France/US: Cachez ce rêve américain que je ne saurai voir (Protestant work ethic 101: Cadillac shamelessly celebrates American dream and enrages both espresso-sipping French and US liberals)

13 avril, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/files/2014/04/oecd.pnghttp://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/full-width/images/2013/09/blogs/free-exchange/working_hours_picture_1_2.pngJ’entends chanter l’Amérique, j’entends ses diverses chansons, Celles des ouvriers, chacun chantant la sienne joyeuse et forte comme elle doit l’être … Walt Whitman
Fier d’être le Charcutier, l’Outilleur, l’Empileur de blé, le Joueur de Chemins de fer et le Manutentionnaire de la Nation ... Carl Sandberg
Une bonne partie de ce que nous observons dans les relations entre la France et les Etats-Unis est le produit d’une structure de relations que l’on doit penser comme la confrontation entre deux impérialismes de l’universel. (…) La France est une sorte d’idéologie réalisée: être français, c’est se sentir en droit d’universaliser son intérêt particulier, cet intérêt particulier qui a pour particularité d’être universel. Et doublement en quelque sorte: universel en matière de politique, avec le modèle pur de la révolution universelle, universel en matière de culture, avec le modèle de chic (de Paris). On comprend que, bien que son monopole de l’universel soit fortement contesté, en particulier par les Etats-Unis, la France reste l’arbitre des élégances en matière de radical chic, comme on dit outre-Atlantique ; elle continue à donner le spectacle des jeux de l’universel, et, en particulier, de cet art de la transgression qui fait les avant-gardes politiques et/ou artistiques, de cette manière (qui se sent inimitable) de se sentir toujours au-delà, et au-delà du delà, de jouer avec virtuosité de tous les registres, difficile à accorder, de l’avant-gardisme politique et de l’avant-gardisme culturel (…) C’est dire que nombre des choses qui s’écrivent ou se disent, à propos de la France ou des USA ou de leurs rapports, sont le produit de l’affrontement entre deux impérialismes, entre un impérialisme en ascension et un impérialisme en déclin, et doivent sans doute beaucoup à des sentiments de revanche ou de ressentiment, sans qu’il soit exclu qu’une partie des réactions que l’on serait porté à classer dans l’antiaméricanisme du ressentiment puissent et doivent être comprises comme des stratégies de résistance légitime à des formes nouvelles d’impérialisme… (…) En fait, on ne peut attendre un progrès vers une culture réellement universelle – c’est-à-dire une culture faite de multiples traditions culturelles unifiées par la reconnaissance qu’elles s’accordent mutuellement – que des luttes entre les impérialismes de l’universel. Ces impérialismes, à travers les hommages plus ou moins hypocrites qu’ils doivent rendre à l’universel pour s’imposer, tendent à le faire avancer et, à tout le moins, à le constituer en recours susceptible d’être invoqué contre les impérialismes mêmes qui s’en réclament. Pierre Bourdieu
Pourquoi on travaille autant ? Pourquoi ? Pour ça ?  Pour tous ces trucs ? Dans d’autres pays, ils travaillent, ils rentrent tranquillement chez eux, ils s’arrêtent au café, ils se prennent tout le mois d’août pour les vacances. Tout le mois d’août ! Pourquoi vous êtes pas comme ça ? Pourquoi, nous, on est pas comme ça ? Parce qu’on est des croyants accros au travail. Voilà pourquoi ! Ces autres pays, ils nous prennent pour des fous et alors ? Est-ce que  les frères Wright étaient fous ? Bill Gates ? Les Paul ? Ali ?  On était fous quand on est allé sur la lune ?  Oui, parce que nous, on y est allé Et vous savez quoi ? On a trouvé ça ennuyeux. Alors on est reparti.  On a laissé une voiture là-bas avec les clés dessus. Vous savez pourquoi ? Parce qu’on est les seuls à pouvoir y retourner. Voilà pourquoi. Mais je m’éloigne du sujet. Vous voyez: c’est assez simple. On travaille dur, on crée ses propres chances et on sait que tout est possible. Quant à tous ces trucs ? C’est le bon côté de prendre que deux semaines de vacances en août. N’est-ce pas ? Publicité Cadillac
N’en déplaise à Louis Gallois, la croissance de la productivité horaire française est bien plus élevée que 0,8%: +1,3% en 2011 selon l’OCDE, + 1,4% selon l’Insee. Certes, en comparaison, la productivité horaire des Allemands a augmenté de 1,6% sur la même période, et de 1,5% en moyenne dans les pays de l’OCDE. Mais la productivité horaire d’un Français est parmi les plus élevée des pays industrialisés: 57,7 dollars en 2011 contre 55,3 dollars pour un Allemand et 44 dollars en moyenne dans les pays de l’OCDE. Seuls les Américains (60,3 dollars), les Norvégiens (81,5 dollars), les Néerlandais (59,8 dollars), les Luxembourgeois (78,9), les Irlandais (66,4) et les Belges (59,2) sont plus productifs. Quant à la productivité globale – la valeur ajoutée brute -, elle a augmenté de 2,7% l’an dernier, à 1789 milliards d’euros. (…) Il est toutefois faux de croire que les Français ne travaillent que 35 heures par semaine: heures supplémentaires comprises, la durée hebdomadaire de travail des salariés à temps complet était, en 2011, de 39,5 heures (52,7 heures pour les non salariés). Certes, c’est moins que les Allemands (40,4 heures en moyenne par semaine) et que l’ensemble des Européens (40,4 heures). Mais, au total en 2011, les Français ont travaillé 1475 heures selon l’OCDE, contre 1411 heures pour les Allemands! Car si l’Allemagne n’a pas réduit le temps de travail des salariés à temps plein, elle a en revanche massivement développé le temps partiel. Reste que les Français ont des marges de progression: la moyenne en zone euro est de 1573 heures de travail par an, et de 1775 heures dans l’ensemble des pays de l’OCDE. Ceux qui travaillent le plus sont les Mexicains (2250 heures par an) et les Sud-Coréens (2193 heures par an). L’Expansion
The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher. Alternatively, the graph above might suggest that people who work fewer hours are more productive. (…) There are aberrations, of course. Americans are relatively productive and work relatively long hours. And within the American labour force hours worked among the rich have risen while those of the poor have fallen The Economist
A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health. In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity. The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent. Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time. Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep. MORE vacations are similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm. (…) In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives. The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. The NYT
Alors que les Américains s’appauvrissent constamment depuis 2004, la tendance est inverse au Capitole où les élus sont de plus en plus riches. C’est ce que révèle une enquête publiée par le New York Times, basée sur des données du Centre pour une politique réactive (Center for Responsive Politics), et qui montre que 250 des 535 membres du Congrès américains sont millionnaires. Si l’endroit a toujours été peuplé par des personnes plutôt aisées, l’écart avec le reste du peuple n’a en revanche jamais été aussi marqué. Le revenu net médian des représentants et sénateurs culmine à 913.000 de $ (705.000 €) et ne cesse d’augmenter, quand celui des Américains dans son ensemble, continuellement en baisse, avoisine aujourd’hui les 100.000 $ (77.000 €). Plus surprenant, le revenu du Congrès a augmenté de 15% en sept ans, période durant laquelle celui des Américains les plus fortunés a pour sa part stagné. Pour tous les autres, le revenu médian a baissé de 8% pour cette même période. Si cet écart de richesse aurait pu passer inaperçu en temps normal, en pleine crise économique, il choque. Des fortunes qui dépassent les 100 millions de $. (…) Pour tenter d’expliquer comment les parlementaires font pour continuer de s’enrichir en ces temps de morosité économique, plusieurs pistes sont évoquées. Certains analystes, cités par le New York Times, estiment que c’est tout simplement parce que la politique s’adresse avant tout aux personnes aisées. Lors des élections de 2010, le coût d’une campagne victorieuse pour le Sénat s’élevait en moyenne à 10 millions de $ et à 1,4 million pour une place au sein de la Chambre des représentants. De facto, seules des personnes avec déjà des moyens conséquents sont à même de se lancer en politique. Une fois entré au Congrès, le parlementaire touche un salaire annuel de base de 174.000 $ (qui a augmenté de 10% depuis 2004, soit un peu moins que l’inflation). À ce salaire s’ajoutent plusieurs avantages auquel le citoyen lambda n’a pas accès: des primes d’ancienneté, des pensions de retraite et une sécurité sociale en or. Le Washington Post explique aussi qu’une fois en place, les sénateurs et les représentants jouissent d’un réseau et de nouveaux moyens qui leurs permettent d’augmenter leurs pécules. Les données récoltées par le Center for Responsive Politics montrent que les parlementaires feraient d’excellents résultats sur les marchés boursiers. D’après des chercheurs de l’université de Géorgie, qui ont étudié la question, ces performances seraient le fruit d’un «important avantage d’informations» dû à leurs positions. Le Figaro
Even if the clip was a bit corny and overdone, the late Paul Harvey was a masterful throaty narrator in the romantic age before the onset of America’s now ubiquitous metrosexual nasal intonation. Harvey just didn’t sound different from the present generation, but from what we suspect, he sounded different from most generations to come as well. One reason that our age cannot make a Shane, High Noon, or The Searchers is that most of our suburban Hollywood actors cannot even fake the accent of either the frontier or the tragic hero anymore. When Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall go, so goes too the last link to the cinema’s Westerner. There are no more voices like Slim Pickens or Ben Johnson. (…) It was not just Harvey’s mid-20th century voice that intrigued millions, but his unapologetic praise of the farmer’s work ethic, religiosity, and family values that he implied were at the core of American greatness, and were shared by all sorts of other American originals: the truck driver, the steel worker, or waitress whom we now all praise and yet prep our children not to be. We suspect that our kids would be better off at forty for spending a summer on a tractor at fifteen, but we just can’t seem to risk the loss of a season’s computer camp or eco-camp in the bargain. (…) I suppose the images resonated in 2013 in a way that they would have seemed passé in 1950, but not just because farmers then were about 15% of the population and now make up less than 1%, and so currently earn the added intrigue accorded to vanishing in the manner of the rhino or blue whale. The commercial instead was mostly a hit because of the sharp contrast, not just with the Petronian spectacle of today’s Super Bowl extravaganza, but also with the general tenor of the times of 2013 in particular.Victor Davis Hanson
Rather than millionaires, the spot’s targeted at customers who make around $200,000 a year. They’re consumers with a "little bit of grit under their fingernails" who "pop in and out of luxury" when and how they see fit. These are people who haven’t been given anything. Every part of success they’ve achieved has been earned through hard work and hustle. . . . One of the ways they reward themselves for their hard work is through the purchase of a luxury car … Right up front, Mr. McDonough dismisses the idea the reason American work so hard is to buy "stuff." What he’s really saying is that Americans work hard because that’s what they love to do. Luxury cars and other expensive goodies are a byproduct of success; not the objective. It’s basically saying hard work creates its own luck. In order to achieve it, you just have to believe anything’s possible. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in possibilities. It’s really about optimism. It’s really a fundamental human truth: optimism about creating your own future. It’s not about materialism. … Cadillac does not want to "guilt" people into buying an American rather than a European luxury car. The last thing in the world we want to do is comes across as: ‘It’s your duty to buy an American car.’ I don’t think anybody wakes up wanting to hear that. . . . The strategy was really to play off the consumer insights around this notion of achievement earned through hard work and hustle — and celebrating that. Since it’s a U.S.-based spot, we used metaphors to talk about other people who received their success through hard work … Reaction is running about 3-1 in favor of the spot with the young consumer audience on YouTube. But some people are offended at the perceived workaholic message when millions of people are out work and others are just getting by. Again, that’s not what Cadillac intended … We’re not making a statement saying, ‘We want people to work hard.’ What we’re saying is that hard work has its payoffs. Find something you love to do, do it incredibly well and there’s a reward for that. Whether its personal satisfaction, whether its fulfillment, whether that’s money … Rogue found and cast Mr. McDonough in an early version of the spot that they used to pitch and ultimately win Cadillac’s $250 million creative account last year. Cadillac and Rogue later went back and remade the spot with Mr. McDonough to create the version on-air now. We just liked his attitude … [It's a dissertation on American values] Sure. But what people forget is that still just a car ad. What made Cadillac happiest is consumers recognize ELR as an electric car — although Mr. McDonough never states that explicitly. It’s sparked an interesting and thought-provoking debate. Craig Bierley
The only thing to upset the early-morning serenity was the single most obnoxious television ad ever made: the one for Cadillac, in which the life of the tiniest one per cent of the one per cent is represented as an American birthright. It’s the one with the appalling guy who high-fives his kids (without looking at them) and then ends with an anti-French flourish: “You work hard; you create your own luck. And all that stuff? That’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August, n’est-ce pas?” The French is proudly mispronounced, but if any Francophone ad were as aggressively anti-American as this one is against the French, you’d be reading about it for weeks in the Wall Street Journal. That the French summer vacation is not a rule forced on the rich entrepreneur—who can scheme on his yacht all August if he likes—but a protection for the poor worker he employs, is not something that occurs to the Cadillac mind. (If you want to understand why the rest of the world likes to watch Americans lose, this ad explains it all.) Adam Gopnik
"There are plenty of things to celebrate about being American, but being possessed by a blind mania for working yourself into the ground, buying more stuff and mocking people in other countries just isn’t one of them. The Huffington Post
Why are we looking to Europe for guidance? They take the month of August off, there’s 14% unemployment, they’re welfare states. They sit around and they move at a leisurely pace. They can’t defend themselves. They rely on us for that. What in the world is there to model ourselves after? … Oh, man, I’ll tell you, they look at this as an assault on Europe. They look at it as an assault on sidewalk cafes, Starbucks and this kind of thing. They look at it as an assault on their lifestyle. Remember, these are the people telling us that you are liberated when you get fired. You’re liberated when you lose your job because now you don’t have to do some stupid job to have health care because the government will give it to you. You don’t have to work anymore. That’s where they come from. Yeah, you can finally go discover the inner artist in you, and you now can join the legion of great human beings who have painted. You can be one of them, not tied to some silly job … But that’s the lifestyle, that’s sophistication, you see. Sophistication is, work? I’ll do what I have to. I’m gonna really devote myself to what’s important. I’m going to go paint. Then I’m gonna go visit a museum. After I visit the museum, then I’m gonna go to the art gallery, and after I finish the art gallery, I’m gonna head over back to the espresso cafe. When I finish there I’m gonna head to the real bar and I’m gonna have a couple shots, maybe some white wine, maybe some Camembert. When I finish there, I’m then gonna go to the craft show at the local community center where I’m gonna learn how to knit and sew and knit and peel and whatever, and then I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna water my garden. And right before I go to bed, I’m gonna add to the poem I’ve been writing for the past month. Yes, I’ll work on my poetry. When I finish my poetry, I will then retire and go to bed. And when I awaken, I will get up, and I will hate the fact that the first part of my day is a job where I’m going to be exploited by some evil capitalist. But I’ll go do it anyway so that when it’s over I can stroll back to the espresso bar and maybe while I’m at the espresso bar, I’ll dream of inventing the flying car, and I’ll write it and scribble it out there on my Microsoft Surface, because I don’t want to the best, the iPad. No. And then I just repeat the cycle. I’ll go to a different museum and I’ll go see different displays, exhibits and so forth. That’s sophistication. That is what we should aspire to. All this hard-work stuff, what a crock. If you do work, by the way, if you do get sucked in, make sure you work for a nonprofit. In fact, the best thing you, make sure you run a nonprofit. That way you can really get paid for not doing anything. That way you’re not working for some enterprise devoted to the evil of profit. No, you’re working for a nonprofit. You will live off what other people give you and you will claim that you are better people, because you have not been soiled by the poisons of capitalism. There isn’t any profit or loss in what you do. You’re interested in public service. Then, when you finish that, it’s to the soup kitchen and the homeless shelter, just to look in, just to see that people are there, and you’ll feel great about yourself because you care. And then you’ll demand the rich pay higher taxes so that the soup kitchen doesn’t close … Here’s the thing about hard work. Hard work is hard — and, by the way, folks, not everybody loves their work. This commercial is an indication of what can happen if you work hard, even though you may not like it. But you know what this commercial really is? By the way, this commercial was originally not for an electric car. They made this ad about an electric car to try to soften the blow so it would offend these leftist wackos less. Rush Limbaugh

Cachez ce rêve américain que je ne saurai voir !

Alors qu’au pays aux éternels trois millions de chomeurs, un jeune entrepreneur  et l’organe de presse qui publiait sa tribune libre se voient assigner en justice pour avoir osé remettre en question les méthodes anticoncurrentielles d’une compagnie de taxis …

Et qu’à la suite d’un président du Très Grand Capital recordman toutes catégories des levées de fonds et des dépenses de campagne et avec le nouvel assouplissement des règles que vient de voter la Cour suprême, des parlementaires américains toujours plus riches vont pouvoir, démocrates en tête, s’enrichir un peu plus …

Comment s’étonner de la belle unanimité du tollé qu’a suscité, chez les têtes pensantes des deux côtés de l’Atlantique, la véritable ode au rêve américain et à l’éthique du travail qu’avait lancée Cadillac sur les petits écrans en février dernier pour vendre sa nouvelle berline ?

Où, au prix d’un double contresens confondant matérialisme et accomplissement personnel et critiquant la conversion d’une entreprise à l’écologie qui aurait dû les séduire (la berline est en fait hybride-électrique), nos professionnels de la nouvelle police de la pensée politiquement correcte se ruent comme un seul homme  sur le chiffon rouge de l’image d’une Amérique à nouveau fière d’elle-même

Dans une pub il est vrai où, contrairement à l’habile parodie qu’en a fait aussitôt après son concurrent Ford pour vendre sa propre voiture électrique (avec femme noire, comme il se doit, modèle de modestie et de bonne conscience écologique), la vénérable compagnie au nom si mythiquement français choisissait pour l’incarner un acteur blond et bien dans sa peau, étalant sans vergogne sa réussite et celle de son pays tout en taclant au passage les quatre semaines de congés payés d’un pays pourtant, du moins pour ceux qui ont la chance d’avoir un travail, des plus productifs  …

La pub anti-Français de Cadillac
Le Nouvel Observateur
11-04-2014

Le dernier spot de la marque de luxe laisse entendre que les Français sont des paresseux passant leur temps à se délecter des congés payés. Charming.

Les publicités pour voiture ne font pas toujours preuve d’une grande finesse. C’est le cas du dernier spot de Cadillac.

Tout commence sur fond de grosse maison américaine. Un homme, dénommé Nel McDonough, se tient devant la piscine, et pose une question existentielle : "Pourquoi travaillons-nous autant ?" "Pour tout ça", dit-il en traversant sa villa, "pour toutes ces choses matérielles".

"Dans d’autres pays, ils rentrent chez eux tôt, s’arrêtent au café et prennent des vacances tout le mois d’août", poursuit-il.

Ce "nous", ce sont bien sûr les Américains, et les "autres pays", la France avec ses 35 heures, ses congés payés et ses bistrots à tous les coins de rue.

Nel McDonough ne lésine sur aucun argument pour démontrer le caractère "ambitieux" et "acharné" des Américains dont les Français seraient dépourvus : Neil Armstrong et les premiers pas sur la lune, Bill Gates… Dans son costume gris des plus chics, Nel McDonough pour finir débranche son bolide électrique en déclarant que la vie, finalement, "c’est assez simple. Vous travaillez dur, vous créez vos propres chances, vous devez croire que tout est possible. Et tous ces biens ? C’est l’avantage de ne prendre que deux semaines de vacances en août".

Et de conclure par un clin d’œil "N’est-ce pas ?". En français bien sûr.

Voir aussi:

L’affligeante pub anti-française de Cadillac
La marque de General Motors propose dans un spot une vision caricaturale de Français forcément paresseux.
Marc Naimark
Slate
11/04/2014

Il est vaguement ironique qu’une marque automobile qui tire son nom du fondateur français du Fort Ponchartrain, devenu la ville de Detroit, décide de faire du French-bashing. Ah oui, ces Frogs, ces cheese-eating surrender monkeys, connus pour leur paresse, les 35 heures, la déconnexion de leurs mails professionnel à 18h et les quatre semaines passées à bronzer parmi les coquillages et crustacés en août! Quelle différence avec ces Yankees travailleurs, se délectant des heures passées à tout faire sauf ne rien faire.

C’est justement le trait de caractère qu’utilise Cadillac, la gamme de luxe de General Motors, qui tire son nom d’un certain Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, dans une pub télé pour son modèle ELR mettant en scène l’acteur Neil McDonough (Frères d’armes, Desperate Housewives, etc.).

Dans ce spot, McDonough se promène de sa belle piscine vers sa non moins belle villa, de la superbe cuisine de celle-ci vers son vaste salon, en nous posant une question existentielle: pourquoi travaille-t-on autant? Pour tous ces biens matériels? Pour une marque de luxe, il va de soi que la réponse, après un discours un peu erratique sur la folie américaine, sera «oui».

«N’est-ce pas?» en français dans le texte

Durant ce plaidoyer en faveur du matérialisme, McDonough oppose aux Américains «d’autres pays» (en fait, la France) où, après le boulot, on se prélasse à la terrasse d’un café, où l’on passe tout le mois d’août en vacances, où l’on sait apprécier la vie.

Ceux-là méprisent les Américains ambitieux et acharnés au travail en les traitant de fous. Mais les frères Wright, pionniers de l’aviation, n’étaient-ils pas fous? N’était-ce pas fou d’aller sur la Lune et d’y retourner plusieurs fois avant de s’en ennuyer, laissant des bagnoles là-haut, sûrs que les seuls capables d’y retourner seront des Américains (surtout, ne le dites pas aux Chinois…)?

McDonough rentre dans son dressing et ressort en costume, prêt à sortir débrancher le bolide électrique à générateur intégré garé devant sa villa, en concluant:

«Les biens matériels, c’est le bon côté de ne prendre que quinze jours de vacances.»

Avec comme conclusion, un «N’est-ce pas?» évidemment en français dans le texte.

Effort pour un monde meilleur

A la caricature du Français qui sait vivre mais qui ne connaîtra jamais le plaisir d’avoir autant de choses que l’Américain, Ford, dans une nouvelle pub qui répond à celle de Cadillac, vient d’opposer une autre vision. Le spot met en scène, non pas un acteur, mais une personne réelle, Pashon Murray, la fondatrice de Detroit Dirt, entreprise du secteur social et solidaire qui récupère les déchets pour les transformer en compost destiné aux fermes urbaines d’une Detroit dépeuplée.

Dans cette pub, calque exacte de celle de Cadillac mais pour une voiture électrique bien plus modeste, Murray propose une troisième voie: ni paresse ni obsession accumulatrice, mais l’effort pour un monde meilleur.

La pub Cadillac se voulait provocatrice et clivante. General Motors prétend que les réactions étaient largement en sa faveur, mais a néanmoins choisi de ranger ce spot au placard après l’avoir diffusé massivement lors des JO de Sotchi, au profit de spots Internet destinés à mettre en évidence les avantages d’une voiture électrique et les autres innovations luxo-technologiques de l’ELR.

Si cette pub a «marché», c’est sans doute parce qu’elle conforte des Américains qui travaillent sans relâche pour acheter des maisons plus grandes où ils ne passent que très peu de temps, pour se procurer de nouveaux objets électroniques qu’ils n’ont presque pas le temps d’utiliser, pour acheter plein de jouets à leurs enfants qu’ils ne voient jamais. Neil McDonough les rassure: ça va, c’est bien de travailler autant, vous aurez une Cadillac à la fin!

Pour les 80% d’Américains qui n’auront jamais les moyens de payer plus de 75.000 dollars une voiture, les heures sans fin, c’est pour payer les assurances santé, la garde d’enfant, un logement dans un quartier avec des écoles un peu moins pourries qu’ailleurs. Et peut-être la voiture électrique de Ford, vendue moitié moins cher que l’ELR.

Une vision d’un monde où le travail n’est ni égoïstement honni, ni égoïstement adulé, mais tout simplement une voie vers un monde meilleur. Et c’est sans doute cette vision à laquelle adhéreraient les Français, les vrais, pas les faire-valoir caricaturaux de ce spot plutôt affligeant.

Voir également:

Cadillac lance une campagne de pub « anti-France »
Romain Pomian-Bonnemaison
Terrafemina
12 avril 2014

La marque de voiture Cadillac a choisi de centrer sa dernière campagne de pub sur ce qui fait des Etats-Unis un si grand pays… surtout par rapport au « farniente » à la française. N’hésitant pas à faire passer les français pour des flemmards parce qu’il se prendraient « un mois de vacances en août », la publicité qui n’en est pas à une contradiction près – en fait presque oublier le produit qu’elle essaie de vendre. Sans vraiment faire dans la finesse.

« Dans d’autres pays, ils travaillent, reviennent à la maison en s’arrêtant au café, ils prennent leur mois d’août – en entier », répète, insondable, l’acteur Neal McDonough (Desperate Housewives, Frères d’Armes, Minority Report…). Après tout un laïus sur le matérialisme, véritable sens de l’existence (avoir une piscine, par exemple, est dépeint comme un objectif de vie suprême), la publicité se conclut par un « N’est-ce pas ? » en français dans le texte – histoire de bien souligner que les « autres pays », ça veut bien dire la France. Pour la petite histoire, le nom de l’entreprise, Cadillac, fait référence au gascon Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac, fondateur de la ville de Détroit en 1701 – une contradiction certes vague, mais non moins intéressante.

Quel est le message de Cadillac ?

Dans le détail, les poncifs véhiculés par cette publicité sont affligeants. Comme le relève Slate, les Etats-Unis, dépeints en creux, sont des maîtres incontestés dans tous les domaines – quitte à dire de belles âneries comme sur la conquête de la Lune, où il oublie que les Russes et les Chinois ont eux aussi déposé des véhicules… Et de conclure par cette phrase pas très illuminée: « Les biens matériels, c’est le bon côté de ne prendre que quinze jours de vacances », suivi de « N’est-ce pas ? ».

Voir encore:

Ford surfe sur le bad buzz de Cadillac pour sa dernière pub

maitesavin
Meltybuzz
31/03/2014
Alors que la dernière campagne de Cadillac faisait l’objet d’un bad buzz, la marque de voiture Ford a décidé de surfer sur ce bad buzz pour le tourner à son avantage en reprenant la pub au plan près !

La parodie de Cadillac par Ford

Après le bad buzz de la pub de Cadillac, Ford a retourné la situation à son avantage. En effet, en février dernier, l’acteur Neal McDonough (Dave Williams, mari d’Edie Britt dans la saison 5 de Desperate Housewives) incarnait le rêve américain matérialiste et libéral afin de promouvoir l’ELR, la berline électrique de Cadillac. Cette campagne n’avait pas fait l’unanimité et a même été qualifiée de "cauchemar". C’est alors que Team Detroit, l’agence de pub travaillant pour la marque de voitures Ford, a décidé de prendre cette pub à contre pied. Surfant sur le bad buzz qu’elle a déclenché, elle reprend plan par plan la campagne de Cadillac remplaçant l’acteur blond par l’Afro-américaine Pashon Murray. Rien ne change sauf le discours. Cette dernière porte des bottes et un pantalon de jardin et explique son mode de vie écologique, tourné vers la Terre et les autres avec sa fondation Detroit Dirt. Contrairement à Cadillac, la jeune femme ne parle en aucun cas de sa réussite, de sa richesse en vantant la suprématie américaine et taclant les 5 semaines de congés payés français. Non, Ford a su garder un discours modeste et a bien su se servir de Cadillac pour promouvoir sa propre voiture électrique !

Voir de même:

Les Français ne sont pas assez productifs: info ou intox?

Louis Gallois estime que la productivité ne croît plus suffisamment en France. Pourtant, la France a une productivité horaire des plus élevées. Mais travaille moins d’heures que ses voisins. Décryptage.

Emilie Lévêque

L’Expansion

09/11/2012

Et si le manque de compétitivité de la France n’était pas seulement dû au coût du travail trop élevé, mais à un déficit de productivité des salariés? C’est en tout cas ce pense Louis Gallois. "Il y a un vrai problème de la productivité du travail en France", a déclaré ce vendredi sur BFM Business l’ancien patron du groupe aéronautique EADS, auteur du rapport sur la compétitivité des entreprises françaises. "La productivité horaire française reste forte, le problème, c’est qu’elle ne croît plus au rythme souhaitable", a-t-il poursuivi soulignant qu’elle augmentait à un rythme de "0,8% par an". "C’est insuffisant", pour l’industriel.

N’en déplaise à Louis Gallois, la croissance de la productivité horaire française est bien plus élevée que 0,8%: +1,3% en 2011 selon l’OCDE, + 1,4% selon l’Insee. Certes, en comparaison, la productivité horaire des Allemands a augmenté de 1,6% sur la même période, et de 1,5% en moyenne dans les pays de l’OCDE.

Mais la productivité horaire d’un Français est parmi les plus élevée des pays industrialisés: 57,7 dollars en 2011 contre 55,3 dollars pour un Allemand et 44 dollars en moyenne dans les pays de l’OCDE. Seuls les Américains (60,3 dollars), les Norvégiens (81,5 dollars), les Néerlandais (59,8 dollars), les Luxembourgeois (78,9), les Irlandais (66,4) et les Belges (59,2) sont plus productifs. Quant à la productivité globale – la valeur ajoutée brute -, elle a augmenté de 2,7% l’an dernier, à 1789 milliards d’euros.
Louis Gallois contraint de retirer ces préconisation sur le temps de travail?

Ce n’est donc peut-être pas tant un problème de productivité horaire, que dénonce Louis Gallois, mais de nombre d’heures travaillées. Parmi les nombreuses informations qui ont fuité sur ce que proposerait le rapport Gallois, il y a eu, en octobre, celle du Parisien sur la suppression des 35 heures. Le Commissariat général à l’investissement avait aussitôt démenti. Et de fait, il n’y a aucune mention à la durée du travail dans le rapport remis le 6 novembre au Premier ministre Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Etrange, car toutes les autres fuites de presse se sont révélées exactes – sur l’allègement de charges sociales de 30 milliards d’euros, sur l’exploration du gaz de schiste, etc. Louis Gallois aurait-il été contraint de retirer cette proposition de supprimer les 35 heures? C’est ce qu’il dit à demi-mots: il a été obligé "de se cantonner à un certain nombre de sujets", explique-t-il sur BFM.

Il est toutefois faux de croire que les Français ne travaillent que 35 heures par semaine: heures supplémentaires comprises, la durée hebdomadaire de travail des salariés à temps complet était, en 2011, de 39,5 heures (52,7 heures pour les non salariés). Certes, c’est moins que les Allemands (40,4 heures en moyenne par semaine) et que l’ensemble des Européens (40,4 heures). Mais, au total en 2011, les Français ont travaillé 1475 heures selon l’OCDE, contre 1411 heures pour les Allemands! Car si l’Allemagne n’a pas réduit le temps de travail des salariés à temps plein, elle a en revanche massivement développé le temps partiel.

Reste que les Français ont des marges de progression: la moyenne en zone euro est de 1573 heures de travail par an, et de 1775 heures dans l’ensemble des pays de l’OCDE. Ceux qui travaillent le plus sont les Mexicains (2250 heures par an) et les Sud-Coréens (2193 heures par an).

Voir par aussi:

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive
Tony Schwartz
February 9, 2013

THINK for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings?

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

“More, bigger, faster.” This, the ethos of the market economies since the Industrial Revolution, is grounded in a mythical and misguided assumption — that our resources are infinite.

Time is the resource on which we’ve relied to get more accomplished. When there’s more to do, we invest more hours. But time is finite, and many of us feel we’re running out, that we’re investing as many hours as we can while trying to retain some semblance of a life outside work.

Although many of us can’t increase the working hours in the day, we can measurably increase our energy. Science supplies a useful way to understand the forces at play here. Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable. Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted. More than one-third of employees, for example, eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis. More than 50 percent assume they’ll work during their vacations.

In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive.

Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance. In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent.

Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.

Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

MORE vacations are similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.

As athletes understand especially well, the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal. When we’re under pressure, however, most of us experience the opposite impulse: to push harder rather than rest. This may explain why a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012 — up from 6.2 days in 2011.

The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.

In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.

The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

I’ve systematically built these principles into the way I write. For my first three books, I sat at my desk for up 10 hours a day. Each of the books took me at least a year to write. For my two most recent books, I wrote in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions — beginning first thing in the morning, when my energy was highest — and took a break after each one.

Along the way, I learned that it’s not how long, but how well, you renew that matters most in terms of performance. Even renewal requires practice. The more rapidly and deeply I learned to quiet my mind and relax my body, the more restored I felt afterward. For one of the breaks, I ran. This generated mental and emotional renewal, but also turned out to be a time in which some of my best ideas came to me, unbidden. Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed both books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work.

The power of renewal was so compelling to me that I’ve created a business around it that helps a range of companies including Google, Coca-Cola, Green Mountain Coffee, the Los Angeles Police Department, Cleveland Clinic and Genentech.

Our own offices are a laboratory for the principles we teach. Renewal is central to how we work. We dedicated space to a “renewal” room in which employees can nap, meditate or relax. We have a spacious lounge where employees hang out together and snack on healthy foods we provide. We encourage workers to take renewal breaks throughout the day, and to leave the office for lunch, which we often do together. We allow people to work from home several days a week, in part so they can avoid debilitating rush-hour commutes. Our workdays end at 6 p.m. and we don’t expect anyone to answer e-mail in the evenings or on the weekends. Employees receive four weeks of vacation from their first year.

Our basic idea is that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company. Our secret is simple — and generally applicable. When we’re renewing, we’re truly renewing, so when we’re working, we can really work.

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive officer of The Energy Project and the author, most recently, of “Be Excellent at Anything.”

Voir également:

Cadillac Clears Up ‘Misconceptions’ About Contentious ‘Poolside’ Ad
But Expect Debate to Keep Raging After Oscar Airing
Michael McCarthy
Ad age
March 01, 2014. 31

"Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?" asks actor Neal McDonough as he gazes out over his pool in new Cadillac’s TV commercial before delivering a dissertation on the American Dream.

With that, the actor begins the controversial 60-second spot Cadillac that will air both before and during ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards this Sunday night.

The "Poolside" spot created, by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a "brand provocation," according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director. Consider it mission accomplished.

The spot for the new Cadillac ELR has provoked extreme reactions since its debut during NBC’s broadcast of the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Fans on the political right see "Poolside" as an unapologetic ode to American values. Critics on the political left see it as Ugly American chest thumping at its worst. During a time when Americans are working harder and longer for less money, others question the spot’s perceived workaholic message.

Fox Business News contributor Jonathan Hoenig, a founding member of the Capitalistpig hedge fund, praised "Poolside" as a "tremendous" celebration of profit-seeking, productivity and, yes, enjoyment of material goods.

"Those are considered very declasse these days, very down. So here’s a wonderful ad that actually celebrates America," Mr. Hoenig said.

But Fox Business host Neil Cavuto worried "Poolside" feeds the negative perception of the richest 1% as smug, rich bastards who are contemptuous of everyone else. It also takes chutzpah for GM, a company bailed out by American taxpayers, to preach self-reliance, Mr. Cavuto wryly noted.

Other critics have attacked the spot more bluntly. The Huffington Post declared: "Cadillac made a commercial about the American Dream — and it’s a Nightmare." Wrote Carolyn Gregoire: "The luxury car company is selling a vision of the American Dream at its worst: Work yourself into the ground, take as little time off as possible, and buy expensive sh*t (specifically, a 2014 Cadillac ELR)."

Washington Post contributor Brigid Schulte "groaned" at the sight of a "middle-aged white guy" extolling the "virtues of hard work, American style," while strolling around his fancy house, pool and $75,000 electric car.
Ad Age DataCenter
11.5% Experiential marketing

U.S. revenue growth for experiential/event-marketing agencies in Ad Age’s Agency Report 2013. Check out the full report and rankings.
Learn more

Advertising Age interviewed Cadillac’s Mr. Bierley on the strong reaction to the spot. He said the spot’s been "misconstrued" by some viewers. He wanted to set the record straight. Among the misperceptions:
Craig Bierley Craig Bierley

It’s aimed at the richest 1%
Not so, says Mr. Bierley. Rather than millionaires, the spot’s targeted at customers who make around $200,000 a year. They’re consumers with a "little bit of grit under their fingernails" who "pop in and out of luxury" when and how they see fit, he said. "These are people who haven’t been given anything. Every part of success they’ve achieved has been earned through hard work and hustle. . . . One of the ways they reward themselves for their hard work is through the purchase of a luxury car," he said.

It’s about materialism
Go back and watch the beginning, said Mr. Bierley. Right up front, Mr. McDonough dismisses the idea the reason American work so hard is to buy "stuff." What he’s really saying is that Americans work hard because that’s what they love to do. Luxury cars and other expensive goodies are a byproduct of success; not the objective.

"It’s basically saying hard work creates its own luck. In order to achieve it, you just have to believe anything’s possible. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in possibilities. It’s really about optimism. It’s really a fundamental human truth: optimism about creating your own future. It’s not about materialism."

It’s a "Buy American" spot
That’s wrong too. Mr. McDonough references the U.S. moon landing, Bill Gates and the Wright Brothers because the ad is only designed to run in the U.S., not overseas. If "Poolside" was designed as a global ad, the references would be more global.

Cadillac does not want to "guilt" people into buying an American rather than a European luxury car, said Mr. Bierley. "The last thing in the world we want to do is comes across as: ‘It’s your duty to buy an American car.’ I don’t think anybody wakes up wanting to hear that. . . . The strategy was really to play off the consumer insights around this notion of achievement earned through hard work and hustle — and celebrating that. Since it’s a U.S.-based spot, we used metaphors to talk about other people who received their success through hard work."
Advertisement

It celebrates the USA’s workaholic culture
Reaction is running about 3-1 in favor of the spot with the young consumer audience on YouTube, said Mr. Bierley. But some people are offended at the perceived workaholic message when millions of people are out work and others are just getting by. Again, that’s not what Cadillac intended, Mr. Bierley said.

"We’re not making a statement saying, ‘We want people to work hard.’ What we’re saying is that hard work has its payoffs. Find something you love to do, do it incredibly well and there’s a reward for that. Whether its personal satisfaction, whether its fulfillment, whether that’s money."

It was created for the Olympics, when nationalism runs high
Wrong, said Mr. Bierley. Instead, Rogue found and cast Mr. McDonough in an early version of the spot that they used to pitch and ultimately win Cadillac’s $250 million creative account last year. Cadillac and Rogue later went back and remade the spot with Mr. McDonough to create the version on-air now. "We just liked his attitude," said Mr. Bierley about the character actor who’s starred on HBO’s "Band of Brothers" and other shows.

It’s a dissertation on American values
Sure, said Mr. Bierley. But what people forget is that still just a car ad. What made Cadillac happiest is consumers recognize ELR as an electric car — although Mr. McDonough never states that explicitly. "It’s sparked an interesting and thought-provoking debate," said Mr. Bierley.

Voir encore:

The Super Bowl Farmers
Victor Davis Hanson
February 13th, 2013

Chrysler’s Super Bowl Ram Truck commercial praising the American farmer was an unexpected big hit and is still being replayed around the country on talk radio. Rich Lowry and Peggy Noonan both contrasted the authenticity of that commercial fantasy with the falsity of the real event.

And why not? Even if the clip was a bit corny and overdone, the late Paul Harvey was a masterful throaty narrator in the romantic age before the onset of America’s now ubiquitous metrosexual nasal intonation. Harvey just didn’t sound different from the present generation, but from what we suspect, he sounded different from most generations to come as well. One reason that our age cannot make a Shane, High Noon, or The Searchers is that most of our suburban Hollywood actors cannot even fake the accent of either the frontier or the tragic hero anymore. When Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall go, so goes too the last link to the cinema’s Westerner. There are no more voices like Slim Pickens or Ben Johnson. One of the successes of the commercial is that the photographed farmers did not speak, and left the impression of mute superiority.

It was not just Harvey’s mid-20th century voice that intrigued millions, but his unapologetic praise of the farmer’s work ethic, religiosity, and family values that he implied were at the core of American greatness, and were shared by all sorts of other American originals: the truck driver, the steel worker, or waitress whom we now all praise and yet prep our children not to be. We suspect that our kids would be better off at forty for spending a summer on a tractor at fifteen, but we just can’t seem to risk the loss of a season’s computer camp or eco-camp in the bargain.

The commercial’s platitudes were cleverly juxtaposed with grainy pictures of un-Botoxed people doing real physical work and in concert with each other, using big machines, and looking the worse for wear from it. True or not, we at least were to believe that no one in those still shots had hair plugs, bleached teeth, or faux tans in the manner of our vice president, who tries so hard to be an oh-so-authentic “Joey.” In that regard, Clint Eastwood’s resonance hinges in part on the fact that his lined and craggy face does not resemble what has happened to Sylvester Stallone’s, and he did not engage in the sort of embarrassing, obsequious fawning about George Bush that a Chris Rock or Jamie Foxx has monotonously done about Barack Obama. Americans still admire authenticity, and that too explains the later YouTube popularity of the commercial. When the Obama team released pictures of Obama “skeet shooting” or with a furrowed brow following in real time the ongoing shooting and killing in Benghazi, we knew it was all show, all Dukakis in a tank. The only thing worse than being cut off from the premodern world is faking participation in it.

I suppose the images resonated in 2013 in a way that they would have seemed passé in 1950, but not just because farmers then were about 15% of the population and now make up less than 1%, and so currently earn the added intrigue accorded to vanishing in the manner of the rhino or blue whale. The commercial instead was mostly a hit because of the sharp contrast, not just with the Petronian spectacle of today’s Super Bowl extravaganza, but also with the general tenor of the times of 2013 in particular.

Voir aussi:

Advertisers Pitching to Americans Yearning to Feel Confident Again
Jim Geraghty
National Review

March 5, 2014

Beyond the Russia and Alan Grayson news in today’s Morning Jolt . . .

Advertisers Pitching to Americans Yearning to Feel Confident Again

Take a look at three of the biggest, most-discussed television ads of the past year or so.

First, Ram Trucks’ “God Made a Farmer” ad from the Super Bowl last year:

Then the Coke ad from the Super Bowl this year:

I know there were some folks who watched the Coke ad and perceived the message, “America isn’t just for English-speakers! Embrace the polyglot, you ethnocentric hicks!” But it’s just as easy, or easier, to look at the ad and see the message that all across the globe, in every tongue, people find America, and its freedoms, cultures, and traditions beautiful.

Then the latest ad to make a splash, no pun intended, is Cadillac’s “Poolside”:

Ad Age summarizes the reaction:

“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?” asks actor Neal McDonough as he gazes out over his pool in new Cadillac’s TV commercial before delivering a dissertation on the American Dream.

With that, the actor begins the controversial 60-second spot Cadillac that will air both before and during ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards this Sunday night.

The “Poolside” spot created, by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a “brand provocation,” according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director. Consider it mission accomplished.

Fox Business News contributor Jonathan Hoenig, a founding member of the Capitalistpig hedge fund, praised “Poolside” as a “tremendous” celebration of profit-seeking, productivity and, yes, enjoyment of material goods.

“Those are considered very declasse these days, very down. So here’s a wonderful ad that actually celebrates America,” Mr. Hoenig said.

But Fox Business host Neil Cavuto worried “Poolside” feeds the negative perception of the richest 1% as smug, rich bastards who are contemptuous of everyone else. It also takes chutzpah for GM, a company bailed out by American taxpayers, to preach self-reliance, Mr. Cavuto wryly noted.

What’s the theme tying together all three of these?

Americans desperately want to feel good about their country again.

The farmer in the Ram Trucks ad is what we think we once were, and want to still be: hard-working, reliable, honest, filled with determination and integrity. The Coke ad actually begins with a cowboy who would fit in the Ram Truck ad, but moves on to break-dancing kids, a family visiting the Grand Canyon, a big (Hispanic?) family settling in for dinner, folks wobbling at a roller rink and laughing at themselves. That ad shows that we’re warm and welcoming, close to our families, spending quality time with our kids who aren’t sitting in front of a video-game console or staring at the screen of their phone.

And then Neal McDunough — “Hey, it’s that guy from Band of Brothers and Captain America!” — comes along and stabs a needle of adrenaline and confidence into our heart. He chuckles about other countries sitting at cafes and taking August off. He walks past his kids, who are doing their homework, with one appearing to be working on a model of DNA. He explains that “we’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers,” and high-fives his younger child, who obviously has already absorbed this cheerful, confident philosophy. He’s got a gorgeous house with a pool, happy, bright kids, a good-looking wife who reads the Wall Street Journal after he does, and he looks good in a suit. He’s got spring in his step. The world is his oyster, and he says it’s America’s oyster, too, because “you work hard, you create your own luck, and you’ve got to believe anything is possible.”

We want to be that guy. Or we want to believe we could be that guy if we tried. Or perhaps put even clearer, we want to believe we have the opportunity to be that guy, whether or not we actually want to pursue that life, that house, that lifestyle, and drive that car.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me that Mike Rowe’s ad for Walmart fits in this theme as well:

Most companies test their ads extensively with focus groups. The folks in those focus groups must be bursting at the seams for a message that America can be great again. Are the potential 2016 contenders hearing this?

Liberals Outraged by Cadillac Ad
Rush Limbaugh
March 06, 2014

RUSH: Have you seen, ladies and gentlemen, the new Cadillac commercial for their new electric car? (interruption) You haven’t?  It features the actor Neal McDonough.  Do you watch Justified? (interruption) Well, Neal McDonough was in Justified two years ago.  He’s got this baby-shaped head, blue eyes, short, blond hair.  He can play the nicest next-door neighbor or the evilest villain you’ve ever found.

He is the actor in this commercial.  The left hates this commercial.  There are caustic posts on leftist websites, and even mainstream news sites, Huffing and Puffington Post. They’re outraged over the Cadillac ad!  If you’ve seen it, you might know why.

RUSH:  Let’s get to the Cadillac commercial.  There’s a headline here at the Huffing and Puffington Post.  It’s by a woman named Carolyn Gregoire, and I don’t know she pronounces it that way.  G-r-e-g-o-i-r-e, Gregoire, Gregoire. It’s probably Gregory, if I had to guess.  But anyway, headline: "Cadillac Made a Commercial About the American Dream, and it is a Nightmare."  This commercial has hit a nerve in the left that is such a teachable moment!

This commercial itself and the reaction to it by the left is all anyone needs know about what really has become of the Democrat Party and the American left.  The actor is Neal McDonough.  You’ve seen him in Justified.  He was in some other TV series that ran for four years.  I can’t think of the name of it right off the top of my head.  You’d recognize him if you saw him.  He’s playing the part here of a successful American male, who happens to own one of these new Cadillac electric cars.

RUSH: Here is the ad.  This is 43 seconds here. It’ll go by here pretty quickly and I’ll do the transcript myself when this is finished.

MCDONOUGH:  Why do we work so hard?  For what?  For this?  For stuff?  Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off.  Off.  Why aren’t you like that?  Why aren’t we like that?  Because we’re crazy, driven, hardworking believers.  Those other countries think we’re nuts.  Whatever.  Were the Wright Brothers insane?  Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali?  Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon?  That’s right.  We went up there, and you know what we got?  Bored.  So we left.  It’s pretty simple.  You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible.  As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August.  N’est-ce pas?

You don’t need stuff. You need to be the inner artiste, and while you piddle around and produce absolutely nothing, we will take care of you, and we will give you your health care while you explore your inner uselessness, and only dream about what you could be while looking at other people who are successful and instantly hating them.

RUSH: Have you seen, ladies and gentlemen, the new Cadillac commercial for their new electric car? (interruption) You haven’t? It features the actor Neal McDonough. Do you watch Justified? (interruption) Well, Neal McDonough was in Justified two years ago. He’s got this baby-shaped head, blue eyes, short, blond hair. He can play the nicest next-door neighbor or the evilest villain you’ve ever found.

He is the actor in this commercial. The left hates this commercial. There are caustic posts on leftist websites, and even mainstream news sites, Huffing and Puffington Post. They’re outraged over the Cadillac ad! If you’ve seen it, you might know why.

RUSH: Let’s get to the Cadillac commercial. There’s a headline here at the Huffing and Puffington Post. It’s by a woman named Carolyn Gregoire, and I don’t know she pronounces it that way. G-r-e-g-o-i-r-e, Gregoire, Gregoire. It’s probably Gregory, if I had to guess. But anyway, headline: "Cadillac Made a Commercial About the American Dream, and it is a Nightmare." This commercial has hit a nerve in the left that is such a teachable moment!

This commercial itself and the reaction to it by the left is all anyone needs know about what really has become of the Democrat Party and the American left. The actor is Neal McDonough. You’ve seen him in Justified. He was in some other TV series that ran for four years. I can’t think of the name of it right off the top of my head. You’d recognize him if you saw him. He’s playing the part here of a successful American male, who happens to own one of these new Cadillac electric cars.

RUSH: As for all the stuff, that’s the two weeks off in August. He also says in the ad about the moon, and we’re gonna be the first to go back. Now, the left is simply outraged because they perceived this to be an attack on Western European socialism. This is Cadillac. Remember what I’ve always told you about advertising? Advertising that works is advertising that properly, correctly takes the pulse of the people it is targeted to.

It takes the pulse of the American culture at that moment, that snapshot. So here you have Cadillac and their ad agency, and what are they using to sell this thing? The American dream, the old adages: Hard work, success, climbing the ladder. You just work hard and work hard, and you don’t think about vacations first. You think about your work. You find something you love, you go out and you do it.

And, yeah, you acquire stuff. There’s nothing wrong with acquiring stuff, and there’s nothing wrong with improving your lifestyle. The left is just livid. A pull quote from this Huffing and Puffington Post story: "a completely shameless celebration of our work-hard-buy-more culture, with a blanket dismissal of ‘other countries’ and their laziness tossed in for good measure."

One of the things that liberals love to hate about America is wrapped up in that one sentence. Let me read it to you again. The pull quote from Carolyn Gregoire, the Huffington Post says, this Cadillac ad is "a completely shameless celebration of our work-hard-buy-more culture, with a blanket dismissal of ‘other countries’ and their laziness tossed in for good measure."

If there’s one thing that this commercial misses and — well, not really. There’s a lot of Americans who can’t work anymore. There aren’t any jobs, no matter how hard you work. There are just some people that can’t find work, but Cadillac is targeting those who have jobs and are trying. You know, whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about climbing the ladder. Don’t feel guilty about improving your life.

Don’t feel guilty about wanting a Cadillac, an electric Cadillac.

Don’t feel guilty about this.

Why are we looking to Europe for guidance? They take the month of August off, there’s 14% unemployment, they’re welfare states. They sit around and they move at a leisurely pace. They can’t defend themselves. They rely on us for that. What in the world is there to model ourselves after? And the left is just loaded for bear. I’ll share with you further details from this piece. Here. Grab sound bite 18. Quickly we can squeeze it in. Here’s Robin Roberts on morning America today.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. And what’s wrong with taking more than two weeks off? You’re made to be felt guilty because you’re not working hard?

RUSH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That commercial, oh, wow! That makes you feel guilty if take more than two weeks off. That Cadillac commercial is making me feel guilty. I’m telling you, the left is afraid of that commercial. It’s such a teachable moment here.

RUSH: No. No, no, no, no. The point is, the left really is anti-American tradition. The left really does not believe in the all American dream. It’s not that they don’t even believe it; they advocate against it. That’s what this Cadillac hullabaloo illustrates and is all about. You know, we think we’re all in this together. We might have our disagreements, Democrats and Republicans, but we all want the same things. We don’t anymore.

There is not a singular American culture that’s oriented around growth and prosperity and individual achievement and success. That’s not what the Democrat Party’s about anymore. Their power base is not rooted in people like that. Their power base is rooted in the failures and victims of our society. And they are trying to create even more of them.

The enemy, as far as the Democrat Party and the American left are is concerned, the enemy are the successful, the enemy is those who are achieved. The enemy is the philosophy that undergirds the American dream. It’s called consumerism and capitalism and it’s supposedly void of any real meaning and no values. It’s just about who has more stuff and who has more money and who’s richer and all that, and they are full-fledged resentful of that.

Now, this has been building for 50 years. It didn’t just happen overnight, but to some people who are casual observers, it has happened overnight. We went from George Bush, who was a Republican for all intents and purposes as far as low-information voters are concerned, a conservative, and he won two elections. He loses, and within two years everything the country stood for is gone and finished. How did this happen? That’s what a lot of people are asking. How in the world did this happen overnight? And the answer is it hasn’t been happening overnight, or it didn’t.

It has been building for years, starting in first grade, kindergarten, all the way up through the university level, the anti-America dream speech, philosophy, the pro-Western, socialist view of things, the all-powerful state, the idea that people aren’t smart enough to take care of themselves, people aren’t capable of taking care of themselves, that people aren’t, on their own, able to make the right decisions. They not gonna spend their money right. They need people do that for them. Liberals, preferably in government, determining how people live and what decisions are made, and if they make the wrong ones, then we’ll penalize them.

It’s an amazing thing that a commercial has come along and shown this for what it is. So let me replay — and this is not the whole thing — the whole thing is 60. We cut it down to 45 seconds just for the essence, you know, brevity is the soul of wit. And this commercial literally has the left in a tizzy. I read it, folks. It’s my gig here. Show prep, I know no bounds. And I’m telling you that all over leftist blogs there is genuine rage over this. Here it is again.

MCDONOUGH: Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff? Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we’re crazy, driven, hardworking believers. Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright Brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right. We went up there, and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?

RUSH: Oh, man, I’ll tell you, they look at this as an assault on Europe. They look at it as an assault on sidewalk cafes, Starbucks and this kind of thing. They look at it as an assault on their lifestyle. Remember, these are the people telling us that you are liberated when you get fired. You’re liberated when you lose your job because now you don’t have to do some stupid job to have health care because the government will give it to you. You don’t have to work anymore. That’s where they come from. Yeah, you can finally go discover the inner artist in you, and you now can join the legion of great human beings who have painted. You can be one of them, not tied to some silly job.

You don’t need stuff. You need to be the inner artiste, and while you piddle around and produce absolutely nothing, we will take care of you, and we will give you your health care while you explore your inner uselessness, and only dream about what you could be while looking at other people who are successful and instantly hating them. Let me read to you even more from this piece at the Huffing and Puffington Post.

"There are plenty of things to celebrate about being American, but being possessed by a blind mania for working yourself into the ground, buying more stuff and mocking people in other countries just isn’t one of them." And that’s how they view this commercial. This commercial is advocating for working yourself to death, buying a bunch of useless stuff, and making fun of other people. That’s the great sin. It’s a toss-up between working hard and making fun of other people that offends them the most. They don’t know which bothers them the most.

"So we wish we could say that Cadillac’s commercial [for it's new electric car], which debuted during the Olympics, was a joke. But no, it seems to be dead serious — a completely shameless celebration of our work-hard-buy-more culture, with a blanket dismissal of ‘other countries’ and their laziness tossed in for good measure."

Oh, I just love this. It’s so predictable, too. It’s so right on the money. People are just doing us the biggest favor by telling us exactly who they are and what they resent and what they don’t like. And what is it about hard work that bothers them? Bill Gates, I guarantee you when he was building Microsoft, it wasn’t work. It was love.

Let me use myself. I don’t look at what I do as work. I absolutely love it. I’ve always worked hard, and I absolutely love it, and I am thankful as I can be that I found what I love. I’m ecstatic I found my passion. I describe it as doing what I was born to do. I’m one of the lucky few, apparently, who found what that is, and, by the way, not an insignificant part, a way to get paid for doing it.

It’s not hard work. Well, it is, but I don’t look at it that way. It’s not arduous. I don’t get up regretting it. I don’t spend my days wringing my hands ticked off at people for what I have to do. I think every day’s an opportunity. To these people, every day’s drudgery, every day is more punishment, every day is more of an excrement sandwich. And work hard, who needs that? There’s a reason why the United States has been the lone superpower.

And, by the way, we now have a president who agrees with this take on this commercial. The American dream’s always been phony. You know why? The American dream’s been a trick. The American dream’s a trick fostered on people to get ‘em to work hard for evil corporate bosses who won’t pay them anything with this impossible result that they’re gonna make it big someday. That’s a lie. This is what the left thinks. It’s a lie put forth by corporate America, rich America, to get you to bust your butt for them while they pay you nothing. And you will die dreaming of what you never had, and, my God, you will have wasted your life in the process. And that is their outlook. You are nothing but a victim being exploited by the evil rich who are mostly white, by the way, and that’s important in this, too.

The article continues. "The opening shot shows a middle-aged man, played by the actor Neal McDonough, looking out over his backyard pool." That bugs ‘em, too. The guy has a big house. He’s got a big house, it’s in a nice neighborhood, and he’s got a pool, and it’s a built-in pool. It’s not one of these cheap balloons that you put water in. It’s a real cement pond, really ticks the left off. And he’s looking over his domain, says, "‘Why do we work so hard? For this? For stuff?’ As the ad continues, it becomes clear that the answer to this rhetorical question is actually a big fat YES." All we do is work hard for stuff.

"And it gets worse. ‘Other countries, they work,’ he says. ‘They stroll home. They stop by the cafe. They take August off. Off.’" Which they do! They take August off. They do stroll home. And when they’re not strolling, they’re driving little lawn mowers they call cars. "Then he reveals just what it is that makes Americans better than all those lazy, espresso-sipping foreigners." You just feel hate dripping from every word here? "Then he reveals just what it is that makes Americans better than all those lazy espresso-sipping foreigners," which, by the way, Carolyn I’m sure would love to be one of those lazy espresso sipping foreigners. And she may be, who knows.

But that’s the lifestyle, that’s sophistication, you see. Sophistication is, work? I’ll do what I have to. I’m gonna really devote myself to what’s important. I’m going to go paint. Then I’m gonna go visit a museum. After I visit the museum, then I’m gonna go to the art gallery, and after I finish the art gallery, I’m gonna head over back to the espresso cafe. When I finish there I’m gonna head to the real bar and I’m gonna have a couple shots, maybe some white wine, maybe some Camembert. When I finish there, I’m then gonna go to the craft show at the local community center where I’m gonna learn how to knit and sew and knit and peel and whatever, and then I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna water my garden. And right before I go to bed, I’m gonna add to the poem I’ve been writing for the past month.

Yes, I’ll work on my poetry. When I finish my poetry, I will then retire and go to bed. And when I awaken, I will get up, and I will hate the fact that the first part of my day is a job where I’m going to be exploited by some evil capitalist. But I’ll go do it anyway so that when it’s over I can stroll back to the espresso bar and maybe while I’m at the espresso bar, I’ll dream of inventing the flying car, and I’ll write it and scribble it out there on my Microsoft Surface, because I don’t want to the best, the iPad. No. And then I just repeat the cycle. I’ll go to a different museum and I’ll go see different displays, exhibits and so forth. That’s sophistication. That is what we should aspire to. All this hard-work stuff, what a crock.

If you do work, by the way, if you do get sucked in, make sure you work for a nonprofit. In fact, the best thing you, make sure you run a nonprofit. That way you can really get paid for not doing anything. That way you’re not working for some enterprise devoted to the evil of profit. No, you’re working for a nonprofit. You will live off what other people give you and you will claim that you are better people, because you have not been soiled by the poisons of capitalism. There isn’t any profit or loss in what you do. You’re interested in public service.

Then, when you finish that, it’s to the soup kitchen and the homeless shelter, just to look in, just to see that people are there, and you’ll feel great about yourself because you care. And then you’ll demand the rich pay higher taxes so that the soup kitchen doesn’t close. Oh, yes. Back to the story.

"‘Why aren’t you like that?’ he says. ‘Why aren’t we like that? Because we’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers, that’s why.’ By this point, the ad has already become little more than a parody of itself, but we had to ask: believers in what? The pursuit of ‘stuff.’ The other reason for America’s superiority, according to Cadillac? Our unrivaled space exploration program (‘We’re the only ones going back up there,’ the ad boasts). Never mind the fact that the US government is now paying Russia $70 million a pop to shuttle NASA astronauts to the International Space Station."

Hey, Ms. Gregoire, never mind that Barack Obama made NASA into a Muslim outreach department and it’s Barack Obama, your idol and hero, that makes it necessary to pay the Russians $70 million for every astronaut to the space station. By the way, with this thing in the Ukraine with the KGB vs. Obama, i.e., ACORN, what happens if Putin says, "You know what, you really ticked me off and I’m not taking you back to your space station," how we gonna get there, Ms. Gregoire? ‘Cause Obama’s shut it down. NASA’s a museum for Muslim outreach now.

"Cadillacs have long been a quintessentially American symbol of wealth and status. But as this commercial proves, no amount of wealth or status is a guarantee of good taste. Now, the luxury car company is selling a vision of the American Dream at its worst: Work yourself into the ground, take as little time off as possible, and buy expensive s- (specifically, a 2014 Cadillac ELR)."

That’s what she said. It doesn’t talk about working yourself into the ground. It’s not talking about working yourself to death, to punishment. The ad is about working yourself to prosperity and achievement and success. And they just can’t stand it, folks.

RUSH: Here’s the thing about hard work. Hard work is hard — and, by the way, folks, not everybody loves their work. This commercial is an indication of what can happen if you work hard, even though you may not like it. But you know what this commercial really is? By the way, this commercial was originally not for an electric car. They made this ad about an electric car to try to soften the blow so it would offend these leftist wackos less.

The fact that this Cadillac commercial is about an electric car doesn’t make a difference. But let me tell you what Cadillac sees. The ad tells us that people with money do not want little bitty hybrids and lawn mowers with seats on them. This ad tells us that people with money want comfortable, sexy luxury cars — and I’ll tell you what else this ad tells us. Cadillac sees the enthusiasm for the Tesla.

In California, the number one selling car of all cars is the Model S. I think it’s the Model S, but it’s some model of Tesla. They’re expensive as hell. This Cadillac is 75 grand in this ad, and Teslas are going into six figures. One of my buddies… I came back from LA. One of my buddies told me he bought one and was afraid I was gonna get mad at him. He said, "I’m not buying it ’cause I’m a wacko, Rush. I love the car. I can call up your website up in the dashboard in your car.

"I love the car — and you know, Rush, I get 175 miles a charge on it." I said, "Wow." But Cadillac sees that people with money — and that’s who they sell their cars to, people with money — have an enthusiasm for the Tesla. The Tesla is the competition for this ELV car of theirs, and it’s clear who the market is. The market that this car is made for is high achievers — and Cadillac is trying to talk to them in their native language, these high achievers, and the left just hates it.

RUSH: We’re gonna starts in Dayton, Ohio. Julie, I’m glad you called. It’s great to have you on the program. Hello.

CALLER: Thanks. I’m so happy to talk to you again.

CALLER: Thank you. We’re Home of the Wright Brothers, which was mentioned in the commercial.

RUSH: That’s right.

CALLER: Yes. Dayton, Ohio. I love this commercial. I don’t typically watch commercials because I DVR a lot of stuff, but I happened to be watching something live, so I was kind of ignoring the commercial while it was on until I heard the gentleman talk about taking a month off in August versus we take two weeks.

RUSH: Right.

CALLER: That just totally struck a chord with me. I jumped up, I backed the commercial up, and I had to replay it. I listened to that commercial over and over again, and I was just like, "Oh, my gosh. I want to go out and buy a Cadillac now."

RUSH: What do you like about? You’ve gotta get specific for me here. Obviously you had an overall favorable impression. You felt great watching it, but what hit you? What did you like about it?

CALLER: Well, I work for a pharmaceutical company, a foreign pharmaceutical company. I know that for any drug to be successful, it has to be successful in the United States, otherwise that company is not gonna do well. Americans are the hardest, hardest working, and we push and we push, and we work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week. We work one job, two jobs, three jobs. I mean, we work hard and we work hard for –

RUSH: I know, and it doesn’t leave me time to paint or write poetry or go to the museum.

CALLER: None at all. One of my best friends is Marcus, who I love dearly, but then my best friend Georgia, she is Greek, and when she would go over to Greece, she says, "It is so laid back." She says that they take-two-hour naps at lunchtime, and they close down work at, like, three, four o’clock, and they just don’t work as hard as Americans do.

RUSH: That’s not the right way to look at it. No, no. "They are sophisticated. They are more balanced. They have their lives in much more perspective. The Greeks, never mind that they’re broke and in debt and totally dependent on others to keep them living. The Greeks and the Spaniards and the British and the French and the Swiss? We love the Swiss, and the Danes.

We really love the Danes. They’re sophisticated. They’ve got it all figured out. They don’t work hard at all. They know that that’s not necessary. There’s no intense pressure attached to their lives. They’re able to slow down. They don’t even have to defend themselves! The United States will do that if they are ever attacked, like by the KGB. So we just don’t see the world in the right way.

John Kerry is one of these guys that thinks Western Europeans are doing it right. They’ve got the answer with their 14% unemployment. Speaking of which, you know, there’s sort of a funny story. What is this, Carla Brunei, the wife of Sarkozy, former president of France? It is Brunei, or Brunei? (interruption) Brunei. All right. Well, she was a model and an actress, and then she married the guy.

And then she couldn’t work anymore because of conflicts of interest with the government, president, and so forth. She’s actually quoted in a newspaper story today as thinking she got shafted. She thought she was marrying a guy with money, and he only makes 300 grand a year or the equivalent, and she feels like she got screwed. (interruption) Well, I know 300 grand is a lot, but not for the elites, see. That 300 grand, that’s embarrassing. For the wife of a president of a country?

Julie, I appreciate the call. Thank you.

Donald in Carpinteria, California, you’re next on the EIB Network. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Rush. Nice to talk to you. It’s an honor, sir.

RUSH: Thank you very much, sir. Great to have you here.

CALLER: Thank you. Rush, in reference to that great ad, that great Cadillac ad, I was thinking that there’s a couple of points with that, and one being that Obama took public funds and bailed out GM. We all recall that, and then they come up and they make an ad like this that targets hardworking Americans. And it’s kind of like a slap in the face to the left, and my take is they can’t stand that. They think that GM should toe the line now because they were bailed out with public funds.

RUSH: There probably is some of that in the left’s reaction to this, that this is a government-owned company. What the hell are they doing selling something like this anyway?

CALLER: Right, and kudos to the advertising agency that would actually make an ad like this and make a pro-American, pro-work ad. And even though they took those funds, it’s kind of like, well –

RUSH: Here’s the thing about this. At the risk of sounding naive — and I am naive about a lot of things and I don’t mind people knowing that. Did you ever think — any of you — that an ad like that would be something divisive in the country? That ad is what used to be the philosophy everybody was raised by. That ad was, in fact, how everybody who wanted to be a success or wanted their kids to be a success was raised. That ad typifies distinctly, as we know, distinctly American values. And I’ll tell you, they are held in other parts of the country.

That ad is gonna ring home and true with Asians and a couple of other cultures who are also from the hard-work school of going through life and conquering it. But the idea that an ad that is as innocuous as this, this is hard work. How do we get stuff, and, yeah, there’s some people around the world that don’t. This is what American exceptionalism is. This is how we’re different. This is why people come here. That is exactly right. That ad is why people break the law to come here. And yet that ad has become something divisive in our culture now. That ad is something that is really controversial now to the left. But divisive as well.

This why I say this is a teachable moment. Look, some of you may be wondering why I’m spending so much time on it. I’ll tell you why. And it’s the same old thing. By the way, I’ve got friends who tell me I ought to change my approach. I’ll explain here in a minute. I really believe that the more people who could be taught, who would learn, be educated, what liberalism is, is the way to eventually see to it that they don’t win anymore. They’re not a majority now. They have to lie about what they believe and what they’re gonna do in order to win elections. They are not anywhere near a majority of the people of this country.

We’re being governed by a minority, and it’s simply because they have mastered the emotional, compassionate, feel-good approach to things. And they’ve made great hay out of the misconception, as they put it forth, of equality. To them it’s sameness, and anything that’s not the same is something inherently wrong with the country. And I just think this is educational. I think this is one of these great teachable moments for low-information people. Now, I have a friend who says it’s an ideological thing, it’s all good, but it’s not gonna reach everybody, Rush. People don’t want to look at things that way. Liberalism, conservative, not nearly as oriented like you are in that direction, and they’re not nearly as passionate about that.

So you gotta talk about it in terms of stupid versus smart. Instead of talking about what a big liberal Obama is, it’s just stupid what these people are doing, just plain damn dumb. And I understand the people who think that ideology is not the best way to go about educating, but it’s worked for me. I am never wrong when I predict what a liberal is gonna do, never wrong. I would never vote for one, I don’t care who. I would never vote for one. Why would anybody, is my attitude, after this, but then when you realize what they do, they’re Santa Claus. The people voting for them are not voting for them on ideology. They’re voting for ‘em on the basis of stuff.

The dirty little secret is, everybody wants stuff. It’s just that some people are happier if it’s given to them, than having to work for it. Hard work is always gonna be a tougher sell than getting gifts. But it makes for a better culture, country, and society over all. That’s what’s always been the truth, truism and the case. You what the average life span of any republic or democracy is? It’s about 200 years. So we’ve gone past ours. We’ve gone past our life expectancy. And when does every democracy end is when the public learns that they can vote themselves money from the Treasury, that is the beginning of the end. And we’re in that phase.

So the question we have is, can we arrest that and stop it before we are swallowed and destroyed by this ever-expanding mountain of debt, because that is what will do it. Don’t listen to people that tell you the debt doesn’t matter, including the people in the Republican establishment. "Ah, the debt’s the debt. It’s no different now than it was then. It may be a little bit bigger, but, hell, it’s the United States government, always good for what it owes (muttering)." At some point it all collapses and can’t sustain itself. And we have reached that point.

 Voir par ailleurs:

Taxis, VTC : les fossoyeurs de l’innovation
Opinions: Nicolas Colin s’en prend au lobby des taxis, mais surtout fustige des pouvoirs publics qui ne comprennent qu’en cédant aux lobbys de tout poil, ils creusent la tombe du redressement économique
Nicolas Colin
La Tribune
15/10/2013

Le lobby des taxis a gagné la guerre contre les VTC. Pour Nicolas Colin entrepreneur alarmé, cette affaire a révélé l’incapacité des politiques français à promouvoir l’innovation, et pourrait bien conduire à notre perte…
sur le même sujet

Tout commence comme une sorte de message à caractère informatif. Un collaborateur vient voir le patron d’Orange et lui présente une idée dont il n’est pas peu fier :

"Patron, comme nous sommes à la fois une entreprise de média et une entreprise innovante, nous pourrions consacrer une émission de télévision sur notre chaîne Orange Innovation TV aux grands patrons qui innovent dans les grandes entreprises. Ca consisterait à interviewer des dirigeants hyper-innovants et à mettre en valeur leurs innovations par rapport à celles des startups, qui nous donnent beaucoup de leçons mais dont on ne voit pas beaucoup les résultats. D’ailleurs on a déjà trouvé le titre, ça s’appellerait Les décideurs de l’innovation. On a mis au point un super générique à la Top Gun. "

Ravi, le patron d’Orange soutient cette idée :

« Mon vieux, votre idée est géniale. Je fais banco, vous avez ma carte blanche. J’ai d’ailleurs quelques idées pour les premiers invités, regardons ensemble mon carnet d’adresses pour voir à qui je dois rendre service. »
Parmi ces premiers invités figure justement Nicolas Rousselet, patron des taxis G7 (qui n’opèrent pas que des taxis d’ailleurs, mais aussi une activité de location de voitures, des activités de logistique, de stockage, etc.). Qu’il soit un invité d’une émission aussi audacieuse et disruptive que Les décideurs de l’innovation est un paradoxe : après tout, il est aujourd’hui engagé dans un vaste effort de lobbying pour contrer l’innovation dans le transport individuel de personnes en ville, dans des conditions abondamment détaillées ici ou la. Quoiqu’il en soit, dans une récente et exceptionnelle édition des Décideurs de l’innovation, Nicolas Rousselet nous expose sa vision de l’innovation.

Et à ce point du billet, mieux vaut en finir avec l’ironie : l’innovation vue par Nicolas Rousselet mérite qu’on s’y attarde tant est elle est dérisoire et erronée à peu près du début à la fin. Voici quelques extraits et mes commentaires :

« l’innovation prend deux formes : l’innovation technologique, technique et l’innovation en termes de services, de nouveaux services » (1’50?)

Eh bien non, à l’âge entrepreneurial, l’innovation ne prend qu’une seule forme, celle d’une offre nouvelle amorcée et valorisée sur un marché de masse grâce à la mise au point d’un nouveau modèle d’affaires. Les progrès technologiques sans changement de modèle d’affaires ni traction auprès de la multitude s’appellent simplement des gains de productivité… et se commoditisent en un clin d’oeil, sans permettre à l’entreprise de se différencier ;

« Pour les GPS, tout ça, là on est vraiment à la pointe, ça fait très longtemps qu’on géolocalise tous nos taxis » (3’05?)

Non non, si ça fait longtemps qu’on fait quelque chose, alors on n’est pas vraiment à la pointe. Ces derniers temps, les choses changent vite en matière de géolocalisation et de services associés ;

« Rapprocher le client du taxi, du chauffeur, nécessite de la haute technologie » (3’18?)

Pas du tout, ça nécessite tout au plus de l’amabilité de la part du chauffeur et, éventuellement, une application mobile, qui est quasiment à la portée du premier venu d’un point de vue technologique. Bien sûr, cela peut aussi nécessiter de l’innovation, c’est-à-dire un changement du modèle d’affaires : on rapproche d’autant mieux les taxis des clients qu’on fait alliance avec ces derniers, qu’ils sont ainsi incités à être actifs et donc producteurs de données. Cela, ça suppose de la confiance et ça se valorise d’autant mieux que les clients sont nombreux, bien au-delà de la clientèle premium (j’y reviendrai) ;

« Chaque filiale dans le groupe est gérée de manière autonome, indépendante, par un manager intéressé sur ses résultats » (4’12?)

Ce qui est précisément la caractéristique des entreprises non innovantes. L’innovation consiste à combiner de façon différente les composantes de l’activité de l’entreprise, quitte à ce que certaines déclinent si c’est le prix à payer pour le développement de l’entreprise tout entière. Un manager de filiale intéressé sur ses résultats fera tout pour tuer l’innovation dans sa filiale comme dans l’entreprise en général, de façon à protéger sa rente. C’est pourquoi – si du moins l’objectif est d’innover – un manager de filiale ne peut être intéressé au mieux qu’aux résultats de l’ensemble du groupe. Steve Jobs, traumatisé par sa lecture de The Innovator’s Dilemma, l’avait bien compris et mis en pratique depuis longtemps chez Apple, notamment avec la notion de unified P&L ;

« Nous avons gagné le prix de l’innovation 2010 de la chambre professionnelle du self-stockage » (5’00?)

C’est bien pratique de se créer ses petits prix de l’innovation maison pour faire croire au monde extérieur qu’on est innovant. Mais non, ça ne prend pas. L’innovation, à l’âge de la multitude, ça se mesure aux rendements d’échelle exponentiels et aux positions dominantes sur des marchés globaux. Aucune autre innovation ne contribue de manière significative au développement de l’économie française. Au contraire, le renforcement des situations de rente contribue de manière décisive à la stagnation du revenu par tête et à l’aggravation des inégalités ;

« On gère les taxis depuis pas loin de vingt ans de manière totalement numérique, avec le GPS » (6’50?)

Si les taxis étaient gérés de manière totalement numérique, ils ne s’en tiendraient pas au GPS et auraient inventé Uber avant Uber. Souvenez-vous de cette citation fameuse de The Social Network sur les frères Winklevoss :

« Nos chauffeurs de taxi sont tous des indépendants. C’est un vrai partenariat, où la qualité de service est un leitmotiv » (8’00?)

Des forums entiers sur la mauvaise expérience des taxis parisiens vécue par les touristes étrangers et les Parisiens eux-mêmes témoignent du contraire – ce qui prouve, par ailleurs, que le fait que les chauffeurs de taxi soient tous indépendants n’est pas forcément la meilleure formule pour assurer une qualité de service maximale. Comme le triomphe d’Apple nous l’a amplement démontré depuis 10 ans, l’unification de l’expérience utilisateur (ou une plateforme bien conçue, comme Amazon) sont les meilleures options pour garantir une qualité de service élevée ;

« On a lancé en décembre 2011 le club affaires premium, et là on a même un iPad mis à disposition, on a de l’eau, on a des lingettes » (8’10?)

Nous sommes tous très impressionnés, mais il n’y a pas beaucoup d’innovation dans le fait d’enrichir l’offre de service pour les seuls clients qui paient très cher leur abonnement affaires premium. La fuite vers le premium – et le délaissement corrélatif des marchés de masse – est l’un des phénomènes qui détourne les entreprises françaises de l’innovation à l’âge de la multitude – et il y a bien d’autres exemples que les taxis G7. C’est heureux que Nicolas Rousselet assume sans fard qu’il ne s’agit que de fournir aux clients que quelques lingettes et bouteilles d’eau en plus : nous sommes décidément très loin de l’innovation ;

« On voit que ça ne roule pas très bien, il y a des gros progrès à faire pour améliorer les conditions de circulation dans Paris » (8’40?)

Précisément, on ne roule pas bien dans Paris parce que trop de gens, insatisfaits du fonctionnement des transports en commun et ne pouvant s’offrir les services Affaires Premium Excellence Platine des taxis G7, choisissent de prendre leur véhicule personnel pour leurs déplacements en ville. Le développement des nouveaux modèles d’affaires autour de l’automobile en ville (auto-partage, VTC, etc.) vise en partie à dissuader les individus de prendre leur voiture et peut donc se traduire, à terme, par une décongestion de la circulation à Paris. Que les taxis G7 trouvent que les conditions actuelles sont mauvaises pour les affaires est un comble : d’abord les mauvaises conditions de circulation leur permettent de plus faire tourner le compteur (les taxis ont tout leur temps, ce sont les clients qui sont pressés) ; ensuite, les barrières réglementaires qu’ils défendent à toute force sont précisément la raison pour laquelle il est impossible d’améliorer les conditions de circulation dans cette ville de plus en plus difficile à vivre.
L’innovation doit faire bouger les lignes

Bref, comme le résume si brillamment ce journaliste particulièrement dur en interview, avec les taxis G7, « ça roule pour l’innovation ». J’ajouterai deux choses sur Nicolas Rousselet et les conditions règlementaires de l’innovation dans les transports urbains :
« Il faut que les VTC restent sur le métier pour lesquels ils ont été créés » déclarait-il au mois de juillet, cité par un article du Figaro. Wrong again : encore une fois, quand il s’agit d’innovation, l’objectif est précisément de faire bouger les lignes qui séparent les différentes activités et d’en faire la synthèse dans un nouveau modèle d’affaires, centrée autour de l’utilisateur – condition de l’alliance avec la multitude. Le déploiement d’une offre de qualité à très grande échelle est l’objectif stratégique à l’âge entrepreneurial et le seul cœur de métier des startups innovantes, comme nous le rappellent Steve Blank et Paul Graham. Ça n’a aucun sens, dans un monde où la technologie évolue en permanence et où la multitude révèle sans cesse de nouveaux besoins, de demander à une entreprise de rester sur le métier pour lequel elle a été initialement créée. On peut le faire bien sûr, mais il faut assumer alors qu’on renonce à l’innovation – moteur du développement économique, facteur de création d’emplois et de réduction des inégalités et, accessoirement, contribution décisive à l’amélioration du quotidien des consommateurs ;

Restreindre l’innovation aux clients premium, c’est empêcher son développement
On apprend aujourd’hui, dans un article du Monde, que « le délai de 15 minutes [entre la commande d'un VTC et la prise en charge] s’appliquera à tous les clients des VTC, hormis les hôtels haut de gamme et les salons professionnels ». Belle victoire de lobbying, en tous points contraire à l’intérêt général, et stupéfiante si l’on songe qu’elle a été consentie par un gouvernement de gauche. Si l’on résume la situation, les riches clients du Royal Monceau et les VIP du salon de l’automobile seront servis sans attendre ; par contre, les moins riches attendront ou prendront le bus et les entrepreneurs innovants seront noyés dans la baignoire. (Rappelons encore une fois que l’innovation de rupture arrive toujours ou presque par les activités à faibles marges sur les marchés à faible marge. Si l’on restreint les offres innovantes aux seuls clients premium, il n’y a pas la masse critique pour imposer une innovation de rupture.)

L’innovation meurt d’être mal comprise. Il n’y a pas meilleur contrepoint à la vision de Nicolas Rousselet que les rappels ci-après sur ce qu’est l’innovation, pourquoi elle est importante et comment la favoriser.

Pas d’investissements possibles

L’innovation ne peut pas prospérer en présence de verrous qui rigidifient l’économie et protègent les positions existantes. La seule existence de ces verrous, notamment législatifs et règlementaires, dissuade toute allocation du capital à des activités qui font bouger les lignes dans les secteurs concernés.

Quel intérêt d’investir dans une entreprise innovante se développant en France dans le secteur des VTC, puisque le rendement sur capital investi sera dégradé voire annulé par le verrou règlementaire qui protège la rente des taxis ? Il est beaucoup plus rentable d’allouer du capital à une entreprise américaine qui, elle, va triompher des obstacles règlementaires et conquérir un immense marché.
On tue les entreprises françaises dans l’oeuf

Dans ces conditions, les entreprises américaines prospèrent, tandis que les françaises sont littéralement empêchées de naître. Et lorsque les utilisateurs français (ou les touristes) n’en pourront plus de la mauvaise qualité du service de transport individuel de personnes à Paris et qu’ils obtiendront enfin l’abaissement de la barrière règlementaire, seules les entreprises américaines auront la qualité de service et l’infrastructure nécessaires pour prendre le marché français.

De même que quand la chronologie des médias sera enfin adaptée aux nouveaux modes de consommation des contenus cinématographiques et audiovisuels en ligne, seule Netflix, pas Canal+, sera en mesure de se déployer auprès des utilisateurs français.
L’inutile politique de soutien financier à l’innovation

Dans un cadre juridique hostile à l’innovation, on voit bien qu’une politique publique de soutien financier à l’innovation est vaine. On peut allouer tout l’argent qu’on veut à OSEO, à BPI France, à la sanctuarisation du CIR et du statut de jeune entreprise innovante, les entreprises ainsi financées ne parviennent pas à lever du capital puisque les gestionnaires de fonds identifient parfaitement les barrières juridiques à l’entrée sur les différents marchés et en déduisent qu’un investissement dans les entreprises concernées ne pourra jamais être rentable.

En présence de verrous juridiques protégeant la rente des entreprises en place, l’argent public dépensé pour soutenir l’innovation est comme de l’eau froide qu’on verserait sur une plaque chauffée à blanc : elle s’évapore instantanément.

Un problème qui se généralise

Le problème serait circonscrit si de tels verrous législatifs n’existaient que pour les VTC. Mais, loin de se cantonner à un seul secteur, ils se multiplient. Les industries créatives sont déjà affectées depuis longtemps par les entraves à l’innovation. Les hôteliers déploient un lobbying à grande échelle pour que la loi soit durcie et les protège sur trois fronts : celui des intermédiaires déjà en place sur le marché de la réservation de chambres d’hôtels ; celui de Google, qui rentre sur ce marché avec Hotel Finder ; celui d’AirBnB, qui intensifie la concurrence sur le marché de l’hébergement en faisant arriver sur le marché les chambres et habitations mises sur le marché par les particuliers.

Les libraires semblent en passe d’obtenir une interdiction de livrer gratuitement à domicile les livres commandés via les applications de vente à distance. Bref, à mesure que le numérique dévore le monde, les incendies se déclarent un peu partout et la réponse est toujours la même : on érige une barrière règlementaire qui dissuade l’allocation de capital à des activités innovantes et empêche donc à terme l’émergence de champions français dans ces secteurs.
Pour un lobby français de l’innovation

Sur tous ces dossiers, nous payons très cher l’inexistence d’un lobby français de l’innovation. Il n’est pas du tout évident qu’un tel lobby puisse exister. Aux États-Unis, il s’est constitué et il déploie sa puissance en raison d’une double anomalie : les entreprises ont le droit de financer les campagnes électorales ; et les entreprises les plus riches, dont la capitalisation boursière est la plus élevée, sont aussi les plus innovantes.

Au lobbying de ces entreprises s’ajoute celui d’une organisation, la National Venture Capital Association, qui défend les intérêts des fonds de capital-risque, y compris contre les intérêts du private equity, des banques d’affaires et des banques de dépôt.
La politique doit être favorable à l’innovation

Il n’existe rien de tel chez nous : aucune de nos plus grande entreprises n’est une entreprise innovante, une valeur de croissance comme le sont les géants californiens du numérique ; nos fonds de capital-risque sont rares, dispersés, dilués sur le front institutionnel dans l’Association française du capital investissement ; enfin, les entrepreneurs innovants comme les gestionnaires de fonds de capital-risque sont largement méconnus ou ignorés par les hauts fonctionnaires de la direction générale du Trésor, les membres des cabinets ministériels et, évidemment, les parlementaires.

Il ne peut exister qu’une seule politique publique de l’innovation. Son motif est que l’innovation est le principal facteur de la croissance et moteur du développement économique. Sa règle cardinale est que toutes les décisions de politique publique, sans exception, doivent être prises dans un sens favorable à l’innovation : en matière de financement de l’économie ; en matière de réglementation sectorielle ; en matière de fiscalité et de protection sociale. Aucune autre politique publique que celle-là ne peut être favorable à l’innovation.
Vers une économie française atrophiée et inégalitaire

Si les exceptions se multiplient, si l’innovation n’est plus qu’une priorité parmi d’autres, si l’on n’abaisse pas les barrières règlementaires à l’innovation de modèle d’affaires, alors notre destin est scellé : notre économie sera bientôt tenue exclusivement par des gens qui, bien qu’ils se prétendent décideurs de l’innovation, en sont en réalité les fossoyeurs.

Nicolas Rousselet, les taxis G7 et tous ceux qui les soutiennent au Parlement ou dans l’administration ne sont qu’un avant-gout de ce sombre avenir : bientôt, notre économie ressemblera à celle de ces pays du Tiers-Monde où l’homme le plus riche du pays, par ailleurs frère ou beau-frère du chef de l’État, a fait une immense fortune grâce à un monopole mal acquis sur l’importation des Mercedes d’occasion. Dans une telle configuration, on a tout gagné : des distorsions de marché, l’atrophie de la production locale, une valeur ajoutée réduite à néant, une croissance au ralenti et des inégalités de plus en plus insupportables.

Est-ce cela que nous voulons ? Et sinon, qu’attendons-nous pour agir ?

* Nicolas Colin est entrepreneur, co-auteur de "L’âge de la multitude" et membre de Futurbulences, de Renaissance numérique, du Club du 6 mai et de la commission « Services » du pôle de compétitivité Cap Digital

Voir aussi:

Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma

James Allworth

HBR

October 24, 2011

In the lead up to today’s release of the Steve Jobs biography, there’s been an increasing stream of news surrounding its subject. As a business researcher, I was particularly interested in this recent article that referenced from his biography a list of Jobs’s favorite books. There’s one business book on this list, and it “deeply influenced” Jobs. That book is The Innovator’s Dilemma by HBS Professor Clay Christensen.

But what’s most interesting to me isn’t that The Innovator’s Dilemma was on that list. It’s that Jobs solved the conundrum.

When describing his period of exile from Apple — when John Sculley took over — Steve Jobs described one fundamental root cause of Apple’s problems. That was to let profitability outweigh passion: “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.”

Anyone familiar with Professor Christensen’s work will quickly recognize the same causal mechanism at the heart of the Innovator’s Dilemma: the pursuit of profit. The best professional managers — doing all the right things and following all the best advice — lead their companies all the way to the top of their markets in that pursuit… only to fall straight off the edge of a cliff after getting there.

Which is exactly what had happened to Apple. A string of professional managers had led the company straight off the edge of that cliff. The fall had almost killed the company. It had 90 days working capital on hand when he took over — in other words, Apple was only three months away from bankruptcy.

When he returned, Jobs completely upended the company. There were thousands of layoffs. Scores of products were killed stone dead. He knew the company had to make money to stay alive, but he transitioned the focus of Apple away from profits. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did. That attitude resulted in a company that looks entirely different to almost any other modern Fortune 500 company. One striking example: there’s only one person Apple with responsibility for a profit and loss. The CFO. It’s almost the opposite of what is taught in business school. An executive who worked at both Apple and Microsoft described the differences this way: “Microsoft tries to find pockets of unrealized revenue and then figures out what to make. Apple is just the opposite: It thinks of great products, then sells them. Prototypes and demos always come before spreadsheets.”

Similarly, Apple talks a lot about its great people. But make no mistake — they are there only in service of the mission. A headhunter describes it thus: “It is a happy place in that it has true believers. People join and stay because they believe in the mission of the company.” It didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out. Jobs’s famous meltdowns upon his return were symptomatic of this. They might have become less frequent in recent years, but if a team couldn’t deliver a great product, they got the treatment. The exec in charge of MobileMe was replaced on the spot, in front of his entire team, after a botched launch. A former Apple product manager described Apple’s attitude like this: “You have the privilege of working for the company that’s making the coolest products in the world. Shut up and do your job, and you might get to stay.”

Everything — the business, the people — are subservient to the mission: building great products. And rather than listening to, or asking their customers what they wanted; Apple would solve problems customers didn’t know they had with products they didn’t even realize they wanted.

By taking this approach, Apple bent all the rules of disruption. To disrupt yourself, for example, Professor Christensen’s research would typically prescribe setting up a separate company that eventually goes on to defeat the parent. It’s incredibly hard to do this successfully; Dayton Dry Goods pulled it off with Target. IBM managed to do it with the transition from mainframes to PCs, by firewalling the businesses in entirely different geographies. Either way, the number of companies that have successfully managed to do it is a very, very short list. And yet Apple’s doing it to itself right now with the utmost of ease. Here’s new CEO Tim Cook, on the iPad disrupting the Mac business: “Yes, I think there is some cannibalization… the iPad team works on making their product the best. Same with the Mac team.” It’s almost unheard of to be able to manage disruption like this.

They can do it because Apple hasn’t optimized its organization to maximize profit. Instead, it has made the creation of value for customers its priority. When you do this, the fear of cannibalization or disruption of one’s self just melts away. In fact, when your mission is based around creating customer value, around creating great products, cannibalization and disruption aren’t “bad things” to be avoided. They’re things you actually strive for — because they let you improve the outcome for your customer.

When I first learned about the theory of disruption, what amazed me was its predictive power; you could look into the future with impressive clarity. And yet, there was a consistent anomaly. That one dark spot on Professor Christensen’s prescience was always his predictions on Apple. I had the opportunity to talk about it with him subsequently, and I remember him telling me: “There’s just something different about those guys. They’re freaks.” Well, he was right. With the release of Jobs’s biography, we now know for sure why. Jobs was profoundly influenced by the Innovator’s Dilemma — he saw the company he created almost die from it. When he returned to Apple, Jobs was determined to solve it. And he did. That “subtle difference” — of flipping the priorities away from profit and back to great products — took Apple from three months away from bankruptcy, to one of the most valuable and influential companies in the world.

James Allworth is the Director of Strategy for Medallia, Inc and co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life?. He has worked as a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School, at Apple, and Booz & Company. Connect with him on Twitter at @jamesallworth.

Voir enfin:

Apple’s Secret? It Tells Us What We Should Love

Roberto Verganti

January 28, 2010

At the beginning of Steve Jobs’s presentation of the iPad, a slide showed an image of God delivering its commandments, paired by a quote from The Wall Street Journal: “Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.” Although a touch arrogant, this quote powerfully captures the essence of the event.

While tech experts were busy commenting on the qualities of the iPad, what struck me was the level of excitement that the event created. On Tuesday, the day before the product was unveiled, a Web search for “Apple tablet” produced more than 17 million links! On Wednesday, hordes of people attended the news conference remotely. Everyone was anxiously waiting for Apple’s interpretation of what a tablet is.

This was validation of Apple’s peculiar innovation process: Insights do not move from users to Apple but the other way around. More than Apple listening to us, it’s us who listen to Apple.

This contradicts the conventional management wisdom about innovation. In fact, one of the mantras of the past decade has been user-centered innovation: Companies should start their innovation process by getting close to users and observe them using existing products to understand their needs.

I disagree with this approach for these kinds of efforts. User-centered innovation is perfect to drive incremental innovation, but hardly generates breakthroughs. In fact, it does not question existing needs, but rather reinforces them, thanks to its powerful methods.

With the iPad Apple has not provided an answer to market needs. It has made a proposal about what could fit us and what we could love. It’s now up to us to answer whether we agree.

The iPad, of course, is not the first time Apple has taken this approach. If it had scrutinized users of early MP3 players downloading music from Napster, it would have not came out with a breakthrough system (the iPod + iTunes application + iTunes Store) based on a business model that asks people to pay for music.

Consumers don’t always swallow Apple’s notion of what they should love. In 2008, when Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air, he said “No matter how hard you look, one thing you are not gonna find in a MacBook Air is an optical drive. If you really want one, we have built one. [He showed an external CD-DVD drive] . . . But you know what? We do not think most users will miss the optical drive. We do not think they will need an optical drive.”

Apple is not alone in thumbing its nose at the notion of user-centered innovation. If Nintendo had closely observed teenagers in their basements using existing game consoles, it would have provided them with what they apparently needed: a powerful console with sophisticated 3D processing that could enable them to better immerse in a virtual world. Instead, Nintendo did not get close to users when developing the Wii. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s senior marketing director, “We don’t use consumer focus groups. We got a lot of feedback from developers in the industry.” This allowed Nintendo to completely redefine the experience of game consoles.

The iPod and the Wii were outside the spectrum of possibilities of what people knew and did. But they were not outside what they could dream of and love, if only someone could propose it to them.

Firms that create radical innovations make proposals. They put forward a vision. In doing that, of course, they take greater risks. And it may even be that the iPad will not succeed. (My feeling is that its success strongly depends on developers. If they create applications specifically tailored for this device, instead of simply adapting existing applications running on notebooks, then the iPad could mark a new era in mobile computing. The potential is there, given that Apple is using the same collaborative innovation strategy devised for the iPhone.)

My 10 years of research on breakthrough innovations by companies such as Apple, Nintendo, and Alessi, which are summarized in my book Design-Driven Innovation, shows, however, that these radical proposals are not created by chance. And they do not simply come from intuition of a visionary guru. They come from a very precise process and capabilities.

Thanks to this process these companies are serial radical innovators. Their non-user-centered proposals are not dreams without a foundation. Sometimes they fail. But when they work, people love them even more than products that have been developed by scrutinizing their needs.
110-VergantiR.jpg

Roberto Verganti is professor of the management of innovation at Politecnico di Milano and a member of the board of the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management. He has served as an executive advisor, coach, and educator at a variety of firms, including Ferrari, Ducati, Whirlpool, Xerox, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Barilla, Nestlè, STMicroelectronics, and Intuit.



France: Le pays où le mensonge est roi (Lie, lie, something is sure to stick)

8 avril, 2014
zhttp://static.lexpress.fr/medias_7831/w_2000,h_870,c_crop,x_0,y_263/w_605,h_270,c_fill,g_north/ayrault-marseille-valls-taubira_4009805.jpgCeux qui peuvent vous faire croire à des absurdités peuvent vous faire commettre des atrocités. Voltaire (?)
Va ! calomnie hardiment, il en reste toujours quelque chose. Francis Bacon
Calomniez, calomniez, il en restera toujours quelque chose. Beaumarchais
Le mensonge n’est un vice que quand il fait mal. C’est une très grande vertu quand il fait du bien. Soyez donc plus vertueux que jamais. Il faut mentir comme un diable, non pas timidement, non pas pour un temps, mais hardiment et toujours. Mentez, mes amis, mentez, je vous le rendrai un jour. Voltaire (reprenant Beaumarchais qui reprenait Bacon, lettre à Thiriot du 21 octobre 1736)
Une seule injustice, un seul crime, une seule illégalité, surtout si elle est officiellement enregistrée, confirmée, une seule injure à l’humanité, une seule injure à la justice, et au droit surtout si elle est universellement, légalement, nationalement, commodément acceptée, un seul crime rompt et suffit à rompre tout le pacte social, tout le contrat social, une seule forfaiture, un seul déshonneur suffit à perdre, d’honneur, à déshonorer tout un peuple. Charles Péguy
La vérité, c’est tout simplement que le pouvoir socialiste ne tombera pas comme un fruit mûr. Et ceux qui laissent entendre que nous pouvons, c’est-à-dire nous la droite, revenir au pouvoir dans les mois qui viennent, ou même dans les deux années qui viennent se trompent, et trompent les Français. François Hollande (France inter, 1983)
Je n’ai pas, messieurs les députés, je n’ai jamais eu de compte à l’étranger, ni maintenant ni avant. Jérome Cahuzac
J’ai appris hier avec stupéfaction et colère les aveux de Jérôme Cahuzac devant les juges. Il a trompé les plus hautes autorités du pays: le chef de l’Etat, le chef du gouvernement, le Parlement et à travers lui tous les Français. (…) J’affirme ici que Jérôme Cahuzac n’a bénéficié d’aucune protection autre que celle de la présomption d’innocence et il a quitté le gouvernement à ma demande dès l’ouverture d’une information judiciaire. François Hollande (3 avril 2013)
Il s’agit d’une information judiciaire traitée par des magistrats du siège (…) Il s’agit de juges du siège indépendants sans relation avec la Chancellerie et par conséquent la réponse est très claire, je n’avais pas l’information avant. Christiane Taubira
[J'ai été informé] A l’occasion des révélations du Monde. Manuel Vals
Nous avons les preuves que le président a été parfaitement informé le 15 (…) Le 18, Edwy Plenel informe l’Elysée qu’ils ont toutes les preuves. Et Edwy Plenel est un ami personnel du président, ils ont même écrit un bouquin ensemble. (…)  je dis que le président, entre le 4 et le 18 décembre, a l’ensemble des informations lui permettant de se rendre compte que des preuves graves – selon lesquelles Jérôme Cahuzac détenait un compte en Suisse – existent.  Charles de Courson (président UDI de la commission Cahuzac)
Titulaire d’un diplôme de 3e cycle en sciences économiques, d’une licence en sociologie et d’un certificat en ethnologie afro-américaine obtenus à Paris, elle a également suivi un 3e cycle en agroalimentaire du Centre Français de la Coopération Agricole. Pendant de nombreuses années, les portraits médiatiques de la garde des Sceaux lui attribuent un, voire deux doctorat(s), en économie, en ethnologie ou en agroalimentaire, selon les sources (…) Dans son ouvrage Contre la justice laxiste (…), Philippe Bilger, ancien avocat général à la cour d’assises de Paris, laisse entendre que la garde des Sceaux ment sur son curriculum vitae : « Elle a laissé dire, et ne l’a jamais contesté dans l’espace médiatique, qu’elle avait deux doctorats, l’un en économie, l’autre en ethnologie [...]. ». Sollicité, le cabinet de Christiane Taubira, alors Garde des Sceaux, affirme que celle-ci n’a jamais dit elle-même qu’elle possédait ces diplômes et explique que ces mentions sont dues aux journalistes qui « travaillent un peu trop sur Wikipédia » (..). « À première vue, l’erreur semble venir d’une confusion entre le « troisième cycle d’économie » qu’elle a entrepris (qui pouvait conduire à l’époque à un DEA ou un DESS) et l’acquisition d’un doctorat, qui suppose d’avoir soutenu une thèse avec succès » — (Le Monde). Selon certaines enquêtes journalistiques, la ministre n’aurait pas menti (Christiane Taubira et l’intox des doctorats – Maxime Vaudano, Le Monde, 28 mars 2014 [archive] et « On a vérifié les mensonges présumés de Christiane Taubira sur son niveau de diplôme » – Europe 1).Wikipedia
Christiane Taubira : la ministre de la Justice est titulaire d’un doctorat en sciences économiques, d’une licence en sociologie et d’un certificat en ethnologie afro-américaine obtenus à Paris. Elle est également titulaire d’un doctorat d’agro-alimentaire du Centre Français de la Coopération Agricole. Orientations
La ministre n’a jamais dit qu’elle avait un doctorat, et aucun document validé par la ministre n’en fait état. La ligne de défense est donc simple : pas de doctorat certes, mais surtout pas d’affirmation de doctorat de la part de Christiane Taubira. Reste ce CV "paru sur le web" auquel le magistrat fait référence et qui se vanterait dudit doctorat en sciences économiques. Contacté par le Lab qui n’en trouvait pas trace, Philippe Bilger reconnaît qu’il n’existe pas, mais assure "avoir des informations fiables à ce sujet" : Moi, je ne l’ai pas vu ce CV. Au Lab, Philippe Bilger insiste particulièrement sur le "laisser dire" de la ministre. Selon lui, elle est surtout coupable de n’avoir jamais démenti être titulaire de ces diplômes. Il insiste particulièrement sur son passage dans Des paroles et des actes le 5 septembre 2013, révélateur selon lui de cette hypocrisie. La scène est facile à repérer puisqu’elle se déroule moins d’une minute avant le début de l’émission. David Pujadas égraine en effet les diplômes : "Vous avez un doctorat d’Economie, un doctorat d’Ethnologie, un diplôme supérieur d’Agroalimentaire." Pourtant loin "d’opiner du chef" comme l’affirme le magistrat, Christiane Taubira reste statique et fronce même les sourcils. Elle commence son intervention en disant vouloir "revenir sur le portrait", puis s’oublie dans sa réponse et n’y revient jamais. Voyez plutôt : Plus tard, alors que le journaliste lui rappelle à nouveau qu’elle a un doctorat d’économie, Christiane Taubira rétorque : Arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes. Bref, pas de fracassant démenti mais pas de validation non plus, contrairement à ce qu’écrit le magistrat et les sites reprenant l’information. >> Quels sont les réels diplômes avancés par Christiane Taubira ? Interrogé sur les réels diplômes de la ministre, son cabinet énumère ceux présents sur son site de députée, celui inactif depuis au moins deux ans. A savoir : – un troisième cycle en économie validé, "qui serait l’équivalent d’un Master 2 aujourd’hui". (depuis la réforme LMD de 2003, le 3e cycle correspond soit à un doctorat, soit à un Master 2) ; – un troisième cycle en agro-alimentaire. Quant à la référence à la "sociologie" et à "l’ethnologie", elle correspond à des cours suivis durant ses études mais non validés, explique son cabinet. De fait, son CV ne les présente pas comme des diplômes. Notons qu’à date, Le Lab n’a pas été en mesure de vérifier si Christiane Taubira avait bien validé ses 3e cycle. Delphine Legouté
Au cabinet de la ministre, on explique que tout cela est dû aux erreurs de journalistes qui « travaillent un peu trop sur Wikipédia ». L’entourage de la garde des Sceaux jure que celle-ci n’a jamais dit elle-même qu’elle possédait ces diplômes. D’ailleurs, la notice biographique publiée sur le site du gouvernement ne comporte pas de section cursus. Ce qui est tout de même intriguant étant donné que c’est le cas de presque tous les autres ministres. A défaut de mentir, la ministre a-t-elle laissé dire ? Le cabinet fait savoir qu’il a toujours transmis au trombinoscope (sorte de Who’s Who du monde politico-médiatique français) des informations correctes (…) Le cabinet affirme que la ministre n’a pas de « press books » et ne consulte jamais sa page Wikipédia. Elle n’aurait donc jamais ressenti le besoin de corriger l’intox qui traîne donc depuis plus d’une décennie… (…) Dans son livre, Philippe Bilger note pourtant que la ministre ne reprend pas David Pujadas qui mentionne « deux doctorats » lors de son passage sur France 2, dans l’émission "Des paroles et des actes". Rémy Noyon
Christiane Taubira n’a jamais soutenu de thèse. « Elle n’a jamais communiqué là-dessus ! », s’exaspère son cabinet, navré de devoir démentir une « non-information ». En effet, aucun document officiel émanant de la ministre ne mentionne un tel cursus. Sa notice biographique sur le site du gouvernement, la ministre est présentée comme « professeur de sciences économiques ». Même chose dans le « trombinoscope du gouvernement », un document transmis chaque année à la presse, où il est simplement précisé « 3e cycle de sciences économiques ». Le fait est que ces diplômes sont mentionnés depuis plus de dix ans dans les articles que la presse lui consacre. Ainsi, Le Monde du 4 décembre 2001 lui attribuait-il « un doctorat en sciences économiques et en agroalimentaire » dans un portrait réalisé à l’occasion de sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle. Depuis son retour sur le devant de la scène, avec son arrivée au ministère de la justice en 2012, on ne compte plus les titres de presse qui ont repris cette information, de France-Soir à Europe 1 (qui lui ajoute un doctorat de « sociologie et d’ethnologie afro-américaine »), en passant par Le Figaro ou encore France-Guyane. La faute, selon son cabinet, « aux fausses informations de Wikipédia », dont elle dit ne pas être responsable. A première vue, l’erreur semble venir d’une confusion entre le « troisième cycle d’économie » qu’elle a entrepris (qui pouvait conduire à l’époque à un DEA ou un DESS) et l’acquisition d’un doctorat, qui suppose d’avoir soutenu une thèse avec succès. L’abondance de la reprise de cette information permet toutefois de se poser la question : Christiane Taubira a-t-elle profité d’un malentendu et laissé courir la fausse rumeur ? C’est la thèse soutenue par ses détracteurs, qui pointent du doigt un extrait de l’émission « Des paroles et des actes », diffusée le 5 septembre 2013 sur France 2. La ministre n’aurait pas « sourcillé » quand David Pujadas l’a présentée comme titulaire d’« un doctorat d’économie » et d’un « doctorat d’ethnologie », se rendant par là même coupable d’un mensonge par omission : Si la caméra n’est pas pointée sur son visage au moment précis où l’animateur parle de ses doctorats, Mme Taubira ne corrigera jamais clairement l’erreur au cours de l’émission. En revanche, son cabinet insiste sur deux phrases qu’elle lâche pendant sa prestation. Après la présentation erronée de David Pujadas : « Je pense que je peux revenir sur le portrait, mais oui, c’est vrai. » Quand le journaliste Jeff Wittenberg flatte ses « notions » d’économie « parce que vous avez un doctorat d’économie, donc… », elle commence sa réponse par : « Arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes ». Maxime Vaudano (Le Monde)

pour augmenter les impôts, le gouvernement de Jean-Marc Ayrault a été rapide et efficace. La fiscalité est le seul domaine sur lequel les Français ont pu mesurer concrètement les résultats de l’action gouvernementale. Et c’est le choix d’augmenter les impôts que paie aujourd’hui le gouvernement. Les millions de ménages qui ont subi le coup d’assommoir lui en veulent. Et personne ne comprend exactement où sont partis les 32 milliards de la plus forte hausse d’impôt depuis la guerre. Car elle n’est pas visible dans la réduction du trou budgétaire: le déficit 2013, après avoir été annoncé à 3% du PIB, puis à 3,7 %, puis à 4,1 %, s’établit finalement à 4,3 %. On a rarement vu une telle glissade, alors que la conjoncture ne s’est pas détériorée. Où est donc passé tout cet argent, alors que la situation économique du pays ne s’est pas améliorée ? Tout d’abord, dans les dépenses supplémentaires. Elles ont augmenté de 2% en 2013, après un 3 % en 2012. Et le ralentissement de la hausse entre ces deux années n’est pas dû à la vertu soudaine, mais à la météo financière: les taux d’intérêt ont baissé, et la charge de la dette publique en a été réduite de près de 10 %. La dépense publique n’est donc en rien « stabilisée ». L’argent s’est ensuite volatilisé conformément aux prédictions d’Arthur Laffer, un économiste américain. Ce spécialiste de la fiscalité a expliqué naguère que le rendement de l’impôt décroît avec l’augmentation du taux de prélèvement. En clair, l’animal fiscal n’est pas plus bête qu’un autre. Lorsqu’il est malmené, il développe des comportements d’évitement. Travailler moins pour payer moins, ou travailler plus, mais au noir. Ou encore s’exiler à l’étranger. C’est exactement ce qui s’est passé chez nous. Laffer ne dit pas autre chose que les paysans et leur bon sens proverbial. Si le choc fiscal n’a pas eu d’effet sur les comptes, il a en revanche fait chuter l’investissement et les perspectives du pays.La seule inversion de courbe réussie à ce jour est celle de la confiance des agents économiques, au plus bas.Il l’a dit en français mais il l’a pensé en anglais. Quand Jérôme Cahuzac a demandé pardon, on a cru entendre Bill Clinton ou Lance Amstrong …
Eric Zemmour
S’il est avéré, sans l’ombre d’un doute, qu’un ministre a menti, il doit démissionner ou il est démissionné.  Sinon, il est obligé de s’expliquer devant des commissions au Congrès qui le soumettent à la question jusqu’à ce qu’il ne reste plus une zone d’ombre. Chaque audition remet du charbon dans la machine médiatique. La Maison-Blanche ne peut pas se le permettre. Ezra Suleiman (professeur de sciences politiques à l’université de Princeton)
Après son entretien à l’Élysée avec François Hollande, Christiane Taubira a admis s’être "trompée de date". On pourrait persifler à bon droit qu’entre passer pour une incompétente ou une menteuse, la ministre a choisi la première option. Elle n’est pas la première à s’arranger avec la réalité. François Mitterrand avait, pendant le débat de la présidentielle 1988, piétiné la vérité en regardant Jacques Chirac "les yeux dans les yeux". Sophie Coignard

Mensonges effrontés et répétés (Jérome Cahuzac), usurpation de fausse identité, contre-vérités et mensonges par omission (François Hollande), contre-vérités et mensonges par omission (Christiane Taubira), contre-vérités et mensonges par omission (Manuel Valls) , mensonges par omission (Jean-Marc Ayrault) …

Après les 20 ans de mensonges du génocide rwandais …

Et les écoutes "hollandaises" dignes de la Stasi …

Retour, avec Le Point et Causeur, sur  le pays où le mensonge est roi …

Le pays où le mensonge est roi

En France, un ministre peut mentir, puis "se tromper de date". Aux États-Unis, on ne plaisante pas avec le mensonge, ni même avec les "imprécisions".
Sophie Coignard
Le Point
14.03.14

"Barack Obama a reçu hier le ministre de la Justice, Eric Holder, pour le conforter dans ses fonctions, après cinq jours de grandes turbulences. C’est la révélation par le New York Times d’une enquête sur George Bush Jr qui a tout déclenché. Les conversations téléphoniques entre l’ancien président des États-Unis et son avocat avaient fait l’objet d’écoutes judiciaires. Le ministre de la Justice a prétendu dans un premier temps l’avoir appris par la presse, puis a dû reconnaître qu’il avait été informé par son administration. Cet épisode provoque un climat de chaos à Washington, au sein de l’exécutif. Fort du soutien présidentiel, Eric Holder a réaffirmé qu’il ne démissionnerait pas."

Stop… C’est une plaisanterie. Une blague aussi grosse que les récriminations indignées de Christiane Taubira. Car à Washington, un ministre pris en flagrant délit de mensonge est écarté dans la minute. "S’il est avéré, sans l’ombre d’un doute, qu’un ministre a menti, il doit démissionner ou il est démissionné, explique Ezra Suleiman, professeur de sciences politiques à l’université de Princeton et grand connaisseur des institutions françaises et américaines. Sinon, il est obligé de s’expliquer devant des commissions au Congrès qui le soumettent à la question jusqu’à ce qu’il ne reste plus une zone d’ombre. Chaque audition remet du charbon dans la machine médiatique. La Maison-Blanche ne peut pas se le permettre."

Le Congrès américain est infiniment plus puissant que le Parlement français, et dispose de moyens sans commune mesure. Hillary Clinton en a fait l’expérience quand elle a dû répondre de l’assassinat de l’ambassadeur américain à Benghazi, en Libye, le 11 septembre 2012. Susan Rice, ambassadrice aux Nations unies, a même perdu dans cette affaire le poste de secrétaire d’État que lui réservait Barack Obama pour son second mandat. Et il ne s’agissait pas de mensonge avéré, simplement de mauvaise appréciation de la situation sur le terrain.

Trompée de date !

Après son entretien à l’Élysée avec François Hollande, Christiane Taubira a admis s’être "trompée de date". On pourrait persifler à bon droit qu’entre passer pour une incompétente ou une menteuse, la ministre a choisi la première option. Elle n’est pas la première à s’arranger avec la réalité. François Mitterrand avait, pendant le débat de la présidentielle 1988, piétiné la vérité en regardant Jacques Chirac "les yeux dans les yeux".

Ce qui sauve, paradoxalement, la ministre de la Justice au pays du mentir vrai, ce sont ses adversaires. Michèle Alliot-Marie, qui souhaite aujourd’hui avec Jean-François Copé la démission de Christiane Taubira, est assez mal placée. Ou trop bien, au contraire. Elle parle d’expérience en effet, puisque l’ancienne ministre de l’Intérieur a été poussée hors du gouvernement après avoir nié ses liaisons dangereuses avec la Tunisie de Ben Ali.

Au ministère de la Justice, où elle est passée, certains anciens occupants ont déjà rencontré des problèmes dans leurs rapports avec le réel. Rachida Dati a été accusée d’avoir bidonné son CV. Son lointain prédécesseur Pierre Arpaillange s’était, lui, illustré à l’Assemblée nationale en expliquant : "En 1989, sur 52 évadés, on en a repris 53" !

Voir aussi:

Eloge de Christiane Taubira, concise et flamboyante
Comment ose-t-on accuser la Garde des Sceaux de mensonge ?
Causeur
04 avril 2014

Le 12 mars dernier, à l’issue d’un conseil des ministres, Christiane Taubira évoquant devant des journalistes les écoutes téléphoniques dont l’ancien président de la République avait fait l’objet, déclarait fortement : « Je redis ici que je n’ai pas d’information concernant la date, la durée, le contenu des interceptions judiciaires » et, pour appuyer la véracité de ses dires, brandissait deux lettres, l’une de l’avocat général près la cour d’appel de Paris, l’autre du procureur financier, lettres dont des journalistes investigateurs, au nombre desquels Edwy Plenel ne figurait pas, montrèrent par un simple « zoom » qu’elles prouvaient exactement le contraire : le ministre avait été informé à la fois des dates (du 28 janvier au 11 février 2014) et de l’essentiel de leur contenu. Accusée de mensonge par des personnes malintentionnées et vraisemblablement racistes, elle s’en défendit en concédant toutefois qu’elle avait pu être un peu « imprécise ».

Quinze jours plus tard on apprend grâce à un autre investigateur, qui n’était toujours pas Edwy Plenel, on se demande pourquoi, que Mme Taubira, contrairement à ce qu’on peut lire depuis quinze ans dans les notices biographiques qui lui sont consacrées, y compris à la date du 4 décembre 2001 dans le « journal de référence », n’est ni docteur en économie, ni docteur en ethnologie, ni docteur en agroalimentaire. Certes, comme le précisera son cabinet, ses notices officielles font seulement état d’un cursus de « troisième cycle » et si elle n’a jamais pris la peine de démentir les fausses informations qui la concernent c’est qu’elle n’a pas de press book, qu’elle ne consulte jamais sa page Wikipédia – et ses conseillers en communication non plus, on l’imagine. Comme si la lourde charge de l’intérêt public laissait aux hommes et aux femmes politiques le loisir de se préoccuper de leur image ! C’est donc à juste titre que le « journal de référence » dénonce « l’intox des doctorats », attribuant manifestement cette « intox » non à la ministre, mais à ses détracteurs. Quant aux défenseurs de la ministre il ne fait aucun doute qu’ils sont prêts à se regarder mutuellement dans les yeux, à se tenir par la barbichette de la main gauche, à lever la main droite en disant « je le jure » et à répéter sans rire : « Oui, s’il s’était agi de Copé, de Guéant, d’Hortefeux ou de Christine Boutin, nous aurions dit exactement la même chose ».

Non seulement Christiane Taubira ne s’est pas rendue coupable d’un mensonge par omission, mais elle n’a même pas ici à confesser le péché véniel d’imprécision, comme auront pu le constater les spectateurs de l’émission Des paroles et des actes diffusée le 5 septembre 2013 sur France 2. Celle-ci commençait par un portrait de la ministre tracé par David Pujadas : « Vous avez un doctorat d’économie, un doctorat d’ethnologie, un diplôme supérieur d’agroalimentaire ». Invitée à réagir à ce portrait, le ministre déclare : « Je pense que je peux revenir sur ce portrait, mais oui, c’est vrai ». C’est pourtant clair ! Tous les spectateurs de bonne foi auront compris que « c’est vrai » se rapportait à l’ensemble du portrait à l’exclusion de la mention des diplômes tandis que « je pense que je peux revenir sur ce portrait » signifiait sans ambages : « Non, je ne suis titulaire d’aucun doctorat ». D’autant plus qu’un peu plus loin la ministre enfonçait le clou. Un autre journaliste, Jeff Wittenberg, lui ayant rappelé dans son intervention : « vous avez un doctorat d’économie », elle lui répond : « Il y a une situation – cessez de m’additionner des diplômes – il y a surtout une situation… ». Quel locuteur de langue française n’aura pas compris que « cessez de m’additionner des diplômes » signifie « Comme je l’ai dit à M. Pujadas tout à l’heure, je ne suis ni docteur en économie, ni docteur en ethnologie ». La formulation de Mme Taubira n’était pas imprécise, elle était concise, ce qui est une qualité.

Cependant la concision n’est pas la seule qualité de Christiane Taubira. Celle-ci a récemment publié aux éditions Flammarion un livre intitulé Paroles de liberté. Dans Libération, à la date du 1er avril, M. Fabrice Tassel nous donne à connaître un extrait de cet ouvrage rédigé dans un style qu’il qualifie de « flamboyant ». Jugez-en plutôt. Dénonçant la libération de la parole raciste sur Internet l’auteur écrit ceci : « Là où la bêtise peut circuler même quand le mazout de la haine et de la vulgarité lui englue les ailes, des doigts bouffis par la lâcheté flasque de l’anonymat tapaient, dans la rage de leur insignifiance, des mots qui se voulaient méchants, blessants et meurtriers ». On se demande par quel miracle ce n’est pas un « doctorat total » de littérature qui a été attribué à la ministre sur Wikipédia ou dans Le Monde. Christiane Taubira est à la fois concise et flamboyante, classique et romantique, ou, si l’on préfère, elle réunit les valeurs de l’apollinien et celles du dionysiaque. C’est une bonne nouvelle non seulement pour la justice qui doit concilier la vigueur dionysiaque du glaive et l’équilibre apollinien de la balance, mais encore pour la littérature, pour l’art et pour la philosophie.

Voir encore:

Sarkozy écouté : le cabinet de Taubira savait. Pas la ministre
Denis Demonpion
Le Nouvel Observateur
17-03-2014

"Je ne savais pas", a juré la ministre. Le pis, c’est que c’est vrai ! Sa directrice de cabinet était au courant mais n’a fait suivre l’information qu’à Matignon. Histoire d’un amateurisme coupable.

Eh bien non, Christiane Taubira n’a pas menti. N’en déplaise à Jean-François Copé, le président de l’UMP, qui hurle "à la démission". Soupçonnée par l’opposition d’avoir été informée du contenu de la procédure judiciaire ouverte le 26 février contre Nicolas Sarkozy pour un présumé trafic d’influence, la ministre de la Justice a bel et bien été tenue dans l’ignorance – par son propre cabinet ! – de l’existence du placement sur écoutes de l’ancien président. Un de ses proches assure qu’il y a eu "un bug". Le mot est juste même s’il est un peu faible pour traduire ce mélange d’amateurisme et d’improvisation dont a fait preuve la Chancellerie à cette occasion. Selon nos informations, ce n’est en effet que le mardi 11 mars au soir, après la livraison du "Canard enchaîné" daté du lendemain, que la ministre, sous le feu roulant des mises en cause, convoque une réunion de crise à la Chancellerie. Il est alors tout juste 20 heures.

Réunion d’urgence

Sous le titre "Taubira et Valls vraiment à l’écoute", l’hebdomadaire satirique affirme que la Garde des Sceaux a reçu "régulièrement un résumé du déroulé de l’enquête, comprenant une synthèse des écoutes téléphoniques". A la lecture de ces lignes, son sang ne fait qu’un tour. De fait, à cette heure, la ministre ignore encore le détail de cette affaire. Afin d’y voir plus clair et surtout de se doter d’arguments pour répliquer au procès en instrumentalisation de la justice qui lui est intenté, elle convoque six personnes. Toutes sont sommées de s’expliquer. Au premier chef, sa directrice de cabinet, Christine Maugüé. Egalement présents, ce soir-là, le directeur adjoint de cabinet François Pion, le conseiller pénal Philippe Astruc, le porte-parole Pierre Rancé, la conseillère en communication Virginie Sainte-Rose, et bien sûr le fidèle et très énigmatique conseiller spécial, Jean-François Boutet. "Celui-ci n’est pas un relais de la pensée de la Garde, observe le député radical de gauche Alain Tourret. Peut-être l’est-il dans la réflexion, mais pas dans l’action". Avocat au Conseil d’Etat, fils de Jacques Boutet, l’ancien président de TF1 et du Conseil supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, l’homme de l’ombre de la maison Taubira a surtout été longtemps été un des rouages du Parti radical de gauche dont Christiane Taubira fut la candidate lors de l’élection présidentielle de 2002.

"Un problème interne"

Interrogée par "le Nouvel Observateur", Christine Maugüé ne nie pas l’existence de cette réunion de crise tenue dans son bureau. C’est là, et là seulement, que le rapport qui fait polémique, transmis dès le 26 février au cabinet du Premier ministre, est remis en personne à la garde des Sceaux. Jusque-là, sa directrice de cabinet n’en avait rien fait. D’où le cafouillage des interventions médiatiques de Christiane Taubira, la veille en particulier dans le JT de 20 heures de TF1. Une fois le document en mains, la Garde choisira d’ailleurs de le brandir publiquement, dès le lendemain, lors d’une conférence de presse improvisée, à l’Elysée, à l’issue du conseil des ministres. "C’est un problème interne au cabinet", avoue Christine Maugüé, la voix blanche. "Je n’ai pas à répondre et je ne répondrai pas là-dessus", s’agace-t-elle avant même qu’on la relance : "Je ne répondrai plus sur les affaires", martèle-t-elle. Epiloguer sur celles-ci serait, selon elle, "gravement erroné. Point barre".

Voir encore:

Christiane Taubira et l’intox des doctorats

Maxime Vaudano

Le Monde

28.03.2014

Le magistrat Philippe Bilger accuse la garde des sceaux de s’être attribué à tort deux doctorats. Ce que réfute la ministre.

Ainsi donc, la garde des sceaux, Christiane Taubira, aurait menti sur son CV. Dans son dernier ouvrage, à paraître le 2 avril, Contre la justice laxiste (éditions de l’Archipel), le magistrat Philippe Bilger assure que Mme Taubira « a laissé dire » à tort « qu’elle avait deux doctorats », sans jamais le contester dans « l’espace médiatique ».

L’accusation, relayée dans un « confidentiel » du Nouvel Observateur du jeudi 27 mars, s’est répandue comme une traînée de poudre sur Internet, notamment sur plusieurs sites d’extrême droite.

Pourquoi c’est plutôt faux

De ces deux doctorats, en économie et en ethnologie, Philippe Bilger n’a trouvé aucune trace. Et pour cause : Christiane Taubira n’a jamais soutenu de thèse. « Elle n’a jamais communiqué là-dessus ! », s’exaspère son cabinet, navré de devoir démentir une « non-information ». En effet, aucun document officiel émanant de la ministre ne mentionne un tel cursus.

Sa notice biographique sur le site du gouvernement, la ministre est présentée comme « professeur de sciences économiques ».
Même chose dans le « trombinoscope du gouvernement », un document transmis chaque année à la presse, où il est simplement précisé « 3e cycle de sciences économiques ».

Un mensonge par omission ?

Le fait est que ces diplômes sont mentionnés depuis plus de dix ans dans les articles que la presse lui consacre. Ainsi, Le Monde du 4 décembre 2001 lui attribuait-il « un doctorat en sciences économiques et en agroalimentaire » dans un portrait réalisé à l’occasion de sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle.

"Le Monde" du 4 décembre 2001, page 12.

Depuis son retour sur le devant de la scène, avec son arrivée au ministère de la justice en 2012, on ne compte plus les titres de presse qui ont repris cette information, de France-Soir à Europe 1 (qui lui ajoute un doctorat de « sociologie et d’ethnologie afro-américaine »), en passant par Le Figaro ou encore France-Guyane.

La faute, selon son cabinet, « aux fausses informations de Wikipédia », dont elle dit ne pas être responsable. A première vue, l’erreur semble venir d’une confusion entre le « troisième cycle d’économie » qu’elle a entrepris (qui pouvait conduire à l’époque à un DEA ou un DESS) et l’acquisition d’un doctorat, qui suppose d’avoir soutenu une thèse avec succès.

L’abondance de la reprise de cette information permet toutefois de se poser la question : Christiane Taubira a-t-elle profité d’un malentendu et laissé courir la fausse rumeur ?

C’est la thèse soutenue par ses détracteurs, qui pointent du doigt un extrait de l’émission « Des paroles et des actes », diffusée le 5 septembre 2013 sur France 2. La ministre n’aurait pas « sourcillé » quand David Pujadas l’a présentée comme titulaire d’« un doctorat d’économie » et d’un « doctorat d’ethnologie », se rendant par là même coupable d’un mensonge par omission :

Si la caméra n’est pas pointée sur son visage au moment précis où l’animateur parle de ses doctorats, Mme Taubira ne corrigera jamais clairement l’erreur au cours de l’émission. En revanche, son cabinet insiste sur deux phrases qu’elle lâche pendant sa prestation.

Après la présentation erronée de David Pujadas : « Je pense que je peux revenir sur le portrait, mais oui, c’est vrai. »
Quand le journaliste Jeff Wittenberg flatte ses « notions » d’économie « parce que vous avez un doctorat d’économie, donc… », elle commence sa réponse par : « Arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes ».

Voir enfin:

"Trop de Wikipédia"
Taubira et ses prétendus doctorats : « C’est la faute aux journalistes »
Rémi Noyon
Rue89
28/03/2014

Nouveau cafouillage en vue pour Christiane Taubira. Dans son dernier livre – « Contre la justice laxiste » –, Philippe Bilger, magistrat cabot et prolifique, laisse entendre que la garde des Sceaux ment sur son CV :

« Elle a laissé dire, et ne l’a jamais contesté dans l’espace médiatique, qu’elle avait deux doctorats, l’un en économie, l’autre en ethnologie [...].

Pourtant, de ceux-ci, pas le moindre indice, pas le plus petit début de commencement de preuve ! »

L’ancien magistrat souligne qu’il n’existe aucune trace d’une thèse soutenue par Christiane Taubira sur la base de données Theses.fr. Lorsqu’on appelle les universités concernées, on ne trouve aucune mention des supposés diplômes.

La raison en est simple : Christiane Taubira a fait un troisième cycle en économie, des études en sociologie et ethnologie et un cursus au Centre français de la coopération agricole (CFCA). Mais de thèse, point.
« Trop de Wikipédia »

Pourtant, depuis plus de dix ans, les portraits de la garde des Sceaux mentionnent ces deux diplômes. Ainsi, Le Monde du 4 décembre 2001 parle d’« un doctorat de sciences économiques et en agroalimentaire [et non en ethnologie, ndlr] » et Libération, l’année suivante, raconte comment l’étudiante de Cayenne préparait « son doctorat de sciences éco » à Assas.
Voir le document

(Fichier PDF)

Au cabinet de la ministre, on explique que tout cela est dû aux erreurs de journalistes qui « travaillent un peu trop sur Wikipédia ». L’entourage de la garde des Sceaux jure que celle-ci n’a jamais dit elle-même qu’elle possédait ces diplômes.

D’ailleurs, la notice biographique publiée sur le site du gouvernement ne comporte pas de section cursus. Ce qui est tout de même intriguant étant donné que c’est le cas de presque tous les autres ministres. A défaut de mentir, la ministre a-t-elle laissé dire ? Le cabinet fait savoir qu’il a toujours transmis au trombinoscope (sorte de Who’s Who du monde politico-médiatique français) des informations correctes (voir PDF).
« Je peux revenir sur le portrait »

Le cabinet affirme que la ministre n’a pas de « press books » et ne consulte jamais sa page Wikipédia. Elle n’aurait donc jamais ressenti le besoin de corriger l’intox qui traîne donc depuis plus d’une décennie… Cette « polémique » aurait pour but de faire croire que « Dati et Taubira, c’est la même chose ».

Dans son livre, Philippe Bilger note pourtant que la ministre ne reprend pas David Pujadas qui mentionne « deux doctorats » lors de son passage sur France 2, dans l’émission « Des paroles et des actes » :

« Au cours de l’émission “Des paroles et des actes” du jeudi 5 septembre 2013, alors que David Pujadas la présente en rappelant qu’elle est titulaire de deux doctorats, elle opine du chef sans apporter aucune précision. »

Indignation du côté de la ministre : regardez les images ! « Elle n’opine pas du tout du chef. » Effectivement, la caméra reste braquée sur Pujadas.

David Pujadas : « Soyez la bienvenue. [...] Vous avez un doctorat d’économie, un doctorat d’ethnologie, un diplôme supérieur d’agroalimentaire, vous avez été professeur d’économie [...] C’est vrai que vous vouliez abandonner la politique en 2012, juste avant d’être appelée au gouvernement ? »

Christiane Taubira : « Je pense que je peux revenir sur le portrait, mais oui, c’est vrai. »

« Je pense que je peux revenir sur le portrait. » C’est cette petite phrase, qui selon le cabinet, devait mener à un correctif, mais la ministre s’est laissé embarquer dans d’autres explications…
« Arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes »

Quelques minutes plus tard, la question du doctorat revient sur la table :

Jeff Wittenberg : « Mais vous avez quand même des notions et plus que des notions parce que vous avez un doctorat d’économie, donc… »

Christiane Taubira : « Il y a surtout – arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes – il y a surtout une situation. Sous l’ancien quinquennat, la dégradation des finances publiques a augmenté de 600 [sic] milliards d’euros, 600 milliards d’euros. Sur les dix dernières années, sur les dix dernières années … »

Là aussi, il fallait comprendre qu’elle rectifiait son CV. Après la confusion autour des écoutes de Nicolas Sarkozy, cette (petite) histoire fait tout de même cafouillis. Surtout à quelques jours d’un probable remaniement.

Voir enfin:

On a vérifié les mensonges présumés de Christiane Taubira sur son niveau de diplôme

Delphine Legouté

Le Lab politique

Europe 1

28 mars 2014

L’information se diffuse ce 28 mars sur les sites réactionnaires de droite, nés sous la mouvance anti-mariage homo, comme Le Salon beige ou Boulevard Voltaire : Christiane Taubira aurait menti sur ses diplômes car elle ne possède pas de doctorat.

Ces deux sites se basent sur une information délivrée dans l’ouvrage de Philippe Bilger, ancien avocat général à la cour d’assises de Paris, auteur d’un livre à paraitre le 2 avril, Contre la justice laxiste. Une information elle-même mise en avant par le Nouvel Observateur du 27 mars dans ses "téléphones rouges".

A la page 110 de cet ouvrage qui cible la politique ainsi que la personnalité de la garde des Sceaux, on comprend en effet que Christiane Taubira ment sur ses diplômes. Voici le passage :

Elle a laissé dire, et ne l’a jamais contesté dans l’espace médiatique, qu’elle avait deux doctorats, l’un en économie, l’autre en ethnologie. (…) Pourtant de ceux-ci pas le moindre indice ! Mieux elle fait tout pour que la confusion soit entretenue. Au cours de l’émission Des paroles et des Actes du jeudi 5 septembre 2013, alors que David Pujadas la présente en rappelant qu’elle est titulaire de deux doctorats, elle opine du chef, sans apporter aucune précision. Autre indice troublant : sur le site du gouvernement, une rubrique décrit le cursus, le parcours de chaque ministre. Elle est la seule pour laquelle l’article fait défaut.Dans son curriculum vitae paru sur le web n’est mentionné qu’un doctorat en sciences économiques soutenu à Paris-II Assas. Les recherches à ce sujet sur le site des thèses et au bureau des doctorats n’en confirment pas l’existence.

En reprenant un à un les seuls indices présentés par Philppe Bilger, il est cependant impossible de dire que la ministre ment sur ses diplômes.

>> Quid du CV mentionnant un doctorat ?

En réalité, il est très difficile de trouver la formation universitaire de la ministre sur le web. Si de nombreux sites d’informations la présentent comme titulaire de deux doctorats, aucun document officiel n’en fait mention. Comme le souligne Philippe Bilger, son cursus n’apparait pas sur le site du gouvernement. Mais elle n’est pas un cas à part puisque c’est vrai pour d’autres ministres, comme François Lamy.

Le seul site faisant état d’un CV détaillé est celui qu’elle possédait lorsqu’elle était députée de Guyane, qui n’existe plus aujourd’hui. Grâce au site "archive.org" on peut cependant retrouver son contenu. Christiane Taubira fait mention d’un 3e cycle en économie, d’un 3e cycle en agro-alimentaire et d’études en sociologie et ethnologie afro-américaine. Pas d’un doctorat.

Enfin, dans le trombinoscope politique, vers lequel renvoie son cabinet lorsqu’on lui demande un document officiel, il n’est fait mention que "d’un troisième cycle de sciences économiques". Toujours pas de doctorat.

Le cabinet de la ministre va dans ce sens en confirmant qu’elle n’a "jamais fait de thèse ni de doctorat", qu’il est donc normal que Philippe Bilger n’en ait pas trouvé trace :

La ministre n’a jamais dit qu’elle avait un doctorat, et aucun document validé par la ministre n’en fait état.

La ligne de défense est donc simple : pas de doctorat certes, mais surtout pas d’affirmation de doctorat de la part de Christiane Taubira.

Reste ce CV "paru sur le web" auquel le magistrat fait référence et qui se vanterait dudit doctorat en sciences économiques. Contacté par le Lab qui n’en trouvait pas trace, Philippe Bilger reconnaît qu’il n’existe pas, mais assure "avoir des informations fiables à ce sujet" :

Moi, je ne l’ai pas vu ce CV.

>> Le passage dans Des paroles et des Actes

Au Lab, Philippe Bilger insiste particulièrement sur le "laisser dire" de la ministre. Selon lui, elle est surtout coupable de n’avoir jamais démenti être titulaire de ces diplômes. Il insiste particulièrement sur son passage dans Des paroles et des actes le 5 septembre 2013, révélateur selon lui de cette hypocrisie.

La scène est facile à repérer puisqu’elle se déroule moins d’une minute avant le début de l’émission. David Pujadas égraine en effet les diplômes : "Vous avez un doctorat d’Economie, un doctorat d’Ethnologie, un diplôme supérieur d’Agroalimentaire." Pourtant loin "d’opiner du chef" comme l’affirme le magistrat, Christiane Taubira reste statique et fronce même les sourcils. Elle commence son intervention en disant vouloir "revenir sur le portrait", puis s’oublie dans sa réponse et n’y revient jamais.

Voyez plutôt :

Plus tard, alors que le journaliste lui rappelle à nouveau qu’elle a un doctorat d’économie, Christiane Taubira rétorque :

Arrêtez de m’additionner des diplômes.

Bref, pas de fracassant démenti mais pas de validation non plus, contrairement à ce qu’écrit le magistrat et les sites reprenant l’information.

>> Quels sont les réels diplômes avancés par Christiane Taubira ?

Interrogé sur les réels diplômes de la ministre, son cabinet énumère ceux présents sur son site de députée, celui inactif depuis au moins deux ans. A savoir :

- un troisième cycle en économie validé, "qui serait l’équivalent d’un Master 2 aujourd’hui". (depuis la réforme LMD de 2003, le 3e cycle correspond soit à un doctorat, soit à un Master 2) ;

- un troisième cycle en agro-alimentaire.

Quant à la référence à la "sociologie" et à "l’ethnologie", elle correspond à des cours suivis durant ses études mais non validés, explique son cabinet. De fait, son CV ne les présente pas comme des diplômes.

Notons qu’à date, Le Lab n’a pas été en mesure de vérifier si Christiane Taubira avait bien validé ses 3e cycle.


Hagiographie: On ne peut comprendre la gauche si on ne comprend pas qu’elle est une religion (God is great and Chavez is his new prophet)

31 mars, 2014
http://www.sfsustudentcenter.com/about/muralimages/Cesar%20Chavez%20Mural.png
https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/t1.0-9/p235x350/1978752_4105162284442_314659912_n.jpg
http://www.docspopuli.org/images/07_0821_120.jpg
http://blog.preservationnation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/blog_photo_121009_POTUS-speech.jpg
http://www.defense.gov/news/Sep2002/200209262a_hr.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e7/Cesar_Chavez_2014_film.jpg
You cannot understand the Left if you do not understand that leftism is a religion. Dennis Prager
On Cesar Chavez Day, we celebrate one of America’s greatest champions for social justice. Raised into the life of a migrant farm worker, he toiled alongside men, women, and children who performed daily, backbreaking labor for meager pay and in deplorable conditions. They were exposed to dangerous pesticides and denied the most basic protections, including minimum wages, health care, and access to drinking water. Cesar Chavez devoted his life to correcting these injustices, to reminding us that every job has dignity, every life has value, and everyone — no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from — should have the chance to get ahead. After returning from naval service during World War II, Cesar Chavez fought for freedom in American agricultural fields. Alongside Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers, and through decades of tireless organizing, even in the face of intractable opposition, he grew a movement to advance "La Causa" across the country. In 1966, he led a march that began in Delano, California, with a handful of activists and ended in Sacramento with a crowd 10,000 strong. A grape boycott eventually drew 17 million supporters nationwide, forcing growers to accept some of the first farm worker contracts in history. A generation of organizers rose to carry that legacy forward. The values Cesar Chavez lived by guide us still. As we push to fix a broken immigration system, protect the right to unionize, advance social justice for young men of color, and build ladders of opportunity for every American to climb, we recall his resilience through setbacks, his refusal to scale back his dreams. When we organize against income inequality and fight to raise the minimum wage — because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — we draw strength from his vision and example. Throughout his lifelong struggle, Cesar Chavez never forgot who he was fighting for. "What [the growers] don’t know," he said, "is that it’s not bananas or grapes or lettuce. It’s people." Today, let us honor Cesar Chavez and those who marched with him by meeting our obligations to one another. I encourage Americans to make this a national day of service and education by speaking out, organizing, and participating in service projects to improve lives in their communities. Let us remember that when we lift each other up, when we speak with one voice, we have the power to build a better world. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2014, as Cesar Chavez Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez’s enduring legacy. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth. Barack Obama
His face is on a U.S. postage stamp. Countless statues, murals, libraries, schools, parks and streets are named after him — he even has his own national monument. He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1969. A naval ship was named after him. The man even has his own Google Doodle and Apple ad. Yet his footprint in American history is widely unknown and that’s exactly the reason why actor-turned-director Diego Luna decided to produce a movie about his life. CNN
Sorel, for whom religion was important, drew a comparison between the Christian and the socialist revolutionary. The Christian’s life is transformed because he accepts the myth that Christ will one day return and usher in the end of time; the revolutionary socialist’s life is transformed because he accepts the myth that one day socialism will triumph, and justice for all will prevail. What mattered for Sorel, in both cases, is not the scientific truth or falsity of the myth believed in, but what believing in the myth does to the lives of those who have accepted it, and who refuse to be daunted by the repeated failure of their apocalyptic expectations. How many times have Christians in the last two thousand years been convinced that the Second Coming was at hand, only to be bitterly disappointed — yet none of these disappointments was ever enough to keep them from holding on to their great myth. So, too, Sorel argued, the myth of socialism will continue to have power, despite the various failures of socialist experiments, so long as there are revolutionaries who are unwilling to relinquish their great myth. That is why he rejected scientific socialism — if it was merely science, it lacked the power of a religion to change individual’s lives. Thus for Sorel there was “an…analogy between religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship, preparation, and even the reconstruction of the individual — a gigantic task. Lee Harris

En cette Journée César Chavez tout récemment proclamée par Notre Grand Timonier Obama …

Lancée, comme il se doit, par ses images saintes made in Hollywood

Bienvenue au dernier saint de nos amis de la gauche américaine !

The Left’s Misplaced Concern
The Left craves power not money, and that makes it much more frightening.
Dennis Prager
National review on line
May 22, 2012

You cannot understand the Left if you do not understand that leftism is a religion. It is not God-based (some left-wing Christians’ and Jews’ claims notwithstanding), but otherwise it has every characteristic of a religion. The most blatant of those characteristics is dogma. People who believe in leftism have as many dogmas as the most fundamentalist Christian.

One of them is material equality as the preeminent moral goal. Another is the villainy of corporations. The bigger the corporation, the greater the villainy. Thus, instead of the devil, the Left has Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, the “military-industrial complex,” and the like. Meanwhile, Big Labor, Big Trial Lawyers, and — of course — Big Government are left-wing angels.

And why is that? Why, to be specific, does the Left fear big corporations but not big government?

The answer is dogma — a belief system that transcends reason. No rational person can deny that big governments have caused almost all the great evils of the last century, arguably the bloodiest in history. Who killed the 20 to 30 million Soviet citizens in the Gulag Archipelago — big government or big business? Hint: There were no private businesses in the Soviet Union. Who deliberately caused 75 million Chinese to starve to death — big government or big business? Hint: See previous hint. Did Coca-Cola kill 5 million Ukrainians? Did Big Oil slaughter a quarter of the Cambodian population? Would there have been a Holocaust without the huge Nazi state?

Whatever bad things big corporations have done is dwarfed by the monstrous crimes — the mass enslavement of people, the deprivation of the most basic human rights, not to mention the mass murder and torture and genocide — committed by big governments.

How can anyone who thinks rationally believe that big corporations rather than big governments pose the greatest threat to humanity? The answer is that it takes a mind distorted by leftist dogma. If there is another explanation, I do not know what it is.

Religious Christians and Jews also have some irrational beliefs, but their irrationality is overwhelmingly confined to theological matters; and these theological irrationalities have no deleterious impact on religious Jews’ and Christians’ ability to see the world rationally and morally. Few religious Jews or Christians believe that big corporations are in any way analogous to big government in terms of evil done. And the few who do are leftists.

That the Left demonizes Big Pharma, for instance, is an example of this dogmatism. America’s pharmaceutical companies have saved millions of lives, including millions of leftists’ lives. And I do not doubt that in order to increase profits they have not always played by the rules. But to demonize big pharmaceutical companies while lionizing big government, big labor unions, and big tort-law firms is to stand morality on its head.

There is yet another reason to fear big government far more than big corporations. ExxonMobil has no police force, no IRS, no ability to arrest you, no ability to shut you up, and certainly no ability to kill you. ExxonMobil can’t knock on your door in the middle of the night and legally take you away. Apple Computer cannot take your money away without your consent, and it runs no prisons. The government does all of these things.

Of course, the Left will respond that government also does good and that corporations and capitalists are, by their very nature, “greedy.”

To which the rational response is that, of course, government also does good. But so do the vast majority of corporations, private citizens, church groups, and myriad voluntary associations. On the other hand, only big government can do anything approaching the monstrous evils of the last century.

As for greed: Between hunger for money and hunger for power, the latter is incomparably more frightening. It is noteworthy that none of the twentieth century’s monsters — Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao — were preoccupied with material gain. They loved power much more than money.

And that is why the Left is much more frightening than the Right. It craves power.

— Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk-show host, is author of Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.

Voir aussi:

The iconic UFW

Another myth. I opened my Easter Sunday Google browser and did not find a Christian icon on the page, but instead a (badly done) romantic rendition of a youthful Cesar Chavez, apparently our age’s version of a politically correct divinity.

Yet I wondered whether the midlevel Googilites who post these politically hip images knew all that much about Chavez. I grant in this age that they saw no reason to emphasize Christianity on its most holy day. But there is, after all, Miriam Pawel’s 2010 biography of Chavez still readily accessible[10], and a new essay about him in The Atlantic[11] — both written by sympathetic authors who nonetheless are not quite the usual garden-variety hagiographers. To suggest something other than sainthood is heresy in these parts, as I have discovered since the publication of Mexifornia a decade ago.

I grew up in the cauldron of farm-labor disputes. Small farms like ours largely escaped the violence, because there were five of us kids to do the work in summer and after school, and our friends welcomed the chance to buck boxes or help out propping trees or thinning plums. Hired help was rare and a matter of a few days of hiring 20 or so locals for the fall raisin harvest. But the epic table grape fights were not far away in Parlier, Reedley, and down the 99 in Delano. I offer a few impressions, some of them politically incorrect.

First, give Chavez his due. Farmworkers today are more akin to supposedly non-skilled (actually there is a skill required to pruning and picking) labor elsewhere, with roughly the same protective regulations as the food worker or landscaper. That was not true in 1965. Conservatives will argue that the market corrected the abuse (e.g., competition for ever scarcer workers) and ensured overtime, accessible toilets, and the end to hand-held hoes; liberals will credit Chavez — or fear of Chavez.

But that said, Chavez was not quite the icon we see in the grainy videos walking the vineyards withRobert Kennedy[12]. Perhaps confrontation was inevitable, but the labor organizing around here was hardly non-violent. Secondary boycotts were illegal, but that did not stop picketers from yelling and cursing as you exited the local Safeway with a bag of Emperor grapes. There were the constant union fights with bigger family growers (the 500 acre and above sort), as often demonstrators rushed into fields to mix it up with so-called scabs. Teamsters fought the UAW. The latter often worked with the immigration service to hunt down and deport illegals. The former bused in toughs to crack heads. After-hours UFW vandalism, as in the slashed tire and chain-sawed tree mode, was common.

The politics were explicable by one common theme: Cesar Chavez disliked small farmers and labor contractors[13], and preferred agribusiness and the idea of a huge union. Otherwise, there were simply too many incongruities in an agrarian checkerboard landscape for him to handle — as if the UAW would have had to deal with an auto industry scattered among thousands of small family-owned factories.

For Chavez, the ideal was a vast, simple us/them, 24/7 fight, albeit beneath an angelic veneer of Catholic suffering. In contrast, small farmers were not rich and hardly cut-out caricatures of grasping exploitation. Too many were unapologetic Armenians, Japanese (cf. the Nisei Farmers League), Portuguese, and Mexican-Americans to guarantee the necessary white/brown binary. Many had their own histories of racism, from the Armenian genocide to the Japanese internment, and had no white guilt of the Kennedy sort. I cannot imagine a tougher adversary than a Japanese, Armenian, or Punjabi farmer, perched on his own tractor or irrigating his 60 acres — entirely self-created, entirely unapologetic about his achievement, entirely committed to the idea that no one is going to threaten his existence.

The local labor contractors were not villains, but mostly residents who employed their relatives and knew well the 40-acre and 100-acre farmers they served. When there were slow times on the farm, I picked peaches for two summers for a Selma labor contractor, whose kids I went to school with. He was hardly a sellout. The crusty, hard-bitten small farmers (“don’t bruise that fruit,” “you missed three peaches up there on that limb,” “you stopped before it was quite noon”) who monitored personally the orchards we picked looked no different from the men on ladders.

In contrast, Chavez preferred the south and west Central Valley of huge corporate agribusiness. Rich and powerful, these great captains had the ability by fiat to institute labor agreements across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Chavez’s organizing forte was at home in a Tulare, Delano, Shafter, Mendota or Tranquility, not a Reedley, Kingsburg or Selma. In those days, the former were mostly pyramidal societies of a few corporate kingpins with an underclass of agricultural laborers, the latter were mixed societies in which Mexican-Americans were already ascendant and starting to join the broader middle class of Armenians, Japanese, and Punjabis.

Chavez was to be a Walter Reuther or George Meany, a make-or-breaker who sat across from a land baron, cut a deal for his vast following, and then assumed national stature as he doled out union patronage and quid-pro-quo political endorsements. In that vision, as a 1950s labor magnate Chavez largely failed — but not because agribusiness did not cave in to him. Indeed, it saw the UFW and Chavez as the simple cost of doing business, a tolerable write-off necessary to making all the bad press, vandalism, and violence go away.

Instead, the UFW imploded by its own insider and familial favoritism, corruption, and, to be frank, lunatic paranoia. The millions of dollars Chavez deducted for pension funds often vanished. Legions of relatives (for a vestigial experience of the inner sanctum, I suggest a visit to the national shrine southeast of Bakersfield) staffed the union administration. There were daily rumors of financial malfeasance, mostly in the sense of farmworkers belatedly discovering that their union deductions did not lead to promised healthcare or pensions.

Most hagiographies ignore Chavez’s eerie alliance with the unhinged Synanon bunch. In these parts, they had opened a foothill retreat of some sort above Woodlake, not far from here. (I visited the ramshackle Badger enclave once with my mother [I suppose as her informal "security,"], who was invited as a superior court judge to be introduced to their new anti-drug program in their hopes that county officials might save millions of dollars by sentencing supposedly non-violent heroin addicts to Synanon recovery treatments. Needless to say, she smiled, met the creepy “group,” looked around the place, and we left rather quickly, and that was that.)

I don’t think that the Google headliners remember that Charles Dederich[14] (of rattlesnake-in-the-mailbox and “Don’t mess with us. You can get killed, dead” fame) was a sort of model for Chavez, who tried to introduce the wacko-bird Synanon Game to his own UFW hierarchy. No matter, deification of Chavez is now de rigeur; the young generation who idolizes him has almost no knowledge of the man, his life, or his beliefs. It is enough that Bobby Kennedy used to fly into these parts, walk for a few well-filmed hours, and fly out.

When I went to UC Santa Cruz in September of 1971, I remember as a fool picking a box of Thompson seedless grapes from our farm to take along, and soon being met by a dorm delegation of rich kids from Pacific Palisades and Palos Verdes (a favorite magnet area for Santa Cruz in those days) who ordered me not to eat my own grapes on my own campus in my own room. Soon I had about four good friends who not only enjoyed them, but enjoyed eating them in front of those who did not (to the extent I remember these student moralists, and can collate old faces with names in the annual alumni news, most are now high-ups and executives in the entertainment industry). Victor Davis Hanson

Voir encore:

The study of history demands nuanced thinking

Miriam Pawel

Austin American-Statesman
7-17-09

[Pawel is the author of the forthcoming book 'The Union of Their Dreams — Power, Hope and Struggle in Cesar Chavez's Farm Worker Movement.']

Cesar Chavez was not a saint. He was, at times, a stubborn authoritarian bully, a fanatical control freak, a wily fighter who manufactured enemies and scapegoats, a mystical vegetarian who healed with his hands, and a union president who wanted his members to value sacrifice above higher wages.

He was also a brilliant, inspirational leader who changed thousands of lives as he built the first successful union for farmworkers, a consummate strategist singularly committed to his vision of helping the poor — a vision that even those close to him sometimes misunderstood.

That one man embodies such complexity and contradictions should be a key lesson underlying any history curriculum: Students should learn to think in shades of gray, to see heroes as real people, and to reject the dogma of black and white.

That sort of nuanced thinking appears largely absent from the debate over whether Cesar Chavez should be taught in Texas schools. Two of the six reviewers appointed to assess Texas’ social studies curriculum recently deemed Chavez an inappropriate role model whose contributions and stature have been overstated. Their critiques suggested he should be excised, not glorified. Their opponents pounced on the comments in an ongoing ideological and political dispute that clearly is far more sweeping than Chavez’s proper place in the classroom.

But the debate over Chavez and how his story is taught exemplifies the dangers of oversimplification and the absence of critical thinking.

His supporters are at fault as well as his detractors. For years, they have mythologized Chavez and fiercely fended off efforts to portray him in less than purely heroic terms. The hagiography only detracts from his very real, remarkable accomplishments. In an era when Mexican Americans were regarded as good for nothing more than the most back-breaking labor, Chavez mobilized public support and forced agribusiness to recognize the rights of farmworkers. His movement brought farmworkers dignity and self-respect, as well as better wages and working conditions. In California, he pushed through what remains today the most pro-labor law in the country, the only one granting farmworkers the right to organize and petition for union elections.

Chavez’s legacy can be seen in the work of a generation of activists and community organizers who joined the farmworker crusade during the 1960s and ’70s, a movement that transformed their lives. They, in turn, have gone on to effect change across the country, most recently playing key roles in the Obama presidential campaign.

The decline of the union Chavez founded and the ultimate failure of the United Farm Workers to achieve lasting change in the fields of California — much less expand into a national union — is part of the Chavez legacy, too. Chavez himself played a role in that precipitous decline, and students of history should not follow his example and blame the failures solely on outside forces and scapegoats.

Chavez, an avid reader of history, preserved an extraordinary record of his own movement: For years, he ordered that all documents, tapes and pictures be sent to the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, the nation’s preeminent labor archive. Chavez told people he wanted the history of his movement to be saved and studied — warts and all.

Those lessons should be taught in classrooms everywhere. – See more at: http://hnn.us/article/107517#sthash.NSesFPOF.dpuf

Voir encore:

Amid Chants of ‘¡Huelga!,’ an Embodiment of Hope
Hero Worship Abounds in ‘Cesar Chavez’

A. O. Scott

The NYT

MARCH 27, 2014

“Cesar Chavez,” directed by Diego Luna, is a well-cast, well-intentioned movie that falls into the trap that often awaits film biographies of brave and widely admired individuals. The movie is so intent on reminding viewers of its subject’s heroism that it struggles to make him an interesting, three-dimensional person, and it tells his story as a series of dramatic bullet points, punctuated by black-and-white footage, some real, some simulated, of historical events.

In spite of these shortcomings, Mr. Luna’s reconstruction of the emergence of the United Farm Workers organization in the 1960s unfolds with unusual urgency and timeliness. After a rushed beginning — in which we see Chavez (Michael Peña) arguing in a Los Angeles office and moving his family to Delano, a central California town, before we fully grasp his motives — we settle in for a long, sometimes violent struggle between the workers and the growers. Attempted strikes are met with intimidation and brutality, from the local sheriff and hired goons, and Chavez and his allies (notably Dolores Huerta, played by Rosario Dawson) come up with new tactics, including a public fast, a march from Delano to Sacramento and a consumer boycott of grapes.

As is customary in movies like this, we see the toll that the hero’s commitment takes on his family life. His wife, Helen (America Ferrera), is a steadfast ally, but there is tension between Chavez and his oldest son, Fernando (the only one of the couple’s eight children with more than an incidental presence on screen). Fernando (Eli Vargas) endures racist bullying at school and suffers from his father’s frequent absences. Their scenes together are more functional than heartfelt, fulfilling the requirement of allowing the audience a glimpse at the private life of a public figure.

We also venture into the household of one of Chavez’s main antagonists, a landowner named Bogdonovich, played with sly, dry understatement by John Malkovich. He is determined to break the incipient union, and the fight between the two men and their organizations becomes a national political issue. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Jack Holmes) takes the side of the workers, while the interests of the growers are publicly defended by Ronald Reagan, shown in an archival video clip describing the grape boycott as immoral, and Richard Nixon. Parts of “Cesar Chavez” are as rousing as an old folk song, with chants of “¡Huelga!” and “¡Sí, se puede!” ringing through the theater. Although it ends, as such works usually do, on a note of triumph, the film, whose screenplay is by Keir Pearson and Timothy J. Sexton, does not present history as a closed book. Movies about men and women who fought for social change — “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is a recent example — treat them less as the radicals they were than as embodiments of hope, reconciliation and consensus.

Though Cesar Chavez, who died in 1993, has been honored and celebrated, the problems he addressed have hardly faded away. The rights of immigrants and the wages and working conditions of those who pick, process and transport food are still live and contentious political issues.

And if you read between the lines of Mr. Luna’s earnest, clumsy film, you find not just a history lesson but an argument. The success of the farm workers depended on the strength of labor unions, both in the United States and overseas, and the existence of political parties able to draw on that power. What the film struggles to depict, committed as it is to the conventions of hagiography, is the long and complex work of organizing people to defend their own interests. You are invited to admire what Cesar Chavez did, but it may be more vital to understand how he did it.

“Cesar Chavez” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Strong language and scenes of bloody class struggle.

Voir encore:

The Madness of Cesar Chavez
A new biography of the icon shows that saints should be judged guilty until proved innocent.
Caitlin Flanagan
The Atlantic
Jun 13 2011,

Once a year, in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California, something spectacular happens. It lasts only a couple of weeks, and it’s hard to catch, because the timing depends on so many variables. But if you’re patient, and if you check the weather reports from Fresno and Tulare counties obsessively during the late winter and early spring, and if you are also willing, on very little notice, to drop everything and make the unglamorous drive up (or down) to that part of the state, you will see something unforgettable. During a couple of otherworldly weeks, the tens of thousands of fruit trees planted there burst into blossom, and your eye can see nothing, on either side of those rutted farm roads, but clouds of pink and white and yellow. Harvest time is months away, the brutal summer heat is still unimaginable, and in those cool, deserted orchards, you find only the buzzing of bees, the perfumed air, and the endless canopy of color.

I have spent the past year thinking a lot about the San Joaquin Valley, because I have been trying to come to terms with the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, whose United Farm Workers movement—born in a hard little valley town called Delano—played a large role in my California childhood. I spent the year trying, with increasing frustration, to square my vision of him, and of his movement, with one writer’s thorough and unflinching reassessment of them. Beginning five years ago, with a series of shocking articles in the Los Angeles Times, and culminating now in one of the most important recent books on California history, Miriam Pawel has undertaken a thankless task: telling a complicated and in many ways shattering truth. That her book has been so quietly received is not owing to a waning interest in the remarkable man at its center. Streets and schools and libraries are still being named for Chavez in California; his long-ago rallying cry of “Sí, se puede” remains so evocative of ideas about justice and the collective power of the downtrodden that Barack Obama adopted it for his presidential campaign. No, the silence greeting the first book to come to terms with Chavez’s legacy arises from the human tendency to be stubborn and romantic and (if the case requires it) willfully ignorant in defending the heroes we’ve chosen for ourselves. That silence also attests to the way Chavez touched those of us who had any involvement with him, because the full legacy has to include his singular and almost mystical way of eliciting not just fealty but a kind of awe. Something cultlike always clung to the Chavez operation, and so while I was pained to learn in Pawel’s book of Chavez’s enthrallment with an actual cult—with all the attendant paranoia and madness—that development makes sense.

In the face of Pawel’s book, I felt compelled to visit the places where Chavez lived and worked, although it’s hard to tempt anyone to join you on a road trip to somewhere as bereft of tourist attractions as the San Joaquin Valley. But one night in late February, I got a break: someone who’d just driven down from Fresno told me that the trees were almost in bloom, and that was all I needed. I took my 13-year-old son, Conor, out of school for a couple of days so we could drive up the 99 and have a look. I was thinking of some things I wanted to show him, and some I wanted to see for myself. It would be “experiential learning”; it would be a sentimental journey. At times it would be a covert operation.

One Saturday night, when I was 9 or 10 years old, my parents left the dishes in the sink and dashed out the driveway for their weekend treat: movie night. But not half an hour later—just enough time for the round trip from our house in the Berkeley Hills to the United Artists theater down on Shattuck—they were right back home again, my mother hanging up her coat with a sigh, and my father slamming himself angrily into a chair in front of The Bob Newhart Show.

What happened?

“Strike,” he said bitterly.

One of the absolute rules of our household, so essential to our identity that it was never even explained in words, was that a picket line didn’t mean “maybe.” A picket line meant “closed.” This rule wasn’t a point of honor or a means of forging solidarity with the common man, someone my father hoped to encounter only in literature. It came from a way of understanding the world, from the fierce belief that the world was divided between workers and owners. The latter group was always, always trying to exploit the former, which—however improbably, given my professor father’s position in life—was who we were.

In the history of human enterprise, there can have been no more benevolent employer than the University of California in the 1960s and ’70s, yet to hear my father and his English-department pals talk about the place, you would have thought they were working at the Triangle shirtwaist factory. Not buying a movie ticket if the ushers were striking meant that if the shit really came down, and the regents tried to make full professors teach Middlemarch seminars over summer vacation, the ushers would be there for you. As a child, I burned brightly with the justice of these concepts, and while other children were watching Speed Racer or learning Chinese jump rope, I spent a lot of my free time working for the United Farm Workers.

Everything about the UFW and its struggle was right-sized for a girl: it involved fruits and vegetables, it concerned the most elementary concepts of right and wrong, it was something you could do with your mom, and most of your organizing could be conducted just outside the grocery store, which meant you could always duck inside for a Tootsie Pop. The cement apron outside a grocery store, where one is often accosted—in a manner both winsome and bullying—by teams of Brownies pressing their cookies on you, was once my barricade and my bully pulpit.

Of course, it had all started with Mom. Somewhere along the way, she had met Cesar Chavez, or at least attended a rally where he had spoken, and that was it. Like almost everyone else who ever encountered him, she was spellbound. “This wonderful, wonderful man,” she would call him, and off we went to collect clothes for the farmworkers’ children, and to sell red-and-black UFW buttons and collect signatures. It was our thing: we loved each other, we loved doing little projects, we had oceans of free time (has anyone in the history of the world had more free time than mid-century housewives and their children?), and we were both constitutionally suited to causes that required grudge-holding and troublemaking and making things better for people in need. Most of all, though, we loved Cesar.

In those heady, early days of the United Farm Workers, in the time of the great five-year grape strike that started in 1965, no reporter, not even the most ironic among them, failed to remark upon, if not come under, Chavez’s sway. “The Messianic quality about him,” observed John Gregory Dunne in his brilliant 1967 book, Delano, “is suggested by his voice, which is mesmerizing—soft, perfectly modulated, pleasantly accented.” Peter Matthiessen’s book-length profile of Chavez, which consumed two issues of The New Yorker in the summer of 1969, reported: “He is the least boastful man I have ever met.” Yet within this self-conscious and mannered presentation of inarticulate deference was an ability to shape both a romantic vision and a strategic plan. Never since then has so great a gift been used for so small a cause. In six months, he took a distinctly regional movement and blasted it into national, and then international, fame.

The ranchers underestimated Chavez,” a stunned local observer of the historic Delano grape strike told Dunne; “they thought he was just another dumb Mex.” Such a sentiment fueled opinions of Chavez, not just among the valley’s grape growers—hardworking men, none of them rich by any means—but among many of his most powerful admirers, although they spoke in very different terms. Chavez’s followers—among them mainline Protestants, socially conscious Jews, Berkeley kids, white radicals who were increasingly rootless as the civil-rights movement transformed into the black-power movement—saw him as a profoundly good man. But they also understood him as a kind of idiot savant, a noble peasant who had risen from the agony of stoop labor and was mysteriously instilled with the principles and tactics of union organizing. In fact he’d been a passionate and tireless student of labor relations for a decade before founding the UFW, handpicked to organize Mexican Americans for the Community Service Organization, a local outfit under the auspices of no less a personage than Saul Alinsky, who knew Chavez well and would advise him during the grape strike. From Alinsky, and from Fred Ross, the CSO founder, Chavez learned the essential tactic of organizing: the person-by-person, block-by-block building of a coalition, no matter how long it took, sitting with one worker at a time, hour after hour, until the tide of solidarity is so high, no employer can defeat it.

Chavez, like all the great ’60s figures, was a man of immense personal style. For a hundred reasons—some cynical, some not—he and Robert Kennedy were drawn to each other. The Kennedy name had immense appeal to the workers Chavez was trying to cultivate; countless Mexican households displayed photographs of JFK, whose assassination they understood as a Catholic martyrdom rather than an act of political gun violence. In turn, Chavez’s cause offered Robert Kennedy a chance to stand with oppressed workers in a way that would not immediately inflame his family’s core constituency, among them working-class Irish Americans who felt no enchantment with the civil-rights causes that RFK increasingly embraced. The Hispanic situation was different. At the time of the grape strike, Mexican American immigration was not on anyone’s political radar. The overwhelming majority of California’s population was white, and the idea that Mexican workers would compete for anyone’s good job was unheard-of. The San Joaquin Valley farms—and the worker exploitation they had historically engendered—were associated more closely with the mistreatment of white Okies during the Great Depression than with the plight of any immigrant population.

Kennedy—his mind, like Chavez’s, always on the political promise of a great photograph—flew up to Delano in March 1968, when Chavez broke his 25-day fast, which he had undertaken not as a hunger strike, but as penance for some incidents of UFW violence. In a Mass held outside the union gas station where Chavez had fasted, the two were photographed, sitting next to Chavez’s wife and his mantilla-wearing mother, taking Communion together (“Senator, this is probably the most ridiculous request I ever made in my life,” said a desperate cameraman who’d missed the shot; “but would you mind giving him a piece of bread?”). Three months later, RFK was shot in Los Angeles, and a second hagiographic photograph was taken of the leader with a Mexican American. A young busboy named Juan Romero cradled the dying senator in his arms, his white kitchen jacket and dark, pleading eyes lending the picture an urgency at once tragic and political: The Third of May recast in a hotel kitchen. The United Farm Workers began to seem like Kennedy’s great unfinished business. The family firm might have preferred that grieving for Bobby take the form of reconsidering Teddy’s political possibilities, but in fact much of it was channeled, instead, into boycotting grapes.

That historic grape boycott eventually ended with a rousing success: three-year union contracts binding the Delano growers and the farmworkers. After that, the movement drifted out of my life and consciousness, as it did—I now realize—for millions of other people. I remember clearly the night my mother remarked (in a guarded way) to my father that the union had now switched its boycott from grapes to … lettuce. “Lettuce?” he squawked, and then burst out in mean laughter. I got the joke. What was Chavez going to do now, boycott each of California’s agricultural products, one at a time for five years each? We’d be way into the 21st century by the time they got around to zucchini. And besides, things were changing—in the world, in Berkeley, and (in particular, I thought) at the Flanagans’. Things that had appeared revolutionary and appealing in the ’60s were becoming weird or ugly in the ’70s. People began turning inward. My father, stalwart Vietnam War protester and tear-gasee, turned his concern to writing an endless historical novel about 18th-century Ireland. My mother stopped worrying so much about the liberation of other people and cut herself into the deal: she left her card table outside the Berkeley Co-op and went back to work. I too found other pursuits. Sitting in my room with the cat and listening over and over to Carly Simon’s No Secrets album—while staring with Talmudic concentration at its braless cover picture—was at least as absorbing as shaking the Huelga can and fretting about Mexican children’s vaccination schedules had once been. Everyone sort of moved on.

I didn’t really give any thought to the UFW again until the night of my mother’s death. At the end of that terrible day, when my sister and I returned from the hospital to our parents’ house, we looked through the papers on my mother’s kitchen desk, and there among the envelopes from the many, many charities she supported (she sent each an immediate albeit very small check) was one bearing a logo I hadn’t seen in years: the familiar black-and-red Huelga eagle. I smiled and took it home with me. I wrote a letter to the UFW, telling about my mom and enclosing a check, and suddenly I was back.

Re-upping with the 21st-century United Farm Workers was fantastic. The scope of my efforts was so much larger than before (they encouraged me to e-blast their regular updates to everyone in my address book, which of course I did) and the work so, so much less arduous—no sitting around in parking lots haranguing people about grapes. I never got off my keister. Plus, every time a new UFW e-mail arrived—the logo blinking, in a very new-millennium way, “Donate now!”—and I saw the pictures of farmworkers doing stoop labor in the fields, and the stirring photographs of Cesar Chavez, I felt close to my lost mother and connected to her: here I am, Mom, still doing our bit for the union.

And then one morning a few years later, I stepped out onto the front porch in my bathrobe, picked up the Los Angeles Times, and saw a headline: “Farmworkers Reap Little as Union Strays From Its Roots.” It was the first article in a four-part series by a Times reporter named Miriam Pawel, and from the opening paragraph, I was horrified.

I learned that while the UFW brand still carried a lot of weight in people’s minds—enough to have built a pension plan of $100 million in assets but with only a few thousand retirees who qualified—the union had very few contracts with California growers, the organization was rife with Chavez nepotism, and the many UFW-funded business ventures even included an apartment complex in California built with non-union labor. I took this news personally. I felt ashamed that I had forwarded so many e-mails to so many friends, all in the service, somehow, of keeping my mother’s memory and good works alive, and all to the ultimate benefit—as it turned out—not of the workers in the fields (whose lives were in some ways worse than they had been in the ’60s), but rather of a large, shadowy, and now morally questionable organization. But at least, I told myself, none of this has in any way impugned Cesar himself: he’d been dead more than a decade before the series was published. His own legacy was unblighted.

Or so it seemed, until my editor sent me a copy of The Union of Their Dreams, Pawel’s exhaustively researched, by turns sympathetic and deeply shocking, investigation of Chavez and his movement, and in particular of eight of the people who worked most closely with him. Through her in-depth interviews with these figures—among them a prominent attorney who led the UFW legal department, a minister who was one of Chavez’s closest advisers, and a young farmworker who had dedicated his life to the cause—Pawel describes the reality of the movement, not just during the well-studied and victorious period that made it famous, but during its long, painful transformation to what it is today. Her story of one man and his movement is a story of how the ’60s became the ’70s.

To understand Chavez, you have to understand that he was grafting together two life philosophies that were, at best, an idiosyncratic pairing. One was grounded in union-organizing techniques that go back to the Wobblies; the other emanated directly from the mystical Roman Catholicism that flourishes in Mexico and Central America and that Chavez ardently followed. He didn’t conduct “hunger strikes”; he fasted penitentially. He didn’t lead “protest marches”; he organized peregrinations in which his followers—some crawling on their knees—arrayed themselves behind the crucifix and effigies of the Virgin of Guadalupe. His desire was not to lift workers into the middle class, but to bind them to one another in the decency of sacrificial poverty. He envisioned the little patch of dirt in Delano—the “Forty Acres” that the UFW had acquired in 1966 and that is now a National Historic Landmark—as a place where workers could build shrines, pray, and rest in the shade of the saplings they had tended together while singing. Like most ’60s radicals—of whatever stripe—he vastly overestimated the appeal of hard times and simple living; he was not the only Californian of the time to promote the idea of a Poor People’s Union, but as everyone from the Symbionese Liberation Army to the Black Panthers would discover, nobody actually wants to be poor. With this Christ-like and infinitely suffering approach to some worldly matters, Chavez also practiced the take-no-prisoners, balls-out tactics of a Chicago organizer. One of his strategies during the lettuce strike was causing deportations: he would alert the immigration authorities to the presence of undocumented (and therefore scab) workers and get them sent back to Mexico. As the ’70s wore on, all of this—the fevered Catholicism and the brutal union tactics—coalesced into a gospel with fewer and fewer believers. He moved his central command from the Forty Acres, where he was in constant contact with workers and their families—and thus with the realities and needs of their lives—and took up residence in a weird new headquarters.

Located in the remote foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains, the compound Chavez would call La Paz centered on a moldering and abandoned tuberculosis hospital and its equally ravaged outbuildings. In the best tradition of charismatic leaders left alone with their handpicked top command, he became unhinged. This little-known turn of events provides the compelling final third of Pawel’s book. She describes how Chavez, the master spellbinder, himself fell under the spell of a sinister cult leader, Charles Dederich, the founder of Synanon, which began as a tough-love drug-treatment program and became—in Pawel’s gentle locution—“an alternative lifestyle community.” Chavez visited Dederich’s compound in the Sierras (where women routinely had their heads shaved as a sign of obedience) and was impressed. Pawel writes:

Chavez envied Synanon’s efficient operation. The cars all ran, the campus was immaculate, the organization never struggled for money.

He was also taken with a Synanon practice called “The Game,” in which people were put in the center of a small arena and accused of disloyalty and incompetence while a crowd watched their humiliation. Chavez brought the Game back to La Paz and began to use it on his followers, among them some of the UFW’s most dedicated volunteers. In a vast purge, he exiled or fired many of them, leaving wounds that remain tender to this day. He began to hold the actual farmworkers in contempt: “Every time we look at them,” he said during a tape-recorded meeting at La Paz, “they want more money. Like pigs, you know. Here we’re slaving, and we’re starving and the goddamn workers don’t give a shit about anything.”

Chavez seemed to have gone around the bend. He decided to start a new religious order. He flew to Manila during martial law in 1977 and was officially hosted by Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime he praised, to the horror and loud indignation of human-rights advocates around the world.

By the time of Chavez’s death, the powerful tide of union contracts for California farmworkers, which the grape strike had seemed to augur, had slowed to the merest trickle. As a young man, Chavez had set out to secure decent wages and working conditions for California’s migrant workers; anyone taking a car trip through the “Salad Bowl of the World” can see that for the most part, these workers have neither.

For decades, Chavez has been almost an abstraction, a collection of gestures and images (the halting speech, the plaid shirt, the eagerness to perform penance for the smallest transgressions) suggesting more an icon than a human being. Here in California, Chavez has reached civic sainthood. Indeed, you can trace a good many of the giants among the state’s shifting pantheon by looking at the history of one of my former elementary schools. When Berkeley became the first city in the United States to integrate its school system without a court order, my white friends and I were bused to an institution in the heart of the black ghetto called Columbus School. In the fullness of time, its name was changed to Rosa Parks School; the irony of busing white kids to a school named for Rosa Parks never seemed fully unintentional to me. Now this school has a strong YouTube presence for the videos of its Cesar Chavez Day play, an annual event in which bilingual first-graders dressed as Mexican farmworkers carry Sí, Se Puede signs and sing “De Colores.” The implication is that just as Columbus and Parks made their mark on America, so did Chavez make his lasting mark on California.

In fact, no one could be more irrelevant to the California of today, and particularly to its poor, Hispanic immigrant population, than Chavez. He linked improvement of workers’ lives to a limitation on the bottomless labor pool, but today, low-wage, marginalized, and exploited workers from Mexico and Central America number not in the tens of thousands, as in the ’60s, but in the millions. Globalization is the epitome of capitalism, and nowhere is it more alive than in California. When I was a child in the ’60s, professional-class families did not have a variety of Hispanic workers—maids, nannies, gardeners—toiling in and around their households. Most faculty wives in Berkeley had a once-a-week “cleaning lady,” but those women were blacks, not Latinas. A few of the posher families had gardeners, but those men were Japanese, and they were employed for their expertise in cultivating California plants, not for their willingness to “mow, blow, and go.”

Growing up here when I did meant believing your state was the most blessed place in the world. We were certain—both those who lived in the Republican, Beach Boys paradises of Southern California and those who lived in the liberal enclaves of Berkeley and Santa Monica—that our state would always be able to take care of its citizens. The working class would be transformed (by dint of the aerospace industry and the sunny climate) into the most comfortable middle class in the world, with backyard swimming pools and self-starting barbecue grills for everyone. The poor would be taken care of, too, whether that meant boycotting grapes, or opening libraries until every rough neighborhood had books (and Reading Lady volunteers) for everyone.

But all of that is gone now.

The state is broken, bankrupt, mean. The schools are a misery, and the once-famous parks are so crowded on weekends that you might as well not go, unless you arrive at first light to stake your claim. The vision of civic improvement has given way to self-service and consumer indulgence. Where the mighty Berkeley Co-op once stood on Shattuck and Cedar—where I once rattled the can for Chavez, as shoppers (each one a part owner) went in to buy no-frills, honestly purveyed, and often unappealing food—is now a specialty market of the Whole Foods variety, with an endless olive bar and a hundred cheeses.

When I took my boy up the state to visit Cesar’s old haunts, we drove into the Tehachapi Mountains to see the compound at La Paz, now home to the controversial National Farm Workers Service Center, which sits on a war chest of millions of dollars. The place was largely deserted and very spooky. In Delano, the famous Forty Acres, site of the cooperative gas station and of Chavez’s 25-day fast, was bleak and unvisited. We found a crust of old snow on Chavez’s grave in Keene, and a cold wind in Delano. We spent the night in Fresno, and my hopes even for the Blossom Trail were low. But we followed the 99 down to Fowler, tacked east toward Sanger, and then, without warning, there we were.

“Stop the car,” Conor said, and although I am usually loath to walk a farmer’s land without permission, we had to step out into that cloud of pale color. We found ourselves in an Arthur Rackham illustration: the boughs bending over our heads were heavy with white blossoms, the ground was covered in moss that was in places deep green and in others brown, like worn velvet. I kept turning back to make sure the car was still in sight, but then I gave up my last hesitation and we pushed deeper and deeper into the orchard, until all we could see were the trees. At 65 degrees, the air felt chilly enough for a couple of Californians to keep their sweaters on. In harvest season, the temperature will climb to over 100 degrees many days, and the rubbed velvet of the spring will have given way to a choking dust. Almost none of the workers breathing it will have a union contract, few will be here legally, and the deals they strike with growers will hinge on only one factor: how many other desperate people need work. California agriculture has always had a dark side. But—whether you’re eating a ripe piece of fruit in your kitchen or standing in a fairy-tale field of blossoms on a cool spring morning—forgetting about all of that is so blessedly easy. Chavez shunned nothing more fervently than the easy way; and nothing makes me feel further away from the passions and certainty of my youth than my eagerness, now, to take it.
Caitlin Flanagan’s book Girl Land will be published in January 2012.

Voir enfin:

Why the ‘Cesar Chavez’ biopic matters now
Cindy Y. Rodriguez
CNN
March 28, 2014

New York (CNN) — Cesar Chavez is something of a national icon.

His face is on a U.S. postage stamp. Countless statues, murals, libraries, schools, parks and streets are named after him — he even has his own national monument. He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1969. A naval ship was named after him. The man even has his own Google Doodle and Apple ad.

Yet his footprint in American history is widely unknown and that’s exactly the reason why actor-turned-director Diego Luna decided to produce a movie about his life.

"I was really surprised that there wasn’t already a film out about Chavez’s life, so that’s why I spent the past four years making this and hope the country will join me in celebrating his life and work," Diego Luna said during Tuesday’s screening of "Cesar Chavez: An American Hero" in New York. The movie opens nationwide on Friday.

After seeing farm workers harvesting the country’s food unable to afford feeding their own families — let alone the deplorable working conditions they faced — Chavez decided to act.

He and Dolores Huerta co-founded what’s now known as the United Farm Workers. They became the first to successfully organize farm workers while being completely committed to nonviolence.

Without Chavez, California’s farm workers wouldn’t have fair wages, lunch breaks and access to toilets or clean water in the fields. Not to mention public awareness about the dangers of pesticides to farm workers and helping outlaw the short-handled hoe. Despite widespread knowledge of its dangers, this tool damaged farm workers’ backs.

His civil rights activism has been compared to that of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Difficult conditions in America’s fields

But as the film successfully highlights Chavez’s accomplishments, viewers will also be confronted with an uncomfortable truth about who picks their food and under what conditions.

Unfortunately, Chavez’s successes don’t cross state lines.

States such as New York, where farm workers face long hours without any overtime pay or a day of rest, are of concern for human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

The Kennedys have been supporters of the UFW since Sen. Robert Kennedy broke bread with Chavez during the last day of his fast against violence in 1968.

"New York is 37 years behind California. Farm workers here can be fired if they tried collective bargaining," Kennedy said after the "Cesar Chavez" screening. "We need a Cesar Chavez."

California is still the only state where farm workers have the right to organize.

Kennedy is urging the passing of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would give farm workers the right to one day of rest each week, time-and-a-half pay for work past an eight-hour day, as well as unemployment, workers’ compensation and disability insurance.

It’s not just New York. Farm workers across the country face hardship. In Michigan’s blueberry fields, there’s a great deal of child labor, Rodriguez said.

"Because they’re paid by piece-rate, it puts a lot of stress on all family members to chip in. Plus, families work under one Social Security number because about 80% of the farm worker population is undocumented," Rodriguez added.

That’s why the UFW and major grower associations worked closely with the Senate’s immigration reform bill to include special provisions that would give farm workers legal status if they continued to work in agriculture.

"Farm workers shouldn’t struggle so much to feed their own families, and we can be part of that change," Luna said.

A national holiday in honor Chavez?

To help facilitate that change, Luna and the film’s cast — Michael Peña as Chavez, America Ferrera as his wife, Helen, and Rosario Dawson as labor leader Dolores Huerta — have been trekking all over the country promoting the film and a petition to make Chavez’s birthday on March 31 a national holiday.

"We aren’t pushing Cesar Chavez Day just to give people a day off. It’s to give people a ‘day on’ because we have a responsibility to provide service to our communities," United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez told CNN.

In 2008, President Barack Obama showed his support for the national holiday and even borrowed the United Farm Workers famous chant "Si Se Puede!’ — coined by Dolores Huerta — during his first presidential campaign.

Obama endorsed it again in 2012, when he created a national monument to honor Chavez, but the resolution still has to be passed by Congress to be recognized as a national holiday.

Right now, Cesar Chavez Day is recognized only in California, Texas and Colorado.
Political activist Dolores Huerta Political activist Dolores Huerta

Huerta, 83, is still going strong in her activism and has also helped promote the film. She said she wishes the film could have included more history, but she knows it’s impossible.

"There were so many important lessons in the film. All the sacrifices Cesar and his wife, Helen, had to make and the obstacles we had to face against the police and judges. We even had people that were killed in the movement but we were still able to organize," Huerta said.

Actor Tony Plana, who attending the New York screening, knew the late Chavez and credited him with the launch of his acting career. Plana, known for his role as the father on ABC’s "Ugly Betty" TV series, said his first acting gig was in the UFW’s theatrical troupe educating and helping raising farm workers’ awareness about their work conditions.

"I’ve waited more than 35 years for this film to be made, and I can’t tell you how honored I am to finally see it happen," Plana told CNN.

It’s not that there wasn’t interest in making the biopic before: Hollywood studios and directors have approached the Chavez family in the past, but the family kept turning them down, mainly for two reasons.

"Well, first Cesar didn’t want to spend the time making the film because there was so much work to do, and he was hesitant on being singled out because there were so many others that contributed to the UFW’s success," said Rodriguez.

It wasn’t until Luna came around and asked the Chavez family how they felt the movie should be made that the green light was given. But when it came time to getting the funding to produce the film, Hollywood was not willing.

"Hopefully this film will send a message to Hollywood that our [Latino] stories need to be portrayed in cinema," Luna added.

"Latinos go to the movies more than anyone else, but we’re the least represented on screen. It doesn’t make any sense," Dawson told CNN.

In 2012, Hispanics represented 18% of the movie-going population but accounted for 25% of all movies seen, according to Nielsen National Research Group.

"I hope young people use the power of social media to help spread the word about social change," Dawson said.

"There is power in being a consumer and boycotting. If we want more as a community, we need to speak up."


Contes de fées: Cachez cette violence que je ne saurai voir (Looking back at the disturbing origins of fairy tales)

30 mars, 2014
  Locust plague"Jews caused the disease by poisoning the wells"
Cupid and Psyche (Giuseppe Maria Crespi)
Titania with donkey-faced Bottom (Midsummer's night dream, Johann Heinrich Füssli)
Pig King (Crane)
Pig  King (Anne Anderson)

Beauty and the Beast

Petrus Gonsalvus, by anonymoushttp://www.jcbourdais.net/journal/images_journal/fontana/anton1.jpg
Qu’est-ce qui est plus nuisible qu’aucun vice ? La compassion active pour tous les ratés et les faibles — le christianisme… Nietzsche
Le christianisme entend venir à bout des fauves : sa méthode consiste à les rendre malades — l’affaiblissement est la recette chrétienne de l’ apprivoisement, de la "civilisation". Nietzsche
Le christianisme, c’est le mensonge dangereux d’un univers sans victime. Nietzsche
Les contes ont été relégués à la chambre d’enfants comme on relègue à la salle de jeux les meubles médiocres ou démodés, principalement du fait que les adultes n’en veulent pas et qu’il leur est égal qu’ils soient maltraités. JRR Tolkien
Peut-on imaginer personnage littéraire plus désagréable que le Dieu de l’Ancien Testament? Jaloux et en étant fier; obsédé de l’autorité, mesquin, injuste et impitoyable; vengeur et sanguinaire tenant de l’épuration ethnique; tyrannique, misogyne, homophobe, raciste, infanticide, génocidaire, fillicide, pestilentiel, mégalomane, sadomasochiste et capricieusement diabolique. Richard Dawkins
Dans certains des Psaumes l’esprit de haine nous frappe au visage comme la chaleur d’une fournaise. Dans d’autres cas, le même esprit cesse d’être effrayant mais c’est pour devenir (aux yeux de l’homme moderne) presque comique par sa naïveté. (…) Si nous excusons les poètes des Psaumes sous prétexte qu’ils n’étaient pas chrétiens, nous devrions pouvoir montrer que les auteurs païens expriment le même genre de choses et pire encore (….) Je peux trouver en eux de la lascivité, une bonne dose d’insensibilité brutale, une froide cruauté qui va de soi pour eux, mais certainement pas cette fureur ou cette profusion de haine…. La première impression que l’on en retire est que les Juifs étaient bien plus vindicatifs et acerbes que les païens. CS Lewis 
Il y a une quantité incroyable de violence dans des pièces telles que Médée ou les Bacchantes, dans la tradition dionysiaque dans son ensemble qui est centrée sur le lynchage. L’Iliade n’est rien d’autre qu’une chaîne d’actes de vengeance ; mais ce que C. S. Lewis et Nietzsche disent sur cette question est sans doute vrai si le problème est défini de la façon qu’ils le définissent il, à savoir en termes non pas de pure quantité de violence exposée mais de l’intensité de la rancoeur ou du ressentiment. (…) Même si les Bacchantes d’Euripide ne sont pas loin de prendre la défense de la victime, en fin de compte elles ne le font pas. Le lynchage du roi Penthée de la propre main de sa mère et de ses sœurs est horrible certes, mais pas mauvais; il est justifié. Le  roi Penthée est coupable de s’immiscer dans les rituels religieux des Bacchantes, coupable de s’opposer au dieu Dionysos lui-même. René Girard
On dit que les Psaumes de la Bible sont violents, mais qui s’exprime dans les psaumes, sinon les victimes des violences des mythes : “Les taureaux de Balaam m’encerclent et vont me lyncher”? Les Psaumes sont comme une fourrure magnifique de l’extérieur, mais qui, une fois retournée, laisse découvrir une peau sanglante. Ils sont typiques de la violence qui pèse sur l’homme et du recours que celui-ci trouve dans son Dieu. René Girard
De nombreux commentateurs veulent aujourd’hui montrer que, loin d’être non violente, la Bible est vraiment pleine de violence. En un sens, ils ont raison. La représentation de la violence dans la Bible est énorme et plus vive, plus évocatrice, que dans la mythologie même grecque. (…) Il est une chose que j’apprécie dans le refus contemporain de cautionner la violence biblique, quelque chose de rafraîchissant et de stimulant, une capacité d’indignation qui, à quelques exceptions près, manque dans la recherche et l’exégèse religieuse classiques. (…) Une fois que nous nous rendons compte que nous avons à faire au même phénomène social dans la Bible que la mythologie, à savoir la foule hystérique qui ne se calmera pas tant qu’elle n’aura pas lynché une victime, nous ne pouvons manquer de prendre conscience du fait de la grande singularité biblique, même de son caractère unique. (…) Dans la mythologie, la violence collective est toujours représentée à partir du point de vue de l’agresseur et donc on n’entend jamais les victimes elles-mêmes. On ne les entend jamais se lamenter sur leur triste sort et maudire leurs persécuteurs comme ils le font dans les Psaumes. Tout est raconté du point de vue des bourreaux. (…) Pas étonnant que les mythes grecs, les épopées grecques et les tragédies grecques sont toutes sereines, harmonieuses et non perturbées. (…) Pour moi, les Psaumes racontent la même histoire de base que les mythes mais retournée, pour ainsi dire. (…) Les Psaumes d’exécration ou de malédiction sont les premiers textes dans l’histoire qui permettent aux victimes, à jamais réduites au silence dans la mythologie, d’avoir une voix qui leur soit propre. (…) Ces victimes ressentent exactement la même chose que Job. Il faut décrire le livre de Job, je crois, comme un psaume considérablement élargi de malédiction. Si Job était un mythe, nous aurions seulement le point de vue des amis. (…) La critique actuelle de la violence dans la Bible ne soupçonne pas que la violence représentée dans la Bible peut être aussi dans les évènements derrière la mythologie, bien qu’invisible parce qu’elle est non représentée. La Bible est le premier texte à représenter la victimisation du point de vue de la victime, et c’est cette représentation qui est responsable, en fin de compte, de notre propre sensibilité supérieure à la violence. Ce n’est pas le fait de notre intelligence supérieure ou de notre sensibilité. Le fait qu’aujourd’hui nous pouvons passer jugement sur ces textes pour leur violence est un mystère. Personne d’autre n’a jamais fait cela dans le passé. C’est pour des raisons bibliques, paradoxalement, que nous critiquons la Bible. (…) Alors que dans le mythe, nous apprenons le lynchage de la bouche des persécuteurs qui soutiennent qu’ils ont bien fait de lyncher leurs victimes, dans la Bible nous entendons la voix des victimes elles-mêmes qui ne voient nullement le lynchage comme une chose agréable et nous disent en des mots extrêmement violents, des mots qui reflètent une réalité violente qui est aussi à l’origine de la mythologie, mais qui restant invisible, déforme notre compréhension générale de la littérature païenne et de la mythologie. René Girard
Ceux qui considèrent l’hébraïsme et le christianisme comme des religions du bouc émissaire parce qu’elles le rendent visible font comme s’ils punissaient l’ambassadeur en raison du message qu’il apporte. René Girard
Aujourd’hui on repère les boucs émissaires dans l’Angleterre victorienne et on ne les repère plus dans les sociétés archaïques. C’est défendu. René Girard
Au XIXe siècle, les spécialistes de religion comparée insistaient beaucoup sur les similitudes spectaculaires entre la Bible et les mythes du monde entier. Et ils conclurent trop vite que la Bible était un recueil de mythes identiques à tous les autres. Etant des "positivistes" et percevant un peu partout une plus ou moins grande ressemblance entre les données qu’ils étudiaient, ils ne notèrent aucune différence réelle entre la Bible et le reste. Un seul penseur a perçu cette différence cruciale : il s’agit de Friedrich Nietzsche. Dans la pensée de Nietzsche, du moins dans sa phase tardive, la dichotomie entre maîtres et esclaves doit d’abord se comprendre comme une opposition entre, d’un côté, les religions mythiques, qui expriment le point de vue des persécuteurs et considèrent toutes les victimes comme sacrifiables, et d’autre part la Bible et surtout les Evangiles, qui « calomnient » et sapent à la base les religions du premier groupe – et, en réalité, toutes les autres religions, car les Evangiles dénoncent l’injustice qu’il y a, dans tous les cas de figure, à sacrifier une victime innocente. (…) Il convient de voir dans les Ecritures judéo-chrétiennes la première révélation complète du pouvoir structurant de la victimisation dans les religions païennes ; quant au problème de la valeur anthropologique de ces Ecritures, il peut et doit être étudié comme un problème purement scientifique, la question étant de savoir si, oui ou non, les mythes deviennent intelligibles, comme je le crois, dès lors qu’on les interprète comme les traces plus ou moins lointaines d’épisodes de persécution mal compris. (…) Et pourtant, y a-t-il quelque chose qui soit plus naturel aux chercheurs que de traiter des textes similaires de façon similaire, ne serait-ce que pour voir ce que cela donne ? Un tabou inaperçu pèse sur ce type d’étude comparative. Les tabous les plus forts sont toujours invisibles. Comme tous les tabous puissants, celui-ci est antireligieux, c’est-à-dire, au fond, de nature religieuse. A partir de la Renaissance, les intellectuels modernes ont remplacé les Ecritures judéo-chrétiennes par les cultures anciennes. Puis, l’humanisme de Rousseau et de ses successeurs a glorifié à l’excès les cultures primitives et s’est également détourné de la Bible. Si la lecture que je propose est acceptée, notre vieux système de valeurs universitaires, fondé sur l’élévation des cultures non bibliques aux dépens de la Bible, va devenir indéfendable. Il deviendra clair que le véritable travail de démythification marche avec la mythologie, mais pas avec la Bible, car la Bible elle-même fait déjà ce travail. La Bible en est même l’inventeur : elle a été la première à remplacer la structure victimaire de la mythologie par un thème de victimisation qui révèle le mensonge de la mythologie. René Girard
Biblical reenactments are theatrical and very violent. Parents need to know that The Bible contains lots of violent and bloody scenes, including beatings, drownings, and the murdering of infants and adults. It also features a very lengthy and graphic reenactment of a crucifixion. Adultery is discussed; and men are often shown shirtless and in loin cloths and occasionally women are shown undressed (but no real nudity). Wine is sometimes consumed during religious ceremonies and over meals. All of this is offered in context, but it may be too intense for younger and/or sensitive viewers. Common sense media
From the Egyptian standpoint the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt was actually a justifiable expulsion. The main sources are the writings of Manetho and Apion, which are summarized and refuted in Josephus’s work Against Apion . . . Manetho was an Egyptian priest in Heliopolis. Apion was an Egyptian who wrote in Greek and played a prominent role in Egyptian cultural and political life. His account of the Exodus was used in an attack on the claims and rights of Alexandrian Jews . . . [T]he Hellenistic-Egyptian version of the Exodus may be summarized as follows: The Egyptians faced a major crisis precipitated by a group of people suffering from various diseases. For fear the disease would spread or something worse would happen, this motley lot was assembled and expelled from the country. Under the leadership of a certain Moses, these people were dispatched; they constituted themselves then as a religious and national unity. They finally settled in Jerusalem and became the ancestors of the Jews. James G. Williams
René Girard has changed the way that I interpret violence in the Bible, and, indirectly, in movies. Girard calls the Bible a “text in travail.” In other words, the Bible is a text that struggles with its own violence. Part of that struggle is its mere reflection of human violence, but where the Bible is unique in human history is that it challenges its own violence. While many stories in the Bible merely reflect human violence, other stories in the Bible reveal that violence will only lead to our own destruction and that God never demands violence. Girard writes that the Bible’s travail against its own violence and against a violent view of God “is not a chronologically progressive process, but a struggle that advances and retreats. I see the Gospels as the climactic achievement of that trend”. Girard claims that the Sermon on the Mount is one of those major advancements in the Bible, because in it Jesus “shows us a God who is alien to all violence and who wishes in consequence to see humanity abandon violence”, but Girard also points to the Joseph story as another major advancement. Indeed, you only need to finish reading the first book of the Bible for evidence that the Bible is a “text in travail.” Yes, in Genesis you will find all the violence mentioned above, but if you read to the end, you will discover the Joseph story – a story that provides the only true answer to the problem of violence. It’s a familiar story, so I won’t go into much detail. Joseph’s father loves him more than his 11 brothers, which makes his brothers jealous. Filled with jealousy, Joseph’s 11 brothers violently unite against him. As they leave him for dead in a pit, one brother suggests that they spare Joseph’s life and sell him as a slave. Joseph, now a slave, arrives in Egypt where he thrives and becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Years later there is a famine and his brothers come to Egypt looking for help. They meet Joseph, who recognizes his brothers, but his brothers don’t recognize him. At this point in the story, Joseph held all the power. He could have responded to his brothers’ request by continuing the cycle of violence. It would be a mere reflection of human violence if Joseph said, “Remember when you planned to kill me, but then sold me as a slave? Well, I spent years in jail, and now you will too!” But that’s not how Joseph responds. Rather, Joseph reveals the only way out of violence by responding to his brothers with compassion and forgiveness. Many Christians have seen Joseph as a Christ-like figure. Indeed, Jesus responded to violence in the same way Joseph did. While hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors to be forgiven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Then, in the resurrection, Jesus only offered words of peace to those who betrayed him. Why is there so much violence in the Bible? Because human history shows that we have a tendency to be violent. Yet violence is not inevitable. As the Bible struggles with its own violence, it also reveals that forgiveness is the only solution to cycles of revenge. So, when it comes to storytelling, whether in the Bible or in movies, our concern shouldn’t be whether or not there is violence. Our concern should be whether these stories merely reflect human violence, or whether these stories are in travail against human violence. Good stories are like the Joseph and Jesus stories. They transform our identity away from violence and into an identity of forgiveness. That, I would offer, is the litmus test for any good story. Adam Ericksen
La Dysneyfication (sic) des contes depuis soixante-dix ans a insidieusement installé dans notre esprit l’image d’un monde simple où des gens beaux combattent des méchants plutôt laids et doivent faire face à des obstacles apparemment insurmontables dans leur quête d’une vie heureuse, aidés qu’ils sont par M. ou Mme (ou plus vraisemblablement SAS) Juste ; un monde où le bien triomphe toujours et où il n’est pas de meilleur mariage que ceux construits sur la grandeur d’un royaume.  David Barnett 

Cachez cette violence que je ne saurai voir  !

Expulsion de tout un peuple suite à des calamités naturelles ou imaginaires attribuées à un Dieu libérateur, sacrifice de jeunes filles vouées à la dévoration d’un monstre d’abord divinisé puis humanisé par l’amour …

A l’heure où un chroniqueur égyptien réclame des dommages et intérêts pour les plaies

Et où la chaine franco-allemande Arte revient sur l’histoire d’un homme atteint du syndrome rarissime de l’hypertrichose ayant pu inspirer le célèbre conte de mesdames de Villeneuve et de Beaumont (La Belle et la bête), aboutissement d’une longue liste de reprises historiques (d’Apulée et d’Ovide à Shakespeare, Satarapola et Grimm) …

Pendant qu’aux Etats-Unis, une mini-série sur la Bible se voit déconseillée aux enfants de moins de 14 ans

Comment ne pas s’étonner, avec René Girard, de cet étrange refus de nos historiens de voir dans les mythes les traces de persécution et de violences notamment anti-juives qu’ils repèrent si aisément dans les textes de notre propre Moyen-Age en quête de boucs émissaires face aux dévastations de la Peste noire ?

Mais comment aussi s’expliquer, au-delà  des habituelles édulcorations de nos psychanalystes et des scénaristes des studios Disney, ce non moins étrange aveuglement de nos folkloristes devant des contes de fées qui ne sont manifestement autres eux aussi que "les traces plus ou moins lointaines d’épisodes de persécution mal compris" ?

Faut-il interdire les Contes de Grimm aux enfants?
Bibliobs

21-10-2009

Les Anglais aiment les fées, les monstres et les légendes. Ils aiment aussi beaucoup en parler. La semaine dernière, après leur avoir demandé si une traduction peut améliorer un livre, le «Guardian» a même proposé le thème des contes de fées aux blogueurs de la section Books.

Chez BibliObs, on s’est beaucoup amusé à lire la prose de David Barnett, qui s’est attelé à creuser la difficile question de la violence dans les contes pour enfants. D’après lui,en effet :

« La Dysneyfication (sic) des contes depuis soixante-dix ans a insidieusement installé dans notre esprit l’image d’un monde simple où des gens beaux combattent des méchants plutôt laids et doivent faire face à des obstacles apparemment insurmontables dans leur quête d’une vie heureuse, aidés qu’ils sont par M. ou Mme (ou plus vraisemblablement SAS) Juste ; un monde où le bien triomphe toujours et où il n’est pas de meilleur mariage que ceux construits sur la grandeur d’un royaume ». (Qui a dit que l’écriture anglaise n’était pas grandiloquente?)

Pour Barnett, le monde de l’Oncle Walt est dessiné pour les enfants, alors que les Contes des Frères Grimm (1) dépeignent un monde sombre fait de forêts effrayantes où des méfaits encore plus sombres seraient commis, et sans être jamais punis…

Pour mieux s’en expliquer, ce jeune auteur du nord-est de la Grande-Bretagne cite un passage particulièrement sanglant extrait du « Fiancé voleur » :

« La bande arrive à la maison avec une jeune fille qu’ils ont enlevée. Complètement ivres, ils n’entendent pas ses cris et ses plaintes. Ils lui donnent du vin à boire, trois pleins verres. Un de blanc, un de rouge et un de jaune pour lui crever le cœur. Et là, ils lui ôtent sa fine robe, l’allongent sur la table et découpent son joli corps en petits morceaux puis versent du sel dessus. »

Les Frères Grimm, qui ont recueilli les contes de la bouche de plusieurs informateurs, en fait surtout des informatrices – Dorothea Viehmann, qui a fourni à elle seule plus de trente textes du recueil, et les filles des familles Hassenpflug, Wild et Haxthausen – s’étaient d’ailleurs opposés au titre que leur éditeur proposait, « Contes pour les enfants et la maison », comme le rappelle Heinz Rölleke, le grand spécialiste allemand des contes de Grimm dans une interview accordée à nos confrères d’Arte il y a quelques années :

« Jacob Grimm était convaincu qu’on ne pouvait "servir deux maîtres à la fois", qu’il n’était donc pas possible de rendre et commenter les textes correctement tout en les édulcorant pour en faire un livre pour enfants. Mais il finit par accepter, à contrecœur. Le grand écart est parfaitement réussi : au fil des éditions, Wilhelm Grimm, le frère cadet, a adapté les textes au goût des enfants, sans leur ôter de leur substance. C’était le seul moyen de faire de ce livre un succès mondial. »

David Barnett ne dit pas autre chose : pour lui, les contes sont d’abord « des histoires pour les adultes ». Mais il préfère citer J.R.R. Tolkien et son essai de 1938, « Du conte de fées », où l’auteur préféré des geeks de tous horizons nous signale que l’association entre les contes de fées et les enfants est un « un accident de notre histoire domestique » qui a fait que les contes ont été « relégués à la chambre d’enfants comme on relègue à la salle de jeux les meubles médiocres ou démodés, principalement du fait que les adultes n’en veulent pas et qu’il leur est égal qu’ils soient maltraités ».

(On en saura plus sur cet essai, en se rendant à cette adresse, grâce au travail de Laurent Femenias, directeur d’école en Côte-d’Or et fan d’Iron Maiden…)

Les livres pour enfants ne sont pas du tout faits pour les enfants. Mais pour Barnett, ce n’est pas un problème. Car, nous dit-il dans sa langue un rien emphatique, « ils aident à donner aux enfants le sens de la fantaisie qui est vital pour naviguer dans la forêt souvent sombre et dense de la vie adulte ».

Fantaisie dont Tolkien parlait aussi dans son essai, en disant que contrairement aux idées reçues elle « est fondée sur la dure reconnaissance du fait que les choses sont telles dans le monde qu’elles paraissent sous le soleil ; une reconnaissance du fait, mais non un esclavage à son égard ». Bien dit.

Une citation encore, de G.K. Chesterton (dont la page Wikipedia est passionnante), qu’un lecteur anglais de Barnett partage généreusement dans les commentaires de l’article :

« Les contes de fées ne disent pas aux enfants que les dragons existent. Les enfants savent déjà que les dragons existent. Les contes de fées disent aux enfants qu’on peut tuer les dragons. »

Et on sait qu’en la matière, les Anglais sont à l’avant-garde : leur saint patron est même le tueur de dragons le plus célèbre au monde.

Voir également:

Il était une fois
La véritable histoire des contes de fées
Lisa Melia
l’Express
21/03/2011

La Journée mondiale des contes qui a lieu ce dimanche est une occasion de célébrer un genre littéraire universel.

"Il était une fois…" les contes. Récits merveilleux qui divertissent chaque génération d’enfants, les contes d’aujourd’hui n’ont pourtant rien à voir avec leurs ancêtres moyenâgeux. "Les premières traces de contes datent du 12e siècle environ, explique Catherine Velay-Vallantin, maître de conférence à l’EHESS et auteur d’une Histoire des contes. Les prédicateurs franciscains et dominicains les utilisaient notamment pour illustrer leurs prêches." Mais ce sont surtout les conteurs qui font vivre la tradition. Ils vont de foyer en foyer pour raconter des histoires et rassembler près du feu les parents et les enfants, divertissant les premiers et effrayant les seconds. Dès cette époque, trois exigences caractérisent le conte, qui demeure une tradition orale: concision narrative, inventivité esthétique, et logique. Il faudra attendre Charles Perrault au XVIIe siècle pour voir l’émergence d’un genre littéraire spécifique.

La vie est cruelle

Les versions originales sont bien plus violentes que leurs transpositions actuelles. "Le soleil, la lune et Thalie, le récit à l’origine de la Belle au bois dormant, remonte au 14e siècle, raconte Catherine Velay-Vallantin. Pour résumer, c’est l’histoire d’un viol. Le prince est déjà marié et viole la princesse dans son sommeil. Elle donne naissance à des jumeaux qui, cherchant son sein, suce son doigt et retire l’écharde qui la maintenait endormie. Elle se réveille alors et constate l’ampleur du désastre." Les contes, à l’époque, se finissent souvent mal et sont empreints de violence, en écho à l’existence difficile des paysans. Ils confirment que la vie est cruelle. "Il existe quand même des contes pour enfants", tempère la chercheuse. Le conteur s’adapte à son public et ne choisit pas toujours la version la plus tragique. Les contes de "randonnées" ont un but didactique : apprendre à compter aux enfants. "Ils enseignent la logique", résume Catherine Velay-Vallantin.

Un premier adoucissement des histoires se produit avec Charles Perrault, au public bourgeois, qui commence à s’inquiéter des répercussions sur les enfants. Exclu de la Petite Académie par Colbert, Perrault connaît de sérieuses difficultés financières. Il écrit pour revenir à Versailles et choisit délibérément les versions les plus édulcorées pour répondre aux exigences morales de l’Eglise. "Charles Perrault est considéré aujourd’hui comme un bon père de famille, s’amuse Catherine Velay-Vallantin, alors que c’était un carriériste, et certainement pas un pédagogue." En leur temps, les ouvrages de Perrault et ceux des frères Grimm ont rencontré un succès phénoménal. Presque autant lu que la Bible, ils ont été traduits et diffusés dans toute l’Europe.

Le monde de la recherche s’est penché sur leur richesse et continue à le faire. Du psychanalyste Bruno Bettelheim au sociologue Jack Zypes, en passant par les revues d’universitaires telles que La Grande Oreille. On peut être chercheur et avoir su garder son âme d’enfant.

Voir encore:

The Dark Side of the Grimm Fairy Tales
Jesse Greenspan
History
September 17, 2013

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s collection of folktales contains some of the best-known children’s characters in literary history, from Snow White and Rapunzel to Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. Yet the brothers originally filled their book, which became known as “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” with gruesome scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in an R-rated movie. The Grimms never even set out to entertain kids. The first edition of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” was scholarly in tone, with many footnotes and no illustrations. Only later, as children became their main audience, did they take out some of the more adult content. Their stories were then further sanitized as they were adapted by Walt Disney and others. As the 150th anniversary of Jacob’s death approaches—he passed away on September 20, 1863, about four years after Wilhelm—check out some of the surprisingly dark themes that appear in the Grimms’ work.

1. Premarital sex
In the original version of “Rapunzel,” published in 1812, a prince impregnates the title character after the two spend many days together living in “joy and pleasure.” “Hans Dumm,” meanwhile, is about a man who impregnates a princess simply by wishing it, and in “The Frog King” a princess spends the night with her suitor once he turns into a handsome bachelor. The Grimms stripped the sex scenes from later versions of “Rapunzel” and “The Frog King” and eliminated “Hans Dumm” entirely.
But hidden sexual innuendos in “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” remained, according to psychoanalysts, including Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm, who examined the book in the 20th century.

2. Graphic violence
Although the brothers Grimm toned down the sex in later editions of their work, they actually ramped up the violence. A particularly horrific incident occurs in “The Robber Bridegroom,” when some bandits drag a maiden into their underground hideout, force her to drink wine until her heart bursts, rip off her clothes and then hack her body into pieces. Other tales have similarly gory episodes. In “Cinderella” the evil stepsisters cut off their toes and heels trying to make the slipper fit and later have their eyes pecked out by doves; in “The Six Swans” an evil mother-in-law is burned at the stake; in “The Goose Maid” a false bride is stripped naked, thrown into a barrel filled with nails and dragged through the streets; and in “Snow White” the wicked queen dies after being forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes. Even the love stories contain violence. The princess in “The Frog King” turns her amphibian companion into a human not by kissing it, but instead by hurling it against a wall in frustration.

3. Child abuse
Even more shockingly, much of the violence in “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” is directed at children. Snow White is just 7 years old when the huntsman takes her into the forest with orders to bring back her liver and lungs. In “The Juniper Tree” a woman decapitates her stepson as he bends down to get an apple. She then chops up his body, cooks him in a stew and serves it to her husband, who enjoys the meal so much he asks for seconds. Snow White eventually wins the day, as does the boy in “The Juniper Tree,” who is brought back to life. But not every child in the Grimms’ book is so lucky. The title character in “Frau Trude” turns a disobedient girl into a block of wood and tosses her into a fire. And in “The Stubborn Child” a youngster dies after God lets him become sick.

4. Anti-Semitism
The Grimms gathered over 200 tales for their collection, three of which contained Jewish characters. In “The Jew in the Brambles” the protagonist happily torments a Jew by forcing him to dance in a thicket of thorns. He also insults the Jew, calling him a “dirty dog,” among other things. Later on, a judge doubts that a Jew would ever voluntarily give away money. The Jew in the story turns out to be a thief and is hanged. In “The Good Bargain” a Jewish man is likewise portrayed as a penny-pinching swindler. During the Third Reich, the Nazis adopted the Grimms’ tales for propaganda purposes. They claimed, for instance, that Little Red Riding Hood symbolized the German people suffering at the hands of the Jewish wolf, and that Cinderella’s Aryan purity distinguished her from her mongrel stepsisters.

5. Incest
In “All-Kinds-of-Fur” a king promises his dying wife that he will only remarry if his new bride is as beautiful as her. Unfortunately, no such woman exists in the whole world except his daughter, who ends up escaping his clutches by fleeing into the wilderness. While interviewing sources, the Grimms likewise heard versions of a different story–“The Girl Without Hands”–with an incestuous father. Nonetheless, in all editions of their book they recast this father as the devil.

6. Wicked mothers
Evil stepparents are a dime a dozen in fairy tales, but the Grimms originally included some evil biological mothers as well. In the 1812 version of “Hansel and Gretel,” a wife persuades her husband to abandon their children in the woods because they don’t have enough food to feed them. Snow White also has an evil mother, who at first wishes for and then become infuriated by her daughter’s beauty. The Grimms turned both of these characters into stepmothers in subsequent editions, and mothers have essentially remained off the hook ever since in the retelling of these stories.

Voir aussi:

Un chroniqueur égyptien : L’Egypte doit intenter un procès à Israël pour les dix plaies ; à la Turquie pour l’occupation ottomane ; à la France pour l’invasion napoléonienne et à la Grande-Bretagne pour le colonialisme
Memri No. 5686
Mars 20, 2014

Dans un article paru le 11 mars 2014 dans le quotidien égyptien Al-Yawm Al-Sabi, le chroniqueur égyptien Ahmad Al-Gamal, qui écrit également pour Al-Ahram et Al-Masri Al-Yawm, estime qu’il faudrait intenter un procès à Israël, la Turquie, la Grande-Bretagne et la France pour les dommages que tous ces pays ont causés à l’Egypte depuis les temps bibliques jusqu’au 20ème siècle. Selon lui, Israël devrait être poursuivi pour les dommages causés par les dix plaies d’Egypte (décrites dans la Bible) et pour les matériaux précieux utilisés par les Israélites pour construire le Saint Tabernacle dans le désert ; la Turquie devrait rendre des comptes pour avoir envahi l’Egypte à l’époque ottomane, recruté des artisans égyptiens à la construction de projets à Istanbul, avoir volé des antiquités, des manuscrits et des livres, et avoir comploté avec les sionistes contre l’Egypte dans les années 1950 et 1960. Quant à la France, elle doit payer des indemnités pour l’invasion de Napoléon à la fin du 18ème siècle et la campagne de Suez en 1956 ; et enfin, la Grande-Bretagne doit payer pour 72 ans d’occupation, au cours desquels l’Egypte a subi vols et usurpation.

Voir par ailleurs:

The Bible and Movies and Violence – Oh My!
Adam Ericksen
God’s Politics Blog
06-26-2013

This Thursday I’ll be interviewing Gareth Higgins on the Raven Foundation’s Voices of Peace radio show. Gareth is the founder of the very popular Wild Goose Festival. If you attend this summer, you will meet Raven friend James Alison, who will talk about his latest project, Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening to the Unheard Voice. Gareth is also a film critic and analyzes films from a Christian point of view on his website God Is Not Elsewhere. He wrote a book called How Movies Helped Save My Soul and, with Jett Loe, he is the co-host of Film Talk, an award-winning Internet radio show of cinema reviews and interviews. Since we are in the heat of the summer movie season, I’ll be talking with Gareth about both the Wild Goose Festival and his passion for religion and films.

Before talking with Gareth, I’d like to ask this: Do movies and the Bible have anything in common? Fill in the blank with either the word “Bible” or “movies” and you will be asking a familiar question:

Why is there so much violence in the _____?

Whenever I hear someone lament that kids these days need to read their Bibles, I tell them that the Bible should be rated R for violence, nudity, rape, drug deals, and even genocide – and that’s just in the first book! Of course, as a youth pastor, I’ve found that the best way to get kids interested in the Bible is to tell them that if someone made it into a movie, it would be rated R.

The Bible and movies tell stories. Gareth points out the importance of stories in his article “It’s the Movies’ Fault/It’s not the Movies’ Fault” in which he brilliantly states that, “we could benefit from recognizing that the relationship between storytelling and the formation of human identity is crucial.” Indeed, the stories we tell are crucial to the formation of human identity, but the Bible and movies tell stories that are permeated with violence. So, the question becomes, how do we make sense of those violent stories in terms of human identity?

René Girard has changed the way that I interpret violence in the Bible, and, indirectly, in movies. Girard calls the Bible a “text in travail.” In other words, the Bible is a text that struggles with its own violence. Part of that struggle is its mere reflection of human violence, but where the Bible is unique in human history is that it challenges its own violence. While many stories in the Bible merely reflect human violence, other stories in the Bible reveal that violence will only lead to our own destruction and that God never demands violence. Girard writes that the Bible’s travail against its own violence and against a violent view of God “is not a chronologically progressive process, but a struggle that advances and retreats. I see the Gospels as the climactic achievement of that trend” (Violent Origins, 141).

Girard claims that the Sermon on the Mount is one of those major advancements in the Bible, because in it Jesus “shows us a God who is alien to all violence and who wishes in consequence to see humanity abandon violence” (Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, 183), but Girard also points to the Joseph story as another major advancement. Indeed, you only need to finish reading the first book of the Bible for evidence that the Bible is a “text in travail.” Yes, in Genesis you will find all the violence mentioned above, but if you read to the end, you will discover the Joseph story – a story that provides the only true answer to the problem of violence.

It’s a familiar story, so I won’t go into much detail. Joseph’s father loves him more than his 11 brothers, which makes his brothers jealous. Filled with jealousy, Joseph’s 11 brothers violently unite against him. As they leave him for dead in a pit, one brother suggests that they spare Joseph’s life and sell him as a slave. Joseph, now a slave, arrives in Egypt where he thrives and becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Years later there is a famine and his brothers come to Egypt looking for help. They meet Joseph, who recognizes his brothers, but his brothers don’t recognize him. At this point in the story, Joseph held all the power. He could have responded to his brothers’ request by continuing the cycle of violence. It would be a mere reflection of human violence if Joseph said, “Remember when you planned to kill me, but then sold me as a slave? Well, I spent years in jail, and now you will too!” But that’s not how Joseph responds. Rather, Joseph reveals the only way out of violence by responding to his brothers with compassion and forgiveness.

Many Christians have seen Joseph as a Christ-like figure. Indeed, Jesus responded to violence in the same way Joseph did. While hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors to be forgiven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Then, in the resurrection, Jesus only offered words of peace to those who betrayed him.

Why is there so much violence in the Bible? Because human history shows that we have a tendency to be violent. Yet violence is not inevitable. As the Bible struggles with its own violence, it also reveals that forgiveness is the only solution to cycles of revenge.

So, when it comes to storytelling, whether in the Bible or in movies, our concern shouldn’t be whether or not there is violence. Our concern should be whether these stories merely reflect human violence, or whether these stories are in travail against human violence. Good stories are like the Joseph and Jesus stories. They transform our identity away from violence and into an identity of forgiveness. That, I would offer, is the litmus test for any good story.

Adam Ericksen blogs at the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Follow Adam on Twitter @adamericksen.

Egyptian Columnist: Egypt Should Sue Israel For The Ten Plagues, Turkey For The Ottoman Occupation, France For The Napoleonic Invasion, And Britain For Colonialism
Memri
Special Dispatch No. 5686
March 20, 2014

In a March 11, 2014 article in the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’, Egyptian columnist Ahmad Al-Gamal, who also writes for Al-Ahram and Al-Masri Al-Yawm, advocated suing Israel, Turkey, Britain, and France for damages they caused Egypt from biblical times until the 20th century. Israel, he said, should be sued for the damage caused by the Ten Plagues and for the precious materials used by the Israelites to build the Holy Tabernacle in the desert, and Turkey should pay damages for invading Egypt in the Ottoman period, for drafting Egyptian artisans to build projects in Istanbul, for stealing antiquities, manuscripts, and books, and for plotting with the Zionists against Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s. As for France, it must pay compensation for Napoleon’s invasion at the close of the 18th century and for the 1956 Suez Campaign, and Britain must pay for 72 years of occupation, during which Egypt was subjected to theft and robbery.

The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

Sue Israel For The Egyptian Gold And Silver The Israelites Took

"I tirelessly reiterate my demand to utilize all measures of the law and of customary law, and all ethical principles, to receive compensation for what the Israelis, Turks, French and English took from us. And if you ask me whether the Turks can be placed in the same category as [the Israelis, French and English], I will reply: Yes, absolutely. Erdogan, and his party, stream and orientation, are just as dangerous to Egypt and Arabism as the Zionists and imperialists. Had the [Turks] been in our place, and had we done to them what they did to us, they wouldn’t have left us alone for a moment without demanding their right many times over.

"We want compensation for the [Ten] Plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews’ ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt’s ruler at the time, Pharaoh as the Torah calls him, committed. For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the Children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people. [But] they inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn’t leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile’s waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on.

"We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah. All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure…"

Later in the article Al-Gamal wrote: "The stories of the Holy Scriptures state that the Israelites set off from the [Nile] valley at night and went to the Sinai Peninsula. This is known to be a desert, were there is no use for large quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, meats, oils, fabrics and the like. Therefore it is clear that the Israelites took all these things from Egypt before they left. Chapter 25 of Exodus, on the [Israelites'] departure [from Egypt], states: ‘The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering… These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other [Exodus 25:1-12]‘…

"[Exodus 38:24 states]: ‘The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel…’

"I call upon everyone with an interest in Torah studies to instruct us on a scientific basis what is the [precise] meaning of the word ‘talent.’ How many grams is it currently worth, what was the weight of the sheqel during those days, especially as it was made out of solid pure gold and pure silver…"

Turkey Must Compensate Egypt For The Backwardness They Inflicted Upon It

About Turkey, Al-Gamal wrote: "As for the Turks, we must demand [from them] adequate compensation for the economic, social, cultural, intellectual and political backwardness that their presence in our midst imposed upon us, for the world during those centuries [i.e., during the Ottoman period] made tremendous progress in all areas. We want compensation from the Turks for the invasion of our country and for the attendant oppression and aggression, and for taking all our human capital: scholars, builders, tentmakers, carpenters, coal miners, blacksmiths and all skilled artisans and forcing them to go to Istanbul to build palaces, mosques, and the like. We also want compensation for the antiquities plundered by the Turks, and especially for some relics of the Prophet and for stolen manuscripts and books. This theft and plunder lasted for centuries, from the beginning of the 16th century until the early 20th century.

"Likewise, we want compensation from the Turks for damaging the Egyptian psyche through their racism and haughtiness, their contempt for Egypt and the Egyptians, and their disgraceful treatment of the peasant as someone who [merely] plows, sows and reaps – although the harvest from the sweat of his brow filled the stomachs of the indolent Ottomans. We also want damages for the Turkish-Zionist plot hatched during the 1950s and 1960s, when Egypt led the Arab and global liberation movement and opposed the plans of the imperialist alliance, [an alliance] in which Turkey and the Hebrew state constituted vital components."

The British Owe Egypt Damages For 72 Years Of Occupation, The French For Napoleon’s Invasion

"Moving on to modern history, we must grab the Zionists, the French and the British by the throat in order to take the damages that are due us for Napoleon’s invasion and for the Franco-Anglo-Zionist plots against Egypt in 1956, in 1967 and also in 1973, because the British took part in preventing [Egypt] from realizing the fruits of its stupendous victory. We want compensation for 72 years of British occupation that imposed backwardness and dependency upon us, stole the resources of our country, drove a wedge between the sons of the homeland and turned [the members of] one social stratum into [British] agents who took no pity on the Egyptian poor…"

Al-Gamal concluded: "We have nothing to lose, let us sue [Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, [British Prime Minister, David] Cameron, and others who stole from us and played a role in what befell us for generations."

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Egypt), March 11, 2014.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization providing translations of the Middle East media and original analysis and research on developments in the region. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.
MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: [202] 955-9070 Fax: [202] 955-9077 E-Mail: memri@memri.org
Search previous MEMRI publications at our website: http://www.memri.org

 


Droits de l’homme: Contre la dictature du vêtement, salopes de tous les pays unissez vous ! (Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street ? NY erotic photographer turns human rights activist)

23 mars, 2014
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/be/Duchamp_LargeGlass.jpghttp://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/AFP_Getty-513178632.jpgSimonehttp://comunidade.sol.pt/photos/isabel25/images/2133034/original.aspxIls se partagent mes vêtements, ils tirent au sort ma tunique. Psaumes 22: 18
Les soldats, après avoir crucifié Jésus, prirent ses vêtements, et ils en firent quatre parts, une part pour chaque soldat. Ils prirent aussi sa tunique, qui était sans couture, d’un seul tissu depuis le haut jusqu’en bas. Et ils dirent entre eux:Ne la déchirons pas, mais tirons au sort à qui elle sera. Cela arriva afin que s’accomplît cette parole de l’Écriture: Ils se sont partagé mes vêtements, Et ils ont tiré au sort ma tunique. Jean (19: 23-24)
Dans un entretien (…), Duchamp révèle que cette "mariée" est un concept qui prend sa source dans un stand de fête foraine de province : les jeunes gens devaient envoyer des projectiles sur une représentation de femme en robe de mariée afin de la déshabiller, ses atours ne tenant qu’à un fil. Wikipedia (La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, Marcel Duchamp, 1923)
Le grand verre a été qualifié de machine d’amour, mais c’est en fait une machine de souffrance. Ses compartiments supérieurs et inférieurs sont séparés les uns des autres pour toujours par un horizon désigné comme "habits de la mariée". La mariée est suspendue, peut-être à une corde, dans une cage isolée, ou crucifiée. Les célibataires restent au-dessous, à gauche avec la seule possibilité d’une masturbation fiévreuse, angoissée. Janis Mink
J’ai résumé L’Étranger, il y a longtemps, par une phrase dont je reconnais qu’elle est très paradoxale : “Dans notre société tout homme qui ne pleure pas à l’enterrement de sa mère risque d’être condamné à mort.” Je voulais dire seulement que le héros du livre est condamné parce qu’il ne joue pas le jeu. En ce sens, il est étranger à la société où il vit, où il erre, en marge, dans les faubourgs de la vie privée, solitaire, sensuelle. (…) On ne se tromperait donc pas beaucoup en lisant, dans L’Étranger, l’histoire d’un homme qui, sans aucune attitude héroïque, accepte de mourir pour la vérité. Il m’est arrivé de dire aussi, et toujours paradoxalement, que j’avais essayé de figurer, dans mon personnage, le seul Christ que nous méritions. Camus (préface américaine à L’Etranger)
Le thème du poète maudit né dans une société marchande (…) s’est durci dans un préjugé qui finit par vouloir qu’on ne puisse être un grand artiste que contre la société de son temps, quelle qu’elle soit. Légitime à l’origine quand il affirmait qu’un artiste véritable ne pouvait composer avec le monde de l’argent, le principe est devenu faux lorsqu’on en a tiré qu’un artiste ne pouvait s’affirmer qu’en étant contre toute chose en général. Albert Camus
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude. Chesterton
Personne ne nous fera croire que l’appareil judiciaire d’un Etat moderne prend réellement pour objet l’extermination des petits bureaucrates qui s’adonnent au café au lait, aux films de Fernandel et aux passades amoureuses avec la secrétaire du patron. René Girard
Il faut se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère "post-chrétienne" est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en "radicalisant" le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste , en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. (…) Le mouvement antichrétien le plus puissant est celui qui réassume et "radicalise" le souci des victimes pour le paganiser. (…) Comme les Eglises chrétiennes ont pris conscience tardivement de leurs manquements à la charité, de leur connivence avec l’ordre établi, dans le monde d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, elles sont particulièrement vulnérables au chantage permanent auquel le néopaganisme contemporain les soumet. René Girard
La société du spectacle, [selon] Roger Caillois qui analyse la dimension ludique dans la culture (…), c’est la dimension inoffensive de la cérémonie primitive. Autrement dit lorsqu’on est privé du mythe, les paroles sacrées qui donnent aux œuvres pouvoir sur la réalité, le rite se réduit à un ensemble réglés d’actes désormais inefficaces qui aboutissent finalement à un pur jeu, loedos. Il donne un exemple qui est extraordinaire, il dit qu’au fond les gens qui jouent au football aujourd’hui, qui lancent un ballon en l’air ne font que répéter sur un mode ludique, jocus, ou loedos, société du spectacle, les grands mythes anciens de la naissance du soleil dans les sociétés où le sacré avait encore une valeur. (…) Nous vivons sur l’idée de Malraux – l’art, c’est ce qui reste quand la religion a disparu. Jean Clair
Le gros problème des rapports entre les sexes aujourd’hui, c’est qu’il y a des contresens, de la part des hommes en particulier, sur ce que veut dire le vêtement des femmes. Beaucoup d’études consacrées aux affaires de viol ont montré que les hommes voient comme des provocations des attitudes qui sont en fait en conformité avec une mode vestimentaire. Très souvent, les femmes elles-mêmes condamnent les femmes violées au prétexte qu’" elles l’ont bien cherché ".  Pierre Bourdieu
Tout le monde dénonce les normes de silhouette imposées par les médias et elles perdurent étrangement, pourtant certains journalistes des pages société des magazines féminins sont excédés par les dossiers régime sortant systématiquement avant l’été et essaient de s’y opposer. Pourquoi? Les normes obligatoires sont de moins en moins nombreuses, tout est mis en flottement, les gens sont complètement perdus et angoissés et ils n’ont qu’une demande, surtout adressée aux médias: qu’est-ce qui est bien?, qu’est-ce qui est mal? Ou version plus soft: comment font les autres ? La plage est une usine à fabriquer le mot “normal”. C’est celui qui revient le plus fréquemment, jusqu’à la définition d’un beau sein normal. Mais la catégorie la plus intéressante est celle du “trop beau” sein (le mot a été employé), qui dans d’autres contextes a des avantages évidents, mais qui sur la plage, parce qu’il accroche trop le regard, provoque chez la personne qui le possède une moindre liberté de mouvement parce que le regard glisse moins. Cet exemple illustre la fabrication d’une norme par les gens. Ce n’est ni une norme explicite ni une norme obligatoire, on peut en sortir, mais quand on en sort, sur la plage par exemple, on subit le poids des regards. (…) Enlever le haut rend la drague plus difficile. Les hommes doivent montrer qu’ils savent se tenir. Jean-Claude Kauffmann
Nous revendiquons nos atours de filles de joie, notre propension à montrer nos genoux, nos bas résilles et nos oripeaux polissons, car la révolution se fera en talons!  Yagg (collectif de lesbiennes)
I like to wear tops that show my cleavage and show off my ladies. If that makes me a slut, then I’m a slut. Anne Watson (organiser, Australian Sex Party)
I’m proud to be a slut too, it’s all about “inner sexual confidence”.  Katherine Feeney (journaliste)
Aujourd’hui ce que nous faisons c’est SE RÉ-APPROPRIER le mot “salope”. En REPRENANT le mot salope nous lui ENLEVONS SA FORCE. Les gays ont repris le mot ‘queer’, et bravo à eux. Aujourd’hui les femmes et les hommes de Melbourne reprennent à leur compte le mot SALOPE. Leslie Cannold
While I support all efforts to challenge violence against women in all its manifestations – my blog is a witness to the global level of that violence – I hesitate to join the marching ranks. I welcome any confrontation with those who would blame the victim in rape. No woman deserves rape or invites sexual assault. I support the basic intention of the march. But I fear it has become more about the right to be ‘a slut’ than about the right to be free from violence. (…) Is it about mocking and sending up, or owning and embracing? Some organisers and supporters say it’s about reclaiming the word slut, using it as a term of empowerment for women. Some say it’s satire, a send-up, a mockery, about emptying the word of its power by making fun of it. (…) Using slut as the flagship word for this new movement puts women in danger through giving men even more license to think about women in a way that suits them, and not as targets of violence and terrible social discrimination. (…) The men chanting “We Love sluts!” don’t seem to be picking up on any satire. Why would they? Porn culture reinforces the idea that all women are sluts. Slut walks marginalise women and girls who want to protest violence against women but do not want ‘own’ or represent the word ‘slut’. I fear mainstreaming the term even further will increase harassment of women and girls because ‘slut’ will be seen as some kind of compliment. (…) The men who are responding to this message are not getting the irony at all … Men want women to be sluts and now they’re buying in. Gail Dines
As teachers who travel around the country speaking about sexual violence, pornography and feminism, we hear stories from women students who feel intense pressure to be sexually available "on demand". These students have grown up in a culture in which hypersexualized images of young women are commonplace and where hardcore porn is the major form of sex education for young men. They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts, while not being labeled slut because the label has dire consequences including being blamed for rape, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-mutilation. Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy
Depuis longtemps, les prostituées de rues se déguisent en pute pour bien expliquer: le rimmel, les bas-résilles, c’est moi qui vend la marchandise, j’annonce la couleur, laissez la petite secrétaire ou la mère de famille qui fait ses courses.  On savait à quoi s’en tenir.  Mais les marchands de fringues, de musique, de régimes et de cosmétiques ont su convaincre les femmes qu’être un objet était valorisant.  Et que montrer son piercing au nombril était chouette, que le string qui dépasse, la jarretière du bas auto-fixant, la bretelle de soutien-gorge était chouette et libérée.  Bref, la femme marchandise était conquérante, adulée, victorieuse. Et devenait l’étalon. Comme on imposait le voile dans d’autres pays et d’autres cultures, on imposait (moins brutalement mais plus sournoisement, certes) en modèle l’échancré, le transparent, le push-up, le moulant, le fendu, l’épilé, le siliconé. Ce sont ces fausses putes, les "salopes" médiatiques, de Madonna à Britney Spears en passant par Beyoncé qui, en vendant leur cul moulé et gigotant à longueur de vidéo clip ont promu la femme hypersexualisée, libertine et aguicheuse. Et fière de l’être.  "Dior j’adore" nous dit une bouche entr’ouverte et transpirante.  Le Perrier jaillit sur un corps bronzé, et la miss Wonderbra nous dit de la regarder dans les yeux.  La Saint Valentin, une débauche (sans jeu de mot) de peaux montrées pour vendre de la lingerie.  (…) Vous avez vu comment s’habillent les présentatrices télé?  Karine Lemarchand, Melissa Theuriau, Daphné Roulié, Anne-Sophie-Lapix, et des dizaines d’autres ont été choisie pour leur Q. S. (Quotient sexuel) AVANT leur QI.  Normal, sinon elles se feraient zapper entre les pubs qui montrent des filles sublimes.  Forum-doctissimo
“Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street, when as human beings, we are born naked?” I can understand that it would be socially unacceptable or morally discouraged, but for it to be in some cases prohibited by law…? This all seemed quite bizarre and really more so a violation of human rights. Erica Simone
There were a few times when I would manage to capture a wonderful image, but I was out of focus or some element in the photograph didn’t work. Overall, despite the technical challenges, I was quite lucky. In some cases, yes, I definitely needed the cooperation of other people in the photograph to capture what I wanted, but most of them were done guerilla-style. (…) The project is not about performance, but about photography. I didn’t feel that I was performing when producing the photos, but rather, just trying to capture an iconic image. I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera, not the people watching or what’s going on in the street. My goal is to go in, get the shot, and quickly move away from the crime scene. It’s about the end image, not the moment in itself. (…) No actually, no one has ever overtly expressed discontent or being offended during my shoots. Most people laugh or applaud. I don’t think my physique or intentions are offensive to most people. Had I run around a church or a playground in my birthday suit—it would probably be a different story.(…)  Possibly, if I had been very out of shape, the collection could have been even more popular, because people would have been even more shocked: “How could this person possibly feel comfortable running around naked?” This brings up other questions such as “Why would one person feel more or less comfortable being naked just because of the way they look?” Some models are extremely insecure, the same way some overweight people are nudists. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. (…) Of course I would love to eventually be financially secure enough to be able to lead a stable life with the ability to make certain choices and as anyone, I would love for my work to be successful for my own sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, if I could use my skills and social position to make a difference and to help people, then this drive would make much more sense and have much more of an impact. I am a lot more motivated to make a difference than to be a famous photographer for its own sake, so hopefully they’ll go hand in hand. (…) but I don’t think it takes a supermodel to get where you want in life. I do often use my feminine “powers” to get the pictures I want. Of course, I’ve found myself flirting with an old man to get his picture or batting my eye-lashes to get past authorities. As a woman, I think it’s a God-given right to use those charms! While men have their advantages, women have theirs and I feel it is fair game to rock what you have. (…)  I’m not too worried about what dealers and collectors want from artists. I’m only interested in what I want to do, since that’s what makes me happy. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to develop a style fully regardless, if that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s all experiment and experience and as long as I keep learning and producing more and more interesting work, while paying rent, that’s all that matters for me. Erica Simone
Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen est né d’une interrogation à propos des vêtements et de leur importance dans la société d’aujourd’hui. La mode et les habits que nous portons valent comme un langage : ils nous permettent de dresser un portrait silencieux de qui nous sommes et de qui nous voulons être, offrant à la société une impression de nous-mêmes — quelle qu’elle puisse être. La mode tend aussi à nous différencier et à nous placer dans des catégories sociales variées, ainsi qu’à traduire un certain état d’esprit ou un sentiment particulier. Cet outil est assez précieux pour la société et comme la plupart des gens, j’utilise mes vêtements comme une manière de définir ma propre image. Dans une ville comme New York, l’industrie de la mode a un impact massif : les gens ont tendance à être très concernés par leur apparence et ce qu’elle traduit en termes sociaux, ce que j’ai pu constater quand j’ai photographié la Fashion Week il y a quelques années. Comme j’observais cette assemblée de gens très conscients d’eux-mêmes, plus intéressés par les soldes à Barney’s que par les sans-abri sur lesquels ils butaient dans la rue, j’ai commencé à me demander : « Comment serait le monde si nous étions tous nus ? Que se passerait-il si nous n’avions pas nos vêtements pour définir qui nous voulons être ou comment nous voulons nous sentir en tant qu’individus ? Si nous ne pouvions représenter notre statut social pour être traités comme nous le désirons par les autres ? Si tout ce que nous avions, c’était nos corps ? »Ces questions ont soulevé de nombreux problèmes et ces problèmes à leur tour de nouvelles questions. De là est né mon projet photographique. Armée de mon trépied et d’une bonne dose d’adrénaline, j’ai parcouru les rues nue, pour découvrir ce que serait une journée typique à New York dans ces conditions.  Erica Simone
Je ne me considère pas comme une nudiste ou une exhibitionniste, mais comme une artiste qui pose des questions à la société. Me sentant bien dans ma peau, la nudité ne me semble pas quelque chose d’effrayant. Le corps relève de l’essence humaine, animale. Que certains aient l’esprit puritain au point d’être offensés par un corps nu constitue, à mes yeux, un mystère. Certes, je conçois que la nudité ne se prête pas à toutes les situations, et que certains pourraient l’utiliser de manière malveillante. Pour autant, le fait que la loi nous interdise d’être nu en public, c’est-à-dire d’évoluer dans l’état le plus primitif et naturel qui soit, cela me rend folle. La nudité n’a jamais tué personne. Ce n’est pas le cas des armes à feu qui, elles, sont autorisées aux États-Unis. Dans ce pays, posséder un pistolet est bien plus acceptable que d’être nu en dehors de sa salle de bain ! (…) S’habiller, c’est s’exprimer. À sa seule tenue, on peut déterminer si un individu est riche, s’il est "cool" ou non, s’il a du goût, s’il est propre sur lui, si c’est un homme d’affaires, un voyou… Ainsi la société met-elle des étiquettes sur les gens. De ce fait, je m’interroge : comment serait la vie sans vêtements ? Comment interpréterions-nous la vision d’autrui ? Comment sélectionnerions-nous nos amis sans les repères fournis par les styles vestimentaires ? Traiterait-on les gens différemment ? La façon dont on jauge habituellement nos semblables s’effondrerait. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus attentif au regard de la personne qui est en face de nous, à l’énergie qu’elle dégage. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus intuitif. Qui sait ? (…) Je partage probablement un certain nombre de choses avec beaucoup de groupes militants, qu’ils soient féministes ou humanistes. "Nue York" soulève inévitablement la question du féminisme. Cela dit, je n’ai pas conçu le projet sous cet angle. Il s’agit avant tout d’interroger les gens en tant qu’êtres humains. Si mes photos poussent les spectateurs à se poser des questions sur le rôle des vêtements dans notre société, ou si la série sert de point de départ à d’autres réflexions, alors je considérerai ma mission comme réussie. Erica Simone
Erica Simone est née à Knoxville, Tennessee. Après avoir passé sa vie entre Los Angeles, Paris et New York, Erica photographie la jungle de New York. Ses images sont publiées dans de nombreux magazines inernationaux tels que National Geographic, PHOTO, the Daily News, El Mundo, La Repubblica, Whitewall Magazine, PDN et beaucoup d’autres… L’Oeil de la photographie
Vous êtes photographe? Peintre? Vous êtes en panne d’inspiration? Mettez du sein et de la fesse dans vos oeuvres!!! Ca marche à coup sur car c’est immanquablement relayé par les médias! diabolodenfer méphisto
Comment sélectionnerait-on nos amis ? J’ai bien une petite idée… Les mal foutus seraient peut-être bien seuls... Gaëlle Rosier
"Ce projet n’est pas à proprement parler quelque chose de facile à mener, mais j’apprécie les montées d’adrénaline." dixit notre belle photographe En tout cas, plus agréable à regarder que l’urinoir de notre Marcel national. On peut lui proposer de faire cela sur la place Tahrir en Egypte. Là, elle aurait sûrement une overdose d’adrénaline ! gerald B
Question soft : Elle laisse son soutif pendant les séances d’UV ou elle est partie en vacances au Qatar ? Bernard Palux
Des photos de femmes se baladant à poil en ville, comme ici, ce n’est pas ce qui manque, et depuis longtemps. Mais, ce n’est pas correct, pas féministe, c’est immoral, car elles ont le culot de prétendre y trouver du plaisir. Shocking. Impossible à entendre dans ce 21e siècle où la presse meanstream prétend nier la différence des sexes. Il y a certainement un horrible mâle derrière tout ça. En revanche, en enfumant ces nouveaux moralisateurs avec un discours pseudo politique, ça devient soudain révolutionnaire. Et les bobos peuvent regarder tranquillement des photos de cul sans se cacher. Décidément, la Com a des ressources insoupçonnées. andro mede

L’érotisme serait-il ce qui reste quand l’art a disparu ?

A l’heure où, armée de ses seuls seins nus et d’une tronçonneuse, une dissidente réussit à venir à bout d’une croix de bois commémorant les victimes du génocide ukrainien

Et où, de Toronto à Boston et Melbourne et de Paris à Londres et Amsterdam, nos salopes bravent l’enfer de nos rues pour réhabiliter plus de 2 000 ans d’expérience accumulée du "plus vieux métier du monde" …

Le Pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme va-t-il devoir accorder l’asile politique et un nouveau timbre

A l’autoportraitiste érotique Erica Simone qui, armée elle aussi de sa seule irréprochable plastique et d’un évident sens de l’autopromotion, se dévoue corps et âme à la défense des droits de l’homme (?) dans la jungle puritaine de Manhattan ?

PHOTOS. Nue à New York contre la dictature du vêtement

Cyril Bonnet

Le Nouvel Observateur

22-03-2014

En tenue d’Ève dans la Grosse Pomme. Tel est le programme de "Nue York", série d’autoportraits dans lesquels la photographe professionnelle Erica Simone se promène dans le plus simple appareil au sein de célèbre ville américaine.

Ne la qualifiez pas d’exhibitionniste ! Cette photographe éclectique et aguerrie, passée par plusieurs continents et de prestigieuses publications, revendique une démarche artistique et a quelques messages à faire passer. Sur l’illégalité de la nudité qui la "rend folle", d’une part ; sur le carcan social dans lequel les vêtements enferment leurs propriétaires, d’autre part. En fil rouge, une même volonté de susciter la réflexion à travers des images ludiques et inattendues. Interview.

Comment se déroule une séance photo type pour la série "Nue York" ?

- Je passe beaucoup de temps à me promener en ville avec un ami pour trouver des scènes intéressantes, propices à des scénarios et des situations qui permettent de s’amuser. Il y a ensuite une longue phase d’élaboration de la composition de l’image, puis d’attente de l’instant décisif. Lorsqu’il survient, j’enlève mes vêtements et on commence à prendre les photos. En tout, je ne reste nue qu’une ou deux minutes. Trois si j’estime qu’il faut reprendre une autre série de clichés.

Quelles sont les réactions des passants ?

- Il arrive qu’ils ne me remarquent même pas. Sinon, je ne reçois que des réactions positives. Les gens rient, applaudissent, ou encore s’exclament : "Only in New York !" ("Uniquement à New York !") Je n’ai jamais eu de problème. Et je fais de mon mieux pour éviter la police. Ce projet n’est pas à proprement parler quelque chose de facile à mener, mais j’apprécie les montées d’adrénaline.

Quel message souhaitez-vous diffuser ?

- Je ne me considère pas comme une nudiste ou une exhibitionniste, mais comme une artiste qui pose des questions à la société. Me sentant bien dans ma peau, la nudité ne me semble pas quelque chose d’effrayant. Le corps relève de l’essence humaine, animale. Que certains aient l’esprit puritain au point d’être offensés par un corps nu constitue, à mes yeux, un mystère.

Certes, je conçois que la nudité ne se prête pas à toutes les situations, et que certains pourraient l’utiliser de manière malveillante. Pour autant, le fait que la loi nous interdise d’être nu en public, c’est-à-dire d’évoluer dans l’état le plus primitif et naturel qui soit, cela me rend folle. La nudité n’a jamais tué personne. Ce n’est pas le cas des armes à feu qui, elles, sont autorisées aux États-Unis. Dans ce pays, posséder un pistolet est bien plus acceptable que d’être nu en dehors de sa salle de bain !

Vous pointez également la valeur sociale des choix vestimentaires.

- S’habiller, c’est s’exprimer. À sa seule tenue, on peut déterminer si un individu est riche, s’il est "cool" ou non, s’il a du goût, s’il est propre sur lui, si c’est un homme d’affaires, un voyou… Ainsi la société met-elle des étiquettes sur les gens.

De ce fait, je m’interroge : comment serait la vie sans vêtements ? Comment interpréterions-nous la vision d’autrui ? Comment sélectionnerions-nous nos amis sans les repères fournis par les styles vestimentaires ? Traiterait-on les gens différemment ? La façon dont on jauge habituellement nos semblables s’effondrerait. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus attentif au regard de la personne qui est en face de nous, à l’énergie qu’elle dégage. Peut-être que l’on deviendrait plus intuitif. Qui sait ?

Vos photos servent un message particulier. D’autres personnes, comme les Femen, utilisent la nudité en lieu public à des fins politiques. Vous trouvez-vous des points communs avec elles ?

- Je partage probablement un certain nombre de choses avec beaucoup de groupes militants, qu’ils soient féministes ou humanistes. "Nue York" soulève inévitablement la question du féminisme. Cela dit, je n’ai pas conçu le projet sous cet angle. Il s’agit avant tout d’interroger les gens en tant qu’êtres humains. Si mes photos poussent les spectateurs à se poser des questions sur le rôle des vêtements dans notre société, ou si la série sert de point de départ à d’autres réflexions, alors je considérerai ma mission comme réussie.

Propos recueillis par Cyril Bonnet – Le Nouvel Observateur

Crédit photos : Erica Simone. Voir son site web.

Voir aussi:

Experiment and Experience: Peter Weiss Interviews Erica Simone

Peter Weiss

NY Arts

Peter Weiss: You have a very energetic personality; you seem very confident and secure. Am I reading it right and to what do you attribute that security?

Erica Simone: Yes, I like to think of myself as being confident and secure (most of the time). We do only have one life, one body, and one mind, so why waste time feeling bad about our failures or ourselves? All we can attempt is to improve what we don’t like or to just be accepting of it. And if you aren’t secure, it’s important to at least appear so. I think without it, people stop trusting you and you stop intriguing people.

PW: You travel light and alone at times when you work, both here and abroad. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker or adventurer in your artistic pursuit? Do you see a difference?

ES: I definitely identify with being an adventurer. I love to explore new territories and I love challenges, there is no fun in staying safe. I’m somewhat of a risk taker, but you won’t typically find me running into a flaming house … unless to save a soul.

PW: What sacrifices do you make in pursuit of your art? What has been your greatest victory? What is your greatest missed opportunity or photo? Do you have a favorite piece and why? Are there pieces that are staged and should be declared as such or have you allowed confusion? Have you ever felt guilty about an image you have taken? Has it ever seen the light of day?

ES: I don’t tend to think of the sacrifices I make as being “sacrifices,” but more so just experiences. In my nude project, I gave up the privacy of my own body, but it’s not in any way a sacrifice to me. I would never part with anything I couldn’t stand losing. I am passionate about my work, but if I hadn’t been comfortable giving that up, I would have never done it.

In the Nue York series, I’d say the greatest victory was probably the subway shot. With the constant movement of the passengers, it took quite a while for the composition of the photograph to fall the way I wanted it to and then I only had 1 subway stop to capture it. By that time, I had already traveled from the West Village to the Bronx!

There were a few times when I would manage to capture a wonderful image, but I was out of focus or some element in the photograph didn’t work. Overall, despite the technical challenges, I was quite lucky.

In some cases, yes, I definitely needed the cooperation of other people in the photograph to capture what I wanted, but most of them were done guerilla-style.

I’ve never felt guilt towards an image. I’ve felt insecure, sure, but I think that just goes hand in hand with being the model. We can’t always happy about the way we look in photographs. I know I’m not.

PW: Do you consider the shooting of the “Bare Urban Citizen” collection interventionist/ performance art?

ES: The project is not about performance, but about photography. I didn’t feel that I was performing when producing the photos, but rather, just trying to capture an iconic image. I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera, not the people watching or what’s going on in the street. My goal is to go in, get the shot, and quickly move away from the crime scene. It’s about the end image, not the moment in itself.

PW: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your act of taking pictures has offended the passersby or the subject? If so, did you continue despite the protests? If so what was your rational? During the Urban Nude, what gave you the idea? What are you saying with this collection? If you weren’t as pretty as you are, would that have impacted this collection?

ES: No actually, no one has ever overtly expressed discontent or being offended during my shoots. Most people laugh or applaud. I don’t think my physique or intentions are offensive to most people. Had I run around a church or a playground in my birthday suit—it would probably be a different story.

The collection contemplates the use of clothing and fashion in society. We tend to first judge or analyze others by how they look on the outside, the same way we tend to act or feel differently depending on what we are wearing. I produced this series after asking myself certain questions: “What would life be like if we didn’t have clothing to express ourselves?” “How would we perceive or judge others, on what basis?” “How would we feel with our bodies, would we be more or less secure?” “What would the environment look like?”

Thank you. I have no idea if the collection would have had more or less of an impact. Possibly, if I had been very out of shape, the collection could have been even more popular, because people would have been even more shocked: “How could this person possibly feel comfortable running around naked?” This brings up other questions such as “Why would one person feel more or less comfortable being naked just because of the way they look?” Some models are extremely insecure, the same way some overweight people are nudists. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other.

PW: Does fame and fortune motivate you or are you an artist for artist sake?

ES: Of course I would love to eventually be financially secure enough to be able to lead a stable life with the ability to make certain choices and as anyone, I would love for my work to be successful for my own sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, if I could use my skills and social position to make a difference and to help people, then this drive would make much more sense and have much more of an impact. I am a lot more motivated to make a difference than to be a famous photographer for its own sake, so hopefully they’ll go hand in hand.

PW: Where does your ego fit into your career?

ES: My ego comes and goes—a constant battle. I accept my flaws, as hard as it can be sometimes, but I also know that no one is perfect. We are all different, traveling on different journeys. All I can hope for is to keep moving forward, to keep learning and to keep making progress.

PW: You are very attractive young woman. How does this affect your entree in your photography? Do you use your feminine charms to get your pictures? How far will you go?

ES: Thank you, but I don’t think it takes a supermodel to get where you want in life. I do often use my feminine “powers” to get the pictures I want. Of course, I’ve found myself flirting with an old man to get his picture or batting my eye-lashes to get past authorities. As a woman, I think it’s a God-given right to use those charms! While men have their advantages, women have theirs and I feel it is fair game to rock what you have.

PW: As a photographer you have a very diverse body of work. The categories listed on your web site includes, portraits, people, travel, photo-journalism, self portraits, personal work, fashion, and beauty. What does your selection of subject matter say about you as a person, artist and professional photographer?

ES: I like producing a variety of work. My creative ADD introduces me to a diversity of subjects, which makes my job more exciting. I like exploring new ideas and concepts and I love a good challenge, so taking on new work is always something I have fun with. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to specialize in a certain area, there are too many interesting things to take pictures of; I want to take them all!

PW: Dealers and collectors expect from the professional artist a cohesive recognizable body of work. This work should fit a particular genre. As you know this allows dealers a sharper target in which to market an artist’s work. It could be argued that if your creative spectrum is too broad, you can’t develop a style fully and you risk losing the focus of you subject matter and continuity. How do you feel this established criteria affects your work from a professional and creative perspective?

ES: I’m not too worried about what dealers and collectors want from artists. I’m only interested in what I want to do, since that’s what makes me happy. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to develop a style fully regardless, if that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s all experiment and experience and as long as I keep learning and producing more and more interesting work, while paying rent, that’s all that matters for me.

Voir également:

Naked ambition: Photographer lays herself bare in nude poses on the streets of NYC

Rachel Quigley

The Daily Mail

28 March 2011

Photographers are often said to bare their souls through their pictures.

But Parisian Erica Simone has taken this to the next level by literally laying herself bare – she has photographed herself in nothing but her birthday suit on the streets of New York.

The 25-year-old has turned doing daily routines in the city to works of art simply by removing her clothes.

And Miss Simone made the daring decision to step out from behind the camera and go au naturel in a series of self-portraits taken in and around the Big Apple.

Speaking to MailOnline she said: ‘At first it was like, "Can I really do this?" I was into the idea, but I didn’t totally have the [nerve] to do it – I’m not totally an exhibitionist.

‘But I managed to do it on my first day of shooting in the West Village and I didn’t even get arrested.

‘I think that was just a combination of good timing and luck, and it is not as if I just spent the whole day walking around naked. I was fully clothed until I was ready to take the shot.’

‘It’s not about sex. It’s crazy that it’s illegal to be naked. The whole process was really liberating and it made me feel freer and more comfortable in my own skin and not be ashamed of my body.’

Once Erica got the idea for the exhibit, she decided to step out from behind the camera and do a number of self portraits in the nude, sometimes wearing only a variety of accessories, performing mundane activities

In the pictures, she rides the subway, checks out library books and shovels the snow on the sidewalk outside her apartment – all in the nude.

The 20 shots are part of Simone’s new exhibit Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen, which opens next month at the Dash Gallery in Tribeca.

Miss Simone said the inspiration for the exhibition came to her during Fashion Week two years ago.

She said: ‘I was sitting around thinking about fashion and what would we be if we were naked and what if we didn’t have fashion to show who we were, our status, how much money we had, all these things.

‘Then I got the photographic idea of shooting people naked in the street, but just doing regular things, not especially posing, or being naked, but doing whatever.’

The pretty 25-year-old said she was not sure if she herself could go through with it but was intrigued by the challenge of staging the shots – which she took using a remote sensor – and stripping down to her birthday suit.

She said the general public were very accepting of her nudity and she did not have any bad experiences while doing it.

‘Most people were laughing, smiling or applauding and cheering. They seemed OK with it,’ she said. ‘The most challenging one was on the subway. I had to ride the whole way from West 14th Street to the end of the line to get the right shot.

‘The only person I told was the guy next to me as he had to hold my coat. But by the time some people even found out about it, I was clothed again.’

Miss Simone also said she has come a long way from the first shot to where she is now.

‘The first few times I was so nervous and I guess innocent about everything, and yeah it was scary a bit as well,’ she said.

‘But now I don’t care about being naked. I am more concerned about getting the shot right rather than worrying about being naked or what people in the streets are thinking.’

Voir encore:

Artist Statement

Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen

As once an Angeleno in Paris, and now a Parisian in New York, really my mind is stuck in the stars. Photography has become a true passion and within it, a never-ending drive to try and challenge everything, even if it means getting naked in the freezing snow…

“Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” bloomed from an initial questioning about clothing and its importance in society today. Fashion and what we wear act as a language: they allow us to silently portray who we are or want to be, offering society an impression on us – whatever that may be. Fashion also tends to segregate and place us into various social categories as well as communicate a certain mood or particular feeling. This tool is quite precious to civil society and as most people, I organically use clothing as a way of portraying my own image. However, in a city like New York, the fashion industry has a massive impact: people tend to be very concerned with appearance and the materialistic side of it, which became very real while I was photographing Fashion Week a few years back.

As I watched an image-absorbed union of people care more about the sales at Barney’s than the homeless people they step over on the street, I began to ponder: “What would the world feel like naked? What if we didn’t have clothing to portray who we want to be or feel as individuals? What if we couldn’t show off our social status to deserve the treatment we wanted from others? What if all we had were our bodies?” These questions raised many various issues and these issues raised many various questions.

From there, my photographic project was born. With a tripod and a couple ounces of adrenaline, I took to the streets bare to see what a typical New York day would be like. At first, I wasn’t so sure what was going to happen or what was going to come of it all, but as the collection progressed, more and more issues became aware to me. For example: “Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street, when as human beings, we are born naked?” I can understand that it would be socially unacceptable or morally discouraged, but for it to be in some cases prohibited by law…? This all seemed quite bizarre and really more so a violation of human rights.

Another question that arose was that of sexuality. “Is nudity inherently sexual or is nudity just a part of being human? Why does society typically equate nudity to sex? And how does the variety of body types come into equation when asking that question?” Each person’s answer is different.

To clarify, I’m not an exhibitionist or a nudist – I’m an artist looking to humorously poke at some interesting thoughts about society and question who we are and portray as human beings. It’s now up to the viewer to answer those questions, as he/she likes.

From Houston to Hudson and from Bowery to the Bronx, photographing Manhattan has never been such a rush….


Transport aérien: Quand l’avion était encore un plaisir (Back to the time when sex did sell seats)

13 mars, 2014
http://static03.mediaite.com/thejanedough/uploads/gallery/flight-attendent-vintage-ads/American%20Airlines.jpg
http://stuffo.ddmcdn.com/stuffmomnevertoldyou/wp-content/uploads/sites/86/2013/12/fly-me-jo.jpg?w=300http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/retrotisements/travel/southwest-airlines-jul-1979-ad.jpghttp://www.trbimg.com/img-51951985/turbine/chi-history-stewardesses-flight-attendants-201-010/600http://i.haymarket.net.au/News/PRESS%20AD%2012x20_CT.jpghttp://thisisnotadvertising.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/lyar-direct2.jpg?w=450&h=312http://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/8b36e-lynxjet1.jpg?w=450&h=442
http://9bytz.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Vintage-Airline-Ads-2.jpghttps://www.ryanair.com/img/calendar/front.jpghttp://notaniche.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/pacific-airlines-ad.jpgThe other truly transforming business invention of the first quarter of the century, besides the car, was the airplane–another industry whose plainly brilliant future would have caused investors to salivate. So I went back to check out aircraft manufacturers and found that in the 1919-39 period, there were about 300 companies, only a handful still breathing today. Among the planes made then–we must have been the Silicon Valley of that age–were both the Nebraska and the Omaha, two aircraft that even the most loyal Nebraskan no longer relies upon. Move on to failures of airlines. Here’s a list of 129 airlines that in the past 20 years filed for bankruptcy. Continental was smart enough to make that list twice. As of 1992, in fact–though the picture would have improved since then–the money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country’s airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero. Sizing all this up, I like to think that if I’d been at Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville Wright took off, I would have been farsighted enough, and public-spirited enough–I owed this to future capitalists–to shoot him down. I mean, Karl Marx couldn’t have done as much damage to capitalists as Orville did. Warren Buffett
Airlines have created value for their customers but not that much for their owners: the profit margin after 1970 has been only 0.1 per cent. Three in four airlines are privately owned but investors have more profitable alternatives. Airlines tend to put blame for poor results on external factors, such as high fuel prices, terrorist attacks or airport charges. However, the industry is in chronic disequilibrium with permanent overcapacity. Overcapacity is caused by many factors, including government policies and ease of acquiring new aircrafts (often with export credit guarantees by governments). This is reinforced by the obsession of airlines for higher market shares, often leading to falling yields. Passenger load factors have markedly risen during recent years, but at the expense of collapsing fares. ILO
Amotz Zahavi (1975), de l’Université de Tel Aviv, a trouvé que la valeur de certains ornements liés à la compétition sexuelle chez les animaux dépend de leur impact sur les chances de survie de leur porteur. L’idée est simple : une gazelle qui perd de l’énergie en faisant des bonds alors qu’elle est poursuivie par un lion n’est pas folle, elle prouve qu’elle a les moyens de le faire. Plus elle saute haut, plus ça lui coûte (de l’énergie) et plus elle prouve sa valeur. La sanction est directe : qu’elle se surestime et elle sera dévorée. C’est comme le Handicap (“Hand in Cap” = “Main au Chapeau”) de certains sports : seuls les meilleurs peuvent se permettre de gagner en s’imposant des contraintes supplémentaires et cette preuve aura d’autant plus de valeur qu’elle sera coûteuse. L’application est générale et les exemples sont innombrables : rouler en Rolls plutôt qu’en Golf prouve qu’on a les moyens de dépenser au delà de l’utilitaire (le coût ici est financier) et tout le marché du luxe bénéficie de ce besoin de “costly display” (c’est le terme). Le “costly display” a aussi été cité pour expliquer la mode de la minceur dans les pays riches, le bikini et la mode sexy, la poignée de main (prise de risque en l’éloignant de l’épée), le sourire honnête (…) et… la fortune des médecins urgentistes ! Neuromonaco
La compétition sexuelle est à l’intérieur de chaque sexe et l’habillement sert aux femmes d’abord à se positionner entre elles, le regard des hommes n’étant qu’un moyen dans cette guerre (…) Les mannequins Haute Couture ont des corps et des visages beaucoup plus masculins que les mannequins lingerie et les “pornstars” : en fait elles ressemblent à des garçons adolescents (…) La préférence des hommes pour des femmes plus ou moins “pulpeuses” est directement influencée par leur situation économique perçue : les plus riches préfèrent les plus minces (…) Les hommes ne privilégient la beauté du visage que pour des relations à long terme. Neuromonaco
De nombreuses études (…) montrent qu’il y a un lien entre la situation de séduction et l’achat de produits liés au statut : c’est l’affichage du statut (le “display”) pour montrer qu’on a suffisamment de ressources disponibles pour se permettre d’en dépenser sur des produits inutiles (encore le Handicap de Zahavi). L’effet est plus fort chez les célibataires pour les achats d’impulsion et Griskevicius et ses collègues (2011) ont même trouvé que le sex-ratio avait un impact direct : plus il y a d’hommes en concurrence, plus l’effet display sera marqué. Neuromonaco
According to one 1990 study by researchers at SUNY Binghamton and the University of the Witwatersrand (…) compliments from men were generally accepted, especially by female recipients, but "compliments from women are met with a response type other than acceptance": as a threat. Men often see compliments as "face-threatening acts," or acts intended to embarrass or patronize, the study authors found. What was meant as a nicety could be seen as a way to assert control. (…) Being the arbiter of someone’s attractiveness can be interpreted as an expression of masculinity that women are not traditionally expected to adopt. Further, it is possible that a good portion of men don’t want to be essentially "treated like women," as their masculinity is dependent on being above the judgments women are often subjected to. (…) In life as well as in art, a man’s focus on his own appearance can be perceived as detracting from his perceived masculinity in the eyes of male reviewers. In her book, Extra-Ordinary Men: White Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Popular Cinema, Nicola Rehling points out that in the movie Gladiator, Maximus had a muscular build but was not sexualized on-screen. In the movie Troy, meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s Achilles was practically groomed for the enjoyment of straight female and gay male viewers. Crowe’s body was not nearly as exposed as Pitt’s was throughout the movie. Rehling writes, "In the majority of reviews of the film, Brad Pitt was compared unfavorably with Crowe, with many expressing disappointment that he failed to import the primal masculinity that was such a big box office attraction in Gladiator. The adulation of Crowe’s Maximus would seem to articulate a desire for an undiluted, corporeal, physical male presence." The consequences for women giving men compliments are also different than those for men giving women compliments. In a 2006 study from Williamette University’s College of Liberal Arts, researchers Christopher Parisi and Peter Wogan found that college-aged men were generally given compliments on skills, while women were given compliments on their looks. Parisi and Wogan also found that women felt the need to be cautious when complimenting men on their appearance because they didn’t want to be "too forward" or attract "unwanted attention." That fear is supported by a 2008 study, conducted in Australia by Griffith University, which hypothesized that men are more likely to interpret or misinterpret female compliments as seductive or flirtatious than women are male compliments. Who knew complimenting could be so complicated? The Atlantic
Les plus belles hôtesses de Ryanair font monter la température en cabine. Eddie Wilson (directeur des ressources humaines de Ryanair)
Ces uniformes sont vraiment très serrés et ne sont tout simplement pas pratiques du tout pour le travail physique que nous avons à faire. Hôtesse Qantas
Les hôtesses de l’air ont de 20 à 60 ans et beaucoup d’entre elles, notamment les plus âgées, ne souhaitent pas porter d’uniformes trop moulants. Nous aimions les anciens uniformes créés par Peter Morrissey. Ceux-là ils étaient vraiment confortables. Hôtesse Qantas
Nous sommes préoccupées car nous pensons que cet uniforme pourrait causer des problèmes à bord, y compris du harcèlement sexuel. La compagnie aérienne explique que cet uniforme sert à attirer plus de clients, mais cela montre qu’elle considère la femme comme une marchandise …la priorité numéro un ne devrait pas être de raccourcir les tenues mais d’augmenter la sécurité. Syndicat d’hôtesses de l’air japonaises
Je ne pourrais pas me concentrer sur mon travail parce que je serais toujours en train de me demander si on ne me regarde pas. Hôtesse japonaise

Ah, le bon vieux temps quand l’avion était encore un plaisir !

Paréos hawaiiens, kimonos japonais, mini-jupes suisses, brunes chevelures espagnoles …

A l’heure où, entre le prix du pétrole, les coûts induits toujours plus élevés de la sécurité post-11/9 (alors qu’on est toujours sans nouvelles d’un avion malaisien mystérieusement disparu des écrans radar) et l’arrivée de nouveaux concurrents à bas coût (calendrier de charmecaritatif – compris!), les compagnies aériennes dont la profitabilité sur 40 ans n’a jamais dépassé les 0, 1% rivalisent d’astuces pour attirer les passagers (jusqu’à transformer l’intérieur de leurs avions en supports publicitaires) …

Et où, accusant leur compagnie d’utiliser leurs corps comme des marchandises, un syndicat d’hôtesses de l’air japonaises refuse, après leurs homologues australiennes l’an dernier, de porter leur nouvel uniforme pour cause de risque de harcèlement sexuel …

Pendant que pour ses 70 ans, notre Catherine Deneuve nationale  reprend du service en lingerie fine et stilettos pour un magazine américain

Retour avec les archives du magazine américain The Atlantic …

Sur ces temps encore innocents où, avant les campagnes ouvertement sexuelles avec noms des hôtesses sur le nez des avions et badges suggestifs des années 70, hot pants et cuissardes ou petits carnets pour les numéros des hôtesses à la Fly me  (fantasmes récemment repris, fausse compagnie aérienne comprise, par le fabricant australien de déodorants pour hommes Lynx/Axe) …

Et, sauf exceptions régionales, avant le sérieux et professionalisme actuel …

Les stratégies sexuelles des compagnies aériennes, centrées sur une clientèle d’affaires majoritairement masculine et donc leur personnel féminin, rivalisaient en subtilité pour vendre leurs sièges …

‘Sex Sells Seats’: Magazine Airline Ads, 1959–79

From kimono-clad Japanese hostesses to miniskirted Swiss brunettes, companies have a long history of using women to sell air travel. Some examples from The Atlantic‘s archives.
The Atlantic
Dec 22 2013

These days, air travel is anything but sexy. TSA pat-downs, inflatable neck pillows, reruns of CBS sitcoms—it can get pretty grim at 35,000 feet.

There was a time, however, when flying was both the literal and figurative height of sexiness. “The good old days,” Mark Gerchick calls them wryly in the January/February Atlantic. “When travelers were ‘mad men’ and flight attendants were ‘sexy stews,’ when the ‘sex sells seats’ mantra drove some carriers to adorn ‘trolley dollies’ in hot pants and go-go boots.”

While air travel ads printed in The Atlantic in those days were a little more… buttoned up (than, say, this 1972 Southwest Airlines commercial), it’s clear the “sexy skies” gimmick was an advertising boon. The campaigns were wildly misogynistic, hopelessly fantastical, and maybe a little bit racist. But sell seats they did, from Narita to O’Hare. Gathered below are 10 such “sex sells seats” ads plucked from The Atlantic archives. (Click any ad to view a larger version.)


February 1968

British Overseas Airways Corporation “takes good care of you.” (By putting gyrating hula dancers front and center.)


February 1959

KLM: The premiere airline for tag-along wives and their crestfallen husbands.


May 1961

Japan Air Lines masters the art of marketing orientalism, ensuring flyers that the only “real desire” of its “kimono-clad stewardesses” is “to serve.”


July 1970

This Iberia Airlines ad bravely defies ethnic stereotypes by promising travelers a veritable rainbow of stewardess hair colorings: “blondes from Barcelona, redheads from Cádiz,” and for the traditional Hispanophile, “a liberal helping of the beautiful brunettes you pictured us having.”


October 1966

Swissair promises “lakeside cafes, casinos, nightclubs,” and—most prominently of all—“friendly natives.”


July 1971

This Japan Air Lines ad delivers a particularly cringe-worthy line: “She is our pride. And your joy.”


August 1966

Not looking for love? Never fly Alitalia.


February 1979

South African Airways offers one for the ladies: When Alec hits on you, he’s not being polite. “Merely sincere.”


February 1959

Japan Air Lines does it again, demonstrating just how well-versed its “fairest” of the fair stewardesses are in the womanly arts.


November 1970

Kris from Delta is “resourceful, alert, efficient, confident, and sociable.” But, most important, PRETTY.

Voir aussi:

Travel January/February 2014

A Brief History of the Mile High Club

Air travel hasn’t quite lost all its romance.

Mark Gerchick

The Atlantic

Dec 22 2013

Only true aviation geeks are likely to celebrate, or even notice, the milestone being celebrated this year in the history of aviation: the debut, a century ago, of the autopilot. In June 1914, at a historic aeronautical-safety competition in Paris, a 21-year-old American daredevil pilot-inventor named Lawrence Burst Sperry stunned the aviation world by using the instrument to keep a biplane flying straight and level along the Seine. According to his biographer, William Wyatt Davenport, Sperry stood on a wing as the plane, in effect, flew itself—a feat that won him the event’s $10,000 prize.

By eliminating the need for taxing “hand flying” on long journeys, and thereby reducing pilot fatigue, Sperry’s autopilot ultimately made flying much safer. But it had another, less obvious benefit. It freed up pilots to do other things with their hands—and bodies. The brilliant young Sperry himself soon grasped the possibilities. Legend has it that in late November 1916, while piloting a Curtiss Flying Boat C‑2 some 500 feet above the coast of Long Island, he used his instrument to administer a novel kind of flying lesson to one Cynthia Polk (whose husband was driving an ambulance in war-torn France). During their airborne antics, however, the two unwittingly managed to bump and disengage the autopilot, sending their plane into Great South Bay, where they were rescued, both stark naked, by duck hunters. A gallant Sperry explained that the force of the crash had stripped both fliers of all their clothing, but that didn’t stop a skeptical New York tabloid from running the famous headline “Aerial Petting Ends in Wetting.” For his caper, Sperry is generally considered the founder of the Mile High Club, a cohort that loosely includes all those who have ever “done it” in flight (though precisely what constitutes “it” remains a lurking definitional issue).

“Flying,” the 1930s stunt pilot Pancho Barnes is often quoted as saying, “makes me feel like a sex maniac in a whorehouse with a stack of $20 bills.” Today’s overcrowded, underfed, overstressed airline passengers, consigned to travel in “just a bloody bus with wings” as Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary puts it, are unlikely to share that enthusiasm. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that airborne sex remains on the bucket list of plenty of passengers, at least male ones. A “Sex Census” published in 2011 by the condom maker Trojan found that 33 percent of American men aspire to have sex on an airplane. (The top locale for women: a beach.) Similarly, nearly a third of the Brits who responded to a 2010 TripAdvisor poll said they wanted to try in-flight sex.

A lot of U.S. fliers may have already acted out that fantasy. In a global survey of more than 300,000 adults conducted in 2005 by the condom maker Durex, 2 percent of respondents worldwide (and 4 percent of American respondents) claimed to have had sex on an airplane. A 2010 survey commissioned by Sensis Condoms (when did condom makers become avid pollsters?) found a similar incidence of in-flight sex (3 percent) among its respondents. Assuming that about 100 million Americans have traveled by air, and discounting for lying braggarts, if even only 1 percent of them have indulged, then that’s a million or so Mile Highers.

Less-than-scientific anecdotes abound too. When Virgin Atlantic installed diaper-changing tables aboard its new Airbus A340-600 long-haul jets, in 2002, it wasn’t just mothers and children who found them useful. Within weeks, according to the airline, the tables were destroyed by “those determined to join the Mile High Club.” That said, the airline’s founder, the billionaire bad boy Sir Richard Branson, has waxed nostalgic about a tryst he had at age 19 in a Laker Airways lavatory (“It was every man’s dream”). Almost 20 years ago, Singapore Airlines, for its part, reported that a third of its cases of “unruly behavior” involved in-flight sex.

For the airlines, the “sexy skies” are all about marketing the fantasy. Actual in-flight sex is the last thing they want to deal with, especially since 9/11, when the preferred cabin ambience has become no-fun, no-drama—a shift more self-protective than puritanical. Is it just love, or is that couple huddled together in their seats trying to ignite explosive-filled sneakers? Even a visit to the bathroom can trigger a full-bore fighter-jet scramble, as it did on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, when a pair of F‑16s shadowed a Frontier flight until it landed in Detroit after two passengers made for the lavatory at the same time. Cabin crews working chock-full flights now also have no time, much less the inclination, to play chaperone.

Almost perversely, as the reality of today’s air travel for the ordinary coach passenger moves from bearable to downright nasty, reviving the lost “romance” of flying makes marketing sense. Branson, the master marketer, beckons passengers to “get lucky” when they fly Virgin America jets outfitted with seat-back touch screens that let you send “an in-flight cocktail to that friendly stranger in seat 4A.” After all, if you’re busy punching your video screen to chat up some “friendly stranger,” you’re not griping about an airline’s $7.50 snack pack. And when Singapore Airlines proudly unveiled for global media its super-jumbo double-decker Airbus A380 jet, the hype was all about the glories of its 12 ultra-costly first-class “suites.” Combine two of the private pods (about $10,000 each for the round trip from New York to Frankfurt), and you can share a legit double bed, shown in publicity photos strewn with rose petals, alongside a gold tray holding an open bottle of Dom Pérignon and two half-full champagne flutes. What are you supposed to think? Then there’s Air New Zealand’s “Skycouch” (three adjacent coach seats that can be transformed into a flat, bed-like surface), popularly known as “cuddle class.” It comes with the coy admonition to “just keep your clothes on thanks!”

“Flying,” said the 1930s stunt pilot Pancho Barnes, “makes me feel like a sex maniac in a whorehouse with a stack of $20 bills.”

Could we return to the good old days when travelers were “mad men” and flight attendants were “sexy stews,” when the “sex sells seats” mantra drove some carriers to adorn “trolley dollies” in hot pants and go-go boots and to offer “executive” (men-only) flights between Chicago and New York? Not likely, at least in the United States, where women constitute more than 40 percent of frequent fliers and half of international air travelers, and make most travel-buying decisions. How many of these women are really looking to “get lucky” on their next flight? Being hit on by an unseen stranger while buckled into a seat at 35,000 feet, online commenters have complained, is at best “a little creepy” and at worst like being trapped in a “mile high stalker club.”

For those moved by the marketing, or otherwise compelled to act out the mile-high fantasy (Freud posited that the fantasy of flight itself has “infantile erotic roots”), there’s a better solution than flying commercial: your own plane. Think Playboy’s Big Bunny, a 1970s-era DC‑9 jet outfitted as a “party pit,” complete with a fur-covered oval bed, a shower, and a discotheque, all presided over by flight attendants (“Jet Bunnies”) in black-leather mini-jumpsuits: “Imagine Studio 54 with wings,” enthused a Playboy feature. That particular icon supposedly now resides, dismantled, in a small city in Mexico, but some air-charter services offer hour-long jaunts for adventurous couples wanting to live out the dream, or at least spice up their relationships. These outfits come and go, with names like Erotic Airways and Flamingo Air, but typically they equip their small Pipers or Cessnas with a mattress (in lieu of the customary four or six seats), overfly scenic spots like Cincinnati or western Georgia, and throw in a bottle of not-quite-vintage bubbly, all for about $500.

The sheets—no joke—are yours to take home as souvenirs.

Mark Gerchick, a former chief counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration, is the author of Full Upright and Locked Position.

Voir également:

Les hôtesses de Skymark Airlines dénoncent leurs robes trop courtes

AFP agence

Le Figaro

11/03/2014

La compagnie japonaise à bas coût a prévu pour son personnel de cabine un nouvel uniforme qui doit attirer davantage de clients. Le syndicat des hôtesses craint surtout les incivilités.

Skymark Airlines a peut-être pensé que petit prix pour le client rimait avec petite robe pour les hôtesses… Erreur: un syndicat de personnel navigant ne décolère pas contre un nouvel uniforme qui dévoile jusqu’aux cuisses. «Nous sommes préoccupées car nous pensons que cet uniforme pourrait causer des problèmes à bord, y compris du harcèlement sexuel», ont protesté les hôtesses à travers leur fédération de personnel de cabine.

«La compagnie aérienne explique que cet uniforme sert à attirer plus de clients, mais cela montre qu’elle considère la femme comme une marchandise», poursuit le syndicat selon lequel la priorité numéro un ne devrait pas être de raccourcir les tenues mais d’augmenter la sécurité. Skymark envisage de faire porter cette robe courte moulante qui couvre tout juste les fesses à l’occasion du vol intérieur inaugural de son premier Airbus A330 en mai prochain.

«Nous n’imposerons par l’uniforme aux hôtesses qui refuseraient de le porter», a déclaré récemment le président de Skymark, Shinichi Nishikubo, tout en regrettant que cette initiative vestimentaire ait été présentée «d’une façon déformée». Sur le site du syndicat, une hôtesse affirme «qu’elle ne pourrait pas se concentrer sur son travail parce qu’elle serait toujours en train de se demander si on ne la regarde pas», avec la crainte de photos prises par des mobiles et de mains baladeuses.

Voir aussi:

Les uniformes "trop serrés" de Miranda Kerr

Catherine Delvaux

7 sur 7

12/12/13

L’ex Ange de Victoria Secret a servi de modèle pour les nouveaux uniformes des hôtesses de l’air de Qantas Airlines. "L’uniforme va vraiment bien à Miranda Kerr, mais malheureusement nous ne lui ressemblons pas toutes", regrette une employée australienne.

Réalisés par Martin Grant sur base des mensurations parfaites du mannequin australien, les nouveaux uniformes de Qantas Airlines ont été présentés en septembre dernier et seront portés par les 12.000 hôtesses dès aujourd’hui. Mais ils ne plaisent pas à toutes. "Ces uniformes sont vraiment très serrés et ne sont tout simplement pas pratiques du tout pour le travail physique que nous avons à faire", se plaint d’une des employées sur le site News.com.au.

"Les hôtesses de l’air ont de 20 à 60 ans et beaucoup d’entre elles, notamment les plus âgées, ne souhaitent pas porter d’uniformes trop moulants. Nous aimions les anciens uniformes créés par Peter Morrissey. Ceux-là ils étaient vraiment confortables", ajoute une autre hôtesse mécontente. Un porte-parole d’une association rassure: "Nous avons demandé à Qantas de modifier un peu l’uniforme pour répondre aux plaintes des hôtesses."

Voir encore:

Ryanair : le calendrier qui fait jaser

Amélie Gautier

le 14 décembre 2007

Présenté par la compagnie low cost comme le "calendrier 2008 le plus chaud", il met en scène ses hôtesses dans des poses osées. Du pur sexisme, selon des associations.En janvier, Julia assise dans le cockpit met le doigt sur l’un des nombreux boutons du tableau de bord, simplement vêtue d’un maillot de bain et de la casquette de pilote. En temps normal, la jeune femme assure la liaison vers Düsseldorf. Pas timorée pour un sou, en février, Jaroslava en bikini blanc se repose dans le creux d’un réacteur. Habituellement, la jolie brune travaille sur l’avion pour Rome. En avril, Nicola, hôtesse au sol à Londres montre, sifflet dans la bouche et tête ingénue, comment gonfler son gilet de sauvetage en cas de crash…. Et c’est comme ça douze mois durant sur le calendrier de Ryanair, baptisé Girls of Ryanair 2008.

Assurément très coquin mais aussi très malin de la part de la compagnie aérienne à bas tarifs d’Europe, qui fait parler d’elle tout en faisant sa B.A. : tous les bénéfices de la vente, 7 euros pièce, sont destinés à une œuvre de bienfaisance : l’association caritative Angels Quest, qui se charge de trouver des solutions d’hébergement provisoire pour des enfants atteints d’un handicap, afin de soulager leurs proches. Jusqu’à présent, 7 000 exemplaires – sur 10 000 – ont été vendus.

"Une atteinte à la dignité des femmes travailleuses"

"Quand nous avons lancé l’idée de mettre en scène des membres de l’équipage pour la bonne cause, 100 personnes se sont portées candidates, explique Peter Sherrard, de Ryanair. 12 ont été sélectionnées". "Les plus belles hôtesses de Ryanair font monter la température en cabine", affirme le directeur des ressources humaines de Ryanair, Eddie Wilson, cité sur le site internet de la compagnie.

En tout cas, en voyant ces nymphes les mains dans le cambouis, le sang d’une association espagnole de consommateur n’a fait qu’un tour : Facua a ainsi accusé cette semaine la compagnie irlandaise d’utiliser ses hôtesses de l’air comme "des outils publicitaires". Ce calendrier porte "atteinte à la dignité des femmes travailleuses en général et des hôtesses de l’air en particulier, en représentant des images stéréotypées de cette profession contre lesquelles on lutte depuis des années", a affirmé Facua.

Sexiste le calendrier ? Peter Sherrard de rétorquer : "On défend juste le droit des femmes à enlever leurs vêtements". La dernière page montre une hôtesse dans un coin de l’avion, sourire pincé, peau fripée et maillot de bain fleuri, cette femme un peu défraîchie comparée aux donzelles précédentes est censée incarnée une hôtesse de Aer Lingus… Le principal concurrent de Ryanair, qu’elle a longtemps convoité jusqu’au "non" de Bruxelles. Charity business !

Love & Sexe : les métiers où on se fait le plus draguer

Valérie, hôtesse de l’air, 28 ans

Cosmopolitan

La dernière fois qu’on vous a draguée ?

L’an passé, sur un vol Paris-San Francisco. L’homme en question voyageait en Business. Pas un playboy, mais un quinqua plutôt classe qui parlait bien de son métier.

Il bossait chez Calvin Klein et, entre un café et une mignonnette de Baileys, m’a proposé de me faire envoyer le dernier parfum. Naïve, sur la passerelle, j’ai lâché ma carte de visite.

Sur la sienne, en échange, j’ai pu lire «?RDV à mon Novotel ??». Berk.

Pourquoi votre métier fait fantasmer ?

L’image de Natacha hôtesse de l’air tient bon. Et puis, il y a le prestige sexy de l’uniforme, du tailleur au foulard (exit le calot, par contre).

On sent les regards durant notre show sur les consignes de sécurité. On s’en amuse même, parfois.

Vous vous y attendiez ?

J’imaginais pire. Pas de la part des passagers, mais plutôt du personnel de bord.

Aujourd’hui, les escales sont plus courtes – quatre jours maxi – et la rotation des équipages ultra rapide. Moins le temps de se laisser séduire par le pilote !

Tactiques des garçons ?

Souvent affligeantes : le soda renversé dans la travée centrale, obligée d’éponger… en tailleur, la boucle de ceinture introuvable… Le must : un homme m’a même demandé de border sa couverture.

Comment vous vous défendez ?

Quand tu es hôtesse, tu dois faire preuve de diplomatie. Surtout sur un long-courrier. Donc, je réponds «?Non, merci?» sur le même ton et avec le même sourire que quand je propose «?Thé ou café ??».

Voir par ailleurs:

Le sexe ne fait pas vendre…

Jean-François Dortier

Sciences humaines

Décembre 2005

Prenez plusieurs groupes de personnes. Placez-les devant un téléviseur. A l’un des groupes, on montre une émission avec du sexe, à un autre de la violence ; un troisième regardera une émission familiale du type « Les animaux les plus drôles ». Interrompez alors chaque programme par quelques spots publicitaires. Puis demandez aux personnes de se souvenir des noms et des marques qu’ils ont vus. C’est le groupe « émission familiale » qui s’en souviendra le mieux. Moins perturbé par les scènes « chaudes », leur esprit est plus disponible. Répétez plusieurs fois pour vous assurer du fait. Et voilà : la démonstration est établie. Les publicités liées à des programmes télévisés de sexe ou de violence ont moins d’effets que celles qui sont associées à des programmes familiaux. L’expérience était simple. Elle a été réalisée par Brad Bushman de l’université du Michigan et publiée dans une récente livraison de Psychological Science. Conclusion : s’il est connu que le sexe ou la violence font grimper l’Audimat et si l’Audimat fait monter les recettes publicitaires, cela ne veut pas dire que le sexe ou la violence font vendre. CQFD.

Voir aussi:

6: Pourquoi le sexe vend ? (et quoi et à qui…)

Philippe Gouillou

December 12, 2011

Faut-il toujours mettre la photo d’une femme sexy pour vendre ? A voir les pubs on pourrait le croire, mais en fait si le sexe a bien un effet puissant, il est plus subtil que ça.

1. Pourquoi le sexe vend ? (et quoi et à qui…)

Tout le monde ne travaille pas dans le secteur de la pornographie et le sexe n’est pas le sujet principal des pensées des hommes (pas même celui des femmes), pourtant il est, de plus en plus semble-t-il, le support principal des publicités. Pourquoi ?

De nombreuses études (ex : Janssens et al., 2011 ; Sundie et al., 2011 ; Wilson et al., 2004) montrent qu’il y a un lien entre la situation de séduction et l’achat de produits liés au statut : c’est l’affichage du statut (le “display”) pour montrer qu’on a suffisamment de ressources disponibles pour se permettre d’en dépenser sur des produits inutiles (encore le Handicap de Zahavi). L’effet est plus fort chez les célibataires pour les achats d’impulsion et Griskevicius et ses collègues (2011) ont même trouvé que le sex-ratio avait un impact direct : plus il y a d’hommes en concurrence, plus l’effet display sera marqué.

Et pour les femmes ?

Griskevicius et al. (2007) ont trouvé le même effet chez les femmes mais moins brutal et pas sur le même type de dépense, elles donneront surtout à des causes et chercheront à aider, comme le montre le graphique :

En fait, ce qui influence le mode de consommation des femmes est leur position dans le cycle menstruel : en période d’ovulation elles dépenseront plus pour des produits liés à leur apparence (Durante et al., 2010).Un message sexuel est donc un priming efficace pour activer chez la cible les programmes de séduction (et notamment ce display), ceux-ci montrant des différences sexuelles marquées. C’est un Priming plus direct que la simple beauté qui provoque donc plus directement les mêmes effets.

Application pratique

Si vos produits correspondent, une publicité directement sexuelle sera particulièrement efficace, sinon le risque est grand que la cible n’en garde qu’une désagréable impression d’overdose (certes, vous pouvez encore espérer que quelques féministes augmenteront gratuitement votre notoriété mais ça ne durera pas : elles finiront pas le remarquer !)

Photo : Campagne Diesel 2010 (“Sex Sells* / *Unfortunately we sell jeans”) présentée sur BlogoPub : “Diesel Sex Sells : du sexe et des jeans par Nono – le 3 février 2010″

2. Photo : Top Model, le prochain métier remplacé par des ordinateurs

Photomontage 20 minutes

La dernière campagne H&M Suède a fait beaucoup de bruit : elle n’utilise plus que le visage des mannequins, collés sur des corps en plastique retouchés par ordinateur. 20 minutes traduit le journal suédois Aftonbladet :

«Ce ne sont pas de véritables corps. On prend des photos des vêtements sur un mannequin (en plastique, ndr), et ensuite, l’apparence humaine est générée par un programme informatique»

La beauté correspond à des critères et n’est pas que dans l’oeil de celui qui regarde (la page d’Evopsy la plus citée sur les sites féminins) et cela fait longtemps que les robots peuvent noter tout seul la beauté d’une femme mais deux choix de H&M pour cette campagne sont à noter :

H&M a choisi de garder des visages réels

H&M n’a fait aucune distinction régionale pour la forme du corps

Pour l’instant les seules critiques semblent être les (classiques) accusations d’incitation à l’anorexie mais j’imagine que le point 2 ci-dessus sera aussi très vite récupéré.

En fait le vrai jeu est maintenant de se demander combien de temps encore les visages réels seront utilisés et quand les femmes pourront vraiment être remplacées par de (parfaits) robots.

Pour rappel :

La compétition sexuelle est à l’intérieur de chaque sexe et l’habillement sert aux femmes d’abord à se positionner entre elles, le regard des hommes n’étant qu’un moyen dans cette guerre

Les mannequins Haute Couture ont des corps et des visages beaucoup plus masculins que les mannequins lingerie et les “pornstars” : en fait elles ressemblent à des garçons adolescents

La préférence des hommes pour des femmes plus ou moins “pulpeuses” est directement influencée par leur situation économique perçue : les plus riches préfèrent les plus minces (Herbert, 2010)

Les hommes ne privilégient la beauté du visage que pour des relations à long terme (Confer et al. , 2010 : synthèse sur Evopsy)

Application pratique

Si vous voulez utiliser le même genre de technique, assurez-vous de faire appel à d’excellents infographistes pour ne pas souffrir des deux risques célèbres : le “désastre photoshop” direct (exemples : Photoshop Disaster) et peut-être la “Vallée dérangeante” (“Uncanny Valley”) découverte par Masahiro Mori dès 1970, qui hypothétise que la “presque-ressemblance” humaine des robots fait (très) peur.

Ou alors attendez un tout petit peu : Karsch & Forsyth (2011) ont développé un impressionnant programme d’incrustation d’images (fixes et animées) accessible à tous après seulement 10mn de formation (voir leur vidéo de présentation). A ce rythme d’évolution, les infographistes seront les suivants sur la liste à être remplacés par des ordinateurs…

Photo et liens : 20 minutes : “Quand H&M copie-colle de vrais visages sur des corps générés par ordinateur” (06/12/2011)

3. Nouveau : La mesure du fauxtoshoppage

Hasard du calendrier ou pas, une toute nouvelle étude (Kee & Farid, 2011) propose une méthode pratique pour mesurer la quantité de retouche d’une photo (voir quelques exemples d’avant/après), ses auteurs souhaitant que leur note soit publiée à côté des photos retouchée en tant qu’avertissement (exactement comme pour les marges d’erreur des sondages). Cela permettrait peut-être de répondre à une demande extrêmement fréquente : que la compétition sexuelle soit plus “loyale” (j’avais vu à la TV une femme maquillée et beaucoup refaite se plaindre du “manque d’honnêteté des hommes”…)

Il me semble cependant que ne s’intéresser qu’au fauxtoshoppage est beaucoup trop restrictif : il faudrait bien sûr étendre cette méthode à la chirurgie esthétique et surtout, par souci d’équité, noter aussi le degré d’embelllissement des reportages sur les hommes ayant réussi économiquement…

Articles cités :

Confer, J. C., Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010). More than just a pretty face: men’s priority shifts toward bodily attractiveness in short-term versus long-term mating contexts. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 5. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.04.002

Durante, K. M., Griskevicius, V., Hill, S. E., Perilloux, C., & Li, N. P. (2010). Ovulation, Female Competition, and Product Choice: Hormonal Influences on Consumer Behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(April), 100827095129016-000. doi:10.1086/656575

Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., Sundie, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Miller, G. F., & Kenrick, D. T. (2007). Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption: when romantic motives elicit strategic costly signals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(1), 85-102. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.93.1.85

Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., Ackerman, J. M., Delton, A. W., Robertson, T. E., & White, A. E. (2011). The financial consequences of too many men: Sex ratio effects on saving, borrowing, and spending. Journal of personality and social psychology. doi:10.1037/a0024761

Herbert, W. (2010). Do poor and hungry men prefer heavier women? Do rich and full guys like skinny girls? On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits (p. 304). Crown. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Second-Thought-Outsmarting-Hard-Wired-Habits/dp/0307461637

Janssens, K., Pandelaere, M., Van Den Bergh, B., Millet, K., Lens, I., & Roe, K. (2011). Can buy me love: Mate attraction goals lead to perceptual readiness for status products. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(1), 1-35. Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.08.009

Karsch, K., & Forsyth, D. (2011). Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs. Proceedings of ACM SIGGRAPH ASIA (Vol. 30). Retrieved from http://kevinkarsch.com/publications/sa11.html

Kee, E., & Farid, H. (2011). A perceptual metric for photo retouching. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011, 1-6. doi:10.1073/pnas.1110747108

Mori, M. (1970). The Uncanny Valley. Energy, 7(4), 33–35. Retrieved from http://www.movingimages.info/digitalmedia/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/MorUnc.pdf

Sundie, J. M. J. M., Kenrick, D. T. D. T., Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M. J. M., Vohs, K. D. K. D., & Beal, D. J. D. J. (2011). Peacocks, Porsches, and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous consumption as a sexual signaling system. Journal of personality and social psychology, 100(4), 664. American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/a0021669

Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (2004). Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future? Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 271 Suppl, S177-9. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2003.0134

Gallery: Sexy flight attendant uniforms of the past

Whither the years of "charm farms," little black books, hot pants and go-go boots? Come along with us for a groovy trip in time and style

Max Kim

CNN

18 July, 2012

Southwest Airlines flight attendants in the 1970s

Southwest Airlines’ motto in the 1970s is said to have been "sex sells seats," and flight attendants were dressed to fit the bill. Widely known as "The Love Airline," Southwest resisted hiring males until after losing a class action lawsuit in 1980.

Flying used to be so sexy.

Back in the days when passengers had to walk across the tarmac to board a plane, they were greeted by "air hostesses" arrayed in knee-high boots, short skirts and white gloves.

In 1971, the now-defunct U.S.-based National Airlines ran a saucy and suggestive ad that featured a flight attendant named Cheryl, smiling affably and accompanied by the seductive slogan, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.”

There was another one, this time with Jo.

Business reportedly jumped 23 percent, despite accusations of sexism.

Along with National Airlines’ advertising campaign (American Airlines may have given them a run for their money), Eastern Airlines encouraged flirting with stewardesses by handing out little black books to male passengers for storing phone numbers.

Flight attendants were trained at "charm farms" to maximize their feminine sex appeal and a book depicting the golden age of travel by two "adventurous" former flight attendants entitled "Coffee, Tea or Me?" further stoked the flames of the fantasy of flying.

The airline industry has since gone through some major overhauls.

Airlines have adopted a gender-neutral professionalism, austere security measures and the ever-widening gaps between the luxury seat and the cramped budget one.

Societal norms have changed for the better — it’s hard to imagine some of the outfits pictured here ever being approved.

Still, it’s interesting to recall the fashion ethos of yesteryear.

Lowe Hunt for Lynx Body Spray: The Lynx Jet Project

November 3, 2011

Author:

An essential ingredient of experimentation is not always knowing where things will lead you. In 2005 Lynx came up with a new marketing story to up the ante on it’s “sex appeal” image. In Australia, the launch of the fictitious airline LynxJet combined familiar features of air traval with elements of male fantasy including racy in -flight entertainment such as pillow fighting, spanking and mud wrestling. When Lynx tried to get the airline off the ground for real, with sexy Lynx air stewardesses, the high-flying fantasy of a private luxury jet came crashing to earth when it was grounded by the Australian Aviation Authority.

The Brief
Lynx (Axe globally) is a male targeted bodyspray with an irreverent brand personality that is focused around public, playful fantasies. Lynx’s problem was that guys 17-25yrs were dropping out of the brand because they perceived it to be for their younger brother. Lynx needed to actively engage 17-25yrs males

The Media Strategy
The first overseas trip (without parents) is an AUSTRALIAN rite of passage. It represents the move into adulthood and is associated with freedom, including sexual freedom. It starts when they get on the plane – the mile-high club is within reach (in their dreams!)
To feed this fantasy, we created an airline – LYNXJET. Our strategy was to BEHAVE EXACTLY LIKE AN AIRLINE in media targeting young males. This integrated campaign incorporated an actual branded airplane (the LynxJet), real life air hostesses (Mostesses), a mock check-in service online and other airline-style communication. Young guys believed their fantasies had become reality!

The Idea
Two distinct phases:
1/ CREATE THE MYTH: a plane was re-branded LynxJet; viral launched the ultimate mile high fantasy club; there was signage at check-in counters; locker/seat/ticket advertising; sampling girls (“Mostesses”) acted like air-hostesses and became walking billboards.


Human Moving Billboards, otherwise known as LYNXjet Mostess. On the streets of Australian cities, in bars and at the airport, you couldn’t miss them. They were flirting, they were handing out their business cards and guys fell at their feet. The boys would leave messages, SMSs and go to the website to fulfill their fantasy of an airline that never was. The Mile High Club Lounge travelled from city to city creating a live LYNXjet experience. Guys could get a massage, have their picture taken with a Mostess and then download it off the web. The Human Moving Billboards were designed to drive guys to the web and register for the Mile High Club. In total over 658,000 unique visits, 11,500 Mile High Club registratations, the airline was dicussed on weblogs globally along with significant coverage on TV current affairs shows and in the press which was calculated at almost a half a million dollars of free advertising.

2/ FEED THE MYTH: A playful edge was added to traditional airline infrastructure: we created a website (www.lynxjet.com) and mobile ‘Mile High Club’ lounge. Then we imitated traditional airline advertising, with messaging targeting males.
We copied airline behavior to fuel the fantasy and surround the target. We launched with TV in the World Cup Qualifier, crashing Qantas’s ‘airline’ exclusivity. We created content on targeted radio (e.g. interviews with ‘Mostesses’). Newspapers messaged Lynxjet prices.

Online, we created a mock booking system & we staged a recruitment drive for “Mostesses” on employment sites. We delivered an airline experience by taking a mobile ‘Mile High Club Lounge’ to the streets.

The Results
Controversy is a measure of success! The plane was pulled due to a threatened strike by actual cabin crew! Brand share jumped to 84.5% – an all time high! The measure ‘is a sexy brand’ increased by 10%. Over 658,000 unique page views (27% of the target!).

Anthony Toovey, Unilever’s Senior Brand Manager responsible for Lynx says,“In Lynx Jet we have the opportunity to make the fantasies that have always been a core part of the Lynx brand, come to life. This is a ground-breaking activation for Unilever globally and we’re enormously proud of it.”

Advertising Agency: Lowe Hunt, Sidney
Creative Director: Adam Lance
Direct Creative Director: Peter Bidenko
Copywriter:  Michael Canning
Art Director: Simone Brandse
Year: 2005
Grand Prix Media Lions
 5 Gold Lion (Media, Promo and Direct)
2 Bronze Lion for the Campaign (Film & Outdoor)

Voir enfin:

Why Men Can’t Take Compliments

Casey Quinlan

The Atlantic

December 18, 2013

Recently, a date said to me, "You haven’t given me any compliments yet. I’ve complimented you plenty of times."

It made me think about how rare it is for a man to openly express a desire to be praised for his looks and question why I didn’t compliment men on their looks more often. When I Googled, "men given compliments on appearance," Google suggested I try, "Men give compliments on appearance."

The concept of women complimenting men on their appearance can still seem foreign. Men are often portrayed as using compliments as a social tool, but do they themselves want to be applauded for their physical attributes?

In wanting to be praised for his looks, it would appear my date falls into a minority, according to one 1990 study by researchers at SUNY Binghamton and the University of the Witwatersrand, which concluded that compliments from men were generally accepted, especially by female recipients, but "compliments from women are met with a response type other than acceptance": as a threat.

Men often see compliments as "face-threatening acts," or acts intended to embarrass or patronize, the study authors found. What was meant as a nicety could be seen as a way to assert control.

When it comes to compliments from their own sex, men often regard appearance-based praise as a come-on. In her 2003 book, Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings, Christina Bratt Paulston writes that for heterosexual men, "to compliment another man on his hair, his clothes, or his body is an extremely face-threatening thing to do, both for the speaker and the hearer."

In the book The Psychology of Love, Michele Antoinette Paludi points out that stepping outside of gender roles can reduce attraction between partners.

"Current research indicates that gender-atypical qualities are often turn-offs in intimate relationships … Women also experienced social costs for atypical gender behavior … both men who were passive and women who were assertive were evaluated as significantly less socially attractive by men than women who did not engage in self-promoting behaviors."

Being the arbiter of someone’s attractiveness can be interpreted as an expression of masculinity that women are not traditionally expected to adopt. Further, it is possible that a good portion of men don’t want to be essentially "treated like women," as their masculinity is dependent on being above the judgments women are often subjected to.

Men are also more reluctant to express behaviors such as envy, according to the 2012 book, Gender, Culture and Consumer Behavior, which suggests that men hesitate to display “low-agency” emotions such as anxiety, vulnerability and jealousy.

In life as well as in art, a man’s focus on his own appearance can be perceived as detracting from his perceived masculinity in the eyes of male reviewers. In her book, Extra-Ordinary Men: White Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Popular Cinema, Nicola Rehling points out that in the movie Gladiator, Maximus had a muscular build but was not sexualized on-screen. In the movie Troy, meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s Achilles was practically groomed for the enjoyment of straight female and gay male viewers. Crowe’s body was not nearly as exposed as Pitt’s was throughout the movie.

Rehling writes, "In the majority of reviews of the film, Brad Pitt was compared unfavorably with Crowe, with many expressing disappointment that he failed to import the primal masculinity that was such a big box office attraction in Gladiator. The adulation of Crowe’s Maximus would seem to articulate a desire for an undiluted, corporeal, physical male presence."

The consequences for women giving men compliments are also different than those for men giving women compliments. In a 2006 study from Williamette University’s College of Liberal Arts, researchers Christopher Parisi and Peter Wogan found that college-aged men were generally given compliments on skills, while women were given compliments on their looks. Parisi and Wogan also found that women felt the need to be cautious when complimenting men on their appearance because they didn’t want to be "too forward" or attract "unwanted attention."

That fear is supported by a 2008 study, conducted in Australia by Griffith University, which hypothesized that men are more likely to interpret or misinterpret female compliments as seductive or flirtatious than women are male compliments.

Who knew complimenting could be so complicated? Perhaps if we better understand the social norms behind compliments, women and men alike could begin to feel more comfortable praising each other in a non-sexual way, and to not expect anything in return.

http://jezebel.com/older-men-with-whom-we-would-go-to-bed-1485844445?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow


Roumanie: Attention, un refus de sourire peu en cacher un autre ! (Looking back at a time when child abuse was legal, even celebrated)

26 février, 2014
https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTeyEYIHHnQ71iZF7QCYolP8318m2w_jf_s0RmJJKMQSlQaw3UnJQhttps://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/t1/p526x296/1505677_4011098172898_26535197_n.jpghttps://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/t1/p280x280/1662283_4011066892116_2146793531_n.jpg
http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/1984/1101840521_400.jpghttp://cdn.thedailybeast.com/content/dailybeast/articles/2013/12/09/ukraine-protesters-smash-lenin-s-statue-in-kiev/jcr:content/image.crop.800.500.jpg/1386585933380.cached.jpghttps://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/t1/s526x296/1959218_4008407105623_2113883908_n.jpgUn des grands problèmes de la Russie – et plus encore de la Chine – est que, contrairement aux camps de concentration hitlériens, les leurs n’ont jamais été libérés et qu’il n’y a eu aucun tribunal de Nuremberg pour juger les crimes commis. Thérèse Delpech
Ne donne-t-on pas des médailles aussi bien aux dieux du stade qu’aux soldats tombés au front? L’Express
Je crois que c’est deux nouvelles qu’on peut appeler bonnes et mauvaises. La bonne nouvelle, c’est que je serai à Times Square. La mauvaise, c’est que je n’ai aucun vêtement sur moi. Je pense qu’elle va mourir. Nadia Comaneci (sur la réaction probable de sa mère encore au pays à l’annonce de son contrat publicitaire avec un fabricant de sous-vêtements américain, 1992)
Je viens d’un pays où il est très difficile de trouver des sous-vêtements et maintenant je viens ici et vous choisissez quel genre de sous-vêtements vous voulez porter : c’est pas bon, c’est du coton, c’est du lycra. Et je pense que je vais faire venir ma mère pour Noël. Et la première fois qu’elle va venir ici à New York, je vais la mettre dans une limousine – elle n’a jamais vu une limousine de sa vie – et je vais arrêter la voiture ici à Times Square : je pense qu’elle va mourir complètement. Nadia Comaneci
Il y a une chose qui intriguait le public: Comaneci ne souriait jamais, ne flirtait jamais avec la foule comme Korbut le faisait toujours. Il y avait des applaudissements fervents pour son brio, mais aucune histoire d’amour. "C’est pas sa nature de sourire", avait dit un juge roumaine, et Karolyi avait ajouté, "C’est son caractère grave". Sports Illustrated
Comaneci’s large brown eyes, hidden under long bangs, are solemn, perhaps too solemn for a 14-year-old. She answered questions crisply, without elaboration. Has she ever been afraid? "Never." Has she ever cried? "Never." What was the happiest moment in her life? "When I won the European Championship." What is the secret of her success? "I am so good because I work very hard for it." What is her favorite event? "The uneven bars. I can put in more difficulties. It is more challenging." How did she rate her performance in the American Cup? "It was a preparatory step toward the Olympics." Does she enjoy being famous? "It is all right, but I don’t want to get too excited about it." After a crash course in English, she was interviewed for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. How are you, Nadia? "Yes, I’m fine." Are you looking forward to the Olympics? "I want for myself gold medal." How many? "Five." Does it bother you to be constantly compared to Olga Korbut? "I’m not Olga Korbut. I’m Nadia Comaneci." Some say that Comaneci is not human enough, that she is a machine, that she has no emotions. But when she is not the center of attention and feels unwatched, she looks human, all right. She can grin like a child. She can get excited. Her favorite place in the U.S. is Disneyland. And she collects dolls. She has 60 of them, all in national costumes, lined up neatly on a shelf in her room at home. Four years ago, when Korbut started the little girls on this path, the Secretary General of the International Gymnastics Federation, Max Bangerter, branded her style "dangerous acrobatics which could lead to pelvic fractures." The IGF at one point even considered having Korbut’s routine banned in an effort to halt the revolution she had so clearly begun. Obviously, it was less than successful. But how much danger does Karolyi feel Comaneci is in, really? "Ah," he says, "but Comaneci never falls." Sports Illustrated
What I found was a story about legal, even celebrated, child abuse. In the dark troughs along the road to the Olympics lay the bodies of the girls who stumbled on the way, broken by the work, pressure and humiliation. I found a girl who felt such shame at not making the Olympic team that she slit her wrists. A father who handed custody of his daughter over to her coach so she could keep skating. A coach who fed his gymnasts so little that federation officials had to smuggle food into their hotel rooms. A mother who hid her child’s chicken pox with makeup so she could compete. Coaches who motivated their athletes by calling them imbeciles, idiots, pigs and cows. (…) Whether we see any changes instituted to protect these young athletes hinges on our willingness to sacrifice a few medals for the sake of their health and well-being. (…) "I’m not suggesting that all elite gymnasts and figure skaters emerge from their sports unhealthy and poorly adjusted. Joan Ryan
The book’s strongest moments come from the sport of gymnastics, where judges reward the work of sleek, supple girls able to perform the hardest maneuvers and give poorer marks to those who have slipped toward womanhood and must rely on grace and form. Countless hours of intensive training, combined with dangerous eating patterns, lower the percentage of body fat to such extreme levels that natural maturation cannot take place. The risks include stunted growth, broken bones and premature osteoporosis, according to Ryan. The physiological effects are only one part of this problem. The psychological effects of growing up as a gymnast can lead to eating disorders, such as the anorexia that eventually killed former gymnast Christy Heinrich. Amy Jackson, pushed by a parent, was training heavily at 6. By the time she was a high school senior, she had tried to commit suicide. The sections on figure skating pale in comparison to the reporting on gymnastics, but Ryan makes it clear that the impact on girls is similarly grim: Once the skaters mature, gaining the hips and breasts that make them aerodynamically inferior to the younger skaters, their careers are effectively shot. Ryan has suggestions for cleaning up the mess in gymnastics and figure skating: The minimum-age requirements should be raised. There should be mandatory licensing of coaches and careful scrutiny by the usually feckless national governing bodies. And athletes should be required to remain in regular schools at least until they are 16. The Chicago Tribune
In January, Romanian gymnastics coach Florin Gheorghe was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Bucharest court for having beaten an 11-year-old athlete so severely during a 1993 practice session she died two days later of a broken neck. Gheorghe’s attorney admitted his client slapped the young woman but said such physical abuse was common practice in Romanian gymnastics. "This kind of punishment is a heritage from Bela Karolyi," the attorney said, referring to the martinet coach who drove Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton to Olympic gold medals. Karolyi has denied the charge. – Aurelia Okino, a native Romanian whose daughter, Betty, trained with Karolyi a decade after his defection to the U.S., said in a 1992 interview she had become scared to answer the phone in her Elmhurst home. Aurelia Okino worried it would be Betty, then 17, calling from Karolyi’s gym in Houston with news of another injury, There had been serious elbow, back and knee injuries before Okino made the 1992 Olympic team and helped the U.S. women win a bronze medal in the team event. "Gymnastics is a brutal sport," Betty Okino said matter-of-factly. Asked why she had let her daughter go that far, Okino said, "How do you deny a child her dream?"- In 1985, a few days before her enormously talented daughter, Tiffany, would win her only U.S. figure skating title, Marjorie Chin accepted the offer of a ride back to her Kansas City hotel from a reporter she had first met 20 minutes before. Tiffany, then 17, took a back seat to Marjorie in the reporter’s car. For 30 minutes, Mrs. Chin delivered relentless criticism of her daughter’s performance in practice that day. "If you keep it up, you’re not going to be the star of the ice show, you’re going to be just part of the supporting cast," Mrs. Chin said, over and over. – Several times in the last few years, officials of the U.S. Figure Skating Association have spoken to a prominent ice dancer about her eating habits. The ice dancer, 32 years old, still looks like a wraith. One of those stories came from a wire service. The other three are personal recollections–mine, not Ryan’s. Her book, subtitled "the making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters" (Doubleday, 243 pp., $22.95), has much more frightening tales to tell. Ryan recounts in compelling detail the stories of Julissa Gomez and Christy Henrich, gymnasts whose pursuit of glory proved fatal; of figure skater Amy Grossman, whose mother said, "Skating was God"; of coaches like Karolyi and one of his disciples, Rick Newman, whose ideas of motivating adolescent girls include demeaning them at a time when their egos are most fragile; and of parents who hide their irresponsibility behind the notion of "trying to get the best for my child." Such is the sordid underbelly of the Olympics’ two most glamorous sports. Only in the last three years has the nation begun to have a vague awareness of this life under the sequins and leotards. Ryan began to get a clear view of these problems while doing research for a newspaper story before the 1992 Olympics. That led her to write this book, in which the villains are both coaches and parents. She lets Karolyi skewer himself with his own words. She shows how parents lose sight of the fundamental notion of protecting their children from harm, so blinded are they by possible fame and fortune. The cause of such intemperate adult behavior is partly the peculiar competitive demands to jump higher and twirl faster, particularly in gymnastics, that favor girls with tiny bodies over young women developing hips and breasts. That puts them in a race against puberty, creating a window of opportunity so narrow it leads to foolhardiness. Neither figure skating nor gymnastics is without athletes whose experiences are positive, a point that needed more attention in Ryan’s book than the disclaimer, "I’m not suggesting that all elite gymnasts and figure skaters emerge from their sports unhealthy and poorly adjusted." A better balance might have been struck if the author had given voice to the likes of Olympic champions Retton and Kristi Yamaguchi. Ryan’s basic premise about child abuse still is thoroughly supported by interviews, anecdotes and factual evidence. "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" should be a manifesto for change in the rules of these two sports, so that women with adult bodies still can compete. It should be a wakeup call to parents who have abdicated their responsibility for their childrens’ well-being. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up hooked on sports that don’t let them grow up . Philip Hersch
La réalité de sa Russie … est à l’opposé des idéaux olympiques et des droits de l’Homme les plus élémentaires. Il n’est pas possible d’ignorer le côté obscur de son régime – la répression qui broie les âmes, les nouvelles lois cruelles contre le blasphème et l’homosexualité, ou encore le système juridique corrompu qui permet de condamner des dissidents politiques à de longues peines sur la foi de fausses accusations. The New York Times
Les Jeux Olympiques, créés dans le but de rapprocher les pays autour du sport, semble avoir eu l’effet inverse sur les relations américano-russes. L’animosité grandissante entre les deux anciens protagonistes de la Guerre froide était visible lors de l’ouverture des Jeux, lors de laquelle une ex-patineuse artistique qui avait tweeté une photo à connotation raciste du président Obama a été choisie pour l’allumage symbolique de la vasque olympique. Cela s’est produit au lendemain de la fuite via YouTube de l’enregistrement d’un appel téléphonique entre l’ambassadeur américain à Kiev et Victoria Nuland, une responsable du Département d’État, dans lequel on entend cette dernière prononcer les mots « Fuck the European Union ». L’administration Obama avait immédiatement accusé Moscou d’avoir intercepté et fuité l’appel, ce que les Russes n’ont qu’à peine démenti. [ ... ] Alors qu’il entame sa 15ème année au pouvoir, le président Vladimir Poutine avait espéré que ces Jeux, les premiers sur le sol russe depuis les Jeux olympiques de Moscou en 1980 que les Etats-Unis avaient boycotté, mettrait en valeur la « nouvelle Russie » émergeant des cendres de l’Union soviétique. Au lieu de cela, les États-Unis et leurs alliés occidentaux ont systématiquement dépeint la Russie sous les traits d’une autocratie corrompue. [ ... ] Membre Démocrate de la commission du renseignement de la Chambre des Représentants, Dutch Ruppersberger a déclaré à CNN jeudi qu’il craignait que « l’ego » de Poutine mettrait en danger les athlètes et les visiteurs. Pour sa part, le Département d’Etat a conseillé aux membres de l’équipe olympique des États-Unis de ne pas porter leurs tenues officielles aux couleurs de « Team USA » en dehors des sites olympiques officiels, pour leur propre sécurité. Les tensions entre les deux pays ont été les plus fortes sur la question des droits des homosexuels. [ ... ] Mais ce n’est pas tout ce qui les divise. Le donneur d’alerte de la NSA Edward Snowden se trouve encore en Russie, qui lui a accordé l’asile temporaire l’an dernier. Sa présence à Moscou est une source d’embarras persistant pour l’administration Obama, et les responsables du renseignement américain ont ouvertement exprimé leurs inquiétudes quant à la possibilité qu’il soit désormais sous l’influence de leurs homologues russes. [ ... ] Les deux pays s’affrontent également sur comment gérer le programme nucléaire de l’Iran et sur ​​ce qu’il faut faire par rapport à la Syrie, cette dernière étant un proche allié de la Russie. La crise en Ukraine, où les manifestants cherchent à évincer le président pro-russe Viktor Ianoukovitch, ne fait qu’ajouter aux tensions. The Hill
How does a nation become self-governing when so much of "self" is so rotten? Run-of-the-mill analyses that Ukraine is a "young democracy" with corrupt elites, an ethnic divide and a bullying neighbor don’t suffice. Ukraine is what it is because Ukrainians are what they are. The former doesn’t change until the latter does. (…) that’s what people said about Ukraine during the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004, or about Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution in 2005, or about the Arab Spring in 2011. The revolution will be televised—and then it will be squandered. (…) The homo Sovieticus Ukrainians should fear the most may not be Vladimir Putin after all. Bret Stephens
Avec la même vigueur que ses compatriotes, cependant, le cinéaste filme un pays où les passe-droits pèsent aussi lourd que la terreur politique, jadis. Nul, en effet, ne résiste aux prébendes de Cornelia, pas même le flic présenté comme un modèle incorruptible : il résiste, il résiste, mais il cède comme tous les autres… Télérama
Quand tu prends le train en Roumanie, personne n’achète son ticket au guichet. Tu montes, tu t’assois et tu donnes la moitié de ce que tu aurais dû payer au contrôleur. Rasvan (28 ans)
A la fin des années 1970, le corps enfantin fait fantasmer. Brooke Shields, 13 ans prostituée dans La Petite de Louis Malle et en une de magazine, nue et outrageusement maquillée; Jodie Foster elle aussi pute sous la caméra de Martin Scorsese dans Taxi Driver nous rappellent qu’une certaine forme de pédophilie artistique était alors acceptable. Le traitement médiatique de Nadia Comaneci à cette époque fait écho à cette «mode». Cette fascination pour les corps androgynes et pourtant dénudés est-elle un signe du passé ou cette marchandisation de l’enfance est-elle encore de mise? C’est très troublant le passage que j’ai écrit sur les petites filles de l’Ouest et celles de l’Est. Ces petites filles chargées de maquillage un peu comme des petites esclaves et elle, Nadia, qui arrive le visage pâle, un peu comme une guerrière. J’adore cette image, j’adore le fait qu’elle était entre fille et garçon, elle échappe à son genre pendant un moment. Le titre par exemple, c’est la première phrase que j’ai écrite. Les journalistes occidentaux à Montréal lui demandaient de sourire mais elle ne souriait pas parce que c’est difficile et qu’elle n’avait pas que cela à faire. Sa réponse était «je sais sourire mais une fois que j’ai accompli ma mission». Il y a eu beaucoup de commentaires sur son visage triste, sobre. Pour moi, elle leur a fait un pied de nez, du genre je ne suis pas une petite poupée. (…) Ça a longtemps fait partie de mon adolescence. Quand je suis arrivée en France, ayant été élevée dans un autre système, j’ai été très brutalisée par la consommation. Ce n’est pas une pose, ça m’a pris de front. J’avais 13 ans et je n’avais jamais vu quelqu’un dormir dehors. Ça m’a bouleversée. Pendant des années, quand je disais aux gens qu’il y avait des trucs bien en Roumanie, c’était un discours impossible à entendre. Soit je passais pour une débile, soit on me disait que je ne savais pas de quoi je parlais. Evidemment le système était dévoyé, et la Roumanie n’était pas un système communiste, le communisme n’y a jamais été réellement appliqué. C’est comme quand on parle de la surveillance. Ça me fait mourir de rire. Les gens me disent, il y avait la Securitate en Roumanie. Oui c’est vrai. Mais c’était des baltringues. Des gens qui en suivaient d’autres. Ici votre pass navigo vous localise partout. On a votre nom, votre date de naissance, c’est une atteinte à votre liberté. Pareil pour les caméras vidéo, mais c’est accepté. On pense que ça va être plus pratique! Le succès du capitalisme, c’est d’arriver à faire accepter des choses qui dans le communisme étaient considérées comme horribles. Le capitalisme est nettement mieux marketé. (…) J’étais en France à ce moment-là et comme tous les Roumains, bouche bée. Plus que ça: j’étais sidérée. Parce que pour moi ça ne pouvait pas changer, c’était éternel. J’ai été élevée sous le portrait de Ceausescu. Mais cette sensation de malaise incroyable parce qu’on ne voit pas ses juges. Ça ne commence pas bien un procès où on ne voit pas les juges. Le truc que les gens qui l’arrêtent ratent, c’est qu’ils ont l’air d’un couple de petits vieux. Ils sont pathétiques. Ils ne font pas peur. On a pitié. Lui tremblote, elle a l’air usé, avec son fichu. Ils sont fatigués. Force de l’image mais qui est ratée selon moi. A cette période, il y a eu beaucoup de morts en Roumanie, le contraire de la révolution de velours. Les gens ne savaient plus qui était qui et se tirait dessus. Il n’y a eu aucun procès des sécuristes. Inclure des passages sur la Roumanie dans le roman, ça ne s’est pas décidé tout de suite, ça a pris plusieurs mois. J’étais en Roumanie à ce moment-là. Quand je voyais mes amis là-bas, ce qu’ils me racontaient me semblait tellement contredire ma documentation que je l’ai mis en scène. Moi j’étais armée avec tous mes bouquins et je rencontre des gens de moins de 30 ans qui n’ont pas vraiment vécu cette époque et qui en ont une nostalgie incroyable. On a toujours la nostalgie de son enfance, mais surtout ils en bavent tellement aujourd’hui. Ils me disent «moi mes parents ils partaient en vacances, ils allaient au resto, nous on doit payer nos études et on n’a pas les moyens, on peut pas sortir de toutes façons parce qu’on n’a pas d’argent». Il y a un énorme H&M au centre de Bucarest, j’ai l’impression qu’il est tout le temps vide. Lola Lafon

Attention: un refus de sourire peu en cacher un autre  !

Au lendemain de la chute, payée au prix fort mais pas gagnée d’avance étant donné la corruption généralisée, de la maison Ianoukovitch et de la découverte populaire de son Neverland qui 25 ans après les époux Ceausescu avait un étrange air de déjà vu …

Et de Jeux olympiques dignes des plus beaux jours de la Guerre froide …

Comme avec le roman que vient de sortir Lola Lafon sur la gymnaste prodige roumaine Nadia Comaneci, passée d’un seul coup de Héros du Travail Socialiste à femme-sandwich d’une marque de sous-vêtements américaine  …

Et un excellent dossier du site Slate.fr sur l’ancienne terre des ogres Ceausescu …

Comment ne pas repenser à toute une époque aujourd’hui largement oubliée où, a l’instar des Brooke Shields et autres Jodie Foster dans le cinéma, le corps de nos enfants était non seulement légal mais célébré ?

Mais aussi ne pas voir au-delà de l’image d’épinal que nous pouvons en avoir de travailleurs bon marché et de voleurs de poules voire de châteaux de buveurs de sang  …

La frustration d’une population écartelée entre d’un côté les nécessaires perfusions du FMI et une corruption, comme le rappelle un film roumain sorti en France le mois dernier, effectivement aussi endémique que phénoménale d’où une perte démographique de 13% depuis la fin du communisme (soit quelque 3 millions pour une population à l’origine de 23 millions à destination principalement de l’Italie, de l’Allemagne et de l’Espagne) …

Et de l’autre les craintes de voir leur sol et sous-sol pollués et bradés à des intérêts étrangers par des dirigeants tous aussi véreux les uns que les autres suite à la découverte du plus grand gisement d’or et d’argent d’Europe (300 tonnes et 1.600 tonnes respectivement pour une dizaine de milliards d’euros en jeu) et du troisième gisement européen de gaz de schiste après la Pologne et la France (quelque 1.444 milliards de mètres cubes) ?

Autrement dit, le dépit tout particulier mais probablement pas si rare en ces contrées autrefois martyrisées par le communisme (dont d’ailleurs comme en Chine on attend toujours les procès de Nuremberg) et pas vraiment gâtées par leurs successeurs …

De se retrouver avec ce que les Roumains appellent eux-mêmes un "pauvre pays riche" ?

Lola Lafon sur Nadia Comaneci, la Roumanie, le capitalisme et les corps: l’entretien tablette

Dans «La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais», la romancière raconte l’histoire de la gymnaste Nadia Comaneci, mais surtout à travers elle aborde les questions du genre, du corps féminin, de l’Europe de la guerre froide .

Ursula Michel

Slate.fr

04/02/2014

A l’occasion de la sortie de son nouveau roman, Lola Lafon s’est prêtée à l’exercice de l’entretien tablette de Slate.fr, où les questions sont remplacées par des vidéos, des images, des photos ou encore des dessins. Une autre manière d’aborder l’univers de l’artiste.

A vec ce quatrième roman, La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais, Lola Lafon exhume de nos mémoires Nadia Comaneci, la jeune gymnaste roumaine qui a affolé les compteurs, les journalistes et le public aux Jeux olympiques de Montréal en 1976. Ce «perfect 10», note que personne n’avait jusque-là acquise, la gamine s’en empare et fait découvrir par la même à l’Occident ce petit pays inconnu derrière le rideau de fer. Produit d’un système totalitaire, Comaneci fascine mais l’histoire la rattrape et la chute du mur de Berlin scellera son destin de star déchue.

De Bucarest à Miami, des années 1970 à cet hiver 1989, Lola Lafon revisite le mythe, sonde les fantasmes que ce corps androgyne a provoqués et interroge le manichéisme est/ouest qui a façonné la conception du monde du siècle dernier.

Pendant une poignée de secondes, le monde a retenu son souffle en cet été 1976. La minuscule Roumaine a fait vaciller les championnes russes, elle a transfiguré les possibles de la gymnastique et a donné à la Roumanie une notoriété internationale. Mais comment décide-t-on d’en faire un personnage de roman?

Je ne sais pas quand est arrivée l’idée du personnage de Nadia mais ça faisait un moment que ça traînait dans ma tête. Au bout de quelques mois de documentation, j’ai réalisé que ce n’était pas un roman sur le sport mais que ça réunissait toutes mes thématique: le genre et le mouvement, le corps féminin dans l’espace au sens large, l’espace qu’on s’autorise et celui qui est autorisé, le bloc de l’est et de l’ouest.

Dans le roman précédent [Nous sommes les oiseaux de la tempête qui s’annonce], il y avait déjà beaucoup de choses sur la danse, le corps et le mouvement. Après, des difficultés et d’obstacles sont apparus: six mois de documentation en trois langues qui ont fini par m’ensevelir. Il a fallu arrêter d’ingurgiter.

J’ai alors commencé à écrire une première moitié, mais ça n’allait pas. Il fallait épouser le corps de Nadia, être avec elle, acérée. Pas développer des millions de phrases, avec des adjectifs. Je cherchais la langue, cette fluidité, le passage d’un geste à l’autre comme d’une phrase à l’autre. J’ai coupé dans le texte comme jamais avant.

Et puis j’ai vécu en Roumanie, donc il y avait ma subjectivité assumée. Je voulais faire revivre l’Europe. C’est une métaphore énorme, mais les dix centimètres de la poutre, je les ai ressentis tout du long en évoquant le thème politique. Je me suis dit qu’il fallait rendre compte de Ceausescu et de ses décrets (j’en ai d’ailleurs découverts beaucoup après, j’étais trop jeune à l’époque). Sur le corps des femmes et l’avortement, c’était terrible. On voit aujourd’hui que Ceausescu n’a pas l’apanage de ce genre de décisions… Je voulais rendre compte sans nostalgie ni apologie de cette époque, et ne pas oublier qu’on a idolâtré cette gamine et elle était le pur produit d’un système communiste.

J’ai écrit plusieurs mois sans la voix de la narratrice. C’est mon premier roman à la 3e personne. Et à un moment donné, cet échange épistolaire entre elle et Nadia s’est imposé. Je me suis demandé si c’était juste un retour vers une habitude d’écriture mais en fait non, c’était nécessaire pour lui redonner la parole, pour qu’elle ne reste pas qu’un corps, un corps extraordinaire soit, mais sinon j’étais du côté de ceux qui la regardaient et je voulais lui redonner le pouvoir sur le texte, même fictivement.

A aucun moment, je n’ai envisagé de contacter Nadia. Ce roman est une rêverie, pas une biographie. Je me suis arrêtée en 1990 dans le roman parce qu’après, c’est le réel, c’est sa vie qui lui appartient. J’essaie de rendre compte de la fin d’une époque, d’un parcours qui s’arrête avec le mur qui s’écroule.

A la fin des années 1970, le corps enfantin fait fantasmer. Brooke Shields, 13 ans prostituée dans La Petite de Louis Malle et en une de magazine, nue et outrageusement maquillée; Jodie Foster elle aussi pute sous la caméra de Martin Scorsese dans Taxi Driver nous rappellent qu’une certaine forme de pédophilie artistique était alors acceptable. Le traitement médiatique de Nadia Comaneci à cette époque fait écho à cette «mode». Cette fascination pour les corps androgynes et pourtant dénudés est-elle un signe du passé ou cette marchandisation de l’enfance est-elle encore de mise?

C’est très troublant le passage que j’ai écrit sur les petites filles de l’Ouest et celles de l’Est. Ces petites filles chargées de maquillage un peu comme des petites esclaves et elle, Nadia, qui arrive le visage pâle, un peu comme une guerrière. J’adore cette image, j’adore le fait qu’elle était entre fille et garçon, elle échappe à son genre pendant un moment.

Le titre par exemple, c’est la première phrase que j’ai écrite. Les journalistes occidentaux à Montréal lui demandaient de sourire mais elle ne souriait pas parce que c’est difficile et qu’elle n’avait pas que cela à faire. Sa réponse était «je sais sourire mais une fois que j’ai accompli ma mission». Il y a eu beaucoup de commentaires sur son visage triste, sobre. Pour moi, elle leur a fait un pied de nez, du genre je ne suis pas une petite poupée. Aujourd’hui, avec les mini-miss, les mannequins de 15 ans, la représentation est plus subtile, mais d’une telle agressivité envers les femmes. Les filles de 15 ans sont photoshopées et celles de 30 ans s’en veulent de ne pas leur ressembler. C’est presque un complot contre les femmes.

Si les questions de genre sont au cœur de l’écriture de Lola Lafon, la dimension féministe tient une place tout aussi importante. Comment celle qui attaque les représentations machistes et le commerce du corps dans son travail romanesque se situe-t-elle face au nouveau féminisme incarné par les Femen?

Je n’aime pas l’idée des féministes qui s’entre-déchirent. Mais je trouve bizarre d’adopter un langage qui plaise tant aux hommes pour dénoncer les injustices faites aux femmes. Et puis adopter un langage de pub… je me demande ce qu’il en reste. Finalement, ces interventions ne sont pas si dérangeantes. Les religieux sont choqués, mais on s’en fout. Je crois que la leader, Inna Shevchenko avait dit «les anciennes féministes ce sont des femmes qui lisaient des livres». Mais un livre, c’est parfois beaucoup plus dérangeant qu’une photo. Les Femen, c’est du pop féminisme. C’est digérable. Si grâce à elles d’autres femmes ailleurs se sont libérées, s’il y a eu des prises de conscience, tant mieux. Tous les moyens sont bons finalement.

Son premier roman Une fièvre impossible à négocier arborait le symbole anarchiste. Au-delà d’une pose, cette implication politique irrigue ses autres romans, comme c’est encore le cas dans La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais où la narratrice, capitaliste de culture (comme on peut l’être pour une religion), dialogue avec Nadia Comaneci, symbole d’un certain communisme. Un discours comparatif entre Est et Ouest, capitalisme et communisme qui fait voler en éclat les idées reçues et la bien-pensance occidentale. Un roman anarchiste peut-être, iconoclaste sans aucun doute.

Ça a longtemps fait partie de mon adolescence. Quand je suis arrivée en France, ayant été élevée dans un autre système, j’ai été très brutalisée par la consommation. Ce n’est pas une pose, ça m’a pris de front. J’avais 13 ans et je n’avais jamais vu quelqu’un dormir dehors. Ça m’a bouleversée.

Pendant des années, quand je disais aux gens qu’il y avait des trucs bien en Roumanie, c’était un discours impossible à entendre. Soit je passais pour une débile, soit on me disait que je ne savais pas de quoi je parlais. Evidemment le système était dévoyé, et la Roumanie n’était pas un système communiste, le communisme n’y a jamais été réellement appliqué. C’est comme quand on parle de la surveillance. Ça me fait mourir de rire. Les gens me disent, il y avait la Securitate en Roumanie. Oui c’est vrai. Mais c’était des baltringues. Des gens qui en suivaient d’autres.

Ici votre pass navigo vous localise partout. On a votre nom, votre date de naissance, c’est une atteinte à votre liberté. Pareil pour les caméras vidéo, mais c’est accepté. On pense que ça va être plus pratique! Le succès du capitalisme, c’est d’arriver à faire accepter des choses qui dans le communisme étaient considérées comme horribles. Le capitalisme est nettement mieux marketé.

Ayant passé une grande partie de son enfance en Roumanie sous le régime Ceausescu, Lola Lafon est fortement critique à l’égard de ce système mort en 1989. Quelques jours avant Noël, une révolution balaie le pouvoir en place, un simulacre de procès est organisé et le couple dirigeant est exécuté. Ces images, d’une violence inouïe, ont tourné en boucle sur les écrans du monde entier à l’époque. L’occasion de les commenter avec la romancière était trop belle.

J’étais en France à ce moment-là et comme tous les Roumains, bouche bée. Plus que ça: j’étais sidérée. Parce que pour moi ça ne pouvait pas changer, c’était éternel. J’ai été élevée sous le portrait de Ceausescu. Mais cette sensation de malaise incroyable parce qu’on ne voit pas ses juges. Ça ne commence pas bien un procès où on ne voit pas les juges. Le truc que les gens qui l’arrêtent ratent, c’est qu’ils ont l’air d’un couple de petits vieux. Ils sont pathétiques. Ils ne font pas peur. On a pitié. Lui tremblote, elle a l’air usé, avec son fichu. Ils sont fatigués. Force de l’image mais qui est ratée selon moi. A cette période, il y a eu beaucoup de morts en Roumanie, le contraire de la révolution de velours. Les gens ne savaient plus qui était qui et se tirait dessus. Il n’y a eu aucun procès des sécuristes.

Inclure des passages sur la Roumanie dans le roman, ça ne s’est pas décidé tout de suite, ça a pris plusieurs mois. J’étais en Roumanie à ce moment-là. Quand je voyais mes amis là-bas, ce qu’ils me racontaient me semblait tellement contredire ma documentation que je l’ai mis en scène. Moi j’étais armée avec tous mes bouquins et je rencontre des gens de moins de 30 ans qui n’ont pas vraiment vécu cette époque et qui en ont une nostalgie incroyable. On a toujours la nostalgie de son enfance, mais surtout ils en bavent tellement aujourd’hui. Ils me disent «moi mes parents ils partaient en vacances, ils allaient au resto, nous on doit payer nos études et on n’a pas les moyens, on peut pas sortir de toutes façons parce qu’on n’a pas d’argent». Il y a un énorme H&M au centre de Bucarest, j’ai l’impression qu’il est tout le temps vide. Ces propos venaient contredire la narratrice, c’est vraiment la mise en scène du processus d’écriture. La confrontation entre la documentation et le réel. Et la voix de Nadia, c’est un peu la mienne. Je lui prends la main.

En plus de son activité romanesque, Lola Lafon s’adonne aussi à la chanson, avec deux albums à son actif. Loin de la culture rock qu’on pouvait imaginer, son admiration se porte sur une chanteuse à texte dont elle a eu l’occasion de reprendre un titre marquant: Göttingen de Barbara.

Je reviens toujours à elle. C’est une rebelle, une iconoclaste. J’ai découvert son œuvre très tard. Ma grande sœur l’écoutait, mais c’est un journaliste qui a titillé ma curiosité bien après. Je m’y suis alors plongée. Elle incarne le genre de femme qui me subjugue. Elle est intemporelle et d’une indépendance incroyable. Jean Corti m’a invité sur scène à interpréter ce titre, Göttingen. Je le chantais à un moment où des enfants sans papiers étaient arrêtés dans des écoles. J’étais totalement bouleversée.

A l’heure où les romans finissent souvent sur grand écran, Lola Lafon ne fait pas exception à la règle. La réalisatrice de Sur la planche, Leïla Kilani, travaillerait à l’adaptation de son précédent ouvrage Nous sommes les oiseaux de la tempête qui s’annonce. Info ou intox?

J’adore ce film, extraordinaire de poésie de brutalité et de rigueur. On s’est rencontrées avec Leïla Kilani et on a travaillé sur un découpage de Nous sommes les oiseaux de la tempête qui s’annonce. Puis, je me suis lancée dans l’écriture de La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais, elle dans son nouveau film donc le projet en suspens pour l’instant. Mais je pense que ça se fera. Mais c’est mieux que je reste à distance. Le roman ne m’appartient plus. Quand on vit deux ans avec un livre, il faut savoir s’en détacher à un moment. Et je suis tellement une control freak que sur un tournage, les gens craqueraient.

Propos recueillis par Ursula Michel

• La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais de Lola Lafon, Actes Sud.

Voir aussi:

Savez-vous pourquoi la Roumanie n’entrera pas dans Schengen? A cause de la corruption

Malgré des condamnations médiatisées et des progrès indéniables en matière d’indépendance de la justice, la corruption reste solidement ancrée en Roumanie. Et les rapports de Bruxelles n’y changent rien.

Marianne Rigaux

25/02/2014

D’après le rapport publié le 3 février par la Commission européenne, un Roumain sur 4 a été confronté à un pot-de-vin dans l’année écoulée. Une économie parallèle qui représenterait 31% du PIB national. Alarmant, mais pas nouveau.

En Roumanie, il y a la haute corruption, celle qui implique des représentants politiques et des magistrats, parfois condamnés. Et puis, celle, tenace, quotidienne, qui relève presque du mode de vie.

Pour Valentin, 30 ans, pas besoin de lui suggérer deux fois.

«Un policier qui te trouve saoul au volant commence par annoncer le prix de l’amende, 700 lei par exemple (155 euros). Tu protestes pour la forme. Tu es sûr qu’il va proposer de ”payer la moitié maintenant”. C’est le signe qu’il faut lui glisser un billet de 100 lei (22 euros).»

Un billet contre des draps propres

Idem pour obtenir une autorisation ou pour éviter un contrôle des normes. «Le pot-de-vin est la règle partout, on a laissé les Roumains aller top loin», déplore Valentin. Lui qui a travaillé pendant deux ans dans les marchés publics l’affirme:

«Ils sont tous biaisés.»

Quel que soit le sujet abordé avec un interlocuteur roumain, la conclusion sera toujours la même:

«Le problème de ce pays, c’est la corruption.»

Elle touche tous les secteurs: justice, politique, économie, médias, santé.

Un expatrié relativise.

«Les pots-de-vin pour accélérer un dossier administratif reculent à Bucarest, mais c’est vrai qu’ils restent de rigueur en milieu hospitalier.»

Lui-même n’a pas hésité lors d’une hospitalisation. Pour être bien traité, passer avant les autres ou avoir des draps propres, glissez votre bakchich dans la blouse.

L’habitude est si tenace que les personnes donnent parfois avant même qu’on ne leur demande. Rasvan, 28 ans, explique.

«Quand tu prends le train en Roumanie, personne n’achète son ticket au guichet. Tu montes, tu t’assois et tu donnes la moitié de ce que tu aurais dû payer au contrôleur.»

Le contrôle annuel de Bruxelles

Toute l’économie marche ainsi. C’est là l’héritage d’un demi-siècle de communisme bouleversé depuis les années 1990 par un capitalisme débridé, dans un Etat permissif, dont la tête est elle-même touchée. En Roumanie, la corruption part d’en haut et infuse toute la société.

«En 2007, les Roumains pensaient que la haute corruption allait baisser, mais le gouvernement n’écoute pas Bruxelles», constate Valentin. Lorsque la Roumanie a rejoint l’UE il y a 7 ans, Bruxelles a imposé un Mécanisme de coopération et de vérification (MCV) pour contrôler les efforts du pays en matière de réformes judiciaires et de lutte contre la corruption. Une première dans l’histoire de l’Union.

A chaque contrôle annuel, la Roumanie reçoit généralement un «peut mieux faire». Le dernier rapport MCV rendu en janvier attribuait à Bucarest un bon point pour les récentes condamnations de dirigeants hauts placés, mais pointait aussi une tentative inquiétante.

Tranquille, le Parlement se vote une «super-immunité»

Ainsi, en décembre le Parlement roumain a voté une «super-immunité» afin que les députés, les sénateurs, le président de la République, mais aussi des professions libérales ne puissent plus être poursuivis pour des crimes comme la corruption ou les abus de pouvoir commis dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions.

Autrement dit, une amnistie, sans que Bruxelles ne puisse intervenir. Pratique, mais aussi ironique, quand 28 membres du Parlement –dont certains qui ont voté cette immunité– sont actuellement jugés ou en train de purger des peines de prison pour corruption. Cristina Guseth, présidente de l’ONG de défense de l’Etat de droit Freedom House Roumanie parle de «mardi noir de la démocratie roumaine».

Un mois plus tard, l’amendement a été retoqué par la Cour constitutionnelle roumaine, mais la tentative a été consignée dans l’évaluation de la Commission européenne. L’avertissement n’a pourtant pas empêché début février l’entrée en vigueur d’un nouveau code pénal très controversé, plutôt conciliant avec les auteurs de corruption. Là encore, la Commission européenne ne peut contraindre Bucarest à revoir ses ajustements.

La seule vraie punition, c’est Schengen. Faute de véritables progrès dans la lutte contre la corruption, l’adhésion de la Roumanie à l’espace de libre circulation est sans cesse reportée depuis plusieurs années. Avec la tendance des douaniers à se faire graisser la patte, impossible de confier la gestion des frontières extérieures à la Roumanie.

Un «M. anti-corruption» détesté

Présentée ainsi, la Roumanie ne semble guère avoir évolué depuis 1989. Malgré tout, Horia Georgescu reste optimiste. Ce juriste de 36 ans dirige l’Agence nationale pour l’intégrité (ANI) qui a la lourde tâche de faire respecter l’intégrité des élus et des hauts fonctionnaires publics roumains.

«Les hommes politiques me détestent, me menacent parfois, mais je ne me laisse pas intimider. La société civile fait confiance à l’agence.»

Son équipe de 35 «inspecteurs de l’intégrité» vérifie actuellement la situation de plus de 2.700 élus et fonctionnaires publics.

Créée en 2008 à la demande de Bruxelles, l’ANI est régulièrement citée en exemple d’efficacité. Ses investigations ont permis de faire tomber 10 ministres, 65 parlementaires et 700 élus locaux pour conflits d’intérêts, incompatibilités ou avoirs non justifiés. Ce qui est à la fois rassurant et inquiétant. La justice roumaine fonctionne, mais la tâche semble immense.

«On fait ce qu’on peut. On espère que la Roumanie va devenir un modèle pour d’autres pays qui s’inspireraient de nos méthodes. Parce que c’est facile de dire ”chez nous, il n’y a pas de corruption” si on n’a pas les outils pour enquêter sur cette corruption.»

Alors, quand la Commission européenne a révélé que la corruption touchait l’ensemble des pays européens, Horia Georgescu s’est senti tout de même un peu rassuré.

«Maintenant, on attend que Bruxelles mette en place des outils pour les membres de l’UE, mais la lutte contre la corruption est d’abord une question de confiance dans les institutions nationales.»

4 ans ferme pour l’ancien Premier ministre

Une autre institution affiche de beaux tableaux de chasse en la matière: la Direction nationale anticorruption (DNA). Depuis 2002, ce parquet financier a fait traduire en justice plus de 5.000 personnes pour corruption moyenne et haute, dont 2.000 condamnées définitivement. Ses experts sont régulièrement invités dans les pays voisins pour présenter l’efficacité du «modèle roumain».

Parmi les personnalités condamnées à de la prison ferme figurent un ancien Premier ministre (4 ans), un patron du club de foot (3 ans), deux anciens ministres de l’Agriculture (3 ans), une ancienne ministre des Sports (5 ans) et de nombreux parlementaires.

La condamnation à quatre ans ferme d’Adrian Nastase est celle qui a le plus intéressé les médias. Premier ministre de 2000 à 2004, négociateur de l’adhésion de la Roumanie à l’Otan et à l’UE, il a plongé pour avoir détourné plus de 1,5 million d’euros pour sa campagne électorale.

D’après Livia Sapaclan, porte parole de la DNA, «le nombre de condamnés définitifs pour corruption de haut niveau (soit plus de 10.000 euros reçus en pots-de-vin) est passé de 155 en 2006 à plus de 1.000 en 2013». Des chiffres encore une fois aussi satisfaisants qu’alarmants sur l’état de corruption du pays.

Réveiller le citoyen

Les jeunes Roumains rencontrés restent mitigés devant ces chiffres. «Les résultats de la DNA, c’est juste des exemples sur-médiatisés. Pour un ancien ministre attrapé, combien font des trucs plus graves sans être condamnés?», s’interroge Valentin.

Andrei et Romana, deux jeunes journalistes d’investigation pour Rise Project, préfèrent en rire.

«Au moins, on ne manque pas de travail! La plupart des médias roumains enquêtent, mais aucun ne le fait avec notre sérieux.»

Rise project a vu le jour en 2011. Il compte aujourd’hui 10 journalistes bénévoles et quelques jolies révélations à son actif, mais Romana veut rester modeste.

«Tu ne sais jamais si untel est condamné parce que tu as écrit un article sur ses conflits d’intérêt ou s’il l’aurait été quoi qu’il en soit.»

Le rapport de la Commission européenne sur la corruption? «Du blabla lointain», juge Andrei. Pour eux, la lutte contre la corruption ne part pas de Bruxelles, mais du citoyen, celui qu’il faut réveiller. Dommage que peu de médias roumains aient cette même envie. Peut-être sont-ils corrompus eux aussi…

Voir également:

Les Roumains en ont assez de se faire voler

Contrairement aux idées reçues, la Roumanie est riche. Mais elle se fait piller. Et si les Roumains ont remporté une victoire contre un projet de mine d’or potentiellement nocif pour l’environnement, la mobilisation continue contre l’exploration des gaz de schiste.

Marianne Rigaux

Slate

01/10/2013

Dimanche 6 octobre, des milliers de Roumains sont descendus dans les rues de Bucarest pour protester contre le gouvernement de centre gauche accusé de favoriser un projet canadien de mine d’or contesté par les scientifiques.

Contrairement aux idées reçues, la Roumanie n’est pas dépourvue de richesses. Mais ce n’est pas elle qui en profite le plus. A l’ouest, il y a l’or convoité par des Canadiens. A l’est, les gaz de schiste promis aux Américains. Et au milieu, les manifestations des Roumains.

En autorisant des compagnies étrangères à exploiter son sous-sol dans l’espoir d’en tirer des bénéfices, le gouvernement a fait exploser la colère des citoyens. Il doit aujourd’hui faire machine à arrière.

Prenons les habitants de Rosia Montana par exemple. S’ils creusaient sous leurs maisons, ils seraient les plus riches de Roumanie. Sous ce village de Transylvanie se trouve le plus grand gisement d’or (300 tonnes) et d’argent (1.600 tonnes) d’Europe. Que tente d’extraire et d’exploiter depuis 1995 une société canadienne, Gabriel Resources.

Le projet prévoit désormais une exploitation intensive à ciel ouvert pendant seize ans, le recours à de grandes quantités de cyanure pour séparer l’or de la boue. Une pratique controversée, interdite dans certains pays d’Europe. Pendant des années, le dossier a connu peu d’avancées concrètes. Sollicité en 2011 pour donner son feu vert, le ministère roumain de l’Environnement n’a même jamais donné de réponse, tandis que la mobilisation contre le projet restait assez locale.

Qui n’en profiterait pas?

Mais voilà: Bucarest a besoin d’argent pour remplir ses caisses vidées par la crise. Car la Roumanie vit depuis trois ans sous perfusion du FMI. Les retombées économiques attendues pour ce pays en crise ont poussé le Premier ministre Victor Ponta –contre ce projet il y a encore quelques mois lorsqu’il était dans l’opposition– à mettre cet été le dossier sur le haut de la pile. Le gouvernement a déposé un projet de loi déclarant la mine «d’utilité publique et d’intérêt exceptionnel». Ce statut autoriserait la compagnie minière à exproprier les villageois qui refusent de quitter le site, au nom de l’Etat roumain.

Des mesures exceptionnelles à la hauteur de l’enjeu? La valeur de Rosia Montana a augmenté au même rythme que le cours de l’or: 10.000 euros le kilo en 2005, plus de 31.000 euros aujourd’hui. Le gisement est aujourd’hui estimé à 10 milliards d’euros.

«Quel pays disposant d’une telle richesse ne chercherait pas de solutions pour en profiter?», avait lancé le président roumain Traian Basescu en 2011, alors que le cours de l’or atteignait un pic historique. Victor Ponta devenu Premier ministre tient à peu près le même discours:

«En tant que député, je ne peux être que contre, mais en tant que Premier ministre, je ne peux être que pour, car je me dois d’attirer de nouveaux investissements en Roumanie.»

Problème: l’Etat roumain est minoritaire au sein de Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), la compagnie chargée de l’exploitation du filon. Les profits iront surtout à la société canadienne Gabriel Resources, actionnaire à hauteur de 75%.

Le site d’investigation roumain Rise Project a publié le 31 août le contrat liant l’Etat roumain à RMGC. Il était resté secret pendant toutes ces années, malgré la promesse récurrente du Premier ministre de le publier. Selon ce document, RMGC, qui possède les droits d’exploitation, versera une redevance de 6% sur la production à l’Etat roumain. Pour les manifestants, le gouvernement a tout simplement vendu le pays.

Dans le village de Rosia Montana, les réactions sont mitigées. Il y a ceux qui résistent encore, comme Ani et Andrei, jeune couple d’altermondialistes, qui refusent toujours de vendre leur auberge aux Canadiens.

Et ceux qui se sont résignés: avec 75% de chômage dans la région, «toutes les personnes sensées sont pour la mine», confie Catalin, accoudé au bar. Il faut dire que le lobbying de RMGC ne leur laisse guère le choix.

Dans la cantine du village, financée par RMGC, le porte-parole des Canadiens Catalin Hosu promet que «la mine créera 3.600 emplois directs et indirects durant les 16 années d’exploitation». La compagnie emploie déjà 500 habitants, dont 22 qui se sont enfermés dans une galerie minière à l’annonce du coup de frein au projet.

En décembre, la population locale avait approuvé par référendum la réouverture de la mine à 78%. La consultation, boycottée par les opposants, avait été annulée, faute de participation suffisante. Au fil des années, la majorité des 2.000 habitants a vendu sa maison et fuit.

12.000 tonnes de cyanure par an

«Le prix à payer pour créer quelques emplois est trop élevé», juge Sorin Jurca, l’un des irréductibles opposants. Employé par la mine d’Etat jusqu’à sa fermeture en 2006, il a créé la fondation culturelle Rosia Montana pour défendre le patrimoine menacé.

«Le prix à payer», c’est 900 familles expropriées, 4 montagnes décapitées, 7 églises rasées, 7 cimetières déplacés, des galeries romaines classées au patrimoine national endommagées et surtout 250 millions de tonnes de déchets cyanurés stockés dans un bassin retenu par un barrage, en amont de Rosia Montana.

C’est ce danger environnemental qui a lancé la mobilisation à Bucarest. «Nous ne voulons pas de cyanure, nous ne voulons pas de dictature», ont scandé quotidiennement, pendant les 10 premiers jours de septembre, les manifestants, à Bucarest et dans les grandes villes du pays, mais aussi à Paris, Londres et Bruxelles. Les anti ne sont pas inquiets sans raison: en 2000, à Baia Mare (nord-ouest de la Roumanie), la rupture d’un barrage similaire a déversé 100.000 tonnes de cyanure dans le Danube, tuant 100 tonnes de poissons et empoisonnant l’eau de 2,5 millions de Hongrois.

Depuis, l’Union européenne a durci sa législation sur le cyanure. Environ 1.000 tonnes de cyanure sont utilisées chaque année dans les mines d’or d’Europe, notamment en Suède. En Roumanie, Gold corporation prévoit d’en utiliser 12 fois plus.

Devant la pression populaire, le Premier ministre fait machine arrière à la mi-septembre, retire son soutien au projet de loi et assure qu’il sera rejeté par le Parlement. Bien que le projet ne soit pas définitivement enterré, c’est une victoire pour les opposants.

Et une double défaite pour Victor Ponta qui, à force de changer d’avis, a perdu la confiance de la population. Et sa crédibilité auprès de Gabriel Resources. L’investisseur canadien menace de poursuivre l’Etat roumain «pour violations multiples des traités internationaux d’investissement» si le projet est définitivement abandonné. La presse parle de 4 milliards de dollars (3 milliards d’euros) de dommages et intérêts.

Le soir du 9 septembre, jour du recul du gouvernement roumain, l’action de Gabriel Resources a perdu la moitié de sa valeur à la Bourse de Toronto. Une dépréciation peu du goût des actionnaires, parmi lesquels des fonds spéculatifs, comme celui de John Paulson, qui s’est enrichi en spéculant sur la faillite de la Grèce.

Si les opposants au projet ont accueilli favorablement le recul du gouvernement roumain, ils ont bien l’intention de poursuivre leur mobilisation jusqu’au rejet du projet de loi par le Parlement et promis de revenir touts les jours, jusqu’à ce que le cyanure soit interdit dans l’industrie minière en Roumanie et le site de Rosia Montana classé au patrimoine de l’Unesco.

Les manifestants anti-mine d’or font aussi le lien avec les anti-gaz de schiste. A Bârlad, nord-est du pays, les protestations se multiplient depuis que le Premier ministre a autorisé cet été la compagnie américaine Chevron à explorer les gaz de schiste de la région.

D’après l’Agence américaine d’information sur l’énergie (EIA), le sous-sol roumain renfermerait quelque 1.444 milliards de mètres cubes de gaz de schiste, le troisième gisement européen après la Pologne et la France.

Si le gisement se confirme, Chevron prévoit une extraction par fracturation hydraulique à l’horizon 2017-2018. Une technique controversée, placée par la France sous moratoire, car elle polluerait les nappes phréatiques, fragiliserait les sols, voire favoriserait les tremblements de terre.

Mais en contrepartie de la fracturation de son sol, la région de Bârlad se voit promettre des dizaines de millions de dollars d’investissement dans les infrastructures locales, ainsi que dans le développement de la zone.

Rosia Montana, Bârlad: même combat

Pendant sa campagne électorale, le Premier ministre disait pourtant refuser qu’une entreprise étrangère explore le gaz de schiste roumain. C’était là encore avant d’être nommé et de faire volte-face en ouvrant la porte aux investissements étrangers en ces termes:

«Je veux que nous soyons un pays qui comprenne où sont ses intérêts.»

Comme à Rosia Montana, le profit que pourraient tirer les habitants de Bârlad, une ville désindustrialisée et appauvrie de 60.000 habitants, reste inconnu, car le contrat entre l’Etat et Chevron demeure secret. Et comme à Rosia Montana, le mécontentement dépasse largement les milieux écologistes.

Les Roumains se dressent aussi contre la manière de gouverner, la corruption, les entorses à la démocratie. Ils veulent défendre l’environnement, mais surtout empêcher leur pays de brader son sous-sol. Un réveil démocratique inédit en Roumanie depuis 1989.

Voir également:

L’invasion de Roms n’aura pas lieu

Pas plus de Roumains et de Bulgares, d’ailleurs, au 1er janvier 2014 comme le font craindre certains. Pourquoi? Ceux qui auraient pu venir sont déjà là et ils ne sont pas très nombreux.

Marianne Rigaux

Slate

26/09/2013

Deux échéances font revenir en force les Roms dans les médias: l’accès libre au marché du travail à partir du 1er janvier 2014 et les élections municipales de mars, avec leur lot de surenchère verbale. Au 1er janvier prochain, Roumains et Bulgares pourront librement travailler en France. Depuis leur entrée dans l’UE en 2007, ils sont libres de circuler et de s’installer où ils le veulent, mais ne peuvent pas exercer n’importe quel métier.

Pour l’instant, ils doivent obtenir une autorisation de travail délivrée par une préfecture française, ce qui peut prendre plusieurs mois, même avec une solide promesse d’embauche. L’employeur doit aussi prouver qu’il n’a pas trouvé de candidat français pour le poste, sauf pour une liste de 291 métiers pour lesquels le pays manque de main d’œuvre. Jusqu’en octobre 2012, cette liste ne contenait encore que 150 métiers dits «sous tension».

Avant même la fin de ces mesures transitoires, certains pays comme les Pays-Bas, l’Allemagne, la France et le Royaume-Uni pointent le risque d’une «invasion» de ressortissants roumains et bulgares. Et parmi eux, de nombreux Roms.

Spéculations et fantasmes

Au Royaume-Uni, le leader de l’United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage l’affirme: «Nous allons ouvrir nos portes à 29 millions de Bulgares et Roumains pauvres. Il est temps de reprendre le contrôle de nos frontières». «Ils ont peur que les travailleurs roumains dérèglent leur marché du travail avec nos salaires plus faibles», constate Ilie Serbanescu, économiste et ancien ministre roumain.

Une étude de l’Observatoire des migrations de l’université d’Oxford relativise pourtant ces fantasmes. Après avoir analysé le «raz-de-marée» migratoire suscité par l’élargissement de l’UE en 2004, les auteurs concluent que les ressortissants des nouveaux pays membres ne représentent qu’un tiers de l’immigration totale au Royaume-Uni.

En France, c’est le Front National qui agite le chiffon rouge. «Je vous annonce que dans le courant de l’année 2014, il viendra à Nice 50.000 Roms au moins puisqu’à partir du 1er janvier, les 12 millions de Roms qui sont situés en Roumanie, en Bulgarie et en Hongrie auront la possibilité de s’établir dans tous les pays d’Europe», a lancé Jean-Marie Le Pen cet été.

Il y a entre 15.000 et 20.000 Roms en France, originaires de Roumanie et de Bulgarie pour la plupart, mais aussi de Macédoine, du Kosovo, de Slovaquie… Un chiffre stable depuis des années. De tous ses voisins, la France est le pays qui compte le moins de Roms: ils sont 750.000 en Espagne et 150.000 en Italie.

L’immigration a déjà eu lieu

Pour la politologue roumaine Irène Costelian, il n’y aura pas de raz-de-marée à l’horizon. «Les Roumains [Roms ou non] sont déjà partis depuis longtemps», affirme-t-elle. Il n’y aura pas de nouveau rush comme il y en a eu en 2004 à la suppression des visas ou en 2007 à l’entrée dans l’Union européenne». Ni comme en 1990, après la chute du dictateur Ceausescu.

D’après le recensement réalisé en 2011, la Roumanie a perdu 13% de sa population depuis la fin du communisme, passant de 23,21 millions en 1990 à 20,12 millions d’habitants en 2011. En cause, une forte émigration, principalement vers l’Italie, l’Allemagne et l’Espagne, et dans une moindre mesure vers la France, où le nombre de ressortissants roumains est estimé à 200.000 personnes.

Et puis partir n’a plus la cote, selon Edith Lhomel, analyste à la documentation française. «En 2011 et 2012, les revenus envoyés au pays par les Roumains expatriés ont baissé. On commence à se rendre compte qu’immigrer dans un pays d’Europe occidentale en crise n’est pas si rentable».

«Le pauvre fait peur»

Reste que les spéculations font douter, à quelques mois des élections municipales en France. Le trio Rom/immigration/insécurité refait surface dans les discours politiques et les médias. «Il ne faut vraiment pas craindre la Roumanie», écrivait le Premier ministre roumain Victor Ponta dans une tribune publiée dans le Times en février.

Oui mais voilà, «le pauvre fait peur», reconnaît Irène Costelian, elle-même née en Roumanie. «Le Roumain traîne l’image du travailleur pauvre qui va casser les prix». Un thème de campagne idéal pour le Front National, mais aussi pour la droite.

Depuis quelques semaines, les Roms et les amalgames sont partout: articles, petites phrases, carte pour localiser les camps, Une racoleuse. Ils ne sont que 20.000, soit la population du Puy-en-Velay, mais ils arrivent à éclipser les 3,2 millions de chômeurs.

Voir de même:

 Mère et Fils

Pierre Murat

Télérama

15/01/2014

Drame réalisé en 2013 par Calin Peter Netzer

Avec Luminita Gheorghiu , Bogdan Dumitrache , Natasa Raab …

Mère et Fils – Bande Annonce – VOST

SYNOPSIS

A 60 ans, Cornelia fait partie de la haute bourgeoisie de Bucarest. Son argent lui permet de connaître tous les puissants et la bonne société de la capitale roumaine. Tout irait pour le mieux si seulement ses relations avec son fils étaient moins tendues. Alors que médecins, musiciens, avocats se pressent à son anniversaire, il a refusé de venir. Lorsque celui-ci tue un enfant dans un accident de voiture, elle utilise son carnet d’adresse et consacre sa fortune pour lui éviter la prison. Un bon moyen, pense-t-elle, pour regagner l’amour de son fils. Or, elle a beau se démener, son fils refuse de se laisser amadouer…

LA CRITIQUE LORS DE LA SORTIE EN SALLE DU 15/01/2014

Plus il la repousse, plus Cornelia intervient dans la vie de son fils quadragénaire. Lorsqu’il tue un gamin au volant de sa voiture, elle fait jouer toutes ses relations pour lui éviter le pire… Depuis quelque temps, le cinéma roumain est au top : sujets brûlants, mises en scène jouant avec brio sur la durée. On se souvient de La Mort de Dante Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu), il y a quelques années, d’Un mois en Thaïlande (Paul Negoescu), l’an dernier, et, bien sûr, de 4 Mois, 3 semaines, 2 jours (Cristian Mungiu), Palme d’or à Cannes en 2007. Couronné à Berlin l’année dernière, Mère et fils n’a pas la même intensité. Durant la première heure, le réalisateur semble se gargariser de la virtuosité de sa caméra. Et le personnage du fils est beaucoup trop faible : brutal, borné, sans envergure ni démesure. On ne comprend pas sa rancoeur. Sa (fausse ?) rédemption indiffère.

Avec la même vigueur que ses compatriotes, cependant, le cinéaste filme un pays où les passe-droits pèsent aussi lourd que la terreur politique, jadis. Nul, en effet, ne résiste aux prébendes de Cornelia, pas même le flic présenté comme un modèle incorruptible : il résiste, il résiste, mais il cède comme tous les autres… Et Luminita Gheorghiu (déjà remarquable dans La Mort de Dante Lazarescu) fait de son personnage une sorte de monstre shakespearien, ne pouvant s’empêcher de distiller le poison dont son fils se sert pour la détruire.

Voir par ailleurs:

Book review.

Spotlight Casts Cruel Shadows For Girls

Reviewed by Bob Ford, Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

The Chicago tribune

August 28, 1995

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes:

The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters

By Joan Ryan

Doubleday, 243 pages, $22.95

The lights come on, the audience is hushed and the athletes spin, flip and pirouette before us, china dolls performing their routines with grace and joy.

The little girls who form the core of our national gymnastics and figure-skating teams are the stuff of gossamer dreams as they compete against the world for Olympic medals and patriotic glory.

But for every girl who makes it into the brightest spotlight, there are hundreds left in the shadows of the sport, used and discarded. It is the other side of the American dream and one that has long needed a closer look.

As part of a series of newspaper articles on female athletes, Joan Ryan, a San Francisco journalist, began this investigation of the price exacted in the quest for youthful success. The series grew into "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes," which is as vital and troubling a work as the sports world has seen in a long time.

"What I found," writes Ryan, "was a story about legal, even celebrated, child abuse. In the dark troughs along the road to the Olympics lay the bodies of the girls who stumbled on the way, broken by the work, pressure and humiliation.

"I found a girl who felt such shame at not making the Olympic team that she slit her wrists. A skater who underwent plastic surgery when a judge said her nose was distracting. A father who handed custody of his daughter over to her coach so she could keep skating. A coach who fed his gymnasts so little that federation officials had to smuggle food into their hotel rooms. A mother who hid her child’s chicken pox with makeup so she could compete. Coaches who motivated their athletes by calling them imbeciles, idiots, pigs and cows."

Ryan lets the facts clearly indicate the damage that can be done to young girls by overbearing parents, obsessive coaches and the elusive dream of stardom.

The book’s strongest moments come from the sport of gymnastics, where judges reward the work of sleek, supple girls able to perform the hardest maneuvers and give poorer marks to those who have slipped toward womanhood and must rely on grace and form. Countless hours of intensive training, combined with dangerous eating patterns, lowers the percentage of body fat to such extreme levels that natural maturation cannot take place.

The psychological effects of growing up as a gymnast can lead to eating disorders, such as the anorexia that eventually killed former gymnast Christy Heinrich, and mental illness.

Ryan goes hard after Bela Karolyi, the former Romanian national team coach whose star rose in 1976 with the success of his student, Nadia Comaneci. The methods of Karolyi, now a coach in this country, include verbal abuse, Ryan asserts, and she also alleges that the gymnasts starve themselves to stay in his good graces. Karolyi does his job of producing winners well, however, and Ryan points out that until society changes its priorities for athletes, the situation will not change.

The sections on figure skating are cobbled in artfully by Ryan, but the material pales in comparison to the reporting on gymnastics. She carefully documents the pressure and the politics involved in skating and observes, once again, that judges are usually unwilling to grade a graceful woman as highly as a triple-jumper. Once the skaters mature, gaining the hips and breasts that make them aerodynamically inferior to the younger skaters, their careers are effectively shot. Getting to the top of the pack is a race against time, and the corners cut to get there can scar the athletes forever.

Ryan suggests changes involving gymnastics and figure skating: The minimum-age requirements should be raised. There should be mandatory licensing of coaches and careful scrutiny by the national governing bodies. And athletes should be required to remain in regular schools at least until they are 16.

Few sports books can truly be called important. This book, beautifully written and painstakingly researched, is one of those few.

Voir enfin:

Abuse Amid Glamor In Name Of Sports

 Philip Hersh, Tribune Olympic Sports Writer

The Chicago tribune

June 01, 1995

120

Joan Ryan comes right to the point in the introductory chapter of her book, "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes," which hits this stores this month.

Ryan, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, undertook the book to learn about the effects of subjecting young girls to the training demands of figure skating and gymnastics, especially the latter.

"What I found," Ryan writes, "was a story about legal, even celebrated, child abuse."

The following anecdotes should illustrate why Ryan came to such a conclusion:

- In January, Romanian gymnastics coach Florin Gheorghe was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Bucharest court for having beaten an 11-year-old athlete so severely during a 1993 practice session she died two days later of a broken neck.

Gheorghe’s attorney admitted his client slapped the young woman but said such physical abuse was common practice in Romanian gymnastics.

"This kind of punishment is a heritage from Bela Karolyi," the attorney said, referring to the martinet coach who drove Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton to Olympic gold medals. Karolyi has denied the charge.

- Aurelia Okino, a native Romanian whose daughter, Betty, trained with Karolyi a decade after his defection to the U.S., said in a 1992 interview she had become scared to answer the phone in her Elmhurst home.

Aurelia Okino worried it would be Betty, then 17, calling from Karolyi’s gym in Houston with news of another injury, There had been serious elbow, back and knee injuries before Okino made the 1992 Olympic team and helped the U.S. women win a bronze medal in the team event.

"Gymnastics is a brutal sport," Betty Okino said matter-of-factly.

Asked why she had let her daughter go that far, Okino said, "How do you deny a child her dream?"

- In 1985, a few days before her enormously talented daughter, Tiffany, would win her only U.S. figure skating title, Marjorie Chin accepted the offer of a ride back to her Kansas City hotel from a reporter she had first met 20 minutes before. Tiffany, then 17, took a back seat to Marjorie in the reporter’s car.

For 30 minutes, Mrs. Chin delivered relentless criticism of her daughter’s performance in practice that day. "If you keep it up, you’re not going to be the star of the ice show, you’re going to be just part of the supporting cast," Mrs. Chin said, over and over.

- Several times in the last few years, officials of the U.S. Figure Skating Association have spoken to a prominent ice dancer about her eating habits. The ice dancer, 32 years old, still looks like a wraith. One of those stories came from a wire service. The other three are personal recollections–mine, not Ryan’s.

Her book, subtitled "the making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters" (Doubleday, 243 pp., $22.95), has much more frightening tales to tell.

Ryan recounts in compelling detail the stories of Julissa Gomez and Christy Henrich, gymnasts whose pursuit of glory proved fatal; of figure skater Amy Grossman, whose mother said, "Skating was God"; of coaches like Karolyi and one of his disciples, Rick Newman, whose ideas of motivating adolescent girls include demeaning them at a time when their egos are most fragile; and of parents who hide their irresponsibility behind the notion of "trying to get the best for my child."

Such is the sordid underbelly of the Olympics’ two most glamorous sports.

Only in the last three years has the nation begun to have a vague awareness of this life under the sequins and leotards. Ryan began to get a clear view of these problems while doing research for a newspaper story before the 1992 Olympics.

That led her to write this book, in which the villains are both coaches and parents. She lets Karolyi skewer himself with his own words. She shows how parents lose sight of the fundamental notion of protecting their children from harm, so blinded are they by possible fame and fortune.

The cause of such intemperate adult behavior is partly the peculiar competitive demands to jump higher and twirl faster, particularly in gymnastics, that favor girls with tiny bodies over young women developing hips and breasts. That puts them in a race against puberty, creating a window of opportunity so narrow it leads to foolhardiness.

Neither figure skating nor gymnastics is without athletes whose experiences are positive, a point that needed more attention in Ryan’s book than the disclaimer, "I’m not suggesting that all elite gymnasts and figure skaters emerge from their sports unhealthy and poorly adjusted." A better balance might have been struck if the author had given voice to the likes of Olympic champions Retton and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Ryan’s basic premise about child abuse still is thoroughly supported by interviews, anecdotes and factual evidence.

"Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" should be a manifesto for change in the rules of these two sports, so that women with adult bodies still can compete. It should be a wakeup call to parents who have abdicated their responsibility for their childrens’ well-being. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up hooked on sports that don’t let them grow up.


12 years a slave: Hollywood récompensera-il le premier film bondage sur l’esclavage de l’histoire ? (Uncle Tom’s cabin meets Justine: is history really served when slavery flicks go from spaghetti western to torture porn ?)

22 février, 2014
http://screenrobot.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/12-years-a-slave-solomon-new-york.jpghttp://www-deadline-com.vimg.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/12-Years-a-Slave-Hanging-Scene__140129072127.jpgIl faut avoir le courage de vouloir le mal et pour cela il faut commencer par rompre avec le comportement grossièrement humanitaire qui fait partie de l’héritage chrétien. (..) Nous sommes avec ceux qui tuent. André Breton
Bien avant qu’un intellectuel nazi ait annoncé ‘quand j’entends le mot culture je sors mon revolver’, les poètes avaient proclamé leur dégoût pour cette saleté de culture et politiquement invité Barbares, Scythes, Nègres, Indiens, ô vous tous, à la piétiner. Hannah Arendt (1949)
Après Auschwitz, nous pouvons affirmer, plus résolument que jamais auparavant, qu’une divinité toute-puissante ou bien ne serait pas toute bonne, ou bien resterait entièrement incompréhensible (dans son gouvernement du monde, qui seul nous permet de la saisir). Mais si Dieu, d’une certaine manière et à un certain degré, doit être intelligible (et nous sommes obligés de nous y tenir), alors il faut que sa bonté soit compatible avec l’existence du mal, et il n’en va de la sorte que s’il n’est pas tout-puissant. C’est alors seulement que nous pouvons maintenir qu’il est compréhensible et bon, malgré le mal qu’il y a dans le monde. Hans Jonas
Christs, Vierges, Pietàs, Crucifixions, enfers, paradis, offrandes, chutes, dons, échanges: la vision chrétienne du monde semble revenir en force. Où? Dans le domaine de l’art le plus contemporain. (…) L’homme y est réinterprété comme corps incarné, faible, en échec. Cette religion insiste sur l’ordinaire et l’accessible, elle est hantée par la dérision, la mort et le deuil. Après une modernité désincarnée proposant ses icônes majestueuses, on en revient à une image incarnée, une image d’après la chute. En profondeur, il se dit là un renversement des modèles de l’art lui-même: A Prométhée succède Sisyphe ou mieux le Christ souffrant, un homme sans modèle, sans lien, inscrit dans une condition humaine à laquelle il ne peut échapper. Yves Michaud (4e de couverture, L’art contemporain est-il chrétien, Catherine Grenier)
C’est comme une fête foraine, les jeux avec les pinces… Le monde est atroce, mais il y a bien pire : c’est Dieu. On ne peut pas comprendre Haïti. On ne peut même pas dire que Dieu est méchant, aucun méchant n’aurait fait cela. Christian Boltanski
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
Cette Administration met en avant un faux choix entre les libertés que nous chérissons et la sécurité que nous procurons… Je vais donner à nos agences de renseignement et de sécurité les outils dont ils ont besoin pour surveiller et éliminer les terroristes sans nuire à notre Constitution et à notre liberté. Cela signifie l’arrêt des écoutes téléphoniques illégales de citoyens américains, l’arrêt des lettres de sécurité nationale pour espionner les citoyens américains qui ne sont pas soupçonnés d’un crime. L’arrêt de la surveillance des citoyens qui ne font rien de plus que protester contre une mauvaise guerre. L’arrêt de l’ignorance de la loi quand cela est incommode. Obama (août 2007)
Qu’est donc devenu cet artisan de paix récompensé par un prix Nobel, ce président favorable au désarmement nucléaire, cet homme qui s’était excusé aux yeux du monde des agissements honteux de ces Etats-Unis qui infligeaient des interrogatoires musclés à ces mêmes personnes qu’il n’hésite pas aujourd’hui à liquider ? Il ne s’agit pas de condamner les attaques de drones. Sur le principe, elles sont complètement justifiées. Il n’y a aucune pitié à avoir à l’égard de terroristes qui s’habillent en civils, se cachent parmi les civils et n’hésitent pas à entraîner la mort de civils. Non, le plus répugnant, c’est sans doute cette amnésie morale qui frappe tous ceux dont la délicate sensibilité était mise à mal par les méthodes de Bush et qui aujourd’hui se montrent des plus compréhensifs à l’égard de la campagne d’assassinats téléguidés d’Obama. Charles Krauthammer
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
L’abolition est due au grand réveil religieux: sous l’impulsion des pasteurs, des centaines de milliers d’Anglais signent des pétitions contre l’esclavage. Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau (…) Le système esclavagiste était rentable et il aurait pu s’adapter à la nouvelle période. On a même calculé que la productivité d’un esclave pouvait être équivalente, voire supérieure, à celle d’un salarié. Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau
La traite n’avait pas pour but d’exterminer un peuple. L’esclave était un bien qui avait une valeur marchande qu’on voulait faire travailler le plus possible. Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau
"Cargaison" précieuse face au risque financier que prenait l’armateur, leurs conditions de détention s’améliorèrent au cours des siècles, leur taux de mortalité étant de 10 % à 20 %, avec des pics à 40 %. Pour les historiens, l’estimation la plus probable s’établit à 13 % sur les quatre siècles que dure la traite alors que la mortalité moyenne d’un équipage était tout juste inférieure. Wikipedia
On dispose de peu d’éléments sur le nombre de captifs décédés sur le sol africain. (…) Raymond L. Cohn, un professeur d’économie dont les recherches sont centrées sur l’histoire économique et les migrations internationales estime que 20 à 40 % des captifs mouraient au cours de leur transport à marche forcée vers la côte, et que 3 à 10 % disparaissaient en y attendant les navires négriers. On arrive à un total compris entre 23 et 50 %. (…) À la fin du XVIIIe siècle, en Guadeloupe, le taux de mortalité des esclaves oscillait entre 30 et 50 pour mille. En métropole, le taux de mortalité était compris entre 30 et 38 pour mille.  (…) Pour les négriers nantais, la mortalité moyenne était de 17,8 %. Il ne s’agit que d’une moyenne. Certaines traversées pouvaient se faire sans aucun décès tandis que d’autres pouvaient enregistrer une mortalité de 80 % voire davantage. Wikipedia
Pour le XVIe siècle, le nombre des esclaves chrétiens razziés par les musulmans est supérieur à celui des Africains déportés aux Amériques. Il est vrai que la traite des Noirs ne prendra vraiment son essor qu’à la fin du XVIIe siècle, avec la révolution sucrière dans les Antilles. Mais, selon Davis, il y aurait eu environ un million de Blancs chrétiens réduits en esclavage par les barbaresques entre 1530 et 1780. Mais il ne faut pas se focaliser sur la question des chiffres, afin d’établir une sorte d’échelle de Richter des esclavages. Ce que le travail de Davis permet d’affirmer, c’est que cet esclavage des chrétiens entre le XVIe et le XVIIIe siècle renvoie à une réalité non négligeable. Rien de plus. S’il est resté pour une large part ignoré, c’est qu’il n’a pas laissé beaucoup de traces. Les esclaves blancs étaient en effet principalement, à 90%, des hommes, qui ne faisaient pas souche en terre d’Islam, à l’inverse des Africains aux Amériques. C’est aussi que le questionnement est souvent premier en histoire (on se pose des questions, puis l’on recherche les sources permettant éventuellement d’y répondre) et que cet esclavage n’a pas beaucoup intéressé les historiens. (…) Il est différent à plusieurs titres. Tout d’abord, cet esclavage ne répond pas à la même logique. Au départ, les barbaresques se livrent à des opérations de course et de piraterie sur les côtes de la Méditerranée, comme c’est l’usage chez certains peuples marins depuis la plus Haute Antiquité. On avait pris l’habitude depuis l’époque byzantine de rédiger des traités prévoyant l’échange réciproque d’esclaves. Puis, les chrétiens se mobilisant pour «racheter» leurs proches tombés en esclavage, l’affaire devint plus rentable pour les razzieurs. C’est paradoxalement cette perspective financière qui accentua les raids musulmans à partir du XVIe siècle. En devenant directement et assez facilement monnayables, les esclaves devinrent des proies plus séduisantes que les navires ou les cargaisons. Les barbaresques se mirent alors à multiplier leurs razzias sur les côtes de la Méditerranée, notamment en Italie du Sud. Dans le cas de la traite transatlantique, l’esclavage répondait à un autre but : fournir une main-d’oeuvre bon marché aux colonies. Les Noirs ne pouvaient être rachetés mais seulement – rarement – se racheter eux-mêmes. Ils firent souche en Amérique, ce qui ne fut jamais le cas des chrétiens. (…) On ne devrait pas en effet parler d’une «traite» des Blancs car les musulmans cherchaient de l’argent plus ou moins rapidement, ils ne se sont pas livrés à un trafic de main-d’oeuvre. Au bout de quelques années, les esclaves chrétiens étaient soit rachetés et ils rentraient chez eux, ou ils disparaissaient. Le taux de mortalité était assez fort. Autour de 15%, selon Davis. Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau
A la différence de l’islam, le christianisme n’a pas entériné l’esclavage. Mais, comme il ne comportait aucune règle d’organisation sociale, il ne l’a pas non plus interdit. Pourtant, l’idée d’une égalité de tous les hommes en Dieu dont était porteur le christianisme a joué contre l’esclavage, qui disparaît de France avant l’an mil. Cependant, il ressurgit au XVIIe siècle aux Antilles françaises, bien que la législation royale y prescrive l’emploi d’une main-d’oeuvre libre venue de France. L’importation des premiers esclaves noirs, achetés à des Hollandais, se fait illégalement. (…) Le mouvement part d’Angleterre, le pays qui a déporté au XVIIIe siècle le plus de Noirs vers l’Amérique. La force du mouvement abolitionniste anglais repose principalement sur la prédication des pasteurs évangélistes. Il en résulte une interdiction de la traite par l’Angleterre (1806) et les autres puissances occidentales (France, 1817), puis une abolition de l’esclavage lui-même dans les colonies anglaises (1833) et françaises (1848). Décidée par l’Europe, la suppression de la traite atlantique est imposée par elle aux Etats pourvoyeurs d’esclaves de l’Afrique occidentale. (…) Cependant, rien de pareil n’a eu lieu dans le monde musulman. L’esclavage étant prévu par l’islam, il eût été impie de le remettre en cause. Aussi, l’autre grande forme de la traite vers l’Afrique du Nord et le Moyen-Orient continua de plus belle au XIXe siècle, qui correspondit à son apogée. Et, parallèlement, des Européens continuaient d’être razziés en Méditerranée et réduits en esclavage à Alger, Oran, Tunis ou Salé (Rabat). D’où l’expédition de 1830 à Alger. Finalement, ce fut la colonisation qui mit presque entièrement fin à la traite musulmane. Jean-Louis Harouel
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 best aspect about America is its egalitarianism. The country respects and rewards the talented and the sincere. And despite serious racial issues, we saw America electing a black President, creating history. And as Hollywood runs up to the Academy Awards on March 2, one of the questions is, will Steve McQueen be the first black director to win the Oscar. Interestingly, his 12 Years A Slave is all about the struggle of one black man to escape humiliating captivity he faces in the white man’s den. At the moment, McQueen – though with an emotionally engaging film behind him – is not the favourite to walk away with the best director statuette. But if he does, he would be the first black helmer to actually clinch this Oscar, although there have been two other black directors who were nominated in the past. One of them was John Singleton for the 1992 Boyz n the Hood, and the other was Lee Daniels in 2009 for Precious. McQueen’s win could be as historic as Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 triumph with The Hurt Locker. She was the first woman director to have won the best director Oscar. In a way, McQueen’s nomination comes in a year when black moviemakers have done exceedingly well. Fruitvale Station – about a real incident where a black teenager was killed by the police in Oakland — got the big prize at the Sundance Film Festival. And works like 42 (the black baseball player, Jackie Robinson biopic) and The Butler (probing the African American role in U.S. history) have been, along with 12 Years A Slave, lauded by critics. On top of this, Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have been talking about lack of diversity in the race for the Oscars. The Hindustan Times
Cheryl Boone Isaacs … est la première Afro-américaine à prendre la direction de la prestigieuse Académie des Arts et des Sciences du Cinéma à Hollywood, et la troisième femme choisie pour le job. Cheryl Boone Isaacs vient d’être élue au poste suprême du comité des Oscars. Gala
12 Years a Slave a définitivement enterré Le Majordome L’une des surprises des Oscars 2014, c’est l’absence du Majordome qui n’a donc aucune nomination. Eliminé des Golden Globes, on pouvait encore imaginer que le film de Lee Daniels soit présent dans la course aux Oscars. Raté. Le Majordome est peut-être sorti trop tôt (en août aux USA) et surtout, il s’est fait enterrer par le drame de Steve McQueen. Sur un sujet proche (l’esclavage et le combat pour les droits civiques), la fresque de Lee Daniels semble bien sage face au déchaînement de violence, de conscience et de surcinéma du film de McQueen. Avec son sujet édifiant, ses performances intenses et sa mise en scène puissante, 12 Years a Slave a le profil type du "film à Oscars". Mais on sait que certains votants risquent d’être rebutés par sa violence. Finalement, Lee Daniels aurait été un bon compromis avec ses prestations moins agressives et ses stars plus facilement oscarisables (Oprah Winfrey, ignoré pour son retour au ciné après Beloved et quinze ans d’absence, et surtout Forest Whitaker). Première
Avec ce grand spectacle typiquement hollywoodien (les oscars vont pleuvoir !), le cinéaste réussit l’osmose délicate entre le film commercial et le cinéma d’auteur. Depuis Hunger, par exemple, on sait qu’à l’instar de Theo Angelopoulos ou Andreï Tarkovski il adore les plans fixes démesurément étirés, mais calculés à la seconde près, qui créent une réalité parallèle, plus vraie que la vraie. On en a plusieurs ici, dont celui, totalement incongru dans un film américain, où le héros, lynché, est suspendu à une corde, ses pieds touchant le sol par intermittence. Il attend. Il entend des enfants jouer et rire au loin. La durée même de cette séquence magnifique fait naître la peur. On dirait un suspense à la Hitchcock… Question sadisme, Steve McQueen est un orfèvre : dans Hunger, on le sentait radieux de détailler, une à une, les plaies sur le corps meurtri de Michael Fassbender. Il ne semble pas mécontent, ici, de filmer un à un les coups de fouet reçus par la bien-aimée du frustré. Mais curieusement, ce pointillisme lui permet, à chaque film, de fuir le réalisme. Son art repose sur l’artifice. Sous sa caméra, le destin de Solomon Northup n’est plus un fait divers, mais une abstraction lyrique. Presque un opéra. Télérama
Je peux dire que j’aimé ce film. Bien sur il est très didactique et manichéen ( les gentils blancs du nord, le héros Brad Pitt quand même très gonflé de se donner le rôle du sauveur en tant que producteur du film!!!!) mais c est un film qui reste très fort , tres beau et plein d humanités , avec une belle réalisation , de bons acteurs, une lenteur assumée et salutaire . L intérêt de ce film pour moi est surtout que j y ai emmené ma fille de 14 ans et qu elle a beaucoup aimé. Ce genre de film est un bon rappel de ce dont est capable l humanité lorsqu il n y a pas d égalité entre les gens, lorsque les lois permettent à certains de se croire supérieur , nul est à l abris de devenir un bourreau lorsque l on le laisse faire !!! Cela paraît évident mais dans un contexte mondial de montée des intolérances , du racisme, dans un pays Côme la France où certains trouvent comique de comparer une ministre à une guenon , je pense malheureusement que ce film à encore un rôle à jouer!!! Un film scolaire disent certains, c est vrai! A faire voire au scolaire!! Oui Paulineeliane | 21/02/2014 à 11h51
Difficile de trouver plus contradictoire que Django Unchained de Quentin Tarantino et 12 Years A Slave de Steve McQueen : les deux films – dans lesquels figurent d’ailleurs Brad Pitt et Michael Fassbender – revisitent la même histoire sombre (l’esclavagisme) avec une approche si différente qu’ils se révèlent complémentaires. Autrement dit, ici, chez Steve McQueen, on n’est pas venu pour rire. Chose que l’on savait déjà pour avoir vu ses précédents films, Hunger et Shame qui avaient autant à voir avec des spectacles de Florence Foresti que Véronique Sanson avec un groupe de métal allemand. (…) Comme dans Hunger et Shame, qui parlaient d’oppression et de claustration – l’univers carcéral pour le premier, l’addition sexuelle pour le second -, la mise en scène de Steve McQueen se révèle aussi virtuose que discutable comme lors de ce plan-séquence qui semble durer une vie et qui nous rapproche de la mort. On y voit Solomon pendu à une corde, sur la pointe des pieds, pataugeant dans la boue pour éviter l’asphyxie. McQueen obtient sur la durée un vrai malaise. Tout circule, tout y est montré, dénoncé : le voyeurisme, la passivité, l’indifférence, l’exploitation, l’obscénité, la cruauté ordinaire etc. On est bien loin de la fresque académique, policée. Et, en même temps, il y a un tour de force ostentatoire, une volonté de s’afficher en grand cinéaste rétif aux normes et aux conventions, au-dessus de ce qu’il doit filmer. Steve McQueen avoue dans le dossier de presse : "Je ne voulais pas minimiser ce qui lui est arrivé. Il ne s’agit pas de choquer les gens – cela ne m’intéresse pas -, mais il s’agit de faire preuve de responsabilité face à cette histoire." TF1
Fidèle à ses motifs favoris, le dolorisme et l’incarcération, physique ou mentale (l’agonie de l’activiste irlandais Bobby Sands dans Hunger, l’aliénation au sexe dans Shame), McQueen concentre son propos sur la réalité crue des sévices dont étaient quotidiennement victimes des millions d’individus. Passages à tabac, viols, tortures, assassinats ou travail forcé entraînant la mort, séparation des familles, humiliation permanente sans oublier le maintien systématique dans l’analphabétisme. Le cinéaste joue sur toute la gamme de la révulsion, alternant chocs brutaux (long plan séquence d’une flagellation) et insoutenable immobilisme (scène de pendaison où, tandis que l’homme agonise en se hissant sur les orteils, une normalité écœurante bourdonne autour de lui). Toutefois, McQueen a pris le parti de faire de cette addition d’horreurs l’exclusif argument de son réquisitoire. Cette virulence rageuse finit par occulter involontairement une dimension essentielle. L’ignominie de l’esclavage est tout entière contenue dans son caractère institutionnel, dans le fait qu’il répondait à des besoins économiques précis. Le droit des planteurs à disposer des individus à leur guise, pour se remplir les poches ou pour assouvir leurs pires pulsions, en est la conséquence. Or, représenter les esclavagistes comme des sadiques compulsifs (Michael Fassbender en roue libre) revient à faire le procès de l’anomalie, d’une folie sanguinaire dont cette institution a toléré l’existence. Comme si la dénonciation de la mécanique d’un système abominable ne suffisait pas, et que pour susciter l’émotion – une vertu américaine -, il fallait renoncer à pointer du doigt la source du mal pour n’en montrer que les effets pervers. Libération
12 Years a Slave uses sadistic art to patronize history Brutality, violence and misery get confused with history in 12 Years a Slave, British director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the 1853 American slave narrative by Solomon Northup, who claims that in 1841, away from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., he was kidnapped and taken South where he was sold into hellish servitude and dehumanizing cruelty. 12-years-a-slave-filmFor McQueen, cruelty is the juicy-arty part; it continues the filmmaker’s interest in sado-masochistic display, highlighted in his previous features Hunger and Shame. Brutality is McQueen’s forte. As with his fine-arts background, McQueen’s films resemble museum installations: the stories are always abstracted into a series of shocking, unsettling events. With Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), McQueen chronicles the conscious sufferance of unrelenting physical and psychological pain. A methodically measured narrative slowly advances through Northup’s years of captivity, showcasing various injustices that drive home the terrors Black Africans experienced in the U.S. during what’s been called “the peculiar institution.” Depicting slavery as a horror show, McQueen has made the most unpleasant American movie since William Friedkin’s1973 The Exorcist. That’s right, 12 Years a Slave belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede and the Saw franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend “a conversation about race.” (…) For commercial distributor Fox Searchlight, 12 Years a Slave appears at an opportune moment when film culture–five years into the Obama administration–indulges stories about Black victimization such as Precious, The Help, The Butler, Fruitvale Station and Blue Caprice. (What promoter Harvey Weinstein has called “The Obama Effect.”) This is not part of social or historical enlightenment–the too-knowing race-hustlers behind 12 Years a Slave, screenwriter John Ridley and historical advisor Henry Louis Gates, are not above profiting from the misfortunes of African-American history as part of their own career advancement. But McQueen is a different, apolitical, art-minded animal. The sociological aspects of 12 Years a Slave have as little significance for him as the political issues behind IRA prisoner Bobby Sands’ hunger strike amidst prison brutality visualized in Hunger, or the pervy tour of urban “sexual addiction” in Shame. McQueen takes on the slave system’s depravity as proof of human depravity. (…) It proves the ahistorical ignorance of this era that 12 Years a Slave’s constant misery is excused as an acceptable version of the slave experience. McQueen, Ridley and Gates’ cast of existential victims won’t do. Northup-renamed-Platt and especially the weeping mother Liza (Adepero Oduye) and multiply-abused Patsey (Lupita Nyong‘o), are human whipping posts–beaten, humiliated, raped for our delectation just like Hirst’s cut-up equine. (…) These tortures might satisfy the resentment some Black people feel about slave stories (“It makes me angry”), further aggravating their sense of helplessness, grievance–and martyrdom. It’s the flipside of the aberrant warmth some Blacks claim in response to the superficial uplift of The Help and The Butler. And the perversion continues among those whites and non-Blacks who need a shock fest like 12 Years a Slave to rouse them from complacency with American racism and American history. But, as with The Exorcist, there is no victory in filmmaking this merciless. The fact that McQueen’s harshness was trending among Festivalgoers (in Toronto, Telluride and New York) suggests that denial still obscures the history of slavery: Northup’s travail merely makes it possible for some viewers to feel good about feeling bad (as wags complained about Spielberg’s Schindler’s List as an “official” Holocaust movie–which very few people wanted to see twice). McQueen’s fraudulence further accustoms moviegoers to violence and brutality.The very artsiness of 12 Years a Slave is part of its offense. The clear, classical imagery embarrasses Quentin Tarantino’s attempt at visual poetry in Django Unchained yet this “clarity” (like Hans Zimmer’s effective percussion score) is ultimately depressing. McQueen uses that art staple “duration” to prolong North’s lynching on tiptoe and later, in endless, tearful anticipation; emphasis on a hot furnace and roiling waves adds nature’s discomfort; an ugly close-up of a cotton worm symbolizes drudgery; a slave chant (“Run, Nigger, Run,”) contrasts ineffectual Bible-reading; and a shot of North’s handwritten plea burns to embers. But good art doesn’t work this way. Art elates and edifies–one might even prefer Q.T.’s jokey ridiculousness in Django Unchained, a different kind of sadism. (…) Steve McQueen’s post-racial art games and taste for cruelty play into cultural chaos. The story in 12 Years a Slave didn’t need to be filmed this way and I wish I never saw it. Armand White
As is the case with “Django Unchained”, McQueen’s film is a vehicle for his preoccupations. With Tarantino, these primarily revolve around revenge, a theme common to so many of the Hong Kong gangster or samurai movies that he has absorbed. For McQueen, the chief interest is in depicting pain with some of the most dramatic scenes involving whippings and other forms of punishment. I was expecting the worst after seeing McQueen’s “Hunger”, a film about the Provo IRA hunger strike led by Bobby Sands that was more about bedsores and beatings than politics. Thankfully, the latest film is a lot more restrained than I had expected but still mostly focused on the physical torments of being a slave. I found myself wondering if the casting of Sarah Paulson as the sadistic wife of a sadistic plantation owner was deliberate since she is part of the company of actors featured on “American Horror Story”, the AMC cable TV show that pushes the envelope in terms of graphic scenes of torture, dismemberment, etc. This season Paulson is playing a witch, as part of a series on Black witches taking revenge on their white witch enemies who had tormented them during slavery. I half expected Paulson’s character to stick a pin in a Solomon Northup voodoo doll. While one cannot gainsay the importance of Solomon Northup’s memoir that was used by the abolitionist movement in the same way that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was, I have to wonder whether McQueen’s film was hampered by a story that was essentially one-dimensional. If you take the opportunity to read “12 Years a Slave” , you will be struck by the underdeveloped relationships between Northup and other characters. Both Parks and McQueen take liberties with the memoir to flesh out the film with such relationships but there is still something missing. In the memoir and in the films, there is never any sense of the emotional pain of being separated from your family—something that cuts far deeper than a whip. Louis Proyect
When the abolitionists invited an ex-slave to tell his story of experience in slavery to an antislavery convention, and when they subsequently sponsored the appearance of that story in print, they had certain clear expectations, well understood by themselves and well understood by the ex-slave, too. (…) We may think it pretty fine writing and awfully literary, but the fine writer is clearly David Wilson rather than Solomon Northup. (…) The dedication, like the pervasive style, calls into serious question the status of ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ as autobiography and/or literature. James Olney
The prominent New York politician and abolitionist, Henry Northup, sensed an opportunity. Henry had helped Solomon escape from Louisiana, and as a descendant of the family that originally owned Solomon’s ancestors, perhaps felt personally responsible for him as well. But Henry was also a politician with an agenda. He wanted to promote the abolitionist cause and gain media attention for a lawsuit he hoped to file against Solomon’s kidnappers. Put simply, the book was written “with a purpose,” as the historian Ira Berlin puts it in his introduction to the new Penguin edition. (The media strategy worked, though only partially: The kidnappers were soon arrested but acquitted four years later after the media had moved on.) Perhaps more cynically, some people wanted to cash in on Northup’s story. Henry asked a lawyer and fledging poet, David Wilson, if he’d be willing to interview Solomon and turn his story into a book. Though a respected legal figure, the 32-year-old Wilson had little success as a writer and jumped at the chance. Thus, “12 Years a Slave” wasn’t even written by Solomon Northup but by a white amanuensis. Eric Herschthal
There were four million slaves in the U.S. in 1860 and several hundred thousand slave owners. It wasn’t just a homogeneous system. It had every kind of human variation you can imagine. There were black plantation owners in Louisiana, black slave owners. (…) Remember, this book is one of the most remarkable first-person accounts of slavery. But it’s also a piece of propaganda. It’s written to persuade people that slavery needs to be abolished. He doesn’t say anything about sexual relations he may have had as a slave. There’s no place for such a discussion because of the purpose of the book. (…) Harriet Jacobs was condemned by many people for revealing this, even antislavery people. (…) Obviously, it wasn’t a best seller. Maybe it will be now. But it’s widely known. It’s used all over the place in history courses. Along with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, this is probably the most widely read of what we call the slave narratives. (…) The daddy, I suppose, of all this was “Glory,” which came out in the late ‘80s. “Roots,” of course, comes before that. All of them suffer from what I see as the problem of Hollywood history. Even in this movie, there’s a tendency toward: You’ve got to have one hero or one figure. That’s why historians tend to be a little skeptical about Hollywood history, because you lose the sense of group or mass. (…) I think this movie is much more real, to choose a word like that, than most of the history you see in the cinema. It gets you into the real world of slavery. That’s not easy to do. Also, there are little touches that are very revealing, like a flashback where a slave walks into a shop in Saratoga. Yes, absolutely, Southerners brought slaves into New York State. People went on vacation, and they brought a slave. Foner
La Seconde Guerre mondiale a duré cinq ans, mais il y a des centaines et des centaines de films sur cette guerre et sur l’Holocauste. L’esclavage a duré quatre siècles, mais moins de 20 films y sont consacrés. Steve McQueen
I am British. My parents are from Grenada. My mother was born in Trinidad. Grenada is where Malcolm X’s mother comes from. Stokely Carmichael is Trinidadian. We could go on and on. It’s about that diaspora. (…) I made this film because I wanted to visualize a time in history that hadn’t been visualized that way. I wanted to see the lash on someone’s back. I wanted to see the aftermath of that, psychological and physical. I feel sometimes people take slavery very lightly, to be honest. I hope it could be a starting point for them to delve into the history and somehow reflect on the position where they are now. (…) I think people are ready. With Trayvon Martin, voting rights, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and a black president, I think there’s a sort of perfect storm of events. I think people actually want to reflect on that horrendous recent past in order to go forward. Steve McQueen
When I was in Savannah, Ga., they were telling me how they used to have special chains for the Igbos [a Nigerian ethnic group]. I told the man, “I’m Igbo.” Not having any sense of the internationalism of this event is a bad thing. I loved the fact that there were people from different places coming together to tell this story. Chiwetel Ejiofor
We’re talking about the reduction of truth to accuracy. What matters ultimately in a work of narrative is if the world and characters created feels true and complete enough for the work’s purposes. Isaac Butler
This is a minor point, but I felt the film possibly over-emphasised Solomon Northup’s social standing in New York state prior to his enslavement. In the film, Northup appears as a wealthy, successful individual, making a good living as a carpenter and musician. He wears smart clothes and appears to live in a tolerant, racially integrated community where skin colour does not matter. But in reality, Northern black people were everyday victims of white racism and discrimination, and in the free states of the North, black people were typically the ‘last hired and first fired’. Notably, in his autobiography Northup himself describes the everyday “obstacle of color” in his life prior to his kidnapping and subsequent enslavement. Nevertheless, I can understand why the filmmakers wanted to present a strong juxtaposition between Northup’s life as a free man in the North and the physical and mental trauma he endured while enslaved in the South. Emma McFarnon
At the beginning of 12 Years a Slave, the kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), has a painful sexual encounter with an unnamed female slave in which she uses his hand to bring herself to orgasm before turning away in tears. The woman’s desperation, Solomon’s reserve, and the fierce sadness of both, is depicted with an unflinching still camera which documents a moment of human contact and bitter comfort in the face of slavery’s systematic dehumanization. (…) And yet, for all its verisimilitude, the encounter never happened. It appears nowhere in Northup’s autobiography, and it’s likely he would be horrified at the suggestion that he was anything less than absolutely faithful to his wife. Director Steve McQueen has said that he included the sexual encounter to show "a bit of tenderness … Then after she’s climaxes, she’s back … in hell." The sequence is an effort to present nuance and psychological depth — to make the film’s depiction of slavery seem more real. But it creates that psychological truth by interpolating an incident that isn’t factually true. This embellishment is by no means an isolated case in the film. For instance, in the film version, shortly after Northup is kidnapped, he is on a ship bound south. A sailor enters the hold and is about to rape one of the slave women when a male slave intervenes. The sailor unhesitatingly stabs and kills him. This seems unlikely on its face—slaves are valuable, and the sailor is not the owner. And, sure enough, the scene is not in the book. A slave did die on the trip south, but from smallpox, rather than from stabbing. Northup himself contracted the disease, permanently scarring his face. It seems likely, therefore, that in this instance the original text was abandoned so that Ejiofor’s beautiful, expressive, haunting features would not go through the entire movie covered with artificial Hollywood scar make-up. Instead of faithfulness to the text, the film chooses faithfulness to Ejiofor’s face, unaltered by trickery. Other changes seem less intentional. Perhaps the most striking scene in the film involves Patsey, a slave who is repeatedly raped by her master, Epps, and who as a consequence is jealously and obsessively brutalized by Mistress Epps. In the movie version, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) comes to Northup in the middle of the night and begs him, in vivid horrific detail, to drown her in the swamp and release her from her troubles. (…) in the book, it is Mistress Epps who wants to bribe Northup to drown Patsey. Patsey wants to escape, but not to drown herself. The film seems to have misread the line, attributing the mistress’s desires to Patsey. (…) In short, it seems quite likely that the single most powerful moment in the film was based on a misunderstood antecedent. (…) Often published by abolitionist presses or in explicit support of the abolitionist cause, slave narratives represented themselves as accurate, first-person accounts of life under slavery. Yet, as University of North Carolina professor William Andrews has discussed in To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, the representation of accuracy, and, for that matter, of first-person account, required a good deal of artifice. To single out just the most obvious point, Andrews notes that many slave narratives were told to editors, who wrote down the oral account and prepared them for publication. Andrews concludes that "It would be naïve to accord dictated oral narratives the same discursive status as autobiographies composed and written by the subjects of the stories themselves."  12 Years a Slave is just such an oral account. Though Northup was literate, his autobiography was written by David Wilson, a white lawyer and state legislator from Glens Falls, New York. While the incidents in Northup’s life have been corroborated by legal documents and much research, Andrews points out that the impact of the autobiography—its sense of truth—is actually based in no small part on the fact that it is not told by Northup, but by Wilson, who had already written two books of local history. Because he was experienced, Andrews says, Wilson’s "fictionalizing … does not call attention to itself so much" as other slave narratives, which tend to be steeped in a sentimental tradition "that often discomfits and annoys 20th-century critics." Northup’s autobiography feels less like fiction, in other words, because its writer is so experienced with fiction. Similarly, McQueen’s film feels true because it is so good at manipulating our sense of accuracy. The first sex scene, for example, speaks to our post-Freud, post-sexual-revolution belief that, isolated for 12 years far from home, Northup would be bound to have some sort of sexual encounters, even if (especially if?) he does not discuss them in his autobiography. The difference between book and movie, then, isn’t that one is true and the other false, but rather that the tropes and tactics they use to create a feeling of truth are different. The autobiography, for instance, actually includes many legal documents as appendices. It also features lengthy descriptions of the methods of cotton farming. No doubt this dispassionate, minute accounting of detail was meant to show Northup’s knowledge of the regions where he stayed, and so validate the truth of his account. To modern readers, though, the touristy attention to local customs can make Northup sound more like a traveling reporter than like a man who is himself in bondage. Some anthropological asides are even more jarring; in one case, Northup refers to a slave rebel named Lew Cheney as "a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the generality of his race." That description would sound condescending and prejudiced if a white man wrote it. Which, of course, a white man named David Wilson did. A story about slavery, a real, horrible crime, inevitably involves an appeal to reality—the story has to seem accurate if it is to be accepted as true. But that seeming accuracy requires artifice and fiction—a cool distance in one case, an acknowledgement of sexuality in another. And then, even with the best will in the world, there are bound to be mistakes and discrepancies, as with Mistress Epps’s plea for murder transforming into Patsey’s wish for death. Given the difficulties and contradictions, one might conclude that it would be better to openly acknowledge fiction. From this perspective, Django Unchained, which deliberately treats slavery as genre, or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, which acknowledges the role of the present in shaping the past through a fantasy time-travel narrative, are, more true than 12 Years a Slave or Glory precisely because they do not make a claim to historical accuracy. But refusing to try to recapture the experience and instead deciding to, say, treat slavery as a genre Western, can be presumptuous in its own way as well. The writers of the original slave narratives knew that to end injustice, you must first acknowledge that injustice exists. Accurate stories about slavery—or, more precisely, stories that carried the conviction of accuracy, were vital to the abolitionist cause. And, for that matter, they’re still vital. Outright lies about slavery and its aftermath, from Birth of a Nation to Gone With the Wind, have defaced American cinema for a long time. To go forward more honestly, we need accounts of our past that, like the slave narratives themselves, use accuracy and art in the interest of being more true. That’s what McQueen, Ejiofor, and the rest of the cast and crew are trying to do in 12 Years a Slave. Pointing out the complexity of the task is not meant to belittle their attempt, but to honor it. Noah Berlatsky

Oncle Tom ou les infortunes de la vertu ?

Réalisateur plasticien d’avant garde britannique récemment venu au cinéma avec deux films célébrant le martyre des prisonniers de l’IRA en grève de la faim ("Hunger") et les joies tristes de l’addiction à la pornographie ("Shame"), radicalité et sauvagerie digne des meilleures installations ou vidéos d’avant-garde (masturbation à deux, flagellations esquisement dolorisantes à la Mel Gibson, viol en plan jouissivement subjectif, pendaison lente à souhait),  film tournant rapidement entre morceaux de bravoure et interminables plans séquences  au concours de sévices, adaptation du même titre d’une célèbre histoire d’esclave en fuite (Douze ans d’esclavage, brûlot abolitionniste écrit en fait par un avocat blanc (un certain David Wilson) un an après et avec le même succès que La Case de l’Oncle Tom), infortuné héros passant d’une improbable bourgeoisie à un monde de dégénérés où l’on massacre au moindre caprice des hommes et des femmes qu’il avait alors coûté une petite fortune de faire venir d’Afrique, étiquette de rigueur "inspirée d’une histoire vraie", dérision systématique du christianisme sans lequel il n’y aurait pas eu d’abolition, omerta systématique des fournisseurs africains et arabes de la traite sans parler des razzias en Europe, réalisateur et acteurs d’origine africaine ou habitués des films d’horreur ou de perversion, brève et ultime caution de l’acteur-producteur Brad Pitt en sauveur venu de nulle part, nouvelle présidente noire des oscars …

Alors qu’avec la pluie de récompenses qui, à une semaine d’oscars pour la première fois dirigés par une personne de couleur, continue à pleuvoir sur le chef d’oeuvre absolu sur l’esclavage que nous ont annoncé les critiques, la pression monte sur Hollywood pour consacrer le premier réalisateur noir de l’histoire …

Et qu’un an après après les deux oscars du western spaghetti de l’esclavage de Tarantino (et deux des mêmes acteurs: Pitt et Fassbender), le pauvre "Majordome" n’a toujours pas récolté la moindre nomination

Comment ne pas voir avec l’auteur même de ce véritable concours de sévices de deux heures qu’il va désormais falloir infliger aux enfants de nos écoles …

L’ultime effet de la présidence d’un homme qui, dès avant même sa prise de fonction, avait non seulement déjà donné au monde le prix Nobel de la paix le plus rapide de l’histoire …

Mais réussi à reprendre et amplifier, des  liquidations ciblées à la mise sur écoutes de la planète entière, à peu près l’ensemble des mesures politiques de son prédécesseur honni ?

"12 Years a Slave" : l’esclave se rebiffe

McQueen résume l’esclavage américain à un concours de sévices.

Bruno Icher

Libération

21 janvier 2014

En un peu plus d’un an, le cinéma américain aura donc produit trois films de grande envergure consacrés à ce pan d’histoire toujours incandescent qu’est la monstruosité de l’esclavage : Django Unchained de Quentin Tarantino, Lincoln de Steven Spielberg et, enfin, 12 Years a Slave de Steve McQueen. Un curieux triptyque, hétérogène et discordant, mais dont la proximité tient davantage du symptôme que de la coïncidence, comme pour souligner que la question est loin d’être réglée dans le pays dont Barack Obama est le président depuis cinq ans.

Cible. Cette lacune mémorielle relève, du moins dans la représentation populaire qui en a été faite, de l’évidence. Depuis près d’un siècle, en gros depuis le révisionniste Naissance d’une nation de David Wark Griffith, et même en comptant le très aimable Autant en emporte le vent et l’Esclave libre de Raoul Walsh, le cinéma s’obstine à regarder ailleurs, vouant à l’oubli, voire au déni, cette honte nationale, contrairement au génocide indien, l’autre péché originel de l’Amérique.

La liste est longue des événements et des personnalités dont l’industrie s’est toujours pudiquement détournée, depuis les grandes révoltes d’esclaves en Virginie ou en Louisiane (Nat Turner, Charles Deslondes, Denmark Vesey…) jusqu’aux pionniers de l’abolitionnisme dont Frederick Douglass, premier homme politique noir américain. Steve McQueen a d’ailleurs parfaitement résumé le contexte dans une interview au Guardian : «Hollywood a fait plus de films sur les esclaves romains que sur les esclaves américains.»

C’est donc probablement avec le désir de pulvériser un des derniers tabous du cinéma que le réalisateur britannique s’est lancé dans le projet, mettant tant de force dans ses coups qu’il a pris le risque de manquer sa cible. Il a adapté le livre de Solomon Northup, charpentier et musicien noir de l’Etat de New York, kidnappé et vendu en 1841 par deux escrocs. Miraculeusement sauvé en 1853, l’homme a passé le reste de son existence à raconter le calvaire de ces douze années de captivité dans des plantations de Louisiane où il fut la victime et le témoin de l’atroce condition des esclaves.

Fidèle à ses motifs favoris, le dolorisme et l’incarcération, physique ou mentale (l’agonie de l’activiste irlandais Bobby Sands dans Hunger, l’aliénation au sexe dans Shame), McQueen concentre son propos sur la réalité crue des sévices dont étaient quotidiennement victimes des millions d’individus. Passages à tabac, viols, tortures, assassinats ou travail forcé entraînant la mort, séparation des familles, humiliation permanente sans oublier le maintien systématique dans l’analphabétisme. Le cinéaste joue sur toute la gamme de la révulsion, alternant chocs brutaux (long plan séquence d’une flagellation) et insoutenable immobilisme (scène de pendaison où, tandis que l’homme agonise en se hissant sur les orteils, une normalité écœurante bourdonne autour de lui).

Sadiques.

Toutefois, McQueen a pris le parti de faire de cette addition d’horreurs l’exclusif argument de son réquisitoire. Cette virulence rageuse finit par occulter involontairement une dimension essentielle. L’ignominie de l’esclavage est tout entière contenue dans son caractère institutionnel, dans le fait qu’il répondait à des besoins économiques précis. Le droit des planteurs à disposer des individus à leur guise, pour se remplir les poches ou pour assouvir leurs pires pulsions, en est la conséquence.

Or, représenter les esclavagistes comme des sadiques compulsifs (Michael Fassbender en roue libre) revient à faire le procès de l’anomalie, d’une folie sanguinaire dont cette institution a toléré l’existence. Comme si la dénonciation de la mécanique d’un système abominable ne suffisait pas, et que pour susciter l’émotion – une vertu américaine -, il fallait renoncer à pointer du doigt la source du mal pour n’en montrer que les effets pervers.

Voir aussi:

12 Years a Slave

TF1

05 décembre 2013

22/01/2014

Les États-Unis, quelques années avant la guerre de Sécession. Solomon Northup, jeune homme noir originaire de l’État de New York, est enlevé et vendu comme esclave. Face à la cruauté d’un propriétaire de plantation de coton, Solomon se bat pour rester en vie et garder sa dignité. Douze ans plus tard, il va croiser un abolitionniste canadien et cette rencontre va changer sa vie…

La critique : Puissant mais forcément douteux.

Difficile de trouver plus contradictoire que Django Unchained de Quentin Tarantino et 12 Years A Slave de Steve McQueen : les deux films – dans lesquels figurent d’ailleurs Brad Pitt et Michael Fassbender – revisitent la même histoire sombre (l’esclavagisme) avec une approche si différente qu’ils se révèlent complémentaires. Autrement dit, ici, chez Steve McQueen, on n’est pas venu pour rire. Chose que l’on savait déjà pour avoir vu ses précédents films, Hunger et Shame qui avaient autant à voir avec des spectacles de Florence Foresti que Véronique Sanson avec un groupe de métal allemand.

En effet, le parcours de Solomon Northup, soutenu par l’interprétation émotionnelle de Chiwetel Ejiofor, mari et père de famille riche, vivant dans un état de New York, drogué, kidnappé puis réduit à travailler comme esclave dans des champs de coton en Louisiane, met sens dessus dessous. Comme dans Hunger et Shame, qui parlaient d’oppression et de claustration – l’univers carcéral pour le premier, l’addition sexuelle pour le second -, la mise en scène de Steve McQueen se révèle aussi virtuose que discutable comme lors de ce plan-séquence qui semble durer une vie et qui nous rapproche de la mort. On y voit Solomon pendu à une corde, sur la pointe des pieds, pataugeant dans la boue pour éviter l’asphyxie. McQueen obtient sur la durée un vrai malaise. Tout circule, tout y est montré, dénoncé : le voyeurisme, la passivité, l’indifférence, l’exploitation, l’obscénité, la cruauté ordinaire etc. On est bien loin de la fresque académique, policée. Et, en même temps, il y a un tour de force ostentatoire, une volonté de s’afficher en grand cinéaste rétif aux normes et aux conventions, au-dessus de ce qu’il doit filmer. Steve McQueen avoue dans le dossier de presse : "Je ne voulais pas minimiser ce qui lui est arrivé. Il ne s’agit pas de choquer les gens – cela ne m’intéresse pas -, mais il s’agit de faire preuve de responsabilité face à cette histoire."

McQueen ne cherche pas l’apitoiement, le pleurnichage. Il préfère intimider. C’est exactement ce que Abdellatif Kechiche recherchait avec Vénus Noire, le film qu’il avait réalisé avant La vie d’Adèle et qui, moins linéaire, plus complexe, affichait une radicalité et une sauvagerie encore plus inouïes. Kechiche proposait une expérience infiniment plus forte, plus métaphysique, que celle, plus physique, de McQueen. Comme la Vénus Hottentote de Kechiche, Solomon plante ses yeux dans les nôtres. Le passé regarde le présent, en lambeaux.

Romain LE VERN

12 Years a Slave

Bien des livres et des films, depuis longtemps, ont raconté l’esclavage en Amérique. On sait moins, cependant, ou pas assez, qu’avant même la guerre de Sécession, à la frontière invisible entre Etats abolitionnistes et esclavagistes (fifty-fifty, semble-t-il), des hommes de main, sortes de marchands de sommeil de l’époque, kidnappaient des Blacks, libres citoyens américains, et les vendaient à des propriétaires terriens sans scrupule. Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a réellement existé (1) . Son sort est d’autant plus tragique qu’il se croit, non sans inconscience, à l’abri de l’horreur. Il vit dans l’Etat de New York, s’habille comme les bourgeois blancs qu’il fréquente et savoure, avec femme et enfants, sa renommée naissante de musicien. D’où sa stupéfaction de se retrouver, soudain, victime d’un piège ourdi en Louisiane par deux tristes sires et plongé dans un cauchemar qu’il pensait réservé aux autres. Un corps, il n’est plus que ce corps anonyme sans la moindre parcelle d’âme, balancé d’une plantation l’autre, selon les revers de fortune de ses divers propriétaires. Son calvaire va durer douze ans, de 1841 à 1853…

C’est ce temps immobile que filme le cinéaste, cette lente chute du héros à travers plusieurs cercles de l’enfer. Il observe, surtout, les ravages du mal sur des esprits dits civilisés. L’inconscience des bourreaux le trouble et leurs failles le fascinent. Le film faiblit, d’ailleurs, lorsqu’il s’attarde sur des silhouettes à la psychologie simplette : saint Brad Pitt, archange miraculeux qui libère le héros, ou Paul Dano, jeune démon sans nuances, qui l’enfonce. C’est à son comédien favori, Michael Fassbender, que le cinéaste réserve le rôle le plus soigné, le plus ambigu, le plus maléfique. Après en avoir fait un nouveau Messie (dans Hunger) et un pharisien moderne ( dans Shame), il le métamorphose en nid à complexes, en paratonnerre de frustrations : un patient du Dr Freud avant la lettre. Un être apeuré de ne pas se montrer à la hauteur d’une classe sociale qu’il méprise. Et totalement dominé par des pulsions sexuelles qui le poussent à se punir en châtiant l’objet de ses désirs — une jeune esclave noire qu’il adore et détruit. Il est clair, pour Steve McQueen, que c’est la frustration qui engendre le mal : l’aveuglement sur soi et la haine de l’autre sont indissolublement liés, comme le couteau et la plaie.

Avec ce grand spectacle typiquement hollywoodien (les oscars vont pleuvoir !), le cinéaste réussit l’osmose délicate entre le film commercial et le cinéma d’auteur. Depuis Hunger, par exemple, on sait qu’à l’instar de Theo Angelopoulos ou Andreï Tarkovski il adore les plans fixes démesurément étirés, mais calculés à la seconde près, qui créent une réalité parallèle, plus vraie que la vraie. On en a plusieurs ici, dont celui, totalement incongru dans un film américain, où le héros, lynché, est suspendu à une corde, ses pieds touchant le sol par intermittence. Il attend. Il entend des enfants jouer et rire au loin. La durée même de cette séquence magnifique fait naître la peur. On dirait un suspense à la Hitchcock…

Question sadisme, Steve McQueen est un orfèvre : dans Hunger, on le sentait radieux de détailler, une à une, les plaies sur le corps meurtri de Michael Fassbender. Il ne semble pas mécontent, ici, de filmer un à un les coups de fouet reçus par la bien-aimée du frustré. Mais curieusement, ce pointillisme lui permet, à chaque film, de fuir le réalisme. Son art repose sur l’artifice. Sous sa caméra, le destin de Solomon Northup n’est plus un fait divers, mais une abstraction lyrique. Presque un opéra. — Pierre Murat

(1) Solomon Northup a relaté son aventure dans un livre, Twelve Years a slave.

“Je veux faire des films, pas de l’argent”, Steve McQueen, cinéaste intransigeant

Entretien | Il enflamme Hollywood en réveillant la violence d’histoires vraies enfouies dans les mémoires. Rencontre avec Steve McQueen, réalisateur de “12 Years a slave”.

Télérama

25/01/2014

Propos recueillis par Frédéric Strauss – Télérama n° 3341

Son homonymie avec un acteur célèbre aurait pu lui sembler malencontreuse, ou simplement peu pratique. Mais Steve McQueen ignore superbement la star qui l’a précédé. « Question suivante », répond-il quand on l’invite à nous ­parler de son patronyme. Et quand on s’enquiert de sa famille, originaire de la Grenade : « Question suivante. » On ose demander ce que faisaient ses parents : « Ils travaillaient ! »

Massif, ce cinéaste britannique de 44 ans impressionne aussi par un tempérament étonnamment irascible. L’atmosphère est ­tendue ; la rencontre, dans un hôtel parisien, un mauvais moment à passer… Mais, au fond, qu’importe, puisque la parole malgré tout se livre, aussi réfléchie, généreuse et profonde qu’elle se plaît à être cassante et lapidaire.

L’intransigeance de ce Steve McQueen pas du tout séducteur exprime aussi une attitude envers le cinéma. Il n’y est venu qu’en 2008, alors qu’il était depuis plusieurs années un créateur reconnu dans le domaine des installations vidéo, un artiste d’envergure célébré par le prix Turner en 1999. C’est avec cette autorité qu’il a abordé la réalisation. Montrant d’emblée une maîtrise impressionnante. Et s’attaquant à des sujets ambitieux, chargés de vérité, de souffrance : dans Hunger, la grève de la faim de l’Irlandais Bobby Sands, membre de l’IRA ; dans Shame, l’addiction maladive à la pornographie.

Et aujourd’hui, l’esclavage dans 12 Years a slave, adaptation d’un récit publié aux Etats-Unis en 1853 (et désormais disponible sous le titre Douze Ans d’esclavage, aux éditions Entremonde). Avec ce nouveau film, qui a touché aux Etats-Unis un large public, Steve McQueen laisse sa grande rigueur formelle évoluer vers une forme de cinéma plus classique. Mais il ne relâche en rien la tension de son regard, qui continue à nous faire voir la réalité en face. Avec une dureté salutaire, naturelle chez lui.

Il semble que vous ayez gardé un souvenir assez dur de votre scolarité à Londres : est-ce parce que vous avez été victime d’attitudes racistes ?

Pas d’attaques personnelles, non. Mais les élèves étaient encore prisonniers de leur classe sociale. Quand je suis ­retourné dans mon lycée, pour une ­remise de prix, il y a onze ans, le directeur a fait un discours disant que, dans les années 80, à l’époque où j’y étais, ce lycée était institutionnellement raciste, car les seuls élèves dont on se préoccupait vraiment étaient ceux qui, venant de milieux favorisés, avaient des chances d’aller à Cambridge. Les élèves noirs ou de milieux défavorisés ne comptaient pas. C’était quelque chose que je savais, mais de l’entendre dit à voix haute et très officiellement, c’était à la fois étrange et très intéressant.

Quand avez-vous compris que vous pourriez trouver votre voie dans l’expression visuelle ?

Depuis le tout premier jour ! J’ai toujours dessiné, c’était dans mes gènes. Il n’y a pas eu de révélation me faisant soudain comprendre que j’étais un artiste. J’ai simplement fait ce que j’aimais, toujours. Après le lycée, je suis entré dans une école d’art, j’ai passé une année pendant laquelle tout le monde était libre d’imaginer devenir photographe, graphiste, peintre… J’ai choisi les beaux-arts. Je voulais peindre. Mais du jour où j’ai mis la main sur une caméra, tout a changé. Je n’ai plus pensé qu’à faire des films, faire de l’art avec le langage du cinéma.

“Le cinéma, c’est le pouvoir du récit, comme le roman.”

Vous avez tourné trois films de cinéma après avoir réalisé, quinze années durant, des films d’art et des installations vidéo. Votre regard change-t-il d’une discipline à l’autre ?

Non, je suis un artiste, c’est tout. La différence, c’est que l’art est abstrait, comme la poésie, qui se sert du langage d’une manière fragmentée. Le cinéma, c’est le pouvoir du récit, comme le roman. On utilise donc les mêmes mots, qu’on fasse des films d’art ou des films commerciaux, mais on utilise ces mots différemment. Les écrivains qui sont aussi des poètes ont la même expérience que moi.

Dans une de vos créations les plus connues, Charlotte (2004), vous filmez en gros plan l’œil de Charlotte Rampling et votre doigt qui le touche. Est-ce une volonté de déranger, justement, le regard ?

Mon envie n’était pas de déranger. Je n’avais jamais rencontré Charlotte Rampling. Je l’avais bien sûr vue au ­cinéma et dans les magazines, mais toujours dans des images. Ce qui m’intéressait, c’était d’accéder à son visage directement, comme si je retraversais à l’envers toutes les images d’elle, pour arriver à sa présence réelle. Quand j’ai touché son œil, j’ai eu une décharge électrique, et Charlotte aussi. C’était très étrange. La peau autour de l’œil de Charlotte était lourde. C’était comme un bijou dont la beauté se cachait sous un voile.

Tous vos films de cinéma racontent des expériences humaines extrêmes. Il y a quand même là une envie de défi ?

Oui et non. Pour que je tourne un film de cinéma, et que j’accepte donc tous les sacrifices que ça représente, il me faut une raison très forte. Par exemple, l’histoire de Bobby Sands et des grévistes de la faim, que je racontais dans Hunger. Une histoire forte parce qu’elle n’avait jamais été racontée. Dix hommes étaient morts dans une prison britannique après avoir cessé de s’alimenter en signe de protestation, et tout le monde faisait comme si ça n’avait jamais existé. Voilà pourquoi il fallait faire ce film. Ça a peut-être quelque chose d’un défi, mais il s’agit d’abord pour moi d’exprimer ce qui fait surgir des émotions violentes.

Vos films donnent le sentiment que vous montrez des choses jusque-là invisibles…

Effectivement. Quand Hunger est sorti, les Anglais ont reconnu pour la première fois les atrocités commises dans la prison de Maze, en Irlande du Nord. Le film a permis de libérer une parole, des gens ont admis ce qu’ils avaient toujours refusé de reconnaître. La même chose se produit avec 12 Years a slave, qui ouvre une discussion sur l’esclavage qui n’avait jamais eu lieu. C’est comme une pierre qu’on jette à la surface d’un lac et qui déclenche un effet de vague.

“Je veux raconter les histoires qu’on cache sous le tapis.”

Le pouvoir du cinéma est de nous obliger à voir ?

Le pouvoir du cinéma est énorme. Mais je ne suis pas engagé dans une croisade. Je suis un cinéaste, un conteur d’histoires. Je participe à l’industrie du divertissement. Avec la volonté de raconter les histoires qu’on cache sous le tapis.

Montrer l’esclavage, c’est faire apparaître ce qui était caché ?

Je n’avais vu aucun film montrant vraiment la réalité de l’esclavage, qui a pourtant duré quatre cents ans. La Seconde Guerre mondiale n’a duré que cinq ans, et les films sur cette guerre et sur l’Holocauste sont devenus un genre à part entière, et des classiques du cinéma. Mais des films sur l’esclavage, il y en a eu si peu, à peine une vingtaine. Les gens ont toujours eu peur de cette période de l’Histoire, et c’est compréhensible car c’était horrible, violent, infâme. Ça ne peut qu’embarrasser tout le monde, mais il faut pourtant regarder les choses en face, montrer ce passé pour comprendre notre présent et comprendre aussi, possiblement, notre avenir.

Michael Fassbender et Chiwetel Ejiofor, dans le dernier film

Michael Fassbender et Chiwetel Ejiofor, dans le dernier film du Britannique, 12 Years a slave. © DR

Comment en êtes-vous venu à raconter l’histoire vraie que retrace 12 Years a slave ?

Je voulais parler d’un Noir américain qui vivait libre dans le Nord des Etats-Unis et était arraché à la vie normale qu’il menait pour être réduit à l’état d’esclave, dans le Sud. Un homme auquel tout le monde pouvait s’identifier. Mon idée n’était pas de raconter le destin d’un Noir venu d’Afrique, car cela avait été fait dans la série télé Racines, en 1977. Le scénario n’était pas facile à développer.

Ma femme, Bianca Stigter, qui est historienne, a commencé des recherches et a découvert ce livre, 12 Years a slave, de Solomon Northup. Elle me l’a apporté en me disant :« Je crois que j’ai trouvé ce que tu veux. » C’était vraiment un euphémisme, car chaque page de ce livre racontait exactement ce que j’avais voulu faire sans y parvenir. Les détails donnés, le sentiment d’un récit lyrique, tout était à couper le souffle. Quand j’ai terminé cette lecture, je m’en suis voulu de n’avoir pas eu connaissance de l’existence d’un tel livre. Et puis j’ai réalisé que personne, autour de moi, ne le connaissait.

Un téléfilm adapté du même livre avait été diffusé en 1984 par la télé américaine, mais il a été oublié, aussi…

Sans même s’arrêter à ce téléfilm de Gordon Parks, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, on doit souligner que le livre a été publié il y a cent soixante ans. Et pendant tout ce temps, il est resté dans l’ombre. Pourquoi est-ce que je connais Anne Frank et pas Solomon Northup ? Pour moi, ce livre était l’équivalent, dans l’histoire de l’Amérique, du Journal d’Anne Frank.

“L’esclavage était une industrie mondiale qui dépassait largement les Etats-Unis.”

Il fallait donc un cinéaste extérieur aux Etats-Unis pour dire toute l’importance de ce livre ?

Je ne me considère pas comme quelqu’un d’extérieur aux Etats-Unis. Mes parents sont venus des Antilles, et je fais partie de cette diaspora. La seule différence entre moi et des Noirs américains, c’est que leurs ancêtres ont pris le chemin qui partait à droite et les miens, celui qui partait à gauche. La mère de Malcom X venait de la Grenade, où mes parents sont nés. Colin Powell, Sidney Poitier, Marcus Garvey, Harry Belafonte, tous ces gens-là sont issus de familles des Antilles. L’esclavage était une industrie mondiale qui dépassait largement les Etats-Unis.

Votre film montre un monde où les sentiments n’ont plus leur place : tout est haine ou indifférence, endurcissement…

Non, il y a des sentiments très profonds dans ce film ! Bien sûr, pour survivre, Solomon doit mettre ses sentiments de côté. Mais il ne peut pas devenir aussi inhumain que le monde où il se retrouve. S’endurcir totalement lui est impossible. Il reste un être humain. Les forces de l’esprit lui permettent de tenir. C’était, de toute façon, le seul choix qui restait aux esclaves, mes ancêtres : décider de ne pas mourir. Subir des ­situations inhumaines, endurer la souffrance, mais vivre. Tenir bon, pour l’amour de leurs enfants.

Une scène très impressionnante montre Solomon pendu, ses pieds touchant à peine le sol, et les autres esclaves obligés de l’ignorer…

S’ils décident de l’aider, ils seront pendus à côté de lui. Avec cette scène, je voulais montrer l’esclavage comme une torture physique et mentale. Je me souviens d’avoir tourné un film dans une mine en Afrique du Sud et res­senti ce climat de terreur : les gens faisaient comme s’ils ne nous voyaient pas, ils avaient été habitués à obéir à une loi. C’est quelque chose qui a existé dans tous les pays où la terreur a régné, dans les régimes fascistes, dans la France occupée. Et ça existe encore.

Vous semblez avoir voulu éviter le sentimentalisme d’un certain cinéma américain…

Oui, ce qui m’intéresse, c’est la réalité, montrer ce qu’elle était et ne pas utiliser cette reconstitution à une autre fin. Soit on fait vraiment un film sur l’esclavage, soit on ne fait rien. Je ne voulais pas d’une vision édulcorée. Pourtant, l’histoire semble un conte. Un conte très sombre qu’auraient pu écrire les frères Grimm. Solomon est jeté dans un monde tellement terrible que ça ne semble pas réel. Quand j’ai lu le livre, je me disais : est-ce de la science-fiction ? Cela a-t-il bel et bien eu lieu ?

Votre film arrive après Le Majordome et d’autres films signés par des cinéastes noirs abordant la question des discriminations raciales. Le signe d’un vrai changement ?

Absolument, quelque chose s’est produit. Je ne sais pas combien de temps cela durera. On ne peut mésestimer, dans ce phénomène, le rôle du président Obama. Avec ce président noir, une autre perspective est apparue, le droit à une expression nouvelle a été donné. Ceux qui ne voulaient pas soutenir ce genre de projets le font. Et peut-être même que certains se disent que ces histoires ont aujourd’hui des atouts commerciaux. Il y a encore beaucoup de films à faire sur l’esclavage. Non pas que ce soit une obligation morale. Mais il s’agit d’histoires très prenantes, très fortes, voilà pourquoi il faut les raconter. Parce que les gens voudront ­aller au cinéma pour voir quelque chose de jamais vu.

Le retentissement de 12 Years a slave aux Etats-Unis vous ouvre les portes de Hollywood : êtes-vous intéressé par cette opportunité ?

Les gens pensent qu’il n’y a que cette voie, Hollywood. C’est une illusion. Ma motivation n’est pas là. Je veux seulement faire les meilleurs films possibles. A Hollywood ou ailleurs. De toute façon, je ne sais pas ce que c’est, Hollywood. J’y suis peu allé. J’y ai rencontré des gens très bien, curieusement. Mais ça reste loin de moi, car je n’ai jamais mêlé l’art au monde des affaires. Sinon, je porterais des chemises à rayures avec des bretelles, je travaillerais à Wall Street ou à la City de Londres. Mais l’argent est la dernière chose à laquelle je pense. Le fait que 12 Years a slave soit devenu un tel succès est une surprise. Je comprends que ça intéresse beaucoup de gens, qui me voient comme un cinéaste capable de faire un succès au box-office. Mais je veux faire des films, pas de l’argent.

Steve McQueen en quelques dates

1969 Naissance à Londres

1993 Bear, premier film d’art qui le fait connaître.

2003 Exposition au musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.

2008 Hunger, premier film de cinéma, Caméra d’or au festival de Cannes.

2013 Grande rétrospective de ses créations d’art contemporain au Schaulager de Bâle.

2014 12 Years a slave dans la course aux oscars.

12 years a slave

Ecran large

Simon Riaux

22 nov. 2013

Un blanc au cou tanné par le soleil explique à une douzaine d’esclaves comment récolter la canne à sucre. Un homme ingère mécaniquement un repas frugal, avant de tenter une expérience calligraphique à l’aide de jus de mûres. Dans l’obscurité du cabanon où lui et ses semblables s’entassent pour dormir, une compagne d’infortune essaie de lui soutirer une affection tarie depuis longtemps. Les images s’entrechoquent, s’affrontent et s’annulent, difficile d’en retirer un sens, une temporalité, leur unité se dérobe à nos yeux. En quelques plans et moins de cinq minutes, Steve McQueen se casse volontairement les dents sur un impossible défi : retranscrire la réalité de l’esclavage. Puisque nous ne pouvons appréhender les tenants et aboutissants de cette condition, le réalisateur effectue un retour en arrière pour faire sien le dispositif du texte autobiographique dont s’inspire 12 Years a slave, soit l’histoire d’un homme libre, parfaitement étranger au concept de servitude, transformé du jour au lendemain en simple objet amputé de sa moindre parcelle d’humanité.

Ce principe, très loin de n’être qu’un simple dispositif articulant le récit, s’avère le moteur essentiel de son sens. Car le caractère et la personnalité de Solomon Northup permettent au spectateur de s’identifier tout à fait à cet individu libre, heureux, qui a tout fait pour préserver son quotidien des turpitudes de l’époque. Il y est parvenu et autorise le public, quelque soit ses connaissances du sujet abordé, son rapport à l’histoire ou à son propre passé d’embarquer à ses côtés. Steve McQueen et son œuvre se situent ainsi aux antipodes d’un Majordome désireux de flatter le public, de lui infliger une caresse de cathéchèse qui n’a d’universelle que le nom.

Le film n’en deviendra que plus terrible et impitoyable. Nous ne sommes pas ici face à un simple drame historique, ni même à une tragédie brillamment construite et exécutée. Ce qui se joue sous nos yeux est la déconstruction systématique du rêve américain. Ce rêve que Solomon vit sans en être tout à fait conscient, dont toutes les figures se retrouveront brisées à ses pieds. D’abord convaincu que le piège dans lequel il est tombé ne se refermera pas tout à fait sur lui, il se persuadera ensuite que son instruction pourra le prémunir des pires traitements, il lui faudra enfin accepter que son courage, son humanité comme sa persévérance ne pourront rien contre ceux qui le possèdent désormais. Cet itinéraire d’une noirceur absolue, le métrage le balise de séquences simultanément splendides et implacables, à l’image de cet homme tout juste lynché puis pendu, dont les orteils s’étirent pour lui offrir un sursis de vie, alors qu’autour de lui celle de la plantation se déroule imperturbable. On pense bien évidemment au Strange Fruit de Billie Holliday, tétanisé par une horreur cristalline, dont l’acuité pure nous saisit à la gorge.

Mais McQueen, non content de parsemer son film de nombreux morceaux de bravoure et autres plans séquences, n’oublie jamais qu’il traite de personnages avant de manier concepts et figures mythologiques. À la manière de Hunger ou Shame, ce sont l’enfermement et les rapports de domination qui innervent le scénario, les relations éminemment perverses de déprédation qui motivent cette étude d’une période aussi ténébreuse que mal connue. Servi par des acteurs magnétiques, baignés dans la lumière crue et irréelle de Louisiane, le récit explore pour mieux les révéler les tréfonds d’un mal sans fin, dont on ne se relève pas. Car, et c’est là le plus terrible message délivré par 12 Years a slave, on ne sort pas de l’esclavage. Si Solomon sera ultimement sauvé des griffes de l’ogre Epps (impérial Fassbender), il ne retrouvera jamais sa fierté d’homme ou sa dignité de citoyen. En témoigne la dernière réplique du personnage, réduit à s’excuser d’être une victime intégrale. La phagotrophie de l’homme par l’homme est une plaie qui ne se referme pas, une indignité qui ne connaît pas l’oubli. Point de commémoration ou de réconciliation chez McQueen, mais le dévoilement impudique d’une cicatrice véritable.

Can’t Trust It

Armond White

City arts

Oct 16, 2013

12 Years a Slave uses sadistic art to patronize history

Brutality, violence and misery get confused with history in 12 Years a Slave, British director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the 1853 American slave narrative by Solomon Northup, who claims that in 1841, away from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., he was kidnapped and taken South where he was sold into hellish servitude and dehumanizing cruelty.

12-years-a-slave-filmFor McQueen, cruelty is the juicy-arty part; it continues the filmmaker’s interest in sado-masochistic display, highlighted in his previous features Hunger and Shame. Brutality is McQueen’s forte. As with his fine-arts background, McQueen’s films resemble museum installations: the stories are always abstracted into a series of shocking, unsettling events. With Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), McQueen chronicles the conscious sufferance of unrelenting physical and psychological pain. A methodically measured narrative slowly advances through Northup’s years of captivity, showcasing various injustices that drive home the terrors Black Africans experienced in the U.S. during what’s been called “the peculiar institution.”

Depicting slavery as a horror show, McQueen has made the most unpleasant American movie since William Friedkin’s1973 The Exorcist. That’s right, 12 Years a Slave belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede and the Saw franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend “a conversation about race.” The only conversation this film inspires would contain howls of discomfort.

For commercial distributor Fox Searchlight, 12 Years a Slave appears at an opportune moment when film culture–five years into the Obama administration–indulges stories about Black victimization such as Precious, The Help, The Butler, Fruitvale Station and Blue Caprice. (What promoter Harvey Weinstein has called “The Obama Effect.”) This is not part of social or historical enlightenment–the too-knowing race-hustlers behind 12 Years a Slave, screenwriter John Ridley and historical advisor Henry Louis Gates, are not above profiting from the misfortunes of African-American history as part of their own career advancement.

But McQueen is a different, apolitical, art-minded animal. The sociological aspects of 12 Years a Slave have as little significance for him as the political issues behind IRA prisoner Bobby Sands’ hunger strike amidst prison brutality visualized in Hunger, or the pervy tour of urban “sexual addiction” in Shame. McQueen takes on the slave system’s depravity as proof of human depravity. This is less a drama than an inhumane analysis–like the cross-sectional cut-up of a horse in Damien Hirst’s infamous 1996 museum installation “Some Comfort Gained From the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything.”

hirst some comfort gained

Because 12 Years of Slave is such a repugnant experience, a sensible viewer might be reasonably suspicious about many of the atrocities shown–or at least scoff at the one-sided masochism: Northup talks about survival but he has no spiritual resource or political drive–the means typically revealed when slave narratives are usually recounted. From Mandingo and Roots to Sankofa, Amistad, Nightjohn and Beloved, the capacity for spiritual sustenance, inherited from the legacy of slavery and survival, was essential (as with Baby Sugg’s sermon-in-the-woods in Beloved and John Quincy Adams and Cinque’s reference to ancestors in Amistad) in order to verify and make bearable the otherwise dehumanizing tales.

It proves the ahistorical ignorance of this era that 12 Years a Slave’s constant misery is excused as an acceptable version of the slave experience. McQueen, Ridley and Gates’ cast of existential victims won’t do. Northup-renamed-Platt and especially the weeping mother Liza (Adepero Oduye) and multiply-abused Patsey (Lupita Nyong‘o), are human whipping posts–beaten, humiliated, raped for our delectation just like Hirst’s cut-up equine. Hirst knew his culture: Some will no doubt take comfort from McQueen’s inherently warped, dishonest, insensitive fiction.

These tortures might satisfy the resentment some Black people feel about slave stories (“It makes me angry”), further aggravating their sense of helplessness, grievance–and martyrdom. It’s the flipside of the aberrant warmth some Blacks claim in response to the superficial uplift of The Help and The Butler. And the perversion continues among those whites and non-Blacks who need a shock fest like 12 Years a Slave to rouse them from complacency with American racism and American history. But, as with The Exorcist, there is no victory in filmmaking this merciless. The fact that McQueen’s harshness was trending among Festivalgoers (in Toronto, Telluride and New York) suggests that denial still obscures the history of slavery: Northup’s travail merely makes it possible for some viewers to feel good about feeling bad (as wags complained about Spielberg’s Schindler’s List as an “official” Holocaust movie–which very few people wanted to see twice). McQueen’s fraudulence further accustoms moviegoers to violence and brutality.

The very artsiness of 12 Years a Slave is part of its offense. The clear, classical imagery embarrasses Quentin Tarantino’s attempt at visual poetry in Django Unchained yet this “clarity” (like Hans Zimmer’s effective percussion score) is ultimately depressing. McQueen uses that art staple “duration” to prolong North’s lynching on tiptoe and later, in endless, tearful anticipation; emphasis on a hot furnace and roiling waves adds nature’s discomfort; an ugly close-up of a cotton worm symbolizes drudgery; a slave chant (“Run, Nigger, Run,”) contrasts ineffectual Bible-reading; and a shot of North’s handwritten plea burns to embers. But good art doesn’t work this way. Art elates and edifies–one might even prefer Q.T.’s jokey ridiculousness in Django Unchained, a different kind of sadism.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in AmistadMcQueen’s art-world background recalls Peter Greenaway’s high-mindedness; he’s incapable of Q.T.’s stupid showmanship. (He may simply be blind to American ambivalence about the slave era and might do better focusing on the crimes of British imperialism.) Instead, every character here drags us into assorted sick melancholies–as Northup/Platt, Ejiofor’s sensitive manner makes a lousy protagonist; the benevolent intelligence that worked so well for him as the translator in Amistad is too passive here; he succumbs to fate, anguish and torment according to McQueen’s pre-ordained pessimism. Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps, a twisted slaveholder (“a nigger-breaker”) isn’t a sexy selfish lover as Lee Daniels flirtatiously showed in The Butler; Epps perverts love in his nasty miscegenation with Patsey (whose name should be Pathos).

And Alfre Woodard as a self-aware Black plantation mistress rapidly sinks into unrescuable psychosis. Ironically, Woodard’s performance is weird comic relief–a neurotic tribute to Butterfly McQueen’s frivolous Hollywood inanity but from a no-fun perspective. By denying Woodard a second appearance, director McQueen proves his insensitivity. He avoids any hopefulness, preferring to emphasize scenes devoted to annihilating Nyong’o’s body and soul. Patsey’s completely unfathomable longing for death is just art-world cynicism. McQueen’s “sympathy” lacks appropriate disgust and outrage but basks in repulsion and pity–including close-up wounds and oblivion. Patsey’s pathetic corner-of-the-screen farewell faint is a nihilistic trope. Nothing in The Exorcist was more flagrantly sadistic.

***

Some of the most racist people I know are bowled over by this movie. They may have forgotten Roots, never seen Sankofa or Nightjohn, disliked Amistad, dismissed Beloved and even decried the violence in The Passion of the Christ, yet 12 Years a Slave lets them congratulate themselves for “being aghast at slavery.” This film has become a new, easy reproof to Holocaust deniers. But remember how in Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It,” pop culture’s most magnificent account of the Middle Passage, Chuck D warned against the appropriation of historical catastrophe for self-aggrandizement: “The Holocaust /I’m talkin’ ‘bout the one still goin’ on!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am9BqZ6eA5c

The egregious inhumanity of 12 Years a Slave (featuring the most mawkish and meaningless fade-out in recent Hollywood history) only serves to perpetuate Hollywood’s disenfranchisement of Black people’s humanity. Brad Pitt, one of the film’s producers, appears in a small role as a helpful pacifist—as if to save face with his real-life multicultural adopted family. But Pitt’s good intentions (his character promises “There will be a reckoning”) contradict McQueen, Ridley and Gates’ self-serving motives. The finite numeral in the title of 12 Years a Slave compliments the fallacy that we look back from a post-racial age, that all is in ascent. But 12 Years a Slave is ultimate proof that Hollywood’s respect for Black humanity is in absurd, patronizing, Oscar-winning decline.

Steve McQueen’s post-racial art games and taste for cruelty play into cultural chaos. The story in 12 Years a Slave didn’t need to be filmed this way and I wish I never saw it.

7 Films About Slavery

Screening Slavery

Louis Proyect

Counterpunch

December 20-22, 2013

In a podcast discussion between veteran film critic Armond White and two younger film journalists focused on their differences over “12 Years a Slave” (White, an African-American with a contrarian bent hated it), White argued in favor of benchmarks. How could the two other discussants rave about Steve McQueen’s film without knowing what preceded it? That was all the motivation I needed to see the two films White deemed superior to McQueen’s—“Beloved” and “Amistad”—as well as other films about slavery that I had not seen before, or in the case of Gillo Pontecorvo’s “Queimada” and Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Sansho the Bailiff” films I had not seen in many years. This survey is not meant as a definitive guide to all films about the “peculiar institution” but only ones that are most familiar. Even if I characterize a film as poorly made, I still recommend a look at all of them since as a body of work they shed light on the complex interaction of art and politics, a topic presumably of some interest to CounterPunch readers.

“Django Unchained”

Since I walked out of Tarantino’s film after twenty minutes at a press screening last year, I only decided to watch it in its entirety to complete this survey. As is the case with “12 Years a Slave”, which was voted best film of 2013 by my colleagues in New York Film Critics Online, Tarantino’s film was considered a Major Statement about slavery a year earlier.

As I sat through the first twenty minutes last year, I found myself growing increasingly uneasy with the frequency of the word “nigger”. Yes, I understood that the Old South was full of racists but I could not help but feel that it was just Tarantino up to his old tricks of using the word in a kind of “bad boy” gesture to ramp up his mostly young, white, and male audience especially when the word was used by white characters, including ones played by Tarantino himself. This year I could not help but be reminded of Miami Dolphins Richie Incognito’s bullying messages to teammate Jonathan Martin.

I say this as someone who has enjoyed Tarantino’s past work, with their trademark mash-up of pop culture and ultra-violence. This time around the jokes seemed stale and the violence gratuitous. For example, there’s a scene in which a posse of racists led by plantation owner Don Johnson advance on Django and his fellow bounty-hunter played by Christoph Waltz. The posse is wearing KKK-type hoods for reasons not exactly clear to me. Why would there be a need in a Slavocracy to conceal your identity when lynchings took place in broad daylight, often administered by the cops? Apparently the hoods were a comic prop for Jonah Hill, who in a cameo role complained about not being able to see properly through the eyeholes. This Mel Brooks type shtick went on for what seemed an eternity. If I had been one of Tarantino’s trusted advisers, I would have told him that it was bad enough to use such a lame joke and even worse to keep it going so long. But when you have generated millions of dollars for Harvey Weinstein, nobody is in such a position. What Tarantino wants, Tarantino gets.

Having sat through the entire film this go-round, I could devote thousands of words to what was wrong but will just offer just one brief observation. Samuel Jackson played a “house Negro”, who as Malcolm X used to put it “loved the master more than they loved themselves.” What Tarantino has done is transform this into “hating Black people more than he hates himself”. As Stephen, Leonard DiCaprio’s servant, Jackson demonstrates a sadistic pleasure in seeing “niggers” beaten and killed. Is there any evidence from the history of slave society that any Black servant ever descended into such a degraded and psychopathic state? Tarantino’s excuse, of course, is that he is not making history—only a movie. I could buy this if the movie was wittier and more quickly paced. At 165 minutes, it is sixty minutes too long. But as a Major Statement on slavery, it is not.

“12 Years a Slave”

Despite the perception that Steve McQueen was the first to make a film based on his “discovery” of a neglected memoir by the main character, there was an earlier version made by Gordon Parks for PBS American Playhouse in 1985 titled “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” that can be seen on Amazon.com. Parks took greater liberties with Solomon Northup’s memoir than McQueen but essentially they tell the same story.

Parks is best known for “Shaft”, the 1971 “blaxploitation” classic. His version of Solomon Northup is somewhat evocative of the genre since his hero is heavily muscled and equal to any man, Black or white, in a fist fight. Adding his own concerns to the memoir, Parks depicts Northup as the object of resentment from other slaves for his literacy, vocabulary, and generally sounding like a white man. They want to drag him down to their level, something he resists.

McQueen takes similar liberties, transforming Harriet Shaw, the Black wife of a cruel plantation owner, into someone with snarling contempt for her own people in the absence of any such evidence in Northup’s memoir.

As is the case with “Django Unchained”, McQueen’s film is a vehicle for his preoccupations. With Tarantino, these primarily revolve around revenge, a theme common to so many of the Hong Kong gangster or samurai movies that he has absorbed. For McQueen, the chief interest is in depicting pain with some of the most dramatic scenes involving whippings and other forms of punishment.

I was expecting the worst after seeing McQueen’s “Hunger”, a film about the Provo IRA hunger strike led by Bobby Sands that was more about bedsores and beatings than politics. Thankfully, the latest film is a lot more restrained than I had expected but still mostly focused on the physical torments of being a slave. I found myself wondering if the casting of Sarah Paulson as the sadistic wife of a sadistic plantation owner was deliberate since she is part of the company of actors featured on “American Horror Story”, the AMC cable TV show that pushes the envelope in terms of graphic scenes of torture, dismemberment, etc. This season Paulson is playing a witch, as part of a series on Black witches taking revenge on their white witch enemies who had tormented them during slavery. I half expected Paulson’s character to stick a pin in a Solomon Northup voodoo doll.

While one cannot gainsay the importance of Solomon Northup’s memoir that was used by the abolitionist movement in the same way that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was, I have to wonder whether McQueen’s film was hampered by a story that was essentially one-dimensional. If you take the opportunity to read “12 Years a Slave” , you will be struck by the underdeveloped relationships between Northup and other characters. Both Parks and McQueen take liberties with the memoir to flesh out the film with such relationships but there is still something missing. In the memoir and in the films, there is never any sense of the emotional pain of being separated from your family—something that cuts far deeper than a whip. Northup comes across as someone completely outraged by the injustice of being kidnapped and sold into slavery and little else. Who can blame him? But much more is needed to create the kind of drama found in “Sansho the Bailiff” that is discussed later.

“Beloved”

Just 8 minutes short of three hours, this Jonathan Demme film based on a Toni Morrison novel is as overextended and self-indulgent as “Django Unchained” but much worse. It was produced by Oprah Winfrey and features her in the role of Sethe, a former slave living in the outskirts of Cincinnati. In the opening scene, household utensils are hurled about by poltergeists in a manner now familiar from films like…like “Poltergeist” actually.

Not long afterwards Paul D. (Danny Glover) shows up to save the day. As a former slave from the same plantation as Sethe, he is looking for work and to rekindle a relationship with her. It helps that he is able to quell the poltergeists, the answer to a haunted woman’s dreams.

But that’s not the end of Sethe’s woes. About an hour into the film, Sethe and Paul D. return home to discover a young woman has materialized on their front lawn out of nowhere. Essentially she takes over from the poltergeists creating a strange bond with Sethe based on a kind of craving for attention so extreme that Sethe’s teenaged daughter Denver is tempted to run away, just as her two younger brothers did after the poltergeist intervention of the opening scene.

Eventually we discover that Beloved, the name of the mysterious young woman, is a supernatural presence spawned by a tragic event that took place on the plantation Sethe fled. Although the screenwriter and the director did not intend it as such, I found Beloved so weird that it was hard for me to get deeper into the troubled relationship between Sethe and her new quasi-adopted daughter.

Perhaps that’s a function of a misbegotten adaptation of Morrison’s novel but just as likely it is my reaction to a heavy dose of magical realism that suffuses the novel and the film. As anybody who has read my critique of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” understands, magical realism makes me break out in hives even when it is the work of Nobelists like Toni Morrison or Gabriel García Márquez.

The overripe aesthetics, however, cannot compensate for what is essentially the same fare as “12 Years a Slave”, namely a horror show about beatings, degradation, and racism. Unlike “Django Unchained” and “12 Years a Slave”, “Beloved” was not hailed as a great film when it came out. Some critics viewed it as a sign of Jonathan Demme’s decline; others saw it as the result of Oprah Winfrey’s vanity. With such an enormous emotional and financial commitment to the film, Winfrey underwent a major bout of depression when it bombed at the box office and in the press. People like Jeff St. Clair, whose film savvy I hold in high regard, are fans of “Beloved”. That’s reason enough to give it a shot on Amazon.com. I can’t imagine myself watching it again, however.

“Amistad”

If you are looking for evidence that Stephen Spielberg is one of the few genuine auteurs on the scene today (a term coined by François Truffaut to describe how certain directors shape their films according to a unique creative vision), there’s no better place to look than this 1997 film based on an historical event, the slave revolt of 1839 that led to a historic trial with a happy ending.

The slaves function pretty much as ET did, strange creatures only wishing to go home while John Quincy Adams, the ex-president who argued their case before the Supreme Court, is a kind of prequel to Abraham Lincoln—an enlightened white politician who frees the slaves. What’s missing, however, is the viewpoint of the slaves. Unlike ET, they are capable of seeing the world just like us. But David Franzoni’s script treats them as exotic objects, all the more unknowable through their use of a native language that frequently goes un-subtitled. This is all the more egregious in the opening scene of the film when they commandeer the ship, murdering the entire crew except for the captain and his mate who are ordered to sail them back to Africa. In this scene, not a single word comes out of the slaves’ mouths except at the maximum volume and accompanied by grimacing of the sort seen on the faces of arch-villains in the silent movies of the 1920s. One imagines Spielberg directing his Black actors, “Louder…and arch your eyebrows higher”. I suspect that Paul Greenglass, the director of “Captain Phillips”, must have studied the film carefully in order to develop an approach to his Somali pirate characters.

“Amistad” is basically courtroom drama with Matthew McConaughey as the defense attorney (upon appeal, John Quincy Adams played by Anthony Hopkins takes over.) He argues on strictly legalistic grounds that the slaves were taken from Sierra Leone, a colony of Great Britain that had declared slavery illegal. It has all the dramatic intensity of the debate in the House of Representatives that occupied the final hour of “Lincoln”. If that is your cup of tea, the film is worth watching.

“Sansho the Bailiff”

Despite the fact that this film took place under feudalism, the major characters were slaves rather than peasants paying tribute of the sort dramatized in “The Seven Samurai” and other classics. Furthermore, even if they were Japanese, they had much in common with Solomon Northup insofar as they were free people kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The film was made by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1954 and is regarded as one of the greatest ever made in Japan. I would include it in my list of the ten greatest ever made.

After a feudal governor is banished to a far-off province because of his too generous treatment of the serfs, his wife Tamaki, his young son Zushio, and Zushio’s younger sister Anju proceed on foot to the distant home of a family relative. On their way, they are delivered by a supposedly well-meaning older woman into the arms of slavers who sell the two children to Sansho the Bailiff and the mother to a remote brothel on an island. They were victims just as was Solomon Northup who went to Washington, DC to play his fiddle for good wages at a circus but ended up on the auction block.

Unlike “12 Years a Slave”, the relationships between brother and sister are extremely well-developed. That, of course, is the license afforded by fiction. You are not bounded by the need to be accurate. Imagination rules. There’s a scene that mirrors the one in McQueen’s film in which Northup is forced to whip Patsey for a trivial offense. In “Sansho the Bailiff”, Zushio is ordered to brand the forehead of a seventy-year old slave who tried to run away. Unlike Northup, he has become so hardened by the punishment meted out to him by Sansho’s thugs that he follows this order unflinchingly. Afterwards Anju cries out to him that he has forsaken the values that their father taught them: “Without mercy, man is not a human being.”

Throughout their ordeal, brother and sister never forget their mother. They (and we) pine for their reunion. Eventually Zushio escapes Sansho’s compound, and makes his way to a feudal lord who felt remorse over his father’s treatment, so much so that he promotes him governor over Sansho as repentance. Zushio’s first act is to free all the slaves, even if this means violating feudal laws and resigning from his post.

Apart from the human drama, Mizoguchi was a great visual poet who made the Japanese countryside his greatest protagonist alongside the enslaved children and their long-lost mother. Although I am not that impressed with Anthony Lane’s film reviews in the New Yorker magazine, I am happy to repeat his words about “Sansho the Bailiff” as reported in Wikipedia: “I have seen Sansho only once, a decade ago, emerging from the cinema a broken man but calm in my conviction that I had never seen anything better; I have not dared watch it again, reluctant to ruin the spell, but also because the human heart was not designed to weather such an ordeal.”

“Queimada”

That’s the title of the 1969 Italian film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, best known for “Battle of Algiers”, that can now be seen for free on Youtube. The English version is titled “Burn!” and though unfortunately missing about 20 minutes from the uncut version still fairly serviceable.

There is probably no other film that conveys the complexity of the colonial revolution than “Queimada”, which means burned in Italian. This is the name of a fictional Caribbean island that bears a striking resemblance to Cuba and Haiti even if it is ruled by Portuguese rather than the Spanish or French. It got its name from the peasant revolts that frequently led to sugar crops being burned.

Sir William Walker, played by Marlin Brando as if he was reprising his Fletcher Christian role, is a functionary of a British sugar company sent to Queimada to manipulate the slaves into overthrowing their masters. Unlike his American Filibuster namesake who went to Nicaragua to reinstate slavery, the British mercenary saw the benefits of abolishing slavery just as Great Britain did long before Lincoln. In a meeting with Portuguese plantation owners, Walker makes the case for free labor in distinctly non-abolitionist terms:

Gentlemen, let me ask you a question. Now, my metaphor may seem a trifle impertinent, but I think it’s very much to the point. Which do you prefer – or should I say, which do you find more convenient – a wife, or one of these mulatto girls? No, no, please don’t misunderstand: I am talking strictly in terms of economics. What is the cost of the product? What is the product yield? The product, in this case, being love – uh, purely physical love, since sentiments obviously play no part in economics.

Quite. Now, a wife must be provided with a home, with food, with dresses, with medical attention, etc, etc. You’re obliged to keep her a whole lifetime even when she’s grown old and perhaps a trifle unproductive. And then, of course, if you have the bad luck to survive her, you have to pay for the funeral!

It’s true, isn’t it? Gentlemen, I know it’s amusing, but those are the facts, aren’t they? Now with a prostitute, on the other hand, it’s quite a different matter, isn’t it? You see, there’s no need to lodge her or feed her, certainly no need to dress her or to bury her, thank God. She’s yours only when you need her, you pay her only for that service, and you pay her by the hour! Which, gentlemen, is more important – and more convenient: a slave or a paid worker?

This is mostly a film about the villainous but charismatic Sir William Walker but there is also a lot more of the viewpoint and agency of the slaves than in “Amistad”. That is to be expected when the screenwriter is somebody like Franco Solinas, who was a partisan during WWII and a long-time member of the CP. But one certainly would have not suspected that Solinas also wrote Spaghetti Westerns of the sort that inspired “Django Unchained”. In an eye-opening profile of “un-American Westerns” by J. Hoberman in the New York Review of Books, we learn that these were Spaghetti Westerns with a difference:

Déclassé, outlandish, and brutal, The Big Gundown has the standard Spaghetti Western virtues; its originality lay in making its true protagonist the fugitive. The irrepressible Cuchillo (played by Tomas Milian) turns out to be a disillusioned supporter of Benito Juarez with a class analysis (he is in fact an innocent witness to the crime). Van Cleef’s character realizes that he is the tool of ruthless plutocrats and capitalist running dogs. Thus, Solinas would use the Western as an arena in which to play out the struggle dramatized in The Battle of Algiers. “Political films are useful on the one hand if they contain a correct analysis of reality and on the other if they are made in such a way to have that analysis reach the largest possible audience,” he told an interviewer in 1967.

Too bad this angle was missing in “Django Unchained”. It would have made for a better film as well as better politically.

“Quilombo”

This amounts to saving the best for last. Like “Burn!”, this subtitled 1984 Brazilian film can be watched for free on Youtube. Quilombo is the word for escaped slave settlement. After seeing this joyous celebration of African freedom, I feel like presenting a petition to the Hollywood studios that they make movies about slave revolts or liberation struggles next year rather than another Major Statement about how terrible slavery was.

Based on historical events, the escape of slaves to the mountains of Palmares in 17th century Brazil, the film is a celebration of Afro-Brazilian culture with children using the capoeira against their would-be Portuguese captors. This high-kicking form of martial arts was disguised as a dance in order to prevent its practitioners being punished for developing combat skills.

The escaped slaves reconstitute themselves as African communities in the highlands and freely choose kings to lead them in struggle against a much better armed foe. The finale of the film depicts a battle in the Palmares that is as exciting as anything I have seen in a Japanese or American costume drama like “Braveheart” or “Seven Samurai”.

And throughout, there is the film score by Gilberto Gil that contains some of the greatest music he ever composed, including the song “Quilombo.”

Your first reaction to “Quilombo” is to question whether such a scenario could apply to the United States since we never saw a Palmares, or did we? While the immediate post-Civil War period under Reconstruction was not an attempt to recreate African life in the wilderness, the net effect was even more emancipating—to use the right word.

Hollywood has never made a single film about Black Power in the Deep South until 1873 when the Democrats and Republicans cut a deal to put the racists back into power in Dixie. Well, I take that back. There were a couple, now that I remember, one called “Gone with the Wind” and the other “Birth of a Nation”. Isn’t it about time that we had a movie with sympathetic major characters that are Black legislators in Mississippi or Alabama to atone for the racist crap of the past? Someone get Oprah Winfrey on the phone and line up a couple of million dollars or so. That’s all we need to make a great movie, since the reality it is based on is so inspiring.

Louis Proyect blogs at http://louisproyect.org and is the moderator of the Marxism mailing list. In his spare time, he reviews films for CounterPunch.

12 Years as Slave

Bruce Bennet

Mad about movies

Jan, 2014

Wince-inducing statement film

The much-heralded “12 Years a Slave” takes the most brutal and dehumanizing acts of the antebellum American South and displays them in an unrelenting fashion, making it both an incredibly uncomfortable and unforgettable movie.

But the question remains: To what end are these events depicted?

Devoid of any meaningful psychological analysis of either the slave owners who perpetuated unspeakable atrocities or of the slaves who were their victims, “12 Years a Slave” serves primarily as a graphic, suffocating sad collection of horrendous images that pummels the audience for over two hours.

For that you can bet there will be many industry accolades–the film is already the frontrunner to take home the best picture Oscar at next month’s Academy Awards. Hollywood, after all, loves to recognize those films it deems IMPORTANT.

For its shock value and the subject material involved, “12 Years” is groundbreaking and worthy of discussion. But shouldn’t there be more to the “hard truth” than simply being hard to watch?

Director Spike Jonze is known for his art-house films that often portray the myriad indignities a human body can suffer, and it appears he’s culled from Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir all the lynchings, beatings, rapings, and other abominations and made a well-crafted, superbly-acted horror show.

Northrup is portrayed nobly and sensitively by terrific British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, (Outstanding in “Dirty Pretty Things”) and the screenplay written by John Ridley describes how the New York-born “free negro” was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery to work on the plantations of Louisiana. Forced to take another name and not reveal his true identity or details about his wife and family, Northrup works for several plantation owners, including a malevolent sadist (Michael Fassbender) and another who is less cruel (Benedict Cumberbatch). Northrup decides to (mostly) cooperate, incredulously witnessing that this is by no means a guarantee of mercy.

No doubt “12 Years a Slave” will provoke comparison to films like “Schindler’s List” that have attempted to make a visceral statement about evil men perpetrating vile acts against other men. But while Spielberg weaved a complex story with layered emotional complexity around his occasionally graphic imagery, Jonze’s film appears obsessed with the gruesomeness of the act itself. Many scenes go on so long that the initial shock wears off and the viewer’s attention is distracted from the grotesque nature of the scene itself to the unbridled determination of the filmmakers to make a statement.

Indeed, “12 Years a Slave” is an unsettling film to watch. Sometimes challenging, even shocking material can have profound merit in the realm of artistic endeavor. Examining an important topic like slavery, an adaptation of Northrup’s memoir could have had remarkable educational, even inspirational value.

But “12 Years a Slave” is generally more concerned with making its audience wince than with forging an indelible imprint on the soul.

Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and sexuality.

Grade: C+

Bruce Bennett has been the primary contributor to Mad About Movies since it began in 2003. He is an award winning film and theater critic who, since 2000, has been writing a weekly column in The Spectrum daily newspaper in southern Utah as well as serving as a contributing editor of “The Independent,” a monthly entertainment magazine. He is also the co-host of “Film Fanatics” a movie review show which earned a Telly in 2009. Bruce is also a featured contributor at: RottenTomatoes.com

His motto: "I see bad movies so you don’t have to."

Will Steve McQueen be the first black director to win an Oscar?

Gautaman Bhaskaran

Hindustan Times

February 08, 2014

The best aspect about America is its egalitarianism. The country respects and rewards the talented and the sincere. And despite serious racial issues, we saw America electing a black President, creating history.

And as Hollywood runs up to the Academy Awards on March 2, one of the questions is, will Steve McQueen be the first black director to win the Oscar. Interestingly, his 12 Years A Slave is all about the struggle of one black man to escape humiliating captivity he faces in the white man’s den.

At the moment, McQueen – though with an emotionally engaging film behind him – is not the favourite to walk away with the best director statuette. But if he does, he would be the first black helmer to actually clinch this Oscar, although there have been two other black directors who were nominated in the past. One of them was John Singleton for the 1992 Boyz n the Hood, and the other was Lee Daniels in 2009 for Precious.

McQueen’s win could be as historic as Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 triumph with The Hurt Locker. She was the first woman director to have won the best director Oscar.

In a way, McQueen’s nomination comes in a year when black moviemakers have done exceedingly well. Fruitvale Station – about a real incident where a black teenager was killed by the police in Oakland — got the big prize at the Sundance Film Festival. And works like 42 (the black baseball player, Jackie Robinson biopic) and The Butler (probing the African American role in U.S. history) have been, along with 12 Years A Slave, lauded by critics.

On top of this, Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have been talking about lack of diversity in the race for the Oscars.

Curiously, while black American helmers have done poorly, black actors have fared very well.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the protagonist Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave.

Solomon Northup (played by Ejiofor) was a free man who was abducted and sold into slavery.

Benedict Cumberbatch will also be seen in this film portraying the role of the benevolent slave master William Ford.

A shocking still with Sarah Paulson and Lupita Nyong’o.

Lupita Nyong’o has been appreciated for her stellar performance in the film.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black actor to win an Oscar in a supporting role way back in 1939 for Gone with the Wind – that brilliant movie on the American Civil War adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s only novel.

During the 1960s, Sidney Poitier took the best actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field. He was remarkable as a handyman helping some nuns to raise a chapel in a desert. Black actors, however, had to wait 40 long years before the Oscar went to Denzel Washington – Training Day in 2001. That year came as double whammy for black artists. Halle Berry became the first black to win the best actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball.

More recently, the likes of Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Viola Davis have been nominated for Academy Awards, and have won in some cases.

But no Oscar has ever rolled on to a black producer’s lap. Ditto, a black director. Will McQueen change this by beating his rivals?

An Escape From Slavery, Now a Movie, Has Long Intrigued Historians

Michael Cieply

The NYT

September 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES — In the age of “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” questions about the accuracy of nonfiction films have become routine. With “12 Years a Slave,” based on a memoir published 160 years ago, the answers are anything but routine.

Written by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave,” a leading contender for honors during the coming movie awards season, tells a story that was summarized in the 33-word title of its underlying material.

Published by Derby & Miller in 1853, the book was called: “Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, From a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana.”

The real Solomon Northup — and years of scholarly research attest to his reality — fought an unsuccessful legal battle against his abductors. But he enjoyed a lasting triumph that began with the sale of some 30,000 copies of his book when it first appeared, and continued with its republication in 1968 by the historians Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon.

Speaking on Friday, Mr. Ridley said he decided simply to “stick with the facts” in adapting Northup’s book for the film, which is set for release on Oct. 18 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Mr. Ridley said he was helped by voluminous footnotes and documentation that were included with Ms. Eakin’s and Mr. Logsdon’s edition of the book.

For decades, however, scholars have been trying to untangle the literal truth of Mr. Northup’s account from the conventions of the antislavery literary genre.

The difficulties are detailed in “The Slave’s Narrative,” a compilation of essays that was published by the Oxford University Press in 1985, and edited by Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Mr. Gates is now credited as a consultant to the film, and he edited a recent edition of “Twelve Years a Slave.”)

“When the abolitionists invited an ex-slave to tell his story of experience in slavery to an antislavery convention, and when they subsequently sponsored the appearance of that story in print, they had certain clear expectations, well understood by themselves and well understood by the ex-slave, too,” wrote one scholar, James Olney.

Mr. Olney was explaining pressures that created a certain uniformity of content in the popular slave narratives, with recurring themes that involved insistence on sometimes questioned personal identity, harrowing descriptions of oppression, and open advocacy for the abolitionist cause.

In his essay, called “I Was Born: Slave Narratives, Their Status as Autobiography and as Literature,” Mr. Olney contended that Solomon Northup’s real voice was usurped by David Wilson, the white “amanuensis” to whom he dictated his tale, and who gave the book a preface in the same florid style that informs the memoir.

“We may think it pretty fine writing and awfully literary, but the fine writer is clearly David Wilson rather than Solomon Northup,” Mr. Olney wrote.

In another essay from the 1985 collection, titled “I Rose and Found My Voice: Narration, Authentication, and Authorial Control in Four Slave Narratives,” Robert Burns Stepto, a professor at Yale, detected textual evidence — assurances, disclaimers and such — that Solomon Northup expected some to doubt his story.

“Clearly, Northup felt that the authenticity of his tale would not be taken for granted, and that, on a certain peculiar but familiar level enforced by rituals along the color line, his narrative would be viewed as a fiction competing with other fictions,” wrote Mr. Stepto.

Mr. Stepto did not question Mr. Northup’s veracity; but he spotted one prominent example of a story point that conformed neatly to expectations. Mr. Northup’s account of being saved with the help of a Canadian named Samuel Bass (played in the film by Brad Pitt), wrote Mr. Stepto, “represents a variation on the archetype of deliverance in Canada.”

In an interview by phone on Friday, David A. Fiske — who recently joined Clifford W. Brown Jr. and Rachel Seligman in writing “Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave” — said he believed he had now identified an Ontario-born man as the actual Samuel Bass to whom Northup referred.

Mr. Fiske, who did some paid research for the film, said that overall he had high confidence in the accuracy of Northup’s account. “He had a literalist approach to recording events,” he said.

Both Mr. Olney and Mr. Stepto had a further reservation, however. Each noted that a dedication page added to “Twelve Years a Slave” — which devoted the book to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and called it “another key” to her novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — helped blur the line between literal and literary truth.

“The dedication, like the pervasive style, calls into serious question the status of ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ as autobiography and/or literature,” Mr. Olney wrote.

Still, Mr. Ridley said the heavily documented story, with its many twists and turns, had an unpredictability that is a hallmark of the real.

“Life happens, it’s a lot stranger than the false beats that occur when people try to jam a narrative” into an expected framework, he said.

Voir aussi:

How 12 Years a Slave Gets History Right: By Getting It Wrong

Steve McQueen’s film fudges several details of Solomon Northup’s autobiography—both intentionally and not—to more completely portray the horrors of slavery.

Noah Berlatsky

Oct 28 2013

At the beginning of 12 Years a Slave, the kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), has a painful sexual encounter with an unnamed female slave in which she uses his hand to bring herself to orgasm before turning away in tears. The woman’s desperation, Solomon’s reserve, and the fierce sadness of both, is depicted with an unflinching still camera which documents a moment of human contact and bitter comfort in the face of slavery’s systematic dehumanization. It’s scenes like these in the film, surely, that lead critic Susan Wloszczyna to state that watching 12 Years a Slave makes you feel you have "actually witnessed American slavery in all its appalling horror for the first time."

And yet, for all its verisimilitude, the encounter never happened. It appears nowhere in Northup’s autobiography, and it’s likely he would be horrified at the suggestion that he was anything less than absolutely faithful to his wife. Director Steve McQueen has said that he included the sexual encounter to show "a bit of tenderness … Then after she’s climaxes, she’s back … in hell." The sequence is an effort to present nuance and psychological depth — to make the film’s depiction of slavery seem more real. But it creates that psychological truth by interpolating an incident that isn’t factually true.

This embellishment is by no means an isolated case in the film. For instance, in the film version, shortly after Northup is kidnapped, he is on a ship bound south. A sailor enters the hold and is about to rape one of the slave women when a male slave intervenes. The sailor unhesitatingly stabs and kills him. This seems unlikely on its face—slaves are valuable, and the sailor is not the owner. And, sure enough, the scene is not in the book. A slave did die on the trip south, but from smallpox, rather than from stabbing. Northup himself contracted the disease, permanently scarring his face. It seems likely, therefore, that in this instance the original text was abandoned so that Ejiofor’s beautiful, expressive, haunting features would not go through the entire movie covered with artificial Hollywood scar make-up. Instead of faithfulness to the text, the film chooses faithfulness to Ejiofor’s face, unaltered by trickery.

It seems quite likely that the single most powerful moment in the film was based on a misunderstood antecedent.

Other changes seem less intentional. Perhaps the most striking scene in the film involves Patsey, a slave who is repeatedly raped by her master, Epps, and who as a consequence is jealously and obsessively brutalized by Mistress Epps. In the movie version, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) comes to Northup in the middle of the night and begs him, in vivid horrific detail, to drown her in the swamp and release her from her troubles. This scene derives from the following passage at the end of Chapter 13 of the autobiography:

Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see [Patsey] suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his hand.

As you can see, in the book, it is Mistress Epps who wants to bribe Northup to drown Patsey. Patsey wants to escape, but not to drown herself. The film seems to have misread the line, attributing the mistress’s desires to Patsey. Slate, following the lead of scholar David Fiske (see both the article and the correction) does the same. In short, it seems quite likely that the single most powerful moment in the film was based on a misunderstood antecedent.

Critic Isaac Butler recently wrote a post attacking what he calls the "realism canard"—the practice of judging fiction by how well it conforms to reality. "We’re talking about the reduction of truth to accuracy," Butler argues, and adds, "What matters ultimately in a work of narrative is if the world and characters created feels true and complete enough for the work’s purposes." (Emphasis is Butler’s.)

His point is well-taken. But it’s worth adding that whether something "feels true" is often closely related to whether the work manages to create an illusion not just of truth, but also of accuracy. Whether it’s period detail in a costume romance or the brutal cruelty of the drug trade in Breaking Bad, fiction makes insistent claims not just to general overarching truth, but to specific, accurate detail. The critics Butler discusses may sometimes reduce the first to the second, but they do so in part because works of fiction themselves often rely on a claim to accuracy in order to make themselves appear true.

This is nowhere more the case than in slave narratives themselves. Often published by abolitionist presses or in explicit support of the abolitionist cause, slave narratives represented themselves as accurate, first-person accounts of life under slavery. Yet, as University of North Carolina professor William Andrews has discussed in To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, the representation of accuracy, and, for that matter, of first-person account, required a good deal of artifice. To single out just the most obvious point, Andrews notes that many slave narratives were told to editors, who wrote down the oral account and prepared them for publication. Andrews concludes that "It would be naïve to accord dictated oral narratives the same discursive status as autobiographies composed and written by the subjects of the stories themselves."

12 Years a Slave is just such an oral account. Though Northup was literate, his autobiography was written by David Wilson, a white lawyer and state legislator from Glens Falls, New York. While the incidents in Northup’s life have been corroborated by legal documents and much research, Andrews points out that the impact of the autobiography—its sense of truth—is actually based in no small part on the fact that it is not told by Northup, but by Wilson, who had already written two books of local history. Because he was experienced, Andrews says, Wilson’s "fictionalizing … does not call attention to itself so much" as other slave narratives, which tend to be steeped in a sentimental tradition "that often discomfits and annoys 20th-century critics." Northup’s autobiography feels less like fiction, in other words, because its writer is so experienced with fiction. Similarly, McQueen’s film feels true because it is so good at manipulating our sense of accuracy. The first sex scene, for example, speaks to our post-Freud, post-sexual-revolution belief that, isolated for 12 years far from home, Northup would be bound to have some sort of sexual encounters, even if (especially if?) he does not discuss them in his autobiography.

We can’t "actually witness … American slavery" on film or in a book. You can only experience it by experiencing it. Pretending otherwise is presumptuous.

The difference between book and movie, then, isn’t that one is true and the other false, but rather that the tropes and tactics they use to create a feeling of truth are different. The autobiography, for instance, actually includes many legal documents as appendices. It also features lengthy descriptions of the methods of cotton farming. No doubt this dispassionate, minute accounting of detail was meant to show Northup’s knowledge of the regions where he stayed, and so validate the truth of his account. To modern readers, though, the touristy attention to local customs can make Northup sound more like a traveling reporter than like a man who is himself in bondage. Some anthropological asides are even more jarring; in one case, Northup refers to a slave rebel named Lew Cheney as "a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the generality of his race." That description would sound condescending and prejudiced if a white man wrote it. Which, of course, a white man named David Wilson did.

A story about slavery, a real, horrible crime, inevitably involves an appeal to reality—the story has to seem accurate if it is to be accepted as true. But that seeming accuracy requires artifice and fiction—a cool distance in one case, an acknowledgement of sexuality in another. And then, even with the best will in the world, there are bound to be mistakes and discrepancies, as with Mistress Epps’s plea for murder transforming into Patsey’s wish for death. Given the difficulties and contradictions, one might conclude that it would be better to openly acknowledge fiction. From this perspective, Django Unchained, which deliberately treats slavery as genre, or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, which acknowledges the role of the present in shaping the past through a fantasy time-travel narrative, are, more true than 12 Years a Slave or Glory precisely because they do not make a claim to historical accuracy. We can’t "actually witness … American slavery" on film or in a book. You can only experience it by experiencing it. Pretending otherwise is presumptuous.

But refusing to try to recapture the experience and instead deciding to, say, treat slavery as a genre Western, can be presumptuous in its own way as well. The writers of the original slave narratives knew that to end injustice, you must first acknowledge that injustice exists. Accurate stories about slavery—or, more precisely, stories that carried the conviction of accuracy, were vital to the abolitionist cause.

And, for that matter, they’re still vital. Outright lies about slavery and its aftermath, from Birth of a Nation to Gone With the Wind, have defaced American cinema for a long time. To go forward more honestly, we need accounts of our past that, like the slave narratives themselves, use accuracy and art in the interest of being more true. That’s what McQueen, Ejiofor, and the rest of the cast and crew are trying to do in 12 Years a Slave. Pointing out the complexity of the task is not meant to belittle their attempt, but to honor it.

Voir également:

How Accurate Is 12 Years a Slave?

12 Years a Slave We’ve sorted out what’s fact and what’s fiction in the new Steve McQueen movie.

Forrest Wickman

Slate

Steve McQueen’s devastating new movie, 12 Years a Slave, begins with the words “based on a true story” and ends with a description of what happened to Solomon Northup and his assailants after he was restored to freedom. What happens in between, as Northup is kidnapped into 12 years of slavery in the South, frequently beggars the imagination. Should you believe even the most incredible details of its story?

With a few rare exceptions, yes. 12 Years a Slave is based on the book of the same name, which was written by Northup with the help of his “amanuensis” and ghostwriter, David Wilson. Aspects of the story’s telling have been questioned by some historians for matching the conventions of the slave narrative genre a little too neatly, but its salient facts were authenticated by the historian Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon for their landmark 1968 edition of the book. (They were also reported at the time of the book’s release—in the New York Times and elsewhere.)

As adapted by screenwriter John Ridley from Northup’s book and Eakin and Logsdon’s footnotes, the film adaptation hews very closely to Northup’s telling. While much of the story is condensed, and a few small scenes are invented, nearly all of the most unbelievable details come straight from the book, and many lines are taken verbatim. As Frederick Douglass wrote of the book upon its release in 1853, “Its truth is stranger than fiction.”

Solomon Northup was the son of Mintus Northup, who was a slave in Rhode Island and New York until his master freed him in his will. Solomon was born a free man and received an unusually good education for a black man of his time, eventually coming to work as a violinist and a carpenter. As in the movie, he was married to Anne Hampton, who was of mixed race, and they had three children—Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. His wife and children were away when he was offered an unusually profitable gig from his eventual kidnappers, who called themselves Hamilton and Brown.

The movie prefaces its scenes of Northup in New York with a flash-forward that is McQueen and Ridley’s invention: Solomon, while enslaved, turns to find an unidentified woman in bed with him. She grabs his hand and uses it to bring herself to orgasm. McQueen has said of the scene: “I just wanted a bit of tenderness—the idea of this woman reaching out for sexual healing in a way, to quote Marvin Gaye. She takes control of her own body. Then after she’s climaxed, she’s back where she was. She’s back in hell, and that’s when she turns and cries.

In his book, Northup refused to say whether Hamilton and Brown were guilty of his kidnapping. He notes that he got extraordinary headaches after having a drink with them one night, and became sick and delirious soon afterward, but cannot conclude with assurety that he was poisoned. “Though suspicions of Brown and Hamilton were not unfrequent,” he writes, “I could not reconcile myself to the idea that they were instrumental to my imprisonment.”

Northup came around to accepting their role in his kidnapping and unlawful sale—an unusual occurrence, but not unique to Northup—soon after the book was published. “Hamilton” and “Brown” weren’t even their real names. A judge, Thaddeus St. John of New York, read the book soon after its release, and realized that he himself had run into the two kidnappers when they were with Northup. Their real names were Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell, but they asked that St. John, who knew them, not use their real names around Northup. The next time St. John saw them, they had come into some newfound wealth: They carried ivory canes and sported gold watches. Northup and St. John eventually met up, recognized each other immediately, and brought their case against Merrill and Russell. (A note about the case appeared in the New York Times.) Merrill and Russell apparently got off unpunished, after their case was dropped on technicalities.

The Journey Into Slavery

The movie’s telling of Northup’s journey into slavery in Louisiana matches Northup’s account almost exactly. Northup says he was beaten with a paddle until the paddle broke, only to be whipped after that, all just for asserting his true identity. We see this in the movie. But an attempted mutiny by Northup and others ends much differently in the film than it does in his own account.

Northup did hatch an elaborate plan to take over a ship with a freeman named Arthur and a slave named Robert (played in the movie by Michael K. Williams). But that plan did not end with Robert coming to the defense of Eliza (Adepero Oduye) against an apparent rape attempt by a sailor, and then being stabbed by that sailor. What foiled their plans was simpler: Robert got smallpox and died.

Northup gives a more charitable account of his onetime master, William Ford, than the movie does. “There never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford,” Northup writes, adding that Ford’s circumstances “blinded [Ford] to the inherent wrong at the bottom of the system of Slavery.” The movie, on the other hand, frequently undermines Ford, highlighting his hypocrisy by, for example, overlaying his sermons with the mournful screams of his slave Eliza.

Northup actually had two violent encounters with Tibeats. The first scuffle, over a set of nails, is shown in the movie: According to Northup, Tibeats tried to whip him, Northup resisted, and eventually Northup grabbed Tibeats’ whip and beat his aggressor. Afterward, Northup was left bound and on the point of hanging for several hours, before Ford rescued him.

In the book, there is a second brawl over another of Tibeats’ unreasonable demands. According to Northup, he again prevailed, but was afraid of the repercussions, and so this time attempted to run away. Unable to survive on his own in the surrounding swamps, he eventually returned in tatters to Ford, who had mercy on him.

Judging from Northup’s book, Epps was even more villainous and repulsive than the movie suggests. In addition to his cruel “dancing moods”—during which he would force the exhausted slaves to dance, screaming “Dance, niggers, dance,” and whipping them if they tried to rest—Epps also had his “whipping moods.” When he would come home drunk and overcome with one of these moods, he would drive the slaves around the yard, whipping them for fun.

There’s another small change. The scene that introduces Epps—his reading of Luke 12:47 as a warning to slaves—is actually borrowed from another of the book’s characters: Ford’s brother-in-law, Peter Tanner. In the movie, Northup’s time with Tanner—with whom he lived after his first fight with Tibeats—is omitted.

Northup does not portray the relationship between Epps and Patsey as explicitly as the movie does, but he does refer to Epps’ “lewd intentions” toward her. As we see in the film, Mistress Epps encourages Master Epps to whip her, out of her own jealousy. This culminates in the horrible whipping shown in the movie, which Northup describes as “the most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to witness,” saying she was “literally flayed.” Her request afterward that Northup kill her, to put her out of her misery, is the movie’s own invention, but it’s a logical one: Patsey is described as falling into a deep depression and, it’s implied, dreaming of the relief death would offer her.*

As in the book, Mistress Shaw is the black wife of a plantation owner. However, Patsey’s conversation with Shaw is invented. McQueen and Ridley said they wanted to give Woodard’s character a voice.

As unlikely as his character is—an abolitionist in Louisiana, and a contrarian who everyone likes—Bass is drawn straight from the book’s account. His argument with Epps (“but begging the law’s pardon, it lies,” “There will be a reckoning yet”) is reproduced almost verbatim.

The real Bass, in fact, did more for Northup, sending multiple letters on his behalf, meeting with him in the middle of the night to hear his story, and—when they initially got no response from their letters—vowing to travel up to New York himself, to secure Northup’s freedom. The process took months, and Northup’s freedom eventually came from Bass’s first letter after all, so the movie understandably chooses to elide all this.

The Return Home

Northup’s return home is much as it is in the book, including Solomon’s learning that his daughter Margaret (who was 7 years old when he last saw her) now had a child of her own, named Solomon Northup. One devastating detail is left out: After 12 years apart, Margaret did not recognize her father.

*Correction, Nov. 4, 2013: This post was corrected to suggest a scene from the movie 12 Years a Slave was drawn from the book. The original article was accurate: Patsey’s plea for Northup to kill her was an invention of the movie. The original language has been restored.

Voir encore:

Historian at the Movies: 12 Years a Slave reviewed

Emma McFarnon

13th January 2014

As part of our new series, Dr Emily West, an associate professor of history at the University of Reading, reviews 12 Years a Slave – a true story about a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery

Q: Did you enjoy the film?

A: The subject matter made 12 Years a Slave a very uncomfortable film to watch, although some of the actors gave astonishing performances.

I thought Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northup) acted with incredible intensity, as did Michael Fassbender, who played Northup’s violent and sadistic master, Edwin Epps.

Steve McQueen’s unique direction used lingering close ups and poignant imagery of rural Louisiana in the days of slavery, which only added to the great tragedy of Northup’s harrowing story.

Enslaved people commonly described having ‘trees of scars’ on their backs – the result of brutal whippings they received from their masters or other people, and this film shockingly displayed the regularity of such treatment.

Moreover, we also witnessed, in truly horrific fashion, the myriad of circumstances under which enslaved men and women’s ‘trees of scars’ came into being. In one incident, Edwin Epps forces Solomon Northup at gunpoint to whip another slave, Patsey, until she collapses from pain. Yet Patsey’s only ‘crime’ was to leave her plantation in search of a bar of soap to clean herself.

Overall, I was pleased to see the highly realistic depictions of enslaved women’s lives in this film, especially the often-brutal sexual assaults they endured at the hands of white men. For example, Edwin Epps rapes Patsey and takes a sadistic pleasure in seeing her whipped. Mrs Epps, the plantation mistress, reacts in a typically jealous fashion by ‘blaming the victim’, and lashing out violently against Patsey.

White women rarely sought to help their enslaved women enduring sexual abuse.

Q: Was the film historically accurate?

A: I have never seen a film represent slavery so accurately. The film starkly and powerfully unveiled the sights and sounds of enslavement – from slaves picking cotton as they sang in the fields, to the crack of the lash down people’s backs.

I found the scene in the New Orleans slave market especially moving because of the juxtaposition between the refined, mid-19th-century house, from which a trader sold enslaved people, and the raw nakedness and commodification of the black bodies within it.

The trader made men and women strip naked for potential purchasers who looked inside slaves’ mouths to check the quality of their teeth. Buyers also ran their hands down slaves’ backs and arms to check for physical strength and agility, and no doubt they also viewed the naked enslaved women in terms of their sexual attractiveness and childbearing ability.

It was heartbreaking to see Solomon Northup’s friend, Eliza, so cruelly separated from her two children, Emily and Randall, as they were all sold to different owners.

We also heard a lot about the ideology behind enslavement. Masters such as William Ford (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and Edwin Epps, although very different characters, both used an interpretation of Christianity to justify their ownership of slaves. They believed the Bible sanctioned slavery, and that it was their ‘Christian duty’ to preach the scriptures to their slaves.

Q: What did the film get right?

A: The film depicted the overall slave regime and all its horrors extremely well, but it also added depth and nuance to our understanding of slavery’s complexities. Masters such as Edwin Epps commonly hired out their slaves in times of economic need, and in the film we see Solomon Northup and other enslaved men being hired to a man to chop sugar cane – a crop grown primarily in Louisiana in the United States.

I was also impressed by the film’s awareness of social class: Solomon Northup comes into contact with various white men of lower social standing, some of whom are paid by Epps to labour alongside slaves. Indeed, it is one of these men, known only as ‘Bass’ (played by Brad Pitt), who helps Northup escape his ordeal. Bass brings an acquaintance of Solomon Northup to the plantation to confirm his free status, after which Northup returns to his family.

The film also got the smaller details right. For example, all enslaved people leaving their plantations had to have a written pass, in case they came across white patrollers (people employed to track down runaway slaves). When Solomon Northup leaves his plantation on an errand for Mrs Epps, he wore such a pass around his neck.

The film also succeeded in highlighting the stark visual contrast between the opulence of plantations mansions and the dingy, cramped, over-crowded quarters of the enslaved.

Q: What did it miss?

A: This is a minor point, but I felt the film possibly over-emphasised Solomon Northup’s social standing in New York state prior to his enslavement. In the film, Northup appears as a wealthy, successful individual, making a good living as a carpenter and musician. He wears smart clothes and appears to live in a tolerant, racially integrated community where skin colour does not matter.

But in reality, Northern black people were everyday victims of white racism and discrimination, and in the free states of the North, black people were typically the ‘last hired and first fired’. Notably, in his autobiography Northup himself describes the everyday “obstacle of color” in his life prior to his kidnapping and subsequent enslavement.

Nevertheless, I can understand why the filmmakers wanted to present a strong juxtaposition between Northup’s life as a free man in the North and the physical and mental trauma he endured while enslaved in the South.

Voir encore:

An Essentially American Narrative

A Discussion of Steve McQueen’s Film ‘12 Years a Slave’

Interviews by NELSON GEORGE

The NYT

October 11, 2013

Amid comic book epics, bromantic comedies and sequels of sequels, films about America’s tortured racial history have recently emerged as a surprisingly lucrative Hollywood staple. In the last two years, “The Help,” “Lincoln,""Django Unchained,""42” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” have performed well at the box office, gathering awards in some cases and drawing varying degrees of critical acclaim.

The latest entry in this unlikely genre is “12 Years a Slave,” the director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir. A free black man living in Saratoga, N.Y., Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into brutal servitude in the Deep South. During his ordeal, he labors at different plantations, including the one owned by the sadistic Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who has a tortured sexual relationship with the slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o).

Following a buzzed-about preview screening at the Telluride Film Festival and the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, “12 Years a Slave” arrives in theaters Friday amid much online chatter that it may be headed for Oscar nominations. But Mr. Ejiofor, who portrays Northup, and Mr. McQueen, known for the bracingly austere “Hunger” and “Shame,” both say that getting audiences to see an uncompromisingly violent and quietly meditative film about America’s “peculiar institution” is still a challenge even with the presence of a producer, Brad Pitt, in a small role.

While the material was developed by Americans (including the screenwriter John Ridley) the director and most of the major cast members are British, a topic of concern among some early black commentators.

On a sweltering afternoon in SoHo last month, the author and filmmaker Nelson George led a round-table discussion at the Crosby Street Hotel with Mr. Ejiofor and Mr. McQueen. Joining them to provide a wider historical and artistic context were the Columbia University professor Eric Foner, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery,” among other books; and the artist Kara Walker, whose room-size tableaus of the Old South employing silhouettes have redefined how history and slavery are depicted in contemporary art and influenced many, including the “12 Years a Slave” production team. Current civil rights issues including the New York police practice of stop and frisk, recently declared unconstitutional; sexuality and slavery; Hollywood’s version of American history; and the themes of Obama-era cinema were among the topics of the sharp but polite dialogue. These are excerpts from the conversation.

Mr. Ejiofor, center, in the film “12 Years a Slave.”

Jaap Buitendijk/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Mr. Ejiofor, center, in the film “12 Years a Slave.”

Q. I wanted to start with contemporary analogues. One thing that came to mind was stop and frisk, a way the New York City police could stop a black or Latino male. I thought of Solomon as a character who, for a lot of contemporary audiences, would be that young black person. [To Mr. McQueen and Mr. Ejiofor] When you were seeking a way into the slave story, was what happens now part of that?

Steve McQueen Absolutely. History has a funny thing of repeating itself. Also, it’s the whole idea of once you’ve left the cinema, the story continues. Over a century and a half to the present day. I mean, you see the evidence of slavery as you walk down the street.

What do you mean?

McQueen The prison population, mental illness, poverty, education. We could go on forever.

Chiwetel, how did you balance what’s going on in the world with [Northup’s] reality?

Chiwetel Ejiofor That wasn’t the approach for me. I was trying to tell the story of Solomon Northup as he experienced his life. He didn’t know where all this was going. My journey started finishing a film in Nigeria. The last day, I went to the slave museum in Calabar, which was four or five rooms and some books, some interesting drawings of what they thought happened to people when the boats took them over. I left the following day and came to Louisiana. In my own way, I traveled that route.

Professor, your reaction to the film, its place in the contemporary discussion about slavery.

Eric Foner I believe this is a piece of history that everybody — black, white, Asian, everybody — has to know. You cannot understand the United States without knowing about the history of slavery. Having said that, I don’t think we should go too far in drawing parallels to the present. Slavery was a horrific institution, and it is not the same thing as stop and frisk. In a way, putting it back to slavery takes the burden off the present. The guys who are acting in ways that lead to inequality today are not like the plantation owner. They’re guys in three-piece suits. They’re bankers who are pushing African-Americans into subprime mortgages.

Kara, what are your thoughts on this?

Kara Walker There’s a uniquely American exuberance for violence or an exuberance for getting ahead in the world and making a name for themselves. I’m talking about the sort of plantation class that fought for the entrenchment of the slave system. That’s not something that can be overlooked when you think about the mythology of what it means to be an American, that one can become a self-made man if one is white and male and able.

Foner One of the things I liked about the movie and the way it portrayed violence, it’s pretty hard to take sometimes. But what it really highlights is the capriciousness of it. The owners, at one moment they’re trying to be pleasant, and the next moment they’re whipping you. You’re always kind of on this edge of not knowing. In fact slavery is like that at large. You don’t know when you’re going to be sold away from your family. People like to have some kind of stability in their life, but you can’t as a slave.

Servitude and Sexuality

There’s a lot of things to say about sex in the film, but one of the things that is going to leap out is Alfre Woodard’s character [Mistress Shaw, described in the book as the black wife of a white plantation owner].

McQueen In the book, she doesn’t say anything. I had a conversation with John Ridley, and I said: “Look, we need a scene with this woman. I want her to have tea.” It was very simple. Give her a voice.

Walker It’s not that it was that uncommon. That planter would be sort of the crazy one, the eccentric one, and she’s getting by.

Ejiofor It was against the law to marry, but it did happen.

Foner There were four million slaves in the U.S. in 1860 and several hundred thousand slave owners. It wasn’t just a homogeneous system. It had every kind of human variation you can imagine. There were black plantation owners in Louisiana, black slave owners.

Walker I was going to ask a question about a black woman who appears, a mysterious woman Solomon has sex with. She has sex with him, rather. I thought she was going to be a character in the film, and then she wasn’t.

McQueen Slaves are working all day. Their lives are owned, but those moments, they have to themselves. I just wanted a bit of tenderness — the idea of this woman reaching out for sexual healing in a way, to quote Marvin Gaye. She takes control of her own body. Then after she’s climaxed, she’s back where she was. She’s back in hell, and that’s when she turns and cries.

Solomon has a wife beforehand. In the film it seems as if he lived with Eliza [a fellow slave]. Then obviously [he has] some kind of relationship with Patsey, a friendship. But I wondered about Solomon’s own sexual expression.

Ejiofor His sexuality felt slightly more of a tangent. I think the real story is where sex is in terms of power.

Foner Remember, this book is one of the most remarkable first-person accounts of slavery. But it’s also a piece of propaganda. It’s written to persuade people that slavery needs to be abolished. He doesn’t say anything about sexual relations he may have had as a slave. There’s no place for such a discussion because of the purpose of the book.

Walker But in “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” [by Harriet Ann Jacobs] and other slave narratives written by women, that’s always kind of the subtext, because there are children that are produced, relationships that are formed or allegiances that are formed with white men in order to have freedom.

Foner Harriet Jacobs was condemned by many people for revealing this, even antislavery people.

Walker Yes, but it’s always the subtext. Even “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It’s like, there’s little mulatto children, and that’s the evidence.

Unlike most American directors, you’re not cutting all over the place. You put the camera there, and you let us experience the moment that is part of the lore of America, the slave master raping the black female slave [Patsey].

McQueen I didn’t want people to get out of it. Within that you see his actual love for her in a way. Obviously, the love isn’t given back to him, and it’s a horrendous rape.

Walker Staying on that scene and coming back to Patsey over and over, she is abused and deteriorating and wanting to die. We don’t need to see that scene over and over again.

McQueen I have huge sympathy for Epps, though. He’s in love with this woman and he doesn’t understand it. Why is he in love with this slave? He goes about trying to destroy his love for her by destroying her. The madness starts.

A View From Abroad

One of the things that has come up in early response to the film is a question from some black folks in America about the perspective, the fact that you are both foreigners, as it were.

Walker It will never be right for the black folks in America, I’m sorry. You can say it’s a historical document ——

McQueen Can I jump in there, please? I am British. My parents are from Grenada. My mother was born in Trinidad. Grenada is where Malcolm X’s mother comes from. Stokely Carmichael is Trinidadian. We could go on and on. It’s about that diaspora.

Ejiofor When I was in Savannah, Ga., they were telling me how they used to have special chains for the Igbos [a Nigerian ethnic group]. I told the man, “I’m Igbo.” Not having any sense of the internationalism of this event is a bad thing. I loved the fact that there were people from different places coming together to tell this story.

McQueen The only thing you can say about it is: Why was this book lost in America?

Foner Obviously, it wasn’t a best seller. Maybe it will be now. But it’s widely known. It’s used all over the place in history courses. Along with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, this is probably the most widely read of what we call the slave narratives.

The Past in Hollywood’s Lens

Foner [To McQueen] I think it’s good that you are not a Hollywood director. Most Hollywood history is self-important in a way that this movie is not.

Walker The audience is intelligent. They could actually stand in Solomon’s shoes and go through the adventure together instead of the kind of voice-over Hollywood black Americana thing. That’s what I’m talking about with ownership. Over the years, you have this kind of heavy-handed style of narration. Cicely Tyson comes out with the makeup on and tells her story in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”

Can I bring up those heavy-handed Hollywood movies, since we’re on that topic? “Lincoln” as well as, obviously, “Django.” It seems like in the last few years, there have been black historical dramas that have been made out of Hollywood. We can throw in “The Help,” “The Butler.” There’s one theory that this is all a reaction to Obama’s presidency.

Ejiofor There’s probably not one cause. I’d say that’s true for a couple of those movies. Obama gets elected. People think we haven’t done the Jackie Robinson story yet. And some of these stories are great stories. The received idea has been it doesn’t sell well. But you have a couple of movies do incredibly good business.

Walker But Obama also wrote his autobiography. I think that might be a part of it, not just that there’s a person in power, but that he’s a best-selling author, getting large portions of America — black, white and other — to become a part of his story.

Foner The daddy, I suppose, of all this was “Glory,” which came out in the late ‘80s. “Roots,” of course, comes before that. All of them suffer from what I see as the problem of Hollywood history. Even in this movie, there’s a tendency toward: You’ve got to have one hero or one figure. That’s why historians tend to be a little skeptical about Hollywood history, because you lose the sense of group or mass.

Ejiofor But that’s movies as well.

Walker I was going to disagree a little bit. I didn’t find him particularly heroic, in that Frederick Douglass sense. He’s a little bit more compromised by more than just slavery. There’s this past, what he does or doesn’t do for Patsey. All of that makes him a much more complicated figure in a way.

McQueen I don’t think we should underplay Obama’s presidency and the effect of these films coming to fruition. The problem is: When he’s not the president anymore, will these films still exist?

The Historical Moment

[To the filmmakers] There’s a lot of talk about awards for the film. Is that relevant to you?

Ejiofor I’m always nervous when people start talking about hype and heat. It’s a story about a man who went through something remarkable. I feel like that still deserves its own reflection.

McQueen I made this film because I wanted to visualize a time in history that hadn’t been visualized that way. I wanted to see the lash on someone’s back. I wanted to see the aftermath of that, psychological and physical. I feel sometimes people take slavery very lightly, to be honest. I hope it could be a starting point for them to delve into the history and somehow reflect on the position where they are now.

[To Walker and Foner] What are your feelings about the impact it will have on people?

Walker I’m a sponge for historical images of black people and black history on film. It doesn’t happen often enough, and it doesn’t happen artfully enough most of the time when it does happen. I came away with this really kind of awful sense that I didn’t want to leave. The texture of the film made me want to stay in this space that would not be hospitable to me. Thinking also about who would see the film, I think about my parents, in Georgia. I think about the theater where they will see the film. People will go to the mall to see one of those Tyler Perry films and action films. Would this film make it there, and if it did, would it translate? My hope was that this film would reach that audience down there and have that sort of complicated space open up for them that wasn’t just an easy laugh or an easy cry.

Foner I think this movie is much more real, to choose a word like that, than most of the history you see in the cinema. It gets you into the real world of slavery. That’s not easy to do. Also, there are little touches that are very revealing, like a flashback where a slave walks into a shop in Saratoga. Yes, absolutely, Southerners brought slaves into New York State. People went on vacation, and they brought a slave.

McQueen I think people are ready. With Trayvon Martin, voting rights, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and a black president, I think there’s a sort of perfect storm of events. I think people actually want to reflect on that horrendous recent past in order to go forward.

Oscar Whisper Campaigns: The Slurs Against ’12 Years,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Butler’

Scott Feinberg

10/23/2013

THR’s awards analyst breaks down how this year’s top contenders are being targeted for accuracy — and how they’re fighting back.

How do you know it’s awards season in Hollywood? When people start trash-talking good movies! As this year’s race to the Dolby gets underway, here are five examples of how contenders are being targeted — and defended.

FILM: 12 Years a Slave

CRITICISM: The best picture frontrunner is always targeted, and this one is no exception. No one disputes its central facts — in mid-19th century America, a free black man from the north named Solomon Northup was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south — which were recounted in Northup’s autobiography and substantiated by historians. But an article in The New York Times on Sept. 22 dredged up and highlighted a 1985 essay by another scholar, James Olney, that questioned the "literal truth" of specific incidents in Northup’s account and suggested that David Wilson, the white "amanuensis" to whom Northup had dictated his story, had taken the liberty of sprucing it up to make it even more effective at rallying public opinion against slavery.

BACKLASH: Henry Louis Gates, one of America’s most well-known and respected scholars of black history and a co-editor of the 1985 compilation of essays in which Olney’s piece was included, served as a paid consultant on the film and spoke out in its defense after the Times article. "I know Northup’s narrative like the back of my hand and [the filmmakers] followed the text with great fidelity," he told Mother Jones. "There’s no question about the historical accuracy. They did a wonderful job."

FILM: Captain Phillips

CRITICISM: The New York Post ran a story on Oct. 13 with the headline "Crew Members: ‘Captain Phillips’ Is One Big Lie," wherein it quoted several people who served under Richard Phillips on the cargo ship that he was captaining when it was hijacked — who were not named — ridiculing the film’s heroic portrayal of him. According to them, Phillips had a reputation for recklessness, disregarded warnings about piracy that could have prevented the incident and has since reframed the facts to make himself appear more heroic. The Post reported that crewmembers who cooperated with the film "were paid as little as $5,000 for their life rights by Sony and made to sign nondisclosure agreements — meaning they can never speak publicly about what really happened on that ship."

BACKLASH: Many dismissed the Post story because it didn’t identify the crewmembers, who might be among the nine currently suing the cargo company for not better protecting them. Additionally, director Paul Greengrass wrote during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session that he and former 60 Minutes producer Michael Bronner, a colleague, "researched the background of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in exhausting detail over many months" and are "100 percent satisfied that the picture we present of these events in the film … is authentic. I stand by the picture I give in the film, absolutely." Phillips’ chief mate Shane Murphy also told a reporter emphatically, "The movie is accurate."

FILM: Gravity

CRITICISM: Critics have cheered the drama for portraying space so convincingly, but some scientists have received it less kindly. On Oct. 6, noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson fact-checked it on Twitter in a series of 20 late-night tweets, pointing out, among other things, that satellites orbit Earth west to east so it’s strange that their debris orbited east to west; that the Hubble, the International Space Station and a Chinese Space Station are actually too far apart to be within sightlines of one another; and that, in zero-gravity conditions, a person would not drift away just because a tether is disconnected.

BACKLASH: On Oct. 10, Tyson posted a long note to Facebook remarking that he was "stunned" by the amount of media attention that his tweets received and stating, for the record, that he actually enjoyed the film. "For a film "to ‘earn’ the right to be criticized on a scientific level is a high compliment indeed," he insisted, and he said that he regretted "not first tweeting the hundred things the movie got right." Additionally, astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote a guest column in the Oct. 11 issue of THR in which he asserted, "I was so extravagantly impressed by the portrayal of the reality of zero gravity. Going through the space station was done just the way that I’ve seen people do it in reality." He acknowledged that the film was not devoid of scientific errors, but wrote that he was overall "very, very impressed" with it.

FILM: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

CRITICISM: The film revolves around one Cecil Gaines, a black man who worked in the White House under each president from Eisenhower to Reagan. The character is based on Eugene Allen, a black man who worked in the White House under each president from Truman through Reagan. In addition to that minor discrepancy, critics have highlighted the fact that the real man had one son, not two; that the son he had was neither killed in Vietnam, as one fictional son is, nor a radical member of the Black Panther party who later ran for elected office, as the other is; that he did not leave his job out of displeasure with Reagan’s Apartheid policy, but was actually particularly fond of the Reagans and just retired; and that there is no record of him ever meeting President Obama, although he did attend Obama’s first inauguration.

BACKLASH: The film advertises itself as being "inspired by true events," not faithfully re-creating them, so those associated with it suggest that these creative liberties should be non-issues. To this end, the WGA has officially classified Danny Strong’s script as an original screenplay, not one adapted from Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article that it acknowledges in its credits, and The Weinstein Co. is pushing it for a best original screenplay Oscar nomination.

FILM: Saving Mr. Banks

CRITICISM: Critics of the drama about the making of Mary Poppins say that it presents a sanitized, whitewashed version of Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks), noting that Disney’s movie studio, which financed and is distributing the film, would never associate itself with anything else. Disney was, in fact, not just a happy-go-lucky dreamer, but also a somewhat controversial figure: a hardcore right-winger who clashed bitterly with labor unions and whose views toward racial and religious minorities were not always admirable — facts that are, of course, not touched upon in Banks. According to Hanks, Disney wouldn’t even allow the filmmakers to show three-packs-a-day smoker Disney with a cigarette in his hands.

BACKLASH: The film has been wholeheartedly endorsed by composer Richard Sherman, who was one of only two songwriters ever under contract to Disney — the other was his late brother and collaborator Robert, with whom he co-wrote the score for Mary Poppins — and who knew Walt better than just about anyone who is alive today. It’s hard to imagine that he would so closely align himself with a film that misrepresented Disney’s essence.

In 12 Years a Slave, a broken Christianity

Valerie Elverton Dixon

Faithstreet

Religion ought to connect us.

The root of the word is ligare. It is the same root as the word ligature, the stuff that holds the skeleton together. At its best, religion helps us to see the spiritual ligature that connects us, and shows us that the notion that we are individual particles floating separate and apart in a beam of sunlight is a deception. We are tied together by the breath of life.

When religion rips, tears, breaks, fractures, it leaves our fragile humanity broken, dazed, confused, and dangerous. From this brokenness true horrors are born. One such abomination was the slave system in the United States depicted in the recently-released movie “12 Years a Slave.” This movie, based on a true story, follows Solomon Northup from his comfortable life as a free African American musician living with this wife and two children in New York state to a life in slavery after he is kidnapped in Washington, D.C. It is a powerful film that tells a powerful story that many people in the United Sates do not want to remember.

The movie shows us a fractured Christianity. People take their Bible in pieces. A slave owner uses a tiny fragment of Scripture to justify torture. An African American woman who has found favor with her master, who lives well with servants serving her, finds solace in the story of the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. She believes that God in God’s own time will deliver an epic punishment for the sin of slavery. Another fragment. Then there is the white itinerant worker who tells the slave owner that there is no justice in slavery, that there are laws that apply to all human beings equally.

Did the slave system break religion or did a broken religion allow the slave system?

In the movie we see how the songs of faith —Roll Jordan Roll— gave enslaved people the strength to endure the degradations of slavery. And those indignities were numerous: children sold away from parents causing ceaseless lamentation, the humiliation of losing sovereignty over one’s own body. Someone else can use your body for work, sex, revenge, physical and psychological torture, and the satisfaction of their own insane will-to-power.

We see the sad fact that oppression oppresses everyone—slave master, mistress, all classes and all races. Everyone is afraid.

Thomas Jefferson knew this to be true about slavery. In his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he describes African Americans through the lens of white supremacy. His prediction on the possibility of the races ever living together in harmony in the United States is thoroughly pessimistic. However he is clear-eyed when he sees the harm slavery does to both master and slave. He writes: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.” (Query XVIII) He writes further: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”

The fear of such retribution has kept white supremacy in place all these years. The fear that if oppressed people ever get power that they will perpetrate the same oppression as was perpetrated against them forces people to continue living inside delusions of race, class, sex, sexual orientation. And we too often use religion as a justification for this fear.

I say: 12 Years a Slave is a difficult movie to watch, but an important movie to see. It is important to see so that we may knit together the various strands of our religious faith and let it bind us back to true human unity, back to our own humanity, back to justice and even to love.

Valerie Elverton Dixon is the founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.

Voir encore:

12 Years a Slave

What could any of us do, but pray for mercy?

Kenneth R. Morefield

Christianity today

October 18, 2013

I’d be skeptical of any review of 12 Years a Slave (which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend and releases to theaters next month) that does not begin and end with "Lord, have mercy on us." For all its technical merits, the film stands or falls as a moral argument: "Slavery is an evil that should befall no one," says Bass, played by the film’s producer – Brad Pitt – in a small but crucial role.

12 Years a Slave makes plenty of assertions. Some are subtle; most are painfully simple. But all of them come in an immersive experience that operates from the inside out, that moves the viewer by engaging the whole person – body, mind, and soul.

The story is based on the narrative of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black citizen from New York who is kidnapped while on a trip to Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery. We’re meant to assume that he is drugged by his white performing partners.

When he awakes in a basement cell, the camera pans slowly upward to the Washington skyline, juxtaposing icons of freedom and democracy with the painful image of imprisonment and oppression. It is a forceful shot, perhaps the most on-the-nose of the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if less sympathetic reviewers accuse McQueen of being too heavy handed.

Except how can one be too heavy handed about slavery? Isn’t part of our irritation because we want, need, and have come to expect our individual and corporate failures to be forgiven as soon as they are acknowledged and glossed over in safe abstractions and historical generalizations?

In many ways, Northrup, an educated free man, is the ideal avatar for the modern audience. He, like us, does not come to slavery naturally or easily. Also like us, he tries and fails to understand slavery, master its internal logic, and use his intelligence to do the right things in order to survive. Solomon frequently replies with some form of "just as instructed" when confronted by power, as though perfectly following instructions gives some modicum of protection in a world where nobody forces the rich and powerful to be fair and reasonable.

But what if there is no rhyme or reason, no logic, no right move to be played? How can someone find protection in being a perfect slave, when slavery itself is a series of irreconcilable orders and impossible commands? We all like to believe that we could transcend these circumstances, that the values and beliefs instilled in us could equip us to make the right decisions. But what about when one must always do more with less – with, for instance, a quota system that calls for whipping a man at the end of each day if he picks less than average? When the demands of a mistress and those of a master are in conflict, how can one please them both? What about when the choice is between picking up a lash or consigning others to the noose?

It’s also convenient to think that we would be like Bass, aware of the evils of slavery and willing to risk our own safety to confront it. But Bass acts out of a sense of duty, not personal goodness. In a scene that may resonate the most with modern audiences, Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) gives in to evil against his own inclination for the most prosaic of reasons – debt – and the film shines here, and throughout, when it illustrates and explores different kinds of bondage without undercutting the place of total enslavement in the hierarchy of evils.

Of course, we would all rather be in debt than enslaved. But perhaps by seeing how going against conscience chips away at our humanity (rather than simply blasting it to smithereens), we begin to understand how some of the conflicts faced by the characters are primal and eternal, not just political or of the moment. Because 12 Years a Slave frames its moral conundrums in these terms, it feels the most contemporarily relevant of all the depictions of slavery we see at the movies.

It seems important here to understand how the film depicts religion and, specifically, Christianity. McQueen often lets the sound or dialogue from one scene continue after the visuals have transferred to the next, and this device is used pointedly when the words of sermons given by Master Ford are superimposed onto the reality of the lives his slaves live. And Master Epps’s (Fassbinder) theology is openly repugnant to modern sensibilities—he uses the language of the Bible ("that’s scripture") to insist that God has appointed the order of slave and master. After one brutal act of torture, he proclaims that "there is no sin," since a man may do as he pleases with his property.

Yet the film is not simply and only anti-Christian. Certainly, Pitt’s character speaks and acts in moral terms. But more than that, 12 Years doesn’t shy away from showing the inexpressibly complicated relationship the slaves have with the God of their oppressors. Embittered by the hypocrisy and sanctimony of the slave-owners and angry at God’s seeming abandonment of him and his fellow slaves, Solomon often rages silently, as all his doubts and anger must be repressed.

Others are able to find solace in furtive expression of faith. One prays, "God love him; God bless him; God keep him" over a buried comrade. Even that moment comes with some bitterly cynical overtones: God keep him better than he kept him in this life.

Yet the film’s emotional zenith comes in a cathartic moment when Solomon participates in a spiritual. Ejiofor is able to convey so much in his vocal inflections: anger, despair, renewal, and, finally hope. Hope for what? Earlier he has said, "I don’t want to survive; I want to live." The spiritual, I would argue, indicates that he can hope to survive until one day he will live again.

The other masterful scene in the film is Solomon’s farewell to Patsy, a fellow slave whom the film painfully but rightly never mentions again. The resolution to Solomon’s story is laced with pain, not triumph, as he comes to realize that with new life comes survivor’s guilt—and grief for all those still waiting to live again.

God have mercy on us all until they do.

Caveat Spectator

12 Years a Slave is rated R, as it should be. It contains multiple usages of painful language, depictions of lynching, murder, and torture. There is nudity and depictions of human sexuality. A major theme of the film is the dehumanizing effects of slavery. In presenting such a theme, it is often painful to watch, as it should be.

Kenneth R. Morefield is an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University. He is the editor of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema, Volumes I & II, and the founder of 1More Film Blog.

Voir aussi:

The Realism Canard, Or: Why Fact-Checking Fiction Is Poisoning Criticism.

Isaac Butler

Parabasis

October 09, 2013

(UPDATE: Hello Dish readers and others who have been sent here from various corners of the internet. Welcome! This is Parabasis, a blog about culture and politics. I’m Isaac Butler, an erstwhile theater director and writer. I write most (but not all) of this site. You all might be particularly interested in The Fandom Issue, a special week-long series we did devoted to issues of fandom in popular culture.)

Every work of fictional narrative art takes place within its own world. That world may resemble our world. But it is never our world. It is always the world summoned into being in the gap between its creators and its audience.

Yet at the same time, the art we experience shapes our view of the world. As Oscar Wilde puts it in the Decay of Lying:

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. This results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy. It is a theory that has never been put forward before, but it is extremely fruitful, and throws an entirely new light upon the history of Art.

Wilde discusses this in terms of appreciating sunsets through the lens of Turner; perhaps our modern day equivalent is juries being incapable of understanding that real world evidence gathering isn’t like CSI.

This odd tension– that narrative art creates its own world yet helps shape our view of ours– has given birth to (or at least popularity to) a new brand of criticism that measures a story against real life to point out all the ways that it is lacking. You’ve seen it before, right? "Five Things Parks & Rec gets right about small town budgeting bylaws." Now with Gravity busting box office records, we’re getting astronauts and scientists telling us that there are many points where the film departs from real life. Entire critical careers are now founded on churning out "What X Gets Right/Wrong About Y" blog posts, posts that often completely ignore issues of aesthetics, construction, theme or effect to simply focus on whether in "real life" a given circumstance of a story would be possible.

In real life, people don’t talk the way they do in movies or television or (especially) books. Real locations aren’t styled, lit, or shot the way they are on screen. The basic conceits of point of view in literature actually make no sense and are in no way "realistic." Realism isn’t verisimilitude. It’s a set of stylistic conventions that evolve over time, are socially agreed upon, and are hotly contested. The presence of these conventions is not a sign of quality. Departure from them is not a sign of quality’s absence.

The Realism Canard is the most depressing trend in criticism I have ever encountered. I would rather read thousands of posts of dismissive snark about my favorite books than read one more blog post about something that happened in a work of fiction wasn’t realistic or factually accurate to our world as we know it. Dismissive snark, after all, just reflects badly on whomever wrote it (at best) and (at worst) cheapens the work it is written about. The Realism Canard gradually cheapens art itself over time. It’s worse that the reduction of art to plot, or to "content." Those can still form the basis of interesting conversations. Instead, we’re talking here not only about the complete misreading of what something is (fiction vs. nonfiction), but the holding of something to a standard it isn’t trying to attain and often isn’t interested in (absolute verisimilitude). We’re talking about the reduction of truth to accuracy. We’re talking about reducing the entire project of fiction so that we can, as Grover Norquist said of the Federal Government, get it to the size where it can be drowned in the bathtub.

And I suspect on some level this is part of the point of the The Realism Canard. That art in its size and complexity is too much to handle sometimes, and too troubling. That even though we say fiction’s job is to take us out of ourselves, we don’t really want to be pushed. So we must take it down a peg, to a point where it is beneath us and thus can be put in its place. And the easiest way to do this is to cross check it against "real life" and find it lacking.

Take this piece about Breaking Bad in The New Inquiry. It has some interesting points to make about the show’s racial politics, but before it can get there it, it must shrink the show to manageable size by trying to come up with ways that its depiction of the drug trade isn’t "realistic," landing on the show’s overemphasis on the purity of Walter’s meth. Set aside that the author’s critique of the show’s purity emphasis on realism grounds is wrong (purity matters because Walt is a wholesaler and the purer his product is the more that it can be stepped on by the people he sells it to), and set aside that the purity matters for character reasons (no one has ever been able to do what Walt figures out). The accuracy question with regard to Breaking Bad is a complete sideshow. Breaking Bad is not a work of realism. Its aesthetic and language is highly stylized, and its plotting is all clockwork determinism, as anyone who has watched the second season can attest. It’s not trying to exist in our world. It’s trying to exist in its world. You might as well criticize it for having a sky that’s yellower than ours.

I don’t mean to pick on that TNI piece, it just happened to be the latest one I’d read. At least it has something beyond factchecky questions to ask. Once you get through that bit, it’s well written and eye opening to some racial dynamics I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t fully considered. But still. The Realism Canard is a problem, and it’s everywhere (here’s another one from Neil deGrasse Tyson about Gravity) and I feel it spreading more than ever over the internet’s criticosphere.

Are there exceptions to this? Obviously. There are works where the idea that what you are watching is a fictional representation of things fairly close to our own world is part of the works’ value, whether it be "based on a true story" films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Fifth Estate or social issue (and agit prop) works like Won’t Back Down. And there are ways of discussing the differences between art and life that illuminate rather than reduce. That ask the question "what does it mean that they changed this thing about our world?" rather than assuming some kind of cheating or bad faith. Or ways that treat these differences not as a form of criticism, but rather a form of interesting trivia. Or, in the case of Mythbusters, edutainment.

There is also the issue of representational politics, particularly in light of what we know of narrative’s deep intertwining with the processes of stereotype formation in the brain. But I do not think it’s inconsistent to argue for diverse representations of the underrepresented– and more characters that are fully rounded– and the imaginative power of art.

What matters ultimately in a work of narrative is if the world and characters created feels true and complete enough for the work’s purposes. It does not matter, for example, that the social and economic structure of The Hunger Games makes absolutely no sense. What matters is whether or not the world works towards the purposes of the novel rather than undermining them. People praise August Wilson’s portrayal of poor and working class African American life in Pittsburgh, but many of his plays feature an off stage character who is over three hundred years old and has magic powers. One of them ends with a cat coming back from the dead.

The Wire’s "realism" and "accuracy" are both shouted from the rooftops, but, for all of its deeply known and felt and researched world-building, it abandons both when it needs to. There is no way that Hamsterdam would exist in present day Baltimore. It’s a thought experiment, an attempt to game out what drug legalization might be like. No one really cares, because it works within the confines of the show. Season 5′s fake serial killer plotline is not actually any more preposterous than Hamsterdam. But it doesn’t work largely because the shortened episode order left Simon et al without enough time to adequately set it up and the tonal shift in Season 5 to a more satirical, broadly-painted mode feels abrupt and off-putting. The problem, in other words, has nothing to do with whether it would really happen, or how journalism or policing really work. It’s about the world the show has created and its integrity.

Voir de même:

12 Years a Slave: the book behind the film

As Steve McQueen’s Oscar favourite 12 Years a Slave opens at cinemas, Sarah Churchwell returns to the 1853 memoir that inspired it – one of many narratives that exposed the brutal truth about slavery, too long ignored or sentimentalised by Hollywood

Sarah Churchwell

The Guardian

10 January 2014

In 1825 a fugitive slave named William Grimes wrote an autobiography in order to earn $500 to purchase freedom from his erstwhile master, who had discovered his whereabouts in Connecticut and was trying to remand Grimes back into slavery. At the end of his story the fugitive makes a memorable offer: "If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave, I would in my will, leave my skin a legacy to the government, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment, and then bind the constitution of glorious happy and free America." Few literary images have more vividly evoked the hypocrisy of a nation that exalted freedom while legitimising slavery.

12 Years a Slave: A True Story of Betrayal, Kidnap and Slavery (Hesperus Classics)

by Solomon Northup

The Life of William Grimes was the first book-length autobiography by a fugitive American slave, in effect launching a new literary genre, the slave narrative. (The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, published in 1789, is widely regarded as the first ever, but Equiano published his book in Britain.) Scholars have identified about 100 American slave narratives published between 1750 and 1865, with many more following after the end of the civil war. The most famous are those by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, but the release of a new film has stirred interest in the account of a man named Solomon Northup. His book, Twelve Years a Slave, one of the longest and most detailed slave narratives, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1853. Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch, the film version, which opens in the UK today, has already been hailed as an Oscars front-runner.

This is something of an accomplishment for the first major Hollywood film to be inspired by a slave’s account of his own suffering. America’s vexed relationship with its legacy of slavery has always been reflected in its cinema; landmark films such as the virulently racist Birth of a Nation (1915), the first film ever screened at the White House, and the blockbuster apologia for slavery that was Gone With the Wind (1939), whitewashed in every sense popular images of institutionalised slavery. Slave narratives are the most powerful corrective we have to such distortions and evasions, firsthand accounts from some of the people who suffered the atrocities of slavery.

Gone with the Wind Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

Unlike most authors of slave narratives, Northup was not a fugitive when he co-authored his book with a white man named David Wilson: he was a free man who had been kidnapped as an adult and sold into slavery. In 1841 the 33-year-old son of a former slave was living in upstate New York with his wife and children. He could read and write, was a skilled violinist, had done some farming and was working as a carpenter. One day he was approached by two white men who made him a generous financial offer to join a travelling music show. Without telling his wife or friends (thinking, he wrote, that he would be back before he was missed), Northup travelled to Washington DC with them, where he was drugged, had his free papers stolen, and awoke in chains on the floor of the notorious Williams Slave Pen (ironically now the site of the Air and Space Museum). Protesting that he was a free man, Northup was beaten nearly to death and warned that he would be killed if he ever spoke up again. He was a slave now, and had no rights. Describing his march through the nation’s capital in chains, Northup delivers an embittered denunciation in the same spirit as that of William Grimes: "So we passed, handcuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington – through the capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we were told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! Hail! Columbia, happy land, indeed!"

Taken to New Orleans, Northup was sold at auction, and sent to the plantations of Louisiana bayou country. For the next 12 years, along with several hundred other local slaves, Northup was beaten, whipped, starved, and forced to work six days a week (with three days off at Christmas, "the carnival season with the children of bondage"), for a series of increasingly venal masters. Only on Sundays were slaves permitted to work for themselves, earning a few pennies to purchase such necessities as eating utensils. (Good Christian slave-owners would whip a slave and pour salt into the wounds, but wouldn’t dream of breaking the sabbath.)

At first, Northup found himself in the comparatively benign hands of William Ford, a minister who never questioned the slave system he had inherited, but never abused his slaves either. But soon Ford was in financial difficulties, and sold Northup to the vicious John Tibeats, an irrational, violent man who nearly killed Northup more than once. After attempting to run away, and being passed to another merciless owner, Northup was sold to Edwin Epps, a drunken, sadistic bully, who ran the plantation where Northup would work until he was finally rescued.

Along the way Northup chronicles in some detail life on a plantation, cataloguing everything from the method for cultivating cotton and sugar cane to the proper handles for various axes. And he explains the penal system of torture and threat that all slaves endured. The barbarity of slave life was not limited to the large structural injustice of bondage: it also licensed masters to behave as unreasonably as they pleased. The daily unfairnesses that resulted were, in Northup’s telling, often the most intolerable aspect of slavery. Once Tibeats flew at Northup with an axe, threatening to cut off his head for using the wrong nails, although the nails had been given to Northup by the overseer. He tells of a young slave doing a task as instructed, then sent on another task, only to be whipped for not finishing the first, despite having been ordered to interrupt it. "Maddened at such injustice," the young slave seized an axe and "literally chopped the overseer in pieces"; he continued to justify his action even as the rope was put around his neck.

12 YEARS A SLAVE Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

For female slaves, bondage often included another agony: rape. Rape is a theme in most slave narratives; the 1857 autobiography of William Anderson (comprehensively subtitled Twenty-four Years a Slave; Sold Eight Times! In Jail Sixty Times!! Whipped Three Hundred Times!!! or The Dark Deeds of American Slavery Revealed) goes further, addressing the incest that often ensued: the slave south, he writes, "is undoubtedly the worst place of incest and bigamy in the world". Northup does not mention the endemic incest of slavery, but he does dwell on the torment of a fellow slave named Patsey, who was repeatedly raped by Epps. The narrative euphemises Epps’s assaults with conventionally acceptable phrases such as "lewd intentions". But the implications are clear: "If she uttered a word in opposition to her master’s will, the lash was resorted to at once, to bring her to subjection." Meanwhile Patsey was constantly attacked by her mistress, for "seducing" her husband. Northup tried to reason with Mrs Epps: "She being a slave, and subject entirely to her master’s will, he alone was answerable." But Mrs Epps continued to persecute Patsey, resorting to such petty tyrannies as denying her soap. When Patsey ran to a neighbouring plantation to borrow some, Epps accused her of meeting a lover. He had her stripped naked, turned face down, tied hand and foot to four stakes, and whipped until she was flayed, at which point brine was poured upon her back. Patsey survived, but Northup writes that the ordeal broke her.

Eventually a Canadian named Bass came to Epps’s plantation and was heard voicing abolitionist sentiments, a dangerous heresy in the slaveholding south. Northup’s narrative stages a debate between Bass and Epps: Epps offers the standard justification for slavery, that black people were naturally bestial and ignorant, and thus deserved subjugation. Bass counters with the circular nature of this argument: "You’d whip one of them if caught reading a book," Bass points out. "They are held in bondage, generation after generation, deprived of mental improvement, and who can expect them to possess much knowledge? … If they are baboons, or stand no higher in the scale of intelligence than such animals, you and men like you will have to answer for it … Talk about black skin, and black blood; why, how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us? And what difference is there in the colour of the soul? Pshaw! The whole system is as absurd as it is cruel."

This is one of the most surprising aspects of Northup’s narrative: its clarity about the workings of the "peculiar institution" as a system. Chattel slavery, Northup writes, "brutalised" master and slave alike; this is why slave-owners behaved so monstrously, even against their best financial interests (a dead slave, after all, was lost money). Surrounded by appalling human suffering on a daily basis, slave-owners became inured and desensitised to it, "brutified and reckless of human life". Northup goes further, declaring: "It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives." In the same spirit, he repeatedly insists that not all slave-owners were depraved, defending William Ford and others he encountered. These people were not inherently evil; rather, "the influence of the iniquitous system necessarily fosters an unfeeling and cruel spirit". Equally modern is the book’s cogency about the madness of a race-based slavery in which so-called "black" slaves could in fact be lighter skinned than their owners. Northup pointedly describes one slave, who was "far whiter than her owner, or any of his offspring. It required a close inspection to distinguish in her features the slightest trace of African blood."

It was Bass who came to Northup’s aid, risking his own life to get a letter to Northup’s family and friends in New York. They took the letter to a white man named Henry Northup, a relative of the man who had owned and freed Solomon’s father. Henry Northup travelled to Louisiana in early 1853, where he was assisted by the local authorities, who offered their support on the basis that the whole slave system depended on the "good faith" of distinguishing between free men and slaves. This is one way of putting it, although there was not much good faith evident in chattel slavery. A far more likely explanation relates back to the fact that many slaves had white skin: it was in the best interests of any free person in a slave country to protect the rights of other free people. Solomon Northup was liberated, and the two Northup men (sharing a name only by virtue of the system they were engaged in fighting), travelled together to Washington DC, where they tracked down the men who had sold Solomon into slavery and brought them to trial.

The defence offered by the slave-traders comes as a shock to the reader: they argued that Solomon Northup had voluntarily sold himself into slavery. As defences go, this may not sound convincing, but the argument was actually that Northup had agreed to engage in a scam with his "kidnappers": they would sell Northup into slavery, secure his release with his free papers, and then divide the proceeds. The case was never argued in the nation’s capital, however: Northup was unable to testify in court because he was black.

The trial made it into the newspapers, fanning the flames of a heated national debate about the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Designed to mediate between the demands of slaveholders and the rights recognised by free states in the struggle over the status of runaway slaves, the law criminalised helping runaways and declared that if a person were accused of being a fugitive slave, an affidavit by the claimant was sufficient to establish title. Those identified as fugitive slaves had no right to a jury trial and could not testify on their own behalf, which unsurprisingly led to a great surge in the number of free black people who were conscripted into slavery. Like Solomon Northup, they could not testify in their own defence.

Beloved Kimberly Elise, Oprah Winfrey and Thandie Newton in Beloved.

The blatant injustice of the new law, and the widespread feeling that slave states’ rights had trumped those of free states, led to a great outcry. For the next decade, the papers were filled with stories such as that of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who in 1856 murdered her baby rather than see it forced into slavery (the true story that inspired Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved). When Garner was brought to trial, abolitionists used the case to argue that the Fugitive Slave Law was not only unconstitutional; it was so twisted that it had driven a mother to murder her own child in order to save it from "the seething hell of American slavery". But the law was clear: Garner and her family were returned to slavery. The presiding commissioner ruled that "it was not a question of feeling to be decided by the chance current of his sympathies; the law of Kentucky and of the United States made it a question of property".

Reading countless such stories in the newspapers, an abolitionist teacher named Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing a novel, which she based in part on an 1849 slave narrative called The Life of Josiah Henson. In June 1851 the first instalment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in the Nationalist Era, an abolitionist magazine. Readers were gripped, and when the book was published in 1852 its sales were spectacular: 20,000 copies were sold in the first three weeks, 75,000 in the first three months; 305,000 in the first year. By 1857 Uncle Tom’s Cabin was still selling 1,000 copies a week, and during the civil war the (probably apocryphal) story circulated that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe he greeted her by saying, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was calculated to appeal to the conflicted emotions of 19th-century Americans, making them feel the suffering and injustice of slavery, rather than offering philosophical or legal arguments against it. Stowe uses the techniques of sentimental fiction to show the devastating effects of slavery on family life, charging that it is the Christian duty of every good woman in the nation to fight against it. In one key chapter, a senator’s wife, "a timid, blushing little woman", challenges her husband explicitly on the Fugitive Slave Law, informing him that it’s "downright cruel and unchristian" and chastising him for his support of it: "You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It’s a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I’ll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance … I can read my Bible; and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I mean to follow." It was a brilliantly effective strategy, cutting across the divided heart of antebellum America and persuading white Christians across the country to join the abolitionist cause.

Unsurprisingly, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was excoriated in the south as malicious propaganda; slavery advocates argued that theirs was a benign, paternalistic system. No one had ever heard of such viciousness as that shown, for example, by Stowe’s villain, the cruel Simon Legree, who owns a cotton plantation in the Red River region of Louisiana. Determined to vindicate her depiction of American slavery, Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1853, in which she listed a number of documentary sources that corroborated her account. One slave she contacted was the runaway Harriet Jacobs, who had been giving abolitionist speeches in the north-east; instead of letting Stowe tell her story, Jacobs decided to write her own, which was published in 1861 as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. An account that Stowe did use in her Key was the story of Northup, which she had read about in the New York Times, and whose experience on a plantation near the Red River closely resembled her portrait of life on Legree’s fictional plantation.

That same year, Northup and David Wilson, a white lawyer and aspiring author, published Twelve Years a Slave, which was dedicated to Stowe and marketed as "another Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin". It was a huge success, selling 30,000 copies in its first two years, three times as many as had The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass when it appeared in 1845. Several more editions followed, and the press continued to cover the story of Northup’s ultimately fruitless efforts to prosecute the men who had kidnapped him. Meanwhile, he may have been working with the Underground Railroad to help fugitive slaves escape to Canada, and began travelling around the north-east making speeches in support of abolition. He was also involved in several theatre productions based on his book, but none were successful.

Over the years, Northup’s book fell into obscurity; when slave narratives began to enter the American curriculum in the 1980s, they were generally represented by those of Douglass and Jacobs, which are both self-authored and stylistically superior to Northup’s ghost-written account. There is some irony to this latter point, as both Jacobs and Douglass were initially accused of being incapable of writing such fine books, an assumption that owed something to racism but more to the denial of literacy to American slaves. As Henry Louis Gates Jr, an expert on slave narratives and consultant on the film 12 Years a Slave, has noted, literacy "was the very commodity that separated animal from human being, slave from citizen". Douglass writes in My Bondage of the moment when, having learned to read, he realised that his illiteracy was itself "the bloody whip, for my back, and here was the iron chain; and my good, kind master, he was the author of my situation". With literacy Douglass "now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty – to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man … From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom."

Slave-owners understood this, too, and responded savagely to any slave’s attempts to learn to read or write; a common punishment was amputation. As a result, literacy among slaves was very low and most fugitive slaves relied on white "amanuenses" to record their stories for them. Even the few who could write were still edited or endorsed by white abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison or Lydia Maria Child, a patronage system that offered insufficient challenge to the pro-slavery argument that slaves were incapable of learning. When slave narratives were rediscovered in the 20th century, the fact that most had been ghosted or edited by white people once again raised the question of their authenticity: many historians repeated the century-old charge that the narratives were exaggerated or fabricated by abolitionists. Unfortunately, much of the US coverage of McQueen’s film has rehearsed these invidious questions, but the underlying truths of the atrocities of slavery are beyond dispute, and not altered by the fact that any narrative is, by definition, constructed.

In the case of Northup, his account was verified by the historian who recovered his story, a woman named Sue Eakin. Twelve years old when she discovered a copy of Northup’s narrative in a local plantation in 1930, Eakin was intrigued to find it described the area in which she lived. Six years later, as a student at Louisiana State University, she found a copy of the book in a local bookstore. The owner sold it to her for 25 cents, telling her it was worthless: "There ain’t nothing to that old book. Pure fiction." Eakin would devote her life, she later said, to proving him wrong.

Eakin set about discovering everything she could about Northup’s life, tracking down its details, using the legal and financial records of the men who owned him to corroborate his account of his enslavement. (Northup himself quotes more than once from such records: "The deed of myself from Freeman to Ford, as I ascertained from the public records in New-Orleans on my return, was dated June 23d 1841.")

Unlike many slave narratives, Northup’s named names: the people who mistreated him were still alive, and their own records substantiate the facts of his story. Eakin died in 2009; three years later amateur historian David Fiske published Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery. Between them, Eakin and Fiske established that Northup played a significant role in his book’s composition, working closely with Wilson over the three months they wrote it. Fiske even found reports of corroboration made by Edwin Epps himself, from union soldiers who met him in Louisiana during the civil war: "Old Mr Epps yet lives, and told us that a greater part of the book was truth," they reported in 1866.

In her extensive notes to Twelve Years a Slave, Eakin adds some fascinating details to Northup’s story. He alludes early in his narrative to habits of "shiftlessness and extravagance" into which he had fallen before his capture; Eakin remarks that such habits might help explain the court records showing he was convicted of three incidences of assault, as well as arrests for public drunkenness. His capricious decision to accompany his kidnappers to Washington also seems characteristic, and Eakin even hints that the conspiracy theory of Northup’s abduction may not have been entirely implausible. She was unable to ascertain what happened to Northup after 1863; there were rumours that he was kidnapped again, or murdered, but Fiske found evidence that Northup was in Vermont in the 1860s, and reports that his lectures may have become viewed as a local nuisance. Northup may have "given up, resorted to drink, and sunk below the surface". Or perhaps he lit out like Huck Finn for the territory of the west.

These less than hagiographic details have not made their way into McQueen’s film, and given that it was produced as a corrective to a century of Hollywood sentimentalising and glorifying slavery, this is neither surprising nor objectionable. It seems McQueen also underplayed Northup’s insistence that not all his owners were cruel – again this is understandable, especially given that Northup’s protestations may have been designed to placate white readers. But slaves don’t have to be saints or their masters monsters in order for slavery to be an atrocity: our stories will remain trapped in simplistic pieties until we can admit that a man could be a rogue and still have been martyred by a barbaric system in a land that has yet to accept the terms of William Grimes’s offer, and admit how bound its constitution is by the flayed skin of its victims.

• Steve McQueen’s film is on general release.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch

based on the 1853 autobiography ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ by Solomon Northup

This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have failed in anything, it has been in presenting to the reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate as myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kidnapped and sold into slavery, and are at this moment wearing out their lives on plantations… -Solomon Northup, 1853, Twelve Years a Slave

Questioning the Story:

During what years was Solomon Northup a slave?

Like in the movie, the real Solomon Northup was tricked and sold into slavery in 1841 and did not regain his freedom until January 3, 1853.

Was Solomon Northup married with two children?

In researching the 12 Years a Slave true story, we discovered that Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton on Christmas Day, 1828. Unlike the movie, they had three children together, not two. Their daughter Margaret and son Alonzo are portrayed in the movie, while their other child, Elizabeth, was omitted. At the time of the kidnapping, Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo were 10, 8 and 5, respectively.

Solomon Northup with Wife Anne and Children

Left: From back to front, actors Kelsey Scott, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Quvenzhané Wallis and Cameron Zeigler portray the Northup family in the movie. Right: Solomon Northup is reunited with his wife and children at the end of his 1853 memoir.

While enslaved, did Solomon Northup pleasure a woman he discovered was in bed with him?

No, the flash-forward scene that unfolds early in the 12 Years a Slave movie is entirely fictitious and was created by director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley. "I just wanted a bit of tenderness—the idea of this woman reaching out for sexual healing in a way, to quote Marvin Gaye. She takes control of her own body. Then after she’s climaxed, she’s back where she was. She’s back in hell, and that’s when she turns and cries."

Did Solomon Northup really play the violin?

Yes. During our investigation into the 12 Years a Slave true story, we learned that Solomon began playing the violin during the leisure hours of his youth, after he finished his main duty of helping his father on the farm. In his memoir, he calls the violin "the ruling passion of my youth," going on to say, "It has also been the source of consolation since, affording pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, from the painful contemplation of my fate."

Did two men really trick Solomon into going to Washington, D.C. with them?

Yes. Solomon met the two men in the village of Saratoga Springs, New York. The men had heard that Solomon was an "expert player of the violin". They identified themselves using fake names and told him that they were part of a circus company that was looking for someone with his precise musical talent. The two men, later identified as Joseph Russell and Alexander Merrill, asked Solomon to accompany them on a short journey to New York City and to participate with them in performances along the way. They only delivered one performance to a sparse crowd, and it consisted of Russell and Merrill performing somewhat elementary feats like tossing balls, frying pancakes in a hat, ventriloquism and causing invisible pigs to squeal.

Once in New York City, Russell and Merrill encouraged Solomon to go to Washington, D.C. with them, reasoning that the circus would pay him high wages, and since it was the summer season, the troupe would be traveling back north anyway.

Did Solomon’s kidnappers really drug him?

As he indicated in his autobiography, the real Solomon Northup is not positive that he was in fact drugged, however, he remembers various clues that led him to that conclusion. He had spent the day with Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell making stops at a number of saloons in Washington, D.C. They were observing the festivities that were part of the great funeral procession of General Harrison. At the saloons, the two men would serve themselves, and they would then pour a glass and hand it to Solomon. As he states in his memoir, he did not become intoxicated.

By late afternoon, he fell ill with a severe headache and nausea. His sickness progressed until he was insensible by evening. He was unable to sleep and was stricken with severe thirst. He recalls several people entering the room where he had been staying. They told him that he needed to come with them to see a physician. Shortly after leaving his room and heading into the streets, his memory escapes him and the next thing he remembers is waking up handcuffed and chained to the floor of the Williams Slave Pen in Washington, D.C.

Solomon Northup Washington Slave Pen

Left: Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wakes up handcuffed and chained to the floor of a Washington, D.C. slave pen in the movie. Right: An 1860s photograph of a real Alexandria, Virginia slave pen.

Why didn’t Solomon tell anyone that he was a free man?

Shortly after his kidnapping, Solomon did try to tell the slave dealer James H. Birch (spelled "Burch" in the book and movie) that he was a free man. Like in the movie, he also told Birch where he was from and asked Birch to remove the irons that were shackling him. The slave dealer refused and instead called upon another man, Ebenezer Rodbury, to help hold Solomon down by his wrists. To suppress Solomon’s claims of being a free man, Birch whipped him with a paddle until it broke and then with a cat-o’-nine tails, delivering a severe number of lashes. Solomon addresses the lashings in his memoir, "Even now the flesh crawls upon my bones, as I recall the scene. I was all on fire. My sufferings I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!" Following the lashings, Birch told Solomon that he would kill him if he told anyone else that he was a free man.

Below is a picture of Birch’s slave pen in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1865. It had been used to house slaves being shipped from Northern Virginia to Louisiana. The building still stands today and is currently home to the offices of the Northern Virginia Urban League. It should be noted again that this is not the D.C. slave pen where Solomon was held. Solomon was held at the Williams Slave Pen (aka The Yellow House), which was the most notorious slave pen in the capital. The Williams Slave Penn was located at roughly 800 Independence Avenue SW, one block from the Capitol, and is now the site of the headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration.

James H. Birch

Left: The real James H. Birch’s slave pen in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1865. Right: Actor Christopher Berry portrays slave dealer Birch (spelled "Burch" in the movie).

Did a sailor really murder one of the slaves on the ship?

No. The real Solomon Northup did come up with a plan to take over the brig Orleans along with two other slaves, Arthur and Robert. However, unlike what happens in the film, Robert did not die after being stabbed when he came to the defense of Eliza, who in the movie is on the verge of being raped by a sailor. Instead, Robert died from smallpox and the plan to take over the ship was scrapped.

Was Solomon Northup’s name really changed?

Yes. Evidence discovered while researching the true story behind 12 Years a Slave confirmed that Solomon Northup’s name was in fact changed to Platt Hamilton. An official record of the name appears on the April 1841 manifest of the brig Orleans, the ship that carried Northup southward from the Port of Richmond, Virginia to the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana. The portion of the ship’s manifest that displays the name "Platt Hamilton" is pictured below. -Ancestry.com

Brig Orleans Manifest

Solomon Northup’s slave name Platt Hamilton appears on the April 1841 ship manifest of the brig Orleans, supporting his story.

Is William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) accurately portrayed in the movie?

No. The movie paints William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a hypocrite, contradicting his Christian sermons by overlaying them with his slave Eliza’s agonizing screams. In his memoir, Solomon Northup offers the utmost words of kindness for his former master, stating that "there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford." Northup blames William Ford’s circumstances and upbringing for his involvement in slavery, "The influences and associations that had always surrounded him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bottom of the system of Slavery." He calls the real William Ford a "model master", going on to write, "Were all men such as he, Slavery would be deprived of more than half its bitterness."

Did Northup really get into a scuffle with Tibeats over a set of nails?

Yes. Like in the movie, the scuffle over the nails resulted in a carpenter named John M. Tibeats trying to whip Northup, but Northup fended off the attack, grabbed the whip, and began to strike his attacker. Afterward, Tibeats fetched two overseers that he knew on neighboring plantations. The men bound Northup and put a noose around his neck. They led him out to a tree where they were going to hang him, but were stopped and chased off by Mr. Chapin, a just overseer who worked for William Ford. When Ford returned from a trip later that day, he personally cut the cord from Northup’s wrists, arms, and ankles, and he slipped the noose from Northup’s neck.

Not depicted in the movie, the 12 Years a Slave true story brings to light a second scuffle that Northup got into with Tibeats while Ford and Chapin were away, resulting in Tibeats chasing Northup with an axe. Fearing impending retaliation from Tibeats, that time he ran away. However, Northup returned to the plantation after being unable to survive on his own in the harshness of the surrounding swamps. Even though he was forgiven by Ford, the plantation owner decided to sell Northup in part to prevent any more feuds with Tibeats. To Northup’s misfortune, he ended up being bought by a much crueler master, Edwin Epps.

Was Edwin Epps really as cruel as the movie portrays?

Yes. In fact, the real Edwin Epps was crueler than actor Michael Fassbender portrays him to be in the movie. In addition to Edwin Epps being overcome by "dancing moods", where he would force the exhausted slaves to dance, in real life, Epps also had his "whipping moods". Epps usually found himself in a "whipping mood" when he was drunk. He would drive the slaves around the yard and whip them for fun.

Edwin Epps House

The real Edwin Epps house (left) prior to its restoration and relocation. The single story Louisiana cottage was less grand than the house shown in the movie. Northup helped to build the home for Epps’ family.

Did Edwin Epps really obsess over his female slave Patsey?

Yes, but the movie puts more focus on Edwin Epps’s alternating passion for and disgust with Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) than Northup’s memoir. In his book, the real Solomon Northup refers to Epps’s "lewd intentions" toward Patsey, especially when he was intoxicated.

Did Edwin Epps really chase after Solomon with a knife?

Yes. In the movie, after Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) fetches Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), he tells her not to look in Epps direction and to continue on walking. Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who was half intoxicated and contemplating satisfying his lewd intentions toward Patsey, demands to know exactly what Solomon said to Patsey. When Solomon refuses to tell him, he chases after Solomon with a knife, eventually tripping over the fence of a pig pen. In the book, he does chase after Solomon with a knife, but there is no mention of him tripping over the fence.

Did Mistress Epps really encourage her husband to whip Patsey?

Yes. Despite Patsey having a remarkable gift for picking cotton quickly, she was one of the most severely beaten slaves. This was mainly due to Mistress Epps encouraging her husband Edwin to whip Patsey because, as Northup writes, Patsey had become the "slave of a licentious master and a jealous mistress." Northup goes on to describe her as the "enslaved victim of lust and hate", with nothing delighting Mistress Epps more than seeing Patsey suffer. Northup states that it was not uncommon for Mistress Epps to hurl a broken bottle or billet of wood at Patsey’s face.

As portrayed in the 12 Years a Slave movie, in his book Northup describes one of the whippings that Patsey received as being "the most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to witness—one I can never recall with any other emotion than that of horror". It was during this whipping that Epps forced Northup to deliver the lashings. After Northup pleaded and reluctantly whipped Patsey more than forty times, he threw down the whip and refused to go any further. It was then that Epps picked up the whip and applied it with "ten-fold" greater force than Northup had.

Edwin Epps and Patsey

Left: Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) pleads with her master, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Right: A drawing in Northup’s 1853 memoir depicts the "staking out and flogging" of Patsey, who can be seen on the ground. Epps is shown directing Solomon to continue the lashings after Solomon throws down the whip and refuses.

Did Patsey really beg Solomon to end her life?

No. This pivotal, emotionally-charged scene is perhaps the movie’s biggest blunder with regard to the true story. It was most likely unintentional and is the result of the filmmakers misreading a line in Northup’s autobiography. In the book, Northup is discussing the suffering of Patsey, who was lusted for by her master and hated by his jealous wife.

"Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see [Patsey] suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his hand."

It is rather obvious that it is Mistress Epps who wants to bribe Northup to kill Patsey. Patsey wants to escape like Joseph, not kill herself. It seems that the filmmakers misread the line, attributing Mistress Epps’ wishes to Patsey. It is a little discouraging to realize that this crucial scene was likely the result of a misunderstood antecedent. -TheAtlantic.com

Did Patsey and Mistress Shaw really talk over tea?

No. In the movie, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) and Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodard), the black wife of a plantation owner, have a conversation over tea. This scene was invented for the film. Director Steve McQueen wanted to give Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodard) a voice.

Did Armsby betray Northup by letting Epps know about Northup’s letter to his friends in New York?

Yes. In his memoir, Northup describes Armsby as a man who came to the plantation looking to fill the position of overseer but was reduced to labor with the slaves. In an effort to better his role on the plantation, he divulged Northup’s secret to Edwin Epps. When Epps confronted Northup, he denied ever writing the letter and Epps believed him.

Although it is not shown in the movie, this was not the first time that Solomon Northup tried to have someone help him send a letter home. When he was on the ship that brought him south, a sailor helped him mail a letter he’d written. That letter actually made it home to New York and was obtained by attorney Henry B. Northup, a relative of Solomon’s father’s former master. Since Solomon was not yet aware of his final destination, he could not provide a location in the letter. Officials in New York told Henry that no action would be taken until they knew where to look for Solomon.

Was Brad Pitt’s character, Samuel Bass, based on a real person?

Yes. Samuel Bass’s portrayal in the 12 Years a Slave movie is very accurate to how Northup describes him in the book, including his argument with Edwin Epps. Much of what Bass (Brad Pitt) says during that scene is taken almost verbatim from the book, "…but begging the law’s pardon, it lies. … There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be a reckoning yet—yes, Epps, there’s a day coming that will burn as an oven. It may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just."

Did the real Samuel Bass help to free Northup?

Yes. Like in the movie, Samuel Bass, who also appears in Northup’s autobiography, was influential in Northup’s release. As the movie indicates, Samuel Bass was a Canadian who was in Louisiana doing carpentry work for Northup’s owner, Edwin Epps. Northup began assisting Bass and eventually decided to confide in him after he learned that Bass was against slavery. After Solomon shared his story of being tricked and kidnapped into slavery, Samuel Bass became determined to help him, even vowing to travel to New York himself. Bass wrote letters on Solomon’s behalf to various individuals back in New York. The first of these letters ended up being the one that set in motion the events that led to Solomon’s release from slavery in early 1853. -Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave

Henry B. Northup

Attorney Henry B. Northup, a relative of Solomon’s father’s former master, rescued Solomon from slavery.

Who was responsible for Solomon Northup’s release?

The letters written by Samuel Bass that were sent to New York eventually caught the attention of New York Whig attorney Henry B. Northup, who was a relative of Solomon’s father’s former master. Henry was a part of the family that took in Solomon’s father Mintus after he was freed.

Realizing the injustice, Henry made the long journey south to Louisiana and successfully brokered a deal for Solomon’s release. After he rescued Solomon, he returned home with him and fought to bring Solomon’s kidnappers to justice. Henry was also instrumental in securing a publisher for the memoir that would tell Solomon’s story, and in finding the ghost writer, David Wilson, who lived within five miles of Henry’s home. Henry hoped that the book would alert the public to his case against Solomon’s two kidnappers.

Were Solomon Northup’s parents slaves?

Our exploration into the true story behind 12 Years a Slave brought to light the fact that Solomon’s father Mintus Northup was a former slave who had been emancipated in approximately 1798. His mother had never been a slave. She was a mulatto and was three quarters white (her name is never mentioned in the book). Solomon was therefore born a free man in 1807, at a time when slavery still existed in New York. Solomon’s father had been a slave to Capt. Henry Northup, a Loyalist who freed Mintus around 1798 as part of a provision in his will. Mintus took his master’s surname.

What happened to Solomon Northup after he was freed?

Ghost Writer David Wilson

With input from Northup, ghost writer David Wilson, an attorney and great orator, wrote the memoir.

Upon his return home to Saratoga Springs, New York, Northup shared his story and gave interviews to the local press. His story became well known in the North and he started to speak at abolitionist rallies. An 1855 New York State Census confirms that he had indeed returned to his wife Anne, as the two were together again. He also lists himself as a land owner and a carpenter.

In the hands of a ghost writer by the name of David Wilson (pictured), Northup started to provide input for his book. It was published around the middle of July, 1853, after just three and a half months of research, writing, and interviews by the white ghost writer Wilson, who was himself a prominent New York lawyer and author of two books about local history. Henry Northup, the attorney who helped to free Solomon, also contributed to the production of the book and encouraged its speedy publication in an effort to garner public interest in bringing Northup’s kidnappers to trial.

Were Solomon Northup’s kidnappers ever brought to justice?

No. With the help of public interest in Northup, partially as the result of his book, attorney Henry Northup set his sights on two men, Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell, who were believed to have played pivotal roles in the kidnapping. The two men were arrested but never convicted. Disagreements over where the case should be tried, New York or the District of Columbia, led to the decision over jurisdiction to be sent to the New York Supreme Court and then to the New York Court of Appeals. This was after three of the four counts against the two men had already been dropped since it was determined that these counts originated in Washington, D.C., not the state of New York.

During this time, the men in custody applied for release. Joseph Russell’s bail was nominal and Alexander Merrill’s bail was set at $800. The New York Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the lower courts, citing that the indictment legally could not be split, with one count being valid while the other three were ruled invalid due to issues over jurisdiction. In May of 1857, the case was discharged and the two men were never brought to trial. -Twelve Years a Slave – Dr. Sue Eakin Edition

When and how did Solomon Northup die?

The last known details about Solomon Northup’s life are mostly speculative and no one is certain of his exact fate. It is believed that he might have been involved with the Underground Railroad up until the start of the American Civil War. There are also reports of angry mobs disrupting speeches that he gave at abolitionist rallies. This includes speeches that he was giving in Canada in the summer of 1857. Some believe that this could have led to him being murdered, while others have conjectured that it’s possible he was kidnapped again, or that his two former kidnappers who had been on trial went looking for Northup and killed him. Certain members of his family have passed down the story that he had been killed in Mississippi in 1864, but there is no evidence to support that claim. An 1875 New York State Census lists his wife Anne’s marital status as "Widowed". No grave of Solomon Northup has ever been found. -Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave

Is it possible that Solomon Northup planned his kidnapping with the two men in order to split the profits?

Though the idea might seem far-fetched, there has always been some conjecture that Solomon Northup was a willing accomplice to his kidnappers, Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell. The theory was that Northup planned to split with Merrill and Russell the profits from being sold into slavery after he would either escape or have Merrill and Russell subsequently arrange for him to be freed. In a response to reader inquiries, a newspaper column that appeared in The Saratoga Press at the time goes as far as to raise the possibility that the case against Merrill and Russell was thrown out for such reasons.

"We would answer by saying that since the indictment was found, the District Attorney was placed in possession of facts that whilst proving their guilt in a measure, would prevent a conviction. To speak more plainly, it is more than suspected that Sol Northup was an accomplice in the sale, calculating to slip away and share the spoils, but that the purchaser was too sharp for him, and instead of getting the cash, he got something else."

According to the testimony of John S. Enos, Alexander Merrill had attempted this scenario earlier in his kidnapping career. Yet, with regard to Northup, no evidence was ever found to prove that he was involved in his own kidnapping and the events chronicled in his book Twelve Years a Slave have been widely accepted as being none other than the true story. -Twelve Years a Slave – Dr. Sue Eakin Edition

Voir aussi:

ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

by historian David Fiske

David Fiske’s interest in Solomon Northup began in the 1990s, when he visited the Old Fort House Museum in Fort Edward, New York. This house is possibly the only structure still standing in which Northup resided. An exhibit at the museum mentioned Northup’s book, Twelve Years a Slave, and Fiske became curious and slowly began researching N orthup’s life after his rescue. He recently worked with several other researchers, Professor Clifford Brown and Rachel Seligman to write a full biography of Northup: Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave.

Q: Solomon Northup was not the only free black pers on who was kidnapped and sold as a slave – can you talk about how much of a problem kidnapping was before the Civil War and if black people in the North were aware of the threat of bei ng kidnapped? Blacks (both free persons and slaves) were kidnappe d and sold as slaves even in colonial times. The despicable practice was carried on with greater fre quency after 1808, the year that the federal government banned the importation of slaves. Slaves could no longer be brought into the U.S. from other countries–a very good thing–but there was an unfortunate side-effect. The supply of additional slave labor (much desired by plantation owners in t he South) was reduced, causing the value of slaves to rise–which made it very profitable for criminals to kidnap black people and transport them to a sla ve market where they could be sold. Slave traders, anx ious to acquire slaves to send to the South, probably did not ask questions about where these bl ack people had come from. In New York State, the law recognized that kidnappi ng could be accomplished by trickery, because the statute against kidnapping included an old word “in veigling,” which meant the same thing. The law further provided that those accused of kidnapping c ould not argue as a defense that their victims had left with them willingly. Citizens in the northern states, including blacks, had some idea of the possibility of black people be ing lured away and sold as slaves. An acquaintance of S olomon Northup, Norman Prindle, claimed, after Northup’s return to the North, that back in 1841 he had warned Northup that the men he met in Saratoga might have other plans for him once they g ot him south. However, Northup either trusted the men or was so much in need of money that he decided to take the risk.

Q: What did Solomon Northup do after he was rescued from slavery? Northup was reunited with his family (who had reloc ated from Saratoga to Glens Falls) a few weeks after being freed. Remarkably, in the first few day s of February 1853, he appeared at anti-slavery 32 meetings with several famous abolitionists (includi ng Frederick Douglass). Just one month earlier, he had still been a slave! The general public was very interested in his story of kidnapping, slavery, and rescue, and he worked with David Wilson, an attorney and author, to compo se a book, Twelve Years a Slave . The book was quite popular, and Northup traveled around giving l ectures and selling copies of his book. He was also involved with some theatrical productions based on his narrative. One newspaper noted that, during Northup’s travels, he was generous toward fugitive slaves he encountered. Given his personal experience as a sla ve, it is understandable (predictable, even) that h e would want to help others who had escaped from a li fe of servitude. There is evidence that he participated in the Underground Railroad, working w ith a Vermont minister to help escaped slaves reach freedom in Canada. The last reference to Northup’s presence was a reco llection by the minister’s son, who said that Northup had visited his father once after the Emanc ipation Proclamation in 1863. After that, no newspaper articles or personal papers have been fou nd that mention contact with Northup. Neither the circumstances of his death, nor his burial site, ar e known.

Q: What did Northup’s family do while he was a slav e in Louisiana? As Northup mentioned in Twelve Years a Slave , his wife Anne had a successful career as a cook a t various dining establishments in the Saratoga/Glens Falls area of New York. After the disappearance of her husband–along with his earnings–she probably needed additional income. In the fall of 1841 she moved to New York City with her family. She worked there for the wealthy woman, Madame Eliza Jumel (who was once the wife of Vice President Aaro n Burr). Anne was Madame Jumel’s cook and resided at her mansion in Washington Heights (which is today open to the public as the Morris-Jumel Mansion). Her children filled other roles: Elizabe th assisted at the mansion, Margaret served as a playmate for a young girl who was related to Jumel, and Alonzo was a footman and did minor chores. The family’s stay with Jumel lasted from one to tw o years, after which mother and children returned to Saratoga. After a few years, the family moved to Glens Falls, a bit north of Saratoga, where Anne ran the kitchen at the Glens Falls Hotel. The famil y (which now included Margaret’s husband Philip Stanton and their children) was living in Glens Fal ls in 1853 when Northup was rescued and rejoined his family. In the 1860s, the family (though apparently not Nor thup himself) moved to nearby Moreau (to a neighborhood known as Reynolds Corners). Anne proba bly still worked as a cook locally, and during the summers she would work at a hotel at Bolton Lan ding on Lake George. Anne died in 1876 at Reynolds Corners.

Q: Why was the book Twelve Years a Slave so popular before the Civil War? Northup’s book was not the only one that gave a fir st-hand account of slavery, but his had a unique perspective because he was a free man who had becom e a slave, whereas other writers had grown up as slaves. Northup was able to make comparisons bet ween his life as a free person and his life as a slave. In addition, Northup’s book was surprisingly even-handed. He did not condemn all Southerners–he mentions how several of them, such a s Master Ford and overseer Chapin (whose name 33 in real life was Chafin), had treated him kindly. A s one review of the book in a northern newspaper said at the time: “Masters and Overseers who treat ed slaves humanely are commended; for there, as here, were good and bad men.” Authors of slave narratives who had escaped slavery by running away had an extra motivation to portray slavery in a very bad light–they had to jus tify why they had become fugitives. Northup, however, should never have been a slave in the firs t place (“if justice had been done,” he told Samuel Bass, “I never would have been here”). Northup ther efore had little motivation to exaggerate the evils of slavery. He surely describes the many sufferings endured by slaves, but he also tells about their everyday life, the ways they supported one another, and the few occasional sources of pleasure they had. By telling the good as well as the bad, Northu p’s account came across as authentic and convincing.

Q: Did Solomon Northup help with the Underground Ra ilroad once he was free again and how did he get involved? In the early 1860s (and possibly earlier) he worked on the Underground Railroad in Vermont. The Underground Railroad was a system run by anti-slave ry advocates which helped slaves who had run away from the South. Northup, Tabbs Gross (another black man) and Rev. John L. Smith energetically helped fugitives make their way north, to Canada an d freedom. The details of how Northup became involved are not known, but it seems likely that, during his lecture tours, he at some point met Gross, a former slave w ho traveled around New York and New England at the same time as Northup, and who also gave lecture s. At any rate, the minister’s son recalled later o n that Northup and Gross were constantly at work aidi ng fugitives. Northup no doubt tackled this mission with his customary initiative and competenc e, and ended up keeping many fugitives from being returned to servility.

Q: What became of Northup’s slave masters — Willia m Prince Ford, Edwin Epps and Mistress Epps? William Prince Ford was forced to sell Northup afte r he experienced financial difficulties The man he sold him to, John M. Tibaut (called Tibeats in Nort hup’s book and in the film) could not afford to pay Northup’s full value, so Ford was in a way still a part-owner. This is why Ford was able to prevent Tibaut from murdering Northup. Ford was a prominent Baptist minister, serving several congregations. One of them, the Springhill Baptist Church, expelle d him for heresy, partly because he had allowed a Methodist to take communion at the church (an examp le of his generous spirit). Ford wore several other hats: in addition to operating the lumber mi ll where Northup worked, Ford manufactured bricks and mattresses. The woman Ford was married to while Northup was his slave, Martha (Tanner) Ford passed away in 1849, and he got married a second time, to Mary Daw son. Rev. Ford passed away on August 23, 1866 and was buried in a cemetery known as the Old Chene y Cemetery in Cheneyville, Louisiana. Edwin Epps had wanted to contest Northup’s removal from his possession, but his legal counsel 34 advised him that the case was so clear-cut (due to documents presented in court in Marksville, Louisiana, which proved Northup had been born free) , that he should simply give up Northup rather than incur pointless legal expenses, and he did so. Epps gave up drink while Northup was still his slav e, since Northup mentions that in his book. Epps continued working his plantation after Northup’s de parture. The 1860 Federal Census shows that he had assets amounting to over $20,000. During the Civil War some northern soldiers sought out the Epps plantation as the army worked its way through Louisiana. They found many people, both black and white, who remembered Northup and his fiddle-playing, and they even located Epps. Wha t Northup wrote in his book, Epps told the soldiers, was mostly true, and in a back-handed com pliment to Northup he told them that he was an “unusually smart nigger.” Epps died on March 3, 186 7. His place of burial is uncertain. The house that Northup and carpenter Samuel Bass wo rked on for Epps still exists. It has avoided destruction several times, and has also been moved several times. It is now located on the campus of the Louisiana State University at Alexandria, and i t has been declared a historic structure. Mistress Epps, whose maiden name was Mary Robert, b ecame the “Natural Tutrix” (or guardian) of her and her husband’s minor children following Epps ’ death. However she died soon afterward. Many, if not all, of the children left Louisiana and relo cated to various places in Texas.

Q: Were the men involved in Solomon Northup’s kidna pping ever brought to justice? The slave trader in Washington, D.C. who purchased Northup from the men who lured him away from Saratoga was identified as James H. Birch, and was brought up on charges in that city when Northup was on his way home from Louisiana. In Washington, the law at that time did not permit black people to testify in court, and without Northup’s testimo ny, there was little evidence of the crime, so Birc h was not convicted. It surely helped that Birch had some influential friends in the city. In 1854, over a year after Northup was freed, a man who had read Twelve Years a Slave helped to identify the two men who had taken Northup to Washi ngton. (Their real names were Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell–they had given Northup aliases. They were arrested, jailed, indicted, and put on trial. After various delays and appeals, the case a gainst them was dropped without explanation in 1857 . Their only punishment was the seven months they spe nt in jail while awaiting trial before they were released on bail.

Q: Solomon Northup was able to read and write–how d id he get his education? In New York State, blacks had never been formally e xcluded from the schools. In the city of Albany, slave children in colonial times attended school al ongside white children. Even when slavery was still allowed in New York, a state law specified that sla ve owners had to teach their slaves to read, so tha t they could read the Bible. As time went on, some large cities had separate sch ools for black students (which was permitted under state law). During his childhood, Northup lived in small towns in Washington County, which would not have had enough money to establish separate sch ools for blacks, so he probably attended school with white pupils from his neighborhood. Acquaintan ces of Northup and his father (who was illiterate 35 but whom Northup wrote made sure his sons received an education) were Quakers, to whom education was very important, so that may have offered extra encouragement for him to learn. Northup tells of his love of reading as a boy, so he probably built on what basic, formal schooling he received due to his curiosity and intelligence.

Q: Is it true that 12 Years a Slave was actually written by a ghost writer named David Wilson, who was an abolitionist? David Wilson certainly assisted Northup with his bo ok, but he was not a ghost writer. Ghost writers typically write behind the scenes on behalf of some one else, implying that a book was actually authored by that person. When the book was first pu blished in 1853, Wilson was clearly identified as its editor–he even wrote an Editor’s Preface. Ther e was nothing furtive about Wilson having been helped with the writing of the book. The precise method of Wilson’s and Northup’s collab oration is not known, but based on Wilson’s preface, newspaper reports at the time, and a lette r written later on by a relative of one of the prin cipals in Northup’s story, Wilson extensively interviewed Northup, undoubtedly taking copious notes. Northup, who during his years of slavery had no way to record information, must have constantly reviewed in his head the events he had experienced, committing to memory the details of people he had met and places he had been. Wilson wrote that h e was entirely convinced of the authenticity of Northup’s recounting, because Northup had "invariab ly repeated the same story without deviating in the slightest particular." Even Edwin Epps, located by Union soldiers when the y reached Louisiana during the Civil War, admitted that Northup had pretty much told the trut h in his book. After Wilson had put the words onto paper, Northup reviewed them closely. He "carefully perused the manuscript, dictating an alteration wherever the mo st trivial inaccuracy has appeared," Wilson says. I t is likely that the writing style–with its literary flourishes and turns of phrase–can be attributed to Wilson, but Northup was clearly satisfied that Wils on got all the facts right and he was also comfortable with the final wording. Though Wilson has sometimes been described as an ab olitionist, there is no evidence of that. One newspaper at the time said of Wilson: "I believe he never was suspected of being an Abolitionist–he may be anti-slavery–somewhat conservative." A few y ears after Twelve Years a Slave was published, Wilson was identified as a member of the American P arty (called the “Know-Nothings”), which had no strong stance concerning slavery. In Wilson’s ow n words, in his preface to the book, he writes "Unbiased, as he conceives, by any prepossessions o r prejudices, the only object of the editor has bee n to give a faithful history of Solomon Northup’s lif e, as he received it from his lips." 36 SHIP MANIFEST FOR THE BRIG ORLEANS, THE VESSEL THAT TRANSPORTED NORTHUP TO LOUISIANA AFTER HIS CAPTURE 37

Voir enfin:

I Was Born": Slave Narratives, Their Status as Autobiography and as Literature

James Olney

Jstor

Callaloo, No. 20 (Winter, 1984), pp. 46-73

The Johns Hopkins University Press

Anyone who sets about reading a single slave narrative or even two or three slave narratives might be forgiven the natural assumption that such a narrative will be, or ought to be, a unique production; for – so would go the unconscious argument – are not slave narratives autobiography, and is not every autobiography the unique tale, uniquely told, of a unique life ? If such a reader should proceed to take up another half dozen narrative show ever (and there is a great lot of them from which to choose the half dozen), a sense not of uniqueness but of overwhelming sameness is almost certain to be the result. And if our reader continues through two or three dozen more slave narratives, still having  hardly begun to broach the whole body of material (one estimate puts the number of extant narratives at over six thousand), he is sure to come away dazed by the mere repetitiveness of it all: seldom will he discover anything new or different but only, always more and more of the same. This raises a number of difficult questions both for the student of autobiography and the student of Afro-American literature. Should the narrative be so cumulative and so invariant ? Why so repetitive and so much alike ? Are the slave narratives classifiable under some larger grouping (are they history or literature or autobiography or polemical writing ? and what relationship do these larger groupings bear to one another?); or do the narratives represent a mutant development really different in kind from any other mode of writing that might initially seem to relate to them as parent, as sibling, as cousin, or as some other formal relation? What narrative mode, what manner of do we find in the slave narratives, and story-telling, what is the place of memory both in this particular variety of narrative and in autobiography more generally? What is the relationship of the slave narratives to later narrative modes and later thematic complexes of Afro-American writing? The questions are multiple and manifold. I propose to come at them and to offer some tentative answers by first making some observations about autobiography and its special nature as a memorial, creative act; then outlining some of the common themes and nearly invariable conventions of slave narratives; and finally attempting to determine the place of the slave narrative 1) in the spectrum of autobiographical writing 2) in the historyof American literaturea, and 3) in the making of an Afro-American literary tradition.

I have argued elsewhere that there are many different ways that we can legitimately understand the word and the act of autobiography; here, however, I want to restrict myself to a fairly conventional and common-sense understanding of autobiography. I will not attempt to define autobiography but merely to describe a certain kind of autobiographical performance – not the only kind by any means but the one that will allow us to reflect most clearly on what goes on in slave narratives. For present purposes, then, autobiography may be understood as a recollective/narrative act in which the writer, from a certain point in his life – the present -, looks back over the events of that life and recounts them in such a way as to show how that past history has led to this present state of being. Exercising memory, in order that he may recollect and narrate, the autobiographer is not a neutral and passive recorder but rather a creative and active shaper.

Recollection, or memory, in this way a most creative faculty, goes backward so that narrative its twin and counterpart may go forward: memory and narration move along the same line only in reverse direc tions. Or as in Heraclitus, the way up and the way down, the way back and the way forward, are one and the same. When I say that memory is immensely creative I do not mean that it creates for its events that never occurred (of course this can happen too, but that is another matter). What I mean instead is that memory creates the significance of events in discovering the pattern into which those events fall. And such a pattern, in the kind of autobiography where memory rules, will be at eleologic alone bringing us,in and through narration and asit were by an inevitable process, to the end of all past moments which is the present. It is in the inter lay of past and resent,of present memory over on its to reflecting past experience way becoming present being, that events are liftedout of time to be resituated not in mere chronological sequence but in patterned significance.

Paul Ricoeur,in apaper on "Narrative and Hermeneutics,makes the ina different but in a that allows us to sort point slightly way way out theplace of timeand memoryboth in autobiographyin general and in theAfro-Americanslave narrative in particular."Poiesis,"according to Ricoeur’s analysis,"bothreflectasnd resolvestheparadox of time";and he continues:"It reflects it to the extent that the act of combinesinvarious two emplotment proportions temporal and theother The first be chronological non-chronological. may one called theepisodicdimension.It characterizesthestoryas made out ofevents.The secondis the dimension thanks to which dimensions, configurational the plot construessignificantwholes out of scatteredevents."‘ In autobiographyit is memory that in there collecting and retelling of events,effects"emplotment"it is memory that,shaping the past act is for"thecon- cording configuration present, responsible to the ofthe dimension"that"construes wholesout of scat- figurational significant teredevents."Itisforthisreasonthatina classicofautobiographical literature like for is not Augustine’s Confessions, example, memory only I should verysubject writing. imagine, the mode but becomes the ofthe however,thatanyreaderofslavenarrativeiss mostimmediatelystruck by thealmostcompletedominanceof "theepisodicdimension,"the totallack of dimension,"and thevirtual nearly any "configurational absence of any referenceto memoryor any sense thatmemorydoes anythingbut make the past factsand eventsof slaveryimmediately presentto thewriterand his reader.(Thus one oftengets,"I can see evennow …. I can stillhear. .. .," etc.) Thereis a verygood reason forthis,butitsbeinga verygood reasondoes notaltertheconsequence thattheslave narrative,witha veryfewexceptions,tendsto exhibit a highlyconventionalr,igidlyfixedformthatbearsmuchthesamerela- tionshiptoautobiographyina fullsenseas paintingbynumbersbears to paintingas a creativeact.

I say there is a good reason for this, and there is: The writerof a slave narrative finds himself in an irresolvably tight bind as a result of the very intention and premise of his narrative, which is to give a picture of"slavery as it is."Thus it is the writer’s claim, it must be his claim, that he is not he is not and he is not emplotting, fictionalizing, performinagnyactofpoiesis(=shaping, making).To givea truepic- tureof slaveryas it it reallyis, he mustmaintainthathe exercises a clear-glassn,eutralmemorythatisneithercreativenorfaulty-indeed, ifitwerecreativeitwould be eo ipso faulty for"creative"would be understood by skeptical readers as a synonym for"lying."Thus the ex-slave narrator is debarred from use of a memory that would make anything of his narrative beyond or other than the purely, merely episodic, and he is denied access, by the very nature and intent of his venture, to the configuration a dimension of narrative.

Of the kind of memorycentralto the act of autobiographyas I describeditearlier,ErnstCassirerhas written:"Symbolicmemoryis theprocessby whichmannotonlyrepeatshispastexperiencebutalso

reconstructshisexperienceI.maginationbecomesa necessaryelement oftruerecollection.I"n thatword"imagination,h"owever,liesthejoker foran ex-slavewho would writethenarrativeof his lifein slavery.

Whatwe findAugustinedoinginBook X oftheConfessions-offering up a disquisitionon memorythatmakesbothmemoryitselfand the narrativethatitsurroundsfullysymbolic-would be inconceivablein aslavenarrativeO.fcourseex-slavesdoexercisememoryintheirnar- ratives,buttheynevertalkaboutitas Augustinedoes,as Rousseau does, as Wordsworthdoes, as Thoreau does, as HenryJamesdoes, as

a hundredother (notto novelistslike do. autobiographers say Proust)

Ex-slavescannot talk about it because of the premisesaccordingto

whichtheywrite,one of thosepremisesbeingthatthereis nothing

doubtfulor about on the it is assumed mysterious memory: contrary,

to be a clear,unfailingrecordof eventssharpand distincthatneed

onlybe transformeidntodescriptivelanguagetobecomethesequen- tialnarrativeofa lifeinslavery.Inthesameway,theex-slavewriting his narrativecannotaffordto put thepresentin conjunctionwiththe past (again withveryrarebut significanetxceptionsto be mentioned later)forfearthatin so doinghe will appear, fromthepresent,to be

and so and the As a theslave reshaping distorting falsifying past. result,

narrativeis most oftena non-memorialdescriptionfittedto a pre- formedmold,a moldwithregulardepressionshereandequallyregular prominencetshere-virtuallyobligatoryfiguress,cenes,turnsofphrase, observances,and authentications-thatcarryoverfromnarrativeto narrativeand giveto themas a groupthespeciescharacterthatwe designateby thephrase"slave narrative."

Whatisthisspeciescharacterbywhichwemayrecognizea slave narrativeT?hemostobvious markisthatitisanextreme-

mixed distinguishing orallofthe

ly productiontypicallyincludingany following:

an engravedportraitor photographof the subjectof the narrative; authenticatintgestimonialsp,refixedor postfixed;poeteicpigraphss,nat- chesofpoetryin thetext,poemsappended;illustrationbsefore,in the middleof,orafterthenarrative ofthenarrative

itself;2interruptions

properby way of declamatoryaddressesto the readerand passages thatas to stylemightwell come froman adventurestory,a romance,

ora novelof a ofdocuments-letters sentiment; bewilderingvariety

to and fromthe narrator,bills of sale, newspaperclippings,notices

of slave auctionsand of escaped slaves, certificateosf marriage,of

manumission,ofbirthand death,wills,extractsfromlegalcodes-

thatappear beforethetext,in thetextitself,in footnotes,and in ap-

pendices;and sermonsand anti-slaveryspeechesand essaystackedon

at theend to demonstrate activitiesof thenarrator.In post-narrative

pointingout the extremelymixednatureof slave narrativesone im-

mediatelyhas to acknowledgehow mixedand impureclassic autobiographieasre or can be also. The lastthreebooks ofAugustine’s

Confessions,forexample,areina differenmtodefromtherestofthe

volume, and Rousseau’s Confessions,which begins as a novelistic

romanceand ends in a paranoid shambles,can hardlybe considered

modallyconsistentandallofa piece.Orifmentionismadeofthelet-

ters and to slave thenone thinks prefatory appended narratives, quickly

of thelettersat thedivideof Franklin’sAutobiography,whichhave muchthesameextra-textueaxlistenceasletterastoppositeendsofslave narratives.But all thissaid, we mustrecognizethatthenarrativelet-

tersortheappendedsermonshaven’tthesameintentionas theFranklin

lettersorAugustine’sexegesisofGenesis;andfurtherm,oreimportant,

all themixed, elementsinslavenarratives heterogeneoush,eterogeneric

come to be so regular,so constant,so indispensableto themode that theyfinallyestablisha setofconventions-a seriesofobservancesthat become virtuallyde riguer-for slave narrativesunto themselves.

The conventionsforslave narrativeswereso earlyand so firmly establishedthatone can imaginea sortof masteroutlinedrawnfrom thegreatnarrativesand guidingthelesserones. Such an outlinewould look somethinglike this:

A. Anengravedportrait,signedbythenarrator.

B. A titlepage thatincludestheclaim,as an integralpartoftheti- tle,"WrittenbyHimself"(orsomeclosevariant:"Writtenfroma state- mentof FactsMade by Himself";or "Writtenby a Friend,as Related to Him by BrotherJones";etc.)

C. A handfulof testimonialsand/orone or moreprefacesor in-

troductionwsritteneitherbyawhiteabolitionistfriendofthenarrator

(WilliamLloyd Garrison,WendellPhillips)or by a whiteamanuen-

sis/editor/author forthetext(JohnGreenleafWhit- actuallyresponsible

tier,David Wilson,LouisAlexisChamerovzow),inthecourseofwhich

prefacethereaderis told thatthenarrativeis a "plain,unvarnished

tale"and thatnaught"hasbeensetdowninmalice,nothingexaggerated,

nothingdrawnfromtheimagination"-indeed,thetale,itis claimed, understatesthe horrorsof slavery.

D. A poeticepigraph,bypreferencferomWilliamCowper. E. Theactualnarrative:

1. a firstsentencebeginning,"I was born … ," thenspecifyinga placebutnota dateofbirth;

2. a accountof often a white sketchy parentage,, involving father;

3. descriptionofa cruelmaster,mistresso,roverseer,detailsoffirst observedwhippingandnumerousubsequentwhippingsw,ithwomen veryfrequentlythe victims;

4. anaccountofoneextraordinarilsytrong,hardworkingslave- often"pureAfrican"-who, because thereis no reasonforit,refuses

to be whipped;

5. recordofthebarriersraisedagainstslaveliteracyandtheover-

whelmingdifficultieesncounteredin learningto read and write;

6. descriptionofa "Christian"slaveholder(oftenofonesuchdying in terror)and theaccompanyingclaimthat"Christian"slaveholders

are invariablyworsethanthoseprofessingno religion;

7. descriptionoftheamountsandkindsoffoodandclothinggiven

toslaves,theworkrequiredofthem,thepatternofa day,a week, a year;

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

51

8. account of a slave auction, of familiesbeing separated and

destroyed,ofdistraughmtothersclingingtotheirchildrenastheyare tornfromthem,of slave cofflesbeingdrivenSouth;

9. descriptionofpatrols,offailedattempt(s)toescape,ofpursuit by men and dogs;

10. descriptionofsuccessfulattempt(s)toescape,lyingbyduring

theday, travellingby nightguidedby theNorthStar,receptionin a freestatebyQuakerswho offera lavishbreakfastand muchgenial

thee/thouconversation;

11. takingofa newlastname(frequentlyonesuggestedbya white abolitionistt)oaccordwithnewsocialidentityas a freeman,butreten- tionoffirstnameas a markofcontinuityofindividualidentity;

12. reflectionosn slavery.

F. Anappendixorappendicescomposedofdocumentarymaterial-

billsofsale,detailsofpurchasefromslavery,newspaperitems-, fur-

therreflectionosn slavery,sermons,anti-slaveryspeeches,poems,ap- peals to thereaderforfundsand moralsupportin thebattleagainst

slavery.

Aboutthis’MasterPlan forSlave Narratives("theironyofthephras-

neitherunintentionanlor twoobservations ing being insignificant)

shouldbe made: First,thatitnotonlydescribesratherlooselya great manylessernarrativebsutthatitalso describesquitecloselythegreatest ofthemall, NarrativeoftheLifeofFrederickDouglass, An American Slave, WrittenbyHimself,3whichparadoxicallytranscendstheslave narrativemode whilebeingat thesame timeitsfullest,mostexact representativeS;econd, thatwhat is beingrecountedin thenarratives is nearlyalways therealitiesof theinstitutionof slavery,almostnever

ofthenarrator(here,as often, emotional, growth

theintellectual, moral

Douglass succeedsin beingan exceptionwithoutceasingto be thebest

example:he goesbeyondthesingleintentionofdescribingslavery,but he also describesitmoreexactlyand moreconvincinglythananyone else). The lives of thenarrativesare never,or almostnever,therefor themselveasnd fortheirown intrinsic, interesbtut

intheircapacityas illustrationosfwhatslaveryisreallylike.Thusin

one sensethenarrativelivesoftheex-slaveswereas muchpossessed

and used by the abolitionistsas theiractual lives had been by

slaveholders.This is why JohnBrown’sstoryis titledSlave Lifein

unique nearlyalways

and subtitled"A NarrativeoftheLife, and only Sufferings,

Georgia

EscapeofJohnBrown,A FugitiveSlave,"anditiswhyCharlesBall’s story (which reads like historicalfictionbased on very extensive research)is called Slaveryin theUnitedStates,withthesomewhatex- tendedsubtitle"A NarrativeoftheLifeand AdventureosfCharlesBall, A BlackMan, who livedfortyearsinMaryland,SouthCarolinaand Georgia,as a slave, undervariousmasters,and was one yearin the

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

52

navywithCommodoreBarney,duringthelatewar. Containingan ac- countof themannersand usages of theplantersand slaveholdersof theSouth-a descriptionoftheconditionandtreatmenotftheslaves, withobservationusponthestateofmoralsamongsthecottonplanters,

and the and

perils sufferings fugitive escaped

ofa slave,who twice from thecottoncountry."Thecentralfocusofthesetwo,as ofnearlyall

thenarrativesi,s slavery,an institutionand an externalreality,rather thana particularand individualifeas itis knowninternallyand sub-

thenarratives are all trainedon one and the same objectivereality,theyhave a

Thismeansthatunlike in jectively. autobiography general

coherentand definedaudience,theyhave behindthemand guidingthem

an organizedgroup of "sponsors,"and theyare possessed of very specificmotives,intentionsa,ndusesunderstoodbynarratorss,pon- sors,and audiencealike: to revealthetruthof slaveryand so to bring about itsabolition.How, then,could thenarrativesbe anythingbut verymuchlike one another?

Severaloftheconventionsofslave-narrativweritingestablishedby

thistriangularelationshipofnarratora,udience,and sponsorsand the logicthatdictatesdevelopmentofthoseconventionswillbearand will reward closer scrutiny.The conventionsI have in mind are both thematicand formaland theytendto turnup as oftenin theparapher- naliasurroundingthenarrativesas inthenarrativesthemselvesI.have alreadyremarkedontheextra-textualelttersocommonlyassociated

withslavenarrativeasndhave that

suggested they logic

havea different about themfromthelogicthatallows or impelsFranklinto include similarlyaliendocumentsinhisautobiographyt;hesameistrueofthe

signedengravedportraitsor photographso frequentlyto be foundas

inslavenarrativesT.he andthe

frontispieces portrait signature(which

one mightwell findin othernineteenth-centurayutobiographical documentsbutwithdifferenmtotivation),liketheprefatoryandap-

pendedletters,thetitulartag "Writtenby Himself,"and thestandard

opening"I was born,"are intendedto attestto thereal existenceof

a narrator,thesensebeingthatthestatusofthenarrativewillbe con-

tinuallycalledintodoubt,so itcannotevenbegin,untilthenarrator’s

realexistenceisfirmlyestablishedO.fcoursetheargumentoftheslave

narrativesis thattheeventsnarratedare factualand truthfualnd that

theyallreallyhappenedtothenarratorb,utthisisa second-stageargu-

ment;priorto theclaimoftruthfulnesisthesimple,existentiacllaim:

"I exist." lettersall Photographs,portraitss,ignaturesa,uthenticating

makethesameclaim:"Thismanexists."Onlythencanthenarrative

begin.And how do mostofthemactuallybegin?Theybeginwiththe existentiacllaimrepeated."I was born"are thefirstwordsofMoses Roper’sNarrativea,nd theyarelikewisethefirstwordsofthenarratives ofHenryBibband HarrietJacobs,ofHenryBox Brown4and William

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

53

Wells Brown,of FrederickDouglass5and JohnThompson,of Samuel RinggoldWardandJamesW. C. Penningtono,fAustinStewardand JamesRoberts,ofWilliamGreenand WilliamGrimes,ofLevinTilmon and PeterRandolph,ofLouis Hughesand LewisClarke,ofJohnAn- drewJacksonandThomasH. Joneso,fLewisCharltonandNoahDavis, ofJamesWilliamsand WilliamParkerand Williamand EllenCraft (wheretheopeningassertionis variedonlyto theextentofsaying,"My wifeand myselfwereborn").6

We can see thenecessityforthisfirstand mostbasic assertionon thepartoftheex-slaveinthecontrarysituationofan autobiographer likeBenjaminFranklinW.hileanyreaderwasfreetodoubtthemotives ofFranklin’msemoir,noonecoulddoubthis andsoFranklin

existence, beginsnotwithanyclaimsorproofsthathewasbornandnowreally

existsbutwithan explanationofwhyhe has chosento writesucha

documentas theone in hand. Withtheex-slave,however,it was his

existenceand his nothisreasonsfor thatwerecalled identity, writing,

intoquestion:iftheformercould be establishedthelatterwould be obviousand thesamefromone narrativeto another.Franklincitesfour motivesforwritinghisbook(tosatisfydescendantsc’uriosityt;ooffer an exampleto others;to providehimselfthepleasureofrelivingevents inthetelling;tosatisfyhisownvanity),andwhileonecanfindnar- rativesby ex-slavesthatmighthave in themsomethingofeach ofthese motives-JamesMars, forexample,displaysin partthefirstof the motives,Douglass inpartthesecond,JosiahHensoninpartthethird, and SamuelRinggoldWardinpartthefourth-thetruthis thatbehind everyslave narrativethatis in any way characteristiocr representative thereis the one same persistentand dominantmotivation,which is determinedbytheinterplayofnarrator,sponsors,and audienceand whichitselfdeterminetshenarrativeintheme,content,and form.The themeis therealityof slaveryand thenecessityof abolishingit; the contentisa seriesofeventsanddescriptiontshatwillmakethereader see and feeltherealitiesofslavery;and theformis a chronological, episodicnarrativebeginningwithan assertionof existenceand sur- roundedby various testimonialevidencesforthatassertion.

In thetitleand subtitleofJohnBrown’snarrativecitedearlier-Slave

in A Narrative the

Life Georgia: of Life,Sufferings, Escape of

and John Brown,AFugitiveSlave-we seethatthethemepromisestobetreated on two levels, as it were titularand subtitular:the social or institu-

tionaland thepersonalor individual.What typicallyhappensin the

actualnarrativese,speciallythebestknownand mostreliableofthem,

is thatthesocial theme,therealityofslaveryand thenecessityof abolishingit,trifurcateosn thepersonallevelto becomesubthemesof

and freedom not sightcloselyrelatedmattersn,evertheleslseadintooneanotherinsuch

and at first literacyi,dentity, which,though obviously

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

54

a that end

and

up beingaltogetherinterdependent virtually

Nar-

way they

as thematicstrands.Here,as so often,

indistinguishable Douglass’

rativeis at oncethebestexample,theexceptionaclase,and thesupreme

achievementT.hefulltitleofDouglass’bookisitselfclassic:Narrative

of the Life of FrederickDouglass, An AmericanSlave, Writtenby

Himself.7Thereis muchmoreto thephrase"writtenby himself,"of

course,thanthemerelaconicstatementofa fact:itisliterallya part

ofthenarrativeb,ecominganimportanthematicelementintheretell-

ingofthelifewhereinliteracy,identitya,nda senseoffreedomare

all and withouthefirst, to

acquiredsimultaneously according Douglass, thelattertwo would neverhave been. The dual factof literacyand

identity("written"and"himself"r)eflectbsackontheterribleironyof the phrase in apposition,"An AmericanSlave": How can both of these-"American"and "Slave"-be true?And thisin turncarriesus back to thename, "FrederickDouglass," whichis writtenall around thenarrativei:n thetitle,on the and as thelastwords

of the text:

Sincerelyand earnestlyhopingthatthislittlebook may do somethingtowardthrowinglighton theAmericanslave system, andhasteningthegladdayofdeliverancetothemillionsofmy

brethrenin bonds-faithfullyrelyingupon the power of truth, love, and justice,forsuccessin myhumbleefforts-andsolemn-

lypledgingmyselfanew to thesacredcause,–I subscribemyself, FREDERICK DOUGLASS

"Isubscribemyself"-IwritemyselfdowninlettersI,underwritmey identityand myverybeing,as indeedI have done in and all through theforegoingnarrativethathas broughtmeto thisplace,thismoment, thisstateof being.

The to utterhis and more to utterit in ability name, significantly

themysteriouscharactersona pagewhereitwillcontinuetosound

insilenceso as readerscontinuetoconstruethe iswhat long characters,

Douglass’ Narrativeis about, forin thatletteredutteranceis assertion ofidentityand inidentityisfreedom-freedomfromslavery,freedom fromignorance,freedomfromnon-being,freedomeven fromtime. WhenWendellPhillips,ina standardletterprefatorytoDouglass’Nar- rative,says thatin thepast he has always avoided knowingDouglass’ "real name and birthplace" because it is "still dangerous, in Massachusetts,forhonestmentotelltheirnames,"oneunderstands wellenoughwhathe meansby "yourrealname"and thedangerof tellingit-"Nobody knowsmyname,"JamesBaldwinsays.Andyet

in a veryimportantway Phillipsis profoundlywrong,forDouglass had beensayinghis"realname"eversinceescapingfromslaveryin

engravedportrait,

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

55

theway in whichhe wentabout creatingand assertinghis identityas a freeman:FrederickDouglass.IntheNarrativehesayshisrealname notwhenhe revealsthathe "was born"FrederickBaileybutwhenhe putshissignaturbeelowhisportraibteforethebeginningand subscribes himselfagain aftertheend of thenarrative.Douglass’ name-changes and self-namingare highlyrevealingat each stage in his progress: "FrederickAugustusWashingtonBailey"by thenamegivenhimby hismotherh,ewasknownas"FrederickBailey"orsimply"Fred"while growingup; heescapedfromslaveryunderthename"Stanley,"but whenhe reachedNew York took thename "FrederickJohnson."(He wasmarriedinNewYorkunderthatname-and givesacopyofthe marriagecertificatien thetext-by theRev. J.W. C. Penningtonwho had himselfescapedfromslaverysometenyearsbeforeDouglass and who wouldproducehisown narrativesomefouryearsafterDouglass.) Finally,in New Bedford,he foundtoo manyJohnsonsand so gave to

hishost( one ofthetoo the many-Nathan Johnson) privilege

ofnam- inghim,"buttoldhimhe mustnottakefromme thenameof ‘Frederick.’

Imustholdontothat,topreservea senseofmyidentity.T"husa new social identitybut a continuityof personalidentity.

In narratingtheeventsthatproducedbothchangeand continuity in his life,Douglass regularlyreflectsback and forth(and herehe is verymuchtheexception)fromthepersonwrittenabout to theperson writingf,romanarrativeofpasteventstoapresentnarratorgrown out of thoseevents.In one marvellouslyrevealingpassage describing thecoldhesufferefdromas a child,Douglasssays,’My feethavebeen so crackedwiththefrost,thatthepen withwhichI am writingmight belaidinthegashes."One mightbeinclinedtoforgethatitisa vastly

writtenabout,butitis a personwriting person very

different fromthe

and effectivreeminderto referto the in- significant immensely writing

strumentas a way ofrealizingthedistancebetweentheliterate,ar- ticulatewriterand the illiterate,inarticulatesubjectof the writing. Douglasscouldhavesaidthatthecoldcausedlesionsinhisfeeta quarter ofan inchacross,butinchoosingthewritinginstrumenhteldat the presentmoment-"the pen withwhichI am writing"-by one now known to the world as FrederickDouglass, he dramatizeshow far removedhe is fromtheboy once called Fred(and other,worsenames, of course)withcracksin his feetand withno moreuse fora pen than foranyoftheothersignsand appendagesoftheeducationthathehad beendeniedand thathewouldfinallyacquireonlywiththegreatest

success,as we feelin difficulty greatest, telling

butalso withthe most thequalityofthenarrativenow flowingfromtheliteraland symbolic

heholdsinhishand.Herewehave andfreedom, pen literacyi,dentity,

theomnipresenthematictrioof themostimportantslave narratives, all conveyedin a singlestartlingimage.8

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

56

Thereis, however,onlyone FrederickDouglass amongtheex-slaves who told theirstoriesand the storyof slaveryin a singlenarrative, and in even the best known, most highlyregardedof the other narratives-those,forexample,by WilliamWellsBrown,CharlesBall, HenryBibb,JosiahHenson,SolomonNorthup,J.W. C. Pennington, and Moses Roper–all theconventionsare observed-conventionsof content,theme,form,and style-but theyremainjustthat:conven- tionsuntransformeadndunredeemedT.hefirsthreeoftheseconven- tionalaspectsofthenarrativesare,as I have alreadysuggested,pretty clearlydeterminebdy therelationshibpetweenthenarratorhimselfand thoseI have termedthesponsors(as wellas theaudience)ofthenar- rative.Whentheabolitionistsinvitedan ex-slaveto tellhisstoryof

experiencein slaveryto an anti-slaveryconvention,and when they

subsequentlysponsoredtheappearanceof thatstoryin print,1t0hey

had certainclear wellunderstood themselveasnd well expectations, by

understoodby theex-slavetoo, about thepropercontento be observ- ed, theproperthemeto be developed,and theproperformto be follow- ed. Moreover,content,theme,and formdiscoveredearlyon an ap-

propriatestyleand thatappropriatestylewas also thepersonalstyle displayedby thesponsoringabolitionistsin thelettersand introduc- tionstheyprovidedso generouslyforthenarrativesI.tisnotstrange, ofcourse,thatthestyleofan introductionand thestyleofa narrative shouldbe one and thesame in thosecases whereintroductionand nar- rativewerewrittenbythesameperson-CharlesStears writingin- troductionandnarrativeofBoxBrown,forexample,orDavid Wilson writingprefaceand narrativeof Solomon Northup.What is strange,

and a deal more is theinstancein whichthe perhaps, good interesting,

styleoftheabolitionistintroducercarriesoverintoa narrativethat iscertifiedas "WrittenbyHimself,"andthislatterinstanceisnotnear- lyso isolatedas onemightinitiallysuppose.I wanttolooksomewhat at threevariationson thatI taketo

closely stylisticinterchange repre-

sentmoreor less the of be- adequately spectrum possiblerelationships

tweenprefatorystyleand narrativestyle,or moregenerallybetween sponsorand narrator:HenryBox Brown,wheretheprefaceand nar- rativeare bothclearlyin themannerof CharlesStearns;SolomonNor- thup,wherethe enigmaticalprefaceand narrative,althoughnot so clearlyas inthecaseofBoxBrown,areneverthelesbsothintheman- nerofDavid Wilson;andHenryBibb,wheretheintroductionissign- ed byLuciusC. Matlackand theauthor’sprefacebyHenryBibb,and wherethenarrativeis "Writtenby Himself"-but wherealso a single

is in controlof author’s and narrativealike. style introduction, preface,

HenryBox Brown’sNarrative,we are told on the title-page,was WRITTEN FROM A

STATEMENT OF FACTS MADE BY HIMSELF. WITH REMARKS UPON THE REMEDY FOR SLAVERY. BY CHARLES STEARNS.

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

57

Whetheritis intentionaolr not,theorderoftheelementsand thepunc- tuationofthissubtitle(withfullstopsafterlinestwoand three)make

itveryunclearjustwhatis beingclaimedabout authorshipand stylistic responsibilityforthenarrative.Presumablythe"remarksupon the remedyforslavery"are by CharlesStearns(who was also, at 25 Cor- nhill,Boston,thepublisherof theNarrative),but thistitle-pagecould wellleavea readerindoubtaboutthepartyresponsibleforthestylistic mannerofthenarration.Such doubtwillsoon be dispelled,however, ifthereaderproceedsfromCharlesStearns’"preface"to Box Brown’s "narrativet"o CharlesStearns’"remarksupon theremedyforslavery." The is a most most most

preface poetic, high-flown, grandiloquent perorationthat,oncecrankedup, carriesrightoverintoand through thenarrativetoissueintheappendedremarkswhichcometoan end in a REPRESENTATION OF THE BOX in whichBox Brownwas

transportedfromRichmondto Philadelphia.Thus fromthepreface:

seesomenewthing,n’ortogratifyanyinclinationonthepartofthe hero of thefollowingstoryto be honoredby man, is thissimpleand touchingnarrativeoftheperilsofa seekerafterthe’boon ofliberty,’ introducedto thepubliceye . … ," etc.-the sentencegoes on three timeslongerthanthisextractd,escribingasitproceeds"thehorridsuf-

ofone as, ina shutoutfromthe ofheaven, ferings portableprison, light

and nearly deprived of its balmy air, he pursued his fearful journey….. " As is usual in suchprefaces,we are addresseddirectly

"Not forthe of to a desireto ‘hearand purpose administering prurient

by

theauthor:"O reader,as this tale,letthe you peruse heart-rending

tearofsympathyrollfreelyfromyoureyes,and letthedeep fountains

ofhumanfeelingw,hichGodhasimplantedinthebreastofeveryson

anddaughterofAdam,burstforthfromtheirenclosure,untila stream

shallflowtherefromon to thesurroundingworld,ofso invigorating

and a nature,as toarousefromthe’deathofthesin’of purifying slavery,

and cleansefromthepollutionsthereof,all withwhom you may be connected."We maynotbe overwhelmedbythesenseofthissentence but surelywe mustbe by its richrhetoricalmanner.

Thenarrativeitselfw,hichisallfirstpersonand"theplainnarrative ofourfriend,"as theprefacesays,beginsinthismanner:

I amnotabouttoharrowthefeelingsofmyreadersbya ter-

rificrepresentationof theuntoldhorrorsof thatfearfuslystem

ofoppressionw,hichforthirty-thrleoengyearsentwineditssnaky

foldsaboutmysoul,as theserpentofSouthAmericacoilsitself

aroundtheformofitsunfortunatveictim.It is notmypurpose

to descenddeeplyintothedarkand noisomecavernsofthehell

of and fromtheir abode thoselost slavery, drag frightful spirits

who hauntthesouls of thepoor slaves, daily and nightlywith theirfrightfuplresence,and withthefearfusloundoftheirter-

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

58

rificinstrumentosf torture;forotherpens farabler thanmine

have that ofthelaborofan effectuallpyerformed portion exposer

of the enormitiesof slavery. Sufficeittosayofthispieceoffinewritingthatthepen-than which therewereothersfarabler-was heldnotbyBoxBrownbutbyCharles Stearnsand thatitcouldhardlybe furtheremovedthanitisfromthe penheldbyFrederickDouglass,thatpenthatcouldhavebeenlaidin thegashesin his feetmade by thecold. At one pointin his narrative Box Brownis made to say (afterdescribinghow his brotherwas turn- ed away froma streamwiththeremark"We do not allow niggersto fish"),"Nothingdaunted,however,by thisrebuffm, ybrotherwent

successfulin his obtain- undertaking,

to another and was place,

quite

inga plentifuslupplyofthefinnytribe.""It maybe thatBox Brown’s

storywas toldfrom"a statementoffactsmadebyhimself,"butafter

thosefactshavebeendressedup intheexoticrhetoricaglarmentspro-

videdbyCharlesStearnsthereispreciouslittleofBoxBrown(other

thanthe of thebox itself)thatremainsin thenarrative. representation

And indeed for everyfact thereare pages of self-conscious,self-

gratifyings,elf-congratulatorpyhilosophizingby CharlesStearns,so thatifthereis any lifehereat all it is thelifeof thatman expressed in his veryown overheatedand foolishprose.12

David Wilsonis a good deal morediscreethanCharlesStearns,and

the relationshipof prefaceto narrativein Twelve Years a Slave is

thereforae deal more butalso more than great questionable, interesting,

intheNarrativeofHenryBox Brown.Wilson’sprefaceis a page and a halflong; Northup’snarrative,witha song at theend and threeor

fourappendices,is threehundredthirtypages long. In the preface Wilsonsays, "Many of thestatementcsontainedin thefollowingpages are corroboratedby abundantevidence-othersrestentirelyupon Solomon’sassertionT.hathehasadheredstrictlytothetrutht,heeditor, at least, who has had an opportunityof detectingany contradiction or discrepancyin his statementsi,s well satisfied.He has invariably repeated the same story without deviating in the slightest particular…. "13 Now Northup’snarrativeis not only a verylong onebutisfilledwitha vastamountofcircumstantial andhence

detail,

itstrainsa reader’scredulitysomewhatto be toldthathe "invariably

repeatedthesame storywithoutdeviatingin theslightestparticular." Moreover,sincethestyleofthenarrative(as I shallargueina mo-

ment)isdemonstrablynotNorthup’sown,wemightwellsuspecta fill- inginand fleshingouton thepartof-perhaps notthe"onliebegetter" butatleast-theactualauthorofthenarrativeB.utthisisnotthemost

of Wilson’s in the nor theone performance preface

interestinagspect thatwillrepayclosestexamination.Thatcomeswiththeconclusion of theprefacewhichreads as follows:

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

59

It is believedthatthefollowingaccountofhis [Northup's]ex-

perienceon Bayou Boeufpresentsa correctpictureof Slavery, in all itslightsand shadows,as itnow existsin thatlocality.Un-

biased,as heconceives,byanyprepossessionsorprejudices,the onlyobjectoftheeditorhasbeentogiveafaithfuhlistoryof Solomon Northup’slife,as he receivedit fromhis lips.

In the ofthat accomplishment object,

thenumerousfaultsof and of it be withstanding style expression may

foundto contain.

To sortout,asfaraspossible,whatisbeingassertedherewewould

do well to startwiththefinalsentence,whichis relativelyeasy to understand.To acknowledgefaultsin a publicationand to assume

forthemis ofcoursea in responsibility commonplacegesture prefaces,

thoughwhythequestionofstyleand expressionshouldbe so impor- tantingiving"afaithfuhlistory"ofsomeone’slife"as…receiv-

ed . . . fromhislips"isnotquiteclear;presumablythevirtuesofstyle

he trustshe has succeeded,not-

itwhatever expression superadded history give

and are to thefaithful to

literarymeritsitmaylayclaimto,andinsofaras thesefallshortthe

authorfeelsthe need to acknowledgeresponsibilityand apologize. Neverthelessp,uttingthisambiguityaside,thereisno doubtaboutwho isresponsibleforwhatinthissentence,which,ifI mightreplacepro- nounswithnames,would read thus:"In theaccomplishmenotf that object,David Wilsontruststhathe [David Wilson]has succeeded,not-

thenumerousfaultsof and of which

withstanding

David Wilsonassumes

style expression[for

it be found thereader responsibility] may by

penetrableboth in syntaxand in the assertiontheyare presumably designedto make. Castingthefirststatementas a passive one ("It is

believed.. .") and danglinga participlein the second ("Unbias- ed . . . "), so thatwe cannotknowineithercase towhomthestate- mentshould be attached,Wilson succeeds in obscuringentirelythe authoritybeingclaimedforthenarrative.1I4t would take too much

to the the (one however, space analyze syntax, psychology might, glance

at thefamiliaruse ofNorthup’sgivenname),and thesenseofthese

affirmationsb,ut I would challengeanyone to diagramthe second sentence("Unbiased . . . ") withany assuranceat all.

As to thenarrativeto whichtheseprefatorysentencesrefer:When

we get a sentencelike this one describingNorthup’sgoing into a

swamp-"My midnightintrusionhad awakenedthefeatheredtribes

tocontain."Thetwoprecedingsentencesh,owever,arealtogetherim-

relativesofthe tribeo’fBoxBrown/Charles which [near 'finny Steams],

seemedto throngthemorassin hundredsof thousands,and theirgar-

rulousthroatspouredforthsuchmultitudinoussounds-therewas such

a of sullen in thewaterall aroundme- fluttering wings-such plunges

that I was affrightedand appalled" (p. 141)-when we get such a

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

60

sentencewe maythinkitprettyfinewritingand awfullyliteraryb,ut thefinewriterisclearlyDavid WilsonratherthanSolomonNorthup. Perhapsa betterinstanceofthewhiteamanuensis/sentimentnaolvelist

hismannered overthefaithful as receivedfromNor- laying style history

thup’slipsistobefoundinthisdescriptionofa Christmascelebration wherea huge meal was providedby one slaveholderforslaves from surroundingplantations:"Theyseat themselvesat therustictable- themaleson one side,thefemaleson theother.The twobetweenwhom theremayhavebeenan exchangeoftendernessi,nvariablymanageto sitopposite;fortheomnipresenCtupid disdainsnottohurlhisarrows into the simpleheartsof slaves" (p. 215). The entirepassage should be consultedto get the fulleffectof Wilson’s stylisticextravagances whenhepullsthestopsout,butanyreadershouldbe forgivenwho declinestobelievethatthislastclause,withitsreferencteo "thesimple heartsofslaves"and its inverted

self-conscious, syntax("disdainsnot"), was writtenby someonewho had recentlybeen in slaveryfortwelve

years."Red,"we aretoldbyWilson’sNorthup,"isdecidedlythefavorite coloramongtheenslaveddamselsofmyacquaintance.Ifa redribbon does notencircletheneck,you willbe certainto findall thehairoftheir wooly heads tiedup withred stringsof one sortor another"(p. 214). In the light of passages like these, David Wilson’s apology for "numerousfaultsof styleand of expression"takes on all sortsof in- terestingnew meaning.The rustictable, the omnipresentCupid, the simpleheartsofslaves,and thewoollyheadsofenslaveddamsels,like thefinnyand featheredtribes,mightcomefromanysentimentanlovel ofthenineteenthcentury-one,say,byHarrietBeecherStowe;and so it comes as no greatsurpriseto read on the dedicationpage the following:"To HarrietBeecherStowe:WhoseName,Throughouthe World,IsIdentifiedwiththeGreatReformT:hisNarrative,Affording AnotherKey to UncleTom’s Cabin, Is RespectfullyDedicated." While notsurprisingg,iventhestyleofthenarrative,thisdedicationdoes lit- tleto clarifytheauthoritythatwe are asked to discoverin and behind thenarrative,and thededication,like thepervasivestyle,calls into seriousquestionthestatusof Twelve Yearsa Slave as autobiography and/orliterature.15

ForHenryBibb’snarrativeLuciusC. Matlacksuppliedan introduc-

tionin a mightypoeticvein in whichhe reflectson theparadox that

outofthehorrorsofslaveryhave comesomebeautifulnarrativepro-

ductions."Gushingfountainsof poetic thought,have startedfrom

beneaththerod ofviolence,thatwilllongcontinueto slakethefeverish

thirstofhumanityoutraged,untilswellingtoa flooditshallrushwith

wastingviolenceovertheill-gottenheritageoftheoppressor.Startling

incidents far

authenticated, excelling touchingpathos,

fictionin their fromthepenofself-emancipatesdlaves,do nowexhibitslaveryinsuch

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

61

revoltingaspects,as to securetheexecrationsof all good men,and

becomea monumentmoreenduringthanmarble,intestimonystrong

as sacredwritagainstit."16The pictureMatlackpresentsof an outrag-

ed humanitywitha feverishthirstforgushingfountainstartedup by

therodofviolenceisa peculiaroneandonethatseems,psychologically

speaking, not very healthy. At any rate, the narrativeto which

Matlack’sobservationshaveimmediatereferencweas,ashesays,from

the of a slave severaltimes), pen self-emancipated (self-emancipated

anditdoesindeedcontain incidentwsithmuch

startling touchingpathos

about them;butthereallycuriousthingabout Bibb’snarrativeis that

itdisplaysmuchthesame florid,sentimentald,eclamatoryrhetoricas

we findin or as-told-tonarrativesand also in ghostwritten prefaces

suchas thoseby CharlesStearns,Louis AlexisChamerovzow,and LuciusMatlackhimselfC.onsidertheaccountBibbgivesofhiscourt- shipandmarriage.Havingdeterminedbya hundredsignsthatMalin- dalovedhimevenashelovedher-"I couldreaditbyheralwaysgiv- ingme thepreferencoef hercompany;by herpressinginvitationsto visiteven in oppositionto her mother’swill. I could read it in the languageofherbrightand sparklingeye,penciledby theunchangable fingerofnature,thatspakebutcouldnotlie"(pp. 34-35)-Bibb decid- ed to speak and so, as he says, "broachedthe subjectof marriage":

I said,"I neverwillgivemyheartnorhandtoanygirlinmar-

untilI firstknowhersentiments the sub- riage, upon all-important

jectsof Religionand Liberty.No matterhow well I mightlove her,norhow greatthesacrificein carryingout theseGod-given principles.And I herepledgemyselffromthiscourseneverto be shakenwhilea singlepulsationofmyheartshallcontinueto throbforLiberty."

Anddidhis"deargirl"funkthechallengethusproposedbyBibb? Farfromit-if anythingsheprovedmorehigh-mindedthanBibb himself.

WiththisideaMalindaappearedtobewellpleased,andwith a smileshelookedmeinthefaceandsaid,"Ihavelongenter- tained the same views, and this has been one of the greatest reasonswhyI havenotfeltinclinedtoenterthemarriedstatewhile a slave;Ihavealwaysfelta desiretobefree;Ihavelongcherish- ed a hope thatI shouldyetbe free,eitherby purchaseor running away.InregardtothesubjectofReligion,Ihavealwaysfeltthat itwas a good thing,and somethingthatI would seekforat some futureperiod."

Itisalltothegood,ofcourse,thatnoonehaseverspokenorcould everspeakasBibbandhisbelovedaresaidtohavedone-no one,that is,outsidea bad, sentimentanlovelofdatec. 1849.17Thoughactual- lywrittenbyBibb,thenarrativef,orstyleandtone,mightas wellhave

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

62

beentheproductofthepenofLuciusMatlack.Butthecombination ofthesentimentarlhetoricofwhitefictionand whitepreface-writing witha realisticpresentationofthefactsofslavery,all paradingunder the bannerof an authentic-and authenticated-personalnarrative, producessomethingthatis neitherfishnorfowl.A textlikeBibb’sis committedtotwoconventionaflormst,heslavenarrativeandthenovel ofsentimenta,nd caughtbybothitis unableto transcendeither.Nor

Considerone smallbutrecurrenatnd tellingdetailin therelation- shipofwhitesponsorto black narrator.JohnBrown’snarrative,we are toldby Louis AlexisChamerovzow,the"Editor"(actuallyauthor) of Slave Lifein Georgia,is "a plain, unvarnishedtale of real Slave- life";EdwinScrantom,inhisletter"recommendatoryw,"ritesto Austin Stewardofhis Twenty-TwoYearsa Slave and FortyYearsa Freeman, "Letitsplain,unvarnishedtalebe sentout,and thestoryofSlavery and its abominations,again be told by one who has feltin his own personitsscorpionlash,and theweightofitsgrindingheel";thepreface writer("W. M. S.") forExperienceofa Slave inSouthCarolinacalls it "theunvarnished,but ower truetale of JohnAndrewJackson,the

ofhis"ex-slave,"saysof TheNarrativeofJamesWilliams,"Thefollow- ingpagescontainthesimpleand unvarnishedstoryofan AMERICAN SLAVE"; RobertHurnardtellsus thathe was determinedto receive and transmitSolomon Bayley’sNarrative"in his own simple,unvar- nished style"; and HarrietTubman too is given the "unvarnished" honorifibcySarahBradfordinherprefaceto ScenesintheLifeofHar- rietTubman:"Itisproposedinthislittlebooktogivea plainandun- varnishedaccountofsomescenesandadventureisnthelifeofa woman who, thoughone of earth’slowly ones, and of dark-huedskin,has shownan amountofheroisminhercharacterarelypossessedbythose ofanystationinlife."Thefactthatthevarnishislaidonverythickly indeedin severalof these(Brown,Jackson,and Williams,forexam-

is but it is not theessential whichis to ple) perhapsinteresting, point,

be foundin therepeateduse of just thisword-"unvarnished"-to describeall thesetales.The OxfordEnglishDictionarywilltellus (which we shouldhave surmisedanyway)thatOthello,anotherfigureof"dark- huedskin"butvastlyheroiccharacterf,irstusedtheword"unvarnish- ed"-"I willa roundunvarnish’dtaledeliver/Of mywholecourseof love";andthat,atleastsofarastheOED recordgoes,theworddoes notturnup againuntilBurkeuseditin1780,some175yearslater("This

UncleTom’sCabin sensibility produced

is thereasonfarto seek:the that

was closelyalliedto theabolitionistsensibilitythatsponsoredtheslave narrativesand largelydeterminedthe formthey should take. The master-slaverelationshipmightgo undergroundor itmightbe turned insideout but it was not easily done away with.

Carolinianslave";JohnGreenleafWhittier, the escaped apparently dupe

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

63

is a true,unvarnished,undisguisedstateoftheaffair").I doubtthat anyonewould imaginethatwhiteeditors/amanuensehsad an obscure passagefromBurkeinthebackoftheircollectivemind-or deepdown inthatmind-when theyrepeatedlyusedthiswordtocharacterizethe narrativeoftheirex-slaves.No, itwas certainlya Shakespeareanhero theywereunconsciouslyevoking,and notjustany Shakespeareanhero but always Othello, theNoble Moor.

Various narratorsof documents"writtenby himself"apologize for

theirlack of grace or styleor writingability,and again various nar-

rators thattheirsare factual,realistic but say simple, presentations;

noex-slavethatI havefoundwhowriteshisownstorycallsitan "un-

varnished"tale: thephraseis specificto whiteeditors,amanuenses, writersa,ndauthenticatorMs.oreover,toturnthematteraround,when

an ex-slavemakesan allusionto Shakespeare(whichis naturallya very infrequenotccurrencet)osuggestsomethingabouthissituationorim-

ofhis theallusionis neverto Othello.Frederick plysomething character,

Douglass, forexample,describingall theimaginedhorrorsthatmight overtakehimand hisfellowsshouldtheytryto escape,writes,"I say,

thispicturesometimesappalled us, and made us:

‘ratherbear those ills we had, Than flyto others,thatwe knew not of."‘

Thus it was in the lightof Hamlet’s experienceand characterthat

Douglass saw his own, not in the lightof Othello’s experienceand

character.Not so WilliamLloyd Garrison,however,who says in the

prefaceto Douglass’ Narrative,"I am confidenthatit is essentially

trueinallitsstatementst;hatnothinghasbeensetdowninmalice,

nothingexaggeratedn,othingdrawnfromtheimagination…. "18We can be sure that it is entirelyunconscious,this regularallusion to

Othello,butitsaysmuchaboutthepsychologicarlelationshipofwhite patronto black narratorthattheformershouldinvariablysee thelat- ter not as Hamlet, not as Lear, not as Antony, or any other Shakespeareanhero but always and only as Othello.

When you shall theseunluckydeeds relate,

Speak of themas theyare. Nothingextenuate,

Nor set down aughtin malice. Then mustyou speak Of one thatlov’d not wiselybut too well;

Of one not easily jealous, but, beingwrought, Perplex’din the extreme….

TheMoor, Shakespeare’sor Garrison’s,wasnoble,certainlyb,uthe

was also a creatureofunreliablecharacterand irrational passion-such,

at least,seemsto havebeenthelogicoftheabolitionistsa’ttitudetoward

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

64

theirex-slavespeakersand narrators-and it was just as well forthe whitesponsorto keep him,ifpossible,on a prettyshortleash. Thus itwas thattheGarrisonians-thoughnotGarrisonhimself-wereop- posed to theidea (and lettheiroppositionbe known)thatDouglass and WilliamWellsBrownshouldsecurethemselveasgainsttheFugitive Slave Law by purchasingtheirfreedomfromex-mastersa;nd because it mightharmtheircause theGarrisoniansattemptedalso to prevent WilliamWellsBrownfromdissolvinghismarriage.The reactionfrom theGarrisoniansand fromGarrisonhimselfwhenDouglass insisted

ongoinghisownwayanyhowwasbothexcessiveandrevealing,sug- gestingthatforthemtheMoor had ceased to be noble whilestill,un-

fortunatelyr,emaininga Moor. My Bondageand My Freedom,Gar-

risonwrote,"initssecondportion,is reekingwiththevirusofper-

sonal towardsWendell and theold malignity Phillips,myself, organiza-

tionists and and basenesstowardsas true generally, fullofingratitude "19

and disinterestefdriendsas any man everyethad upon earth. That

thissimplyis not trueof My Bondage and My Freedomis almostof

secondaryinterestowhatthewordsI haveitalicizedrevealofGar-

rison’sattitudetowardhis ex-slaveand theunconsciouspsychology

ofbetrayed,outragedproprietorshilpyingbehindit.And whenGar-

risonwroteto his wifethatDouglass’ conduct"has been impulsive,

inconsiderateand highlyinconsistent"and to Samuel J. May that

Douglasshimselfwas "destitutoefeveryprincipleofhonor,ungrateful

to thelast and malevolentin the is clear: degree spirit,"20 picture pretty

forGarrison,Douglass had becomeOthellogonewrong,Othellowith all his dark-huedskin,his impulsivenessand passion but none of his nobilityof heroism.

TherelationshiopfsponsortonarratordidnotmuchaffecDtouglass’ ownNarrative:hewas capableofwritinghisstorywithoutaskingthe Garrisoniansl’eave or requiringtheirguidance.ButDouglass was an

manand an writera,nd othernar- extraordinary altogetherexceptional

rativesby ex-slaves,even thoseentirely"Writtenby Himself,"scarce- ly riseabove thelevel of thepreformedi,mposedand acceptedcon- ventional.Of thenarrativesthatCharlesNicholsjudgesto have been writtenwithoutthehelpofan editor-thoseby"FrederickDouglass, WilliamWells Brown,JamesW. C. Pennington,Samuel Ringgold Ward, Austin Steward and perhaps Henry Bibb"21-none but Douglass’ has any genuineappeal in itself,apartfromthetestimony itmightprovideaboutslavery,oranyrealclaimtoliterarymeritA.nd whenwegobeyondthisbarehandfulofnarrativestoconsiderthose writtenunderimmediateabolitionistguidanceand control,we find, as we mightwell expect,even less of individualdistinctionor distinc- tivenessas thenarratorshow themselvesmoreor less contentto re- main slaves to a prescribed,conventional,and imposed form; or

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

65

perhapsitwould be morepreciseto say thattheywerecaptiveto the abolitionistintentionsand so thequestionof theirbeingcontentor

otherwisheardlyenteredin.Justasthetriangularelationshiepmbracing sponsor,audience,and ex-slavemadeofthelattersomethingotherthan an entirelyfreecreatorinthetellingofhislifestory,so also itmade

ofthenarrativperoduced(alwayskeepingtheexceptionaclase inmind) somethingotherthanautobiographyinanyfullsenseand something otherthanliteraturein any reasonableunderstandingof thattermas

an act of creativeimagination.An autobiographyor a piece of im- aginativeliteraturemay of courseobservecertainconventions,but it cannotbe only,merelyconventionalwithoutceasingto be satisfac- toryas eitherautobiographyor literaturea,nd thatis thecase, I should say, withall theslave narrativesexceptthegreatone by Frederick Douglass.

Butherea mostinterestinpgaradoxarises.Whilewemaysaythat

theslavenarrativedso notqualifyas eitherautobiographyorliterature,

and whilewe mayargue,againstJohnBaylissand GilbertOsofskyand others,thattheyhave no realplace inAmericanLiterature(justas we mightargue,and on thesame grounds,againstEllenMoers thatUncle Tom’sCabinisnota greatAmericannovel),yettheundeniablefact is thattheAfro-American traditiontakesitsstart,in themecer-

literary

tainlybut also oftenin contentand form,fromtheslave narratives.

RichardWright’sBlack Boy, whichmanyreaders(myselfincluded) would take to be his supremeachievementas a creativewriter,pro- videstheperfectcase inpoint,thougha hostofotherscouldbe adduc- ed thatwouldbe nearlyas exemplary(DuBois’ variousautobiographical works;Johnson’sAutobiographyofan Ex-ColouredMan; Baldwin’s autobiographicalfictionand essays; Ellison’sInvisibleMan; Gaines’ AutobiographyofMissJanePittman;MayaAngelou’swritinge;tc.). In effectW, rightlooks back to slave narrativesat thesame timethat he projectsdevelopmentsthatwould occurin Afro-Americanwriting afterBlackBoy(publishedin1945).ThematicallyB,lackBoyreenacts boththegeneral,objectiveportrayaloftherealitiesofslaveryas an institution(transmutedto whatWrightcalls "The EthicsofLivingJim Crow" in thelittlepiece thatlies behindBlack Boy) and also thepar-

ticular,individualcomplexof literacy-identity-freedtohmatwe find at the thematicenterof all of the most importantslave narratives. IncontentandformaswellBlackBoyrepeats,mutatismutandism,uch of thegeneralplan givenearlierin thisessaydescribingthetypicalslave narrativeW:rightl,iketheex-slave,afteramoreorlesschronological, episodicaccountof theconditionsof slavery/JimCrow, includinga

vivid of the or near

particularly description difficulty impossibility-

butalso theinescapablenecessity-ofattainingfullliteracy,tellshow he escapedfromsouthernbondage,fleeingtowardwhathe imagined

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

66

would be freedom,a new and the to exercisehis identity, opportunity

hard-wonliteracyina northernf,ree-statceity.Thathedidnotfind

exactlywhat he expectedin Chicago and New York changesnothing about Black Boy itself:neitherdid Douglass findeverythinghe an-

ticipatedor desiredin theNorth,but thatpersonallyunhappyfactin

no way affectshis Narrative.Wright,impelledby a nascentsense of

freedomthatgrewwithinhim in directproportionto his increasing

literacy(particularlyin thereadingofrealisticand naturalistifciction),

fledtheworldoftheSouth,and abandonedtheidentitythatworld

had imposeduponhim("I was whatthewhiteSouthcalleda ‘nigger"‘),

insearchofanotheridentity,theidentityofa writer,preciselythat

writerwe know as "RichardWright.""Fromwherein thissouthern

darknesshadIcaughtasenseoffreedom?"2W2rightcoulddiscover

only one answer to his question: "It had been only through

books . . . thatI hadmanagedtokeepmyselfaliveina negativelyvital

way" (p. 282). It was in his abilityto construelettersand in thebare

possibilityofputtinghislifeintowritingthatWright"caughta sense

offreedom"and knewthathe mustworkout a new "I could identity.

submitandlivethelifeofa genialslave,"Wrightsays,"but,"headds,

"thatwas impossible"(p. 276). Itwas impossiblebecause,likeDouglass and otherslaves,he had arrivedat thecrossroadswherethethreepaths

of freedom

literacy,identity, met, knowledge

and aftersuch therewas

no turningback.

BlackBoy resembleslave narrativeisn manywaysbutin otherways

itis differenftromits and ancestors.It is ofmore crucially predecessors

thantrivial that narrativedoes not with insignificance Wright’s begin

"Iwasborn,"norisitundertheguidanceofanyintentionorimpulse otherthanitsown, and whilehis book is largelyepisodicin structure, itis also-precisely by exerciseofsymbolicmemory-"emplotteda"nd

insucha as toconstrue wholesout "configurational" way "significant

ofscatteredevents."UltimatelyW,rightfreedhimselfromtheSouth-

atleastthisiswhathisnarrativerecounts-andhewasalsofortunate-

lyfree,as theex-slavesgenerallywerenot,fromabolitionistcontrol

and freeto exercisethatcreativememorythatwas peculiarlyhis. On

thepenultimatpeageofBlackBoyWrightsays,"I was leavingtheSouth to flingmyselfintotheunknown,to meetothersituationsthatwould

perhapselicitfromme otherresponses.And ifI could meetenough

ofa different and I learn life,then,perhaps,gradually slowly might

who I was, whatI mightbe. I was notleavingtheSouthto forgethe South,butso thatsomedayI mightunderstandit,mightcometoknow whatitsrigorshaddonetome,toitschildrenI. fledso thatthenumb- nessofmydefensivelivingmightthawout and letmefeelthepain- yearslaterandfaraway-of whatlivingintheSouthhadmeant."Here Wrightnotonlyexercisesmemorybutalso talksaboutit,reflecting

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

67

on itscreative,therapeuticr,edemptivea,nd liberatingcapacities.In his conclusionWrightharksback to thethemesand theformof the

slavenarrativesa,ndatthesametimeheanticipatesthemeandform in a greatdeal of morerecentAfro-Americanwriting,perhapsmost notablyinInvisibleMan. BlackBoyislikea nexusjoiningslavenar- rativesof thepast to themostfullydevelopedliterarycreationsof the presentt:hroughthepowerofsymbolicmemoryittransformtsheearlier narrativemodeintowhateveryonemustrecognizeas imaginative, creativeliteratureb,othautobiographyand fiction.In theirnarratives we mightsay, theex-slavesdid thatwhich,all unknowinglyon their partandonlywhenjoinedtocapacitiesandpossibilitiesnotavailable to them,led righton to the traditionof Afro-Americanliteratureas we know it now.

NOTES

1ProfessorRicoeurhas generouslygivenme permissionto quote fromthisunpublishedpaper.

2 I haveinmindsuchillustrationass thelargedrawingreproduced

as to Andrew a SlaveinSouth frontispiece John Jackson’Esxperienceof

Carolina(London:Passmore& Alabaster,1862),describedas a "Fac-

simileofthegimletwhichI usedtoborea holeinthedeckofthevessel";

theengraveddrawingofa torturemachinereproducedon p. 47 ofA Narrativeof the Adventuresand Escape of Moses Roper, from

AmericanSlavery(Philadelphia:Merrihew& Gunn, 1838); and the "REPRESENTATION OF THE BOX, 3 feet1 inchlong,2 feetwide, 2 feet6 incheshigh,"in whichHenryBox Browntravelledby freight fromRichmondto Philadelphia,reproducedfollowingthetextof the Narrativeof HenryBox Brown,Who Escaped fromSlaveryEnclosed in a Box 3 FeetLong and 2 Wide. Writtenfroma Statementof Facts Made by Himself.WithRemarksupon theRemedyforSlavery.By CharlesSteams. (Boston: Brown& Stearns,1849). The verytitleof Box Brown’sNarrativedemonstratesomethingof themixedmode of slavenarrativesO.nthequestionofthetextofBrown’snarrativesee also notes4 and 12 below.

3 Douglass’NarrativedivergesfromthemasterplanonE4(hewas himselftheslave who refusedto be whipped),E8 (slave auctionshap- penednottofallwithinhisexperienceb,uthedoestalkofthesepara- tionof mothersand childrenand thesystematicdestructionof slave families),and E10 (he refusesto tellhow he escaped because to do so would close one escape routeto thosestillin slavery;in theLifeand TimesofFrederickDouglass he revealsthathis escape was different fromtheconventionalone). Forthepurposesofthepresentessay-

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

68

and also, I think,in general-the Narrativeof 1845 is a much more

and a betterbook than twolater

interesting Douglass’ autobiographical

texts:My Bondage and My Freedom(1855) and Lifeand Timesof

FrederickDouglass (1881). These lattertwo are diffuseproductions

(Bondage and Freedomis threeto fourtimeslongerthanNarrative,

Lifeand Timesfiveto sixtimeslonger)thatdissipatethefocalizedenergy

of the Narrativein lengthyaccounts of post-slaveryactivities-

abolitionistspeeches,recollectionsoffriendst,ripsabroad,etc.Inin-

terestingways it seemsto me thattherelativeweaknessof thesetwo

laterbooksisanalogoustoa similarweaknessintheextendedversion

of RichardWright’sautobiographypublishedas AmericanHunger (orginallyconceivedas partofthesametextas BlackBoy).

4 This is true of the version labelled "firstEnglish edition"-

NarrativeoftheLifeofHenryBox Brown,WrittenbyHimself(Man- chesterL:ee&Glynn,1851)-butnotoftheearlierAmericanedition- NarrativeofHenryBox Brown,Who EscapedfromSlaveryEnclosed ina Box3 FeetLongand2 Wide.Writtenfroma StatementofFacts Made by Himself.WithRemarksupon theRemedyforSlavery.By

CharlesSteams. (Boston:Brown& Stearns,1849). On thebeginning of theAmericaneditionsee thediscussionlaterin thisessay, and on therelationshipbetweenthetwo textsof Brown’snarrativesee note 12 below.

5 Douglass’ Narrative begins this way. Neither Bondage and FreedomnorLifeand Timesstartswiththeexistentiaalssertion.This

is one thing,thoughby no meanstheonlyor themostimportantone,

thatremovesthelattertwobooks fromthecategoryofslavenarrative.

It is as ifby 1855 and evenmoreby 1881 FrederickDouglass’ existence

and his weresecure and wellknownthat identity enough sufficiently

he no longerfeltthenecessityof thefirstand basic assertion.

6 WiththeexceptionofWilliamParker’s"The Freedman’sStory" (publishedin theFebruaryand March1866issuesofAtlanticMonthly) all thenarrativelsistedwere Thereare more

separatepublications. many brief"narratives"-so briefthat theyhardlywarrantthe title"nar-

rative":froma singleshortparagraphtothreeorfourpagesinlength-

thirtysuchinthecollectionofBenjaminDrewpublishedas TheRefugee: A North-SideViewofSlavery.I havenottriedtomultiplytheinstances by citingminorexamples;thoselistedin thetextincludethemostim- portantofthenarratives-Roper,Bibb,W. W. Brown,Douglass, Thompson, Ward, Pennington,Steward, Clarke, the Crafts-even JamesWilliams,thoughitisgenerallyagreedthathisnarrativiesa fraud perpetratedon an unwittingamanuensis,JohnGreenleafWhittierI.n additionto thoselistedin thetext,thereare a numberof othernar- rativesthatbeginwithonlyslightvariationson theformulaictag-

that with"I was born";thereare,for or begin example,twenty-five

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

69

WilliamHayden:"Thesubjectofthisnarrativweasborn";MosesGran-

dy:"MynameisMosesGrandy;Iwasborn";AndrewJackson":I,An-

drew was Elizabeth lifehas beenan event- Jackson, born"; Keckley:"My

fulone. I was born"; Thomas L. Johnson:"Accordingto information

receivedfrommymotheri,fthereckoningis correctI, was born… "

more thantheseis thevariation Solomon Perhaps interesting playedby

Northup,who was born a freeman in New York State and was kid- nappedand sentintoslaveryfortwelveyears;thushe commencesnot with"I was born"butwith"Havingbeenborna freeman"-as itwere theparticipialcontingencythatendowshisnarrativewitha special poignancyand a markeddifferencferomothernarratives.

Thereis a niceand ironicturnon the"I was born"insistencein the

ratherfoolishscenein UncleTom’s Cabin (ChapterXX) whenTopsy

famouslyopinesthatshewas notmadebutjust"grow’d."MissOphelia catechizesher:" ‘Wherewereyou born?"Neverwas born!’persisted

Topsy." Escaped slaves who hadn’tTopsy’s peculiarcombinationof Stowe-icresignationand manichighspiritsin thefaceofan imposed

non-existencweere toassertoverandover,"I non-identity, impelled

was born."

7 Douglass’titleisclassictothedegreethatitisvirtuallyrepeated

by HenryBibb, changingonly thename in theformulaand inserting "Adventures,p"resumablyto attractspectacle-lovinrgeaders:Narrative oftheLifeand AdventuresofHenryBibb,An AmericanSlave, Writ-

tenby Himself.Douglass’ Narrativewas publishedin 1845, Bibb’s in 1849.I suspectthatBibbderivedhistitledirectlyfromDouglass. That ex-slaveswritingtheirnarrativeswereaware ofearlierproductionsby fellowex-slaves(and thuswereimpelledto samenessin narrativeby outrightimitationas well as by theconditionsof narrationadduced inthetextabove) ismadeclearintheprefaceto TheLifeofJohnThomp- son,A FugitiveSlave; ContainingHis Historyof25 YearsinBondage, andHisProvidentialEscape.WrittenbyHimself(WorcesterP:ublish- edbyJohnThompson,1856),p. v: "Itwas suggestedtomeabouttwo yearssince,afterrelatingto manythemainfactsrelativeto mybon- dage and escape to theland of freedom,thatit would be a desirable thingtoputthesefactsintopermanentform.I firstsoughttodiscover whathadbeensaidbyotherpartnersinbondageonce,butinfreedom now…." Withthisforewarningthereadershouldnotbe surprised to discoverthatThompson’snarrativefollowstheconventionsof the formverycloselyindeed.

8 However much Douglass changed his narrativein successive incarnations-theopeningparagraph,forexample,underwentcon- siderabletransformation-hcehose to retainthissentenceintact.It oc- curson p. 52 oftheNarrativeoftheLifeofFrederickDouglass . . . ed. BenjaminQuarles (Cambridge,Mass., 1960); on p. 132 ofMy Bon-

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

70

dageandMyFreedom,intro.PhilipS. Foner(NewYork,1969);and on p. 72 ofLifeand TimesofFrederickDouglass, intro.RayfordW.

Logan (New York, 1962).

9 For convenienceI have adopted thislistfromJohnF. Bayliss’in-

troductiontoBlackSlaveNarratives(NewYork,1970),p. 18.Aswill be apparent,however,I do notagreewiththepointBaylisswishesto

make withhis list. Having quoted fromMarion Wilson Starling’sun- publisheddissertation,"The Black Slave Narrative:Its Place in AmericanLiteraryHistory,"to theeffecthattheslave narrativese,x- cept those fromEquiano and Douglass, are not generallyvery distinguishedasliteratureB,aylisscontinues:"Starlingisbeingunfair heresincethenarrativesdo showa diversityofinterestinsgtyles… Theleadingnarratives,uchas thoseofDouglass,WilliamWellsBrown, Ball,Bibb,Henson,Northup,Penningtona,nd Roperdeservetobe con- sideredfora in American a the

place literature, place beyond historical."Since Ball’s narrativewas writtenby one "Mr. Fisher"and

Northup’sbyDavid Wilson,andsinceHenson’snarrativsehowsa good

dealofthecharlantryonemightexpectfroma manwhobilledhimself

toincludethemamongthoseslavenarrativesaidtoshowthegreatest literarydistinctionT.o putitanotherway,itwouldbeneithersurpris- ingnorspeciallymeritoriouisfMr. Fisher(a whiteman),David Wilson (a whiteman),andJosiahHenson(TheOriginalUncleTom)wereto display"a diversityofinterestinsgtyles"whentheirnarrativesareput alongsidethoseby Douglass, W. W. Brown,Bibb, Penningtona,nd

Butthe fact,as I shall in thetext,is that Roper. reallyinteresting argue

theydo not show a diversityof interestinsgtyles.

10Here we discoveranotherminorbut revealingdetailof thecon-

vention itselfJ.ustasitbecameconventionatlohavea establishing sign-

ed and so it became at least portrait authenticatinlgetters/prefaces,

semi-conventionatlo have an imprintreadingmore or less like this:

"Boston:Anti-SlaveryOffice,25 Cornhill."A Cornhilladdressis given

for,amongothers,thenarrativesof Douglass, WilliamWells Brown,

Box Brown,Thomas Jones,JosiahHenson,Moses Grandy,and James

as ‘The UncleTom,"itseemsatbesta errorfor Original strategic Bayliss

Williams.The lastoftheseis especiallyinterestinfgor,althoughitseems thathisnarrativeis at least Williamsis on this

semi-fraudulent, point,

as on so

11NarrativeofHenryBoxBrown…. (Boston:Brown& Stears,

many others,altogetherepresentative.

merely

1849), p. 25.

12 The questionof thetextof Brown’sNarrativeis a good deal more

complicatedthanI have space to show, but thatcomplicationrather

thaninvalidates above. The textI strengthens my argument analyze

above was publishedin Boston in 1849. In 1851 a "firstEnglishedi- tion"was publishedinManchesterwiththespecification"Writtenby

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

71

Himself."It would appear that in preparingthe Americanedition Steamsworkedfroma ms.copyofwhatwouldbe publishedtwoyears lateras thefirstEnglishedition-or fromsome ur-textlyingbehind both. In any case, Stearnshas laid on theTrue AbolitionistStylevery heavily,but thereis already,in theversion"Writtenby Himself,"a good deal of theabolitionistmannerpresentin diction,syntax,and tone.IfthefirstEnglisheditionwas reallywrittenbyBrownthiswould makehiscase parallelto thecase ofHenryBibb,discussedbelow,where theabolitioniststyleinsinuatesitselfintothetextand takesoverthe styleof thewritingeven when thatis actuallydone by an ex-slave. Thisis nottheplace forit,buttherelationshipbetweenthetwotexts, thevariationsthatoccurin them,and theexplanationforthosevaria- tionswould providethesubjectforan immenselyinterestinsgtudy.

13 TwelveYearsa Slave: NarrativeofSolomonNorthup,a Citizen

of New-York,Kidnapped in WashingtonCity in 1841, and Rescued in 1853,froma CottonPlantationNear theRed River,in Louisiana

(Auburn:Derby & Miller,1853), p. xv. Referencesin thetextare to thisfirstedition.

14 IamsurprisedthatRobertStepto,inhisexcellentanalysisofthe internawl orkingsoftheWilson/Northupbook, doesn’tmakemoreof thisquestionofwheretolocatetherealauthorityofthebook. SeeFrom BehindtheVeil:A StudyofAfro-AmericanNarrative(Urbana,Ill., 1979), pp. 11-16.

Whether or not,Gilbert misleadsreaders intentionally Osofskybadly

ofthebook

calledPuttin’On Ole Massa whenhefails unfortunately

toincludethe"Editor’sPreface"byDavid Wilsonwithhisprintingof

TwelveYearsa Slave: NarrativeofSolomonNorthup.Thereis nothing

inOsofsky’stexttosuggesthatDavid WilsonoranyoneelsebutNor-

thuphad anythingto do withthenarrative-on thecontrary:"Nor-

thup,Brown,andBibb,astheirautobiographiesdemonstratew,ere

menof wisdomand talent.Each was of his

creativity, capable writing life with (PuttinO’nOleMassa York,

story sophistication" [New

p. 44). Northuppreciselydoes notwritehislifestory,eitherwithor

1969],

withoutsophisticationa,nd Osofskyis guiltyof badly obscuringthis fact.Osofsky’sliteraryjudgementw,ithtwo-thirdosfwhichIdonot

agree,is that"TheautobiographieosfFrederickDouglass,HenryBibb,

and SolomonNorthupfuseimaginativestylewithkeennessofinsight.

They are penetratingand self-criticasl,uperiorautobiographyby any standards"(p. 10).

15 To anticipateone possibleobjection,I would arguethatthecase is essentiallydifferenwtithTheAutobiographyofMalcolmX, written

byAlexHaley. To putitsimply,thereweremanythingsincommon between Haley and Malcolm X; between white ama- nuenses/editors/authoransdex-slaves,ontheotherhand,almost nothingwas shared.

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

72

16 Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An AmericanSlave, WrittenbyHimself.Withan IntroductionbyLucius C. Matlack (New York: Publishedby the Author; 5 Spruce Street, 1849), p. i. Page citationsin the textare fromthisfirstedition.

Itisa thatinmodern ofslavenarratives-the greatpity reprintings

threeinOsofsky’sPuttinO’nOleMassa,forexample-theillustrations in theoriginalsare omittedA. modemreadermissesmuchoftheflavor ofa narrativelikeBibb’swhentheillustrationss,o fullofpathosand tendersentimentn,otto mentionsomeexquisitecrueltyand violence, arenotwiththetext.The twoillustrationosn p. 45 (captions:"Can

a motherforgethersucklingchild?"and "The tendermerciesof the

wickedare cruel"),theone on p. 53 ("Nevermindthemoney"),and

theone on p. 81 ("My heartis almostbroken")can be takenas typical.

An interestinpgsychologicalfactabout theillustrationisn Bibb’snar-

rativeis thatof thetwenty-onetotal,eighteeninvolvesome formof

physicalcruelty,tortureo,rbrutalityT.heuncaptionedillustrationof

133 of two naked slaves on whom some infernal is be- p. punishment

ingpractisedsaysmuchabout(inMatlack’sphrase)thereader’sfeverish thirstforgushingbeautifulfountains"startedfrombeneaththerod of violence."

17 Or 1852, thedate of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. HarrietBeecherStowe recognizeda kindrednovelisticspiritwhenshereadone (justas David Wilson/SolomonNorthupdid). In 1851,whenshewas writingUncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe wroteto FrederickDouglass sayingthatshe was seekinginformationabout lifeon a cottonplantationforhernovel: "I have beforeme an able paper writtenby a southernplanterin which thedetails& modusoperandiaregivenfromhispointofsight-I am anxioustohavesomemorefromanotherstandpoint-Iwishtobe able tomakea picturethatshallbegraphic& truetonatureinitsdetails- Such a personas HenryBibb, ifin thiscountry,mightgive me just thekindofinformationI desire."Thisletteris datedJuly9, 1851and has been transcribedfroma photographicopy reproducedin Ellen Moers, HarrietBeecherStowe and AmericanLiterature(Hartford, Conn.: Stowe-DayFoundation,1978),p. 14.

18 Sincewritingtheabove, I discoverthatinhisLifeand Times

Douglass saysoftheconclusionofhisabolitionistwork,"Othello’soc-

cupationwasgone"(NewYork:Collier-Macmillan1,962,p. 373),but thisstillseemstomerathera differenmtatterfromthewhitesponsor’s invariantallusionto Othelloin attestingto thetruthfulneosfs theblack narrator’saccount.

A contemporaryreviewerofTheInterestingNarrativeoftheLife of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, theAfricanwrote,in The GeneralMagazineandImpartialReview(July1789),"Thisis’a round unvarnishedtale’ofthechequeredadventuresofan African …. "(see

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

73

appendixto vol. I of The Lifeof Olaudah Equiano, ed. Paul Edwards [London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1969].

JohnGreenleafWhittiert,houghstungonceinhissponsorshipof JamesWilliams’Narrative,didnotshrinkfroma second,similarven-

ture,writingi,n his "introductorynote" to theAutobiographyof the Rev. JosiahHenson (Mrs. HarrietBeecherStowe’s "Uncle Tom") – also knownas UncleTom’sStoryofHis LifeFrom1789to 1879-"The earlylifeoftheauthor,as a slave, . . . provesthatintheterriblepic- turesof ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ thereis ‘nothingextenuateor aughtset downinmalice"‘(Boston:B. B. Russell& Co., 1879,p. viii).

19 Quoted by Philip S. Foner in the introductionto My Bondage

and My Freedom,pp. xi-xii.

20 BothquotationsfromBenjaminQuarles, "The BreachBetween

DouglassandGarrison,"JournaolfNegroHistory,XXIII(April1938), p. 147, note 19, and p. 154.

21 ThelistisfromNichols’unpublishedoctoraldissertation(Brown

University1,948), "A Studyof theSlave Narrative,"p. 9. 22BlackBoy:A RecordofChildhoodandYouth(NewYork,1966),

p. 282.

This content downloaded from 193.54.110.35 on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 03:24:13 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

That, the integrity of the piece and of the world it creates, of its internal logics and rules, is what matters. My hope was always that as genre gestures got more integrated into mainstream literature and television and film, the overreliance on realism-based critiques would fade. Instead, it’s intensified and is becoming a major mode of critical discourse. It’s sad, really. There’re so many more riches to be discovered in fiction if we could just let ourselves see them and not be so afraid that it might take us somewhere new.


Economie: Google-SNCF, même combat ! (One robber baron’s expenses are another robber baron’s revenues)

19 février, 2014
http://masdividendos.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/RobberBarons.jpgLes ouvriers bien rémunérés ont plus de loisirs, et ces loisirs deviennent des besoins. Ces désirs de loisirs vont bientôt devenir des besoins. Bien gérée, une entreprise paie des salaires élevés et vend à bas prix. Ses ouvriers ont le loisir de profiter de la vie et ont les moyens pour financer cette jouissance. L’industrie de ce pays ne pourra exister longtemps si nombre d’entreprises reviennent à la journée de dix heures de travail, car alors les gens n’auront plus de temps pour consommer les biens produits. Par exemple, le travailleur devrait avoir accès à l’automobile pour aller faire du shopping de l’aube jusqu’au crépuscule. Et cela aura des conséquences innombrables, pour l’automobile, en permettant aux gens de se déplacer rapidement et facilement, on leur donne une chance de découvrir ce qui se passe dans le monde – ce qui les conduit à une vie plus riche qui nécessite plus de nourriture, plus et de meilleurs produits, plus de livres, plus de musique – plus de tout. (…) Il est grand temps de nous débarrasser de l’idée que les loisirs pour les ouvriers sont soit “du temps perdu”, soit un privilège de classe. (…) c’est l’influence des loisirs sur la consommation qui rend si nécessaire la journée de travail courte et la semaine courte. Les personnes qui consomment la majeure partie des marchandises sont les gens qui les fabriquent. C’est un fait que nous ne devons jamais oublier. Et qui est le secret de notre prospérité. La valeur économique des loisirs n’a pas trouvé sa place dans la pensée des dirigeants industriels à une grande échelle. Alors que la vieille idée de ”temps perdu” nous a quittés, et qu’on ne croit plus que la réduction de la journée de travail de douze heures à huit heures diminue la production, la valeur positive industrielle – la valeur des dollars et des centimes – issue des loisirs, n’est toujours pas comprise.  (…)  nous devons prendre en considération (…) la valeur industrielle positive du temps libre, car elle augmente la consommation. Lorsque les gens travaillent plus longtemps et ont moins de loisirs, ils achètent donc moins de marchandises. Aucune de nos villes n’était aussi pauvre que celles de l’Angleterre où les gens, jusqu’aux enfants, travaillaient de quinze à seize heures par jour. Ils étaient pauvres parce que ces gens, surchargés de travail, étaient rapidement usés – ils ont eu de moins en moins de valeur en tant que travailleurs. C’est pourquoi, ils ont gagné de moins en moins et pouvaient acheter de moins en moins. Les affaires sont pour nous des échanges de marchandises. Les marchandises sont achetées uniquement quand elles répondent aux besoins. Ces besoins ne sont remplis que lorsqu’ils se font sentir. Ils se font principalement sentir durant les heures de loisir. L’homme qui a travaillé de quinze à seize heures par jour ne souhaite seulement qu’un coin où être à l’abri et un peu de nourriture. Il n’a pas le temps de cultiver de nouveaux besoins. Aucune industrie ne pourrait jamais être mise en place pour combler ses besoins, parce qu’il n’y en a aucun, sauf les plus primitifs. Pensez à la façon dont les affaires sont restreintes en ces terres où hommes et les femmes travaillent encore tous les deux toute la journée! Ils n’ont pas le temps de laisser les besoins de leurs vies se faire sentir. Ils n’ont pas de loisirs à acheter. Ils ne se développent pas. Quand, dans l’industrie américaine, les femmes ont été libérées de la nécessité du travail en usine et sont devenues les acheteurs pour la famille, les entreprises ont commencé à se développer. La femme américaine, en tant qu’agent d’achat des ménages, possède à la fois des loisirs et de l’argent, et les premiers sont tout simplement aussi importants que le second dans le développement de l’entreprise américaine. Les personnes ayant une semaine de cinq jours consommeront davantage de biens que les personnes ayant une semaine de six jours. Les gens qui ont plus de loisirs doivent avoir plus de vêtements. Ils doivent avoir une plus grande variété de nourriture. Ils doivent disposer de plus d’installations de transport. Ils doivent naturellement avoir plus de services de toutes sortes. Cette augmentation de la consommation exigera une plus grande production que celle dont nous disposons maintenant. Au lieu d’entreprises tournant au ralenti parce que les gens sont “hors travail”, elles seront en augmentation, parce que les gens consomment plus durant leurs loisirs que pendant leur temps de travail. Cela va conduire à plus de travail. Et cela pour plus de profits. Et cela pour des salaires plus élevés. Le résultat de plus de loisirs sera l’exact opposé de ce que la plupart des gens pourraient le supposer. Henry Ford (1926)
La révolution agricole et industrielle a fait disparaître les chevaux. La révolution numérique et l’ère de l’information feront-elles disparaître les conducteurs ? Albert Wenger (Union Square Ventures)
L’automatisation commence à détruire l’emploi, comme si la vieille peur du XIXe siècle devenait la réalité. A l’époque, il y avait cette inquiétude énorme que l’emploi des gens ordinaires était menacé par le progrès des machines. Quand les voitures ont remplacé les chevaux, les gens pensaient que cela devenait tellement facile de conduire qu’il n’y aurait plus de raison de payer pour le transport. Tous ceux qui travaillaient avec les chevaux allaient perdre leur emploi. Mais les syndicats étaient encore puissants. Ils ont imposé l’idée qu’il est normal de payer quelqu’un, même si le travail est moins pénible et qu’il est plus facile de conduire un taxi que de s’occuper de chevaux. Avec l’Internet, les choses deviennent tellement faciles que les gens rejettent cet arrangement payant. C’est une erreur. Cela a commencé avec Google, qui a dit : on vous donne un moteur de recherche gratuit ; en contrepartie, votre musique, vos photos, vos articles vont aussi être gratuits. Avec l’idée d’un équilibre : vous avez moins de revenus mais vous avez accès à des services gratuits. Mais ce n’est pas équilibré. Bientôt, les consommateurs vont accéder aux produits grâce aux imprimantes 3D. Graduellement, les choses physiques deviennent contrôlées par les logiciels, et tout devient gratuit. (…) L’objectif, au début de l’Internet, était que l’on donne du pouvoir à tout le monde parce que tout le monde aurait accès à l’information. En fait, Google, et tous ceux qui collectent les informations au sujet des autres parce qu’ils offrent ces services gratuits, deviennent de plus en plus puissants. Plus leurs ordinateurs sont gros, plus ils sont puissants. Même si vous regardez la même information que Google, Google en retire beaucoup plus de pouvoir que vous. L’autre remarque à faire est que, dès que quelqu’un prétend avoir une technologie qui peut remplacer les gens, c’est faux. Exemple : la traduction automatique. Vous pouvez prendre un document en anglais, l’entrer dans un ordinateur et le ressortir en français. Cela ne sera pas du bon français, mais quelque chose va ressortir. (…)  les sociétés qui font de la traduction automatique collectent des millions d’exemples de documents qui ont été traduits par des vraies personnes. Ils repèrent des morceaux de phrases qui sont semblables à ceux de votre document, les traduisent paquet par paquet et assemblent le puzzle. Cela ressemble à un cerveau électronique gigantesque mais, en fait, il s’agit du travail de tonnes de gens qui ne sont pas payés et ne savent même pas qu’ils sont utilisés. Pour chaque nouvelle technologie qui prétend remplacer l’humain, il y a en réalité des gens derrière le rideau. Il faut garder trace de ceux qui fournissent un vrai travail et leur permettre d’être indemnisés. L’automatisation dépend systématiquement des informations produites par un nombre élevé de gens, ce qu’on appelle le "Big Data". Ces données ne viennent pas des anges ou de phénomènes surnaturels : elles viennent des hommes ! Si on les payait pour ces données, on pourrait soutenir l’emploi. (…)  les sociétés qui possèdent les puissants ordinateurs créent des modèles de chacun d’entre nous. Google a un modèle de vous. De même que l’Agence nationale de la sécurité américaine (NSA), Facebook, et même certaines organisations criminelles. Elles collectent des données sur vous et les utilisent pour faire des projections. Le but est de modifier les comportements.(…) les manipulations sont infimes. Cela peut être trouver le moyen de vous faire accepter un prêt qui n’est peut-être pas aussi intéressant qu’un autre. Ou comment vous inciter à faire tel ou tel achat. C’est un système froid, fondé seulement sur les statistiques. Il travaille très lentement. Mais, sur la durée, cela fait beaucoup d’argent. C’est comme cela que Google est devenu si riche : les gens qui paient Google peuvent obtenir une toute petite modification du modèle de comportement. C’est un système géant de modification comportementale. Un système différent du modèle traditionnel de publicité, qui a toujours été une forme de rhétorique, de persuasion, de style. Ici, il n’y a aucune créativité. C’est une forme de manipulation sans esthétique, mais très graduelle et très fiable, parce que ce sont juste des statistiques. Il s’agit aussi de manipuler le type d’informations que vous recevez. Si vous allez sur la Toile, vous ne voyez plus les mêmes informations qu’un autre : celles que vous voyez sont organisées spécifiquement pour vous par ces algorithmes. C’est un monde où tout est ouvert et où, en même temps, la plupart de ce que les gens voient est manipulé. Les gens qui manipulent ont des ordinateurs bien plus puissants que la plupart d’entre nous. (…) Le problème n’est pas qui a accès à l’information, mais qui fait quoi avec cette information. Si certains ont des ordinateurs beaucoup plus puissants, cela ne peut pas créer une société équitable. Au lieu d’essayer de plaider pour la transparence et le respect de la vie privée, nous devrions nous préoccuper de ce qui est fait avec les données accumulées. Nous vivons à une époque où il y a deux tendances contradictoires. D’un côté, tout le monde dit : n’est-ce pas formidable, cette décentralisation du pouvoir, grâce à Twitter, etc. De l’autre, la richesse est de plus en plus centralisée. Comment est-il possible que le pouvoir soit décentralisé et la richesse de plus en plus centralisée ? En fait, le pouvoir qui est décentralisé est un faux. Quand vous tweetez, vous donnez de vraies informations aux gros ordinateurs qui traquent vos mouvements. (…) je préconise un système universel de micropaiement. Les gens toucheraient une rémunération – fût-elle minime – pour l’information qui n’existerait pas s’ils n’existaient pas. Cette idée circulait déjà dans les années 1960, avant même que l’Internet soit inventé. C’est juste un retour aux origines. Si on arrivait à savoir combien les entreprises sont prêtes à payer pour avoir des informations, cela serait utile… Les gens pensent que le montant serait infime. Mais si on regarde en détail, c’est faux. Les données concernant M. Tout-le-Monde ont beaucoup de valeur. Cela serait un soutien économique puissant pour la nouvelle classe moyenne. Chaque donnée individuelle aurait une valeur différente. Certaines seraient plus cotées parce qu’elles sortent de l’ordinaire. (…) il faut regarder les résultats dans le monde réel. J’avais pensé que l’âge de l’Internet permettrait une augmentation fantastique de la richesse et des opportunités. A la place, on voit une concentration intense des richesses. C’est un phénomène mondial. Si la technologie concentre les richesses, elle va devenir l’ennemi de la démocratie, peu importe le nombre de tweets. Je refuse l’autosatisfaction quand je vois tous ces gens ordinaires qui perdent pied alors que leur situation ne devrait que s’améliorer grâce aux progrès technologiques. Jaron Lanier
Pourquoi la stagnation des salaires des classes moyennes fait du mal à l’économie ? Parce que les gens des classes moyennes dont les salaires sont stagnants sont les plus gros dépensiers de l’économie mondiale. Et quand ils n’ont pas d’argent à dépenser, leur manque de dépenses fait mal non seulement à eux mais à toutes les entreprises qui dépendent d’eux pour leurs recettes. Autrement dit, les dépenses d’une entreprise (salaires) sont les revenus d’une autre. Ainsi, collectivement, lorsque les entreprises réduisent les salaires, elles réduisent aussi leur propre croissance de revenus futurs. À l’heure actuelle, les entreprises sont tellement concentrées sur la réduction des salaires — en payant leurs employés aussi peu que possible et en les remplaçant par la technologie dans la mesure du possible — que les salaires en proportion de l’économie sont désormais s’approchent de leur plus bas niveau. Et cette faiblesse des salaires est la grande raison pour laquelle la demande  est si faible dans l’économie. Eric Schmidt
Si nous ne voulons pas devenir demain une nation de caristes et de manutentionnaires pour les géants du Net, il est urgent de réagir. (…) "Les géants américains du Net opèrent tous de la même façon. Facebook offre le système de reconnaissance faciale le plus abouti au monde à faire pâlir d’envie les services de renseignements américains. Et Google pousse son avantage pour organiser le commerce du monde en avançant masqué. Pascal Perri
La mondialisation a dévasté nos classes populaires, l’internet va dévorer nos classes moyennes. Pierre Bellanger
L’ordinatisation des métiers va à la fois toucher les métiers «simples» et «complexes», ce sont les métiers qui allient travail manuel et réflexion qui seront plus difficilement remplaçables. (…) Nous sommes évidemment à un stade avancé! Aux alentours de l’an 2000 s’est opéré un basculement où les machines ont effectivement pu être en mesure de mieux faire le travail que les hommes…. Et depuis, cela va très vite. Les ordinateurs s’imposent peu à peu, sans que nous ne nous en rendons forcément compte. Dans 5 à 10 ans maximum, nous ne pourrons plus nier cette mutation, et la domination des machines. Pour le moment, nous ne voulons pas admettre que nous sommes remplaçables. Et plus notre métier est prestigieux, plus l’on gagne de l’argent, et plus l’on a l’impression d’être irremplaçable! (…) Le métier de trader, par exemple! Pour l’assister dans ses tâches, le trader dispose de logiciels qui peuvent effectuer plus de 2000 opérations à la seconde… Il pourrait aussi faire ces opérations lui-même , mais beaucoup plus lentement. Aujourd’hui, le rôle du trader se limite donc à superviser ses machines, et ne comporte plus aucune part d’intuition, comme c’était le cas il y a quelques années… (…) Travailler moins. L’emploi et le travail sont voués à disparaître. Des questions essentielles se poseront alors: comment donner un revenu aux gens qui ne soit pas lié au travail? Comment occuper les gens? Au XIXe siècle déjà un philosophe émettait l’hypothèse suivante: si l’homme est un jour remplacé par une machine, alors il devrait avoir droit à la moitié des gains engendrés par la machine qui l’a remplacé. C’est un schéma auquel nous pouvons aujourd’hui penser. (…) La domination de la machine est impossible à éviter… Aujourd’hui, la seule chose qui manque aux logiciels et aux programmes informatiques est un facteur essentiel pour remplacer l’humain: il s’agit de l’émotion et de l’affect. Mais ce «manque» sera résolu dans 5 ans maximum. Paul Jorion
"L’automatisation peut faire disparaître des emplois. Mais quand elle rend l’entreprise compétitive et quand l’écoulement des produits est boosté par le processus d’automatisation, la production augmente. Ce qui peut plus que compenser les emplois qui ont été supprimés à l’origine», explique Norbert Irsch, économiste en chef de la banque d’Etat allemande KfW, qui publie chaque année une étude sur le lien entre innovation et emploi. Les petites et moyennes entreprises qui innovent créent donc plus d’emplois que celles qui s’intéressent moins à la recherche et au progrès. Forte de 230.000 emplois, l’industrie de l’automatisation allemande a vu son rôle changer au cours des dernières décennies, explique le Welt. Dans les années 1970, les robots ont d’abord pris la place des emplois manuels, ce qui a enfoncé leur réputation de tueurs de jobs. "L’automatisation est depuis longtemps une machine à jobs. Elle crée de nouvelles industries et pousse les anciennes à rester en Allemagne», explique Gunther Kegel, patron de l’entreprise Pepperl+Fuchs Allemagne, spécialisée dans le matériel de sécurité. Sans elle, l’industrie des semi-conducteurs, qui concerne la fabrication d’ordinateurs, de radios et de téléviseurs, n’existerait pas. Pas un seul des 1.000 éléments qui composent un iPad ne peut par exemple être soudé à la main. Même dans le domaine des économies d’énergie, l’automatisation joue également un rôle de taille. Elle permet de réduire jusqu’à 25% des coûts énergétiques, selon une étude publiée par la ZVEI, la fédération de l’industrie électronique et électrotechnique. Slate
Dans les années 2000, plusieurs grandes d’entreprises de la Silicon Valley se sont entendues pour ne pas démarcher leurs salariés en vue de les recruter, afin de ne pas faire monter les prix des salaires. Les preuves révélées par la justice américaines accablent en particulier Steve Jobs, l’ancien patron d’Apple, et le président de Google, Eric Schmidt. Numerama
Privé de tout mandat opérationnel, le président de Google, qui se contente désormais d’assurer les relations publiques à haut niveau du moteur de recherche, vient d’empocher 106 millions de dollars de gratifications au titre de l’année 2013. Une manne liée plus à son intéressement aux résultats, exceptionnels l’an dernier, qu’à ses mérites propres, et qui va grossir une fortune estimée à 8 milliards de dollars ! Qui plus est, le milliardaire Schmidt est un riche exhibitionniste. Il s’est acheté deux yachts, l’un à 12 et l’autre à 14 millions de dollars, en plus de son jet personnel, un Gulfstream à 20 millions. Il collectionne les demeures les plus luxueuses, ce qui ne l’a pas empêché de débourser 22 autres millions pour s’offrir la maison paradisiaque de la veuve de Gregory Peck à Los Angeles. Son penthouse à New York est si bluffant qu’il a fourni le décor de l’appartement de Gordon Gekko dans la suite de « Wall Street », le film d’Oliver Stone. Les Echos

Attention: un baron voleur peut en cacher un autre !

Alors qu’emportés par leur course à l’innovation technologique et à la robotisation toujours plus destructrice d’emplois, les nouveaux barons voleurs du numérique commencent,  88 ans après Henry Ford et à l’instar de l’ancien patron de Google prêt à toutes les ententes pour conserver ses yachts, jet personnel et autres petits palais, à se rendre compte qu’ils sont en train de scier la branche sur laquelle ils sont assis …

Pendant qu’après  les rémunérations, le temps de travail et les excès de communication,  l’on redécouvre  au détour d’un énième rapport de la Cour des comptes que l’entreprise nationale de chemins de fer en déficit perpétuel dépense entre 50 et 100 millions annuels pour assurer le transport gratuit ou quasi-gratuit de plus d’un million d’ayant droits entre retraités, concubins et pacsés, enfants, parents, grands-parents et arrière-grands-parents, enfants étudiants jusqu’à 28 ans, enfants à charge ou handicapés à vie sans compter les quelque 3360 médecins à temps complet ou partiel et leurs familles ainsi que certaines personnalités n’ayant aucun rapport avec l’entreprise pour seulement 15% de cheminots en activité  …

Et qu’un député socialiste admiratif décrit par le menu le gigantesque jeu de rôle auquel se réduit la dernière trouvaille de ce qui tient lieu de gouvernement à la cinquième puissance commerciale du monde, à savoir un plan de 50 milliards d’économies supplémentaires dont personne, et à commencer par son principal instigateur, ne croit réellement à la possiblité de réalisation …

Comment ne pas voir l’étrange convergence de deux modèles de société apparemment diamètralement opposés où  …

Entre la réduction des revenus de ses employés-clients entrainant la réduction de ses propres revenus …

Et la garantie de l’emploi à vie et l’augmentation toujours plus grande des avantages générant toujours plus de dépenses et de charges pour ses employés-contribuables …

L’on aboutit, jusqu’à la prochaine crise, à la même confiscation toujours plus grande des revenus des uns par les autres ?

Eric Schmidt (Google) veut que les salaires augmentent

Guillaume Champeau

Numerama

24 Janvier 2014

Eric Schmidt a profité du Forum économique de Davos pour mettre en garde les leaders économiques du monde entier sur l’asphyxie générée par la rigueur salariale. Il souhaite que l’économie soit relancée par l’augmentation du pouvoir d’achat dans les classes moyennes.

Les entreprises et les gouvernements ont-ils tiré trop fort sur la corde des salaires, en étant tellement préoccupés par la recherche des bénéfices et de la capacité d’investissement qu’ils n’ont pas vu qu’ils en asphyxiaient l’économie tout entière ? C’est l’hypothèse qu’aurait soutenue le président de Google Eric Schmidt lors d’une déclaration au forum économique de Davos, rapportée par Business Insider.

Reprenant au moins pour partie la logique keynésiasiste de l’économie, qui était passée de mode, Eric Schmidt aurait mis en garde les acteurs de l’économie libérale sur la stagnation voire la baisse des niveaux de rémunération de la classe moyenne, qui se révèle contre-productive pour l’ensemble de la chaîne économique, et pour Google. Pour lui, ce serait même l’une des principales causes du ralentissement global de la croissance, et de la durée particulièrement longue de la crise.

En effet, les salaires sont l’oxygène de l’économie. Ce sont eux qui permettent aux employés d’acheter les produits qui permettent aux entreprises d’en créer de nouveaux et donc de recruter les employés qui devront concevoir, fabriquer, transporter et vendre ces produits. Or si les salaires stagnent, il n’y a aucune raison que la croissance reparte.

Concrètement pour Google, ça ne sert à rien d’avoir un modèle économique basé sur la publicité, si les clients visés par les annonceurs n’ont pas les moyens de s’offrir les produits et services vantés par les publicités.

Dans son rapport mondial sur les salaires 2012/2013, l’Organisation Mondiale du Travail (OIT) pointait aussi du doigt le rétrécissement de "la part des salariés dans le revenu national", et l’impact sur l’économie.

"Dans 16 économies développées, la part moyenne du travail est tombée de 75% du revenu national au milieu des années 1970 à 65% dans les années qui ont précédé la crise. Elle a ensuite quelque peu rebondi pour décliner à nouveau après 2009", constatait l’OIT :

La relance de l’économie par la hausse des salaires semble ainsi d’une logique implacable, mais c’est admettre que les entreprises doivent au moins temporairement rogner sur leurs marges bénéficiaires pour moins rémunérer les actionnaires, et mieux rémunérer les salariés. Ou c’est au minimum augmenter les investissements, donc là aussi rogner sur les dividendes, pour injecter de nouveaux consommateurs sur le marché par l’embauche d’actuels chômeurs.

Malgré tout conscients du problème, les représentants des entreprises veulent surtout actuellement que les salaires puissent augmenter par la baisse du coût du travail, hors salaire net. C’est, au moins en France, tout l’objet du débat sur la baisse des charges salariales et patronales, qui doit permettre d’augmenter le pouvoir d’achat des employés ou la capacité d’investissement sans altérer la marge des entreprises. Mais c’est aussi alors, sauf à considérer qu’une optimisation des coûts soit possible, sacrifier une part des prestations sociales, et faire qu’une partie du pouvoir d’achat soit consacrée au rachat de ces prestations dans le secteur privé. Ce qui pose alors d’autres problèmes d’inégalité d’accès aux prestations.

"Réduire les coûts du travail pour stimuler la compétitivité sur le marché de l’export semble être une option de plus en plus séduisante pour les pays frappés par la crise, mais rien ne garantit que cela évite la stagnation économique ou le déficit actuel de la balance des transactions courantes", prévenait l’OIT dans son rapport.

Voir aussi:

Des preuves d’entente accablent Steve Jobs et Eric Schmidt

Dans les années 2000, plusieurs grandes d’entreprises de la Silicon Valley se sont entendues pour ne pas démarcher leurs salariés en vue de les recruter, afin de ne pas faire monter les prix des salaires. Les preuves révélées par la justice américaines accablent en particulier Steve Jobs, l’ancien patron d’Apple, et le président de Google, Eric Schmidt.

Guillaume Champeau

Numerama

27 Janvier 2014

L’affaire remonte à 2005, mais elle prend une sonorité particulière huit ans plus tard, au moment où Eric Schmidt se rend à Davos pour expliquer qu’il faut relancer la croissance par la hausse des salaires dans les classes moyennes.

La semaine dernière, la juge Lucy Koh a ordonné la déclassification partielle de pièces à conviction dans l’enquête menée depuis 2010 par le Département de la Justice (DoJ) américain, relative à une entente sur les salaires entre sept géants de la Silicon Valley : Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, LucasFilm et Pixar. Elles montrent qu’effectivement, plusieurs grands dirigeants d’entreprises technologiques américaines s’étaient mises d’accord dans les années 2000 pour ne pas recruter les ingénieurs des sociétés concurrentes, afin de ne pas provoquer une mise aux enchères chez les employés tentés de partir négocier meilleur salaire ailleurs.

Les documents mis en ligne par Techcrunch accablent en particulier Steve Jobs, dont l’entreprise apparaît centrale dans l’organisation de l’entente illicite. Le fondateur d’Apple, décédé en 2011, semble même avoir usé de menaces pour parvenir à ses fins et recruté de gré ou de force de nouveaux conspirateurs.

Ainsi le 24 août 2007, l’ancien PDG de Palm Edward Colligan avait refusé de faire partie de la conspiration, et l’avait fait savoir dans un courriel à Steve Jobs. "Votre proposition selon laquelle nous acceptons qu’aucune des deux entreprises ne recrute les employés de l’autre, quelles que soient les volontés de l’individu, est non seulement mauvaise, mais aussi illégale", avait-il prévenu. Lors de son témoignage au tribunal, Colligan a affirmé que Steve Jobs avait menacé Palm de faire crouler le fabricant de tablettes et smartphones sous les procès en contrefaçon de brevets s’il n’acceptait pas se joindre à l’accord, ce que Palm aurait refusé. Depuis, Palm a été racheté par HP… pour exploiter ses brevets.

Un "Gentleman’s Agreement"

Entre autres éléments compromettants, les documents judiciaires montrent un extrait de courrier électronique daté 28 mai 2005, dans lequel le PDG d’Adobe Bruce Chizen écrit à Steve Jobs en citant un message de sa directrice des ressources humaines : "Bruce et Steve Jobs ont un accord selon lequel nous ne démarchons AUCUN employé d’Apple, et vice versa…. Merci de vous assurer que tous vos recruteurs à travers le monde sachent que nous ne démarchons aucun employé d’Apple. Je sais que Jerry en démarche un actuellement, donc il faudra qu’il fasse marche arrière".

L’accord était essentiellement tacite, avec la volonté de ne pas laisser de traces écrites. Souvent, il est désigné sous le terme "Gentleman’s agreement", sans plus de précisions. Selon RT, le président de Google Eric Schmidt aurait demandé à sa directrice opérationnelle Shona Brown de ne mentionner l’accord que "verbalement, parce que je ne veux pas créer de traces écrites qui pourraient nous valoir un procès après".

Les documents judiciaires font aussi remarquer que souvent, les présidents des sociétés concernées siègent dans les conseils d’administration des autres. Par exemple, Eric Schmidt était administrateur d’Apple, et Steve Jobs de Pixar, tandis que le PDG d’Intuit était au conseil de Google, tout comme celui d’Intel.

En 2010, le Département de la Justice américain a annoncé la conclusion d’un accord avec les parties concernées, dans lesquelles elles acceptaient de mettre fin à toute pratique d’entente sur les recrutements, même si elles ne reconnaissaient aucune faute. Le volet pénal est donc clos.

Mais le volet civil, qui permettra aux employés de réclamer des dommages et intérêts dans une procédure de class action, sera ouvert lors d’une première audience le 27 mai 2014.

Voir également:

Jaron Lanier : "Si la technologie concentre les richesses, elle va devenir l’ennemi de la démocratie"

Le Monde

20.10.2013

Propos recueillis par Corine Lesnes (Washington, correspondante)

Qui possède le futur ?" C’est la question-titre du livre de Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future ? (Simon & Schuster, 416 p., 28 dollars, soit environ 20,60 euros), publié en mai par ce gourou de l’Internet, créateur à répétition de start-up et inventeur des termes de "réalité virtuelle". Il décrit un phénomène qu’il n’avait pas anticipé : la concentration des richesses dans un univers de réseaux censé aplanir les inégalités. L’économie, dit-il, repose de plus en plus sur l’information. Celle-ci n’étant pas assez monétisée, la richesse collective se dilue. Le tout-gratuit est sur le point de ruiner la classe moyenne et l’économie de marché.

Vous affirmez dans votre ouvrage que l’Internet détruit la classe moyenne. Que voulez-vous dire ?

Jaron Lanier : l’automatisation commence à détruire l’emploi, comme si la vieille peur du XIXe siècle devenait la réalité. A l’époque, il y avait cette inquiétude énorme que l’emploi des gens ordinaires était menacé par le progrès des machines. Quand les voitures ont remplacé les chevaux, les gens pensaient que cela devenait tellement facile de conduire qu’il n’y aurait plus de raison de payer pour le transport. Tous ceux qui travaillaient avec les chevaux allaient perdre leur emploi. Mais les syndicats étaient encore puissants. Ils ont imposé l’idée qu’il est normal de payer quelqu’un, même si le travail est moins pénible et qu’il est plus facile de conduire un taxi que de s’occuper de chevaux.

Avec l’Internet, les choses deviennent tellement faciles que les gens rejettent cet arrangement payant. C’est une erreur. Cela a commencé avec Google, qui a dit : on vous donne un moteur de recherche gratuit ; en contrepartie, votre musique, vos photos, vos articles vont aussi être gratuits. Avec l’idée d’un équilibre : vous avez moins de revenus mais vous avez accès à des services gratuits. Mais ce n’est pas équilibré. Bientôt, les consommateurs vont accéder aux produits grâce aux imprimantes 3D. Graduellement, les choses physiques deviennent contrôlées par les logiciels, et tout devient gratuit.

Mais certains s’enrichissent…

Jaron Lanier : l’objectif, au début de l’Internet, était que l’on donne du pouvoir à tout le monde parce que tout le monde aurait accès à l’information. En fait, Google, et tous ceux qui collectent les informations au sujet des autres parce qu’ils offrent ces services gratuits, deviennent de plus en plus puissants. Plus leurs ordinateurs sont gros, plus ils sont puissants. Même si vous regardez la même information que Google, Google en retire beaucoup plus de pouvoir que vous.

Lire : Google rejoint le club très select des actions à plus de 1 000 dollars

L’autre remarque à faire est que, dès que quelqu’un prétend avoir une technologie qui peut remplacer les gens, c’est faux. Exemple : la traduction automatique. Vous pouvez prendre un document en anglais, l’entrer dans un ordinateur et le ressortir en français. Cela ne sera pas du bon français, mais quelque chose va ressortir.

C’est gratuit. Quel est le problème ?

Jaron Lanier : les sociétés qui font de la traduction automatique collectent des millions d’exemples de documents qui ont été traduits par des vraies personnes. Ils repèrent des morceaux de phrases qui sont semblables à ceux de votre document, les traduisent paquet par paquet et assemblent le puzzle. Cela ressemble à un cerveau électronique gigantesque mais, en fait, il s’agit du travail de tonnes de gens qui ne sont pas payés et ne savent même pas qu’ils sont utilisés.

Pour chaque nouvelle technologie qui prétend remplacer l’humain, il y a en réalité des gens derrière le rideau. Il faut garder trace de ceux qui fournissent un vrai travail et leur permettre d’être indemnisés. L’automatisation dépend systématiquement des informations produites par un nombre élevé de gens, ce qu’on appelle le "Big Data". Ces données ne viennent pas des anges ou de phénomènes surnaturels : elles viennent des hommes ! Si on les payait pour ces données, on pourrait soutenir l’emploi.

Quelles sont ces données qui ont tant de valeur ?

Jaron Lanier : les sociétés qui possèdent les puissants ordinateurs créent des modèles de chacun d’entre nous. Google a un modèle de vous. De même que l’Agence nationale de la sécurité américaine (NSA), Facebook, et même certaines organisations criminelles. Elles collectent des données sur vous et les utilisent pour faire des projections. Le but est de modifier les comportements.

Lire : Bataille géante autour du magot des données

Pour vous manipuler ?

Jaron Lanier : les manipulations sont infimes. Cela peut être trouver le moyen de vous faire accepter un prêt qui n’est peut-être pas aussi intéressant qu’un autre. Ou comment vous inciter à faire tel ou tel achat. C’est un système froid, fondé seulement sur les statistiques. Il travaille très lentement. Mais, sur la durée, cela fait beaucoup d’argent. C’est comme cela que Google est devenu si riche : les gens qui paient Google peuvent obtenir une toute petite modification du modèle de comportement. C’est un système géant de modification comportementale.

Un système différent du modèle traditionnel de publicité, qui a toujours été une forme de rhétorique, de persuasion, de style. Ici, il n’y a aucune créativité. C’est une forme de manipulation sans esthétique, mais très graduelle et très fiable, parce que ce sont juste des statistiques.

Il s’agit aussi de manipuler le type d’informations que vous recevez. Si vous allez sur la Toile, vous ne voyez plus les mêmes informations qu’un autre : celles que vous voyez sont organisées spécifiquement pour vous par ces algorithmes. C’est un monde où tout est ouvert et où, en même temps, la plupart de ce que les gens voient est manipulé. Les gens qui manipulent ont des ordinateurs bien plus puissants que la plupart d’entre nous.

Qui possède les plus gros ordinateurs ?

Jaron Lanier : personne ne le sait. Ils sont conservés dans des "villes" gigantesques d’ordinateurs. Ils sont en général placés dans des endroits isolés, près de rivières, qui permettent de refroidir les systèmes. Peut-être appartiennent-ils à Google, peut-être à la NSA. Personne ne le sait. En Europe, la plupart de ces ordinateurs se trouvent en Scandinavie.

Visuel interactif : Plongée dans la "pieuvre" de la cybersurveillance de la NSA

Le problème n’est pas qui a accès à l’information, mais qui fait quoi avec cette information. Si certains ont des ordinateurs beaucoup plus puissants, cela ne peut pas créer une société équitable. Au lieu d’essayer de plaider pour la transparence et le respect de la vie privée, nous devrions nous préoccuper de ce qui est fait avec les données accumulées. Nous vivons à une époque où il y a deux tendances contradictoires. D’un côté, tout le monde dit : n’est-ce pas formidable, cette décentralisation du pouvoir, grâce à Twitter, etc. De l’autre, la richesse est de plus en plus centralisée. Comment est-il possible que le pouvoir soit décentralisé et la richesse de plus en plus centralisée ? En fait, le pouvoir qui est décentralisé est un faux. Quand vous tweetez, vous donnez de vraies informations aux gros ordinateurs qui traquent vos mouvements.

Comment rémunérer nos tweets ?

Jaron Lanier : je préconise un système universel de micropaiement. Les gens toucheraient une rémunération – fût-elle minime – pour l’information qui n’existerait pas s’ils n’existaient pas.

Cette idée circulait déjà dans les années 1960, avant même que l’Internet soit inventé. C’est juste un retour aux origines. Si on arrivait à savoir combien les entreprises sont prêtes à payer pour avoir des informations, cela serait utile… Les gens pensent que le montant serait infime. Mais si on regarde en détail, c’est faux. Les données concernant M. Tout-le-Monde ont beaucoup de valeur. Cela serait un soutien économique puissant pour la nouvelle classe moyenne. Chaque donnée individuelle aurait une valeur différente. Certaines seraient plus cotées parce qu’elles sortent de l’ordinaire.

Vous êtes devenu antitechnologie ?

Jaron Lanier : pas du tout ! J’ai participé à l’arrivée des technologies de l’Internet, que je critique maintenant ! Mais il faut regarder les résultats dans le monde réel. J’avais pensé que l’âge de l’Internet permettrait une augmentation fantastique de la richesse et des opportunités. A la place, on voit une concentration intense des richesses. C’est un phénomène mondial.

Si la technologie concentre les richesses, elle va devenir l’ennemi de la démocratie, peu importe le nombre de tweets. Je refuse l’autosatisfaction quand je vois tous ces gens ordinaires qui perdent pied alors que leur situation ne devrait que s’améliorer grâce aux progrès technologiques.

Voir encore:

Un Président habile, presque trop….

Gaétan Gorce

17 février 2014

Le pacte de Responsabilité fait désormais l’actualité.

A ce stade, il faut saluer l’habileté tactique du Président qui a su imposer son agenda et reprendre ainsi la main.

Mais il est surprenant de voir tant de responsables et de commentateurs le prendre aussi au mot et s’inquiéter des conditions de la mise en œuvre de ce grand projet…..puisqu’il n’a pas été conçu pour l’être.

L’attitude du Président du Medef qui a failli par ses maladresses vendre la mèche l’autre jour aux États-Unis en dit long. S’il n’a jamais été question pour lui de véritables contreparties, c’est qu’il sait que le Pacte, et ce n’est déjà pas mince, n’a d’autre objet que de pérenniser sous une forme différente le CICE, mis en place voici plus d’un an sans exigence de réciprocité à l’égard du patronat.

Le Président n’a en effet ni les moyens, ni plus encore la volonté de dégager 50 milliards d’économies supplémentaires.

La méthode, très centralisée qu’il a choisi, en témoigne. En créant un Conseil stratégique à l’Elysée on donne un maximum de visibilité à une opération qui, sur le terrain , ne débouchera que sur des ersatz. Et ceci pour une raison simple : social – démocrate, le Président appartient toujours à la Gauche et n’a nullement l’intention d’infliger au pays une diète supplémentaire. Le voudrait-il, il sait que celui-ci ne le supporterait pas. Il s’agit donc d’un leurre visant à enfumer la Commission avec laquelle la France a rendez-vous en Avril. Passé cette date, le gouvernement n’oubliera pas les engagements pris, l’Exécutif étant bien conscient de la nécessité de ne pas laisser dériver les comptes, mais il les limitera au strict nécessaire. Un accord européen en Juin sur un début de relance par l’Investissement devrait clôturer cette remarquable opération de communication.

Mais il existe une double faille dans cette ingénieuse machine : ne suppose-t-elle pas d’abord pour réussir de ne pas être comprise ? Mais elle risque alors de devenir source de malentendu et de susciter l’opposition farouche de tous ceux qui, à gauche, n’auront pas vu le sens de la manœuvre. Ce qui ne manquera pas d’arriver….

L’opération suppose ensuite pour aboutir que la reprise tant attendue finisse par pointer le bout de son nez. Or, celle-ci ne pourra pas venir d’une relance des exportations permise par les baisses de charges, celles-ci restant au niveau actuel ( 20 mds) trop limitées. Elle ne viendra pas non plus de la demande, que le Président cherche en réalité à ne pas trop maltraiter, mais qui est déjà trop faible pour servir de moteur. Enfin, le compromis franco-allemand qui s’esquisse pour le printemps n’aura qu’un effet marginal et retardé. Si bien que le Président ne sera peut-etre à terme que parvenu à gagner du temps, ce qui, je le concède, dans ce contexte, n’est pas si mince..

Pour autant, une alternative existe-t-elle ? Non, si l’on renonce à pousser le débat aussi loin que possible à Bruxelles. Or, c’est précisément la voie choisie. Hollande cherche à épargner aux Français, et on lui en sait gré, une rigueur trop brutale mais ne croit manifestement pas, et on peut le lui reprocher, dans la capacité de la France à faire bouger le rapport de forces en Europe. C’est pourtant cette option qu’il faudrait privilégier en défendant à Bruxelles nos intérêts vitaux qui sont ceux de l’industrie et de l’emploi que nous ne pourrons sauver sans une relance par l’Investissement. C’est celle-ci qu’il faut proposer et promouvoir par tous moyens, sinon à quoi rime une Union dans laquelle le deuxième plus grand pays n’aurait d’autre choix que de sacrifier son avenir en tant que puissance économique? Cette question ne pourra être indéfiniment différée.

Si bien qu’à l’habileté du Président, qu’il faut saluer (au lieu de le dénigrer platement), je préférerais, comme beaucoup d’autres, un sursaut de volonté ! A l’évidence, tout est fait aujourd’hui pour que la question ne soit pas posée. F. Hollande fait du mieux qu’il peut avec les cartes qu’il a en mains. Quand c’est la règle du jeu qu’il faudrait changer !

106 millions de dollars de gratifications au titre de l’année 2013. Une manne liée plus à son intéressement aux résultats, exceptionnels l’an dernier, qu’à ses mérites propres, et qui va grossir une fortune estimée à 8 milliards de dollars ! Qui plus est, le milliardaire Schmidt est un riche exhibitionniste. Il s’est acheté deux yachts, l’un à 12 et l’autre à 14 millions de dollars, en plus de son jet personnel, un Gulfstream à 20 millions. Il collectionne les demeures les plus luxueuses, ce qui ne l’a pas empêché de débourser 22 autres millions pour s’offrir la maison paradisiaque de la veuve de Gregory Peck à Los Angeles. Son penthouse à New York est si bluffant qu’il a fourni le décor de l’appartement de Gordon Gekko dans la suite de « Wall Street », le film d’Oliver Stone.

les pays riches se réindustrialiser, mais sans créations d’emplois

Les Lois de Moore prévoient que la puissance des microprocesseurs double environ tous les 18 mois ou deux ans.

Tous les géants du numérique, forts de leurs immenses fermes de serveurs, sont aujourd’hui engagés dans une course vers l’intelligence artificielle, l’automatisation, via les algorithmes,

De plus en plus d’économistes pensent que les révolutions technologiques à venir auront un impact structurel plus important que les précédentes, et pourraient réduire de manière permanente le nombre d’emplois disponibles. Après les emplois peu qualifiés qui ont été laminés depuis les années 1970, ce sont des emplois qualifiés d’une partie de la classe moyenne qui pourraient ainsi disparaître dans les prochaines décennies, si de nouveaux métiers ne sont pas inventés rapidement.

Voir de même:

Billets gratuits de la SNCF: la Cour des comptes dénonce une facture trop salée

Emilie Lévêque

11/02/2014

Dérive du nombre de bénéficiaires, sous-estimation du coût… la Cour des comptes épingle dans son rapport public annuel le système de facilités de circulation dont bénéficient les personnels de la SNCF et leurs familles.

Billets gratuits de la SNCF: la Cour des comptes dénonce une facture trop salée

Plus de 1,1 million de personnes bénéficient de facilités de circulation sur le réseau de la SNCF, dont seulement 15% de cheminots en activité

REUTERS/Charles Platiau

La SNCF est régulièrement épinglée par la Cour des comptes dans son rapport public annuel. L’entreprise publique est de nouveau sur le grill cette année. Après avoir dénoncé en 2010 les rémunérations et le temps de travail des cheminots, en 2013 les excès de com’ de l’entreprise, la haute juridiction financière critique, dans son rapport public annuel 2014 publié ce mardi 11 février, le système de billets gratuits ou quasi-gratuits accordés aux salariés de la SNCF et à leurs proches.

Quels sont ces avantages?

Depuis sa création en 1938, la SNCF accorde à ses personnels et à leur famille des "facilités de circulation" sur son réseau. Les personnels de l’entreprise, actifs et retraités, bénéficient de la gratuité, avec quelques réserves: restrictions d’usage pendant les périodes de forte affluence, participation aux frais de réservation sur les lignes TGV. Cette participation, déjà modeste (par exemple, en 2013, 13,40 euros pour un billet TGV en première classe en période de pointe, 1,50 euro en période normale), est allégée par un quota annuel de 8 dispenses de paiement.

Les conjoints et enfants de moins de 21 ans des actifs et retraités bénéficient de 16 voyages gratuits par an et au-delà d’une réduction de 90% sur le prix des billets. Les ascendants (parents et grands-parents) des agents, actifs et retraités, ainsi que ceux de leurs conjoints, ont droit à 4 voyages gratuits par an.

Combien de personnes en bénéficient?

En cinquante ans, le champ des bénéficiaires a été considérablement élargi : aux concubins et partenaires de PACS ainsi qu’à leurs enfants, aux parents, grands-parents et arrière, aux enfants étudiants jusqu’à 28 ans, aux enfants à charge, aux enfants handicapés à vie. Par ailleurs, les quelque 3360 médecins exerçant à temps complet ou partiel pour la SNCF bénéficient, pour eux-mêmes et leurs familles, des mêmes facilités de circulation que les cheminots.

En 2011, le nombre de bénéficiaires automatiques de facilités de circulation s’élevait à 756.576, dont seulement 163.000 cheminots en activité (21,5% des bénéficiaires), derrière les retraités (24,3%) et largement derrière les ayants droit, qui, avec 409.000 personnes, en constituaient 54,1%. Ces chiffres ne concernent que les ayants droit qui reçoivent automatiquement leur dotation en titres de circulation, à savoir les partenaires de couple et les enfants de moins de 21 ans. Il faut y ajouter les bénéficiaires qui doivent faire une demande de transport gratuit ou à prix réduit (droit qualifié de "quérable"), soit plus de 340.000 personnes.

Le total des bénéficiaires des facilités de circulation s’établissait donc, à la fin de 2011, à plus de 1,1 million de personnes, dont seulement environ 15% de cheminots en activité. "Le grand nombre, parmi les bénéficiaires, de personnes dont les liens avec le chemin de fer sont pour le moins ténus, pose un problème au regard de l’égalité d’accès au service public ferroviaire", estime la Cour des comptes.

Quel est le coût pour la SNCF?