnaires, il ferme la fracture idéologique qui opposait justement ces derniers au sein de l’ANC. Pour sa part, Nelson Mandela rompt avec son anti-communisme chrétien intransigeant pour recommander l’unité de lutte anti-apartheid entre les nationalistes noirs et les Blancs du SACP. Elu président de l’ANC pour le Transvaal et vice président national de l’ANC, Nelson Mandela est également choisi comme «volontaire en chef» pour lancer en juin 1952 une action de désobéissance civile civile de grande envergure à la manière du Mahatma Ghandi, la «défiance campaign», où il anime des cohortes de manifestants descendus en masse dans la rue. La campagne culmine en octobre, contre la ségrégation légalisée et en particulier contre le port obligatoire des laissez-passer imposé aux Noirs. Tout un arsenal de loi sur la «sécurité publique» verrouille l’état d’urgence qui autorise l’apartheid à gouverner par décrets. Condamné à neuf mois de prison avec sursis, le charismatique Mandela est interdit de réunion et assigné à résidence à Johannesburg. Il en profite pour mettre au point le «Plan M» qui organise l’ANC en cellules clandestines. La répression des années cinquante contraint Mandela à faire disparaître son nom de l’affiche officielle de l’ANC mais ne l’empêche pas de participer en 1955 au Congrès des peuples qui adopte une Charte des Libertés préconisant l’avènement d’une société multiraciale et démocratique. Le Congrès parvient en effet à rassembler l’ANC, le Congrès indien, l’Organisation des métis sud-africain (SACPO), le Congrès des démocrates -composé de communistes proscrits depuis 1950 et de radicaux blancs- ainsi que le Congrès des syndicats sud-africains (SACTU). Le 5 décembre 1956, Nelson Mandela est arrêté avec Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix 1960) et des dizaines de dirigeants du mouvement anti-apartheid. Ils sont accusés, toutes races et toutes obédiences confondues, de comploter contre l’Etat au sein d’une organisation internationale d’inspiration communiste. En mars 1961, le plus long procès de l’histoire judiciaire sud-africaine s’achève sur un non-lieu général. L’ANC estime avoir épuisé tous les recours de la non-violence. Le 21 mars 1960, à Sharpeville, la police de l’apartheid transforme en bain de sang (69 morts et 180 blessés) une manifestation pacifique contre les laissez-passer. L’état d’urgence est réactivé. Des milliers de personnes font les frais de la répression terrible qui s’ensuit dans tous le pays. Le 8 avril, l’ANC et le Congrès panafricain (le PAC né d’une scission anti-communiste) sont interdits. Cette même année de sang, Nelson épouse en deuxièmes noces Winnie, une assistante sociale, et entre en clandestinité. En mai 1961, le succès de son mot d’ordre de grève générale à domicile «stay at house» déchaîne les foudres de Pretoria qui déploie son grand jeu militaro-policier pour briser la résistance. En décembre, l’ANC met en application le plan de passage graduel à la lutte armée rédigé par Nelson Mandela. Avant d’en arriver à «la guérilla, le terrorisme et la révolution ouverte», Mandela préconise le sabotage des cibles militaro-industrielles qui, écrit-il, «n’entraîne aucune perte en vie humaine et ménage les meilleures chances aux relations interraciales». Le 16 décembre 1961 des explosions marquent aux quatre coins du pays le baptême du feu d’Umkhonto We Sizwe, le «fer de lance de la Nation», la branche militaire de l’ANC. D’Addis-Abeba en janvier 1962 où se tient la conférence du Mouvement panafricain pour la libération de l’Afrique australe et orientale, à l’Algérie fraîchement indépendante d’Ahmed Ben Bella où il suit une formation militaire avec son ami Tambo, Nelson Mandela sillonne l’Afrique pour plaider la cause de l’ANC et recueillir subsides et bourses universitaires. Le pacifiste se met à l’étude de la stratégie militaire. Clausewitz, Mao et Che Guevara voisinent sur sa table de chevet avec les spécialistes de la guerre anglo-boers. A son retour, il est arrêté, le 5 août 1962, grâce à un indicateur de police, après une folle cavale où il emprunte toutes sortes de déguisements. En novembre, il écope de 5 ans de prison pour sortie illégale du territoire mais aussi comme fauteur de grève. Alors qu’il a commencé à purger sa peine, une deuxième vague d’accusation va le clouer en prison pour deux décennies de plus. Les services de l’apartheid sont parvenus à infiltrer l’ANC jusqu’à sa tête. Le 11 juillet 1963, les principaux chefs d’Umkhonto We Sizwe tombent dans ses filets. Avec eux, dans la ferme de Lilliesleaf, à Rivonia, près de Johannesburg, la police de Pretoria met la main sur des kilos de documents, parmi lesquels le plan de passage à la lutte armée signé Mandela. RFI
Les dirigeants révolutionnaires cambodgiens sont pour la plupart issus de familles de la bourgeoisie. Beaucoup effectuèrent leurs études dans des universités françaises dans les années 1950. Dans une atmosphère parisienne cosmopolite et propice aux échanges d’idées, ils se rallièrent à l’idéologie communiste. Ses principaux dirigeants (Pol Pot, Khieu Samphân, Son Sen…) furent formés à Paris dans les années 1950 au Cercle des Études Marxistes fondé par le Bureau Politique du PCF en 1930. Wikipedia
Il est malheureux que le Moyen-Orient ait rencontré pour la première fois la modernité occidentale à travers les échos de la Révolution française. Progressistes, égalitaristes et opposés à l’Eglise, Robespierre et les jacobins étaient des héros à même d’inspirer les radicaux arabes. Les modèles ultérieurs — Italie mussolinienne, Allemagne nazie, Union soviétique — furent encore plus désastreux. (…) Ce qui rend l’entreprise terroriste des islamistes aussi dangereuse, ce n’est pas tant la haine religieuse qu’ils puisent dans des textes anciens — souvent au prix de distorsions grossières —, mais la synthèse qu’ils font entre fanatisme religieux et idéologie moderne. Ian Buruma et Avishai Margalit
Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager. This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone). The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman. The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a "poetic truth." Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: "America is a racist nation"; "the immigration debate is driven by racism"; "Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon." And we say, "Yes, of course," lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason. In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument. One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman? Shelby Steele
I think he probably is the one man who stands out as having a moral integrity and a far-sighted view. I think that′s why other politicians such as Bill Clinton or Tony Blair feel a great awe of him, because he has those qualities which I′m not sure they have themselves.′ (…) He started as a tribalist, then he became a nationalist, and then he became a multi-nationalist or a multi-culturalist, and gradually saw a wider and wider world.  (…) there were of course two sides of him. He was a practising lawyer, and he had tremendous respect for the law, and was always quoting it – as he does now – but at the same time he was very aware that it was impossible to achieve any kind of redress through non-violent means. He never really believed in the Ghandi-ist principle of ′turn the other cheek′. Long before 1960 he was inclined to go further towards the suggestion of violence. But at that point the logic became almost incontrovertible. There was no alternative. But perhaps more important was the fact that his own people were turning towards more dangerous kinds of violence. So it would have been impossible for him to maintain any leadership if he was purely pacifist.′ (…) There′s no doubt in my mind that it (Robben Island) tremendously increased his self-discipline and his understanding of people. It was a tremendously enclosed world, and for most of the time he was only with 30 of his colleagues together with the warders so it had the intensity of a boarding school, albeit with much more discipline and harshness. So for somebody who was strong enough, who had the necessary confidence in themselves, it was a tremendous school in human relations. It was the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with, actually. ′During his twenty-seven years in Robben Island, Mandela was able to extend his influence beyond the ANC to the rival groups, which was very important when he got out. But above all he acquired an increased sensitivity to other people. He sharpened his skills of debate and persuasion tremendously, and probably his greatest gift is his capacity to persuade. You can see how, for someone who had that sense of self-respect and dignity, the jail experience was almost a training ground. Anthony Simpson
Né le 18 juillet 1918 dans l’ancien Transkei, mort le 5 décembre 2013, Nelson Mandela ne ressemblait pas à la pieuse image que le politiquement correct planétaire donne aujourd’hui de lui. Par delà les émois lénifiants et les hommages hypocrites, il importe de ne jamais perdre de vue les éléments suivants :(…) Aristocrate xhosa issu de la lignée royale des Thembu, Nelson Mandela n’était pas un « pauvre noir opprimé ». Eduqué à l’européenne par des missionnaires méthodistes, il commença ses études supérieures à Fort Hare, université destinée aux enfants des élites noires, avant de les achever à Witwatersrand, au Transvaal, au cœur de ce qui était alors le « pays boer ». Il s’installa ensuite comme avocat à Johannesburg. (…) Il n’était pas non plus ce gentil réformiste que la mièvrerie médiatique se plait à dépeindre en « archange de la paix » luttant pour les droits de l’homme, tel un nouveau Gandhi ou un nouveau Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela fut en effet et avant tout un révolutionnaire, un combattant, un militant qui mit « sa peau au bout de ses idées », n’hésitant pas à faire couler le sang des autres et à risquer le sien. Il fut ainsi l’un des fondateurs de l’Umkonto We Sizwe, « le fer de lance de la nation », aile militaire de l’ANC, qu’il co-dirigea avec le communiste Joe Slovo, planifiant et coordonnant plus de 200 attentats et sabotages pour lesquels il fut condamné à la prison à vie. (…) Nelson Mandela n’a pas apaisé les rapports inter-raciaux. Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1994, en 24 ans, alors que l’ANC était "en guerre" contre le « gouvernement blanc », une soixantaine de fermiers blancs furent tués. Depuis avril 1994, date de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Nelson Mandela, plus de 2000 fermiers blancs ont été massacrés dans l’indifférence la plus totale des médias européens. Bernard Lugan (historien français controversé)
At present his legacy in some respects still exists in emergent form, has yet to express its true contours. This is to my mind the key difference between how he is viewed at home and internationally, where the lacquer of adulation laid thick upon the "human-rights legend" has long since hardened. Abroad, Mandela is the African the world loves to love, even if in a strikingly over-compensatory way. Africa the continent of famine, corruption and social abjection has produced, at least, this one fine human being, Europeans and Americans appear to breathe as they cluster around him. A hostile Sunday Times (London) magazine article, which appeared the weekend before his 18 July birthday, opined that the one task Mandela can still competently carry out is to smile his dazzling smile, only now it is on command. There is little that is meaningful in it: in his old age he has become a mask of his former charismatic self, to which the world has grown accustomed to genuflect. For the international community the paradox is that by heaping excessive adoration upon the head of this one seemingly superhuman African, we have left Africa, the continent, its people, more lacking of attention by contrast. There have been many great Africans yet their reputation has been dangerously eclipsed by this one over-hyped African hero of our times. Yet it is here, within the gap between his fully manifested yet relatively shallow international fame, and his still-latent local significance, that, it seems to me, the potential for renewed understandings of Mandela have the opportunity to emerge, which, when all is said and done, is a good thing. Within this gap, then, I would venture to place the following desiderata. Let us not allow our image of Mandela to petrify into cliché, especially yet not only while he is still alive amongst us. Let his meanings evolve and change in rhythm with his times. Let his legacy organisations perhaps relax a little in wanting to predetermine how the future will see him. His achievement on its own dwarfs the efforts of such tireless PR policing. What is not in doubt is that Mandela is a great and humane human being not in spite of his Africanness, as his western acolytes (according to the Sunday Times) believe, but because of his Africanness. Perhaps most important, let us not forget that his greatness as an African was dependent on the cooperation of hosts of other Africans, little and great, ordinary and extraordinary, as he himself has always recognised. Elleke Boehmer
Tout au long de leur vie, Yasser Arafat et Nelson Mandela, icônes respectives de la cause de leur peuple, récompensés à une année d’écart par le Prix Nobel de la Paix affichaient la solidarité et la complicité de vieux camarades de lutte. Libération
Les Israéliens voient en Mandela un leader qui prit la décision de principe de faire la paix avec ses ennemis et tint parole. Les Palestiniens voient en lui un combattant nationaliste qui refusa de compromettre ses principes, même si cela impliquait d’immenses souffrances personnelles — et comme un leader guidé par ces mêmes principes, lorsqu’il fallut faire les compromis historiques nécessaires pour minimiser les effusions de sang tout en poursuivant ses objectifs. Et dans les deux cas — comme dans d’autres — Arafat ne tient tout simplement pas la comparaison. Time

Fils de chef héréditaire, élève d’école missionnaire, méthodiste, étudiant en droit, avocat, pacifiste gandhien, tribaliste, nationaliste, marxiste, communiste, stagiaire des camps militaires algériens, chef de l’aile militaire de l’ANC, terroriste, terroriste repenti, humaniste, multiculturaliste …

Attention: un camarade de lutte peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où nos médias et nos journaux croulent sous les hommages au véritable saint laïc qu’était devenu l’ancien président sud-africain Nelson Mandela

Pendant qu’en Afrique du sud même la tentation zimbabwéenne ne semble pas encore totalement écartée …

Et qu’après l’avoir refusé pendant des années, la veuve du dirigeant historique palestinien en est encore à contester, neuf ans après sa probable mort de poivrot aux amitiés douteuses,  la dernière autopsie de "l’erreur" de sa vie …

Comment ne pas voir, avec son biographe Anthony Simpson, l’inestimable effet qu’eurent finalement, sans compter tant son instruction anglaise et chrétienne qu’à l’instar de Gandhi (mais contrairement à un Pol Pot) sa formation de juriste britannique, ses 27 ans d’internement  sur l’ancien terroriste repenti ?

Ou, avec son ancien organisateur, la véritable renaissance médiatique qu’apporta à celui qui fut un moment tenté de faire sauter des hôpitaux, le prétendu concert-anniversaire de Wembley de juin 1988 ?

Mais aussi en contraste, avec le magazine Time, tout ce qui a pu manquer comme l’incroyable gâchis que fut presqu’en même temps la vie d’un autre terroriste qui lui, en dépit de son prix Nobel, le restera …

A savoir l’ex-leader palestinien Yasser Arafat ?

Unfortunately, Arafat’s No Nelson Mandela

Tony Karon

Time

Jun. 05, 2001

"The problem with Yasser Arafat is that he’s no Nelson Mandela." I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve head that complaint, both from Palestinians and Israelis.

It’s an apples and oranges comparison, of course, given the widely different historical and political contexts that produced the PLO chairman and the imprisoned guerrilla leader who led South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid. But the fact that it occurs so often on both sides of the intractable Middle East divide makes it worthy of examination.

The Israelis see in Mandela a leader who took a principled decision to make peace with his enemies, and kept his word. The Palestinians see him as a nationalist fighter who refused to compromise his principles even when that meant immense personal suffering — and as a leader guided by those same principles when making the historic compromises necessary to minimize bloodshed while pursuing his goals. And in both instances — and others — Arafat falls short by comparison.

Intifada as a bargaining chip

Arafat’s leadership abilities are once more in the spotlight, as the latest cease-fire effort plunges him into yet another strategic crisis. While many of those who have waged the intifada on the ground these past nine months believe that a long-term, low-intensity war will eventually drive the Israeli soldiers and settlers out of the West Bank and Gaza — as it did in Lebanon — Arafat’s agenda has been somewhat different. He can only achieve his goal of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza through negotiation with Israel and the international community, and so as much he chants the slogans of struggle he has, throughout, looked upon the uprising that has killed almost 500 Palestinians and more than 100 Israelis and ruined thousands of lives and livelihoods, as a means of improving his bargaining position. He has spent much of the uprising shuttling around foreign capitals trying to win support for renewed negotiations, hoping the uprising would function strengthen his hand at the table.

Last weekend he called it off, "in the higher interests of the Palestinian people," after the Europeans made it clear that funding for Arafat’s Palestinian Authority would be withheld if he failed to take steps against terrorism. But the Palestinian leader has a problem, of course, because while a recent opinion poll in the West Bank and Gaza found that 76 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings inside Israel, only a minority would give Arafat’s notoriously corrupt administration a positive rating.

Palestinians are angry at Arafat, too

Indeed, as much as it suited Arafat’s immediate agenda, the intifada was also viewed by many observers of Palestinian politics as an outpouring of anger against the Palestinian Authority. And many grassroots leaders of the uprising have made clear that they have no interest in a return to the negotiating table, regardless of Arafat’s own intentions.

That’s a major problem for Arafat, since any cease-fire would ultimately require the Palestinian Authority to begin re-arresting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad members released when the current intifada began. Arafat will have to convince his own security forces, who have been on the frontline of confrontation with Israel, that they need to once again round up some of the Islamist militants alongside whom they’ve fought these past nine months, in order to ensure Israel’s security — and in exchange for no political gains beyond, perhaps, the easing of some of the collective punishments imposed by Israel in response to the uprising.

Arafat’s dilemma is, in many ways, of his own making. And the Palestinians, who will at some point in the not-too-distant future have to choose his successor, may want to pay close attention to Arafat’s mistakes — and, perhaps, to Mandela’s example.

Pulling the keffiyeh over Palestinian eyes

The problem is ultimately a lack of communication. Arafat never made clear to his own people the massive compromises involved in the Oslo Peace process — the fact that the Palestinians were signing away their claim to most of historic Palestine, and that the best the millions of Palestinians descended from those made refugees by Israel’s foundation in 1948 could hope for under the circumstances was some form of financial compensation. Arafat told his people that he was in negotiations with Israel that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. On the ground, though, all they could see was the arrival of a class of PLO bureaucrats from Tunis who began to rapidly enrich themselves on the aid money pouring into the Palestinian Administration, and the continued expansion, at their expense, of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

In contrast, Mandela negotiated with a lot more transparency, and always held himself accountable to his supporters, working to persuade them of the necessity of compromise rather than simply pretending it wasn’t happening. He had rejected terrorism on principle: his soldiers were always under orders to avoid attacking civilians, even when their unarmed supporters on the ground were being massacred by the apartheid regime. And the South African leader also always displayed a keen understanding of his adversary’s motivations and concerns, which gave him the ability both to read their tactics and articulate positions that could assuage their fears.

Arafat proclaimed his intention to fly the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem, but sent one of his lieutenants, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to negotiate a formula for "sharing" the Holy City that involved the Palestinian Authority setting up shop in the village of Abu Dis, which falls outside of Jerusalem’s current municipal boundaries and declaring it their capital. When details of the plan leaked, Arafat denied and disowned it. And that may have been symbolic of his leadership style throughout the negotiation process.

No wonder, then, that Arafat hit a wall at Camp David, when the Israelis put their final offer on the table and it fell well short of what Arafat — or any other Palestinian leader —would be able to accept and survive politically (or even physically). He’d been speaking out of two different sides of his mouth all along, but now the game was up. And that left him no room to maneuver, except stir up confrontation in the hope that it would force the Israelis and their American backers to offer him a better deal.

Little gained, much lost

That hasn’t happened. In fact, he’s being offered a lot less than last year, and it’s unlikely that any Israeli government will ever again trust him as a negotiating partner. But the Israelis still need him, because he remains the frontline of their defense against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Ultimately, Arafat’s primary weakness may be his distance from his own people. Mandela came of age politically in a mass movement based in the dusty streets of South Africa’s townships, before finding himself forced underground and eventually jailed. Circumstances forced Arafat, by contrast, almost from the outset to engage in the underground politics of conspiracy — small groups of trusted insiders launching guerrilla attacks and melting back into the civilian population. Later, as the leader of an exiled Palestinian movement more often than not at odds with its Arab hosts, those methods kept Arafat alive and maintained the coherence of a movement attempting to represent a nation that straddled the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza and a diaspora scattered across the Arab world.

But once back home, Arafat’s time-honored methods translated into rampant cronyism and a singular failure to nurture a democratic political culture in the areas under his control. And while that may have kept things stable, for a time, it appears to have worked against Arafat when the time comes to take unpopular decisions.

Of course, the Israelis would be wrong to think a Palestinian leader who was more like Mandela would be more pliant. Quite the contrary. They’d find it a lot harder to conclude a deal with a Mandela, or any leader of more democratic bent than Arafat. But in the end, they’d be able to rest a lot more assured that such a deal would hold.

Voir aussi:

Anger at the Heart of Nelson Mandela’s Violent Struggle

The future president of South Africa once considered guerilla warfare and terrorism to overturn Apartheid. Imprisoned for so long, his anger mellowed.

Christopher Dickey

The Daily Beast

12.06.13

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography he tells a story about a sparrow. This was in the early 1960s when the late South African leader was hiding out on a farm near Johannesburg with members of the Communist Party and the African National Congress and some of their families. They were plotting what was called “armed struggle” against the Apartheid regime. (Many others would call it terrorism.) But at the time Mandela’s only gun was an old air rifle he used for target practice and dove hunting.

“One day, I was on the front lawn of the property and aimed the gun at a sparrow perched high in a tree,” Mandela writes in Long Walk to Freedom. A friend said Mandela would never hit the little creature. But he did, and he was about to boast about it when his friend’s five-year-old son, with tears in his eyes, asked Mandela, “Why did you kill that bird? Its mother will be sad.”

“My mood immediately shifted from one of pride to shame,” Mandela recalled. “I felt that this small boy had far more humanity than I did. It was an odd sensation for a man who was the leader of a nascent guerrilla army.”

Of course autobiographies always rely to some extent on recovered memories, some of them recovered myths. But Mandela’s thinking about warfare, revolution and terrorism—tempered by pragmatism and humanity—is almost as instructive as his later actions in support of peace.

In the early 1960s, just before his arrest and incarceration for more than a quarter century, Mandela was, in fact, a very angry man. As his longtime friend Bishop Desmond Tutu once told Sky News, “he needed that time in prison to mellow.”

Mandela had given up on Ghandian passive resistance after the massacre of protesters in Sharpeville in 1960. “Our policy to achieve a nonracial state by nonviolence had achieved nothing,” he concluded. But from the beginning, Mandela’s anger was controlled, and his use of violence calculated. He never trained as a soldier, but he made himself a student of revolution. Mandela sent fighters for training and indoctrination to China when it was still ruled by that revolutionary icon, Mao Tse-Tung. He studied Menachem Begin’s bloody struggle against the British in Palestine.

Mandela learned much from the Algerian war against the French, which was then at its height, and not the least of those lessons was the vital role of global propaganda: “International public opinion,” one Algerian envoy told him, “is sometimes worth more than a fleet of jet fighters.”

So, when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology. The little sparrow notwithstanding, the question was not just one of morality or humanity, but of whether the means would serve his ends.

“We considered four types of violent activities,” Mandela recalled: “sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals.”

When it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology

This was imminently practical. The last thing Mandela wanted to do was unite, through fear, the often bitterly divided white Anglo and Afrikaner populations. So, strict instructions were given “that we would countenance no loss of life. But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla war and terrorism.” (My emphasis.)

In the end, Mandela was arrested before the armed struggle reached that stage. Then, as he languished in prison—a powerful symbol, but no longer accountable as a commander—terrorism did come to the fore. The infamous Church Street bombing in 1983, for instance, targeted the South African Air Force headquarters, killing 19 people and wounding 217, among them many innocent bystanders.

When at last the white South African government, facing the possibility of wider civil war and pressured by international sanctions, turned to Mandela for secret talks, it could do so knowing he had the authority to negotiate without the taint of direct involvement with the carnage. His combination of pragmatism and humanity was key.

As Mao famously said, “a revolution is not a dinner party.” But if its leaders are as wise as Mandela, at the end of the day they can find a way for everyone to sit down at the same table.

Voir également:

The graduates of Robben Island

The bars of apartheid’s most infamous jail could not cage the spirit of its ANC prisoners. Anthony Sampson , who has known Nelson Mandela for 45 years, returned with him to the island that schooled a generation of political leaders (The Observer, February 1996)

Anthony Sampson

The Guardian

18 February 1996

It was a bewilderingly cheerful excursion, almost as if a president were revisiting his old university.

Last week, to mark the sixth anniversary of his release, President Mandela went back again to the notorious Robben Island off Cape Town where he spent most of his 27 years in prison.

He brought with him Mrs Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway – one of the few western countries, he stressed, which had always stood by him.

He showed her his tiny cell, joked about his experiences, and then went to the quarry where he had hacked stones for 13 years, now looking like a bright open-air amphitheatre, where he welcomed the new woman governor, Colonel Jones, who is gradually closing down the prison.

In this weird setting I found him relaxed and outspoken, as if reverting to an earlier role. He reminisced about how he had been warned by President George Bush to give up the armed struggle, and to drop his old allies Castro and Gadaffi.

He insisted it would be quite wrong for an old freedom fighter to renounce old friends: ‘your enemies are not our enemies’. And he explained he had just invited Castro to visit South Africa, and was thinking of inviting Gadaffi.

He was clearly buoyed up by his country’s international status, its economic growth and, above all, its sporting victories in rugby, soccer and cricket. ‘When I am invited by the Queen of England to London in July,’ he said, ‘I will apologise to her for what we did to her cricketers.’

He saw the new patriotism in sport as crucial to the nation-building. But he was also impatient that in other fields both whites and blacks were slow to recognise that they were all part of the same nation.

In the quarry, he presented Mrs Brundtland with a piece of the limestone, brightly packaged in a cardboard box – the first of a line of souvenirs to be sold to finance a fund for ex-political prisoners. I was given a box, with Mandela ‘s smiling face alongside the piece of lime – a neat symbol of the transmuting of the ghastly prison experience into a friendly commercial process.

Mandela as usual gave no hint of bitterness about the wastage of a quarter-century, no reference to the blazing sun in the quarry which damaged his eyesight, to the beating of his friends, or to the arrogance and inhumanity of the men who had kept him locked up – some of whom he had been welcoming at the opening of parliament two days before.

Alongside him was his closest Indian colleague, Ahmed Kathrada, who shared his ordeals on the island, and is now responsible for its future. He was careful to contradict exaggerations about the past brutalities. And he is full of enthusiasm for proje cts to make proper use of the island’s surprising beauties, including wild birds, Cape penguins, ostriches and springbok. He is now specially keen on the idea of a University of Robben Island, originated by British educationalist Lord (Michael) Young.

Watching it all, I still could not understand how these men had emerged from those inhuman cells more rounded, more humorous and tolerant than before. I had first known them both 45 years ago when I was editing the black magazine Drum in Johannesburg, and they were committed young leaders embarking on a passive resistance campaign.

And I had reported Mandela ‘s trial in the Pretoria court-room in 1964 before he was sentenced to life imprisonment, when he had sat listening to the venomous prosecutor Percy Yutar, and had sent a message asking me to help edit his own speech to court.

After the judge sentenced him, most white South Africans assumed with relief that he would never emerge again. By the time of the all-white elections in 1970 I could find no white politician who took the ANC seriously. But in the meantime, the isolation of Robben Island was forging a more formidable and thoughtful kind of leader.

In the Sixties, Mandela was already a tested and courageous leader, but aloof and quite stiff in public, inclined to cliches. By his release in 1990, he had acquired a common touch, magnanimity and sense of humour which was surprising to everyone.

He had last shown it at the opening of parliament, two days before last week’s return to Robben Island, in the middle of his formal speech about his government’s reforms. He took a long drink of water and then, aware of the tense silence, raised his glass towards de Klerk’s side of the house, and said ‘Cheers!’ – to roars of laughter. His command of the House was absolute.

It is here no doubt that Robben Island has contributed to this mastery and warmth. In those sub-humanconditions he had insisted, with his mentor Walter Sisulu, on thinking the best of everybody. He had retained and developed his natural dignity and courtesy, influencing both his fellow-prisoners and his warders. As a younger islander put it to me: ‘he treated the warders as human beings, even if they did not treat him as such’. And he simply refused to accept subservience.

His chief lawyer, George Bizos, remembers one scene which summed up his stubborn dignity, when he was being marched out in the most humiliating circumstances, flanked by armed guards and wearing short trousers and shoes without socks. Encountering Bizos, he exclaimed: ‘George, let me introduce you to my guard of honour!’.

More important, he and his closest colleagues established a pattern of behaviour which influenced nearly all the other political prisoners, to treat the island not as a place of bitter constraint and wasted lives, but as an opportunity for constant intellectual debate and political education.

One document written in 1978, which has only recently come to light, evokes all that vigour. It carefully sums up the two main arguments between Marxists and broader ANC supporters and concludes in the non-Marxist camp. It reads like a lively seminar at a left-wing university, with only one reference to’conducting the discussions under very difficult conditions,’ as a reminder that it was written on Robben Island (where Mandela approved it before it was confiscated).

They also had intense discussions about culture and sport. Mandela recalled: ‘We realised that culture was a very important aspect to building a nation’ and these concerns bore fruit in South Africa’s recent sporting victories.

Talking to Robben Islanders over the past two weeks, and reading their recollections, I’ve come to realise how far they form a distinctive elite, with a special self-respect and discipline – not so unlike the old stereotype of the Edwardian English gentleman with the stiff upper lip confronting emotional foreigners or natives. They reminisce about it as if it were a public school or a Guards’ barracks, but with a more intellectual background and idealism – more like members of the wartime French Resistance – and with much more time to develop their minds and memories (since they had to keep much of the argument in their heads). ‘We had time to think on Robben Island’, said Govan Mbeki, ‘about how we could really beat the authorities.

‘You must eventually like the place if you are to survive,’ recorded Tokyo Sexwale. ‘I loved it because it was a place of fresh air, fresh ideas, fresh friendships and teaching the enemy. We transformed Robben Island into the University of the ANC.’ Sexwale afterwards married his white prison visitor and became premier of Gauteng (the province centring on Johannesburg).

‘I can see another Robben Islander a mile away,’ I was told by ‘Raks’ Seakhoa, a poet who now runs the Congress of South African Writers. ‘I can see it when they find themselves in a conflict, this containment and channelling of anger. I’m really thankful for it. The way that we lived on Robben Island, you became an all-rounder, an organiser. When I came out, I submitted an article to a newspaper. They thought ‘this guy must have been at Rhodes University or something’.’

Robben Island remains the central symbol of both the evils of apartheid and the need for reconciliation. As Auschwitz is preserved in remembrance of the death camps, so is it a monument to intolerance and racism but like wartime heroes, the islanders hold the promise of a brave new world.

Mandela does not need to remind anyone of the ordeals he endured on the island. Some of his friends are exasperated by his friendly visits to the people who helped to put and keep him there – from his bullying old persecutor President Botha and Percy Yutar, the creepy prosecutor at his trial, to Mrs Verwoerd, the widow of the architect of apartheid, in her all-white enclave. It was like the story of the hardened criminal who gets out of jail to murder each of the people who had locked him up – turned upside down.

But those visits help to underline his moral authority, and the collapse of the alternative system. When he met Yutar, towering over the sycophantic little man, he could not resist saying: ‘I didn’t realise how small you were’. Forgiveness, after all, can be a kind of revenge, a kind of power.

Nor does Mandela need to remind younger, more radical black politicians that he has sacrificed more than any of them. They may criticise him for being too moderate towards the whites, but no one dare ever accuse him of being a sell-out. And only rarely does he need actually to spell out the message of the island: ‘if I can work alongside with the men who put me there, how can you refuse. . .’

But it is not just Mandela ‘s island and it also offers some answer to the obsessive question among whites, including foreign businessmen: what happens after Mandela retires in 1999?

He has given one answer himself: that for 27 years his people achieved their country’s liberation quite well without him, so why can’t they do without him in the future?

Robben Island forged a whole breed of younger leaders with many of Mandela ‘s strengths, who now hold key positions in the cabinet, or as premiers of the provinces. These include Patrick Lekota in the Orange Free State, Popo Molefe in the North West, and perhaps the most formidable, Tokyo Sexwale.

Sexwale, with his Robben Islander’s confidence, does not conceal his ambition. In his Johannesburg drawing-room I noticed a framed newspaper cartoon showing Thabo Mbeki, Mandela ‘s deputy, and ANC chairman Cyril Ramaphosa as two boxers slugging each other in the ring, not noticing the third figure of Tokyo climbing under the ropes.

These prison graduates, with their discipline and tolerance, offer much reassurance for a future South Africa without Mandela . Like him, they do not need to prove their heroism with macho postures for their followers and they have learnt the secrets of self-reliance and building a community in the strictest school of all.

They form the core of the present ANC leadership as assuredly as aristocrats and army officers once formed the core of the British Conservative Party – or as ex-fighters such as Jan Smuts and Louis Botha dominated the Afrikaner leadership after the Boer War, when they too were determined on reconciliation.

Yet today the process of reconciliation is worryingly one-sided. The majority of the whites have felt no great pressure to concentrate their minds and widen their awareness. ‘We can neither heal nor build,’ said Mandela in his opening speech to parliament, ‘with the victims of past injustices forgiving and the beneficiaries merely content in gratitude.’ It was followed by loud applause on the black side of the House, and only a few claps on the white side.

Mandela warned white businessmen against paying only lip service to affirmative action and assuming they could simply do business as usual. Such people too easily believe their problems have been miraculously solved by the arrival of a black president who has forgiven everyone, defused black anger and re-opened their country to the world.

No black leader, least of all Mandela , can afford such complacency. He has only to look to the Transkei, where he was born. It was turned into a bantustan and is a reminder of the evils of apartheid as vivid as Robben Island. Now it is an impoverished part of the Eastern Province.

Ten days ago I stayed in Umtata, the former capital of the Transkei: it is like a sacked city, with empty tower-blocks and slum streets the surrounding countryside is tragically desolate, with horrendous unemployment and crime.

Yet beside the main road, only a few miles out of Umtata, Mandela has built a spacious but unpretentious bungalow where he spends holidays. It is an emphatic statement that he will never be divorced from his own people.

The most serious problem of South Africa’s future is not the leadership of blacks after Mandela , but the leadership of the majority of whites. The English speakers have reverted to ‘business as usual’, leaving the politics to Afrikaners and others. But since F. W. de Klerk took his one great leap into the dark, there has been no comparable leadership, and an Afrikaner vacuum.

There has been no white equivalent to the Robben Island experience to concentrate minds, to compel them to see across their immediate self-interest and to push ahead with concessions and reconciliation. They may have been forgiven their past blunders but it will be unforgiveable if they fail to do their share of rebuilding the nation which was so nearly wrecked.

Voir encore:

Mandela: The Man Behind The Myth – An interview with Anthony Sampson

Harpers Collins.ca

Anthony Sampson is one of the most admired writers of today, and his brand new book is an outstanding biography of an outstanding man. Mandela: The Authorised Biography tells the full story of the last great statesman on the world stage. Since his release from South Africa′s notorious Robben Island prison in 1990, Mandela has been the focus of global attention, and his reputation as a politician and statesman has stood up to public scrutiny remarkably well. But who is the real Nelson Mandela? If anyone can answer this question, it is Anthony Sampson, who has known him for over forty years.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most extraordinary political figures of the twentieth century. His years of confinement in a South African prison made him a hero to many people around the world, and the story of his release and rise to power in the country′s first democratic elections filled a continent with hope. Now, as he approaches retirement, Nelson Mandela has allowed an acquaintance of many years to write his official biography. Anthony Sampson has been given access to all Mandela′s diaries, letters and papers, and many of the people to whom he has been closest have spoken out about Mandela, the man and the myth.

Mandela is the most admired politician in the world – is this admiration justified?

′I think it is, particularly when you look at all the others. I think that part of the reason why he′s admired is that he fills a tremendous gap. People have been longing for a politician who is removed from immediate pressures. There′s a tremendous shortage of great statesmen around the world compared, say, to forty years ago.

′I think he probably is the one man who stands out as having a moral integrity and a far-sighted view. I think that′s why other politicians such as Bill Clinton or Tony Blair feel a great awe of him, because he has those qualities which I′m not sure they have themselves.′

Not many people know about Mandela′s royal ancestry, and the fact that he was descended from the Tembu royal family. Did this play an important part in the formation of his character?

′I think it certainly gave him tremendous extra confidence. It is extraordinary to realise that within that very poor part of South Africa there was this particular sense of pride in traditions. And tribal loyalty remained intact despite European domination for more than a century. So that experience certainly deepened his consciousness, even though he was later deeply humiliated and ignored in white Johannesburg.′

Would you say that pride in his history and culture was the driving force for his success?

′Certainly it gave him a terrific sense of self-respect in the early years. He was fascinated by the history of his own people, particularly the Tembu tribe, he knew a lot about it, but of course his whole story was one of gradually widening those horizons. He started as a tribalist, then he became a nationalist, and then he became a multi-nationalist or a multi-culturalist, and gradually saw a wider and wider world. But it is true that that original pride in his ancestry was at the origins of his self-respect, and his dignity.′

Does he find the spotlight hard to bear?

′He told me that he worried a lot about it in jail – he saw in the last few years in jail how he was becoming a myth, and he was worried about that. He made it clear that he wasn′t a saint. He doesn′t say so but I think he was conscious of other African leaders who had built a cult around themselves, which was very dangerous. He was keen to avoid falling into that trap. Above all he was very careful not to use the word ′I′ when he came out of prison. He would make a point of speaking on behalf of the people.′

In the 1960′s Mandela put forward the proposal that the ANC abandon non-violence and form its own military wing. To what extent was this due to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and how had race relations deteriorated to such a difficult point that an educated lawyer could consider fighting back?

′It′s a good question because there were of course two sides of him. He was a practising lawyer, and he had tremendous respect for the law, and was always quoting it – as he does now – but at the same time he was very aware that it was impossible to achieve any kind of redress through non-violent means. He never really believed in the Ghandi-ist principle of ′turn the other cheek′.

′Long before 1960 he was inclined to go further towards the suggestion of violence. But at that point the logic became almost incontrovertible. There was no alternative. But perhaps more important was the fact that his own people were turning towards more dangerous kinds of violence. So it would have been impossible for him to maintain any leadership if he was purely pacifist.′

What effect did the years on Robben Island have on Mandela?

′There′s no doubt in my mind that it tremendously increased his self-discipline and his understanding of people. It was a tremendously enclosed world, and for most of the time he was only with 30 of his colleagues together with the warders so it had the intensity of a boarding school, albeit with much more discipline and harshness. So for somebody who was strong enough, who had the necessary confidence in themselves, it was a tremendous school in human relations. It was the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with, actually.

′During his twenty-seven years in Robben Island, Mandela was able to extend his influence beyond the ANC to the rival groups, which was very important when he got out. But above all he acquired an increased sensitivity to other people. He sharpened his skills of debate and persuasion tremendously, and probably his greatest gift is his capacity to persuade. You can see how, for someone who had that sense of self-respect and dignity, the jail experience was almost a training ground.′

By the time he came out of prison in 1990 Mandela was very conscious that he had acquired an almost mythical status. How did he handle this situation?

′He was very careful to avoid personifying the struggle. When the ′Free Mandela′ campaign began in the 1980′s, that was personifying him over his colleagues and some people thought it should be ′free the political prisoners′, but it was necessary to publicise the situation through one person.

′But while he was being personified, he was extremely careful always to speak on behalf of the people, and I think he deliberately suppressed any sort of self-promotion. Which was partly why when he came out of jail he made a speech, written by the ANC, which many people thought extremely boring.′

When he came out of prison he immediately identified himself with the ANC, which shocked many leaders around the world and showed that prison hadn′t made him any more compliant, but rather had had the opposite effect. And in the first two years following his release, as you point out, there was more violence than in the apartheid years. Was he disappointed by this?

′I think it was a shattering time for him. He did everything he could to control that violence, and of course this was used against him at the time by the government of the time. But he very early suspected that a lot of that violence was being secretly encouraged by the government which later proved to be the case. But that was an agonising period.′

What is Mandela actually like as a person?

′He′s a very private person, and I think that only very few people, such as his wife, really know him. His manners, and his alertness to people and especially to new people, is so great, that like many brilliant politicians, he appears equally pleased to see everybody, because he has this extraordinary instinctive ability to relate to people, particularly to children. Behind that he is very reserved.

′He′s sometimes exhausted when he appears to be energetic; you can sometimes see how suddenly his face will change, how a smile can suddenly disappear when the camera is not on him. During that lonely period, before he remarried, there was a feeling that he had to be professionally active to avoid being by himself, which of course is true of many politicians.

′But what is remarkable to me is how tremendously reflective he is. He really thinks things out, and once he has thought things out he is quite stubborn and can be difficult to change. But he′s much more effective than most politicians in my experience. Again that goes back to the prison experience. As one of his colleagues said, ′you can take them out of Robben Island but you can′t take Robben Island out of them′. And I think that′s very true. I think you feel there′s still a little cell inside him. He is much more interesting than most politicians are, because you don′t feel you′re listening to a gramophone record.′

What do you think the future holds for Nelson Mandela after he finishes his term in office?

′He says that he longs to get back to his home in the country and spend his time enjoying the beautiful countryside and being with his family and so on, but of course all people tend to think that before they do actually retire- and he also says he doesn′t want to be involved in international mediation which he has often been quite successful at, as in the Gadaffi operation.

′My own guess is that he will actually continue to travel, he will be asked to do things which he will want to say yes to. He wants to write another volume of his own memoirs. I think he will take things easier – certainly his wife wants him to, but he will continue to travel and he will continue to give his views as well. He won′t be restrained; he will speak out as an ordinary member of the African National Congress – but of course he will be much more than that.′

How will South Africa as a whole fare without him at the helm?

′When people talk about South Africa it always depends what viewpoint they are looking at it from. I think, myself, that South Africa will fare very well. The white South Africans will continue to complain a bit because their lifestyle is being changed. But I think they will resolve many of their problems, including crime which is the most difficult problem, over the next few years. It will have a very vibrant and creative atmosphere.

′The violence will probably continue; it has always been a relatively violent country, like America. But personally I think that South Africa will shake down in a very interesting way. And above all it will be almost uniquely multi-racial, which is why it will be so interesting to the rest of the world, because it appears to have begun to resolve those problems which other countries have not resolved.′

You say in the Introduction: ′It is not easy for a biographer to portray the Nelson Mandela behind the icon: it is a bit like trying to make out someone′s shape from the wrong side of the arc-lights.′ For you as a biographer what were the particular challenges in Mandela?

′He is a person who is very reluctant to talk about his own feelings. He is the absolute classic stiff-upper-lip Victorian Englishman, but he belongs very strongly to the nineteenth century world, which is a result of his missionary education, so he very much dislikes talking about himself and particularly his suffering, and that perhaps was the biggest challenge – to pick up, not so much from him but from his colleagues, exactly what he was feeling at those crucial moments.

′But I suppose the most interesting challenge was to try to trace his own development. I had known him back in 1951 and he had appeared to me to be a very different kind of person than he is now. He was much less certain of his leadership at that point, and it is fascinating to see how much deeper and more thoughtful he has become.′

Voir de même:

Beyond the icon: Nelson Mandela in his 90th year

Elleke Boehmer

12 November 2008

The celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday on 18 July 2008 confirmed once more perhaps the most obvious fact about him: that South Africa’s former president is universally admired, even revered, by world leaders and ordinary people alike. Less noted, however, is the disjunction in his stature abroad and at home. Worldwide, he is invoked as little less than a secular saint, domestically, the strong pride in the achievement of Madiba, the grand old man of the apartheid struggle, is coupled with an awareness that the legend remains a living legend, who still walks and breathes amongst his people today – and that with this presence come continuing responsibilities.

I encountered this notion repeatedly in the course of writing my book, Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008). It struck me again forcibly when his 90th-birthday events in June-July 2008 were underway. Perhaps it is was accentuated by a sad coincidence of timing: for these months of what should have been acclaim and fond and grateful reminiscence took place against the background of vicious "xenophobic attacks" on "foreign" Africans in many of South Africa’s sprawling townships and conurbations. These events roused deep shame and anger in many South Africans, as well as a distinct realisation even among many loyal African National Congress (ANC) members that the "rainbow-nation" dream was over, or at least almost fatally damaged.

The combination of rabid anxiety about the "other" in one’s midst and the approaching celebration of a person famous for embracing friend and stranger alike, meant that people across South Africa looked to Madiba for guidance. There was widespread clamour to know out what he might have to say – as in the past – by way of chastisement, advice and inspiration. Was it not Madiba, after all, who had once announced that he would not demur from criticising his political friends, if he felt they had done wrong or committed atrocity? Would he not then have admonishing words to offer now, concerning the attacks?

The Nelson Mandela Foundation may neatly state that Madiba formally retired from his own official retirement in 2000; and it is true besides that he is a very elderly and now somewhat forgetful man. But many South Africans felt that were he to desist from speaking in his own person at such a time – rather than in the bland voice of his foundation or public-relations representatives – this might betray the values of justice, freedom and political plain-speaking for which he had so long contended.

The global imaginary

Outside South Africa, the moment of Nelson Mandela’s landmark birthday was far simpler and less inscribed with questioning. The concert on 27 June in London’s Hyde Park – in front of the symbolic number of 46,664 guests, officially to launch his foundation’s worldwide HIV/Aids campaign – revealed Mandela’s fans to be in the main content to admire, gasp, and generally be overawed. "There he is, there he is!", the whisper ran through the crowd when the great man briefly appeared to read a prepared statement; and then, "It’s him, it’s him!". Although standing towards the back of the crowd, I could feel people around me strain forward to see him more clearly, as if to be blessed by the holy man passing through.

From our vantage-point, Mandela was visible only as a very small speck on the stage; yet he also presided in gigantic form on the various screens positioned around the concert area. There was a metaphor in this somewhere, I remember thinking. Mandela wasn’t clearly visible without the help of cinematic projection: the living myth was a function of celebrity imaging – and he was indeed accompanied on stage by a whole range of musical or TV celebrities (Amy Winehouse, Will Smith, June Sarpong, Annie Lennox).

And yet, in reality, what did this all amount to? What did this adulation mean? Should we simply take for granted the appearance of Nelson Mandela, African nationalist, at one time the world’s longest-held political prisoner, as headline act to a line-up of (in truth, rather less than glittering) star performances fit to decorate the contents pages of celebrity magazines such as Closer or Now?

Asking these kinds of questions of "Mandela the symbol" is, after all, the point of my cultural history. What was the fridge-magnet symbol, the tourist website icon, telling us, if anything? Was there not an unmistakable oddity to the fact that the 90th birthday was being celebrated here in London, while there – in Mandela’s native land – many people felt consternation at his relative silence? Wasn’t there something disorienting about this "transplanted" birthday-party; something bizarre about the manic susurration of media stars, paparazzi, and wired-up security detail, enwrapping so very tightly the brief appearance of a elder statesman abroad, as if to imprison him (with cloying images, and saccharine words) all over again?

I was reminded of a batik-cloth image of Mandela I once saw in a Cape Town market, selling at a price that only a tourist of some means could have afforded. Nelson Mandela’s fame seemed here to have been reduced to an inaccessible icon who could no longer address, or indeed be heard by, his people. It was a melancholy contrast with the far younger leader, then United States presidential candidate Barack Obama (who is often compared to Mandela, and who manages to take national-hero status in his stride while yet managing through his fine rhetorical skills to get his message across powerfully and movingly to his supporters).

True, only a day or so before the concert Mandela had at last expressed his regret at the violence against fellow-Africans in his home country, and at the tragic "failure of leadership" in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Everywhere, there was relief that the moral beacon had at last spoken. Yet it was impossible not to notice that his statement had been delivered extremely late in the political day; and it had also taken place abroad, as part of a dinner where luminaries like Bill (and Chelsea) Clinton, and Britain’s prime minister Gordon Brown, had been present. The compunction to speak had finally been triggered not by the great urgency everywhere palpable at home, but abroad, where – it was again impossible not to notice – the icon was in effect under an obligation to speak.

The secular saint could arguably not have sustained at the same level his massive global status had words of sorrow, albeit brief, not been expressed in the international domain. In this way Mandela’s legendary star stayed steady in its path, while at home, despite some pleasure at bathing in his reflected glory, bafflement and disappointment remained. As Madiba’s myth was made safe for his fans abroad, so the myth of the reconciled rainbow country he had helped create, inevitably cracked further open – and now, with the split in the ANC, has cracked wider again. A twist of this 90th-birthday year must be that just when his reputation as the 20th century’s leading postcolonial leader seemed secure, the ways in which that reputation will endure in South Africa itself are suddenly a little less certain than before.

The multiple reality

As was repeatedly acknowledged in discussions in Johannesburg and other cities in mid-2008 that I either witnessed or contributed to, on his home ground the "meaning" of Madiba, the significance of his remarkable career and story of uncompromising struggle and negotiated reconciliation, has yet fully to unfold. What does his message comprise: a poetry of hope and courage; a primer of self-discipline?

At present his legacy in some respects still exists in emergent form, has yet to express its true contours. This is to my mind the key difference between how he is viewed at home and internationally, where the lacquer of adulation laid thick upon the "human-rights legend" has long since hardened. Abroad, Mandela is the African the world loves to love, even if in a strikingly over-compensatory way. Africa the continent of famine, corruption and social abjection has produced, at least, this one fine human being, Europeans and Americans appear to breathe as they cluster around him.

A hostile Sunday Times (London) magazine article, which appeared the weekend before his 18 July birthday, opined that the one task Mandela can still competently carry out is to smile his dazzling smile, only now it is on command. There is little that is meaningful in it: in his old age he has become a mask of his former charismatic self, to which the world has grown accustomed to genuflect. For the international community the paradox is that by heaping excessive adoration upon the head of this one seemingly superhuman African, we have left Africa, the continent, its people, more lacking of attention by contrast. There have been many great Africans yet their reputation has been dangerously eclipsed by this one over-hyped African hero of our times.

Yet it is here, within the gap between his fully manifested yet relatively shallow international fame, and his still-latent local significance, that, it seems to me, the potential for renewed understandings of Mandela have the opportunity to emerge, which, when all is said and done, is a good thing. Within this gap, then, I would venture to place the following desiderata.

Let us not allow our image of Mandela to petrify into cliché, especially yet not only while he is still alive amongst us. Let his meanings evolve and change in rhythm with his times. Let his legacy organisations perhaps relax a little in wanting to predetermine how the future will see him. His achievement on its own dwarfs the efforts of such tireless PR policing.

What is not in doubt is that Mandela is a great and humane human being not in spite of his Africanness, as his western acolytes (according to the Sunday Times) believe, but because of his Africanness. Perhaps most important, let us not forget that his greatness as an African was dependent on the cooperation of hosts of other Africans, little and great, ordinary and extraordinary, as he himself has always recognised.

About the author

Elleke Boehmer is professor of world literature in English in the faculty of English at Oxford University. Her work includes Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford University Press, 1995/2005); Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2002/2005); Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation (Manchester University Press); (as editor) Scouting for Boys A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2004/2005); and Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008). Elleke Boehmer is also the author of a novel, Nile Baby (Ayebia, 2008)

Voir également:

Nelson Mandela, R.I.P

Deroy Murdock

National Review on line

December 5, 2013

My friend James Deciuttis once asked me very directly, “Are you ever wrong?” It was not asked with bile, but very straightforwardly, as if asking if I ever had visited Spain.

I told James that if he referred to my writing, speaking, and political activism, I have made many bad calls and misjudgments. I can look forward to a brand-new year of them in just 27 days. In one particular case, however, I really blew it very, very, very badly. But I was not alone.

Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst.

After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. By the guiding light of Ronald Wilson Reagan, many young conservatives like me spent much of the 1980s fighting Marxism-Leninism — from the classrooms of radical campuses to the battlefields of Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, both overtly and covertly. Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage.

The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam.

Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.

WRONG!

Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was a statesman of considerable weight. If not as significant on the global stage as FDR, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan, he approaches Margaret Thatcher as a national leader with major international reach.

Mandela invited the warden of Robben Island prison to his inauguration as president of South Africa. He sat him front and center. While most people would be tempted to lock up their jailers if they had the chance, Mandela essentially forgave him while the whole world and his own people, white and black, were watching. This quietly sent South Africa’s white population a message: Calm down. This will be okay. It also signaled black South Africans: Now is no time for vengeance. Let’s show our former oppressors that we are greater than that and bigger people than they were to us.

As Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon beautifully dramatize in the excellent film Invictus, Mandela resisted the ANC’s efforts to strip the national rugby team of its long-standing name, the Springboks. Seen as a symbol of apartheid, Mandela’s black colleagues were eager to give the team a new, less “white” identity. Mandela argued that white South Africans, stripped of political leadership and now quite clearly in the minority, should not be deprived of the one small point of pride behind which they could shield their anxieties.

Mandela then championed the team. He attended its games and rallied both blacks and whites behind it as a national sports organization, rather than an exclusive totem of South Africa’s white minority.

Mandela’s easy manner, warmth, and decency shone through and gave South Africans a common point of unity amid so many opportunities for division.

(As an American, it would be nice right now to have a leader who could bring our nation together, rather than pound one wedge after another into our dispirited population.)

Mandela’s economic record deserves deeper analysis later. However, for now it is worthwhile to remember that he came to power in 1994, less than half a decade after the Iron Curtain collapsed and the triumph of scientific socialism was exposed as a cruel and hollow fantasy. Rather than follow that vanquished model, Mandela looked to economic growth as the path his nation should follow. Among other things, he sold off stakes in South African Airways, utilities, and other state-owned companies. While some wish he had gone further, this was a far cry from the playbook of Marx and Lenin.

So, I was dead wrong about Nelson Mandela, a great man and fine example to others, not least the current occupant of the White House.

After 95 momentous years on Earth, may Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela rest in peace.

Voir aussi:

The concert that transformed Mandela from terrorist to icon

Jaime Velazquez, Agence France-Presse

ABS.CBnews

06/12/2013

JOHANNESBURG – So revered is Nelson Mandela today that it is easy to forget that for decades he was considered a terrorist by many foreign governments, and some of his now supporters.

The anti-apartheid hero was on a US terror watch list until 2008 and while still on Robben Island, Britain’s late "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher described his African National Congress as a "typical terrorist organization."

That Mandela’s image has been transformed so thoroughly is a testament to the man’s achievements, but also, in part, to a concert that took place in London 25 years ago this week.

For organizer Tony Hollingsworth the June 11, 1988 gig at London’s Wembley Stadium had very little to do with Mandela’s 70th birthday, as billed.

It had everything to do with ridding Mandela of his terrorist tag and ensuring his release.

"You can’t get out of jail as a terrorist, but you can get out of prison as a black leader," he told AFP during a visit to Johannesburg.

Hollingsworth, now 55, envisaged a star-studded concert that would transform Mandela from outlaw to icon in the public’s mind, and in turn press governments adopt a more accommodating stance.

He approached Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, president of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, to pitch his musical strategy.

"I told Trevor that the African National Congress and the anti-apartheid movement had reached their glass ceiling; they couldn’t go further."

"Everything you are doing is ‘anti’, you are protesting on the streets, but it will remain in that space. Many people will agree, but you will not appeal them."

"Mandela and the movement should be seen as something positive, confident, something you would like to be in your living room with."

While Hollingsworth dealt with artists, Mike Terry — head of the movement in London — dealt with the ANC and the skeptics in the anti-apartheid movement.

And there were many, including Mandela himself, who asked several times that the struggle not be about him.

Many others insisted the focus remain on sanctions against the apartheid regime.

"A lot of people were criticizing me for sanitizing it," Hollingsworth remembered.

Eventually Terry convinced the ANC and Hollingsworth convinced Simple Minds, Dire Straits, Sting, George Michael, The Eurythmics, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder into the 83-artist line up.

With that musical firepower came contracts for a more than 11 hour broadcast.

"We signed with the entertainment department of television (stations). And when the head of the department got home and watched on his channel that they were calling Mandela a terrorist, they called straight to the news section to say, don’t call this man a terrorist, we just signed 11 hours of broadcasting for a tribute about him."

"This is how we turned Mandela from a black terrorist into a black leader."

The gig at Wembley attracted broadcasters in nearly 70 countries and was watched by more than half a billion people around the world, still one of the largest audiences ever for an entertainment event.

Despite some broadcasters’ demands for the politics to be toned down the message got out.

Singer Harry Belafonte opened with a rousing acclamation: "We are here today to honor a great man, the man is Nelson Mandela," he told the capacity crowd.

Nelson Mandela was released from jail 19 months later, after 27 years in prison. A second concert was later held to celebrate.

"Before the first event, the prospect of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release from prison seemed completely unrealistic," Terry would later say.

"Yet within 20 months he walked free and I have no doubt that the first event played a decisive role in making this happen."

Mandela went on to negotiate the end of the white supremacist regime and establish multiracial democracy in South Africa.

Few seemed to notice that the concert was actually more than a month before his July 18 birthday.

Voir encore:

Nelson Mandela ‘proven’ to be a member of the Communist Party after decades of denial

A new book claims that, 50 years after he was first accused of being a Communist, Nelson Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

Colin Freeman, and Jane Flanagan in Cape Town

08 Dec 2012

For decades, it was one of the enduring disputes of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. Was Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, really a secret Communist, as the white-only government of the time alleged? Or, as he claimed during the infamous 1963 trial that saw him jailed for life, was it simply a smear to discredit him in a world riven by Cold War tensions?

Now, nearly half a century after the court case that made him the world’s best-known prisoner of conscience, a new book claims that whatever the wider injustice perpetrated, the apartheid-era prosecutors were indeed right on one question: Mr Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

The former South African president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, has always denied being a member of the South African branch of the movement, which mounted an armed campaign of guerrilla resistance along with the ANC.

But research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC’s campaign of armed resistance to white rule.

His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC’s military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected "spies" at secret prison camps.

As evidence of Mr Mandela’s Communist party membership, Prof Ellis cites minutes from a secret 1982 SACP meeting, discovered in a collection of private papers at the University of Cape Town, in which a veteran former party member, the late John Pule Motshabi, talks about how Mr Mandela was a party member some two decades before.

In the minutes, Mr Motshabi, is quoted as saying: "There was an accusation that we opposed allowing Nelson [Mandela] and Walter (Sisulu, a fellow activist) into the Family (a code word for the party) … we were not informed because this was arising after the 1950 campaigns (a series of street protests). The recruitment of the two came after."

While other SACP members have previously confirmed Mr Mandela’s party membership, many of their testimonies were given under duress in police interviews, where they might have sought to implicate him. However, the minutes from the 1982 SACP meeting, said Prof Ellis, offered more reliable proof. "This is written in a closed party meeting so nobody is trying to impress or mislead the public," he said.

Although Mr Mandela appears to have joined the SACP more for their political connections than their ideas, his membership could have damaged his standing in the West had it been disclosed while he was still fighting to dismantle apartheid.

Africa was a Cold War proxy battleground until the end of the 1980s, and international support for his cause, which included the Free Nelson Mandela campaign in Britain, drew partly on his image as a compromise figure loyal neither to East nor West.

"Nelson Mandela’s reputation is based both on his ability to overcome personal animosities and to be magnanimous to all South Africans, white and black, and that is what impressed the world," said Prof Ellis, a former Amnesty International researcher who is based at the Free University of Amsterdam. "But what this shows is that like any politician, he was prepared to make opportunistic alliances.

"I think most people who supported the anti-apartheid movement just didn’t want to know that much about his background. Apartheid was seen as a moral issue and that was that. But if real proof had been produced at the time, some might have thought differently."

Mr Mandela made his denial of Communist Party membership in the opening statement of his Rivonia trial, when he and nine other ANC leaders were tried for 221 alleged acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. The defendants were also accused of furthering the aims of Communism, a movement that was then illegal in South Africa.

Addressing the court, Mr Mandela declared that he had "never been a member of the Communist Party," and that he disagreed with the movement’s contempt for Western-style parliamentary democracy.

He added: "The suggestion made by the State that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said."

Mr Mandela joined the ANC in 1944, when its leadership still opposed armed struggle against the apartheid state. However, by the early 1950s he become personally convinced that a guerrilla war was inevitable, a view confirmed by the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, when police in a Transvaal township opened fire on black demonstrators, killing 69 people.

But while other ANC leaders also came round to his way of thinking after Sharpeville, the group still had no access to weaponry or financial support. Instead, says Prof Ellis, Mr Mandela looked for help from the Communists, with whom he already had close contacts due to their shared opposition to apartheid.

"He knew and trusted many Communist activists anyway, so it appears he was co-opted straight to the central committee with no probation required," said Prof Ellis. "But it’s fair to say he wasn’t a real convert, it was just an opportunist thing."

In the months after Sharpeville, Communist party members secretly visited Beijing and Moscow, where they got assurances of support for their own guerrilla campaign. In conjunction with a number of leading ANC members, they set up a new, nominally independent military organisation, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation. With Mr Mandela as its commander, Umkhonto we Sizwe launched its first attacks on 16 December 1961.

Its campaign of "sabotage" and bombings over the subsequent three decades claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, and led to the organisation being classed as a terrorist group by the US.

In his book, Professor Ellis, who also authored a publication on the Liberian civil war, elaborates on other murky aspects of the ANC’s past. One is that bomb-making experts from the IRA trained the ANC at a secret base in Angola in the late 1970s, a link disclosed last year in the posthumous memoirs of Kader Asmal, a South African politician of Indian extraction who was exiled in Ireland. He was a member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, which, Prof Mr Ellis says, in turn had close links to the British and South African Communist parties.

The IRA tutoring, which was allegedly brokered partly through Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, led to the ANC fighters improving their bombing skills considerably, thanks to the expertise of what Mr Ellis describes as "the world’s most sophisticated urban guerrilla force".

Angola was also the base for "Quatro", a notorious ANC detention centre, where dozens of the movement’s own supporters were tortured and sometimes killed as suspected spies by agents from their internal security service, some of whom were "barely teenagers". East German trainers taught the internal security agents that anyone who challenged official ANC dogma should be viewed as a potential spy or traitor.

On Friday night, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation said: "We do not believe that there is proof that Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) was a Party member … The evidence that has been identified is comparatively weak in relation to the evidence against, not least Madiba’s consistent denial of the fact over nearly 50 years. It is conceivable that Madiba might indulge in legalistic casuistry, but not that he would make an entirely false statement.

"Recruitment and induction into the Party was a process that happened in stages over a period of time. It is possible that Madiba started but never completed the process. What is clear is that at a certain moment in the struggle he was sufficiently trusted as an ANC leader to participate in Party CC meetings. And it is probable that people in attendance at such meetings may have thought of him as a member."

Mr Mandela, now 94, retired from public life in 2004 and is now in poor health. He did, though, allude to a symbiotic relationship with the Communists in his bestselling biography, The Long Walk to Freedom. "There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us," he wrote. "But who is to say that we were not using them?"

"External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990", is published by Hurst and Co.

Voir de même:

The sacred warrior

The liberator of South Africa looks at the seminal work of the liberator of India

Nelson Mandela

Time

December 27, 1999

India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberatory movements in both colonial theaters.

He is the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary. His strategy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators, and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally in our century.

Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression, and both of us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that violated our freedoms.

The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence.

Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, "Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence."

Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, "Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor …"

Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle.

Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 at the age of 23. Within a week he collided head on with racism. His immediate response was to flee the country that so degraded people of color, but then his inner resilience overpowered him with a sense of mission, and he stayed to redeem the dignity of the racially exploited, to pave the way for the liberation of the colonized the world over and to develop a blueprint for a new social order.

He left 21 years later, a near maha atma (great soul). There is no doubt in my mind that by the time he was violently removed from our world, he had transited into that state.

No ordinary leader–divinely inspired

He was no ordinary leader. There are those who believe he was divinely inspired, and it is difficult not to believe with them. He dared to exhort nonviolence in a time when the violence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it redundant; he replaced self-interest with group interest without minimizing the importance of self. In fact, the interdependence of the social and the personal is at the heart of his philosophy. He seeks the simultaneous and interactive development of the moral person and the moral society.

His philosophy of Satyagraha is both a personal and a social struggle to realize the Truth, which he identifies as God, the Absolute Morality. He seeks this Truth, not in isolation, self-centeredly, but with the people. He said, "I want to find God, and because I want to find God, I have to find God along with other people. I don’t believe I can find God alone. If I did, I would be running to the Himalayas to find God in some cave there. But since I believe that nobody can find God alone, I have to work with people. I have to take them with me. Alone I can’t come to Him."

He sacerises his revolution, balancing the religious and the secular.

Awakening

His awakening came on the hilly terrain of the so-called Bambata Rebellion, where as a passionate British patriot, he led his Indian stretcher-bearer corps to serve the Empire, but British brutality against the Zulus roused his soul against violence as nothing had done before. He determined, on that battlefield, to wrest himself of all material attachments and devote himself completely and totally to eliminating violence and serving humanity. The sight of wounded and whipped Zulus, mercilessly abandoned by their British persecutors, so appalled him that he turned full circle from his admiration for all things British to celebrating the indigenous and ethnic. He resuscitated the culture of the colonized and the fullness of Indian resistance against the British; he revived Indian handicrafts and made these into an economic weapon against the colonizer in his call for swadeshi–the use of one’s own and the boycott of the oppressor’s products, which deprive the people of their skills and their capital.

A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in particular is due to the continuing dependence on foreign markets for manufactured goods, which undermines domestic production and dams up domestic skills, apart from piling up unmanageable foreign debts. Gandhi’s insistence on self-sufficiency is a basic economic principle that, if followed today, could contribute significantly to alleviating Third World poverty and stimulating development.

Gandhi predated Frantz Fanon and the black-consciousness movements in South Africa and the U.S. by more than a half-century and inspired the resurgence of the indigenous intellect, spirit and industry.

Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality.

He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry. He preaches the gospel of leveling down, of emulating the kisan (peasant), not the zamindar (landlord), for "all can be kisans, but only a few zamindars."

He stepped down from his comfortable life to join the masses on their level to seek equality with them. "I can’t hope to bring about economic equality… I have to reduce myself to the level of the poorest of the poor."

From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are gifts from God to be used for the collective good.

He seeks an economic order, alternative to the capitalist and communist, and finds this in sarvodaya based on nonviolence (ahimsa).

He rejects Darwin’s survival of the fittest, Adam Smith’s laissez-faire and Karl Marx’s thesis of a natural antagonism between capital and labor, and focuses on the interdependence between the two.

He believes in the human capacity to change and wages Satyagraha against the oppressor, not to destroy him but to transform him, that he cease his oppression and join the oppressed in the pursuit of Truth.

We in South Africa brought about our new democracy relatively peacefully on the foundations of such thinking, regardless of whether we were directly influenced by Gandhi or not.

Gandhi remains today the only complete critique of advanced industrial society. Others have criticized its totalitarianism but not its productive apparatus. He is not against science and technology, but he places priority on the right to work and opposes mechanization to the extent that it usurps this right. Large-scale machinery, he holds, concentrates wealth in the hands of one man who tyrannizes the rest. He favors the small machine; he seeks to keep the individual in control of his tools, to maintain an interdependent love relation between the two, as a cricketer with his bat or Krishna with his flute. Above all, he seeks to liberate the individual from his alienation to the machine and restore morality to the productive process.

As we find ourselves in jobless economies, societies in which small minorities consume while the masses starve, we find ourselves forced to rethink the rationale of our current globalization and to ponder the Gandhian alternative.

At a time when Freud was liberating sex, Gandhi was reining it in; when Marx was pitting worker against capitalist, Gandhi was reconciling them; when the dominant European thought had dropped God and soul out of the social reckoning, he was centralizing society in God and soul; at a time when the colonized had ceased to think and control, he dared to think and control; and when the ideologies of the colonized had virtually disappeared, he revived them and empowered them with a potency that liberated and redeemed.

Voir par ailleurs:

Nelson Mandela, un chrétien discret

Issu de l’Église méthodiste, Nelson Mandela, décédé le 5 décembre au soir, évitait d’en faire état en public. À bien l’écouter, cependant, cette dimension a été centrale dans sa vie.

Laurent Larcher

La Croix

6/12/13

Rares, parmi ceux qui chantent les louanges de Nelson Mandela en France, sont ceux qui évoquent son christianisme. Une dimension souvent gommée au profit de son « humanisme ». Pour leur défense, il est vrai que Nelson Mandela a toujours été discret, en public, sur ses liens avec le christianisme. Dans un entretien accordé à l’Express en 1995, il répond, un peu abrupt, au journaliste qui l’interroge sur le rôle de sa foi chrétienne dans sa lutte contre l’apartheid : « La relation entre un homme et son Dieu est un sujet extrêmement privé, qui ne regarde pas les mass media ».

Et dans son autobiographie, Conversation avec moi-même (La Martinière, 2010), il évoque à peine cette dimension dans sa vie (à deux reprises !). On le voit, Nelson Mandela n’a pas été un prosélyte : « Toujours faire de la religion une affaire privée, réservée à soi. N’encombre pas les autres avec ta religion et autres croyances personnelles. », écrit-il à Thulare, en 1977, de la prison de Robben Island.

« Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes »

Pour autant, au fil de sa vie, de ses écrits et de ses confidences, Nelson Mandela n’a pas toujours été silencieux sur son rapport au christianisme. En premier lieu, il a été baptisé dans l’Église méthodiste et formé dans les écoles wesleyennes (une Église qui se sépare d’avec l’Église méthodiste en 1875) pour être précis. À Fort Hare, dans l’une de ces institutions, il a même été moniteur le dimanche. Que pensait-il de cette appartenance ? Visiblement, le plus grand bien !

À plusieurs reprises, il exprime sa dette envers son Église : « Je ne saurais trop insister sur le rôle que l’Église méthodiste a joué dans ma vie », déclarait-il à l’occasion du 23e anniversaire de la Gospel Church power of Republic of South Africa, en 1995. Et devant le parlement mondial des religions, en 1999 : « Sans l’Église, sans les institutions religieuses, je ne serais pas là aujourd’hui ».

Emprisonné à Robben Island, il assiste, écrit-il en 1977, « encore à tous les services de l’Église et j’apprécie certains sermons ». Dans sa correspondance avec Ahmed Kathrada, en 1993, il évoque la joie qu’il ressentait à fréquenter l’Eucharistie  : « Partager le sacrement qui fait partie de la tradition de mon Église était important à mes yeux. Cela me procurait l’apaisement et le calme intérieur. En sortant des services, j’étais un homme neuf. » Et il affirme au même : « Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes ».

le christianisme de Mandela prend la forme d’une sagesse universelle

S’il lui est arrivé d’exprimer sa fidélité au christianisme, il semble cependant que sa spiritualité se soit modifiée au cours de son existence. Ainsi, sa rencontre avec le marxisme lui ouvre un nouvel horizon : « Nous qui avons grandi dans des maisons religieuses et qui avons étudié dans les écoles des missionnaires, nous avons fait l’expérience d’un profond conflit spirituel quand nous avons vu le mode de vie que nous jugions sacré remis en question par de nouvelles philosophies, et quand nous nous sommes rendu compte que, parmi ceux qui traitaient notre foi d’opium, il y avait des penseurs dont l’intégrité et l’amour pour les hommes ne faisaient pas de doute. », écrit-il à Fatima Meer en 1977.

Peu à peu, le christianisme de Mandela prend la forme d’une sagesse universelle : « J’ai bien sûr été baptisé à l’Église wesleyenne et j’ai fréquenté ses écoles missionnaires. Dehors comme ici, je lui reste fidèle, mais mes conceptions ont eu tendance à s’élargir et à être bienveillantes envers l’unité religieuse », constate-il en 1977.

La même année, il fait cet aveu : « J’ai mes propres croyances quant à l’existence ou non d’un Être suprême et il est possible que l’on puisse expliquer facilement pourquoi l’homme, depuis des temps immémoriaux, croit en l’existence d’un dieu. » Puis de dire en 1994 : « Je ne suis pas particulièrement religieux ou spirituel. Disons que je m’intéresse à toutes les tentatives qui sont faites pour découvrir le sens de la vie. La religion relève de cet exercice. ».

« une affaire strictement personnelle »

Tout au long de son existence, il s’est méfié du caractère dévastateur qu’il voyait en puissance dans la religion : « La religion, et notamment la croyance en l’existence d’un Être suprême, a toujours été un sujet de controverse qui déchire les nations, et même les familles. Il vaut toujours mieux considérer la relation entre un individu et son Dieu comme une affaire strictement personnelle, une question de foi et non de logique. Nul n’a le droit de prescrire aux autres ce qu’ils doivent croire ou non », écrit-il à Déborah Optiz en 1988.

Nous touchons là, sans doute, la raison pour laquelle Nelson Mandela évitait d’aborder en public, en particulier face aux médias, son rapport au christianisme. À cela s’ajoute son souci de ne pas heurter la sensibilité et les convictions de celui à qui il s’adressait. Il s’en explique à Maki Mandela en 1977 : «Sans le savoir, tu peux offenser beaucoup de gens pour qui tout cela n’a aucun fondement scientifique, qui considèrent que c’est pure fiction. »

Cette réserve ne l’a pas empêché d’assigner un rôle aux religions dans la société : en particulier sur le plan de la justice et de la morale. Alors qu’il présidait à la destinée de l’Afrique du Sud, il leur adressa cette feuille de route en 1997 : « Nous avons besoin que les institutions religieuses continuent d’être la conscience de la société, le gardien de la morale et des intérêts des faibles et des opprimés. Nous avons besoin que les organisations religieuses participent à la société civile mobilisée pour la justice et la protection des droits de l’homme. »

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : un homme une voie

RFI

Première partie : Une conscience noire dans les geôles de l’apartheid

En retrouvant la liberté, un dimanche, le 11 février 1990, Nelson Mandela a recouvré un destin, dans le droit fil du mythe qu’il était devenu en 27 ans de prison. «Malgré mes soixante-et-onze ans, j’ai senti que ma vie recommençait. Mes dix mille jours de prison étaient finis», écrivit-il plus tard dans son auto-biographie, Long Walk to Freedom. Cette deuxième vie serait celle d’un président de la République arc-en-ciel et d’une autorité morale universelle. La première aura été celle d’un freedom fighter, un combattant de la liberté, un adepte de la non-violence conduit à la lutte armée par la ségrégation raciale, un «terroriste» au temps où l’idéologie de l’apartheid s’affichait comme ligne de défense de l’Occident travaillé par la guerre froide, un «communiste» (qu’il n’a jamais été) dans une Afrique du Sud où même le nationalisme était white only, réservé aux Afrikaners, les «Africains» blancs de souche boer.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela est né le 18 juillet 1918 dans le village de Qunu, près d’Umtata, au Transkei. Il appartient à une lignée royale Xhosa du clan Madhiba, dont le nom a désormais fait le tour du monde comme raccourci affectueux pour désigner le fils de Henry Mgadla Mandela, un chef Thembu qui le laisse orphelin à 12 ans. Envoyé à la cour du roi, Rolhlahla se prépare à assurer la succession à la chefferie, à l’école des pasteurs méthodistes d’abord, puis, en 1938 à l’University College for Bantu de Fort Hare, seul établissement secondaire habilité à l’époque à recevoir des «non-Blancs».

Nationalisme et pacifisme

Les fondateurs blancs de Fort Hare entendaient former une élite noire capable de servir leur dessein colonial. Mais face à la conjugaison d’esprits éveillés, l’épreuve de la réalité étant la plus forte, l’université «bantoue» s’est transformée en pépinière du nationalisme d’Afrique australe, d’où sortirent notamment les frères ennemis zimbabwéens Joshua Nkomo et Robert Mugabe ou le «père de la Nation» zambienne, Kenneth Kaunda. Derrière les expériences propres à chacun des jeunes gens se profilent des peuples déchus de leurs droits de citoyens et confinés dans la misère par une barrière de couleur défendue par les pouvoirs blancs, un fusil à la main et une bible dans l’autre. Les colons ont fait de l’identité noire une condition sociale. Une conscience noire est en gestation. Reste à trouver les armes pour la défendre. A Fort Hare, Mandela discute de l’enseignement du Mahatma Ghandi (né en Afrique du Sud) avec son meilleur ami, Oliver Tambo (mort le 24 avril 1993). Convaincu des vertus de la non-violence, il découvre aussi, non sans scepticisme, les thèses marxistes introduites clandestinement dans les chambrées studieuses par le South african communist party (SACP), interdit.

En 1940, Mandela et Tambo sont chassés de Fort Hare après avoir conduit une grève pour empêcher que le Conseil représentatif des étudiants soit transformé en simple chambre d’enregistrement. Il finira ses études par correspondance. Pour les financer, il embauche en 1941 comme vigile aux Crown Mines de Johannesburg. Le choc est violent dans l’univers minier du développement séparé où la richesse des Blancs ruisselle dans la sueur et le sang des Noirs. Nelson Mandela a 23 ans, une stature de boxeur. Servir l’ordre économique de la ségrégation raciale en maniant la chicotte, le jeune homme entrevoit le privilège douteux que sa naissance lui réserve. Quelques mois plus tard, une rencontre avec Albertina, l’épouse d’un militant de la cause noire, Walter Sisulu, fait bifurquer son destin. Walter Sisulu l’emploie dans sa petite agence immobilière, lui paye des cours de droit et le place dans un cabinet d’avocats blancs, des juifs communistes opposés à la ségrégation raciale.

Programme d’action unitaire

Oliver Tambo a rejoint son ami Mandela à Johannesburg, comme professeur de mathématiques. Les jeunes gens épousent des collègues infirmières d’Albertina Sisulu. Ils partent s’installer dans la township d’Orlando où leur rencontre avec l’instituteur zoulou Anton Lembede sera déterminante. En effet, après l’instauration de la discrimination raciale qui fonde le «développement séparé» concocté après la guerre des Boers (contre l’imperium anglais) en 1902, au lendemain de l’institution, en 1911, du «colour bar» qui limite le droit au travail des non-Blancs, ces derniers ont entrepris d’organiser une résistance. Dans les années quarante, elle paraît bien essoufflée. Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu et Oliver Tambo vont tenter de ranimer la flamme et de lui donner des couleurs nationalistes en créant, en 1944, une ligue de la jeunesse au sein de l’ANC dirigé alors par le docteur Xuma.

Fondé à Bloemfontein en 1912, l’African native national congress (ANNC) avait abandonné son initiale coloniale «native» (indigène) en 1923 pour devenir ANC. Largement inspiré par les idées légalistes du promoteur de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, Booker T. Washington, l’ANC avait entrepris d’informer la communauté noire sud-africaine sur ses droits ou ce qui en restait, faisant aussi campagne par exemple contre la loi sud-africaine sur les laissez-passer. Mais les revendications de l’ANC avaient fini par s’user sur la soif de respectabilité de ses dirigeants et sur la violence de la répression du pouvoir blanc. Avec la ligue de la jeunesse, la Youth League, l’ANC prend un tournant qui lui permet d’avoir une action efficace lors des grandes manifestations de mineurs en 1946 et 1949. Mandela est élu secrétaire général de la ligue en 1947 puis président peu après. En 1949, l’ANC adoptera le programme d’action de la Youth League qui réclame «la fin de la domination blanche». Entre temps, le Parti national (PN), au pouvoir à Pretoria depuis 1948, a érigé l’apartheid en idéologie et en programme de gouvernement. Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix en 1960) préside l’ANC.

En 1951, Tambo et Mandela sont les deux premiers avocats noirs inscrits au barreau de Johannesburg. L’année suivante, ils ouvrent un cabinet ensemble. En 1950, les principales lois de l’apartheid ont été adoptées, en particulier le Group areas act qui assigne notamment à «résidence» les Noirs dans les bantoustans et les townships. Le Supression communist act inscrit dans son champ anti-communiste toute personne qui «cherche à provoquer un changement politique, industriel, économique ou social par des moyens illégaux». Bien évidemment, pour l’apartheid il n’y a pas de possibilité de changement légal. Mais en rangeant dans le même sac nationalistes, communistes, pacifistes et révolutionnaires, il ferme la fracture idéologique qui opposait justement ces derniers au sein de l’ANC. Pour sa part, Nelson Mandela rompt avec son anti-communisme chrétien intransigeant pour recommander l’unité de lutte anti-apartheid entre les nationalistes noirs et les Blancs du SACP.

Désobéissance civile et clandestinité

Elu président de l’ANC pour le Transvaal et vice président national de l’ANC, Nelson Mandela est également choisi comme «volontaire en chef» pour lancer en juin 1952 une action de désobéissance civile civile de grande envergure à la manière du Mahatma Ghandi, la «défiance campaign», où il anime des cohortes de manifestants descendus en masse dans la rue. La campagne culmine en octobre, contre la ségrégation légalisée et en particulier contre le port obligatoire des laissez-passer imposé aux Noirs. Tout un arsenal de loi sur la «sécurité publique» verrouille l’état d’urgence qui autorise l’apartheid à gouverner par décrets. Condamné à neuf mois de prison avec sursis, le charismatique Mandela est interdit de réunion et assigné à résidence à Johannesburg. Il en profite pour mettre au point le «Plan M» qui organise l’ANC en cellules clandestines.

La répression des années cinquante contraint Mandela à faire disparaître son nom de l’affiche officielle de l’ANC mais ne l’empêche pas de participer en 1955 au Congrès des peuples qui adopte une Charte des Libertés préconisant l’avènement d’une société multiraciale et démocratique. Le Congrès parvient en effet à rassembler l’ANC, le Congrès indien, l’Organisation des métis sud-africain (SACPO), le Congrès des démocrates -composé de communistes proscrits depuis 1950 et de radicaux blancs- ainsi que le Congrès des syndicats sud-africains (SACTU). Le 5 décembre 1956, Nelson Mandela est arrêté avec Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix 1960) et des dizaines de dirigeants du mouvement anti-apartheid. Ils sont accusés, toutes races et toutes obédiences confondues, de comploter contre l’Etat au sein d’une organisation internationale d’inspiration communiste. En mars 1961, le plus long procès de l’histoire judiciaire sud-africaine s’achève sur un non-lieu général. L’ANC estime avoir épuisé tous les recours de la non-violence.

Le 21 mars 1960, à Sharpeville, la police de l’apartheid transforme en bain de sang (69 morts et 180 blessés) une manifestation pacifique contre les laissez-passer. L’état d’urgence est réactivé. Des milliers de personnes font les frais de la répression terrible qui s’ensuit dans tous le pays. Le 8 avril, l’ANC et le Congrès panafricain (le PAC né d’une scission anti-communiste) sont interdits. Cette même année de sang, Nelson épouse en deuxièmes noces Winnie, une assistante sociale, et entre en clandestinité. En mai 1961, le succès de son mot d’ordre de grève générale à domicile «stay at house» déchaîne les foudres de Pretoria qui déploie son grand jeu militaro-policier pour briser la résistance. En décembre, l’ANC met en application le plan de passage graduel à la lutte armée rédigé par Nelson Mandela. Avant d’en arriver à «la guérilla, le terrorisme et la révolution ouverte», Mandela préconise le sabotage des cibles militaro-industrielles qui, écrit-il, «n’entraîne aucune perte en vie humaine et ménage les meilleures chances aux relations interraciales».

Sabotages et lutte armée

Le 16 décembre 1961 des explosions marquent aux quatre coins du pays le baptême du feu d’Umkhonto We Sizwe, le «fer de lance de la Nation», la branche militaire de l’ANC. D’Addis-Abeba en janvier 1962 où se tient la conférence du Mouvement panafricain pour la libération de l’Afrique australe et orientale, à l’Algérie fraîchement indépendante d’Ahmed Ben Bella où il suit une formation militaire avec son ami Tambo, Nelson Mandela sillonne l’Afrique pour plaider la cause de l’ANC et recueillir subsides et bourses universitaires. Le pacifiste se met à l’étude de la stratégie militaire. Clausewitz, Mao et Che Guevara voisinent sur sa table de chevet avec les spécialistes de la guerre anglo-boers. A son retour, il est arrêté, le 5 août 1962, grâce à un indicateur de police, après une folle cavale où il emprunte toutes sortes de déguisements. En novembre, il écope de 5 ans de prison pour sortie illégale du territoire mais aussi comme fauteur de grève. Alors qu’il a commencé à purger sa peine, une deuxième vague d’accusation va le clouer en prison pour deux décennies de plus.

Les services de l’apartheid sont parvenus à infiltrer l’ANC jusqu’à sa tête. Le 11 juillet 1963, les principaux chefs d’Umkhonto We Sizwe tombent dans ses filets. Avec eux, dans la ferme de Lilliesleaf, à Rivonia, près de Johannesburg, la police de Pretoria met la main sur des kilos de documents, parmi lesquels le plan de passage à la lutte armée signé Mandela. Le 9 octobre 1963, il partage le banc des accusés du procès de Rivonia avec sept compagnons : Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbéki dit Le Rouge (le père de l’actuel président sud-africain), Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Mtsouledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg et Lionel Bernstein.

En avril 1964, Mandela assure lui-même sa défense en une longue plaidoirie où il fait en même temps le procès de l’apartheid. «J’ai lutté contre la domination blanche et contre la domination noire. J’ai défendu l’idéal d’une société démocratique et libre dans laquelle tous les individus vivraient ensemble en harmonie et bénéficieraient de chances égales. C’est un idéal pour lequel j’espère vivre et que j’espère voir se réaliser. C’est un idéal pour lequel, s’il le faut, je suis prêt à mourir», dit-il avant d’accueillir sans ciller le verdict attendu de l’apartheid, la prison à perpétuité pour tous, à l’exception de Bernstein, acquitté. Conformément aux principes de la ségrégation raciale, le Blanc Denis Goldberg est incarcéré à Pretoria. Les autres prennent le ferry qui les conduit au bagne de Robben-Island, au large du cap «de Bonne espérance». Mandela y restera dix-huit ans, jusqu’en avril 1982 où il est transféré secrètement dans le quartier de haute sécurité de la prison de Pollsmoor, à vingt kilomètres du Cap. Son régime de détention sera bien plus tard allégé, l’apartheid tentant de le récupérer en vain plusieurs fois, jusqu’à ce que le plus ancien prisonnier de conscience du monde, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, «Madhiba», arrache la liberté de construire la nation arc-en-ciel de ses vœux, le 11 février 1990.

Voir enfin:

En Afrique du Sud, les fermiers blancs ont peur

Patricia Huon, Correspondante en Afrique du Sud

La Libre Belgique

11 octobre 2013

International Une campagne dénonce "le massacre" des Blancs. Les chiffres ne le confirment pas.

Un nuage de ballons rouges s’envole dans le ciel ensoleillé de Pretoria, devant le siège du gouvernement sud-africain. Baptisé "Octobre Rouge", l’événement n’a rien à voir avec un rassemblement communiste ou le roman d’espionnage de l’Américain Tom Clancy. Les quelques centaines de personnes rassemblées hier dans plusieurs villes d’Afrique du Sud sont venues, souvent en famille, pour protester contre ce qu’elles qualifient d’"oppression" et de "massacre" des Sud-Africains blancs.

A leur tête, des chanteurs afrikaners populaires, Steve Hofmeyr et Sunette Bridges, qui enchaînent photos-souvenirs et autographes. Dans le défilé, sur fond de musique en afrikaans, flottent les anciens drapeaux d’Afrique du Sud et des républiques boers et s’affichent quelques tenues militaires, des symboles fortement associés à l’extrême droite.

Violence raciale

Pour les manifestants, la population blanche est victime d’une violence dirigée contre elle en raison de sa couleur de peau. "Stop au génocide blanc" , clame une pancarte, illustration de l’angoisse qui a saisi les anciens maîtres du pays depuis l’avènement de la démocratie.

"Je suis ici pour mes enfants. Notre culture est menacée" , lance Tina Vermeer, une mère de famille vêtue d’un t-shirt rouge, qui peine à s’exprimer en anglais. "L’Afrique du Sud d’aujourd’hui, c’est l’apartheid à l’envers" , ajoute-t-elle. Pour elle, comme pour toutes les personnes présentes, le Black Economic Empowerment, cette forme de discrimination positive à l’emploi pour corriger les inégalités du passé, est perçu comme une injustice.

Les quatre millions de Blancs sud-africains représentent un peu moins de 8 % de la population du pays. Statistiquement, ils ne sont pas à plaindre. Un ménage blanc gagne en moyenne six fois plus qu’une famille noire. Malgré les politiques mises en place, les Sud-Africains blancs continuent d’avoir un meilleur accès à l’éducation et à l’emploi. Le chômage touche plus de 25 % de la population noire, contre environ 5 % chez les Blancs. Les postes à responsabilité sont toujours détenus à près de 80 % par des Blancs.

La population noire est aussi la première victime de la criminalité. Selon les statistiques de la police, plus de 85 % des victimes de meurtres sont noires et moins de 2 % blanches. " Peut-être souffrent-ils aussi de la violence , reconnaît Sunette Bridges. Mais ils ne sont pas abattus par des Blancs. Pourquoi alors les Noirs viennent-ils nous tuer alors que nous les laissons en paix ?"

La peur ne s’explique pas avec des statistiques. Les meurtres, souvent très violents, de fermiers blancs choquent. Et la crainte d’être le prochain Zimbabwe, d’où les anciens colons ont été expulsés de leurs propriétés, reste ancrée. Elle a été ravivée par les récentes provocations de Julius Malema, ancien leader des Jeunes de l’ANC (le parti au pouvoir), appelant à une nationalisation sans compensation des terres et des mines.

La campagne "Red October", si elle a attiré pas mal d’attention, n’a reçu que relativement peu de soutien. A Pretoria, la manifestation a rassemblé moins de 400 personnes. Sur les réseaux sociaux, beaucoup parmi les Sud-Africains blancs, ont tenu à se distancer des propos tenus par le mouvement. Et Trevor Noah, un célèbre humoriste sud-africain qui se délecte souvent des contradictions de l’Afrique du Sud post-apartheid, affirme sur son compte Twitter : "En tant que Sud-Africains, nous devrions protester contre TOUTE forme de crime et de corruption. Ces problèmes nous touchent TOUS de manière égale."

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : l’icône et le néant

Communiqué de Bernard Lugan[1]

6 décembre 2013

Né le 18 juillet 1918 dans l’ancien Transkei, mort le 5 décembre 2013, Nelson Mandela ne ressemblait pas à la pieuse image que le politiquement correct planétaire donne aujourd’hui de lui. Par delà les émois lénifiants et les hommages hypocrites, il importe de ne jamais perdre de vue les éléments suivants :

1) Aristocrate xhosa issu de la lignée royale des Thembu, Nelson Mandela n’était pas un « pauvre noir opprimé ». Eduqué à l’européenne par des missionnaires méthodistes, il commença ses études supérieures à Fort Hare, université destinée aux enfants des élites noires, avant de les achever à Witwatersrand, au Transvaal, au cœur de ce qui était alors le « pays boer ». Il s’installa ensuite comme avocat à Johannesburg.

2) Il n’était pas non plus ce gentil réformiste que la mièvrerie médiatique se plait à dépeindre en « archange de la paix » luttant pour les droits de l’homme, tel un nouveau Gandhi ou un nouveau Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela fut en effet et avant tout un révolutionnaire, un combattant, un militant qui mit « sa peau au bout de ses idées », n’hésitant pas à faire couler le sang des autres et à risquer le sien.

Il fut ainsi l’un des fondateurs de l’Umkonto We Sizwe, « le fer de lance de la nation », aile militaire de l’ANC, qu’il co-dirigea avec le communiste Joe Slovo, planifiant et coordonnant plus de 200 attentats et sabotages pour lesquels il fut condamné à la prison à vie.

3) Il n’était pas davantage l’homme qui permit une transmission pacifique du pouvoir de la « minorité blanche » à la « majorité noire », évitant ainsi un bain de sang à l’Afrique du Sud. La vérité est qu’il fut hissé au pouvoir par un président De Klerk appliquant à la lettre le plan de règlement global de la question de l’Afrique australe décidé par Washington. Trahissant toutes les promesses faites à son peuple, ce dernier :

- désintégra une armée sud-africaine que l’ANC n’était pas en mesure d’affronter,

- empêcha la réalisation d’un Etat multiracial décentralisé, alternative fédérale au jacobinisme marxiste et dogmatique de l’ANC,

- torpilla les négociations secrètes menées entre Thabo Mbeki et les généraux sud-africains, négociations qui portaient sur la reconnaissance par l’ANC d’un Volkstaat en échange de l’abandon de l’option militaire par le général Viljoen[2].

4) Nelson Mandela n’a pas permis aux fontaines sud-africaines de laisser couler le lait et le miel car l’échec économique est aujourd’hui total. Selon le Rapport Economique sur l’Afrique pour l’année 2013, rédigé par la Commission économique de l’Afrique (ONU) et l’Union africaine (en ligne), pour la période 2008-2012, l’Afrique du Sud s’est ainsi classée parmi les 5 pays « les moins performants » du continent sur la base de la croissance moyenne annuelle, devançant à peine les Comores, Madagascar, le Soudan et le Swaziland (page 29 du rapport).

Le chômage touchait selon les chiffres officiels 25,6% de la population active au second trimestre 2013, mais en réalité environ 40% des actifs. Quant au revenu de la tranche la plus démunie de la population noire, soit plus de 40% des Sud-africains, il est aujourd’hui inférieur de près de 50% à celui qu’il était sous le régime blanc d’avant 1994[3]. En 2013, près de 17 millions de Noirs sur une population de 51 millions d’habitants, ne survécurent que grâce aux aides sociales, ou Social Grant, qui leur garantit le minimum vital.

5) Nelson Mandela a également échoué politiquement car l’ANC connaît de graves tensions multiformes entre Xhosa et Zulu, entre doctrinaires post marxistes et « gestionnaires » capitalistes, entre africanistes et partisans d’une ligne « multiraciale ». Un conflit de génération oppose également la vieille garde composée de « Black Englishmen», aux jeunes loups qui prônent une « libération raciale » et la spoliation des fermiers blancs, comme au Zimbabwe.

6) Nelson Mandela n’a pas davantage pacifié l’Afrique du Sud, pays aujourd’hui livré à la loi de la jungle avec une moyenne de 43 meurtres quotidiens.

7) Nelson Mandela n’a pas apaisé les rapports inter-raciaux. Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1994, en 24 ans, alors que l’ANC était "en guerre" contre le « gouvernement blanc », une soixantaine de fermiers blancs furent tués. Depuis avril 1994, date de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Nelson Mandela, plus de 2000 fermiers blancs ont été massacrés dans l’indifférence la plus totale des médias européens.

8) Enfin, le mythe de la « nation arc-en-ciel » s’est brisé sur les réalités régionales et ethno-raciales, le pays étant plus divisé et plus cloisonné que jamais, phénomène qui apparaît au grand jour lors de chaque élection à l’occasion desquelles le vote est clairement « racial », les Noirs votant pour l’ANC, les Blancs et les métis pour l’Alliance démocratique.

En moins de deux décennies, Nelson Mandela, président de la République du 10 mai 1994 au 14 juin 1999, puis ses successeurs, Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008) et Jacob Zuma (depuis 2009), ont transformé un pays qui fut un temps une excroissance de l’Europe à l’extrémité australe du continent africain, en un Etat du « tiers-monde » dérivant dans un océan de pénuries, de corruption, de misère sociale et de violences, réalité en partie masquée par quelques secteurs ultraperformants, mais de plus en plus réduits, le plus souvent dirigés par des Blancs.

Pouvait-il en être autrement quand l’idéologie officielle repose sur ce refus du réel qu’est le mythe de la « nation arc-en-ciel » ? Ce « miroir aux alouettes » destiné à la niaiserie occidentale interdit en effet de voir que l’Afrique du Sud ne constitue pas une Nation mais une mosaïque de peuples rassemblés par le colonisateur britannique, peuples dont les références culturelles sont étrangères, et même souvent irréductibles, les unes aux autres.

Le culte planétaire quasi religieux aujourd’hui rendu à Nelson Mandela, le dithyrambe outrancier chanté par des hommes politiques opportunistes et des journalistes incultes ou formatés ne changeront rien à cette réalité.

[1] La véritable biographie de Nelson Mandela sera faite dans le prochain numéro de l’Afrique Réelle qui sera envoyé aux abonnés au début du mois de janvier 2014.

[2] Voir mes entretiens exclusifs avec les généraux Viljoen et Groenewald publiés dans le numéro de juillet 2013 de l’Afrique réelle http://www.bernard-lugan.com

[3] Institut Stats SA .

Voir par ailleurs:

Arafat’s Death and the Polonium Mystery

A twist in the tale seems to debunk the poisoning theory. But even an earlier suspicious finding may have had a less than sinister explanation.

Edward Jay Epstein

The Wall Street Journal

Dec. 3, 2013

The mystery over the death of Yasser Arafat deepened on Tuesday, when the results from a French forensic lab that had tested his remains were leaked. Last month, a Swiss lab reported finding evidence of polonium in Arafat’s body fluids and saliva—buttressing claims by the Palestinian Authority since his death in 2004 that the Palestinian leader had been poisoned. A later Russian forensic examination was reportedly inconclusive.

Now the French have found no evidence that polonium caused his death, attributing Arafat’s demise to natural causes, according to Reuters. His widow, Suha Arafat, told reporters in Paris that she was "upset by these contradictions." But Mrs. Arafat’s own lawyer and a Palestinian Authority official dismissed the report, signaling yet more chapters to come in the posthumous Arafat saga.

Arafat died from a hemorrhagic cerebrovascular failure at age 75 on Nov. 11, 2004, at the Percy Military Hospital in Clamart, France. He had become violently ill in his compound in Ramallah on the West Bank one month earlier.

He was flown to France for treatment and examined by teams of French, Swiss and Tunisian doctors. While family members prohibited an autopsy, hospital officials found, according to a report leaked to the French journal Canard Enchaine, lesions of Arafat’s liver which indicated cirrhosis, a condition often associated with alcohol consumption.

Since alcohol use is not condoned in Arafat’s Muslim religion, such a medical finding could mar his image. In any case, at the request of Palestinian officials, his 558-page medical record was sealed and turned over to his family.

But the cause of his death remained a subject of continuing speculation with Suha Arafat asserting that he had been murdered. To support this charge, she asked scientists at the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne, Switzerland, to examine the contents of a gym bag, which contained the clothing and sneakers Arafat wore at the time of his illness, as well as his tooth brush.

Institute scientists found traces of polonium—specifically polonium 210, an extremely rare radioactive isotope that can be lethal if ingested—on the contents of the gym bag. Because it emits a steady stream of alpha particles as it

decays, one of polonium’s principal uses is to trigger the detonation of early-stage nuclear weapons. Since detection of the isotope can be a sign of clandestine nuclear bomb-building, its distribution is closely monitored.

At the time of Arafat’s death, only five individuals were known to have been contaminated by lethal doses of polonium—all of them scientists accidentally exposed to it through their work. But Arafat was not known to have visited any facilities where could have accidentally come into contact with the substance.

After the Institute of Radiation Physics report, Suha Arafat authorized the exhumation of Arafat’s body from its grave in Ramallah. Different parts of his remains were sent for analysis to forensic labs in France, Russia and Switzerland. On Nov. 5, the University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne reported that Arafat’s saliva (taken from his tooth brush), blood and other body fluids had abnormally high levels of polonium. If so, Arafat had been exposed to a substantial amount of the isotope before his death.

There are at least three different theories that might account for how Arafat might have come in contact with polonium 210. The first theory, and the one that has attracted the most attention, was that he was poisoned by his enemies. Suha Arafat accused the Israel intelligence service Mossad of killing her husband by adding polonium to his food or beverages.

There is no doubt that Israel has produced a supply of polonium for its nuclear program. Droh Sadeh, an Israeli physicist at the Weizmann Institute in Tel Aviv, died from accidental exposure to the isotope in the late 1950s. But the drawback is that there is no medical evidence that Arafat died of radiation poisoning.

Polonium 210, because it emits alpha particles that do not penetrate the skin, can contaminate individuals without causing medical harm. To result in radiation poisoning, it must be ingested, and, if that occurs—as happened in the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB officer, in London—there are observable symptoms, such as hair loss and skin discoloration. But Arafat did not exhibit any symptoms of radiation poisoning to the teams of medical specialists who examined him before his death.

In addition, a review of Arafat’s sealed medical records by forensic scientists and doctors at the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne showed that the "symptoms described in Arafat’s medical reports were not consistent with polonium-210." If the medical evidence is to be believed, Arafat did not die from any contact he may have had with polonium.

So what accounts for the polonium 210 signature that the Swiss researchers said they found on Arafat’s person and clothing?

A second theory is that Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah had been contaminated by a surreptitious listening device planted by an adversary intelligence service. Polonium 210 can be used as a source of energy for an electronic device, such as a transmitter—just one gram can produce 140 watts of power. Such an alternative use of polonium 210 was claimed by Iran when it was questioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2001 about the isotope found on Iranian gear. Iran said that it had produced the polonium to power instruments on a space craft (even though Iran did not have a space program).

Since polonium 210 generates pressure as it decays, it can also leak from its container and, attaching itself to dust, contaminate a large area. So it is possible that Arafat was accidentally contaminated—in a detectable but not fatal way—as the result of an espionage operation.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303562904579227942815253368 12/7/2013

Edward Jay Epstein: Arafat’s Death and the Polonium Mystery – WSJ.com Page 3 of 3

A third possibility is that the polonium 210 came from North Korea, which had been acquiring the material in 2004 in preparation for nuclear tests. Yasser Arafat, designated a "Hero" of North Korea by President Kim Il Sung in 1981, made six trips to North Korea, and Arafat’s associates received covert military assistance from the regime. Such trafficking might have brought members of Arafat’s entourage in contact with polonium 210.

There are no doubt other ways in which Yasser Arafat’s quarters could have been tainted by polonium. But however the contamination might have happened, there is no reason to conclude that it was the result of a murder plot. The news on Tuesday threw more cold water on an already implausible theory.

Mr. Epstein’s most recent book is "The Annals of Unsolved Crime" (Melville House, 2013).

COMPLEMENT:

What Nelson Mandela can teach us all about violence

Mandela was a great man. He was also a violent man. Ignoring that fact does him no justice

Natasha Lennard

Salon

Dec 8, 2013

When journalist and commentator Chris Hedges decried “violent” anarchists as a “cancer” in the Occupy movement, the violence he had in mind amounted to little more than a few smashed commercial windows.

Ample digital ink has been spilled in the last day by smart observers urging against the whitewashing of Nelson Mandela’s past. In the eyes of his fervid opponents, and many of his fervent supporters, Madiba was a radical, and a violent one. Compared to the militant actions Mandela would countenance and support from his African National Congress, what gets deemed “violent” or “militant” in the U.S. today is both laughable and problematic. On the occasion of the death of a great and violent man, it seems worthwhile to discuss what does and does not get deemed “violent” — and by who, where and when.

It’s beyond the purview of these paragraphs — and to be honest, I’m tired of the hackneyed polemic — to address whether violence, especially politically motivated violence, is ever justifiable or commendable. Instead, I’ll simply posit that violence is itself a moving goalpost. In the contested terrain of political struggles, however, it’s safe to say that any acts posing a threat (existential, ideological and wherever the twain meet) to a ruling status quo will be deemed violent. Even an act as minimal as a smashed Starbucks window can pass muster here — spidering cracked glass serves as reminder to those who might notice: “We do not consent to a gleaming patina; shit’s fucked up and bullshit.”

But I’m not going to weigh in on the ethics of revolutionary violence. To do so would miss how the concept of violence operates in our society: We erroneously isolate certain acts to deem “violent” or “nonviolent” — then “justifiably violent” or not, and so on — and in so doing we miss that there’s never a singular “violence”: there’s an ongoing dialectic of violent and counter-violent acts.

It’s within such a dialectic that we understand Mandela’s support of violence. His relationship to armed and violent struggle is nuanced and certainly not unique to him. He knew counter-violence was necessary in his violent context. He has also expressed that he and his ANC comrades prioritized the reduction of harm to human bodies. For Mandela, violence was a tactic. As Christopher Dickey noted, “when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology.”

Mandela’s own explanation of the his group’s approach to militant tactics was nuanced, highlighting again that violence is not one stable category:

We considered four types of violent activities — sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals.

Crucially, Mandela was open to escalation to terror tactics and guerrilla war. The ANC’s 1982 attack of the Koeberg nuclear plant — yes, crucial infrastructure — killed 19 people. Unsurprisingly, the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Mandela himself was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008. But now he is dead and the work of historicizing is well underway. Attempts, notably by white liberals, to enshrine Mandela as a peaceful freedom fighter do no justice to his actual fight. Musa Okwanga has put it best:

You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.

He could go on: Yes, you will do that, and even as you offer up paeans sanitizing Madiba, you will sit back and watch as young blackness continues to be treated as a crime in U.S. cities. You will decry the flash riots in London and the streets of East Flatbush, as young, unarmed black men are shot by police. You will see violence only as you choose to, and often without thinking.

The deifying and sanitizing of Mandela reflects an all-too prevalent “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) mentality, often adopted by the white liberal commentariat. (The ass-backwards, explicitly racist opinions of the right-wing are not my focus here. Take it as read: they suck.) My friend Lorenzo Raymond has written about what he calls the “Nonviolent In My Backyard” tract of NIMBY — a position occupied by Chris Hedges among others. As Raymond noted of this sort of NIMBY liberal, “Yes, of course, they celebrate militant, spontaneous, non-bureaucratic grassroots uprisings outside of U.S. borders, even if they’re as physically close as Oaxaca or politically close as London. But as soon as the insurrection gets to their neck of the woods, suddenly we must have everything in triplicate, blessed by the elders, and executed quietly and even ‘neatly.’”

The parameters, by NIMBY reasoning, of acceptable or justified radical violence expand as the struggles in question are grow farther from U.S. soil, and when the event is separated by years and decades. We imprison today’s whistle-blowers and canonize yesterday’s insurrectionists. But (and here’s the trick) the ability to do so is premised on the belief (even a tacit one) that our current context is not so bad, but dissent, militancy and violence is fine there and then — just Not In My Backyard.

NIMBY liberalism rejects the background violence of its own context — the structural racism, the inequality, the totalized surveillance, the engorged prisons, the brutal police, the patriarchy, the poverty, the pain. A smashed window, a looted store, a dented cop car can be read as “violent” now only because a certain NIMBYism fails to see such (small) acts as counter-violent responses to ubiquitous violence. Heroic and necessary violence is reserved for distant lands and completed revolutions.

We see this sort of logic writ large in War on Terror ideology. In a fear-mongering propaganda segment on last week’s Sunday morning talk shows, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein and her House counterpart Mike Rogers warned viewers that terrorism is on the rise. “There are new bombs, very big bombs…There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there”, said Feinstein. As I commented at the time, in describing rage at the U.S. as contentless “malevolence,” Feinstein tacitly rejects that the anger and radicalization may be grounded in responses to U.S. violence. Similarly, when British Prime Minister David Cameron described the events of the 2011 London riots as “criminality pure and simple,” he ignored the context which gave rise to the rage — the racist policing and widespread inequality highlighted by the London School of Economics and the Guardian in their study of the riots (and well-known by anyone paying attention to their social context).

I’m not suggesting for a second that the contemporary U.S. or U.K. should be compared to apartheid South Africa. I’m noting only that the treatment — either the validation or the whitewashing — of Mandela’s violent militancy is significant, nay crucial, at this current moment when even low-level dissent and property damage is decried and dismissed as violence, pure and simple. Mandela’s story should remind us that there’s nothing simple nor pure about violence.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.


Diversité: L’enfer, c’est les autres, mais j’ai besoin des oeufs ! (Hell is other people, but I need the eggs ! – How diversity is eating away at trust)

1 décembre, 2013
http://consumertraveler.com/wp-content/uploads/In-God-.jpghttp://edge.liveleak.com/80281E/ll_a_s/2013/Oct/23/LiveLeak-dot-com-f83_1382554898-USHasSpent37TrillionOnWelfareOverPast5Yearsprev.jpg?d5e8cc8eccfb6039332f41f6249e92b06c91b4db65f5e99818badf93454dddd05891&ec_rate=230Mais, quand le Fils de l’homme viendra, trouvera-t-il la foi sur la terre? Jésus (Luc 18: 8)
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 (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Je pensais à cette vieille blague, vous savez, ce-ce-ce type va chez un psychiatre et dit : « Doc, euh, mon frère est fou. Il se prend pour un poulet. » Et, euh, le docteur dit : « Et bien, pourquoi ne le faites-vous pas enfermer ? » Et le type dit : « J’aimerais bien, mais j’ai besoin des œufs. » Et bien, je crois que c’est ce que je ressens au sujet des relations. Vous savez, elles sont totalement irrationnelles et folles et absurdes et… mais, euh, je crois qu’on continue parce que, euh, la plupart d’entre nous ont besoin des œufs…  Woody Allen
Nous venons de terminer le cinquième exercice depuis que le président Obama a pris ses fonctions. Durant ces cinq années, le gouvernement fédéral a dépensé un total de 3,7  mille milliard de dollars pour environ 80 programmes sous condition de ressources différents contre la pauvreté et de protection sociale. La caractéristique commune des programmes d’aide sous condition de ressources est qu’ils sont gradués par apport au revenu d’une personne et que, contrairement aux programmes tels que la sécurité sociale ou l’assurance-maladie, ils sont un avantage gratuit sans aucune contribution du bénéficiaire. La somme énorme dépensée pourl’assistance sous condition de ressources est près de cinq fois supérieure au montant combiné consacré à la NASA et à l’éducation et à tous les projets de transport de compétence fédérale au cours de cette époque. (3,7 mille milliards de dollars n’est pas encore la totalité du montant dépensé pour le soutien fédéral de la pauvreté, les États membres contribuant pour plus de 200 milliards de dollars chaque année à ce lien fédéral, principalement sous forme de soins de santé gratuits à faible revenu.) Parce que le budget de l’aide sociale est tellement fragmenté — les coupons alimentaires ne sont qu’un des 15 programmes fédéraux qui fournissent une aide alimentaire, cela rend le contrôle efficace presque impossible, tout en masquant l’étendue tant aux contribuables qu’aux législateurs. Par exemple, il est plus facile pour les législateurs opposés aux réformes de s’opposer à des économies de coupons alimentaires en occultant le fait qu’un ménage qui reçoit des coupons alimentaires a souvent simultanément  droit à une myriade de programmes d’aide fédéraux y compris l’assistance de trésorerie, les logements subventionnés, les soins médicaux gratuits, la garde d’enfants gratuite et l’assistance énergétique à la maison. Commission sénatoriale du Budget
"Il est temps que l’Amérique comprenne que beaucoup des plus grandes disparités de la nation, de l’éducation à la pauvreté et à l’espérance de vie sont de plus en plus liées à la position de classe économique, » a déclaré William Julius Wilson, professeur de Harvard spécialiste des questions raciales et de la pauvreté. Il note par ailleurs que, malgré la persistance des difficultés économiques, les minorités sont plus optimistes quant à l’avenir après l’élection d’Obama, ce qui n’est pas les blancs qui se débattait. « Il y a la possibilité réelle que l’aliénation blanche va augmenter si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour mettre en évidence et lutter contre l’inégalité sur un large front, » a dit Ted Wilson. Parfois appelé "les pauvres invisibles" par les démographes, les blancs à faible revenu sont généralement dispersés dans les banlieues, mais aussi les petites villes rurales, où plus de 60% des pauvres sont blancs. Concentrés dans les Appalaches à l’est, ils sont également nombreux dans le Midwest industriel et  à travers le cœur de l’Amérique, du Missouri, de l’Arkansas et de l’Oklahoma jusqu’aux grandes plaines. Plus de 19 millions de blancs sont tombésen dessous du seuil de pauvreté de 23 021 $ pour une famille de quatre, représentant plus de 41 % de la nation démunis, près du double le nombre de pauvres noirs. CS monitor
"L’enfer c’est les autres" a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous. Sartre
Chacun se croit seul en enfer et c’est cela l’enfer. René Girard
De toutes les menaces qui pèsent sur nous, la plus redoutable, nous le savons, la seule réelle, c’est nous-mêmes. René Girard
Ce ne sont pas les différences qui provoquent les conflits mais leur effacement. René Girard
Aucun nombre de bombes atomiques ne pourra endiguer le raz de marée constitué par les millions d’êtres humains qui partiront un jour de la partie méridionale et pauvre du monde, pour faire irruption dans les espaces relativement ouverts du riche hémisphère septentrional, en quête de survie. Boumediene (mars 1974)
Un jour, des millions d’hommes quitteront le sud pour aller dans le nord. Et ils n’iront pas là-bas en tant qu’amis. Parce qu’ils iront là-bas pour le conquérir. Et ils le conquerront avec leurs fils. Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire. Houari Boumediene (ONU, 10.04.74)
Nous avons 50 millions de musulmans en Europe. Il y a des signes qui attestent qu’Allah nous accordera une grande victoire en Europe, sans épée, sans conquête. Les 50 millions de musulmans d’Europe feront de cette dernière un continent musulman. Allah mobilise la Turquie, nation musulmane, et va permettre son entrée dans l’Union Européenne. Il y aura alors 100 millions de musulmans en Europe. L’Albanie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. La Bosnie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. 50% de ses citoyens sont musulmans. L’Europe est dans une fâcheuse posture. Et il en est de même de l’Amérique. Elles [les nations occidentales] devraient accepter de devenir musulmanes avec le temps ou bien de déclarer la guerre aux musulmans. Kadhafi (10.04.06) 
Et si Raspail, avec "Le Camp des Saints", n’était ni un prophète ni un romancier visionnaire, mais simplement un implacable historien de notre futur? Jean Cau
Le 17 février 2001, un cargo vétuste s’échouait volontairement sur les rochers côtiers, non loin de Saint-Raphaël. À son bord, un millier d’immigrants kurdes, dont près de la moitié étaient des enfants. « Cette pointe rocheuse faisait partie de mon paysage. Certes, ils n’étaient pas un million, ainsi que je les avais imaginés, à bord d’une armada hors d’âge, mais ils n’en avaient pas moins débarqué chez moi, en plein décor du Camp des saints, pour y jouer l’acte I. Le rapport radio de l’hélicoptère de la gendarmerie diffusé par l’AFP semble extrait, mot pour mot, des trois premiers paragraphes du livre. La presse souligna la coïncidence, laquelle apparut, à certains, et à moi, comme ne relevant pas du seul hasard. Jean Raspail
Qu’est-ce que Big Other ? C’est le produit de la mauvaise conscience occidentale soigneusement entretenue, avec piqûres de rappel à la repentance pour nos fautes et nos crimes supposés –  et de l’humanisme de l’altérité, cette sacralisation de l’Autre, particulièrement quand il s’oppose à notre culture et à nos traditions. Perversion de la charité chrétienne, Big Other a le monopole du Vrai et du Bien et ne tolère pas de voix discordante. Jean Raspail
Ce qui m’a frappé, c’est le contraste entre les opinions exprimées à titre privé et celles tenues publiquement. Double langage et double conscience… À mes yeux, il n’y a pire lâcheté que celle devant la faiblesse, que la peur d’opposer la légitimité de la force à l’illégitimité de la violence. Jean Raspail
La véritable cible du roman, ce ne sont pas les hordes d’immigrants sauvages du tiers-monde, mais les élites, politiques, religieuses, médiatiques, intellectuelles, du pays qui, par lâcheté devant la faiblesse, trahissent leurs racines, leurs traditions et les valeurs de leur civilisation. En fourriers d’une apocalypse dont ils seront les premières victimes. Chantre des causes dé sespérées et des peuples en voie de disparition, comme son œuvre ultérieure en témoigne, Jean Raspail a, dans ce grand livre d’anticipation, incité non pas à la haine et à la discrimination, mais à la lucidité et au courage. Dans deux générations, on saura si la réalité avait imité la fiction. Bruno de Cessole
Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine. Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux. Le Figaro
Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise. A la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible. Gauthier Toulemonde
En présence de la diversité, nous nous replions sur nous-mêmes. Nous agissons comme des tortues. L’effet de la diversité est pire que ce qui avait été imaginé. Et ce n’est pas seulement que nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Dans les communautés diverses, nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui nous ressemblent. Robert Putnam
Page appelle ça le "paradoxe de diversité." Il pense que les effets à la fois positifs et négatifs de la diversité peuvent coexister dans les communautés, mais qu’il doit y avoir une limite." Si l’investissement civique tombe trop bas, il est facile d’imaginer que les effets positifs de la diversité puissent tout aussi bien commencer à s’affaiblir. Michael Jonas
Americans don’t trust each other anymore. We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people. (…) Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things. A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities. Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher. “It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.” (…) There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust. The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust. Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II. Connie Cass

A l’heure où même les plus démagogiques de nos dirigeants atteignent des sommets d’impopularité …

Et où, attirés par le grand festin de l’Etat-tout-Providence, les réfugiés économiques du Tiers-Monde comme les nouveaux barbares de l’est déferlent par vagues entières sur nos côtes et nos villes …

Pendant que, par manque de contact humain, un chef d’entreprise français, pourtant armé des dernières technologies numériques et d’un sacré sens de l’auto-promotion, se voit contraint après 40 jours à peine de mettre un terme à son expérience de Robinson virtuel …

Comment ne pas voir avec les résultats d’une grande enquête américaine sur les modes de vie …

Que contre les prédictions les plus naïves ou les plus roublardes de nos hérauts de la diversité …

Mais conformément aux prévisions des plus lucides de nos sociologues ou, accessoirement, de nos propres Evangiles …

Ce n’est pas nécessairement, derrière les spectaculaires et indéniables prodiges de nos nouvelles technologies, à plus de paix et d’harmonie que va aboutir le formidable rassemblement de population – proprement inouï dans l’Histoire de l’humanité – que nous connaissons actuellement …

Mais bien, très probablement, à des niveaux de conflit dont nous n’avons pas encore idée ?

In God we trust, maybe, but not each other

Connie Cass

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don’t trust each other anymore.

We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

“I’m leery of everybody,” said Bart Murawski, 27, of Albany, N.Y. “Caution is always a factor.”

Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

What’s known as “social trust” brings good things.

A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.

Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.

“It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.”

There’s no easy fix.

In fact, some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them.

The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times.

There are still trusters around to set an example.

Pennsylvania farmer Dennis Hess is one. He runs an unattended farm stand on the honor system.

Customers pick out their produce, tally their bills and drop the money into a slot, making change from an unlocked cashbox. Both regulars and tourists en route to nearby Lititz, Pa., stop for asparagus in spring, corn in summer and, as the weather turns cold, long-neck pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies.

“When people from New York or New Jersey come up,” said Hess, 60, “they are amazed that this kind of thing is done anymore.”

Hess has updated the old ways with technology. He added a video camera a few years back, to help catch people who drive off without paying or raid the cashbox. But he says there isn’t enough theft to undermine his trust in human nature.

“I’ll say 99 and a half percent of the people are honest,” said Hess, who’s operated the produce stand for two decades.

There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust.

The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.

Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.

Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

“People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.”

African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in “most people” than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that “you can’t be too careful.” That figure has held remarkably steady across the 25 GSS surveys since 1972.

The decline in the nation’s overall trust quotient was driven by changing attitudes among whites.

It’s possible that people today are indeed less deserving of trust than Americans in the past, perhaps because of a decline in moral values.

“I think people are acting more on their greed,” said Murawski, a computer specialist who says he has witnessed scams and rip-offs. “Everybody wants a comfortable lifestyle, but what are you going to do for it? Where do you draw the line?”

Ethical behavior such as lying and cheating are difficult to document over the decades. It’s worth noting that the early, most trusting years of the GSS poll coincided with Watergate and the Vietnam War. Trust dropped off in the more stable 1980s.

Crime rates fell in the 1990s and 2000s, and still Americans grew less trusting. Many social scientists blame 24-hour news coverage of distant violence for skewing people’s perceptions of crime.

Can anything bring trust back?

Uslaner and Clark don’t see much hope anytime soon.

Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar launched by Putnam, believes the trust deficit is “eminently fixable” if Americans strive to rebuild community and civic life, perhaps by harnessing technology.

After all, the Internet can widen the circle of acquaintances who might help you find a job. Email makes it easier for clubs to plan face-to-face meetings. Googling someone turns up information that used to come via the community grapevine.

But hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

“A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved,” Sander said.

“The fate of Americans’ trust,” he said, “is in our own hands.”

___

Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

___

Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

General Social Survey: http://www3.norc.org/GSS+Website

Voir aussi:

L’exil du patron Robinson sur une île déserte touche à sa fin

Isabelle de Foucaud

le Figaro

18/11/2013

Gauthier Toulemonde est parti 40 jours sur une île de l’archipel indonésien pour démontrer que le télétravail n’est plus une utopie avec les technologies de communication.

Gauthier Toulemonde, qui a décidé de passer 40 jours sur une île au large de l’Indonésie pour tester des conditions «extrêmes» de télétravail, a pu gérer son entreprise sans encombre. Il sera de retour en France d’ici à la fin de la semaine.

Gauthier Toulemonde prépare ses valises avec le sentiment du devoir accompli. Il doit quitter mardi son île déserte de l’archipel indonésien, longue de 700 mètres, large de 500 et située à cinq heures de bateau du village le plus proche, sur laquelle il vient de passer 40 jours dans des conditions extrêmes. «J’appréhende le retour à la vie moderne après cette longue période de solitude. Je ne sais plus ce que c’est de prendre le métro ou d’être coincé dans les embouteillages», confie-t-il au figaro.fr par téléphone satellitaire ce lundi, à la veille de son départ.

A 54 ans, l’entrepreneur de Saint-André-lez-Lille (Nord), qui a partagé son expérience sur un blog, ne voulait pas seulement réaliser un «rêve d’enfant» en montant cette expédition à la Robinson Crusoé. Certes, il a passé ce séjour dans l’isolement total, mais ultra connecté. Un ordinateur, une tablette numérique et deux téléphones satellitaires alimentés par des panneaux solaires étaient du voyage. «Mon but était de démontrer que je pouvais continuer à gérer mon entreprise à distance, grâce aux nouvelles technologies», explique Gauthier Toulemonde , propriétaire de la société Timbropresse qui publie le mensuel Timbres magazine, et par ailleurs rédacteur en chef de L’Activité immobilière.

Un pari réussi. «Nous avons bouclé, avec mon équipe à distance, chaque magazine dans les délais et avec les mêmes contenus et paginations que d’habitude», se réjouit-il, en assurant avoir assumé sans encombre l’ensemble de ses responsabilités. Choix des sujets, attribution aux journalistes et pigistes, réalisation d’interviews et lancement des pages en production … «Les communications étaient réduites a minima et je privilégiais les échanges par mail plutôt que par téléphone satellitaire, ces appels étant beaucoup plus coûteux.» Le patron Robinson est parti avec un budget de «moins de 10.000 euros», sans sponsor, et s’est fixé comme limite stricte 20 euros de frais Internet par jour.

Les limites du «tout virtuel»

Autre complication: le décalage horaire de six heures (en plus) qui a considérablement rallongé les journées de Gauthier Toulemonde afin qu’il puisse «croiser» un minimum sa dizaine de salariés en France. «Lorsque je prenais du retard sur la rédaction d’un article, en revanche, ce décalage devenait un sérieux avantage pour moi en me donnant un peu plus de temps.»

Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent et fonctionnent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise

Des délais souvent bienvenus alors que ce chef d’entreprise – parti quand même avec des rations de survie de pâtes et de riz – devait en plus assurer sa subsistance en pêchant, chassant ou cueillant des végétaux dès 5 heures du matin. Le tout dans un environnement dominé par des rats, serpents et varans. «Ma plus grande crainte était de perdre ma connexion», confie cependant l’aventurier. Parti en pleine saison des pluies, il a subi des intempéries qui l’ont parfois fait vivre pendant quelques jours sur ses réserves d’énergie.

Ces frayeurs ont-elles refroidi l’enthousiasme de l’entrepreneur pour le télétravail? «Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise», conclut Gauthier Toulemonde, en confiant au passage qu’«à la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible».

Voir encore:

Real-life Robinson Crusoe who decided to run his Paris business from a remote Indonesian island goes home after being put off by the snakes, spiders and sky-high phone bills

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, moved to a 700×500-metre island for 40 days

He scavenged for vegetables and fish, and ‘detoxed from modern life’

Only companion was a ‘rented’ dog that scared off wildlife for him

Says lack of human contact and fear of losing web signal was unbearable

Mia De Graaf

The Daily Mail

 30 November 2013

A French businessman who realised his childhood dream to relocate to a desert island has been driven home by wild Indonesian creatures and unaffordable phone bills.

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, had been getting increasingly frustrated with his stagnant life commuting from Lille to Paris every day to his office job as a publicist.

Last Christmas, the sorry sight of distinctly un-merry Parisians lugging presents through the station compelled him to finally take a leap.

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Moving to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands like Robinson Crusoe moved to Trinidad, Mr Toulemonde ‘detoxed from modern life’ by scavenging for food, being in touch with nature, and having little to no contact with other human beings.

His only companion was Gecko, a dog borrowed from a Chinese woman, to scare off the wildlife.

He told The Guardian he wanted to be the first ‘Web Robinson’ to persuade French people to abandon the tiring, demoralising commute and work remotely.

He added: ‘I found myself in Gare Saint Lazare in Paris just before Christmas watching the continuous stream of people passing by.

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

‘Web Robinson’: Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘Web Robinson’: Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘They had this sad look on their faces, even though they were carrying Christmas presents. It had long seemed to me absurd this travelling back and forth to offices.

‘My idea of going away had been growing for a while, but it was on that day, I decided to leave.’

It took him six months – and numerous run-ins with the Indonesian government – to find the perfect uninhabited island for a six-week trial run. Although he managed to persuade officials to let him go, he was ordered by law not to reveal the exact location of the hideaway, that is just 700-by-500 metres.

Finally, in October he set off – with just a tent, four solar panels, a phone, a laptop, rice and pasta for supplies.

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from revealing the exact location of the uninhabited island

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from stating the exact location of the uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean

Every day he woke at 5am and went to bed at midnight.

He would scavenge for vegetables on the island and fish in the sea before simply reclining to ‘detox from modern life’.

‘Those days, for me it was like being in quarantine,’ he told Le Figaro.

‘I used the time as a detox from modern life.’

He told Paris Match: ‘What gave me most joy was living – stripped bare – in the closest possible contact with nature. Every day was magical.’

However, it was not stress-free: his company had to publish two editions of Stamps Magazine.

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

He allowed himself 20 euros a day for internet to email his employees – and abandoned extortionate phone calls early on.

But after completing his trial, Mr Toulemonde has conceded that he cannot do it forever.

Although he claims the ‘telecommuting’ experiment was a success, he told French broadcasters My TF1 News that the snakes and rats were intolerable – and fear of losing Internet connection was even worse.

The biggest challenge was lack of human contact.

He said: ‘Telecommuting really works but doing everything virtually has its limits. Working from distance might be doable, but nothing can replace human contact.’

Voir par ailleurs:

Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security

Hope Yen

Jul. 28, 2013

ECONOMIC INSECURITY

Chart shows cumulative economic insecurity by age; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."

"I think it’s going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

"If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

"It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.

___

Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

"Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."

Rank’s analysis is supplemented with figures provided by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.

Among the findings:

—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households who were living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.

—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teen pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, up from 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped sharply, from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children ticked higher, from 38 to 39 percent.

___

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential "decisive swing voter group" if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections.

"They don’t trust big government, but it doesn’t mean they want no government," says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. "They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them."

___

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

Voir aussi:

Report: U.S. Spent $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years

Dutch King: Say Goodbye to Welfare State

AMSTERDAM September 17, 2013 (AP)

Toby Sterling Associated Press

King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government Tuesday in a nationally televised address: the welfare state of the 20th century is gone.

In its place a "participation society" is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government.

The king traveled past waving fans in an ornate horse-drawn carriage to the 13th-century Hall of Knights in The Hague for the monarch’s traditional annual address on the day the government presents its budget for the coming year. It was Willem-Alexander’s first appearance on the national stage since former Queen Beatrix abdicated in April and he ascended to the throne.

"The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care," the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.

"The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form."

Rutte may be hoping that the pomp and ceremony surrounding the king and his popular wife, Queen Maxima, will provide a diversion from the gloomy reality of a budget full of unpopular new spending cuts he revealed later in the day.

A series of recent polls have shown that confidence in Rutte’s government is at record low levels, and that most Dutch people — along with labor unions, employers’ associations and many economists — believe the Cabinet’s austerity policies are at least partially to blame as the Dutch economy has worsened even as recoveries are underway in neighboring Germany, France and Britain.

After several consecutive years of government spending cuts, the Dutch economy is expected to have shrunk by more than 1 percent in 2013, and the agency is forecasting growth of just 0.5 percent next year.

"The necessary reforms take time and demand perseverance," the king said. But they will "lay the basis for creating jobs and restoring confidence."

Willem-Alexander said that nowadays, people expect and "want to make their own choices, to arrange their own lives, and take care of each other."

The ‘participation society’ has been on its way for some time: benefits such as unemployment compensation and subsidies on health care have been regularly pruned for the past decade. The retirement age has been raised to 67.

The king said Tuesday some costs for the care of the elderly, for youth services, and for job retraining after layoffs will now be pushed back to the local level, in order to make them better tailored to local circumstances.

The monarchy was not immune to cost-cutting and Willem-Alexander’s salary will be cut from around 825,000 euros ($1.1 million) this year to 817,000 euros in 2014. Maintaining the Royal House — castles, parades and all — costs the government around 40 million euros annually.

A review of the government’s budget by the country’s independent analysis agency showed that the deficit will widen in 2014 to 3.3 percent of GDP despite the new spending cuts intended to reduce it.

Eurozone rules specify that countries must keep their deficit below 3 percent, and Rutte has been among the most prominent of European leaders, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel, in insisting that Southern European countries attempt to meet that target.

Among other measures, the government announced 2,300 new military job cuts. That follows a 2011 decision to cut 12,000 jobs — one out of every six defense employees — between 2012 and 2015.

However, the government said Tuesday it has decided once and for all not to abandon the U.S.-led "Joint Strike Fighter" program to develop new military aircraft. The program has suffered cost overruns and created divisions within Rutte’s governing coalition.

A debate over the budget later this week will be crucial for the future of the coalition, as it does not command a majority in the upper house, and it must seek help from opposition parties to have the budget approved.

Challenged as to whether his Cabinet may be facing a crisis, Rutte insisted in an interview with national broadcaster NOS on Tuesday that he ultimately will find support for the budget.

"At crucial moments, the opposition is willing to do its share," he said.

Geert Wilders, whose far right Freedom Party currently tops popularity polls, called Rutte’s budget the equivalent of "kicking the country while it’s down."

——–

History suggests that era of entitlements is nearly over

Michael Barone

The Examiner

January 11, 2013

It’s often good fun and sometimes revealing to divide American history into distinct periods of uniform length. In working on my forthcoming book on American migrations, internal and immigrant, it occurred to me that you could do this using the American-sounding interval of 76 years, just a few years more than the biblical lifespan of three score and ten.

It was 76 years from Washington’s First Inaugural in 1789 to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in 1865. It was 76 years from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Going backward, it was 76 years from the First Inaugural in 1789 to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which settled one of the British-French colonial wars. And going 76 years back from Utrecht takes you to 1637, when the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies were just getting organized.

As for our times, we are now 71 years away from Pearl Harbor. The current 76-year interval ends in December 2017.

Each of these 76-year periods can be depicted as a distinct unit. In the Colonial years up to 1713, very small numbers of colonists established separate cultures that have persisted to our times.

The story is brilliantly told in David Hackett Fischer’s "Albion’s Seed." For a more downbeat version, read the recent "The Barbarous Years" by the nonagenarian Bernard Bailyn.

From 1713 to 1789, the Colonies were peopled by much larger numbers of motley and often involuntary settlers — slaves, indentured servants, the unruly Scots-Irish on the Appalachian frontier.

For how this society became dissatisfied with the Colonial status quo, read Bailyn’s "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution."

From 1789 to 1865, Americans sought their manifest destiny by expanding across the continent. They made great technological advances but were faced with the irreconcilable issue of slavery in the territories.

For dueling accounts of the period, read the pro-Andrew Jackson Democrat Sean Wilentz’s "The Rise of American Democracy" and the pro-Henry Clay Whig Daniel Walker Howe’s "What Hath God Wrought." Both are sparklingly written and full of offbeat insights and brilliant apercus.

The 1865-to-1941 period saw a vast efflorescence of market capitalism, European immigration and rising standards of living. For descriptions of how economic change reshaped the nation and its government, read Morton Keller’s "Affairs of State" and "Regulating a New Society."

The 70-plus years since 1941 have seen a vast increase in the welfare safety net and governance by cooperation among big units — big government, big business, big labor — that began in the New Deal and gained steam in and after World War II. I immodestly offer my own "Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan."

The original arrangements in each 76-year period became unworkable and unraveled toward its end. Eighteenth-century Americans rejected the Colonial status quo and launched a revolution, then established a constitutional republic.

Nineteenth-century Americans went to war over expansion of slavery. Early-20th-century Americans grappled with the collapse of the private-sector economy in the Depression of the 1930s.

We are seeing something like this again today. The welfare state arrangements that once seemed solid are on the path to unsustainability.

Entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — are threatening to gobble up the whole government and much of the private sector, as well.

Lifetime employment by one big company represented by one big union is a thing of the past. People who counted on corporate or public-sector pensions are seeing them default.

Looking back, we are as far away in time today from victory in World War II in 1945 as Americans were at the time of the Dred Scott decision from the First Inaugural.

We are as far away in time today from passage of the Social Security in 1935 as Americans then were from the launching of post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Nevertheless our current president and most politicians of his party seem determined to continue the current welfare state arrangements — historian Walter Russell Mead calls this the blue-state model — into the indefinite future.

Some leaders of the other party are advancing ideas for adapting a system that worked reasonably well in an industrial age dominated by seemingly eternal big units into something that can prove workable in an information age experiencing continual change and upheaval wrought by innovations in the market economy.

The current 76-year period is nearing its end. What will come next?

Michael Barone,The Examiner’s senior political analyst, can be contacted at mbarone@washingtonexaminer.com

———-

America’s Fourth Revolution: The Coming Collapse of the Entitlement Society-and How We Will Survive It

James Piereson

The United States has been shaped by three far-reaching political revolutions: Jefferson’s “revolution of 1800,” the Civil War, and the New Deal. Each of these upheavals concluded with lasting institutional and cultural adjustments that set the stage for new phases of political and economic development. Are we on the verge of a new upheaval, a “fourth revolution” that will reshape U.S. politics for decades to come? There are signs to suggest that we are.

America’s Fourth Revolution describes the political upheaval that will overtake the United States over the next decade as a consequence of economic stagnation, the growth of government, and the exhaustion of post-war arrangements that formerly underpinned American prosperity and power. The inter-connected challenges of public debt, the retirement of the "baby boom" generation, and slow economic growth have reached a point where they can no longer be addressed by incremental adjustments in taxes and spending, but will require profound changes in the role of government in American life. At the same time, the widening gulf between the two political parties and the entrenched power of interest groups will make it difficult to negotiate the changes needed to renew the system.

America’s Fourth Revolution places this impending upheaval in historical context by reminding readers that Americans have faced and overcome similar challenges in the past and that they seem to resolve their deepest problems in relatively brief but intense periods of political conflict. In contrast to other books which claim that the United States is in decline, America’s Fourth Revolution argues that Americans will struggle over the next decade to form a governing coalition that will guide the nation on a path of renewed dynamism and prosperity.

Voir enfin:

L’enfer c’est les autres

1964 et 1970

L’existentialisme athée

par Jean-Paul Sartre

Extrait du CD « Huis clos » et de « L’Existentialisme est un humanisme »

* * *

L’enfer, c’est les autres [1]

Quand on écrit une pièce, il y a toujours des causes occasionnelles et des soucis profonds. La cause occasionnelle c’est que, au moment où j’ai écrit Huis clos, vers 1943 et début 44, j’avais trois amis et je voulais qu’ils jouent une pièce, une pièce de moi, sans avantager aucun d’eux. C’est-à-dire, je voulais qu’ils restent ensemble tout le temps sur la scène. Parce que je me disais que s’il y en a un qui s’en va, il pensera que les autres ont un meilleur rôle au moment où il s’en va. Je voulais donc les garder ensemble. Et je me suis dit, comment peut-on mettre ensemble trois personnes sans jamais en faire sortir l’une d’elles et les garder sur la scène jusqu’au bout, comme pour l’éternité. C’est là que m’est venue l’idée de les mettre en enfer et de les faire chacun le bourreau des deux autres. Telle est la cause occasionnelle. Par la suite, d’ailleurs, je dois dire, ces trois amis n’ont pas joué la pièce, et comme vous le savez, c’est Michel Vitold, Tania Balachova et Gaby Sylvia qui l’ont jouée.

Mais il y avait à ce moment-là des soucis plus généraux et j’ai voulu exprimer autre chose dans la pièce que, simplement, ce que l’occasion me donnait. J’ai voulu dire « l’enfer c’est les autres ». Mais « l’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous.

Deuxième chose que je voudrais dire, c’est que ces gens ne sont pas semblables à nous. Les trois personnes que vous entendrez dans Huis clos ne nous ressemblent pas en ceci que nous sommes tous vivants et qu’ils sont morts. Bien entendu, ici, « morts » symbolise quelque chose. Ce que j’ai voulu indiquer, c’est précisément que beaucoup de gens sont encroûtés dans une série d’habitudes, de coutumes, qu’ils ont sur eux des jugements dont ils souffrent mais qu’ils ne cherchent même pas à changer. Et que ces gens-là sont comme morts, en ce sens qu’ils ne peuvent pas briser le cadre de leurs soucis, de leurs préoccupations et de leurs coutumes et qu’ils restent ainsi victimes souvent des jugements que l’on a portés sur eux.

À partir de là, il est bien évident qu’ils sont lâches ou méchants. Par exemple, s’ils ont commencé à être lâches, rien ne vient changer le fait qu’ils étaient lâches. C’est pour cela qu’ils sont morts, c’est pour cela, c’est une manière de dire que c’est une « mort vivante » que d’être entouré par le souci perpétuel de jugements et d’actions que l’on ne veut pas changer.

De sorte que, en vérité, comme nous sommes vivants, j’ai voulu montrer, par l’absurde, l’importance, chez nous, de la liberté, c’est-à-dire l’importance de changer les actes par d’autres actes. Quel que soit le cercle d’enfer dans lequel nous vivons, je pense que nous sommes libres de le briser. Et si les gens ne le brisent pas, c’est encore librement qu’ils y restent. De sorte qu’ils se mettent librement en enfer.

Vous voyez donc que « rapport avec les autres », « encroûtement » et « liberté », liberté comme l’autre face à peine suggérée, ce sont les trois thèmes de la pièce.

Je voudrais qu’on se le rappelle quand vous entendrez dire… « L’enfer c’est les autres ».

Je tiens à ajouter, en terminant, qu’il m’est arrivé en 1944, à la première représentation, un très rare bonheur, très rare pour les auteurs dramatiques : c’est que les personnages ont été incarnés de telle manière par les trois acteurs, et aussi par Chauffard, le valet d’enfer, qui l’a toujours jouée depuis, que je ne puis plus me représenter mes propres imaginations autrement que sous les traits de Michel Vitold, Gaby Sylvia, de Tania Balachova et de Chauffard. Depuis, la pièce a été rejouée par d’autres acteurs, et je tiens en particulier à dire que j’ai vu Christiane Lenier, quand elle l’a jouée, et que j’ai admiré quelle excellente Inès elle a été.

L’existence précède l’essence [2]

Est-ce qu’au fond, ce qui fait peur, dans la doctrine que je vais essayer de vous exposer, ce n’est pas le fait qu’elle laisse une possibilité de choix à l’homme ? Pour le savoir, il faut que nous revoyions la question sur un plan strictement philosophique.

Qu’est-ce qu’on appelle existentialisme ? La plupart des gens qui utilisent ce mot seraient bien embarrassés pour le justifier, puisque aujourd’hui [1945], que c’est devenu une mode, on déclare volontiers qu’un musicien ou qu’un peintre est existentialiste. Un échotier de Clartés signe l’Existentialiste ; et au fond le mot a pris aujourd’hui une telle largeur et une telle extension qu’il ne signifie plus rien du tout. Il semble que, faute de doctrine d’avant-garde analogue au surréalisme, les gens avides de scandale et de mouvement s’adressent à cette philosophie, qui ne peut d’ailleurs rien leur apporter dans ce domaine ; en réalité c’est la doctrine la moins scandaleuse, la plus austère ; elle est strictement destinée aux techniciens et aux philosophes. Pourtant, elle peut se définir facilement. Ce qui rend les choses compliquées, c’est qu’il y a deux espèces d’existentialistes : les premiers, qui sont chrétiens, et parmi lesquels je rangerai Jaspers et Gabriel Marcel, de confession catholique ; et, d’autre part, les existentialistes athées parmi lesquels il faut ranger Heidegger, et aussi les existentialistes français et moi-même. Ce qu’ils ont en commun, c’est simplement le fait qu’ils estiment que l’existence précède l’essence, ou, si vous voulez, qu’il faut partir de la subjectivité. Que faut-il au juste entendre par là ? Lorsqu’on considère un objet fabriqué, comme par exemple un livre ou un coupe-papier, cet objet a été fabriqué par un artisan qui s’est inspiré d’un concept ; il s’est référé au concept de coupe-papier, et également à une technique de production préalable qui fait partie du concept, et qui est au fond une recette. Ainsi, le coupe-papier est à la fois un objet qui se produit d’une certaine manière et qui, d’autre part, a une utilité définie, et on ne peut pas supposer un homme qui produirait un coupe-papier sans savoir à quoi l’objet va servir. Nous dirons donc que, pour le coupe-papier, l’essence — c’est-à-dire l’ensemble des recettes et des qualités qui permettent de le produire et de le définir — précède l’existence ; et ainsi la présence, en face de moi, de tel coupe-papier ou de tel livre est déterminée. Nous avons donc là une vision technique du monde, dans laquelle on peut dire que la production précède l’existence.

Lorsque nous concevons un Dieu créateur, ce Dieu est assimilé la plupart du temps à un artisan supérieur ; et quelle que soit la doctrine que nous considérions, qu’il s’agisse d’une doctrine comme celle de Descartes ou de la doctrine de Leibniz, nous admettons toujours que la volonté suit plus ou moins l’entendement, ou tout au moins l’accompagne, et que Dieu, lorsqu’il crée, sait précisément ce qu’il crée. Ainsi, le concept d’homme, dans l’esprit de Dieu, est assimilable au concept de coupe-papier dans l’esprit de l’industriel ; et Dieu produit l’homme suivant des techniques et une conception, exactement comme l’artisan fabrique un coupe-papier suivant une définition et une technique. Ainsi l’homme individuel réalise un certain concept qui est dans l’entendement divin. Au XVIIIe siècle, dans l’athéisme des philosophes, la notion de Dieu est supprimée, mais non pas pour autant l’idée que l’essence précède l’existence. Cette idée, nous la retrouvons un peu partout : nous la retrouvons chez Diderot, chez Voltaire, et même chez Kant. L’homme est possesseur d’une nature humaine ; cette nature humaine, qui est le concept humain, se retrouve chez tous les hommes, ce qui signifie que chaque homme est un exemple particulier d’un concept universel, l’homme ; chez Kant, il résulte de cette universalité que l’homme des bois, l’homme de la nature, comme le bourgeois sont astreints à la même définition et possèdent les mêmes qualités de base. Ainsi, là encore, l’essence d’homme précède cette existence historique que nous rencontrons dans la nature.

L’existentialisme athée, que je représente, est plus cohérent. Il déclare que si Dieu n’existe pas, il y a au moins un être chez qui l’existence précède l’essence, un être qui existe avant de pouvoir être défini par aucun concept et que cet être c’est l’homme ou, comme dit Heidegger, la réalité humaine. Qu’est-ce que signifie ici que l’existence précède l’essence ? Cela signifie que l’homme existe d’abord, se rencontre, surgit dans le monde, et qu’il se définit après.

L’homme, tel que le conçoit l’existentialiste, s’il n’est pas définissable, c’est qu’il n’est d’abord rien. Il ne sera qu’ensuite, et il sera tel qu’il se sera fait. Ainsi, il n’y a pas de nature humaine, puisqu’il n’y a pas de Dieu pour la concevoir. L’homme est seulement, non seulement tel qu’il se conçoit, mais tel qu’il se veut, et comme il se conçoit après l’existence, comme il se veut après cet élan vers l’existence ; l’homme n’est rien d’autre que ce qu’il se fait. Tel est le premier principe de l’existentialisme.

C’est aussi ce qu’on appelle la subjectivité, et que l’on nous reproche sous ce nom même. Mais que voulons-nous dire par là, sinon que l’homme a une plus grande dignité que la pierre ou que la table ? Car nous voulons dire que l’homme existe d’abord, c’est-à-dire que l’homme est d’abord ce qui se jette vers un avenir, et ce qui est conscient de se projeter dans l’avenir. L’homme est d’abord un projet qui se vit subjectivement, au lieu d’être une mousse, une pourriture ou un chou-fleur ; rien n’existe préalablement à ce projet ; rien n’est au ciel intelligible, et l’homme sera d’abord ce qu’il aura projeté d’être. Non pas ce qu’il voudra être. Car ce que nous entendons ordinairement par vouloir, c’est une décision consciente, et qui est pour la plupart d’entre nous postérieure à ce qu’il s’est fait lui-même. Je peux vouloir adhérer à un parti, écrire un livre, me marier, tout cela n’est qu’une manifestation d’un choix plus originel, plus spontané que ce qu’on appelle volonté. Mais si vraiment l’existence précède l’essence, l’homme est responsable de ce qu’il est. Ainsi, la première démarche de l’existentialisme est de mettre tout homme en possession de ce qu’il est et de faire reposer sur lui la responsabilité totale de son existence.

Ma volonté engage l’humanité entière [3]

Ainsi, notre responsabilité est beaucoup plus grande que nous ne pourrions le supposer, car elle engage l’humanité entière. Si je suis ouvrier, et si je choisis d’adhérer à un syndicat chrétien plutôt que d’être communiste, si, par cette adhésion, je veux indiquer que la résignation est au fond la solution qui convient à l’homme, que le royaume de l’homme n’est pas sur la terre, je n’engage pas seulement mon cas : je veux être résigné pour tous, par conséquent ma démarche a engagé l’humanité tout entière. Et si je veux, fait plus individuel, me marier, avoir des enfants, même si ce mariage dépend uniquement de ma situation, ou de ma passion, ou de mon désir, par là j’engage non seulement moi-même, mais l’humanité tout entière sur la voie de la monogamie. Ainsi je suis responsable pour moi-même et pour tous, et je crée une certaine image de l’homme que je choisis ; en me choisissant, je choisis l’homme.

L’angoisse et la mauvaise foi [4]

Ceci nous permet de comprendre ce que recouvrent des mots un peu grandiloquents comme angoisse, délaissement, désespoir. Comme vous allez voir, c’est extrêmement simple. D’abord, qu’entend-on par angoisse ? L’existentialiste déclare volontiers que l’homme est angoisse. Cela signifie ceci : l’homme qui s’engage et qui se rend compte qu’il est non seulement celui qu’il choisit d’être, mais encore un législateur choisissant en même temps que soi l’humanité entière, ne saurait échapper au sentiment de sa totale et profonde responsabilité. Certes, beaucoup de gens ne sont pas anxieux ; mais nous prétendons qu’ils se masquent leur angoisse, qu’ils la fuient ; certainement, beaucoup de gens croient en agissant n’engager qu’eux-mêmes, et lorsqu’on leur dit : « mais si tout le monde faisait comme ça ? » ils haussent les épaules et répondent : « tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça. » Mais en vérité, on doit toujours se demander : qu’arriverait-il si tout le monde en faisait autant ? Et on n’échappe à cette pensée inquiétante que par une sorte de mauvaise foi. Celui qui ment et qui s’excuse en déclarant : tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça, est quelqu’un qui est mal à l’aise avec sa conscience, car le fait de mentir implique une valeur universelle attribuée au mensonge. Même lorsqu’elle se masque l’angoisse apparaît. C’est cette angoisse que Kierkegaard appelait l’angoisse d’Abraham.

Vous connaissez l’histoire : Un ange a ordonné à Abraham de sacrifier son fils : tout va bien si c’est vraiment un ange qui est venu et qui a dit : tu es Abraham, tu sacrifieras ton fils. Mais chacun peut se demander, d’abord, est-ce que c’est bien un ange, et est-ce que je suis bien Abraham ? Qu’est-ce qui me le prouve ? Il y avait une folle qui avait des hallucinations : on lui parlait par téléphone et on lui donnait des ordres. Le médecin lui demanda : « Mais qui est-ce qui vous parle ? » Elle répondit : « Il dit que c’est Dieu. » Et qu’est-ce qui lui prouvait, en effet, que c’était Dieu ? Si un ange vient à moi, qu’est-ce qui prouve que c’est un ange ? Et si j’entends des voix, qu’est-ce qui prouve qu’elles viennent du ciel et non de l’enfer, ou d’un subconscient, ou d’un état pathologique ? Qui prouve qu’elles s’adressent à moi ? Qui prouve que je suis bien désigné pour imposer ma conception de l’homme et mon choix à l’humanité ? Je ne trouverai jamais aucune preuve, aucun signe pour m’en convaincre. Si une voix s’adresse à moi, c’est toujours moi qui déciderai que cette voix est la voix de l’ange ; si je considère que tel acte est bon, c’est moi qui choisirai de dire que cet acte est bon plutôt que mauvais. Rien ne me désigne pour être Abraham, et pourtant je suis obligé à chaque instant de faire des actes exemplaires. Tout se passe comme si, pour tout homme, toute l’humanité avait les yeux fixés sur ce qu’il fait et se réglait sur ce qu’il fait. Et chaque homme doit se dire : suis-je bien celui qui a le droit d’agir de telle sorte que l’humanité se règle sur mes actes ? Et s’il ne se dit pas cela, c’est qu’il se masque l’angoisse. Il ne s’agit pas là d’une angoisse qui conduirait au quiétisme, à l’inaction. Il s’agit d’une angoisse simple, que tous ceux qui ont eu des responsabilités connaissent. Lorsque, par exemple, un chef militaire prend la responsabilité d’une attaque et envoie un certain nombre d’hommes à la mort, il choisit de le faire, et au fond il choisit seul. Sans doute il y a des ordres qui viennent d’en haut, mais ils sont trop larges et une interprétation s’impose, qui vient de lui, et de cette interprétation dépend la vie de dix ou quatorze ou vingt hommes. Il ne peut pas ne pas avoir, dans la décision qu’il prend, une certaine angoisse.

Tous les chefs connaissent cette angoisse. Cela ne les empêche pas d’agir, au contraire, c’est la condition même de leur action ; car cela suppose qu’ils envisagent une pluralité de possibilités, et lorsqu’ils en choisissent une, ils se rendent compte qu’elle n’a de valeur que parce qu’elle est choisie. Et cette sorte d’angoisse, qui est celle que décrit l’existentialisme, nous verrons qu’elle s’explique en outre par une responsabilité directe vis-à-vis des autres hommes qu’elle engage. Elle n’est pas un rideau qui nous séparerait de l’action, mais elle fait partie de l’action même.

L’homme est condamné à être libre [5]

Et lorsqu’on parle de délaissement, expression chère à Heidegger, nous voulons dire seulement que Dieu n’existe pas, et qu’il faut en tirer jusqu’au bout les conséquences. L’existentialiste est très opposé à un certain type de morale laïque qui voudrait supprimer Dieu avec le moins de frais possible.

Lorsque, vers 1880, des professeurs français essayèrent de constituer une morale laïque, ils dirent à peu près ceci : Dieu est une hypothèse inutile et coûteuse, nous la supprimons, mais il est nécessaire cependant, pour qu’il y ait une morale, une société, un monde policé, que certaines valeurs soient prises au sérieux et considérées comme existant a priori ; il faut qu’il soit obligatoire a priori d’être honnête, de ne pas mentir, de ne pas battre sa femme, de faire des enfants, etc., etc.. Nous allons donc faire un petit travail qui permettra de montrer que ces valeurs existent tout de même, inscrites dans un ciel intelligible, bien que, par ailleurs, Dieu n’existe pas. Autrement dit, et c’est, je crois, la tendance de tout ce qu’on appelle en France le radicalisme, rien ne sera changé si Dieu n’existe pas ; nous retrouverons les mêmes normes d’honnêteté, de progrès, d’humanisme, et nous aurons fait de Dieu une hypothèse périmée qui mourra tranquillement et d’elle-même.

L’existentialiste, au contraire, pense qu’il est très gênant que Dieu n’existe pas, car avec lui disparaît toute possibilité de trouver des valeurs dans un ciel intelligible ; il ne peut plus y avoir de bien a priori, puisqu’il n’y a pas de conscience infinie et parfaite pour le penser ; il n’est écrit nulle part que le bien existe, qu’il faut être honnête, qu’il ne faut pas mentir, puisque précisément nous sommes sur un plan où il y a seulement des hommes. Dostoïevsky avait écrit : « Si Dieu n’existait pas, tout serait permis. » C’est là le point de départ de l’existentialisme. En effet, tout est permis si Dieu n’existe pas, et par conséquent l’homme est délaissé, parce qu’il ne trouve ni en lui, ni hors de lui une possibilité de s’accrocher. Il ne trouve d’abord pas d’excuses. Si, en effet, l’existence précède l’essence, on ne pourra jamais expliquer par référence à une nature humaine donnée et figée ; autrement dit, il n’y a pas de déterminisme, l’homme est libre, l’homme est liberté. Si, d’autre part, Dieu n’existe pas, nous ne trouvons pas en face de nous des valeurs ou des ordres qui légitimeront notre conduite. Ainsi, nous n’avons ni derrière nous, ni devant nous, dans le domaine lumineux des valeurs, des justifications ou des excuses. Nous sommes seuls, sans excuses. C’est ce que j’exprimerai en disant que l’homme est condamné à être libre. Condamné, parce qu’il ne s’est pas créé lui-même, et par ailleurs cependant libre, parce qu’une fois jeté dans le monde, il est responsable de tout ce qu’il fait.

L’existentialiste ne croit pas à la puissance de la passion. Il ne pensera jamais qu’une belle passion est un torrent dévastateur qui conduit fatalement l’homme à certains actes, et qui, par conséquent, est une excuse. Il pense que l’homme est responsable de sa passion. L’existentialiste ne pensera pas non plus que l’homme peut trouver un secours dans un signe donné, sur terre, qui l’orientera ; car il pense que l’homme déchiffre lui-même le signe comme il lui plaît. Il pense donc que l’homme, sans aucun appui et sans aucun secours, est condamné à chaque instant à inventer l’homme.

Le désespoir [6]

Quant au désespoir, cette expression a un sens extrêmement simple. Elle veut dire que nous nous bornerons à compter sur ce qui dépend de notre volonté, ou sur l’ensemble des probabilités qui rendent notre action possible.

Quand on veut quelque chose, il y a toujours des éléments probables. Je puis compter sur la venue d’un ami. Cet ami vient en chemin de fer ou en tramway ; cela suppose que le chemin de fer arrivera à l’heure dite, ou que le tramway ne déraillera pas. Je reste dans le domaine des possibilités ; mais il ne s’agit de compter sur les possibles que dans la mesure stricte où notre action comporte l’ensemble de ces possibles. À partir du moment où les possibilités que je considère ne sont pas rigoureusement engagées par mon action, je dois m’en désintéresser, parce qu’aucun Dieu, aucun dessein ne peut adapter le monde et ses possibles à ma volonté. Au fond, quand Descartes disait : « Se vaincre plutôt soi-même que le monde », il voulait dire la même chose : agir sans espoir.

[1] Extrait audio et texte de Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis clos, Groupe Frémeaux Colombini SAS © 2010 (La Librairie Sonore en accord avec Moshé Naïm Emen © 1964 et Gallimard © 2004, ancien exploitant).

[2] Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, Éditions Nagel © 1970, pages 15 à 24.

Extrait audio de Luc Ferry, Mythologie, Frémeaux & Associés © 2010, CD2-[8], L’invention de la liberté, 0:07 à 3:34.

[3] Ibid. pages 26 et 27.

[4] Ibid. pages 27 à 33.

[5] Ibid. pages 33 à 38.

[6] Ibid. pages 49 à 51.

Philo5…

… à quelle source choisissez-vous d’alimenter votre esprit?


Cinéma: Le Majordome ou la subversion par le service (The Butler: when subservience becomes subversive)

23 octobre, 2013
http://www.awardsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/06/butlerwindow-1370279347.jpgQuiconque veut être grand parmi vous, qu’il soit votre serviteur; et quiconque veut être le premier parmi vous, qu’il soit votre esclave. C’est ainsi que le Fils de l’homme est venu, non pour être servi, mais pour servir et donner sa vie comme la rançon de plusieurs. Jésus (Matthieu 20: 26-28)
il n’y a pas de travail insignifiant. Tout travail qui aide l’humanité a de la dignité et de l’importance. Il doit donc être entrepris avec une perfection qui ne recule pas devant la peine. Celui qui est appelé à être balayeur de rues doit balayer comme Michel-Ange peignait ou comme Beethoven composait, ou comme Shakespeare écrivait. Il doit balayer les rues si parfaitement que les hôtes des cieux et de la terre s’arrêteront pour dire : "Ici vécut un grand balayeur de rues qui fit bien son travail. Martin Luther King
Le domestique noir défie les stéréotypes raciaux en étant assidu et digne de confiance… bien que serviles, ils sont subversifs sans même le savoir. Martin Luther King Jr.
Le grand ennemi de la vérité n’est très souvent pas le mensonge – délibéré, artificiel et malhonnête – mais le mythe – persistant, persuasif et irréaliste. John Kennedy
Il n’aura même pas eu la satisfaction d’être tué pour les droits civiques. Il a fallu que ce soit un imbécile de petit communiste. Cela prive même sa mort de toute signification. Jackie Kennedy
It was people like Eugene and Helene Allen who helped build the black middle class in this country. And that is a big reason why I took this role. Oprah Winfrey
Ce qui était exceptionnel, c’était de faire un film sur une famille afro-américaine. Il y en a eu très peu. Je me souviens de Diahann Carroll dans Claudine (de John Berry) ou de Cicely Tyson dans Sounder (de Martin Ritt). Le reste, c’est mon histoire, c’est notre parcours . Lee Daniels
Devinez lequel des deux a grandi dans une Virginie sous le coup de la ségrégation, a pris un travail à la Maison-Blanche et est monté jusqu’au titre de maître d’hôtel, la plus haute position dans le service dédié à la Maison-Blanche? Devinez lequel menait une vie heureuse et paisible, et a été marié à la même femme pendant 65 ans? Et lequel avait un fils qui a honorablement servi au Vietnam et n’a jamais émis la moindre protestation durant l’ère pré- et post- droits civiques? Maintenant, devinez quel majordome a grandi dans une ferme de Géorgie, a vu son patron violer sa mère, puis son père s’élever contre ce viol, puis se faire tirer une balle dans la tête en réponse? Devinez quel majordome ressent si profondément la peine des injustices raciales de l’Amérique qu’il quitte son travail à la Maison-Blanche et rejoint son fils dans un mouvement de protestation? (…) La position de mon père sur la levée des sanctions sud-africaines dans les années 80 n’avait rien à voir avec la question strictement raciale. Il avait à faire avec la géopolitique de la guerre froide. Les faits n’ont pas d’importance pour les propagandistes créatifs de Hollywood. La vérité est trop compliquée et pas assez dramatique au goût des scénaristes, qui pensent en terme de minute, pas de contexte, quand il s’agit d’un conservateur. Contrairement à ce que les libéraux de Hollywood pensent, mon père ne voyait pas les gens en couleurs. Il les voyait en tant qu’individus américains. Michael Reagan
Les petits garçons et les petites filles américains s’assiéront ensemble dans n’importe quelle école – publique ou privée – sans aucune distinction de couleur. La ségrégation, la discrimination et le racisme n’ont pas leur place en Amérique. Vice President Richard Nixon (Campagne Eisenhower, octobre 1956)
No one should ever deny the senseless tragedies that dogged the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, including the murders of Emmett Till in 1955, of Medgar Evers in 1963, of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 1964, and of course, of Martin Luther King in 1968. But by 1986, the United States was a different place. The Butler’s negative reimagination comes at a real social cost. Watching the movie, the viewer comes away thinking that the civil rights movement has largely failed. But the actual record is more upbeat. It is unfortunate that Daniels did not start The Butler during the Truman years. In 1948, Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. armed forces by executive order. That action would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the Second World War, given the dominant southern presence in the military. Hence, the United States had the dubious distinction of fighting Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan with segregated armed forces. Perhaps an executive order is not cinematic stuff. But the same cannot be said of baseball’s racial integration in 1947, when a determined Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson up from a farm team in Montreal to the Brooklyn Dodgers. That story was the subject of 1950 movie and the more recent film 42 released this year. This transformative event was done, not through legislation, but voluntarily by one courageous man who took the risk that a major backlash might follow. Change was happening at the state level as well. In 1947, New Jersey abolished segregation by a state constitutional amendment. When these changes are executed voluntarily, they are less likely to face the massive resistance that followed the Supreme Court’s decision on racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in June 1954 and itself the culmination of a long campaign that first chopped away at segregation in railroad transportation and law school education. In time, of course, the cultural clash crystallized in the highly confrontational sit-ins that occupy much of the screen time in The Butler. It is these cases that led to the passage of Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with access of all persons to public accommodations. Its basic command reads that all persons are entitled to ”the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. Richard A. Epstein
Pourquoi les Démocrates feraient-ils l’impasse sur leur propre histoire entre 1848 et 1900 ? Peut-être parce que ce n’est pas le genre d’histoire des droits civiques dont ils veulent parler – peut-être parce que ce n’est pas le genre d’histoire de droits civiques qu’ils veulent avoir sur leur site Web. David Barton
How likely is it that the chief White House butler not only witnessed his mother raped and his father murdered by a plantation owner’s racist son but also had an intermittently estranged son of his own who became, first, one of the Fisk University student heroes of the Nashville lunch-counter sit-ins; second, one of the original Freedom Riders; third, so close an aide to King that he was in the Memphis motel room with Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson when King was assassinated; fourth, a beret-wearing Black Panther in Oakland; fifth, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress; sixth, a leader of the South Africa divestment movement; and, seventh, a successful candidate for Congress? Hendrik Hertzberg
The Butler is fiction, although its audience may assume otherwise. Those cagey words “inspired by a true story” can be deceptive. The script was triggered by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election.” Published after Obama’s landmark victory, and later spun into a book, it unearthed the story of former White House butler Eugene Allen, who served American presidents for 34 years. But screenwriter Danny Strong (HBO’s Game Change) has created a fictional butler named Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), whose life mirrors the drama of the civil rights movement with cut-glass symmetry. Straining to serve an overcharged agenda, The Butler is a broadly entertaining, bluntly inspirational history lesson wrapped around a family saga that gives new resonance to the term “domestic drama.” Director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) is not known for subtlety, and this movie is no exception. But at the heart of its sprawling narrative, he has corralled some fine performances. Whitaker navigates gracefully between his public and private personae—White House butlers he says, have two faces: their own “and the ones we got to show the white man.” As Cecil stoically weathers the upheavals of history, and his splintered family, we can feel him being gradually crushed under the weight of his own quiet dignity, yet mustering shy increments of resistance over the decades. Between his role as a virtually mute servant/sage in the White House and a beleaguered patriarch trying to hold together his middle-class family, this a character with a lot on his plate. The story’s long march begins with Cecil’s boyhood on a cotton plantation in the South in 1926, where he sees his father shot dead in a field for looking the wrong way at a white man. Cecil is adopted by a thin-lipped matriarch who tells him, “I’m going to teach you how to be a house nigger.” Which sounds strange coming from the mouth of Vanessa Redgrave. The term “house nigger,” and the n-word in general, recurs again and again, shocking us each time, and never letting us forget that there’s no higher house than the White House. A model of shrewd obedience, Cecil learns to make the perfect martini, to be invisible in a room, and to overhear affairs of estate in stony silence—unless asked for his opinion, which he’ll pretend to offer with a wry, Delphic diplomacy that makes the questioner feel validated. The script goes out of its way to ennoble Cecil’s work, plucking a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. —”the black domestic defies racial stereotyping by being hardworking and trustworthy … though subservient, they are subversive without even knowing it.” The Uncle Tom issue is front and centre, especially in Cecil’s feud with his radicalized son Louis (David Oyelowo), who rejects his father as a race traitor. The conflict comes to a head amid a family debate about the merits of Sidney Poitier, a legendary actor brashly dismissed by Louis as “a white man’s fantasy of what he wants us to be.” The fondly nostalgic references to In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But it’s a lovely scene, mixing rancour and wit and a deft touch. Although this is a movie on a mission, it does have a sense of humour. When Cecil’s eldest son, shows up to dinner in his Black Panther beret and black leather, with a girlfriend sporting a vast Angela Davis Afro, it’s pure caricature as Daniels presents a whole other take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, played as both drama and farce. Brian D. Johnson
The film opens with young Cecil in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s, working in a cotton field alongside his father. His mother (Mariah Carey) is raped by a white plantation overseer, Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer), loud enough for everyone to hear. When Westfall returns, Cecil’s father shows his anger, and Westfall shoots him dead in front of Cecil and the other plantation workers. The plantation matriarch (Vanessa Redgrave) then decides that Cecil should leave the fields to become a “house nigger” and learn to serve her family. Those appear to be the inventions of screenplay writer Danny Strong; they are never mentioned in Haygood’s piece.Eugene Allen was born in 1919, and, like Cecil, he grew up on a plantation (in Virginia, not Georgia). He, too, became a “house boy” for a white family. When he spoke to Haygood about his childhood, “There was nary a hint of bitterness in his voice about his upbringing.” Allen left the plantation in hopes of finding better work, as Cecil does—but unlike his fictional counterpart, he never broke into a hotel restaurant to steal food. (He did, however, land a job at a Virginia hotel as a waiter, as Cecil ultimately does in North Carolina.) Allen learned of a job at a country club in Washington, D.C., a fact that aligns with Cecil’s move to the nation’s capital. But their entries to the White House differ considerably: Allen learned via word of mouth that Alonzo Fields, a black maître d’ at the White House, was looking for pantry workers, and he went to talk to him. He began working there in 1952, during the Truman administration, but didn’t get promoted to butler until several years later. In the movie, the White House calls Gaines after a white senior staffer witnesses Cecil in action at the D.C. hotel—a point Cecil, in voiceover, emphasizes proudly. Aisha Harris

Attention: une subversion peut en cacher une autre !

Mère violée, père assassiné, fils ainé panthère noire, cadet tué au Vietnam, président démocrate assassiné par le racisme, présidents républicains congénitalement racistes …

Comment devant l’histoire de ce "nègre de maison" qui finit majordome de la Maison-Blanche et qui, pendant 34 ans et de Truman à Reagan, servit huit présidents  …

Et malgré l’invraisemblable accumulation, sans parler des contre-vérités anti-républicaines, de péripéties à la Forrest Gump et de stars de la pop ou d’Hollywood que se sent obligé de lui adjoindre le film de  Lee Daniels …

Comme le véritable accident industriel que s’est révélé être l’arrivée du premier président noir à la Maison Blanche ….

Ne pas repenser à ces milliers de pères et mères de famille sans lesquels il n’y aurait pas de classe moyenne noire aujourd’hui aux Etats-Unis …

Ceux dont Martin Luther King évoquait  la dignité et l’importance …

Comme celle du balayeur de rues qui "balaye comme Michel-Ange" …

Ou du domestique noir qui par sa servilité même devient "subversif sans même le savoir" …

Mais surtout à cette ultime subversion à laquelle avait appelé le Christ …

A savoir celle de la grandeur du service et du don de soi ?

The Butler: Hit and miss, though Oprah steals every scene

Brian D. Johnson

August 16, 2013

This is turning out to be an exceptional year for black filmmakers mining true stories of race and violence in America. Last month saw the release of Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, an explosive drama about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man who was shot dead by police while handcuffed in an Oakand subway station on New Year’s Day in 2009. At next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, one of the most hotly anticipated premieres is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, about Solomon Northrup, a free-born African American who was kidnapped in 1841, sold into slavery, and rescued by a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). And opening this week is Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a star-studded epic inspired by the life of a dedicated butler who served under eight presidents in the White House while the civil rights movement raged outside its walls.

Unlike the other two movies, The Butler is fiction, although its audience may assume otherwise. Those cagey words “inspired by a true story” can be deceptive. The script was triggered by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election.” Published after Obama’s landmark victory, and later spun into a book, it unearthed the story of former White House butler Eugene Allen, who served American presidents for 34 years. But screenwriter Danny Strong (HBO’s Game Change) has created a fictional butler named Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), whose life mirrors the drama of the civil rights movement with cut-glass symmetry.

Straining to serve an overcharged agenda, The Butler is a broadly entertaining, bluntly inspirational history lesson wrapped around a family saga that gives new resonance to the term “domestic drama.” Director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) is not known for subtlety, and this movie is no exception. But at the heart of its sprawling narrative, he has corralled some fine performances. Whitaker navigates gracefully between his public and private personae—White House butlers he says, have two faces: their own “and the ones we got to show the white man.” As Cecil stoically weathers the upheavals of history, and his splintered family, we can feel him being gradually crushed under the weight of his own quiet dignity, yet mustering shy increments of resistance over the decades. Between his role as a virtually mute servant/sage in the White House and a beleaguered patriarch trying to hold together his middle-class family, this a character with a lot on his plate. The real surprise is Oprah Winfrey, who’s blessed with a juicy, freewheeling role, and shows once and for all she can really act, stealing every scene with a saucy gravitas, if there can be such a thing. With a performance that’s charismatic yet deeply grounded, she sails through a character arc that ranges from drunken feints at infidelity to ferocious loyalty—undercut with droll asides that are impeccably timed.

The story’s long march begins with Cecil’s boyhood on a cotton plantation in the South in 1926, where he sees his father shot dead in a field for looking the wrong way at a white man. Cecil is adopted by a thin-lipped matriarch who tells him, “I’m going to teach you how to be a house nigger.” Which sounds strange coming from the mouth of Vanessa Redgrave. The term “house nigger,” and the n-word in general, recurs again and again, shocking us each time, and never letting us forget that there’s no higher house than the White House.

A model of shrewd obedience, Cecil learns to make the perfect martini, to be invisible in a room, and to overhear affairs of estate in stony silence—unless asked for his opinion, which he’ll pretend to offer with a wry, Delphic diplomacy that makes the questioner feel validated. The script goes out of its way to ennoble Cecil’s work, plucking a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. —”the black domestic defies racial stereotyping by being hardworking and trustworthy … though subservient, they are subversive without even knowing it.”

The Uncle Tom issue is front and centre, especially in Cecil’s feud with his radicalized son Louis (David Oyelowo), who rejects his father as a race traitor. The conflict comes to a head amid a family debate about the merits of Sidney Poitier, a legendary actor brashly dismissed by Louis as “a white man’s fantasy of what he wants us to be.” The fondly nostalgic references to In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But it’s a lovely scene, mixing rancour and wit and a deft touch. Although this is a movie on a mission, it does have a sense of humour. When Cecil’s eldest son, shows up to dinner in his Black Panther beret and black leather, with a girlfriend sporting a vast Angela Davis Afro, it’s pure caricature as Daniels presents a whole other take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, played as both drama and farce.

The story is a bit of a slog. It unfolds against a parade of presidents that amounts to a clumsy sideshow of cameos. Some are dismal, beginning with a ludicrous incarnation of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Robin Williams desperately trying not to look like Robin Williams. John Cusack’s Nixon is a bad joke. James Marsden’s John F. Kennedy is too young and callow—JFK as just another pretty face. But Liev Schreiber throws some mustard on a snappy portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson. And an almost unrecognizable Allan Rickman creates a masterful Ronald Reagan, complemented by Jane Fonda’s brief, brilliant turn as Nancy. First The Newsroom, now this; Hanoi Jane has grown up to be an expert at playing ballsy Republican grand dames.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, it does its job. The tragic events of America’s race war, no matter how schematically presented, burn through the narrative with potency. Intercutting horrific scenes of bigots disrupting a lunch counter protest in the South with shots of a black butlers setting fine china for a White House dinner may be contrived, but they’re brutally effective.

With his hit-and-miss direction, it’s as if Daniels is the movie’s ultimate butler, juggling an overloaded tray as he tries to serve all sides of history at once. He’s most assured in the scenes of Cecil’s extended family, which swing from rollicking banter to bitter conflict, and least comfortable in his role as history teacher. Every so often I kept wishing Spike Lee were behind the camera, cutting through clichés. Though The Butler‘s tidy sentiments can be cloying, it’s hard to remain unmoved—and unimpressed by the stubbornly authentic performances by Whitaker and Oprah, which will likely be remembered at Oscar time.

Voir aussi:

Top 5 Inaccuracies in ‘The Butler’

Christian Toto

Breitbart

16 Aug 2013

The new political drama Lee Daniels’ The Butler takes its cues from a Washington Post article about a black servant named Eugene Allen who worked in eight presidential administrations.

That part of the story is essentially unchanged. The rest of the film, a movie stuffed with politics, historical re-creations and presidential imitations, is rife with inaccuracies that should be corrected.

Note: Some story spoilers ahead …

President Ronald Reagan was indifferent to the suffering of people of color. Breitbart News reported this week that Reagan biographer Craig Shirley shredded this notion by detailing the president’s legislative achievements and personal outtreach to his black peers.

The Democrats helped pass the Civil Rights Act: This is more of an inaccuracy by omission. The film showcases how both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rallied on behalf of civil rights, but what’s left out is the voting record on the historic Civil Rights Act. Turns out "80 percent of the “no” votes in the Senate came from Democrats, including the late Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Albert Gore (Tenn.), father of the future vice president," so Republicans teamed up with President Johnson to pass the legislation.

President Nixon dismissed black Americans–save for their votes: The film shows Nixon (John Cusack) promoting his upcoming election battle with John F. Kennedy by giving campaign buttons to the butler and his fellow black servers. Later, Nixon talks up black enterprise but only with an eye on winning votes. Moviefone.com notes Nixon’s record on school integration outpaced his predecessors, and Allen has spoken fondly of Nixon in press interviews.

The Butler disliked President Reagan: The real Eugene Allen has expressed affection for all the presidents he served, noting he voted for each when they were inhabiting the White House. A framed picture of the Reagans was displayed on Allen’s living room wall, and he noted that Nancy Reagan gave him a warm hug when he finally retired. Hardly sounds like the character in the movie, played by Forest Whitaker, who appeared to be fed up with the Reagans and quit for that very reason.

The Butler met Obama: The film uses a framing device of the titular Butler waiting to meet personally with President Barack Obama. There’s no official record of such a meeting, although Allen was a VIP guest at Obama’s swearing in.

Extra: Screenwriter Danny Strong (Game Change) took tremendous liberties with Allen’s life beyond the name change to Cecil Gaines. Strong gave the butler two sons, not one, made the main character’s wife (Oprah Winfrey) a heavy drinker and fictionalized much of his life story prior to entering the White House.

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"The Butler" Distorts Race Relations

Richard A. Epstein

Hoover

August 20, 2013

The film’s retelling of history comes at a real social cost.

Next year, this nation will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That occasion will rightly give rise to many reflections about how far this nation has come and where it will go in the future.

One early entrant into this dialogue is The Butler, a new film by Lee Daniels. In the movie, Forest Whitaker plays the fictional butler Cecil Gaines, who worked for seven presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Reagan. The movie was inspired by the life of Eugene Allen, who did in fact serve in the White House between 1952 and 1986 under eight presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. Days after Barack Obama was elected president, an affectionate account of Allen’s service was written up by Wil Haygood in the Washington Post.

But Allen’s story stands in stark contrast to the fictional Cecil Gaines’.

A Tale of Two Butlers

Born in 1919, Eugene Allen grew up in segregated Virginia, and slowly worked his way up the butler profession, largely without incident. Unlike the fictional Cecil Gaines, he did not watch the boss rape his mother on a Georgia farm, only to shoot a bullet through his father’s head as he starts to protest the incident, leading Cecil years later to escape his past for a better future.

Instead, over a period of years, Allen rose from a “pantry man” to the highest position in White House service, Maître d’hôtel. His life was marked by quiet distinction and personal happiness. He was married to the same woman, Helene, for 65 years. He had one son, Charles, who served in Vietnam. During the Reagan years, Nancy Reagan invited Allen and his wife to a state dinner as guests. When he retired shortly afterwards, “President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight,” according to the story in the Washington Post. During service, he never said a word of criticism about any president. Nor was his resignation an act of political protest.

The fictional Cecil, however, does not come to the White House under Truman, but arrives in 1957, just in time for one of the defining events of the civil rights movement—namely, President Eisenhower’s reluctant but firm decision to move federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, after Orval Faubus quite literally barred the school room door.

In general, the movie is full of hype. Cecil’s wholly fictional older son Louis gets involved in the civil rights movement from the time of the sit-ins through the rise of the Black Panther movement, and a younger brother, who professes pride in his country pays the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Cecil’s wife, Gloria, falls prey to alcoholism and a time has a shabby affair with the guy next door. Gaines’ service is marked by quiet frustration, knowing that black workers suffered a 40 percent wage deficit that lasted under the Reagan years, while being excluded from well-deserved promotions. When the weight of these injustices hit him, Cecil resigns to join his son Louis in a protest movement. When Slate’s, Aisha Harris was asked “How True is The Butler?” her candid answer was “not much.”.

The Dangers of Docudrama

Why is Lee Daniels not content to tell the real story? The obvious answer is that his version makes for a better movie. Another explanation is that his tale is more downbeat so that it can belittle some of the progress that the civil rights movement has made over this time.

No one should ever deny the senseless tragedies that dogged the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, including the murders of Emmett Till in 1955, of Medgar Evers in 1963,

of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 1964, and of course, of Martin Luther King in 1968. But by 1986, the United States was a different place.

The Butler’s negative reimagination comes at a real social cost. Watching the movie, the viewer comes away thinking that the civil rights movement has largely failed. But the actual record is more upbeat. It is unfortunate that Daniels did not start The Butler during the Truman years. In 1948, Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. armed forces by executive order.

That action would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the Second World War, given the dominant southern presence in the military. Hence, the United States had the dubious distinction of fighting Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan with segregated armed forces.

Perhaps an executive order is not cinematic stuff. But the same cannot be said of baseball’s racial integration in 1947, when a determined Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson up from a farm team in Montreal to the Brooklyn Dodgers. That story was the subject of 1950 movie and the more recent film 42 released this year. This transformative event was done, not through legislation, but voluntarily by one courageous man who took the risk that a major backlash might follow.

Change was happening at the state level as well. In 1947, New Jersey abolished segregation by a state constitutional amendment. When these changes are executed voluntarily, they are less likely to face the massive resistance that followed the Supreme Court’s decision on racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in June 1954 and itself the culmination of a long campaign that first chopped away at segregation in railroad transportation and law school education.

Sit-Ins and Public Accommodations

In time, of course, the cultural clash crystallized in the highly confrontational sit-ins that occupy much of the screen time in The Butler. It is these cases that led to the passage of Title II of the

1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with access of all persons to public accommodations.

Its basic command reads that all persons are entitled to ”the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

To most people, the argument in favor of this section is easy enough to understand. These rights are basic entitlements of citizens, and die-hard segregationists abridged them. The sustained moral indignation directed to segregationists in the movie is deserved. But some of the long-term legal implications of Title II of the CRA are more difficult to unpack.

My take runs as follows. In general it is a mistake for any government law to require one private person to do business with another against his will: the principle of freedom of organization is fundamental to a just society. The major counterweight to that, on classical liberal theory, is in cases of monopoly, which meant in bygone days railroads and inns on isolated roads.

At first blush, there are no such monopolies in luncheon counters. Standard neoclassical economics predicts that some firms will cater to African American clientele if others choose to shun them. To that confident prediction, the obvious reply was, that just didn’t happen. It is at this point that the true horror of southern system of segregation becomes clear. The old south was a closed society, which did not allow for the free entry of these competitive firms that would have transformed its culture.

It had two means of enforcement: (1) Private violence backed by a police force that either turned a blind eye to private force, or openly backed it, and (2) state regulatory bodies that could use their power over public utilities like power and light to punish those firms that broke the color line.

A solution to this problem neutralizes these two forces and then lets entry do its work. But in a federal system, it is hard for the central government to use its limited powers to exert so fundamental a change. The bottom line, therefore, is either to impose the duty from without or watch the system of southern dominance chew up its citizens by propping up the status quo ante.

The question then arises of how best to change the system. As a rhetorical matter, the only path that works is an appeal to fundamental rights. No argument about institutional imperfections could put the public accommodation provisions over the top. Indeed, it is worthy to note that the national businesses subject to these regulations often begged for federal intervention under Title II as a means to neutralize local pressures that kept them from integrating. Indeed, the success of Title II has been so great that the provision enforces itself, so that direct regulation and private litigation occupy only a tiny corner of that world.

Nonetheless, the flawed conceptual arguments for Title II did create serious complications in others areas. The parallels to private housing and to employment are not nearly so easy to draw. In the early years, the insistence on color-blind employment relations actually had the unfortunate effect of limiting private affirmative action programs when businesses and unions came, rightly in my view, to see these as social imperatives in the aftermath of the violence of the 1960s. On the other side, the constant use of disparate impact tests in education, housing, and employment led to an overreach by the new civil rights establishment of today.

My quarrel with The Butler is that its wrong narrative of the evolution of race relations serves to strengthen a set of misguided government programs at a time when it is no longer possible to bless all actions of the civil rights movement.

Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. His areas of expertise include constitutional law, intellectual property, and property rights. His most recent books are Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law (2011), The Case against the Employee

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“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”: An Oscar-worthy historical fable

Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey shine in a clunky but powerful yarn about race and American history

Andrew O’Hehir

Aug 15, 2013

There’s a scene about midway through “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” – an ungainly title for an ungainly picture – that captures many of the movie’s contradictions, and its surprising power. It’s 1968, and Martin Luther King Jr. (Nelsan Ellis) is discussing the Vietnam War with some of his closest aides and friends. “How many of your parents support the war?” he asks this group of African-American men. Almost all of them raise their hands. King then asks Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo), a young man sitting next to him, what his father does for a living. “My father’s a butler,” Louis says, not without embarrassment. He doesn’t tell King that his father, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), is a butler at the White House, and was almost certainly in the room during King’s historic meeting with Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office.

Black domestic workers, King tells Louis, have played an important role in the struggle for civil rights. At first Louis assumes this is meant as mockery, but King presses on. Maids, butlers, nannies and other domestics have defied racist stereotypes by being trustworthy, hardworking and loyal, King says; in maintaining other people’s households and raising other people’s children, they have gradually broken down hardened and hateful attitudes. Their apparent subservience is also quietly subversive. This poignant and humbling recognition of the sacrifices made by millions of African-Americans who appeared to have no voice is an important turning point for Louis, in his consideration of his father’s life, but it also captures King’s extraordinary philosophical depth in a few moments. In case there isn’t enough going on in that scene, let us note that it takes place in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Minutes or hours later, the great civil rights leader will step outside onto the balcony and be shot dead.

I’d be hard-pressed to describe “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” as a good movie. It’s programmatic, didactic and shamelessly melodramatic. (Danny Strong’s screenplay is best viewed as fictional, although it’s loosely based on the true story of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen, who died in 2010.) Characters constantly have expository conversations built around historical markers, from the murder of Emmett Till to the Voting Rights Act. Every time Cecil serves coffee in the Oval Office, he stumbles upon epoch-making moments: Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams) debating whether to send federal troops to desegregate the schools in Little Rock; Richard Nixon (John Cusack) plotting a black entrepreneurship program to undercut the Black Panthers; or Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) telling Republican senators he plans to defy Congress and veto sanctions against South Africa. Cecil and Louis, the warring father and son played by Whitaker and Oyelowo, might as well come with labels: Cecil is following in the footsteps of Booker T. Washington; Louis in those of W.E.B. Du Bois.

But “The Butler” is indisputably an important film and a necessary one, arriving at the end of the summer of Paula Deen and George Zimmerman and the Detroit bankruptcy, a summer that has vividly reminded us that if America’s ancient racial wounds have faded somewhat, they have never healed. For a black filmmaker to tell this fraught and complicated story now, in a mainstream picture with an all-star cast, is significant all on its own. Faulkner’s observation that the past is never dead and isn’t even past has come to sound trite through endless repetition by politicians and journalists, but it speaks to our country in 2013, and to the impact of this movie. And before I wander too far afield, “The Butler” is also a showcase for numerous terrific black actors, including Whitaker, Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz, not to mention a fiery and sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated supporting role for Oprah Winfrey as Cecil’s wife, Gloria.

For someone of my generation, the civil rights movement may seem like an overly familiar pop-culture topic. But it’s been more than 20 years since “Malcolm X,” “Mississippi Burning” and “The Long Walk Home,” and closer to 40 years since groundbreaking TV specials like “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” or the miniseries “King.” Much of the sweep of history in “The Butler,” which begins in the Jim Crow Deep South of the 1920s and ends with a black man in the White House, may seem like a dim, black-and-white flicker to many younger Americans.

Daniels, previously the director of “Precious” and “The Paperboy” (forever famous as the movie in which Nicole Kidman pees all over Zac Efron), may not be a subtle storyteller, but he delivers big, emotional moments with considerable force. He makes the impact of the Kennedy and King assassinations seem real and present by focusing on individuals and details – Cecil, trying to comfort a sobbing, blood-spattered Jackie Kennedy (Minka Kelly) – and his re-creation of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins of 1960, or the Birmingham street scenes when dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers, possess a startling violence and freshness. In a time when a dominant current in American conservatism is dedicated to erasing both history and science, to insisting that “there are no lessons in the past,” it’s useful to be reminded how much about contemporary American life is shaped and conditioned by those events.

Daniels performs another public service by turning the well-meaning condescension of “The Help” upside down and telling the story of a black domestic worker and his family entirely from their point of view, with minor supporting characters that include five United States presidents. (Cecil also served under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, but they’re only seen in news footage.) The parade of famous white actors playing White House occupants is bizarre and almost arbitrary – Cusack looks nothing like Nixon, although James Marsden is well cast as JFK and Liev Schreiber makes a surprisingly good Johnson – but that’s a sideshow attraction. (Daniels understands precisely how he’s twisting the knife with Jane Fonda’s cameo as Nancy Reagan, by the way.) The main event is a terrific cast of African-American principals, headlined by the immensely dignified performance of Whitaker, playing a man who has raised himself by his own wits and almost Nietzschean willpower from the brutal cotton fields of Georgia to the corridors of power.

As a boy, Cecil witnesses his mother raped and his father murdered by a white overseer, and that’s the background his son – raised in the polite, formal segregation of 1950s Washington – can never understand. Then the overseer’s guilt-ridden mother (Vanessa Redgrave) takes Cecil in and trains him as a “house nigger,” a polite, well-dressed automaton who is almost invisible and virtually silent. (I quote that offensive expression because it’s important and recurs several times.) The instruction delivered to Cecil over and over, including at the White House, is that he sees and hears nothing, and that a room should feel empty when he is in it. Whatever Daniels’ flaws as a filmmaker may be, in all his movies he’s acutely sensitive to the possibilities of human communication, even in impossible situations. Redgrave’s character clearly feels for Cecil and gives him what little she can; in her own way, she too is a victim of the system that has destroyed his family.

Over the years, Cecil makes his way from Georgia to North Carolina to a luxury hotel in Washington and finally to the segregated service staff of the White House. (Implausibly enough, it was Ronald Reagan, a font of old-school racist policy and personal generosity, who finally insisted on equal treatment for black employees.) He learns the intricacies of wine and whiskey, builds up an autodidact’s vocabulary and masters the fine art of being charming without appearing confrontational. Every black person in this line of work (Cecil observes in voice-over) has two faces, of necessity – one for his white employers and clientele, one for his family and friends. Whitaker plays Cecil as a man making a long, lonely trek uphill with a heavy load on his back, and the film’s other black characters all deal with life under a racist system in their own way.

Cecil’s friend Howard (Terrence Howard) is a good-time Charlie and numbers runner; Cecil’s colleagues at the White House include foulmouthed ladies’ man Carter (Gooding) and educated, upward-bound James (Kravitz). I suppose Winfrey is customarily too busy playing her own public persona to play dramatic roles, but she’s damn good at it; the proud, angry, boozing, cheating and ultimately ferociously loyal Gloria has a vivid and very non-Oprah reality about her. If Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong intend the tension between Cecil’s bootstraps assimilationism and Louis’ Freedom Rider-turned-Panther radicalism to be the movie’s central driving force, it doesn’t quite work. In a picture driven by a vibrant portrayal of African-American life and the visceral, explosive force of history, their opposed and intersecting character arcs feel overly constructed.

Daniels’ point, of course, echoes what King tells Louis: The traditions of Du Bois and Washington, of self-sacrifice and hard work on one hand, and street protest and political organizing on the other, are not as distinct or disconnected as they may appear. Both have driven a history that isn’t finished yet. While the election of Barack Obama serves as the culmination of this story — and for African-Americans of Cecil Gaines’ generation it was an unimaginable, even millennial victory – in the larger story of America it was an unexpected plot twist whose true consequences remain unknown. One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln asked whether a country conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality would work out, and we still don’t know. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is big, brave, crude and contradictory, very bad in places and very good in others, and every American should see it.

The Butler, Jobs: Two ways to turn inspirational into mediocre

LIAM LACEY

The Globe and Mail

Aug. 16 2013

Two new inspirational movies, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Jobs, are the kind of unsophisticated biographical films that don’t earn much critical respect but occasionally rack up Oscar nominations. They belong in what Dennis Bingham, author of Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre, calls “a respectable genre of very low repute.” Both movies trip over the usual bio-hazards – gratuitous montages, speechifying characters and plots with historical incidents layered between private crises – but they play out in very different ways.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (the director’s name was imposed after a legal dispute forbid the use of The Butler) stars Forest Whitaker as a long-serving White House butler during a turbulent period. The film has a lot of momentum thanks to a star-studded ensemble cast, including Whitaker in the titular role and Oprah Winfrey in her first big-screen role in 15 years. The filmmakers claim that The Butler was inspired by the late Eugene Allen, a White House employee who worked for presidents from Truman to Reagan and lived to see the first black president. But Allen’s story has little to do with The Butler’s script, a Forrest Gump-like tale of a servant who was a front-row witness to modern civil-rights history. The butler’s name has been changed to Cecil Gaines.

As a filmmaker, Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) likes things pulpy, and you quickly get the sense that he can’t restrict himself to the Masterpiece Theatre model here. The Butler starts with an entirely fabricated sequence, straight out of a Blaxploitation movie, in which pre-teen Cecil witnesses his mother’s rape and his father’s murder. The killer’s mom (Vanessa Redgrave) takes the boy into her house, where he learns to serve and shut up. Eventually, Cecil (played by a slim and convincingly youthful Whitaker) marries Gloria (Winfrey) and has two sons before being hired at the White House. Though he’s instructed to see and hear nothing, he is invariably hovering over the shoulder of one president or another during critical historical moments.

Screenwriter Danny Strong, who wrote the sharp television satire of the Sarah Palin campaign, Game Change, offers the usual biographical double strands of the character’s public and private roles. One of Cecil and Gloria’s improbable friends is Howard (Terrence Howard), a layabout numbers-runner with a missing front tooth and a yen for Gloria. Gloria turns to drink and adultery when Cecil puts the president’s needs before his wife’s, which provides Oprah with some juicy scenes. The couple also has two opposite-minded sons. Louis (David Oyelowo), under the influence of his groovy college girlfriend Carol (Yaya Alafia), joins the wave of northern students who pushed for desegregation in the south in 1961. Little brother Charlie (Elijah Kelley), meanwhile, signs up for duty in Vietnam.

By contrast, the White House feels like comic relief, with a parade of presidential caricatures: pensive Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams), who ponders sending federal troops to enforce school integration while painting flowers; awkward vice-president Richard Nixon (John Cusack), found in the kitchen scrounging for snacks; bumptious Lyndon Johnson (Liev Schreiber), who bellows instructions to his cabinet while seated on the toilet; and folksy Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), whose smoothly controlling wife Nancy is played by former lefty activist Jane Fonda.

Some of this is fun if heavy-handed, but from time to time Daniels’ broad approach hits home emotionally, particularly a scene that contrasts preparations for a White House state dinner with black students being spat upon and cursed for sitting on the white side of a segregated Woolworth’s counter. The Butler may be a sanctimonious cartoon, but it points to events in the civil rights struggle that were as grotesque and extraordinary as any fiction can invent.

(…)

The Butler

All-star parade of presidents helps blunt any dramatic edge in Lee Daniels film starring Forest Whitaker as the protagonist

Katey Rich

The Guardian

9 August 2013

The Butler

More historical pageant than drama, Lee Daniels’ The Butler takes the Forrest Gump approach to another corner of American history, filtering the dramatic civil rights movement of the 1960s through the life of an ordinary butler who served seven different presidents from Dwight D Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan. Based very loosely on a real man, The Butler sets its mild-mannered protagonist Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) in sharp contrast to his son Louis (David Oyelowo), a Freedom Rider and eventually Black Panther who conveniently finds himself at the centre of a series of civil rights landmark moments.

The Butler

Production year: 2013

Country: USA

Directors: Lee Daniels

Cast: David Oyelowo, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey

There are fascinating wrinkles to be found in that relationship, and director Daniels does stumble upon a few. But for the most part his usual heavy hand draws only the thickest lines between two generations of African-Americans, and Danny Strong’s script muddles the family story with too many "significant" encounters between Cecil and his presidential employers. It’s impossible not to be distracted when Robin Williams appears in a bald cap as Eisenhower, or Liev Schreiber blusters his way across the screen as a noisy Lyndon Johnson. When John Cusack shows up as a flop-sweating Richard Nixon, the film is playing dress-up and passing it as history. By the time Jane Fonda eerily transforms herself into Nancy Reagan, the film itself seems in on the joke.

If it’s possible to look past Daniels’ directorial flourishes, The Butler does occasionally muster its own power, contrasting Cecil’s work at a White House state dinner with Louis’s beating by the police after a protest, or the riot that broke out in Washington DC after Martin Luther King’s assassination. Aware that he has a good job that provides for his family, Cecil is unwilling to rock the boat politically, which leads to clashes with his son but an otherwise passive performance for Whitaker. Oprah Winfrey, channelling Elizabeth Taylor’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? performance as Cecil’s hard-drinking wife, has more to play with but literally nowhere to go, her scenes almost exclusively limited to their airless, modest home.

The quick glimpses into the lives of middle-class African-Americans in this time of massive social upheaval – the house parties, the front porch conversations – are evocative and frequently charming, but The Butler is trying to cover way too much ground to get into that, or anything, to any real satisfaction.

With an ensemble and a story this large casting often substitutes for characterisation – Cuba Gooding Jr and Lenny Kravitz are Cecil’s amiable White House co-workers, Vanessa Redgrave is the kindly owner of the farm where Cecil grew up, Mariah Carey is his loving mother, and so on. James Marsden comports himself well as JFK, and Alan Rickman makes for a spot-on Ronald Reagan, but the string of presidential cameos also gives the film its numbing structure. Over and over again the leaders ask Cecil a pointed civil rights-related question and seem inspired by his humble, wholly uninteresting presence. Cecil Gaines is a witness to important historical events but a participant in none of them, and at times even Daniels seems to wish he were making a film entirely about the Freedom Riders or Black Panthers (Oyelowo’s fiery performance makes that draw even stronger).

A great film about the American civil rights movement is way overdue. The Butler, overwhelmed by flash and good intentions, doesn’t even come close.

Wil Haygood: Eugene Allen, America’s Butler

Johnathan Eaglin

irockjazz

2013-06-26

This summer Oscar nominated director, Lee Daniels and an all-star cast of actors including Oscar winners, Forrest Whitaker and Cuba Gooding, Jr., will release the highly anticipated major motion picture, “The Butler”. The film will present a portrayal of a man, Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. presidents over 35 years as a White House butler.

iRock Jazz was granted an exclusive interview with author and journalist, Wil Haygood, the writer of the 2008 Washington Post article, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” which sparked the initial interest in Eugene Allen’s story. Days after the article – a vivid chronicle by Haygood of Eugene Allen’s life in the historical context of the long and complex relationship between African-Americans and the White House – was published the story went viral. The article was later reposted in the Los Angeles Times and shortly thereafter, nearly 15 Hollywood actors and producers reached out to Haygood hoping to secure a movie deal. Four and a half years later, “The Butler” will share with the world one of the unsung champions of history.

Speaking to Haygood, a prolific biographer, having written celebrated texts on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, and Sammy Davis, Jr., you get the sense that Eugene Allen’s story may be Haygood’s masterwork, an assertion not solely based upon the brilliant content of the article or Haygood’s adept journalistic rectitude, but the striking parallels that weave Allen and Haygood together. Both men, gracious and professional, proud and persevering, fully committed to their vocation, and in the face of worldwide attention are remarkably humble.

Haygood’s two year immersion into Allen’s life strengthens his confidence that his story has the elements to resonate on the big screen. To Haygood, Allen is nothing short of an American hero whose life plays out like a movie and whose story deserves to be told. “It had the stuff of drama, the stuff of cinema – this one man that was in the white house for eight presidents. It’s almost like a novel, but it’s a real story. It really happened. Now he has a movie about his life. His life is important enough to be on the big screen. It’s really pretty magical,” exclaimed Haygood.

However, the life of Eugene Allen may not fit the standard mold of the blockbuster Hollywood biopic. While the sweeping grandeur of riveting cinematography, a gripping screenplay, and a lush emotion evoking score can serve as a recipe to garnering box office success, audience’s appetites are often whet with the star power of larger than life historical figures whose name and life are more recognizable throughout popular culture. So, why is the story of Eugene Allen noteworthy? Why make a film about his life? Why would Lenny Kravitz, after reading the script, cancel his European tour for a role in the movie? Why would Oprah Winfrey appear in this film after a 15 year hiatus? Eugene Allen did not break the color barrier on the baseball field or shake up the world in the boxing ring. He didn’t liberate a people from the shackles of slavery with the stroke of a pen or revolutionize the world through music or technology. Eugene Allen, a butler, a humble man from Virginia, is not a mainstay in history books, but he was an eye-witness to history for over three decades from a significant vantage point – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – the most powerful address in the world.

Retired for over twenty years before receiving Haygood’s call, Allen and his wife Helene lived according to Haygood in a, “Very modest house, small, on a quiet street, here, in northwest Washington D.C.”. Haygood would soon discover that the stories Allen held within him were just as rich as the treasure that lay beneath the Allen residence floors. Haywood describes the scene as he enters the Allen’s basement, “There were pictures of him and Harry Truman, him and President Eisenhower, him and President Kennedy, him and the Kennedy children, him and Duke Ellington when Duke Ellington visited the White House, him and Sarah Vaughn, him and Frank Sinatra. I almost started spinning on a top. It was like finding this unknown man and his life that nobody had written about.”

It is possible nobody had written about Eugene Allen for the same reasons the date January 20th came and went sixteen times, through ten U.S. presidents for nearly 60 years before President Barack Obama invited Allen to attend his first Presidential Inauguration in 2008. In 1986, Allen made history as the first White House butler to be invited as a guest to a Presidential State Dinner, a tribute bestowed upon him by President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan. He took the moment so serious that a picture of he and his wife at the event is the only White House photo in the front room of their home. Yet, there was a time when he grappled with the racism and segregation that kept black American’s stifled from social, economic, and political progress. And with his training he defaulted to react discreetly, not wearing his political affiliation or views on his sleeve. The effect was nonetheless impactful. To witness both emotional events like assassinations, Civil Rights movement violence and, in time, triumphs like the passing of The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, it is evident that he exhibited a herculean amount of restraint.

Even the White House, his daily destination of duty, was not immune nor could it serve as a place of refuge. “In 1962 he was working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most powerful address in the world. He could leave there, get in his car and drive to a rest stop in his native Virginia and have to use a bathroom for blacks only. And then go back to work under the American flag. The dual emotions that must have been rumbling inside of him – he was able to quiet any anger and go in to work every day, not in a restaurant, a bar, or factory, but at the most powerful address in the world that was supposed to be an emblem for world freedom. He didn’t have his rights and yet he never missed a day of work,” Haygood presented with zeal.

“When JFK was assassinated, Mr. Allen stayed at the White House all day heart stricken. He waited until the plane from Dallas had flown back to Washington, D.C. He stayed around as long as he could and helped everybody and then he went home at about 11:00pm. His son told me this – at about three o’clock in the morning he woke up, he got dressed and his wife asked him where he was going. He said, ‘I have to go back to the White House. Somebody might wake up in the middle of the night and need me. Everybody is in pain. Everybody is in shock’. And as he was walking down the hallway he crumpled to the floor and sobbed. And his son told me it was the first time he had seen his father cry. As with the assassination of Dr. King, Allen was heartbroken, but determined. Washington D.C. was engulfed in riots. While he drove to the White House through the fire and violence he got out of his car, parked it and walked the rest of the way. As grief stricken as he was it was important for him to get to work that day,” Haygood explained.

Eugene Allen’s resilience of character in the face of internal turmoil displays an example of what we all hope to be – courageous, everyday heroes who know quitting is not a viable option. Quite possibly the studio upped the release date three months earlier not to delay capitalizing on the opportunity to connect the public with Allen’s story. In describing Eugene Allen’s stature amongst celebrated history makers, which ultimately reveals both his conviction and connection to everyman, Haygood places Allen near the top. “He almost rises to the top. It’s interesting that the men I wrote about are famous figures and Mr. Allen was unknown to those men. Two of them he probably served. He probably served coffee or tea to Adam Clayton Powell or Sammy Davis, Jr. in the White House.

Mr. Allen stayed on the same job for thirty-four years. He represented to those eight presidents an example of a black man who works for his family, who believes in the country, who salutes his flag, and he never quit. There were other butlers who came and went especially after the 1960s and the social revolution during a time where it might not have seemed so cool to be a butler, a servant, in the White House. The Civil Rights Bill had not really taken full hold yet, and to stay on that job had to have meant that he believed in America and that he loved his country. And it didn’t matter that the occupant of the Oval Office was a Democrat or a Republican. He did his job very well and in the end he rose to be the maître d’, the highest ranking butler at the White House. So, his life had an amazing American song to it and I think we are in his debt to him.”

Oprah Winfrey, who plays Eugene Allen’s wife, Helene, explains her reason for taking this role which reveals more of Allen’s heroic commitment to provide a better life for his family and many others. “It was people like Eugene and Helene Allen who helped build the black middle class in this country. And that is a big reason why I took this role.” Allen chose to leave a legacy by staying on the job, which enabled him to put his son through college, extend finances to relatives who desired to migrate from the brutal south, and mentor many of the butlers and service people that came through the White House. According to Haygood, “Many who passed under his tutelage went on to get jobs in big hotel chains in LA or Chicago.”

Eugene and Helene Allen were very much inspired by the life of Barack Obama and his vision for the country. The election of President Obama in 2008, a black man who defied the odds, who noticed the historically relevant achievements of another black man enough to help him see, “the dream” not as a servant, but as a special guest, not as butler, but as a beacon of bravery and beneficiary to that dream. As Martin Luther King, Jr. gave voice to the dream, it was men like Eugene Allen whose life made the dream real every day. Eugene Allen served more than the inhabitants of the White House, he served humanity.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

iRock Jazz is honored to have a first look at Eugene Allen’s life and Wil Haygood’s enlightening perspective and story.

Voir aussi:

How True Is The Butler?

Aisha Harris

Borwbeat

2013/08/15

A few days after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Washington Post published an article about a black butler who served in the White House for 34 years, under eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan. Eugene Allen represented, as journalist Wil Haygood wrote, “a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.”

“He was there,” Haygood continued, “while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.” Allen undoubtedly lived a fascinating life, meeting countless historical figures during especially polarizing times, and it’s unsurprising that Haygood’s profile caught the eye of Hollywood. It is now the basis for Lee Daniels’ The Butler (the director’s name is included thanks to silly copyright claims made by Warner Bros).

But as interesting as Haygood’s profile is, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” doesn’t provide that many details about Allen’s time in the White House outside a handful of facts and humorous anecdotes. (Allen’s wife Helene referred affectionately to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter as “country,” for instance.) The Butler is a bit more than 2 hours long, spans several decades, and includes multiple storylines. It’s fair to say it has epic ambitions.

So how much of Allen’s real-life experience actually made it into the film?

Not much. According to Daniels’ foreword in The Butler: A Witness to History, a book by Haygood published to accompany the film, the movie “is set against historical events,” but “the title character and his family are fictionalized.” The skeleton of Allen’s story is there: the childhood on a plantation in the early 1920s, the interactions with several presidents. But the names have been changed: Allen and his wife, Helene, are called Cecil and Gloria Gaines. (They’re played by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.) At least one key character, Cecil’s son Louis (David Oyelowo), is entirely made up.

The following breakdown is based on Haygood’s profile and the accompanying book. (I have emailed Haygood and will update the post if he provides additional information.) Spoilers follow.

The butler’s backstory

The film opens with young Cecil in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s, working in a cotton field alongside his father. His mother (Mariah Carey) is raped by a white plantation overseer, Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer), loud enough for everyone to hear. When Westfall returns, Cecil’s father shows his anger, and Westfall shoots him dead in front of Cecil and the other plantation workers. The plantation matriarch (Vanessa Redgrave) then decides that Cecil should leave the fields to become a “house nigger” and learn to serve her family.

Those appear to be the inventions of screenplay writer Danny Strong; they are never mentioned in Haygood’s piece.* Eugene Allen was born in 1919, and, like Cecil, he grew up on a plantation (in Virginia, not Georgia). He, too, became a “house boy” for a white family. When he spoke to Haygood about his childhood, “There was nary a hint of bitterness in his voice about his upbringing.” Allen left the plantation in hopes of finding better work, as Cecil does—but unlike his fictional counterpart, he never broke into a hotel restaurant to steal food. (He did, however, land a job at a Virginia hotel as a waiter, as Cecil ultimately does in North Carolina.)

How the butler got his job at the White House

Allen learned of a job at a country club in Washington, D.C., a fact that aligns with Cecil’s move to the nation’s capital. But their entries to the White House differ considerably: Allen learned via word of mouth that Alonzo Fields, a black maître d’ at the White House, was looking for pantry workers, and he went to talk to him. He began working there in 1952, during the Truman administration, but didn’t get promoted to butler until several years later. In the movie, the White House calls Gaines after a white senior staffer witnesses Cecil in action at the D.C. hotel—a point Cecil, in voiceover, emphasizes proudly.

Cecil is hired as butler just as soon as black maître d’ Freddie Fallows (Colman Domingo) confirms that he is not actively political and is experienced in his field. He begins working in the White House under Eisenhower’s administration, in 1957.

Other moments from the film appear to be true: Allen witnessed presidents mulling over important historical decisions, including Eisenhower’s fight with Arkansas governor Orval Faubus regarding the desegregation of Little Rock. And his wife Helene did pass away just prior to Obama’s election (though it was the Sunday night prior, not the morning of, as the film implies).

The butler’s family

Allen had one son, Charles, who served in Vietnam, just as Cecil’s younger son (also named Charles) does. Allen’s son survived the war, while his fictional counterpart does not. The real-life Charles is still alive, and has seen and approved of the new movie, according to Haygood.

The invented older son, Louis, serves as the main source of conflict in the narrative of Cecil’s life, in an attempt to highlight the clash between the older and younger black generation. Louis, who’s ashamed that his father is content with serving white people, is himself present for several important historical moments, including the attack and burning of a Freedom Riders bus in 1961; he’s also imprisoned in the same jail as Martin Luther King, Jr. after a protest.

Gloria Gaines, the butler’s wife, has an affair with a neighbor (Terrence Howard) and struggles with alcoholism. These storlines appear to be fictional.

The butler and the Reagans

Judging from Haygood’s interview, it seems that Allen, like Cecil, was grateful to have his job at the White House, and wary of involving himself in the politics of the time—even in his old age, he is not quoted saying anything disparaging about the presidents he worked under. In the movie, Cecil asks for equal pay among the black and white service staff, who each perform the same level of duties. His request is denied, and he accepts this. Years later, he again asks for a raise, and when he is turned down a second time, he tells his supervisor that he spoke to President Reagan personally, and that Reagan insists on the raise himself. Allen did receive a promotion to maître d’ in 1980, but there’s no indication that he ever asked for a raise.*

Cecil’s character arc is complete when Nancy Reagan invites him to the state dinner as a guest—the first black butler to receive such an invitation in the history of the White House. This did, in fact, happen to Allen, but the cinematic version unfolds quite differently. Here’s how it’s described in Haygood’s profile:

“Had champagne that night,” the butler’s wife would remember all these years later. As she said it, Eugene, rocking in his chair, just grinned: for so many years he had stocked champagne in the White House.

In the film, on the other hand, Cecil’s discomfort at sitting among the white elite is made clear through voiceover, as he describes feeling like an outsider and a traitor to his black colleagues who are now serving him. He can now see first-hand how each server “performs” for guests, and recognizes that he’s been unknowingly wearing the same mask for years. This moment, along with Cecil overhearing Reagan’s promise to veto the sanctions against apartheid-ridden South Africa, prompts the butler to hand in his resignation. Haygood’s article only mentions that Eugene “left the White House in 1986” and received a “sweet note” from the president and a “tight” hug from First Lady Nancy.

The butler and Obama

The film ends with Cecil returning to the White House to meet President Obama. I can’t tell if Allen ever actually met the president, but he did get a VIP invitation to the inauguration in 2009, and was in attendance on that historical day. When he passed away in 2010, the president sent a letter to his family acknowledging his years in service and “abiding patriotism.”

A Butler Well Served by This Election

Wil Haygood

Washington Post

November 7, 2008

For more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land.

He trekked home every night, his wife, Helene, keeping him out of her kitchen.

At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the large desk in the Oval Office. Helene didn’t care; she just beamed with pride.

President Truman called him Gene.

President Ford liked to talk golf with him.

He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," Allen says.

His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.

He was there while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.

When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn’t even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Allen, 89, recalls of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

In its long history, the White House — just note the name — has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans.

"The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen," says Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. "In the kitchen, the folks have always been black. Even the folks at the door — black."

Sorensen tried to address the matter of blacks in the White House. But in the end, there was only one black man who stayed on the executive staff at the Kennedy White House past the first year. "There just weren’t as many blacks as there should have been," says Sorensen. "Sensitivities weren’t what they should have been, or could have been."

In 1866 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, sensing an opening to advocate for black voting rights, made a White House visit to lobby President Andrew Johnson. Johnson refused to engage in a struggle for black voting rights. Douglass was back at the White House in 1877. But no one wished to discuss his political sentiments: President Rutherford Hayes had engaged the great man — it was a time of high minstrelsy across the nation — to serve as a master of ceremonies for an evening of entertainment.

In the fall of 1901, another famous black American came to the door. President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute, to meet with him at the White House. Roosevelt was careful not to announce the invitation, fearing a backlash, especially from Southerners. But news of the visit leaked quickly enough and the uproar was swift and noisy. In an editorial, the Memphis Scimitar would write in the ugly language of the times: "It is only recently that President Roosevelt boasted that his mother was a Southern woman, and that he is half Southern by reason of that fact. By inviting a nigger to his table he pays his mother small duty."

Fifty years later, invitations to the White House were still fraught with racial subtext. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow pianist Hazel Scott to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race, many letters poured into the White House decrying the DAR’s position. First lady Bess Truman was a member of the organization, but she made no effort to get the DAR to alter its policy. Scott’s husband, Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, subsequently referred to Bess Truman as "the last lady of the land." The words outraged President Truman, who vowed to aides he would find some way to punish Powell and barred the fellow Democrat from setting foot inside the Truman White House.

The first black to hold a policy or political position in the White House was E. Frederick Morrow, a former public relations executive with CBS. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential campaign operatives were so impressed with Morrow’s diligent work during the 1952 campaign that they promised him a White House executive job if Ike were elected. Ike won, but Morrow ended up being placed at the Department of Commerce. He felt slighted and appealed to Republican friends in New York to force the White House to make good on its promise.

The phone finally rang in 1955 and Morrow was named administrative officer for special projects. He had hoped the title would give him wide responsibilities inside the White House, but found himself dealing, for the most part, with issues related to the Brown desegregation ruling, the Rosa Parks-led bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and the 1957 Little Rock school crisis.

"He was a man of great dignity," says Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, who worked as a speechwriter for Eisenhower. Morrow was in a lonely position, but "he did not complain," says Hess. "That wasn’t Fred Morrow."

When Morrow left his White House position, he imagined there’d be corporate job offers. There were not. "Only thing he was offered were jobs related to the black community," says Hess. Nonetheless, "after Morrow, it was appropriate to have a black person on the staff of the White House."

‘Pantry Man’

Before he landed his job at the White House, Gene Allen worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and then at a country club in Washington.

He and wife Helene, 86, are sitting in the living room of their home off Georgia Avenue NW. A cane rests across her lap. Her voice is musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She calls him "honey." They met in Washington at a birthday party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later.

In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn’t even looking for a job," he says. "I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields."

Fields was a maitre d’, and he immediately liked Allen.

Allen was offered a job as a "pantry man." He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year.

There was, in time, a promotion to butler. "Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for," he says.

"I was there, honey," Helene reminds. "In the back, maybe. But I shook their hands, too." She’s referring to White House holiday parties, Easter egg hunts. They have one son, Charles. He works as an investigator with the State Department.

"President Ford’s birthday and my birthday were on the same day," he says. "He’d have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, ‘It’s Gene’s birthday, too!’ "

And so they’d sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush.

"Jack Kennedy was very nice," he goes on. "And so was Mrs. Kennedy."

"Hmm-mmm," she says, rocking.

He was in the White House kitchen the day JFK was slain. He got a personal invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral."

The whole family of President Jimmy Carter made her chuckle: "They were country. And I’m talking Lillian and Rosalynn both." It comes out sounding like the highest compliment.

First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He told her he was well ahead in the planning and had already picked out the china. But she told him he would not be working that night.

"She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.’ I’m telling you! I believe I’m the only butler to get invited to a state dinner."

Husbands and wives don’t sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son says, ‘Mama, just talk about your high school. They won’t know the difference.’

"The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she says." I was doing as much talking as they were.

"Had champagne that night," she says, looking over at her husband.

He just grins: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House.

Moving Up, but Slowly

President Kennedy, who succeeded Eisenhower, started with two blacks, Frank Reeves and Andrew Hatcher, in executive positions on his White House staff. Only Hatcher, a deputy press secretary, remained after six months. Reeves, who focused on civil rights matters, left in a political reshuffling.

The issue of race bedeviled this White House, even amid good intentions. In February 1963, Kennedy invited 800 blacks to the White House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Louis Martin, a Democratic operative who helped plan the function, had placed the names of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife, May Britt, on the guest list. The White House scratched it off and Martin would put it back on. According to Martin, Kennedy was aghast when he saw the black and white couple stroll into the White House. His face reddened and he instructed photographers that no pictures of the interracial couple would be taken.

But Sammy Davis Jr. was not finished with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He got himself invited to the Nixon White House to meet with the president and talk about Vietnam and business opportunities for blacks. He even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom once. When Davis sang at the 1972 Republican convention in Miami, he famously wrapped his arms around Nixon at a youth rally there, becoming forever identified with a White House that many blacks found hostile.

Lyndon Johnson devoted considerable energy and determination to civil rights legislation, even appointing the first black to the Supreme Court. But it did not translate to any appreciable number of blacks working on his staff. Clifford Alexander says he was the sole black in Johnson’s White House, serving first as a National Security Council officer, then as associate White House counsel.

"We were fighting for something quite new," says Alexander. "You knew how much your job meant. And you knew President Johnson was fighting on your behalf." As a young man growing up in Harlem, Alexander had heard about Morrow. Mothers and fathers pointed to him as a grand success story. "Fred was a lovely man," says Alexander. "But they did not pay any attention to him in the Eisenhower White House."

Colin Powell would become the highest-ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named President Reagan’s national security adviser in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that same position under President George W. Bush.

The butler remembers seeing both Powell and Rice in the Oval Office. He was serving refreshments. He couldn’t help notice that blacks were moving closer to the center of power, closer than he could ever have dreamed. He’d tell Helene how proud it made him feel.

Time for Change

Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d’ in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were actually elected president.

"Just imagine," she said.

"It’d be really something," he said.

"We’re pretty much past the going-out stage," she said. "But you never know. If he gets in there, it’d sure be nice to go over there again."

They’ve got pictures of President and Mrs. Reagan in the living room. On a wall in the basement, they’ve got pictures of every president Gene ever served. There’s a painting President Eisenhower gave him and a picture of President Ford opening birthday gifts, Gene hovering nearby.

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They’d go vote together. She’d lean on her cane with one hand, and on him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she’d get supper going afterward. They’d gone over their Election Day plans more than once.

"Imagine," she said.

"That’s right," he said.

On Monday Helene had a doctor’s appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

"I woke up and my wife didn’t," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady whom he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Voir par ailleurs:

LE MAJORDOME : chronique

Emmanuelle Spadacenta

11-09-2013

Lee Daniels retrace le parcours du majordome qui a servi trente-quatre ans à la Maison-Blanche sous huit présidents. Un homme qui a accompagné l’histoire américaine.

Cecil Gaines, incarné par Forest Whitaker, est l’avatar fictionnel d’Eugene Allen, majordome qui officia à la Maison-Blanche de 1952 à 1986. Retracer le destin de l’homme qui servit huit Présidents (de Eisenhower à Reagan), c’est raconter, via un témoin privilégié, l’éradication du racisme et de la ségrégation au plus haut sommet de l’État. LE MAJORDOME n’est pas une biographie : certains faits ont été modifiés ou créés de toutes pièces, afin que Cecil cristallise l’Histoire américaine et que, par son seul regard, le film puisse balayer soixante ans d’évolutions. Et poser encore davantage de questions. Car Cecil, jeune esclave des champs de coton, va s’élever socialement en devenant le serviteur des blancs. Son recruteur lui explique qu’ »à la Maison-Blanche, il n’y a aucune tolérance pour la politique ». Une ironie qui le force à se dépolitiser. Ainsi privé de toute conscience civique, il va se perdre entre les décisions des puissants et l’activisme du peuple noir. Et s’éloigner de son fils (David Oyelowo), engagé auprès de Martin Luther King puis de Malcolm X. Cecil est-il un esclave consentant d’une Amérique qui a conditionné les Noirs à s’asservir ou est-il au contraire, comme Luther King l’affirme, un être « subversif » qui s’ignore ? LE MAJORDOME est donc plus que l’hagiographie d’un témoin politique. Il ouvre des pistes de réflexion sur l’émancipation des opprimés et tend un miroir cruel à tous les Américains, via de nombreuses scènes à la puissance dévastatrice. Le réalisateur Lee Daniels est un rebelle pacifiste mais au cinéma, il dérange. LE MAJORDOME n’est ni poli ni beau sous tous rapports. C’est une œuvre de mauvais goût où le grain de l’image est gros, où les lumières sont cramées. Où Mariah Carey joue une esclave violée par son propriétaire terrien, où Oprah Winfrey incarne une desperate housewife alcoolique, où Lenny Kravitz met le tablier pour faire des petits fours. S’il n’est bien-pensant, LE MAJORDOME peut être rebutant : les maquillages prothétiques y sont franchement borderline, et cette certaine théâtralité peut friser la soirée déguisée. Mais sous cette grossièreté cinématographique, explosent une vraie flamboyance et une grande honnêteté. On est loin de l’entreprise cynique et bâclée. L’histoire, qui idéologiquement peut atteindre une grande complexité, est submergée par l’émotion, elle est racontée sans ambages, en ligne droite, et le règlement de compte que l’Amérique entreprend avec elle-même est douloureux. Il y a chez Lee Daniels, déjà responsable de PRECIOUS et PAPERBOY, une manière de s’exprimer sans s’excuser qui peut passer pour de l’arrogance ou de l’inconscience. Mais elle peut aussi révéler une personnalité entière des plus touchantes.

De Lee Daniels. Avec Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo. États-Unis. 2h12. Sortie le 11 septembre

L’ombre de ton ombre

Le Majordome

Lee Daniels

Critiques

10 septembre 2013

À peine ce Majordome nous intrigue-t-il – surtout par la cinglante démesure avec laquelle il semble endosser le genre du « film à Oscars » – que nous devons déjà ravaler nos minces espoirs : il n’y a que peu à sauver dans une entreprise à la fois aussi ambitieuse et aussi diminuée.

Cecil Gaines est un témoin privilégié de l’histoire contemporaine : il a officié durant sept présidences – nous n’en verrons réellement que cinq – en tant que majordome à la Maison Blanche. C’est aussi un Noir américain, né dans les champs de coton du Sud où il a vu son propre père se faire assassiner par son employeur blanc, avant de partir de son côté pour Washington et « servir », d’abord dans un palace, puis dans la demeure présidentielle. Le Majordome tente, ainsi, deux grands écarts : faire tenir en un seul film à la fois un résumé de toute l’histoire contemporaine américaine (par le prisme du Bureau ovale), et un résumé de toute la lutte pour la libération des Noirs (par le prisme d’une famille dont chaque génération constitue un chapitre de l’histoire des civil rights).

C’est cette vaste entreprise de pédagogie qui fait du Majordome un projet essentiellement grotesque, qui n’a que le temps de saisir les bouleversements historiques sous forme d’instants, de saynètes d’un plus grand tableau qui serait l’hagiographie d’un pays, les Etats-Unis, et d’une figure semi-divine, le Président. Ainsi se trouvent vignettées l’assassinat de Kennedy [1] (une dizaine de minutes), la guerre du Vietnam (pas mieux), la démission de Richard Nixon (un plan), où Lee Daniels visite l’histoire comme on visiterait un musée en courant, jetant des coups d’œil vaguement curieux aux mandats traversés. La question de l’émancipation des Noirs, essentiellement structurée autour de la relation entre un père bien rangé (Forest Whitaker) et son fils militant du Black Panther (David Oyelowo), n’en est pas moins caricaturale : Lee Daniels consacre une intarissable énergie à faire du « nègre de maison » (ainsi qu’ils sont appelés dans les riches propriétés du Sud) une image de libération en refusant de voir qu’elle cumule tous les attributs de la servilité.

À l’arrivée, difficile de déterminer quel versant du film est la toile de fond de l’autre. Avançant conjointement, présidence et mouvement des civil rights se font les deux points cardinaux de la contemporanéité politique américaine. Le Majordome pose ainsi l’empreinte d’un imaginaire collectif, brutalement matérialisé par une saisie de l’histoire qui est à rapprocher de l’écriture automatique. Chaque donnée politique se trouve ramenée à une image-réflexe, un souvenir prégnant ; ainsi se voient d’ailleurs tout bonnement évacués deux présidents déjà dissous dans l’amnésie générale (Gerald Ford et Jimmy Carter). La présidence de Barack Obama apparaît alors comme le salut du film, la rencontre pacifiée de ses deux sillages contradictoires. Versant littéralement dans le fanatisme – Cecil Gaines, vieillard et veuf, fond en larmes devant l’annonce des résultats en 2008 –, le final du Majordome nous rappelle à quel point l’écriture de l’histoire au cinéma n’est jamais mieux prise en défaut que dans son écriture du présent : l’agenouillement aveugle sur lequel le film s’achève vaut pour preuve de son simplisme généralisé.

Théo Ribeton

Notes

[1] Il faudrait d’ailleurs se demander pourquoi les deux films américains se proposant de représenter cette année l’assassinat d’un président ont systématiquement écarté l’image même de cet assassinat, dissimulée dans une ellipse. On ne verra pas plus la mort de John F. Kennedy qu’on ne vit celle d’Abraham Lincoln chez Steven Spielberg. Refoulé traumatique ?

"Le majordome", plus de trente ans dans la peau d’un Noir à la Maison-Blanche

Cette fresque humaniste sur un majordome qui a servi sept présidents des États-Unis et sur les tensions raciales figure déjà parmi les favoris pour la course aux Oscars.

10/9/13

Au début de sa carrière de majordome, Cecil Gaines (incarné par Forest Whitaker) est au service d…

ANNE MARIE FOX /Butler Films/LLC

Au début de sa carrière de majordome, Cecil Gaines (incarné par Forest Whitaker) est au service de Dwignt D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams).

LE MAJORDOME *** de Lee Daniels

Film américain, 2 h 05

« Je ne dois pas t’entendre respirer. » Telle est la première recommandation, terrible, de la vieille propriétaire de la plantation à Cecil Gaines, âgé de 7 ans en 1926, qui quitte les champs de coton pour devenir « nègre de maison ». Une promotion en guise de consolation : son père a été tué pour avoir esquissé une protestation contre le viol de sa mère par le maître des lieux.

L’orphelin apprend la place des couverts, la présentation des mets, la discrétion qui confine à l’invisibilité. Jeune adulte, il part de la plantation et trouve un emploi de majordome dans un bel hôtel, d’abord en Virginie puis à Washington où il épouse Gloria qui met au monde deux fils.

Sa méticulosité et sa culture l’amènent à devenir l’un des six majordomes en fonction à la Maison-Blanche. Embauché en 1957 alors qu’Eisenhower est au pouvoir, il demeure à ce poste durant sept présidences.

De la ségrégation raciale à l’élection de Barack Obama

En 2008, au moment de l’élection présidentielle, le Washington Post publie les entretiens d’un journaliste avec Eugene Allen, majordome pendant trente-quatre ans à la Maison-Blanche et qui mourra en 2010 à 90 ans. Le film de Lee Daniels s’inspire de son parcours exceptionnel. Un sujet en or dont le réalisateur tire une fantastique page d’histoire tout en ne perdant jamais de vue la petite histoire de son héros, Cecil Gaines.

En deux heures, ce long métrage balaie le demi-siècle où les États-Unis sont passés d’une période où un Blanc pouvait abattre un Noir, en toute impunité, à l’élection de Barack Obama à la présidence. Une révolution à l’échelle d’une vie. Se succèdent les étapes souvent sanglantes de la condition des Noirs, sans pesanteur grâce à l’entrelacs de ce propos avec la vie des personnages.

Étudiant, Louis, le fils aîné de Cecil, part dans le Sud afin de participer au mouvement pour l’égalité des droits civiques par la résistance pacifique chère à Gandhi et Martin Luther King ; il occupe des places réservées aux Blancs dans les restaurants et les bus, ce qui lui vaut blessures et séjours en prison. Cecil suit cet engagement avec affliction : il ne comprend pas ce militantisme et l’ingratitude d’un fils à qui il a tout donné pour mener une vie bourgeoise et paisible.

« À la Maison-Blanche, nous ne tolérons pas que vous soyez politisé »

C’est l’excellente idée du film de Lee Daniels : il ne se contente pas d’être une biographie filmée et de dérouler les étapes de l’émancipation des Noirs. Par l’antagonisme père-fils, il montre la complexité de cette mutation et deux stratégies opposées : l’intégration du père qui a trouvé sa place, même modeste, dans le saint des saints de la démocratie américaine, et la rébellion du fils, d’abord pacifiste avant de se radicaliser avec les Black Panthers.

Cecil Gaines accepte sans sourciller l’énormité énoncée lors de son recrutement : « À la Maison-Blanche, nous ne tolérons pas que vous soyez politisé. » Mais peut-être, de l’intérieur, peut-il œuvrer en douceur pour une évolution, à défaut d’une révolution.

Malcolm X oppose les « nègres de maison », conservateurs, et les « nègres des champs », révoltés. Martin Luther King au contraire voit la dimension subversive des premiers, dociles et travailleurs, à l’encontre des stéréotypes des racistes.

Film à la réalisation classique voire académique, Le Majordome brille par sa distribution où se bousculent les stars. Forest Whitaker donne une élégance retenue et un charisme modeste à Cecil Gaines. Oprah Winfrey incarne Gloria, son épouse délaissée. Inégal, le casting des présidents réunit Robin Williams (Dwight D. Eisenhower), James Marsden (John F. Kennedy) et Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan) accompagné de Jane Fonda (Nancy Reagan).

De facture hollywoodienne, le film joue (parfois trop) sur la corde de l’émotion, au point de tirer des larmes aux spectateurs et à Barack Obama. « J’ai pleuré, a-t-il expliqué, non seulement parce que je pensais aux majordomes qui ont travaillé ici, à la Maison-Blanche, mais aussi à une génération entière de gens qui étaient capables et talentueux, mais ont été bridés à cause des lois raciales, à cause des discriminations. »

CORINNE RENOU-NATIVEL

Le Majordome

Frédéric Strauss

Télérama

11/09/2013

Au service de huit présidents à la Maison-Blanche, Eugene Allen (1919-2010) passa sa vie dans les coulisses de l’Histoire. Rebap­tisé Cecil Gaines, il devient, en quelque sorte, l’ambassadeur de tout un peuple : les Noirs américains. Lee Daniels est l’un d’eux et il n’hésite pas à politiser son propos. C’est d’ailleurs la bonne surprise de ce film, qu’on pouvait redouter bien plus décoratif et anecdotique… Deux ou trois scènes où passe un plateau d’argent suffisent à résumer le travail de ce valet des présidents. Eisenhower, Kennedy ou Nixon sont représentés avec un minimum de crédi­bilité, Jane Fonda vient faire sa Nancy Reagan : elle est très drôle, mais toute cette reconstitution reste simplette. L’important est ailleurs. Lee Daniels insiste sur la principale qualité d’un bon majordome : être invisible. La clé d’une discrétion qui va de soi, mais aussi une règle de survie sociale : pour être tolérés par les Blancs, les Noirs doivent éviter de se faire remarquer. Un principe contre lequel va s’élever le fils du majordome qui devient, lui, un héros de la bataille des droits civiques, dans le sillage de Martin Luther King et Malcolm X.

Cet aspect symbolique ne va pas sans une certaine schématisation. Mais Lee Daniels réussit à raconter, expliquer cette Amérique qui a difficilement renoncé à la discrimination raciale et n’en est pas encore complètement remise. Un pays, cependant, où un Noir, embauché à la Maison-Blanche, y revint, à la fin de sa vie, pour rencontrer Barack Obama. Un parcours qui a tout d’une parabole.


Columbus Day/521e: Au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique (There was no "Europe" before 1492: How Columbus discovered Europe)

15 octobre, 2013
http://libcom.org/files/images/history/Indians.jpghttp://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/9d7d3-columbus.gif?w=450&h=553Ainsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions. John Locke
Hey Americans! Feeling uncomfortable with Columbus Day? You are cordially invited to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Stephanie Carvin (University of Ottawa)
America, as it appears in these famous words from the Two Treatises of Government, is John Locke’s political Genesis. For Locke, America is the beginning of civilization, to the extent that it reveals civil society’s natural origins. But Locke’s vision of the new world is a ‘beginning’ for the old world, in a different, although equally profound, sense. Steeped in the colonial zeal of his patron, the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke saw America as the second Garden of Eden; a new beginning for England should she manage to defend her claims In the American continent against those of the Indians and other European powers. America, like the world described in the original Genesis, is England’s second chance at paradise, providing the colonial masters of the old world, with a land full of all the promise known in that first Idyllic state. America thus represents for Locke and his readers a two-sided Genesis, a place to find both the origins of their past and the promise of their future. It is the role of America and Its native inhabitants In Locke’s political theory which has been previously overlooked in scholarship on the Two Treatises. Given the number of specific references In this work to America, and Locke’s lifelong Involvement In the colonization of the new world, it Is Indeed surprising that so little has been written on the subject. The oversight is Important for without considering Locke’s use of  America and its inhabitants in light of the collection of American ‘travelogues’ within his own personal library and the political needs of Shaftesbury’s colonial enterprise in Carolina, an important aspect of the Two Treaties will be missed. This thesis will argue that Locke’s Two treatises of Government were a defense of England’s colonial policy in the new world against the counterclaims of the Indians and other European powers to the continent. In particular, it will be shown that the famous chapter on property, which contains most of the references to to American Indians in the Two treatises, was written to justify the dispossession of the American Indians of their land, through a vigorous defense of England’s ‘superior’ claims to proprietorship. Morag Barbara Arneil
Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. This is the other half of the vast process historians now call the Columbian exchange. Crops, animals, ideas, and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, "Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism." After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as "damned infidels," Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517. Politically, nations like the Arawaks-without monarchs, without much hierarchy-stunned Europeans. In 1516 Thomas More’s Utopia, based on an account of the Incan empire in Peru, challenged European social organization by suggesting a radically different and superior alternative. Other social philosophers seized upon the Indians as living examples of Europe’s primordial past, which is what John Locke meant by the phrase "In the beginning, all the world was America." Depending upon their political persuasion, some Europeans glorified Indian nations as examples of simpler, better societies, from which European civilization had devolved, while others maligned the Indian societies as primitive and underdeveloped. In either case, from Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau down to Marx and Engels, European philosophers’ concepts of the good society were transformed by ideas from America. America fascinated the masses as well as the elite. In The Tempest, Shakespeare noted this universal curiosity: "They will not give a doit to relieve a lambe beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian." Europe’s fascination with the Americas was directly responsible, in fact, for a rise in European self-consciousness. From the beginning America was perceived as an "opposite" to Europe in ways that even Africa never had been. In a sense, there was no "Europe" before 1492. People were simply Tuscan, French, and the like. Now Europeans began to see similarities among themselves, at least as contrasted with Native Americans. For that matter, there were no "white" people in Europe before 1492. With the transatlantic slave trade, first Indian, then African, Europeans increasingly saw "white" as a race and race as an important human characteristic. James W. Loewen

Attention: une découverte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 521e anniversaire de la découverte de l’Amérique par Christophe Colomb

Qui, politiquement correct oblige, se voit accuser de tous les maux de la terre …

Et où nos amis canadiens en profitent discrètement pour fêter leur Thanksgiving

Retour sur l’autre découverte que rendit possible celle de Colomb avec ses inexplicables "Indiens" et ce nouveau jardin d’Eden extra-biblique …

Mais aussi l’immensité des nouveaux espaces ouverts qui inspirera à Locke sa fameuse définition de la propriété

A savoir au-delà naturellement de la justification des visées coloniales de son employeur le comte de Shaftesbury

L’autodécouverte, par l’Europe elle-même, de sa propre identité …

Essai sur la véritable Origine, l’Étendue et la Fin du Gouvernement Civil.

John Locke

Chapitre V

De la Propriété.

25. Que nous considérions la Raison naturelle, qui nous dit que les Hommes, à la naissance, ont droit à la Conservation de soi, et donc au Boire et au Manger, et à ces autres choses que la Nature procure pour leur Subsistance; ou la Révélation, qui nous représente ces Concessions que Dieu a faites du Monde à Adam, et Noé, et ses Fils, il est très clair, que Dieu, comme le dit le Roi David, Ps. CXV. xvi. a donné la Terre aux Enfants des Hommes, l’a donnée à l’Humanité en commun. Mais ceci étant supposé, il subsiste pour certains une très grande difficulté, comment quiconque pourrait-il jamais devenir Propriétaire de quoi que ce soit: je ne me bornerai pas à répondre que s’il est difficile de comprendre la Propriété, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à sa Postérité en commun; il est impossible que qui que ce soit, sauf un Monarque universel, devienne Propriétaire, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à ses Héritiers dans l’ordre de Succession. Mais je tâcherai de montrer comment les Hommes ont pu devenir Propriétaires de parties différentes de ce que Dieu donna à l’Humanité en commun, et ceci sans Contrat exprès de tous les Usagers.

26. Dieu, qui a donné le Monde aux Hommes en commun, leur a aussi raison donnée pour l’utiliser au mieux et à la commodité de la Vie. La Terre, et tout ce qui s’y trouve, est donnée aux Hommes pour le Soutien et le Confort de leur existence. Et bien que tous les Fruits qu’elle produit naturellement, et toutes les Bêtes qu’elle nourrit, appartiennent à l’Humanité en commun, en tant qu’ils sont produits par la main spontanée de la Nature; et bien que personne n’ait à l’origine de Domination privée, à l’exclusion du reste de l’Humanité, sur n’importe lequel d’entre eux, en tant qu’ils sont dans leur état naturel: cependant, donnés pour être utilisés par les Hommes, il doit nécessairement y avoir un moyen ou un autre de les approprier avant qu’ils ne puissent servir ou bénéficier à qui que ce soit. Les Fruits, ou le Gibier, qui nourrissent l’Indien sauvage, ne connaissant point la Clôture et encore Tenancier en commun, doivent être à lui et tellement à lui, c’est-à-dire partie de lui-même, que personne ne peut plus y avoir droit, avant de pouvoir lui être d’aucun bien pour le Soutien de sa Vie.

27. Bien que la Terre, et toutes les Créatures inférieures soient communes à tous les Hommes, cependant chacun d’eux est Propriétaire de sa propre Personne. Sur elle nul n’a de Droit sauf lui-même. On peut dire que le Labeur de son Corps, et l’Ouvrage de ses mains sont proprement à lui. A tout objet, donc, qu’il tire de l’État où la Nature l’a procuré et laissé, il a mêlé son Travail, et joint quelque chose qui est son bien, et le fait par là sa Propriété. En le retirant de l’état commun où la Nature l’a placé, ce Travail lui a annexé quelque chose, qui exclut les autres Hommes du droit d’usage. Car, Propriété incontestable de celui qui le fournit, personne d’autre ne peut avoir droit à ce à quoi il est désormais joint, du moins là où il en reste assez, et d’aussi bonne qualité, en commun pour d’autres.

28. Celui qui se nourrit de Glands ramassés sous un Chêne, ou de Pommes cueillies sur l’Arbre dans les Bois, se les est certainement appropriés. On ne peut nier qu’ils ne soient à lui. Je demande alors, à partir de quand? Au moment où il les a digérés? mangés? fait bouillir? ramenés chez lui? ou ramassés? Il est évident que rien ne le pourrait, si les cueillir d’abord ne le faisait. Ce travail les a mis à part de ceux qui sont en commun. Il leur a ajouté quelque chose de plus que ce qu’avait fait la Nature, la commune Mère de tout; et ainsi ils sont devenus son droit privé. Et dira-t-on qu’il n’avait point droit aux Glands ou aux Pommes qu’il s’est ainsi appropriés, parce qu’il n’avait pas le consentement de toute l’Humanité pour les faire siens? Était-ce donc un Vol que de supposer à lui ce qui appartenait à tous en Commun? S’il fallait un tel consentement, l’Homme serait mort de faim, nonobstant l’Abondance que Dieu lui a donnée. On voit dans les Communaux, qui le restent par Contrat, que c’est le fait de prendre une partie de ce qui est commun et de la retirer de l’état où la Nature la laisse, qui fait naître la Propriété; sans laquelle le Communal n’ait d’aucune utilité. Et prendre telle ou telle partie ne dépend pas du consentement exprès de tous les Usagers. Ainsi l’Herbe que mon Cheval a broutée; la Tourbe que mon Serviteur a découpée; et le Minerai que j’ai extrait n’importe où je partage avec d’autres un droit d’usage, deviennent ma Propriété, sans assignation ni consentement de quiconque. Le travail qui était mien, en les retirant de cet état commun où ils étaient, y a fixé ma Propriété.

29. S’il fallait un consentement explicite de tous les Usagers à tous ceux qui s’approprient une partie de ce qui est donné en commun, Enfants ou Serviteurs ne pourraient pas couper la Viande que leur Père ou leur Maître leur a fourni en commun, sans leur assigner de part en particulier. Bien que l’Eau à la Fontaine soit à tout le monde, qui peut douter que dans le Pichet elle ne soit qu’à celui qui l’a tirée? Son travail l’a retirée des mains de la Nature, où elle était en commun et appartenait également à tous ses Enfants, et l’a par là appropriée à lui-même.

30. Ainsi cette Loi de la raison fait du Cerf le bien de l’Indien qui l’a tué; il est permis que les biens auxquels il a appliqué son travail soient à lui, bien qu’auparavant chacun en eût le droit d’usage. Et parmi ceux qui passent pour la partie Policée de l’Humanité, qui ont fait et multiplié les Lois positives pour déterminer la Propriété, ce Droit de la Nature originel pour faire naître la Propriété, dans ce qui était auparavant en commun, a encore cours; c’est en vertu de lui que le Poisson capturé dans l’Océan, ce grand Communal encore subsistant de l’Humanité; ou l’Ambre gris qui y est pris, deviennent par le Travail, qui les retire de l’état commun où la Nature les laissait, la Propriété de celui qui s’en donne la peine. Et même parmi nous, la Hase, que l’on court, est pensée comme lui appartenant par son poursuivant au cours de la Chasse. Puisqu’étant une Bête qui passe encore pour commune, et n’est Possession privée de Personne; quiconque a employé autant de travail à quoi que ce soit, que la débusquer et la poursuivre, l’a retirée par là de l’état de Nature où elle était commune, et a fait naître une Propriété.

31. On objectera peut-être à ceci, Que si cueillir des Glands, ou d’autres Fruits de la Terre, &c. donne droit à eux, alors n’importe qui peut accaparer autant qu’il veut. A quoi je Réponds, Non. Le même Droit de la Nature, qui nous donne par ce moyen la Propriété, limite également cette Propriété aussi. Dieu nous a donné toutes choses richement, 1 Tim. vi. 17. est la Voix de Raison confirmée par l’Inspiration. Mais jusqu’où nous l’a-t-il donné? Pour jouir. Autant que quelqu’un peut en utiliser en faveur de la vie avant qu’il ne se gâte; autant il peut y fixer une Propriété par son travail. Tout ce qui est au-delà, est plus que sa part, et appartient à autrui. Dieu n’a rien créé pour que l’Homme le gâte ou le détruise. Et ainsi vu l’abondance des Vivres naturels qu’il y avait longtemps dans le Monde, le peu de consommateurs, et la petitesse de la fraction des vivres sur lesquels l’industrie d’un Individu pouvait s’étendre et qu’elle pouvait accaparer au détriment d’autrui; surtout s’il restait dans les limites mises par la raison à ce qui pouvait lui servir; Querelles ou Litiges sur la Propriété ainsi établie n’avaient donc guère de place.

32. Mais l’objet principal de Propriété n’étant pas maintenant les Fruits de la Terre, ni les Bêtes qui y subsistent, mais la Terre elle-même; comme ce qui englobe et comporte tout le reste: je pense qu’il est évident, que la Propriété en ce qui la concerne s’acquière aussi comme la précédente. Autant de Terres qu’un Homme Laboure, Plante, Améliore, Cultive, et dont il peut utiliser le Produit, autant est sa Propriété. Par son Travail il les enclôt, pour ainsi dire, du Communal. Et cela n’invalidera pas son droit de dire que Tout autre y a un Titre égal, et qu’il ne peut donc approprier, enclore, sans le Consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers, de toute l’Humanité. Dieu, quand il donna le Monde en commun à toute l’Humanité, commanda aussi à l’Homme de travailler, et l’Indigence de son État le lui imposa. Dieu et sa Raison lui commandaient de soumettre la Terre, c’est-à-dire de l’améliorer en faveur de la Vie, et ce faisant d’y dépenser quelque chose qui était son bien, son travail. Celui qui, Obéissant à ce Commandement de Dieu, en soumettait, labourait et ensemençait une partie, lui annexait ainsi quelque chose qui était sa Propriété, à laquelle autrui n’avait point de Titre, ni ne pouvait lui prendre sans lui léser.

33. Et cette appropriation d’une parcelle de Terre, moyennant son amélioration, ne nuisait à personne, puisqu’il y en avait encore assez, et d’aussi bonne; et plus que ne pouvait utiliser celui qui était encore dépourvu. Si bien qu’en effet, il ne restait jamais moins aux autres de la clôture pour soi. Car celui qui laisse autant qu’un autre peut utiliser, fait comme s’il ne prenait rien. Personne ne pouvait s’estimer lésé par ce qu’un autre buvait, même s’il s’agissait d’une bonne Gorgée, si toute une Rivière de la même Eau lui restait pour étancher sa Soif. Et il en est exactement de même pour la Terre, là où, comme de l’Eau, il y en a assez.

34. Dieu donna le Monde aux Hommes en Commun; mais puisqu’il le leur donna pour leur bien, et pour les plus grandes Commodités de la Vie qu’ils étaient capables d’en tirer, on ne peut supposer que ce fût pour qu’il restât toujours en commun et non cultivé. Il le donna à l’usage de l’Industrieux et du Rationnel (et le Travail devait être son Titre); non à la Fantaisie ou à la Cupidité du Querelleur et du Chicaneur. Celui qui en avait d’aussi bon pour l’améliorer que ce qui était déjà pris, n’avait pas à se plaindre, ne devait pas se mêler de ce qui était déjà amélioré par le Travail d’un autre: S’il le faisait, il est évident qu’il voulait profiter de la Peine d’autrui, à laquelle il n’avait point droit, et non du Sol que Dieu lui avait donné à travailler en commun avec les autres, et dont il restait d’aussi bonne qualité que ce qui était déjà possédé, et plus qu’il ne savait en faire, ou que son Industrie pouvait attraper.

35. Il est vrai, dans la Terre qui est commune en Angleterre, ou ailleurs, où il y a une Abondance de Gens sous Gouvernement, qui ont Monnaie et Commerce, personne ne peut enclore ou approprier quelque partie que ce soit, sans le consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers: parce qu’elle est laissée en commun par Contrat, c’est-à-dire par le Droit foncier, qui ne doit pas être violé. Et, si elle est Commune, relativement à certains, elle ne l’est pas à toute l’Humanité; mais elle est la co-propriété de telle Contrée, ou de telle Paroisse. En outre, le restant, après une telle clôture, ne serait pas aussi bon au reste des Usagers que ne l’était le tout, quand ils pouvaient tous l’utiliser: alors qu’au commencement et au premier peuplement du grand Communal du Monde, il en était tout autrement. La Loi sous laquelle était l’Homme, était plutôt pour l’appropriation. Dieu Commandait, et ses Besoins le forçaient au travail. C’était sa Propriété qu’on ne pouvait lui prendre partout où il l’avait fixée. Et de là nous voyons que soumettre ou cultiver la Terre, et avoir la Domination, vont ensemble. L’un donnait Titre à l’autre. Si bien que Dieu, en commandant de soumettre, donnait Pouvoir d’approprier. Et la Condition de la Vie Humaine, qui nécessite Labeur et Matières à travailler, introduit nécessairement les Possessions privées.

36. La Nature a bien établi la mesure de la Propriété, par l’étendue du Travail humain, et la Commodité de la Vie humaine: il n’y avait personne dont Travail pût soumettre ou approprier tout: ni la Jouissance consommer plus qu’une petite partie; si bien que personne ne pouvait, par ce moyen, empiéter sur le droit d’autrui, ou acquérir, pour lui, une Propriété aux dépens de son Voisin, qui trouverait encore place pour une Possession aussi bonne, et aussi grande (après que l’autre a pris la sienne) qu’avant son appropriation. Cette mesure limitait la Possession de chacun à une Proportion très modérée, et telle qu’il pouvait s’approprier, sans Léser qui que ce soit aux Premiers Ages du Monde, quand les Hommes risquaient plus de se perdre, en s’écartant de leur Compagnie, dans les alors vastes Déserts de la Terre, que d’être empêchés de s’établir par manque de place. Et la même mesure vaut encore, sans nuire à qui que ce soit, aussi plein que le Monde paraisse. Car, si un Homme, ou une Famille, dans l’état où ils étaient au premier peuplement du Monde par les Enfants d’Adam, ou de Noé, s’établissait dans quelque endroit vacant d’Amérique situé à l’intérieur des terres, nous verrions que les Possessions qu’il pourrait se constituer, en fonction des mesures que nous avons données, ne seraient pas très grandes, et que, même aujourd’hui, elles ne nuiraient pas au reste de l’Humanité, ou ne lui donnerait pas de raison de se plaindre, ou de s’estimer lésé par l’Usurpation de cet Homme, quoique la Race humaine se soit maintenant disséminée aux quatre coins du Monde, et surpasse infiniment le petit nombre qu’elle était au commencement. Bien plus, l’étendue du Sol vaut si peu, sans travail, que j’ai entendu dire qu’en Espagne même, on peut être autorisé à labourer, semer et moissonner, sans être inquiété, sur une Terre à laquelle l’on n’a d’autre Titre que l’usage qu’on en fait. Mais qu’au contraire les Habitants s’estiment obligés par celui dont l’Industrie sur une Terre négligée, et donc vaine, a accru le fonds de Grains, dont ils avaient besoin. Mais quoi qu’il en soit de ceci, je ne m’y appuierai point; Voici ce que j’ose affirmer hardiment, la même Règle de Propriété, (à savoir) que chacun devait avoir autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, subsisterait encore dans le Monde, sans gêner personne, puisqu’il y a assez de Terres dans le Monde pour suffire au double d’Habitants, si l’Invention de l’Argent, et la Convention tacite des Hommes pour lui mettre une valeur, n’avaient introduit (par Consentement) des Possessions plus grandes, et Droit à celles-ci; je vais bientôt montrer plus en détail comment cela s’est fait.

37. Il est certain, Qu’au commencement, avant que le désir d’avoir plus que les Hommes n’avaient besoin, n’eût modifié la valeur intrinsèque des choses, qui ne dépend que de leur utilité pour la Vie humaine; ou n’eût convenu qu’un petit morceau de Métal jaune, qui se conserverait sans s’user ni s’altérer, vaudrait un grand morceau de Viande ou tout un tas de Grains; quoique les Hommes eussent chacun Droit de s’approprier, par leur Travail, autant de choses de la Nature qu’ils pouvaient utiliser: ce ne pouvait cependant pas être beaucoup, ni nuire à autrui, là où ceux qui utiliseraient la même Industrie en trouvaient encore tout aussi abondamment. J’ajoute, que celui qui s’approprie de la Terre par son travail, ne diminue pas mais accroît le fonds commun de l’humanité. Car les vivres servant au soutien de la vie humaine, qui sont produits par acre de terre enclose et cultivée, représentent (sans exagération) dix fois plus que ceux rendus par acre de Terre, d’une égale richesse, restant vaine en commun. Et donc on peut vraiment dire de celui qui enclôt la Terre et obtient de dix acres une plus grande abondance de commodités de la vie que celle qu’il pourrait avoir de cent laissées à la Nature, qu’il donne quatre-vingt-dix acres à l’Humanité. Car son travail le pourvoit maintenant de vivres tirés de dix acres, qui n’étaient le produit que de cent restant en commun. J’ai évalué ici très bas la terre amélioration en n’envisageant son produit que dans le rapport de dix à un, alors qu’il est beaucoup plus près de cent à un. Car franchement, mille acres dans les bois sauvages et dans les terres vaines incultes d’Amérique laissées à la Nature, sans aucune amélioration, labour ou culture, rendraient-ils aux habitants nécessiteux et miséreux autant de commodités de la vie que ne le font dix acres de terres d’égale fertilité dans le Devonshire où elles sont bien cultivées?

Avant l’appropriation des Terres, quiconque cueillait autant de Fruits sauvages, tuait, capturait ou domestiquait autant de Bêtes qu’il pouvait; quiconque employait sa Peine sur n’importe lequel des Produits spontanés de la Nature, à le modifier d’une façon ou d’une autre, à partir de l’état que lui donne la Nature, en y plaçant quoi que ce soit de son Travail, en devenait Propriétaire: Mais s’il périssait, en sa Possession, sans leur bonne et due utilisation; si les Fruits pourrissaient, ou le Gibier se putréfiait avant qu’il n’ait pu les consommer, il enfreignait le Droit coutumier de la Nature, et s’exposait à châtiment; il envahissait la part de son Voisin, car il n’avait point Droit, au-delà de ce que son Usage en demandait, et ils pouvaient servir à le pourvoir des Commodités de la Vie.

38. Les mêmes mesures gouvernaient également la Possession de la Terre: Tout ce qu’il labourait et moissonnait, mettait en réserve et employait avant que cela ne se perdît, lui appartenait en propre; tout ce qu’il clôturait, pouvait nourrir, et employer, Bétail et Produit, était aussi à lui. Mais si l’Herbe de son Enclos pourrissait sur le Sol, ou si les Fruits de son plantage s’abîmaient sans être cueillis, et mis en réserve, cette partie de la Terre, nonobstant sa clôture, devait encore être tenue pour Terre Vaine, et pouvait être Possession de n’importe qui d’autre. Ainsi, au commencement, Caïn pouvait prendre autant de Sol qu’il pouvait en labourer, et dont il pouvait faire sa propre Terre, et cependant en laisser assez aux moutons d’Abel pour y paître; un petit nombre d’Acres servait à leurs deux Possessions. Mais à mesure que les Familles s’accroissaient, et que l’Industrie augmentait leur Fonds, leurs Possessions s’étendaient avec leur besoin; mais c’était communément sans aucune propriété permanente du sol qu’elles utilisaient, jusqu’à ce qu’elles se fussent unies, établies ensemble, et qu’elles eussent construit des Cités, et donc que, par consentement, elles en vinrent à fixer les limites de leurs Territoires distincts, à convenir de leurs frontières avec leurs Voisins, et par des Lois internes, à établir les Propriétés des membres de la même Société. Car l’on voit, dans cette partie du Monde habitée en premier, et donc susceptible d’être la mieux peuplée, même en des temps aussi éloignés que celui d’Abraham, qu’elles erraient avec leur petit et gros Bétail, qui était leur substance, librement partout; et qu’il en était ainsi d’Abraham, dans un Pays où il était Étranger. D’où il ressort, qu’au moins une grande partie de la Terre restait en commun; que les Habitants ni ne l’évaluaient, ni n’en revendiquaient la Propriété sur plus qu’ils ne pouvaient utiliser. Mais quand il n’y avait pas au même endroit assez de place pour que leurs Troupeaux paissent ensemble, par consentement, comme le firent Abraham et Lot, Genèse xiii. 5. ils séparaient et étendaient leur pâture, où cela leur convenait le mieux. Et c’est ce qui fit qu’Esaü quitta son Père et son Frère, et s’établit dans la Montagne de Séïr, Gen. xxxvi. 6.

39. Et ainsi, sans prêter de Domination et de propriété privées à Adam, sur le Monde entier, à l’exclusion de tous les autres Hommes, ce qui ne peut être prouvé, ni être à l’origine de la propriété de qui que ce soit; mais en supposant le Monde donné comme ce le fut aux Enfants des Hommes en commun, on voit comment le travail pouvait faire des Hommes des titres distincts à des parcelles différentes, pour leurs usages privés; où il ne pouvait y avoir d’incertitude juridique, ni de place pour les différends.

40. Et il n’est pas aussi étrange que peut-être a priori il paraît, que la Propriété du travail puisse l’emporter sur la Communauté de la Terre. Car c’est en effet le Travail qui met la différence de valeur sur toute chose; et, quiconque s’interroge sur la différence entre un Acre de Terre plantée en Tabac ou en Sucre, ensemencée en Blé ou en Orge; et un Acre de la même Terre restant en commun, sans Culture, trouvera que l’amélioration du travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur. Je pense que ce ne sera en faire une Évaluer très modeste que de dire, que 9/10 des Produits de la Terre utiles à la Vie humaine sont les effets du Travail: bien plus, si l’on veut correctement estimer les choses à leur stade final, et calculer les différentes Dépenses qu’elles nécessitent, ce qui en elles est dû purement à la Nature, et ce qui l’est au travail, on trouvera que dans la plupart d’entre elles 99/100 sont à mettre intégralement au compte du travail.

41. Il n’y en a pas démonstration plus claire, que les diverses Nations Américaines, riches en Terre, et pauvres dans tous les Conforts de la Vie; qui, quoique la Nature les ait pourvues aussi libéralement que n’importe quel autre peuple des matières de l’Abondance, c’est-à-dire d’un Sol fécond, apte à produire copieusement, ce qui pourrait servir de nourriture, vêtement, et contentement; n’ont pas, faute de l’améliorer par le travail, la centième partie des Commodités dont nous jouissons: Et le Roi d’un vaste Territoire fécond là-bas se nourrit, se loge et s’habille plus mal qu’un Journalier en Angleterre.

42. Pour rendre ceci un peu plus clair, il suffit de suivre quelques uns des Vivres ordinaires, dans leurs différentes étapes, avant leur stade final, et de voir combien ils reçoivent de leur valeur de l’Industrie Humaine. Pain, Vin et Drap sont d’un usage quotidien, et de grande abondance, cependant nonobstant, Glands, Eau et Feuilles, ou Peaux constitueraient notre Pain, notre Boisson et notre Vêtement, si le travail ne nous fournissait pas de ces Denrées plus utiles. Car tout ce que le Pain vaut de plus que les Glands, le Vin que l’Eau, et le Drap ou la Soie que les Feuilles, les Peaux ou la Mousse, est intégralement dû au travail et à l’industrie. Les uns étant la Nourriture et le Vêtement dont la Nature inassistée nous pourvoit; les autres les vivres que notre industrie et nos peines nous préparent, quiconque calculera de combien la valeur de ceux-ci excède la valeur de ceux-là, verra alors combien le travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur des choses, dont nous jouissons en ce Monde: Et le sol qui produit les matières, doit à peine y être compté, comme toute autre partie, ou au plus que comme une infime partie; Si infime que, même parmi nous, la Terre totalement laissée à la Nature, que n’améliorent pas les Pâture, Labours, ou Plantage est appelée, comme elle l’est en effet, vaine; et l’on trouvera que son profit se monte à presque rien. Ceci montre, combien le nombre des hommes doit être préféré à la grandeur des dominations, et que l’accroissement des terres et leur bon emploi sont le grand art de gouvernement. Et le Prince qui sera assez sage et divin pour établir des lois libérales pour assurer protection et donner encouragement à l’honnête industrie humaine contre l’oppression du pouvoir et l’étroitesse partisane deviendra vite trop fort pour ses Voisins. Mais c’est là une parenthèse. Revenons à notre propos.

43. Un Acre de Terre qui rend ici Vingt Boisseaux de Blé, et un autre en Amérique, qui, identiquement Cultivé, en rendrait autant, ont sans doute la même Valeur naturelle, intrinsèque. Mais cependant le Bienfait que l’Humanité retire de l’un, en un an, vaut 5 l. et de l’autre probablement pas un Penny, si tout le Rapport qu’un Indien en tire était évalué, et vendu ici; du moins, à vrai dire, pas 1/1000. C’est donc le Travail qui met la plus grande partie de la Valeur sur la Terre, sans lequel elle vaudrait à peine quelque chose: c’est à lui que l’on doit la plus grande partie de tous ses Produits utiles: car tout ce que la Paille, le Son, le Pain, de cet Acre de Blé, valent de plus que le Produit d’un Acre d’aussi bonne Terre, qui reste vaine, est intégralement l’Effet du Travail. Car ce ne sont pas simplement la Peine du Laboureur, le Labeur du Moissonneur et du Batteur, et la Sueur du Boulanger, qui doivent être comptés dans le Pain que nous mangeons; le Travail de ceux qui ont dressé les Boeufs, qui ont extrait et travaillé le Fer et les Pierres, qui ont abattu et façonné le Bois employé pour la Charrue, le Moulin, le Four, ou n’importe lequel des innombrables Ustensiles requis pour ce Blé, depuis son existence de semence à semer jusqu’à celle sous forme de Pain, tous doivent être imputés au Travail et reçus comme un effet de celui-ci: La Nature et la Terre n’ont fourni que les Matières en elles-mêmes presque sans valeur. Combien étrange serait le Catalogue des choses fournies et utilisées par l’Industrie pour chaque Miche de Pain avant son stade final, si nous pouvions en suivre la trace: Fer, Arbres, Cuir, Écorce, Bois, Pierre, Briques, Charbons, Glu, Drap, Teintures, Poix, Goudron, Mâts, Cordes, et toutes les Matières utilisées dans le Navire qui a apporté n’importe laquelle des Denrées employées par n’importe lequel des Ouvriers, à n’importe quel stade de l’Ouvrage, toutes Matières dont il serait presque impossible, du moins trop long, de faire le compte.

44. D’après tout ceci il est évident que, quoique les choses de la Nature soient données en commun, cependant l’Homme (en étant Maître de lui-même, et Propriétaire de sa propre Personne, ainsi que des actions ou du Travail de celle-ci) avait en soi le grand Fondement de la Propriété; et ce qui formait la plus grande partie de ce qu’il appliquait au Soutien ou au Confort de son existence, quand l’Invention et les Arts eurent amélioré les commodités de la Vie, était parfaitement son bien propre, et n’appartenait pas en commun à autrui.

45. Ainsi le Travail, au Commencement, donnait-il un Droit de Propriété, partout où quiconque se plaisait à l’employer, sur ce qui était en commun, qui resta, longtemps, la partie de loin la plus grande, et est encore plus que l’Humanité n’en utilise. Au début, les Hommes, pour la plupart, se contentaient de ce que la Nature inassistée Offrait à leurs Nécessités: et bien que par la suite, dans les parties du Monde (où l’accroissement des Gens et du Fonds, avec l’Usage de l’Argent) avait rendu la Terre rare et ce faisant de quelque Valeur, les diverses Communautés eussent établi les Frontières de leurs Territoires distincts, et par des Lois internes réglementé les Propriétés des Individus de leur Société, et qu’ainsi, par Contrat et Convention, elles eussent établi la Propriété engendrée par le Travail et l’Industrie; et par des Alliances, conclues entre plusieurs États et Royaumes, niant expressément ou tacitement toute Revendication et Droit sur la Terre en Possession d’autrui, elles eussent, par Consentement commun, renoncé à prétendre au Droit d’usage naturel, qu’elles avaient à l’origine sur ces Pays, et qu’ainsi, par convention positive, elles eussent établi une Propriété parmi elles, sur des Parties et Parcelles distinctes de la Terre: néanmoins il subsiste encore de vastes Étendues de Terre à découvrir, (dont les Habitants n’ont pas rejoints le reste de l’Humanité, dans le consentement à l’Usage de son Argent commun) qui restent vaines, et surpassent ce qu’en font les Gens qui y habitent, ou ce qu’ils peuvent en utiliser, et donc qui restent encore en commun. Quoique ceci puisse à peine exister dans la partie de l’Humanité qui a consenti à l’usage de l’Argent.

46. La plus grande partie des choses réellement utiles à la Vie humaine, et dont la nécessité de subsister fit s’occuper les premiers Usagers du Monde, comme elle le fait maintenant aux Américains, sont généralement des choses de brève durée; qui, si elles ne sont pas utilisées, s’altéreront et périront d’elles-mêmes: L’Or, l’Argent, et les Diamants sont choses, auxquelles la Fantaisie ou la Convention ont mis de la Valeur, plus que l’Usage réel, et le Soutien nécessaire de la Vie. Maintenant de toutes ces choses que la Nature a fournies en commun, chacun avait Droit (comme il a été dit) à autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, et était Propriétaire de tout ce qu’il pouvait effectuer avec son Travail: tout ce à quoi son Industrie pouvait s’appliquer, dont elle pouvait modifier l’État dans lequel la Nature l’avait mis, était à lui. Quiconque cueillait Cent Boisseaux de Glands ou de Pommes, en avait donc la Propriété; ils étaient ses Biens dès qu’il les avait cueillis. Il devait seulement veiller à les utiliser avant qu’ils ne se perdissent; sinon il prenait plus que sa part et volait autrui. Et c’était d’ailleurs aussi stupide que malhonnête que d’amasser plus qu’il n’en pouvait en utiliser. S’il en donnait une fraction à n’importe qui d’autre, de sorte qu’elle ne pérît point inutilement en sa Possession, c’était aussi en faire usage. Et si aussi il troquait des Prunes qui auraient pourri en une Semaine, contre des Noix qui pouvaient rester bonnes à manger pendant toute une Année, il ne lésait point; il ne gaspillait pas le Fonds commun; ne détruisait aucune part de la portion de Biens appartenant à autrui, tant que rien ne périssait dans ses mains inutilement. Derechef, s’il voulait donner ses Noix contre un morceau de Métal dont la couleur plaisait; ou échanger son Mouton contre des Coquillages, ou de la Laine contre un Caillou brillant ou un Diamant, et les conserver toute sa Vie, il n’usurpait pas le Droit d’autrui, il pouvait entasser autant de ces choses durables qu’il voulait; le dépassement des limites de sa juste Propriété ne résidant pas dans la grandeur de sa Possession, mais dans ce que quelque chose y périsse inutilement.

47. Et ainsi vint l’usage de l’Argent, quelque chose durable que les Hommes pouvaient conserver sans qu’il se perdît, et que par mutuel consentement ils pouvaient accepter en échange des Choses nécessaires à la Vie vraiment utiles, mais périssables.

48. Et comme les degrés différents d’Industrie tendaient à donner aux Hommes des Possessions en Proportions différentes, cette Invention de l’Argent leur donna l’occasion de continuer à les agrandir. Car soit une Ile, coupée de tout Commerce avec le reste du Monde, où ne vivraient qu’une centaine de Familles, mais où il y aurait Moutons, Chevaux et Vaches, et d’autres Animaux utiles, des Fruits sains, et assez de Terres à Blé pour cent mille fois autant, mais rien qui soit, du fait de sa Généralité ou de sa Périssabilité, propre à occuper la place de l’Argent: Quelle raison quelqu’un pourrait-il y avoir d’agrandir ses Possessions au-delà de l’usage de sa Famille, et d’un approvisionnement abondant pour sa Consommation soit en produits sa propre Industrie, soit en produits qu’il pourrait troquer contre des Denrées pareillement utiles et périssables avec d’autres? Là où il n’y a rien à la fois de durable et de rare, et d’une valeur qui fasse qu’on l’amasse, on ne tendra pas à agrandir ses Possessions de Terre, si riche et si libre qu’elle fût. Car je vous le demande, Que vaudraient pour quelqu’un Dix Mille ou Cent Mille Acres d’excellente Terre, déjà cultivée, et également bien pourvue en Bétail, au milieu des Parties de l’Amérique à l’intérieur des terres, sans l’espoir de Commercer avec d’autres Parties du Monde, de tirer de l’Argent de la Vente du Produit? Enclore ne vaudrait pas la peine, et nous le verrions restituer au Communal sauvage de la Nature, tout ce qui dépasserait les Commodités de la Vie qu’il en pourrait tirer pour lui et sa Famille.

49. Ainsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions.

50. Mais puisque l’Or et l’Argent, peu utiles à la Vie humaine proportionnellement à la Nourriture, au Vêtement et au Transport, ne tiennent leur valeur que du consentement des Hommes dont le Travail fait cependant, en grande partie, la mesure, il est évident que les Hommes ont convenu d’une Possession disproportionnée et inégale de la Terre, quand ils ont par un consentement tacite et volontaire inventé la façon, dont un homme peut honnêtement posséder plus de terres qu’il ne peut lui-même en utiliser de produit, en recevant en échange du surplus, de l’Or et de l’Argent, ces métaux qui, ne se perdant ni ne s’altérant dans les mains du possesseur, peuvent être amassés sans léser qui que ce soit. Ce partage des choses, dans une inégalité des possessions privées, les hommes l’ont rendu réalisable hors des limites de la Société, et sans contrat, uniquement en mettant une valeur à l’or et sur l’argent et en convenant tacitement d’utiliser l’Argent. Car dans les Gouvernements les Lois règlent le droit de propriété, et des constitutions positives déterminent la possession de la Terre.

51. Et ainsi je pense qu’il est très facile de concevoir, sans aucune difficulté, comment le Travail a pu d’abord faire naître un titre de Propriété sur les choses communes de la Nature, et comment le dépenser pour notre usage le limitait. Si bien qu’il ne pouvait y avoir de sujet de différend sur le Titre, ni d’incertitude sur la grandeur de la Possession qu’il donnait. Droit et Commodité allaient de pair; car comme un Homme avait Droit à tout ce sur quoi il pouvait employer son Travail, il n’avait point la tentation de travailler pour plus qu’il pouvait utiliser. Il n’y avait pas place pour Controverse sur le Titre, ni pour Empiétement sur le Droit d’autrui; la Portion qu’un Homme se taillait se voyait aisément; et il lui était aussi inutile que malhonnête de s’en tailler une trop grande, ou de prendre plus qu’il n’avait besoin.

Columbus, the Indians and the ‘discovery’ of America

Howard Zinn on the "discovery" of America, the treatment of the native population and how it was justified as "progress".

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Columbus wrote:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East.

Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the Catholic Church, expelled all the Jews, driven out the Moors. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything.

There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean.

In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new tide: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant’s clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.

Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia-the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds.

These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…." He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage "as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask." He was full of religious talk: "Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities."

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans’ intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were "naked as the day they were born," they showed "no more embarrassment than animals." Columbus later wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.

Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.

When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas transcribed Columbus’s journal and, in his fifties, began a multivolume History of the Indies. In it, he describes the Indians. They are agile, he says, and can swim long distances, especially the women. They are not completely peaceful, because they do battle from time to time with other tribes, but their casualties seem small, and they fight when they are individually moved to do so because of some grievance, not on the orders of captains or kings.

Women in Indian society were treated so well as to startle the Spaniards. Las Casas describes sex relations:

Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in

large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time … made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves…. They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of then; friends and expect the same degree of liberality. …

In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians….

Las Casas tells how the Spaniards "grew more conceited every day" and after a while refused to walk any distance. They "rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry" or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. "In this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and others to fan them with goose wings."

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades." Las Casas tells how "two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys."

The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, "they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help." He describes their work in the mines:

… mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on then: backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold stay in the water all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them; and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside….

After each six or eight months’ work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died.

While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides … they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation…. hi this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . .. and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile … was depopulated. … My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write. …

When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, "there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it…."

Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)-is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.

Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus’s route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide."

That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book’s last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.

One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker’s distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker’s technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you’d better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

"History is the memory of states," wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen’s policies. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from the standpoint of others.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is."

I don’t want to invent victories for people’s movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico came out of the heritage of Mayan, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood. It also engaged in (let us not overlook this) the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts (horses), clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.

That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back. (The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune.)

Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed. And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes’s small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man. Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards.

All this is told in the Spaniards’ own accounts.

In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call "the primitive accumulation of capital." These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In 1585, before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village.

Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people’s land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their "starving time" in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with "noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers." Some soldiers were therefore sent out "to take Revenge." They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard "and shoteinge owit their Braynes in the water." The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death.

Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good. They went on a rampage and massacred 347 men, women, and children. From then on it was total war.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:

Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their com wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn… . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.

In that first year of the white man in Virginia, 1607, Powhatan had addressed a plea to John Smith that turned out prophetic. How authentic it is may be in doubt, but it is so much like so many Indian statements that it may be taken as, if not the rough letter of that first plea, the exact spirit of it:

I have seen two generations of my people the…. I know the difference between peace and war better than any man in my country. I am now grown old, and must the soon; my authority must descend to my brothers, Opitehapan, Opechancanough and Catatough-then to my two sisters, and then to my two daughters-I wish them to know as much as I do, and that your love to them may be like mine to you. Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run into the woods; then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous of us? We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them, and to lie cold in the woods, feed on acorns, roots and such trash, and be so hunted that I can neither eat nor sleep. In these wars, my men must sit up watching, and if a twig break, they all cry out "Here comes Captain Smith!" So I must end my miserable life. Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may all die in the same manner.

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the NarraganseIt Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:

They had commission to pat to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.

The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully… -"

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortes and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethno historian Francis Jennings’s interpretation of Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: "Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective."

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: "The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam … brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire." William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason’s raid on the Pequot village:

Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:

The terror was very real among the Indians, but in rime they came to meditate upon its foundations. They drew three lessons from the Pequot War: (1) that the Englishmen’s most solemn pledge would be broken whenever obligation conflicted with advantage; (2) that the English way of war had no limit of scruple or mercy; and (3) that weapons of Indian making were almost useless against weapons of European manufacture. These lessons the Indians took to heart.

A footnote in Virgil Vogel’s book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: "The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons."

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsuttas brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: "All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive."

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war; the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained; they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would the from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that "the Indians … affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died." When the English first settled Martha’s Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was

a depraved appetite after the great vanities, dreams and shadows of this vanishing life, great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen have, after a sick and stormy, a long and starving passage. This is one of the gods of New England, which the living and most high Eternal will destroy and famish.

Was all this bloodshed and deceit-from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans-a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made-as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable ("Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done") to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and "advanced" countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?

If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on the Indians of the Americas? For a brief period in history, there was the glory of a Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. As Hans Koning sums it up in his book Columbus: His Enterprise:

For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.

Beyond all that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside, who peered out of the forests at the first white settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts?

Columbus called them Indians, because he miscalculated the size of the earth. In this book we too call them Indians, with some reluctance, because it happens too often that people are saddled with names given them by their conquerors.

And yet, there is some reason to call them Indians, because they did come, perhaps 25,000 years ago, from Asia, across the land bridge of the Bering Straits (later to disappear under water) to Alaska. Then they moved southward, seeking warmth and land, in a trek lasting thousands of years that took them into North America, then Central and South America. In Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador their petrified footprints can still be seen, along with the print of bison, who disappeared about five thousand years ago, so they must have reached South America at least that far back

Widely dispersed over the great land mass of the Americas, they numbered approximately 75 million people by the rime Columbus came, perhaps 25 million in North America. Responding to the different environments of soil and climate, they developed hundreds of different tribal cultures, perhaps two thousand different languages. They perfected the art of agriculture, and figured out how to grow maize (corn), which cannot grow by itself and must be planted, cultivated, fertilized, harvested, husked, shelled. They ingeniously developed a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as peanuts and chocolate and tobacco and rubber.

On their own, the Indians were engaged in the great agricultural revolution that other peoples in Asia, Europe, Africa were going through about the same time.

While many of the tribes remained nomadic hunters and food gatherers in wandering, egalitarian communes, others began to live in more settled communities where there was more food, larger populations, more divisions of labor among men and women, more surplus to feed chiefs and priests, more leisure time for artistic and social work, for building houses. About a thousand years before Christ, while comparable constructions were going on in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Zuni and Hopi Indians of what is now New Mexico had begun to build villages consisting of large terraced buildings, nestled in among cliffs and mountains for protection from enemies, with hundreds of rooms in each village. Before the arrival of the European explorers, they were using irrigation canals, dams, were doing ceramics, weaving baskets, making cloth out of cotton.

By the time of Christ and Julius Caesar, there had developed in the Ohio River Valley a culture of so-called Moundbuilders, Indians who constructed thousands of enormous sculptures out of earth, sometimes in the shapes of huge humans, birds, or serpents, sometimes as burial sites, sometimes as fortifications. One of them was 3 1/2 miles long, enclosing 100 acres. These Moundbuilders seem to have been part of a complex trading system of ornaments and weapons from as far off as the Great Lakes, the Far West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

About A.D. 500, as this Moundbuilder culture of the Ohio Valley was beginning to decline, another culture was developing westward, in the valley of the Mississippi, centered on what is now St. Louis. It had an advanced agriculture, included thousands of villages, and also built huge earthen mounds as burial and ceremonial places near a vast Indian metropolis that may have had thirty thousand people. The largest mound was 100 feet high, with a rectangular base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. In the city, known as Cahokia, were toolmakers, hide dressers, potters, jewelry makers, weavers, salt makers, copper engravers, and magnificent ceramists. One funeral blanket was made of twelve thousand shell beads.

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.

In the vision of the Mohawk chief Iliawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: "We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness."

In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: "No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers.. . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common."

Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives’ families. Each extended family lived in a "long house." When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband’s things outside the door.

Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.

The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: "Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society."

Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, hut gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.

All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: "And surely there is in all children … a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon."

Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture:

No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails-the apparatus of authority in European societies-were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong…. He who stole another’s food or acted invalourously in war was "shamed" by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself.

Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In 1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor’s demand that if any of them lolled an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for punishment according to English law. The Indians said:

It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen, wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, with a 100 armes length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us….

So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.

They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe’s, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.

John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: "Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace."

Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that "myth." Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.


Miss America/92e: Attention: un racisme peut en cacher un autre ! (No Kansas guns and religion, please, we’re New Yorkers: Has Miss America betrayed the American dream ?)

2 octobre, 2013
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http://media.philly.com/images/526*395/theresa_vail_Miss_Kansas_600.jpghttp://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2013/9/19/1379575928829/Obabiyi-Aishah-Ajibola-010.jpghttp://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/06/2012-sdt-asian-americans-0232.pnghttp://familyinequality.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pew-asian-income.jpg?w=450&h=691http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/06/2012-sdt-asian-americans-0261.pngCar on donnera à celui qui a; mais à celui qui n’a pas on ôtera même ce qu’il a. Jésus (Marc 4: 25)
Je rêve que mes quatre petits enfants vivront un jour dans un pays où on ne les jugera pas à la couleur de leur peau mais à la nature de leur caractère. Martin Luther King
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme dans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Obama
Nous qui vivons dans les régions côtières des villes bleues, nous lisons plus de livres et nous allons plus souvent au théâtre que ceux qui vivent au fin fond du pays. Nous sommes à la fois plus sophistiqués et plus cosmopolites – parlez-nous de nos voyages scolaires en Chine et en Provence ou, par exemple, de notre intérêt pour le bouddhisme. Mais par pitié, ne nous demandez pas à quoi ressemble la vie dans l’Amérique rouge. Nous n’en savons rien. Nous ne savons pas qui sont Tim LaHaye et Jerry B. Jenkins. […] Nous ne savons pas ce que peut bien dire James Dobson dans son émission de radio écoutée par des millions d’auditeurs. Nous ne savons rien de Reba et Travis. […] Nous sommes très peu nombreux à savoir ce qu’il se passe à Branson dans le Missouri, même si cette ville reçoit quelque sept millions de touristes par an; pas plus que nous ne pouvons nommer ne serait-ce que cinq pilotes de stock-car. […] Nous ne savons pas tirer au fusil ni même en nettoyer un, ni reconnaître le grade d’un officier rien qu’à son insigne. Quant à savoir à quoi ressemble une graine de soja poussée dans un champ… David Brooks
Mon Dieu,donnez-moi la sérénité d’accepter les choses que je ne puis changer, le courage de changer les choses que je peux, dt la sagesse d’en connaître la différence. Prière de la sérénité (tatouage de Miss Kansas)
Il y a autant de racismes qu’il y a de groupes qui ont besoin de se justifier d’exister comme ils existent, ce qui constitue la fonction invariante des racismes. Il me semble très important de porter l’analyse sur les formes du racisme qui sont sans doute les plus subtiles, les plus méconnaissables, donc les plus rarement dénoncées, peut-être parce que les dénonciateurs ordinaires du racisme possèdent certaines des propriétés qui inclinent à cette forme de racisme. Je pense au racisme de l’intelligence. (…) Ce racisme est propre à une classe dominante dont la reproduction dépend, pour une part, de la transmission du capital culturel, capital hérité qui a pour propriété d’être un capital incorporé, donc apparemment naturel, inné. Le racisme de l’intelligence est ce par quoi les dominants visent à produire une "théodicée de leur propre privilège", comme dit Weber, c’est-à-dire une justification de l’ordre social qu’ils dominent. (…) Tout racisme est un essentialisme et le racisme de l’intelligence est la forme de sociodicée caractéristique d’une classe dominante dont le pouvoir repose en partie sur la possession de titres qui, comme les titres scolaires, sont censés être des garanties d’intelligence et qui ont pris la place, dans beaucoup de sociétés, et pour l’accès même aux positions de pouvoir économique, des titres anciens comme les titres de propriété et les titres de noblesse. Pierre Bourdieu
Dieu merci, le temps de la domination des barbies blondes peroxydées est révolu … Time
Quand on est miss America, on doit être américaine. Tweet
C’est l’élection de Miss Etats-Unis, pas Miss Inde. Tweet
Super, ils ont choisi une musulmane comme Miss America. Obama doit être heureux. Peut-être qu’il a voté. Tweet
Les juges de Miss America ne le diront jamais, mais Miss Kansas a perdu parce qu’elle représente réellement les valeurs américaines. Todd Starnes (Fox news)
Une fille au teint foncé comme Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde. Au moins, elle est devenue Miss America. Varun Agarwal
À cette miss New York aux allures pas assez "américaines" (encore faudrait-il définir ce qu’est un vrai américain parmi ce peuple originaire d’Afrique, d’Europe, ou encore d’Asie), ils préféraient miss Kansas : une femme blanche, sergent de l’armée américaine, arborant un insigne militaire de toute beauté tatoué sur l’épaule. Céline Husson-Alaya
Nous avons délibérément choisi de tenir cet événement juste avant la finale des Miss Monde afin de montrer qu’une alternative existe pour les musulmanes. Créatrice du concours Miss Muslimah
Margaret Gorman represents the type of womanhood America needs, strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests. The NYT (1921)
There she is, Miss America There she is, your ideal The dreams of a million girls Who are more than pretty May come true in Atlantic City Oh she may turn out to be The queen of femininity There she is, Miss America There she is, your ideal With so many beauties She’ll take the town by storm With her all-American face and form And there she is Walking on air she is Fairest of the fair she is Miss America. Jingle de Miss America
Thank God I have lived long enough that this nation has been able to select the beautiful young woman of color to be Miss America. Shirley Chisholm (Congresswoman)
Beauty contests are ways that if you live in a poor neighborhood, you can imagine getting ahead because it is a way up. It is a way to scholarships, to attention, and it’s one of the few things that you see out there as a popular symbol. When I was living in a kind of factory working neighborhood of Toledo, the K-Part television Miss TV contest, something like that, was advertised. And I decided I would try to enter the contest even though I was underage. I think I was 16 and the limit was, was 18. So I lied about my age. It wasn’t a terrible experience. It was a surrealistic experience. You had to put on your bathing suit and walk and stand on a beer keg. I did three or four different kinds of dances. Spanish and Russian and heaven knows what. I thought I would get money for college. And it seemed glamorous. It seemed to me in high school like a way out of a not too great life in a pretty poor neighborhood. Gloria Steinem
In spite of cringe-worth flaws of the pageant [like the bikini-in-heels (aka "swimsuit") competition], Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America, probably represents some of the best qualities and aspirations of "modern" America. Here’s why: America was built on a dream of hard work by people from all over the world. She and her family certainly fit that ideal. Her father is a physician and she aspires to be one as well. (…) Thanks to the life her parents built (from scratch), and her own hard work-ethic, she graduated from the University of Michigan debt-free. She’s a great example of working through failure and difficulty, and getting back up again. This shows in her struggle against bulimia. For fifteen years she studied classical Indian dance, refining a nuanced art form. She was gutsy enough to showcase a fusion of classical and Bollywood dance in her talent act (…) Her platform: "Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency" couldn’t be more timely. (…) When headlines all over the world proclaim Nina Davuluri as Miss America, this stops anti-Americans in their tracks. They see that the USA can live up to its values, as the land of the free, home of the brave. It’s where dreams for a better life come true. It’s where diverse people are welcomed. It’s full of beauty and sparkles and anything is possible. Homa Sabet Tavangar
Half of employed Asian Americans (50%) are in management, professional and related occupations, a higher share than the roughly 40% for employed Americans overall. Many of these occupations require advanced degrees. (…) These high levels of educational attainment are a factor in the occupational profile of Asian Americans, especially their concentration in the fields of science and engineering. Among adults, 14% of Asian Americans hold these types of jobs, compared with 5% of the U.S. population overall. The share among Indians is 28%. Another facet of the Asian-American occupational profile is the high share of immigrants from Asian countries who are in the U.S. under the H1-B visa program. These visas were authorized under the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1990 to increase the inflow of highly skilled “guest workers” from abroad. Asian countries are now the source of about three-quarters of such temporary visas. In 2011, India alone accounted for 72,438 of the 129,134 H1-B visas granted, or 56% (…) Among Indian Americans ages 25 and older, seven-in-ten (70%) have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree; this is higher than the Asian-American share (49%) and much higher than the national share (28%). Median annual personal earnings for Indian-American full-time, year-round workers are $65,000, significantly higher than for all Asian Americans ($48,000) as well as for all U.S. adults ($40,000). Among households, the median annual income for Indians is $88,000, much higher than for all Asians ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800). (…) The share of adult Indian Americans who live in poverty is 9%, lower than the shares of all Asian Americans (12%) and of the U.S. population overall (13%). (…) Compared with other U.S. Asian groups, Indian Americans are the most likely to identify with the Democratic Party; 65% are Democrats or lean to the Democrats, 18% are Republican or lean to the Republicans. Pew (2012)
Les Indiens-américains sont en effet une nouvelle "minorité modèle". Ce terme remonte aux années 1960 quand les Americains d’origine asiatique – les Chinois, Japonais et Coréens – étaient connus pour leurs hautes qualifications et hauts revenus. Les ressortissants d’Asie du nord-est continuent d’exceller aux États-Unis, mais parmi les groupes minoritaires, les Indiens sont clairement le dernier et meilleur "modèle". En 2007, le revenu médian des ménages dirigés par un Indien-américain était d’environ 83 000 $, comparativement à 61 000 $ pour les ressortissants d’Asie du nord-est et 55 000 $ pour les Blancs. Environ 69 % des Indiens-américains de 25 ans et plus sont au moins détenteurs d’une licence, ce qui éclipse les taux de 51 % et 30 % atteints respectivement par les Asiatiques en général et les Blancs. Les Indiens-américains sont également moins susceptibles d’être pauvres ou en prison par rapport aux Blancs. Alors pourquoi les Indiens-Américains s’en sortent-ils si bien ? Une réponse naturelle est l’autosélection. Quelqu’un qui est prêt à s’arracher à ses racines et à traverser la moitié du monde aura tendance à être plus ambitieux et travailleur que la moyenne. Mais les gens veulent venir aux États-Unis pour de nombreuses raisons dont certaines – comme par exemple le rapprochement familial – ont peu à voir avec l’ardeur au travail. En fin de compte, la politique d’immigration décide quels types de qualités nos immigrants possèdent. En vertu de notre politique d’immigration actuelle, une majorité d’immigrants légaux aux États-Unis obtiennent la carte verte (résidence permanente) car ils ont des liens familiaux avec des citoyens américains, mais un petit nombre (15 % en 2007) sont choisis spécifiquement pour leur valeur sur le marché du travail. La proportion d’immigrants indiens qui ont reçu une carte verte liée à l’emploi est l’une des plus élevées de toutes les nationalités. Par conséquent, c’est principalement l’élite instruite indienne et ses proches qui vient aux États-Unis. Forbes

Miss America a-elle trahi le Rêve américain ?

Alors qu’en cette saison finissante de l’été et de ses habituels concours de beauté

Où tous voiles dehors la troisième Miss Muslimah nous bassine de ses versets d’un livre prétendument "incréé" à qui l’on doit sur son seul continent d’origine une énième boucherie au Kénya et les destructions à présent quasi-hebdomadaires d’églises chrétiennes …

La première Miss Monde philippine, dont le concours sous la pression des islamistes avait dû être déplacé à Bali, est non seulement née aux Etats-Unis de père américain mais déjà actrice confirmée …

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’élection récente de la première Miss America d’origine indienne qui triomphe avec un numéro digne de Bollywood mais dont le teint foncé n’aurait probablement jamais permis l’élection en Inde même, la trahison précisément du Rêve américain qu’elle était censée servir ?

Et ne pas comprendre du coup les réactions dites "racistes" qui ont accompagné, derrière cette lutte entre l’urbanité d’une Miss New York,  fille de gynécologue et future médecin elle-même, et la ruralité d’une Miss Kansas, blonde diane chasseresse aux rangers et tatouages religieux et militaire, l’apparent couronnement du produit de la plus grande concentration de privilèges ?

Où la géniale mais bassement commerciale trouvaille (probable reprise des fêtes médiévales du premier mai) du fameux Barnum des femmes à barbe et des cirques du même nom pour allonger la saison touristique des plages américaines et servir accessoirement de marche-pied pour Hollywood (Dorothy Lamour, Miss Louisiana 1931), la mode ou la publicité (jusqu’à 100 000 dollars annuels pour Miss 1926, soit plus que le champion de baseball Babe Ruth ou le président des Etats-Unis !) à la première jeune Américaine venue …

Qui sous la pression des ligues de vertu religieuses puis féministes et entre la première lauréate juive (et future candidate au Sénat au lendemain du génocide de 1945), la première Noire (1984) ou la première handicapée (2005), avait progressivement abandonné les manteaux de fourrure et bijoux des débuts pour devenir le premier fournisseur de bourses d’étude pour filles au monde (quelque 45 millions annuels pour 12 000 jeunes filles dont un total de 340 000 dollars pour l’élection finale et 50 000 pour la gagnante) …

Finit en fait entre le désormais sacrosaint impératif de diversité, la multiplication des épreuves toujours plus "intelligentes" (comme par ailleurs, sans compter les dérives de la chirurgie esthétique et des concours pour enfants, d’autres concours tels Miss Monde, Miss Univers, Miss International ou Miss Terre !) et cet adoubemment d’une nouvelle "minorité modèle" qui ajoute à présent l’ultime luxe de la beauté aux plus hauts taux de diplômés et revenus des Etats-Unis …

Par remplacer (ne nous avait-on pas déjà fait le coup en 2008 avec l’élection qui avait viré au concours de beauté politiquement correct du premier président américain de couleur ?) un racisme (ethnique) par un autre (social) ?

Has Miss America betrayed the American dream?

JC Durbant

October 2, 2013

What is more American than Miss America and its idea that any well-deserving American girl will make it to the top ? But with the recent controversial election of Miss America 2014, has America’s oldest beauty pageant really kept its promise of unlimited personal progress ?

To be sure, over its 92 years of existence, America’s favorite beauty contest has had its share of criticism: immorality, commercialism, dehumanization, over-sexualization, even racism. Yet over the years it has always seemed to adapt with the times, introducing ever more advances such as a talent competition, scholarships, evening gowns or allowing non-white participants. Thus, 1945 saw the election of the first Jewish American girl and 1983 the crowning of the first of many non-white contestants, including this year’s first Indian-American. And even if it did start as a marketing device to make Labor Day tourists prolong their stay at the Atlantic beaches, it did provide an opportunity for ordinary young women such as Hollywood superstar Dorothy Lamour to realize their American dream in the form of advertising or movie contracts. In fact, it even helped its first Jewish winner to enter politics and run for the Senate in 1980. Or provided initial exposure to one of today’s most powerful and influential women in America and in the world, namely talk show host Oprah Winfrey. And over the years it has distributed millions and millions of dollars in scholarship money to the point where it is now the world’s largest provider of scholarships to women.

So how to explain the controversy which this year’s election has just generated ? After all, Miss America’s first Indian-American winner has got all the talent, brains and beauty that one can expect from the woman that is supposed to represent the best of America’s womanhood for a year ? Shall it be assigned to the usual cause of racism that America’s slowly-dwindling white majority has been known for in the past ? Or could it be that Miss America is just the victim of its own success? After raising, one after another, its standards over the years as a response to the criticisms of which it was the object, America’s oldest beauty pageant now finds itself electing the best America can offer. An India-American gynecologist’s daughter with the brightest education record and plans to be a physician herself, Nina Davuluri is the perfect example of a new model minority that is already the best educated and best-off of all the ethnic groups in the country -whites included. Hence perhaps the not-to-unexpected resentment of some in a white majority that in these days of recession is fast losing ground.

But is this not in fact one of the inherent contradictions of the American dream itself – and the source of America’s persistent and even increasing inequalities – in which only the best are supposed to win and where therefore you end up rewarding the least needy in the end ?

Voir aussi:

La nouvelle Miss America est d’origine indienne (donc arabe, musulmane et fanatique d’Al-Qaïda)

Céline Husson-Alaya

Femmes, féminins, féminismes

La plus belle femme des États-Unis est d’origine indienne. Rien de bien étonnant en soi en Amérique, terre d’immigration et de métissage par excellence. Nina Davuluri, grande brune à la peau mate née dans l’État de New York il y a 24 ans, a été élue Miss America 2014 le 15 septembre au soir.

Mais cette élection a visiblement courroucé certains conservateurs. Non pas pour le côté suranné d’un concours de beauté féminine tout à fait discutable au XXIème siècle, mais parce que certains estiment que la belle Nina n’est pas assez américaine. Pire, elle serait arabe (passons sur le fait que toutes les personnes mates de peau ne sont pas nécessairement arabes, et que les Indiens le sont encore moins). Double tare, elle serait musulmane (comme Barack Obama en fait, c’est une conspiration). Provocation ultime : lors de "l’épreuve des talents", elle a interprété un mélange de danse traditionnelle indienne et de mouvements de films de Bollywood. N’en jetez plus.

La nouvelle miss a été lynchée de tweets racistes sur le site de micro-blogging. "Quand on est miss America, on doit être Américaine", "Quand est-ce qu’une femme blanche sera élue Miss America ? Jamais ?", "Ils ont choisi une musulmane pour devenir Miss America. Obama a dû être content. Peut-être qu’il faisait partie du jury". "Comment une étrangère peut gagner ? C’est une Arabe !". Sans compter une réflexion de toute beauté : "#MissAmerica hmmm quoi ? Avons-nous oublié le 11 septembre ? " et le splendide : "C’est plutôt miss Terroriste #MissAmerica".

Comme on dit, la bave de crapaud n’atteint pas la blanche colombe, qui déclarait après son couronnement : "Je suis si heureuse que cette institution prenne en compte la diversité". "Nous sommes en train d’écrire l’histoire ici, en tant qu’Asiatiques américaines", alors que la communauté asio-américaine compte 18,2 millions de personnes aux États-Unis (5,7% de la population). Balayant la polémique, la reine de beauté affirmait lors de sa première conférence de presse : "Je dois m’élever au-dessus de ça". "Je me suis toujours considérée en premier lieu et avant tout comme une Américaine", elle qui racontait avoir dû combattre les préjugés sur sa culture durant cette année d’élection (certains étaient convaincus que ses parents allaient organiser un mariage arrangée pour elle).

À cette miss New York aux allures pas assez "américaines" (encore faudrait-il définir ce qu’est un vrai américain parmi ce peuple originaire d’Afrique, d’Europe, ou encore d’Asie), ils préféraient miss Kansas : une femme blanche, sergent de l’armée américaine, arborant un insigne militaire de toute beauté tatoué sur l’épaule.

Ni musulmane, ni Indienne, et encore moins arabe, (et quand bien même) Nina Davuluri est une étudiante diplômée de l’Université du Michigan qui souhaite devenir médecin, comme son père, gynécologue obstétricien, et souhaite utiliser l’argent de sa victoire, non pas pour financer Al-Qaïda, mais pour payer l’université. Et réaliser son rêve américain.

Ce n’est pas la première fois qu’une miss America est la cible d’attaques racistes. En 2010, Rima Fakih, une jeune femme d’origine libanaise, était la cible des mêmes relents haineux. Car d’origine libanaise, donc arabe, donc musulmane et donc sans doute terroriste, elle était accusée de militer pour le Hezbollah.

Voir également:

Non, Miss America n’est pas une terroriste !

L’attribution de la couronne de Miss America à Nina Davuluri, une Américaine originaire de l’Etat de l’Andhra Pradesh, a déchaîné une véritable hystérie raciste en ligne. Des nombreux utilisateurs de Twitter ont vu en elle une terroriste arabe. Une histoire à vite oublier, estime le quotidien.

Neeti Sarkar

The Hindu

19 Septembre 2013

Quand Nina Davuluri est devenue la première Américaine d’origine indienne à remporter le titre de Miss America [le 16 septembre], tweets malveillants et autres commentaires racistes se sont multipliés sur les réseaux sociaux.

Aujourd’hui, avec la révolution des télécommunications, n’importe qui peut dire n’importe quoi sur le web. La démocratie Internet est une hydre. Les commentaires [racistes] sur Nina y voisinent avec ceux, peut-être plus nombreux encore, qui prennent sa défense. Bina Hanchinamani Ellefsen, une avocate de Seattle, se dit "mal à l’aise face aux commentaires racistes au sujet d’une Miss America d’origine indienne. Nous ne sommes pas moins américains parce que nos ancêtres étaient indiens et non pas européens."

Quant à Nimisha Gandhi, gestionnaire dans le monde de la mode, elle "déplore qu’un pays par ailleurs si avancé soit si arriéré dans sa mentalité. Et sur les réseaux, dès qu’il s’agit de dénigrer quelqu’un à cause de sa couleur de peau ou de sa religion, les commentaires pleuvent. Je suis désolé pour cette belle fille intelligente et forte qui a été traitée de tous les noms. D’un autre côté, je suis contente qu’un jury américain ne se soit pas laissé influencer par les différences raciales."

"On est choqué de lire tant de commentaires racistes sur Twitter, s’indigne la journaliste et blogueuse Divya Sehgal. Et c’est effrayant de s’apercevoir que les Américains d’origine asiatique ne sont toujours pas reconnus comme des Américains. Cela dit, je pense que c’est le fait d’une petite minorité. Si vous faites défiler l’article de Buzzfeed [site qui a mis en ligne les commentaires postés sur Twitter], vous verrez combien d’Américains sont choqués par ces propos racistes. Donc, si le racisme est déplorable, j’ose espérer qu’il n’est qu’une goutte d’eau dans un immense océan non raciste."

"Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde"

Tandis que la plupart des Indiens sont attristés par ce qui s’est passé aux Etats-Unis, l’entrepreneur et auteur Varun Agarwal a reçu 600 commentaires favorables sous son message [posté sur Facebook]. "Une fille au teint foncé comme Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde, écrivait-il. Au moins, elle est devenue Miss America."

Selon la psychologue Jamuna Tripathi, "nous vivons malheureusement dans un monde qui perpétue les stéréotypes. La société rend complexés les gens à la peau foncée. L’aspect positif, c’est que Nina est restée très digne face à l’adversité. Sa confiance en elle et sa maturité sont vraiment la marque d’une gagnante."

Tout en rappelant qu’il serait temps de prendre de la hauteur, l’ancienne Miss Inde et Miss Terre 2010, Nicole Faria, affirme : "Chacun a le droit d’avoir ses opinions et, dans les concours de beauté, tout le monde peut avoir un point de vue différent ; la beauté est dans l’œil de celui qui regarde. Ce qui est bien, c’est que le résultat est définitif, et, même si certains peuvent voir les choses autrement, le verdict est tombé. Nina a remporté la couronne. En tant qu’Indienne, ça fait chaud au cœur. Rappelons-nous que la beauté et la bonté ont triomphé, et ne laissons rien ternir de cette victoire si méritée."

Voir aussi:

Attaques racistes

"Miss America est une terroriste"

Clémentine Rebillat

Paris Match

16 septembre 2013

Nina Davuluri, la nouvelle Miss America, a été élue dimanche soir. A peine a-t-elle eu le temps de savourer sa victoire que la jeune femme d’origine indienne a été la cible d’insultes racistes.

Quelques minutes après son sacre, Nina Davuluri déclarait: «Je suis tellement contente que cette organisation laisse une large place à la diversité». La nouvelle Miss America 2014 n’avait pas encore conscience du flot d’insultes dont elle allait être la victime. La jeune femme de 24 ans d’origine indienne qui a remporté dimanche soir à Atlantic City le prestigieux concours de Miss est au coeur d’une polémique. Malgré sa grâce, ses talents de danseuse et ses brillantes études -elle souhaite devenir médecin et compte utiliser l’argent de son couronnement pour payer l’université- Nina ne fait pas l’unanimité. Loin de là.

Miss America

Au moment où son nom a été annoncé par le présentateur, la sublime brune à la beauté exotique a déclenché un flot d’insultes racistes sur les réseaux sociaux. «Si tu es Miss America, tu dois être Américaine», a lancé un internaute. «Super, ils ont choisi une musulmane comme Miss America. Obama doit être heureux. Peut-être qu’il a voté», a écrit un autre. «Miss New York est une Indienne… Avec tout votre respect, c’est l’Amérique», «Et une Arabe devient Miss Amérique. Classique», «#Miss Amérique. Avons-nous oublié le 11-Septembre?», «Miss America est une terroriste», «C’est Miss America ou Miss Al Qaïda?» ont posté d’autres téléspectateurs…

"La domination des Barbie blondes peroxydées est révolue"

Pour beaucoup d’internautes, ce n’est pas Nina qui aurait dû gagner mais Miss Kansas, une sculpturale blonde tatouée, militaire, parachutiste, boxeuse et championne de tir à l’arc. Theresa Vail n’hésite jamais à poser en treillis ou arme à la main. Une image de l’Amérique conservatrice que les détracteurs de Nina auraient voulu gagnante. «Les juges de Miss America ne le diront jamais, mais Miss Kansas a perdu parce qu’elle représente réellement les valeurs américaines», a réagi sur Twitter l’animateur de la Fox, Todd Starnes.

Pourtant, Nina Davuluri, qui, plus jeune, s’est battue contre des troubles alimentaires, a elle aussi une histoire forte. Farouchement opposée à la chirurgie esthétique -un fait rare dans les élections de miss aux Etats-Unis- son père est un éminent médecin, un métier qu’elle veut exercer, d’après CNN. Le «Time» de son côté se félicite que le «temps de la domination des Barbie blondes peroxydées est révolu». Si beaucoup d’internautes se sont déchainés contre la gagnante, d’autres n’ont pas hésité à prendre sa défense, critiquant «l’ignorance» des auteurs.

Malgré la polémique, Nina Davuluri est bien décidée à profiter de son sacre et ne compte pas se laisser abattre par les insultes. En conférence de presse, elle a déclaré qu’elle «devait passer au-dessus de tout ça». «Je me suis toujours vue avant tout comme une Américaine», a-t-elle ajouté. Pour son premier déplacement en tant que Miss America, cette passionnée de Bollywood devrait se rendre dans le New Jersey, sur les lieux de l’ouragan Sandy.

Voir encore:

Les «Miss musulmanes» répliquent à «Miss Monde»

Chloé Woitier, AFP, AP, Reuters Agences

Le Figaro

18/09/2013

Ce concours de beauté où la piété et l’engagement comptent autant que la beauté aura lieu en Indonésie quelques jours avant la grande finale de Miss Monde, qui se déroule cette année dans le même pays.

Alors que, sur l’île de Bali, les Miss de tous les continents sont en pleine préparation de l’élection de Miss Monde, un concours de beauté d’un autre genre s’apprête à avoir lieu à près de 1000 kilomètres de là. La capitale de l’Indonésie, Jakarta, accueille en effet ce mercredi la finale de World Muslimah 2013, ou Miss musulmane du Monde.

Si World Muslimah reste avant tout un concours de beauté – la taille et le poids des 20 finalistes sont listés sur le site officiel du concours -, la sélection des jeunes femmes s’est faite sur des critères religieux. Pour participer, il est en effet obligatoire de porter le voile islamique, et de savoir lire parfaitement les versets du Coran. Les photos jointes au dossier de candidature doivent se faire «dans une tenue conforme aux standards musulmans», qui ne «laisse pas voir les courbes du corps», «empêche de deviner la peau et les cheveux», et dont le voile «est suffisamment long pour couvrir les oreilles, le cou et la poitrine». «Vos poses doivent être élégantes, nous recherchons avant tout la modestie», souligne le site officiel.

Dans les coulisses du concours

«Porter le voile n’empêche pas de réussir sa carrière»

Les candidates, âgées de 18 à 27 ans, doivent également expliquer dans leur dossier de candidature pourquoi elles ont choisi de mettre le voile. Mais la dévotion ne fait pas tout. Les jeunes femmes doivent également justifier d’une activité professionnelle, associative, artistique ou sportive qui met en avant leurs talents et leurs qualités morales. «Ce que je recherche, c’est une personnalité forte, quelqu’un qui aide sa communauté et prouve que la beauté n’est pas que corporelle», explique l’une des juges du concours.

Les candidates de World Muslimah, sélectionnées sur Internet, ont également dû préparer une vidéo pour se présenter. La jeune femme actuellement la plus populaire – 889 votes sur le site officiel – est originaire de Bali. Âgée de 21 ans, Febrian Nur Vianti explique dans sa vidéo être passionnée de mode et s’exercer à créer ses chaussures pour lancer à terme sa propre entreprise. On la voit également réciter longuement des versets du Coran, et «espérer que sa candidature prouvera aux jeunes musulmanes que porter le voile n’empêche pas de réussir sa carrière».

Miss Monde, «un concours de prostituées»

Les 20 finalistes, originaires d’Indonésie, d’Iran, de Malaisie, du Nigeria, de Bangladesh et du Brunei, se sont fait offrir un voyage à Jakarta pour préparer la finale et ont effectué un stage spirituel de trois jours. La grande gagnante pourra partir tous frais payés à La Mecque pour réaliser son pélerinage, tandis que ses dauphines participeront à des «voyages éducatifs» en Inde, Turquie, et au Brunei.

La grande finale de World Muslimah aura lieu quelques jours avant celle de Miss Monde, qui est sous le feu des critiques des islamistes d’Indonésie. Ces derniers ont dénoncé un «concours de prostituées» et obtenu que la finale soit déplacée de Jakarta à Bali, île à majorité hindouiste. Les organisateurs de World Muslimah ne sont pas associés à ces critiques. «Nous avons délibérément choisi de tenir cet événement juste avant la finale des Miss Monde afin de montrer qu’une alternative existe pour les musulmanes», affirme la créatrice du concours, qui avait été licenciée de la télévision indonésienne en 2006 pour avoir refusé de retirer son voile à l’antenne. «Nous préférons montrer à nos filles qu’elles ont le choix entre Miss Monde et Miss musulmanes».

Voir également:

5 Reasons the First Indian-American Crowned Miss America Represents Best Aspirations for Modern America

Homa Sabet Tavangar

Huffington Post

09/16/2013

I didn’t watch Miss America, but now I wish I had. Monday morning I woke up to a fascinating news feed about backlash on the winner, Miss New York, an Indian-American, and a first. But just as her mascara-punctuated tears began to flow as the tiara graced her perfect coif, the haters on Twitter reared their narrow-minded heads. Here’s an example of the media coverage, from CNN.com, with the headline:

Miss America Crowns 1st Winner of Indian Descent; racist tweets flow

The Tweets included this racist one from Todd Starnes, host of Fox News and Commentary: "The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values. #missamerica"

Many, many Tweets protested her being "Arab" (really?!), Muslim (she’s Hindu) and not American (she was born in Syracuse, NY and has lived in Oklahoma and Michigan as well).

In spite of cringe-worth flaws of the pageant [like the bikini-in-heels (aka "swimsuit") competition], Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America, probably represents some of the best qualities and aspirations of "modern" America. Here’s why:

America was built on a dream of hard work by people from all over the world. She and her family certainly fit that ideal. Her father is a physician and she aspires to be one as well.

The Founding Fathers were slave owners and came from Europe. Obviously, to be true to the ideals they enshrined, we don’t need to continue to live and look like them.

Thanks to the life her parents built (from scratch), and her own hard work-ethic, she graduated from the University of Michigan debt-free.

She’s a great example of working through failure and difficulty, and getting back up again. This shows in her struggle against bulimia. For fifteen years she studied classical Indian dance, refining a nuanced art form. She was gutsy enough to showcase a fusion of classical and Bollywood dance in her talent act (this made me want to try it!). Here’s a clip:

Her platform: "Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency" couldn’t be more timely. She chose this in part since she had to dispel so many misconceptions about her culture through the year, such as whether her parents will arrange a marriage for her. With the national spotlight, these prejudices are obviously rampant and growing, but it also offers an opening for a meaningful conversation: What is "cultural competency" and why does it matter? What are the values you hold dear as an American? Does she represent them? Does her brown skin and non-European heritage stand in the way of appreciating her accomplishment?

When headlines all over the world proclaim Nina Davuluri as Miss America, this stops anti-Americans in their tracks. They see that the USA can live up to its values, as the land of the free, home of the brave. It’s where dreams for a better life come true. It’s where diverse people are welcomed. It’s full of beauty and sparkles and anything is possible. Millions of dollars in weapons couldn’t convince youth in Iraq or Afghanistan or Egypt of this fact, but Nina’s smile just might.

Voir encore:

Will the Next Miss America Wear Combat Boots?

Susan Kraus

Huffington Post

09/03/2013

There is a Miss America contestant this year whose platform is "Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers."

2013-09-02-_51K65811.jpg

Her name is Theresa Marie Vail, Miss Kansas, and she’ll be breaking a few barriers herself.

Theresa is in the military. She enlisted in the Army National Guard, raised her right hand and took the oath to "support and defend" just three weeks after her 17th birthday. She completed basic training the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) as a mechanic between high school and college. She was the only woman in her class, and graduated #1. After three years she transferred to a medical detachment and went to dental tech school where she also graduated at the top of her class.

She’s not the first contestant to be in the military. There’s been one: Miss Utah 2007, Jill Stephens, a medic in the Utah National Guard. They have similarities: commitment to service, dedication to country, and almost no experience as a contestant.

Theresa entered her first pageant just nine months ago.

"I never thought about it until a mentor, in my unit, explained how the recognition could help with what I want to do as a role model," Theresa explained in a recent interview.

As a child she was teased and bullied, and was shy and insecure as a result. But she overcame obstacles, relied on her religious faith, and worked very hard to become the leader she is today.

Theresa is a young woman who excels. Now 22, she’s a Kansas State University senior with a double major in Chemistry and Chinese (with a 3.8 GPA in Chinese) – the first because she wants to be a dentist and the second because it’s a challenge. Theresa loves a challenge. Tell her she can’t do something and then stand back and watch her go.

She’s an expert marksman on the M 16. She’s an expert bow hunter. She skydives. She boxes. She’s working on a private pilot license. She started motorcycle racing but stopped after a crash in which she broke all the fingers her right hand (hard to be a good dentist without flexible fingers.)

With pageant festivities back this year in Atlantic City (where Miss America began in 1921), the "Show Us Your Shoes Parade" will return to the famed boardwalk. The September 14th parade will be televised live for the first time ever (and will be lead-in to the pageant itself on the 15th). This is where contestants flash extravagantly decorated, often state-themed, girly-girly high heels to laughing crowds yelling "Show us your shoes."

Only Theresa will be in uniform, wearing combat boots instead of four-inch heels.

When it comes to the bathing suit competition, Theresa will be breaking another barrier: she’ll be the first contestant ever with visible tattoos. No itty-bitty rose hidden under a bikini top for this girl. She has the insignia for the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. The Serenity Prayer ("God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference") flows down her right side.

"It’s my personal mission statement," Theresa said.

Of course, Theresa is also – if one can use this description for someone trained to shoot to kill – drop-dead gorgeous.

When asked about what she is most proud of, she grinned.

"I just got promoted. I made sergeant," she said. "And I re-enlisted for six years."

So, if things get wild in Atlantic City in a few weeks, this would be another Miss America first: Here she comes, Miss America … Miss Kansas… Sgt. Theresa Marie Vail.

Voir de même:

Combat boots, tattoos, and a Miss Kansas pageant sash

Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, at a Miss America event in Atlantic City. Vail, an Army National Guard sergeant, is an expert marksman, used to race motorcycles, and likes to skydive and bow-hunt for deer.

Jacqueline L. Urgo

Inquirer

September 13, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY – Hey, Kansas, your beauty queen wears combat boots!

And has big tattoos, too.

As an active member of the military, Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail – ahem, Army National Guard Sgt. Vail – may just have a slightly different take on world peace than the typical Miss America pageant contestant.

She’s also drop-dead gorgeous – literally. The slender blonde is an expert marksman who apparently knows her way around an M-16. She raced motorcycles as a teen until she broke her fingers. She is fluent in Chinese (she has a 3.8 GPA at Kansas State University) and likes to skydive and bow-hunt for deer. She’s working on a hunting series in production for the Outdoor Channel. (She will be the host.)

While her Miss America profile head shot has her looking like a supermodel, decked out in a hot-pink outfit, fluffed hair, and dangle earrings, other promo websites feature photos of her in full camouflage garb sporting a hunting rifle, bow and arrow, even posing with her prey (a deer, a fox).

But Vail is among only a handful of Miss America Pageant contestants to have military credentials. She is a dental technician with a National Guard medical unit based out of Kansas. Five pageant women since 1992 have been active-duty military, and Miss Utah 2007, Jill Stevens, was the first to work in a combat zone.

Also, Vail, 22, competing this week in the 2014 Miss America Pageant, is the first contestant ever to sport visible tattoos. Sure, other contestants have had tattoos – tiny, hidden ones, according to pageant officials.

But Vail’s big bold tat, of the Serenity Prayer, flanks her entire right midriff. She also sports the insignia of the Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. The university senior aspires to be an Army dentist.

"No one expects a soldier to be a beauty queen. . . . Right now, everyone thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal, and I want her to come down from that. She is just a normal girl," Vail said in a recent interview with a newspaper in Kansas.

So there it was, the big tattoo, when she competed Tuesday night in the swimsuit portion of the three-night preliminary competition. She didn’t win, wearing a bright-red bikini and the tattoo, done in scrolly vintage lettering.

But she apparently scored one for the atypical beauty queen crowd.

With no beauty contest experience, Vail entered her first pageant just nine months ago and became Miss Leavenworth County before winning Miss Kansas in June. Her pageant platform is "Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers."

It’s a subject Vail – who says she was bullied and teased through school – holds dear, hoping to inspire other young women to be whatever they choose.

Even for Saturday’s much-anticipated "Show Us Your Shoes" Parade – an all-out glittery spectacle where the contestants get to show off their flashy side – Vail is opting to wear her camouflage Army uniform and combat boots instead of the de rigueur five-inch heels and evening gowns being worn by most of the other women.

The next night, the Miss America Pageant will be televised live beginning at 9 on ABC.

"I think Miss Kansas’ participation in the pageant," said Sharon Pearce, president of the Miss America Organization, "shows us the diverse women that are involved in the competition."

Miss Kansas

Name: Theresa Vail.

Hometown: Manhattan, Kan.

Age: 22.

Education: Leavenworth High, Kansas State University.

Platform issue: Empowering women, overcoming stereotypes, and breaking barriers.

Scholastic ambition: To obtain a doctor of dental surgery degree.

Talent: Vocal.

Scholastic honors: Georganne Howler Chemistry Scholarship recipient; distinguished honor graduate of Army School of Ordnance; distinguished honor graduate of Army School of Health Science.

Career ambition: To become a prosthodontist for the Army.

About Face: Military Service and Miss America

Anu Bhagwati

Makers

September 19, 2013

I fully admit it—I’m steeped in judgment about beauty pageants as an industry, and I still wrestle with assumptions about the women and girls who participate in them. Almost all I can stomach on the topic is Miss Congeniality, in which Sandra Bullock plays a gung-ho FBI agent who goes undercover as Miss New Jersey at a national pageant and is forced to endure all of the industry’s sexist humiliations to pass as “gorgeous”—mandatory starvation, bikini waxing, high heels and all. Her resistance to the industry and her tough-guy attitude make the subject matter not only palatable but also even therapeutic.

Before you judge, let me share the negative impact the so-called “beauty industry” has had on me and almost every girl and woman I know—hours upon hours, spent week after week, for years on end, obsession with self-hatred, guilt or shame for how we look, what we do or do not eat, and how we must dress, speak and act in order to earn our family’s and society’s acceptance, and power and influence in the world. Miss America plays a role in shaping these powerfully defeating narratives in the lives of women and girls across the nation.

However, by the look of it, the face of national pageantry, if not the substance, is changing in apparently new and exciting ways. Plenty of attention has been a paid to the winner, Nina Davuluri, but I’m just as interested in Sergeant Theresa Vail, otherwise known as Miss Kansas, who made media waves as the first contestant ever to bare her tattoos. It’s not the first time a military woman has entered the pageant –Sergeant Jill Stevens, a combat medic, competed in 2008—and it certainly won’t be the last. But the media obsession with the “Serenity Prayer” tattooed around Vail’s midriff is less about women expressing themselves in authentic and edgy ways than it is about varying the same old theme on objectifying women’s bodies.

I don’t blame or resent Sgt. Vail for participating—I actually admire her talent and drive. And I don’t hold her even remotely responsible for either reforming the beauty pageant industry or for representing all military women everywhere. But I disagree with her that being Miss America and being a soldier are “one and the same”—you are not likely to get shot wearing the Miss America crown, and the average service member sacrifices a hell of a lot of comfort and privilege, unlike a crowned beauty queen.

Most of all, I am disappointed and indignant that the most national attention service women got this month (during a time of war, no less) was when the National Guardsman bared her skin in a red bikini and platform heels on prime time television. And that is entirely the fault of a sexist industry and the narrow-minded society that gives rise to it. Because to feature the sacrifices of women, women who have literally fought and died for this country, women who have accomplished great feats of leadership while in uniform might too provocatively subvert the gender status quo as we know it.

I’m reminded of a high profile event I reluctantly attended at New York City’s Fashion Week a couple years ago called, “Fatigues to Fabulous.” It was organized by several groups to, presumably, help women veterans and supported by several high profile fashion designers. The implication (and an actual suggestion) that what women veterans needed most when returning from war was to look “beautiful” still makes my stomach turn. If lipstick, stiletto heels and a $5000 dress could heal posttraumatic stress, they would definitely be onto something.

I discussed Sgt. Vail’s participation in the pageant with my fellow staff members at SWAN, women who have worn the uniform, deployed overseas and commanded troops. There was a palpable sense among us that we know what it’s like to be judged by our looks, to have our bodies scrutinized, to have to command mostly male troops within a climate of harassment and discrimination. At the end of the day, baring tattoos as a form of self-expression doesn’t erase the fact that Vail had to wear a bikini to express herself or that in the eyes of national media, a woman warrior is defined more by her looks when she’s undressed than by what she can do in uniform.

Voir par ailleurs:

Miss America

PBS

Film Description

On September 17, 1983, a long-legged 20-year-old sashayed across the stage at Convention Hall in Atlantic City. As the orchestra started to play, her powerful voice launched into "Happy Days are Here Again." Millions of Americans sat transfixed in front of their televisions. It was no surprise when the slender, hazel-eyed brunette was back on stage later in the evening among the pageant finalists. But what happened next made history. As the emcee announced: "And our new Miss America is… Vanessa Williams," the young woman’s mother leaned forward on her couch at home and in hushed tones, whispered "finally, finally."

Williams was the first African American woman to be crowned Miss America. Black leaders claimed her victory as a milestone in American racial history. Some compared the achievement to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. A black Miss America meant so much in 1983 because over the decades of its existence the Miss America Pageant had come to mean so much.

Miss America tracks the contest from its inception in 1921 as an exuberant local seaside pageant to its heyday as one of the most popular and anticipated events in the country’s cultural calendar. Among the many stories it uncovers are those of Williams and her predecessor, Bess Meyerson, who was crowned the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, the same year the Allies won World War II. It paints a vivid picture of the changing ambitions of the contestants and it describes how the pageant became the target of the first national protest by the women’s rights movement.

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear Miss America isn’t just the country’s oldest beauty contest. It is a powerful cultural institution that over the course of the century has come to reveal much about a changing nation — the increasing power of the image, the rise in commercialism, the complexity of sexual politics, the important role of big business and the emotional resonance of small towns. It is, we learn, about winners and losers, getting ahead, being included and being left out.

Beyond the symbolism lies a human story — at once moving, inspiring, infuriating, funny and poignant. Using intimate interviews with former contestants, archival footage and photographs, the film reveals why some women took part in the fledgling event and why others briefly shut it down. It describes how the pageant became a battleground for the country’s most conservative and progressive elements and a barometer for the changing position of women in society. It reveals how for women in the 1920s the pageant was an avenue to movie stardom and for women in the 1950s it paved the way to academic success.

Miss America intercuts period film with contemporary footage of the 1999 and 2000 pageants that captures the glamour and excitement of the event, both on stage and in the wings. The documentary reinforces the pageant’s continuing hold on the imagination of the American public.

Origins of the Beauty Pageant

PBS

Contests to determine "who is the fairest of them all" have been around at least since ancient Greece and the Judgment of Paris. According to legend, a poor mortal goatherd, Alexandros (Paris), was called upon to settle a dispute among the goddesses. Who was the most beautiful: Hera (Juno), Aprhodite (Venus), or Athena (Minerva)? All three goddesses offered bribes: according to the writer Apollodorus, "Hera said that if she were preferred to all women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen." When Paris selected Aphrodite in exchange for getting Helen of Troy, the most beautiful mortal of the time, he inadvertently started the Trojan War.

While ancient Greeks memorialized in myth the complicated relationship between beauty and competition, there is no historical evidence that they actually held contests for women. A "contest of physique" called the euandria was held yearly at an Athenian festival — but the contest was for men. European festivals dating to the medieval era provide the most direct lineage for beauty pageants. For example, English May Day celebrations always involved the selection of queens.

In the United States, the May Day tradition of selecting women to serve as symbols of bounty and community ideals continued, as young beautiful women participated in public celebrations. When George Washington rode from Mount Vernon to New York City in 1789 to assume the presidency, groups of young women dressed in white lined his route, placing palm branches before his carriage. General Lafayette’s triumphant tour of the United States in 1826 also was greeted by similar delegations of young women.

The first truly modern beauty contest, involving the display of women’s faces and figures before judges, can be traced to one of America’s greatest showmen, Phineas T. Barnum (of circus fame). In the 1850s, the ever-resourceful Barnum owned a "dime museum" in New York City that catered to the growing audience for commercial entertainment. Some of Barnum’s most popular attractions were "national contests" where dogs, chickens, flowers, and even children were displayed and judged for paying audiences. While 61,000 people swarmed to his baby show in 1855, a similar event the year before to select and exhibit "the handsomest ladies" in America proved a disappointment. The prize — a dowry (if the winner was single) or a diamond tiara (if the winner was married) — was not enough to lure respectable girls and women of the Victorian era to publicly display themselves.

Barnum developed a brilliant alternate plan for a beauty contest that would accept entries in the form of photographic likenesses. These photographs would be displayed in his museum and the public would vote for them. The final ten entrants would receive specially commissioned oil portraits of themselves. These portraits would be reproduced in a "fine arts" book to be published in France, entitled the World’s Book of Female Beauty. Barnum sold off his museum before the photographs arrived, but in employing modern technology and in combining lowbrow entertainment with the appeal of highbrow culture, Barnum pioneered a new model of commercial entertainment.

In the decades to come, the picture photo contest was widely imitated and became a respectable way for girls and women to have their beauty judged. Civic leaders across the country, seeking to boost citizen morale, incorporate newcomers, and attract new settlers and businesses to their communities, held newspaper contests to choose women that represented the "spirit" of their locales. One of the most popular of these contests occurred in 1905, when promoters of the St. Louis Exposition contacted city newspapers across the country to select a representative young woman from their city to compete for a beauty title at the Exposition. There was intense competition and, according to one report, forty thousand photo entries.

By the early decades of the twentieth century, attitudes had begun to change about beauty pageants. Prohibitions against the display of women in public began to fade, though not to disappear altogether. One of the earliest known resort beauty pageants had been held in 1880, at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. However, it was not until the twentieth century that beach resorts began to hold regular beauty pageants as entertainments for the growing middle class. In 1921, in an effort to lure tourists to stay past Labor Day, Atlantic City organizers staged the first Miss America Pageant in September. Stressing that the contestants were both youthful and wholesome, the Miss America Pageant brought together issues of democracy and class, art and commerce, gender and sex — and started a tradition that would grow throughout the century to come.

Transcript

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: You can have wars and atom bombs, but so it seems there must always be a Miss America.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: Just one talented young girl receives top honors as Miss America. So democracy works here too for the Atlantic City Miss America contest is predicated on the conviction that the typical American girl has talent and brains as well as beauty.

KATHY PEISS, Historian: I think the Miss America Pageant has been about the American dream for some women. It has been about a dream of being beautiful. It’s also been about a dream of being successful. And that combination is I think the kind of complicated stew that is very much American women’s experience of the last eighty years.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: I am tingling with excitement wondering who will be the next Miss America.

BILL GOLDMAN: When my kids were little, one of the big nights of the year was just the four of us sitting there watching the Miss America and saying oh she’s got to win. And you root and you got involved in it. And we all loved it. It was a part of our lives.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: You know in this twentieth century, we have witnessed the birth of a legend, the legend of the American girl.

MARGARET CHO, Comedian: I think it’s a really important story to tell, because it’s about how we feel about ourselves as women, and how we’ve changed as women and who we are as women and what it means to be judged by men.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: There are beauty contests and beauty contests, and then there’s the Miss America competition and this year’s crop seems to be the most beauteous bevy of breathtaking beauties in decades.

TRICIA ROSE, Cultural Critic: The Pageant is this example where you can be sort of nationalistic and patriotic and pro American and get to see some "T and A" all in the same event.

KATE SHINDLE, Miss America 1998: The thing about the pageant is that you have to have a sense of humor about it. I mean you’ve got girls who have invested their entire lives in wanting to become Miss America. On the one hand, it’s this investment of thousands of dollars in this huge goal, and on the other hand a girl is spray gluing her swimsuit to her butt so it doesn’t ride up.

JULIA ALVAREZ, Writer: You know this is like Miss America. I mean it’s not Miss Coffee Beans. It’s not Miss Peach Blossoms. This is the woman that sort of represents the country like the President does. And so it’s seeing what is the way to be the woman of the most powerful country on earth.

MISS AMERICA

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: These were the fabulous furious roaring 20s and this is why they roared.

NARRATOR: The Miss America Pageant started out as a promotional gimmick — dreamed up by Atlantic City businessmen in 1921, as a way to keep tourists in town after Labor Day. Over the next eight decades, it would become a national tradition dedicated to defining the ideal American woman.

Year after year, the Miss America Pageant would struggle to pull off a delicate balancing act — objectifying women while providing them with real opportunities; promoting traditional roles while encouraging women’s independence; glorifying feminine modesty while trading on female sexuality. Along the way, it would come to be a barometer of the nation’s shifting ideas about American womanhood.

But in 1921, Atlantic City’s businessmen were simply trying to turn a profit — by capitalizing on the country’s fascination with beauty.

KATHY PEISS: Well, there are many beauty pageants in the 1920′s, and they range from pageants oriented towards African-American women, Miss Bronze America. Even the Ku Klux Klan has a beauty pageant for Miss 100 Percent America. So there’s something about beauty as a symbol that is extremely important and many different groups are getting together and saying, we have the most beautiful woman who represents us. And Miss America is the national symbol of what is going on all over the country.

NARRATOR: The first Miss America Pageant was a spectacular two-day festival, culminating with a beachfront parade called the Bather’s Revue. The only rule for the competition was that all participants "must positively be attired in bathing costumes." A board of censors had been appointed to review questionable entries.

VICKI GOLD LEVI, Atlantic City Historian: Atlantic City was a place where everybody was kind of given to letting your hair down and having a delicious, romantic time. Bathing suits had changed a great deal and stockings were now being rolled beneath your knees, which was very daring. And women had to have their bathing suits at a certain length. And so there were beach censors who would actually come down and measure the length of your bathing suit.

NARRATOR: On the morning of the Revue, more than 100,000 people swarmed onto the Boardwalk, hoping to catch a glimpse of the scantily-clad young women down on the sand. The spectators’ stand out favorite was a slight, freckled sixteen-year-old from the nation’s capitol. Named Margaret Gorman.

RIC FERENTZ, Pageant Historian: Margaret Gorman was a sensation. She was tiny, petite, five one, with blonde, long ringlets who looked very much like Mary Pickford who was the biggest star of the day. So, the combination made this young, sixteen-year-old girl a star.

NARRATOR: Gorman swept the competition — and later that evening, she was crowned the very first Miss America. "Margaret Gorman represents the type of womanhood America needs," the New York Times declared, "strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests."

NARRATOR: The first Miss America Pageant was a staggering success. Before the receipts were even tallied, city officials announced plans to continue the contest through the decade — confident that as long as there were girls in bathing suits, the crowds would come.

LEONARD HORN, Former CEO Miss America Organization: It was one of the first, if not the first instances of the marriage between advertising and the beauty of the female form which was ingenious because from then on many, many advertisers thought they could get more attention by putting a good looking woman into the picture. Some say it got started in 1921 in Atlantic City.

RIC FERENTZ: The very first years, there was a literal breakdown. Five points for the construction of the head, five points for the limbs, three points for the torso, two points for the leg…I mean it…you know and it added up to a hundred percent. Whether they really went by that, it’s hard to say.

NARRATOR: Throughout the 1920′s, scores of young women flocked to Atlantic City each year, most hoping the Pageant would land them a career in show business. While the average working woman labored in a factory or a typing pool, Miss America had offers from Hollywood and vaudeville — and the opportunity to cash in on her looks.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: "5 feet 4 inches tall, 118 pounds of beauty. Norma Smallwood is crowned Miss America of 1926."

NARRATOR: During the year of her reign, Miss America 1926 — a small-town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma — reportedly made over $100,000, more than either Babe Ruth or the President of the United States.

RIC FERENTZ: Norma Smallwood had an acute business sense. In 1927, when she was due to return to crown her successor, she demanded a fee for her appearance in Atlantic City. And although she arrived and took part in the early part of the pageant, during the middle when that money was not forthcoming, Norma picked up and left for another job in North Carolina. And the press was not very kind to that. They thought that she should have been the gracious one that didn’t take the money and stayed around to crown her successor, and Norma thought, I’m sorry, this is a business.

KATHY PEISS: There was a general sense that the Old World had died and a new one was being born. And I think that was especially important for women. There’d been a women’s movement that had been successful in certain ways, women had gotten the right to vote for example, and women are increasingly in the labor force in the 1920′s. A number are getting college educated. And so in some ways the pageant seems to be a contradiction. Here, feminists had wanted women to move into the public sphere to sort of gain the positions that men had gained, and yet the pageant represents women very much as female and as in some ways, sexualized, as beauty objects.

NARRATOR: The Pageant’s attention to the female form had troubled conservative Americans since the very beginning. But in the late-1920′s, critics finally went on the offensive.

All over the country, women’s clubs and religious organizations publicly attacked the Miss America Pageant, and accused organizers of corrupting the nation’s morals. "Before the competition, the contestants were splendid examples of innocence and pure womanhood," one protestor argued. "Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas."

In 1928, fearing the controversy would ruin Atlantic City’s reputation, the Chamber of Commerce voted twenty-seven to three to cancel the Miss America Pageant.

For now, morality had shut the Pageant down. But America’s infatuation with beauty would endure.

CONTEMPORARY FOOTAGE: Brandi: "It’s very me, it’s very Brandi…"

MARGARET CHO: I think the fascination with beauty pageants is that there can be a winner. That there are certain rules, guidelines that constitute beauty, that it is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder. That we as the collective beholder have agreed on certain qualities that create beauty and uh that there can be a contest to judge it. It’s this fascinating thing.

TRICIA ROSE: What gets defined as beauty? I mean, it’s not unlike high fashion supermodels in that the bodies that work are the bodies that are least like what women look like. So what are we saying? What are we actually saying about what women look like when we say, well you know what, to be most beautiful you have to not look like what women look like?

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: I think that fashion and beauty is everything in the way a woman marks her identity today, unfortunately. But I can’t think of a period of time when it wasn’t about that, and there are all sorts of obvious manifestations of that you know, the length of your skirt, the size of your waist. But there are other even more subtle things. Like when you shave your legs, even if you’re wearing pants that day you feel three times prettier, I think.

JULIA ALVAREZ: You know, there’s a yearning in the human spirit, an aspiring for beauty. And, the successful man still has a beautiful woman on his arm. That’s the prize. It’s been our power structure and it’s…it’s still operative. Beauty is still the currency out there.

GLORIA STEINEM, Writer: The traditional way to get ahead is to compete with other women for the favors of men, you know and this is not different from any other marginalized or less powerful group. You’re supposed to compete with each other for the favors of the powerful. So what could be a greater example of that than a beauty contest?

NARRATOR: Not long after the Miss America Pageant was cancelled, a devastating economic depression brought Atlantic City’s tourist trade to a halt. Desperate, local businessmen opted to ignore the critics and revived their lucrative beauty pageant. In 1933, thirty young women were brought to Atlantic City, aboard a chartered train called the Beauty Special, to compete for Miss America’s crown.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: Yeah it’s sort of relaxin’ what with strikes and food shortages and international disputes and so on to have the lassies back with us once again. Oh well, one good turn deserves another.

NARRATOR: "So striking was the change between the ideal figure of the twenties and that of 1933," one observer said of the contestants, "that one might almost have thought that a new anatomical species had come into being."

Among the entries was Marion Bergeron, a high school sophomore and the daughter of a Connecticut policeman.

MARION BERGERON SETZER, Miss America 1933: 1933, it was a depression and at 15 years old I hadn’t been out of Westhaven, Connecticut, let alone wind up in Atlantic City.

NARRATOR: A curvaceous blonde with a striking resemblance to screen-siren Jean Harlow, Bergeron had competed in her first local pageant just weeks before.

To her surprise, she had won the title of Miss New Haven, and then Miss Connecticut — and before she knew it, she was being crowned Miss America.

MARION BERGERON SETZER: To the judge’s eyes, I was the typical American girl. Totally unsophisticated, very naïve, had a lot of enthusiasm, had a lot of talent that they didn’t ask for, but I did have that. And I was just, I was just a 1933 typical American girl. My figure then as they described it was a typical Mae West figure which was hourglass, thirty-four bust, a twenty-six waist, eighty-two buns.

NARRATOR: The new Miss America was just the kind of girl vaudeville producers were looking for — and they soon came waving contracts, promising to make her a star.

But all the attention was short-lived. As soon as the newspapers reported that she was only fifteen, the show business contracts were quickly withdrawn — and Bergeron went back to high school.

MARION BERGERON SETZER: On our way home, I had to go back only to be met by the nuns that said I had had entirely too much undue publicity. And they felt that it would be better if I chose another school. Yeah, and that’s practically being kicked out of school. Here I feel like I’m really somebody. You know, I’m just the most glamorous thing that ever happened at 15 years old, but the but the nuns didn’t think so.

KATHY PEISS: Beauty pageants by the early thirties had a reputation for being somewhat disreputable, like …a carnival atmosphere. And especially the association with Atlantic City and the seaside resorts made that venue somewhat of a question mark I think for women in terms of their respectability. To be a public woman had a longstanding connotation of having loose morals, of being either a prostitute or sexually loose. And that doesn’t disappear, certainly through the 1930′s.

NARRATOR: In October 1935, a Pageant scandal rocked Atlantic City. Less than a month after seventeen-year-old Henrietta Leaver was crowned Miss America, a nude statue of her was unveiled in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

Leaver — a high school dropout and dime store salesgirl — swore she had worn a bathing suit when she posed, and that her grandmother had been present at all times. But the press coverage was merciless, and the businessmen behind the Pageant finally decided to make some changes.

For help, they turned to a single, 29-year-old Southern Baptist with years of experience in public relations. As the Pageant’s Executive Secretary, she would spend the next three decades inventing a new image for Miss America. Her name was Lenora Slaughter.

RIC FERENTZ: She was the iron fist in a velvet glove. I think that she was a woman that was well ahead of her time. She was tough when she had to be. But knew how to get by on a Southern drawl.

NARRATOR: Slaughter’s mission now was to eliminate scandal and to attract what she called "a better class of contestants."

She immediately established a minimum age requirement of eighteen, then added a talent competition to the traditional line-up of bathing suits and evening gowns. Once the contestants were in Atlantic City, Slaughter insisted they be chaperoned at all times, and that they observe a strict curfew of one a.m. They were barred from drinking establishments, forbidden to smoke, and there were to be no private visits with men — not even their fathers.

A Pageant judge once asked Slaughter what to look for in a winner. "Honey," she answered, "just pick me a lady."

VICKI GOLD LEVI: She brought a respectability to the pageant. She presented her girls with class, with style. She transformed the pageant by setting the standards high, by making it something that women would want to participate in.

NARRATOR: Sometime later, Slaughter slipped one final entry requirement into the Pageant by-laws. Known as Rule Seven, the new regulation strictly limited Pageant participation to women "in good health and of the white race."

SARAH BANET WEISER, Communication Scholar: Race has always factored into anyone’s notion of ideal womanhood in the United States. It’s just that the way in which whiteness functions is through invisibility. It’s not seen as a race. It’s just the normal way to be. It’s just regular. And it’s really no different in the Miss America Pageant.

TRICIA ROSE: That’s what’s most interesting about it to me that we are supposed to believe that this is what American womanhood looks like. And it really is an enormously narrow conception from facial features, you know, height, weight. And then of course there are the most obvious more political categories: race, ethnicity and all of these things are very important in the historical understanding of the Pageant.

NARRATOR: By the early 1940′s, Slaughter had constructed an ideal woman to represent the Miss America Pageant. Now, the mass media would make her a star.

Each September, millions of Americans watched the annual newsreel of Miss America’s crowning. She was featured in newspapers and advertisements, and honored with her own day at the World’s Fair. And when the United States entered World War II, and the Federal Government shut down most large public events, Slaughter convinced officials that the Pageant should be allowed to go on. "Miss America is emblematic of the nation’s spirit," she told them, "and that spirit [continues] through war and peace, good times and bad." Permission was granted — on the condition that the winner sell war bonds.

KATHY PEISS: The early period of the 1940′s is one where we see women being mobilized for the war effort. They’re being encouraged to take jobs, to work more than full time to support the war effort. At the same time, those women are encouraged to maintain their femininity and their beauty. And there’s a huge effort to sell women lipstick, to see cosmetics as morale boosters. And they are one product that is not rationed during the war. There’s an attempt to ration cosmetics but it’s overturned within six months. Women are given the pitch that one of the reasons we’re fighting the war is for women to be beautiful.

NARRATOR: Lenora Slaughter believed there was more to a woman than her looks — and she wanted Miss America to prove it. So in 1944, she convinced the Pageant’s new board of directors to award Miss America a scholarship to college.

Raising money proved a bigger challenge. Of the 236 companies Slaughter approached for contributions, only five signed on as sponsors. But between them, Slaughter had enough cash for a five thousand-dollar prize — and in 1945, the Miss America Pageant became one of the first organizations in the country to offer college scholarships to women.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: That’s immediately what redefined Miss America because no other pageant, competition, beauty contest was giving scholarship money. And by doing this it really, really set the pageant in a different category. You didn’t have to go in there just to prove you had a pretty figure, you could go in there to prove you had brains.

NARRATOR: Among those vying for the first scholarship in 1945 was a twenty-one year-old New Yorker named Bess Myerson. The American-born daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Myerson had paid her own way through New York’s Hunter College by giving piano lessons in the Bronx neighborhood where she grew up. Now she hoped to go on to graduate school, where she planned to study conducting.

BESS MYERSON, Miss America 1945: Talent was very important because that was the way we were going to make our living. That’s what we were going to support ourselves doing when we grew up. The most important thing was that you do well at school…oh no. The most important thing was that you listened to your parents. That you do well in school. And that you play a musical instrument. We never imagined anything else would be open to us.

NARRATOR: To Lenora Slaughter, Myerson seemed the ideal candidate for the new scholarship prize. She was beautiful, talented, smart. There was only one problem: she would have to change her name.

BESS MYERSON: Lenora Slaughter said my name was not a good name for show business. And I said well, you know I have no intention of going into show business. I said, what do you want me to change it to? Well you know there are a lot of good stage names like Beth…Beth Merrick. I said…the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America. And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson.

NARRATOR: On September 3rd, Myerson and the other contestants appeared on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk for the Miss America Pageant’s opening ceremony: a victory parade to celebrate the end of the war. In the crowd was Myerson’s older sister Sylvia. Her mother, who spoke no English, had been left at home in the Bronx.

BESS MYERSON: The first night I compete with a group of girls on talent, I won. Headline says, "Jewish Girl in Atlantic City Wins Talent in Miss America Pageant." Now we’ve just learned all the details of six million Jews being killed, slaughtered, burned, tortured. And naturally it attracts attention, and the juxtaposition of the two things was so improbable. There were people that would come to the hotel where I was staying with my sister, and they would introduce themselves to me and say I’m Jewish, and it’s just wonderful that you’re in this contest. But how about when people came up to you with numbers on their arms, which they did as well, and said, you see this? You have to win. You have to show the world that we are not ugly. That we shouldn’t be disposed of and so on however they worded it. I have to tell you that I felt this tremendous responsibility. I owed it to those women to give them a present, a gift, that to them was the gift.

NARRATOR: On the second night of preliminaries, Myerson scored another win, in the swimsuit competition, and she now seemed a strong favorite for the finals. "The new Miss America will either be Miss New York City, Bess Myerson," one newspaper predicted, "or somebody else."

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: They’re about to pick Miss America of 1945. Well, they’ve made their choice and the crown goes to Miss New York City, a 21-year-old, 5’10" brunette, Bess Myerson, Hunter College graduate.

NARRATOR: By the time Myerson’s name was announced, her sister Sylvia was already in tears. From the audience came shouts of "Mazel tov!" "Don’t let anybody kid you," Myerson said years later. "It was one hell of a terrific moment."

VICKI GOLD LEVI: Bess was the answer to every Jewish woman’s dream. Her win was such a multilevel symbol. It was a symbol of a certain statement against anti-Semitism. It was a symbol of a victory against Hitler. It was a symbol for women, and when she won there was great celebration in our house. It was like when Roosevelt won or something.

NARRATOR: Myerson expected to spend her reign making appearances and promoting the Pageant’s new sponsors. But after an obligatory four-week performance tour, where drunks in the audience demanded she play the piano in her bathing suit, there were few requests for her time. None of the sponsors wanted a Jewish girl — even a Jewish Miss America — posing with their products.

BESS MYERSON: Half way through that year, I said to the pageant, I’m not available to you anymore because I want to do something else. I’ve met people from an organization called the Anti-defamation League. And they’ve asked me to go out on a tour speaking at the high schools and colleges, speaking to students where there are problems having to do with anti-Semitism, with hatred, with racism. And I did a speech called "You Can’t Hate and be Beautiful."

SARAH BANET WEISER: Bess Myerson took on the mantle of Miss America in a different way. It’s the historical moment, it’s her ethnic identity, it’s her own aspirations, and all those put together you know provided a very different kind of Miss America and a very different kind of reign.

NARRATOR: Myerson had made Miss America a scholar and a lady. But the following year, pageant judges made it clear that looks still counted. "It was the year they brought out the rubberized bathing suit," one of them said later, "and we voted for the girl with the best of everything showing."

GLORIA STEINEM: The swimsuit competition is probably the most honest part of the competition because it really is about bodies. It is about looking at women as objects. That’s what it’s about. The fact is that the most disqualifying part of the competition is how you look.

MARGARET CHO: When you see their bodies, it’s so interesting because they seem so not real. You don’t see anything off. They are so perfect and not sexual really but you just kind of these perfectly shaped women that their bodies are very smooth. There’s no creases or lines, there’s no stretch marks or nipples or hair. It’s kind of jarring. You think god whose body is like that? And then you think, oh, maybe I’m not the woman. Maybe they’re the women, and I’m not the woman. And then you kind of feel like an imposter too.

ISAAC MIZRAHI: It’s always so sort of…heartbreaking to watch the swimsuit competition because these…these good girls they’re sort of like ooh, I’m such a piece of meat or something you know. Of all the parts of the pageant that I feel victimize women the most, it’s that part of the pageant. These poor girls in those painful looking high heels my heart goes out to them. But you know honestly if you have to wear a swimsuit and you have to parade, good, you should wear the high heels, because there’s nothing better on your leg than a high heel.

KATE SHINDLE: I worked so hard to be ready to compete in swimsuit that I didn’t dread it. You know, I actually found it kind of empowering because I figured that once I could get over enough issues to walk around on the stage in a bathing suit in front of twenty million people, I could pretty much do anything I wanted to.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: "Go ahead and drool, it’s Miss America time…"

NARRATOR: For more than a quarter century, the bathing suit competition had been the Miss America Pageant’s feature attraction. But with the scholarship program now in place, Lenora Slaughter wanted to project a more dignified image.

The challenge was to downplay the bathing suits without offending Catalina Swimwear, one the Pageant’s major sponsors. In 1947, Slaughter struck the term "bathing suit" from the official Pageant vocabulary, and replaced it with the more athletic-sounding "swimsuit." Then, she banned two-piece suits from the competition, and announced that Miss America would now be crowned in an evening gown.

Still, when most Americans thought of the Pageant, a girl in bathing suit was the first thing that came to mind.

Then along came Yolande Betbeze. A twenty-one-year-old opera singer from Mobile, Alabama, Betbeze had been recently sprung from convent school when she captured her first local crown, Miss Torch 1949. Miss Alabama wasn’t far behind.

YOLANDE BETBEZE, Miss America 1951: I didn’t plan on the Miss America Pageant. I didn’t know anything about it. I was in a convent for fourteen years. The last four years in a cloistered convent, behind high walls, and no escape, and I was very naïve when I arrived in Atlantic City. I mean coming from a small town in Alabama borrowing shoes of high heels and taking the braces off my teeth. I had a ball.

NARRATOR: The minute Betbeze stepped off the train in Atlantic City, Slaughter knew she was looking at the next Miss America. "Yolande was the sexiest, most glamorous thing I had ever laid eyes on," she later said. Slaughter’s new husband, a business manager for the Pageant, agreed. "She can’t lose," he predicted, "unless the women judges run away from her."

YOLANDE BETBEZE: I thought I was a little bit plain to be Miss America, but I knew that I would do well in talent as an operatic coloratura, and indeed I did… I did win the talent. The swimsuit was difficult. Fortunately, it was a suit in good taste, one piece, white, nothing very revealing. But even so, I mean to stand up for the first time in your life in front of fifty thousand people in a bathing suit is…is awkward. ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: The field is squared off at 16 curvaceous finalists. The winner is brown haired brown-eyed Yolande Betbeze, 21, of Mobile, Alabama.

NARRATOR: The morning after she was crowned, the new Miss America was summoned to a breakfast meeting, where she was to be briefed on her duties for the coming year.

YOLANDE BETBEZE: I did not know what to expect with this. So I arrived and they…all these…these suits were sitting about. Older men, board of directors, congratulated me and said now Miss Betbeze, this is what I represent, this is what you’re going to do for us. Then it came to the bathing suit, the most important sponsor. And this man said to me, November we’ll be in Wyoming, and you’ll wear this and that bathing suit. I said wait a minute please. No. No way. To…go into Milwaukee in the middle of the winter and walk around a department store in a bathing suit is not my idea of Miss America, scholarship foundation, the reason I’m here. And he really, really thought I had lost my mind. He couldn’t believe it.

RIC FERENTZ: I love the fact that she made the statement that she had to play their game to become Miss America and once she became Miss America they had to play by her game. I thought it was very bold of her to say to one of its major sponsors which was Catalina that she just wasn’t going to pose in a swimsuit, that she was an opera singer, she was not a pinup.

NARRATOR: Catalina withdrew its sponsorship of Miss America, and soon launched not one, but two pageants of its own — Miss USA and Miss Universe. Both judged contestants entirely on looks and absolutely required them to wear Catalina swimsuits.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: For the Pageant there was always this pull between the pulchritude and the pulpit. There was always this sort of dichotomy about how are you an upstanding, religious, well-educated girl and you could show your thighs and cleavage — which is always kind of a theme of America anyhow, sexuality and godliness. The Elvis Presley phenomenon. Shake your hips while singing "Nearer My God to Thee."

NARRATOR: In the fall of 1952, the Pageant’s directors invited an up-and-coming Hollywood actress named Marilyn Monroe to serve as the Grand Marshall of the Boardwalk Parade. "She wore the first dress anybody had ever worn," that year’s Miss America said later, "that was cut down to her navel." Monroe was not asked back to Atlantic City.

NARRATOR: It had taken nearly three decades to transform Miss America from a local celebrity to a national phenomenon. But making her a household name would take just one night — September 11th, 1954, when Miss America would be crowned live on national television.

The Pageant’s board of directors had asked former Miss America Bess Myerson to provide backstage commentary for the viewers at home, and had even invited Academy award-winning actress Grace Kelly to judge the competition.

Now, as the cameras wheeled into position on Atlantic City’s Convention Hall stage, ABC sent out the broadcast signal — and television audiences coast-to-coast joined the Miss America finals already in progress.

ARCHIVAL: "Live from Atlantic City . . . "

LEE MERIWETHER, Miss America 1955: The only time I really noticed a camera was we were waiting to have the crowning. I saw a television camera, and it was coming toward us, so I thought, ooh it’s…it’s time. And then I saw Lenora Slaughter, the head of the pageant bringing a banner over, and she put it on my lap. She said, Lee, you’re our Miss America.

ARCHIVAL: 19 year old, Lee Ann Meriwether of San Francisco, California. She triumphed over 49 other…

LEE MERIWETHER: My head flipped back and that is all I remember. And I was crying hysterically. Crying, crying, I couldn’t stop, but I do remember my mother being pulled backstage. And my mother said, stop your sniveling. And that did it.

NARRATOR: More than 27 million people, nearly half of the television audience, watched the Miss America Pageant that night — in a broadcast that broke all records for TV viewership. "To think that folks out in Idaho could see this was just amazing," one Pageant volunteer recalled. "It just knocked everything off the airwaves."

WILLIAM GOLDMAN, Screenwriter: The Miss America contest was something that seemed very glamorous to all of us in the thirties and forties and fifties. But all we ever saw of it were snippets on newsreels in movie theaters. And then suddenly when television happened, here was this fabulous event and in that period it was incredibly popular. When you look at old black and white television now it looks so prehistoric, but my god, it was free, it was in your house, you could watch it. And it changed everything.

NARRATOR: By the second broadcast, the Pageant had been redesigned for TV, and a celebrity singer and announcer had been hired to serve as the regular master of ceremonies. The forty-year-old star of a popular TV program called Stop the Music; he was known to audiences across the country as the guy with "the smile you can read by." His name was Bert Parks.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Thank you very much. Thank you. Good Evening. What a wonderful audience …

LEONARD HORN: Bert Parks came along at just the right time. And his ability to be funny, to be extemporaneous, to be silly, and yet at the same time allow the women to be the stars of the show was a perfect, series of ingredients that the Miss America program needed at that time.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: "Hi. And this of course ladies and gentlemen is Miss Oklahoma. From what city please?" Miss Oklahoma: "I’m from Alva, Oklahoma." Parks: "Alva?" Miss Oklahoma: "Alva." Parks "What is the population of Alva?" Miss Oklahoma: "7000." Parks: "7000. What’s Alva most famous for?" Miss Oklahoma: "Wheat and cattle and my daddy’s bakery." Parks: "Golden Krust bakery, call him up tonight."

VICKI GOLD LEVI: I don’t know if he would fly today, but he was really into the girls, the women, and that’s what made Bert Parks so different. He wasn’t a celebrity flown in on a Saturday night. He was there all week getting to know them. They trusted him. He loved what he was doing, and he really was one of the defining factors that made households and television households love Miss America. And when he sang "There She Is" that was it. There she was.

NARRATOR: Making its debut right alongside Parks was the official Miss America theme song. Composed in just under an hour by a New York songwriter named Bernie Wayne, the song was an instant hit. It would soon be as recognizable as the national anthem.

KATHY PEISS: It evokes a wedding with Bert Parks kind of giving away the… bride, or…in his youth he was more of the groom. It evokes the debutante ball. There is this real sense of suddenly being the most beautiful woman at the ball. And so there is this sense that this could happen to anyone, or at least that’s the fantasy, that this could happen to any girl.

JULIA ALVAREZ: We didn’t see a whole lot of what it was like to be an American woman. This was our little window into what it was like, what this world was like. It was a way to, I don’t know, climb the ladder of success. And so you know it was like watching a female version of a Horatio Alger story.

LEE MERIWETHER: I had no knowledge of the pageant really at all. I knew there was a Miss America Pageant, but I thought it was a quote unquote bathing beauty contest, and as such I would never have entered. And then my father passed away and just my life sort of stopped right there. And my mother said the money is no longer here, daddy’s gone and if you want to continue on with school, that’s the thing, go to Atlantic City.

GLORIA STEINEM: Beauty contests are ways that if you live in a poor neighborhood, you can imagine getting ahead because it is a way up. It is a way to scholarships, to attention, and it’s one of the few things that you see out there as a popular symbol. When I was living in a kind of factory working neighborhood of Toledo, the K-Part television Miss TV contest, something like that, was advertised. And I decided I would try to enter the contest even though I was underage. I think I was 16 and the limit was, was 18. So I lied about my age. It wasn’t a terrible experience. It was a surrealistic experience. You had to put on your bathing suit and walk and stand on a beer keg. I did three or four different kinds of dances. Spanish and Russian and heaven knows what. I thought I would get money for college. And it seemed glamorous. It seemed to me in high school like a way out of a not too great life in a pretty poor neighborhood.

NARRATOR: By 1958, Atlantic City’s local tourist attraction had become one of the most popular television events in the country. With networks competing over the broadcasting contract, and companies clamoring to provide the high-profile program with sponsorship, the Miss America Pageant could now afford to award over 200,000 dollars worth of scholarships. But winning money for college was only part of the Pageant’s appeal. As every contestant knew, being crowned Miss America on national television could turn a small-town girl into an instant celebrity.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: I’m sure you all realize, ladies and gentleman, what a frightening experience it is for these young ladies, most of whom have never appeared in public before much less here in the convention hall in Atlantic City before some 25,000 people and over a full television network.

NARRATOR: One of the contestants that year was Mary Ann Mobley, a nineteen-year-old drama major with her eye on the Broadway stage. A native of Brandon, Mississippi — population twenty-five hundred — Mobley had competed in her first pageant only two weeks before, at the personal request of Brandon’s mayor, and had walked off with the state title.

MARY ANN MOBLEY, Miss America 1959: Everyone was in shock. I said to my Sunday school teacher, I said, Miss Long I can’t believe I’m on the way to Atlantic City. I mean, I had seen the previous Miss America. She was tall, I mean her legs started at my armpits. And she had these wonderful features and long blonde hair, and I thought that’s what Miss America should look like and I’m nowhere near that.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: and now ladies and gentlemen, we come to the talent competition…

MARY ANN MOBLEY: Now I have to tell you that I had never sung with an orchestra. And there I was in front of two football fields put together. Well, I was panicked. And my horror was I was going to get out there and no sound was going to come out. And one of the stagehands tapped me on the shoulder and he said you go get ‘em Mississippi.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Mississippi, let’s bring her on…

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And they swagged the curtain and I thought I’ve got two options, I can run or I can walk out there. And I said I can’t embarrass my home state and myself by running away, I have to walk out there.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Mary Ann Mobley: Tonight as my talent, may I sing a portion of the lovely, "Un bel di" from Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And I started "Un bel di," and it came out and it sounded okay. And then I said stop, but I’m tired of being proper and cultured and of appreciating Beethoven, Puccini and Bach …

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Mary Ann Mobley: I want to sing and dance to something that’s solid and hot. So, there’ll be some changes made.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: (SINGS) There’ll be a change in the weather and…

PAGEANT BROADCAST: (SINGING)…a change in the sea. And from now on, there’ll be a change in me. My…."

MARY ANN MOBLEY: They started to applaud.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: (SINGING)…nothing about me’s going to be the same.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And I said they like me, or else they’re just applauding that I’m not going to finish the aria.

RIC FERENTZ, Pageant Historian: I think Mary Ann was very popular because she was different. She was tiny and spunky and had a little bit of guts.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Here is your question, Miss Mississippi. What is your favorite topic when with a young man for opening the conversation? Mary Ann Mobley: Well, I’ve read different articles that tell you how to get along with the opposite sex, and the first thing that they say is get him to talk about himself. So the first thing I ask is, Do you play football or what sport are you interested in? And then if he doesn’t say anything, then you say, Well, what are your hobbies? And you go down the line from there and if you can’t get him to answer you on any of those then you’re just quiet for the rest of the evening.

RIC FERENTZ: I think that she showed a different side to Miss America. A more girl next door type. I think that more young women could relate to Mary Ann than they perhaps could to the Miss Americas that had preceded her.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: First runner up, Joan Lucille McDonald, Miss Iowa. Miss America … Miss Mississippi.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: Once I won, I came unglued. I mean, I’m not talking about glistening tears. They were running down my chin onto my chest and my dress. CBS ran that for a long time because you really saw someone terribly, terribly affected by what was happening in her life. But I remember thinking, what am I … what am I doing here, no one’s going to believe this. And I’m not pretty enough to be Miss America, but here I am with a crown on my head. It’s real, and how could it happen to the little girl from Brandon, Mississippi. I think even now it evokes memories. I guess what I was really feeling was I was Cinderella.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: "Everybody’s got talent."

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Over the years the talent competition has become the most significant and the most popular part of this decisive final night. The ability to be poised and personable in the living room is a far cry from the ability to be self possessed on the stage of this great convention hall before a live audience of 25,000 people and a television audience of many millions.

VICKI GOLD LEVI, Atlantic City Historian: I do remember a girl having a talent where she told us how she packed her suitcase. I definitely remember that. And illustrators were big. They had big pieces of paper clipped on and they would quickly do cartoon sketches and things.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN, Screenwriter: I have this great memory of this beautiful blonde girl from Wisconsin whose talent was telling a fishing story with an accent. And she was just beautiful. And it was…you were laughing at the screen even then, you couldn’t believe that that was her talent, telling a story with a Norwegian accent.

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: I don’t really remember any of the talent except that it was always terrible you know and completely not interesting. And that you know what I used to think was a giant flop would get the biggest applause. Like I’d sit there thinking, wow that stank. And then the audience would just go mad, loving every second of it you know.

LEONARD HORN, Former CEO Miss America Organization: A lot of people sat back and laughed at it. I always thought it was kind of cruel to laugh at it because here was a young woman that was competing her little heart out for a coveted prize that was important to her. That’s what the program was all about. It was another reason why it became so popular because it was every woman and every woman was competing. And every woman is not an accomplished singer or an accomplished monologist.

MARGARET CHO, Comedian: If I had a talent I don’t know what I would do. I think that I would probably collate a script. Collate some new pages in a script. That’s…I’m really good at that, that’s probably my talent, or operating a three hole punch, I can do that pretty swiftly and, I’m probably the best at that.

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: What would I do as my talent? I would probably sing a song.

GLORIA STEINEM, Writer: I wouldn’t enter but now I would I suppose read something I’d written.

JULIA ALVAREZ, Writer: As my talent? You know I worried about that. I mean there was a way in which I thought I could never be that, but it wasn’t just because of the beauty, I just didn’t have any displayable talents. I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t dance. I had an accent, so I couldn’t do a dramatic part. And I sort of wondered what I would do.

NARRATOR: By 1960, the Miss America Pageant had become a national ritual. Each year, on the second Saturday in September, Americans gathered in their living rooms, switched on their sets, and settled in to see if their favorite contestant would capture the crown. Five times over the next decade, the Miss America Pageant was the highest-rated show of the year.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: With her beauty, brains, poise and talent, the American girl has become the most envied and admired girl in the world.

NARRATOR: Richard Nixon claimed it was the only program his daughters were allowed to stay up late to watch.

And all across the country now, little girls dreamed of becoming Miss America.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: It was this time when I sort of call the debutante era of the pageant, sort of the late ’50s, early ’60s, when everyone looked like they were at a cotillion with the high white gloves and the crinolines and the big hoop skirts and they were for god, motherhood and apple pie. They wanted to be good mothers, good wives. They wanted to be supporters of what their husbands chose to do, they wanted world peace.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks "This is a presidential election year. If a qualified woman were running for president, how would you feel about voting for her and why?" Contestant: If the men candidates running were qualified, I feet I would vote against her. My reasons being that women are very high strung and emotional people. They aren’t reliable enough when it comes to making a decision, a snap decision. I believe that a man in such a predicament would be able to make a more justifiable and better decision.

PAGEANT BROADCAST Parks "What in your opinion constitutes the ideal wife?" Contestant: "I imagine that the ideal wife depends entirely upon the viewpoint of the husband."

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks "Some sociologists say that American women are usurping the place of the male in American life and have become too dominant. Do you agree or disagree and why?" Contestant: "I do agree w/that. I believe that there are far too many women in the working world. I can see many cases where this is a necessary arrangement, but I do feel that a woman’s place is in the home with her husband and with her children."

LEONARD HORN: The concept of Miss America as an ideal American woman was consistent with society’s ideas of what an ideal young woman was. She was your everyday young girl who any man would be happy to call daughter, any man would be happy to call wife. Miss America was the American girl next door. She was an ideal that many women aspired to.

NARRATOR: Until now, the Pageant had managed to present a vision of ideal womanhood that most of the country shared. But by the mid-1960′s, the all-American girl-next-door was changing fast.

At a time when bikinis and miniskirts were all the rage, Pageant contestants continued to wear the regulation one-piece suits and dresses that fell within two inches of their knees. While anti-war protestors marched through the nation’s streets, Miss America was in Vietnam, touring with the USO. And in a moment of sexual revolution, the Pageant’s ideal remained wholesome and pure.

KATHY PEISS, Historian: Well, the pageant bore no relationship to the reality of life in the United States at that moment. The height of the Vietnam War, a period of great civil unrest, the civil rights movement and black power movements at their height, and the beginnings of a feminist movement. The birth control pill, the counterculture, the origins of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. All of these suggested that the pageant was terribly out of date and that it really was no longer relevant to the lives of women.

GLORIA STEINEM: It was a very exhilarating, affirming, funny explosion of rebellion and consciousness. It was partly about taking off the symbols, the gloves, the little white gloves, the dyed to match shoes, and in the middle of all of that, the artificiality of the Miss America Contest was an obvious kind of cartoon.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1968, a 27-year-old writer and editor named Robin Morgan decided to take a stand — and with help from a group called New York Radical Women, she began laying plans for a protest at the annual Miss America Pageant.

"Where else could one find such a perfect combination of American values?" Morgan argued. "Racism, militarism, and capitalism — all packaged in one ideal symbol: a woman."

ROBIN MORGAN, Writer: It seemed to me you know a sort of epiphany moment because it was the nexus of so many issues, beauty standards, money, women’s freedom, objectification of women, patriotism, and all of this somehow wrapped up in motherhood and apple pie or virgin hood and apple pie, in terms of Miss America. So it seemed like my god, what is not to dislike about this?

NARRATOR: Word of the protest soon reached Atlantic City, and pageant organizers braced themselves for the picket line.

It would be the first major demonstration of the women’s liberation movement in the United States.

ROBIN MORGAN: We had you know prepared for about maybe fifty people, and to do some guerilla theater, some songs, some chants, to picket on the boardwalk all day. What we had not counted on was that close to four hundred women showed up on the boardwalk. They came from all over. I mean they were carrying signs from Florida and from Wisconsin and some people drove from California, and that was just amazing. I mean it had clearly this protest tapped into something that was enormous and very, very moving.

GLORIA STEINEM: They put on the boardwalk a big trashcan and dumped in it all kinds of symbols of the stereotypical female role, a steno pad, a dust mop, an apron, a bra, all of these things. I think they never did burn those items because they couldn’t get a fire permit. Just shows you we’ve been too law abiding.

ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: singing "Ain’t she sweet. Makin’ profit off her meat. Beauty sells she’s told, so she’s out pluggin’ it. Ain’t she sweet. Ain’t she quaint with her face all full of paint. After all how can she face reality? Ain’t she quaint."

NARRATOR: The demonstration soon drew a crowd of more than 600 spectators — most of them men, and nearly all unsympathetic. One suggested that the protestors throw themselves into the Freedom Trash Can.

ROBIN MORGAN: The threats, the epithets, the screams were mostly from guys who would, you know lean over the barricades and do the usual. I mean say sort of you know go back to Russia, you’re commie pinko lesbian crazy broom riding witches. You name it. You’re all too ugly to be in the Miss America Pageant.

NARRATOR: Inside Convention Hall, the Miss America contestants were running through one last rehearsal before show time. Outside, on the Boardwalk, the protestors were burning Bert Parks in effigy.

Parks was unfazed. When he got wind that one of the demonstrators was planning to infiltrate the Pageant finals that evening, he didn’t miss a beat. "I’ll grab her by the throat," he said, "and keep right on singing."

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 1968 Bert Parks sings, and Judy Ford crowned…

NARRATOR: Judy Ann Ford, an eighteen-year-old gymnast from Illinois, was the first blonde in eleven years to be crowned Miss America. "I’m so glad," she gushed to the press that evening. "I feel like it’s a breakthrough."

Meanwhile, just four blocks from Convention Hall, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, another ideal was about to be chosen.

Calling itself a "positive protest," the Miss Black America Pageant had been scheduled to begin at midnight, in the hopes that newsmen would drop by when they left Convention Hall. It was nearly three in the morning before nineteen-year-old Philadelphian Saundra Williams was crowned. "Miss America does not represent us," Williams told the audience. "With my title, I can show black women they, too, are beautiful."

TRICIA ROSE, Cultural Critic: Miss Black America is of course an effort to say well, look, trying to be like a white person is not what’s at stake. But appreciating what is black is quite important. So Essence Magazine emerges. Black is beautiful, afros, you know, black women emphasizing that which is black as beautiful and so this was a way of saying, we exist as both a market and as a kind of esthetic really begins to take place in the late 1960s and gets even stronger in the late 70s and 80s.

NARRATOR: All the controversy of 1968 took its toll on Miss America. And before the year was out, Pepsi Cola, a sponsor of the Pageant for over eleven years, withdrew its support. "Miss America as run today," the company declared, "does not represent the changing values of our society."

LEONARD HORN: Society was swirling around it but the Miss America pageant stayed the same, continuing to worship an outmoded ideal. In fact, the powers that be at the pageant never did learn. They never did learn. They didn’t because they regard the Miss America pageant as sacrosanct. The Miss America pageant had developed a formula. The formula worked and nobody wanted to change it.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: "You know often I’ve heard it said, "Is Miss America relevant today? Well, is personal achievement relevant, is scholarship, is good citizenship relevant? We think it is. And we think it will be for a long time to come."

NARRATOR: The Miss America Pageant still drew an enormous audience — reaching a peak, in 1970, of over 22 million households. But then the ratings started to slip — and the Pageant was finally forced to catch up with the times.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Song and dance number: "Call Me Ms."

GLORIA STEINEM: It just seemed as if they were just trying to keep the lid on. You know they were just hoping against hope that…that somehow there wouldn’t be too many demonstrations or that the contestants wouldn’t stand up and raise a fist. You know somehow the people who ran the pageant were trying desperately to preserve it.

NARRATOR: The time had come for a new-style Miss America — and in 1973, the Pageant found one in an aspiring attorney from Denver, Colorado named Rebecca Ann King.

REBECCA KING DREMAN, Miss America 1974: I started watching it, the Miss America Pageant as a young girl and I wasn’t really sure that it was the kind of young woman that I was going to be, because I knew I was going to be president of the United States some day. The young women looked a little Barbie dollish to me. They looked a little too made up to me and a little too world peace and I just didn’t think I was that kind of young woman.

NARRATOR: King was finishing up her senior year at Colorado Women’s College, when a friend tried to talk her into entering the Miss America Pageant.

REBECCA KING DREMAN: I said what’s in it for me? She said there’s scholarship money so you can go on to law school. And so I said okay. I’ll think about it, but don’t tell anybody.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: King "During the past 23 years, my grandmother often said to me, that the character of the nation is determined through its womanhood. Through the practice of law, I hope to make a productive contribution to mankind, and find the happiness of a fulfilled woman."

REBECCA KING: I was really in it for the money. And I think it shocked the pageant when I said I was in it for the money. And I didn’t think it was strange at all. I said what is it? It’s a scholarship program, right? Isn’t that what we’re here for?

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks "The winner of a 15,000 dollar scholarship and our new Miss America Rebecca Ann King, Miss Colorado…"

REBECCA KING: Well I didn’t fall apart as Miss America. Walked over, got the crown on, and I think my mother received maybe a hundred letters because I didn’t cry. She didn’t cry. What kind of Miss America do we have here on our hands walking down the runway not crying?

NARRATOR: For most Americans, the real surprise came later, when the new Miss America began speaking to the press — and came out in favor of legalized abortion.

REBECCA KING: It was right at the time of Roe v. Wade. I thought a woman ought to have the right to choose whether to continue with the pregnancy or not. And it just blew completely up and the Pageant never said not talk about it.

KATHY PEISS: Well the Miss America pageant in the 1970′s is faced with the growing politicization of women on both the left and the right. And one of the key moments of course is the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. So when Miss America comes out as pro-choice, inserting a political stand in the Pageant which had always seen itself as nonpolitical or apolitical it really is an important moment.

REBECCA KING: The pageant has always been a little behind the times, but it was definitely the ’70s. It was time for people to move on and the pageant was trying.

NARRATOR: The national press applauded Miss America’s new image. Even feminists, who had been protesting against the Pageant for half a decade, now called off their war and invited King to speak at the National Organization for Women’s annual convention.

Still Miss America’s television audience continued to shrink, edged out by competition from new cable networks and dismissed by younger viewers as old-fashioned.

LEONARD HORN: I think that a large number of people began not watching the Miss American pageant probably about the mid-70s. The ideals upon which the Miss America pageant appeared to rest no longer seemed very exciting or relevant. And I think we lost a generation of people.

NARRATOR: By the late 1970′s, Pageant organizers were desperate for viewers and casting about for ways to update the show. So they decided to fire Bert Parks, Miss America’s master of ceremonies for a quarter of a century.

It was later reported that the Pageant’s sponsors considered 65-year-old Parks "too old and too out of touch." The decision caused such an uproar that Tonight Show host Johnny Carson even held an on-air campaign to get Parks reinstated. The Pageant replaced him anyway.

But a new host did not bring new viewers.

TRICIA ROSE: I was a teenager in the late-70s, and I, my recollection of the Pageant was that it just being a New Yorker, it just didn’t seem to reflect what the City looked like to me. So the pageant was a sort of helpful travelscape for me like oh this is what women look like in Texas and Florida. I was pretty much sure that the most blonde was going to be in the top two if not the number one slot. If a brunette was going to win, it was because of some other extraordinary traits that were compensating, but I very much understood it as a tall, blonde, you know, Southern woman’s festival.

MARGARET CHO: My father was very into it. And then, at one point when I was a little girl, I said oh I want to be one of those contestants. I want to grow up and do that, and he said no, oh no, you cannot do that, no. You know like, and I took it to mean that the beauty pageant was not open to all women. I mean my father thought that this whole pageant was fascinating and we would pick out the winners, but I was not allowed to even entertain the fantasy of becoming one of these women. And I thought well maybe I’m just not pretty enough. Maybe I’m just not white.

LENCOLA SULLIVAN, Miss Arkansas 1980: I remember always sitting in front of the television watching the Miss America every single year when I was a little kid, and I was the only one watching. Everybody else kind of went to bed, and I would be so excited, mom, mom, I got a … I chose the first runner up or the second runner up. But the interesting thing about that, I always kind of saw myself on stage as well, although no one looked like me. There was no one who looked like me.

NARRATOR: Twenty-year-old Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa 1970, had been the first African-American woman ever to compete in Atlantic City. In the decade that followed, there had been just ten other black contestants — and of those, only one had made the top five: Lencola Sullivan, Miss Arkansas 1980.

LENCOLA SULLIVAN: You know I made history that night by being the first black woman to ever make top five in the Miss America Pageant’s history. And even though that was wonderful, of course I was sad that I didn’t make it to the top and didn’t walk away with the…the title of Miss America. That was actually one of the questions that was asked of me when I competed, was…is America ready for a black woman to become Miss America? And I said if Arkansas is ready, America is ready, but obviously America wasn’t ready.

NARRATOR: But in 1983, the 61st year of the Miss America Pageant, everything suddenly changed.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 1983 Vanessa Williams singing and being crowned.

NARRATOR: A twenty-year-old musical theater major at Syracuse University, Williams had entered the Pageant in the hope of breaking into show business. Like so many Miss America before her, she wanted to be a star. But first, she would become a political symbol.

To some, the crowning of a black Miss America was a milestone in the struggle against bigotry. "Thank God I have lived long enough," said Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, "that this nation has been able to select the beautiful young woman of color to be Miss America."

KIMBERLY AIKEN COCKERHAM, Miss America 1994: I remember watching the pageant, and I don’t know that I had watched it before and I remember her singing. I remember her performance. I remember her being crowned, I remember thinking wow, she looks like me. This is something that I could do. I had never to that point thought that Miss America was something that was for me or something that I could do. So I think that that was a turning point for me. I think everybody was shocked, excited and just looking forward to having a year where there was a Miss America that was black and would get to do all the great things that every other Miss America had ever done. So I think it was just a time of excitement and anticipation.

NARRATOR: Williams’ fans made her the most heavily-booked Miss America in the Pageant’s history. Not quite ten months into her reign, she had already earned a record $125,000 in fees.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN: I remember talking to some pageant people and they said that the best Miss Americas they ever had was Vanessa Williams. Apparently she was just sensational. She was just the most verbal, bright, terrific seller of the Miss America contest they’d ever had.

NARRATOR: But there were those who considered Williams’ victory an affront. For the first time, Miss America received death threats and hate mail. When she made appearances in the South, armed guards had to be posted at her hotel room door. And even in the African-American community, there were those who assailed her for not being "black" enough.

Then, in July of 1984, Williams was informed that an unauthorized pictorial, featuring explicit nude photos she had posed for two years earlier, was about to be published in Penthouse magazine. Pageant officials were quick to respond.

ARCHIVAL: L. Horn press conference: "We do not believe that under the content and spirit of the rules as well as the contracts as well as the image of Miss America that she should remain Miss America and still give this particular program the vitality as well as the respect to which it is entitled. If we don’t draw the line here, where do you draw the line?"

LEONARD HORN: The sponsors were waiting on the sidelines. We had received a warning that if we didn’t handle this right, it didn’t turn out right, they were going to pull out. If they pulled out at the end of July, there would have been no money and no Miss American pageant in 1984. And there would not be a Miss America pageant today. That’s how close we came.

NARRATOR: Williams was given 72 hours to resign. She would be allowed to keep her scholarship and the money she had earned, but her title would be given to the first runner-up, Suzette Charles.

ARCHIVAL/Vanessa Williams: "It is one thing to face up to a mistake that one makes in youth. But it is almost totally devastating to have to share it with the American public and the world at large as both a human being and as Miss America. I put the session in the back of my mind and believed the photos would never be used for any purpose as the photographer had verbally assured me. I never consented to the publication or the use of these photographs in any manner.

NARRATOR: It was the first time in the Pageant’s six-decade history that a Miss America was asked to give up her crown.

KIM AIKEN: A lot of people were very disappointed. And I think any community, any minority community looks to their role models that are so accepted and are so loved by everybody as a point of inspiration, and maybe at that point it is, you are let down that okay, these are choices that she made that have caused a lot of embarrassment to her and her family but also to the black community.

TRICIA ROSE: I do remember feeling … incredibly sorry for her. I just felt that she was carrying the weight of this whole history of vicious stereotypes about black women and simply by trying to win the Pageant, she was in a sense trying to counter many of those stereotypes. And then to have these pictures emerge to undermine it was probably the most vicious way to have it because I would be stunned if she was the first Pageant contestant to have tried to raise money as a model by doing these kinds of pictures. I would be stunned if she were the first. But I wouldn’t be surprised if people were more interested in finding hers to undermine it because she in a sense you know, by definition threw the rest of the contestants into stark relief.

NARRATOR: The Vanessa Williams issue of Penthouse would ultimately bring in over 20 million dollars, the magazine’s all-time, single-issue sales record.

MARGARET CHO: You know what’s great about it is that she’s the only Miss America that anybody remembers, and she’s the only one that ever really became a star and that is what’s really great is that her … she has the most kiss my ass story that you can triumph over anything so she’s certainly a big hero of mine.

NARRATOR: For a time, the scandal revived public interest in the Miss America Pageant, and ticket sales for the 1984 finals rose by twenty percent.

That night, after only two months as Miss America, Suzette Charles walked the Convention Hall runway to a standing ovation, before crowning her successor: 20-year-old Sharlene Wells, a tall, blonde Mormon whom USA Today described as "squeaky-clean."

NARRATOR: Confronted now by the possibility of scandals that Lenora Slaughter never could have imagined, Pageant directors drew up a new contestant contract, gradually adding dozens of regulations to which potential Miss Americas were subject.

KATE SHINDLE, Miss America 1998: That you’ve always been female, is one. Is that hilarious? You have to sign a contract saying I’ve always been female. There is, there’s a clause in the contract that you have never posed in the nude there’s always a clause that you can’t have ever, you can’t be the natural or adoptive parent of a child that you have never done anything that could possibly be interpreted as illegal, immoral, unethical, whatever. And everybody signs the contract, but who didn’t cheat on a second grade math test, you know what I mean?

NARRATOR: With the changes in the contract came a renewed campaign to portray Miss America as a "thinking woman" who could make a positive contribution to society. In 1989, Pageant officials introduced a new competition called "the platform," which required contestants to demonstrate on ongoing commitment to a social problem — and to back it up with community service.

PAGEANT FOOTAGE: Miss Florida ‘Hello from the Sunshine State. I’m devoted to promoting unity through the celebration of our cultural diversity’ … Miss North Dakota, ‘I am devoted to encouraging youth to postpone their sexual activities …’

KATE SHINDLE: It’s one of those things that people love to make fun of. I’d love to, I support world peace and I want to give everyone a flower. It’s, it’s the kind of stereotype that we abhor that we really want to get away from, and the way of doing that at least in my mind is to show that we can walk the walk as well.

PAGEANT FOOTAGE: Kate Shindle being crowned? And talking about AIDS

KATE SHINDLE: Because I was talking about AIDS which was something people don’t necessarily associate with the sort of conservative, white bread grass roots Miss America organization, it got a lot of media attention I took some flack for talking to students about sexual activity, certainly about abstinence but also about safer sex. There are people who don’t want you to come to their high school and say things like that. But I will tell you that Miss America got me so much access. The fact that I was invited to speak at middle and high schools in middle America where they would never never invite an AIDS activist to come and speak to their kids. But they’ll roll out the red carpet for Miss America and hope she brings her crown was an enormous part of what I felt was effective during that year.

NARRATOR: More than eighty years after the first contest was held in Atlantic City, the Miss America Pageant still endures. It is one of the longest-running television programs in American history, seen by more than a billion people since its first broadcast in 1954.

It is also the single largest scholarship organization for women in the world. Each year, 1200 state and local pageants are franchised by the Miss America Organization. And each year, more than 10,000 young women enter those contests, all of them hoping Miss America’s crown will change their lives.

KIM AIKEN: I think every contestant that comes to Miss America has a different agenda. Some contestants and I remember even my year said, I don’t want to win this pageant, I really just want to be on TV. Some contestants come there because they want to be discovered by a modeling agency or they want to go into acting or broadcasting. Many contestants go because of their social activism. Many contestants go just because they have this idea of Miss America with the crown and the walking down the runway and many contestants go for that reason.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 50′s contestant: I would love to be your next Miss America . . . it would enable me to further my studies at Sacramento State College … It would also give the opportunity to meet many wonderful people that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet … and it would considerably broaden my outlook on life … I would love to be your next Miss America.

MARGARET CHO: I think that women’s roles have changed so much in the last twenty years that we are constantly looking for the outside world to tell us who we are and that we really search for this sure identity, for this sure being of who we are and the pageant is one way of defining ourselves.

SARAH BANET-WEISER: It’s not you either love it or you hate it. It’s not it’s either good or bad. It just doesn’t fit that neatly into one of those boxes. I think that what civic rituals do is that they are stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. And I think that along with considering the Miss America Pageant as popular culture we needed to consider it as a civic ritual, as something that is about imagining citizenship and imagining, who we are, why we’re here, what we’re for.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN: I wonder, I don’t know, do little girls now of six and seven dream of being Miss America? I don’t know. Or do they dream of replacing Bill Gates, I have no idea.

Voir également:

AS IT HAPPENED

ATLANTIC CITY IS A TOWN WITH CLASS — THEY RAISE YOUR MORALS WHILE THEY JUDGE YOUR ASS

Judith Duffett, New York

On Sept. 7, nearly 150 women committed to women’s liberation from New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Florida, Boston and Detroit, converged on Atlantic City to protest the degrading image of women perpetuated by the Miss America Pageant.

Our goal was No more Miss America! Our objections to the Pageant, its racism (there’s never been a black contestant); its use of Miss America as a military mascot to entertain the troops abroad and symbolize the "unstained, patriotic American womanhood our boys are fighting for"; the degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie symbol which puts women on a pedestal/auction block to compete for male approval; the consumer con game which makes Miss America a walking commercial and oppresses all women into commodity roles; the cult of youth and the American institution of planned obsolescence which makes last year’s Miss America as stale as yesterday’s news and makes all women "useless" when they are no longer ripe for exploitation as sex objects, the Madonna/Whore image of womanhood which means that Miss America must be seductive in a bathing suit and at the same time be pure and untouched; and the whole idea of beauty contests, which create one "winner" and millions of insecure, frustrated losers, who feel they must meet the imposed standards of beauty or face disaster: "You won’t get a man!"

photo source: "The Liberated Woman’s Appointment Calendar And Survival Handbook, 1971," by Jurate Kazickas and Lynn Sherr. Universe Books, 1970

Our purpose was not to put down Miss America but to attack the male chauvinism, commercialization of beauty, racism and oppression of women symbolized by the Pageant. We arrived on the Boardwalk at 2 p.m. Saturday and began picketing in front of Convention Hall. Some of our signs read: "Everyone is Beautiful," "I am a Woman, Not a Toy, Pet or Mascot," "Who Dares to Judge Beauty," and "Welcome to the Miss America Cattle Auction."

Guerrilla theater was used to illustrate some of our points. A live sheep was crowned "Miss America" and paraded on the liberated area of the boardwalk to parody the way the contestants (all women) are appraised and judged like animals at a county fair.

"Women are enslaved by beauty standards" was the theme of another dramatic action in which some of us chained ourselves to a life-size Miss America puppet. This was paraded and auctioned off by a woman dressed up as a male Wall Street financier. "Step right up, gentlemen, get your late model woman right here–a lovely paper dolly to call your very own property … She can push your product, push your ego, or push your lawnmower …"

The highlight of the afternoon was the giant Freedom Trash Can. With elaborate ceremony and shouts of joy, we threw away instruments of torture to women–high-heeled shoes, Merry Widow corsets, girdles, padded bras, false eyelashes, curlers, copies of Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, etc.

Throughout the afternoon activities, we were observed by some five or six hundred onlookers, mostly men, who were by turns amused, perplexed, and mostly enraged by our presence. The heckling was led by two young men: "You’re just jealous–you couldn’t be Miss America if you were the last man (?) on earth!" "Get back on your broom!" "Why don’t you go back to Russia?" "Which one of your girlfriends is your husband?" The women in the mainly lower middle class crowd by and large agreed with them. One woman, however, crossed the police line with her three children and joined us!

We generally ignored their jeers, but in the evening (we stayed until midnight), when the crowd was somewhat less hostile, we changed our tactics. Many of us put down our signs and went right up to the police line and began engaging in dialogue with the people. Two more women crossed the line to our side, though we did not make any noticeable conversions. But a dialogue was established, and women who had felt confused and hurt by the signs and leaflets which they didn’t understand and demonstrators with whom they could not identify, began to go through some changes in their heads when we started to talk to them personally. Proving what many of us have felt for a long time: women who are unreachable on most radical issues can be reached on this one, since it involves their daily lives.

Sixteen of us purchased tickets to the Pageant and from seats in the balcony near the stage, began a disruption as the outgoing Miss America was making her farewell speech. Although there was no TV coverage of the disruption (we were told later that one of the cameramen was about to pan to the balcony when he was told that if he did he would lose his job), the cameras and microphones did record the visible turning of heads and the stuttering and trembling of Miss America as we shouted "Freedom for Women!" and "No More Miss America" and hung a banner from the balcony reading "Women’s Liberation."

The sixteen were quickly hustled out, and five were arrested, charges against them later dropped. Earlier Peggy Dobbins had been arrested and held on $1,000 bail. She was charged with disorderly conduct and "emanating a noxious odor" for spraying a can of Toni home permanent throughout the audience. The Pageant and city officials were undoubtedly sensitive on this area of commercial products. We had already declared a boycott of the products sponsoring the Pageant, of which Toni is one (the others are Pepsi-Cola and Oldsmobile). We expected that they would sweep Peggy’s case under the rug. Instead the charges against her were escalated to an indictable offense, with a possible sentence of two to three years.

All in all, the day was a tremendous success. We intend to be back in Atlantic City next year and every year until the Miss America Pageant is closed down. It may not take too long. There have been rumors that because of the disturbance, the Pageant next year may be taped with no studio audience.

We have also been in contact with a former Miss America who is on our side, and have heard from a woman who was asked to be a judge but declined, partly because she heard of our plans. I suppose it’s possible to have the Pageant without an audience, but you can hardly have one without contestants or judges!

‘BEAUTY OF THE BLACK WOMAN’

source:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh

"There’s a need for the beauty of the black woman to be paraded and applauded as a symbol of universal pride," said J. Morris Anderson, an organizer of the competing pageant. "We’re not protesting against beauty. We’re protesting because the beauty of the black woman has been ignored. It hasn’t been respected. We’ll show black beauty for public consumption — herald her beauty and applaud it."

At Convention Hall, at least a few of the women pickets were Negroes. They were aware of the Miss Black America contest, but were not sure what they ought to do about it. "I’m for beauty contests," said Mrs. Bonnie Allen, a Negro Bronx housewife in her mid-thirties. "But then again maybe I’m against them. I think black people have a right to protest." "Basically, we’re against all beauty contests," Miss Morgan said. "We deplore Miss Black America as much as Miss White America but we understand the black issue involved."

NEGRO FINALISTS ACTIVE

While the Miss America finalists stayed out of sight, reportedly primping for their last show in Convention Hall, the eight Miss Black America finalists were out on the town acting like

source:http://www.pbs.org

beauty queens. They rode in open convertibles from the Ritz Carlton past the hall, around the business district and on into the Negro community. They waved white-gloved hands, smiled perfect smiles and showed off themselves as well as their elegant evening gowns in the afternoon sun.

They were cheered everywhere. The predominantly white strollers along the boardwalk waved and applauded. But nowhere was the reception more enthusiastic than along the main streets within the Negro community. Besides a motorcycle escort, they were accompanied by music makers with bongos, cowbells and flutes. And after their automobile tour, they went off to swim, party and wait for the midnight judging to begin. The final’s beginning coincided with the Miss America finale.

The Miss America Organization

The Miss America Pageant and its sponsor, the Miss America Organization, has evolved from a beach-side showcase for frolicking bathing beauties to a competition that still includes bathing suits, but now emphasizes scholarships and social causes. In 1921 the winner of the first Inter-City Beauty Contest was crowned "Miss America," and she won a first place prize of $100. The first pageant had only seven contestants from cities along the East Coast. Although the number of contestants and the pageant’s popularity increased throughout the decade, the event was closed down in 1927 due to growing criticism and charges of immorality, as well as a lack of financial support.

In 1933 organizers revived the pageant. By 1940, the pageant had regained its financial footing and respectability. It continued as a not-for-profit event; its official title became the "Miss America Pageant" and chose the Atlantic City Convention Hall as its permanent venue. The national executive director, Lenora Slaughter, shaped the modern pageant by adding features such as state competitions, the scholarship program, and a judging category based on personal interviews.

In the 1990s the pageant was reformed into The Miss America Organization, a not-for-profit corporation which comprised three distinct divisions: the traditional Miss America Pageant, the scholarship fund, and a Miss America foundation. The organization grants state franchises to one "responsible" organization in each state — usually the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). The state organization conducts a state competition in accordance with all the rules and regulations established by the Miss America Organization. These include having a panel of Miss-America-certified judges. The state pageant organizations, in turn, are responsible for reciprocal franchising of "responsible" organizations within each state to sponsor local and regional competitions. The local, state, and national organizations all rely on a vast army of volunteers and financial supporters to work throughout the year.

Contestants at all levels of the pageant compete in four categories: talent, evening wear, interview and physical fitness. Further, every Miss America state titleholder must select a platform for a social cause that is important to her. She spends her year’s service as a state winner advocating her issue. On the national level, Miss America also spends her year (since 1989, when the platform requirement was established) advocating her cause to the media, business people, public officials, and civic and charitable organizations.

The pageant competitions and the national broadcast are only one part of what the Miss America Organization does. The national and state organizations operate twelve months a year, raising scholarship funds from large and small businesses. The Miss America Organization’s main mission is to provide contestants with the opportunity to pursue their professional and educational goals through monetary grants and awards.

On the national level, scholarships are distributed as follows:

Miss America, $40,000

First runner-up, $30,000

Second runner-up, $20,000

Third runner-up, $15,000

Fourth runner-up, $10,000

Each of the five semi-finalists also wins $8,000. Each of the other 40 contestants receives $3,000. The three preliminary talent winners get $2000 each. The three preliminary swimsuit winners gain $500 each. One non-finalist interview winner is awarded $1,000. There are a number of other scholarship awards on the national level, including ten Bert Parks non-finalist talent winners, receiving $1,000 each, and a newly established Steinway Music Scholarship of $5,000.

Since establishing the scholarship program in 1945, the Miss America program has distributed more than $150 million in educational grants, making it the world’s largest scholarship program for women. Each year more than $30 million in diverse scholarships are made available to thousands of women who participate in local, state and national Miss America programs.

Lenora Slaughter Transforms the Pageant

From its inception, the Miss America Pageant wrestled with its image. In the 1920s, pageant organizers worked to make it a sophisticated event. But critics such as women’s clubs and religious groups abhorred the display of the female form in public; it was not considered respectable behavior. Although Victorian values had relaxed, new freedoms for women — from the expression of more direct sexuality to winning the vote in 1920 — led to a general anxiety about women’s apparently loosening morals. To make matters worse, most of the women who flocked to the pageant came with hopes of landing a Hollywood or stage career, cashing in on their good looks but raising questions about their morality. The growing criticism caused pageant officials to shut down the event in 1928.

The economic depression of the 1930s brought a more conservative understanding of "proper" femininity. The ideal of the frugal homemaker replaced that of the flapper. Before the pageant could be revived, organizers had to create an event that had a higher moral tone. In 1935 Lenora Slaughter was hired to produce an event that was respectable and legitimate.

Lenora Slaughter, a Southern Baptist and businesswoman, had made a name for herself in St. Petersburg, Florida, by working tirelessly at the Chamber of Commerce to put that town on the map. Slaughter came to the Miss America Pageant on a six-week leave of absence from St. Petersburg. She ended up staying, and in time would become director of the pageant, in a reign that lasted until 1967. The pageant became her passion. She would bring the most significant and lasting changes to its structure.

The newly revived pageant of 1935 marked the beginning of a concerted effort to attract an appropriate "class of girl" to represent the nation with the title of Miss America. Unfortunately, Slaughter’s early years were plagued with scandal and notoriety. In 1935, a sculptor unveiled a nude statue of that year’s Miss America, Henrietta Leaver. Later, Miss America 1937, eighteen-year-old Bette Cooper, changed her mind about becoming Miss America and escaped in the middle of the night.

Slaughter initiated an all-out crusade to improve the pageant’s image. First, she banned contestants who held titles that represented commercial interests, such as newspapers, amusement parks and theaters. Contestants were required to carry the title of a city, region, or state. This distanced the pageant from the crass practices of other pageants where the connection between money and women displaying themselves in public was obvious. The contestants now had to be between 18 and 25 years old, and never married. And while in Atlantic City, they had to observe a 1 am curfew and a ban on bars and nightclubs. Slaughter initiated the talent competition in 1938, introducing the idea that the contestants could be judged on more than beauty.

Slaughter did not stop there. At the time, theaters, swimming pools, state fairs, and amusement parks ran local pageants. She persuaded local Junior Chambers of Commerce (Jaycees) to become sponsors, allowing parents to feel their daughters were in safe hands. Further still, Slaughter persuaded socialites from Atlantic City’s upper strata to act as hostesses and chaperones for the young women when they were in Atlantic City. A pageant judge once asked Slaughter what to look for in a winner. "Honey," she said, "just pick me a lady."

Slaughter’s most significant legacy is the Miss America scholarship program. "I knew that the shine of a girl’s hair wasn’t going to make her a success in life," she wrote in her autobiography. Prizes before Slaughter consisted of such things as a fur coat, a Hollywood contract, or the chance to earn money modeling. In offering opportunities for advancement through education, Slaughter fashioned a pageant that appealed to middle-class sensibilities. Slaughter sat down and personally wrote about three hundred letters to businesses asking for college scholarship money that could be offered as the prize for the Miss America title. She initially raised $5000, and in 1945 the Miss America Pageant became one of the first organizations in the country to offer college scholarships to women. Lenora Slaughter died in December 2000 at the age of 94. By the time of her death, the Miss America Organization was the single largest contributor of scholarships to women in the United States.

Breaking the Color Line at the Pageant

The first African Americans to appear in the Miss America Pageant came onstage as ‘slaves’ for a musical number in 1923. It was not until 1970 that a black woman, Iowa’s Cheryl Brown, won a state title and made it to Atlantic City as a contestant. Lencola Sullivan, Miss Arkansas 1980, was the first African American to make it to the top five. In 1984 Vanessa Williams became the first black Miss America, beginning the year as one of the best Miss Americas ever, in the eyes of many pageant insiders, but ending her reign mid-year amidst scandal.

The pageant’s long history of excluding women of color dates from its beginnings. At some point in the 1930s, it was formalized in the notorious rule number seven of the Miss America rule book. Instituted under the directorship of Lenora Slaughter, rule number seven stated that "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." As late as 1940, all contestants were required to list, on their formal biological data sheet, how far back they could trace their ancestry. In the pageant’s continual crusade for respectability, ancestral connections to the Revolutionary War or perhaps the Mayflower would have been seen as a plus.

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945 and daughter of Russian-Jewish parents, while technically eligible to compete under rule seven, sensed the far-reaching bigotry behind it. She had, after all, been pressured (unsuccessfully) to change her name to a less Jewish-sounding name. Myerson was the first Jewish Miss America — and the only one ever to be crowned, as of 2001. Myerson later recalled her discussion with Slaughter:

"I said… the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America. And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson."

In addition to Myerson, others had pushed the boundaries of the pageant’s unwritten and written rules for inclusion. In 1941 a Native American, Mifauny Shunatona, represented Oklahoma at the pageant, though there would not be another Native American contestant for 30 years. Irma Nydia Vasquez from Puerto Rico, and Yun Tau Zane from Hawaii, the first Asian contestant, both broke the color bar in 1948.

Asian American comedian Margaret Cho recalls watching the pageant: "My father was very into it. And then, at one point when I was a little girl, I said oh I want to be one of those contestants. I want to grow up and do that, and he said no, oh no, you cannot do that, no. …and I took it to mean that the beauty pageant was not open to all women. I mean my father thought that this whole pageant was fascinating and we would pick out the winners, but I was not allowed to even entertain the fantasy of becoming one of these women. And I thought well maybe I’m just not pretty enough. Maybe I’m just not white."

By the 1960s there still had not been a black contestant. Following the advances of the civil rights movement, black Americans set up their own contest in 1968. Black communities had sponsored segregated black beauty contests for years, dating farther back than the Miss America contest. However, the 1968 Miss Black America Contest, held in Atlantic City on the same day as the Miss America Pageant, was organized as a direct protest of the pageant. On that same day, feminists staged a boardwalk demonstration protesting the pageant. The 1968 Miss America Pageant was confronted with its shortcomings on several fronts.

It was not until 1984 that Vanessa Williams of New York was crowned as the first black Miss America. Many likened her accomplishment to that of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball. Controversy followed Williams as, for the first time, Miss America recieved death threats and hate mail. By all accounts, Williams was doing an excellent job of representing the pageant at her public appearances. But halfway into her year, the discovery of pornographic photos of her forced Williams to resign. She had been pressured into posing for the photographs that she had been told would never appear in print. In 1984 they came out in the most successful issue of Penthouse magazine ever printed, netting publisher Bob Guccione a windfall profit of $14 million.

When Williams resigned, the media and the American public could talk of little else. Williams’ situation seemed to be about more than a single young woman’s error in judgment. Many people, both inside the black community and outside it, saw racial politics at the heart of the scandal, and debated how Williams’ race might have affected events. No matter how people viewed the scandal, Williams often was cast as representing not only herself, but also her race.

Vanessa Williams persevered, and went on to have a major recording career. Her runner-up, an African American woman from New Jersey named Suzette Charles, took over as the 1984 Miss America. Since then, there have been other black Miss Americas, as well as the first Asian Miss America, Angela Baraquio, Miss Hawaii of 2000. Today, the Miss America Pageant has made diversity part of its official mission.

Still, it is a particular kind of diversity. For recent historians and commentators, the question that is becoming most significant is how "diverse" a contestant can be. Is the pageant truly diverse, or is it peddling an outdated image of America as a homogenized melting pot? Do women of color need to fit the idealized white version of femininity that is the legacy of the pageant? Can more ethnic and racially diverse features be represented at the pageant? And can modern beauty even be reduced to a single, representative face? These questions are likely to be raised by the pageant for years to come.

History follows former Miss Iowa First black pageant winner recalls her crowning moment

Shirley Davis

Quad-City Times

October 19, 2000

Cheryl Brown Hollingsworth, now of Lithonia, Ga., is married and the mother of two married children. She hopes to be in Davenport for tonight’s pageant.

Thirty years ago a pretty and talented ballet dancer from Iowa set the international press spinning when she became the first-ever African-American contestant in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

The fact that she came from a conservative Midwestern state like Iowa was doubly astounding to those who were reporting on the pageant, and she drew attention not only from newspaper and magazine writers around the world but from the security forces in Atlantic City, who were quite visible during rehearsals in Convention Hall.

Today, Cheryl Brown Hollingsworth of Lithonia, Ga., who was Miss Iowa of 1970, says, “Iowans were very accepting of me, but I think it took the country by surprise to realize that it was a young woman from Iowa who became the first African-American contestant.

“I don’t feel I personally changed the pageant,” Brown said in a phone interview from her home this week, “ but I feel that my presence expanded people’s minds and their acceptance. And, in subsequent years, they were much more open to African-American candidates.” She says, “I didn’t feel hounded by the press, but it was obvious that security was tight —especially at Convention Hall rehearsals when our chaperones weren’t always present.

“There were women’s lib protesters on the Boardwalk, and no one knew whether there would be more protesters because of the African-American connection.” The reigning Miss Iowa, Jennifer Caudle of Davenport, who will give up her crown tonight, is only the second African-American contestant from Iowa in the past 30 years.

Brown, who has been working in banking industry for 26 years, manages a financial center for First Union National Bank in Atlanta, Ga. Her husband Karl, formerly of Moline, is regional human resources manager for the Federal Express. Her mother-in-law, Mildred Taylor, still lives in Moline.

The couple has been married 28 years. Their daughter Etienne Thomas of Durham, N.C., finished law school in December and was married in January. Son Joshua also is married and is an Army paratrooper at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brown was to have judged this week’s state pageant in Davenport, but a conflict with her job made that impossible at the last minute. At this writing, she planned to arrive in Davenport by Friday evening, operating on a very tight schedule. “I’ll be pushing it,” she said, “but I hope to make it.” She’d also hoped to be here for the 50th anniversary pageant two years ago, but had to cancel because of another conflict. “This would have been only the third pageant I’d have judged,” she said. She was an Iowa judge in the early ’80s.

Brown came to Davenport in 1970 as a student from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. As Miss Decorah, she won a college scholarship —then more scholarships from the state and national pageants, with an extra scholarship for being a non-finalist talent winner in Atlantic City.

These helped with her education at Luther College, where she met her husband.

Although she didn’t place in the coveted “top 10” in Atlantic City, Brown’s talent brought her back to the Miss America Pageant the following year. “I was one of the Miss America contestants chosen to go on a USO tour to Vietnam, and we were all invited back to the pageant.

“I think it was one of the last Miss America groups to go to Vietnam,” Brown said.

Because she was a New Yorker, Brown stayed in the Bettendorf home of Marge and Walter Steffens during her reign, because her title required her to maintain a Quad-City residence. The Steffens’ daughter Barbara was a friend of Brown’s. She remembers the fun she had shopping for her Atlantic City wardrobe —all at the expense of the pageant board.

Brown now keeps up with Miss Iowa news through a pageant newspaper.

She had hoped to come back for the 50th anniversary of the Miss Iowa Pageant in 1998, but another conflict prevented that.

“My daughter isn’t interested in pageants and is not a dancer,” Brown said. Brown’s father, who had been employed at a New York City airport, died three years ago, and recently her mother moved to Atlanta to be near her.

Fighting Racism, One Swimsuit at a Time

Belva Davis

February 10, 2011

As we celebrate Black History Month and honor progress against racial and gender bias, it’s good to acknowledge some of the roadblocks that had to be overcome, especially for African American women.

In the 1960s, nobody had to tell me that a dark-skinned girl was ineligible to be Miss America; everybody knew the crown was reserved for white girls only. The rare occasions when the pageant included African Americans had been demeaning, such as the 1923 competition in which blacks played the roles of slaves during a Court of Neptune musical extravaganza. By the 1930s, the exclusion was made explicit with Pageant Rule #7, which required that Miss America contestants “be of good health and of the white race.”

By the 1940s, contestants were required to complete a biological data sheet tracing their ancestry as far back as possible —preferably to the Mayflower.

Not until 1970 would a U.S. state be so rebellious as to send a black contestant to the Miss America Pageant, and ironically it would be one of the whitest states in the nation: Iowa. The first black woman to win the Miss America crown was Vanessa Williams in 1983, a surprising triumph at a time when the prototypical “beautiful woman” in the mainstream culture of the day had a slim build, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Internalizing this racism, many black females put themselves through a torturous process trying to appear “less black” —straightening the kinks out of their hair, bleaching their skin, minimizing their curvaceous bodies and even occasionally clamping their wider noses with clothespins in a preposterous attempt to narrow them. They weren’t unaware of the consequences of skin color: Social science research would later establish that lighter-toned African Americans had better employment prospects than their darker counterparts.

But I had no doubt that attractive girls and women came in all colors, from pale porcelain to glorious ebony, as history has taught us. And if the Miss America pageant was too stubbornly prejudiced to see that, I decided, we should simply initiate a contest all our own. Maxine Craig, associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of California, Davis, took note of it in her scholarly paper ”Walking like a Queen: Learning to be Miss Bronze:”

On June 9, 1961 an Oakland, California black newspaper announced the beginning of the ‘first major beauty contest for Negro girls held in Northern California.’ Belva Davis, an energetic free-lance journalist, recruited contestants, trained them, found sponsors, a band and a banquet hall, sold tickets, arranged for press coverage and thus created the first northern California ‘Miss Bronze’ contest.

The pageant was open to unmarried African American women 17 to 25 years old, from the Oregon border all the way south to Fresno. I recruited contestants in the Bay Area via my newspaper column, my radio show and even church appearances. Eventually Sacramento, Merced and Fresno staged their own local pageants, with their winners advancing to the Miss Bronze Northern California finals. The winner and first runner-up, as well as the talent-competition winners, were awarded free trips to Los Angeles to compete in the Miss Bronze California Pageant finals.

I did everything I could to make the competition affordable to all young women. Entrance was free, as were the required charm school classes. We secured donated swimsuits for the contestants — always modest one-pieces, to keep the churches happy —and provided stipends for their evening gowns.

Today, few would consider the creation of a beauty pageant as a serious way to fight injustice, but it proved to be an effective tool four decades ago. The Miss Bronze contest gave our young contestants the confidence and self-pride they needed to pursue the dreams they held of breaking through the crust of doubts about their own self-worth. Simple things such as good posture, a confident smile, the rewards of volunteering–all helped the contestants define and aspire to become their best selves. Participation in the Miss Bronze California pageant opened the door to talented women of that era, some who continue to enjoyed long careers in the entertainment industry–like Oscar nominee (for The Color Purple) Margaret Avery, and Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue of The Fifth Dimension.

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave me the comfort I needed to realize the value of what some saw as frivolous and demeaning to women. He said,

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Those words hold true today. Find a place where you can work toward equality, forget the name and go to work.

Belva Davis’s new memoir is Never in My Wildest Dreams; see an excerpt from it in the latest issue of Ms. magazine.

Photo of Marilyn McCoo of The Fifth Dimension performing in 1970, from Wikimedia Commons. McCoo won the Miss Bronze California pageant in 1962.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Miss America Pageant

FOX News Magazine

September 13, 2013

The preliminary rounds for this year’s Miss America pageant are already under way in Atlantic City, with the final night of competition airing on ABC this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

But before you settle down for an extravaganza of swimsuits, singing and sashaying, why not take a few minutes to learn a bit more about one of America’s favorite national pastimes? After all, there’s a whole lot more to Miss America than meets the eye (besides her hidden talent for playing the marimba).

Here’s a few of the most interesting stories, scandals and secrets surrounding the Miss America pageant.

* * * * *

#1. The Miss America pageant started as a ploy to keep tourists on the Atlantic City boardwalk after Labor Day. In 1920, a group of local businessmen organized an event called the Fall Frolic, which happened to feature a rolling chair parade of young ladies. At the following year’s Fall Frolic, the parade was reworked as the Inter-City Beauty contest, and entrants were chosen through newspaper-sponsored photo contests. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman won the title of "The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America" and took home the Golden Mermaid trophy. She returned to defend her title in 1922, where she was informally dubbed "Miss America."

#2. After Yolande Betbeze won the title of Miss America for 1951, she flat-out refused to wear or promote Catalina swimwear, one of the pageant’s sponsors. (Betbeze told the company she was a singer, "not a pin-up.") Because of this, Catalina cut ties with Miss America and created their own beauty competition in 1952: the Miss USA pageant.

#3. To compete for the Miss America crown, a contestant can’t be married — but she can certainly be divorced. A rule change in 1999, which was applied to the 2000 pageant and onward, states that the contestants only need to swear that they’re unmarried, not pregnant, and not the adoptive or biological parent of a child (rather than the previous rule that required a Miss America contestant to swear that she had never been married or pregnant).

#4. California, Oklahoma and Ohio boast the most Miss America wins with six each. Nineteen states and two U.S. territories share the distinction of earning zero Miss America titles.

#5. In 2012, the widow of the songwriter who penned the familiar Miss America tune ("There she is, Miss America … ") filed a lawsuit against the pageant. Phyllis Wayne felt that the song — written by her late husband Bernie Wayne — had been improperly licensed at the 2011 and 2012 ceremonies. A confidential settlement was reached in late 2012, but the song wasn’t heard at the 2013 pageant, and it won’t be heard at the 2014 pageant, either.

#6. Historically, there has always been a set of qualifying criteria that must be met in order to enter the Miss America pageant, but none was as controversial as rule #7. This rule, which was in place until 1940, stated that "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." To satisfy this requirement, Miss America hopefuls were required to trace their ancestry back through as many generations as they could.

#7. The first and only Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, was crowned in 1945. She was pressured to change her name to "Beth Merrick" for the pageant, but the Bronx native told her pageant director that she wouldn’t do it. "I said … the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America," Myerson recounted. "And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson."

#8. Television and radio announcer Bert Parks has hosted more Miss America pageants than anyone else, having emceed the event every year between 1955 and 1979. When he was fired at the age of 65 (organizers were trying to revamp the show for a younger audience), Johnny Carson staged a "We Want Bert" campaign to get him reinstated. It didn’t work, but Parks was eventually invited back to appear as a guest for the pageant’s 70th anniversary in 1990.

#9. Prior to becoming an Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress, Cloris Leachman competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant as Miss Chicago. (In the pageant’s earlier years, delegates representing larger metropolitan areas such as New York City and Chicago were allowed to enter alongside delegates from New York State and Illinois. After complaints, the pageant did away with these positions — as well as the position of Miss Washington D.C., albeit temporarily.)

#10. The morning after winning the title of Miss America at the 1937 pageant, Bette Cooper decided she didn’t want to commit to the role and ran off with a man (by motorboat, some say). She opted to return to school instead of fulfilling her Miss America duties, and no other contestant was awarded the title in her stead.

Regina

Vintage Powder Room

a window into the past

1 Jul, 2012

All hail the Queen! The Regina hair net envelope suggests that any wearer of the net inside will become a queen. Well, a hair net is much easier to wear out in public than a jeweled crown is — unless you’re Miss America.

The Miss America Pageant was conceived in Atlantic City. The Businessmen’s League of Atlantic City devised a plan that would keep profits flowing into the city past Labor Day, which was when tourists traditionally left for home.

The kick-off event was held on September 25, 1920, and was called the Fall Frolic. Who could resist an event in which three hundred and fifty men pushed gaily decorated rolling wicker chairs along a parade route? The main attractions were the young maidens who occupied the chairs. The head maiden was Miss Ernestine Cremona who, dressed in a flowing white robe, was meant to represent peace.

The Atlantic businessmen had scored a major success with the Frolic. They immediately realized the powerful appeal of a group of attractive young women dressed in bathing suits, and so a committee was formed to organize a bather’s revue for the next year’s event.

The bather’s revue committee contacted newspapers in cities as far west as Pittsburgh and as far south as Washington, D.C. asking them to sponsor local beauty contests. The winners of the local contests would participate in the Atlantic City beauty contest.

Atlantic City newspaperman Herb Test reported that the winner of the city’s pageant would be called Miss America.

The 1921 Fall Frolic was five days of, well, frolicking. There were tennis tournaments, parades, concerts, a fancy dress ball and SEVEN different bathing divisions! If you were in Atlantic City during those five days and not dressed in a bathing suit you would have been out of place. Children, men, even fire and police personnel, all were in bathing suits. There was a category created specifically for professional women, and by professional the pageant’s organizers didn’t mean corporate women, secretaries or hookers, they meant stage and screen actresses.

Margaret Gorman

The first Miss America was chosen by a combination of the crowd’s applause and points given to her by a panel of artists who served as judges. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman (30-25-32), who bore a strong resemblance to screen star Mary Pickford, was proclaimed the winner. Gorman was crowned, wrapped in an American flag, and presented with the Golden Mermaid trophy and $100.

Atlantic City expanded the frolic during the 1920s and the number of contestants grew to 83 young women from 36 states. The event drew protestors who thought that the girls were immoral — why else would they be willing to parade around in bathing suits in public? The organizers countered the protests by publicizing that the contestants were wholesome, sweet young things who neither wore make-up, nor bobbed their hair.

Louise Brooks, bobbed haired beauty.

With the runaway success of the Atlantic City pageant, other groups saw an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon by promoting their own ideals of beauty. The 1920s saw pageants for a Miss Bronze America, and even the Ku Klux Klan staged a pageant for Miss 100 Percent America! It’s difficult for me to visualize a woman wearing a bathing suit and one of those dopey conical hats.

For the next several years the Atlantic City pageant continued to thrive and to change. One of the changes was in scoring. How does a panel of judges determine a beauty contest winner? By the mid-1920s a points system was established: five points for the construction of the head, three points for the torso, two points for the leg…I’m wondering just how many points a perky rounded posterior was worth.

Norma Smallwood

In 1926, Norma Smallwood, a small-town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was crowned Miss America. She parlayed her reign into big bucks. She reportedly made over $100k — more than either Babe Ruth or President Calvin Coolidge!

Smallwood appears to have been the first Miss America who realized that her crown was a business opportunity. When she was asked to return to Atlantic City in 1927 to crown her successor, she demanded to be paid. When the pageant reps didn’t come forward with a check, Norma bid them adieu and headed for a gig in North Carolina.

By 1928 women’s clubs, religious organizations and other conservative Americans went on the attack and accused the organizers of the Miss America Pageant of corrupting the nation’s morals. One protester said, “Before the competition, the contestants were splendid examples of innocence and pure womanhood. Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas.”

Still from OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928)

The controversy over the beauty contest scared the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce so badly that, in 1928, they voted twenty-seven to three to cancel the event!

The stock market crash and resulting economic depression made the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce rethink the event, and it was revived 1933.

In 1933, thirty young women were brought to Atlantic City aboard a chartered train called the Beauty Special.

The Atlantic City Press newspaper reported:

“Queens of pulchritude, representing 29 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, will arrive here today to compete for the crown of Miss America 1933.

The American Beauty Special train will arrive at the Pennsylvania-Reading Railroad Station at South Carolina Avenue at 1:20 p.m. to mark the opening of the eighth edition of the revived Atlantic City Pageant. The five-day program will be climaxed Saturday night with the coronation ceremonies in the Auditorium.

A collection of blondes, brunettes and red heads, will assemble in Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, this morning, and the beauty special will leave at 11:55 a.m.”

It is surprising that more women didn’t participate in the 1933 Miss America pageant. In the midst of the Great Depression the contest prizes sounded fabulous, “Wealth and many honors await the Miss America this year. She will receive many valuable prizes and a cash award as well. In addition, she will have opportunities to pursue a theatrical career.”

Some of the contestants may have believed the stories related in rags-to-Broadway-riches films like GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. The opportunity for a girl to win a part in a film or on Broadway would have been a potent lure for those who saw themselves as the next Joan Blondell or Ruby Keeler. I can imagine many of the Miss America hopefuls on the Beauty Train singing WE’RE IN THE MONEY.

The 1933 winner was Marian Bergeron, a talented girl from Westhaven, Connecticut. She was poised for a shot at stardom until the newspapers reported her age; she was only fifteen. Her young age put a damper on an offer from RKO, but she was buoyed by a two year reign – no pageant was held in 1934.

Marian Bergeron

During the 1930s the Miss America pageant continued to be viewed by many as a circus of sin. In October 1935 a scandal rocked the contest.

Less than a month after seventeen-year-old Henrietta Leaver had been crowned Miss America, a nude statue of her was unveiled in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

Henrietta swore up and down that she had worn a bathing suit when she posed for the statue, and she also said that her grandmother had been with her each time she had posed. Nobody bought Henrietta’s story and the image of the Miss America pageant was further tarnished.

One of my favorite Miss America contestants of the 1930s was Rose Veronica Coyle (1936 winner). Rose was twenty-two when she won title of Miss America. Rose wore a short ballet shirt with a white jacket, brightened by huge red polka dots, and sang “I Can’t Escape from You”.

Rose Coyle, Truckin’

She then wowed the judges with her eight-minute long tap dance routine performed to TRUCKIN’. The audience loved her so much the judges allowed her an encore — the first in the pageant’s history.

The Miss America Pageant lost its venue after WWII broke out because it was needed by the military. Rose Coyle and her husband, Leonard Schlessinger (National General Manager of Warner Bros. Theaters) saved the day by relocating the Miss America Pageant to the Warner Theatre on the Boardwalk. It would be the pageant’s home until 1946.

Beauty Pageants, Miss America, Miss American Rose Day

A Return to True Beauty

In What Day is it?

October 20, 2009

In thousands of beauty pageants across America, she stands there, an aura around her as she tries with all of her might not to squint under the bright, hot kleig lights causing tiny beads of sweat to form on her forehead, as she focuses on holding that perfect vasoline-covered smile, praying not to trip on the dress while walking past the dimly-lit judges’ table in front of the stage….

Origin of Modern-Day Beauty Pageant

In 1921 the Businessman’s League of Atlantic City, a fun-loving group of guys to be sure, decided to hold what they called a ”Fall Frolic.” Sticking wheels on 350 colorful wicker chairs, the organizers decorated them and assembled together scores of attractive women to pose on the chairs, as men pushed them down the Boardwalk. The spectacle was such a success (go figure) that organizers decided to ask cities far and wide to run photo pageants in their newspapers, perform state-wide runoffs, and send all the winners to Atlantic City the following year as state representatives. A local newspaperman, Herb Test, spoke up and stated that the ultimate winner should be crowned “Miss America.” Although only a handful of states sent women the next year, an empire was born, changing how beauty was perceived for decades to come.

Rubber-stamping Beauty

The nationalizing and glamorizing of beauty pageants significantly helped to standardize what it means to be “beautiful” in America. Oh, I’m not trying to villify the Billion-Dollar pageant industry…. They were only building on the commercial success that came with parading a steady stream of female cinema bombshells in Hollywood. It’s no coincidence that the first winner of the Miss America Pageant was 16-year-old Margaret Gorman, noted to have been popular because she looked like then-famous movie starlet Mary Pickford.

Little girls in small towns scattered across America read about the annual winners, pouring over photographs of the contest in their local papers. Quite a bit more than a handful of young women began that dream of competing someday in what has become over 1,200 local and state-level pageants leading to the now televised national pageants, hoping to be picked (by the new pageant ”experts,” tape measure in hand) as perfect.

Eating Disorders : The 800 lb. Gorilla in the Room

A Johns Hopkins University study showed that the average contestant on Miss America is 5’7″ talls, weighs in at a feathery-light 120 lbs., and has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5, placing her squarely in the undernourished category for her height. This is to be compared to the average American woman, with a height of 5’4″, weighing 142 lbs., with a BMI of 24.4. In other words, to be considered as the next nationally televised representative of American beauty, a young women has to put serious consideration in joining the population of those residing deeply in the territory bordering an eating disorder.

My three young girls see the woman who is pressed forward by the crowd, to cut the ribbon on the new mall’s ground-breaking with impossibly large scissors. They see the happy young girl waving from the car passing by on the parade, the one in the beautiful white formal. My girls are health, having been known to turn down seconds at the dinner table many a time. Despite these continual exercises in self-control, they don’t see the same figure in the mirror as those that represent our shared ideals of shapeliness. How easy it must be for them to equate success in life with that waif-like figure paraded in front of them in magazines and on television, in music videos and commercials. I work hard to make sure they understand the difference between perception and reality…

It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that between 5-10% of all women in America suffer from eating disorders, and up to 15% have had issues with them in their lives. Women have begun to fight back at this impossible body image, demanding a more realistic view of what is considered beautiful by the media, often lashing out at the beauty pageants, television conglomerates, and fashion industry.

From Skinny to “Fit”

She looks fat?

She looks fat?

Beauty pageant marketers have heard the complaints, simply moving their message from thin to the more popular image of “fit,” adding the word “fitness” to describe swimsuit competitions, as though to wear a skinny slip of fabric is akin to a sporting activity. My Dad used to watch pretty much any sport that was on television, including of all things Bass Fishing. If they had grass growing competitions, I am sure he would have owned a hat with Kentucky Blue Grass emblazoned on it. To my surprise, he also loved to watch Women’s Baskeball. I’m not always sure it was for the right reasons… The players looked pretty fit to me. The average female Olympic women’s basketball player (a Hell of a lot taller, fitter and thinner than the average woman) coincidentally has a BMI averaging 24.4, same as your typical, much shorter red-blooded and totally hot American female.

There is nothing fit in the rapid (and dangerous) weight-loss regimen that one not-long-ago Miss America winner underwent, going from a size 7 to a size 2 in just four months in preparation for the competition. I seriously doubt she played basketball to get in that condition. Our girls cannot (and should not) try to keep up with this dangerous example of American “fitness.” They don’t wind up on stages with tiaras after that type of behavior. They wind up in hospitals.

The Addition of “Good Causes”

National and International Beauty Pageants have further pushed away the issue of eating disorders by brandishing before them (and perhaps hiding behind) a variety of wonderful causes they support financially, including AIDS Education, Women’s Rights, School Violence and Breast Cancer Awareness. They are certainly incredible, worthy causes. I believe in and support them all, in case an apologetic wants to bash me over the head with one. But the pageants continue to fail to take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the room head-on, undertaking the loosening of what body style has to be met to compete and win. What better way to create a more healthy, positive body image for our daughters, one that empowers them to stop looking in the mirror so much and begin looking more seriously at their educations, than to change what they physically see in beauty pageant winners? In that girl who cuts the ribbon or waves in the parade?

Even Barbie is No Longer Skinny Enough…

Cankles? Really?

Cankles? Really?

French Shoe Designer Christian LouBoutin recently complained that he felt that Barbie, the perennial American doll that pretty much everybody acknowledges has impossible proportions, has cankles. Yes, fat ankles. He wants the doll redesigned to have skinnier ankles. Thanks, jerk.

Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton (size 4) sparked controversy in the news recently, stating she was let go for being too fat to fit in the clothing provided to her for photograph sessions. In support of these statements, fashion shots of the 5’10″ 120 lb. model were produced to the media, doctored in order make her hips appear even skinnier than her head, because a size 4 was not small enough to produce the desirable eye-candy on a sailboat look…

The Power of Beauty

There is no mistaking the power of attractiveness. Have we been trained to believe that beautiful people somehow possess greater faculties of the mind, or a deeper reservoir of essential, earthy goodness? Researchers have shown that when handing in homework of equal merit, more attractive students get higher grades on average by their googly-eyed teachers. More attractive criminals tend to get lighter sentences from their jurors. Less attractive people earn less than average-looking people, who make less than more attractive workers holding similar positions.

Where Does It Stop? Who Will Take a Stand?

Thank you Miss American Rose!

Thank you Miss American Rose!

The Miss American Rose Pageant is very unlike other pageants. Competitors of all ages are not invited to attend at a particular location, instead mailing in their applications to pageant headquarters. That’s right, mail-in. There are no travel expenses, no clothing and hairstyle costs, no hotel rooms and trainers, no poise school and singing lessons, no tape under the boobs, no wardrobe malfunctions, no stupid answers to canned questions. And definitely no itching powder in a competitor’s swimsuit.

The competition is based largely on a girl (or woman’s) lifetime achievements, rather than being almost wholely focused on one’s appearance and poise. There are optional competitions based on academics, talent, community service, career, and finally beauty. But before you roll your eyes, the beauty portion of the pageant is based on either photograph or written essay, as outer and inner beauty are each being considered as having their merit..

I have to stand and applaud the Miss American Rose Pagaent. They have shirked the standardized beauty specifications, put down the tape measures and scales, and allowed the definition of what is beautiful to return to the eye of the beholder. They have drawn forth and celebrated the inner beauty in each and every girl and woman, empowering and pushing them to be leaders, teachers, and examples for all of us.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you, Miss American Rose Pageant. My daughters and I love you.

Timeline: Miss America

1845

Women’s History entry

Newspaperman Horace Greeley publishes a landmark book by journalist and social reformer Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century. The work argues for women’s equality in all aspects of life.

1848

Women’s History entry

Leading women in early feminist movement American women move further into the public sphere; the first Women’s Rights Convention is held at Seneca Falls, New York.

1849

Women’s History entry

Amelia Bloomer begins her crusade to reform American women’s fashions.

1854

Miss America entry

P.T. Barnum’s efforts to launch a live beauty contest are unsuccessful. Respectable women do not parade their beauty in public. He launches a picture-based beauty contest sponsored by local newspapers. It is highly successful and imitated.

1861-64

Civil War soldier holding flag The nation is divided in two as North and South clash in the U.S. Civil War.

1863

January 1: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.

1880

Miss America entry

The first recorded bathing beauty contest takes place at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Inventor Thomas Edison is a judge. A bridal trousseau is the prize. Contestants must be under 25, not married, at least 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weigh no more than 130 pounds.

1889

Women’s History entry

November 18: Journalist Nellie Bly sets off to travel around the world in under 80 days.

1890

Women’s History entry

An umbrella organization, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, is formed. Women’s clubs are venues for women’s education and development, and will increasingly focus on community service.

In a second wave of U.S. immigration, people from Eastern Europe and Italy come to America.

1893

Miss America entry

The Chicago Columbian Exposition features a Congress of Beauty.

1895

Women’s History entry

The National Federation of Afro-American Women is formed. A year later it joins with the League of Colored Women to become the National Association of Colored Women.

1896

U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson rules that segregation is not unconstitutional. The doctrine treating African Americans as "separate but equal" holds for the next half century.

1898

Rough Riders, San Juan American soldiers fight the Spanish American War in Cuba and the Philippines.

1902

Women’s History entry

The National Women’s Trade Union League is formed.

Women’s History entry

November: McClure’s Magazine publishes the first installment of muckraker Ida Tarbell’s exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company.

1907

Miss America entry

Swimmer Annette Kellerman is arrested for indecent exposure while trying to popularize a one-piece swimsuit worn with tights rather than bloomers.

1909

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

1914

World War I begins in Europe.

1915

D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is the first full-length feature film in the new motion picture industry. It portrays the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes.

The new sound recording industry begins a phase of rapid growth.

1917-18

World War I poster The U.S. enters World War I. Of the 4.3 million American soldiers who fight, 126,000 are killed. The total number dead in the bloodiest war mankind has ever seen is 8.5 million, from over a dozen nations.

1919

Women’s History entry

Meter readers The First International Congress of Working Women meets in Washington, D.C.

The Red Summer: widespread anti-Communist sentiment, racial and labor unrest, and the aftermath of war combine and cause the nation to erupt in violence.

1920

prohibition January: The Eighteenth Amendment makes the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquors illegal.

Women’s History entry

August: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. The National League of Women Voters is organized.

1921

Miss America entry

Margaret Gorman with other contestants September 7: The first Miss America Pageant, called the "Inter-City Beauty Pageant," takes place in Atlantic City as a part of a Fall Frolic to attract tourists. There are seven contestants. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, D.C., wins the title, Miss America.

1923

Miss America entry

September: The Inter-City Beauty Contest grows in popularity, attracting over 70 contestants. After pageant officials forget to include a "no marriage" rule, it is discovered that "Miss" Alaska, Helmar Leiderman, is not only married but is also a resident of New York.

Miss America entry

September: Mary Katherine Campbell becomes the only woman to win the Miss America title two years in a row. Pageant officials subsequently establish a rule that a woman cannot hold the title more than once.

1924

The Immigration Act establishes a national quota system for limiting immigration.

1926

Miss America entry

Norma Smallwood, Miss America 1926, makes $100,000 in appearance fees, an income higher than either Babe Ruth or the president of the United States.

1927

September: Baseball star Babe Ruth hits record-breaking home run number 60. All the people in attendance wave handkerchiefs in his honor. The record will stand for over 3 decades.

1929

Miss America entry

Religious groups and women’s clubs protest the loose morals of young women in the pageant. Bad press plus financial trouble shut the pageant down between 1929 and 1932.

Unemployment lines October 24: The stock market crashes. The Great Depression begins.

1931

March 25: Nine black youths are accused of the rape of two white women in Paint Rock, Alabama. The Scottsboro boys’ case becomes one of the most significant legal fights of the twentieth century.

1932

Women’s History entry

Female nurse May 20: Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She becomes a Depression-era hero and advocate for women’s equality, saying, "A pilot’s a pilot. I hope that such equality could be carried out in other fields so that men and women may achieve equally in any endeavor…"

Miss America entry

September: Atlantic City sponsors revive the Miss America Pageant. Fifteen-year-old Marian Bergeron is Miss America 1933. Age requirements are instituted afterwards requiring contestants to be between 18 and 26.

1930s

Miss America entry

Sometime in the 1930s a pageant rule is established requiring contestants to be of the white race.

Women’s History entry

Union membership among women in the U.S. increases threefold, to almost 20% of the female workforce.

1933

Franklin Roosevelt President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated.

1935

Miss America entry

- Pageant officials hope to re-invent the pageant. They hire Lenora Slaughter to do the job for six weeks. She will stay for 32 years, serving as the pageant’s director.

1937

Miss America entry

Winner Bette Cooper changes her mind about being Miss America, and flees Atlantic City.

1937

Farmer Dust Bowl farmers in the Great Plains suffer the effects of severe dust storms as well as economic hard times.

1938

Miss America entry

A "society matron" chaperone system is enacted, to keep pageant contestants away from scandal.

Miss America entry

A talent competition is added as part of the scoring process.

Miss America entry

Contestants are no longer allowed to represent cities, resorts, or theaters. Instead, they are required to represent states.

1939

April: RCA’s National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasts the opening of the New York World’s Fair. One of the first television sets is displayed at the Fair.

September 1: Germany invades Poland. World War II begins.

1940

Miss America entry

September: The pageant is officially dubbed the Miss America Pageant and moves into Atlantic City’s Convention Hall.

1941

Pearl Harbor December 7: The Japanese bomb a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. A day later, President Roosevelt declares war on Japan and the U.S. enters World War II.

1941-1945

Women’s History entry

Women working for war effort Women’s employment rises dramatically as women take on new wartime jobs.

1942

Miss America entry

Miss America is transformed into an emblem of patriotism. Miss America 1942, Jean Bartel, turns down a lucrative movie offer to sell a record number of war bonds.

1942-1943

Women’s History entry

Women’s branches of armed forces are formed, including the Army WACS, the Navy WAVES, the Coast Guard SPARS, the Marines MCWR, and the Army Air Force’s WASPS. Women are six percent of the armed services.

1944

January 22: More than 17 months after news of Hitler’s plan to annihilate Europe’s Jews reaches the U.S., President Roosevelt issues an executive order to establish the War Refugee Board.

Miss America entry

Director Lenora Slaughter raises $5000 to launch the Miss America scholarship program. Previously Miss America is offered furs and movie contracts. Now she is offered funds for college. The original scholarship patrons are: Joseph Bancroft and Sons, Catalina Swimwear, F.W. Fitch Company, and the Sandy Valley Grocery Company. She also enlists Junior Chambers of Commerce across the country to sponsor local and state contests.

Miss America entry

September 8: Bess Myerson becomes Miss America 1945, the first Jewish Miss America and the first winner of the scholarship program. She plans to study conducting.

1945

Miss America entry

Bess Myerson receives few offers for appearances and product endorsement. America appears not to be ready for a Jewish Miss America. Myerson decides to spend her year speaking for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on the topic, "You Can Not Be Beautiful and Hate."

May 8: V-E Day. President Harry Truman announces the end of the war in Europe via radio.

September 2: V-J Day, when Japan formally surrenders, ends World War II.

1946

Miss America entry

Lenora Slaughter bans the phrase "bathing suit"– the garments are to be called "swimsuits."

The Baby Boom begins. The birth rate will rise dramatically over the next decade.

1947

Miss America entry

Lee Meriwether September: For the last time, Miss America is crowned in a bathing suit. Afterwards, winners are crowned in evening gowns.

1948

Women’s History entry

June 12: President Harry Truman signs into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed services. The law limits the number of women that can serve in the military to two percent of the total forces in each branch.

1949

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is formed.

1950s

A "Cold War" develops between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

1950

Korean woman and child June: North Korea invades South Korea. President Truman commits U.S. troops.

Miss America entry

September: Yolande Betbeze sings an operatic aria and is crowned Miss America 1951. Catalina Swimwear withdraws sponsorship of the pageant after Betbeze refuses to appear in public in a swimsuit.

1952

Dwight Eisenhower is elected president.

Miss America entry

Catalina inaugurates the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants, two years after withdrawing support for the Miss America Pageant.

1953

June 2: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in England.

Miss America entry

ABC approaches the pageant about televising the event. Fearful of losing the Atlantic City audience to TV, pageant officials say no. Movie star Eddie Fisher hosts the pageant.

September: Alfred Kinsey’s report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, challenges many myths about sexual behavior in American society.

December: Playboy, a men’s magazine featuring photographs of nude women, publishes its inaugural issue, featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

1954

May 17: The "separate but equal" doctrine established by Plessy v. Fergusson in 1892 is overruled in Brown v. Board of Education. The Supreme Court unanimously rules that segregation in schools is unconstitutional.

Miss America entry

Miss America on television Philco Television Sets purchases 1954 television broadcast rights to the pageant for $10,000 and contracts with ABC for the broadcast.

Miss America entry

September 11: Twenty-seven million people tune in to see Lee Ann Meriwether crowned Miss America. Grace Kelly is a judge and Bess Myerson reports from backstage. The scholarship award is $10,000.

1955

Miss America entry

Bert Parks Bert Parks is hired as the pageant’s emcee. He introduces a theme song, There She Is , written by Bernie Wayne.

1959

Miss America entry

Every state in the nation is at last represented at the pageant.

1960s

Women’s History entry

Women protesting in Washington Women are major participants in the civil rights and anti-war movements.

1961

Women’s History entry

The President’s Commission on the Status of Women is established, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission will take two years to publish its Peterson Report, documenting workplace discrimination against women and making recommendations for child care, maternity leave, and equal opportunity for working women.

1963

Women’s History entry

Betty Freidan publishes The Feminine Mystique, reflecting a groundswell of dissatisfaction with women’s social status, and it is a best seller. Gloria Steinem’s magazine article, "I Was a Playboy Bunny," details the author’s undercover investigation of the New York Playboy Club.

Martin Luther King Jr. August 28: Martin Luther King leads a March on Washington to urge support for pending civil rights legislation. He delivers his famous "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.

1964

Women’s History entry

The 1964 Civil Rights Act includes a key provision for women. Title VII outlaws discrimination in public accommodations or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. At the last minute the word "sex" is added by a Southern congressman, thinking it will kill the entire bill. Instead, it passes.

The Immigration Act abolishes a quota system that had restricted immigration.

1965

President Johnson with American soldiers The first American troops arrive in Vietnam.

1966

Miss America entry

The Miss America Pageant is televised in color in its first year on NBC.

Women’s History entry

October: The National Organization for Women is formed.

1967

Women’s History entry

The women’s liberation movement begins to grow. In Berkeley, California, women gather to raise consciousness about feminist issues.

Miss America entry

Lenora Slaughter, the pageant’s director, retires.

1968

April 4: Martin Luther King is assassinated. Rioting occurs in 100 American cities.

June 6: Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated.

August: Protesters disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Miss America entry

Miss Black America pagent September 7: Judi Ford is crowned Miss America 1969. Feminists get national media attention for their protest on the Atlantic City boardwalk, where they crown a sheep and throw products like lipstick and hair curlers into a "Freedom Trash Can." The same day, the first Miss Black America Contest is held in Atlantic City in protest of the "white" Miss America Pageant.

Miss America entry

Pepsi Cola withdraws its 11-year sponsorship, claiming the pageant no longer represents the changing values of American society.

Women’s History entry

Shirley Chisholm is the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1969

Miss America entry

Feminist protesters at Atlantic City Feminist protesters return to Atlantic City, claiming the pageant treats women as sex objects. Protesters will return every year well into the 1970s.

1970

May 4: National Guardsmen kill four students at anti-war demonstrations at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Miss America entry

Rules barring non-whites have finally changed. The first black contestant to make it to Atlantic City is Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa.

Miss America entry

Pam Eldred, Miss America 1970, has to be evacuated to safety while entertaining soldiers in Vietnam.

1971

Women’s History entry

A prototype of Ms. Magazine is published.

1972

Women’s History entry

March 22: The Equal Rights Amendment passes Congress and is sent to the states for ratification. The amendment will be defeated, after a lengthy battle, in 1982.

Women’s History entry

Title IX of the Higher Education Act bans exclusion on the basis of sex from programs or activities in universities receiving federal financial assistance, marking a turning point for women’s access to athletics programs.

June 17: Five men are arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington, D.C.

1973

Women’s History entry

January 22: In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court grants women the right to legal abortions.

March 29: The last American troops leave Vietnam.

Miss America entry

Becky King Rebecca King is chosen Miss America 1974. She is the first winner to use her scholarship award for professional education, studying to become a lawyer.

1974

Women’s History entry

Little League Baseball votes to allow girls on its teams.

President Richard Nixon August 9: President Nixon resigns.

1979

March 28: The nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania has a meltdown at its core, in America’s worst nuclear accident.

November 4: Militant Islamic students seize hostages at the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran. Fifty-two hostages will be detained for 444 days — over 14 months.

1980

Miss America entry

Miss Alabama, Lencola Sullivan, is the first African American to make the pageant’s top five finalists.

Women’s History entry

Only 27% of the nation’s households conform to traditional ideas of a family with a male breadwinner and female housewife. Two-income families or female-headed households are rapidly replacing the older pattern.

President Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan is elected president.

1981

Miss America entry

Bert Parks is fired. He is considered too old, too corny, and too sexist for the times. Talk show host Johnny Carson initiates a protest that is unsuccessful. Ron Ely and then Gary Collins replace Parks.

Women’s History entry

September 25: Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s first female judge.

1983

Women’s History entry

Sally Ride June 18: The first woman astronaut, Sally K. Ride, travels into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Miss America entry

Vanessa Williams Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America 1984 and is the first black woman to hold the title. Two months before the end of her reign, Penthouse magazine will publish nude photos of her taken when she was 17. Pageant officials will force her to resign.

1984

Women’s History entry

The Democratic Party nominates Geraldine Ferraro for the vice presidency, the first time a major party has nominated a woman.

1987

Miss America entry

Albert Marks retires as Chairman of the Board of the Miss America Organization after 27 years. The first paid CEO, Leonard Horn, is hired.

1988

Miss America entry

Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko devotes her year to advocacy of care for the terminally ill, becoming the first winner to dedicate her reign to a social issue.

1989

Miss America entry

The social issue platform, where contestants commit to advocating for a cause if they become Miss America, becomes part of the pageant’s requirements.

1990

The Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the Cold War.

1990-1991

President George Bush with leader of Kuwait Persian Gulf War. The U.S. leads a multi-national coalition against Iraq after that country invades Kuwait; Iraq surrenders.

1991

Women’s History entry

Anita Hill, a law professor, testifies before a U.S. Senate committee that the conservative Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, engaged in sexual harassment. Issues of race and gender are debated across the country.

1992

Miss America entry

Kim Aiken, Miss America 1993, is the fifth African American Miss America. She uses her year to promote the cause of the homeless.

1994

Miss America entry

Alabama’s Heather Whitestone wins the swimsuit and talent competitions and is crowned Miss America 1995. She is deaf and becomes the first Miss America with a physical handicap.

1996

Miss America entry

Record low TV ratings prompt NBC to drop the Miss America Pageant after 30 years. ABC picks up broadcast rights.

1997

Miss America entry

The swimsuit competition is modified. Contestants can wear any style, including two piece and bikini.

1999

Miss America entry

The swimsuit rules are again modified, barring string bikinis and thong swimsuits.

2000

Miss America entry

In the year 2000, the first Asian American Miss America is crowned. Angela Perez Baraquio of Hawaii is Miss America 2001.

2001

September 11: Terrorists from the Middle East highjack four airplanes. Two crash into New York’s World Trade Center, destroying both towers and killing thousands. One crashes into the Pentagon, also causing extensive damage and loss of life. The fourth plane crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all passengers.

The United States commits to a war on terrorism.

Miss America entry

September 26: Katie Harman, Miss America 2002, rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, along with several New York firefighters.

Voir enfin:

Indian Americans

Pew

June 19, 2012

History

The arrival of more than 6,000 Indians from Asia between 1904 and 1911, mainly to work as farmhands, marked the first major influx of this population into the United States. Indians from Asia in the U.S. were first classified in court decisions of 1910 and 1913 as Caucasians, and therefore could become citizens as well as intermarry with U.S.-born whites. However, the decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court in 1923, when Indians from Asia were legally classified as non-white and therefore ineligible for citizenship.

That court decision prevented Indian immigrants from naturalizing. New immigration from India already had been prohibited by a 1917 law.

The restrictions were lifted after passage of comprehensive immigration legislation in 1965. Since then, a large influx of highly educated professionals from India has immigrated to the U.S. for skilled employment. In 2010, an estimated 2.2 million adult Indian Americans lived in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Indians are the third-largest group among Asian Americans and represent about 17% of the U.S. adult Asian population.

Characteristics (2010 ACS)

Nativity and citizenship. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) adult Indian Americans in the United States are foreign born, compared with about 74% of adult Asian Americans and 16% of the adult U.S. population overall. More than half of Indian-American adults are U.S. citizens (56%), lower than the share among overall adult Asian population (70%) as well as the national share (91%).

Language. More than three-quarters of Indian Americans (76%) speak English proficiently, (41) compared with 63% of all Asian Americans and 90% of the U.S. population overall.

Age. The median age of adult Indian Americans is 37, lower than for adult Asian Americans (41) and the national median (45).

Marital status. More than seven-in-ten (71%) adult Indian Americans are married, a share significantly higher than for all Asian Americans (59%) and for the nation (51%).

Fertility. The share of Indian-American women ages 18 to 44 who gave birth in the 12 months prior to the 2010 American Community Survey was 8.4%, higher than the comparable share for Asian-American women overall (6.8%) and the national share (7.1%). The share of these mothers who were unmarried was much lower among Indian Americans (2.3%) than among all Asian Americans (15%) and the population overall (37%).

Educational attainment. Among Indian Americans ages 25 and older, seven-in-ten (70%) have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree; this is higher than the Asian-American share (49%) and much higher than the national share (28%).

Income. Median annual personal earnings for Indian-American full-time, year-round workers are $65,000, significantly higher than for all Asian Americans ($48,000) as well as for all U.S. adults ($40,000). Among households, the median annual income for Indians is $88,000, much higher than for all Asians ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800).

Homeownership. More than half of Indian Americans (57%) own a home, compared with 58% of Asian Americans overall and 65% of the U.S. population overall.

Poverty status. The share of adult Indian Americans who live in poverty is 9%, lower than the shares of all Asian Americans (12%) and of the U.S. population overall (13%).

Regional dispersion. Indian Americans are more evenly spread out than other Asian Americans. About 24% of adult Indian Americans live in the West, compared with 47% of Asian Americans and 23% of the U.S. population overall. More than three-in-ten (31%) Indian Americans live in the Northeast, 29% live in the South, and the rest (17%) live in the Midwest.

Attitudes

Here are a few key findings from the 2012 Asian-American survey about Indian Americans compared with other major U.S. Asian groups:

Indian Americans stand out from most other U.S. Asian groups in the personal importance they place on parenting; 78% of Indian Americans say being a good parent is one of the most important things to them personally.

Indian Americans are among the most likely to say that the strength of family ties is better in their country of origin (69%) than in the U.S. (8%).

Compared with other U.S. Asian groups, Indian Americans are the most likely to identify with the Democratic Party; 65% are Democrats or lean to the Democrats, 18% are Republican or lean to the Republicans. And 65% of Indian Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, while 22% disapprove.


Mimétisme: Les prénoms aussi ! (Royal names always come top: It’s self-fulfilling prophecy, stupid !)

26 juillet, 2013
http://www.booksrevisited.com/booksrev/images/items/216226.JPGRplot-enqueteemploiAu reste, pour le dire en passant, tout n’est pas ridicule et superficiel dans cette curieuse époque à laquelle nous faisons ici allusion, et qu’on pourrait appeler l’anarchie des noms de baptême. (…) Il n’est pas rare aujourd’hui que le garçon bouvier se nomme Arthur, Alfred ou Alphonse et que le vicomte – s’il y a encore des vicomtes – se nomme Thomas, Pierre et Jacques. Ce déplacement qui met le nom "élégant" sur le plébéien et le nom campagnard sur l’aristocrate n’est pas autre chose qu’un remous d’égalité. L’irrésistible pénétration du souffle nouveau est là comme en tout. Victor Hugo (Les Misérables)
Depuis un siècle, le stock des prénoms couramment attribués s’élargit, principalement sous l’influence des médias. En outre, depuis une vingtaine d’années, les prénoms se différencient plus nettement entre les sexes : les prénoms féminins homonymes de prénoms masculins, comme Danielle, Michèle ou Dominique, tombent en désuétude, et ceux qui résultent d’une féminisation trop apparente, tels Yvette, Jacqueline ou Simone entre les deux guerres, sont moins fréquents. La rotation des prénoms les plus attribués est de plus en plus rapide, les prénoms à la mode s’usent de plus en plus vite. Les règnes de Louis, puis de Jean, celui de Marie, avaient duré plusieurs décennies. Ceux de Sébastien ou de Céline ont été beaucoup plus éphémères. Un changement du mode d’attribution transparaît derrière ces tendances : du modèle classique, hérité d’une France rurale associant transmission du nom et transmission des biens, on est passé à un modèle dont les références sont plus ouvertement celles de la mode et de la distinction. L’impact des médias est décisif : Brigitte, Sylvie, Nathalie, ainsi que Sébastien et Nicolas n’auraient sans doute pas triomphé sans leur intervention, sinon comme initiateurs, du moins comme relais ou comme amplificateur. D’autre part, ce sont les « cadres et professions intellectuelles supérieures » qui lancent la mode d’un prénom; mais ils s’en détachent plus vite, et leur choix se porte souvent aussi sur un prénom classique. Guy Desplanques (1986)
Saint-patron de l’Angleterre, George est considéré comme un symbole d’honneur, de bravoure et de galanterie tout en continuant à incarner une certaine modernité. Très prisé au début du XXe siècle, le prénom figure sans discontinuer parmi les vingt plus populaires en Grande-Bretagne depuis 1996. (…) Comme de coutume, il y a fort à parier que de nombreux George verront le jour dans les chaumières britanniques dans les mois qui viennent. Libération
En 2013, 20% des Diane et des Adèle ont obtenu une mention “TB”. Ce n’est le cas que de 4% des Enzo et des Anissa. 16% des Clara, 4,5% des Jeremy. Ces différences entre prénoms ne sont pas dues aux prénoms : les copies sont corrigées anonymement, et le prénom n’a rien de magique. Le prénom indique — de manière imparfaite et floue — l’origine sociale de celles et ceux qui le portent, et la réussite scolaire est, en partie, liée à cette origine sociale : “Parmi les élèves entrés en sixième en 1995, 71,7% des enfants d’enseignants ont finalement décroché en 2010 un bac général, 68,2% des enfants de cadres supérieurs, 20,1% des enfants d’ouvriers qualifiés, 13% des enfants d’ouvriers non qualifiés, et 9,2% des enfants d’inactifs”. Pour revenir aux prénoms, si l’on ne garde que les prénoms qui apparaissent plus de 30 fois dans la base, ceux qui sont associés à un taux énorme de mention TB sont : Ulysse, Guillemette, Quitterie, Madeleine, Anne-Claire, Ella, Sibylle, Marguerite, Hannah, Irene, Octave, Domitille (qui sont entre un quart et un tiers à obtenir une mention). À l’opposé moins de 2% des Asma, Sephora, Hakim, Kimberley, Assia, Cynthia, Brenda, Christian, Bilal, Brian, Melvin, Johann, Eddy, et Rudy ont obtenu mention TB. Baptiste Coulmont
Si on regarde le top 20 des prénoms actuels, chez les femmes on en compte 9 qui se finissent par "a", tandis que chez les hommes ils ont tendance à se terminer en "o", "éo" ou "el" (Gabriel, Raphaël, Maël, etc). On reste dans les prénoms très courts : 5 lettres, 2 syllabes. Les plus attribués correspondent à ce modèle, avec beaucoup de sonorités rondes, de juxtapositions de voyelles, et surtout des "a" pour les filles. Il a été sociologiquement démontré que ces prénoms issus des séries américaines ont été des marqueurs d’un milieu social plutôt ouvrier. Il est vrai que les porteurs de ces prénoms qui recherchent aujourd’hui un emploi ou évoluent socialement n’en sont pas spécialement ravis, car ils sont très conscients de la connotation sociale qui y est associée. J’ai reçu des commentaires de la part de personnes s’appelant Kevin ou Jennifer, et qui disent bien qu’elles ne sont pas heureuses de porter ces prénoms, très stigmatisés par la presse, entre autres. On ne peut pas faire de généralités, néanmoins la tendance est réelle. Par exemple, sur le CV le prénom donne une indication immédiate de l’origine sociale. Prenons l’exemple de la chanteuse Adèle. C’est un prénom élégant, souvent choisi par les classes supérieures, et qui passe très bien dans tous les milieux. Le problème des Kevin et Jennifer vient du fait qu’avant l’arrivée de ces séries américaines en France, ils étaient pratiquement inconnus chez nous. Ils ne pouvaient pas ne pas être associés aux séries. Si aujourd’hui on appelle son enfant Rihanna ou Shakira, les oreilles vont immédiatement se dresser, puisque ces noms n’existaient pas avant elles. Stéphanie Rapoport
Success in school is another self-fulfilling prophecy, as stereotypes associated with feminine names are reinforced by society, including teachers, parents and even the girls themselves. A poll of 3000 UK teachers (…) revealed that a third of teachers claimed they could spot trouble in names like Callum, Crystal and Chardonnay, but also considered kids on such a ‘naughty list’ often to be bright, sensitive and more popular than those who were better behaved. (…) A 1960s study of psychiatric records found that those with unusual names were more likely to be diagnosed psychotic, while recent research has shown that boys with the least popular names are more likely to commit crime.Unusual names convey a lot of other information too, such as social standing. “In the US, there are distinctively black names that signify higher classes, and names that might connote lower class,” says Figlio. Ebony, for instance, is sometimes given to girls by female university graduates, but rarely by mothers who drop out of school. Teachers pick up on this and treat children differently. “Parents should give their children whatever name they want, but they need to recognise that names have consequences,” says Figlio. JV Chamary

Dis-moi ton prénom, je te dirai qui tu seras !

Au lendemain de la révélation du choix des prénoms du bébé royal britannique qui, comme le rappelle Libération, devrait inspirer nombre de petits George "dans les chaumières britanniques dans les mois qui viennent" …

Comment ne pas repenser, après nos choix politiques, amoureux ou touristiques, à la formidable capacité d’imitation comme à la susceptibilité à la contagion qui sont les nôtres ?

Où, comme pour justement les destinations touristiques, l’on découvre non seulement nos habituels goûts de classe mais aussi une véritable course-poursuite …

Où, hormis les deux extrêmes des plus traditonalistes (les plutôt aristocratiques et médiévaux Aymeric et Aliénor) d’un côté et de l’autre des plus démunis ou plus récemment arrivés dans l’espace national attachés à leurs racines (néo)communautaires ou à la merci des modèles de la culture de masse (cf. la mode des Kevin et Jennifer des séries télé américaines) …

Des prénoms souvent "défrichés par les classes les plus dotées diffusent plus ou moins rapidement à travers à peu près l’ensemble de la structure sociale jusqu’à ce que leur "usure" ou perte de distinction les fassent abandonner par lesdits défricheurs au profit de nouveaux qui enclencheront à leur tour un nouveau cycle …

Sans oublier, de la réussite scolaire, professionnelle ou amoureuse, leurs conséquences et parfois leur effet de véritable prophétie auto-réalisante, pour la plus ou moins grande intégration et réussite sociale de leurs porteurs …

Ad vitam eternam
Prince ou plouc : ce que le choix d’un prénom a vraiment comme impact sur une vie
Faire un bébé, aussi royal soit-il, est une chose. Choisir le prénom qu’il portera toute sa vie en est une autre. Attention à ne pas se laisser aller à une folie au moment de cette décision cruciale car votre enfant pourrait vous en vouloir pour toujours.
Atlantico
23 juillet 2013

Atlantico : Comment les parents choisissent-ils le prénom de leurs enfants ? Quels sont les éléments qui jouent un rôle déterminant dans cette décision ?

Stéphanie Rapoport : Suite à un sondage effectué sur meilleurprenoms.com, il apparaît que pour 65% des parents le critère numéro un est la sonorité. Vient ensuite l’accord entre le prénom et le patronyme, puis l’originalité. Si on regarde le top 20 des prénoms actuels, chez les femmes on en compte 9 qui se finissent par "a", tandis que chez les hommes ils ont tendance à se terminer en "o", "éo" ou "el" (Gabriel, Raphaël, Maël, etc). On reste dans les prénoms très courts : 5 lettres, 2 syllabes. Les plus attribués correspondent à ce modèle, avec beaucoup de sonorités rondes, de juxtapositions de voyelles, et surtout des "a" pour les filles.

La génération des années 1980-90 a été très marquée par les prénoms américains inspirés des séries américaines comme Kevin, Jason ou Jennifer. Dans quelle mesure les références culturelles des parents influencent-elles leur choix ?

Il a été sociologiquement démontré que ces prénoms issus des séries américaines ont été des marqueurs d’un milieu social plutôt ouvrier. Il est vrai que les porteurs de ces prénoms qui recherchent aujourd’hui un emploi ou évoluent socialement n’en sont pas spécialement ravis, car ils sont très conscients de la connotation sociale qui y est associée. J’ai reçu des commentaires de la part de personnes s’appelant Kevin ou Jennifer, et qui disent bien qu’elles ne sont pas heureuses de porter ces prénoms, très stigmatisés par la presse, entre autres. On ne peut pas faire de généralités, néanmoins la tendance est réelle. Par exemple, sur le CV le prénom donne une indication immédiate de l’origine sociale.

Faut-il encourager les futurs parents à peser toutes les implications de leur choix de prénom pour l’avenir de leur enfant ?

Prenons l’exemple de la chanteuse Adèle. C’est un prénom élégant, souvent choisi par les classes supérieures, et qui passe très bien dans tous les milieux. Le problème des Kevin et Jennifer vient du fait qu’avant l’arrivée de ces séries américaines en France, ils étaient pratiquement inconnus chez nous. Ils ne pouvaient pas ne pas être associés aux séries. Si aujourd’hui on appelle son enfant Rihanna ou Shakira, les oreilles vont immédiatement se dresser, puisque ces noms n’existaient pas avant elles. Si on veut être sûr de donner un prénom passe-partout en France, mieux vaut miser sur le classique ou le rétro. On peut être sûr qu’ainsi l’enfant n’aura jamais aucun souci – ce qui n’interdit pas la recherche d’originalité, bien entendu.

Les parents se rendent-ils compte de la responsabilité qui est la leur au moment de prénommer leur enfant ?

Avant, on appelait les gens par leur nom de famille. Aujourd’hui, le prénom est tellement fondateur de l’identité que les parents se rendent tout à fait compte de leur responsabilité. La question du prénom est d’ailleurs beaucoup plus médiatisée que dans le passé.

Beaucoup de parents sont-ils amenés à regretter leur choix de prénom ? Quelles sont les causes de ces regrets ?

Un sondage nous a permis de savoir que 97 % des parents ne regrettent pas leur choix. Il est très difficile pour un parent de procéder à une telle critique : on s’habitue naturellement au prénom que porte son enfant, au point qu’on dit souvent qu’il le porte bien. Parmi les 3 % qui disent regretter leur choix, les raisons avancées sont, à proportions à peu près équivalentes : trop répandu, trop rare, trop original, trop connoté socialement. 6% de ceux qui regrettent estiment avoir inventé le prénom de leur enfant.

Voir aussi:

Structure sociale et prénoms à la mode

Baptiste Courmont

19/06/2009
Dans “Les enfants de Michel et Martine Dupont s’appellent Nicolas et Céline”, de Guy Desplanques, (Economie et statistique, 1986, n°184, pp. 63-83) on trouve un fort beau graphique.
En s’appuyant sur l’Enquête Emploi de l’INSEE, Desplanques essaie de comprendre comment les prénoms à la mode circulent dans l’espace social.
Le graphique est reproduit ci-dessous (car une partie de mon travail, c’est aussi de la science froide, la reproduction de résultats déjà solides).Prenons les 10 prénoms féminins les plus donnés entre 1965 et 1969 et regardons comment les différentes catégories socio-professionnelles les ont utilisés. Ce qui frappe tout d’abord, c’est que toutes les catégories semblent surfer sur la même vague. Mais une lecture en détail montre que les comportement sont légèrement différenciés dans le temps.
Vers 1950, 10% des bébés filles de cadres (la CSP n°3 dans la nomenclature à 6 postes) reçoivent un prénom qui sera à la mode (c’est à dire dans les 10 prénoms les plus fréquents) 15 ans plus tard. Les filles des artisans et professions intermédiaires (CSP n°2 et 4) sont environ 3% à recevoir de tels prénoms. Et ce n’est qu’en 1960 que les filles d’agriculteurs recevront à une telle fréquence (environ 10%) ces prénoms.Rplot-enqueteemploiIl arrive un moment, vers 1960, où ces “prénoms presque à la mode” qui étaient auparavant des “prénoms de cadres” deviennent plus fréquents parmi les filles de “professions intermédiaires” et celles des “indépendants” : l’engouement des cadres décélère… Peut-être parce que ces prénoms sont jugés trop peu distinctifs, les cadres commencent à abandonner ces prénoms quelques années avant les autres catégories socio-professionnelles.Le graphique précédent offre une image instantanée… et peut-être que le comportement des cadres et des professions intermédiaires fut différent à d’autres moments. Peut-être que les prénoms à la mode entre 1965 et 1969 avaient ceci de spécifique qu’ils furent lancés par les cadres à la consommation de l’ensemble du corps social.Nous sommes rassurés (enfin, je le suis) en regardant le graphique suivant. Nous avons pris ici les 10 prénoms féminins les plus fréquemment donnés entre 1960 et 1964 : les courbes évoluent de la même manière. Les cadres commencent à donner ces prénoms avant les autres catégories socio-professionnelles… et les abandonnent quand les “professions intermédiaires” les utilisent plus fréquemment qu’eux. Les agriculteurs, eux, continuent à donner ces prénoms après que les autres CSP ont commencé à ne plus les utiliser pour leurs filles.Rplot-enqueteemploi60-64On peut comparer plus systématiquement, par exemple entre 1900 et 1975. L’animation suivante est construite ainsi : pour chaque année entre 1900 et 1975, j’ai retenu les 20 prénoms les plus donnés aux filles et j’ai construit la courbe de la fréquence d’usage, par catégorie socio-professionnelle. Pour diverses raisons (codage des prénoms composés, effectifs faibles, problèmes liés à l’utilisation des CSP pour le début du XXe siècle…) je n’accorde pas trop de crédit aux courbes d’avant 1945. Mais pour l’après 45… : le phénomène repéré pour les années soixante fonctionne. Les cadres semblent “lancer” la mode.[Note : j'ai réalisé cette animation trop rapidement : l'échelle des abscisses devrait commencer à 1900 et se terminer vers 1975, et une date "mouvante" devrait être présentée.]Une question au moins se pose après ces graphiques : Entre 1945 et 1975, les décalages entre catégories sociales ne sont que de quelques années. Si l’on prend le seuil de 10% [i.e. la date à laquelle 10% des bébés filles d'une catégorie sociale reçoivent les prénoms à la mode considérés], on s’aperçoit que 10 ans environ séparent les cadres des agriculteurs… mais à peine deux ou trois ans séparent les cadres des professions intermédiaires. Sans information supplémentaire, deux explications sont possibles : 1- les cadres “lancent” une mode qui est ensuite reprise par d’autres catégories sociales… ou 2- la source des prénoms est ailleurs, elle est la même pour toutes les CSP, qui assimilent les prénoms plus ou moins rapidement, mais sans “imitation”. [L'explication n°2 est soutenue par l'américain Stanley Lieberson.]Références : Guy Desplanques, “Les enfants de Michel et Martine Dupont s’appellent Nicolas et Céline”, (Economie et statistique, 1986, n°184, pp. 63-83)Voir également:

Prénoms et mentions au bac, édition 2013

Baptiste Coulmont

07/07/2013Mise à jour :

  1. Le mini-site http://coulmont.com/bac/ permet d’accéder à des résultats plus précis (distribution des mentions et liste des prénoms ayant le même “profil”).
  2. Une visualisation dynamique du graphique est maintenant en ligne ici
    bac-mention-2013

Cette année encore, la proportion de mentions “Très bien” que reçoivent les porteurs de certains prénoms permet de dessiner un espace social qui, immédiatement, fait sens. Prénoms choisis par des parents des classes intellectuelles, de la bourgeoisie ou du salariat d’encadrement d’un côté, prénoms choisis par des parents des classes populaires de l’autre.
Le graphique ci-dessous place les prénoms suivant :
- en abscisses la proportion de mention “très bien” associée au groupe des porteurs du prénom
- en ordonnées le nombre de candidats au bac, en 2013.

bac-2013
Lien vers le graphique au format PDF

En 2013, 20% des Diane et des Adèle ont obtenu une mention “TB”. Ce n’est le cas que de 4% des Enzo et des Anissa. 16% des Clara, 4,5% des Jeremy. Ces différences entre prénoms ne sont pas dues aux prénoms : les copies sont corrigées anonymement, et le prénom n’a rien de magique. Le prénom indique — de manière imparfaite et floue — l’origine sociale de celles et ceux qui le portent, et la réussite scolaire est, en partie, liée à cette origine sociale : “Parmi les élèves entrés en sixième en 1995, 71,7% des enfants d’enseignants ont finalement décroché en 2010 un bac général, 68,2% des enfants de cadres supérieurs, 20,1% des enfants d’ouvriers qualifiés, 13% des enfants d’ouvriers non qualifiés, et 9,2% des enfants d’inactifs”.
Pour revenir aux prénoms, si l’on ne garde que les prénoms qui apparaissent plus de 30 fois dans la base, ceux qui sont associés à un taux énorme de mention TB sont : Ulysse, Guillemette, Quitterie, Madeleine, Anne-Claire, Ella, Sibylle, Marguerite, Hannah, Irene, Octave, Domitille (qui sont entre un quart et un tiers à obtenir une mention). À l’opposé moins de 2% des Asma, Sephora, Hakim, Kimberley, Assia, Cynthia, Brenda, Christian, Bilal, Brian, Melvin, Johann, Eddy, et Rudy ont obtenu mention TB.

Les données portent sur plus de 338000 candidats au bac général ou technologique en 2013, qui ont obtenu une moyenne supérieure à 8/20 et qui ont accepté la diffusion de leurs résultats. 8,6% de cette population a obtenu une mention TB. L’aide d’Etienne O. fut précieuse !

Pour en savoir plus sur l’aspect sociologique des prénoms : Sociologie des prénoms, [sur amazon, dans une librairie indépendante]
Les années précédentes : 2012 [précisions] et 2011

Mise à jour : Les observateurs minutieux repèrent que l’on trouve surtout des prénoms de fille à droite. L’explication de départ est que les filles réussissant mieux que les garçons à l’école, elles reçoivent aussi, plus souvent que les garçons, des mentions TB. Une autre explication s’intéresse aux prénoms eux-mêmes : les prénoms des garçons choisis par les parents de “classes supérieures” sont peut-être moins socialement clivants que les prénoms de filles.

Voir encore:

The Name Game: how names spell success in life and love

Your name can affect your standing at work, your success with the opposite sex – even where you choose to live. JV Chamary investigates.

What’s in a name?

Speaking at a charity dinner a few weeks before the 2008 election, Barack Hussein Obama joked, “I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn’t think that I’d run for President.”

Obama was referring to comments in the US media by pundits who had drawn attention to his full name in an attempt to paint him as un-American. In a country fearful of Islamic extremism, having a ‘Muslim’ middle name could be seen as a handicap. His surname – a letter away from the FBI’s most wanted terrorist – didn’t help either.

“The impact of names comes from how people expect to see you,” says Professor James Bruning from Ohio University. And while prejudging someone based on their name might seem unfair, we sometimes do so when making decisions. Bruning notes, for example, that those with an Oriental name are thought to be good at maths, so an employer looking to hire a computer programmer might push an application to the top of the pile if they see a Chinese name on the CV.

Names don’t just give away your ethnic background – Bruning says we also associate specific names with a person’s perceived ability to do a job, “Who would be a better American football player,” he asks, “someone whose name is Bronco or Colt, or someone named Francis or Percival?”

Such stereotyping, by ourselves as well as others, might explain why some people seem to have picked occupations that perfectly suit their name, a phenomenon dubbed ‘nominative determinism’. Record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt is just one example of a ‘Mr Bun the Baker’ from the real world.

The ‘me’ in name

Even the letters of our name can have an influence on the career path we might choose to follow. According to psychologist Dr Brett Pelham, an analyst for statistics firm Gallup, people have a tendency to follow professions that resemble their first names, meaning that lawyers called Laura and dentists named Dennis are especially common. “When I lived in LA, there was a dentist named Dennis Smiler – you can’t have a much better match than that!”

Pelham’s 2002 research paper entitled ‘Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore’ describes how this ‘name-letter effect’ can influence our life choices. It’s an effect so far-reaching that it goes beyond alliteration (more seashell shops are owned by Sheryls than Cheryls) and can even influence where we’ll choose to live: women named Georgia are disproportionally more likely to move to the state of Georgia, and men called Louis are over-represented in Louisiana.

For the study, Pelham mined the archived census records from south-eastern US states. When he scrutinised marriage records, he also found that names can also affect who we’ll choose to wed – people with common surnames like Smith are more likely to marry another Smith than a Johnson.

The name-letter effect is caused by what Pelham calls ‘implicit egotism’. In other words, we’re all unconsciously attracted to things that remind us of ourselves – including the letters in our names. “If you notice even some fragment of your name, it catches your attention and creates a positive association for you,” says Pelham.

In one experiment, his team subliminally paired people’s names with a random number on a computer screen for 1/100th of a second. During this 70-second conditioning process, the participants were shown multiple name-number combinations. When they were later asked to evaluate a woman wearing an American football jersey, both male and female participants judged the woman more favourably when the number on her jersey corresponded to their name. “They’re completely unaware that that’s the basis for the preference,” says Pelham.

A is for Achievement

Names also hold the secret to success. In 2006, American economists looked at the link between surnames and academic prominence, finding that those with initials early in the alphabet were markedly more likely to work in prestigious university departments and win a Nobel Prize.

This ‘alphabetical discrimination’ was probably due to the fact that the authors of academic papers are often listed in alphabetical order. And as Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire points out, we’re used to associating things at the top of a list as winners, “Over time, it wouldn’t surprise me if you had this psychological effect.”

Whether it’s being called for the school register or a job interview, people with the top names have got used to being first. To test this theory, Wiseman invited Telegraph readers to rate how successful they thought they were in assorted aspects of their life – including career, finances, health and ‘life in general’. The scores were then combined into an overall measure of success. 3

The 15,000 people who responded 
also provided their age, sex and surname. “We saw that the further down the alphabet your surname came, the less likely you were to be successful,” says Wiseman.

This bond between surname and perceived success was stronger in older age groups, which might be because past generations were more likely to have been ordered alphabetically in the classroom. “So it’s possible the As and Bs got more attention from the teacher or were simply better behaved because they were towards the front, and therefore got higher grades.”

The sound of success

Names can also make you more successful with the opposite sex. In another of Wiseman’s name experiments, 6000 members of the British public were asked to rate the 40 most popular first names for various qualities, including attractiveness, luck and success.

“For intelligence and success it was the royal names that came top – the Jameses and the Elizabeths,” says Wiseman. “This is one of those self-fulfilling prophecies: if you have a name which sounds intelligent or attractive, then you could be treated differently, or behave in a different way.”

Psychologists note that stereotypes tend to be shallow assumptions that are often wiped out once you find out more about someone or meet them in person. George may have come bottom of the list in the sexiness stakes, but few would see George Clooney as ugly.

Precisely why certain names are seen as more attractive is still unknown, but one guess is that they may be subtle cues as to masculinity or femininity. And whether a name sounds boyish or girly also affects success at school, says David Figlio, a professor of economics at Northwestern University in Illinois.

“Names such as Ashley started out as boys’ names but nowadays they’re popular girls’ names,” says Figlio, who studies the social consequences of names. His work has shown that boys with androgynous names tend to misbehave and become disruptive as soon as they hit high school. “A boy named Ashley gets teased and feels more self-conscious, particularly if there’s a girl with the same name in the class. They bring the test scores in their entire class down with them.”

This stereotyping might also dictate our occupations; girls with feminine-sounding names like Elizabeth are less likely to study science, meaning that the parents’ choice of name could send their daughter down a particular career path.

Figlio created linguistics software that assigns a ‘femininity score’ to names and tracked the school subjects chosen by 1000 pairs of sisters. The programme gives higher scores to names like Elizabeth, which contains several soft consonant sounds (‘z’ in the middle and ‘th’ at the end), and longer names (girls’ names tend to be longer).When you run these factors through the computer, names like Alex are rated as less feminine.

“Even if you limit it to only the girls who were performing in the top 15 per cent on US maths exams, Elizabeth is more likely to choose the humanities,” says Figlio, “and Alex would take advanced maths and science.” Success in school is another self-fulfilling prophecy, as stereotypes associated with feminine names are reinforced by society, including teachers, parents and even the girls themselves.

Spelling trouble

A poll of 3000 UK teachers found that almost half admitted imagining what new pupils would be like after seeing a new school register. Although this might be unsettling for parents to hear, it’s difficult to blame the teachers because many of their assumptions will be based on past experiences.

The survey revealed that a third of teachers claimed they could spot trouble in names like Callum, Crystal and Chardonnay, but also considered kids on such a ‘naughty list’ often to be bright, sensitive and more popular than those who were better behaved.

And while parents might want to give their children a distinctive label so that they stand out from the crowd, they should also consider the long-term psychological effects. A 1960s study of psychiatric records found that those with unusual names were more likely to be diagnosed psychotic, while recent research has shown that boys with the least popular names are more likely to commit crime.

Unusual names convey a lot of other information too, such as social standing. “In the US, there are distinctively black names that signify higher classes, and names that might connote lower class,” says Figlio. Ebony, for instance, is sometimes given to girls by female university graduates, but rarely by mothers who drop out of school. Teachers pick up on this and treat children differently.

“Parents should give their children whatever name they want, but they need to recognise that names have consequences,” says Figlio. “Is a name 
a guaranteed ladder to success? Of course not. But can a name make your life a little bit easier? For sure.”

JV Chamary is reviews editor of Focus

Voir enfin:

Le bébé royal s’appelle George, le choix de la tradition

Libération

24 juillet 2013

Par AFP

Kate et William ont sacrifié à la tradition mercredi en nommant leur fils George, un choix de nature à plaire à la reine Elizabeth II, aux historiens et accessoirement aux bookmakers.

«Le Duc et la Duchesse de Cambridge ont le plaisir d’annoncer qu’ils ont nommé leur fils George Alexander Louis», a indiqué le Palais en fin d’après-midi, ajoutant que «le bébé sera connu sous le nom de Son Altesse Royale le Prince George de Cambridge».

Gage de pérennité pour la monarchie selon les historiens, le prénom de George s’inscrit dans une longue lignée royale.

S’il accède au trône et décide de garder son premier prénom, le nouveau-né, troisième dans l’ordre d’accession, serait le septième George à régner.

George Ier, d’origine allemande, a été le premier représentant de la maison des Hanovre couronné roi d’Angleterre et d’Irlande, en 1714.

George VI, décédé en 1952, était le père aimé de l’actuelle souveraine Elizabeth II. Il avait pour premier prénom Albert et était appelé «Bertie» en famille. George n’était en réalité que son quatrième prénom.

Saint-patron de l’Angleterre, George est considéré comme un symbole d’honneur, de bravoure et de galanterie tout en continuant à incarner une certaine modernité. Très prisé au début du XXe siècle, le prénom figure sans discontinuer parmi les vingt plus populaires en Grande-Bretagne depuis 1996.

Louis a été retenu en hommage à Louis Mountbatten, dernier vice-roi de l’Inde britannique, tué dans un attentat de l’IRA en 1979.

Quant à Alexander, le chroniqueur royal de la BBC croyait savoir que c’était le prénom favori de Kate. Alexandra est par ailleurs le deuxième prénom de la reine Elizabeth. C’était enfin le premier de l’impératrice qui a régné sous le nom de Victoria.

George était aussi le prénom donné favori par les bookmakers qui, après avoir raté le coche en misant sur une fille, se sont brillamment rattrapés puisque les cinq prénoms les mieux cotés étaient dans l’ordre George, James, Alexander, Richard et Louis.

Comme de coutume, il y a fort à parier que de nombreux George verront le jour dans les chaumières britanniques dans les mois qui viennent.

Le suspense du prénom du prince de Cambridge n’aura donc finalement duré que quarante-huit heures.

Il avait fallu une semaine pour connaître le prénom de William, né en 1982, et un mois pour apprendre celui de son père, le prince Charles, né en 1948.

Kate et William ont communiqué leur choix quelques heures après être arrivés à Bucklebury dans la villa des parents de Kate où ils doivent passer les prochains jours.

Après avoir présenté leur fils au monde mardi, le jeune couple avait passé sa première nuit au palais londonien de Kensington, où il a reçu la visite de la reine.

Arrivée peu avant midi, sans son mari le prince Philip toujours en convalescence après une opération à l’abdomen, la reine, qui doit bientôt partir en vacances dans le nord de l’Ecosse, est repartie seulement une demi-heure plus tard.

Cette rencontre historique était la première en 120 ans entre un monarque en fonction et celui qui sera le troisième à lui succéder. La dernière du genre, en 1894, réunissait la reine Victoria et son arrière-petit-fils, le futur Edward VIII.

Pippa Middleton, la soeur très médiatisée de Kate, et le Prince Harry, le frère de William, rétrogradé en quatrième position dans l’ordre de succession au trône avec l’arrivée du bébé royal, sont également venus féliciter les parents.

La duchesse avait annoncé vouloir passer ses premières semaines de jeune maman chez ses parents à Bucklebury dans le Berkshire, à 80 kilomètres à l’ouest de Londres.

Ces derniers ont fait fortune à la tête d’une entreprise d’articles de fêtes.

C’est dans leur maison, un havre de paix réputé très confortable et où le couple avait déjà passé les derniers jours avant l’accouchement, que Kate et William comptent «faire plus ample connaissance avec leur fils, en privé et dans le calme», selon un porte-parole du Palais.

De source royale, le couple n’a pas fait part pour l’instant de son intention de recourir à une nounou, Kate comptant beaucoup sur sa mère Carole pour l’aider dans sa nouvelle tâche.

montée du chômage, précarisation et paupérisation de la jeunesse, effort éducatif particulièrement déséquilibré en défaveur de l’enseignement primaire et en faveur des classes préparatoires, allongement de la durée d’études mais discrimination par le jeu de filières socialement très clivées, sous-développement de la formation, surévaluation du diplôme pendant toute la carrière professionnelle, plus grande exigence de mobilité avec la mondialisation, dizaines de milliers de jeunes quittant chaque année le système éducatif sans qualification …

translation des inégalités simplement repoussées plus loin dans le cursus

Etudier la mobilité sociale est essentiel : ses mécanismes nous font entrer au cœur même de l’organisation des sociétés. La mobilité sociale, ou la reproduction sociale, nous disent des choses sur le degré de méritocratie de nos sociétés. mesurer la fluidité sociale.

part de personnes qui ont changé de catégorie socioprofessionnelle par rapport à leurs parents. Cette mobilité peut être ascendante ou descendante. Avec la très forte croissance de l’après Seconde Guerre mondiale qui a permis à beaucoup d’individus issus des classes populaires de s’élever au-dessus de la condition de leurs parents, on a eu tendance à assimiler mobilité sociale et promotion sociale.

stagnation de la mobilité. Finalement, dans une période de croissance lente, ce n’est pas si mal comme résultat

Tout dépend de la grille de lecture adoptée… Au début des années 1980, 83 % des fils d’ouvriers et employés sortis de l’école depuis 5 à 8 ans devenaient eux-mêmes ouvriers ou employés. Aujourd’hui, la proportion est de 73 %. Cette diminution de 10 points est évidemment positive mais appelle néanmoins plusieurs commentaires. D’abord, près des trois quarts des enfants des classes populaires qui demeurent dans la même position sociale

l’élévation du niveau d’éducation : les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés sont beaucoup mieux formés aujourd’hui qu’hier et font des scolarités moyennes significativement plus longues de sorte que le « gain » obtenu semble bien modeste

probabilité des enfants de cadres de devenir cadres eux-mêmes a augmenté, passant de 33 à 40 %

mobilité sociale ne progresse plus réellement pour les générations nées à partir des années 1960, contrairement aux précédentes. La situation des enfants d’ouvriers s’est légèrement éclaircie, mais pas plus que ne s’est améliorée encore celle des enfants nés dans des milieux plus favorisés

face à la crise, les ressources économiques et culturelles héritées des générations précédentes redeviennent décisives.

Derrière un discours sur l’égalité, la société française reste donc très hiérarchisée

dualisation des emplois, et donc des salariés. D’un côté, on a les gagnants de la mondialisation, qui vivent bien, occupent des emplois qualifiés, et, de l’autre, les perdants, souvent des emplois routiniers d’exécution, pour une partie au service des premiers. Cette dynamique de dualisation n’est pas propre à la France, elle concerne toutes les sociétés aux prises avec la mondialisation.

Mais en France, une autre source de polarisation est particulièrement présente, liée à l’importance du diplôme qui exerce une emprise considérable notamment dans l’accès à l’emploi. Le problème c’est que la compétition scolaire n’est pas équitable : c’est en France, parmi les pays de l’OCDE, que l’origine sociale pèse le plus sur les résultats scolaires. L’élitisme de notre système éducatif est en cause car il amène à trier, classer les élèves beaucoup trop tôt. Dans l’enseignement supérieur, l’élitisme est dramatique : tout est centré sur les grandes écoles, qui ne concernent que 5 % des élèves… En face, les premiers cycles universitaires, notamment, sont abandonnés.

L’immobilité sociale n’est-elle pas aussi dans les têtes ?

Elle est d’abord un constat, que l’on voit dans les statistiques, même s’il n’y a pas de déterminisme absolu, évidemment : si 70 % des enfants d’ouvriers exercent un emploi d’exécution, c’est que

30 % d’entre eux exercent une profession intermédiaire, sont cadres, ou indépendants et connaissent donc une vraie promotion sociale. Par ailleurs, c’est vrai aussi qu’une

partie de cette immobilité peut résulter de phénomènes « d’auto-sélection » que les sociologues de l’éducation ont mis en évidence depuis longtemps : à niveau scolaire équivalent, par exemple, les enfants vont avoir des souhaits d’orientation différents selon leur origine sociale. C’est un vrai défi pour l’école, et pour tout le système de l’orientation, que de faire sauter ces barrières-là également.

dépense 25 % de moins que la moyenne des pays de l’OCDE pour l’enseignement primaire, formation professionnelle doit devenir une vraie seconde chance pour les moins diplômés de la formation initiale, alors qu’aujourd’hui elle profite aux plus diplômés

Dans ces domaines, la gauche et la droite mènent-elles des politiques très différentes ?

La majorité précédente a atteint des sommets en réduisant les postes en maternelle et primaire, en s’attaquant aux réseaux d’aide et à l’éducation prioritaire. L’intérêt que porte aujourd’hui le gouvernement aux premiers niveaux de l’école est donc salvateur. Cependant, plus loin dans le cursus scolaire, il me semble que le gouvernement actuel reste prisonnier d’une vision très élitiste de l’enseignement supérieur, qui ne jure que par « l’excellence ». Au-delà, ce qui est regrettable, c’est que la gauche ne s’empare pas du projet de desserrer l’étau de la reproduction sociale. On dit qu’elle n’a plus de projet de société, voilà qui me semblerait porteur. Au passage, de nombreux libéraux devraient s’y rallier : mettre les compteurs à zéro dans chaque génération, c’est libéral !

La nature du contrat de travail continue de se dégrader : les jeunes actifs sont surreprésentés dans les emplois d’exécution. En outre, les inégalités sociales demeurent profondes au sein même des générations, en particulier pour les plus récentes. Parmi les jeunes, si les non-diplômés oscillent entre emplois précaires et chômage, les « gagnants de la compétition scolaire » peuvent espérer une insertion satisfaisante à moyen terme, notamment en accédant au salariat d’encadrement.

Au cours du dernier quart de siècle, la part des individus appartenant à la même catégorie socioprofessionnelle que leur père reste stable. La position occupée à l’âge adulte reste toujours autant liée à l’origine sociale. Les trajectoires vers une autre catégorie socioprofessionnelle restent de faible amplitude. La reproduction sociale reste donc prégnante, que ce soit en haut ou en bas de l’espace sociale. D’une part, la plupart des emplois d’ouvriers et d’employés convergent en termes de salaires, de perspectives de carrière, de conditions de travail ou encore de rapport au travail. Or, parmi les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés, la probabilité d’obtenir un emploi d’exécution n’a que légèrement diminué. D’autre part, les enfants ayant un père cadre ou exerçant une profession intellectuelle supérieure ont une probabilité croissante de reproduire ce statut. Si la probabilité d’obtenir un emploi d’encadrement s’élève pour les enfants des classes populaires, elle augmente aussi pour les enfants les plus favorisés. Au final, les inégalités demeurent inchangées. La reproduction est également visible dans la transmission des diplômes au fil des générations. En effet, les enfants ayant des parents diplômés sont particulièrement favorisés dans l’accès aux diplômés du supérieur et par là aux meilleurs emplois. Les enfants des familles peu dotées en capital culturel sont par contre de plus en plus pénalisées. Puisque le revenu est fortement corrélé au niveau de diplôme, ces disparités contribuent à la reproduction des inégalités de revenus entre les générations.

Le troisième chapitre discute la portée du mouvement de la démocratisation scolaire : l’école est-elle un vecteur efficace de mobilité sociale ? Le niveau d’éducation a continuellement augmenté au fil des générations. Avec l’ouverture des différents niveaux du système éducatif aux enfants des classes populaires, les taux de scolarisation ont progressé à des âges de plus en plus élevés depuis les années soixante. Pourtant, plusieurs dizaines de milliers de jeunes quittent chaque année le système éducatif sans qualification, la part des bacheliers reste inférieure à 65 %, le taux de poursuites d’études supérieures diminue depuis le milieu des années deux mille… Or, la probabilité d’accéder rapidement à un emploi stable, les chances d’obtenir un emploi d’encadrement ou encore la probabilité d’échapper au chômage s’élèvent avec le niveau de diplôme. Les « vaincus » de la sélection scolaire sont donc durablement affectés par leur échec. De plus, les enfants des classes populaires sont surreprésentés parmi ces derniers, ce qui entretient un haut degré de reproduction scolaire. Si la part des enfants issus des classes populaires s’élève à chaque niveau, elle baisse toutefois rapidement tout au long du cursus scolaire. Les inégalités entre les enfants d’ouvriers et les enfants de cadres supérieurs ou d’enseignants ont été simplement repoussées plus loin dans le cursus.

Parallèlement à l’élévation du taux de scolarisation, la structure de chaque niveau d’enseignement se complexifie avec l’apparition de nouvelles filières qui ne destinent véritablement pas au même avenir, or celles-ci sont socialement très clivées. Le poids des inégalités sociales dans les trajectoires scolaires ne s’est pas significativement allégé au fil des décennies, ce qui explique la forte persistante de la reproduction sociale. Les jeunes issus des classes populaires ont certes allongé leur durée de scolarité, ils sont surreprésentés dans les études courtes du supérieure et sous-représentés dans les filières nobles de l’université, dans les classes préparatoires et dans les grandes écoles. Les enfants de parents fortement dotés en ressources économiques et/ou culturelles se distinguaient autrefois par la longueur de leur durée d’études ; ils se distinguent aujourd’hui par le jeu des filières. Au final, malgré l’ampleur de la massification scolaire observé ces dernières décennies, les progrès en termes de démocratisation scolaire ont été limités ; les inégalités scolaires expliquent la persistance de la reproduction sociale ; au lieu de promouvoir la mobilité sociale, l’école a justifié la stratification sociale.

Dans le dernier chapitre, Camille Peugny propose certaines pistes pour désamorcer les mécanismes de reproduction. Il est essentiel de desserrer l’étau de la reproduction sociale aussi bien pour récompenser le mérite individuel que pour favoriser la justice sociale en enrayant la reproduction des inégalités. Un premier levier d’action serait de rendre l’école véritablement démocratique en rompant avec l’élitisme qui l’emplit. Les inégalités dans la réussite scolaire apparaissent dès les premières années de scolarité, se renforcent très rapidement et apparaissent comme puissamment cumulatives, or l’effort éducatif, selon les niveaux d’enseignement, est particulièrement déséquilibré, notamment en défaveur de l’enseignement primaire. Il est donc nécessaire d’agir au sein même de l’école maternelle et de l’école primaire, à cet instant précis où elles sont les moins fortes en recrutant davantage d’enseignants, en adaptant leur formation et en réduisant l’effectif des classes. Il est en outre essentiel de faire bénéficier aux étudiants à l’université des mêmes conditions d’études que les élèves en classe préparatoire.

Afin de rendre les conditions de naissance moins déterminantes pour la trajectoire socioprofessionnelle, il apparaît en outre nécessaire de multiplier les « moments d’égalité » au cours du cycle de vie, c’est-à-dire les moments de formation, ce qui passe par la réalisation d’une véritable « révolution culturelle » : la formation initiale ne doit plus apparaître comme le seul temps du cycle de formation. Peugny propose la mise en place d’un dispositif universel d’accès à la formation. Ce dispositif s’appuierait sur un financement public d’un certain nombre d’années de formation que chaque individu serait libre d’utiliser à partir de l’entrée dans l’enseignement supérieur. Si par exemple chacun se voyait doter d’une soixantaine de bons, un individu ayant suivi trois années d’études dans le supérieur pourrait potentiellement suivre deux années supplémentaires de formation lors de sa vie professionnelle. Cette instauration de bons mensuels de formation pourrait se coupler d’une ouverture des droits sociaux aux jeunes précarisés qui seraient ni en formation, ni en emploi. Alors qu’ils sont aujourd’hui exclus du système de solidarité nationale, les jeunes pourraient ainsi gagner leur autonomie plus tôt et seraient moins exposés à la pauvreté et à la désaffiliation sociale. Ce plus grand accès des jeunes à la formation et à l’autonomie leur permettrait d’exprimer plus facilement leur potentiel et renforcerait leur sentiment de maîtriser leur propre vie, une condition essentielle pour qu’ils assument pleinement leur rôle de citoyen.

Voir par ailleurs:

« La mobilité sociale est en panne », entretien avec Camille Peugny, sociologue, maître de conférences à l’université de Paris 8

lObservatoire des inégalités

11 avril 2013

« La mobilité sociale est en panne », entretien avec Camille Peugny, sociologue, maître de conférences à l’université de Paris 8. Auteur de « Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale », ed. Seuil-République des idées, 2013.

La mobilité sociale est une question récurrente du débat public. Comment expliquer que l’on compte si peu de travaux sur le sujet ?

Etudier la mobilité sociale est essentiel : ses mécanismes nous font entrer au cœur même de l’organisation des sociétés. La mobilité sociale, ou la reproduction sociale, nous disent des choses sur le degré de méritocratie de nos sociétés.

D’un côté, on dispose des travaux réalisés par les statisticiens de l’Insee qui actualisent les données concernant la mobilité sociale après chaque vague de l’enquête Formation et qualifications professionnelles (FQP). La dernière a eu lieu en 2003 et la prochaine, après avoir été repoussée, est prévue en 2014. Du côté des sociologues, Louis-André Vallet a publié un travail important en 1999 qui mesure l’évolution de la mobilité sociale au cours des quatre décennies qui suivent la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale [1]. Il est également très actif au niveau européen, en assurant l’analyse des données françaises dans les programmes comparatifs lancés par l’Association internationale de sociologie (ISA) qui permettent notamment de mesurer la fluidité sociale.

Au-delà, il est vrai que la mobilité sociale (en tout cas, sa mesure) ne constitue plus un sujet « à la mode » en sociologie. Une des explications, c’est tout de même l’effacement de l’analyse en termes de classes sociales que certains ont enterrées dès la fin des années 1950.

Du coup, les données disponibles sont datées

Oui. Les données dont on dispose aujourd’hui datent d’une enquête de 2003. Elles portent souvent sur des individus qui ont entre 40 et 59 ans et dont les plus jeunes sont donc nés au milieu des années 1960. Mais on dispose d’autres enquêtes, notamment les enquêtes Emploi qui permettent depuis le début des années 1980 de disposer de données précises mesurant l’origine sociale des individus, et donc de mesurer leur mobilité sociale. Cette enquête, que j’utilise dans mon livre pour actualiser les données pour les générations nées dans les années 1970 est réalisée tous les ans. Elle permet donc de mettre en évidence des tendances plus récentes.

Que mesure-t-on avec la mobilité sociale ?

Dans sa définition la plus simple, la mobilité sociale mesure la part de personnes qui ont changé de catégorie socioprofessionnelle par rapport à leurs parents. Cette mobilité peut être ascendante ou descendante. Avec la très forte croissance de l’après Seconde Guerre mondiale qui a permis à beaucoup d’individus issus des classes populaires de s’élever au-dessus de la condition de leurs parents, on a eu tendance à assimiler mobilité sociale et promotion sociale. Mais plus de mobilité peut aussi signifier plus de trajectoires descendantes, donc plus de situation de déclassement, lorsque la conjoncture se dégrade et que la structure sociale évolue moins rapidement vers le haut.

Votre livre permet d’actualiser nos connaissances sur le sujet. Vous expliquez que nous sommes dans une phase de stagnation de la mobilité. Finalement, dans une période de croissance lente, ce n’est pas si mal comme résultat

Tout dépend de la grille de lecture adoptée… Au début des années 1980, 83 % des fils d’ouvriers et employés sortis de l’école depuis 5 à 8 ans devenaient eux-mêmes ouvriers ou employés. Aujourd’hui, la proportion est de 73 %. Cette diminution de 10 points est évidemment positive mais appelle néanmoins plusieurs commentaires. D’abord, près des trois quarts des enfants des classes populaires qui demeurent dans la même position sociale, c’est tout de même beaucoup. Ensuite, l’évolution de la mobilité doit être mise en rapport avec l’élévation du niveau d’éducation : les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés sont beaucoup mieux formés aujourd’hui qu’hier et font des scolarités moyennes significativement plus longues de sorte que le « gain » obtenu semble bien modeste. Enfin, en même temps, la probabilité des enfants de cadres de devenir cadres eux-mêmes a augmenté, passant de 33 à 40 %. Au total donc, la mobilité sociale ne progresse plus réellement pour les générations nées à partir des années 1960, contrairement aux précédentes. La situation des enfants d’ouvriers s’est légèrement éclaircie, mais pas plus que ne s’est améliorée encore celle des enfants nés dans des milieux plus favorisés, de sorte qu’au final, les progrès en termes de fluidité sociale sont extrêmement ténus. Ces destins si contrastés en fonction de l’origine sociale soulignent que la société française, de ce point de vue, demeure une société de classes dans laquelle il existe des univers de vie très différents, qui ne préparent pas du tout aux mêmes trajectoires, contrairement à l’idéologie du mérite, de plus en plus pesante, selon laquelle « quand on veut, on peut ». Bref, les inégalités sociales au sein d’une même génération demeurent béantes. Pour faire face à la crise, les ressources économiques et culturelles héritées des générations précédentes redeviennent décisives.

Derrière un discours sur l’égalité, la société française reste donc très hiérarchisée

On assiste à un processus de dualisation des emplois, et donc des salariés. D’un côté, on a les gagnants de la mondialisation, qui vivent bien, occupent des emplois qualifiés, et, de l’autre, les perdants, souvent des emplois routiniers d’exécution, pour une partie au service des premiers. Cette dynamique de dualisation n’est pas propre à la France, elle concerne toutes les sociétés aux prises avec la mondialisation. Mais en France, une autre source de polarisation est particulièrement présente, liée à l’importance du diplôme qui exerce une emprise considérable notamment dans l’accès à l’emploi. Le problème c’est que la compétition scolaire n’est pas équitable : c’est en France, parmi les pays de l’OCDE, que l’origine sociale pèse le plus sur les résultats scolaires. L’élitisme de notre système éducatif est en cause car il amène à trier, classer les élèves beaucoup trop tôt. Dans l’enseignement supérieur, l’élitisme est dramatique : tout est centré sur les grandes écoles, qui ne concernent que 5 % des élèves… En face, les premiers cycles universitaires, notamment, sont abandonnés.

L’immobilité sociale n’est-elle pas aussi dans les têtes ?

Elle est d’abord un constat, que l’on voit dans les statistiques, même s’il n’y a pas de déterminisme absolu, évidemment : si 70 % des enfants d’ouvriers exercent un emploi d’exécution, c’est que 30 % d’entre eux exercent une profession intermédiaire, sont cadres, ou indépendants et connaissent donc une vraie promotion sociale. Par ailleurs, c’est vrai aussi qu’une partie de cette immobilité peut résulter de phénomènes « d’auto-sélection » que les sociologues de l’éducation ont mis en évidence depuis longtemps : à niveau scolaire équivalent, par exemple, les enfants vont avoir des souhaits d’orientation différents selon leur origine sociale. C’est un vrai défi pour l’école, et pour tout le système de l’orientation, que de faire sauter ces barrières-là également.

Pour vous, le système éducatif joue un rôle central. Que peut-on faire ?

Rapidement, il faut actionner deux leviers. Le premier, c’est rendre la formation initiale, l’école, plus démocratique. Dans cette optique, les premiers niveaux de l’enseignement sont cruciaux. Certes, les enfants arrivent inégaux à l’école primaire, mais c’est tout de même le moment où les inégalités de réussite sont les moins élevées : c’est donc à ce moment qu’il faut les combattre avec force, afin de les faire diminuer. Or, en la matière, la France est très mauvaise élève : elle dépense 25 % de moins que la moyenne des pays de l’OCDE pour l’enseignement primaire. Second levier, la formation tout au long de la vie : même si la formation initiale était plus démocratique et fonctionnait mieux, il n’est pas possible que tout soit joué à 16 ou 23 ans, à la sortie de l’école. La formation professionnelle doit devenir une vraie seconde chance pour les moins diplômés de la formation initiale, alors qu’aujourd’hui elle profite aux plus diplômés. C’est vraiment en multipliant les moments de formation tout au long de la vie que l’on se donnera les moyens de desserrer cet étau de la reproduction des inégalités.

Dans ces domaines, la gauche et la droite mènent-elles des politiques très différentes ?

La majorité précédente a atteint des sommets en réduisant les postes en maternelle et primaire, en s’attaquant aux réseaux d’aide et à l’éducation prioritaire. L’intérêt que porte aujourd’hui le gouvernement aux premiers niveaux de l’école est donc salvateur. Cependant, plus loin dans le cursus scolaire, il me semble que le gouvernement actuel reste prisonnier d’une vision très élitiste de l’enseignement supérieur, qui ne jure que par « l’excellence ». Au-delà, ce qui est regrettable, c’est que la gauche ne s’empare pas du projet de desserrer l’étau de la reproduction sociale. On dit qu’elle n’a plus de projet de société, voilà qui me semblerait porteur. Au passage, de nombreux libéraux devraient s’y rallier : mettre les compteurs à zéro dans chaque génération, c’est libéral !

Propos recueillis par Louis Maurin.

Camille Peugny, sociologue, maître de conférences à l’université de Paris 8. Auteur de « Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale », ed. Seuil-République des idées, 2013.

[1] Louis-André Vallet, « Quarante années de mobilité sociale en France. L’évolution de la fluidité sociale à la lumière de modèles récents », Revue française de sociologie, 40(1), 1999, pp.5-64.

Voir de même:

Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale

Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale, par Camille Peugny

La République des idées-Le Seuil, 2013, 117 p., 11,80 euros.

Christian Chavagneux

Alternatives Economiques

avril 2013

"Entre le début des années 1980 et la fin des années 2000, l’intensité de la reproduction sociale n’a pas faibli, bien au contraire." Dès les toutes premières pages de son livre, le sociologue Camille Peugny annonce la couleur : foin de méritocratie, la place des individus dans la hiérarchie sociale est largement déterminée par leur milieu d’origine.

On a longtemps cru que la société française se "moyennisait", que la rupture entre ouvriers du bas et cadres sup’ du haut s’estompait pour laisser place à des classes moyennes en expansion, dans un continuum ouvriers-employés-cadres, avec une possibilité ouverte de progression sociale. Et de fait, entre le début des années 1950 et le début des années 2000, la part des individus scotchés dans la même catégorie sociale que leur père n’a cessé de diminuer.

Faible mobilité

Mais à y regarder de plus près, l’essentiel de la progression de cette mobilité sociale s’est effectué entre le début des années 1950 et la fin des années 1970. En 1983, 36 % des enfants appartenaient à la même catégorie sociale que leur père ; en 2009, c’était 34 %. Et n’allez pas en déduire que les deux tiers d’une classe d’âge changent radicalement de statut social, précise le sociologue, les trajectoires sont de faible amplitude.

Ceux qui sont nés à partir des années 1960 sont clairement bien moins lotis dans la vie que ceux nés vingt ans plus tôt. La liste des éléments de dégradation rassemblés dans l’ouvrage est impressionnante : salaire en baisse, contrat de travail et carrière professionnelle plus précaires, position hiérarchique plus vite figée, moindre accès à la propriété, davantage de trajectoires sociales descendantes pour les enfants de cadres, trajectoire ascendante plus difficile pour les enfants des classes populaires. Un constat qui ne doit pas masquer, insiste le livre, les inégalités au sein de cette génération aux parcours et aux valeurs hétérogènes : en 2010, 23 % des 18-30 ans pensent que la femme est faite pour avoir des enfants et les élever, et 33 % qu’il y a trop d’immigrés.

Ségrégation scolaire

Et pourtant, s’interroge l’auteur, avec la démocratisation scolaire, les enfants d’ouvriers ont eu plus largement accès au système éducatif. Entre 1984 et 2009, la part des enfants d’ouvriers diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur est passée de 6 % à 24 %. Mais, dans le même temps, elle est passée de 50 % à 74 % pour les enfants de cadres supérieurs. La concurrence reste rude avec ceux qui ont fait les bonnes filières, ceux qui ont les bons réseaux.

De plus, si depuis le milieu des années 1990, les deux tiers d’une génération ont le bac, cette part ne progresse plus. Seul un tiers a obtenu un bac général en 2010. Entre 1995 et 2010, le taux de scolarisation des jeunes Français a même baissé, alors qu’il progressait dans les autres pays de l’OCDE. La démocratisation scolaire française n’a pas contribué à réduire les inégalités de départ : elle est ségrégative, profitant largement plus aux enfants de famille aisées.

Les classes sociales et leur reproduction ne sont pas un phénomène du passé. Certes, l’école ne pourra jamais à elle seule réduire les inégalités de départ. Mais elle devrait y contribuer : avec un investissement dans le primaire et en donnant davantage de moyens de formation tout au long de la vie, suggère l’auteur. Et sans tarder, car "la persistance d’une forte reproduction, trait majeur de la société française, menace de plus en plus la cohésion sociale."

Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale, par Camille Peugny

La République des idées-Le Seuil, 2013, 117 p., 11,80 euros.

Le Destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale

Camille PEUGNY

Editions du Seuil, 2013

10 mars 2013

Dans ses précédents travaux sur le déclassement, le jeune sociologue Camille Peugny avait mis en évidence que la fréquence des trajectoires descendantes s’était accrue ces dernières décennies en France malgré la hausse du niveau de qualification, ce qui l’avait amené à finalement rejoindre les conclusions de Louis Chauvel en suggérant l’existence de profondes inégalités intergénérationnelles. Il revient, dans un nouveau livre publié dans la collection La Républiques des Idées, sur les progrès réalisés en termes d’égalité des chances lors du dernier quart de siècle. Le constat qu’il y dresse est amer : la reproduction sociale demeure puissante et menace l’intégration sociale. Il clôt son ouvrage en proposant quelques pistes pour réduire le déterminisme de naissance et accroître l’égalité des places.

Dans un premier chapitre, Peugny observe ainsi la stratification de la société française et discute le processus de moyennisation que certains ont cru déceler. Marx constatait déjà que certains individus n’étaient membres ni de la bourgeoisie capitaliste, ni du prolétariat exploité, mais il estimait toutefois que ces groupes intermédiaires seraient en définitive absorbés par le prolétariat, si bien que l’espace social se polariserait bien à terme en deux classes fondamentales. Georg Simmel est le premier à délivrer une analyse sociologique de la classe moyenne. Elle y apparaît comme dotée d’un rôle déterminant dans le changement social en insufflant ses propres caractéristiques aux autres classes. Son expansion numérique, que constatait déjà Simmel, ne pouvait donc que bouleverser l’ensemble de la société. Les analyses suggérant une disparition des classes sociales et une moyennisation de la société vont se multiplier au vingtième siècle. Selon Henri Mendras notamment, la France a connu un « émiettement » des classes sociales lors des Trente Glorieuses avec la disparition de leur identité et de leurs antagonismes : celles-ci transforment la condition et la culture ouvrières, la bourgeoisie rentière a disparu, les paysans déclinent numériquement, les modes de vie ruraux s’urbanisent… Surtout, les niveaux de vie s’élèvent rapidement et les inégalités se réduisent. La sécurité sociale offre au salariat une protection contre les principaux risques de la vie. Mendras propose alors une nouvelle représentation de la société française organisée en constellations. Au sein d’une constellation centrale en expansion, les techniciens, cadres moyens et employés de bureau, porteurs d’un libéralisme culturel, jouent un rôle de « noyaux innovateurs » : la diffusion de leurs valeurs, axées sur la liberté et l’épanouissement individuel, refaçonne l’ensemble de la société.

« L’argument de la hausse de la mobilité sociale est centrale dans les analyses qui postulent la fin des classes sociales ; et la diminution de la reproduction sociale est indissociable des théories de la moyennisation. » Or, Peugny rejette l’idée d’une moindre immobilité sociale ces dernières décennies. Grâce à l’aspiration de la structure sociale vers le haut, la proportion d’individus appartenant à la même catégorie socioprofessionnelle que leur père diminue fortement des années cinquante à soixante-dix, mais elle reste stable depuis. Ces dernières décennies, les inégalités salariales se sont certes réduites, mais pour les seuls salariés à temps complet ; pire, les hauts revenus explosent dans les années deux mille, d’où un nouveau creusement des inégalités économiques. Depuis les années soixante-dix, la montée du chômage, la précarisation et la paupérisation de la jeunesse participent au déclassement entre les générations et au cours du cycle de vie. Déclassement et peur du déclassement sapent la cohésion sociale en générant des tensions entre les groupes socialement proches. Surtout, le clivage entre qualifiés et non qualifiés se renforce. Le nombre d’emplois routiniers ou d’exécution augmente, alors même que ces emplois exposent leurs détenteurs à la précarisation ; la faiblesse de leurs ressources économiques et culturelles les empêche de répondre à l’exigence de mobilité, devenue aiguë avec la mondialisation. Ainsi, la part des Français se déclarant appartenir à la société moyenne a beau s’accroître, celle-ci n’est en définitive qu’un mirage. La France est toujours une société de classes et seules les transformations structurelles ont permis d’enrayer (temporairement) la reproduction des inégalités.

L’auteur questionne alors dans un deuxième chapitre l’intensité de la reproduction sociale. Pendant les trente glorieuses, le salaire des primo-arrivants sur le marché du travail augmentait au fil des cohortes ; désormais, les écarts entre tranches d’âge s’accroissent au détriment des plus jeunes. Le ralentissement de la croissance à la fin des années soixante-dix s’accompagne d’une profonde détérioration de l’insertion sur le marché du travail pour les cohortes nées depuis les années soixante. Le rythme de la mobilité professionnelle est bouleversé ; les positions se figent dès 35 ans. Les enfants de classes populaires voient leurs trajectoires ascendantes se compliquer et se raréfier ; les enfants de cadres connaissent de plus en plus des trajectoires descendantes. « La structure générationnelle de la société française s’apparenterait à une gérontoclassie dans laquelle les statuts, le pouvoir et la richesse seraient confisqués par les générations les plus anciennes, au détriment des plus jeunes ». La nature du contrat de travail continue de se dégrader : les jeunes actifs sont surreprésentés dans les emplois d’exécution. En outre, les inégalités sociales demeurent profondes au sein même des générations, en particulier pour les plus récentes. Parmi les jeunes, si les non-diplômés oscillent entre emplois précaires et chômage, les « gagnants de la compétition scolaire » peuvent espérer une insertion satisfaisante à moyen terme, notamment en accédant au salariat d’encadrement.

Au cours du dernier quart de siècle, la part des individus appartenant à la même catégorie socioprofessionnelle que leur père reste stable. La position occupée à l’âge adulte reste toujours autant liée à l’origine sociale. Les trajectoires vers une autre catégorie socioprofessionnelle restent de faible amplitude. La reproduction sociale reste donc prégnante, que ce soit en haut ou en bas de l’espace sociale. D’une part, la plupart des emplois d’ouvriers et d’employés convergent en termes de salaires, de perspectives de carrière, de conditions de travail ou encore de rapport au travail. Or, parmi les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés, la probabilité d’obtenir un emploi d’exécution n’a que légèrement diminué. D’autre part, les enfants ayant un père cadre ou exerçant une profession intellectuelle supérieure ont une probabilité croissante de reproduire ce statut. Si la probabilité d’obtenir un emploi d’encadrement s’élève pour les enfants des classes populaires, elle augmente aussi pour les enfants les plus favorisés. Au final, les inégalités demeurent inchangées. La reproduction est également visible dans la transmission des diplômes au fil des générations. En effet, les enfants ayant des parents diplômés sont particulièrement favorisés dans l’accès aux diplômés du supérieur et par là aux meilleurs emplois. Les enfants des familles peu dotées en capital culturel sont par contre de plus en plus pénalisées. Puisque le revenu est fortement corrélé au niveau de diplôme, ces disparités contribuent à la reproduction des inégalités de revenus entre les générations.

Le troisième chapitre discute la portée du mouvement de la démocratisation scolaire : l’école est-elle un vecteur efficace de mobilité sociale ? Le niveau d’éducation a continuellement augmenté au fil des générations. Avec l’ouverture des différents niveaux du système éducatif aux enfants des classes populaires, les taux de scolarisation ont progressé à des âges de plus en plus élevés depuis les années soixante. Pourtant, plusieurs dizaines de milliers de jeunes quittent chaque année le système éducatif sans qualification, la part des bacheliers reste inférieure à 65 %, le taux de poursuites d’études supérieures diminue depuis le milieu des années deux mille… Or, la probabilité d’accéder rapidement à un emploi stable, les chances d’obtenir un emploi d’encadrement ou encore la probabilité d’échapper au chômage s’élèvent avec le niveau de diplôme. Les « vaincus » de la sélection scolaire sont donc durablement affectés par leur échec. De plus, les enfants des classes populaires sont surreprésentés parmi ces derniers, ce qui entretient un haut degré de reproduction scolaire. Si la part des enfants issus des classes populaires s’élève à chaque niveau, elle baisse toutefois rapidement tout au long du cursus scolaire. Les inégalités entre les enfants d’ouvriers et les enfants de cadres supérieurs ou d’enseignants ont été simplement repoussées plus loin dans le cursus.

Parallèlement à l’élévation du taux de scolarisation, la structure de chaque niveau d’enseignement se complexifie avec l’apparition de nouvelles filières qui ne destinent véritablement pas au même avenir, or celles-ci sont socialement très clivées. Le poids des inégalités sociales dans les trajectoires scolaires ne s’est pas significativement allégé au fil des décennies, ce qui explique la forte persistante de la reproduction sociale. Les jeunes issus des classes populaires ont certes allongé leur durée de scolarité, ils sont surreprésentés dans les études courtes du supérieure et sous-représentés dans les filières nobles de l’université, dans les classes préparatoires et dans les grandes écoles. Les enfants de parents fortement dotés en ressources économiques et/ou culturelles se distinguaient autrefois par la longueur de leur durée d’études ; ils se distinguent aujourd’hui par le jeu des filières. Au final, malgré l’ampleur de la massification scolaire observé ces dernières décennies, les progrès en termes de démocratisation scolaire ont été limités ; les inégalités scolaires expliquent la persistance de la reproduction sociale ; au lieu de promouvoir la mobilité sociale, l’école a justifié la stratification sociale.

Dans le dernier chapitre, Camille Peugny propose certaines pistes pour désamorcer les mécanismes de reproduction. Il est essentiel de desserrer l’étau de la reproduction sociale aussi bien pour récompenser le mérite individuel que pour favoriser la justice social en enrayant la reproduction des inégalités. Un premier levier d’action serait de rendre l’école véritablement démocratique en rompant avec l’élitisme qui l’emplit. Les inégalités dans la réussite scolaire apparaissent dès les premières années de scolarité, se renforcent très rapidement et apparaissent comme puissamment cumulatives, or l’effort éducatif, selon les niveaux d’enseignement, est particulièrement déséquilibré, notamment en défaveur de l’enseignement primaire. Il est donc nécessaire d’agir au sein même de l’école maternelle et de l’école primaire, à cet instant précis où elles sont les moins fortes en recrutant davantage d’enseignants, en adaptant leur formation et en réduisant l’effectif des classes. Il est en outre essentiel de faire bénéficier aux étudiants à l’université des mêmes conditions d’études que les élèves en classe préparatoire.

Afin de rendre les conditions de naissance moins déterminantes pour la trajectoire socioprofessionnelle, il apparaît en outre nécessaire de multiplier les « moments d’égalité » au cours du cycle de vie, c’est-à-dire les moments de formation, ce qui passe par la réalisation d’une véritable « révolution culturelle » : la formation initiale ne doit plus apparaître comme le seul temps du cycle de formation. Peugny propose la mise en place d’un dispositif universel d’accès à la formation. Ce dispositif s’appuierait sur un financement public d’un certain nombre d’années de formation que chaque individu serait libre d’utiliser à partir de l’entrée dans l’enseignement supérieur. Si par exemple chacun se voyait doter d’une soixantaine de bons, un individu ayant suivi trois années d’études dans le supérieur pourrait potentiellement suivre deux années supplémentaires de formation lors de sa vie professionnelle. Cette instauration de bons mensuels de formation pourrait se coupler d’une ouverture des droits sociaux aux jeunes précarisés qui seraient ni en formation, ni en emploi. Alors qu’ils sont aujourd’hui exclus du système de solidarité nationale, les jeunes pourraient ainsi gagner leur autonomie plus tôt et seraient moins exposés à la pauvreté et à la désaffiliation sociale. Ce plus grand accès des jeunes à la formation et à l’autonomie leur permettrait d’exprimer plus facilement leur potentiel et renforcerait leur sentiment de maîtriser leur propre vie, une condition essentielle pour qu’ils assument pleinement leur rôle de citoyen.

Camille Peugny, Le destin au berceau. Inégalités et reproduction sociale

Delphine Moraldo

Lectures/revues

Après Le déclassement en 2009, où il analysait la réalité sociale et statistique du « déclassement », fait d’appartenir à un groupe social inférieur à celui de ses parents, Camille Peugny reste dans la même veine sociologique avec cet ouvrage centré sur la question de la reproduction sociale dans la France d’aujourd’hui.

L’introduction donne le ton : même si, sur le long terme, la société française s’est considérablement ouverte, « dans la France d’aujourd’hui, sept enfants de cadres sur dix exercent un emploi d’encadrement quelques années après la fin de leurs études. À l’inverse, sept enfants d’ouvriers sur dix demeurent cantonnés à des emplois d’exécution. » (p. 9). Depuis les années 1980, la mobilité sociale n’a pas poursuivi son évolution passée. Camille Peugny aborde la question de la reproduction sociale au travers de quatre chapitres, allant du constat statistique à la préconisation politique pour « l’égalité tout au long de la vie » (chapitre 4).

Dans le premier chapitre – « le mirage des sociétés « moyennes » » – l’auteur commence par remettre en cause l’idée d’une moyennisation de la société française. Revenant sur les théories de la moyennisation (corollaire de la fin des classes sociales) portées par des sociologues comme Henri Mendras en France, élaborées dans le contexte social et politique particulier des Trente Glorieuses qui favorisait une certaine mobilité sociale, Camille Peugny y apporte des nuances importantes : d’une part la progression de la mobilité sociale s’arrête dans les années 1970 ; d’autre part les trajectoires de mobilité sont de faible amplitude et traversent rarement l’espace social. Il montre également la faible pertinence de certains indicateurs statistiques utilisés pour appuyer l’hypothèse de la moyennisation (p. 28). Mais le principal argument à l’encontre de ces théories est surtout qu’elles cessent de fonctionner après les Trente Glorieuses, avec un déclassement croissant dès les années 1970 allant de pair avec une polarisation accrue de la structure sociale, dans le cadre d’une économie mondialisée, entre classe moyenne, groupes favorisés et classes populaires. D’un point de vue subjectif, coexistent paradoxalement une « peur du déclassement » (pour reprendre le titre de l’ouvrage d’Eric Maurin publié en 2009) et un sentiment d’appartenance aux « classes moyennes » partagé par 60% des Français au début des années 2000.

Le deuxième chapitre – « vingt-cinq ans de reproduction sociale » – revient sur la fin du « progrès générationnel » amorcé pendant les Trente Glorieuses, dans la lignée des travaux de Louis Chauvel (par exemple, Le Destin des générations, 1998) ou de Christian Baudelot et Roger Establet (Avoir trente ans en 1968 et 1998, 2000) : à plusieurs niveaux (emploi, salaire, carrière, mobilité sociale, logement), les inégalités entre générations se renforcent, au détriment de celles nées après les années 1950 (et en particulier des jeunes générations, qui se précarisent), faisant des baby-boomers une génération singulière plus qu’un point de comparaison pertinent. Camille Peugny dénonce notamment « l’extraordinaire dualisation des emplois qui plonge des millions de salariés d’exécution (…) dans une précarisation croissante de leurs conditions de vie » (p. 61). Avec l’exemple des inégalités sociales, culturelles, et économiques entre les « jeunes », l’auteur montre également que les inégalités intragénérationnelles sont tout aussi importantes que les inégalités intergénérationnelles plus souvent pointées du doigt (p. 45-46). L’analyse est ensuite consacrée au phénomène complexe de reproduction sociale (« par le bas » et « par le haut ») et à ses évolutions depuis les années 1980, pour aboutir à la conclusion d’un maintien quasi constant des forces de la reproduction sociale (p. 55), avec des inégalités au niveau du type d’emploi qui demeurent presque inchangées entre les différents groupes sociaux. Le constat est pire lorsqu’on étudie la reproduction à l’aune des diplômes : l’auteur conclut alors à une intensification de la reproduction.

Dans le troisième chapitre – « les angles morts de la démocratisation scolaire » – Camille Peugny se penche sur le rôle de l’école, censée offrir « un principe de régulation de la compétition sociale autour duquel peuvent se retrouver des individus issus de toutes les origines sociales » (p. 63). Après un retour historique sur le processus de massification scolaire enclenché dans les années 1960, il en montre les limites : un nombre important de jeunes sortent encore du système scolaire sans qualification, le pourcentage de bacheliers au sein d’une génération stagne depuis plus de quinze ans (autour de 65%), et le taux de poursuite d’études dans l’enseignement supérieur a diminué dans les années 2000. À chaque fois, les jeunes issus de milieux défavorisés sont surreprésentés parmi les « vaincus » de la compétition scolaire, amenant la question (au-delà de la massification) de la démocratisation des chances scolaire. Là encore, l’auteur dresse un constat négatif : la démocratisation scolaire a surtout fonctionné pour les catégories intermédiaires. En outre, il s’agit avant tout d’une démocratisation « ségrégative » (pour reprendre l’expression forgée par Pierre Merle) liée à un système éducatif proposant des filières aux rendements et prestiges inégaux. Par ailleurs, le lien entre diplôme et mobilité sociale est complexifié par le fait que si le niveau de diplôme constitue le meilleur passeport vers l’emploi, à diplôme égal, les enfants d’ouvriers ont moins de chance d’obtenir un emploi de cadre que les enfants de cadres : l’origine sociale joue encore, voire tend à s’intensifier. « Même une démocratisation parfaite ne transformerait pas la société française en un paradis de la méritocratie et de la fluidité sociale » (p. 82).

Que faire alors pour « desserrer l’étau de la reproduction sociale » ? (p. 83). C’est l’objet du dernier chapitre de l’ouvrage, intitulé « l’égalité tout au long de la vie », où l’auteur propose des pistes pour lutter contre la fixation précoce des destins sociaux. « Faire en sorte, autant que possible, que rien ne soit définitivement joué : telle pourrait être la définition de l’égalisation des conditions dans des sociétés écartelées par la mondialisation. » (p. 111). La première piste concerne l’école. La précocité des inégalités et leur caractère cumulatif incitent à agir dès l’école maternelle, et à combler le retard de la France sur les autres pays de l’OCDE en matière de dépenses d’éducation pour les premiers niveaux. Il s’agit ensuite de rompre avec l’élitisme qui caractérise le système éducatif français (comme le montrent par exemple Christian Baudelot et Roger Establet dans L’Elitisme Républicain, 2009), dont les enquêtes PISA montrent qu’il est celui dans lequel l’origine sociale pèse le plus sur la réussite scolaire. Une solution ici serait de redistribuer plus équitablement les dépenses entre classes préparatoires et universités. Le deuxième volet porte sur la formation, pas assez développée en France, où le poids du diplôme continue de peser pendant toute la carrière professionnelle. Sur ce point, Camille Peugny appelle de ses vœux un dispositif universel d’accès à la formation, sur le modèle des « bons mensuels à tirer » danois, et pour les jeunes une « allocation d’autonomie » telle qu’elle existe dans les pays scandinaves. Ces dispositifs seraient essentiels pour lutter contre le sentiment de désenchantement et d’impuissance face l’avenir des jeunes français, mesuré par diverses enquêtes, et permettraient de restaurer une conscience politique et citoyenne et une confiance dans les institutions qui fait défaut à une grande partie de la jeunesse aujourd’hui.

En 111 pages, Camille Peugny parvient à dresser un bilan solide, illustré par de nombreuses analyses statistiques et tableaux, de l’état de la reproduction sociale en France. Le propos est clair et la conclusion sans appel : depuis la fin des Trente Glorieuses, le système éducatif et de formation n’est plus en mesure de garantir l’égalité des chances. Les solutions proposées, inspirée du modèle scandinave, sont audacieuses en tant qu’elles supposent une refonte du système éducatif méritocratique (mais également du système fiscal, évoqué très rapidement p. 105), afin que les destins des individus ne soient pas fixés dès le plus jeune âge. Un ouvrage véritablement stimulant.

Livres

Une infernale reproduction sociale

Vincent Giret

Libération

8 mars 2013

Longtemps, la France a aimé se regarder comme elle se voit. En grand et en modèle universel. S’il est un domaine où elle excelle, peut-être à l’égal de nos cousins d’Amérique, c’est bien dans l’art d’édifier des représentations d’elle-même. Elle sculpte ses propres légendes. Animée d’une vieille et dévorante passion égalitaire, elle a cru qu’il suffisait de mettre en scène le plus beau des slogans pour qu’il devienne réalité. Le retour au réel n’en est que plus violent. Dans le Destin au berceau , publié dans la collection de la République des idées, le sociologue Camille Peugny mène une minutieuse entreprise de démolition de l’un des mythes fondateurs de la France moderne.

L’ouvrage s’ouvre sur ce constat clinique : «Dans la France d’aujourd’hui, sept enfants de cadres sur dix exercent un emploi d’encadrement quelques années après la fin de leurs études ; à l’inverse, sept enfants d’ouvriers sur dix demeurent cantonnés à des emplois d’exécution. Plus de deux siècles après la Révolution, les conditions de naissance continuent à déterminer le destin des individus. On ne devient pas ouvrier, on naît ouvrier.» Chiffres en main, cohorte après cohorte, l’auteur donne les pièces accablantes d’un scandale français. Il dénonce «la faible attention» portée au thème de la reproduction sociale, l’aveuglement complice des politiques, mais aussi, plus justement, de la société elle-même qui, au fond, n’entend changer aucune des règles qu’elle s’est données. Il fut un temps, pas si lointain, affirme Peugny, où il était de bon ton parmi les sociologues de constater la disparition des classes sociales en France. Difficiles à cerner avec les critères d’hier ou d’avant-hier, elles semblaient s’être dissoutes dans le progrès et surtout dans la «moyennisation» générale des sociétés occidentales. Beaucoup avaient déjà rangé les analyses de Pierre Bourdieu au magasin des accessoires surannés des années 60. Les quatre décennies bénies qui ont suivi la Seconde Guerre mondiale avaient commencé à bouger les lignes en matière de mobilité sociale mais elles ont surtout aveuglé tout le monde, comme si «le progrès générationnel» était l’irrésistible moteur de l’histoire. Il y eut d’abord une stabilité de la reproduction sociale dès la fin des années 70 puis, depuis dix ans, une «intensification» du même mouvement. Au point que la France est désormais à l’égale ou presque des sociétés américaines et britanniques dont elle avait fait depuis toujours ses épouvantails préférés. Cet ouvrage scientifique tient aussi du coup de gueule ou du cri d’alarme. La gauche s’est bercée d’illusions en voulant croire que «la massification scolaire» suffirait à inverser les logiques à l’œuvre. Trop de résistances perdurent, quand on sait depuis longtemps l’importance décisive du premier niveau d’enseignement. Peugny en appelle à une «révolution culturelle» et à un sursaut national ; il esquisse un programme qui ne semble pas hors de portée. Avec lui, on peut regretter que «l’exception française» ressemble aujourd’hui à une fâcheuse «régression».

Le destin au berceau de Camille Peugny Seuil, 114 pp., 11,80 €


Antiracisme: Dur dur d’être un King ou un Mandela aujourd’hui ! (Pity our poor civil right leaders: How do you keep blaming a system you’ve long been part of ?)

23 juillet, 2013
http://www.drybonesproject.com/blog/D13728_1.gifDry Bones cartoon: Prisoner Release, Convicts, Negotiations, Palestinians, Abbas, Kerry, Pollard, Jonathan Pollard, Peace, Peace Agreement, terrorists, Terrorism, PLO, IsraelPhotoDo you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards. We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. … All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds. Al Sharpton (Crown Heights, 1991)
Vous savez, quand Trayvon Martin a été tué, j’avais dit qu’il aurait pu être mon fils. Une autre manière de formuler les choses, c’est de dire que Trayvon Martin, ç’aurait pu être moi, il y a 35 ans. (…) Dans ce pays, il y a très peu d’hommes Américains d’origine africaine qui n’ont pas fait l’expérience d’être suivis quand ils faisaient des courses dans un grand magasin. Je l’ai été moi aussi. Il y a très peu d’Américains d’origine africaine qui n’ont pas fait l’expérience de prendre l’ascenseur et de voir une femme serrer son porte-monnaie nerveusement et retenir sa respiration jusqu’à ce qu’elle puisse sortir. Cela arrive souvent. Obama (2013)
High rates of black violence in the late twentieth century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination. The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments. William Stuntz (Harvard Law professor)
Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager. This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone). The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman. The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a "poetic truth." Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: "America is a racist nation"; "the immigration debate is driven by racism"; "Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon." And we say, "Yes, of course," lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason. In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument. One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman? Shelby Steele
Any candid debate on race and criminality in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. African-Americans constitute about 13% of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 blacks committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses—including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes—is typically two to three times their representation in the population. The U.S. criminal-justice system, which currently is headed by one black man (Attorney General Eric Holder) who reports to another (President Obama), is a reflection of this reality, not its cause. (…) The left wants to blame these outcomes on racial animus and "the system," but blacks have long been part of running that system. Black crime and incarceration rates spiked in the 1970s and ’80s in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, under black mayors and black police chiefs. Some of the most violent cities in the U.S. today are run by blacks. (…) Did the perception of black criminality play a role in Martin’s death? We may never know for certain, but we do know that those negative perceptions of young black men are rooted in hard data on who commits crimes. We also know that young black men will not change how they are perceived until they change how they behave. The homicide rate claiming black victims today is seven times that of whites, and the George Zimmermans of the world are not the reason. Some 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Jason L. Riley

Comment continuer à dénoncer un système dont on fait partie depuis des décennies ?

A l’heure où l’Europe nous refait le coup de la la différence entre son "aile militaire" et le parti de Dieu aux 18 000 fusées (ou 40 000 ?) …

Et où le dernier lauréat du concours de chaises musicales de Téhéran nous rejoue la repentance

Pendant que le secrétaire d’Etat américain nous refait le numéro des négociations avec des Palestiniens qui ne se sont toujours pas résolus à reconnaitre l’existence du pays avec lequel ils sont censés négocier …

Comment ne pas compâtir aux efforts presque attendrissants tant du premier président noir-américain que de ses amis chasseurs d’ambulances pour tenter de ranimer des flammes interraciales tellement désespérément vacillantes …

Que pour une communauté qui ne représente que 13% de la population et est impliquée dans plus de la moitié des meurtres,  à peine 10% de ceux-ci sont inter-raciaux ?

Et ce, à un moment historique où ladite communauté contrôle non seulement la présidence et le ministère de la justice …

Mais,  depuis des décennies, la mairie et la police de nombre des plus grandes et des plus violentes villes américaines ?

Sans compter qu’avec 73% des enfants nés de mères célibataires, ladite situation ressemble encore étrangement …

A celle qu’avait décrite, en pleine lutte pour les droits civiques il y a plus de 50 ans, un certain Martin Luther King ?

Race, Politics and the Zimmerman Trial

The left wants to blame black criminality on racial animus and ‘the system,’ but blacks have long been part of running that system.

Jason L. Riley

WSJ

July 15, 2013

George Zimmerman’s acquittal of murder charges in a Florida court has been followed by predictable calls for America to have a "national conversation" about this or that aspect of the case. President Obama wants to talk about gun control. Civil-rights leaders want to talk about racial profiling. Others want to discuss how the American criminal justice system supposedly targets black men.

All of which is fine. Just don’t expect these conversations to be especially illuminating or honest. Liberals in general, and the black left in particular, like the idea of talking about racial problems, but in practice they typically ignore the most relevant aspects of any such discussion.

Any candid debate on race and criminality in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. African-Americans constitute about 13% of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 blacks committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses—including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes—is typically two to three times their representation in the population. The U.S. criminal-justice system, which currently is headed by one black man (Attorney General Eric Holder) who reports to another (President Obama), is a reflection of this reality, not its cause.

"High rates of black violence in the late twentieth century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination," wrote the late Harvard Law professor William Stuntz in "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." "The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments."

The left wants to blame these outcomes on racial animus and "the system," but blacks have long been part of running that system. Black crime and incarceration rates spiked in the 1970s and ’80s in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, under black mayors and black police chiefs. Some of the most violent cities in the U.S. today are run by blacks.

The jury’s only job in the Zimmerman trial was to determine whether the defendant broke the law when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year in a gated community near Orlando, Fla. In cases of self-defense, it doesn’t matter who initiated the confrontation; whether Mr. Zimmerman singled out Martin because he was a black youngster in a neighborhood where there had been a series of burglaries by black youngsters; or whether Mr. Zimmerman disregarded what the police dispatcher told him before he got out of his car. Nor does it matter that Martin was unarmed and minding his own business when Mr. Zimmerman approached.

All that really mattered in that courtroom is whether Mr. Zimmerman reasonably believed that his life was in danger when he pulled the trigger. Critics of the verdict might not like the statutes that allowed for this outcome, but the proper response would not have been for the jury to ignore them and convict.

Did the perception of black criminality play a role in Martin’s death? We may never know for certain, but we do know that those negative perceptions of young black men are rooted in hard data on who commits crimes. We also know that young black men will not change how they are perceived until they change how they behave.

The homicide rate claiming black victims today is seven times that of whites, and the George Zimmermans of the world are not the reason. Some 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks.

So let’s have our discussions, even if the only one that really needs to occur is within the black community. Civil-rights leaders today choose to keep the focus on white racism instead of personal responsibility, but their predecessors knew better.

"Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. "We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves."

Mr. Riley is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

Voir aussi:

The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

Black leaders weren’t so much outraged at injustice as they were by the disregard of their own authority

Shelby Steele

WSJ

July 21, 2013

The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin was a traumatic event for America’s civil-rights establishment, and for many black elites across the media, government and academia. When you have grown used to American institutions being so intimidated by the prospect of black wrath that they invent mushy ideas like "diversity" and "inclusiveness" simply to escape that wrath, then the crisp reading of the law that the Zimmerman jury displayed comes as a shock.

On television in recent weeks you could see black leaders from every background congealing into a chorus of umbrage and complaint. But they weren’t so much outraged at a horrible injustice as they were affronted by the disregard of their own authority. The jury effectively said to them, "You won’t call the tune here. We will work within the law.

Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager.

This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone).

The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman.

Why did the civil-rights leadership use its greatly depleted moral authority to support Trayvon Martin? This young man was, after all, no Rosa Parks—a figure of indisputable human dignity set upon by the rank evil of white supremacy. Trayvon threw the first punch and then continued pummeling the much smaller Zimmerman. Yes, Trayvon was a kid, but he was also something of a menace. The larger tragedy is that his death will come to very little. There was no important principle or coherent protest implied in that first nose-breaking punch. It was just dumb bravado, a tough-guy punch.

The civil-rights leadership rallied to Trayvon’s cause (and not to the cause of those hundreds of black kids slain in America’s inner cities this very year) to keep alive a certain cultural "truth" that is the sole source of the leadership’s dwindling power. Put bluntly, this leadership rather easily tolerates black kids killing other black kids. But it cannot abide a white person (and Mr. Zimmerman, with his Hispanic background, was pushed into a white identity by the media over his objections) getting away with killing a black person without undermining the leadership’s very reason for being.

The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a "poetic truth." Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: "America is a racist nation"; "the immigration debate is driven by racism"; "Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon." And we say, "Yes, of course," lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.

In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument.

The Zimmerman/Martin tragedy has been explosive because it triggered a fight over authority. Who gets to say what things mean—the supporters of George Zimmerman, who say he acted in self- defense, or the civil-rights establishment that says he profiled and murdered a black child? Here we are. And where is the authority to resolve this? The six-person Florida jury, looking carefully at the evidence, decided that Mr. Zimmerman pulled the trigger in self-defense and not in a fury of racial hatred.

And here, precisely at the point of this verdict, is where all of America begins to see this hollowed- out civil-rights establishment slip into pathos. Almost everyone saw this verdict coming. It is impossible to see how this jury could have applied the actual law to this body of evidence and come up with a different conclusion. The civil-rights establishment’s mistake was to get ahead of itself, to be seduced by its own poetic truth even when there was no evidence to support it. And even now its leaders call for a Justice Department investigation, and they long for civil lawsuits to be filed—hoping against hope that some leaf of actual racial victimization will be turned over for all to see. This is how a once-great social movement looks when it becomes infested with obsolescence.

One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman?

There are vast career opportunities, money and political power to be gleaned from the specter of Mr. Zimmerman as a racial profiler/murderer; but there is only hard and selfless work to be done in tackling an illegitimacy rate that threatens to consign blacks to something like permanent inferiority. If there is anything good to be drawn from the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy, it is only the further revelation of the corruption and irrelevance of today’s civil-rights leadership.

Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Among his books is "White Guilt" (HarperCollins, 2007).

Voir également:

The Zimmerman Verdict

WSJ

July 15, 2013

New federal civil-rights charges would smack of double jeopardy.

An American criminal defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s the standard to keep in mind when considering the jury’s not guilty verdict Saturday for George Zimmerman in the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The case has been fraught with racial politics from the start, but inside the Sanford, Florida courtroom, the jurors had to wrestle with the standard that is a hallmark of American justice. No one but Mr. Zimmerman knows what happened that early evening in 2012 when he followed Martin, an unfamiliar young, African-American male visiting the neighborhood. A scuffle ensued, Zimmerman shot Martin in what he says was self-defense, and prosecutors never produced an eyewitness or even much evidence to disprove Mr. Zimmerman.

The verdict compounds the tragedy for the Martin family, but no one can claim that their son was not represented in court. The state threw everything it had at Mr. Zimmerman. Gov. Rick Scott replaced local prosecutors with a special team from Jacksonville, the judge often ruled favorably for the prosecution, including the addition of the lesser manslaughter charge (in addition to second-degree murder) at the end of the trial.

Still the state could not prove its case to the satisfaction of the six jurors, all women, for whom the easiest decision in terms of public approval would have been to convict. No less than President Obama had commented on the local case after Mr. Zimmerman was not originally charged by local authorities.

"If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon," Mr. Obama said. He was echoed by hundreds of politicians and commentators who wanted to put racial profiling on trial as much as they did Mr. Zimmerman. But a criminal trial is not a legislature, or a venue to debate social policy.

Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP is already lobbying Attorney General Eric Holder to indict Mr. Zimmerman on federal civil-rights charges. To do so and win a conviction would require proof that Mr. Zimmerman was motivated by racial animus when the record shows little more than a reference by Mr. Zimmerman to "punks" in a comment to a police dispatcher.

Millions of Americans would see such federal charges as an example of double jeopardy, and a politicized prosecution to boot. In this context, it was good to see Mr. Obama’s statement Sunday that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

The larger issue of how American society, and especially the police, treat young black males deserves attention and often receives it. There is no doubt that many law-abiding black men are eyed suspiciously in some quarters because they are black. The motivation may sometimes be racial. But such a discussion also cannot exclude that the main victims of crimes committed by young black men are other blacks. A policy like New York City’s "stop and frisk" rule prevents more crime in minority neighborhoods against minorities than it does in white areas of Manhattan.

Mr. Zimmerman made many mistakes that February evening, not least failing to heed police advice not to pursue Martin. Despite his acquittal, he will pay for those mistakes for years as he defends against a possible civil suit and must wear a bullet-proof vest to protect himself from threats of violent revenge that he has to take seriously.

If there is any satisfaction in his acquittal, it is that the jurors followed the law’s requirements that every defendant deserves a fair trial, even one who becomes a symbol of our polarized racial politics.

 Voir encore:

The Zimmerman Verdict and the Broader Perspective

Letters to the Editor

WSJ

LETTERS July 21, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict and the Broader

Perspective

Zimmerman verdict shows our system working as designed.

Regarding your editorial "The Zimmerman Verdict" (July 15): The outcry over the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict reveals the general public’s ignorance of the U.S. criminal justice system. A guilty verdict means the government presented evidence against the defendant proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A not-guilty verdict means the evidence could have been 70% to 85% against the defendant, but still subject to a reasonable doubt. To win a civil damages case the party bringing the suit need only present a weight or preponderance of evidence, meaning 51% or greater, to prevail.

Trayvon Martin’s family could very well sue Mr. Zimmerman in civil court and win a damages award under the lower "weight of evidence" standard of proof. O.J. Simpson’s victims did just that and won big. Whether they actually collected anything is another matter. Despite having sat through civics classes in high school and perhaps American government in college, Americans still naively view the criminal justice system as a "High Noon" good versus evil shootout, which it is not and never was, but still is the best in the world.

David P. Carter

Seminole, Fla.

After weeks of Mr. Zimmerman’s trial, we are now inundated with negative reactions, including demonstrations, against his not-guilty verdict. More amazing is the possibility that the federal government might try him a second time. Meanwhile, completely unnoticed, the Chicago Tribune reported 74 shooting victims and 12 deaths during the same Fourth of July period in President Obama’s hometown.

Dick Ettington

Palos Verdes, Calif.

What a refreshingly honest and courageous article by Jason Riley ("Race, Politics and the Zimmerman Trial," op-ed, July 16). I hope that any "national conversation" about these issues would, similarly, use facts and data to make arguments, rather than the emotional distortions that more typically drown out rational discussion. By accepting the real risk of being labeled a bigot, he has provided a factual guide to help focus the broader discussion. The disproportionate rate of crime in and against black communities cannot be effectively addressed without honest and frank assessments based on the available data.

Richard Zahren

Pittsburgh

Mr. Riley’s piece is proper but misses the injustice done to the defendant by the prosecution.

Though Mr. Zimmerman won the trial, he lost everything of value to him and his parents. They cannot live in their own home. They must be in hiding from the fear of death threats against them.

Mr. Zimmerman cannot get a job easily. He will have to pay legal fees for his defense. If this were a civil case, the plaintiff would have to pay his attorney fees for losing the unwarranted trial without weighing the facts of the case.

If the Justice Department continues on the same journey by bringing charges, it would further ruin Mr. Zimmerman.

Shantu Shah

Portland, Ore.

Mr. Riley writes that "young black men will not change how they are perceived until they change how they behave." All citizens deserve equal rights, including the right to freedom of movement. By appearing to hold law-abiding individuals responsible for wrongdoers in their (perceived) group, statements like this amount to an apology for interference with these rights.

Jonathan Levine

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Voir par ailleurs:

EU’s Moral Confusion on Terrorism

Emanuele Ottolenghi

Commentary

07.22.2013

Today, the European Union decided to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on its terror list. This is a welcome, if belated, step, given that it took the EU a whole year after Hezbollah conducted a murderous operation on European soil to take action.

It is also a sign of the moral confusion reigning over EU Middle East foreign policy.

You will be shocked to know that a Google search for “red brigades” and “armed wing” will not yield much. Same for “IRA” and “armed wing.” Or Baader-Mainhof group and the same. Can you imagine, for example, a 1979 headline from an Italian daily announcing that the European Economic Community (the precursor to the European Union) had finally deliberated, a year after the Italian Red Brigades had kidnapped and murdered a former prime minister, that only their armed wing deserved to be called a terrorist group?

Granted, the EEC powers were more limited back then. But Europeans never found it as difficult to look at terror organizations and call them by their name. They did not waste time in intellectual contortionism and rhetorical hair splitting about what these organizations were–or what their members engaged in. The IRA, ETA, the Red Brigades, and the entire array of murderous groups from the extreme left and the extreme right of the European political spectrum became terrorists the minute they impugned a weapon and sought to achieve their political goals by murdering their adversaries and occasionally killing civilians indiscriminately. That those who gave the orders may have sat in an elected body, worked as members of a respectable profession, or served as the heads of a charitable foundation mattered little.

It took no great wisdom to see that the hand that held the gun and the mind that guided it were one and the same thing–that there was an inseparable, organic link between the ideologues who provided moral, intellectual, and political justification for violence, which in turn guided the violent executioners’ actions.

Similarly, there is no trace in newspaper clips or court proceedings for an “armed wing” of the mob or an “armed wing” of the drug cartels, which are somehow distinct, in terms of “command responsibility” from the rest of the organization. Mob hit man Giovanni Brusca, one of the Corleone clan’s most ruthless killers, did not somehow belong to the “armed wing” of the mafia, where he killed people unbeknownst to the otherwise charitable dons. The Mexican Zetas certainly have a military wing–more like an army of gruesome murderers–and it is certainly integral to the entire organization and its aims. Whether the Zetas or the mob provide a pension to their family members or send them to good doctors is immaterial to the way we understand these groups, their aims, and their methods. Nor are their business interests somehow classified into “legitimate” and “illegitimate.” Whether it’s drug trafficking or money laundering through art and real estate, we call it criminal, because … well, it is criminal.

But the EU sticks to its own imagined distinction when it comes to radical Islamic groups engaged in terrorist activities. Though you will be hard pressed to find reference to an armed wing of Hezbollah within Hezbollah, such references abound in the Western press. It is a convenient way to avoid having to tackle the problem of Hezbollah–a proxy of the Iranian regime whose ideology justifies the use of violence for political ends and whose entire structure thus serves the purpose of carrying out such violence.

All this, of course, is not to make the perfect the enemy of the good–better sanctions against a legal fiction than no sanctions at all, if the former have more real consequences than the latter.

But longer term, the EU will prove itself yet again ineffectual in the Middle East unless it is prepared to exercise moral clarity and recognize that the “armed wing” of Hezbollah is not a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand does–more like a case of a division of labor within an organization where the military wing executes the vision of its political leadership.

Voir de même:

The High Price of Kerry’s Pyrrhic Victory

Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary

07.19.2013

After weeks of looking silly chasing his tail in what appeared to be a futile attempt to revive Middle East peace talks, Secretary of State John Kerry is looking like a winner this afternoon as he was able to announce that he had been able to “establish a basis” for a new round of negotiations of between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Assuming the Palestinians actually show up next week in Washington as Kerry thinks they will, this will be something of a victory for a secretary who has gone from humiliation to humiliation during his brief term in office. Even if all it amounts to is a photo op, Kerry can claim it is evidence of the diplomatic prowess he thinks he possesses. But before he starts writing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (if it isn’t already composed at least in his head), we need to understand that it is highly unlikely that anything good may come of this initiative. Even worse, the price the United States has paid for getting even this far may be far higher than any possible good that could come from this event.

It should be understood that the tentative and highly conditioned agreement to return to negotiations was only won by an American agreement to accept Palestinian preconditions that President Obama had already rejected and that would, in no small part, tilt the diplomatic playing field against Israel:

Ahmed Majdalani, a PLO executive committee member, told the Associated Press that Kerry has proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements. He said Kerry would endorse the 1967 lines as the starting point of negotiations and assured the Palestinians that Israel would free some 350 prisoners gradually in the coming months.

This came after President Obama phoned Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday to pressure him to cooperate with Kerry. Israel had already agreed to talk without preconditions, but apparently the president wanted Netanyahu’s assurance that he would not protest the way the secretary had buckled to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s conditions. But having arrived at negotiations in this manner, neither Kerry nor Obama seems to have considered what comes next. The Palestinians have already made it abundantly clear that they won’t actually negotiate in good faith but will only show up expecting the U.S. to deliver Israeli concessions to them on a silver platter. Even if he wanted to sign an accord, Abbas hasn’t the power to speak for all Palestinians. Since that is a certain formula for failure, it is incumbent on Washington to understand that another breakdown in talks could serve as a new excuse for Palestinian violence.

The reason why rational observers have been so wary of Kerry’s initiative is not just the fact that the Palestinians had no interest in returning to negotiations they’ve been boycotting for four and a half years. Both Israel and the Palestinians didn’t wish to obstruct Kerry’s desire for talks. He might have left off once the Palestinians demonstrated their lack of interest, but since he persisted in this manner, they felt they had no choice but to show up.

But Abbas and the PA are too weak to agree to any deal that would conclusively end a conflict that neither Hamas nor much of Fatah actually wants to end. Recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn, is something that no Palestinian leader can afford to do at this point in history. The culture of Palestinian politics that has revolved around the delegitimization of Israel and Jewish history makes it impossible. That’s why they’ve already rejected three Israelis offers of a Palestinian state including almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. So even if Netanyahu were foolish enough to agree to withdrawals that would, in effect, recreate the independent Palestinian terror state that already exists in Gaza in the West Bank, Abbas still can’t say yes.

But by forcing this confrontation at a time when conditions simply don’t exist for a resolution of the conflict, Kerry is not just occupying himself with an issue that is clearly less pressing that the other crises in the Middle East like Egypt, Syria or the Iranian nuclear threat. Since failure is foreordained and the Palestinians are likely to bolt the talks at the first opportunity, what will follow will be far worse than merely a continuation of the present stalemate. The Palestinians will treat any outcome—even one created by their intransigence—as an excuse for either an upsurge in violence against Israel or an effort to use their status at the United Nations to work to further isolate the Jewish state.

Just as damaging, by again putting the U.S. seal of approval on the Palestinian demand for the 1967 lines as Israel’s borders, Kerry and Obama have also worsened Israel’s position once the talks collapse. Any outcome other than total Israeli acquiescence to Palestinian demands would also serve as justification for more European Union sanctions on Israel, even, as is likely, if such a surrender were to fail to be enough to entice the Palestinians to take yes for an answer.

Netanyahu will be criticized by many in his party for going along with what is likely to be at best, a farce, and, at worst, a dangerous trap. But having already rightly said that he was willing to negotiate with Abbas under any circumstance, he must send representatives to Washington. But neither he, the people of Israel, nor the Jewish state’s friends in this country should be under any illusions that what will ensue from Kerry’s diplomatic experiment will be helpful.

As much as Israel wants and needs peace, the conflict is at a stage when the best that can be hoped for is that it be managed in such a way as to minimize violence and encourage Palestinian development. Though Kerry is offering the PA lots of cash, there is little chance it will be used appropriately or get the desired result.

Next week’s talks may be heralded as an unprecedented opportunity for peace, but the odds are, we will look back on this moment the way we do foolhardy efforts such as President Clinton’s Camp David summit in 2000 that set the stage for a bloody intifada that cost the lives of over a thousand Jews and far more Palestinians. The agreement to talk about talking is a pyrrhic victory for Kerry. Those who cheer this effort should think hard about who will bear the responsibility for the bloodshed that could result from Kerry’s folly.

Voir enfin:

Caught in the Flytrap of Tehran

The new president of the Islamic Republic, a reputed reformist, has invited exiles to return to Iran without fear. The last such offer had tragic results.

Bret Stephens

WSJ

July 22, 2013

"The Shanghai Russians expressed their delight. They were told they could take with them as many possessions as they wanted and whatever they wanted. . . . They were told they could settle wherever they wanted to in the Soviet Union and, of course, work at any profession or trade. They were transported from Shanghai in steamships."

This is from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s "The Gulag Archipelago." It describes a postwar episode when Joseph Stalin lured expatriate Russians—many of them exiles (or children of exiles) from the Russian Revolution—back to the Soviet Union with patriotic appeals to rebuild their shattered motherland. Russians from Shanghai to Paris heeded the call, seeking to show, as Solzhenitsyn wryly noted, that "they had not been lying previously about their love" of their ancestral home.

The history comes to mind following a speech last week by Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president-elect and reputed moderate. Addressing a group called the "Assembly of the Pioneers for Jihad and Martyrdom," Mr. Rouhani made an overture to Iranians living abroad who wanted to make their peace with the regime.

"Those [Iranians] who are ready to return should have the way paved for them, since repentance is for everyone," he said, according to a report by Radio Farda.

In 1945. . . a plenipotentiary from the Soviet government went to Shanghai and announced a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet extending forgiveness to all émigrés. Well, now, how could one refuse to believe that? The government certainly couldn’t lie! . . .

This isn’t the first time a supposedly reformist president of the Islamic Republic urged the estimated three million exiled Iranians to come home. Beginning in the early 1990s, and especially after Mohammad Khatami’s election as president in 1997, the regime made the same pitch. "Today, Islamic Iran opens its arms to you," Mr. Khatami said in a message to exiles, adding that they were needed to help rebuild the country. Promises were made that no returnee would face prison time.

It’s impossible to say how many exiles returned to Iran for good. But many did begin traveling back and forth from the country, often for long stints, to work or study or visit relatives. Mr. Khatami’s outreach also had the effect of dividing the exile community politically between those who thought the regime could never be trusted and needed to be toppled, and those who believed in engaging it for the sake of reform.

It was the latter camp that wound up having the greatest influence in the West, not least by providing intellectual cover and moral standing to U.S. and European policy makers eager to reach out to Iran and make concessions. But it was also this camp that often paid the greatest personal price for trusting the regime.

Consider Ramin Jahanbegloo, a well-known Iranian philosopher and advocate of cultural dialogue. He was teaching at the University of Toronto when he decided to return to Iran in 2001 to take up an academic post. In 2006 he was imprisoned for four months on suspicion of being "one of the key elements in the American plan for the smooth toppling of the Islamic regime," according to the Iranian Jomhuri Eslami newspaper.

Similar prison ordeals awaited Iranian expatriates such as Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Haleh Esfandiari, journalist Maziar Bahari, businessmanAli Shakeri, urban planner Kian Tajbakhsh. Far worse was the fate of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was arrested, tortured, raped and beaten to death in July 2003.

Then there is Hossein Derakhshan, a left-wing blogger who in 2006 made a case in the Washington Post for Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. But he also visited Israel that year, writing that while it might be illegal for him to do so as an Iranian, as "a citizen of Canada I have the right to visit any country I want." He was arrested in Iran in 2008, held in solitary confinement and tortured. In 2010 he was sentenced by an Iranian court to 19.5 years in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

Which brings us back to Mr. Rouhani’s invitation to Iranian exiles to return and repent. Last week, I asked dissident Saeed Ghasseminejad, a leader of the Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates who was jailed in Evin before coming to the U.S., how he would respond to the president-elect’s offer.

"The one who should repent his sins is Mr. Rouhani himself," Mr. Ghassaminejad wrote me in an email. "He is part of a regime which has killed, raped and tortured thousands and expelled and displaced millions of Iranians."

It would be nice if the West could treat the arrival of yet another alleged regime reformer with the same hard-earned skepticism. In the meantime, it’s worth recalling what happens to those who put their faith in the word of a totalitarian regime:

"The fate of the passengers varied. . . . Some of them were actually delivered to inhabited places, to cities, and allowed to live there for two or three years. Others were delivered in trainloads straight to their [Gulag] camps and were dumped out somewhere off a high embankment into the forest beyond the Volga, together with their white pianos and their jardinieres.

"In 1948-1949, the former Far Eastern emigres who had until then managed to stay out of camps were scraped up to the last man."


Antisémitisme: Attention, un racisme peut en cacher un autre ! (Mark Twain and the Jews: When good intentions are not enough)

22 juillet, 2013
http://hiram7.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/mark-twain.jpg?w=230&h=150Et si Dieu était juif ça t´inquiéterait petite ? Serge Gainsbourg
Comment peut-on ne pas lire dans cette pièce le désir de caricature alors que le cliché de la riche juive (comme tous les autres) est montré, souligné, expliqué avec autant de transparence? Eric Noël (dramaturge canadien)
On m’a expliqué que tous ces stéréotypes étaient là pour être dénoncés, écrit-il dans un des textes qu’il a rédigés depuis la représentation de cette pièce. Selon des membres de la troupe, tous les personnages étaient déshumanisés et stéréotypés, pas seulement les juifs : la Chinoise tenait un balai, la prostituée était vulgaire […]. Puisque tout le monde en prend, pourquoi pas les juifs. Je me permets simplement de rappeler que tous les stéréotypes n’ont pas la même histoire. Certains stéréotypes ont servi à tuer. Ils ont même beaucoup tué. Michel Goldberg (professeur, université de la Rochelle)
Pourquoi, à votre avis, les Juifs sont-ils encore aujourd’hui la cible de tant d’animosités et que peuvent-ils faire en Amérique ou à l’étranger pour éviter cela ? Avocat juif américan (lettre à Mark Twain)
Si les statistiques sont justes, les juifs constituent un quart de un pour cent de la race humaine… A proprement parler, on ne devrait pas entendre parler d’eux. Mais on parle d’eux, on a toujours parlé d’eux. Les juifs ne sont pas plus importants que les autres peuples, mais leur place est pourtant hors de proportion avec la petitesse de leur nombre. Leur contribution à la liste des grands noms de la littérature, de la science, de l’art, de la musique, de la finance, de la médecine et des connaissances absconses, est également hors de proportion avec leur nombre… Les Egyptiens, les Babyloniens et les Perses s’élevèrent, remplirent la planète de sons et de splendeur, puis s’évanouirent comme dans un rêve pour ne plus revenir ; les Grecs et les Romains suivirent faisant grand bruit pour disparaître à leur tour… Les juifs les ont vu passer tous, leur ont survécu et demeurent ce qu’ils ont toujours été… Toutes choses meurent sauf les juifs ; les autres forces passent mais ils restent. Quel est le secret de leur immortalité ? Mark Twain
J’ai la conviction que la persécution du Juif n’est pas due pour une large part à des préjugés religieux. Non, le Juif est un faiseur d’argent. Il en a fait la fin et le but de sa vie. Il l’est depuis toujours. Son succès l’a rendu ennemi de toute la race humaine. Mark Twain
Le Juif est un homme d’argent ? Les familles Vanderbilt, Gould, Astor, Havemeyer, Rockefeller, Mackay, Huntington, Armure, Carnegie, Sloane, Whitney, n’étaient pas Juives, et contrôlaient pourtant plus de vingt-cinq pour cent de toutes les richesses distribuées aux États-Unis. Rabbin M. S. Levy
From the beginning of the Dreyfus case to the end of it all France, except a dozen moral paladins, lay under the smother of the silent assertion-lie that no wrong was being done to a persecuted and unoffending man. Mark Twain (1899)
It was an odious spectacle–odious and awful. For one moment it was an unbelievable thing–a thing beyond all credibility; it must be a delusion, a dream, a nightmare. But no, it was real–pitifully real, shamefully real, hideously real. These sixty policemen had been soldiers, and they went at their work with the cold unsentimentality of their trade. They ascended the steps of the tribune, laid their hands upon the inviolable persons of the representatives of a nation, and dragged and tugged and hauled them down the steps and out at the door; then ranged themselves in stately military array in front of the ministerial estrade, and so stood. (…) Some of the results of this wild freak followed instantly. The Badeni government came down with a crash; there was a popular outbreak or two in Vienna; there were three or four days of furious rioting in Prague, followed by the establishing there of martial law; the Jews and Germans were harried and plundered, and their houses destroyed; in other Bohemian towns there was rioting–in some cases the Germans being the rioters, in others the Czechs–and in all cases the Jew had to roast, no matter which side he was on. Mark Twain
The show of military force in the Austrian Parliament, which precipitated the riots, was not introduced by any Jew. No Jew was a member of that body. No Jewish question was involved in the Ausgleich or in the language proposition. No Jew was insulting anybody. In short, no Jew was doing any mischief toward anybody whatsoever. In fact, the Jews were the only ones of the nineteen different races in Austria which did not have a party – they are absolutely non-participants.Yet in your article you say that in the rioting which followed, all classes of people were unanimous only on one thing, viz., in being against the Jews. (…) Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the golden rule? American Jewish lawyer
Have you heard of his [Herzl's] plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own – under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne, last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was received with decided favor. I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.
When I published the above article in Harper`s Monthly, I was ignorant — like the rest of the Christian world — of the fact that the Jew had a record as a soldier. I have since seen the official statistics, and I find that he furnished soldiers and high officers to the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. In the Civil War he was represented in the armies and navies of both the North and the South by 10 percent of his numerical strength — the same percentage that was furnished by the Christian populations of the two sections. This large fact means more than it seems to mean; for it means that the Jew`s patriotism was not merely level with the Christian`s, but overpassed it. (…) In the above article I was not able to endorse the common reproach that the Jew is willing to feed upon a country but not to fight for it, because I did not know whether it was true or false. I supposed it to be true, but it is not allowable to endorse wandering maxims upon supposition — except when one is trying to make out a case. That slur upon the Jew cannot hold up its head in presence of the figures of the War Department. It has done its work, and done it long and faithfully, and with high approval: it ought to be pensioned off now, and retired from active service. Mark Twain
In his very attempt to extol the race in question, he ratified the most inflammatory pretext for resentment. Justin Kaplan
The Jew “has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him,” Twain wrote. “He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.” But in Twain’s telling, there is scant mystery as to why Jews have been the objects of such enmity, going all the way back to the beginnings of history. In his decidedly eccentric take on Genesis 41, Joseph cornered the grain market and charged exorbitant prices when famine struck, beggaring the Egyptian nation. The real problem with Jews, Twain goes on, is that they’re too clever by half. If a Jew “entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian from the poor-house.” (…) For all that, Twain’s admiration for the Jews was genuine; it is to his credit that he wrote and published a postscript in 1904, “The Jew as Soldier,” in which he corrected his animadversions on the Jews’ “unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier.” Far from avoiding military service, he wrote, the Jews “furnished soldiers and high officers to the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. In the Civil War he was represented in the armies and navies of both the North and the South by 10 per cent of his numerical strength—the same percentage that was furnished by the Christian populations of the two sections.” The Jewish capacity for “fidelity, and for gallant soldiership in the field is as good as any one’s,” he added. Still, it is a testament to Twain’s wrongheadedness in other respects that “Concerning the Jews” sparks lively discussions on white nationalist websites to this day. What they focus on aren’t his suppositions about Jewish intellectual superiority. It is his off the cuff observations like this one: “the Jew is a money-getter. He made it the end and aim of his life. He was at it in Rome. He has been at it ever since. His success has made the whole human race his enemy. Arthur Goldwag
Mark Twain, considered America’s greatest writer, was far more than a humorist. After the Civil War, he served as America’s conscience on ethnic and racial issues. Twain defended Jews, African-Americans and Indians against prejudice. While a majority of his contemporaries negatively stereotyped the Jewish people, Twain defended Jewry in word and deed. Ironically, his major published protest against anti-Semitism alienated some of the American Jews he tried to defend. (…) In his youth, Twain held the same negative stereotypes of Jews that his neighbors embraced – that they were all acquisitive, cowardly and clannish. Hannibal, Missouri, his hometown, had only one Jewish family, the Levys, and Twain joined in hazing the young Levy sons. In 1857, Twain wrote a humorous but uncomplimentary newspaper article about Jewish coal dealers for a Keokuk, Iowa newspaper. (…) Twain replaced his earlier negative stereotype of the Jewish people with another, more positive one. (…) While Twain had meant to pay the Jewish people a compliment, his facts were inaccurate. Some of these inaccuracies would later haunt him. (…) Twain argued that prejudice against Jews derived neither from their public conduct nor their religion, but from envy that Christians felt toward Jewish economic achievements. He cited the speech of a German lawyer who wanted the Jews driven from Berlin because, according to the lawyer, "eighty-five percent of the successful lawyers of Berlin were Jews." Twain observed that envy "is a much more hate-inspiring thing than is any detail connected with religion." Twain thought Jewish success a product of their good citizenship, family loyalty, intelligence and business acumen. He thought crime and drunkenness non-existent among Jews; that they cared for their needy without burdening the larger community; and that they were honest in business. Yes, honest in business. Twain knew most of his contemporaries viewed Jewish businessmen as crooked, but he cited the very success of Jews as proof of their integrity. (…) Twain mistakenly criticized world Jewry for not taking an active role in the Dreyfus Affair. He suggested that Jews should become a political force by concentrating their votes behind single issues, candidates and parties, and that they organize military companies to raise their prestige. He believed that Jews exhibited an "unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier," and that they had made no significant contributions to American independence. (…) Twain described "Concerning the Jews" as "my gem of the ocean," but predicted "neither Jew nor Christian will approve it." In the case of America’s Jewish leadership, he proved correct. Jewish critics acknowledged Twain’s respect for Jews but bemoaned his errors of fact. They denied that Jews had played a minimal role in gaining American liberty, or that they dominated commerce, or that they shirked military duty. Several critics were especially offended by Twain’s saying that Jews had done nothing to help acquit Captain Dreyfus. His friendliest critics believed that Twain was innocently ignorant of the facts. (…) Twain took the criticism to heart. In 1904, he wrote a postscript to his essay titled "The Jew as Soldier," conceding that Jews had indeed fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War in numbers greater than their percentage of the population. This meant that "the Jew’s patriotism was not merely level with the Christian’s but overpassed it." Twain did not respond to Levy’s charges about Jews in the economy, but he never again raised this stereotype in print. Jewish Virtual library

Attention: un racisme peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où, s’il on en croit une série de rapports de l’Union Européenne enterrés comme il se doit, 40% des Européens déclarent des opinions anti-israéliennes …

Et où, pour mieux faire passer son apologie de Mahomet, le premier petit révisionniste venu nous fait du Jésus historique non seulement un chef de guerre mais un chef de guerre raté …

Pendant que, pour dénoncer la mondialisation  dans l’université française, on se paie le luxe de jouer avec le stéréotype de la "riche juive"

Retour, avec la Jewish Virtual Library, sur un texte du célèbre écrivain et pamphlétaire américain Samuel Clemens dit Mark Twain, souvent présenté comme une défense des juifs …

Le fameux "A propos des juifs" que l’auteur avait publié au retour d’un long séjour en Europe en 1898 où, de l’Affaire Dreyfus au parlement autrichien, il avait pu toucher du doigt la virulence de l’antisémitisme européen …

Mais aussi d’une question qui lui avait été posée par un juriste juif-américain sur les raisons d’un tel phénomène et les éventuelles solutions qui pouvaient y être portées …

Pour découvrir en fait, derrière l’intention indéniablement apologétique du texte (surtout si on le remet dans son contexte historique d’une population occidentale, écrivains compris, largement antisémite à une époque où les statistiques n’étaient bien sûr pas aussi disponibles qu’aujourd’hui), un ramassis d’affirmations et d’hypothèses plus ou moins sérieuses présentées comme faits …

Mais surtout, derrière les contre-stéréotypes positifs mais jamais vraiment étayés (comme le reconnaitra, dans un courageux post script, Clemens lui-même) et le vrai stéréoptype de la sur-rapacité supposée des juifs (d’un Joseph super-prévaricateur qui coule à lui tout seul l’économie égyptienne aux dangers similaires que pourrait présenter un futur Etat d’Israël !) comme mobile ultime de l’envie des autres peuples…

L’embarrassant honneur, comme l’avait prévu l’auteur lui-même, de non seulement déplaire à tous, non-juifs  comme juifs …

Mais de pouvoir être utilisé aussi bien par les philosémites que les antisémites

Mark Twain and the Jews

Jewish Virtual Library

Mark Twain, considered America’s greatest writer, was far more than a humorist. After the Civil War, he served as America’s conscience on ethnic and racial issues. Twain defended Jews, African-Americans and Indians against prejudice. While a majority of his contemporaries negatively stereotyped the Jewish people, Twain defended Jewry in word and deed. Ironically, his major published protest against anti-Semitism alienated some of the American Jews he tried to defend.

In his youth, Twain held the same negative stereotypes of Jews that his neighbors embraced – that they were all acquisitive, cowardly and clannish. Hannibal, Missouri, his hometown, had only one Jewish family, the Levys, and Twain joined in hazing the young Levy sons. In 1857, Twain wrote a humorous but uncomplimentary newspaper article about Jewish coal dealers for a Keokuk, Iowa newspaper.

Twain seems to have had a change of heart about Jews around the time of the Civil War. He confided to his daughter Suzy that "the Jews seemed to him a race to be much respected . . . they had suffered much, and had been greatly persecuted, so to ridicule or make fun of them seemed to be like attacking a man when he was already down. And of course that fact took away whatever was funny in the ridicule of a Jew.

A key moment came in 1860, when a trusted Mississippi River captain, George Newhouse, told Twain a story (the veracity of which cannot be established) about courageous Jew who boldly saved a slave girl in a poker dispute between a desperate planter and a cheating, knife-yielding gambler. The Jew killed the cheater in a duel and returned the slave girl to the planter’s daughter, who had been her mistress, friend and companion from birth. Twain later reported hearing similar versions of this story from other "eye witnesses" as well.

In the moral world of 1860, returning a slave girl to her mistress rather than freeing her was an act of chivalry and Twain saw no contradiction in it. Rather, the story led Twain to conclude that the Jewish hero was "an all-around man; a man cast in a large mould." These same words found their echo in Twain’s reaction upon learning in 1909 that his daughter Clara was engaged to a Russian-Jewish pianist, Ossip Gabtilowitsch. Twain told Clara, "Any girl could be proud to marry him. He is a man – a real man."

Twain replaced his earlier negative stereotype of the Jewish people with another, more positive one. In 1879, he wrote privately:

Sampson was a Jew – therefore not a fool. The Jews have the best average brain of any people in the world. The Jews are the only race who work wholly with their brains and never with their hands. There are no Jewish beggars, no Jewish tramps, no Jewish ditch diggers, hod-carriers, day laborers or followers of toilsome, mechanical trades. They are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy.

In truth, there were indeed impoverished Jewish beggars, as there were sweated Jewish toilers in the garment and cigar industries. Just a year earlier, New York’s Jewish cigar makers conducted a bitter, five-month strike for higher pay and shorter hours. While Twain had meant to pay the Jewish people a compliment, his facts were inaccurate. Some of these inaccuracies would later haunt him.

Twain’s personal view of Jews meant little until March 1898, when he wrote an article titled "Stirring Times in Austria." Twain had been living in and traveling around Europe to gather materials for his writing, and settled in Vienna in 1896. As part of a complicated attempt to hold together the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the face of ethnic nationalist fervor, in 1898 the imperial Hapsburg family designated Czech as the official language of Bohemia (the major province of what is now the Czech Republic), displacing the more popular German. This policy triggered rioting by German-speaking members of the Austrian parliament, who wanted German language and culture to predominate in the empire. To distract the populace, according to Twain, the Austrian government stirred up anti-Semitic feelings, and Vienna’s Jews became the victims of widespread attacks, both political and physical.

In March 1898, Harper’s Magazine published Twain’s essay. Historian Philip Foner notes, "At the very close of the lengthy article, [Twain] mentioned, without comment, the attacks on the Jews, pointing out that, although they were innocent parties in the dispute, they were ‘harried and plundered.’ Twain noted, ‘In all cases the Jew had to roast, no matter which side he was on.’"

Twain’s account generated several letters, and one poignant response in particular from an American Jewish lawyer who asked Twain "why, in your judgment, the Jews have been, and are even now, in these days of supposed intelligence, the butt of baseless, vicious animosities?" The lawyer asked, "Can American Jews do anything to correct [this prejudice] either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end?

In response, Twain penned "Concerning the Jews," which Harper’s also published. Twain expected the article to please almost no one. His prediction was correct.

Twain argued that prejudice against Jews derived neither from their public conduct nor their religion, but from envy that Christians felt toward Jewish economic achievements. He cited the speech of a German lawyer who wanted the Jews driven from Berlin because, according to the lawyer, "eighty-five percent of the successful lawyers of Berlin were Jews." Twain observed that envy "is a much more hate-inspiring thing than is any detail connected with religion."

Twain thought Jewish success a product of their good citizenship, family loyalty, intelligence and business acumen. He thought crime and drunkenness non-existent among Jews; that they cared for their needy without burdening the larger community; and that they were honest in business. Yes, honest in business. Twain knew most of his contemporaries viewed Jewish businessmen as crooked, but he cited the very success of Jews as proof of their integrity. He wrote:

A business cannot thrive where the parties do not trust each other. In the matter of numbers, the Jew counts for little in the overwhelming population of New York, but that his honesty counts for much is guaranteed by the fact that the immense wholesale business of Broadway, from the Battery to Union Square, is substantially in his hands."

Twain mistakenly criticized world Jewry for not taking an active role in the Dreyfus Affair. He suggested that Jews should become a political force by concentrating their votes behind single issues, candidates and parties, and that they organize military companies to raise their prestige. He believed that Jews exhibited an "unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier," and that they had made no significant contributions to American independence.

Commenting on the recently held first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Twain noted that Theodor Herzl had enunciated a plan to "gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own – under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose."

I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world are going to be made into a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let that race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride anymore.

Twain concluded by observing:

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then . . . passed away. The Greek and the Roman followed. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts. … All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Twain described "Concerning the Jews" as "my gem of the ocean," but predicted "neither Jew nor Christian will approve it." In the case of America’s Jewish leadership, he proved correct. Jewish critics acknowledged Twain’s respect for Jews but bemoaned his errors of fact. They denied that Jews had played a minimal role in gaining American liberty, or that they dominated commerce, or that they shirked military duty. Several critics were especially offended by Twain’s saying that Jews had done nothing to help acquit Captain Dreyfus.

His friendliest critics believed that Twain was innocently ignorant of the facts. Simon Wolf, a founder of the American Jewish Historical Society, sent Twain a copy of his book, The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen, to correct some of his misconceptions. Others, like Rabbi M. S. Levy, thought Twain’s observations were actually "tinged with malice and prejudice." Levy cited Jewish participants in the American Revolution who "fought and bled" for the new nation. He called Twain’s assertions "a libel on [the Jew’s] manhood and an outrage historically." Levy also challenged Twain’s assertion that "the Jew is a money-getter."

Money-getters? The Vanderbilts, Goulds, Astors, Havemeyers, Rockefellers, Mackays, Huntingtons, Armours, Carnegies, Sloanes, Whitneys, are not Jews, and yet they control and possess more than twenty-five per cent of all the circulated wealth of the United States.

Twain took the criticism to heart. In 1904, he wrote a postscript to his essay titled "The Jew as Soldier," conceding that Jews had indeed fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War in numbers greater than their percentage of the population. This meant that "the Jew’s patriotism was not merely level with the Christian’s but overpassed it." Twain did not respond to Levy’s charges about Jews in the economy, but he never again raised this stereotype in print.

When Twain died in 1910, the American Jewish press mourned. His obituaries in that press often reprinted the words of the president of New York’s Hebrew Technical School for Girls: "In one of Mr. Clemens’s works he expressed his opinion of men, saying he had no choice between Hebrew and Gentile, black men or white; to him, all men were alike."

Source: American Jewish Historical Society

Voir aussi:

Mark Twain’s Jews. By Dan Vogel. N.J.: KTAV Publishing House, Inc. Pp. xiv + 146. Hardcover. $22.95. ISBN 0881259160.

Barbara Schmidt

Mark Twain Forum

8 December 2006

Was Mark Twain guilty of anti-Semitism? Dan Vogel offers his answers in Mark Twain’s Jews, which documents and analyzes references to Jews in Twain’s writings. The book consists of eleven chapters, a facsimile of "Concerning the Jews" from September 1899 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, reference notes and a bibliography.

Mark Twain’s Jews begins with Twain’s first exposure to Jewish playmates, the Levin brothers, in Hannibal, Missouri. Vogel describes Hannibal as a "hotbed of bigotry" and blames the town for instilling in Twain "The Hannibal Syndrome"–a disease "normally in remission whose symptoms would intermittently, gratuitously, slither out of Mark Twain’s subconscious to infest his writings as brief, passing slurs about the Jews" (p. 3).

Vogel’s second chapter titled "Out West with Two Jews and a Righteous Gentile" examines Twain’s relationships with Artemus Ward (a gentile), Bret Harte and Joseph Goodman. Vogel’s assertion that Goodman was a Jew may come as a surprise to some Twain scholars and Vogel admits that few sources are available to confirm this supposition. However, rather than proving that Twain was aware of Goodman’s Jewish heritage, Vogel simply states, "It never occurred to Mark Twain to ever mention that his fast friend was Jewish. It was not that that made him special" (p. 19). Vogel may have made a stronger argument for positive Jewish influence if had he been familiar with Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s recent contribution to Arizona Quarterly, (Spring 2005) titled "Mark Twain and the Jews" wherein Fishkin discusses Adolph Sutro of San Francisco as a prominent influence in Twain’s development of positive feelings towards Jews. Fishkin’s essay does not appear in Vogel’s bibliography and may not have been available to him at the time his book went to press. However, it is one of several essays by Twain scholars that appears to have been overlooked by Vogel.

Vogel’s third and fourth chapters are examinations of Twain’s 1867 contributions to the San Francisco Alta California newspaper and his best-seller The Innocents Abroad. Vogel asserts that much of Twain’s emphasis on Jewish noses in descriptions of the Holy Land are the careful observations of a newspaper journalist. "However, Mark Twain’s preoccupation with the squalor, disease, and noses" (p. 35) raised criticism from at least two scholars. Vogel refutes arguments by scholar Sander Gilman who claimed Twain’s tracing of diseases was a commentary on the role of Jews in Western civilization. Vogel counters that Twain described the deplorable conditions of the Jews the same as he described all inhabitants of the Holy Land. Vogel also disputes scholar Andrea Greenbaum who believed Twain was influenced by theories of "pseudoscience of ethnology" that were popular at the time. Vogel argues that Greenbaum never cited any such works in Mark Twain’s personal library nor found evidence of it elsewhere in his writing.

Vogel finds only a small number of Jewish references in Twain’s writings during his most productive years between 1867-1897. Among these are anti-Jewish comments in a letter to Henry H. Rogers about Broadway producer Daniel Frohman. Vogel points out that Frohman recalled in his memoirs that he and Twain played amicable games of pool each night together while engaged in litigation against one other. Vogel suggests that Twain could have emulated Dickens’s creation of Fagin the Jew (from Oliver Twist) or followed the trend of Christian "popular scribblers" by creating greedy Jewish characters in the form of the Duke and the Dauphin in Huckleberry Finn. But he did not. Vogel states "the silence of the missed opportunity in his creative years speaks of his basic humanity" (p. 46).

In a chapter titled "A Triad of European Jews" Vogel discusses Twain’s numerous writings on the Alfred Dreyfus affair, his friendship with journalist Theodor Herzl, and his association with Sigmund Freud. Twain apparently never met Dreyfus but continually condemned the French miscarriage of justice in Dreyfus’s conviction for treason. Vogel discusses Theodor Herzl’s play The New Ghetto and Twain’s interest in translating the work, which featured an innocent Jew and a Christian villain who compromises their friendship for political and personal gain. Twain’s relationship with Sigmund Freud is not well documented but Freud’s admiration of Twain is.

In a chapter titled "Shock Treatment in Vienna" Vogel examines Twain’s visit to the Austrian parliament and the resulting "Stirring Times in Austria" essay published a few months later in March 1898 Harper’s. Twain reported the Jewish slurs and insults he heard hurled around the parliament and the fights that broke out on the floor. Vogel sees "Stirring Times in Austria" as the stimulus for Twain’s major statement on the Jewish race the following year–"Concerning the Jews."

As one might expect, the longest chapter in Vogel’s book is devoted to analyzing "Concerning the Jews." Vogel identifies the two motifs of Twain’s essay as the Jews’ ability to acquire money and the envy it arouses in those less successful and how Jews should guard themselves against this reaction by organizing their political power. Vogel’s explanation of Twain’s indictment of the Biblical Joseph as a cruel money-grabber is that Twain’s intent was to prove that prejudices that are instilled early are never entirely erased. Vogel does not include in his bibliography the studies of Mark Twain’s writings on Joseph by Twain scholars Lawrence Berkove and Louis J. Budd. Budd’s statement that "even Twain should have seen that it did not help his own side to describe Joseph as the greediest stockmarket wolf in all history" was certainly worth quoting.

One passage in "Concerning the Jews" that has been controversial among scholars is Twain’s statement, ". . .if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world was going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let that race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride anymore." Vogel believes that Twain’s "sense of humor went awry at this point in his essay" (p. 79).

Vogel provides his readers with summaries of reactions to "Concerning the Jews" from the Jewish community in America and London–"Misdirected, misguided, narrowly educated on this subject, Mark Twain was still, after all, a friend" (p. 84). As a result of criticism concerning Twain’s statements regarding the pacifist posture of Jews, subsequent reprintings of "Concerning the Jews" include Twain’s "Postscript–The Jew as a Soldier." Vogel points out that "Concerning the Jews" is still controversial because "the ‘Jewish Question’ has not been answered, not in 1899 nor thereafter" (p. 86). Vogel concludes that Twain’s misspent humor in "Concerning the Jews" indicated he had not yet fully recovered from the "Hannibal syndrome."

In a chapter titled "Two Fantasies and a Twice-Told Tale" Vogel examines the positive characteristics of Solomon Goldstein in Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven (contained in a passage that was not published in Twain’s lifetime) and Solomon Isaacs from The Mysterious Stranger manuscripts. "Newhouse’s Jew Story" and its longer version "Randall’s Jew Story," is a story of a brave Jew defending a Negro girl and Vogel offers the theory that Twain wrote the story in response to criticism he received from "Concerning the Jews." Vogel laments the fact that it was too late in Twain’s creative life to build good fiction around positive Jewish characters. However, Vogel believes these final works indicate Twain had at last cured himself of the "Hannibal syndrome."

Vogel’s book concludes with a brief account of Twain’s activities in Jewish social events during the last years of his life and the marriage of his daughter Clara to Ossip Gabrilowitsch, a Russian Jew. In the final analysis Vogel concludes that the worst Twain could be accused of is innocent anti-Semitic writing in his early career.

In addition to Sander Gilman and Andrea Greenbaum, Vogel disagrees with interpretations of Twain’s work published by scholars Jude Nixon, Cynthia Ozick, and Susan Gillman. (See their citations in the end notes below.) Vogel provides worthy arguments against their positions.

Vogel was a professor at Yeshiva University and later head of the English Department at Michlalah-Jerusalem College. Mark Twain’s Jews will be a good companion to Arizona Quarterly, Spring 2005 which contains Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s "Mark Twain and the Jews." While the two works overlap, there is much to distinguish both and help further the understanding of the Jewish-related debates that arise in Twain studies.

_____

End Notes:

Essays that contain interpretations of Twain’s work with which Vogel disagrees include:

Susan Gillman. "Mark Twain’s Travels in the Racial Occult: Following the Equator and the Dream Tales," Cambridge Companion to Mark Twain (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Sander Gilman. "Mark Twain and the Diseases of the Jews," American Literature, March 1993.

Andrea Greenbaum. "‘A Number-One Troublemaker’: Mark Twain’s Anti-Semitic Discourse in ‘Concerning the Jews’," Studies in American-Jewish Literature, 1996.

Jude Nixon. "Social Philosophy," The Mark Twain Encyclopedia (Garland Publishing, 1993).

Cynthia Ozick. "Mark Twain and the Jews," Commentary, May 1995. Also "Introduction," The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories and Essays (Oxford University Press, 1996).

Essays by Twain scholars that are not referenced in Vogel’s bibliography include:

Lawrence Berkove. "Mark Twain’s Hostility Toward Joseph," CEA Critic, Summer 2000.

Louis J. Budd. "Mark Twain on Joseph the Patriarch," American Quarterly, Winter 1964.

Shelley Fisher Fishkin. "Mark Twain and the Jews," Arizona Quarterly, (Spring 2005).

Voir encore:

Arthur Goldwag on the perplexing prejudices of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain

Guest blog post by Arthur Goldwag, author of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right

 Library of America

February 21, 2012

American letters has had more than its share of haters. Henry Adams, T. S. Eliot, H. L. Mencken and Ezra Pound leap immediately to mind; there are countless other examples as well. Though most merely reflect the prevailing attitudes of their time, class, and place, it’s natural for a reader to feel a sense of disappointment when she comes up against their prejudices. We want our literary writers to be, if not necessarily ahead of their times, at least outside of them. Faulkner’s racial politics were disappointingly retrograde and boilerplate when he expressed them in his own voice, but the characters in his novels, black and white alike, were, in Allen Tate’s words, “characters in depth, complex and, like all other people, ultimately mysterious.” Walt Whitman and Mark Twain’s attitudes about Catholics and Jews are at once offensive and well-intended; neither could be described as a hater, though both employed hateful tropes.

Fanny Fern, America’s first female newspaper columnist, was one of the early reviewers of Leaves of Grass. “The world needed a ‘Native American’ of thorough out and out breed,” she wrote in The New York Ledger on May 10, 1856, “Something beside a mere Catholic-hating Know-Nothing.” The Know-Nothings, of course, were members of the explicitly anti-Catholic political movement that arose in the 1840s.

Whitman might have celebrated “the nation of many nations” in his poetry, but what Fanny Fern didn’t know was that as a young newspaperman in the early 1840s, he had been something of a Know-Nothing himself, editorializing in The New York Aurora about the “gang of false and villainous priests whose despicable souls never generate any aspiration beyond their own narrow and horrible and beastly superstition…dregs of foreign filth—refuse of convents.” But as ethnocentric as his rhetoric undoubtedly was, it wasn’t inconsistent with his ethos. Whitman hated the authoritarianism of the Catholic hierarchy, not the Catholic immigrants themselves. Writing in Democratic Vistas in 1871, he envisioned a democracy that would supplant the “old belief in the necessary absoluteness of establish’d dynastic rulership, temporal, ecclesiastical, and scholastic” with the “doctrine or theory that man, properly train’d in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws, unto himself.”

“I have no race prejudices,” Mark Twain averred, “and I think I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being—that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse. I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show.”

Huckleberry Finn critiqued antebellum southern norms from a vantage that was outside the verge of respectability; its racial politics are profoundly subversive—probably more so than its author intended. Though Twain has been rightly celebrated as a philo-Semite (one of his daughters would marry a Jew), he would perpetuate some of the most invidious—and inflammatory—Jewish stereotypes. While living in Vienna in the late 1890s, Twain wrote about the rise of Karl Lueger, who was elected the city’s mayor in 1895, and the anti-Semitic political movement he spearheaded. When an American Jew, responding to the article, asked Twain to speculate on the causes of Jew hatred, he ventured an elaborate, five-part answer. “Concerning the Jews” appeared in Harpers Magazine in 1898. As biographer Justin Kaplan has noted, “in his very attempt to extol the race in question, he ratified the most inflammatory pretext for resentment.”

The Jew “has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him,” Twain wrote. “He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.” But in Twain’s telling, there is scant mystery as to why Jews have been the objects of such enmity, going all the way back to the beginnings of history. In his decidedly eccentric take on Genesis 41, Joseph cornered the grain market and charged exorbitant prices when famine struck, beggaring the Egyptian nation. The real problem with Jews, Twain goes on, is that they’re too clever by half. If a Jew “entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian from the poor-house.”

Twain’s take on the idea of political Zionism is chilling. “Have you heard of [Dr. Herzl’s] plan?” he wrote. “He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own—under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose . . . I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.”

As dark as Twain’s view of humanity might have been, Hitler and the Holocaust were beyond his capacity to imagine. “Among the high civilizations,” he wrote, the Jew “seems to be very comfortably situated indeed, and to have more than his proportionate share of the prosperities going. It has that look in Vienna. I suppose the race prejudice cannot be removed; but he can stand that; it is no particular matter.”

For all that, Twain’s admiration for the Jews was genuine; it is to his credit that he wrote and published a postscript in 1904, “The Jew as Soldier,” in which he corrected his animadversions on the Jews’ “unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier.” Far from avoiding military service, he wrote, the Jews “furnished soldiers and high officers to the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. In the Civil War he was represented in the armies and navies of both the North and the South by 10 per cent of his numerical strength—the same percentage that was furnished by the Christian populations of the two sections.” The Jewish capacity for “fidelity, and for gallant soldiership in the field is as good as any one’s,” he added.

Still, it is a testament to Twain’s wrongheadedness in other respects that “Concerning the Jews” sparks lively discussions on white nationalist websites to this day. What they focus on aren’t his suppositions about Jewish intellectual superiority. It is his off the cuff observations like this one: “the Jew is a money-getter. He made it the end and aim of his life. He was at it in Rome. He has been at it ever since. His success has made the whole human race his enemy.”

Also of interest:

“Mark Twain and the Jews” on Jewish Virtual Library discusses the reaction of contemporary American Jews to “Concerning the Jews”

In “Walt Whitman & the Irish” on The Walt Whitman Archive Joann Krieg tracks how Whitman’s attitudes toward Catholics and the Irish evolved

"A Presidential Candidate" by Mark Twain, this week’s Story of the Week

"Mark Twain and William Dean Howells: the friendship that transformed American literature," a previous Reader’s Almanac post

Related LOA works: Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose (includes Democratic Vistas); Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches & Essays 1891-1910 (includes “Concerning the Jews” and the 1904 postscript “The Jew as Soldier”)

Voir enfin:

Concerning The Jews

Mark Twain

Harper’s Magazine

March 1898

Some months ago I published a magazine article descriptive of a remarkable scene in the Imperial Parliament in Vienna. Since then I have received from Jews in America several letters of inquiry. They were difficult letters to answer, for they were not very definite. But at last I have received a definite one. It is from a lawyer, and he really asks the questions which the other writers probably believed they were asking. By help of this text I will do the best I can to publicly answer this correspondent, and also the others – at the same time apologizing for having failed to reply privately. The lawyer’s letter reads as follows:

I have read ‘Stirring Times in Austria.’ One point in particular is of vital import to not a few thousand people, including myself, being a point about which I have often wanted to address a question to some disinterested person. The show of military force in the Austrian Parliament, which precipitated the riots, was not introduced by any Jew. No Jew was a member of that body. No Jewish question was involved in the Ausgleich or in the language proposition. No Jew was insulting anybody. In short, no Jew was doing any mischief toward anybody whatsoever. In fact, the Jews were the only ones of the nineteen different races in Austria which did not have a party – they are absolutely non-participants.

Yet in your article you say that in the rioting which followed, all classes of people were unanimous only on one thing, viz., in being against the Jews. Now will you kindly tell me why, in your judgment, the Jews have thus ever been, and are even now, in these days of supposed intelligence, the butt of baseless, vicious animosities? I dare say that for centuries there has been no more quiet, undisturbing, and well-behaving citizen, as a class, than that same Jew. It seems to me that ignorance and fanaticism cannot alone account for these horrible and unjust persecutions.

"Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the Golden Rule?" I will begin by saying that if I thought myself prejudiced against the Jew, I should hold it fairest to leave this subject to a person not crippled in that way. But I think I have no such prejudice. A few years ago a Jew observed to me that there was no uncourteous reference to his people in my books, and asked how it happened. It happened because the disposition was lacking. I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it.

I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being – that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse. I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show.

All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English; it is un-American; it is French. Without this precedent Dreyfus could not have been condemned.

Of course Satan has some kind of a case, it goes without saying. It may be a poor one, but that is nothing; that can be said about any of us. As soon as I can get at the facts I will undertake his rehabilitation myself, if I can find an unpolitic publisher. It is a thing which we ought to be willing to do for any one who is under a cloud. We may not pay him reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents.

A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. In his large presence the other popes and politicians shrink to midges for the microscope. I would like to see him. I would rather see him and shake him by the tail than any other member of the European Concert.

In the present paper I shall allow myself to use the word Jew as if it stood for both religion and race. It is handy; and, besides, that is what the term means to the general world. In the above letter one notes these points:

1. The Jew is a well-behaved citizen.

2. Can ignorance and fanaticism alone account for his unjust treatment?

3. Can Jews do anything to improve the situation?

4. The Jews have no party; they are non-participants.

5. Will the persecution ever come to an end?

6. What has become of the Golden Rule?

Point No. 1.

We must grant proposition No. 1 for several sufficient reasons. The Jew is not a disturber of the peace of any country. Even his enemies will concede that. He is not a loafer, he is not a sot, he is not noisy, he is not a brawler nor a rioter, he is not quarrelsome. In the statistics of crime his presence is conspicuously rare – in all countries. With murder and other crimes of violence he has but little to do: he is a stranger to the hangman. In the police court’s daily long roll of "assaults" and "drunk and disorderlies" his name seldom appears.

That the Jewish home is a home in the truest sense is a fact which no one will dispute. The family is knitted together by the strongest affections; its members show each other every due respect; and reverence for the elders is an inviolate law of the house. The Jew is not a burden on the charities of the state nor of the city; these could cease from their functions without affecting him.

When he is well enough, he works; when he is incapacitated, his own people take care of him. And not in a poor and stingy way, but with a fine and large benevolence. His race is entitled to be called the most benevolent of all the races of men. A Jewish beggar is not impossible, perhaps; such a thing may exist, but there are few men that can say they have seen that spectacle. The Jew has been staged in many uncomplimentary forms, but, so far as I know, no dramatist has done him the injustice to stage him as a beggar. Whenever a Jew has real need to beg, his people save him from the necessity of doing it. The charitable institutions of the Jews are supported by Jewish money, and amply. The Jews make no noise about it; it is done quietly; they do not nag and pester and harass us for contributions; they give us peace, and set us an example – an example which we have not found ourselves able to follow; for by nature we are not free givers, and have to be patiently and persistently hunted down in the interest of the unfortunate.

These facts are all on the credit side of the proposition that the Jew is a good and orderly citizen. Summed up, they certify that he is quiet, peaceable, industrious, unaddicted to high crimes and brutal dispositions; that his family life is commendable; that he is not a burden upon public charities; that he is not a beggar; that in benevolence he is above the reach of competition. These are the very quint-essentials of good citizenship. If you can add that he is as honest as the average of his neighbors – But I think that question is affirmatively answered by the fact that he is a successful business man.

The basis of successful business is honesty; a business cannot thrive where the parties to it cannot trust each other. In the matter of numbers of the Jew counts for little in the overwhelming population of New York; but that his honesty counts for much is guaranteed by the fact that the immense wholesale business houses of Broadway, from the Battery to Union Square, is substantially in his hands. I suppose that the most picturesque example in history of a trader’s trust in his fellow-trader was one where it was not Christian trusting Christian, but Christian trusting Jew.

That Hessian Duke who used to sell his subjects to George III. to fight George Washington with got rich at it; and by-and-by, when the wars engendered by the French Revolution made his throne too warm for him, he was obliged to fly the country. He was in a hurry, and had to leave his earnings behind – $9,000,000. He had to risk the money with some one without security. He did not select a Christian, but a Jew – a Jew of only modest means, but of high character; a character so high that it left him lonesome – Rothschild of Frankfort. Thirty years later, when Europe had become quiet and safe again, the Duke came back from overseas, and the Jew returned the loan, with interest added.

[Footnote *: Here is another piece of picturesque history; and it reminds us that shabbiness and dishonesty are not the monopoly of any race or creed, but are merely human:

"Congress has passed a bill to pay $379.56 to Moses Pendergrass, of Libertyville, Missouri. The story of the reason of this liberality is pathetically interesting, and shows the sort of pickle that an honest man may get into who undertakes to do an honest job of work for Uncle Sam. In 1886 Moses Pendergrass put in a bid for the contract to carry the mail on the route from Knob Lick to Libertyville and Coffman, thirty miles a day, from July 1, 1887, for one year. He got the postmaster at Knob Lick to write the letter for him, and while Moses intended that his bid should be $400, his scribe carelessly made it $4. Moses got the contract, and did not find out about the mistake until the end of the first quarter, when he got his first pay. When he found at what rate he was working he was sorely cast down, and opened communication with the Post-Office Department.

The department informed him that he must either carry out his contract or throw it up, and that if he threw it up his bondsmen would have to pay the government $1459.85 damages. So Moses carried out his contract, walked thirty miles every week-day for a year, and carried the mail, and received for his labor $4 - or, to be accurate, $6.84; for, the route being extended after his bid was accepted, the pay was proportionately increased. Now, after ten years, a bill was finally passed to pay to Moses the difference between what he earned in that unlucky year and what he received."

The Sun, which tells the above story, says that bills were introduced in three or four Congresses for Moses' relief, and that committees repeatedly investigated his claim. It took six Congresses, containing in their persons the compressed virtues of 70,000,000 of people, and cautiously and carefully giving expression to those virtues in the fear of God and the next election, eleven years to find out some way to cheat a fellow-Christian out of about $13 on his honestly executed contract, and out of nearly $300 due him on its enlarged terms. And they succeeded.

During the same time they paid out $1,000,000,000 in pensions - a third of it unearned and undeserved. This indicates a splendid all-around competency in theft, for it starts with farthings, and works its industries all the way up to ship-loads. It may be possible that the Jews can beat this, but the man that bets on it is taking chances.]

The Jew has his other side. He has some discreditable ways, though he has not a monopoly of them, because he cannot get entirely rid of vexatious Christian competition. We have seen that he seldom transgresses the laws against crimes of violence. Indeed, his dealings with courts are almost restricted to matters connected with commerce. He has a reputation for various small forms of cheating, and for practising oppressive usury, and for burning himself out to get the insurance, and for arranging cunning contracts which leave him an exit but lock the other man in, and for smart evasions which find him safe and comfortable just within the strict letter of the law, when court and jury know very well that he has violated the spirit of it.

He is a frequent and faithful and capable officer in the civil service, but he is charged with an unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier – like the Christian Quaker. Now if you offset these discreditable features by the creditable ones summarized in a preceding paragraph beginning with the words, "These facts are all on the credit side," and strike a balance, what must the verdict be? This, I think: that, the merits and demerits being fairly weighed and measured on both sides, the Christian can claim no superiority over the Jew in the matter of good citizenship. Yet in all countries, from the dawn of history, the Jew has been persistently and implacably hated, and with frequency persecuted.

Point No. 2.

"Can fanaticism alone account for this?" Years ago I used to think that it was responsible for nearly all of it, but latterly I have come to think that this was an error. Indeed, it is now my conviction that it is responsible for hardly any of it. In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii. We have all thoughtfully – or unthoughtfully – read the pathetic story of the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph, with that opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human liberty – a corner whereby he took a nation’s money all away, to the last penny; took a nation’s livestock all away, to the last hoof; took a nation’s land away, to the last acre; then took the nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, till all were slaves; a corner which took everything, left nothing; a corner so stupendous that, by comparison with it, the most gigantic corners in subsequent history are but baby things, for it dealt in hundreds of millions of bushels, and its profits were reckonable by hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was a disaster so crushing that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day, more than three thousand years after the event.

Is it presumable that the eye of Egypt was upon Joseph the foreign Jew all this time? I think it likely. Was it friendly? We must doubt it. Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would survive long in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be familiarly used to express that character – like Shylock’s? It is hardly to be doubted.

Let us remember that this was centuries before the crucifixion. I wish to come down eighteen hundred years later and refer to a remark made by one of the Latin historians. I read it in a translation many years ago, and it comes back to me now with force. It was alluding to a time when people were still living who could have seen the Savior in the flesh. Christianity was so new that the people of Rome had hardly heard of it, and had but confused notions of what it was.

The substance of the remark was this: Some Christians were persecuted in Rome through error, they being "mistaken for Jews." The meaning seems plain. These pagans had nothing against Christians, but they were quite ready to persecute Jews. For some reason or other they hated a Jew before they even knew what a Christian was. May I not assume, then, that the persecution of Jews is a thing which antedates Christianity and was not born of Christianity? I think so.

What was the origin of the feeling? When I was a boy, in the back settlements of the Mississippi Valley, where a gracious and beautiful Sunday-school simplicity and unpracticality prevailed, the "Yankee" (citizen of the New England States) was hated with a splendid energy. But religion had nothing to do with it. In a trade, the Yankee was held to be about five times the match of the Westerner. His shrewdness, his insight, his judgment, his knowledge, his enterprise, and his formidable cleverness in applying these forces were frankly confessed, and most competently cursed.

In the cotton States, after the war, the simple and ignorant negroes made the crops for the white planter on shares. The Jew came down in force, set up shop on the plantation, supplied all the negro’s wants on credit, and at the end of the season was proprietor of the negro’s share of the present crop and of part of his share of the next one. Before long, the whites detested the Jew, and it is doubtful if the negro loved him.

The Jew is being legislated out of Russia. The reason is not concealed. The movement was instituted because the Christian peasant and villager stood no chance against his commercial abilities. He was always ready to lend money on a crop, and sell vodka and other necessaries of life on credit while the crop was growing. When settlement day came he owned the crop; and next year or year after he owned the farm, like Joseph.

In the dull and ignorant England of John’s time everybody got into debt to the Jew. He gathered all lucrative enterprises into his hands; he was the king of commerce; he was ready to be helpful in all profitable ways; he even financed crusades for the rescue of the Sepulchre. To wipe out his account with the nation and restore business to its natural and incompetent channels he had to be banished the realm.

For the like reasons Spain had to banish him four hundred years ago, and Austria about a couple of centuries later. In all the ages Christian Europe has been obliged to curtail his activities. If he entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian from the poor-house.

Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by statute till practically none was left. He was forbidden to engage in agriculture; he was forbidden to practise law; he was forbidden to practise medicine, except among Jews; he was forbidden the handicrafts. Even the seats of learning and the schools of science had to be closed against this tremendous antagonist.

Still, almost bereft of employments, he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich. Also ways to invest his takings well, for usury was not denied him. In the hard conditions suggested, the Jew without brains could not survive, and the Jew with brains had to keep them in good training and well sharpened up, or starve. Ages of restriction to the one tool which the law was not able to take from him – his brain – have made that tool singularly competent; ages of compulsory disuse of his hands have atrophied them, and he never uses them now.

This history has a very, very commercial look, a most sordid and practical commercial look, the business aspect of a Chinese cheap-labor crusade. Religious prejudices may account for one part of it, but not for the other nine. Protestants have persecuted Catholics, but they did not take their livelihoods away from them. The Catholics have persecuted the Protestants with bloody and awful bitterness, but they never closed agriculture and the handicrafts against them. Why was that? That has the candid look of genuine religious persecution, not a trade-union boycott in a religious disguise.

The Jews are harried and obstructed in Austria and Germany, and lately in France; but England and America give them an open field and yet survive. Scotland offers them an unembarrassed field too, but there are not many takers. There are a few Jews in Glasgow, and one in Aberdeen; but that is because they can’t earn enough to get away. The Scotch pay themselves that compliment, but it is authentic.

I feel convinced that the Crucifixion has not much to do with the world’s attitude towards the Jew; that the reasons for it are older than that event, as suggested by Egypt’s experience and by Rome’s regret for having persecuted an unknown quantity called a Christian, under the mistaken impression that she was merely persecuting a Jew. Merely a Jew – a skinned eel who was used to it, presumably.

I am persuaded that in Russia, Austria, and Germany nine-tenths of the hostility to the Jew comes from the average Christian’s inability to compete successfully with the average Jew in business – in either straight business or the questionable sort. In Berlin, a few years ago, I read a speech which frankly urged the expulsion of the Jews from Germany; and the agitator’s reason was as frank as his proposition.

It was this: that eighty-five per cent. of the successful lawyers of Berlin were Jews, and that about the same percentage of the great and lucrative businesses of all sorts in Germany were in the hands of the Jewish race! Isn’t it an amazing confession? It was but another way of saying that in a population of 48,000,000, of whom only 500,000 were registered as Jews, eight-five per cent. of the brains and honesty of the whole was lodged in the Jews.

I must insist upon the honesty – it is an essential of successful business, taken by and large. Of course it does not rule out rascals entirely, even among Christians, but it is a good working rule, nevertheless. The speaker’s figures may have been inexact, but the motive of persecution stands out as clear as day. The man claimed that in Berlin the banks, the newspapers, the theatres, the great mercantile, shipping, mining, and manufacturing interests, the big army and city contracts, the tramways, and pretty much all other properties of high value, and also the small businesses, were in the hands of the Jews.

He said the Jew was pushing the Christian to the wall all along the line; that it was all a Christian could do to scrape together a living; and that the Jew must be banished, and soon – there was no other way of saving the Christian.

Here in Vienna, last autumn, an agitator said that all these disastrous details were true of Austria-Hungary also; and in fierce language he demanded the expulsion of the Jews. When politicians come out without a blush and read the baby act in this frank way, unrebuked, it is a very good indication that they have a market back of them, and know where to fish for votes. You note the crucial point of the mentioned agitation; the argument is that the Christian cannot compete with the Jew, and that hence his very bread is in peril. To human beings this is a much more hate-inspiring thing than is any detail connected with religion.

With most people, of a necessity, bread and meat take first rank, religion second. I am convinced that the persecution of the Jew is not due in any large degree to religious prejudice. No, the Jew is a money-getter; and in getting his money he is a very serious obstruction to less capable neighbors who are on the same quest. I think that that is the trouble.

In estimating worldly values the Jew is not shallow, but deep. With precocious wisdom he found out in the morning of time that some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and that over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite – but that they all worship money; so he made it the end and aim of his life to get it.

He was at it in Egypt thirty-six centuries ago; he was at it in Rome when that Christian got persecuted by mistake for him; he has been at it ever since. The cost to him has been heavy; his success has made the whole human race his enemy – but it has paid, for it has brought him envy, and that is the only thing which men will sell both soul and body to get.

He long ago observed that a millionaire commands respect, a two-millionaire homage, a multi-millionaire the deepest deeps of adoration. We all know that feeling; we have seen it express itself. We have noticed that when the average man mentions the name of a multi-millionaire he does it with that mixture in his voice of awe and reverence and lust which burns in a Frenchman’s eye when it falls on another man’s centime.

Point No. 3.

"Can Jews do anything to improve the situation?" I think so. If I may make a suggestion without seeming to be trying to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs, I will offer it. In our days we have learned the value of combination. We apply it everywhere – in railway systems, in trusts, in trade unions, in Salvation Armies, in minor politics, in major politics, in European Concerts. Whatever our strength may be, big or little, we organize it. We have found out that that is the only way to get the most out of it that is in it. We know the weakness of individual sticks, and the strength of the concentrated fagot.

Suppose you try a scheme like this, for instance. In England and America put every Jew on the census-book as a Jew (in case you have not been doing that). Get up volunteer regiments composed of Jews solely, and, when the drum beats, fall in and go to the front, so as to remove the reproach that you have few Massenas among you, and that you feed on a country but don’t like to fight for it. Next, in politics, organize your strength, band together, and deliver the casting vote where you can, and, where you can’t, compel as good terms as possible.

You huddle to yourselves already in all countries, but you huddle to no sufficient purpose, politically speaking. You do not seem to be organized, except for your charities. There you are omnipotent; there you compel your due of recognition – you do not have to beg for it. It shows what you can do when you band together for a definite purpose. And then from America and England you can encourage your race in Austria, France, and Germany, and materially help it.

It was a pathetic tale that was told by a poor Jew in Galicia a fortnight ago during the riots, after he had been raided by the Christian peasantry and despoiled of everything he had. He said his vote was of no value to him, and he wished he could be excused from casting it, for, indeed, casting it was a sure damage to him, since no matter which party he voted for, the other party would come straight and take its revenge out of him.

Nine per cent. of the population of the empire, these Jews, and apparently they cannot put a plank into any candidate’s platform! If you will send our Irish lads over here I think they will organize your race and change the aspect of the Reichsrath.

You seem to think that the Jews take no hand in politics here, that they are "absolutely non-participants." I am assured by men competent to speak that this is a very large error, that the Jews are exceedingly active in politics all over the empire, but that they scatter their work and their votes among the numerous parties, and thus lose the advantages to be had by concentration. I think that in America they scatter too, but you know more about that than I do.

Speaking of concentration, Dr. Herzl has a clear insight into the value of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own – under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne, last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was received with decided favor.

I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.

Point No. 4.

"The Jews have no party; they are non-participants." Perhaps you have let the secret out and given yourself away. It seems hardly a credit to the race that it is able to say that; or to you, sir, that you can say it without remorse; more than you should offer it as a plea against maltreatment, injustice, and oppression. Who gives the Jew the right, who gives any race the right, to sit still, in a free country, and let somebody else look after its safety?

The oppressed Jew was entitled to all pity in the former times under brutal autocracies, for he was weak and friendless, and had no way to help his case. But he has ways now, and he has had them for a century, but I do not see that he has tried to make serious use of them. When the Revolution set him free in France it was an act of grace – the grace of other people; he does not appear in it as a helper. I do not know that he helped when England set him free. Among the Twelve Sane Men of France who have stepped forward with great Zola at their head to fight (and win, I hope and believe ^*) the battle for the most infamously misused Jew of modern times, do you find a great or rich or illustrious Jew helping?

In the United States he was created free in the beginning – he did not need to help, of course. In Austria and Germany and France he has a vote, but of what considerable use is it to him? He doesn’t seem to know how to apply it to the best effect. With all his splendid capacities and all his fat wealth he is to-day not politically important in any country. In America, as early as 1854, the ignorant Irish hod-carrier, who had a spirit of his own and a way of exposing it to the weather, made it apparent to all that he must be politically reckoned with; yet fifteen years before that we hardly knew what an Irishman looked like.

As an intelligent force and numerically, he has always been away down, but he has governed the country just the same. It was because he was organized. It made his vote valuable – in fact, essential.

You will say the Jew is everywhere numerically feeble. That is nothing to the point – with the Irishman’s history for an object-lesson. But I am coming to your numerical feebleness presently. In all parliamentary countries you could no doubt elect Jews to the legislatures – and even one member in such a body is sometimes a force which counts. How deeply have you concerned yourselves about this in Austria, France, and Germany? Or even in America, for that matter? You remark that the Jews were not to blame for the riots in this Reichsrath here, and you add with satisfaction that there wasn’t one in that body. That is not strictly correct; if it were, would it not be in order for you to explain it and apologize for it, not try to make a merit of it?

But I think that the Jew was by no means in as large force there as he ought to have been, with his chances. Austria opens the suffrage to him on fairly liberal terms, and it must surely be his own fault that he is so much in the background politically. As to your numerical weakness. I mentioned some figures awhile ago – 500,000 – as the Jewish population of Germany. I will add some more – 6,000,000 in Russia, 5,000,000 in Austria, 250,000 in the United States. I take them from memory; I read them in the Cyclopaedia Britannica ten or twelve years ago. Still, I am entirely sure of them.

If those statistics are correct, my argument is not as strong as it ought to be as concerns America, but it still has strength. It is plenty strong enough as concerns Austria, for ten years ago 5,000,000 was nine per cent. of the empire’s population. The Irish would govern the Kingdom of Heaven if they had a strength there like that.

I have some suspicions; I got them at second-hand, but they have remained with me these ten or twelve years. When I read in the C. B. that the Jewish population of the United States was 250,000, I wrote the editor, and explained to him that I was personally acquainted with more Jews than that in my country, and that his figures were without a doubt a misprint for 25,000,000. I also added that I was personally acquainted with that many there; but that was only to raise his confidence in me, for it was not true.

His answer miscarried, and I never got it; but I went around talking about the matter, and people told me they had reason to suspect that for business reasons many Jews whose dealings were mainly with the Christians did not report themselves as Jews in the census. It looked plausible; it looks plausible yet. Look at the city of New York; and look at Boston, and Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and Chicago, and Cincinnati, and San Francisco – how your race swarms in those places! – and everywhere else in America, down to the least little village.

Read the signs on the marts of commerce and on the shops; Goldstein (gold stone), Edelstein (precious stone), Blumenthal (flower-vale), Rosenthal (rose-vale), Veilchenduft (violet odor), Singvogel (song-bird), Rosenzweig (rose branch), and all the amazing list of beautiful and enviable names which Prussia and Austria glorified you with so long ago. It is another instance of Europe’s coarse and cruel persecution of your race; not that it was coarse and cruel to outfit it with pretty and poetical names like those, but that it was coarse and cruel to make it pay for them or else take such hideous and often indecent names that to-day their owners never use them; or, if they do, only on official papers.

And it was the many, not the few, who got the odious names, they being too poor to bribe the officials to grant them better ones. Now why was the race renamed? I have been told that in Prussia it was given to using fictitious names, and often changing them, so as to beat the tax-gatherer, escape military service, and so on; and that finally the idea was hit upon of furnishing all the inmates of a house with one and the same surname, and then holding the hous