Piranhas: Attention, un mythe peut en cacher un autre ! (Blame it on the man who gave the world the Teddy bear !)

30 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/www.arte.tv/sites/fr/olivierpere/files/2013/04/piranha_poster_02.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/TR_Buckskin_Tiffany_Knife.jpg
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Teddybear cartoon

Teddybear cartoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A child can play with a bear like a doll – but a lot of children are not keen on dolls and if you are a boy you can play with it because it’s like a grizzly bear. Daniel Agnew (Christie’s)
Parle doucement et porte un gros bâton et tu iras loin. Proverbe africain 
They are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers—in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness. They will tear wounded wild fowl to pieces; and bite off the tails of big fish as they grow exhausted when fighting after being hooked. But the piranha is a short, deep-bodied fish, with a blunt face and a heavily undershot or projecting lower jaw which gapes widely. The razor-edged teeth are wedge-shaped like a shark’s, and the jaw muscles possess great power. The rabid, furious snaps drive the teeth through flesh and bone. The head with its short muzzle, staring malignant eyes, and gaping, cruelly armed jaws, is the embodiment of evil ferocity; and the actions of the fish exactly match its looks. I never witnessed an exhibition of such impotent, savage fury as was shown by the piranhas as they flapped on deck. When fresh from the water and thrown on the boards they uttered an extraordinary squealing sound. As they flapped about they bit with vicious eagerness at whatever presented itself. One of them flapped into a cloth and seized it with a bulldog grip. Another grasped one of its fellows; another snapped at a piece of wood, and left the teeth-marks deep therein. They are the pests of the waters, and it is necessary to be exceedingly cautious about either swimming or wading where they are found. If cattle are driven into, or of their own accord enter, the water, they are commonly not molested; but if by chance some unusually big or ferocious specimen of these fearsome fishes does bite an animal—taking off part of an ear, or perhaps of a teat from the udder of a cow—the blood brings up every member of the ravenous throng which is anywhere near, and unless the attacked animal can immediately make its escape from the water it is devoured alive. Theodore Roosevelt
C’est en 1903 qu’apparaît le nom célèbre de l’ours en peluche : Teddy Bear, surnom repris dans de nombreux pays.Ce nom lui vient du président des États-Unis Theodore Roosevelt, qui était surnommé « Teddy » et qui était un grand amateur de chasse. Une anecdote raconte qu’un incident survint lors d’une chasse à l’ours dans le Mississippi en 1902 : des chasseurs acculèrent un ourson afin de satisfaire les cartouches du président, qui était bredouille depuis plusieurs jours. Roosevelt, outré, jugeant l’acte anti-sportif, refusa de tuer l’animal3,4. Cette histoire fut vite immortalisée : l’expression « Teddy’s Bear » a immédiatement été utilisée dans les caricatures de la presse, notamment par Clifford Berryman dans le Washington Post. Deux émigrants russes de Brooklyn, Rose et Morris Michtom créèrent puis commercialisèrent dès 1903, à partir des dessins publiés dans la presse, un ours en peluche qu’ils baptiseront Teddy3, avec la permission du président : le nom de « Teddy bear » se retrouve sur tous les ours de la production de Michtom. Les Michtom sont alors connus comme les premiers fabricants d’ours articulés en mohair; ils créeront ensuite leur entreprise « Ideal Novelty and Toy Co ». La vogue des Teddy’s Bear continuera, inspirant même des chansons comme « Teddy Bear’s Picnic », composée par John W. Bratton et chantée par Jimmy Kennedy. Wikipedia
Feeling old? Tired? There is something found around these parts that a lot of people say can help. Men in their retirement years eat it, start new families and swear by it. So do childless women, who drink it and give birth. Found in the Peruvian rain forests, the demand for it is phenomenal. But it isn’t some pharmaceutical corporation’s answer to Viagra, the impotence drug, nor is it available at a corner drugstore. In fact, an Amazonian witch doctor here must be consulted for a prescription. It’s piranha. The bitter-tasting flesh of the fish that have devoured so many villains in jungle B-movies is hailed here as the cure for problems dealing with fertility, virility, even baldness. It is said to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. « The power of the meat can cure many things, » said Flor, a Peruvian witch doctor who specializes in concoctions based on piranha meat. « It is one of the strongest medicines the world has known. » The scientific community, of course, scoffs at the anecdotal claims of the supporters of piranha-based cures. The meat, they say, is acidic, sometimes toxic and utterly without medicinal powers. « These claims about the power of the piranha fish meat have been around for a very long time, and there has never been any scientific evidence to support it, » said Celso Pardo, the dean of a Lima pharmacological institute. « People see an aggressive, macho animal, and they say, `I want to be more like that.’ «  Eric J. Lyman
Certaines tribus d’Amérique du Sud vénèrent le piranha depuis plusieurs siècles car il représente la force et la peur. Il y a environ 500 ans, les colons européens sont arrivés dans ces contrées, ils ont trouvé des piranhas et, au vu de leur dentition, ils ont tout naturellement redouté cet animal. De plus, ils ont entendu auprès de certaines tribus les récits mythiques à propos du piranha… Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que naisse une légende qui perdure encore aujourd’hui. A cette époque, rappelons que les marins pensaient que les baleines dévoraient les embarcations, que l’océan était terminé par un gouffre, etc. La science a aujourd’hui invalidé la plupart de ces mythes mais par ignorance, certaines de ces légendes perdurent encore. Le mythe des piranhas en fait partie ! Pour commencer, il faut savoir qu’il n’y a eu qu’une seule attaque mortelle envers les hommes de la part des piranhas. C’était en 1870, le Brésil était alors en guerre contre le Paraguay. Des soldats blessés, saignant parfois abondamment ont essayé de franchir le Rio Paraguay mais ils seront dévorés vivants… Il n’y a pas eu d’autres attaques vérifiées de piranhas ayant entraînées morts d’hommes. Par contre, le piranha aime les cadavres et s’attaque donc à tous les corps tombés ou jetés dans l’eau mais ils ne sont pas la cause du décès qui est souvent une noyade ou un meurtre. La réputation de tueur d’hommes est donc infondée ! Même s’il mord de temps à autre un pêcheur qui se lave les mains dans l’eau, ce poisson n’est donc pas une menace pour l’homme d’autant plus que son aire de répartition abrite des créatures bien plus redoutables comme les caïmans, les candirus, les raies venimeuses, les anguilles électriques, etc. (…) Comment expliquer cette persistance ? Pendant toute la durée d’exploration du continent sud américain (que l’on va considérer comme ayant commencée il y a 500 ans et terminée il y a un siècle) les aventuriers ont bien souvent étoffé leurs récits de balivernes pour faire sensations. Un aventurier en Afrique ne pouvait être pris au sérieux à son retour s’il n’avait pas combattu un lion et bien les piranhas étaient l’étape incontournable de l’Amazonie. Il est bien plus glorieux d’avoir traversé des étendues d’eau infestées de monstres sanguinaires que de simples poissons blancs. Les aventuriers n’ont donc pas hésité à exagérer la nature de ce poisson pour se magnifier. La légende avait donc traversé l’Atlantique pour arriver en Europe. Des personnes ont tout de suite compris l’intérêt financier qu’il y avait dans ce poisson tueur et ont contribué à en faire un monstre aux yeux du public. La littérature a répandu encore un peu plus cette idée tant les livres présentant les piranhas comme très dangereux sont encore nombreux. Puis est apparu le cinéma qui a lui aussi exploité le filon en faisant des films d’horreur sur le sujet. (…) Et enfin, plus proche de nous, la littérature aquariophile a classé ce poisson à part car dangereux et mangeant du coeur de boeuf régulièrement (alors que la plupart le digère très mal). Les vendeurs aquariophiles jouent encore un grand rôle puisque certains d’entre eux mettent une pancarte « Piranha – féroce et cannibale » sur les bacs de vente. A leur décharge, il convient de préciser que la majorité des personnes mordues par des piranhas sont des vendeurs, les conditions de vente, à savoir un petit aquarium surpeuplé sans décors pour se réfugier conduisant parfois les piranhas à mordre, faute de pouvoir fuir. Entre les livres aquariophiles réputés sérieux qui continuent de mentir sur ce poisson, les commerçants qui ont compris depuis bien longtemps que le sensationnel fait vendre et certains médias peu scrupuleux qui recherchent le spectacle quitte à affabuler ou a en rajouter un peu, il est vrai que rien n’est fait pour rétablir la vérité. Mais nous sommes les premiers responsables car nous préférons majoritairement continuer de croire qu’il s’agit d’un poisson exceptionnel plutôt que d’un poisson guère plus dangereux qu’un autre, le fantastique est tellement plus intéressant que le banal ! Pirahnas.fr

Attention: un mythe peut en cacher un autre !

Au lendemain d’une nouvelle attaque de piranhas en Argentine qui a vu une soixantaine de blessés …

Qui se souvient que la si féroce mais largement surfaite réputation de ce prétendu « poisson tueur » d’Amérique latine …

Nous vient en fait du même homme qui bien que grand explorateur et chasseur amateur de proverbes africains qui décéda de fièvres tropicales contractées en Amazonie …

Avait auparavant donné au monde, au grand bonheur de tant de petits garçons frustrés de ne pouvoir jouer à la poupée trop féminine,… le terrible grizzli en peluche ?

Piranha Attack! As 70 Christmas Day bathers are savaged, the truth about the fish with a bite more powerful than a T-rex

Bathers were attacked on the Rambla Catalunya beach in Argentina

Among revellers cooling off in 100-degree heat were 20 children, who were injured in the frenzied attack

Guy Walters

30 December 2013

The seven-year-old girl was just one of thousands in the water of the mighty River Parana on the afternoon of Christmas Day last week. For residents of the central Argentine city of Rosario, the festive season most certainly does not involve eating mince pies and drinking eggnog before sleeping it off in front of a fire. Instead, with the mercury hitting a sticky 100 degrees, most are keener to cool off than to gorge themselves. The best place for a dip is the city’s Rambla Catalunya, a mile-long stretch of sandy beach on South America’s second largest river. With bars, restaurants and fun fairs, the beach is a major attraction and last Wednesday was no exception. Tens of thousands had gathered to enjoy the holiday. Many took the opportunity to swim or paddle in the river.

That afternoon, as the little girl splashed up to her waist in the waters, everything seemed quite normal. Then, she suddenly felt a tugging at the little finger of her left hand. Instinctively, she pulled away, but the tugging grew more powerful. And then came a searing pain that caused her to cry out. She looked down at her finger, but all she could see was a trail of blood leaking into the dark water. As she ran for the shore, her screams startled the sunbathers. The top part of the girl’s finger had been completely torn away. There could be no doubt what had happened. The girl had been attacked by one of man’s most feared creatures — the deadly piranha fish. Word quickly spread up and down the Rambla Catalunya. Lifeguards ordered people to stay out of the water but, tragically, the heat was so intense and the atmosphere so jubilant that people continued to swim. What happened next was like a scene from a horror film.

That afternoon, some 70 people – around 20 of them children – were savaged by shoals of the razor-toothed fish. Those who were attacked had chunks of their naked and exposed flesh ripped away. They emerged from the waters with agonising wounds dripping blood onto the white sand. Deep cuts were reported on scores of fingers, ankles and toes. One injury resulted in an amputation. Pictures taken in the local hospital show one man with the whole underside of one toe missing. The attack was the most serious in the city since 2008, when 40 swimmers were hurt and, while mercifully no one was killed, the story made headlines around the world. There is something about this sinister fish that preys on our imaginations. Along with great white sharks, wolves, pythons and crocodiles, the piranha is the stuff of nightmares. Ever since Boy’s Own adventure stories described game hunters and explorers being devoured after daring to swim in piranha-infested waters, we have been taught that the piranha is one of the deadliest predators on the planet.

Most of us can create a horrific mental image of falling into a river – and being stripped to the bone in two minutes by a boiling shoal of flesh-eating fish. Just such a fate was memorably portrayed in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, when the evil Blofeld dispatched Helga Brandt into a tank of piranhas for her failure to kill Bond. Although not as great a horror movie staple as the great white shark – immortalised in the Jaws films – our fascination with the piranha has made for box office success. Since 1978, there have been at least six films starring the piranha. The most recent was last year’s Piranha 3D. No wonder Londoners were alarmed when a piranha was discovered in the Thames in 2004. Experts stressed that the fish had in all likelihood been thrown away by a collector of rare fish, and further reassured anxious Londoners that the water of the Thames is far too cold to sustain these creatures.

Yet despite their awesome power, scientists insist piranhas are not the malicious predators the films would have you believe. They tend to attack humans only if trapped or hungry. So who is to blame for our fear of this fish? It is none other than Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the U.S. In 1914, he published a travel book Through The Brazilian Wilderness, in which he described how piranhas could eat entire animals, such as cattle, alive. ‘They are the most ferocious fish in the world,’ Roosevelt wrote. ‘The head with its short muzzle, staring malignant eyes, and gaping, cruelly armed jaws, is the embodiment of evil ferocity; and the actions of the fish exactly match its looks.’ Roosevelt’s book was read by many, and the piranha entered into the public consciousness as one of mankind’s most vicious foes. However, what Roosevelt was not told was that the piranha attack he had witnessed on a cow was staged. For the benefit of the former president, the Brazilians had trapped hundreds of piranhas in a netted-off stretch of the river and had then starved them for days. This created the ideal conditions. When Roosevelt arrived, a sick old cow was led into the water, with its udder slit to release blood to further encourage an attack. Trapped, starving, and excited by blood, the piranhas did their job all too well. Rumours of deadly South American fish had been known since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, who reported they were often attacked when they forded rivers.

In the 19th century, naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt insisted the piranha was one of the continent’s greatest dangers. What sets them apart from other fish are their terrifying sharp teeth, tightly packed into highly muscular jaws. Relative to its size – they grow up to ten inches long – a piranha has a more powerful bite than that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Recently, scientists measured the bite force of the black piranha at 320 newtons, which is nearly three times greater than that exerted by an American alligator. That is more than enough to rip off a finger. What is disturbing is that these attacks are becoming more frequent. In November 2011, 15 swimmers were bitten by piranhas in the River Paraguay in western Brazil. One, 22-year-old Elson de Campos Pinto, recalled how he suddenly felt an agonising pain in his foot. ‘I saw that I had lost the tip of my toe,’ he said. ‘I took off running out of the river, afraid that I would be further attacked because of the blood. I’m not going back in for a long time.’ One local fisherman talked of catching some of the fish in his nets and often seeing blood on the banks. Despite relying on the river for his livelihood, Hildegard Galeno Alves said: ‘I would never even think of going in there.’

In Bolivia the following month, a drunk 18-year-old fisherman jumped out of his canoe, and was seized by a shoal of piranhas. Although he managed to get out of the water, he bled to death. Last year, a five-year-old Brazilian girl is said to have been attacked and killed in the water by a shoal of the fish. After the feeding frenzy in Argentina last week, Carlos Vacarezza, a local expert, said that the Christmas Day attack was ‘exceptional and unlikely to be repeated’. ‘What happened has no logical explanation,’ he told a local radio station. ‘In this area, the water flows too fast to create the warm and stagnant conditions where the fish are comfortable.’ While some observers claimed the piranha were attracted by debris left by fishermen, the only explanation Mr Vacarezza could suggest was that one of the fish had been injured – and the shoal had descended to eat it. Some of the human bathers simply got in the way. Certainly, cannibalism among piranhas is common, and larger, more aggressive fish will take a bite out of smaller rivals. The Christmas Day attack alone would have been enough to terrify most of us. But there have been more since.

On Boxing Day, in the town of Posadas, 600 miles up the River Parana (the name, although it sounds like that of the fish, actually translates as ‘big as the sea’) to the north-east, five children and teenagers were attacked by piranhas. All had to be treated in hospital. And then, on Friday, back at the Rambla Catalunya in Rosario, another attack took place. At four o’clock in the afternoon, a ten-year-old boy was bitten on his right hand, and he too had to be taken to hospital. The experts may like to reassure us that piranha attacks on humans are rare, but are they right? Perhaps the truth about the dreaded piranha may be closer to the horror movies after all.

Voir aussi:

La légende du poisson tueur

Emmanuel

Piranhas.fr

Le piranha a une réputation de poisson tueur, de nombreux livres le présentent comme étant un redoutable danger pour l’homme. Qu’en est il réellement ?

Il est difficile de répondre avec certitude à cette question. On peut cependant avancer quelques pistes…

Certaines tribus d’Amérique du Sud vénèrent le piranha depuis plusieurs siècles car il représente la force et la peur. Il y a environ 500 ans, les colons européens sont arrivés dans ces contrées, ils ont trouvé des piranhas et, au vu de leur dentition, ils ont tout naturellement redouté cet animal. De plus, ils ont entendu auprès de certaines tribus les récits mythiques à propos du piranha… Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que naisse une légende qui perdure encore aujourd’hui. A cette époque, rappelons que les marins pensaient que les baleines dévoraient les embarcations, que l’océan était terminé par un gouffre, etc. La science a aujourd’hui invalidé la plupart de ces mythes mais par ignorance, certaines de ces légendes perdurent encore. Le mythe des piranhas en fait partie !

Pour commencer, il faut savoir qu’il n’y a eu qu’une seule attaque mortelle envers les hommes de la part des piranhas. C’était en 1870, le Brésil était alors en guerre contre le Paraguay. Des soldats blessés, saignant parfois abondamment ont essayé de franchir le Rio Paraguay mais ils seront dévorés vivants… Il n’y a pas eu d’autres attaques vérifiées de piranhas ayant entraînées morts d’hommes. Par contre, le piranha aime les cadavres et s’attaque donc à tous les corps tombés ou jetés dans l’eau mais ils ne sont pas la cause du décès qui est souvent une noyade ou un meurtre. La réputation de tueur d’hommes est donc infondée ! Même s’il mord de temps à autre un pêcheur qui se lave les mains dans l’eau, ce poisson n’est donc pas une menace pour l’homme d’autant plus que son aire de répartition abrite des créatures bien plus redoutables comme les caïmans, les candirus, les raies venimeuses, les anguilles électriques, etc. N’en concluez pas cependant que ce poisson est un ange car il serait risqué de traverser une pièce d’eau isolée infestée de ces créatures en période sèche, et encore, ce n’est même pas sûr car dans la plaine de l’Orénoque par exemple, les cabiais en bonne santé (sorte de cobaye de la taille d’un cochon) traversent sans être jamais inquiétés ces pièces d’eau.

Comment expliquer cette persistance ? Pendant toute la durée d’exploration du continent sud américain (que l’on va considérer comme ayant commencée il y a 500 ans et terminée il y a un siècle) les aventuriers ont bien souvent étoffé leurs récits de balivernes pour faire sensations. Un aventurier en Afrique ne pouvait être pris au sérieux à son retour s’il n’avait pas combattu un lion et bien les piranhas étaient l’étape incontournable de l’Amazonie. Il est bien plus glorieux d’avoir traversé des étendues d’eau infestées de monstres sanguinaires que de simples poissons blancs. Les aventuriers n’ont donc pas hésité à exagérer la nature de ce poisson pour se magnifier. La légende avait donc traversé l’Atlantique pour arriver en Europe. Des personnes ont tout de suite compris l’intérêt financier qu’il y avait dans ce poisson tueur et ont contribué à en faire un monstre aux yeux du public. La littérature a répandu encore un peu plus cette idée tant les livres présentant les piranhas comme très dangereux sont encore nombreux. Puis est apparu le cinéma qui a lui aussi exploité le filon en faisant des films d’horreur sur le sujet. On peut citer la sortie récente du film « piranha 3D » d’alexandre Aja qui raconte l’histoire de piranhas retenus dans un lac souterrain depuis la préhistoire qu’un séisme libère. Ces films / navets sont apparus dans les années 1950. Dans Piranhas 2: Flying killer, les piranhas sont marins, volent et agressent les humains hors de l’eau. Dans Megapiranha, ce sont des piranhas géants qui engloutissent des navires…

Et enfin, plus proche de nous, la littérature aquariophile a classé ce poisson à part car dangereux et mangeant du coeur de boeuf régulièrement (alors que la plupart le digère très mal). Les vendeurs aquariophiles jouent encore un grand rôle puisque certains d’entre eux mettent une pancarte « Piranha – féroce et cannibale » sur les bacs de vente. A leur décharge, il convient de préciser que la majorité des personnes mordues par des piranhas sont des vendeurs, les conditions de vente, à savoir un petit aquarium surpeuplé sans décors pour se réfugier conduisant parfois les piranhas à mordre, faute de pouvoir fuir.

Entre les livres aquariophiles réputés sérieux qui continuent de mentir sur ce poisson, les commerçants qui ont compris depuis bien longtemps que le sensationnel fait vendre et certains médias peu scrupuleux qui recherchent le spectacle quitte à affabuler ou a en rajouter un peu, il est vrai que rien n’est fait pour rétablir la vérité. Mais nous sommes les premiers responsables car nous préférons majoritairement continuer de croire qu’il s’agit d’un poisson exceptionnel plutôt que d’un poisson guère plus dangereux qu’un autre, le fantastique est tellement plus intéressant que le banal !

De plus, sur les forums de discussions, il est encore fréquent que des personnes n’ayant jamais maintenu ni même vu de piranhas répondent à des sujets ayant trait à ce poisson en mettant par exemple en garde son propriétaire ! Ce genre de comportements est malheureusement celui de toute les discussions, aussi bien sur internet qu’au quotidien mais dans le cas du piranha, elle contribue à véhiculer une image aussi erronée que stupide. Il existe pourtant de la littérature sérieuse (un peu) et quelques reportages télévisés qui présentent la véritable nature de ce poisson. Certains aquariophiles ayant maintenu des piranhas en aquariums convaincus de leur férocité, sont déçus de leur timidité en captivité. Ils avancent qu’ils sont bien plus dangereux et agressifs en bancs dans la nature. C’est en réalité l’inverse, les piranhas sont plus agressifs dans nos bacs car, stressés et pris au piège par leur prison de verre, ils sont parfois capables de mordre alors qu’ils auraient fui dans leur milieu naturel.

Pour terminer et pour tenter de rétablir la vérité : un pêcheur sud-Américain vous le dira : le piranha n’est pas dangereux dans l’eau. Par contre, un piranha qui s’agite au fond d’une pirogue et claque de la mâchoire frénétiquement après avoir été péché peut sectionner un orteil ! Méfiez vous donc quand même de ces animaux. Ce ne sont pas des monstres, mais la mâchoire est puissante et un accident peut arriver.

Can piranhas really strip a cow to the bone in under a minute?

Julia Layton.

When Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunting expedition in Brazil in 1913, he got his money’s worth. Standing on the bank of the Amazon River, he watched piranhas attack a cow with shocking ferocity. It was a classic scene: water boiling with frenzied piranhas and blood, and after about a minute or two, a skeleton floating to the suddenly calm surface.

Roosevelt was horrified, and he wrote quite a bit about the vicious creatures in his 1914 book, « Through the Brazilian Wilderness. » He recounted the stories of townspeople who had been eaten alive, and others who’d lost body parts to piranhas while bathing in the river. « They are the most ferocious fish in the world, » Roosevelt announced to the world. « hey will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers — in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites th­em to madness »

The legend of the piranha had begun.

Hollywood picked it up from there with the 1978 horror flick « Piranha » (« When flesh-eating piranhas are accidentally released into a summer resort’s rivers, the guests become their next meal »), 1981’s « Piranha II: The Spawning, » and a remake of the original B-movie that came out in 2010 [sources: IMDb, Movie Insider]. The killer piranha has made the gory jump into the 21st century.

But is the vicious reputation deserved? Roosevelt witnessed the now-famous cow stripping incident in Brazil, where piranhas live in especially high numbers. Howev­er, they’re native to and pretty common all along South America’s Amazon River — from Argentina to Colombia. So are South American bovines a regular meal for these ferocious fish? And why are there cows hanging out in the Amazon River?

Setting aside the account of a former U.S. president, piranhas stripping a cow — or a human — to the bone in less than a minute is a tough sell. How would that even be possible for a bunch of 10-inch, 3-pound fish?

Let’s find out.­

Tooth Fish

The name “piranha” is derived from the Tupi Indian language, native to Brazil. It’s a combination of the Tupi word pira, or “fish,” and ranha, meaning “tooth. »

The History of the Teddy Bear

Marianne Clay

Teddy bear & friends

2002

Today we can hardly imagine a world without that eager listener, confidante, and loyal friend, the teddy bear. But the teddy bear has not always been with us. In fact, the teddy bear did not make its entrance until late in 1902. Then, in one of life’s unexplainable synchronicities, the teddy bear appeared in the same year in two different parts of the world: Germany and the United States.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Drawing the Line in Mississippi by Clifford Berryman: This cartoon is believed to have triggered the teddy bear craze in the U.S.

The Early Years

In America, the teddy bear, according to tradition, got its start with a cartoon. The cartoon, drawn by Clifford Berryman and titled « Drawing the Line in Mississippi, » showed President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a baby bear. According to this often told tale, Roosevelt had traveled to Mississippi to help settle a border dispute between that state and Louisiana, and his hosts, wanting to please this avid hunter, took him bear hunting. The hunting was so poor that someone finally captured a bear and invited Roosevelt to shoot. Roosevelt’s refusal to fire at such a helpless target inspired Berryman to draw his cartoon with its play on the two ways Roosevelt was drawing a line—settling a border dispute and refusing to shoot a captive animal.

The cartoon appeared in a panel of cartoons drawn by Cliffored Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It caused an immediate sensation and was reprinted widely. Apparently this cartoon even inspired Morris and Rose Michtom of Brooklyn, New York, to make a bear in honor of the president’s actions. The Michtoms named their bear « Teddy’s Bear » and placed it in the window of their candy and stationery store. Instead of looking fierce and standing on all four paws like previous toy bears, the Michtoms’ bear looked sweet, innocent, and upright, like the bear in Berryman’s cartoon. Perhaps that’s why « Teddy’s Bear » made a hit with the buying public. In fact, the demand was so strong that the Michtoms, with the help of a wholesale firm called Butler Brothers, founded the first teddy bear manufacturer in the United States, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made in the early days of teddy bear history, this 1904 Steiff hugs an early Steiff polar bear.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in Germany, Richard Steiff was working for his aunt, Margarete Steiff, in her stuffed toy business. Richard, a former art student, often visited the Stuttgart Zoo to sketch animals, particularly the bear cubs. In 1902, the same year the Michtoms made « Teddy’s Bear, » the Steiff firm made a prototype of a toy bear based on Richard’s designs.

Though both the Michtoms and Steiff were working on bears at the same time, certainly neither knew, at a time of poor transatlantic communication, about the other’s creation. Besides, the Michtoms’ bear resembled the wide-eyed cub in the Berryman cartoon, while the Steiff bear, with its humped back and long snout, looked more like a real bear cub.

A few months later, in March 1903, at the Leipzig Toy Fair, Steiff introduced its first bear—Baer 55PB. The European buyers showed little interest, but an American toy buyer, who was aware of the growing interest in « Teddy’s bears » in the States, ordered 3000. In America, people were beginning to get teddy bear fever, and Steiff was in the right place at the right time.

The History of the Teddy Bear

This 16-inch Steiff was made about 1908 and comes from the collection of teddy bear artist Audie Sison.

The Teddy Bear Craze

By 1906, the teddy bear craze was in full swing in the United States. The excitement probably compared to the frenzy for Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s and Beanie Babies in the 1990s. Society ladies carried their teddies everywhere, and children had their pictures taken with their teddy bears. President Roosevelt, after using a bear as a mascot in his re-election bid, was serving his second term. Seymour Eaton, an educator and a newspaper columnist, was writing a series of children’s books about the adventures of The Roosevelt Bears, and another American, composer J.K. Bratton, wrote « The Teddy Bear Two Step. » That song would become, with the addition of words, « The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. »

Meanwhile, American manufacturers were turning out bears in all colors and all kinds, from teddy bears on roller skates to teddy bears with electric eyes. « Teddy bear, » without the apostrophe and the s, became the accepted term for this plush bruin, first appearing in print in the October 1906 issue of Playthings Magazine. Even Steiff, a German company, adopted the name for its bears.

Steiff and Ideal were no longer the only players in the teddy bear business. In America, dozens of competitors sprang up. Almost all of these very early companies didn’t last, with the notable exception of the Gund Manufacturing Corporation. Gund made its first bears in 1906 and is still making bears today.

American teddy bear companies faced stiff competition from all the teddy bears imported from Germany, and many of the U.S. companies didn’t last long. In Germany, toymaking was an old and established industry, and many German firms, such as Bing, Schuco, and Hermann, joined with Steiff in making fine teddy bears.

In England, The J.K. Farnell & Co. got its start; in fact, the original Winnie the Pooh was a Farnell bear Christopher Robin Milne received as a first birthday present from his mother in 1921. Five years later, his father, A.A. Milne, would begin to publish the Winnie-the-Pooh books about his son Christopher’s adventures with his bear and his other stuffed animals. Today you can see the original toys that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books on permanent display in the Central Children’s Room of the Donnell Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City, while the Pooh books themselves are as popular as ever.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made around 1929, this 9-inch mechanical duck by the German company of Bing was wound by a key.

More Great Years: The 1920s – 1940s

With the exception of the four years when World War I raged in Europe, the next 25 years were kind to the teddy bear. Mass production had not yet taken over the teddy bear world, and people still preferred to buy high quality, hand-finished teddy bears.

Because World War I interrupted the flow of teddy bears from Germany, new teddy bear industries developed outside Germany. Chad Valley, Chiltern, and Dean’s joined Farnell in England; Pintel and Fadap were begun in France, and Joy Toys in Australia. The bears themselves changed, too. Boot-button eyes were replaced by glass, and excelsior stuffing was replaced by a softer alternative, kapok.

The United States was relatively untouched by the war, and its teddy bear industry continued to grow. For example, the Knickerbocker Toy Company got its start in 1920 and continues to make teddy bears today. Nine years later, though, the U.S. was hit by the Depression, and most teddy bear companies were hurt by the financial crisis. After 1929, many American companies either found cheaper ways to produce bears, or they closed.

The History of the Teddy Bear

This 12-inch Schuco bear is called a yes/no bear, because this bear from the 1930s shakes his head no or nods yes, depending on how you move his tail.

In the 1920s and 30s, musical bears and mechanical bears were very popular, and they were produced all over the world. Perhaps the most noteworthy manufacturers of these novelty bears were Schuco and Bing. These two German companies made bears that walked, danced, played ball, and even turned somersaults.

But the outbreak of World War II in 1939 stopped the fun. Instead of making teddy bears, the world’s workers and factories were needed for the war effort. Some companies closed and never reopened.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made about 1970, this 20-inch bear from the German company of Fechter wears its orignal ribbon.

The Lean Years: The 1950s – 1970s

While traditional teddy bear companies had always prided themselves on quality hand-finishing and had always used natural fibers to make their bears, all that changed after World War II. Fueled by a desire for washable toys, synthetic fibers were all the rage in the post-War years. Buyers liked the idea of washable toys, so bears were made from nylon or acrylic plush, and had plastic eyes and foam rubber stuffing.

While traditional teddy bear companies could adapt to this change in materials, they were not prepared to compete against the flood of much cheaper, mass-produced teddy bears coming from eastern Asia. Even the old, well-established companies were hurt by the onslaught of inexpensive teddy bears from the Far East.

The Teddy Bear’s Comeback: The Present

Strangely enough, the comeback of the teddy after years of mass-production was triggered, not by a bear maker, but by an actor. On television, British actor Peter Bull openly expressed his love for teddy bears and his belief in the teddy bear’s importance in the emotional life of adults. After receiving 2000 letters in response to his public confession, Peter realized he wasn’t alone. In 1969, inspired by this response, he wrote a book about his lifelong affection for teddy bears, Bear with Me, later called The Teddy Bear Book. His book struck an emotional chord in thousands who also believed in the importance of teddy bears. Without intending to, Bull created an ideal climate for the teddy bear’s resurgence. The teddy bear began to regain its popularity, not so much as a children’s toy, but as a collectible for adults.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Jenni, an 18-inch bear, was made by British teddy artist Elizabeth Lloyd.

In 1974, Beverly Port, an American dollmaker who also loved making teddy bears, dared to take a teddy bear she made to a doll show. At the show, she presented Theodore B. Bear holding the hand of one of her dolls. The next year, Beverly presented a slide show she had created about teddy bears for the United Federation of Doll Clubs. That show quickly became a sensation. Other people, first in the United States and then all over world, caught Beverly’s affection for the teddy bear. They, too, began applying their talents to designing and making teddy bears. One by one, and by hand, teddy bear artistry was born with Beverly, who coined the term « teddy bear artist, » often cited as the mother of teddy bear artistry. Today thousands of teddy bears artists, often working from their homes all over the world, create soft sculpture teddy bear art for eager collectors.

Artist bears also set the stage for a new kind of manufactured bear, the artist-designed manufactured bear. Today artist-designed manufactured bears are offered by Ganz, Gund, Dean’s, Knickerbocker, Grisly Spielwaren, and others; all offer collectors the opportunity to own artist-designed bears that cost less due to mass production.

The History of the Teddy Bear

American teddy bear artist Heather Stanley made 14-inch Simon.

This increased appreciation for the teddy bear as an adult collectible has also increased the value of antique teddy bears, the hand-finished, high-quality teddy bears manufactured in the first decades of the 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, these old, manufactured teddy bears began showing up in antique doll and toy auctions, and they began winning higher and higher bids. Today the current record price for one teddy bear, Teddy Girl by Steiff, is $176,000; that bear was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1994.

So what’s next for the teddy bear? Certainly our love affair with the teddy bear shows no signs of abating.

In 1999, in just the United States, collectors purchased $441 million worth of teddy bears. Certainly, as we begin our journey through a new century, we certainly need the teddy bear’s gift of uncondtional acceptance, love, and reassurance more than ever.

Voir aussi:

History of the Teddy Bear

Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear

Mary Bellis

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is the person responsible for giving the teddy bear his name. On November 14, 1902, Roosevelt was helping settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana. During his spare time he attended a bear hunt in Mississippi. During the hunt, Roosevelt came upon a wounded young bear and ordered the mercy killing of the animal. The Washington Post ran a editorial cartoon created by the political cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman that illustrated the event. The cartoon was called « Drawing the Line in Mississippi » and depicted both state line dispute and the bear hunt. At first Berryman drew the bear as a fierce animal, the bear had just killed a hunting dog. Later, Berryman redrew the bear to make it a cuddly cub. The cartoon and the story it told became popular and within a year, the cartoon bear became a toy for children called the teddy bear.

Who made the first toy bear called teddy bear?

Well, there are several stories, below is the most popular one:

Morris Michtom made the first official toy bear called the teddy bear. Michtom owned a small novelty and candy store in Brooklyn, New York. His wife Rose was making toy bears for sale in their store. Michtom sent Roosevelt a bear and asked permission to use the teddy bear name. Roosevelt said yes. Michtom and a company called Butler Brothers, began to mass-produce the teddy bear. Within a year Michtom started his own company called the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

However, the truth is that no one is sure who made the first teddy bear, please read the resources to the right and below for more information on other origins.

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Holt Collier Guiding Roosevelt through the Mississippi Canebreaks

Minor Ferris Buchanan

When Holt Collier was chosen to guide President Theodore Roosevelt on the now famous bear hunt of 1902, he was a legend in Mississippi. He had cut roads into the wilderness and was known to have killed in excess of 3,000 bear.

Theodore Roosevelt had become a noted hunter by founding the Boone & Crockett Club and hunting almost all types of American game including grizzly bear, buffalo and pronghorn sheep. One trophy that eluded him was the Louisiana Black Bear. He desperately wanted to experience the thrill of the mounted bear chase. Though Roosevelt and his company had immeasurable finances and manpower, almost every aspect of the hunt was the responsibility of the uneducated 56-year-old Collier. He found a site on the banks of the Little Sunflower River in Sharkey County, about 15 miles west of the Smedes Station, a small farming platform.

Through the Mississippi towns of Tunica, Dundee, Lula, Clarksdale, Bobo, Alligator, Hushpuckena, Mound Bayou, Cleveland, Leland, Estill, Panther Burn, Nitta Yuma, Anguilla and Rolling Fork, the train carried Roosevelt and his entourage the maximum speed of 70 miles per hour.

At Smedes Station, several hundred spectators greeted the President. Almost all were children and grandchildren of slaves. Holt was immediately impressed by the man and his manner. Roosevelt was short but seemed palpably massive being a full 200 pounds of muscle. According to Collier, the President introduced himself by walking straight to him with his hand extended. “He say, ‘So dis is Holt, de guide. I hyar you’s er great bear hunter.’”

The party set out immediately on a field road that took them four miles through the plantation. A second four-mile stretch took them under an open forest carpeted with a knee-high briar tangle. The towering forest of virgin oak, ash and cypress was majestic. Then came the long stretch of Coon Bayou, a mud gully which attracted all types of wild game. On the other side of the bayou, lay the primal Delta swamp with briars and thickets 30 feet high and knit so tightly that the passage had been cut through like a tunnel.

The camp was pitched on the west bank of the Little Sunflower River, described then a fast- flowing, mud-banked stream of clear water. Between the tents, in the center of an open space, was a great cypress log, against which the camp fire was built. Dogs were everywhere. Someone had brought a large rustic armchair which was named the ‘Throne’. The President was an imposing figure in it. Roosevelt announced that in the woods he was to be addressed only as ‘Colonel’.

Roosevelt wanted to participate in the chase, but his demands for a shot on the first day and the timidity of his hosts condemned him to a stationary blind. He was placed to have a clear shot when the bear, driven by Holt’s pack of about 40 dogs, would emerge from the cane.

Roosevelt and companion Huger Foote waited on the stand all morning. The sounds of the dogs faded and increased in intensity as Holt’s pursuit ranged great distances in the canebrakes. After mid- afternoon the hunters broke for camp to have a late lunch.

Collier was annoyed that the stand had been abandoned. “That was eight o’clock in the mornin” when I hit the woods an’ roused my bear where I knowed I’d fin him. Den me an’ dat bear had a time, fightin’ an’ chargin’ an’ tryin’ to make him take a tree. Big ole bear but he wouldn’t climb nary tree. I could have killed him a thousand times. I sweated myself to death in that canebrake. So did the bear. By keeping between the bear and the river I knew he’d sholy make for that water hole where I left the Cunnel.

After a while the bear started that way and popped out of the gap where I said he’d go. But I didn’t hear a shot, and that pestered me….It sholy pervoked me because I’d promised the President to bring him a bear to that log, and there he was.”

At the very spot Holt had planned for the kill, the bear went to bay on the Holt Collier dogs. Collier was in a dilemma. He had been given specific orders to save the bear for Roosevelt, who was not to be found, and he had to protect the dogs from the deadly beast.

Holt dismounted, shouting at the bear. He quickly approached the bear with his rifle in his left hand and the lariat in his right. A rider rushed to camp for the President.

The dogs and the bear fought in a ferocious chorus. It wasn’t until the bear rose to his full height that Holt noticed his prize dog caught in the beast’s mighty death grip. He clubbed the rifle and leaped into the battle. He shouted again, and swung the stock of his gun through an arc that landed at the base of the bear’s skull. The bear was shaken, but he rose up, released the lifeless dog and stood a head higher than Holt. With the barrel of his rifle bent and useless, Collier had only one option. He positioned himself beside the raging animal, put his foot between the bear’s legs, and dropped the lariat over his neck. The injured bear was soon tied to a nearby willow tree.

Minutes later Roosevelt and Foote arrived. Roosevelt dismounted, ran into the water, and though everybody urged him to kill the bear, he declared that he would not shoot an animal tied to a tree. Roosevelt was in awe of the feat he was witness to.

For the entire hunt, Holt Collier was the center of attention. Sitting apart, he spoke simply and fearlessly, unmindful of any difference in social status from the powerful men about him. He told the story of his life, how he had killed white men and had gone unscathed, how he had met Union soldiers in hand-to-hand conflict, and how he fought off a band of vigilantes. His background and experience held the President’s imagination as he told stories of his years as a slave, his service as a Confederate scout, and his many years hunting bear.

The press had a field day with the story. Headlines and cartoons depicted the President as having been unprepared by satisfying his appetite. The story about the President being out-played by a lowly guide invited ridicule. The account of Holt Collier’s heroic efforts received detailed coverage.

At the conclusion of the hunt, Roosevelt declared that Holt Collier “ was the best guide and hunter he’d ever seen”, and that “before he is three years older, he will go back to the Little Sunflower, and, with Holt Collier as his only guide, will chase bears until he comes up with one and kills it, running free before the dogs.”

Clifford Kennedy Berryman ran two editorial cartoons of the incident on the front page of The Washington Post. The cute bear cub he drew immediately became a popular Roosevelt mascot. Morris Michtom saw the Berryman cartoon and designed a toy bear. He called it ‘Teddy’s Bear.’ His success selling the toys for a dollar and fifty cents resulted in formation of the Ideal Toy Corporation in 1903. When Michtom died in July 1938, the company was selling more than 100,000 bears each year.

This article is a condensed version of excerpts from the biography of Holt Collier by Minor Ferris Buchannan.

Voir encore:

TR’s Wild Side

As a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt’s attention to nature and love of animals were much in evidence, characteristics that would later help form his strong conservationist platform as president

Douglas Brinkley

American Heritage

Fall 2009

ON JUNE 3, 1898, 39 days into the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders arrived in Florida by train, assigned to the U.S. transport Yucatan. But the departure date from Tampa Bay for Cuba kept changing. Just a month earlier, the 39-year-old Teddy had quit his job as assistant secretary of the Navy, taken command of the 1,250-man 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment along with Leonard Wood, and began a mobilization to dislodge the Spanish from Cuba.

Roosevelt worried that if the ship didn’t leave soon, his men’s livers weren’t going to withstand all the booze they were consuming. The first day was incredibly humid, with a hot, glassy atmosphere and scant wind. Anxious for war, Teddy was unperturbed by the omnipresent swarms of chiggers and sandflies. To kill time he studied Florida’s botany, learning to distinguish lignum-vitae (holywood) trees from blue beech and ironwood at a glance.

The very word wild had a smelling-salt-like effect on Theodore Roosevelt. As a Harvard undergraduate he had studied nature from a scientific perspective, full of rigor and objectivity. To Roosevelt wilderness hunting and bird-watching were the ideal bootcamps for a military career. By studying how grizzly bears tracked their prey, he developed warrior skills. First-rate soldiers were best made in America, he believed, by learning to live in the wild. If a soldier understood how to read a meadowlark call or crow squawk, then his chances of battlefield survival were enhanced. An alertness to all things wild was, in Roosevelt’s eyes, a prerequisite for excelling in modern society. Success would fall upon the individual who could outfox a blizzard or survive a heat wave.

Roosevelt possessed in spades the qualities that Harvard naturalist Edward 0. Wilson has called “biophilia”: the desire to affiliate with other forms of life, the same impulse that lifts the heart at a sudden vision of a glorious valley, a red-rock canyon, or a loon scooting across a mud bog at dusk. Wilson suggests that, at heart, humans want to be touched by nature in their daily lives. His hypothesis offers a key to understanding why Roosevelt as president would add over 234 million acres to the public domain between 1901 and 1909. He responded both scientifically and emotively to wilderness. The shopworn academic debate over whether Roosevelt was a preservationist or a conservationist is really moot. He was both, and a passionate hunter to boot, too many sided and paradoxical to be pigeonholed. Even within the crucible of the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt managed to acquire exotic pets and to write about the Cuban environment, actions that provide valuable insight into Roosevelt’s developing conservationist attitudes.

While waiting to ship out, he studied the waterfowl along the wharf front and marshy inlets: ibis, herons, and double-crested cormorants, among scores of others. Beneath his cavalry boots on the Tampa beaches were sunrise tellin, wide-mouthed purpura, ground coral, bay mud, and tiny pebbles mixed with barnacles and periwinkles. Writing to his friend Henry Cabot Lodge, he turned quasi geobiologist, evoking Florida’s semitropical sun, palm trees, shark-infested shallows, and sandy beaches much like those on the French Riviera. The Gulf of Mexico, the ninth-largest body of water in the world, interested Roosevelt to no end.

Spending those days in Tampa Bay, various conservation historians believe, later influenced Roosevelt’s creation of federal bird sanctuaries along Florida’s coasts. What Roosevelt learned from being stationed on the Gulf Coast was that the market hunters were having a bad effect on Florida’s ecosystem, including the Everglades, Indian River, Lake Okeechobee, and the Ten Thousand Islands. The previous year, his friend the New York-based ornithologist Frank M. Chapman had warned him that tricolor herons and snowy egrets were being slaughtered for their feathers. Now huge mounds were heaped around the Tampa harbor, bird carcasses piled 20 or 30 yards high to rot in the sun. If the slaughter wasn’t stopped, the crowded, beautiful roosts of Florida would vanish and their inhabitants would go the way of the passenger pigeon, the ivory-billed woodpecker, and the Labrador duck.

Even as he shaped his regiment for combat, Roosevelt retained his fascination with animals, an aspect that distinguishes his war memoir The Rough Riders from all other accounts of the 1898 Cuban campaign. And in his 1913 autobiography Roosevelt presented his theory about the role of pets in sustaining morale. Compared with his accounts of military tactics and the toll of yellow fever, such passages can seem frivolous, but they do offer a valuable perspective on Roosevelt as a war leader and as a person.

Largely due to Roosevelt, the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment took three animal mascots with them, all the way from basic training in San Antonio through their port stay in Tampa Bay. For starters, there was a young mountain lion, Josephine, given by trooper Charles Green of Arizona. Roosevelt spent as much time around the cougar cub as he could. Although he wrote in The Rough Riders that Josephine had an “infernal temper,” he adored everything about her: her sand-colored coat, dark rounded ears, white muzzle, and piercing blue eyes, which turned brown as she matured. Eventually Josephine would weigh at least 90 pounds and be able to pull down a 750-pound elk with her powerful jaws. The New York Times reported that she “rejoiced” when her name was uttered and was beloved by all the men. But one time she got loose, climbed into bed with a soldier, and began playfully chewing on his toes. Roosevelt later chuckled in The Rough Riders that “he fled into the darkness with yells, much more unnerved than he would have been by the arrival of any number of Spaniards.”

Another steadfast comrade from the wild was a New Mexican golden eagle nicknamed “Teddy” in Colonel Roosevelt’s honor. Roosevelt loved to watch these raptors swooping down to pluck a snake or other prey, and he even learned the art of falconry, wearing leather gloves and calling his namesake back to camp after it had gone hunting. “The eagle was let loose and not only walked at will up and down the company streets, but also at times flew wherever he wished,” Roosevelt recalled.

Josephine and Teddy had to be left behind in Tampa, but a “jolly dog” named Cuba and owned by Cpl. Cade C. Jackson of Troop A from Flagstaff, Arizona, did accompany the Rough Riders. Having dirty gray, poodle-like fur and the personality of a Yorkie, the little dog could be easily scooped up with the swipe of a hand. (One story, in fact, claims that Jackson had stolen Cuba just so from a railcar.) Frisky as a dog could be, Cuba accompanied the regiment “through all the vicissitudes of the campaign.” Aboard the Yucatan, Roosevelt asked a Pawnee friend to draw Cuba—who ran “everywhere round the ship, and now and then howls when the band plays”—for his daughter Ethel. Perhaps because Roosevelt was so comfortable with the trio of animals—knowing how to feed the eagle mice and to scratch Josephine behind the ears—the mascots added a compelling dimension to the press coverage of the Rough Riders. But even if TR did use the mascots to play to the cameras, they were part and parcel of his lifelong need to be associated with animals.

When the Yucatan finally set sail on June 13, Roosevelt was nearly giddy with joy at escaping Tampa. As the 49 vessels in the convoy steamed south in three columns, he noted that the Florida Keys area was “a sapphire sea, wind-rippled, under an almost cloudless sky” When he first caught sight of the shoreline of Santiago Bay, waves beating in diagonals, he wrote to his sister Corinne that “All day we have steamed close to the Cuban Coast, high barren looking mountains rising abruptly from the shore, and at a distance looking much like those of Montana. We are well within the tropics, and at night the Southern Cross shows low above the Horizon; it seems strange to see it in the same sky with the Dipper.”

At both San Antonio and Tampa Bay, his two horses Rain-in-the-Face and Texas practically never left his side. With Vitagraph motion picture technicians filming the Rough Riders wading ashore, a trooper was ordered to bring his steeds safely onto the beach. Alas, a huge wave broke over Rain-in-the-Face. Unable to burst free from his harness, he inhaled seawater and drowned. For the only time during the war Roosevelt went berserk, “snorting like a bull,” as Albert Smith of Vitagraph recalled, “split[ting] the air with one blasphemy after another.” As the other horses were brought ashore, Roosevelt kept shouting “Stop that god-damned animal torture!” every time saltwater got in a mare’s face.

On June 23 the Rough Riders debarked at the fishing village of Siboney about seven miles west of Daiquiri, behind Gen. Henry Ware Lawton’s 2nd Division and Gen. William Shafter’s 5th Corps. The soldiers took ashore blanket rolls, pup tents, mess kits, and weaponry, but no one thought to give them any insect repellent. There was no wind, and they felt on fire. The tangled jungles and chaparral of Cuba, particularly in early summer, were breeding grounds for flies that now swarmed the camps. Cuba also boasted 100 varieties of ants, including strange stinging ones that seemed to come from a different world. Unafraid of the soldiers, little crouching chameleons with coffin-shaped heads changed color from bright green to dark brown, depending on the foliage they rested on. “Here there are lots of funny little lizards that run about in the dusty roads very fast,” Roosevelt wrote to his daughter Ethel, “and then stand still with their heads up.”

Roosevelt’s letters crackle with the kind of martial detail also found in Stephen Crane’s 1895 Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage. Yet they’re also crowded with natural history, with observations about the “jungle-lined banks,” “great open woods of palms,” “mango trees,” “vultures wheeling overhead by hundreds,” and even a whole command “so weakened and shattered as to be ripe for dying like rotten sheep.” There was a strange confluence in Cuba between Roosevelt and the genius loci, as he constantly sought to conjure up nature as a way to increase his personal power.

Both in Roosevelt’s correspondence and his war memoir, the land crab is everywhere, its predatory omnipresence almost the central metaphor of his Cuban campaign. Carcinologists had noted that the local species, Gecarcinus lateralis, commonly known as the blackback, Bermuda, or red land crab, leaves the tropical forests each spring to mate in the sea. It made for an eerie spectacle all along Cuba’s northern coast as these misshapen creatures, many with only one giant claw, crawled out of the forests across roads and beaches to reach the water. Swollen with eggs, the female red land crabs nevertheless made their journey to incubate in the Caribbean Sea, traveling five to six miles a day over every obstacle imaginable. Roosevelt noted that they avoided the sun’s glare, often struggling to shade just like wounded soldiers. While basically land creatures, these burrowing red crabs—their abalone-like shells thick with gaudy dark rainbow swirls—still had gills, so they needed to stay cool and moist. “The woods are full of land crabs, some of which are almost as big as rabbits,” Roosevelt wrote to Corinne. “When things grew quiet they slowly gathered in gruesome rings around the fallen.”

For the first time as an adult, Roosevelt was in the tropics. The very density of vegetation he encountered was daunting, the white herons often standing out against the greenery like tombstones. He now knew how Charles Darwin must have felt in the Galapagos and Tahiti. Cuba’s red land crabs were his tortoises or finches; everything about them spoke of evolution. Unlike the stone crabs of Maine, these red crabs weren’t particularly good-tasting. Still, with supplies sparse, the soldiers smashed them with rocks, discarded the shells, and mixed the meat into their hardtack, calling the dish “deviled crab.” Although the crabs were not dangerous, many Rough Riders were jarred awake at night by their formidable pincers. And they were persistent—a buddy would shake them scurrying away from the bedroll, only to find them back a short while later.

In The Rough Riders, Roosevelt vividly described the timeworn, brush-covered flats in the island village of Daiquiri on which the regiment camped one evening, on one side the jungle, on the other a stagnant malarial pool fringed with palm trees. After they stormed Santiago, many of his troops, a third of whom had served in the Civil War, lay wounded in ditches while flies buzzed around them. Sometimes after an American died, villagers would strip the corpse of all its equipment. Humans could be scavengers, too. Roosevelt turned to avian and crustacean imagery to convey the horrors of death. “No man was allowed to drop out to help the wounded,” he lamented. “It was hard to leave them there in the jungle, where they might not be found again until the vultures and the land-crabs came, but war is a grim game and there was no choice.”

Ever since Roosevelt had discovered Darwin’s writings as a boy growing up in New York City, analyzing species and subspecies characteristics became a daily habit. In his 1895 essay on “Social Evolution,” published in the North American Review, he offered a parable about when the dictates of natural selection superseded love of wildlife. “Even the most enthusiastic naturalist,” he wrote, “if attacked by a man-eating shark, would be much more interested in evading or repelling the attack than in determining the specific relations of the shark.” By this criterion, Roosevelt was a dual success in Cuba. He not only thwarted the Spanish sharks but managed to make detailed diary notes regarding vultures and crabs, which he planned to use in his memoir of the war.

What he would call his “crowded hour” occurred on July 1, 1898, when, on horseback, he led the Rough Riders (plus elements of the 9th and 10th Regiments of regulars, African American “buffalo soldiers,” and other units) up Kettle Hill near San Juan Hill in the battle of San Juan Heights. Once the escarpment was captured, Roosevelt, now on foot, killed a Spaniard with a pistol that had been recovered from the sunken Maine. Roosevelt later said that the charge surpassed all the other highlights of his life. Somewhat creepily, it was reported, Roosevelt had beamed through the blood, mutilation, horror, and death, always flashing a wide grin as he blazed into the enemy. Whether he was ordering up artillery support, helping men cope with the prostrating heat, finding canned tomatoes to fuel the troops, encouraging Cuban insurgentes , or miraculously procuring a huge bag of beans, he was always on top of the situation, doing whatever was humanly possible to help his men avoid both yellow fever and unnecessary enemy fire. There was no arguing about it: Colonel Roosevelt had distinguished himself at Las Guasimas, San Juan, and Santiago (although the journalists did inflate his heroics to make better copy).

By the Fourth of July, Roosevelt had become a home-front legend, the most beloved hero produced in what the soon-to¬be secretary of state John Hay called “a splendid little war.” With the fall of San Juan Heights and the Spanish fleet destroyed, Santiago itself soon surrendered. The war was practically over. The stirring exploits of Colonel Roosevelt were published all over the United States, turning him overnight into the kind of epic leader he had always dreamed of being.

But the hardships Roosevelt had suffered were real. Supplies like eggs, meat, sugar, and jerky were nonexistent. Hardtack biscuits—the soldiers’ staple—had bred hideous little worms. Just to stay alive, the Rough Riders began frying mangoes. Worse still, the 100°F heat caused serious de hydration. Then there was the ghastly toll from tropical diseases. Diarrhea and dysentery struck the outfit. Fatigue became the norm. So many Rough Riders were dying from yellow fever and malaria that Roosevelt eventually asked the War Department to bring the regiment home to the Maine coast. On August 14 the Rough Riders, following a brief stopover in Miami, arrived at Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island (not Maine) and were placed in quarantine for six weeks.

In hard, good health, taut and fit, his face tanned, and his hair crew-cut, Roosevelt was living out his boyhood fantasy of being a war hero. He had endured the vicissitudes of combat with commendable grit, and now it was all glory. Something in the American wilderness experience, Roosevelt believed, including his long stints of hunting in the Badlands and Bighorns in the 1880s, had given him an edge over the Spaniards. The same with the Rough Riders, who hailed from the Southwest—Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory. Not a single Rough Rider got cold feet or shrank back.

Roosevelt believed that the American fighting spirit would only continue as long as outdoorsmen didn’t get lazy and rest on their laurels. Slowly he was developing an underlying doctrine that he would call “the strenuous life.” The majestic open spaces of western America, such as the Red River Valley, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Black Mesa, the Sangre de Cristo Range, the Prescott Valley, and the Big Chino Wash, had hardened his men into the kind of self-reliance Emerson had invoked in his writings. Wouldn’t Rough Riders make terrific forest rangers? Didn’t the wildlife protection movement need no-nonsense men in uniform to stop poaching in federal parks? “In all the world there could be no better material for soldiers than that offered by these grim hunters of the mountains, these wild rough riders of the plains,” enthused Roosevelt.

While the Rough Riders recuperated under yellow-fever watch at Montauk, New York’s Republican Party was urging Roosevelt to run for governor that fall. As he contemplated his political future, everybody clamoring to shake his hand, he found respite watching the pervasive raccoons and white-tailed deer of Montauk. There was even Nantucket juneberry along the sandplains to study. One hundred years later, to honor the Rough Riders’ residence at Camp Wikoff in 1898, Montauk named a 1,157-acre wilderness area Roosevelt County Park.

In August the New York Times ran a feature story about Josephine, reporting that the colonel might raise the big cat at Oyster Bay. But his wife, Edith, put a stop to that plan, and Josephine was carted off to tour the West as a circus attraction. Unfortunately, she got loose or was stolen in Chicago and was never seen again.

The eventual fate of Teddy the golden eagle was just as disappointing. Quite sensibly, Roosevelt had given him to the Central Park Zoo, where he became a popular tourist attraction, but he was killed by two bald eagles put into his cage to keep him company. The body of the regiment’s mascot was shipped to Frank Chapman at the American Museum of Natural History to be stuffed.

Cuba the dog’s story, at least, had a happy ending. Discharged from quarantine, Corporal Jackson headed back to his home in Flagstaff and gave the celebrity terrier to Sam Black, a former Arizona Territory Ranger, with whose family he lived for 16 years in the lap of luxury. When Cuba died of natural causes, he was given a proper military funeral.

On August 20, 1898, Colonel Roosevelt was allowed to leave quarantine to return to his Oyster Bay home at Sagamore Hill for five days. By the time he got there, a groundswell of support had arisen for his gubernatorial candidacy. All around Oyster Bay, he was greeted with shouts of “Teddy!” (which he hated) and “Welcome, Colonel!” (which he loved). “I would rather have led this regiment,” Roosevelt wrote a friend, “than be Governor of New York three times.”

Cleverly, Roosevelt had kept diaries in Cuba, jotting down exact dialogue and stream-of-consciousness impressions. His editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Robert Bridges, worried that if Roosevelt ran for governor the war memoir they’d been discussing would have to be put on hold. “Not at all,” Roosevelt assured him. “You shall have the various chapters in the time promised.”

Once back at Camp Wikoff, Roosevelt wandered Montauk Point, care taking his golden eagle and taking little Cuba on walks. Roosevelt seemed like a changed man, disconcertingly calm, studying the undercarriage of wigeon ducks as they flew overhead. Sometimes, particularly when reporters were around, he rode his horse up and down the beach. By having “driven the Spaniard from the New World,” Roosevelt could relax— the burden of family cowardice and the shadow of his father’s hiring of a surrogate for his Civil War service had passed away forever. With nothing more to prove, he could excel as a powerful politician, soapbox expansionist, true-blue reformer, naturalist, and conservationist.

On September 13 a bugle called, and the surviving Rough Riders dutifully fell into formation. In front of them was a card table with a blanket draped over a bulky object. The 1st Volunteer Cavalry had a parting gift for their humane and courageous colonel. Eventually the blanket was lifted to reveal an 1895 bronze sculpture by Frederic Remington, Bronco Buster. (A cowboy was the western term for a cattle driver, while a bronco buster broke wild horses to the saddle.) Tears welled up in Roosevelt’s eyes, his voice choked, and he stroked the steed’s mane as if it were real. “I would have been most deeply touched if the officers had given me this testimonial, but coming from you, my men, I appreciate it tenfold,” Roosevelt said. The Rough Riders had found the best gift possible. It summed up Theodore Roosevelt well: a fearless cowboy, stirrup flying free, determined to tame a wild stallion by putting the spurs to it, a quirt in his right hand, and the reins gripped in the other. A Remington cast of the Bronco Buster now sits prominently in the White House Oval Office for President Barack Obama to appreciate.

The 42-year-old Roosevelt took more than just a Remington bronze to the White House in September 1901; his wilderness values and philosophy came with him, along with his saddle bag. Besides continuing to collect myriad White House pets, Roosevelt used his executive power to save such national heirlooms as the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Devils Tower, Mesa Verde, and the Dry Tortugas. On July 1, 1908, to help commemorate his “crowded hour” of battle at Santiago, President Roosevelt created 45 new national forests scattered throughout 11 western states. He also initiated many innovative protocols for range management, wildfire control, land planning, recreation, hydrology, and soil science throughout the American West. It was exactly a decade since his moment of military glory. His “crowded hour” 10 years later put much of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest beyond the lumberman’s ax. Adding to the conservationist theme, TR hired as forest rangers men who had served with him in combat. These ex-Rough Riders now protected wild America from ruin under the banner of Rooseveltian conservationism.

What particularly worried President Roosevelt at the dawn of the 20th century was that citizens of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston could not understand the splendor of the American West. “To lose the chance to see frigate birds soaring in circles above the storm,” Roosevelt wrote, “or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in the shifting maze above the beach—why the loss is like the loss of a gallery of masterpieces of the artists of old time.”

Adapted by the author from The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America , published by HarperCollins, © 2009

The truth about piranha attacks

Practical fishing

Piranhas aren’t the man-eaters folklore would suggest; you’re much more likely to lose a toe, according to the results of a new survey of piranha attacks in Suriname.

Humans are much more likely to be bitten when piranhas are removed from the water when fishing than they are while bathing in the water, the study claims.

« Many human deaths attributed to piranhas are probably cases of scavenging on drowned or otherwise already dead persons », says Jan Mol of the University of Suriname, who has just published the results of a study on human attacks by piranha.

« In 15 years of field work in Suriname, often wading for hours through ‘piranha-infested’ streams and catching piranhas with hook and line while bathing in the river, I was never injured by free-swimming piranhas.

« Piranhas are usually more dangerous out of the water than in it and most bites occur on shore or in boats when removing a piranha from a gillnet or hook, or when a ‘loose’ piranha is flopping about and snapping its jaws. »

Other studies have come to similar conclusions, but Mol suggests that under some situations the risk of piranha attack is very real.

« In the low-water season, when hungry fishes become concentrated in pools, some piranha species may be dangerous to any animal or human that enters the water. »

Serrasalmus rhombeusMol studied Serrasalmus rhombeus attacks at three locations in Suriname; the villages of Donderkamp and Corneiskondre on the Wayombo River and a recreation park at Overbridge on the Suriname River.

Dozens of people had been attacked at each location, with most injuries resulting in bites to the heel, soles of the feet and toes.

More serious deeper wounds were also inflicted to the legs, arms and body. Some bites were so severe that the fish completely removed the toes, including the phalange bone.

Reader Mike Rizzo suffered this bite from his rhombeus last year. Full story

The recovery of toe phalanges, complete with human flesh and bits of toenail, identified the culprits as Serrasalmus rhombeus, one of the largest and most aggressive piranhas.

« Individuals of this species tend to remain several weeks at one site and this may explain why the respective piranhas were caught at exactly the same spot after their attacks on bathers », says Mol.

« Also, characteristics of wounds of victims from Overbridge resembled bite marks previously documented as caused by S. rhombeus. Furthermore, no Surinamese freshwater fish other than a piranha could be responsible for the injuries reported here. »

None of the three locations surveyed had reported any human deaths due to piranha attacks.

Two epileptic bathers whose badly mutilated bodies were retrieved from the water are believed to have suffered seizures and then been scavenged by the fish.

Villagers interviewed by Mol claimed that piranha attacks in the small villages were unheard of until the population of the village began to rise in 1990.

When the human population peaked, the number of piranha attacks increased.

Feeding, not defenceWhile piranha attacks in other areas have been attributed to attacks by breeding piranhas defending their eggs and fry, Mol believes this is not the case in Suriname.

« In Surinamese rivers most of the reproductive activity of S. rhombeus occurred in the long rainy season of April to July, while most piranha attacks in Overbridge and Donderkamp occurred during the low-water (dry) season of September to November.

« Nevertheless, there is a small possibility that some individual piranhas were reproducing and guarding their spawn and/or spawning sites out of the main season. »

The sites not only lacked stereotypical spawning sites for the species, but the surveys revealed only sexually immature juvenile piranhas, so Mol believes that the attacks stem from feeding behaviour, not the defence of offspring.

How to avoid being eaten1. Piranhas are only found in certain rivers in the Amazon basin. Avoid swimming in South America, unless you have to. If you must bathe there, fill a bucket and wash on land. But look out for Centromochus!

Voir enfin:

Safety in numbers? Shoaling behaviour of the Amazonian red-bellied piranha

Helder Queiroz1 and Anne E Magurran2,*

Biology letters

2005 May 10

Abstract

Red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) shoals have a fearsome reputation. However, the variety and abundance of piranha predators in the flooded forests of the Amazon in which they live indicate that an important reason for shoal formation may be predator defence. Experiments using wild-caught piranhas supported the hypothesis that individual perception of risk, as revealed by elevated ventilatory frequency (opercular rate), is greater in small shoals. Moreover, exposure to a simulated predator attack by a model cormorant demonstrated that resting opercular rates are regained more quickly by piranhas in shoals of eight than they are in shoals of two. Together, these results show that shoaling has a cover-seeking function in this species.

1. Introduction

It is now well established that individual animals accrue significant anti-predator advantages by grouping with conspecifics; for example, in flocks of birds and schools of fishes (Elgar 1989; Magurran 1990; Pitcher & Parrish 1993; Cresswell 1994). However, although the protective properties of groups have been comprehensively investigated (Krause & Ruxton 2002), the individual decisions on which these advantages rest are much less well understood (Tien et al. 2004). Hamilton (1971) proposed that individuals take advantage of the cover provided by other group members to reduce their ‘domain of danger’. The prerequisite for cover-seeking behaviour is a heightened perception of risk by singletons or members of small groups.

Few species have attracted greater notoriety than the red-bellied piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri (Schulte 1988). The species is popularly believed to be a dangerous pack-hunting fish. However, a recent investigation of the red-bellied piranha found no support for cooperative hunting and suggested that an important function of shoaling behaviour in the species is defence against predation (Magurran & Queiroz 2003). This assertion is supported by the observation that, in the flooded forests of the Brazilian Amazon in which we work, piranhas are regularly predated by river dolphins, caiman, aquatic birds and large piscivorous fishes (Bannerman 2001).

Here, we test the hypothesis that piranha shoaling is a form of cover seeking. We make two predictions: first, that fishes will feel safer in larger groups—as indicated by a reduction in their physiological stress response; second, that fishes in larger shoals will recover more quickly from a simulated predator attack. We use ventilatory frequency (opercular beat rate) as our measure of fearfulness. Previous work has demonstrated that opercular rate increases in fishes under predation risk; for example, in the presence of alarm substance (Pfeiffer 1962) or in response to a predator model (Metcalfe et al. 1987; Hawkins et al. 2004). Ventilatory frequency is thought to rise in anticipation of predator evasion (Barreto et al. 2003), even in the absence of prior locomotory activity.

2. Methods

(a) Experiment 1: safety in numbers

We tested the prediction that piranhas perceive larger shoals as safer by measuring the opercular rate of fish as singletons and in shoals of two, four and eight individuals. The investigation took place at Flutuante Arapaima in the Mamirauá Reserve, Amazonas, Brazil. Piranhas are abundant in the flooded forest that comprises the reserve. Our study was conducted during the high‐water season in July 2004.

Fish were collected between 12 and 24 h before testing and held in an underwater cage in their natural habitat so that stress levels were minimized. Trials were conducted in sets of four to ensure comparability of handling, time of day and so on. The order in which the four shoal sizes were tested within a set was varied across the 12 replicates in the experiment. Water was changed regularly. Oxygen levels, which were frequently monitored, did not fall below natural levels. At the beginning of a trial, a shoal of fish was gently placed in the test tank and allowed to settle for 10 min. A focal individual was then selected and its opercular rate measured for 5 successive minutes. Focal individuals, which could be identified by small variations in fin morphology, were chosen haphazardly. Using a single focal individual per group size ensured that the same number of observations was collected in each treatment. The tank was screened to avoid disturbance and all fish were observed from above. We selected the median of the five records of opercular rate per minute for our analysis. Afterwards, all fish were removed and measured, before being returned to the wild. With minor exceptions to make up shoal sizes (less than 2% of cases), fish were not reused. The mean (± s.d.) fork length of fish was 15.5±2.09 cm.

(b) Experiment 2: response to predator ‘attack’

We exposed piranhas in shoals of two and eight to a simulated attack from a realistic model cormorant, to test the prediction that larger groups regain their previous ventilatory rate faster than smaller groups. The olivaceous cormorant, Phalacrocorax olivaceus, is an important predator of piranhas at Mamirauá (H. Queiroz and A. E. Magurran, personal observation). During each trial, the 75 cm-long model swooped from its perch and splashed into the water in the test tank (60×15×60 cm3 with water 20 cm deep). The model was then immediately removed. We recorded the opercular rate of a focal individual for five successive minutes after the attack. These values were contrasted with baseline opercular rate for the same focal individual, which had been measured for 1 min before the presentation of the model. There were 10 replicates per shoal size. No piranhas were tested more than once and different individuals were used in experiments 1 and 2.

3. Results

(a) Experiment 1: safety in numbers

Our first experiment revealed a marked reduction in opercular rate with increasing group size (figure 1). A repeated‐measures ANOVA on the untransformed data confirmed that the decline within sets was significant (F3,33=12.67, p<0.001). Post hoc analysis using the Bonferroni–Dunn test showed that there was no significant difference (p>0.05) in opercular rate between singletons and groups of two, nor between groups of four and eight. The opercular rate in shoals of eight was 25% lower than for singletons. Overall, there was no relationship between the size of the focal individual and its opercular rate (F1,46=0.005, p=0.94).

Opercular rate (per minute) of the focal individual as a proportion of the singleton’s opercular rate (indicated by the line through unity) in a set of four tests. Mean value (± s.e.) is shown.

(b) Experiment 2: response to predator ‘attack’

The second experiment took advantage of the observation that focal individuals in shoals of eight have a lower opercular rate than do individuals in shoals of two. Piranhas in both shoal sizes reacted vigorously to the predator model. Experiment 1 had shown that there was no trend in opercular rate over 5 min for groups of two and eight in the absence of direct threat: one sample t-test of slope coefficients of the relationship between opercular rate and time: shoal of two t11=0.254, p=0.80; shoal of eight t11=1.338, p=0.21. By contrast, opercular rates in was experiment, 2 increased dramatically following the presentation of the model (figure 2). We detected a significant difference between shoal sizes in response (repeated‐measures ANOVA on proportion data: F1,18=11.2, p=0.004) and a significant interaction between shoal size and time after presentation (F4,72=4.77, p=0.002), indicating that the pattern of recovery also differed (figure 2). Opercular rates returned to the baseline levels more rapidly in the larger shoals.

Mean opercular rate (± s.e.) of the focal individual in shoals of two and eight, in the 5 min period following predator attack, as a proportion of its baseline value (indicated by the line through unity). Diamond symbols represent …

4. Discussion

The popular image of red-bellied piranhas portrays them as more feared than fearful. However, the results of our investigation are consistent with an anti-predator function for shoaling in the species. We found that opercular rate, which typically increases under risk (Metcalfe et al. 1987; Barreto et al. 2003), and may be indicative of a fish’s preparedness to flee (Hawkins et al. 2004), was lower in larger groups, even in the absence of an overt predation threat. Furthermore, after a simulated attack, opercular rate remained elevated for longer in the smaller shoals. Because the size of red-bellied piranha shoals at Mamirauá ranges from fewer than 10 to about 100 (H. Queiroz and A. E. Magurran, personal observation), the grouping advantages detected in this experiment are applicable to fishes in the wild. Our study not only casts new light on the behaviour of a charismatic, though poorly researched species, but also reveals how a fish’s perception of risk is affected by shoal size.

In the flooded forest at Mamirauá, shoals of fishes (including piranhas) are constantly under risk of attack. A large body of literature attests to the many anti-predator advantages enjoyed by larger groups (Krause & Ruxton 2002). In addition to increased vigilance, there are benefits related to dilution and predator confusion. The probability that a predator will successfully capture a fish declines with shoal size (Neill & Cullen 1974). For these reasons fishes seek cover by placing themselves next to other individuals (Williams 1964; Hamilton 1971; Williams 1992). Previously, we showed that large, reproductively mature piranhas position themselves in the centre of a shoal, and take fewer risks than smaller, immature individuals during foraging (Magurran & Queiroz 2003). The present study strengthens the conclusion that individual piranhas join shoals to reduce their risk of capture. In our study, we examined fish that had no cover from the simulated predation attack. However, piranha shoals may occur in the flooded forest itself as well as in open water in Mamirauá lake, and it is probable that they use the cover provided by submerged branches to evade predators. It would be interesting to determine whether the benefits of shoaling as a cover-seeking device reduce in the presence of physical cover to shelter in.

Time devoted to predator avoidance is time lost from other activities such as foraging. This trade-off can be optimized by resuming previous behaviour as soon as possible after the threat has abated (Krause & Ruxton 2002). For this reason, membership of a larger shoal provides advantages over and above the differences in baseline ventilation frequency. Because higher opercular rate is associated with higher metabolic rate (Shelton 1970; Olson 1998), piranhas in smaller shoals probably also experience greater oxygen requirements. Physiological costs could be particularly significant in this habitat as the flooded forest is seasonally affected by low levels of dissolved oxygen, a result of high rates of decomposition (Henderson et al. 1998). Periodic mass fish kills are a natural phenomenon here (Henderson et al. 1998). Individual mysids (Euphasia superba) consume less oxygen in larger swarms than in small groups (Ritz 2000), even when performing escape responses (Ritz et al. 2001). Our results point towards a similar benefit in piranhas.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the Royal Society, Mamirauá Institute and the following people without whom our fieldwork would not have been possible: Dalvino and Jonas Costa collected fishes, Divina and Luzia dos Santos maintained the field laboratory and Danielle Cavalcante and Carlos Maciel helped in the pilot study. Two referees made insightful comments on the paper.

References

Bannerman M. Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustenável Mamirauá; Tefé, Brazil: 2001. Mamirauá: a guide to the natural history of the Amazon flooded forest.

Barreto R.E, Luchiari A.C, Marcondes A.L. Ventilatory frequency indicates visual recognition of an allopatric predator in naive Nile tilapia. Behav. Processes. 2003;60:235–239. [PubMed]

Cresswell W. Flocking is an effective anti-predation strategy in red-shanks, Tringa totanus. Anim. Behav. 1994;47:433–442.

Elgar M.A. Predator vigilance and group size in mammals and birds: a critical review of the available evidence. Biol. Rev. 1989;64:13–33. [PubMed]

Hamilton W.D. Geometry for the selfish herd. J. Theor. Biol. 1971;31:295–311. [PubMed]

Hawkins, L. A., Armstrong, J. D. & Magurran, A. E. 2004 Predator-induced hyperventilation in wild and hatchery Altantic salmon fry. J. Fish Biol.65, 88–100.

Henderson P.A, Hamilton W.D, Crampton W.G.R. Evolution and diversity in Amazonian floodplain communities. In: Newbery D.M, Prins H.H.T, Brown N.D, editors. Dynamics of tropical communities. Blackwell Science; Oxford: 1998. pp. 385–419.

Krause J, Ruxton G.D. Oxford University Press; 2002. Living in groups.

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Magurran A.E, Queiroz H.L. Partner choice in piranha shoals. Behaviour. 2003;140:289–299.

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Williams G.C. Oxford University Press; 1992. Natural selection: domains, levels and challenges.

2. Piranha attacks are greatest during the dry season when water levels are lowest and the fish breed, resulting in thousands of hungry young piranhas in the water.

3. Human attacks are most common in areas where human densities are highest in the water, such as popular swimming spots.

4. Noise and splashing attracts piranhas, so try to avoid making a commotion while you’re taking a dip. Piranha most commonly attack children for this reason.

5. If you’re a menstruating woman, don’t swim in the water, as any leaking blood may attract piranhas. In Amerindian villages, women in menstruation are not allowed to bathe for this reason, says Mol.

6. Don’t throw dead fish, offal or other food into the water. Piranhas are not strictly carnivorous, so any food in the water might attract them into the area.

7. Piranha attacks are not isolated incidents. If you spot any signs erected by locals saying « Warning Piranhas », it’s probably sensible to avoid bathing there.

For more information see the paper: Mol JH (2006) – Attacks on humans by the piranha Serrasalmus rhombeus in Suriname. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment, December 2006; 41(3): 189-195.

Voir enfin:

This article originally appeared in Piranha meat: It can take a bite out of what ails you © 1998 Houston Chronicle Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division (“The Chronicle”), © 1985 – 2002 Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P. All rights reserved. By ERIC J. LYMAN Special to the Chronicle PUCALLPA, Peru — Feeling old? Tired? There is something found around these parts that a lot of people say can help. Men in their retirement years eat it, start new families and swear by it. So do childless women, who drink it and give birth. Found in the Peruvian rain forests, the demand for it is phenomenal. But it isn’t some pharmaceutical corporation’s answer to Viagra, the impotence drug, nor is it available at a corner drugstore. In fact, an Amazonian witch doctor here must be consulted for a prescription. It’s piranha. The bitter-tasting flesh of the fish that have devoured so many villains in jungle B-movies is hailed here as the cure for problems dealing with fertility, virility, even baldness. It is said to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. « The power of the meat can cure many things, » said Flor, a Peruvian witch doctor who specializes in concoctions based on piranha meat. « It is one of the strongest medicines the world has known. » The scientific community, of course, scoffs at the anecdotal claims of the supporters of piranha-based cures. The meat, they say, is acidic, sometimes toxic and utterly without medicinal powers. « These claims about the power of the piranha fish meat have been around for a very long time, and there has never been any scientific evidence to support it, » said Celso Pardo, the dean of a Lima pharmacological institute. « People see an aggressive, macho animal, and they say, `I want to be more like that.’  » Such disparaging words do not faze the supporters of the bony fish. Piranha fisherman Miguel Socorro, for example, said his father had been sterile before eating piranha and fathering Socorro and his two siblings. Maria Luisa Quepo, a childless woman near Pulcallpa, gave birth to twins when she was in her 40s after drinking a piranha-based brew. And the mayor of a nearby village, a widower in his 60s, started a second family with the help of the fish. Countless couples here say they’ve used the seductive powers of the piranha to spice up otherwise unimaginative marriages. « The people helped by the fish don’t need proof from scientists, » said the witch doctor, Flor, whose name means « flower » in Spanish. Catching a piranha isn’t easy. The best fishermen start early in the morning by pouring buckets of blood around their boats to attract the fish, which gather with such ferocity that the water near the boat seems to be boiling. The fishermen slap the waters with their fishing poles to mimic the splashing sounds of an animal in distress — something that excites the piranha even more. Then they they drop in multipronged hooks baited with chunks of red meat. The piranha just nibble at the meat, but a slight tug at the hook-lines tells the fisherman to jerk the hooks upward, something as likely to snag the fish in the gills or tails as in the mouths, since the piranha do not allow hooks past their razor-sharp teeth. « The process is difficult, but a good fisherman can catch 12 or 15 piranhas before the sun gets too hot, » said Socorro, the fisherman. The piranhas sell for a little less than $1 each to witch doctors like Flor, meaning a successful fisherman can make the average weekly wage near Pulcallpa of $16 or so in a little more than a day of fishing. Flor charges about $4.25 for most of his signature brews, which use one or two fish each. « This is one of the most profitable businesses a man can get into near here, » Socorro said proudly. Some of the region’s piranha trading takes place at a fish market just outside Pulcallpa. On one edge of the market, away from the tables and mats where more traditional fish are bought and sold, a handful of fishermen and buyers go over the day’s piranha catch. Large black-bellied fish are generally worth a little less and are in highest demand by artisans, who make necklaces from the larger- than-normal jaws and teeth to sell to tourists. The meat from a red-bellied piranha, by contrast, is considered potent and is snapped up by healers. Meat from a baby piranha is thought to start working quicker; pregnant piranhas are used to solve fertility-related problems. According to Flor, medicinal uses of the piranha go back generations, though he said that he personally « discovered » the formulas he uses to make some of his most potent potions. « Medicine in the jungle is always changing, always becoming better, always discovering new cures and powers, » Flor said. « The things we can’t cure are only because we haven’t figured out how yet. » But Pardo, the pharmacist, said any power claimed to reside in the fish is purely psychological. « If there’s any effect at all, it’s due to somebody being convinced it will work, » he said, « and then it does. » « That’s not such a bad thing, » he added, « just as long as people don’t take it too seriously and start hailing it as the next great miracle cure. » Or the next new impotence drug. Whoever is right, the witch doctor or the pharmacist, it makes no difference to people like Quepo, the formerly childless woman who gave birth to twins when she was 43 — a miracle she attributes to piranha. « I don’t understand science, and I don’t know why it works, but it does, » she said. « Before I took the medicine, my husband and I were alone. Now, thank God, we have two little children. » After 5-hour trip into jungle, I’m at home with witch doctor The route to the home of the witch doctor known as Flor is long and difficult, but it doesn’t discourage visitors. Inside his wooden hut, a sweaty five hours by dugout canoe and foot from the Amazon jungle city of Pucallpa, Flor brews his mysterious potions and medicines for an average of three « clients » a day. « People, » he said plainly, « they want what I have. » They want it for dozens of reasons. Flor boasts cures for maladies ranging from infertility to baldness, from alcoholism to poor night vision. During a recent visit, Flor told me he could cure me of whatever ailed me. ` »You have all your hair, » he said, stroking his chin. « Any fertility problems? » I told him I was single, but he wasn’t deterred. « Do you have problems shooting an arrow straight? » he asked, a little more desperate. « Do you make too much noise when you walk through the jungle? Do your feet sweat when you sleep? » Flor wasn’t what I thought an Amazon witch doctor would be. He wasn’t dressed in bright robes, his face wasn’t painted in cryptic patterns. In fact, he was virtually indistinguishable from the 60 or so people in the nearby village of Nuevo Destino — Spanish for New Destiny — with his earth-tone clothes and high, Indian cheekbones. His Spanish was fairly articulate, given that it wasn’t his native language. The Shapibo Indian language is spoken by most people in the area. The route to his hut included a maze of minor river tributaries — some of which had to be blazed by breaking off or slipping under branches from fast-growing Amazon trees — and then a muddy, hourlong walk along an overgrown path. Flor’s hut, on the southern edge of Nuevo Destino, looks as if it grew out of the land around it. Weeds sprouted between the unevenly spaced floor and the wooden-and-palm-thatched roof seemed to absorb the tube of smoke rising up from the flame Flor used to heat the potion he was making for me. The brew he concocted for me included an ounce or two of piranha meat along with a ground-up mixture twigs, herbs, powders and some drops from an odd assortment of bottles that Flor kept on a shelf with the skull of a huge Caiman. The gritty potion tasted bitter, but Flor and my guide urged me to drink it down as they chatted in Shapibo. After I took a few hesitant sips, Flor took the clay pot back and smiled a toothless smile. He declared me almost cured. Of what? I asked Flor and my guide. They looked at me as if I should have perhaps asked for a cure for being dimwitted. A few seconds passed, and Flor spoke slowly. « You will find love, » he said, « within 30 days. » That time has nearly passed, but I haven’t given up hope. –By Eric J. Lyman July 17, 1998 – Page C-1

Voir enfin:

Theodore Roosevelt explorateur

Positivisme et mythe de la frontière dans l’expediçao cientifica Roosevelt-Rondon au Mato Grosso et en Amazonie (1913-1914)

Armelle Enders

Revue d’histoire d’Outremer. Explorations, colonisations, indépendances, Paris, t.85 (1998), n° 318, p.83-104.

Nuevo Mundo

14/02/2005

Résumé

De décembre 1913 à la fin d’avril 1914, l’ancien président des Etats-Unis Theodore Roosevelt dirige une expédition scientifique à l’intérieur des Etats brésiliens du Mato Grosso et d’Amazonie. Le but principal de celle-ci consiste à reconnaître environ 700 km du cours d’un fleuve considéré comme « inconnu », lequel reçoit le nom de « Roosevelt » au terme d’un voyage périlleux. La logistique de l’expédition est assurée par le gouvernement brésilien, représenté par le colonel Cândido Mariano Rondon, célèbre par ses explorations dans l’intérieur du pays et sa politique à l’égard des Amérindiens. A son retour dans l’hémisphère nord, Theodore Roosevelt met sa notoriété au service de sa propre légende, mais aussi de la propagande des missions militaires brésiliennes et des apports de celles-ci à l’extension de la Civilisation à travers la forêt vierge.

1Dans les années 1910, l’Amérique du Sud en général et le Brésil en particulier sont des destinations qu’empruntent un nombre croissant de personnalités. Ainsi, Anatole France, Clemenceau, Jaurès, s’arrêtent à Rio de Janeiro et São Paulo en 1910 et 1911, et, l’ancien président des Etats-Unis Theodore Roosevelt débarque le 21 octobre 1913 à Rio de Janeiro, où il inaugure une tournée de conférences et de visites qui doivent ensuite le mener à Montevidéo, Buenos Aires, et Santiago du Chili, conformément à un programme bien rôdé par les visiteurs étrangers. L’originalité du passage de Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) au Brésil réside dans dans la seconde partie de son voyage, beaucoup moins classique, qui commence le 12 décembre 1913 sur la frontière fluviale qui sépare le Paraguay du Brésil pour s’achever le 30 avril de l’année suivante à Manaus.

2Entre-temps, l’ancien président et son équipe de savants américains ont été confiés aux soins du colonel Cândido Maria da Silva Rondon (1865-1958) et les mondanités ont cédé la place à l’Expédition Scientifique Roosevelt-Rondon, dont l’objectif avoué consistait à parcourir plusieurs milliers de kilomètres dans des conditions périlleuses, collecter des spécimens de la faune locale, et, surtout, reconnaître le cours d’un fleuve oublié des cartographes depuis plusieurs siècles. Ne sachant trop s’il se jetait dans le Guaporé ou s’il s’écoulait en direction du Madeira, Rondon l’avait appelé « fleuve du Doute » (Rio da Dúvida), lors d’une reconnaissance effectuée dans la région en 1909. Sur les instances du gouvernement brésilien, il le rebaptise « Roosevelt » pour conclure glorieusement l’exploration. C’est ce nom, ou parfois celui de « rio Teodoro », que l’on lit toujours sur les cartes du Mato Grosso actuel.

1 « Roosevelt a débarqué à Manaus sur une civière, à l’abri des regards. Cf Esther de Viveiros, Rondon (…)

3Le tribut payé pour cet hommage est cependant élevé : tous les membres de l’expédition ont souffert de la faim et des fièvres, trois porteurs ont trouvé la mort, Kermit Roosevelt, le fils du président, a échappé de peu à la noyade, et, c’est un Roosevelt considérablement amaigri, fiévreux et blessé, qui est discrètement débarqué au petit matin à Manaus1. Ces souffrances ne sont même pas récompensées par l’admiration générale. L’exploit du chef des Rough Riders est immédiatement accueilli par un mélange d’éloges qui saluent l’exploit et de persiflages qui ironisent sur la validité de sa « découverte ». On peut donc se demander si les dangereuses tribulations de Theodore Roosevelt dans la jungle amazonienne ne répondaient pas à quelque dessein de la diplomatie brésilienne et si elles n’ont pas profité principalement à un groupe de militaires brésiliens, adeptes du positivisme et de la conquête des marches de leur pays et de leurs habitants.

« Que vient faire M. Roosevelt au Brésil ? »2

2 Titre du journal carioca Correio da Manhã, le 22 octobre 1913.

3 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, et S (…)

4La minceur des apports scientifiques de l’Expedição Científica Roosevelt-Rondon ont fait classer celle-ci au chapitre mineur des activités cynégético-naturalistes de « TR ». Pourtant, le titre retenu pour le récit de voyage que l’ancien président publie dès son retour à New York chez Scribner’s Sons, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, suggère qu’il souhaite se placer dans le sillage de son compatriote Stanley, auteur d’une exploration remarquée du fleuve Congo à la fin des années 1870, exploration qu’il avait relatée dans un ouvrage intitulé Through the Dark Continent3.

4 Correio da Manhã, 20 octobre 1913.

5Lors de l’arrivée à Rio de l’homme d’Etat, le quotidien d’opposition carioca Correio da Manhã retrace brièvement les étapes biographiques de Roosevelt, présenté, à grand renfort de mots anglais, comme un « ancien cowboy qui a fait la guerre aux Indiens au Far-west », un « homme politique, écrivain, sportsman, soldat, globe-trotter »4.

6Depuis ses débuts en politique, Theodore Roosevelt a en effet alterné et cumulé les rôles. S’il n’a pas « fait la guerre aux Indiens », il s’est pris effectivement pris de passion pour le « far west » quelques années avant la fermeture de la « Frontière ». Le mot cowboy est souvent utilisé par les les milieux politiques et intellectuels brésiliens pour désigner le président américain avec une condescendance tout aristocratique, sans savoir que Roosevelt est, précisément, un des inventeurs du cowboy.

5 Miller, Nathan, Theodore Roosevelt, a life, New York, Quill/WilliamMorrow, 1992; et surtout, Ricard, (…)

6 Frederick J. Turner s’était rendu célèbre en prononçant à Chicago en 1893 une conférence intitulée  » (…)

7Au début des années 1880, Roosevelt, qui appartient à l’aristocratie new yorkaise la plus traditionnelle, se singularise en achetant un ranch dans le Dakota où il réside de longs mois5. Cette expérience est déterminante pour l’intellectuel qui découvre dans les grandes plaines ce qu’il perçoit comme l’essence de la nation américaine, la progression héroïque de la civilisation, la naissance d’un peuple dans la lutte contre des conditions hostiles. Il théorise ensuite cette expérience, avant Frederick J. Turner6, en publiant entre 1889 et 1896 une histoire de la conquête de l’Ouest, The winning of the West, qui obtient un gros succès et formule les clichés et les stéréotypes d’une mythologie naissante. Le dandy souffreteux et policé, diplômé de Harvard et de Columbia, rentre à New York transformé en pionnier viril, chantre de l’énergie et des vertus de l’Amérique profonde.

7 Sa seule prestation à l’Instituto Histórico Geográfico Brasileiro, par exemple, lui est payée 2000 $ (…)

8Depuis son départ de la Maison Blanche, qu’il a occupée de 1901 à 1909, la reconnaissance internationale de Theodore Roosevelt croît de manière inversement proportionnelle à sa fortune politique. En 1912, il n’obtient pas l’investiture républicaine pour l’élection présidentielle, il se présente à la tête d’une dissidence « progressiste », mais est battu par le démocrate Wilson qu’il honnit particulièrement. En revanche, les sociétés savantes et les académies du monde entier invitent volontiers le prix Nobel de la Paix de 1910, l’essayiste dévoreur de livres, l’amateur éclairé des sciences naturelles qu’est Theodore Roosevelt, et lui permettent ainsi de conforter ses revenus7.

9De l’Expédition scientifique Roosevelt-Rondon, « TR » peut escompter un regain d’admiration sur le plan politique intérieur et rappeler à l’opinion américaine qu’à cinquante-cinq ans, le colonel des Rough Riders possède toujours la vigueur du temps où il était le plus jeune président de l’histoire des Etats-Unis.

8 Cf. Ricard, Serge, « Theodore Roosevelt et l’avènement de la présidence médiatique aux Etats-Unis », V (…)

9 Correio da Manhã, 24 octobre 1913.

10 Correio da Manhã, 22 octobre 1913.

11 Zahm, J.A., (H.J. Mozans), Through South America’s southland with an account of the Roosevelt Scient (…)

10Expert dans l’art de manœuvrer la presse8, celui-ci prend soin de se faire surprendre par des journalistes à Rio, le doigt pointé sur les cartes de la Brazilian wilderness , alors qu’il s’entretient avec deux collaborateurs de Rondon9. Le Correio da Manhã rapporte ainsi ses propos : « M. Roosevelt a l’intention d’organiser des collections de plantes et d’animaux des Tropiques, y compris des insectes, et emportera, comme il le pourra, les dépouilles de la bataille qu’il va engager contre…l’inconnu. Il destine une part de ses collections (celle du lion) aux musées nord-américains, et l’autre, au Museu Nacional et à celui du Pará »10. Il y a sans doute, dans le voyage à travers le Brésil central, la volonté américaine de marquer le continent de son sceau scientifique. Dans le récit qu’il consacre à la tournée sud-américaine de Roosevelt, le père Zahm, familier de l’Amérique andine, se vante d’avoir pressé le président d’ouvrir la piste aux savants américains : « En comparaison avec les merveilleux résultats des explorateurs allemands, nos hommes de science américains n’ont pas accompli grand’chose dans l’intérieur des régions equinoxiales ; et il semble que si M. Roosevelt pouvait être convaincu de pénétrer le territoire peu connu du Mato Grosso et de l’Amazonie, il stimulerait ses compatriotes à consacrer plus de temps qu’auparavant à l’exploration des régions vastes et inconnues drainées par les eaux de l’Amazone et de l’Orénoque »11. Le titre du livre du père Zahm reste d’ailleurs fidèle au projet qui consistait à mettre sur pied une Roosevelt Scientific Expedition et fait disparaître Rondon du haut de l’affiche.

Sous la protection de Cândido Rondon

11Il y a lieu de croire, d’autre part, que les autorités brésiliennes n’ont pas promené sans dessein l’homme du Big stick, l’auteur du corollaire à la Doctrine Monroe, dans des régions que leurs diplomates et leurs militaires considèrent comme extrêmement sensibles et à propos desquelles ces derniers se sont toujours montrés particulièrement chatouilleux. Au-delà des enjeux diplomatiques évidents, qui visent à consolider le soutien des Etats-Unis d’Amérique aux Etats-Unis du Brésil en cas de litige sur la souveraineté de ceux-ci dans le bassin amazonien, un groupe de militaires positivistes trouve dans le passage de Roosevelt dans leur pays une occasion de promouvoir à l’étranger une facette particulière de la modernité brésilienne. L’illustre touriste ne témoignera pas seulement des réussites du Brésil littoral, de l’assainissement et de l’embellissement récents de la capitale fédérale, des travaux spectaculaires menés par le docteur Vital Brazil au Butantã, l’Institut ophidien de São Paulo, – étapes obligées des visiteurs de marque -, il verra aussi comment les Brésiliens participent à l’extension de la Civilisation dans des contrées sauvages et arriérées.

12 Lettre de Frank Harper, secrétaire de T.Roosevelt, au ministre des Relations Extérieures, Arquivo do (…)

13 Roosevelt,Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910.

12Le montage de l’expédition est due en grande partie au ministre brésilien des Relations Extérieures, Lauro Müller (1863-1926). Le projet initial de Roosevelt était plus modeste que la tournure prise ultérieurement par les événements, comme en témoigne la lettre détaillée adressée par l’ancien président aux autorités brésiliennes12. Roosevelt, qui a été invité par le Museo Social de Buenos Aires, est décidé à profiter de cette occasion pour parcourir l’intérieur du continent sud-américain, de l’estuaire de La Plata à Caracas, en suivant les voies fluviales des bassins du Paraguay et de l’Amazone. Pour ce faire, il sollicite du gouvernement brésilien la logistique nécessaire à ce voyage très aventureux à travers des régions à peine reliées au télégraphe en ce début du XXe siècle. Roosevelt entend être accompagné de quelques ornithologues de l’American Museum of Natural History de New York, comme il s’était entouré de naturalistes du Smithsonian Institute lors de son safari est-africain de 190913.

14 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, p. 8 (…)

15 Fausto, Boris (éd.), História Geral da Civilização Brasileira, III, 2, São Paulo, Difel, 1985, 3e ed (…)

16 Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, História da política exterior do Brasil, São Paulo,1992.

13Lauro Müller profite de l’aubaine pour donner à cette visite privée un retentissement important, couvrir Roosevelt d’hommages et faire connaître le Brésil à l’étranger14. Il avait succédé en 1912 au Palais Itamarati (le Quai d’Orsay brésilien) au baron de Rio Branco (1845-1912) qui avait occupé le poste pendant dix ans et marqué pour longtemps la diplomatie brésilienne. Premier ministre des affaires étrangères à s’être rendu en voyage officiel aux Etats-Unis15, Lauro Müller restait fidèle à l’héritage de Rio Branco qui privilégiait l’alliance avec la grande république du Nord16.

14Rio Branco devait son immense prestige à l’efficacité de ses méthodes qui avaient permis d’agrandir pacifiquement le territoire brésilien et d’en faire reconnaître internationalement la plupart des frontières. Ainsi, en 1900, Rio Branco parvient à un arrangement avec la France à propos de l’Amapá, il obtient de la Bolivie la cession de l’Acre (1903), règle les problèmes frontaliers avec la Grande-Bretagne (1904), le Vénézuela (1905), les Pays-Bas (1906), la Colombie (1907) et le Pérou (1909). Lorsque les positions semblent inconciliables, Rio Branco recourt à l’arbitrage international.

17 Cité dans Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, op.cit., p.171-172. Voir aussi, des mêmes auteurs, (…)

15Comme le Brésil est l’Etat du continent américain qui possède le plus de frontières avec des puissances européennes, l’impérialisme de celles-ci, qui achèvent de se partager l’Afrique, paraît bien plus menaçant à Rio Branco que les appétits nord-américains. Rio Branco redoute en effet que les Européens n’imposent au bassin de l’Amazone le régime de liberté de navigation et de commerce en vigueur dans le bassin conventionnel du Congo depuis la Conférence de Berlin. L’alliance privilégiée du Brésil avec les Etats-Unis, l’accueil favorable réservé au Corollaire Roosevelt de la Doctrine de Monroe (1904), ont pour but principal de préserver la souveraineté brésilienne en Amazonie, car, écrit Rio Branco, « si jamais les Etats-Unis invitaient des Etats européens à exploiter des terres en Amérique du Sud et à imposer la liberté complète de l’Amazonie, ils refuseraient difficilement l’invitation »17.

18 Sur les conceptions de Theodore Roosevelt, cf Ricard, Serge, op.cit.

16Le discours que prononce Roosevelt devant l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, en présence de Lauro Müller, à Rio en octobre 1913, fait écho aux paroles du baron de Rio Branco. Toute l’œuvre d’écrivain et d’homme politique de Theodore Roosevelt fait de l’expansion coloniale la victoire de la civilisation sur la barbarie, l’apanage des peuples forts, une sorte de darwinisme des peuples qui condamne les plus faibles à la disparition18. Cette tâche est l’affaire des Européens en Afrique et dans une partie de l’Asie. Par la Conquête de l’Ouest, les Etats-Unis ont accompli chez eux leur œuvre de Progrès et reçu de l’Histoire et de leur destin singulier une mission civilisatrice identique à celle exercée par la Grande-Bretagne et la France. La mise en valeur de territoires sauvages est même, pour Roosevelt, une condition de la sécurité. La « mission civilisatrice » justifie pleinement dans les années 1910, du point de vue du droit international, l’intervention d’une puissance tutélaire dans les régions considérées comme sauvage. Inversement, les puissances tutélaires qui faillissent à leur mission sont affaiblies sur la scène internationale, et même, encourent la déchéance de leurs droits. Roosevelt aborde ce thème dans les discours qu’il prononce à Rio en octobre 1913 : « Ici, en Amérique, les nations civilisées ne doivent pas craindre de grandes invasions militaires, pas plus que nous ne devons redouter l’existence de vastes territoires peuplés de sauvages qu’il incombe aux nations civilisées de contrôler et qui, à moins qu’ils ne tombent sous la tutelle d’une nation civilisée et préparée pour cela, deviendront facilement dans ces conditions la propriété d’une autre nation ». Plus loin, l’allusion se précise :

19 Discours prononcé à l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, le 24 octobre 1913, Revista do IH (…)

20 Roosevelt indique qu’il a été prévenu de la nouvelle dimension prise par son voyage en arrivant à Ri (…)

17″Il y a une doctrine cardinale sur laquelle nous sommes tous d’accord qui est que l’Amérique ne doit pas être traitée comme un champ de nouvelles colonisations ou d’agrandissement territorial de la part de toute puissance du Vieux Monde »19. C’est là la version civilisatrice du « corollaire Roosevelt ». Il appartient aux nations du continent américain de faire avancer leur propre « Frontière » de colonisation, de lancer leurs pionniers à l’assaut d’une nature vierge et d’une Humanité barbare, comme les Etats-Unis l’ont accompli avant eux, faute de quoi, les appétits s’aiguiseront et la paix du continent sera menacée. Dans une telle perspective, l’idée de l’Expedição Científica Roosevelt-Rondon , qui remplace in extremis la Colonel Roosevelt’s South American Expedition for the American Museum of Natural History20, est un coup de génie de Lauro Müller.

21 Le parallèle entre les deux hommes peut être poursuivi quarante ans après l’Expédition. A la fin des (…)

18Ce dernier ne se contente pas de faciliter le voyage des Américains dans une zone considérée comme stratégique, mais les fait encadrer par des militaires brésiliens fort patriotes. Pour la parfaite symétrie de l’expédition, l’institution new-yorkaise a pour pendant brésilien le Museu Nacional de Rio de Janeiro, et, le prestigieux colonel Roosevelt a pour homologue le colonel Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon21. Personne, en effet, n’était plus qualifié que Rondon pour faire valoir les capacités du gouvernement brésilien à mettre en valeur les sertões du Mato Grosso et la selva amazonienne, ni ne pouvait saisir mieux que lui l’opportunité d’attirer sur son œuvre les feux de la grande presse américaine et la renommée internationale de Theodore Roosevelt.

22 Lettre à Henry Cabot Lodge, sur le fleuve Paraguay, 12 décembre 1913, Selection from the corresponde (…)

23 Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira » na formação social e política do (…)

19Né en 1865 à Mimoso, dans l’immense province du Mato Grosso, Rondon compte des aïeules Borôro et Terena du côté de sa mère. C’est d’ailleurs par cette particularité qu’il est présenté à Roosevelt qui pense avoir affaire à un « full blooded Indian »22. Orphelin et pauvre, Rondon s’engage dans l’Armée brésilienne et réussit à entrer à l’Ecole Militaire de Praia Vermelha à Rio de Janeiro, où il rencontre la brillante génération d’officiers gagnés aux idées positivistes par le professeur de mathématiques Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães. Il y fait notamment la connaissance d’Euclides da Cunha, l’auteur de Os Sertões, publié en 1902, et de Lauro Müller. Comme ses camarades, Rondon participe à la Proclamation de la République mais ne quitte pas la carrière d’ingénieur militaire pour la politique comme Lauro Müller, qui représente pendant de nombreuses années son Etat du Santa Catarina au Congrès fédéral, fait une belle carrière ministérielle et appartient aux noms que l’on cite au moment des successions présidentielles. Lauro Müller avait conservé de la sympathie pour les idéaux colonisateurs de ses compagnons de jeunesse. En 1891, c’est lui qui rapporte l’article de la constitution qui prévoit le transfert de la capitale fédérale sur le plateau central du Brésil23.

24 Viveiros, Esther de, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.107.

25 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, O santo soldado. Pacificador, bandeirante, amansador de Indios, civil (…)

20Toute sa vie, Rondon révère la mémoire et l’influence de Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (mort en 1891), au point de donner à sa première fille le nom de la fille de Benjamin Constant (Aracy) et d’appeler son fils Benjamin24. Un de ses compagnons et héritiers spirituels, n’est autre qu’Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, neveu du grand homme25.

26 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.68 et sq.

27 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.107.

21Formé à l’astronomie, Rondon est envoyé en 1890 dans son Mato Grosso natal pour servir la Commision des Lignes télégraphiques Stratégiques de Cuiabá à l’Araguaia, confiée au major Ernesto Gomes Carneiro 26. L’extension du réseau de communication dans les régions frontalières du Paraguay et de la Bolivie obéissait d’abord à des considérations géopolitiques. La guerre contre le Paraguay un quart de siècle plus tôt, les disputes territoriales récurrentes avec les voisins, prouvaient suffisamment la nécessité de rappeler la souveraineté brésilienne sur ses marches peu peuplées et de raccourcir le voyage des informations entre le centre et les périphéries. A la fin du siècle dernier, on met au bas mot trois semaines à rallier le Mato Grosso depuis Rio de Janeiro. En 1892, Rondon met même trois mois à rejoindre Cuiabá après une route particulièrement semée d’embûches, de quarantaines et de contre-temps27.

22Sur le terrain, l’installation de la ligne à travers la forêt prend une tout autre dimension. Pour faire passer le télégraphe, il faut reconnaître des régions peu ou mal cartographiées, procéder à des relevés topographiques, rencontrer les populations de l’intérieur, des fazendeiros isolés et des Indiens misérables et exploités, se frotter aux Indiens réputés bravos, que l’on dit aussi nus, féroces et anthropophages que ceux que rencontra Hans Staden au XVIe siècle. L’euphorie missionnaire et civilisatrice gagne ces officiers progressistes que sont Gomes Carneiro et Cândido Rondon. Ils rêvent de chemins de fer, de colonisation, d’incorporation pacifique des aborigènes dans l’ensemble national.

28 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.227.

23Après la mort de Gomes Carneiro, Rondon dirige la « Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques de Cuiabá à Corumbá », toujours au Mato Grosso (1 746 km de ligne), puis de 1906 à 1915, la « Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques du Mato Grosso à l’Amazonie ». Sous la présidence d’Afonso Pena (1906-1909), le projet ambitieux de Rondon trouve un écho au sommet de l’Etat : « les travaux de reconnaissance et de relevés géographiques, l’étude des richesses minérales, de la constitution du sol, du climat, des forêts, des fleuves, avanceraient au même pas que les travaux de construction de la ligne télégraphique, du tracé des voies de pénétration, du lancement des futurs centres de peuplement, de l’installation des premières exploitations agricoles et des premiers fermes d’élevage »28.

29 Luiz Antônio Simas, O Evangelho segundo os jacobinos. Floriano Peixoto e o mito do salvador da repúb (…)

30 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, 903.09 a 958.07.30.

24Dans l’intervalle, Rondon a ajouté à ses convictions philosophiques positivistes une foi vibrante dans la religion de l’Humanité qu’il observe scrupuleusement en plein sertão en procédant chaque dimanche à la lecture publique du Catéchisme comtiste. Ce fait est suffisamment remarquable pour être souligné. Si les idées d’Auguste Comte s’étaient en effet répandues parmi les « Cadets » de l’Ecole militaire, principalement à travers l’enseignement de Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães, les dérives religieuses de la doctrine, le culte de l’Humanité, de Clotilde de Vaux et des saints positivistes, séduisaient peu les ingénieurs et les soldats, qui se montraient plus enclins à transformer leur pays qu’à assister aux « conférences » dominicales célébrées par les Apôtres. L’Apostolat, chef du positivisme religieux, considérait la plupart des militaires comme « hétérodoxes »29. Rondon, en revanche, est un modèle d’orthodoxie et son exemple favorisera quelques conversions autour de lui. Ses séjours à Rio sont marqués par la fréquention assidue de l’Eglise positiviste et il adopte, dans sa correspondance personnelle, le calendrier de ses coreligionnaires. Ainsi un faire-part de la famille Rondon annonce-t-il un heureux événement daté du 16 de Shakespeare 115 (25 septembre 1903), d’après le calendrier positiviste30.

31 Le décret du 14 janvier 1890 instituait 9 fêtes nationales dont le sens est expliqué dans un ouvrage (…)

25Les rites du Positivisme religieux consiste essentiellement en la commémoration de dates et de figures qui sont censées représenter les grandes étapes du Progrès humain. Le gouvernement provisoire (novembre 1889-février 1891) avait d’ailleurs accordé à l’Apôtre de la religion de l’Humanité et à ses sectateurs un calendrier de fêtes civiques conformes à leurs vœux31.

32 La correspondance de Júlio Caetano Horta Barbosa, membre de la Commission Rondon, atteste de ces eff (…)

26Ainsi la route de Rondon est-elle jalonnée d’hommages et de pieuses pensées aux dates anniversaires de son histoire personnelle, de celle de son pays et de l’Humanité. Les premières stations télégraphiques inaugurées avec Gomes Carneiro portait les noms de « Benjamin Constant »(Botelho de Magalhães), « Floriano », »Demétrio Ribeiro », les héros des radicaux de la République. Laissé à sa propre intiative, Rondon se livre parfois à une véritable course contre la montre afin d’ouvrir ses stations pour les fêtes nationales : le 21 avril, jour de l’exécution de Tiradentes, le 7 septembre, celui de l’Indépendance du Brésil, le 15 novembre, anniversaire de la Proclamation de la République, le 31 décembre, fête de l’Humanité. Il étrenne toujours la ligne par des télégrammes envoyés aux autorités, mais aussi à Miguel Lemos et Raimundo Teixeira, directeurs de l’Apostolat de l’Eglise Positiviste du Brésil32.

33 Cité par Gagliardi, José Mauro, O índigena e a República, São Paulo, Hucitec, 1989, p.56.

27La caractéristique que Rondon veut retenir de son action dans les sertões est son approche nouvelle et pacifique des Indiens. Nul doute que son positivisme ne vienne fournir des arguments rationnels à son esprit de justice. L’Eglise positiviste du Brésil était une des rares institutions nationales à avoir manifesté de l’intérêt bienveillant pour la question indienne. Lors de l’instauration du régime républicain, l’Apôtre avait proposé que la nouvelle Constitution distingue entre les « Etats Occidentaux brésiliens », formés de la population issue de la fusion des « trois races » européenne, africaine et amérindienne, et les « Etats Américains Brésiliens », « empiriquement confédérés » et « constitués des hordes fétichistes éparses sur le territoire de toute la République »33, dont la sécurité et l’intégrité seraient garanties par le gouvernement fédéral.

28La doctrine positiviste en matière indigène reposait sur l’idée d’une dette contractée par les Européens envers les premiers et légitimes occupants du pays, décimés par les maladies, assassinés au cours des guerres, spoliés de leurs terres. Sans doute, selon cette conception, les aborigènes se trouvaient à un stade primitif de l’Humanité et se débattaient dans les ténèbres du fétichisme, mais rien de congénital ne leur interdisait d’accéder à la civilisation. Il fallait guider leur évolution vers l’âge scientifique de manière à leur épargner un passage inutile par la phase théocratique dont l’Occident se sortait à peine.

34 Cf. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Apontamentos para a civilisação dos Indios bravos do Império (…)

35 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.365.

29Rondon prend donc la défense concrète des Indiens opprimés, s’efforce de faire délimiter leurs terres et veut persuader ses concitoyens que l’Indien n’est pas un obstacle au Progrès, qu’il est travailleur et astucieux. Il associe donc les Borôro et les Pareci, sous la direction de leurs propres chefs, aux travaux de la ligne télégraphique. La commémoration du 7 septembre fait l’objet d’un soin particulier dans la mesure où ce jour rappelle le souvenir de José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, passé à la postérité comme le père de l’indépendance brésilienne mais aussi comme un ardent défenseur des Indiens34. José Bonifácio est honoré d’une sorte de temple rustique et donne son nom à une station télégraphique où le drapeau brésilien est hissé par une petite indienne nhambiquara35.

36 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza cite longuement ce texte qui a fourni le titre de son livre sur le SPI (…)

37 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.241.

30L’extension de la ligne vers l’Amazonie, à travers des régions délaissées depuis longtemps par les Blancs, suppose la transformation de la mission en véritable expédition ainsi qu’un renforcement de la méthode indienne de Rondon. Sur les rives du fleuve Juruena, à quarante-huit jours de marche de Diamantino, la dernière bourgade traversée, commence en effet le domaine des Nhambiquara, considérés comme hostiles. Des volées de flèches suivent immédiatement les premiers contacts entre les explorateurs et les habitants des lieux. C’est là que prend corps la doctrine de conquête pacifique de l’intérieur, que Rondon résume par une déclaration de principe : « Mourir s’il le faut, tuer, jamais » et compare à un vaste et patient « siège de paix » (« cerco de paz »)36. Aux Nhambiquara méfiants, il montre la pureté de ses intentions à distance en semant sur son chemin des présents, surtout des pièces de tissu et des machettes qu’il définit comme la « livre sterling du sertão »37 et qui doivent achever de les convaincre de la supériorité technologique de leurs visiteurs.

38 C’est la date retenue par le calendrier positiviste, bien que, selon la chronologie admise, la flott (…)

39 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.314.

40 O Paiz, 2 décembre 1913.

41 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.121.

31Rondon assimile symboliquement son œuvre à celle des « découvreurs » de l’Amérique. La troisième expédition, celle qui l’entraîne de Tapirapoan au fleuve Madeira, s’élance le 3 mai 1909, jour qui commémore la découverte du Brésil par Pedro Álvares Cabral38. Rondon file plusieurs fois la métaphore en décrivant sans originalité un « nouveau monde, plein de merveilles »39 . Dans un moment critique, il exhorte ses hommes à suivre l’exemple de Christophe Colomb. Le colonel Rondon pense ainsi rééditer la découverte de l’Amérique en effaçant le péché originel des souffrances infligées aux Indiens. Le journal carioca O Paiz, proche du gouvernement et des amis de Rondon, synthétise le rôle national de Rondon en même temps qu’il diffuse sa légende : « En découvrant de nouvelles terres, de nouveaux trésors aux confins des sertões du Goiás, en triomphant de tous les obstacles de la nature brute, parfois hostile, il ne se contente pas de signer des conquêtes pour la Patrie et pour la Science (…) : il fonde à l’intérieur de la Patrie une véritable nation »40. C’est bien d’ailleurs ce qu’entendent les positivistes à travers la politique indienne : poursuivre la « formation du peuple brésilien »41.

42 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.132.

43 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., passim et p.209 et suivantes.

32Conformément à toute une tradition, née de la politique du marquis de Pombal au XVIIIe siècle, réinterprétée par le romantisme brésilien et réactivée par l’Apostolat positiviste, la figure de l’Indien exprime à la fois l’être historique et le corps géographique de la Nation. En même temps qu’il incarne un vestige archéologique du Brésil d’avant le Brésil, du Brésil inconscient à lui-même, il personnifie ses frontières et se fait le gardien naturel de ses richesses42. Cette seconde représentation sert d’argument pour défendre l’existence toujours menacée de la Commission Rondon par ceux qui voient d’un mauvais œil les deniers publics se perdre dans la forêt ou qui veulent freiner l’intrusion d’une bande de soldats positivistes, mandatés par le gouvernement central, dans les affaires (surtout foncières) des Etats de la Fédération. Contre ses ennemis, Rondon compte sur le réseau de ses coreligionnaires et sur l’opinion publique qui s’est enflammée pour ses premiers exploits43.

44 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.596

33Les positivistes ne constituent pas en effet une grande force capable de peser dans le jeu politique de la République des Etats-Unis du Brésil, – exception faite du Rio Grande do Sul -, et leur influence s’exerce à travers une poignée de fidèles et dans des secteurs particuliers. Les présidences de Nilo Peçanha (1909-1910) et du maréchal Hermes da Fonseca (1910-1914) témoignent de la sympathie pour les positivistes et les activités de la Commission Rondon. Le 7 septembre 1910 est créé le Serviço de Proteção aos Indios e de Localização de Trabalhadores Nacionais (SPILTN), qui dépend du tout nouveau Ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et du Commerce (MAIC). Un descendant de José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva assiste à la cérémonie inaugurale44. Cândido Rondon, qui avait servi dans les années 1880 sous les ordres de Hermes da Fonseca, en est le directeur plus symbolique que réel puisqu’il retourne, dès 1911, aux œuvres de la Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques. C’est là que le trouve le télégramme de Lauro Müller lui confiant Theodore Roosevelt.

Portrait de Roosevelt en Stanley

45 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…., op. cit. p.123.

46 Certaines ont d’ailleurs été publiées : Conferências realizadas nos dias 5, 7 e 9 de outubro de 1915 (…)

47 Les archives de l’escritório central de Rondon se trouvent en grande partie au Fort de Copacabana. V (…)

48 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

34Cândido Rondon est la vitrine idéale du Brésil civilisateur. Rondon est, de plus, en bon positiviste, un pédagogue hors pair. Comme l’a noté l’anthropologue Antônio Carlos de Sousa Lima, chez les positivistes religieux, tout est rite et tout rite est fondamentalement pédagogique45. Rondon est passé maître dans la mise en scène de sa vie et de son action. Ses séjours à Rio, entre deux expéditions dans les sertões, sont l’occasion de conférences publiques46, agrémentées de projections de films. Le cœur névralgique de la Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques, le bureau central (escritório central47), comprend un service cinématographique depuis 191248. Le major Luiz Thomaz, cinéaste attaché à la Commission, suit aussi les pas de l’Expédition Roosevelt avec son matériel « Lumière Tropical » et en tire un documentaire.

49 Roosevelt, Theodore,Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., New York, Scribner, 1914, p.104.

50 Ibidem, p.100.

35Le trajet prévu par Rondon à travers son royaume est une véritable exposition coloniale in situ et comporte trois parties distinctes qui font parcourir en sens inverse aux Américains les phases successives de la progression vers l’Ouest. La première, qui conduit l’Expédition de Corumbá à São Luís de Cáceres, correspond à la zone pionnière. L’itinéraire est effectué par la voie fluviale. Il est ponctué d’étapes dans des fazendas accueillantes, de réceptions officielles, de parties de chasse et de détours touristiques. Roosevelt se retrouve en terrain connu. Ainsi compare-t-il le maître de la fazenda São João et son fils « au meilleur type des ranchmen et planteurs américains, de ces ranchmen et planteurs adeptes de sports audacieux et virils, qui sont des hommes d’affaires, et qui fournissent aussi à l’Etat des fonctionnaires compétents et fidèles »49. Il peut rêver à son aise sur l’avenir radieux de la région et affirmer que « cette région intérieure du Brésil, y compris l’Etat du Mato Grosso (…) est une région saine, excellemment adaptée la colonisation (settlement) ; des voies ferrées la pénétreront rapidement, et alors, on assistera à son développement étonnant « 50.

51 Ibidem, p.129.

36A partir de São Luís de Cáceres s’ouvrent la seconde phase du voyage et, comme le signale Roosevelt, le rideau sur la « scène des explorations du colonel Rondon », que l’Expédition sillonne pendant trente-sept jours avec un important convoi muletier51. TR peut admirer les lignes télégraphiques, les stations fondées par Rondon, comparables aux « stations de civilisation » implantées le long de la progression européenne en Afrique à la fin du XIXe siècle, et fait sien le futur mirifique que Rondon projette pour le plateau central du Brésil. De retour aux États-Unis, l’ancien président américain se chargera de diffuser l’épopée dans l’hémisphère nord en résumant longuement les travaux de la Commission Rondon :

52 Ibidem, p.212.

53 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, Expedição Roosevelt-Rondon, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do « Jornal do Com (…)

37″Ce pays et les régions adjacentes, qui forment l’intérieur profond du Brésil occidental, alimenteront surement un jour une importante population industrielle ; dont l’arrivée sera accélérée, (…) si les anticipations du colonel Rondon sur le développement de l’extraction minière, surtout de l’or, se réalisent. De toute façon, la région deviendra une patrie saine pour une population considérable d’éleveurs et d’agriculteurs. Surtout, les nombreux rapides, avec leurs multiples cascades, dont certaines d’une hauteur et d’un débit importants, pour la croissance d’un nombre de gros centres industriels, reliés entre eux par les chemins de fer ainsi qu’à la côte atlantique et aux vallées du Paraguay, du Madeira et de l’Amazone, et qui commerceront avec les régions basses riches, chaudes et alluviales qui entourent ce territoire élevé »52. Signe de l’art consommé de Rondon pour la pédagogie ou la propagande, on sent plus d’une fois son influence dans les informations contenues dans Through Brazilian Wilderness qui, pour une bonne part, a été écrit au cours de l’Expédition53.

54 Ibidem.

38La troisième étape de la descente progressive dans la wilderness commence le 27 février avec la reconnaissance du Rio da Dúvida en canot. Il s’agit désormais d’exploration et Roosevelt prend soin de rappeler que Rondon et ses hommes sont les fondateurs de l' »école brésilienne » de cette discipline54.

55 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.76.

39Après avoir observé les réalisations de la Commission Rondon, Roosevelt peut la voir à l’œuvre dans son défrichement de la wilderness. Pendant quarante-huit jours, la partie inconnue des 1 409 km de méandres et des accidents du Rio da Dúvida sont l’objet de relevés effectués souvent dans des conditions périlleuses. Les cours d’eau rencontrés sont solennellement baptisés par Rondon du nom de « Kermit », le fils du président qui a failli disparaître dans les flots du Dúvida, de « Taunay », auteur brésilien que les deux Roosevelt ont lu, « Cardozo », d’après un compagnon de Rondon, et enfin de « Roosevelt », conformément aux ordres de Lauro Müller qui voulait rendre ainsi un hommage à la « grande République du Nord » en la personne de son ancien président55. Le 15 avril, l’Expédition aperçoit les premières habitations de seringueiros amazoniens : le Rio Roosevelt est un affluent du Madeira et porte en aval le nom de « Castanho ».

56 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

57 Article « Rondon », dans Abreu, Alzira de, et Beloch, Israel (éd.), Dicionário biográfico-histórico Br (…)

40Pendant que Rondon retourne à ses travaux, Theodore Roosevelt s’en va divulguer les résultats de l’Expédition, chanter la gloire de son guide de par le monde et ses plus prestigieuses institutions savantes et montrer au public new yorkais les films réalisés par la Commission Rondon56. Cândido Rondon est honoré par la Société de Géographie de New York en 1914 du « Prix Livingstone »57, tandis que Roosevelt place la descente du fleuve qui porte désormais son nom dans la continuité des grandes explorations africaines du siècle passé. L’Amérique du Sud est présentée comme le nouveau « Dark continent » dont il faut dessiner la carte. C’est le sens du rapport qu’il présente le 6 juin 1914, un mois et demi après sa sortie de la Brazilian wilderness, dans le temple des explorateurs, la Royal Geographical Society de Londres, avec d’autant plus de force que les détracteurs sont nombreux.

58 A Epoca, 29 avril 1914.

59 Ibidem, passim.

41Un ingénieur brésilien, Inácio Moerbeck, n’attend même pas l’arrivée de l’expédition à Manaus pour affirmer dans la presse que le « Dúvida » est l’Aripuanã, affluent du Madeira, fréquenté par tout ce que la région compte de seringueiros et autres ramasseurs des drogas amazoniennes58. On fait la fine bouche sur le « rio Roosevelt », dont les cours supérieur et inférieur avaient déjà été rejoints par la « civilisation » et sur les relevés incomplets rapportés par une expédition malmenée par les éléments et que le président était pressé d’achever59.

42Le colonel Roosevelt se défend en affirmant qu’il a bien été le premier « civilisé » à descendre le cours moyen du Dúvida et à le « porter sur la carte » (put it on the map). Il ne lésine pas sur les références illustres devant les membres de la Royal Geographical Society :

60 Roosevelt, Theodore, « A journey in central Brazil », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol (…)

43″Laissez-moi définir ce que je veux dire quand je dis que nous avons porté ce fleuve sur la carte. J’utilise cette expression comme on le dirait, toute proportion gardée, en décrivant ce qu’ont fait Speke et Grant, et Baker, pour le cours supérieur du Nil. Le fleuve que nous avons descendu figure maintenant sur la carte au même sens que le Nil Victoria et le Nil Blanc l’ont été pendant des décennies après leur découverte et situation par les trois hommes que j’ai mentionnés. Depuis le temps de Ptolémée, les grands lacs du Nil supérieur était vaguement connus ; mais ils ont été « portés sur la carte » par Speke et Baker, et le relevé actuel n’a été fait que bien des années plus tard. Les sources du Niger et du Congo étaient connues bien avant qu’on sache où et comment leurs eaux s’écoulaient vers l’océan ; mais ils n’ont été portés sur la carte que lorsque leur cours furent, non relevés, mais situés par un certain nombre d’observations astronomiques quand les explorateurs les ont réellement parcourus ; Le « Columbia » fut « porté sur la carte » par Lewis et Clarke, bien que son embouchure ait été déjà connue, et qu’on n’ait pas procédé à son relevé avant bien longtemps »60.

61 Mille, Pierre, Au Congo belge, Paris, A.Colin, 1899.

62 « A journey in central Brazil : discussion », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p. (…)

44Les comparaisons entre le Brésil amazonien et l’Afrique équatoriale sont fréquentes à la Belle Epoque et fonctionnent dans les deux sens. Le journaliste français Pierre Mille ouvre par exemple son recueil d’articles contre l’Etat Indépendant du Congo sur les similitudes entre les deux pays61. Le président de la Royal Geographical Society ne modère pas l’emphase de Roosevelt à propos d’une haute Amazonie qui serait la dernière terre à conquérir par le peuple des cartographes, et l’intronise comme un nouveau Stanley. Il souhaite seulement que les Américains n’appliquent pas la doctrine de Monroe dans le domaine des explorations62.

63 Roosevelt, Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910, p.231.

64 A propos de l’équipe nord-américaine : « In its composition ours was a typical American expedition. (…)

45Cette remarque malicieuse met en lumière un des enjeux de l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon. A travers elle, les Américains du Nord et du Sud ont voulu montrer leur participation au mouvement d’expansion qui, depuis le milieu du XIXe siècle, étend la civilisation européenne à travers le monde. Ils ont voulu témoigner de la vocation civilisatrice de leur nation respective, et par conséquent, de la modernité et de la vocation de celle-ci à la puissance. Ils ont voulu, surtout, s’approprier leur continent. En 1909, l’Américain Peary avait atteint le pôle Nord sur un bateau appelé « Roosevelt » et proclamé « le pôle est à nous »63. De même, dans les sertões du Mato Grosso, les drapeaux brésiliens et américains accompagnent les pas de l’Expédition dont les membres sont décrits par Roosevelt comme la synthèse de leur peuple respectif64.

65 Cité par Leitão, C. de Melo, História das expedições científicas no Brasil, São Paulo, Cia editora N (…)

46Du côté brésilien, Roquette Pinto propose en 1915 que, de même que Cecil Rhodes avait laissé son nom à la Rhodésie, la région située entre les fleuves Juruena et Madeira porte le nom de « Rondônia »65. Ce sera chose faite en 1956.

66 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.121.

67 Ibidem, p.121.

47La « découverte », en assurant la prise de possession scientifique et symbolique du monde, suscite logiquement des polémiques. La plus significative naît à Lisbonne où Ernesto de Vasconcelos, secrétaire perpétuel de la Société de Géographie, conteste précisément les « découvertes » de l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon. Vasconcelos exhibe à cette fin la carte de la « Nova Luzitânia » de 1798 et attribue la première descente de l’Aripuanã au capitaine de frégate Antônio Pires da Silva Pontes, au nom de Sa Majesté le roi du Portugal66. C’est Rondon cette fois qui engage le fer et se charge de ridiculiser ce qu’il considère comme des contorsions cartographiques.67.

Les années quarante et la nouvelle actualité de l’Expedição Científica Rondon-Roosevelt

48En Europe et aux Etats-Unis où le temps des explorations est passé et où la guerre fait rage, l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon sombre dans l’oubli. L’ancien président meurt en janvier 1919. Son fleuve éponyme qui, comme il avait pu l’éprouver, était loin d’être une voie de pénétration du Brésil central, restait livré à ses enchevêtrements de lianes et de cataractes. Lauro Müller, d’origine allemande, fut pour sa part contraint de quitter l’Itamarati au moment où le Brésil choisit le camp des Alliés en 1917.

68 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.139.

49Cândido Rondon achève sa carrière active à la fin de la Première République qu’il sert sans faille. La « Révolution de 1930 » provoque sa disgrâce et sa retraite, mais le Serviço de Proteção aos Indios e de Localização de Trabalhadores Nacionais reste aux mains d’ingénieurs militaires positivistes sans solution de continuité jusqu’au milieu des années cinquante68.

69 Viveiros, Esther de, op.cit., annexes.

50Cette éclipse dure peu et Rondon est réintégré au Panthéon national sous l’Estado novo (1937-1945). Cette seconde vie héroïque naît du projet idéologique et de la politique d’exaltation nationale que promeut le gouvernement présidé par Getúlio Vargas. La grandeur du Brésil passe par la mise en valeur de ses régions périphériques. Or, qui incarne mieux que Rondon la « Marche vers l’Ouest » que lance l’Estado Novo en 1939 ? Cette année-là, Rondon reçoit de l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro et des mains du ministres des Relations Extérieures Oswaldo Aranha, le titre inédit de « civilisateur des sertões »69. En 1940, Getúlio Vargas est le premier président brésilien à se rendre dans l’extrême ouest du pays et à visiter les Indiens Karajá sur l’île de Bananal.

51Les explorations redeviennent un thème fort en vogue dans l’édition brésilienne. Une História das expedições científicas no Brasil est publiée en 1941. Rondon fait l’objet d’innombrables hagiographies qui insistent sur son œuvre conquérante : Rondon, o bandeirante do século XX (1941), Rondon. A conquista do deserto brasileiro (1942), Rondon. Uma relíquia da Pátria (1942). En 1943 enfin, trente ans après sa publication aux Etats-Unis, Through the Brazilian Wilderness devient en portugais, Nas Selvas do Brasil, et est édité sous les auspices du ministère de l’Agriculture. Il paraît aussi en 1944 dans la collection Brasiliana de la Companhia Editora Nacional, sous le titre Através do sertão do Brasil.

52Une préface du ministre de l’Agriculture Apolônio Sales précède en 1943 le récit de Theodore Roosevelt pour en affirmer la double actualité. L’Expédition Roosevelt semble préfigurer la conjoncture des années 1940. Le Brésil s’est rapproché des Etats-Unis de Franklin D. Roosevelt et a déclaré la guerre à l’Axe. Theodore Roosevelt devient sous la plume du ministre le parangon des vertus nord-américaines : courageux, fait pour l’aventure, dévoué aux causes universelles, passionné de progrès scientifique. Tel était Roosevelt l’Ancien, ami du Brésil, tel est son neveu Roosevelt le Jeune, qui a rencontré Getúlio Vargas à Natal en janvier 1943.

70 Préface à Nas Selvas do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Serviço de informação agrícola, Ministério da Agricu (…)

71 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian…, op. cit., p.324.

53Le diagnostic porté par Theodore Roosevelt sur les sertões du Mato Grosso vient à l’appui de la « Marche vers l’Ouest ». « On dirait, écrit le ministre, que le grand homme d’Etat américain a prévu ce qu’aujourd’hui le président Vargas, avec une vision des nécessités sociales du pays qui n’est pas moindre, est en train de d’indiquer comme remède à la désorganisation de notre agriculture et à la pénurie qui règne en souveraine dans la plupart des régions agricoles du Brésil »70. Le lecteur est invité à s’inspirer de la leçon morale contenue dans le livre que Roosevelt terminait par une méditation sur la fin mondiale de la « Frontière » et le rôle des « pionniers » brésiliens : « ces hommes (…) et ceux qui, comme eux, partout sur la frontière entre la civilisation et l’état sauvage au Brésil, joue à présent le rôle qu’ont joué nos coureurs de bois quand ils entreprirent, voilà un siècle, la conquête du grand bassin du Mississipi ; le rôle joué par les Boers depuis environ un siècle en Afrique du Sud, et par les Canadiens, quand il y a moins de cinquante ans, ils commencèrent à prendre possession de leur Nord-Ouest. On répète que maintenant la « Dernière Frontière » se trouve au Canada ou en Afrique et qu’elle a presque disparu. On trouve cette frontière sur une bien plus grande échelle au Brésil – un pays grand comme l’Europe ou les Etats-Unis -, des décennies s’écouleront avant qu’elle ne disparaisse » »71.

72 Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira »na formação social e política do B (…)

73 Les bandeiras, composées de bandeirantes, sont les expéditions qui, du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles, parta (…)

54La mythologie hautement rooseveltienne de la Frontière est récupérée par l’Estado Novo et brésilianisée par l’écrivain ultra nationaliste Cassiano Ricardo. Son livre, Marcha para Oeste, publié pour la première fois en 1940, a pour sous-titre « l’influence de la Bandeira dans la formation sociale et politique du Brésil », dans une référence évidente à Turner72. Cassiano Ricardo passe toute l’histoire de son pays au crible du bandeirantismo. Les bandeirantes 73sont selon lui à l’origine de l’Etat, de la fondation des villes, du métissage, de la démocratie raciale, mais le bandeirantismo n’est pas un phénomène circonscrit dans le temps, c’est l’essence même de la nation brésilienne. Rondon est ainsi le type même du bandeirante moderne et Theodore Roosevelt lui a apporté son concours.

55L’Expedição Científica Rondon-Roosevelt a finalement rempli sa mission, qui consistait à donner, au Brésil même, la plus brillante justification aux entreprises contestées de la Commission Rondon, et à servir le prestige national dans l’hémisphère nord. Quant à Theodore Roosevelt, il avait trouvé au Brésil ce que l’Afrique coloniale lui avait refusé quelques années plus tôt. Le voyage organisé par les militaires brésiliens conjuguait ses deux imaginaires, celui de la Frontière, dont il avait vécu la fin aux Etats-Unis, et celui des explorations européennes du siècle précédent, que lui inspirait la nature tropicale et équatoriale des régions traversées.

56Cette vision s’accorde en grande partie à celle de Rondon avec lequel il partage la même passion contradictoire pour la wilderness et pour sa conquête par la civilisation technicienne. L’expansion méthodique du Progrès à l’intérieur du continent, telle qu’elle est exprimée dans Through the Brazilian Wilderness, frappe par son caractère anachronique et imaginaire. La poussée vers l’Ouest appuyée sur le chemin de fer, le mythe de la Frontière, même sommairement nationalisé sous la forme du bandeirantismo, a peu à voir avec le bourgeonnement désordonné de « fronts pionniers », suscités par quelques cultures spéculatives, qui ont caractérisé la construction de l’espace brésilien. Elle avait l’avantage de s’inscrire dans une conception évolutive de l’histoire, de promettre un futur à une nation qui se voyait comme inachevée, de lui fournir un modèle américain, plausible et épique.

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Notas

1″Roosevelt a débarqué à Manaus sur une civière, à l’abri des regards. Cf Esther de Viveiros, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.422.

2Titre du journal carioca Correio da Manhã, le 22 octobre 1913.

3Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, et Stanley, Henry Morton, Through the Dark Continent : Or the Sources of the Nile Around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa and down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean, 1878. Les souvenirs d’Afrique de Roosevelt s’appellent sobrement African Game trails (1910).

4Correio da Manhã, 20 octobre 1913.

5Miller, Nathan, Theodore Roosevelt, a life, New York, Quill/WilliamMorrow, 1992; et surtout, Ricard, Serge, Theodore Roosevelt : principes et pratique d’une politique étrangère, Aix-en-Provence, Presses universitaires de provence Aix-Marseille I, 1991.

6Frederick J. Turner s’était rendu célèbre en prononçant à Chicago en 1893 une conférence intitulée « The significance of the Frontier in the American history ». Cette analyse, devenue classique, faisait de l’expérience historique de la « Frontière » le creuset de la nation et de la démocratie américaines.

7Sa seule prestation à l’Instituto Histórico Geográfico Brasileiro, par exemple, lui est payée 2000 $ d’avance (Arquivo do Itamarati, lata 214, 3642-3643), ce qui est considérable quand on songe que le salaire du président des Etats-Unis au début du XXe siècle s’élevait à 50 000 $ par an, celui de vice-président à 8 000 $ annuels, cf Miller, Nathan, op.cit., p.334 et 360. Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães rapporte que l’on disait que Roosevelt touchait 1 $ par mot de son récit de voyage ! Rondon, uma reliquia da Pátria, Curitiba,Guaíra, 1942, p.175.

8Cf. Ricard, Serge, « Theodore Roosevelt et l’avènement de la présidence médiatique aux Etats-Unis », Vingtième siècle. Revue d’histoire, n°51, juillet-septembre 1996, p.15-26.

9Correio da Manhã, 24 octobre 1913.

10Correio da Manhã, 22 octobre 1913.

11Zahm, J.A., (H.J. Mozans), Through South America’s southland with an account of the Roosevelt Scientific Expedition to South America, New York, Appleton & Cy, 1916, p.5.

12Lettre de Frank Harper, secrétaire de T.Roosevelt, au ministre des Relations Extérieures, Arquivo do Itamarati, lata 214, 3642-3643, s.d.

13Roosevelt,Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910.

14Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, p. 8.

15Fausto, Boris (éd.), História Geral da Civilização Brasileira, III, 2, São Paulo, Difel, 1985, 3e ed., p.381.

16Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, História da política exterior do Brasil, São Paulo,1992.

17Cité dans Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, op.cit., p.171-172. Voir aussi, des mêmes auteurs, A política externa brasileira, 1822-1985, São Paulo, Ática, 1986.

18Sur les conceptions de Theodore Roosevelt, cf Ricard, Serge, op.cit.

19Discours prononcé à l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, le 24 octobre 1913, Revista do IHGB, vol.128, t.76, parte II, p.679. Le discours a été publié aussi dans la presse quotidienne de Rio.

20Roosevelt indique qu’il a été prévenu de la nouvelle dimension prise par son voyage en arrivant à Rio, op.cit…, p.182.

21Le parallèle entre les deux hommes peut être poursuivi quarante ans après l’Expédition. A la fin des années cinquante, les admirateurs de Rondon se lancent (en vain) dans une campagne destinée à lui faire obtenir le prix Nobel de la Paix. TR avait été le premier Américain à recevoir cette récompense, toute catégorie confondue, en 1906.

22Lettre à Henry Cabot Lodge, sur le fleuve Paraguay, 12 décembre 1913, Selection from the correspondence of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, New York, 1925, p.443.

23Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira » na formação social e política do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio, 1970, 4e éd., p.627.

24Viveiros, Esther de, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.107.

25Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, O santo soldado. Pacificador, bandeirante, amansador de Indios, civilizador dos sertões, apóstolo da humanidade. Uma leitura de Rondon conta sua vida de Esther de Viveiros, Museu Nacional, programa de Pós-graduação em antropologia social, comunicação n°21, 1990, p.20.

26Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.68 et sq.

27Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.107.

28Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.227.

29Luiz Antônio Simas, O Evangelho segundo os jacobinos. Floriano Peixoto e o mito do salvador da república brasileira, mestrado, UFRJ, 1994, p.32.

30Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, 903.09 a 958.07.30.

31Le décret du 14 janvier 1890 instituait 9 fêtes nationales dont le sens est expliqué dans un ouvrage recommandé à la jeunesse brésilienne : Rodrigo Octavio, Festas nacionais, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria Francisco Alves, 1893.

32La correspondance de Júlio Caetano Horta Barbosa, membre de la Commission Rondon, atteste de ces efforrts; CPDOC, HB 08 08 23.

33Cité par Gagliardi, José Mauro, O índigena e a República, São Paulo, Hucitec, 1989, p.56.

34Cf. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Apontamentos para a civilisação dos Indios bravos do Império do Brasil, 1823.

35Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.365.

36Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza cite longuement ce texte qui a fourni le titre de son livre sur le SPITLN : Um grande cerco de paz. Poder tutelar, indianidade e formação do Estado no Brasil, Petrópolis, Vozes, 1995, p.130.

37Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.241.

38C’est la date retenue par le calendrier positiviste, bien que, selon la chronologie admise, la flotte de Cabral ait aperçu la terre le 22 avril 1500, célébré la « première messe » le 26, et appareillé vers les Indes le 2 mai.

39Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.314.

40O Paiz, 2 décembre 1913.

41Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.121.

42Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.132.

43Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., passim et p.209 et suivantes.

44Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.596

45Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…., op. cit. p.123.

46Certaines ont d’ailleurs été publiées : Conferências realizadas nos dias 5, 7 e 9 de outubro de 1915 no Teatro Phenix de Rio de Janeiro, sobre os trabalhos da Expedição Roosevelt e da Commissão Telegráficas, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do Jornal do commercio, 1916.

47Les archives de l’escritório central de Rondon se trouvent en grande partie au Fort de Copacabana. Voir aussi Os Indios em arquivos do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, UERJ, 2 vol., 1995 et 1996.

48Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

49Roosevelt, Theodore,Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., New York, Scribner, 1914, p.104.

50Ibidem, p.100.

51Ibidem, p.129.

52Ibidem, p.212.

53Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, Expedição Roosevelt-Rondon, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do « Jornal do Comércio », 1916, p.39.

54Ibidem.

55Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.76.

56Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

57Article « Rondon », dans Abreu, Alzira de, et Beloch, Israel (éd.), Dicionário biográfico-histórico Brasileiro, 1930-1983, Rio de Janeiro, FGV/CPDOC, 1983.

58A Epoca, 29 avril 1914.

59Ibidem, passim.

60Roosevelt, Theodore, « A journey in central Brazil », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p.105-106.

61Mille, Pierre, Au Congo belge, Paris, A.Colin, 1899.

62″A journey in central Brazil : discussion », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p.109.

63Roosevelt, Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910, p.231.

64A propos de l’équipe nord-américaine : « In its composition ours was a typical American expedition. Kermit and I were of the old revolutionary stock, and in our veins ran about every strain of blood that there was on this side of the water during colonial times. (…) We were as varied in religious creed as in ethnic origin », Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., p.5.

65Cité par Leitão, C. de Melo, História das expedições científicas no Brasil, São Paulo, Cia editora Nacional, 1941, p.340.

66Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.121.

67Ibidem, p.121.

68Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.139.

69Viveiros, Esther de, op.cit., annexes.

70Préface à Nas Selvas do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Serviço de informação agrícola, Ministério da Agricultura, 1943.

71Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian…, op. cit., p.324.

72Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira »na formação social e política do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio, 1970, 4e éd. Cf « The significance of the Frontier in the American history » de F.J. Turner, ainsi que les nombreuses variantes qu’il a lui-même écrit sur ce thème.

73Les bandeiras, composées de bandeirantes, sont les expéditions qui, du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles, partaient de São Paulo pour capturer des esclaves indiens dans l’intérieur du continent. Au début du XXe siècle, les historiens paulistas font des bandeirantes les créateurs de l’espace national.

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Para citar este artículo

Referencia electrónica

Armelle Enders, « Theodore Roosevelt explorateur », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En línea], BAC – Biblioteca de Autores del Centro, Enders, Armelle, Puesto en línea el 14 febrero 2005, consultado el 30 diciembre 2013. URL : http://nuevomundo.revues.org/607 ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.607

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Armelle Enders

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Publicités

Eiffel/90e: Et pendant vingt ans, cette ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée (How Gustave Bönickhausen became the father of the two most popular – but then most reviled – monuments in the world)

27 décembre, 2013
https://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/100_0349.jpgCaricature_Gustave_Eiffelhttps://i0.wp.com/dbs.ohiohistory.org/africanam/images/Nwspaper/Gazette/Vol04/num15/02_01/02_01.gifIt is proper that the Bartholdi statue should not be lighted until this country becomes a free one in reality. « Liberty enlightening the world, » indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the « liberty » of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the « liberty » of this country « enlightening the world, » or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme. The Cleveland Gazette (1886)
II suffit d’ailleurs, pour se rendre compte de ce que nous avançons, de se figurer une tour vertigineusement ridicule, dominant Paris, ainsi qu’une noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine, écrasant de sa masse barbare : Notre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle, la tour Saint-Jacques, le Louvre, le dôme des Invalides, l’Arc de triomphe, tous nos monuments humiliés, toutes nos architectures rapetissées, qui disparaîtront dans ce rêve stupéfiant. Et pendant vingt ans, nous verrons s’allonger sur la ville entière, frémissante encore du génie de tant de siècles, comme une tache d’encre, l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée. Collectif d’artistes (« Les artistes contre la tour Eiffel », Le Temps, 14 février 1887)

Attention: un scandale peut en cacher un autre !

« Tour vertigineusement ridicule », noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine », « masse barbare », « rêve stupéfiant », « tache d’encre », « ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée » (collectif d’artistes), « lampadaire véritablement tragique » (Bloy), « squelette de beffroi » (Verlaine), « mât de fer aux durs agrès, inachevé, confus, difform » (Coppée), « haute et maigre pyramide d’échelles de fer, squelette disgracieux et géant, dont la base semble faite pour porter un formidable monument de Cyclopes, et qui avorte en un ridicule et mince profil de cheminée d’usine » (Maupassant), « tuyau d’usine en construction », « carcasse qui attend d’être remplie par des pierres de taille ou des briques », « grillage infundibuliforme », « suppositoire criblé de trous » (Huysmans) …

En ce 90e anniversaire de la mort de l’auteur – un certain Gustave Bönickhausen – des deux monuments les plus célèbres du monde …

Qui se souvient, comme en témoignent encore,  de Dumas fils à Maupassant, Gounod, Leconte de Lisle, Garnier et Prudhomme, la pétition enflammée de 300 de nos gloires nationales d’alors contre « l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée » …

Comme, de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, les dix années de récriminations qu’avaient dû subir un petit groupe isolé de Français pour obtenir la construction du simple socle de leur encombrant cadeau avant qu’avec les guerres mondiales et ses campagnes de recruitement et de récolte de fonds l’Amérique daigne enfin s’approprier son plus fameux symbole …

Que ceux-ci furent aussi les plus décriés de leur époque ?

Protestation des artistes contre la tour

Wikipedia

Des articles, souvent pamphlétaires, sont publiés tout au long de l’année 1886, dès avant le début des travaux.

Alors que les fondations de l’édifice n’avaient commencé que quelques jours plus tôt, le 28 janvier 1887 exactement, une lettre de protestation signée par une cinquantaine d’artistes (écrivains, peintres, compositeurs, architectes, etc.) paraissait dans le journal Le Temps le 14 février 1887. Signée de grands noms de l’époque (Alexandre Dumas fils, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Gounod, Leconte de Lisle, Charles Garnier, Sully Prudhomme, etc.) et restée célèbre sous le nom de Protestation des artistes contre la tour de M. Eiffel, elle se montrait très virulente à l’égard de la hauteur de la tour qui viendrait, selon eux, défigurer Paris :

« II suffit d’ailleurs, pour se rendre compte de ce que nous avançons, de se figurer une tour vertigineusement ridicule, dominant Paris, ainsi qu’une noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine, écrasant de sa masse barbare : Notre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle, la tour Saint-Jacques, le Louvre, le dôme des Invalides, l’Arc de triomphe, tous nos monuments humiliés, toutes nos architectures rapetissées, qui disparaîtront dans ce rêve stupéfiant. Et pendant vingt ans, nous verrons s’allonger sur la ville entière, frémissante encore du génie de tant de siècles, comme une tache d’encre, l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée. »

— Collectif d’artistes, « Les artistes contre la tour Eiffel », Le Temps, 14 février 1887.

Un débat houleux mêlant des personnalités de l’époque, des responsables politiques, des journalistes, des ingénieurs suit cette déclaration.

Gustave Eiffel répondit à la protestation des artistes, dans un entretien avec Paul Bourde qui fut reproduit dans le même numéro du journal Le Temps, à la suite de la protestation.

Le ministre Édouard Lockroy remit au directeur des travaux, Jean-Charles Alphand, une réponse qui pourrait avoir été rédigée par un obscur fonctionnaire nommé Georges Moineaux, qui deviendra célèbre sous le nom de Georges Courteline.

Gustave Eiffel écrivit plus tard :

« Cette page bien française a dû étonner quelque peu les expéditionnaires du ministère ; la correspondance administrative n’est malheureusement d’ordinaire ni si vive, ni si gaie, ni si spirituelle ; sa sévérité s’accommode mal à nos vieilles traditions gauloises. Si M. Lockroy pouvait faire école, l’exercice des fonctions publiques serait moins monotone et certainement mieux apprécié. Le ministre avait su mettre les rieurs de son côté. Son procès était gagné. »

La tour Eiffel a attiré les foules après son inauguration, faisant taire les réticences petit à petit. Par exemple, deux ans après avoir signé la « protestation des artistes », Sully Prudhomme prononce un discours favorable à la tour.

On put lire ailleurs :

« ce lampadaire véritablement tragique » (Léon Bloy) ;

« ce squelette de beffroi » (Paul Verlaine) ;

« ce mât de fer aux durs agrès, inachevé, confus, difforme » (François Coppée) ;

« cette haute et maigre pyramide d’échelles de fer, squelette disgracieux et géant, dont la base semble faite pour porter un formidable monument de Cyclopes, et qui avorte en un ridicule et mince profil de cheminée d’usine » (Guy de Maupassant) ;

« un tuyau d’usine en construction, une carcasse qui attend d’être remplie par des pierres de taille ou des briques, ce grillage infundibuliforme, ce suppositoire criblé de trous » (Joris-Karl Huysmans).

Voir aussi:

Fundraising, criticism, and construction in the United States

The committees in the United States faced great difficulties in obtaining funds for the construction of the pedestal. The Panic of 1873 had led to an economic depression that persisted through much of the decade. The Liberty statue project was not the only such undertaking that had difficulty raising money: construction of the obelisk later known as the Washington Monument sometimes stalled for years; it would ultimately take over three-and-a-half decades to complete.[64] There was criticism both of Bartholdi’s statue and of the fact that the gift required Americans to foot the bill for the pedestal. In the years following the Civil War, most Americans preferred realistic artworks depicting heroes and events from the nation’s history, rather than allegorical works like the Liberty statue.[64] There was also a feeling that Americans should design American public works—the selection of Italian-born Constantino Brumidi to decorate the Capitol had provoked intense criticism, even though he was a naturalized U.S. citizen.[65] Harper’s Weekly declared its wish that « M. Bartholdi and our French cousins had ‘gone the whole figure’ while they were about it, and given us statue and pedestal at once. »[66] The New York Times stated that « no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances. »[67] Faced with these criticisms, the American committees took little action for several years.[67]

The foundation of Bartholdi’s statue was to be laid inside Fort Wood, a disused army base on Bedloe’s Island constructed between 1807 and 1811. Since 1823, it had rarely been used, though during the Civil War, it had served as a recruiting station.[68] The fortifications of the structure were in the shape of an eleven-point star. The statue’s foundation and pedestal were aligned so that it would face southeast, greeting ships entering the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean.[69] In 1881, the New York committee commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the pedestal. Within months, Hunt submitted a detailed plan, indicating that he expected construction to take about nine months.[70] He proposed a pedestal 114 feet (35 m) in height; faced with money problems, the committee reduced that to 89 feet (27 m).[71]

Hunt’s pedestal design contains elements of classical architecture, including Doric portals, and the large mass is fragmented with architectural detail to focus attention on the statue.[71] In form, it is a truncated pyramid, 62 feet (19 m) square at the base and 39.4 feet (12.0 m) at the top. The four sides are identical in appearance. Above the door on each side, there are ten disks upon which Bartholdi proposed to place the coats of arms of the states (between 1876 and 1889, there were 40 U.S. states), although this was not done. Above that, a balcony was placed on each side, framed by pillars. Bartholdi placed an observation platform near the top of the pedestal, above which the statue itself rises.[72] According to author Louis Auchincloss, the pedestal « craggily evokes the power of an ancient Europe over which rises the dominating figure of the Statue of Liberty ».[71] The committee hired former army General Charles Pomeroy Stone to oversee the construction work.[73] Construction on the 15-foot-deep (4.6 m) foundation began in 1883, and the pedestal’s cornerstone was laid in 1884.[70] In Hunt’s original conception, the pedestal was to have been made of solid granite. Financial concerns again forced him to revise his plans; the final design called for poured concrete walls, up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, faced with granite blocks.[74][75] This Stony Creek granite came from the Beattie Quarry in Branford, Connecticut.[76] The concrete mass was the largest poured to that time.[75]

Fundraising for the statue had begun in 1882. The committee organized a large number of money-raising events. As part of one such effort, an auction of art and manuscripts, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to donate an original work. She initially declined, stating she could not write a poem about a statue. At the time, she was also involved in aiding refugees to New York who had fled anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe. These refugees were forced to live in conditions that the wealthy Lazarus had never experienced. She saw a way to express her empathy for these refugees in terms of the statue. The resulting sonnet, « The New Colossus », including the iconic lines « Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free », is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in the base.

Even with these efforts, fundraising lagged. Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, vetoed a bill to provide $50,000 for the statue project in 1884. An attempt the next year to have Congress provide $100,000, sufficient to complete the project, failed when Democratic representatives would not agree to the appropriation. The New York committee, with only $3,000 in the bank, suspended work on the pedestal. With the project in jeopardy, groups from other American cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue in return for relocating it.

Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000 (the equivalent of $2.3 million today). Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors. « A young girl alone in the world » donated « 60 cents, the result of self denial. »[82] One donor gave « five cents as a poor office boy’s mite toward the Pedestal Fund. » A group of children sent a dollar as « the money we saved to go to the circus with. » Another dollar was given by a « lonely and very aged woman. » Residents of a home for alcoholics in New York’s rival city of Brooklyn (the cities would not merge until 1898) donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed the World a gift of $1.35. As the donations flooded in, the committee resumed work on the pedestal.

On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty reached the New York port safely. New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue, as the French vessel arrived with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. After five months of daily calls to donate to the statue fund, on August 11, 1885, the World announced that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar.

Even with the success of the fund drive, the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. Eiffel’s iron framework was anchored to steel I-beams within the concrete pedestal and assembled.[89] Once this was done, the sections of skin were carefully attached.[90] Due to the width of the pedestal, it was not possible to erect scaffolding, and workers dangled from the armature by ropes while installing the skin sections. Nevertheless, no one died during the construction work.[91] Bartholdi had planned to put floodlights on the torch’s balcony to illuminate it; a week before the dedication, the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the proposal, fearing that ships’ pilots passing the statue would be blinded. Instead, Bartholdi cut portholes in the torch (which was covered with gold leaf) and placed the lights inside them. A power plant was installed on the island to light the torch and for other electrical needs.After the skin was completed, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, supervised a cleanup of Bedloe’s Island in anticipation of the dedication.

No members of the general public were permitted on the island during the ceremonies, which were reserved entirely for dignitaries. The only females granted access were Bartholdi’s wife and de Lesseps’s granddaughter; officials stated that they feared women might be injured in the crush of people. The restriction offended area suffragists, who chartered a boat and got as close as they could to the island. The group’s leaders made speeches applauding the embodiment of Liberty as a woman and advocating women’s right to vote. A scheduled fireworks display was postponed until November 1 because of poor weather.

Shortly after the dedication, the The Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue’s torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation « in reality »:

« Liberty enlightening the world, » indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the « liberty » of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the « liberty » of this country « enlightening the world, » or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Liberty


Fête des boites/Fête de la Saint Etienne: Attention, une dispute peut en cacher une autre ! (Boxing Day/St Stephen’s Day: Why Christmas brings back bad memories for Jews)

26 décembre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/Golden_bough.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/Disputation.jpg/220px-Disputation.jpgEarly: Shops opened from 6am today to help bargain-hunters spend as much time as possible insideAh ! quel beau matin, que ce matin des étrennes ! Arthur Rimbaud
Israel has nothing against Christmas or Christmas trees … These symbols remind many Jews of how their ancestors were persecuted in Europe by Christians. Yuli Edelstein (Knesset Speaker, 2013)
Chers pèlerins francophones, au lendemain de Noël, le martyre du diacre Etienne montre que la naissance du Fils de Dieu a inauguré une ère nouvelle, celle de l’amour. L’amour abat les barrières entre les hommes. Il les rend frères en les réconciliant par le pardon, donné et reçu. Que l’intercession de saint Etienne, fidèle jusqu’au bout au Seigneur, soutienne les chrétiens persécutés et que notre prière les encourage ! À sa suite, témoignons sans peur, avec courage et détermination de notre foi. Bonnes fêtes à tous ! » Benoit XVI (2012)
Il sera le juge des nations, L’arbitre d’un grand nombre de peuples. De leurs glaives ils forgeront des hoyaux, Et de leurs lances des serpes: Une nation ne tirera plus l’épée contre une autre, Et l’on n’apprendra plus la guerre. Esaïe 2: 4
Je vous laisse la paix, je vous donne ma paix. Je ne vous donne pas comme le monde donne. Que votre coeur ne se trouble point, et ne s’alarme point. Jésus (Jean 14: 27)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Aujourd’hui cette parole de l’Écriture, que vous venez d’entendre, est accomplie. … Sans doute vous m’appliquerez ce proverbe: Médecin, guéris-toi toi-même; et vous me direz: Fais ici, dans ta patrie, tout ce que nous avons appris que tu as fait à Capernaüm.Mais je vous le dis en vérité, aucun prophète n’est bien reçu dans sa patrie. Jésus (Luc 4: 21-24)
Nous, nous prêchons Christ crucifié; scandale pour les Juifs et folie pour les païens. Paul (1 Corinthiens 1: 23)
Quelques membres de la synagogue dite des Affranchis, de celle des Cyrénéens et de celle des Alexandrins, avec des Juifs de Cilicie et d’Asie, se mirent à discuter avec lui; mais ils ne pouvaient résister à sa sagesse et à l’Esprit par lequel il parlait. Alors … ils le saisirent, et l’emmenèrent au sanhédrin. … Le souverain sacrificateur dit: Les choses sont-elles ainsi? Étienne répondit: Hommes frères et pères, écoutez! Le Dieu de gloire apparut à notre père Abraham, lorsqu’il était en Mésopotamie, avant qu’il s’établît à Charran; et il lui dit: Quitte ton pays et ta famille, et va dans le pays que je te montrerai. Il sortit alors du pays des Chaldéens, et s’établit à Charran. De là, après la mort de son père, Dieu le fit passer dans ce pays que vous habitez maintenant; il ne lui donna aucune propriété en ce pays, pas même de quoi poser le pied, mais il promit de lui en donner la possession, et à sa postérité après lui, quoiqu’il n’eût point d’enfant. Dieu parla ainsi: Sa postérité séjournera dans un pays étranger; on la réduira en servitude et on la maltraitera pendant quatre cents ans. Mais la nation à laquelle ils auront été asservis, c’est moi qui la jugerai, dit Dieu. Après cela, ils sortiront, et ils me serviront dans ce lieu-ci. Puis Dieu donna à Abraham l’alliance de la circoncision; et ainsi, Abraham, ayant engendré Isaac, le circoncit le huitième jour; Isaac engendra et circoncit Jacob, et Jacob les douze patriarches. Les patriarches, jaloux de Joseph, le vendirent pour être emmené en Égypte. Mais Dieu fut avec lui, et le délivra de toutes ses tribulations; il lui donna de la sagesse et lui fit trouver grâce devant Pharaon, roi d’Égypte, qui l’établit gouverneur d’Égypte et de toute sa maison. Il survint une famine dans tout le pays d’Égypte, et dans celui de Canaan. La détresse était grande, et nos pères ne trouvaient pas de quoi se nourrir. Jacob apprit qu’il y avait du blé en Égypte, et il y envoya nos pères une première fois. Et la seconde fois, Joseph fut reconnu par ses frères, et Pharaon sut de quelle famille il était. Puis Joseph envoya chercher son père Jacob, et toute sa famille, composée de soixante-quinze personnes. Jacob descendit en Égypte, où il mourut, ainsi que nos pères; et ils furent transportés à Sichem, et déposés dans le sépulcre qu’Abraham avait acheté, à prix d’argent, des fils d’Hémor, père de Sichem. Le temps approchait où devait s’accomplir la promesse que Dieu avait faite à Abraham, et le peuple s’accrut et se multiplia en Égypte, jusqu’à ce que parut un autre roi, qui n’avait pas connu Joseph. Ce roi, usant d’artifice contre notre race, maltraita nos pères, au point de leur faire exposer leurs enfants, pour qu’ils ne vécussent pas. A cette époque, naquit Moïse, qui était beau aux yeux de Dieu. Il fut nourri trois mois dans la maison de son père; et, quand il eut été exposé, la fille de Pharaon le recueillit, et l’éleva comme son fils. Moïse fut instruit dans toute la sagesse des Égyptiens, et il était puissant en paroles et en oeuvres. Il avait quarante ans, lorsqu’il lui vint dans le coeur de visiter ses frères, les fils d’Israël. Il en vit un qu’on outrageait, et, prenant sa défense, il vengea celui qui était maltraité, et frappa l’Égyptien. Il pensait que ses frères comprendraient que Dieu leur accordait la délivrance par sa main; mais ils ne comprirent pas. Le jour suivant, il parut au milieu d’eux comme ils se battaient, et il les exhorta à la paix: Hommes, dit-il, vous êtes frères; pourquoi vous maltraitez-vous l’un l’autre?  Mais celui qui maltraitait son prochain le repoussa, en disant: Qui t’a établi chef et juge sur nous? Veux-tu me tuer, comme tu as tué hier l’Égyptien? A cette parole, Moïse prit la fuite, et il alla séjourner dans le pays de Madian, où il engendra deux fils. Quarante ans plus tard, un ange lui apparut, au désert de la montagne de Sinaï, dans la flamme d’un buisson en feu. Moïse, voyant cela, fut étonné de cette apparition; et, comme il s’approchait pour examiner, la voix du Seigneur se fit entendre: Je suis le Dieu de tes pères, le Dieu d’Abraham, d’Isaac et de Jacob. Et Moïse, tout tremblant, n’osait regarder. Le Seigneur lui dit: Ote tes souliers de tes pieds, car le lieu sur lequel tu te tiens est une terre sainte. J’ai vu la souffrance de mon peuple qui est en Égypte, j’ai entendu ses gémissements, et je suis descendu pour le délivrer. Maintenant, va, je t’enverrai en Égypte. Ce Moïse, qu’ils avaient renié, en disant: Qui t’a établi chef et juge? c’est lui que Dieu envoya comme chef et comme libérateur avec l’aide de l’ange qui lui était apparu dans le buisson. C’est lui qui les fit sortir d’Égypte, en opérant des prodiges et des miracles au pays d’Égypte, au sein de la mer Rouge, et au désert, pendant quarante ans. C’est ce Moïse qui dit aux fils d’Israël: Dieu vous suscitera d’entre vos frères un prophète comme moi. C’est lui qui, lors de l’assemblée au désert, étant avec l’ange qui lui parlait sur la montagne de Sinaï et avec nos pères, reçut des oracles vivants, pour nous les donner. Nos pères ne voulurent pas lui obéir, ils le repoussèrent, et ils tournèrent leur coeur vers l’Égypte, en disant à Aaron: Fais-nous des dieux qui marchent devant nous; car ce Moïse qui nous a fait sortir du pays d’Égypte, nous ne savons ce qu’il est devenu. Et, en ces jours-là, ils firent un veau, ils offrirent un sacrifice à l’idole, et se réjouirent de l’oeuvre de leurs mains. Alors Dieu se détourna, et les livra au culte de l’armée du ciel, selon qu’il est écrit dans le livre des prophètes: M’avez-vous offert des victimes et des sacrifices Pendant quarante ans au désert, maison d’Israël?… Vous avez porté la tente de Moloch Et l’étoile du dieu Remphan, Ces images que vous avez faites pour les adorer! Aussi vous transporterai-je au delà de Babylone. Nos pères avaient au désert le tabernacle du témoignage, comme l’avait ordonné celui qui dit à Moïse de le faire d’après le modèle qu’il avait vu. Et nos pères, l’ayant reçu, l’introduisirent, sous la conduite de Josué, dans le pays qui était possédé par les nations que Dieu chassa devant eux, et il y resta jusqu’aux jours de David. David trouva grâce devant Dieu, et demanda d’élever une demeure pour le Dieu de Jacob; et ce fut Salomon qui lui bâtit une maison. Mais le Très Haut n’habite pas dans ce qui est fait de main d’homme, comme dit le prophète: Le ciel est mon trône, Et la terre mon marchepied. Quelle maison me bâtirez-vous, dit le Seigneur, Ou quel sera le lieu de mon repos? N’est-ce pas ma main qui a fait toutes ces choses?… Hommes au cou raide, incirconcis de coeur et d’oreilles! vous vous opposez toujours au Saint Esprit. Ce que vos pères ont été, vous l’êtes aussi. Lequel des prophètes vos pères n’ont-ils pas persécuté? Ils ont tué ceux qui annonçaient d’avance la venue du Juste, que vous avez livré maintenant, et dont vous avez été les meurtriers, vous qui avez reçu la loi d’après des commandements d’anges, et qui ne l’avez point gardée!… En entendant ces paroles, ils étaient furieux dans leur coeur, et ils grinçaient des dents contre lui. Mais Étienne, rempli du Saint Esprit, et fixant les regards vers le ciel, vit la gloire de Dieu et Jésus debout à la droite de Dieu. Et il dit: Voici, je vois les cieux ouverts, et le Fils de l’homme debout à la droite de Dieu. Ils poussèrent alors de grands cris, en se bouchant les oreilles, et ils se précipitèrent tous ensemble sur lui, le traînèrent hors de la ville, et le lapidèrent. Les témoins déposèrent leurs vêtements aux pieds d’un jeune homme nommé Saul. Et ils lapidaient Étienne, qui priait et disait: Seigneur Jésus, reçois mon esprit! Puis, s’étant mis à genoux, il s’écria d’une voix forte: Seigneur, ne leur impute pas ce péché! Et, après ces paroles, il s’endormit. Actes 6: 11- 7: 51-60
Quand viendra le temps du messianisme, ils forgeront des socs avec leurs glaives et des serpes de leurs lances. On ne lèvera plus l’épée peuple contre peuple et l’on n’apprendra plus la guerre. Nahmanide
Quant aux juifs, ils déconcertaient Saint Louis. Ils n’entraient pas dans son schéma du monde: l’Eglise distinguait les chrétiens et les païens. Dans le monde chrétien les hérétiques étaient considérés comme abominables. Mais les juifs étaient à la fois dedans et dehors. Ils sont mêlés aux chrétiens sur un plan territorial, et également religieux par la référence commune à l’Ancien Testament. Saint Louis deviendra au fil du temps de plus en plus antijuif. Je n’emploie pas le terme d’antisémitisme, car il contient une notion de racisme qui n’existait pas alors. Saint Louis voit de plus en plus les juifs sous des traits d’usuriers. Il y eut la malheureuse affaire du Talmud de Babylone que des convertis juifs avaient fait connaître à Saint Louis et qui contenait des horreurs sur le Christ et la Vierge. La dernière année de son règne, il obligea les juifs à porter la rouelle rouge, l’équivalent de la future étoile jaune. Cette mesure avait été décidée par l’Eglise en 1215, mais la plupart des princes chrétiens s’étaient refusés à l’appliquer. Joinville, lui-même très antijuif, soutient que Saint Louis aurait dit qu’il ne faut jamais discuter avec un juif, mais « lui planter l’épée dans le ventre ». Il est possible que l’historiographe en ait rajouté. Dans les enseignements de Saint Louis on citait une invitation à réprimer les juifs, qui a été ajouté au texte, probablement lors du procès en canonisation. Saint Louis a été emporté par un courant naissant en Occident qui pouvait aboutir à la «pureté ethnique». Elle apparaîtra surtout en Espagne à la fin du XVe siècle. Saint Louis rêvait d’un royaume « pur » et pensaient que les juifs sont un élément d’impureté. Saint Louis, qui n’a pas été antisémite, car le racisme n’existait pas à l’époque, a contribué à la lointaine naissance de ce qui deviendra l’antisémitisme. Jacques Le Goff
Du reste, que le nouveau pape des fous se rendit compte à lui-même des sentiments qu’il éprouvait et des sentiments qu’il inspirait, c’est ce que nous sommes loin de croire. L’esprit qui était logé dans ce corps manqué avait nécessairement lui-même quelque chose d’incomplet et de sourd. Aussi ce qu’il ressentait en ce moment était-il pour lui absolument vague, indistinct et confus. Seulement la joie perçait, l’orgueil dominait. Autour de cette sombre et malheureuse figure, il y avait rayonnement. Ce ne fut donc pas sans surprise et sans effroi que l’on vit tout à coup, au moment où Quasimodo, dans cette demi-ivresse, passait triomphalement devant la Maison-aux-Piliers, un homme s’élancer de la foule et lui arracher des mains, avec un geste de colère, sa crosse de bois doré, insigne de sa folle papauté. (…)  Alors la confrérie des fous, la première stupeur passée, voulut défendre son pape si brusquement détrôné. Les égyptiens, les argotiers et toute la basoche vinrent japper autour du prêtre. Victor Hugo (Notre Dame de Paris)
Il y avait seize ans à l’époque où se passe cette histoire que, par un beau matin de dimanche de la Quasimodo, une créature vivante avait été déposée après la messe dans l’église de Notre-Dame, sur le bois de lit scellé dans le parvis à main gauche, vis-à-vis ce _grand image_ de saint Christophe que la figure sculptée en pierre de messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier, regardait à genoux depuis 1413, lorsqu’on s’est avisé de jeter bas et le saint et le fidèle. C’est sur ce bois de lit qu’il était d’usage d’exposer les enfants trouvés à la charité publique. Les prenait là qui voulait. Devant le bois de lit était un bassin de cuivre pour les aumônes. L’espèce d’être vivant qui gisait sur cette planche le matin de la Quasimodo en l’an du Seigneur 1467 paraissait exciter à un haut degré la curiosité du groupe assez considérable qui s’était amassé autour du bois de lit. Le groupe était formé en grande partie de personnes du beau sexe. (…) — Qu’est-ce que nous allons devenir, disait Jehanne, si c’est comme cela qu’ils font les enfants à présent ? — Je ne me connais pas en enfants, reprenait Agnès, mais ce doit être un péché de regarder celui-ci. — Ce n’est pas un enfant, Agnès. — C’est un singe manqué, observait Gauchère. — C’est un miracle, reprenait Henriette la Gaultière. Victor Hugo (Notre Dame de Paris)
Il baptisa son enfant adoptif, et le nomma Quasimodo, soit qu’il voulût marquer par là le jour où il l’avait trouvé, soit qu’il voulût caractériser par ce nom à quel point la pauvre petite créature était incomplète et à peine ébauchée. En effet, Quasimodo, borgne, bossu, cagneux, n’était guère qu’un à peu près. Victor Hugo (Notre Dame de Paris)
La fête des Fous ou fête des Innocents était pratiquée dans beaucoup de villes de France jusqu’au XVIIe siècle. Elle pouvait même être religieuse (cf. évêque-fou et abbé des fous). On l’appelait aussi :fête de l’Âne, des Sous-Diacres, des Diacres-Saouls, des Cornards, des Libertés de décembre, etc. (…) Ces divertissements avaient ordinairement l’église pour théâtre et les ecclésiastiques pour acteurs. Dans certaines églises, pendant les 3 jours de Saint Étienne, de Saint Jean et des Innocents (26, 27 et 28 décembre), un jeune clerc décoré du titre d’évêque des fous, Episcopus stultorum, occupait le siège épiscopal revêtu des ornements pontificaux à l’exception de la mitre, qui était remplacée par une sorte de bourrelet. À la fin de l’office, il recevait les mêmes honneurs que le prélat véritable, et son aumônier prononçait une bénédiction, dans laquelle il demandait pour les assistants le mal de foie, une banne de pardons, vingt bannes de maux de dents, et deux doigts de teigne sous le menton. La fête des Fous, dit Aubin-Louis Millin de Grandmaison, donnait lieu à des cérémonies extrêmement bizarres. On élisait un évêque, et même dans quelques églises un pape des fous. Les prêtres, barbouillés de lie, masqués et travestis de la manière la plus folle, dansaient en entrant dans le chœur et y chantaient des chansons obscènes, les diacres et les sous-diacres mangeaient des boudins et des saucisses sur l’autel, devant le célébrant, jouaient sous ses yeux aux cartes et aux dés, et brûlaient dans les encensoirs de vieilles savates. Ensuite, on les charriait tous par les rues, dans des tombereaux pleins d’ordures, où ils prenaient des poses lascives et faisaient des gestes impudiques. Ce n’étaient pas seulement dans les cathédrales et dans les collégiales que ces joyeusetés se célébraient : elles étaient aussi pratiquées dans les monastères des deux sexes. Les jeunes personnes qu’on pouvait surprendre au lit le jour des Innocents, 28 décembre, recevaient sur le derrière quelques claques, et quelquefois un peu plus, quand le sujet en valait la peine. La coutume de donner les innocents n’est pas un de ces usages isolés qui ne puisse être comparé à aucun autre. Dans diverses villes, les chanoines, les ecclésiastiques, et quelquefois, les séculiers étaient, à certains jours de l’année, pris le matin, dans leur lit et dans un état complet de nudité, conduits par les rues, dans les églises jusque sur l’autel, où on les arrosait d’eau. Des indécences du même genre avaient aussi trouvé leur place parmi les folies que les ecclésiastiques se permettaient le jour des Innocents. Ils allaient jusqu’à promener par la ville et exposer sur des théâtres des hommes entièrement nus. Des mesures furent prises pour mettre fin à ces désordres. (…) En ouvrant son roman « Notre-Dame de Paris » sur la Fête des Fous, Victor Hugo plonge immédiatement son lecteur dans une atmosphère de liesse populaire, laissant transparaître ses opinions sociales. La tradition française de la Fête des Fous commença comme un événement ecclésiastique dans des villes abritant des cathédrales comme Paris et Autun. Le bas clergé réservait le charivari général le 6 janvier, aussi appelé Jour des Rois, parce que les Rois Mages arrivèrent à Bethléem cette même date. Ce jour-là, pendant vingt-quatre heures, ils s’arrogeaient les privilèges réservés d’habitude à leurs supérieurs au sein de la très puissante Église catholique romaine. Au XVe siècle, époque où se déroule le roman d’Hugo, la coutume s’était étendue du clergé à la rue ; devenue un événement public attendu par tous, elle était l’occasion de réjouissances populaires ; on y buvait, y dansait, on y donnait des spectacles de mime, de magie, des tours, des momeries de théâtre, on y faisait des farces. Les dés roulaient dans les églises ; les prêtres marchaient de côté le long des ruelles, déguisés ; des jongleurs, des acrobates, des voyous de tout poil prenaient possession de la rue. (…) Au point culminant de la fête, les farceurs élisaient le Pape des Fous, la plupart du temps un diacre, souvent même un profane ou un étudiant, qui conduisait ensuite à travers les rues de la ville une procession débridée où les bagarres n’étaient pas rares, constituée de membres du clergé et d’hommes du peuple, qui se mêlaient aux noceurs. Paillarde, exubérante, bruyante, subversive, cette fête dérivait d’une ancienne fête romaine dédiée à Saturne, le dieu de l’agriculture. Pendant « Saturnalia », trois jours de fête durant l’hiver, les tribunaux et les écoles étaient fermés et les esclaves étaient les égaux de leurs maîtres. Wikipedia
Thirty days before the festival they chose by lot from amongst themselves a young and handsome man, who was then clothed in royal attire to resemble Saturn. Thus arrayed and attended by a multitude of soldiers he went about in public with full license to indulge his passions and to taste of every pleasure, however base and shameful. But if his reign was merry, it was short and ended tragically; for when the thirty days were up and the festival of Saturn had come, he cut his own throat on the altar of the god whom he personated. In the year A.D. 303 the lot fell upon the Christian soldier Dasius, but he refused to play the part of the heathen god and soil his last days by debauchery. The threats and arguments of his commanding officer Bassus failed to shake his constancy, and accordingly he was beheaded, as the Christian martyrologist records with minute accuracy, at Durostorum by the soldier John on Friday the twentieth day of November, being the twenty-fourth day of the moon, at the fourth hour. (…) This account sets in a new and lurid light the office of the King of the Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of Horace and Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merry-andrew whose only care was that the revelry should run high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to the north, Soracte showed his coronal of snow. When we compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilised metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on the Danube, and when we remember the long array of similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapped in sceptred palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a feeble emasculated copy of that original, whose strong features have been fortunately preserved for us by the obscure author of the Martyrdom of St. Dasius. In other words, the martyrologist’s account of the Saturnalia agrees so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere which could not possibly have been known to him, that the substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as established; and further, since the custom of putting a mock king to death as a representative of a god cannot have grown out of a practice of appointing him to preside over a holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another’s hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself and other great towns the growth of civilisation had probably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may long have survived; and even if after the unification of Italy the barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude soldiery on the outskirts of the empire over whom the once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grasp. The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and the Carnival of modern Italy has often been remarked; but in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to identity. We have seen that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, the master of the revels, the real man who personated Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death in his assumed character. The King of the Bean on Twelfth Night and the mediaeval Bishop of Fools, Abbot of Unreason, or Lord of Misrule are figures of the same sort and may perhaps have had a similar origin. James Frazer (The Golden Bough)
Comme ces rites qu’on avait cru noyés dans l’oubli et qui finissent par refaire surface, on pourrait dire que le temps de Noël, après des siècles d’endoctrinement chrétien, vit aujourd’hui le retour des saturnales. André Burguière
En un siècle et demi, l’enfant, à Noël, a donc quitté la rue pour la chaleur du foyer. Celui qui chantait des Carols sous les fenêtres illuminées des maisons bourgeoises a effectué un double passage : de l’espace public à l’espace domestique, de la communaute villageoise à la famille. De créancier de l’adulte, il est devenu récipiendaire d’un dû sans condition. Cependant, ce passage de la vieille année à la nouvelle a conservé sa symbolique profonde, celle d’un danger qui menace l’enfant et, avec lui, menace notre avenir. Mais la conjuration s’exerce de nos jours à travers une dépense somptuaire, un véritable sacrifice familial. Martyne Perrot
Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season). In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.” As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in 1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed. Simple to remember
The Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry took an allegorical view of the Saturnalia. He saw the festival’s theme of liberation and dissolution as representing the « freeing of souls into immortality »—an interpretation that Mithraists may also have followed, since they included many slaves and freedmen. According to Porphyry, the Saturnalia occurred near the winter solstice because the sun enters Capricorn, the astrological house of Saturn, at that time. In the Saturnalia of Macrobius, the proximity of the Saturnalia to the winter solstice leads to an exposition of solar monotheism, the belief that the Sun (see Sol Invictus) ultimately encompasses all divinities as one. Perceived relations among the Mithraic mysteries, the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the « Birthday of the Unconquered Sun ») on December 25, and the Christian Nativity as celebrated in December are a matter of long-standing and complex scholarly debate. The Mishna and Talmud (Avodah Zara 8a) describe a pagan festival called Saturna which occurs eight days before the winter solstice. It is followed eight days after the solstice with a festival called Kalenda. The Talmud ascribes the origins of this festival to Adam, who saw that the days were getting shorter and thought it was punishment for his sin. He was afraid that the world was returning to the chaos and emptiness that existed before creation. He sat and fasted for eight days. Once he saw that the days were getting longer again he realized that this was the natural cycle of the world, so made eight days of celebration. The Talmud states that this festival was later turned into a pagan festival. (…) Unlike several Roman religious festivals which were particular to cult sites in the city, the prolonged seasonal celebration of Saturnalia at home could be held anywhere in the Empire. Saturnalia continued as a secular celebration long after it was removed from the official calendar. As William Warde Fowler noted, Saturnalia « has left its traces and found its parallels in great numbers of medieval and modern customs, occurring about the time of the winter solstice. » A number of scholars, including historian David Stephens from the University of Central Florida and Professor Parker-Ducharme from Tulane University, view aspects of the Saturnalia festival as the origin of some later Christmas customs, particularly the practice of gift giving, which was suppressed by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. During the ancient Roman Saturnalia, human-shaped delicacies were consumed and jovial singing was performed in the streets, which makes it a « precursor of modern gingerbread man » and caroling. The ancient Roman Saturnalia was integrated into Christianity in the 4th century, as a means to mass convert the pagan Roman citizens. Due to its pagan origin, the Christmas festival was banned in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 by the Puritans as an illegal observance. Certain religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not observe Christmas for the same or similar reasons. Wikipedia
Macrobe rapporte diverses traditions romaines sur l’origine de cette fête : plusieurs font référence au séjour de Saturne dans le Latium avant la fondation de Rome. Saturne détrôné se serait réfugié en Italie, dans le Latium, où il rassemble les hommes féroces éparpillés dans les montagnes et leur donne des lois. Son règne est un âge d’or, ses paisibles sujets étant gouvernés avec douceur et équité. Les Saturnales vont contribuer à célébrer la mémoire de cet âge heureux de l’exercice du pouvoir. Pour la recherche moderne, les Saturnales sont une fête typique du « crépuscule de l’année » – Saturne est essentiellement le dieu de la période qui précède le solstice d’hiver – comme la fête celtique de Samain, période qui voit des pratiques de potlatch, de banquets et magnificence, pendant laquelle la paix règne et la communication avec le monde des morts est établie.Au cours des Saturnales, les esclaves jouissent d’une apparente et provisoire liberté. Durant cette fête très populaire, l’ordre hiérarchique des hommes et logique des choses est inversé de façon parodique et provisoire : l’autorité des maîtres sur les esclaves est suspendue. Ces derniers ont le droit de parler et d’agir sans contrainte, sont libres de critiquer les défauts de leur maître, de jouer contre eux, de se faire servir par eux. Les tribunaux et les écoles sont en vacances et les exécutions interdites, le travail cesse. On fabrique et on offre de petits présents (saturnalia et sigillaricia). Des figurines sont suspendues au seuil des maisons et aux chapelles des carrefours. Un marché spécial (sigillaria) a lieu. De somptueux repas sont offerts. La population se porte en masse vers le mont Aventin. On enlève à la statue du dieu les chaînes portées par lui, depuis que Jupiter a voulu contenir son appétit dévorant en le soumettant au rythme régulier des astres et des jours. D’abord fêtées le 14 avant les calendes de janvier (19 décembre), puis le 16 avant les calendes (17 décembre) et durant trois jours après la réforme du calendrier de Jules César3, puis quatre jours sous Auguste, puis cinq sous Caligula4, elles finissent par durer sept jours sous Dioclétien, du 17 au 24 décembre. (…) On dit que les Saturnales ont été en partie l’inspiration de fêtes religieuses ou traditionnelles instituées postérieurement : le jour de Noël chrétien reprend le symbole du solstice d’hiver, soit le thème du Sol invictus, (le soleil invaincu). la galette des rois, laquelle sacrait le « roi » de la fête. Par extension, ce terme de Saturnales désigne (…) des fêtes débridées pendant lesquelles tous les excès sont permis ; un temps de débordement, de débauche, de licence, de manifestation violente de pouvoir ou de vice. Wikipedia
Rabbin de Gérone, ensuite chef spirituel de la communauté juive de Catalogne, ami du roi Jacques Ier d’Aragon, il fait office de médiateur à maintes reprises entre la couronne et les almajas. La quiétude dont il jouit est brisée lorsque, en 1263, il est choisi pour une disputatio en présence du roi avec Pablo Christiani, sur l’ordre de Raymond de Penafort. Pablo Christiani, Juif passé au christianisme et devenu frère dominicain (et responsable d’inventions telles que la rouelle), est déjà connu pour avoir tenté de convertir la communauté juive de Provence. La démarche de Christiani est originale : présumant que son adversaire devra rester mesuré, de crainte de heurter la sensibilité des dignitaires chrétiens, il escompte non pas interdire le Talmud, mais au contraire l’utiliser afin de prouver la vérité de la foi et du message chrétien. En effet, il pense pouvoir attester à partir de plusieurs passages attenant à l’Aggada, que les Sages Pharisiens ont pensé que le Messie vivait à l’époque du Talmud, et donc qu’il s’agissait de Jésus. Nahmanide demande, et obtient, la complète liberté d’expression au cours des 4 jours qui vont suivre, du 20 au 24 juillet 1263. Les objets de la dispute de Barcelone furent de savoir : si le Messie était apparu ; si le Messie annoncé par les Prophètes devait être considéré comme divin, ou humain né de parents humains ; qui des Juifs ou des Chrétiens détenait la vraie foi. La tentative de Christiani tourna court. Le Ramban remit les choses dans leur contexte, prouvant que si les rabbins avaient véritablement cru en la messianité de Jésus, ils se seraient convertis. Ses interprétations étaient donc tendancieuses. Par ailleurs, la Aggada ne lie pas davantage les Juifs, que les chrétiens ne sont tenus de croire aux sermons des évêques. Le Ramban précisa que les Juifs étaient tenus de croire en la vérité de la Bible, et ne tenaient compte des arguments théologiques du Talmud que s’ils influençaient la pratique religieuse. De ce point de vue, les Juifs ne sont pas tenus de croire tout point théologique du Talmud, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit d’Aggada. Pour l’argument de Shilo (Le sceptre ne s’éloignera pas de Juda, jusqu’à ce que vienne Shilo), le Ramban fit valoir que, du fait de l’étymologie même du nom, le Messie devrait être humain, de chair et de sang, et non divin. Le Messie aux portes de Rome fut également rapidement réfuté, car cet enseignement aggadique de Rabbi Josué ben Lévi portait sur la fin des guerres et l’avènement d’un règne de paix et de justice. Où était-il aujourd’hui ? Le Ramban fit aussi remarquer que les questions attenant au Messie avaient moins d’importance pour les Juifs que ce que croyaient les Chrétiens. Selon lui, un Juif a en effet plus de mérite à observer les prescriptions divines en terre d’exil, sous le joug chrétien, qu’en Terre promise sous le règne du Messie, où chacun pratiquerait la Loi de façon naturelle. La disputation fut abrégée à la demande pressante des Juifs de Barcelone craignant d’exciter le ressentiment des Dominicains, et se termina sur la victoire éclatante de Nahmanide, le roi allant jusqu’à lui faire don de 300 maravedis en signe de respect. Cependant, le clergé dominicain prétendit avoir remporté la rencontre. Nahmanide fut obligé de relater la Dispute par écrit. Pablo Christiani s’en servit et sélectionna des passages jugés blasphématoires envers la Chrétienté pour forger le Telae Ignis Satanis, où « Bonastruc da Porta, le maître de Gérone » se trouve souvent pris de court face aux arguments pleins de vérité et ne s’échappe qu’à coup desdits blasphèmes. Ce faux permettra de poursuivre tout un qui s’adonnerait à l’étude du Talmud, reconnu ouvrage hérétique et anti-chrétien, mais il entraînera surtout la mise en accusation de Nahmanide. Le roi fit réunir une commission extraordinaire afin d’assurer l’impartialité du procès, qui se tenait en sa présence. Nahmanide admit avoir porté plusieurs atteintes à la Chrétienté, mais n’avoir rien dit d’autre que les arguments prononcés devant le roi, avec jouissance d’une liberté de parole totale. Bien que le roi et la commission reconnussent la justesse de sa défense, les Dominicains obtinrent que les livres de Nahmanide soient brûlés et qu’il soit exilé pour deux ans, ce qui se commua rapidement en bannissement à perpétuité. Wikipedia
Barcelone, juillet 1263 : devant le roi d’Aragon, la cour, et devant les personnalités les plus éminentes de l’Église chrétienne, s’engage une Dispute qui va durer quatre jours. Elle oppose Paul Christiani, juif converti au christianisme, à Rabbi Moïse ben Nahman (Nahmanide) de Gérone, l’une des plus hautes autorités du judaïsme espagnol. Quatre jours d’une âpre discussion touchant la venue du Messie et sa nature, et au cours desquels va se dévoiler l’endroit de la rupture entre judaïsme et christianisme : le pouvoir, la souveraineté. Du fond de cette rupture, c’est le sens de l’exil du peuple juif, dépossédé de cette souveraineté, qui devient l’enjeu de l’affrontement. Si le Messie est déjà venu et que les juifs ne l’ont pas connu, leur exil n’est plus qu’une inutile errance, ce qu’il y a de plus vain faisant suite à l’erreur la plus essentielle. Mais si le Messie n’est pas encore venu, le christianisme se trouve relégué au rang de simple puissance politique et sa vérité résumée à l’exercice momentané d’un pouvoir dans le monde. Editions Verdier
Rome est bien le signe de la caducité des empires, des royaumes et des nations appelées à mourir et à disparaître. Et si le messianisme juif met en question le pouvoir de l’Église, si pour lui l’exil n’est qu’une situation où la liberté fait défaut, le sens ultime et privilégié de son message est d’annoncer la fin de la servitude, de la domination d’un peuple par un autre, de la guerre comme éthique de vie. L’Église n’est plus seule à être en question, le judaïsme l’est également, maintenant qu’une puissance temporelle, un État s’en réclame. Phénomène aujourd’hui généralisé, l’on voit le messianisme se changer en son contraire. La théologie, en investissant tout le champ du politique, se pervertit en transcendance de la terreur. La dispute de Barcelone est toujours nouvelle. Edmond Amran el Maleh

Attention: une dispute peut en cacher une autre !

En ce lendemain de l’ancienne fête de préparation des saturnales (dédiée au vieillard dévoreur d’enfants mais subvertie par le christianisme en fête de la naissance du Christ et des enfants) …

Fête du lendemain de Noël qui, sous le nom de « Fête des boites » (« Boxing Day« ) chez nos voisins anglo-saxons,  en est apparemment la fête de conclusion avancée (les fameuses calendes de janvier ou  fête des sygillaires et « ancêtre » de notre Saint Sylvestre, dédiées elles à la déesse Strenia et connues chez nous une semaine plus tard sous le nom d’étrennes, avant le sacre, par hasard interposé – la fève de nos galettes des rois – du « roi » de la fête) où serviteurs et marchands reçoivent les cadeaux de leurs employeurs (pendant que les associations caritatives reprennent les distributions de nos prêtres qui jadis ouvraient les troncs des églises et en distribuaient le contenu aux pauvres dans une petite boîte ?) mais qui aujourd’hui, entre les matches et les chasses d’après-Noël, sert surtout de « Black Friday » de Noël où chacun s’active à revendre ses cadeaux ou profiter des soldes des invendus du potlatch de la veille …

Pendant que, sur fond de massacres continués des chrétiens dans principalement le monde dit musulman, parmi les plus religieux on fête la translation solennelle, par l’évêque Jean de Jérusalem à l’église du Mont-Sion de Jérusalem en l’an 415, du corps de la première victime judéo-chrétienne d’une des premières confrontations théologiques entre judaïsme et christianisme naissant …

Comment, à l’heure où dans leurs voeux l’Etat américain comme nombre d’entreprises ou d’individus n’osent plus même mentionner le nom (trop christique) de Noël et où des chrétiens arabes tentent d’imposer un sapin de Noël au Parlement israélien (à quand un sapin de Noël à la Mecque ?), ne pas repenser au sinistre envers d’une de nos plus chères célébrations dont les « fêtes des fous » médiévales (Victor Hugo ne fait-il pas de son « archétype du monstre sympathique » – bossu, borgne et boiteux, cumulant autrement dit à peu près la totalité des stigmates de victimisation – trouvé un dimanche d’après-Pâques l’un de ces « rois ou papes des fous »?) pouvaient mener aux pires débordements remplaçant, à l’instar du martyre de Saint Dasius de Durostorum bien analysé comme exemple de bouc émissaire par James Frazer, par des juifs, comme victimes des vexations jusqu’au XIXe siècle, les esclaves ou gladiateurs des saturnales romaines ?

Mais comment aussi ne pas se remémorer une autre « disputation » (merci Glaeken Trismegistus), presque aussi fameuse et tragique que celle apparemment plus improvisée de Saint Etienne, où, 23 ans après celle de Paris qui avait vu à l’instiguation du franciscain et apostat juif Nicolas Donin la condamnation et la crémation du Talmud, et entre le 20 et le 24 juillet 1263 à l’initiative du Grand Inquisiteur (Raymond de Peñafort) et en présence du roi Jacques Ier d’Aragon, s’affrontèrent à Barcelone l’une des plus hautes autorités du judaïsme espagnol (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman de Gérone dit Nahmanide) et un dominicain et juif converti au christianisme  (Pablo Christiani dont le zèle de nouveau converti inspirera plus tard à notre Saint-Louis national le rétablissement de l’usage de la rouelle pour les juifs de France),  à propos de la venue du Messie et de sa nature …

Et qui, redémontrant avec le brio que l’on sait le scandale et la folie d’un Messie crucifié, vit la victoire officielle du talmudiste se transformer en exil forcé et expurgation officielle du Talmud de tous les passages concernant Jésus et Marie ?

Le messie au cœur de la dispute

Michael Blum

Jérusalem Post

12-18 août 2008

Publié en français pour la première fois en 1984, ce texte fondamental est réédité en édition de poche, permettant une lecture plus facile du récit de cette « dispute » qui a marqué l’histoire juive.

Nous sommes en juillet 1263, le roi d’Aragon veut imposer le christianisme dans une Espagne chrétienne au faite de sa gloire. Il convoque deux personnalités, un juif converti, Paul Christiani, soutenu par des dignitaires de l’Église, et Moshe Ben Nahman, plus connu sous le nom de Nahmanide ou Ramban, le grand maître du judaïsme espagnol de son époque.

L’affrontement verbal va durer quatre jours. Évoquant surtout la place du messianisme dans le judaïsme, Nahmanide tente de réfuter les thèses chrétiennes sur l’arrivée du Messie. Nahmanide raconte avec humour et finesse les débats qui l’ont opposé à Christiani. Cette dispute se révélera être plus un procès du judaïsme qu’autre chose.

En lisant cet ouvrage, on a le sentiment de revivre cette scène et d’assister à un véritable spectacle.

De haut niveau intellectuel, le débat est pourtant facile à lire grâce au talent de Nahmanide qui, citant des textes midrashiques et talmudiques, anime chaque joute de la controverse.

L’apostat, de son côté, tente d’utiliser le texte du Talmud pour démontrer que les rabbins de l’époque de Jésus croyaient à la possibilité qu’il soit le messie, tandis que Ramban s’efforce de prouver que la foi chrétienne est erronée.

Un des éléments de l’argumentation de Ramban est la différence marquée entre la foi dans un messie pour les chrétiens, élément essentiel du christianisme, alors que le judaïsme ne le mentionne que rarement.

Bien que le roi d’Aragon, impressionné par les arguments de Nahmanide, lui ait accordé la possibilité de continuer d’exercer sa foi, lui offrant même de l’argent, les Dominicains obtinrent que ses livres soient brûlés et qu’il soit banni du royaume.

Peu de temps après cet épisode, Ramban quitte sa ville de Gérone pour s’installer en Israël où il passera les trois dernières années de sa vie et publiera son commentaire sur la Torah.

La nouvelle édition est suivie des explications de Ramban sur le texte d’Isaïe portant sur le messianisme, qu’il n’a pas eu le droit de prononcer lors de la Dispute.

Isaïe présente le messianisme juif, fondamentalement différent de celui prôné par les chrétiens.

Les archives liées au texte de Nahmanïde, notamment les procès verbaux et les textes papaux de l’époque ajoutés au recueil, donnent des indications précieuses sur le contexte historique de la controverse.

Si les disputes de cette nature entre juifs et chrétiens n’existent plus, la lecture de ce texte prouve sa modernité dans un monde où la tentation du messianisme est toujours vivace.

 Voir aussi:

« Crois-tu, reprit le Frère Paul, que le Messie est venu ? » : un reportage de Na’hmanide sur la dispute de Barcelone en 1263

Henri Smolarski

Tribune juive

9 novembre 1984

Procès verbal royal : « L’année du Seigneur mille deux cent soixante-trois, le treizième jour des calendes d’août, le roi des Aragonais et de nombreuses personnes, barons, prélats, religieux et chevaliers se sont réunis au palais royal de Barcelone… »

Curieux des problèmes religieux, influencé par l’Inquisiteur Raymond de Pennafort, le roi Jaime Ier, en cet été de 1263, a organisé une dispute qui fera date dans l’histoire séculaire des relations judéo-chrétiennes. Devant un public de prêtres, de juifs, de négociants, de nobles et d’artisans, Paul Christiani est opposé à Moïse ben Na’hman.

Né sans doute à Montpellier, juif converti, clerc habile, Paul Christiani est pour l’Église un serviteur de grande valeur. Plus tard, sa fureur anti-juive lui fera exiger de Louis IX, dit Saint-Louis, le port de l’étoile jaune par les juifs de France. Moïse ben Na’hman, dit Na’hmanide, 70 ans, est un des rabbins les plus savants, les plus rayonnants de son temps. Les juifs d’Espagne lui ont naturellement demandé de défendre la Tora dans ce procès à grand spectacle.

Après la dispute, et sur requête de l’évêque de Gérone d’où il est originaire, Na’hmanide rédige sous forme de reportage les quatre journées de débats. Cet extraordinaire document est aujourd’hui traduit en français et publié avec une préface et un commentaire du rabbin espagnol des chapitres 52 et 53 d’Isaïe. La Dispute de Barcelone (collection des « Les Dix Paroles », Verdier) illustre un aspect original, à la fois religieux et politique, de la polémique entre juifs et chrétiens.

En 1240, à Paris, un autre apostat, Nicolas Donin, opposé à quatre rabbins français, dont Rabbi Ye’hiel, a obtenu la condamnation et le bûcher pour le Talmud considéré comme une entreprise blasphématoire. Le propos de Paul Christiani est tout à fait différent. « Il s’agit de montrer, dit l’anonyme préfacier de la traduction, que les docteurs du Talmud avaient reconnu la messianité de Jésus et avaient foi en sa religion. » Ce Na’hmanide, qui n’admet pas l’inspiration chrétienne du Talmud, n’est donc qu’un imposteur qui trompe le peuple sur la réalité de la tradition juive. Si le Messie est venu, l’errance juive, l’existence même du peuple juif est une absurdité. S’il n’est pas venu, tous les pouvoirs, tous les empires sont destinés à être emportés par le torrent de l’histoire, y compris l’Église.

L’enjeu du procès, Paul Christiani et Na’hmanide l’ont fort bien compris.

Selon Na’hmanide, la seule différence pour Israël « entre ce monde et les temps messianiques est la soumission aux pouvoirs ».

L’humour souvent cinglant de Na’hmanide, le mépris ouvert dans lequel il tient le Frère Paul « qui ne connaît rien du tout », confère à cette dispute une allure théâtrale vivante, loin des somnolentes controverses théologiques.

Dès le premier jour, Na’hmanide annonce la couleur et exige l’entière liberté de parole. « À condition de ne point faire outrage à la foi », répondit le Frère Raymond de Pennafort. Éclat de Na’hmanide. Pour qui me prend-on ? Croyez-vous que je n’ai pas assez d’instruction pour exprimer « avec retenue ce qui sera, cependant, mon intime conviction ? »

Paul Christiani lui lance au visage la question de Rabbi Josué au prophète Élie (Sanh. 98a) : Quand viendra le Messie ? Réponse : Demande-le au Messie lui-même ! — Et où est-il ? — À la porte de Rome parmi les malades. Triomphe de Frère Paul. « Tu vois bien, dit-il à Na’hmanide, le Messie est déjà venu et il est dans Rome. » Rire de Na’hmanide. Si le Messie est déjà venu, pourquoi demander à Élie « quand viendra-t-il ? ».

Là-dessus intervient Jaime Ier. « Et où est-il aujourd’hui, demanda le roi ? — Cela n’est pas indispensable à la dispute et je ne répondrai point, déclarai-je. Peut-être le trouveras-tu aux portes de Tolède, si tu y dépêches un de tes émissaires, dis-je en plaisantant… »

Tout au long des quatre jours, Na’hmanide, cette fois sans plaisanter, rappelle que le Messie signifie la fin des guerres, la justice, une civilisation du dialogue. Mais si le Messie est aux portes de Rome, c’est-à-dire de la civilisation romaine et chrétienne, ce n’est pas gratuitement. « Ce n’est que lorsque le Messie viendra devant le pape (à Rome) et lui dira par un commandement de Dieu : “Renvoie mon peuple”, qu’il sera effectivement venu… »

Le quatrième jour, la dispute prend fin par une polémique sur La Trinité. « C’est là, dit Paul Christiani, chose extrêmement profonde, que même les anges et les archanges ne comprennent pas. » Réplique de Na’hmanide : « Il est évident que l’homme n’a pas foi en ce dont il n’a pas connaissance. Aussi, les anges eux-mêmes ne peuvent-ils avoir foi en La Trinité. »

Le roi Jaime d’Aragon sourit, offre à Na’hmanide trois cents dinars et le prie de retourner dans sa ville « pour la vie et la paix », Pendant que le virulent Frère Paul s’en va sermonner les juifs de Provence, Na’hmanide prépare sa montée en Terre d’Israël. Autre façon de continuer la dispute de Barcelone.

 Voir également:

La controverse de Barcelone

Edmond Amran el Maleh

Le Monde

7 décembre 1984

Voici donc un texte essentiel, beau aussi en un sens et d’une grandeur certaine. À Barcelone en juillet 1263, en présence du roi d’Aragon Jaime Ier qui en avait pris l’initiative, eut lieu une des plus célèbres controverses judéo-chrétiennes, et elle dura quatre jours. L’Église est alors au faîte de sa puissance, mais il lui faut assurer sa domination spirituelle sans partage, forcer donc les juifs à la conversion, censurer et récupérer le Talmud, présenter enfin Jésus comme étant le Messie.

La dispute de Barcelone, qui se présente comme une mise en scène d’une ampleur dramatique, avec le concours de hautes personnalités de l’Église, du roi et de toute une foule bigarrée, met en présence, sur les lieux du palais, deux protagonistes. Paul Christiani, juif converti, fort de sa connaissance de l’hébreu et des textes, animé d’un zèle ardent en raison de sa conversion, se présente au débat avec une argumentation rédigée à l’avance, soutenu sur place par des personnalités de l’Église, des représentants des ordres militants, les célèbres « dominicanes, les chiens du Seigneur », les dominicains. En face de lui, Moïse Ben Nahman, l’illustre Nahmanide, de Gérone, commentateur du Talmud et cabaliste de grand renom. S’il est certes « maestro » de la tradition juive, bien qu’il récuse ce titre, il lui faudra tout le génie subtil de son esprit pour maîtriser le hasard de l’improvisation et confondre son redoutable adversaire.

D’entrée, et avec lucidité, Nahmanide engage la dispute : « Je souhaite qu’en cette noble assemblée ne soit débattu que de l’essentiel, de ce à quoi tout est suspendu… Nous nous mîmes d’accord pour parler d’abord du problème du Messie, [était-il] déjà venu comme le veut la foi chrétienne? ou bien [est-il] destiné à venir comme le prétend la foi des juifs ? Jésus est-il le Messie ? » La dispute s’engage dans le champ clos de l’exégèse, mais le monde est là dans sa rumeur et sa fureur, l’ombre de l’inquisition monte à l’horizon. Nahmanide est seul pour ainsi dire, seul en lice. Vainqueur ou vaincu, il se sait condamné à l’avance : « Beaucoup de membres de la communauté sont ici, et tous me pressent et m’implorent de ne pas continuer ; car ils ont grand peur de ces hommes, les prédicateurs qui répandent la terreur dans le monde… Même d’illustres gens d’Église m’ont fait dire de ne pas aller plus loin. » Sa grandeur est celle-là même de Socrate qui va sereinement au-devant de la mort.

La question est posée : quelle est la nature du Messie, du messianisme? « Rome sera détruite lorsqu’un homme dira à son compagnon : Rome et tout ce qu’elle renferme sont à toi pour un sou et qu’il répondra : je n’en veux pas », dit Nahmanide, qui, plus loin, ajoutera : « Quand viendra le temps du messianisme, ils forgeront des socs avec leurs glaives et des serpes de leurs lances. On ne lèvera plus l’épée peuple contre peuple et l’on n’apprendra plus la guerre. » Rome est bien le signe de la caducité des empires, des royaumes et des nations appelées à mourir et à disparaître. Et si le messianisme juif met en question le pouvoir de l’Église, si pour lui l’exil n’est qu’une situation où la liberté fait défaut, le sens ultime et privilégié de son message est d’annoncer la fin de la servitude, de la domination d’un peuple par un autre, de la guerre comme éthique de vie. L’Église n’est plus seule à être en question, le judaïsme l’est également, maintenant qu’une puissance temporelle, un État s’en réclame. Phénomène aujourd’hui généralisé, l’on voit le messianisme se changer en son contraire. La théologie, en investissant tout le champ du politique, se pervertit en transcendance de la terreur. La dispute de Barcelone est toujours nouvelle.

Voir encore:

DISPUTATIONS:

Jewish Encyclopedia

Public debates on religious subjects between Jews and non-Jews. Religious differences have at all times induced serious-minded men to exchange their views in order to win opponents over to their own side by appeals to reason. Abraham is represented in the Midrash as holding a religious debate with Nimrod (see Jew. Encyc. i. 86). In Alexandria disputations between Jews and pagans were probably quite frequent. The first actual disputation before a worldly ruler took place at Alexandria about 150 B.C., under Ptolemy Philometor, between Andronicus ben Messalam (Meshullam), the Judean, and Sabbeus and Dositheus (Theodosius), Samaritans, with reference to the Scripture text which the Samaritans claimed had been omitted by the Jews in the Septuagint translations. (Grätz, « Gesch. » iii. 44, 650; compare Josephus, « Ant. » xiii. 3, § 4). In the time of the emperor Caligula the first disputation between Jews and pagans before a ruling monarch took place at Rome, the erection of statues of Caligula in the synagogues of Alexandria having caused the Jews to send a deputation under Philo to the emperor, while the anti-Jewish party sent a deputation under Apion. It was typical of all later disputations, inasmuch as the defeat of the Jews was a foregone conclusion. Some of Philo’s arguments are probably preserved in part in his « Legatio ad Caium » (§§ 20-45). Papyri fragments discovered in recent years contain records of disputations held before Claudius and a later emperor (« Rev. Et. Juives, » xxxvii. 218-223; Schürer, « Gesch. » 3d ed., i. 65-70).

Between Jews and Romans.

In ‘Ab. Zarah iv. 7 and Baraita ‘Ab. Zarah 54b is recorded a disputation held in Rome between pagan sages () and four Jewish elders, whom Grätz properly identifies with Gamaliel II., Eleazar b. Azariah, Joshua b. Hananiah, and Akiba, who went to Rome to have Domitian’s decree against the Jews withdrawn (Grätz, « Gesch. » 3d ed., iv. 110). The following was the dialogue: « If your God hates idolatry, why, being omnipotent, does He not destroy it? » « Shall sun, moon, and stars, without which the world can not exist, be destroyed on account of the fools that worship them? » « But why are not other idols which are of no consequence destroyed? » « As well should seeds when stolen not grown in the soil, or a child conceived in adultery not be born. No; the world goes on in its prescribed course, and the transgressors shall meet their retribution » (compare Bacher, « Ag. Tan. » i. 84). According to Eccl. R. i. 9, R. Meïr was delegated to represent the Jews at a public disputation with the government in Rome, the boar (), as the Roman emblem, being made the subject of the debate (compare Bacher, l.c. ii. 35 et seq.). R. Meïr also had disputes with the Samaritans (Gen. R. iv.; Bacher, l.c. pp. 32 et seq.).

Between Jews and Christians.

Of an altogether different nature were the disputations between Jews and Christians. At first these were bitter and sarcastic in tone, but, like quarrels between members of one household, harmless in their consequences. As they turned chiefly on Scripture interpretations, the Jew easily obtained the victory over his less skilled adversary. A number are recorded in the Talmud and Midrash between Christians called « minim » (heretics) or philosophers and R. Gamaliel II. (Yeb. 102b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. x.; Ex. R. xxx.; see Derenbourg, « Hist. » 1867, p. 357; Bacher, l.c. i. 87) and R. Joshua b. Hananiah (Ḥag. 5b; see Bacher, l.c. i. 176). How prominent these disputations were in the early days of Christianity is shown by the number of fictitious dialogues written by Christians for apologetic purposes, and mainly copied one from the other, with references to the same Scriptural passages, and all of them ending in the same way: the Jew, who seldom knows how to answer, finally yields and embraces Christianity (see Origen, « Contra Celsum, » iv. 52, where the disputation between Papiscus the Jew and Jason is referred to; Harnack, in « Texte und Untersuchungen, » i. 1-3; Conybeare, « The Dialogues of Athanasius and Zaccheus and of Timothy and Aquila, » Oxford, 1898; McGiffert, « A Dialogue Between a Christian and a Jew, Entitled Αντιβολὴ Παπίσκου καὶ φίλωνος ‘Ιουδαίων προς Μόναχόντινα, » New York, 1889). Most valuable as a characteristic example of such a disputation is Justin Martyr’s « Dialogue with Tryphon the Jew. » The author, who frequently calls himself « philosopher, » took the famous R. Tarfon (also pronounced, probably, « Tryphon »: Derenbourg, l.c. p. 376; Grätz, l.c. iv. 58), noted for his fierce opposition to the Christian sect (Shab. 116a), as a typical representative of Jewish teaching, putting into his mouth rabbinical arguments for the sake of refuting them (see M. Friedländer, « Patristische und Talmudische Studien, » pp. 20 et seq., 80-137, Vienna, 1878; Goldfahn, « Justinus Martyr und die Agada, » in Monatsschrift, » 1873, pp. 49, 104, 145, 194, 257). Often the Jew was horrified at the identification of « Christ » with the « Divine Shekinah, » and termed it « blasphemy » (Friedländer, l.c. pp. 62 et seq.); and as the arguments taken from Gen. i 26, and similar expressions regarding the Deity used in Scripture, were ever reiterated by these troublesome « heretics, » he found these disputations « full of weariness » (Eccl. R. i. 9; compare Sanh. 38b, 105b; Yer. Ber. ix. 12d; Friedländer, l.c. pp. 62, 82). In the course of time, however, polemics became a fine art with some of the rabbis, Cæsarea, a place where Christians and Jews constantly met, being the chief School of controversy (Bacher, « Ag. Pal. Amor. » i. 92). R. Simlai and R. Abahu were known as keen debaters (Bacher, l.c. i. 555, ii. 115). On the fictitious disputation in Rome between Pope Sylvester (314-335) and twelve Pharisaic doctors before the emperor Constantine, see Güdemann, « Gesch. des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Italien, » 1884, pp. 39, 295.

In the Middle Ages.

Learned disputations of a harmless nature took place frequently in Italy, and a controversial Jewish literature sprang up in the thirteenth century (see Güdemann, l.c. pp. 12, 24, 87, 39, 230) with the declared object of defending the truth without giving offense to the Christian Church (see Polemical Literature). Quite different was the tone of the disputations introduced in the Byzantine empire. Here Basil I., about 880, instituted such disputations, and the Jews were to be forced either to admit or to disprove « that Jesus is the culmination of the Law and the Prophets » (Grätz, l.c. v. 229), the result being generally expulsion and persecution. In the West, Jews and Christians disputed freely and on terms of mutual good-will in spite of occasional hostile attacks (see « Rev. Et. Juives, » v. 238 et seq.). The impression prevailed among Christians that they were no match for the learned and witty Jews, while the latter frequently challenged the former, openly and frankly criticizing the dogmas of the Church. Among these Nathan L’Official and his son in France obtained about the close of the twelfth century great renown as bold and skilful debaters, and the disputes they had with popes, archbishops, and other prelates have been partly preserved (Grätz, l.c. vi. 143, 366; Güdemann, « Gesch. des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Frankreich und Deutschland, » 1880, pp. 18, 140 et seq.).

Paris and Barcelona.

It was only after Pope Innocent III. had infused the spirit of the Inquisition into Christendom, and the Dominicans had begun their warfare against every dissenter, that the disputations became associated with relentless persecution of the Jewish faith. Being turned into great spectacles by the presence of the dignitaries of Church and state—mock controversial tournaments in which the Jews were bound to suffer defeat—they became a direct menace to the literature and the very lives of the Jews. In order to secure to the Church the semblance of a victory, Jewish apostates lent themselves to the task of bringing malicious charges against their former coreligionists, supporting these by ferreting out every weak and ambiguous point in the Talmud or the Jewish liturgy that might be construed as a « blasphemy » or as defamation of Jesus and Christian dogma.

The first of these famous disputations took place at the royal court of Louis IX. in Paris June 25-27, 1240, in the presence of the queen – mother Blanche and the prelates of Paris, the rabbis Jehiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah ben David of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of ChâteauThierry being ranged against Nicholas DONIN, the Jewish apostate. The four rabbis were to defend the Talmud against the accusations of Donin, turning mainly upon two points: that the Talmud containes immoral sentiments and blasphemous expressions against the Deity, and that it speaks in an offensive manner of Jesus. R. Jehiel, timid at first, was encouraged by the assurance of protection by the queen, and succeeded in refuting Donin’s charges by proving that Jesus, the son of Panthera, can not be the Jesus of the New Testament; that the term « goy » in the Talmud does not refer to Christians; and that the Minim who are made an object of execration in the Jewish liturgy are not born Christians, but only born Jews who have become sectaries or heretics. R. Jehiel’s defense, however successful for the moment, did not save twenty-four cartloads of copies of the Talmud from being consigned to the flames two years later in Paris (see Levin in « Monatsschrift, » 1869, pp. 97 et seq.; Grätz, l.c. vii. 401; Loeb, in « Rev. Et. Juives, » i. 247, ii. 248, iii. 39).

The second disputation took place at Barcelona on July 20, 1263, at the royal palace, in the presence of James I. of Aragon and his court, and of many prominent ecclesiastics and knights, between Naḥmanides and Pablo Christiani, who, like Donin, was the accuser and the instigator. The debate turned on the questions whether the Messiah had appeared or not; whether, according to Scripture, the Messiah is a divine or a human being; and whether the Jews or the Christians held the true faith.

Disputation Between Jewish and Christian Theologians.(From Peter Schwarz, « Der Stern Messhiah, » 1477.)

Differing from R. Jehiel of Paris, Naḥmanides met his antagonist with fearless courage and with the dignity of a true Spaniard; and when Pablo undertook to prove from various haggadic passages the Messianic character of Jesus, Naḥmanides frankly stated that he did not believe in all the haggadic passages of the Talmud, and he went so far as to declare that he had more regard for the Christian monarch than for the Messiah. As to the question whether the Messiah had come or not, he could not believe that he had come as long as the promised cessation of all warfare had not been realized. It was a triumph for the Jewish cause, yet all the more did both the Jewish and the Christian friends of Naḥmanides warn him against the peril threatening his brethren from the terrible power of the Dominicans in case of defeat, and so, at his own request, the disputation was interrupted on the fourth day. But the enemies of the Jews were not set at rest. They claimed the victory, and when Naḥmanides published the frank statements he had made, the king, who had dismissed him with presents and with expressions of his regard, could no longer protect him, and he had to leave the country. Again the Talmud was made the object of attack; but this time, instead of the whole Talmud being proscribed or burned, only the offending passages were singled out for erasure by a censorial committee appointed by the king (see Grätz, l.c. vii. 121-124).

Of literary rather than of historical importance are the public disputations held at Burgos and Avila in 1375 by Moses Cohen de Tordesillas with the apostates John of Valladolid and Abner of Burgos, and that held about the same time in Pampeluna by Shem-Ṭob ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela with Cardinal Don Pedro de Luna, afterward Pope Benedict XIII., the disputations being made the subjects of the books « ‘Ezer ha-Emunah » (by Moses) and « Eben Boḥan » (by Shem-Ṭob: see Polemics and Polemical Literature).

Disputation of Tortosa.

The most remarkable disputation in Jewish history, for the pomp and splendor accompanying it, the time it lasted, and the number of Jews that took part therein, is the one held at the summons of the antipope Benedict, XIII. in Tortosa. It began in Feb., 1413, and ended Nov., 1414, and was presided over by the pope in state, surrounded by the cardinals and dignitaries of the Church who still retained allegiance to him, while hundreds of monks and knights and men of all degrees were among the audience. Joshua Lorqui (Geronimo de Santa Fé), the apostate, was to prove from the Talmud that Jesus was the Messiah, and the twenty-two most distinguished rabbis and scholars of the kingdom of Aragon had the choice of refuting his arguments or—and this was the scarcely concealed purpose of the pope, anxious to regain power and prestige through the conversion of the Jews of Spain—espousing the Christian faith. To judge from the fragmentary records, there was no great erudition or acumen displayed either by the aggressor, who dwelt on a few haggadic passages concerning the Messiah, or by the defenders, who no longer possessed the courage and self-confidence shown by Naḥmanides. The sixty-nine sessions passed without any other result than that neither the blandishments nor the threats of the pope, nor the fierce attack on the Talmud made by Lorqui, the pope’s physician and chief adviser, could induce the Jews to become traitors to their heritage. A papal bull (May, 1415) of eleven clauses, forbidding the study of the Talmud and inflicting all kinds of degradation upon the Jews, showed the spirit that had prompted the disputation (see Grätz, l.c. viii. 116, 406). Under James II. of Castile, about 1430, Joseph ben Shem-Ṭob and Ḥayyim ibn Musa held frequent disputations with learned Christians at the court of Granada, but henceforth disputations became rare and of no historical importance.

Friendly Disputations. Religious Disputation Between Jews and Christians.(From Kohut, « Geschichte der Deutschen Juden. »)

Belonging to the class of friendly disputations (ib. viii. 417, note 4) are those, whether authentic or embellished by legend, mentioned in Solomon ibn Verga’s « Shebeṭ Yehudah »: (1) Between Don Joseph ibn Yaḥya and King Alfonso V. of Portugal, (a) concerning Jesus’miraculous powers; (b) regarding the perpetual character of the Mosaic, law; (c) as to the efficacy of the prayer of a non-Jew; (d) whether the hosts of angels are numerable or infinite; (e) why sorcery, being based on error, is so severely punished in Scripture. (2) Between three Jewish artisans taken from the street, and Don Joseph ibn Benveniste ha-Levi with Alfonso XI. of Castile, (a) on the qualities of God; (b) on the distance between earth and heaven; (c) on the sun’s radiation of heat; (d) on the forbidden fat and blood of animals; (e) on the night’s sleep; (f) on the immortality of the soul. (3) Between Don Samuel Abrabalia and Don Solomon ha-Levi and Pope Martin (Hebrew text has ; see Grätz, l.c. viii. 128, note), (a) concerning the fierce words of Simon b. Yoḥai, « The best of the heathen deserves killing » (: Mek., Beshallaḥ, i.; Yer. Ḳid. iv. 66c; Massek., Soferim, xv. 9; see Müller’s ed., note): (b) on Jer. 1. 12 (Hebr.), « The end of the heathen is shame and desolation »; (c) on Simon b. Yoḥai’s utterance, « You are called men, but the other nations are not called men » (B. M. 114b; Yeb. 61a; compare Lazarus, « Ethics of Judaism, » i. 264, Philadelphia, 1900). (4) Between Don Pedro IV. of Aragon (1336-1387) and his physician, who, when asked why the Jews were not allowed to drink the wine touched by a Christian, had water brought to wash the king’sfeet, of which he then drank to show that the fear of impurity was not the reason of the prohibition (Grätz, l.c. i. 12). (5) Between Don Abraham Benveniste, Don Joseph ha-Nasi (ben Abrham ibn Benveniste) and R. Samuel ibn Shoshan of Ecija, and Don Alfonso XI. on the social conduct of the Jews, their usury and avarice, their musical accomplishments, their luxury, the Jewish sages ascribing Jewish usury to Christian legislation; as regards the dishonest means by which the Jews were said to have obtained wealth, they remarked, « We Jews are treated like the mice: one mouse eats the cheese, and people say, ‘The mice have done it.’ For the wrong-doing of one the whole race is made responsible » (ib. viii. 25-27). (6) Between a Christian and a Jew, before Don Alfonso (V. ?) of Portugal, on the Messianic passages in Ps. xxii., and on the hyperbolical haggadic passages in the Talmud.  The remarkable disputation of Ephraim ben (Don) Sango (Sancho ? more probably identical with the famous poet Don Santo de Carrion; see « Orient, Lit. » 1851, xii., though disputed by Kayserling, « Sephardim, » p. 328, note) with Don Pedro IV. on the question, Which religion is the better, the Jewish or the Christian? the Jewish sage answering with the parable of the two precious jewels and the two sons, obviously the original of the parable of the three rings, taken from Boccaccio by Lessing for his « Nathan the Wise » (see Wünsche, in Lessing-Mendelssohn’s « Gedenkbuch, »1879, pp. 329 et seq.). The story of a disputation on the question, Which is the best religion? is, however, very old. One is said to have taken place about 740, before Bulan, the king of the Chazars, who, uncertain whether to exchange his heathen religion, which he had come to abhor, for Mohammedanism or Christianity, summoned representatives of these two creeds, as well as of Judaism, for a disputation. None could convince him of the superiority of his faith, and Bulan resolved to espouse the Jewish, since both Christian and Mohammedan referred to it as the basis of their own, and each recognized it as superior to the others (See Chazars). Upon this story the religious disputations in Judah ha-Levi’s « Cuzari » are based. The story of a disputation occurs in Russian legends regarding Vladimir’s conversion, but with a different result (see Karamsin, « History of Russia, » bk. i., ch. vii.).

In Italy, Germany, and Poland.

In order to have a great spectacle to excite the passions of the ignorant masses, John Capistrano, the Franciscan Jew-baiter, arranged in 1450 a disputation at Rome with a certain Gamaliel called « Synagogæ Romanæ magister, » but otherwise very little known (see Vogelstein and Rieger, « Gesch. der Juden in Rom, » 1895, ii. 14). Disputations of a friendly character were held at the court of Ercole d’Este I. at Ferrara by Abraham Farissol with two learned monks, the one a Dominican, the other a Franciscan, the matter of which is produced in Farissol’s « Magen Abraham » and « Wikkuaḥ ha-Dat » (see Grätz, l.c. ix. 45). In Germany it was the Jewish apostate Victor of Carben who, under the direction of Herrman, the Archbishop of Cologne, and in the presence of many courtiers, ecclesiastics, and knights, held a disputation with some Jews of the Rhine provinces about 1500, accusing them of blasphemy against the Christian religion; the consequence of this disputation was that the Jews were expelled from the lower Rhine district (ib. lx. 70).

An Eighteenth Century Disputation.

Quite different in tone and character were the disputations held by the Jews, both Rabbinites and Karaites, with Christians of various denominations in Poland at the close of the sixteenth century. Here the Jews, untrammeled by clerical or state despotism, freely criticized the various religious sects, and it was considered a difficult task for a Christian to convert a Jew (ib. ix. 456; see Isaac b. Abraham Troki). Occasionally disputations for conversionist purposes were arranged at German courts. One is reported to have taken place at the ducal court of Hanover, about 1700, in the presence of the duke, the dowager-duchess, the princes, clergy, and all the distinguished personages of the city, between Rabbi Joseph of Stadthagen and Eliezer Edzard, who had had been the instigator of the disputation. It ended in the complete victory of the rabbi, who not only refuted all the arguments of his antagonist from Scripture and the Midrash, but under the full approval of the court declined to answer under oath the question as to which religion was the best. He said: « We condemn no creed based upon the belief in the Creator of heaven and earth. We believe what we have been taught; let the Christians adhere to what they have been taught » (Bloch in « Oesterreichische Wochenschrift, » 1902, p. 785).

Regarding the disputations between the rabbis and the Frankists before Bishop Dembowski at Kamenetz in 1757, and before the canon Nikulski at Lemberg in 1759, see Frank, Jacob. For others, see Steinschneider in « Monatsschrift, » 1883, pp. 80 et seq., and his « Uebersetzungen, » pp. 305, 461.

Bibliography:

Isidore Loeb. La Controverse Réligieuse Entre les Chrêtiens et les Juifs au Moyen Age, Paris, 1888;

I. Ziegler, Religiöse Disputationen im Mittelalter, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1894, reproduced in Hamburger, R. B. T. Supplement, v. 1900, s.v. Disputationen.

Voir de plus:

The History of Christmas

Lawrence Kelemen

Simple to remember

I. When was Jesus born?

A. Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.

B. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.

C. The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:

a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.

b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.

c. Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.

d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).

e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.

f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.

D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament[1], writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”

E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.

II. How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?

A. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.[2]

D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”[3] Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681.[4] However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.

G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”[5]

H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.”[6] On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

III. The Origins of Christmas Customs

A. The Origin of Christmas Tree

Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”.[7] Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

B. The Origin of Mistletoe

Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim.[8] The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.[9]

C. The Origin of Christmas Presents

In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).[10]

D. The Origin of Santa Claus

a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil”[11] who sentenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

IV. The Christmas Challenge

· Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.

· Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.

· Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.

· December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.

· Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday’s monstrous history and meaning. “We are just having fun.”

Imagine that between 1933-45, the Nazi regime celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday – April 20 – as a holiday. Imagine that they named the day, “Hitlerday,” and observed the day with feasting, drunkenness, gift-giving, and various pagan practices. Imagine that on that day, Jews were historically subject to perverse tortures and abuse, and that this continued for centuries.

Now, imagine that your great-great-great-grandchildren were about to celebrate Hitlerday. April 20th arrived. They had long forgotten about Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. They had never heard of gas chambers or death marches. They had purchased champagne and caviar, and were about to begin the party, when someone reminded them of the day’s real history and their ancestors’ agony. Imagine that they initially objected, “We aren’t celebrating the Holocaust; we’re just having a little Hitlerday party.” If you could travel forward in time and meet them; if you could say a few words to them, what would you advise them to do on Hitlerday?

On December 25, 1941, Julius Streicher, one of the most vicious of Hitler’s assistants, celebrated Christmas by penning the following editorial in his rabidly Antisemitic newspaper, Der Stuermer:

If one really wants to put an end to the continued prospering of this curse from heaven that is the Jewish blood, there is only one way to do it: to eradicate this people, this Satan’s son, root and branch.

It was an appropriate thought for the day. This Christmas, how will we celebrate?

Voir aussi:

Edelstein: Christmas Trees Bring Back ‘Bad Memories’ for Jews

The reason he did not sanction one in front of the Knesset had nothing to do with Christians, but with Jews, says MK Yuli Edelstein.

David Lev

12/26/2013

Israel has nothing against Christmas or Christmas trees, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Thursday. The reason he did not sanction one in front of the Knesset had nothing to do with Christians – but with Jews.

Last week, MK Hana Sweid (Hadash), born to a Christian Arab family, formally requested that a Christmas tree be set up in the Knesset as a symbol of Israel’s consideration for its Christian citizens, and the country’s appreciation of its ties to the Christian world. In a letter to Edelstein, Sweid said that the installation of a tree would show that the Knesset would not tolerate so-called “price tag” attacks, in which Jewish nationalists are accused of marring mosques and other non-Jewish institutions and symbols after Israelis undergo terror attacks.

Sweid added that “many Jews put up Christmas trees as well,” apparently referring to the Russian custom of putting up a New Year’s tree. The tree is similar to the traditional Christmas tree put up in many Western countries in appearance, but is not linked to the Christian holiday.

In a letter to Sweid, Edelstein said that he would not put up an “official” Christmas tree in the Knesset, but that the MK was invited to set one up in her office.

Speaking to Israel Radio Thursday, Edelstein explained that he valued Israel’s Christian citizens and did not mean to offend anyone. However, he said, the Christmas tree, like other Christian symbols, brought back bad memories for Jews, and as the Jewish state, Israel needed to ensure that its Jewish citizens were not subject to displays that would hurt their emotions.

“These symbols remind many Jews of how their ancestors were persecuted in Europe by Christians,” Edelstein said. “There are many other ways for the state to pay tribute to its Christian citizens.”

Among other official recognitions of the Christian holiday, Israeli law mandates that Christian employees of government offices receive the day off with pay. The National Insurance Institute also advanced the date it distributed this month’s child allowance and welfare payments to precede Christmas, to ensure that Christian Arabs had enough money to celebrate properly.

Voir également:

Triste Noël : le bilan 2013 des persécutions des chrétiens dans le monde

Contrairement aux idées reçues, le christianisme est la religion la plus violentée. 2013 aura été marquée par un regain de violences à leur encontre, principalement en Afrique et au Moyen-Orient. En cause : la montée en puissance, dans ces territoires, des mouvements islamistes qui souhaitent faire avancer les frontières de l’islam.

Atlantico

25 décembre 2013

Atlantico : Le soir de Noël, alors que les Européens vivent la commémoration de la naissance du Christ comme une fête joyeuse, des chrétiens sont victimes de persécutions dans le reste du monde. Quel est le bilan de ces exactions cette année ?

Alexandre Del Valle : Il est très difficile de répondre de manière précise à cette question étant donné que les chiffres diffèrent selon les sources, suivant qu’il s’agit de l’épiscopat ou du Conseil de l’Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE), par exemple. Sur 2,3 milliards de chrétiens dans le monde aujourd’hui, il y a au minimum plus d’une dizaine de milliers d’entre eux qui ont été tués parce qu’ils ont manifesté leur foi. Plus largement, on estime environ à 100 000 le nombre de chrétiens tués, parce qu’ils appartenaient à un groupe assimilé chrétien, c’est-à-dire parce qu’ils sont nés chrétiens, indépendamment même de leur foi et de tout prosélytisme. C’est le chiffre le plus bas. Le Conseil de l’OSCE évoque le chiffre de 105 000 chrétiens et l’épiscopat va jusqu’à 170 000.

Où ces massacres de chrétiens se déroulent-ils majoritairement ?

Ces massacres de chrétiens ont majoritairement eu lieu en Corée du Nord, en Arabie Saoudite,en Égypte, au Nigeria, en Centrafrique, au Soudan, en Irak et en Syrie. Si en Irak le phénomène n’est pas nouveau et qu’en Égypte les chiffres restent constants, en 2013, on a observé une montée des persécutions envers les chrétiens syriens alors que jadis ils étaient protégés par le régime. En outre, la Centrafrique a connu une montée flagrante des massacres chrétiens cette année.

Le phénomène est-il en progression depuis les révolutions arabes ?

Depuis qu’Al Qaeda a récupéré un certain nombre de rébellions là où les révolutions arabes n’ont pas pu se mener de manière démocratique, à l’instar de la Syrie et du Yémen, on a vu une accélération des persécutions. De même, elles se sont amplifiées en Irak, en Libye et même au Maghreb. Dans les pays arabes, les islamistes ont élaboré un plan d’éradication des chrétiens depuis les années 1990-2000. Ce plan d’éradication s’est consolidé avec les révolutions arabes.

L’intervention française en Centrafrique et au Mali sont-elles une réponse à ce « plan d’éradication » ?

En ce qui concerne les pays africains, on assiste depuis une dizaine d’années au « syndrome soudanais » en Côte d’Ivoire, en Erythrée, dans les pays sahéliens : ces pays sont divisés entre des musulmans et des chrétiens selon une fracture Nord/Sud. Depuis une dizaine d’années, et surtout depuis quatre/cinq ans, les mouvements comme AQMI, Ansar al-Islam, Boko Haram ou celui des Shebabs participent de cette division de la Somalie jusqu’aux portes du Maroc et de la Mauritanie. Au Sahel, il y a toute une bande où le Nord musulman, souvent un peu plus proche des Arabes ou qui est arabe, veut progresser vers le Sud noir-chrétien, ancienne réserve d’esclaves en général; c’est le cas au Mali, en Côte d’Ivoire, au Soudan.

L’offensive centrafricaine en est le résultat : des bandes armées islamiques progressent vers le Sud qui est pour eux un véritable champ de conquête et de razzia. Là aussi il y a un plan qui vise à exterminer les minorités chrétiennes. Et pourtant, la Centrafrique est un pays majoritairement chrétien, mais aujourd’hui les islamistes ont mis en place une christianophobie criminelle. Dans le nord du Nigéria, ceci est très flagrant.

Le but de ces mouvements islamistes, aussi bien dans le monde arabe qu’en Afrique, est de faire reculer les frontières de la chrétienté et de faire avancer celles de l’islam. Ils ont une véritable stratégie. Aujourd’hui les chrétiens sont des bouc-émissaires symbolisant la haine de l’Occident : c’est la nouvelle christianophobie.

Voir encore:

The Brits have it right: forget Happy Holidays, just wish people Merry Christmas

I’d rather be able to wish people in the US a Merry Christmas this week without having to worry if they’ll be offended

Heather Long

The Guardian

22 December 2013

A colleague made a curious statement when she returned to New York recently from London, « Everything was so Christmas-y there. »

At first glance, it’s a bizarre statement. New York and London (among other cities in both countries) are decked out for the holidays. Who hasn’t heard of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or London’s Oxford Street lights and mince pies? And that’s to say nothing of the famous storefront windows all aglow.

But look beyond the seasonal window treatments at Macy’s and you’ll quickly find a different story. In corporate America, everything is « happy holidays ». Ads refer to « holiday shopping », end-of-year office soirees are « holiday parties » and kids’ school concerts this time of year are « holiday concerts ». You get the idea.

Even at the Guardian, when we put up our Christmas tree in the New York office, the first thing one of our interns said was, « Where’s the menorah? »

It’s the « politically correct » question. Evergreens and menorahs go hand in hand in most public places in the US. Some offices have gone a step further on the PC scale and simply done « winter wonderland » themed decorations. They have silver, gold and white lights aplenty, but no red and green anything. In short, snow globes are fine, Santa is not.

An annual survey that came out last week revealed just how conflicted Americans are on whether it’s better to say « Merry Christmas » or « Happy Holidays » this time of year. Half of America prefers one term and half the other. However, in a business or public setting, nearly two-thirds of those under 30 feel it’s better to wish someone the more generic Happy Holidays. It’s about trying to be polite in an increasingly diverse society.

I see the trend just by looking at the greeting cards I’ve received this year in the mail and how people are signing off their emails. The majority wish me something along the lines of: happy holidays, peace, warm wishes for the New Year, and my least favorite, « seasons greetings ». The cards have nice images of mittens, ice skates and snow covered landscapes (not to mention photos of cute kids), but not much overtly Christmas-y. They offer me everything jolly and merry this time of year, except a Merry Christmas.

I’m not to saying that Christmas isn’t prominently visible in the states. There are still plenty of Santas and pine trees for sale here, and a drive around the neighborhood, especially in parts of America outside of the major cities, and you’ll see people go all out with the Christmas lights and decorations outside their homes (there’s even a TV show about it). But even people who are clearly celebrating Christmas in their homes tend to be conflicted about what to say in the workplace or at school. No one wants to offend anyone or make assumptions about people’s religious beliefs, especially at work.

In America, the term « Christmas » still has a strongly religious connotation to it (despite what years of Santa and the « buy buy buy » mentality have done to the spirit of holiday). That’s only further reinforced by claims on Fox News and other conservative outlets that there is a « war on Christmas » and, by extension, a war on the Christian faith. Now wishing people a « Merry Christmas » almost has a political tone to it.

What’s striking to anyone who has spent time in the UK is that everyone says Merry (or Happy) Christmas. I’ve even had Muslim friends in the UK send me cards and write Merry Christmas on my Facebook wall. The saying in Britain seems to have lost its religious meaning. People say it regardless of whether or not they celebrate Christmas, and businesses feel no remorse whatsoever at openly calling things « Christmas sales » or « Christmas parties ».

Of course, I am making broad generalizations. As a British friend reminded me, the UK has been celebrating Saturnalia long before Christmas, and plenty of places such as Birmingham have generic Winterval celebrations. Christmas isn’t ubiquitous.

But by and large, in two diverse societies with similar roots, Americans have opted to try to find neutral sounding holiday greetings, while Brits have chosen to make Christmas as open to everyone as possible.

Personally, I think the Brits have this one right. I’d rather be able to wish people a Merry Christmas this week without having to worry if they’ll be offended. I’d also rather have people wish me Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali or Eid Mubarak when those holidays come around. It makes me feel more a part of their celebration. Let’s call each holiday what it is instead of trying to lump Jewish, Christian and even the Kwanzaa ritual together. If we need a generic holiday, we’ve already got the New Year, which touches all people and cultures.

Telling someone to « enjoy your holiday » or worse, sending them « seasons greetings » are cop-outs. Instead of feeling more diverse and inclusive, it just feels like someone took a bit of sparkle out of the December festivities.

Voir enfin:

3. The Roman Saturnalia

James Frazer (The Golden Bough)

We have seen that many peoples have been used to observe an annual period of license, when the customary restraints of law and morality are thrown aside, when the whole population give themselves up to extravagant mirth and jollity, and when the darker passions find a vent which would never be allowed them in the more staid and sober course of ordinary life. Such outbursts of the pent-up forces of human nature, too often degenerating into wild orgies of lust and crime, occur most commonly at the end of the year, and are frequently associated, as I have had occasion to point out, with one or other of the agricultural seasons, especially with the time of sowing or of harvest. Now, of all these periods of license the one which is best known and which in modern language has given its name to the rest, is the Saturnalia. This famous festival fell in December, the last month of the Roman year, and was popularly supposed to commemorate the merry reign of Saturn, the god of sowing and of husbandry, who lived on earth long ago as a righteous and beneficent king of Italy, drew the rude and scattered dwellers on the mountains together, taught them to till the ground, gave them laws, and ruled in peace. His reign was the fabled Golden Age: the earth brought forth abundantly: no sound of war or discord troubled the happy world: no baleful love of lucre worked like poison in the blood of the industrious and contented peasantry. Slavery and private property were alike unknown: all men had all things in common. At last the good god, the kindly king, vanished suddenly; but his memory was cherished to distant ages, shrines were reared in his honour, and many hills and high places in Italy bore his name. Yet the bright tradition of his reign was crossed by a dark shadow: his altars are said to have been stained with the blood of human victims, for whom a more merciful age afterwards substituted effigies. Of this gloomy side of the god’s religion there is little or no trace in the descriptions which ancient writers have left us of the Saturnalia. Feasting and revelry and all the mad pursuit of pleasure are the features that seem to have especially marked this carnival of antiquity, as it went on for seven days in the streets and public squares and houses of ancient Rome from the seventeenth to the twenty-third of December.

But no feature of the festival is more remarkable, nothing in it seems to have struck the ancients themselves more than the license granted to slaves at this time. The distinction between the free and the servile classes was temporarily abolished. The slave might rail at his master, intoxicate himself like his betters, sit down at table with them, and not even a word of reproof would be administered to him for conduct which at any other season might have been punished with stripes, imprisonment, or death. Nay, more, masters actually changed places with their slaves and waited on them at table; and not till the serf had done eating and drinking was the board cleared and dinner set for his master. So far was this inversion of ranks carried, that each household became for a time a mimic republic in which the high offices of state were discharged by the slaves, who gave their orders and laid down the law as if they were indeed invested with all the dignity of the consulship, the praetorship, and the bench. Like the pale reflection of power thus accorded to bondsmen at the Saturnalia was the mock kingship for which freemen cast lots at the same season. The person on whom the lot fell enjoyed the title of king, and issued commands of a playful and ludicrous nature to his temporary subjects. One of them he might order to mix the wine, another to drink, another to sing, another to dance, another to speak in his own dispraise, another to carry a flute-girl on his back round the house.

Now, when we remember that the liberty allowed to slaves at this festive season was supposed to be an imitation of the state of society in Saturn’s time, and that in general the Saturnalia passed for nothing more or less than a temporary revival or restoration of the reign of that merry monarch, we are tempted to surmise that the mock king who presided over the revels may have originally represented Saturn himself. The conjecture is strongly confirmed, if not established, by a very curious and interesting account of the way in which the Saturnalia was celebrated by the Roman soldiers stationed on the Danube in the reign of Maximian and Diocletian. The account is preserved in a narrative of the martyrdom of St. Dasius, which was unearthed from a Greek manuscript in the Paris library, and published by Professor Franz Cumont of Ghent. Two briefer descriptions of the event and of the custom are contained in manuscripts at Milan and Berlin; one of them had already seen the light in an obscure volume printed at Urbino in 1727, but its importance for the history of the Roman religion, both ancient and modern, appears to have been overlooked until Professor Cumont drew the attention of scholars to all three narratives by publishing them together some years ago. According to these narratives, which have all the appearance of being authentic, and of which the longest is probably based on official documents, the Roman soldiers at Durostorum in Lower Moesia celebrated the Saturnalia year by year in the following manner. Thirty days before the festival they chose by lot from amongst themselves a young and handsome man, who was then clothed in royal attire to resemble Saturn. Thus arrayed and attended by a multitude of soldiers he went about in public with full license to indulge his passions and to taste of every pleasure, however base and shameful. But if his reign was merry, it was short and ended tragically; for when the thirty days were up and the festival of Saturn had come, he cut his own throat on the altar of the god whom he personated. In the year A.D. 303 the lot fell upon the Christian soldier Dasius, but he refused to play the part of the heathen god and soil his last days by debauchery. The threats and arguments of his commanding officer Bassus failed to shake his constancy, and accordingly he was beheaded, as the Christian martyrologist records with minute accuracy, at Durostorum by the soldier John on Friday the twentieth day of November, being the twenty-fourth day of the moon, at the fourth hour.

Since this narrative was published by Professor Cumont, its historical character, which had been doubted or denied, has received strong confirmation from an interesting discovery. In the crypt of the cathedral which crowns the promontory of Ancona there is preserved, among other remarkable antiquities, a white marble sarcophagus bearing a Greek inscription, in characters of the age of Justinian, to the following effect: “Here lies the holy martyr Dasius, brought from Durostorum.” The sarcophagus was transferred to the crypt of the cathedral in 1848 from the church of San Pellegrino, under the high altar of which, as we learn from a Latin inscription let into the masonry, the martyr’s bones still repose with those of two other saints. How long the sarcophagus was deposited in the church of San Pellegrino, we do not know; but it is recorded to have been there in the year 1650. We may suppose that the saint’s relics were transferred for safety to Ancona at some time in the troubled centuries which followed his martyrdom, when Moesia was occupied and ravaged by successive hordes of barbarian invaders. At all events it appears certain from the independent and mutually confirmatory evidence of the martyrology and the monuments that Dasius was no mythical saint, but a real man, who suffered death for his faith at Durostorum in one of the early centuries of the Christian era. Finding the narrative of the nameless martyrologist thus established as to the principal fact recorded, namely, the martyrdom of St. Dasius, we may reasonably accept his testimony as to the manner and cause of the martyrdom, all the more because his narrative is precise, circumstantial, and entirely free from the miraculous element. Accordingly I conclude that the account which he gives of the celebration of the Saturnalia among the Roman soldiers is trustworthy.

This account sets in a new and lurid light the office of the King of the Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of Horace and Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merry-andrew whose only care was that the revelry should run high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to the north, Soracte showed his coronal of snow. When we compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilised metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on the Danube, and when we remember the long array of similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapped in sceptred palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a feeble emasculated copy of that original, whose strong features have been fortunately preserved for us by the obscure author of the Martyrdom of St. Dasius. In other words, the martyrologist’s account of the Saturnalia agrees so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere which could not possibly have been known to him, that the substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as established; and further, since the custom of putting a mock king to death as a representative of a god cannot have grown out of a practice of appointing him to preside over a holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another’s hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself and other great towns the growth of civilisation had probably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may long have survived; and even if after the unification of Italy the barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude soldiery on the outskirts of the empire over whom the once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grasp.

The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and the Carnival of modern Italy has often been remarked; but in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to identity. We have seen that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, the master of the revels, the real man who personated Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death in his assumed character. The King of the Bean on Twelfth Night and the mediaeval Bishop of Fools, Abbot of Unreason, or Lord of Misrule are figures of the same sort and may perhaps have had a similar origin. Whether that was so or not, we may conclude with a fair degree of probability that if the King of the Wood at Aricia lived and died as an incarnation of a sylvan deity, he had of old a parallel at Rome in the men who, year by year, were slain in the character of King Saturn, the god of the sown and sprouting seed.


Langues: Pate escargots soup de jour (Le pretentious Français sans pain by our Aussie friends)

15 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/www.paris-saint-honore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/amour-brown-cigarrette-french-Favim_com-499849.jpgL‘anglais ? Ce n’est jamais que du français mal prononcé. Clémenceau
À la Cour, ainsi que dans les châteaux des grands seigneurs, où la pompe et le cérémonial de la Cour étaient imités, la langue franco-normande était la seule en usage ; dans les tribunaux, les plaidoyers et les arrêts étaient prononcés dans la même langue ; bref, le français était la langue de l’honneur, de la chevalerie et même de la justice ; tandis que l’anglo-saxon, si mâle et si expressif, était abandonné à l’usage des paysans et des serfs, qui n’en savaient pas d’autre. Peu à peu, cependant, la communication obligée qui existait entre les maîtres du sol et les êtres inférieurs et opprimes qui cultivaient ce sol, avait donné lieu à la formation d’un dialecte composé du franco-normand et de l’anglo-saxon, dialecte à l’aide duquel ils pouvaient se faire comprendre les uns des autres, et de cette nécessité se forma graduellement l’édifice de notre langue anglaise moderne, dans laquelle l’idiome des vainqueurs et celui des vaincus se trouvent confondus si heureusement, et qui a été si heureusement enrichie par des emprunts faits aux langues classiques et à celles que parlent les peuples méridionaux de l’Europe. Walter Scott (Ivanhoe, 1820)
Eh bien ! reprit Wamba, comment appelez-vous ces animaux grognards, qui courent là-bas sur leurs quatre jambes ? Des pourceaux, bouffon, des pourceaux, dit Gurth ; le premier idiot venu sait cela. Et pourceaux, c’est du bon saxon, dit le railleur. Mais comment appelez-vous la truie, quand elle est écorchée et coupée par quartiers et suspendue par les talons comme un traître ? Du porc, répondit le pâtre. Je suis heureux de reconnaître aussi que tous les idiots savent cela, dit Wamba ; or, un porc, je pense, est du bon normand-français, de sorte que, tant que la bête est en vie et sous la garde d’un serf saxon, elle porte son nom saxon ; mais elle devient normande et on l’appelle porc quand elle est portée au château pour faire réjouissance aux seigneurs. Que dis-tu de cela, ami Gurth, hein ? Cette doctrine n’est que trop vraie, ami Wamba, de quelque manière qu’elle soit entrée dans ta folle tête. Oh ! je puis t’en dire davantage encore, fit Wamba sur le même ton. Vois ce vieux bailly l’ox, il continue à porter son nom saxon tant qu’il est sous la garde de serfs et d’esclaves tels que toi ; mais il devient beef, c’est-à-dire un fougueux et vaillant Français, quand on le place sous les honorables mâchoires qui doivent le dévorer ; monsieur calf aussi devient monsieur le veau de la même façon ; il est Saxon tant qu’il lui faut nos soins et nos peines, et il prend un nom normand aussitôt qu’il devient un objet de régal. Par saint Dunstan ! s’écria Gurth, tu ne dis là que de tristes vérités. On ne nous laisse à peu près que l’air que nous respirons, et on paraît nous l’avoir accordé en hésitant fort, et dans le seul but de nous mettre à même de porter le fardeau dont on charge nos épaules. Tout ce qui est beau et gras est pour les tables des Normands ; les plus belles sont pour leurs lits, les plus braves pour les armées de leurs maîtres à l’étranger, et ceux-là vont blanchir de leurs ossements les terres lointaines, ne laissant ici qu’un petit nombre d’hommes qui aient, soit la volonté, soit le pouvoir de protéger les malheureux Saxons. Wamba (bouffon saxon dans Ivanhoé, Walter Scott, 1819)
Un Anglais a la bouche pleine d’expressions empruntées […]. Il emprunte continuellement aux langues des autres. Daniel Defoe
La licence arrivée avec la Restauration qui, après avoir infecté notre religion et nos mœurs, en est venue à corrompre notre langue. Jonathan Swift
Nos guerriers s’emploient activement à propager la langue française, alors qu’ils se couvrent de gloire en écrasant cette puissance. The Spectator (guerre de Succession d’Espagne)
Notre tâche se borne à les vaincre, et nous pouvons le faire en bon anglais. […] Nous supplions donc humblement que les mots français, tout comme le costume et les manières de France, soient mis de côté, du moins pendant la durée du présent conflit, car si leur langue et leurs coutumes s’abattaient sur nous, nous risquerions d’apprendre par leur exemple, le jour de la bataille, à f—te [sic] le camp. Edmund Burke (guerre de Sept Ans 1756 et 1763)
My sugar is so refined, she’s one o’ them high-class kind, she doesn’t wear a hat, she wears a chapeau, she goes to see a cinema, but never a show. Nat King Cole (écrit par Dee-Lippman, 1946)
Outre la tragédie qu’a représentée l’expropriation de la vielle aristocratie anglaise, l’effet sans doute le plus regrettable de a conquête fut l’éclipse presque totale de l’anglais vernaculaire comme langue de la littérature, du droit et de l’administration. Remplacé dans les documents officiels et autres par le latin, puis de plus en plus dans tous les domaines par le franco-normand, l’anglais écrit n’est quasiment pas réapparu avant le XIIe siècle. Encyclopaedia Britannica (américaine)
Pour nous autres Anglais, la conquête normande n’a presque aucun secret. Nous sommes fiers d’y voir le dernier exemple d’invasion réussie de l’Angleterre. La date emblématique, 1066, a coulé dans le lait de notre mère. Bouche bée, le souffle coupé, les enfants continuent de se voir raconter, à la maison ou en voyage scolaire à Bayeux, l’histoire du roi anglo-saxon Harold, tué d’une flèche dans l’œil à la bataille de Hastings. Mais même si la psyché anglaise a intégré dans son subconscient l’idée que le féodalisme et une classe dirigeante francophone – clergé, noblesse, marchands et administrateurs – sont alors venus se superposer à la société anglo-saxonne, la question linguistique reste, elle, curieusement camouflée. Personne ne reconnaît vraiment – chuchotez-le ! – qu’autrefois les Anglais parlaient français.  Jon-Kriss Mason
Despite, or maybe partly because of, these national idiosyncrasies, I find France a wonderful place to live, and I would never willingly live anywhere else. For me, the most pleasant surprise of all has been the people, and here I find that the cliches aren’t true. It is often said that the French are aloof, suspicious of strangers and not very fond of foreigners, criticisms that I’m sure reflect many visitors’ first social contact on French soil. This is likely to be with that daunting figure, the Parisian waiter. He is bored, he can’t understand what you say, and his feet hurt. Consequently, be treats you with a mixture of disdain and barely suppressed irritation, and you might very easily feel that he represents the attitude of all his fellow Frenchmen. He doesn’t. In fact, he is just as grumpy with his compatriots, and probably with his wife as well. Outside Paris, the English are usually treated with courtesy. Their halting French is listened to with patience, their curious habits (milk in the tea, warm beer) accommodated. An Englishman may never be truly one of the French family, but unless he’s very unlucky, he will eventually find himself accepted. I used to be somewhat sensitive about my nationality, and I could never quite escape the feeling that I was no more than a permanent and possibly unwelcome tourist. Then one day, a neighbour with whom I was having a drink put my mind at rest. « You are English, » he said, « which is of course unfortunate. But you should know that most of us down here prefer the English to the Parisians. » Peter Mayle

Attention: un snobisme peut en cacher un autre !

Pour les amoureux de la langue de Molière …

Et contre les snobs de tous bords …

Mais hommage involontaire à un prestige et à une culture pas tout à fait morts …

Qui, depuis Guillaume le Conquérant et pendant 300 ans et bien plus, ont pourtant fourni quelque 80% du vocabulaire de la langue de Shakespeare …

Ce petit classique des chansons parodiques …

Par le chanteur australien Greg Champion (merci Andrew !) …

The French Song

Divishti Rankine & Greg Champion

Pate escargots soup de jour

cordon bleu chic coiffure

fait accompli maison

creme de menthe Marcel Marceau

meringue blancmange Bardot

gauche gay Paris garcon

gendarme agent provocateur

eau de toilette voyeur

au revoir deja vu

carte blanche bidet croissant bourgeois

c’est la vie abattoir

bon voyage coup d’etat

hors d’oeuvres Peugeot faux pas

Gerard Depardieu

Lacoste panache papier mache

en suite rue morgue yoplait

Pepe La Pew soufflé

en tous cas le Guy Forget

Maurice Chevalier

le Rainbow Warrior

lingerie chocolat eclair

avant garde Frigidaire

fromage crouton Cointreau

cherchez la femme boudoir je t’aime

vol au vent Jacques Cousteau

joie de vivre Plastic Bertrand

le Coq Sportif penchant

Henri Leconte

See also:

Sur le pont d’Avignon

Voila! Oui! C’est si bon

Oh – les enfants terribles

Dominique and Papillon

Petit four. Bon vivant.

Soixante neuf – incroyable !

Une. Deux. Trois. Café au lait

Respondez si vous plait.

Les Girls. La Marseillaise

Camembert. La restaurant.

Au clair de la lune

Raison d’etre. C’est la guerre

Champignons. Pomme de terre.

Plaisir d’amour

Cabaret. Au naturel

Regardez, Charles De Gaulle

Filet mignon, Bon ami

Parlez vous francais, monsieur

Allons. Louis Pasteur

Parfait. Salvation Army

Frere Jacques. Caviar

Touche. Le Tableau noir

La palais de Versailles

Eiffel Tower. Fermez la bouche

Lavatory. Les Champs Elysées

Scaramouche. Quelle heure est-il?

Monsieur de Tocqueville

Louis Jardin

Moulin Rouge. Toulouse Lautrec

Esprit de corps. Le Specs.

Merci beaucoup. Bonne chance

Cabernet shiraz. Mon Dieu

Fenetre. Pas de deux

And Guy de Maupassant

Sacre bleu! Double entendre

Et la plume de ma Tante

Gigi – interessant

Visschisoise and Chardonay

Quel domage. Inspector Clouseau

Victor Hugo. Coup d’etat

Madame – pardonnez moi

Mon petit fils

http://inthismy70thyear.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/day-183-the-french-song-2002/

Voir également:

They really do say ‘oh la la’

Peter Mayle has been explaining the French to the English for 15 years. It’s not that they are aloof, he says – they just appreciate what they’ve got

Peter Mayle

April 2004

It is in the nature of neighbours to squabble, and notwithstanding the official cordiality of the past 100 years, Anglo-French relations have been known to suffer sporadic minor ruptures. These are rather stimulating occasions, traditionally marked by name-calling and foot-stamping on both sides of the channel. Either Albion has been more than usually perfide, or those damned Frogs have been feathering their nest again. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that we take it in turns to irritate our friends across the water. And yet, inevitably, we kiss and make up. After all, we have so many things in common.

One of them is the terminology we use when insulting one another. Cold, self-serving, arrogant and bloody-minded – is that a Frenchman talking about the English, or an Englishman talking about the French? I have heard these same words applied to both nationalities, and they have become so well established that when we come across a humble Frenchman, or a warm-blooded Englishman, we are taken aback. It is not at all what we have been led to expect.

The fact is, quite a few of the nationalistic cliches are accurate. Naturally, I can’t speak for the French, but I certainly feel qualified to speak about them, having spent several years observing them on a daily basis and at close quarters. Like many people of my age and background, I had a bundle of preconceived notions about the French and their way of life. When I came to live in France, one of my early discoveries was that so many of these turned out to be true, from the trivial (they really do say « Oh la la, » as anyone who listens to French rugby commentaries will know) to the more important matters which follow.

Let’s start with a fundamental part of the French character that infuriates the English even as it provokes sneaking feelings of admiration. I refer, of course, to the French superiority complex. They consider their language to be the most elegant, their culture to be the most refined, their diplomacy to be the most diplomatic, their wines to be the most aristocratic, and their gastronomy to be the most subtle and interesting. Then there are the physical glories of France – the mountains, the beaches, the forests, the chateaux of the Loire, the City of Light, Catherine Deneuve. Most of the French people I’ve met have a deep regard for their country – although never, ever for the way it’s run – and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that God lives in France. I suppose all this can create the impression that the French look down their noses at the rest of the world, which I don’t think they do. They simply appreciate what they have.

Nowhere is this more enthusiastically celebrated than at the table. The desire not merely to eat, but to eat well, is as much a part of the French character as the national reluctance to wait in a queue. And it’s contagious. I have become just as bad as any Frenchman – impatient for the first asparagus of spring, the first melon of summer or the first truffle of winter. I am no longer surprised, when eating with French friends, that a great part of the conversation around the table is not about politics, sport or sex, but about food. They are amused and somewhat mystified by the North American fascination with the French Paradox, which to them is no paradox at all; simply a matter of civilised eating habits.

I was recently shown, by a Frenchman who was shaking his head in disbelief, a learned paper prepared by a panel of American university professors. Its subject was obesity, now so prevalent over there that I believe it is classified as a disease, and the paper – several closely spaced pages ending with an impressive list of references – discussed at great length the French and their paradox. You will doubtless be stunned, as I was, by the perceptive nature of the professors’ conclusion. The reason for the relatively low incidence of obesity in France is this: the French eat less.

Is it true, as all we Anglo-Saxons like to believe, that France is the world capital of bureaucracy? I’m afraid it probably is. Consider this classic example taken from Stendhal’s Life of Napoleon. In 1811, a small rural community wished, for the sum of 60 francs, to use some substandard paving stones which had been rejected by the engineer in charge of laying the main road. This required 14 decisions by the prefect, the subprefect, the engineer and the minister. After incredible difficulties and extensive activity, the required authorisation finally arrived, 11 months after the request had been made, at which point it transpired that the defective paving stones had already been used by the roadworkers to fill up a hole in the road.

An extreme case, perhaps. Or perhaps not. I remember the 13 months that I spent trying to obtain my first carte de séjour, and the difficulty of establishing my identity with only my passport as proof when, as I now know, nobody takes you seriously in France unless you can produce an electricity bill. I remember the paperwork, the subsequent official inspection and the meticulous, vine-by-vine count when I replaced some elderly vines with younger versions of the same variety. And I remember the look of alarm on the face of the maçon when I asked him to enlarge a small window at the back of the house without the appropriate written permission from some distant central authority.

Despite, or maybe partly because of, these national idiosyncrasies, I find France a wonderful place to live, and I would never willingly live anywhere else. For me, the most pleasant surprise of all has been the people, and here I find that the cliches aren’t true. It is often said that the French are aloof, suspicious of strangers and not very fond of foreigners, criticisms that I’m sure reflect many visitors’ first social contact on French soil. This is likely to be with that daunting figure, the Parisian waiter. He is bored, he can’t understand what you say, and his feet hurt. Consequently, be treats you with a mixture of disdain and barely suppressed irritation, and you might very easily feel that he represents the attitude of all his fellow Frenchmen. He doesn’t. In fact, he is just as grumpy with his compatriots, and probably with his wife as well.

Outside Paris, the English are usually treated with courtesy. Their halting French is listened to with patience, their curious habits (milk in the tea, warm beer) accommodated. An Englishman may never be truly one of the French family, but unless he’s very unlucky, he will eventually find himself accepted. I used to be somewhat sensitive about my nationality, and I could never quite escape the feeling that I was no more than a permanent and possibly unwelcome tourist. Then one day, a neighbour with whom I was having a drink put my mind at rest. « You are English, » he said, « which is of course unfortunate. But you should know that most of us down here prefer the English to the Parisians. »

After that, I felt much better.


Criminalité: Cachez cette religion que je ne saurai voir ! (Crime mystery of the century: Why don’t people turn to crime when times are tough ?)

11 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/mjcdn.motherjones.com/preset_51/381in_lead_a_630.jpghttp://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/.a/6a00d8341c6a7953ef0192ab9019c0970d-800wihttps://i1.wp.com/www.motherjones.com/files/blog_crime_baseline_lead_1.jpg
https://i2.wp.com/www.gasworks.org.uk/photos/large/471px-Hausbuch_Wolfegg_12r_Jupiter_LR.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.strangenotions.com/wp-content/uploads/Americas-Blessings.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/www.independent.org/images/books-hires/victory_of_reason_hirez.jpgMédias recherchent néonazi désespérémentNe croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison.  Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Quand les hommes se diront: Paix et sécurité! c’est alors que tout d’un coup fondra sur eux la perdition. Paul (lettre aux Thessaloniciens 5: 3)
Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus-Christ. Paul
Les mondes anciens étaient comparables entre eux, le nôtre est vraiment unique. Sa supériorité dans tous les domaines est tellement écrasante, tellement évidente que, paradoxalement, il est interdit d’en faire état. René Girard
On apprend aux enfants qu’on a cessé de chasser les sorcières parce que la science s’est imposée aux hommes. Alors que c’est le contraire: la science s’est imposée aux hommes parce que, pour des raisons morales, religieuses, on a cessé de chasser les sorcières. René Girard
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la «victime inconnue», comme on dirait aujourd’hui le «soldat inconnu». (….) le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. (…) il faut distinguer deux choses. Il y a d’abord le texte chrétien qui pénètre lentement dans la conscience des hommes. Et puis il y a la façon dont les hommes l’interprètent. De ce point de vue, il est évident que le Moyen Age n’interprétait pas le christianisme comme nous. Mais nous ne pouvons pas leur en faire le reproche. Pas plus que nous pouvons faire le reproche aux Polynésiens d’avoir été cannibales. Parce que cela fait partie d’un développement historique.(…)  Mais, s’il est très bien de compatir au sort des malheureux, il faut aussi reconnaître que nous vivons dans la meilleure société que le monde ait jamais connue. Nous connaissons une amélioration du social qui dure depuis le haut Moyen Age. Et notre souci des victimes, pris dans son ensemble comme réalité, n’a pas d’équivalent dans l’histoire des sociétés humaines. (…) On ne peut donc pas supprimer les possibilités positives de cet univers : nous sommes toujours plus libres, du bien et du mal. C’est ce qui fait que notre époque est loin d’être terne, ennuyeuse ou désenchantée. Elle est à mon avis extraordinairement mouvementée, tragique, émouvante et intéressante à vivre. C’est-à-dire toujours ouverte sur les extrêmes du bien et du mal. René Girard
Jusqu’à présent, les textes de l’Apocalypse faisaient rire. Tout l’effort de la pensée moderne a été de séparer le culturel du naturel. La science consiste à montrer que les phénomènes culturels ne sont pas naturels et qu’on se trompe forcément si on mélange les tremblements de terre et les rumeurs de guerre, comme le fait le texte de l’Apocalypse. Mais, tout à coup, la science prend conscience que les activités de l’homme sont en train de détruire la nature. C’est la science qui revient à l’Apocalypse. René Girard
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
Pour combattre la barbarie, on préfèrera décidément les méthodes des antifas, fussent-ils extrémistes, que la saisine, vraisemblablement vaine et contre-productive, du parquet, par Matignon. Pierre Marcelle (Libération)
L’affaire Merah n’aura donc pas servi de leçon. Avant que le « tireur fou de Libé » ne soit connu, de nombreux médias ont à nouveau démarré au quart de tour avec la volonté, à peine dissimulée, de voir le réel coller à leur fantasme. En dépit de toute déontologie. (…) Déjà, en 2012, lorsque Mohammed Merah abattait, à Montauban, des militaires en pleine rue et finissait par s’introduire dans une école juive de Toulouse pour y faire un carnage, les grands médias avaient fait leurs choux gras sur une pure spéculation : son origine. Alors qu’on ne connaissait rien du tireur et que les seules images disponibles montraient un homme casqué intégralement, l’extrême-droite était visée. Le Point avait dégainé le premier en évoquant « la piste néonazie ». Puis, les télévisions avaient décrit un homme « de type caucasien ou européen » (M6), aux « yeux bleus sur un visage blanc » (TF1 et France 2). Le 20 mars, les Inrocks faisaient même appel à un sociologue pour assurer une légitimité à cette thèse. Laurent Mucchielli déclarait ainsi que, « selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, le meurtrier n’est pas un islamiste ou un banlieusard – les cibles favorites du débat public – mais une personne qui est apparemment issue d’un groupuscule néo-nazi ». Bravo pour la lucidité. De même pour Le Canard Enchaîné, Charlie Hebdo et Le Monde qui, tous en cœur, évoquaient tantôt un néo-nazi, tantôt un dangereux nervi d’extrême-droite, forcément proche des idées du Front National. La menace fasciste planait sur la République en danger. Mais dès les premières révélations sur l’identité du tueur, l’islamiste Mohammed Merah, le changement de ton sera total. On parlera désormais d’un jeune « toulousain de 23 ans » qui « aime le foot, les scooteurs et les sorties en boîte » (France 3). Pour les Inrocks, il s’agit d’« un enfant du mariage malheureux entre la France et l’Algérie ». Libération couronnera ce grand retournement par une description devenue célèbre : un jeune au « visage d’ange d’une beauté sans nom »… Mais le pompon survenait le 21 mars, lorsque sur son compte Twitter, le journaliste du Nouvel Obs Nicolas Chapuis rapportait des propos tenus au sein de sa rédaction : « Putain ! Je suis dégoûté que ce ne soit pas un nazi ! » Et son collègue, Tristan Dessert, de lui répondre, comme un aveu pour l’ensemble de la profession : « Ça aurait été effectivement plus simple. » On aurait pu imaginer qu’une leçon aurait été tirée de cet épisode erratique mais il n’en est rien. Lundi 18 novembre, lorsqu’un homme entre, armé d’un fusil de chasse au siège de Libération et ouvre le feu sur un assistant-photographe, l’emballement médiatique retrouve des airs de tuerie de Toulouse. Alors qu’on ne sait encore rien de l’homme et de son apparence, les spéculations ne tardent pas à refaire surface. L’homme est immédiatement décrit comme un homme « de type européen », aux « cheveux ras », et Jean-Marc Morandini lâche même le mot : « crâne rasé ». Fallait-il entendre « Skinhead » ? Sa veste verte est qualifié de « veste de chasseur », son look de « paramilitaire » et petit à petit se construit une image destinée à marquer les consciences : l’homme vient de la droite radicale. D’ailleurs, s’étant attaqué à Libération, que pouvait-il être sinon d’extrême-droite ? Au micro de chaque média, les journalistes parlent ainsi d’une certaine « ambiance » qui règne dans le pays, d’un certain « climat » peu ragoutant. Comprendre : une ambiance nauséabonde depuis que la France de la Manif pour tous s’est réveillée, que le Front National monte dans les sondages et que Christiane Taubira a été comparée à un singe. « Tirs à Libé et menaces à BFMTV. Ou allons-nous ? Au secours. Peuple de gauche réveillons-nous. Ça craint », tweete Esther Benbassa le jour même. Peuple de gauche réveillons-nous ? Pourquoi peuple de gauche ? Pourquoi pas peuple de France ou peuple tout court ? Parce que le danger ne peut venir que de la droite, pardi. Or, face à ce danger, l’extrême-gauche est vue comme un rempart… Trois jours avant l’attaque, Pierre Marcelle réagissait en effet dans les colonnes du journal Libération à propos de la une jugée raciste de Minute sur Christiane Taubira : « Pour combattre la barbarie, on préfèrera décidément les méthodes des antifas, fussent-ils extrémistes, que la saisine, vraisemblablement vaine et contre-productive, du parquet, par Matignon », écrivait le chroniqueur d’extrême-gauche, invitant ainsi explicitement ses petits camarades à un passage à l’acte contre le journal d’extrême-droite. Manque de bol, 72 heures plus tard, c’est contre son propre journal que s’est retourné le canon du fusil à pompe… (…) Le climat, donc. Fabrice Rousselot, directeur de la rédaction de Libé, l’évoquait sur BFMTV. Un climat qui a débuté « depuis qu’on a pris position contre le racisme». Tiens donc. Nicolas Demorand, directeur de publication du même journal, parlait, lui, d’une « ambiance » qui se dessinait. Mais c’est Arnauld Champremier-Trigano qui mettra enfin des mots sur ce climat dont tout le monde parle. C’est un climat « de haine raciale » et de « haine des médias ». Mieux : d’après le député PS de Seine-Saint-Denis, Daniel Goldberg, cette affaire est liée « aux attaques racistes visant Christiane Taubira ». L’inénarrable Caroline Fourest entre enfin en scène. Dans un article publié sur le site du Huffington Post, et après avoir précisé, par pure rhétorique, qu’il fallait « attendre d’en savoir plus », la militante féministe tire à boulets rouges sur « l’incitation à la haine qui vise de plus en plus souvent les médias », et dénonce « Internet, les réseaux sociaux », ses bêtes noires, des lieux où l’on accuse « les puissants cosmopolites ou les pauvres étrangers » en toute impunité. « Dans ce bistrot devenu global, on parle fort, on parle souvent des musulmans, des Arabes, des Juifs, des noirs, des singes et des journalistes… », ajoute-t-elle avant de conclure : « Mais la plus grande responsabilité, aujourd’hui, est à droite, où l’absence de complexe et la surenchère ont libéré une parole mortifère. On entend décidément trop peu la droite républicaine. Où est-elle ? Quand des gens de son propre camp dérapent et tiennent des propos à droite de l’actuel Front national. » Sur LCP, elle fera même le lien entre le tireur de Libération, Anders Breivik et ses « agresseurs » de la Manif pour tous. (…) l’homme qui s’était rendu armé, le 15 novembre, à BFMTV, qui a tiré sur le photographe de Libération puis sur le siège de la Société générale à La Défense trois jours plus tard (…) l’homme « de type européen » s’appelle Abdelhakim Dekhar, il est d’origine algérienne, connu des services de police pour avoir, dans l’affaire Rey-Maupin en 1994, fourni un fusil à pompe aux « tueurs de flics ». Mais l’homme est surtout un pur produit du militantisme marxiste libertaire antifasciste et possède un pedigree à faire pâlir les activistes : militant au « Mouvement d’action et de résistance sociale » (MARS), d’une « Section carrément anti-Le Pen » (SCALP), adhérent de la « Coordination des sans-abris », du « Collectif d’agitation pour un revenu garanti optimal » (CARGO) et des « Travailleurs, chômeurs et précaires en colère » (TCP). Dans l’une des lettres retrouvée à son appartement après son arrestation, il explique son geste en évoquant un « complot fasciste » dans les médias, qu’il accuse « de participer à la manipulation des masses, les journalistes étant payés pour faire avaler aux citoyens le mensonge à la petite cuillère ». Lors de l’affaire Merah, la révélation de l’identité du tueur avait provoqué un retournement des médias. Cette fois, c’est un silence embarrassé qui succède au fantasme. La mort de Clément Méric (voir notre dossier sur le sujet) avait entraîné une véritable vendetta politico-médiatique contre les groupes d’extrême-droite. Au nom de la République en danger, il fallait « tailler en pièce » les groupuscules (Jean-Marc Ayrault), responsables du fameux climat qui avait rendu possible le passage à l’acte. Mais pour Abdelhakim Dekhar, lié à l’extrême-gauche violente et terroriste, le mot d’ordre est tout autre : pas d’amalgame… Le tireur est présenté comme un individu isolé, pas du tout organisé, et, évidemment, déséquilibré. Quant aux journalistes et hommes politiques qui attisent les haines avec leur discours incessant sur la « menace fasciste », discours pris au sérieux par Abdelhakim Dekhar, nul ne songe évidemment à leur demander des comptes, ou tout au moins à les rendre responsables de ce fameux climat ayant favorisé le passage à l’acte. Avec l’affaire Méric, le drame avait tourné politique. Avec l’affaire Dekhar, le drame devient psychiatrique. À l’unanimité, il ne peut s‘agir que d’un « suicidaire, déséquilibré, instable et marginal », d’un « errant solitaire, sans attaches, sans famille politique, sans acolyte ». En aucun cas l’extrême-gauche et sa frange terroriste n’est en cause. Rue89 affirme même, par le biais de son ancien avocat que l’homme n’est pas de gauche… Observatoire des médias
Religious Americans are more law abiding, have superior mental and physical health, are far more generous vis-à-vis charities, have much better family life, are more successful, and religious couples even have more satisfactory sex lives! The biggest by far has to do with the criminal justice system. If all Americans committed crimes at the same level as those who do not attend religious services, the costs of the criminal justice system would about double to, perhaps, $2 trillion annually. Rodney Stark
Les efforts des policiers dans les quartiers chauds de New York et de Los Angeles sont louables et ont contribué à améliorer la qualité de vie des résidants. Mais ces changements n’expliquent pas tout. Ceux qui y voient une réponse définitive font fausse route. Si la baisse s’expliquait par des changements dans le fonctionnement de la police dans les grandes villes, alors pourquoi observe-t-on une diminution du crime de façon uniforme, partout aux États-Unis? (…)  l’Occident au complet – et notamment le Canada – a connu une baisse du taux de criminalité au cours des 20 dernières années. L’internet, les cellulaires et les jeux vidéo ne peuvent expliquer la baisse, car les crimes ont commencé à chuter de façon uniforme dans les années 90, avant que ces inventions ne prennent leur envol. Et, pour la première fois depuis les années 70, le taux d’incarcération a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis, en 2007. Jumelé avec une hausse spectaculaire du chômage, cela aurait dû créer un mélange explosif. La réalité, c’est que nous n’avons pas de théorie qui puisse expliquer le phénomène. Pour l’instant, c’est un mystère. Frank E. Zimring (Berkeley)
If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. (…) Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects. But then … there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve. And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else. The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it. Kevin Drum (Mother Jones)
The key factor is the demographic factor. Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30. Samuel Huntington
Surprisingly, some sociologists think civilization is simply getting less violent and more civilized, Greenberg said. That theory was first proposed by German sociologist Norbert Elias in his book The Civilizing Process. Elias wrote that interpersonal violence had been in decline since the Middle Ages, a statement historians now accept. Elias said that for divine monarchs, like Louis XIV of France, their worth was more measured by their ability at witty badinage and manners than swordsmanship. This more civilized tendency spread to the European middle class and finally, in the nineteenth century, to the working classes. Joel N. Shurkin
At the deepest level, many of these shifts, taken together, suggest that crime in the United States is falling—even through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression—because of a big improvement in the culture. The cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression’s fall in crime and the explosion of crime during the sixties. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression—at society’s cost—became more prevalent. It is a plausible case. Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it. James Q. Wilson
Personal violent crime began declining in Western nations as early as the sixteenth century. While this research has emphasized violent crimes, similar processes may hold for crime more generally. Perhaps the rising crime rate from World War II through the early 1990s was simply a small spike that temporarily obscured a much longer downward trend. This long historical sweep may offer little solace to those confronted by crime today, but the encouraging long-term trend suggests explanations with deep roots. Eisner points to subtle shifts in parenting occurring over a long time span; Pinker suggests greater interdependence and broadened circles of people with whom we can empathize. Both draw on classic sociological work by Emile Durkheim and Norbert Elias, who attributed historical changes in crime and social disorder to changes in the relation between individuals and society. The centuries-long crime story is perhaps best explained by the gradual development of formal and informal social controls on our behavior. (…) U.S. homicide rates are more than double those of Canada, Japan, and much of Europe. Nevertheless, the U.S. crime picture has improved markedly, with significant across-the-board drops in violent and property offenses. Moreover, as Baumer points out, even behaviors like drinking, drug use, and risky sex are declining, especially among young people. We cannot explain such a sharp decline without reference to the social institutions, conditions, and practices shaping crime and its control. In particular, social scientists point to punishment, policing, opportunities, economics, demography, and history, though there is little consensus about the relative contribution of each. Further disentangling each factor’s unique contribution is a worthy endeavor, but it should not obscure a fundamental point: it is their entanglement in our social world that reduces crime.  (…) More than 90% of the “Part I” crimes reported to the police involve some kind of financial gain. The relationship between crime and the economy is more complicated than the simple idea that people “turn to crime” when times are tough, though. Contrary to popular expectations, for example, both victimizations and official crime showed especially steep declines from 2007 to 2009, when unemployment rates soared. Robbery, burglary, and household theft victimizations had been falling by a rate of about 4% per year from 1993-2006, but fell by an average of 6 to 7% per year during the Great Recession. This is not because crime is unrelated to economic conditions, but because crime is related to so many other things. For example, when people have less disposable income, they may spend more time in the relative safety of their home and less time in riskier places like bars. As noted above regarding opportunities, another reason crime rates are likely to drop when cash-strapped residents stay home at night in front of a television or computer screen is that their mere presence can help prevent burglary and theft. Chris Uggen and Suzy McElrath
[Dans] le cas de l’Estonie (…)  depuis 1995, les homicides ont chuté de 70 %, les vols de voitures de presque autant. Mais ce petit État postsoviétique n’est pas une exception. Dans les pays développés, la même tendance s’observe. Aux États-Unis, la chute a commencé en 1991 ; en Grande-Bretagne, autour de 1995. En France, la baisse date de 2001. Au Canada également ainsi que dans plusieurs pays d’Europe. (…) sur le cas américain, le plus impressionnant. La criminalité urbaine avait atteint des sommets au début des années 1990. Certains voyaient New York ou Los Angeles comme des jungles urbaines aux mains d’une faune de dealers, mafieux, proxénètes et squatters.
 Puis, contrairement aux prévisions, un véritable miracle s’est produit. La criminalité s’est mise à chuter à partir des années 1990. Globalement, elle a baissé d’un tiers dans les grandes villes, mais dans certains cas, elle a chuté de plus de 50 % ! À New York, le cas le plus spectaculaire, la criminalité a été divisée par quatre (- 78 %) entre le milieu des années 1990 et les années 2000. Sciences Humaines
Que vous soyez spécialiste de la question ou pas, vous avez sans doute déjà entendu cette théorie: quand les temps sont durs, la criminalité augmente. Pourtant, malgré une croissance économique stagnante et un chômage élevé, la criminalité a baissé dans la plupart des pays riches au cours de la dernière décennie. (…) Comment expliquer cette tendance générale qu’un rapide coup d’œil aux statistiques des Nations unies suffit à vérifier? Si la démographie est sans doute un facteur (la population vieillit, alors que ce sont les hommes de 16 ans à 24 ans qui commettent la plupart des crimes), The Economist souligne qu’elle ne peut pas expliquer à elle seule la baisse spectaculaire d’un certain type de criminalité dans des villes comme New York, Los Angeles ou Londres. D’autres hypothèses, comme l’augmentation du nombre de prisonniers, sont difficiles à prouver: si la population carcérale a doublé en Grande-Bretagne, en Australie et aux Etats-Unis, elle a diminué au Canada et aux Pays-Bas, pays qui ont aussi connu une baisse de la criminalité. (…) Le Guardian expliquait quand à lui en avril dernier que certains autres éléments concrets, comme de meilleurs antivols sur les voitures ou des portes et serrures plus résistantes rendaient les atteintes aux biens plus difficiles aujourd’hui. La technologie, qu’il s’agisse des tests d’ADN, de la localisation par téléphone portable ou des caméras de surveillance, a augmenté le risque de se faire prendre. Selon The Economist, l’explication la plus convaincante est plus simple encore. La police fait mieux son travail: « Une combinaison du fait que les policiers parlent aux habitants des quartiers où ils travaillent et du ciblage intensif des endroits mal famés a transformé la manière dont les rues sont protégées. » Si le poids de chaque facteur reste impossible à déterminer, la majorité des experts semblent aujourd’hui s’accorder sur un point: l’augmentation de la criminalité qui a eu lieu un peu partout entre les années 1950 et les années 1980 ressemble de plus en plus à une anomalie de l’histoire. Slate

Attention: une explication peut en cacher une autre !

A l’heure où, avec la France d’une gauche qui s’était une spécialité de le critiquer et une Amérique émasculée par son Carter noir, l’Europe semble enfin se décider à reprendre en Afrique le rôle plus que nécessaire de gendarme du monde

Et où, profitant d’une grève de la police et à l’instar des nouveaux barbares du sud et de l’est qui déferlent sur nos côtes et nos villes, les pillards mettent l’Argentine en coupe réglée …

Pendant que pour défendre leurs damnés de la terre, nos belles âmes de la culture de l’excuse continuent inlassablement à nous seriner avec l’accroissement des inégalités et la violence et le racisme de la répression policière …

Et que pour expliquer l’incroyable baisse de la criminalité (vols de voitures, cambriolages et atteintes aux personnes: homicides, coups et blessures) que connaissent actuellement les Etats-Unis (divisée par deux en une seule génération !) et tout particulièrement leur première ville (de  2 245 homicides en 1990 à  414 l’an dernier et… zéro le 26 novembre 2012 !),  la bible de la bonne conscience de gauche Mother Jones nous ressort l’argument de la baisse du plomb dans l’essence et les peintures …

Comment, derrière l’ensemble des hypothèses qui, du vieillissement de la population à l’amélioration des mesures de protection (alarmes et surveillance, puces électroniques antivol) et de l’action policière (doublement du taux d’incarcération; meilleure utilisation des forces de police: quadrillages ciblés, concentration sur « points chauds », contrôles systématiques) ont toutes à peu près été examinées et ont probablement plus ou moins contribué au résultat général …

Ne pas se réjouir de voir nos sociologues s’intéresser enfin à un phénomène originellement mis à jour par le sociologue allemand Norbert Elias

A savoir le « processus de civilisation », c’est-à-dire une sorte de domestication des pulsions qui vit dans les sociétés occidentales et à partir du XVIe siècle, sur fond de la centralisation des sociétés avec l’institution d’un monopole étatique central de la violence, l’intériorisation par les individus de normes sociétales progressivement plus civilisées ?

Mais, devant l’indéniable origine occidentale d’un phénomène désormais en voie de mondialisation accélérée, comment non plus ne pas s’étonner de l’aveuglement continué des mêmes sociologues …

Face à  l’origine, comme le rappelle inlassablement notre René Girard national, tout aussi indéniablement judéo-chrétienne du phénomène ?

Mais ce non seulement, comme l’a bien montré le sociologue Rodney Stark, au niveau de la pacification de la société par les idées et les adeptes du judéo-christianisme …

Mais aussi, en même temps de par la libération/dislocation des anciens cadres sociétaux qu’il permet/provoque, au niveau même du déclenchement de la crise généralisée que connaissent actuellement nos sociétés occidentales et par contagion désormais la planète entière ?

D’où aussi, comme semblent l’oublier tant les apologistes du christianisme que nos pour le coup bien trop optimistes sociologues et en attestent les récents épisodes d’extrême brutalisation de deux guerres mondiales et plusieurs génocides comme les pages (plus besoin pour cela des textes apocalyptiques de nos bibles) de nos journaux quotidiennement …

Son hélas inévitable pendant, à savoir tant l’extrême fragilité de ladite pacification que la possibilité proprement apocalyptique de son issue finale …

Mystery Of New York’s Falling Crime Rate Remains Unsolved

Are we just becoming more civilized?

Joel N. Shurkin

Inside Science News Service

Feb 13 2013

(ISNS) — In the last 15 years, something dramatic has happened in New York City: the crime rate has dropped precipitously, making the city — where crime once was of epic proportions — the safest major city in America.

How that happened is a matter of considerable controversy, with popular theories ranging from fiercer policing, to abortion, lead paint, and computer-assisted crime prevention programs.

David Greenberg, a sociologist at New York University, believes none of the theories stand up on their own. It could be all or none of the above, he said.

It could also be that Western civilization is just becoming more civilized and less violent, and it is finally showing up in the statistics, even with recent mass shootings in the United States.

Crime rates have fallen in most of the Western world as well as most American cities, but what has happened in New York City, with a population of 8 million, is extraordinary. The rate of violent crime began to decrease in the 1980s, before jumping in the 1990s when crack cocaine made it to the streets in many cities. Then it sank and has continued to do so.

In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in the city. Last year the number was 414, the lowest since police began keeping reliable records.

In one remarkable day, Nov. 26, 2012, there was not a single murder, stabbing or shooting reported in the nation’s largest city, possibly the only time that happened since New York was a small Dutch colony.

« The analysis for homicide showed that rates dropped in every precinct although more in some than in others, » Greenberg wrote in an article published in Justice Quarterly about the current trend. The same is true for other violent crimes, including robberies and assaults.

Greenberg said experts typically offer two common explanations. One is that in 1994 the New York Police Department installed CompStat, a computer program that tracks crime and allows police departments to manage personnel better. Another is the « broken windows » theory: police rigidly enforce misdemeanor crimes in an attempt to change the culture. Essentially, the police department believed that cracking down on offenses from prostitution to begging and excessive noise could help suppress felony crime. Either way, the NYPD takes credit.

For CompStat, the crime rate had already begun dropping when the software was installed. Greenberg also failed to find a causal relationship between an increase in misdemeanor charges and the overall crime rate.

Other theories also have been proposed. Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner, in the book « Freakonomics, » proposed the increase in legal abortions was a factor. There were fewer young males, the demographic sector most responsible for crime. Malcolm Gladwell, in the book « The Tipping Point, » said the increased police activity was just the last factor that ended an epidemic already ebbing. Both theories are highly controversial.

Another theory credits removal of lead from gasoline and paint. Lead causes brain damage and could account for some criminal activity so when lead was removed from gasoline and paint, fewer children were affected.

Greenberg said the evidence to support all those theories is weak.

So what is the answer?

Surprisingly, some sociologists think civilization is simply getting less violent and more civilized, Greenberg said.

That theory was first proposed by German sociologist Norbert Elias in his book The Civilizing Process. Elias wrote that interpersonal violence had been in decline since the Middle Ages, a statement historians now accept.

Elias said that for divine monarchs, like Louis XIV of France, their worth was more measured by their ability at witty badinage and manners than swordsmanship. This more civilized tendency spread to the European middle class and finally, in the nineteenth century, to the working classes.

The decrease also could be partly due to immigration to the city, an influx of people who may be particularly motivated to avoid legal trouble, especially if they are undocumented or because they are determined to make good lives for themselves, Greenberg said.

Then what caused the decline?

« I don’t know, » Greenberg said.

Andrew Karmen, a sociologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York agreed.

« People and organizations claimed credit and think they know the reason for the crime drop, but the evidence is insufficient, » Karmen said.

Crime also went down across America and in Europe where no one followed the NYPD tactics, said Karmen, who wrote a book on the subject,  » New York Murder Mystery: The True Story Behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s. »

Karmen agrees that the flow of immigration could be one reason, with the city’s population « refreshing » regularly. Another possibility, frequently ignored, is that New York is a college town. The City University of New York system alone enrolls 250,000 undergraduates and they are a substantial—and generally peaceful—portion of the young population.

Karmen said solving the mystery is important.

« If we don’t know why the crime rate went down, we won’t know what to do when it goes back up, » Karmen said.

Joel Shurkin is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. He is the author of nine books on science and the history of science, and has taught science journalism at Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Voir aussi:

Hard Times, Fewer Crimes

The economic downturn has not led to more crime—contrary to the experts’ predictions. So what explains the disconnect? Big changes in American culture, says James Q. Wilson.

James Q. Wilson

The Wall Street Journal

May 28, 2011

When the FBI announced last week that violent crime in the U.S. had reached a 40-year low in 2010, many criminologists were perplexed. It had been a dismal year economically, and the standard view in the field, echoed for decades by the media, is that unemployment and poverty are strongly linked to crime. The argument is straightforward: When less legal work is available, more illegal « work » takes place.

The economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, a Nobel laureate, gave the standard view its classic formulation in the 1960s. He argued that crime is a rational act, committed when the criminal’s « expected utility » exceeds that of using his time and other resources in pursuit of alternative activities, such as leisure or legitimate work. Observation may appear to bear this theory out. After all, neighborhoods with elevated crime rates tend to be those where poverty and unemployment are high as well.

But there have long been difficulties with the notion that unemployment causes crime. For one thing, the 1960s, a period of rising crime, had essentially the same unemployment rate as the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period when crime fell. And during the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25%, the crime rate in many cities went down. Among the explanations offered for this puzzle is that unemployment and poverty were so common during the Great Depression that families became closer, devoted themselves to mutual support, and kept young people, who might be more inclined to criminal behavior, under constant adult supervision. These days, because many families are weaker and children are more independent, we would not see the same effect, so certain criminologists continue to suggest that a 1% increase in the unemployment rate should produce as much as a 2% increase in property-crime rates.

Yet when the recent recession struck, that didn’t happen. As the national unemployment rate doubled from around 5% to nearly 10%, the property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an 8% drop in the nationwide robbery rate and a 17% reduction in the auto-theft rate from the previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and 2010, New York City experienced a 4% decline in the robbery rate and a 10% fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles witnessed similar declines.

Some scholars argue that the unemployment rate is too crude a measure of economic frustration to prove the connection between unemployment and crime, since it estimates only the percentage of the labor force that is looking for work and hasn’t found it. But other economic indicators tell much the same story. The labor-force participation rate lets us determine the percentage of the labor force that is neither working nor looking for work—individuals who are, in effect, detached from the labor force. These people should be especially vulnerable to criminal inclinations, if the bad-economy-leads-to-crime theory holds. In 2008, though, even as crime was falling, only about half of men aged 16 to 24 (who are disproportionately likely to commit crimes) were in the labor force, down from over two-thirds in 1988, and a comparable decline took place among African-American men (who are also disproportionately likely to commit crimes).

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index offers another way to assess the link between the economy and crime. This measure rests on thousands of interviews asking people how their financial situations have changed over the last year, how they think the economy will do during the next year, and about their plans for buying durable goods. The index measures the way people feel, rather than the objective conditions they face. It has proved to be a very good predictor of stock-market behavior and, for a while, of the crime rate, which tended to climb when people lost confidence. When the index collapsed in 2009 and 2010, the stock market predictably went down with it—but this time, the crime rate went down, too.

So we have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market or consumer sentiment. The question remains: Why is the crime rate falling?

One obvious answer is that many more people are in prison than in the past. Experts differ on the size of the effect, but I think that William Spelman and Steven Levitt have it about right in believing that greater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline. Yes, many thoughtful observers think that we put too many offenders in prison for too long. For some criminals, such as low-level drug dealers and former inmates returned to prison for parole violations, that may be so. But it’s true nevertheless that when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family.

Imprisonment’s crime-reduction effect helps to explain why the burglary, car-theft and robbery rates are lower in the U.S. than in England. The difference results not from the willingness to send convicted offenders to prison, which is about the same in both countries, but in how long America keeps them behind bars. For the same offense, you will spend more time in prison here than in England. Still, prison can’t be the sole reason for the recent crime drop in this country: Canada has seen roughly the same decline in crime, but its imprisonment rate has been relatively flat for at least two decades.

Another possible reason for reduced crime is that potential victims may have become better at protecting themselves by equipping their homes with burglar alarms, putting extra locks on their cars and moving into safer buildings or even safer neighborhoods. We have only the faintest idea, however, about how common these trends are or what effects on crime they may have.

Policing has become more disciplined over the last two decades; these days, it tends to be driven by the desire to reduce crime, rather than simply to maximize arrests, and that shift has reduced crime rates. One of the most important innovations is what has been called hot-spot policing. The great majority of crimes tend to occur in the same places. Put active police resources in those areas instead of telling officers to drive around waiting for 911 calls, and you can bring down crime. The hot-spot idea helped to increase the effectiveness of the New York Police Department’s Compstat program, which uses computerized maps to pinpoint where crime is taking place and enables police chiefs to hold precinct captains responsible for targeting those areas.

Researchers continue to test and refine hot-spot policing. After analyzing data from over 7,000 police arrivals at various locations in Minneapolis, the criminologists Lawrence Sherman and David Weisburd showed that for every minute an officer spent at a spot, the length of time without a crime there after the officer departed went up—until the officer had been gone for more than 15 minutes. After that, the crime rate went up. The police can make the best use of their time by staying at a hot spot for a while, moving on, and returning after 15 minutes.

Some cities now use a computer-based system for mapping traffic accidents and crime rates. They have noticed that the two measures tend to coincide: Where there are more accidents, there is more crime. In Shawnee, Kan., the police spent a lot more time in the 4% of the city where one-third of the crime occurred: Burglaries fell there by 60% (even though in the city as a whole they fell by only 8%), and traffic accidents went down by 17%.

There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).

Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

Another shift that has probably helped to bring down crime is the decrease in heavy cocaine use in many states. Measuring cocaine use is no easy matter; one has to infer it from interviews or from hospital-admission rates. Between 1992 and 2009, the number of admissions for cocaine or crack use fell by nearly two-thirds. In 1999, 9.8% of 12th-grade students said that they had tried cocaine; by 2010, that figure had fallen to 5.5%.

What we really need to know, though, is not how many people tried coke but how many are heavy users. Casual users who regard coke as a party drug are probably less likely to commit serious crimes than heavy users who may resort to theft and violence to feed their craving. But a study by Jonathan Caulkins at Carnegie Mellon University found that the total demand for cocaine dropped between 1988 and 2010, with a sharp decline among both light and heavy users.

Blacks still constitute the core of America’s crime problem. But the African-American crime rate, too, has been falling, probably because of the same non-economic factors behind falling crime in general: imprisonment, policing, environmental changes and less cocaine abuse.

Knowing the exact crime rate of any ethnic or racial group isn’t easy, since most crimes don’t result in arrest or conviction, and those that do may be an unrepresentative fraction of all crimes. Nevertheless, we do know the racial characteristics of those who have been arrested for crimes, and they show that the number of blacks arrested has been falling. Barry Latzer of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice has demonstrated that between 1980 and 2005, arrests of blacks for homicide and other violent crimes fell by about half nationwide.

It’s also suggestive that in the five New York City precincts where the population is at least 80% black, the murder rate fell by 78% between 1990 and 2000. In the black neighborhoods of Chicago, burglary fell by 52%, robbery by 62%, and homicide by 33% between 1991 and 2003. A skeptic might retort that all these seeming gains were merely the result of police officers’ giving up and no longer recording crimes in black neighborhoods. But opinion surveys in Chicago show that, among blacks, fear of crime was cut in half during the same period.

One can cite further evidence of a turnaround in black crime. Researchers at the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that in 1980, arrests of young blacks outnumbered arrests of whites more than six to one. By 2002, the gap had been closed to just under four to one.

Drug use among blacks has changed even more dramatically than it has among the population as a whole. As Mr. Latzer points out—and his argument is confirmed by a study by Bruce D. Johnson, Andrew Golub and Eloise Dunlap—among 13,000 people arrested in Manhattan between 1987 and 1997, a disproportionate number of whom were black, those born between 1948 and 1969 were heavily involved with crack cocaine, but those born after 1969 used very little crack and instead smoked marijuana.

The reason was simple: The younger African-Americans had known many people who used crack and other hard drugs and wound up in prisons, hospitals and morgues. The risks of using marijuana were far less serious. This shift in drug use, if the New York City experience is borne out in other locations, can help to explain the fall in black inner-city crime rates after the early 1990s.

John Donohue and Steven Levitt have advanced an additional explanation for the reduction in black crime: the legalization of abortion, which resulted in black children’s never being born into circumstances that would have made them likelier to become criminals. I have ignored that explanation because it remains a strongly contested finding, challenged by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and by various academics.

At the deepest level, many of these shifts, taken together, suggest that crime in the United States is falling—even through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression—because of a big improvement in the culture. The cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression’s fall in crime and the explosion of crime during the sixties. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression—at society’s cost—became more prevalent. It is a plausible case.

Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it.

—Mr. Wilson is a senior fellow at the Clough Center at Boston College and taught previously at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine. His many books include « The Moral Sense, » « Bureaucracy, » and « Thinking About Crime. » This essay is adapted from the forthcoming issue of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.

Voir également:

Six Social Sources of the U.S. Crime Drop

Chris Uggen and Suzy McElrath

The Society pages

Feb 4, 2013

Chris Uggen

Chris Uggen is a sociologist and criminologist at the University of Minnesota. He believes that good science can light the way to a more just and safer world. He is co-editor of The Society Pages.

Suzy

Suzy McElrath is in the sociology program at the University of Minnesota. She studies the sociology of law and criminology, with a focus on mass atrocity, transitional justice, collective memory, and gender violence.

Each year, when the federal government releases new crime statistics, reporters seek out crime experts to help interpret the numbers. But following three decades of climbing crime rates, the downward trend of the past two decades has left even the experts searching for answers. Crime dropped under Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and when Republicans like George W. Bush were in charge. Crime dropped during times of peace and times of war, in the boom times of the late 1990s and in the Great Recession era from 2007 to 2009. In recent years, both criminologists and the public have been baffled by the improving crime situation—especially when many other social indicators looked so bleak.

But social scientists are starting to make sense of the big U.S. crime drop. At least among many of the “street” crimes reported by police and victims, today’s crime rate is roughly half what it was just two decades ago. This isn’t because people are twice as nice. Rather, the reasons behind the crime drop involve everything from an aging population to better policing to the rising ubiquity of cell phones. There’s no single “smoking gun” that can account for the drop: both formal social controls, such as police and prisons, and broader shifts in the population and economy play a part. That is, the main drivers are all social. Crime is less likely these days because of incremental changes in our social lives and interaction with others, including shifts in our institutions, technologies, and cultural practices. Before unpacking these social sources of the crime drop, we need to look a little more closely at its timing and variation across offenses, from auto theft to murder.

Dropping Like a Stone

It might not feel as though the United States is appreciably safer, but both violent and property crimes have dropped steadily and substantially for nearly twenty years. Whether looking to “official” crime (reported to the police) or victimization surveys, the story is the same—both violent and property crimes have dropped like a stone. While crime rose throughout much of the 1960s and ‘70s, most of today’s college freshmen have not experienced a significant rise in the crime rate over the course of their lives.

For all the talk about crime rates (technically, the number of offenses divided by the number of people or households in a given place and time to adjust for population changes), we only have good information about trends for a limited set of offenses—street crimes like murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson. Criminologists generally look to two sources of data to measure these crimes, the “official statistics” reported to the police and compiled as “Part I” offenses in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and reports from crime victims in the large-scale annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The official statistics are invaluable for understanding changes over time, because the reports have been consistently collected from almost every U.S. jurisdiction over several decades. The victimization data are also invaluable, because they help account for the “dark figure” of crime—offenses that go unreported to the police and are thus missing from the official statistics. Although both speak to the wellbeing of citizens and their sense of public safety, they do not necessarily show us the whole crime picture (they omit, for example, most white-collar crime and corporate malfeasance). Nevertheless, when victimization data tell the same story as police statistics, criminologists are generally confident that the trend is real rather than a “blip” or a mirage.

First, let’s look at the “Part I” crime rate according to the official FBI statistics. Property crimes like burglary and theft are much more common than violent crimes such as rape and robbery (as shown by the larger numbers on the left axis relative to the right axis). Both were clearly rising from the 1960s to about 1980. After some fluctuation in the 1970s and ‘80s, both rates of reported violence and property crime fell precipitously in 1991. Since then, official statistics show drops of about 49% and 43%, respectively. The sustained drop-off looks even more remarkable when compared to the earlier climb. Official 2011 statistics show offense rates on par with levels last seen in the 1960s for property crimes and in the early ‘70s for violent crime.

The federal government began taking victimization surveys from a nationally representative sample of households in the 1970s. The victimization picture is clouded by recall errors and other survey methodology challenges, but it’s less distorted by unreported crime than the official statistics. Because the survey was re-designed in 1992, we show only the trend in property and violent victimizations from 1993 onward.

Like the official statistics, the victimization data also show a broad-based and long-term crime decline, though there is some evidence of a slight uptick by 2011. There is a drop in violent victimizations through 2009 and a drop in property victimizations through 2010 (apart from a slight rise in 2006 that followed a change in survey methodology). Over this time, violent victimizations fell by 55% (from approximately 50 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1993 to 23 per 1,000 in 2011). Property crimes fell by 57% (from 319 per 1,000 households in 1993 to 139 per 1,000 households in 2011). In both cases, the victim data suggest that the crime drop may be even larger than that suggested by the official statistics.

It isn’t just one type of crime that fell. All seven of the “Part I” offenses reported in the police statistics and the closest corresponding victimization offenses declined by at least 35% from 1993 to 2011. Although the specific offense categories are not directly comparable, similar types of crimes dropped in both the official statistics and the victimization data. For example, the steepest drops occurred for motor vehicle theft, which fell by 62% in official statistics and 74% in the victimization data. Taken together, this provides firm evidence that the crime drop is real, long-lasting, and broad in scope.

Six Social Sources

The big crime drop implies that either fewer people are participating in crime or that those who do participate are committing crime less frequently. But a society’s rate of crime is not a simple aggregation of the number of “crime-prone” individuals with particular psychological or biological characteristics. Under the right or, more precisely, the wrong social conditions, we are all prone to commit criminal acts. Communities therefore attempt to organize social life in ways that make crime less likely. While we often associate crime with institutions such as the police or courts, anything that alters patterns of human interaction can drive the crime rate up or down. This includes the technology in our cars, the places we go for entertainment, and the medical advances affecting reproduction and aging.

The idea that crime is social rather than individual is a prominent theme in much of the best new research. The crime drop partly reflects the work of institutions that are explicitly designed to increase social control, but it also reflects changes in other institutions designed to perform different societal functions.

Scholars have yet to neatly partition the unique contribution of the six social sources of the crime drop, but we can summarize current thinking about their likely impact.

Formal Social Control and Criminal Opportunities

Punishment

Punishment. No discussion of recent U.S. crime trends would be complete without considering our nation’s prison population, which increased from 241,000 in 1975 to 773,000 in 1990 to over 1.6 million in 2010. Because incarceration rose so rapidly, it is tempting to attribute the lion’s share of the crime drop to the incapacitating effects of prison. But if this were the case, as law professor Franklin Zimring points out, we should have seen an earlier crime drop (when incarceration first boomed in the 1970s). Instead, since crime is closely tied to the demography of the life course, new cohorts of potential offenders are always replacing those removed via incarceration. Moreover, many criminologists believe that prisons are actually criminogenic in the long-run, strengthening criminal ties and disrupting non-criminal opportunities when inmates are released.

In one of the most sophisticated studies of the effect of imprisonment on crime, sociologist Bruce Western estimates that roughly nine-tenths of the crime drop during the 1990s would have occurred without any changes in imprisonment. Economist Steven Levitt attributes up to one-third of the total decline to incarceration. Rising rates of imprisonment thus account for at least some of the crime drop in the 1990s and 2000s, with scholars attributing anywhere from 10 to 30% of the decline to America’s incarceration boom.

Policing

Policing. Both public and private policing strategies have changed considerably over the past several decades, as have the technologies available to law enforcement. Zimring and others conclude that “cops matter,” especially in explaining New York City’s crime decline. More specifically, criminologists David Weisburd and Cody Telep identify targeted policing of high-crime “hot spots,” gun crimes, and high-rate offenders, as well as proactive problem-oriented policing and the use of DNA evidence as police practices that reduce crime. In contrast, they find little evidence for the effectiveness of policing tactics like random preventive patrol, follow-up visits in domestic violence cases, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (the DARE program).

While Levitt is skeptical about the role of new policing strategies, he attributes a portion of the 1990s crime drop to increases in the number of officers on the street. Because of the criminogenic effects of prison, scholars such as economist Steven Durlauf and criminologist Daniel Nagin propose shifting a greater share of criminal justice funding in policing. Effective law enforcement is part of the picture, says criminologist John MacDonald, but he also argues that public-private security partnerships such as targeted “business improvement districts” have helped to sustain the decline. The unique contribution of policing to the current crime drop is likely significant, but limited—accounting for perhaps 10 to 20% of the overall decline. Moreover, the effectiveness of the formal social controls provided by police depends, in large part, on support from informal social controls provided by families and communities.

Opportunities

Opportunities. Apart from changes in prisons and policing, the opportunities for crime have changed rapidly and dramatically since the 1990s. Technology isn’t an obvious social source of the crime drop, but people have been connecting in fundamentally different ways in the past two decades, altering the risks and rewards of criminal behavior. When it comes to “target hardening” (crime prevention through environmental design), simple changes can make an enormous difference. Recall that the biggest drop among all crime categories was in auto theft—in the United States and around the world, new technologies like car immobilizers, alarms, and central locking and tracking devices have effectively reduced this crime.

More generally, surveillance provides guardianship over ourselves and our property. It may even deter others from acting against us. With regard to a now-common technology, economists Jonathan Klick and Thomas Stratmann and criminologist John MacDonald point to the amazing proliferation of cell phones. They argue that cells increase surveillance and a would-be offender’s risk of apprehension, which affects the perceived costs of crime. Many potential victims now have easy access to a camera and are within a few finger-swipes of a call to 9-1-1. In a follow-up interview with the authors about his research, MacDonald said that the crime drop is “driven in part by target hardening, in part by consumer technological shifts, and in part by the movement of people’s nighttime activities back to the house.” In sum, where we spend our time and who is watching us likely plays a big role in the recent crime decline.

Of course, efforts to constrain criminal opportunities can also constrain non-criminal activities—and while most of us welcome the declining crime rates that accompany greater surveillance, we are far more ambivalent about being watched ourselves. As criminologist Eric Baumer explained to the authors, “not only are we spending more time off the streets and on a computer, but we are being watched or otherwise connected to some form of ‘social control’ pretty constantly when we are out and about.” It is difficult to quantify how myriad small changes in criminal opportunities affected the crime drop, but their combined contribution may be on a par with that of formal policing or prisons.

Social Trends and Institutional Change

Economics

Economics. More than 90% of the “Part I” crimes reported to the police involve some kind of financial gain. The relationship between crime and the economy is more complicated than the simple idea that people “turn to crime” when times are tough, though. Contrary to popular expectations, for example, both victimizations and official crime showed especially steep declines from 2007 to 2009, when unemployment rates soared. Robbery, burglary, and household theft victimizations had been falling by a rate of about 4% per year from 1993-2006, but fell by an average of 6 to 7% per year during the Great Recession.

This is not because crime is unrelated to economic conditions, but because crime is related to so many other things. For example, when people have less disposable income, they may spend more time in the relative safety of their home and less time in riskier places like bars. As noted above regarding opportunities, another reason crime rates are likely to drop when cash-strapped residents stay home at night in front of a television or computer screen is that their mere presence can help prevent burglary and theft.

Criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Robert Fornango suggest that consumer confidence and the perception of economic hardship may account for as much as one-third of the recent reduction in robbery and property crime. Nevertheless, while economic recessions and consumer sentiment are likely to play some role, they cannot account for the long and steady declines shown in the charts above—boom or bust, crime rates have been dropping for twenty years. For this reason, most criminologists attribute only a small share of the crime drop to economic conditions.

Demography

Demography. Crime, it seems, is largely a young man’s game. For most offenses, crime and arrests peak in the late teen years and early twenties, declining quickly thereafter. During the 1960s and 1970s, the large number of teens and young adults in the Baby Boom cohort drove crime rates higher. In societies that are growing older, such as the contemporary United States, there are simply fewer of the young men who make up the majority of criminal offenders and victims. Due to these life course processes, the age and gender composition of a society is an underlying factor that structures its rate of crime.

An influx of new immigrants might also be contributing to lower crime rates. According to research by sociologist Robert Sampson and his colleagues, immigration can be “protective” against crime, with first-generation immigrants being significantly less likely to commit violence than third-generation Americans, after adjusting for personal and neighborhood characteristics.

While criminologists estimate that demographic changes can account for perhaps 10% of the recent crime drop, these factors are changing too slowly to explain why crime was essentially halved within the course of a single generation.

Social Dynamics

Longer-term Social Dynamics. Drawing back the historical curtain on U.S. crime rates puts the recent drop in perspective. So argued historian Eric Monkkonen, who showed that the urban homicide rates of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were on a par with the “peak” rates observed in the early 1990s. In fact, historical evidence amassed by scholars including psychologist Steven Pinker and historical criminologist Manuel Eisner convincingly shows that personal violent crime began declining in Western nations as early as the sixteenth century. While this research has emphasized violent crimes, similar processes may hold for crime more generally. Perhaps the rising crime rate from World War II through the early 1990s was simply a small spike that temporarily obscured a much longer downward trend.

This long historical sweep may offer little solace to those confronted by crime today, but the encouraging long-term trend suggests explanations with deep roots. Eisner points to subtle shifts in parenting occurring over a long time span; Pinker suggests greater interdependence and broadened circles of people with whom we can empathize. Both draw on classic sociological work by Emile Durkheim and Norbert Elias, who attributed historical changes in crime and social disorder to changes in the relation between individuals and society. The centuries-long crime story is perhaps best explained by the gradual development of formal and informal social controls on our behavior. In this light, Baumer argues that we should at least think more expansively about the contemporary crime drop. We cannot say for certain where the crime rate will be in five years, but if we had to bet where the crime rate would be in one hundred years, we could be reasonably confident it’d be measurably lower than it is today.

Room for Improvement

Criminologists almost universally acknowledge a sizeable crime drop over the last twenty years. This does not mean that everyone’s neighborhood became safer or that crime in the United States is low relative to other industrialized nations. In fact, U.S. homicide rates are more than double those of Canada, Japan, and much of Europe. Nevertheless, the U.S. crime picture has improved markedly, with significant across-the-board drops in violent and property offenses. Moreover, as Baumer points out, even behaviors like drinking, drug use, and risky sex are declining, especially among young people.

We cannot explain such a sharp decline without reference to the social institutions, conditions, and practices shaping crime and its control. In particular, social scientists point to punishment, policing, opportunities, economics, demography, and history, though there is little consensus about the relative contribution of each. Further disentangling each factor’s unique contribution is a worthy endeavor, but it should not obscure a fundamental point: it is their entanglement in our social world that reduces crime.

Recommended Reading

Eric P. Baumer and Kevin Wolff. Forthcoming. “Evaluating the Contemporary Crime Drop(s) in America, New York City, and Many Other Places,” Justice Quarterly. An up-to-the-minute appraisal of explanations for local, national, and global crime trends.

Manuel Eisner. 2003. “Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime,” Crime and Justice. A rich treatment of the decline in European homicide rates from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Steven D. Levitt. 2004. “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not,” Journal of Economic Perspectives. A systematic appraisal of explanations for the crime decline by the renowned economist and Freakonomics author.

Eric H. Monkkonen. 2002. “Homicide in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago,” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. A careful historical examination of homicide in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Franklin E. Zimring. 2007. The Great American Crime Decline. A well-written and thoroughgoing account of the U.S. crime drop.

– See more at: http://thesocietypages.org/papers/crime-drop/#sthash.craHnp8m.dpuf

Voir encore:

America’s falling crime rate

Good news is no news

Americans are committing fewer crimes, though nobody seems to know quite why

Jun 2nd 2011

INTUITIVE theories are often easier to believe in than to prove. For instance: conventional wisdom says that the crime rate should rise during a recession. When people are out of work and out of money, the thinking goes, they turn to crime. But the evidence backing this theory is at best equivocal. There seem to be some links between crime and economic conditions, but they are neither as direct nor clear as one might assume. Crime rose during the Roaring Twenties then fell in the Depression. America’s economy expanded and crime rates rose in the 1960s. Rates fell throughout the 1990s, when America’s economy was healthy, but they kept falling during the recession in the early 2000s (see chart).

And during the current downturn, the unemployment rate rose as the crime rate fell. Between 2008 and 2009 violent crime fell by 5.3% and property crime by 4.6%; between 2009 and 2010, according to the preliminary Uniform Crime Report released by the FBI on May 23rd, violent crime fell by another 5.5% and property crime by 2.8%. Robberies—precisely the crime one might expect to rise during tough economic times—fell by 9.5% between 2009 to 2010. The decline in violent crimes was sharpest in small towns, where the rate dropped by more than 25%, and among regions sharpest in the South, which saw a 7.5% decline. Only two cities with more than 1m people—San Antonio and New York—saw their crime rates rise. And some perspective is warranted there: in 1991 around 2,200 people were murdered in New York. Last year just 536 were. Overall, America’s violent-crime rate is at its lowest level in around 40 years, and its murder rate at its lowest in almost 50.

According to the social scientists, this was not supposed to happen. In 1995 James Wilson, who came up with the “broken windows” theory of crime prevention widely credited with making New York safer, warned that by 2000 there would be “30,000 more young muggers, killers and thieves than we have now. Get ready.” One year later John DiLulio, another political scientist who studies crime, warned of a wave of “juvenile super-predators” wreaking havoc by 2010. Yet even as they wrote, the violent-crime rate had already begun to fall. Except for a bit of a rise from 2004 to 2006, it has fallen every year since 1991.

Although nobody predicted the striking decline in crime during the 1990s, in hindsight theories explaining it abound. Some give credit to smarter police tactics: particularly quantitative methods and “broken windows” policing. Others point to the increased availability of legal abortion in the 1970s, resulting in fewer children born to teenage, unwed and poor mothers: precisely the sorts of children who commit crimes at high rates during adolescence. There is also the waning of violence associated with the crack market, and the increased incarceration rate, which keeps more criminals off the street for longer (though at tremendous cost).

Although these factors explain the drop since the late 1980s, they do not explain the sharp drop in the past two years. For that Al Blumstein, a criminologist who heads the National Consortium on Violence Research, posits an “Obama effect”, in which the election of America’s first black president inspires a significant number of young black men away from violence. And indeed between 2008 and 2009, the numbers of blacks arrested for murder and robbery each declined by over 2%, though this theory has more narrative than evidentiary appeal.

Another theory concerns lead. Exposure to lead in childhood has been linked to aggression and criminal behaviour in adults. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an economist at Amherst College, argues that the decline in American children’s exposure to lead since it was phased out of gasoline in the 1970s and removed almost entirely by 1985, accounts for much of the decline in violent crime in the 1990s. It may account for even more, as more of America’s unleaded children enter adolescence and their early 20s. And then there are those perennial bogeymen, video games and the internet, affordable forms of entertainment that keep people inside, and away from real crime and drugs.

Voir de même:

America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Jan. 3, 2013

When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.

Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called « broken windows, » popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. [8] « If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, » they observed, « all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. » So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.

Giuliani won the election, and he made good on his crime-fighting promises by selecting Boston police chief Bill Bratton as the NYPD’s new commissioner. Bratton had made his reputation as head of the New York City Transit Police, where he aggressively applied broken-windows policing to turnstile jumpers and vagrants in subway stations. With Giuliani’s eager support, he began applying the same lessons to the entire city, going after panhandlers, drunks, drug pushers, and the city’s hated squeegee men. And more: He decentralized police operations and gave precinct commanders more control, keeping them accountable with a pioneering system called CompStat that tracked crime hot spots in real time.

The results were dramatic. In 1996, the New York Times reported [9] that crime had plunged for the third straight year, the sharpest drop since the end of Prohibition. Since 1993, rape rates had dropped 17 percent, assault 27 percent, robbery 42 percent, and murder an astonishing 49 percent. Giuliani was on his way to becoming America’s Mayor and Bratton was on the cover of Time. It was a remarkable public policy victory.

But even more remarkable is what happened next. Shortly after Bratton’s star turn, political scientist John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed « juvenile super-predators [10]. » Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop. And drop. By 2010, violent crime rates in New York City had plunged 75 percent from their peak in the early ’90s.

All in all, it seemed to be a story with a happy ending, a triumph for Wilson and Kelling’s theory and Giuliani and Bratton’s practice. And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent.

The PB Effect

What happens when you expose a generation of kids to high lead levels? Crime and teen pregnancy data two decades later tell a startling story.

Second, and far more puzzling, it’s not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early ’90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn’t have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas’ has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.

There must be more going on here than just a change in policing tactics in one city. But what?

There are, it turns out, plenty of theories. When I started research for this story, I worked my way through a pair of thick [11] criminology tomes [12]. One chapter regaled me with the « exciting possibility » that it’s mostly a matter of economics: Crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it’s in a slump. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t seem to hold water—for example, crime rates have continued to drop recently despite our prolonged downturn.

Another chapter suggested that crime drops in big cities were mostly a reflection of the crack epidemic of the ’80s finally burning itself out. A trio of authors identified three major « drug eras » in New York City, the first dominated by heroin, which produced limited violence, and the second by crack, which generated spectacular levels of it. In the early ’90s, these researchers proposed, the children of CrackGen switched to marijuana, choosing a less violent and more law-abiding lifestyle. As they did, crime rates in New York and other cities went down.

Another chapter told a story of demographics: As the number of young men increases, so does crime. Unfortunately for this theory, the number of young men increased during the ’90s, but crime dropped anyway.

There were chapters in my tomes on the effect of prison expansion. On guns and gun control. On family. On race. On parole and probation. On the raw number of police officers. It seemed as if everyone had a pet theory. In 1999, economist Steven Levitt, later famous as the coauthor of Freakonomics, teamed up with John Donohue to suggest that crime dropped because of Roe v. Wade [13]; legalized abortion, they argued, led to fewer unwanted babies, which meant fewer maladjusted and violent young men two decades later.

But there’s a problem common to all of these theories: It’s hard to tease out actual proof. Maybe the end of the crack epidemic contributed to a decline in inner-city crime, but then again, maybe it was really the effect of increased incarceration, more cops on the beat, broken-windows policing, and a rise in abortion rates 20 years earlier. After all, they all happened at the same time.

To address this problem, the field of econometrics gives researchers an enormous toolbox of sophisticated statistical techniques. But, notes statistician and conservative commentator Jim Manzi in his recent book Uncontrolled [14], econometrics consistently fails to explain most of the variation in crime rates. After reviewing 122 known field tests, Manzi found that only 20 percent demonstrated positive results for specific crime-fighting strategies, and none of those positive results were replicated in follow-up studies.

Did Lead Make You Dumber?

Even low levels have a significant effect.

So we’re back to square one. More prisons might help control crime, more cops might help, and better policing might help. But the evidence is thin for any of these as the main cause. What are we missing?

Experts often suggest that crime resembles an epidemic. But what kind? Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics [15]: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information. Think Bieber Fever. If it travels along major transportation routes, the cause is microbial. Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria. But if it’s everywhere, all at once—as both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and the fall of crime in the ’90s seemed to be—the cause is a molecule.

A molecule? That sounds crazy. What molecule could be responsible for a steep and sudden decline in violent crime?

Well, here’s one possibility: Pb(CH2CH3)4.

In 1994, Rick Nevin was a consultant working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?

That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper [16] (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And with that we have our molecule: tetraethyl lead, the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines. As auto sales boomed after World War II, and drivers in powerful new cars increasingly asked service station attendants to « fill ‘er up with ethyl, » they were unwittingly creating a crime wave two decades later.

It was an exciting conjecture, and it prompted an immediate wave of…nothing. Nevin’s paper was almost completely ignored, and in one sense it’s easy to see why—Nevin is an economist, not a criminologist, and his paper was published in Environmental Research, not a journal with a big readership in the criminology community. What’s more, a single correlation between two curves isn’t all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar period too, and then declined in the ’80s and ’90s. Lots of things follow a pattern like that. So no matter how good the fit, if you only have a single correlation it might just be a coincidence. You need to do something more to establish causality.

As it turns out, however, a few hundred miles north someone was doing just that. In the late ’90s, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes was a graduate student at Harvard casting around for a dissertation topic that eventually became a study she published in 2007 as a public health policy professor at Amherst. « I learned about lead because I was pregnant and living in old housing in Harvard Square, » she told me, and after attending a talk where future Freakonomics star Levitt outlined his abortion/crime theory, she started thinking about lead and crime. Although the association seemed plausible, she wanted to find out whether increased lead exposure caused increases in crime. But how?

In states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime declined slowly. Where it declined quickly, crime declined quickly.

The answer, it turned out, involved « several months of cold calling » to find lead emissions data at the state level. During the ’70s and ’80s, the introduction of the catalytic converter, combined with increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency rules, steadily reduced the amount of leaded gasoline used in America, but Reyes discovered that this reduction wasn’t uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you’d expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that’s exactly what she found [17].

Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world [18] (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in several different countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. « No, » he replied. « Not one. »

Just this year, Tulane University researcher Howard Mielke published a paper [19] with demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level. They studied six US cities that had both good crime data and good lead data going back to the ’50s, and they found a good fit in every single one. In fact, Mielke has even studied lead concentrations at the neighborhood level in New Orleans and shared his maps with the local police. « When they overlay them with crime maps, » he told me, « they realize they match up. »

Location, Location, Location

In New Orleans, lead levels can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next—and the poorest neighborhoods tend to be the worst hit.

Maps by Karen Minot

Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes [20]. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

When differences of atmospheric lead density between big and small cities largely went away, so did the difference in murder rates.

Like many good theories, the gasoline lead hypothesis helps explain some things we might not have realized even needed explaining. For example, murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We’re so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation—because big cities have lots of cars in a small area, they also had high densities of atmospheric lead during the postwar era. But as lead levels in gasoline decreased, the differences between big and small cities largely went away. And guess what? The difference in murder rates went away too. Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes [21]. It may be that violent crime isn’t an inevitable consequence of being a big city after all.

The gasoline lead story has another virtue too: It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s. Two other theories—the baby boom demographic bulge and the drug explosion of the ’60s—at least have the potential to explain both, but neither one fully fits the known data. Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise and fall following World War II, can explain the equally dramatic rise and fall in violent crime.

If econometric studies were all there were to the story of lead, you’d be justified in remaining skeptical no matter how good the statistics look. Even when researchers do their best—controlling for economic growth, welfare payments, race, income, education level, and everything else they can think of—it’s always possible that something they haven’t thought of is still lurking in the background. But there’s another reason to take the lead hypothesis seriously, and it might be the most compelling one of all: Neurological research is demonstrating that lead’s effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter, and levels once believed safe—65 μg/dL, then 25, then 15, then 10—are now known to cause serious damage. The EPA now says [22] flatly that there is « no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood, » and it turns out that even levels under 10 μg/dL can reduce IQ by as much as seven points. An estimated 2.5 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above 5 μg/dL.

Is there lead in your house? [2]

Is There Lead in Your House? [2]

But we now know that lead’s effects go far beyond just IQ. Not only does lead promote apoptosis, or cell death, in the brain, but the element is also chemically similar to calcium. When it settles in cerebral tissue, it prevents calcium ions from doing their job, something that causes physical damage to the developing brain that persists into adulthood.

Only in the last few years have we begun to understand exactly what effects this has. A team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has been following a group of 300 children for more than 30 years and recently performed a series of MRI scans that highlighted the neurological differences between subjects who had high and low exposure to lead during early childhood.

High childhood exposure damages a part of the brain linked to aggression control and « executive functions. » And the impact turns out to be greater among boys.

One set of scans [23] found that lead exposure is linked to production of the brain’s white matter—primarily a substance called myelin, which forms an insulating sheath around the connections between neurons. Lead exposure degrades both the formation and structure of myelin, and when this happens, says Kim Dietrich, one of the leaders of the imaging studies, « neurons are not communicating effectively. » Put simply, the network connections within the brain become both slower and less coordinated.

A second study [24] found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call « executive functions »: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility. One way to understand this, says Kim Cecil, another member of the Cincinnati team, is that lead affects precisely the areas of the brain « that make us most human. »

So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil’s words, an « additional kick in the gut. » And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent [25] studies link [26] even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you’ve practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

Needless to say, not every child exposed to lead is destined for a life of crime. Everyone over the age of 40 was probably exposed to too much lead during childhood, and most of us suffered nothing more than a few points of IQ loss. But there were plenty of kids already on the margin, and millions of those kids were pushed over the edge from being merely slow or disruptive to becoming part of a nationwide epidemic of violent crime. Once you understand that, it all becomes blindingly obvious. Of course massive lead exposure among children of the postwar era led to larger numbers of violent criminals in the ’60s and beyond. And of course when that lead was removed in the ’70s and ’80s, the children of that generation lost those artificially heightened violent tendencies.

Police chiefs « want to think what they do on a daily basis matters, » says a public health expert. « And it does. » But maybe not as much as they think.

But if all of this solves one mystery, it shines a high-powered klieg light on another: Why has the lead/crime connection been almost completely ignored in the criminology community? In the two big books I mentioned earlier, one has no mention of lead at all and the other has a grand total of two passing references. Nevin calls it « exasperating » that crime researchers haven’t seriously engaged with lead, and Reyes told me that although the public health community was interested in her paper, criminologists have largely been AWOL. When I asked Sammy Zahran about the reaction to his paper with Howard Mielke on correlations between lead and crime at the city level, he just sighed. « I don’t think criminologists have even read it, » he said. All of this jibes with my own reporting. Before he died last year, James Q. Wilson—father of the broken-windows theory, and the dean of the criminology community—had begun to accept that lead probably played a meaningful role in the crime drop of the ’90s. But he was apparently an outlier. None of the criminology experts I contacted showed any interest in the lead hypothesis at all.

Why not? Mark Kleiman [27], a public policy professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who has studied promising methods of controlling crime, suggests that because criminologists are basically sociologists, they look for sociological explanations, not medical ones. My own sense is that interest groups probably play a crucial role: Political conservatives want to blame the social upheaval of the ’60s for the rise in crime that followed. Police unions have reasons for crediting its decline to an increase in the number of cops. Prison guards like the idea that increased incarceration is the answer. Drug warriors want the story to be about drug policy. If the actual answer turns out to be lead poisoning, they all lose a big pillar of support for their pet issue. And while lead abatement could be big business for contractors and builders, for some reason their trade groups have never taken it seriously.

More generally, we all have a deep stake in affirming the power of deliberate human action. When Reyes once presented her results to a conference of police chiefs, it was, unsurprisingly, a tough sell. « They want to think that what they do on a daily basis matters, » she says. « And it does. » But it may not matter as much as they think.

So is this all just an interesting history lesson? After all, leaded gasoline has been banned since 1996, so even if it had a major impact on violent crime during the 20th century, there’s nothing more to be done on that front. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, tetraethyl lead is like a zombie that refuses to die. Our cars may be lead-free today, but they spent more than 50 years spewing lead from their tailpipes, and all that lead had to go somewhere. And it did: It settled permanently into the soil that we walk on, grow our food in, and let our kids play around.

That’s especially true in the inner cores of big cities, which had the highest density of automobile traffic. Mielke has been studying lead in soil for years, focusing most of his attention on his hometown of New Orleans, and he’s measured 10 separate census tracts there with lead levels over 1,000 parts per million.

To get a sense of what this means, you have to look at how soil levels of lead typically correlate with blood levels, which are what really matter. Mielke has studied this in New Orleans [28], and it turns out that the numbers go up very fast even at low levels. Children who live in neighborhoods with a soil level of 100 ppm have average blood lead concentrations of 3.8 μg/dL—a level that’s only barely tolerable. At 500 ppm, blood levels go up to 5.9 μg/dL, and at 1,000 ppm they go up to 7.5 μg/dL. These levels are high enough to do serious damage.

« I know people who have moved into gentrified neighborhoods and immediately renovate everything. They create huge hazards for their kids. »

Mielke’s partner, Sammy Zahran, walked me through a lengthy—and hair-raising—presentation about the effect that all that old gasoline lead continues to have in New Orleans. The very first slide describes the basic problem: Lead in soil doesn’t stay in the soil. Every summer, like clockwork, as the weather dries up, all that lead gets kicked back into the atmosphere in a process called resuspension. The zombie lead is back to haunt us.

Mark Laidlaw, a doctoral student who has worked with Mielke, explains how this works [29]: People and pets track lead dust from soil into houses, where it’s ingested by small children via hand-to-mouth contact. Ditto for lead dust generated by old paint inside houses. This dust cocktail is where most lead exposure today comes from.

Paint hasn’t played a big role in our story so far, but that’s only because it didn’t play a big role in the rise of crime in the postwar era and its subsequent fall. Unlike gasoline lead, lead paint was a fairly uniform problem during this period, producing higher overall lead levels, especially in inner cities, but not changing radically over time. (It’s a different story with the first part of the 20th century, when use of lead paint did rise and then fall somewhat dramatically. Sure enough, murder rates rose and fell in tandem.)

And just like gasoline lead, a lot of that lead in old housing is still around. Lead paint chips flaking off of walls are one obvious source of lead exposure, but an even bigger one, says Rick Nevin, are old windows. Their friction surfaces generate lots of dust as they’re opened and closed. (Other sources—lead pipes and solder, leaded fuel used in private aviation, and lead smelters—account for far less.)

We know that the cost of all this lead is staggering, not just in lower IQs, delayed development, and other health problems, but in increased rates of violent crime as well. So why has it been so hard to get it taken seriously?

There are several reasons. One of them was put bluntly by Herbert Needleman, one of the pioneers of research into the effect of lead on behavior. A few years ago, a reporter from the Baltimore City Paper asked him why so little progress had been made recently on combating the lead-poisoning problem. « Number one, » he said without hesitation [30], « it’s a black problem. » But it turns out that this is an outdated idea. Although it’s true that lead poisoning affects low-income neighborhoods disproportionately, it affects plenty of middle-class and rich neighborhoods as well. « It’s not just a poor-inner-city-kid problem anymore, » Nevin says. « I know people who have moved into gentrified neighborhoods and immediately renovate everything. And they create huge hazards for their kids. »

Tamara Rubin, who lives in a middle-class neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, learned this the hard way when two of her children developed lead poisoning after some routine home improvement in 2005. A few years later, Rubin started the Lead Safe America Foundation [31], which advocates for lead abatement and lead testing. Her message: If you live in an old neighborhood or an old house, get tested. And if you renovate, do it safely.

Another reason that lead doesn’t get the attention it deserves is that too many people think the problem was solved years ago. They don’t realize how much lead is still hanging around, and they don’t understand just how much it costs us.

It’s difficult to put firm numbers to the costs and benefits of lead abatement. But for a rough idea, let’s start with the two biggest costs. Nevin estimates that there are perhaps 16 million pre-1960 houses with lead-painted windows, and replacing them all would cost something like $10 billion per year over 20 years. Soil cleanup in the hardest-hit urban neighborhoods is tougher to get a handle on, with estimates ranging from $2 to $36 per square foot. A rough extrapolation from Mielke’s estimate to clean up New Orleans suggests that a nationwide program might cost another $10 billion per year.

We can either get rid of the remaining lead, or we can wait 20 years and then lock up all the kids who’ve turned into criminals.

So in round numbers that’s about $20 billion per year for two decades. But the benefits would be huge. Let’s just take a look at the two biggest ones. By Mielke and Zahran’s estimates, [32] if we adopted the soil standard of a country like Norway (roughly 100 ppm or less), it would bring about $30 billion in annual returns from the cognitive benefits alone (higher IQs, and the resulting higher lifetime earnings). Cleaning up old windows might double this. And violent crime reduction would be an even bigger benefit. Estimates here are even more difficult, but Mark Kleiman suggests that a 10 percent drop in crime—a goal that seems reasonable if we get serious about cleaning up the last of our lead problem—could produce benefits as high as $150 billion per year.

Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of.

Memo to Deficit Hawks: Get the Lead Out

Lead abatement isn’t cheap, but the return on investment is mind-blowing.

There’s a flip side to this too. At the same time that we should reassess the low level of attention we pay to the remaining hazards from lead, we should probably also reassess the high level of attention we’re giving to other policies. Chief among these is the prison-building boom that started in the mid-’70s. As crime scholar William Spelman wrote a few years ago, states have « doubled their prison populations, then doubled them again, increasing their costs by more than $20 billion per year »—money that could have been usefully spent on a lot of other things. And while some scholars conclude that the prison boom had an effect on crime, recent research suggests that rising incarceration rates suffer from diminishing returns: Putting more criminals behind bars is useful up to a point, but beyond that we’re just locking up more people without having any real impact on crime. What’s more, if it’s true that lead exposure accounts for a big part of the crime decline that we formerly credited to prison expansion and other policies, those diminishing returns might be even more dramatic than we believe. We probably overshot on prison construction years ago; one doubling might have been enough. Not only should we stop adding prison capacity, but we might be better off returning to the incarceration rates we reached in the mid-’80s.

So this is the choice before us: We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals. There’s always an excuse not to spend more money on a policy as tedious-sounding as lead abatement—budgets are tight, and research on a problem as complex as crime will never be definitive—but the association between lead and crime has, in recent years, become pretty overwhelming. If you gave me the choice, right now, of spending $20 billion less on prisons and cops and spending $20 billion more on getting rid of lead, I’d take the deal in a heartbeat. Not only would solving our lead problem do more than any prison to reduce our crime problem, it would produce smarter, better-adjusted kids in the bargain. There’s nothing partisan about this, nothing that should appeal more to one group than another. It’s just common sense. Cleaning up the rest of the lead that remains in our environment could turn out to be the cheapest, most effective crime prevention tool we have. And we could start doing it tomorrow.

Support for this story was provided by a grant from the Puffin Foundation Investigative Journalism Project.

Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

[2] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-poisoning-house-pipes-soil-paint

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/12/soil-lead-researcher-howard-mielke

[4] http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/01/lead-shooting-ranges-osha

[5] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/does-lead-paint-produce-more-crime-too

[6] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/08/lead-in-tap-water

[7] http://www.motherjones.com/topics/lead-and-crime

[8] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/20/nyregion/new-york-crime-rate-plummets-to-levels-not-seen-in-30-years.html?pagewanted=all&amp;src=pm

[10] http://www.city-journal.org/html/6_2_my_black.html

[11] http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9780521681483-1

[12] http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0195399358

[13] http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/dialogues/features/1999/does_abortion_prevent_crime/_2.html

[14] http://www.powells.com/biblio/64-9780465023240-0

[15] http://modeledbehavior.com/2012/01/08/on-lead/

[16] http://www.ricknevin.com/uploads/Nevin_2000_Env_Res_Author_Manuscript.pdf

[17] http://www.nber.org/papers/w13097

[18] http://pic.plover.com/Nevin/Nevin2007.pdf

[19] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412012000566

[20] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101

[21] http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/city.cfm

[22] https://www.motherjones.com/documents/531159-americas-children-and-the-environment-epa#document/p42/a84512

[23] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789851/

[24] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050112

[25] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810427/

[26] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17185283

[27] http://publicaffairs.ucla.edu/mark-ar-kleiman

[28] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896970700842X

[29] http://urbanleadpoisoning.com

[30] http://www2.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=9738

[31] http://www.leadsafeamerica.org/leadsafeamerica.org/Home.html

[32] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969710012672

Voir aussi:

Lead and Crime: Baselines vs. Crime Waves

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Jan. 10, 2013

Whenever you write about a complicated subject, you struggle with how best to explain things. In the end, you always hope you got your point across in a way that sinks in, but you’re never quite sure. And one of the things I’m not sure I explained well in my piece about the link between lead and violent crime [1] is precisely how important the effect of lead on crime is. After all, the causes of crime are varied and complex. Surely lead isn’t the whole answer?

It’s not, and I don’t want anyone to come away from my article thinking that. If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. The chart below illustrates this. (The numbers themselves aren’t precise, so don’t take them too seriously. I’m just trying to illustrate a point.)

The baseline crime rate is the light red portion at the bottom. It goes up and down a bit over time, but also—and I’m guessing here—shows a steady, modest rise since the 60s. Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects.

But then, in dark red, there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve.

And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else.

The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it.

Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Voir enfin:

From the Archives: Is Lead Really the Main Cause of Violent Crime?

No. But it is the main cause of the great crime wave of 1965-2010.

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Aug. 13, 2013

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but over the past week I’ve suddenly gotten a flurry of new responses to my January piece about lead and crime. [1] Roughly speaking, they’re mostly complaints that crime has lots of causes, and it’s a mistake to claim that lead is preeminently important. I understand where this criticism comes from, but here’s the thing: I agree with it. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what the lead hypothesis claims to explain: not all crime, but only the specific crime wave of 1965-2010. (In America, anyway. The dates vary in other regions of the world.) So because this has cropped up again, I’m going to reproduce a post [2] I wrote shortly after the article came out. Of all the things I didn’t explain well enough in the original piece, this is the one I most wish I had illustrated more clearly.

Whenever you write about a complicated subject, you struggle with how best to explain things. In the end, you always hope you got your point across in a way that sinks in, but you’re never quite sure. And one of the things I’m not sure I explained well in my piece about the link between lead and violent crime [3] is precisely how important the effect of lead on crime is. After all, the causes of crime are varied and complex. Surely lead isn’t the whole answer?

It’s not, and I don’t want anyone to come away from my article thinking that. If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. The chart below illustrates this. (The numbers themselves aren’t precise, so don’t take them too seriously. I’m just trying to illustrate a point.)

The baseline crime rate is the light red portion at the bottom. It goes up and down a bit over time, but also—and I’m guessing here—shows a steady, modest rise since the 60s. Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects.

But then, in dark red, there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve.

And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else.

The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it.

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/11/criminal-element

[2] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Voir par ailleurs:

http://www.scienceshumaines.com/pourquoi-la-criminalite-chute_fr_31470.html

Pourquoi la criminalité chute

Achille Weinberg

Sciences humaines

03/10/2013

Mensuel N° 253 – novembre 2013

Comment expliquer le déclin de la criminalité constaté depuis quinze ans dans beaucoup de grands pays occidentaux ? Les spécialistes émettent plusieurs hypothèses.

Pour celui qui écoute régulièrement l’actualité, entendre dire que la criminalité chute est pour le moins surprenant. Que dites-vous ? La criminalité chute ? Et la série de meurtres à Marseille ? Et les bijouteries ou bureaux de tabac dévalisés ? Et les vols de portables ou de sacs dans le métro ? Précisons donc de quoi l’on parle.

La chute de la criminalité dont il est question ici est un constat massif qui concerne les principaux pays occidentaux sur une période de plus quinze ans. Le constat est assez unanime chez les spécialistes, mais les causes restent très disputées. The Economist a consacré sa couverture à cette énigme en juillet 2013.

Une tendance de fond

L’article commence par livrer quelques chiffres impressionnants. Pour frapper les esprits, le cas de l’Estonie est mis en avant : depuis 1995, les homicides ont chuté de 70 %, les vols de voitures de presque autant. Mais ce petit État postsoviétique n’est pas une exception. Dans les pays développés, la même tendance s’observe. Aux États-Unis, la chute a commencé en 1991 ; en Grande-Bretagne, autour de 1995. En France, la baisse date de 2001. Au Canada également ainsi que dans plusieurs pays d’Europe. Mais de quels crimes parle-t-on ? Un tableau l’illustre : principalement des vols (vols de voitures, cambriolages) et des atteintes aux personnes (homicides, coups et blessures).

Arrêtons-nous sur le cas américain, le plus impressionnant. La criminalité urbaine avait atteint des sommets au début des années 1990. Certains voyaient New York ou Los Angeles comme des jungles urbaines aux mains d’une faune de dealers, mafieux, proxénètes et squatters.

Puis, contrairement aux prévisions, un véritable miracle s’est produit. La criminalité s’est mise à chuter à partir des années 1990. Globalement, elle a baissé d’un tiers dans les grandes villes, mais dans certains cas, elle a chuté de plus de 50 % ! À New York, le cas le plus spectaculaire, la criminalité a été divisée par quatre (- 78 %) entre le milieu des années 1990 et les années 2000 (encadré ci-dessous) ! Que s’est-il donc passé ?

Où sont passés les délinquants ?

Les explications des experts ne manquent pas.

• Le travail de la police. La première explication qui vient à l’esprit est celle de l’action policière. Dans les grandes villes, des politiques offensives de reprise en main de la situation ont été menées. L’intervention policière a été déterminante. Pour certains criminologues, la criminalité a baissé parce qu’une partie des délinquants est désormais sous les verrous ! Aux États-Unis, le nombre de prisonniers a doublé dans les vingt dernières années. En Grande-Bretagne et en Australie aussi. Le message serait donc clair : la répression paye. Sauf que cette théorie répressive ne marche pas partout. Aux Pays-Bas et au Canada, la criminalité a également chuté alors que le nombre de prisonniers n’a pas augmenté et qu’il n’y a pas eu de mobilisation générale de la police. À New York, le taux d’incarcération est beaucoup moins important qu’à Los Angeles ou Chicago et les résultats se révèlent bien meilleurs ! Il faut donc trouver d’autres explications que la seule action policière.

• Une baisse démographique ? Certains experts ont avancé un argument démographique : le vieillissement de la population. Il y a moins de jeunes donc moins de délinquants. Steven Levitt a même soutenu dans son best-seller Freakonomics que l’avortement, dans les années 1970, avait été un facteur déterminant : dans les milieux les plus défavorisés où se recrutent le plus de délinquants, on fait désormais moins d’enfants.

Cependant, ce facteur démographique a lui aussi été contesté. À Londres et dans nombre de villes américaines, le taux de jeunes n’a pas diminué de façon significative alors que la criminalité s’est effondrée. C’est peut-être alors que les jeunes sont désormais scolarisés plus longtemps, donc mieux éduqués ? L’économiste Jessica Wolpaw Reyes a inventé une théorie pour le moins étonnante : la rénovation du plomb dans l’essence serait l’explication du déclin de la violence. En somme, moins de plomb entraîne moins de débiles (par saturnisme) donc moins de délinquants !

• La fin de l’« épidémie de crack ». Un autre phénomène semble avoir compté : la chute de la consommation du crack (un dérivé de la cocaïne). Cette drogue avait fait des ravages durant les années 1980 : elle exacerbait non seulement la guerre des gangs, mais poussait les drogués à commettre de nombreux délits pour se payer leur dose. L’épidémie de crack a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis au début des années 1990, et cette chute épouse celle de la criminalité. Cela ne veut pas dire que la consommation de drogue diminue globalement, mais elle est moins criminogène. Les « junkies » des années 1980 sont moins nombreux et la drogue a changé de nature.

• Les alarmes et la surveillance. Si les atteintes aux biens baissent, c’est, selon le criminologue néerlandais Jan Van Dijk, parce qu’il est moins facile de voler : magasins, entreprises, habitations, automobiles sont équipés de dispositifs de surveillance de plus en plus nombreux et sophistiqués. La chute spectaculaire des vols de voitures est incontestablement liée aux alarmes et aux puces électroniques antivol dont elles sont équipées. En revanche, les « vols à la tire » de portefeuilles et de téléphones portables ont explosé, même s’ils font l’objet de beaucoup moins de plaintes.

• Retour de la croissance. La dynamique de croissance qui a marqué les États-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne dans les années 1990-2000 a également été évoquée. Mais dans ce cas, la crise depuis 2008 aurait dû s’accompagner d’une flambée de la criminalité dans les pays les plus touchés par la crise. Cela n’a pas été le cas. The Economist plaide pour une convergence de facteurs tout en reconnaissant qu’au final, la chute de la criminalité reste à la fois une sorte de petit miracle et une énigme non résolue.

Partager :

Le cas new-yorkais

À fin des années 1980, le taux de criminalité a atteint des pics à New York. C’est alors que fut élu le républicain Rudolf Giuliani (1994-2001). Il décida de chasser de la ville criminels,
 prostituées, SDF…
La présence policière fut renforcée, des actions commandos mises en place, une politique de contrôle systématique imposée à la population. Entre 1993 et 1998, le nombre annuel de 
meurtres a été divisé
par trois, la délinquance ordinaire a chuté. 
Certains ont parlé d’un véritable miracle et proposé que le « peace maker » R. Giuliani soit lauréat du prix Nobel de la paix : grâce à lui, des milliers de vies et de victimes potentielles ont été épargnées.

Les experts criminologues sont plus dubitatifs. Dans son livre The City That Became Safe (2012), Franklin M. Zimring, criminologue à Chicago, avance deux idées clés. Le rôle de la police a été décisif. F.M. Zimring n’hésite pas à le dire et à se démarquer des positions habituelles des criminologues prompts à considérer que seules les politiques sociales peuvent durablement venir à bout de la criminalité. Selon l’auteur, la chute de la criminalité
à New York s’est effectuée à niveau socio-économique équivalent. C’est donc bien l’action de la police qui a été déterminante.

Pour autant, ce n’est pas la politique de « tolérance zéro » qui a payé. À New York, le nombre de criminels mis sous les verrous a moins augmenté qu’ailleurs (20 % dans les années 1990-2000). L’action principale de la police a consisté à déminer le terrain par des quadrillages ciblés, concentrés sur des points chauds, accompagnés de contrôles systématiques (procédures de « stop and frisk ») : arrestations, fouilles, harcèlement des criminels ont abouti à nettoyer une à une les zones de trafics et d’agressions.

Achille Weinberg

Voir aussi:

États-Unis: le crime à son plus bas niveau

À New York, le changement a été radical. Au début des années 90, 700 000 crimes étaient rapportés chaque année. L’an dernier, moins de 105 000 crimes ont été signalés aux autorités.

Nicolas Bérubé

La Presse

15 juillet 2012

(Los Angeles) Durant des années, un gardien armé était posté jour et nuit devant les ateliers remplis d’outils spécialisés du Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, rue Hoover. Puis, un matin, le gardien n’était plus là.

«Ça fait deux ou trois ans de cela, se souvient Carlos Mendes, propriétaire d’une petite boutique d’antiquités, en face. La protection intensive, ça fait partie d’une autre époque. Aujourd’hui, le quartier est beaucoup plus sûr.»

La nuit, M. Mendes avait l’habitude de s’endormir au son des rotors d’hélicoptères de la police de Los Angeles (LAPD), qui patrouillaient dans le secteur. «Maintenant, les jeunes familles achètent des maisons par ici et font des rénovations. Les gens se promènent le soir. C’est un changement radical.»

Ce qui se passe rue Hoover n’est pas un cas isolé. Les actes de violence et les crimes sont à leur plus bas niveau en 40 ans aux États-Unis, selon les données du gouvernement fédéral.

À Los Angeles, le nombre de crimes chute chaque année depuis 10 ans. L’an dernier, 298 homicides ont été commis sur le territoire du LAPD. Au milieu des années 90, plus de 1200 meurtres étaient enregistrés annuellement. Tout ça, dans une ville dont la population croit constamment.

Même les quartiers durs ont vu la violence diminuer. Compton, par exemple, a connu 17 meurtres en 2011, une baisse de 60 % par rapport à 2007.

À New York, le changement a aussi été radical. Au début des années 90, 700 000 crimes étaient rapportés chaque année. L’an dernier, moins de 105 000 crimes ont été signalés aux autorités.

Qu’est-ce qui a changé? George Tita, professeur au département de criminologie de l’Université de la Californie à Irvine, dit être surpris de voir la violence et la criminalité baisser, et ce, malgré la hausse du taux de chômage.

«Le nombre d’Américains qui vivent dans la pauvreté a augmenté depuis la crise financière de 2008, dit-il en entrevue avec La Presse. Le stress, la frustration, le manque de revenus: tout ça semble laisser présager une hausse de la criminalité. Or, le contraire s’est produit.»

Les experts ont cité plusieurs causes possibles, allant de la fin de l’épidémie de crack des années 90 à la hausse du niveau d’incarcération, ce qui garde les criminels loin de la rue.

Pour M. Tita, ces facteurs jouent un rôle, tout comme l’émergence de l’internet et des téléphones cellulaires.

«Avant, les vendeurs de drogue occupaient les coins de rue, ce qui créait un climat d’intimidation. Aujourd’hui, ils correspondent avec leurs clients par messages texte.»

Les jeunes hommes – groupe traditionnellement responsable d’une partie importante des crimes – passent aussi plus de temps à l’intérieur.

«La violence survient quand il y a des jeunes qui n’ont rien à faire, dit M. Tita. Depuis quelques années, les jeunes sont sur Facebook ou devant des jeux vidéo. Ils trainent moins dans la rue.»

La passion du moment

Dans un récent entretien au réseau NPR, l’ancien chef de la police de New York et de Los Angeles, William Bratton, a dit qu’il faut d’abord remercier la police pour la baisse de la criminalité.

Sous sa supervision, la police de New York et de Los Angeles a commencé à travailler sur les crimes dits «liés à la qualité de vie». Les gens qui sautaient les tourniquets dans le métro, par exemple, ou les petits revendeurs de drogue qui opéraient impunément au coin des rues.

«En contrôlant les comportements, la police a, dans les faits, lancé le message que la loi est là pour être respectée, a-t-il dit. Une personne est prise dans la passion du moment et décide de commettre un crime. C’est ici que la police entre en jeu. La police est là pour contrôler les comportements.»

Frank E. Zimring n’y croit pas. Professeur de droit à l’Université Berkeley et auteur de plusieurs livres sur la violence dans la société américaine, M. Zimring est l’un des experts les plus souvent cités en matière de prévention de la criminalité aux États-Unis.

Les efforts des policiers dans les quartiers chauds de New York et de Los Angeles sont louables et ont contribué à améliorer la qualité de vie des résidants, note-t-il. «Mais ces changements n’expliquent pas tout. Ceux qui y voient une réponse définitive font fausse route», explique-t-il en entrevue téléphonique.

Si la baisse s’expliquait par des changements dans le fonctionnement de la police dans les grandes villes, alors pourquoi observe-t-on une diminution du crime de façon uniforme, partout aux États-Unis? demande-t-il.

M. Zimring fait remarquer que l’Occident au complet – et notamment le Canada – a connu une baisse du taux de criminalité au cours des 20 dernières années.

«L’internet, les cellulaires et les jeux vidéo ne peuvent expliquer la baisse, car les crimes ont commencé à chuter de façon uniforme dans les années 90, avant que ces inventions ne prennent leur envol», dit-il.

Et, pour la première fois depuis les années 70, le taux d’incarcération a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis, en 2007. Jumelé avec une hausse spectaculaire du chômage, cela aurait dû créer un mélange explosif, note M. Zimring.

Voir également:

ÉTATS-UNIS

Mais pourquoi la criminalité baisse ?

Malgré la récession, les crimes et délits sont en net recul. Les spécialistes se creusent les méninges pour expliquer le phénomène.

The Economist

traduction Courrier international

23 juin 2011

Voilà qui semble une évidence : en période de récession, le taux de criminalité augmente. Pourtant, depuis le début de la crise financière, la hausse du taux de chômage s’est accompagnée d’une baisse du taux de criminalité. Entre 2008 et 2009, les crimes avec violence ont reculé de 5,3 % et les infractions contre les biens de 4,6 %. La baisse s’est poursuivie de 2009 à 2010, avec une diminution de 5,5 % et 2,8 % respectivement. Le vol qualifié (une infraction que l’on pourrait s’attendre à voir se multiplier en temps de crise) a même reculé de 9,5 % entre 2009 et 2010. D’une manière générale, les crimes avec violence sont à leur niveau le plus bas depuis quarante ans et les homicides à leur niveau le plus bas depuis cinquante ans.

A en croire les spécialistes, cela n’aurait pas dû se produire. James Wilson, l’auteur de la fameuse théorie du “carreau cassé” en matière de prévention de la délinquance [selon laquelle il faut réparer immédiatement toute dégradation sous peine de les voir se multiplier] avait annoncé en 1995 que le pays compterait en l’an 2000 “30 000 jeunes agresseurs, meurtriers et voleurs de plus qu’aujourd’hui”. Un an plus tard, le politologue John DiLulio mettait en garde contre un raz-de-marée d’“adolescents superprédateurs” qui, à l’horizon 2010, allaient semer le chaos. Pourtant, au moment même où ils formalisaient leurs prédictions, la criminalité avait déjà commencé à baisser et, hormis une légère hausse entre 2004 et 2006, elle n’a cessé de reculer depuis 1991.

Si personne n’avait prévu la baisse spectaculaire de la délinquance des années 1990, les théories pour l’expliquer rétrospectivement abondent. Certains l’attribuent à l’amélioration des stratégies policières. D’autres mettent en avant l’accès de plus en plus large à l’avortement, qui a permis de diminuer les naissances d’enfants de mères adolescentes, célibataires et pauvres – ceux, en d’autres termes, qui ont le plus de risques de sombrer dans la délinquance à l’adolescence. Parmi les autres facteurs avancés figurent le déclin des violences liées au trafic de crack et l’augmentation du taux d’incarcération.

Mais si ces facteurs peuvent expliquer la baisse de la criminalité depuis la fin des années 1980, ils ne disent rien de sa chute spectaculaire au cours des deux dernières années. Pour cela, le criminologue Al Blumstein, qui dirige le National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR), avance un “effet Obama” : l’élection du premier président noir de l’histoire des Etats-Unis aurait éloigné de la violence un nombre important de jeunes Noirs. De fait, entre 2008 et 2009, le nombre de Noirs arrêtés pour homicide ou vol a reculé de 2 %. Une autre hypothèse pointe du doigt le plomb. En effet, des liens ont été mis en évidence entre exposition au plomb dans l’enfance et comportement délinquant à l’âge adulte. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, économiste au Amherst College, estime que la moindre exposition des petits Américains au plomb explique pour une bonne part la diminution des crimes violents dans les années 1990. D’autres enfin mettent en cause ces éternels épouvantails que sont les jeux vidéo et Internet, arguant qu’ils permettent de maintenir les individus à l’intérieur de leur foyer et donc de les tenir éloignés du crime et des drogues.

Voir encore:

La criminalité continue de baisser dans les pays riches malgré la crise

Grégoire Fleurot

Slate

22 juillet 2013

Que vous soyez spécialiste de la question ou pas, vous avez sans doute déjà entendu cette théorie: quand les temps sont durs, la criminalité augmente. Pourtant, malgré une croissance économique stagnante et un chômage élevé, la criminalité a baissé dans la plupart des pays riches au cours de la dernière décennie.

L’hebdomadaire britannique The Economist s’est intéressé dans un long article à cette tendance plutôt contre-intuitive qui a commencé en 1991 aux Etats-Unis, autour de 1995 en Grande-Bretagne et en 2001 en France pour les atteintes aux biens.

Comment expliquer cette tendance générale qu’un rapide coup d’œil aux statistiques des Nations unies suffit à vérifier? Si la démographie est sans doute un facteur (la population vieillit, alors que ce sont les hommes de 16 ans à 24 ans qui commettent la plupart des crimes), The Economiste souligne qu’elle ne peut pas expliquer à elle seule la baisse spectaculaire d’un certain type de criminalité dans des villes comme New York, Los Angeles ou Londres.

D’autres hypothèses, comme l’augmentation du nombre de prisonniers, sont difficiles à prouver: si la population carcérale a doublé en Grande-Bretagne, en Australie et aux Etats-Unis, elle a diminués au Canada et aux Pays-Bas, pays qui ont aussi connu une baisse de la criminalité.

Le blog de «factchecking» de la chaîne britannique Channel 4 s’est également posé la question, alors que les autorités viennent d’annoncer une nouvelle baisse de la criminalité malgré des réductions budgétaires significatives, et rappelle que «la plupart des experts concluent que les causes du crime sont si complexes que les changements économiques seuls ne l’emportent pas forcément sur d’autres facteurs».

Le Guardian expliquait quand à lui en avril dernier que certains autres éléments concrets, comme de meilleurs antivols sur les voitures ou des portes et serrures plus résistantes rendaient les atteintes aux biens plus difficiles aujourd’hui. La technologie, qu’il s’agisse des tests d’ADN, de la localisation par téléphone portable ou des caméras de surveillance, a augmenté le risque de se faire prendre.

Selon The Economist, l’explication la plus convaincante est plus simple encore. La police fait mieux son travail:

«Une combinaison du fait que les policiers parlent aux habitants des quartiers où ils travaillent et du ciblage intensif des endroits mal famés a transformé la manière dont les rues sont protégées.»

Si le poids de chaque facteur reste impossible à déterminer, la majorité des experts semblent aujourd’hui s’accorder sur un point: l’augmentation de la criminalité qui a eu lieu un peu partout entre les années 1950 et les années 1980 ressemble de plus en plus à une anomalie de l’histoire.

Voir de plus:

Médias recherchent néonazi désespérément

L’affaire Merah n’aura donc pas servi de leçon. Avant que le « tireur fou de Libé » ne soit connu, de nombreux médias ont à nouveau démarré au quart de tour avec la volonté, à peine dissimulée, de voir le réel coller à leur fantasme. En dépit de toute déontologie.

Un « blanc aux yeux bleus » nommé Mohamed Merah

Déjà, en 2012, lorsque Mohammed Merah abattait, à Montauban, des militaires en pleine rue et finissait par s’introduire dans une école juive de Toulouse pour y faire un carnage, les grands médias avaient fait leurs choux gras sur une pure spéculation : son origine. Alors qu’on ne connaissait rien du tireur et que les seules images disponibles montraient un homme casqué intégralement, l’extrême-droite était visée. Le Point avait dégainé le premier en évoquant « la piste néonazie ». Puis, les télévisions avaient décrit un homme « de type caucasien ou européen » (M6), aux « yeux bleus sur un visage blanc » (TF1 et France 2).

Le 20 mars, les Inrocks faisaient même appel à un sociologue pour assurer une légitimité à cette thèse. Laurent Mucchielli déclarait ainsi que, « selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, le meurtrier n’est pas un islamiste ou un banlieusard – les cibles favorites du débat public – mais une personne qui est apparemment issue d’un groupuscule néo-nazi ». Bravo pour la lucidité. De même pour Le Canard Enchaîné, Charlie Hebdo et Le Monde qui, tous en cœur, évoquaient tantôt un néo-nazi, tantôt un dangereux nervi d’extrême-droite, forcément proche des idées du Front National. La menace fasciste planait sur la République en danger.

Mais dès les premières révélations sur l’identité du tueur, l’islamiste Mohammed Merah, le changement de ton sera total. On parlera désormais d’un jeune « toulousain de 23 ans » qui « aime le foot, les scooteurs et les sorties en boîte » (France 3). Pour les Inrocks, il s’agit d’« un enfant du mariage malheureux entre la France et l’Algérie ». Libération couronnera ce grand retournement par une description devenue célèbre : un jeune au « visage d’ange d’une beauté sans nom »… Mais le pompon survenait le 21 mars, lorsque sur son compte Twitter, le journaliste du Nouvel Obs Nicolas Chapuis rapportait des propos tenus au sein de sa rédaction : « Putain ! Je suis dégoûté que ce ne soit pas un nazi ! » Et son collègue, Tristan Dessert, de lui répondre, comme un aveu pour l’ensemble de la profession : « Ça aurait été effectivement plus simple. »

La séquence entière a été couronnée par un prix spécial, le « bobard total » décerné par la fondation Polémia de Jean-Yves Le Gallou.

Voir de même:

Quand Libé préfère « les méthodes des antifa »…

On aurait pu imaginer qu’une leçon aurait été tirée de cet épisode erratique mais il n’en est rien. Lundi 18 novembre, lorsqu’un homme entre, armé d’un fusil de chasse au siège de Libération et ouvre le feu sur un assistant-photographe, l’emballement médiatique retrouve des airs de tuerie de Toulouse. Alors qu’on ne sait encore rien de l’homme et de son apparence, les spéculations ne tardent pas à refaire surface. L’homme est immédiatement décrit comme un homme « de type européen », aux « cheveux ras », et Jean-Marc Morandini lâche même le mot : « crâne rasé ». Fallait-il entendre « Skinhead » ? Sa veste verte est qualifié de « veste de chasseur », son look de « paramilitaire » et petit à petit se construit une image destinée à marquer les consciences : l’homme vient de la droite radicale. D’ailleurs, s’étant attaqué à Libération, que pouvait-il être sinon d’extrême-droite ? Au micro de chaque média, les journalistes parlent ainsi d’une certaine « ambiance » qui règne dans le pays, d’un certain « climat » peu ragoutant. Comprendre : une ambiance nauséabonde depuis que la France de la Manif pour tous s’est réveillée, que le Front National monte dans les sondages et que Christiane Taubira a été comparée à un singe. « Tirs à Libé et menaces à BFMTV. Ou allons-nous ? Au secours. Peuple de gauche réveillons-nous. Ça craint », tweete Esther Benbassa le jour même.

Peuple de gauche réveillons-nous ? Pourquoi peuple de gauche ? Pourquoi pas peuple de France ou peuple tout court ? Parce que le danger ne peut venir que de la droite, pardi. Or, face à ce danger, l’extrême-gauche est vue comme un rempart… Trois jours avant l’attaque, Pierre Marcelle réagissait en effet dans les colonnes du journal Libération à propos de la une jugée raciste de Minute sur Christiane Taubira : « Pour combattre la barbarie, on préfèrera décidément les méthodes des antifas, fussent-ils extrémistes, que la saisine, vraisemblablement vaine et contre-productive, du parquet, par Matignon », écrivait le chroniqueur d’extrême-gauche, invitant ainsi explicitement ses petits camarades à un passage à l’acte contre le journal d’extrême-droite. Manque de bol, 72 heures plus tard, c’est contre son propre journal que s’est retourné le canon du fusil à pompe…

Une histoire de climat

Le climat, donc. Fabrice Rousselot, directeur de la rédaction de Libé, l’évoquait sur BFMTV. Un climat qui a débuté « depuis qu’on a pris position contre le racisme

». Tiens donc. Nicolas Demorand, directeur de publication du même journal, parlait, lui, d’une « ambiance » qui se dessinait. Mais c’est Arnauld Champremier-Trigano qui mettra enfin des mots sur ce climat dont tout le monde parle. C’est un climat « de haine raciale » et de « haine des médias ». Mieux : d’après le député PS de Seine-Saint-Denis, Daniel Goldberg, cette affaire est liée « aux attaques racistes visant Christiane Taubira ».

L’inénarrable Caroline Fourest entre enfin en scène. Dans un article publié sur le site du Huffington Post, et après avoir précisé, par pure rhétorique, qu’il fallait « attendre d’en savoir plus », la militante féministe tire à boulets rouges sur « l’incitation à la haine qui vise de plus en plus souvent les médias », et dénonce « Internet, les réseaux sociaux », ses bêtes noires, des lieux où l’on accuse « les puissants cosmopolites ou les pauvres étrangers » en toute impunité. « Dans ce bistrot devenu global, on parle fort, on parle souvent des musulmans, des Arabes, des Juifs, des noirs, des singes et des journalistes… », ajoute-t-elle avant de conclure : « Mais la plus grande responsabilité, aujourd’hui, est à droite, où l’absence de complexe et la surenchère ont libéré une parole mortifère. On entend décidément trop peu la droite républicaine. Où est-elle ? Quand des gens de son propre camp dérapent et tiennent des propos à droite de l’actuel Front national. » Sur LCP, elle fera même le lien entre le tireur de Libération, Anders Breivik et ses « agresseurs » de la Manif pour tous.

Au final, personne ne sait rien, mais tout le monde le sait : c’est l’extrême-droite qui a fait le coup.

Deux poids/deux mesures

Mercredi 20 novembre 2013, un homme présentant « une forte ressemblance » avec les images de vidéosurveillance est interpellé alors qu’il est « endormi » dans son véhicule après avoir pris des médicaments. Les tests ADN réalisés l’affirment : il s’agit de l’homme qui s’était rendu armé, le 15 novembre, à BFMTV, qui a tiré sur le photographe de Libération puis sur le siège de la Société générale à La Défense trois jours plus tard. Le nom du suspect ne tarde pas à filtrer : l’homme « de type européen » s’appelle Abdelhakim Dekhar, il est d’origine algérienne, connu des services de police pour avoir, dans l’affaire Rey-Maupin en 1994, fourni un fusil à pompe aux « tueurs de flics ». Mais l’homme est surtout un pur produit du militantisme marxiste libertaire antifasciste et possède un pedigree à faire pâlir les activistes : militant au « Mouvement d’action et de résistance sociale » (MARS), d’une « Section carrément anti-Le Pen » (SCALP), adhérent de la « Coordination des sans-abris », du « Collectif d’agitation pour un revenu garanti optimal » (CARGO) et des « Travailleurs, chômeurs et précaires en colère » (TCP). Dans l’une des lettres retrouvée à son appartement après son arrestation, il explique son geste en évoquant un « complot fasciste » dans les médias, qu’il accuse « de participer à la manipulation des masses, les journalistes étant payés pour faire avaler aux citoyens le mensonge à la petite cuillère ».

Dekhar a pris les discours antifascistes très au sérieux

Lors de l’affaire Merah, la révélation de l’identité du tueur avait provoqué un retournement des médias. Cette fois, c’est un silence embarrassé qui succède au fantasme. La mort de Clément Méric (voir notre dossier sur le sujet) avait entraîné une véritable vendetta politico-médiatique contre les groupes d’extrême-droite. Au nom de la République en danger, il fallait « tailler en pièce » les groupuscules (Jean-Marc Ayrault), responsables du fameux climat qui avait rendu possible le passage à l’acte. Mais pour Abdelhakim Dekhar, lié à l’extrême-gauche violente et terroriste, le mot d’ordre est tout autre : pas d’amalgame… Le tireur est présenté comme un individu isolé, pas du tout organisé, et, évidemment, déséquilibré. Quant aux journalistes et hommes politiques qui attisent les haines avec leur discours incessant sur la « menace fasciste », discours pris au sérieux par Abdelhakim Dekhar, nul ne songe évidemment à leur demander des comptes, ou tout au moins à les rendre responsables de ce fameux climat ayant favorisé le passage à l’acte.

Avec l’affaire Méric, le drame avait tourné politique. Avec l’affaire Dekhar, le drame devient psychiatrique. À l’unanimité, il ne peut s‘agir que d’un « suicidaire, déséquilibré, instable et marginal », d’un « errant solitaire, sans attaches, sans famille politique, sans acolyte ». En aucun cas l’extrême-gauche et sa frange terroriste n’est en cause. Rue89 affirme même, par le biais de son ancien avocat que l’homme n’est pas de gauche… « Mais où sont passés les bien-pensants qui criaient au péril fasciste ? », s’interroge André Bercoff sur Atlantico. Car que ce serait-il passé si le tireur s’était avéré appartenir à cette extrême-droite fantasmée ? « Alors là, on en aurait eu des tonnes ! des kilos !… et François Hollande aurait appelé à une grande manifestation place de la Nation ! », croit savoir Yves Thréard.

Un suicide collectif des médias ?

La voix de la raison sera portée par Guy Birenbaum qui, dans le Huffington Post, adressera un message à la profession : « Si jamais on se plante, on se vautre, et notamment parce que l’on n’a pas voulu dire ou écrire “je ne sais pas” ou “je n’en sais rien”… il faut revenir et dire “J’ai eu tort”. Parce qu’à chaque fois que quelqu’un dit ou écrit “Je me suis trompé”, j’ai la faiblesse de penser qu’il progresse et nous fait avancer. »

Telle est la réalité : de nombreux journalistes se sont une fois de plus trompés mais personne ne l’a dit. Comment ne pas comprendre que la méfiance, si ce n’est l’hostilité, qui se développent à l’égard des médias viennent de là ? Le public réclame de l’analyse et des faits aux journalistes qui lui servent en retour de l’idéologie et du fantasme, propres à obscurcir encore davantage la réalité qu’ils ont pour métier d’éclairer. A l’heure d’Internet, ces manipulations ne peuvent qu’entraîner un suicide collectif des médias.

Voir enfin:

Abdelhakim Dekhar : Libération louait les « méthodes des antifa » trois jours avant l’attentat

Le danger fasciste régulièrement agité par des journalistes semeurs de haine et des politiciens désireux de détourner l’attention sur l’état du pays, Dekhar l’a pris très au sérieux, lui qui a laissé une lettre dans laquelle il déclare lutter contre le retour du fascisme en France. Pourquoi ne pas pointer les responsabilités morales ?

Lors de l’Affaire Méric, Manuel Valls ne s’était pas gêné pour dénoncer « la culture méthodiquement inculquée et entretenue par des groupes d’extrême droite ». Ayrault voulait, lui, « tailler en pièces » ces mêmes groupuscules et quand Jean-François Copé demandait la dissolution des groupuscules violents des deux camps, le ministre de l’Intérieur répondait : « ce n’est pas le moment de faire des amalgames. Ce sont des groupes d’extrême-droite qui depuis des mois portent des discours de haine. Il ne faut pas confondre ce discours avec ceux qui d’une manière ou d’une autre luttent contre le fascisme ». « Il ne faut pas tirer de ligne trop évidente entre les droites mais il est sûr que la libération de la parole publique, notamment chez les dirigeants politique, ça n’est jamais sans conséquence », notait de son côté l’adjointe au maire de Paris Colombe Brossel.

Quand la violence politique provient de l’extrême-droite, la responsabilité en incombe aux « discours de haine », aux unes de Minute et au Front National. Quand elle sort des rangs de l’extrême-gauche, la responsabilité… n’en incombe plus à personne. Pourquoi un tel deux poids/deux mesures ?

A l’occasion du scandale occasionné par la une de Minute, Pierre Marcelle écrivait dans Libération le 15 novembre dernier : « Pour combattre la barbarie, on préfèrera décidément les méthodes des antifas, fussent-ils extrémistes, que la saisine, vraisemblablement vaine et contre-productive, du parquet, par Matignon ». Le chroniqueur d’extrême-gauche incitait ainsi clairement à des actes de violences contre l’hebdomadaire satirique. Mais c’est contre son propre journal que ces « méthodes antifa » qu’il appelait de ses vœux se sont retournées trois jours plus tard. A trop manipuler de la dynamite…

Voir enfin:

Qui est Abdelhakim Dekhar, présumé tireur de « Libération » ?

Né le 24 septembre 1965 en Moselle, fils de Larbi, ouvrier mineur, ex-agent de liaison du FLN pendant la guerre d’Algérie, et de Reckia, tous deux originaires de petite Kabylie, Abdelhakim Dekhar, alias « Toumi, dispose de la double nationalité, française et algérienne. Il a exercé les métiers de chaudronnier et d’animateur, mais à en croire l’un des docteurs qui a mené son examen psychologique pour le compte de la justice après son arrestation, en 1994, pour complicité de vol à main armée,  « ces différents emplois n’auraient en fait qu’un rôle de prétexte, puisque son activité réelle, officielle et mensualisée selon lui, aurait été celle d’officier de renseignements pour les autorités algériennes ». « C’est ainsi, poursuit le docteur, qu’il aurait eu pour mission d’infiltrer les milieux gauchistes, marginaux et potentiellement violents de la région parisienne ». Dernière réflexion : « Il n’est pas impossible que les services de renseignements algériens ou français utilisent des personnalités plus ou moins déséquilibrées et plus ou moins insérées socialement pour justement infiltrer les milieux marginaux ».

Dés ses premières déclarations devant le juge chargé d’élucider l’attaque d’une fourrière parisienne par deux apprentis gauchistes, ponctuée par la mort de trois policiers et d’un chauffeur de taxi, Dekhar raconte en effet qu’il a bénéficié d’une formation dans une école militaire, près d’Alger (« On m’a appris à formuler des messages, à les coder, à filmer avec des caméscopes et à filer les gens »). Puis comment il a mené ses premières missions d’espionnage parmi les étudiants algériens, sur le campus universitaire de Metz, pour le compte d’un membre de l’amicale des algériens en Europe, un certain Mohamed Boudiaf. C’est sous le contrôle d’un officier palestinien, un certain Haffif Lakdar, qu’il aurait approfondi ses contacts avec la mouvance autonome, en particulier avec Philippe Lemoual, qu’il a connu à l’occasion d’un concert, puis en fréquentant les squats parisiens, fin 1990. « On m’avait, dit-il, demandé de m’infiltrer auprès de gens susceptibles de faire partie de milieux islamistes dans certaines banlieues ». On lui aurait également permis d’accéder à une sorte de centre de documentation sur l’extrême gauche clandestine, situé à l’intérieur de l’ambassade d’un pays du Golfe, près de Trocadéro. Il aurait ensuite été pris en main par un membre du consulat d’Algérie à Aubervilliers, un certain Moukran. Travaux pratiques : un mystérieux tract appelle à la jonction de la violence entre l’Algérie et les banlieues françaises, en novembre 1993. « On » lui demande « d’être bien » avec Philippe, mais aussi avec un garçon surnommé « Francky », qui semble lui aussi avoir un lien avec ce tract.


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

6 décembre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/www.rightsidenews.com/images/stories/December_2013/Editorial/US_Opinion/320x276xANC_MANDELA_COUPLE_JOE_SLOVO_COMMUNIST.jpg.pagespeed.ic.naRfeQ9VR6.jpgNelson Mandela (L) is embraced by PLO leader Yasser Arafat as he arrives at Lusaka airport February 27, 1990.  REUTERS/Howard BurdittJe ne saurais trop insister sur le rôle que l’Église méthodiste a joué dans ma vie. Nelson Mandela (23e anniversaire de la Gospel Church power of Republic of South Africa, 1995)
Sans l’Église, sans les institutions religieuses, je ne serais pas là aujourd’hui.  Nelson Mandela (parlement mondial des religions, 1999)
Nous qui avons grandi dans des maisons religieuses et qui avons étudié dans les écoles des missionnaires, nous avons fait l’expérience d’un profond conflit spirituel quand nous avons vu le mode de vie que nous jugions sacré remis en question par de nouvelles philosophies, et quand nous nous sommes rendu compte que, parmi ceux qui traitaient notre foi d’opium, il y avait des penseurs dont l’intégrité et l’amour pour les hommes ne faisaient pas de doute. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Fatima Meer, 1977)
J’assiste encore à tous les services de l’Église et j’apprécie certains sermons.  Nelson Mandela (lettre de Robben island)
Partager le sacrement qui fait partie de la tradition de mon Église était important à mes yeux. Cela me procurait l’apaisement et le calme intérieur. En sortant des services, j’étais un homme neuf. (…) Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Ahmed Kathrada, 1993)
J’ai bien sûr été baptisé à l’Église wesleyenne et j’ai fréquenté ses écoles missionnaires. Dehors comme ici, je lui reste fidèle, mais mes conceptions ont eu tendance à s’élargir et à être bienveillantes envers l’unité religieuse. Nelson Mandela (1977)
La relation entre un homme et son Dieu est un sujet extrêmement privé, qui ne regarde pas les mass media. Cela dit, les institutions religieuses m’ont aidé à garder le moral pendant mon séjour en prison. Les prêtres nous rendaient visite régulièrement pour célébrer la messe; plusieurs sermons nous ont renforcés dans notre détermination. Les religieux ont fréquemment agi comme des intermédiaires entre les prisonniers et leurs familles, aussi. Et l’Eglise a veillé à nous fournir des livres, quand l’administration pénitentiaire les autorisait. Nelson Mandela (interview à l’Express, 1995)
The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence. Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, « Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence. » Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, « Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor … » Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle. Nelson Mandela (Time, 1999)
Trois modernes ont marqué ma vie d’un sceau profond et ont fait mon enchantement: Raychandbhai [écrivain gujarati connu pour ses polémiques religieuses], Tolstoï, par son livre « Le Royaume des Cieux est en vous », et Ruskin et son Unto This Last. Gandhi
In planning the direction and form that MK would take, we considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. Because it did not involve loss of life it offered the best hope for reconciliation among the races afterward. We did not want to start a blood feud between white and black. Animosity between Afrikaner and Englishman was still sharp fifty years after the Anglo-Boer War; what would race relations be like between white and black if we provoked a civil war? Sabotage had the added virtue of requiring the least manpower. Our strategy was to make selective forays against military installations, power plants, telephone lines, and transportation links; targets that would not only hamper the military effectiveness of the state, but frighten National Party supporters, scare away foreign capital, and weaken the economy. This we hoped would bring the government to the bargaining table. Strict instructions were given to members of MK that we would countenance no loss of life. But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Mandela (Long walk to freedom, 1995)
He needed that time in prison to mellow. Desmond Tutu (Sky News)
Perhaps the most difficult case to make is that of the ANC in South Africa. If ever a group could legitimately claim to have resorted to force only as a last resort, it is the ANC. Founded in 1912, for the first fifty years the movement treated nonviolence as a core principle. In 1961, however, with all forms of political organization closed to it, Nelson Mandela was authorized to create a separate military organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In his autobiography Mandela describes the strategy session as the movement examined the options available to them: We considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. These fine distinctions were lost on the court in Rivonia that convicted Mandela and most of the ANC leadership in 1964 and sentenced them to life imprisonment. For the next twenty years an increasingly repressive white minority state denied the most basic political rights to the majority black population. An uprising in Soweto was defeated, as was an MK guerrilla campaign launched from surrounding states. In 1985, the government declared a state of emergency, which was followed within three weeks by thirteen terrorist bombings in major downtown areas. Reasonable people can differ on whether or not the terrorism of the ANC was justified, given the legitimacy of the goals it sought and the reprehensible nature of the government it faced. The violent campaign of the ANC in the early and mid-1980s, however, was indisputably a terrorist campaign. Unless and until we are willing to label a group whose ends we believe to be just a terrorist group, if it deliberately targets civilians in order to achieve those ends, we are never going to be able to forge effective international cooperation against terrorism. Louise Richardson
In the end, Mandela was arrested before the armed struggle reached that stage. Then, as he languished in prison—a powerful symbol, but no longer accountable as a commander—terrorism did come to the fore. The infamous Church Street bombing in 1983, for instance, targeted the South African Air Force headquarters, killing 19 people and wounding 217, among them many innocent bystanders. When at last the white South African government, facing the possibility of wider civil war and pressured by international sanctions, turned to Mandela for secret talks, it could do so knowing he had the authority to negotiate without the taint of direct involvement with the carnage. His combination of pragmatism and humanity was key. The Daily Beast
Crucially, Mandela was open to escalation to terror tactics and guerrilla war. The ANC’s 1982 attack of the Koeberg nuclear plant — yes, crucial infrastructure — killed 19 people. Unsurprisingly, the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Mandela himself was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008. Natasha Lennard
Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst. After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. (…) Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage. The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam. Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims. WRONG! Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Deroy Murdock
Envoyé à la cour du roi, Rolhlahla se prépare à assurer la succession à la chefferie, à l’école des pasteurs méthodistes d’abord, puis, en 1938 à l’University College for Bantu de Fort Hare, seul établissement secondaire habilité à l’époque à recevoir des «non-Blancs». Les fondateurs blancs de Fort Hare entendaient former une élite noire capable de servir leur dessein colonial. Mais face à la conjugaison d’esprits éveillés, l’épreuve de la réalité étant la plus forte, l’université «bantoue» s’est transformée en pépinière du nationalisme d’Afrique australe, d’où sortirent notamment les frères ennemis zimbabwéens Joshua Nkomo et Robert Mugabe ou le «père de la Nation» zambienne, Kenneth Kaunda. (…) Fondé à Bloemfontein en 1912, l’African native national congress (ANNC) avait abandonné son initiale coloniale «native» (indigène) en 1923 pour devenir ANC. Largement inspiré par les idées légalistes du promoteur de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, Booker T. Washington, l’ANC avait entrepris d’informer la communauté noire sud-africaine sur ses droits ou ce qui en restait, faisant aussi campagne par exemple contre la loi sud-africaine sur les laissez-passer. (…) En 1951, Tambo et Mandela sont les deux premiers avocats noirs inscrits au barreau de Johannesburg. L’année suivante, ils ouvrent un cabinet ensemble. En 1950, les principales lois de l’apartheid ont été adoptées, en particulier le Group areas act qui assigne notamment à «résidence» les Noirs dans les bantoustans et les townships. Le Supression communist act inscrit dans son champ anti-communiste toute personne qui «cherche à provoquer un changement politique, industriel, économique ou social par des moyens illégaux». Bien évidemment, pour l’apartheid il n’y a pas de possibilité de changement légal. Mais en rangeant dans le même sac nationalistes, communistes, pacifistes et révolutionnaires, il ferme la fracture idéologique qui opposait justement ces derniers au sein de l’ANC. Pour sa part, Nelson Mandela rompt avec son anti-communisme chrétien intransigeant pour recommander l’unité de lutte anti-apartheid entre les nationalistes noirs et les Blancs du SACP. Elu président de l’ANC pour le Transvaal et vice président national de l’ANC, Nelson Mandela est également choisi comme «volontaire en chef» pour lancer en juin 1952 une action de désobéissance civile civile de grande envergure à la manière du Mahatma Ghandi, la «défiance campaign», où il anime des cohortes de manifestants descendus en masse dans la rue. La campagne culmine en octobre, contre la ségrégation légalisée et en particulier contre le port obligatoire des laissez-passer imposé aux Noirs. Tout un arsenal de loi sur la «sécurité publique» verrouille l’état d’urgence qui autorise l’apartheid à gouverner par décrets. Condamné à neuf mois de prison avec sursis, le charismatique Mandela est interdit de réunion et assigné à résidence à Johannesburg. Il en profite pour mettre au point le «Plan M» qui organise l’ANC en cellules clandestines. La répression des années cinquante contraint Mandela à faire disparaître son nom de l’affiche officielle de l’ANC mais ne l’empêche pas de participer en 1955 au Congrès des peuples qui adopte une Charte des Libertés préconisant l’avènement d’une société multiraciale et démocratique. Le Congrès parvient en effet à rassembler l’ANC, le Congrès indien, l’Organisation des métis sud-africain (SACPO), le Congrès des démocrates -composé de communistes proscrits depuis 1950 et de radicaux blancs- ainsi que le Congrès des syndicats sud-africains (SACTU). Le 5 décembre 1956, Nelson Mandela est arrêté avec Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix 1960) et des dizaines de dirigeants du mouvement anti-apartheid. Ils sont accusés, toutes races et toutes obédiences confondues, de comploter contre l’Etat au sein d’une organisation internationale d’inspiration communiste. En mars 1961, le plus long procès de l’histoire judiciaire sud-africaine s’achève sur un non-lieu général. L’ANC estime avoir épuisé tous les recours de la non-violence. Le 21 mars 1960, à Sharpeville, la police de l’apartheid transforme en bain de sang (69 morts et 180 blessés) une manifestation pacifique contre les laissez-passer. L’état d’urgence est réactivé. Des milliers de personnes font les frais de la répression terrible qui s’ensuit dans tous le pays. Le 8 avril, l’ANC et le Congrès panafricain (le PAC né d’une scission anti-communiste) sont interdits. Cette même année de sang, Nelson épouse en deuxièmes noces Winnie, une assistante sociale, et entre en clandestinité. En mai 1961, le succès de son mot d’ordre de grève générale à domicile «stay at house» déchaîne les foudres de Pretoria qui déploie son grand jeu militaro-policier pour briser la résistance. En décembre, l’ANC met en application le plan de passage graduel à la lutte armée rédigé par Nelson Mandela. Avant d’en arriver à «la guérilla, le terrorisme et la révolution ouverte», Mandela préconise le sabotage des cibles militaro-industrielles qui, écrit-il, «n’entraîne aucune perte en vie humaine et ménage les meilleures chances aux relations interraciales». Le 16 décembre 1961 des explosions marquent aux quatre coins du pays le baptême du feu d’Umkhonto We Sizwe, le «fer de lance de la Nation», la branche militaire de l’ANC. D’Addis-Abeba en janvier 1962 où se tient la conférence du Mouvement panafricain pour la libération de l’Afrique australe et orientale, à l’Algérie fraîchement indépendante d’Ahmed Ben Bella où il suit une formation militaire avec son ami Tambo, Nelson Mandela sillonne l’Afrique pour plaider la cause de l’ANC et recueillir subsides et bourses universitaires. Le pacifiste se met à l’étude de la stratégie militaire. Clausewitz, Mao et Che Guevara voisinent sur sa table de chevet avec les spécialistes de la guerre anglo-boers. A son retour, il est arrêté, le 5 août 1962, grâce à un indicateur de police, après une folle cavale où il emprunte toutes sortes de déguisements. En novembre, il écope de 5 ans de prison pour sortie illégale du territoire mais aussi comme fauteur de grève. Alors qu’il a commencé à purger sa peine, une deuxième vague d’accusation va le clouer en prison pour deux décennies de plus. Les services de l’apartheid sont parvenus à infiltrer l’ANC jusqu’à sa tête. Le 11 juillet 1963, les principaux chefs d’Umkhonto We Sizwe tombent dans ses filets. Avec eux, dans la ferme de Lilliesleaf, à Rivonia, près de Johannesburg, la police de Pretoria met la main sur des kilos de documents, parmi lesquels le plan de passage à la lutte armée signé Mandela. RFI
Les dirigeants révolutionnaires cambodgiens sont pour la plupart issus de familles de la bourgeoisie. Beaucoup effectuèrent leurs études dans des universités françaises dans les années 1950. Dans une atmosphère parisienne cosmopolite et propice aux échanges d’idées, ils se rallièrent à l’idéologie communiste. Ses principaux dirigeants (Pol Pot, Khieu Samphân, Son Sen…) furent formés à Paris dans les années 1950 au Cercle des Études Marxistes fondé par le Bureau Politique du PCF en 1930. Wikipedia
Il est malheureux que le Moyen-Orient ait rencontré pour la première fois la modernité occidentale à travers les échos de la Révolution française. Progressistes, égalitaristes et opposés à l’Eglise, Robespierre et les jacobins étaient des héros à même d’inspirer les radicaux arabes. Les modèles ultérieurs — Italie mussolinienne, Allemagne nazie, Union soviétique — furent encore plus désastreux. (…) Ce qui rend l’entreprise terroriste des islamistes aussi dangereuse, ce n’est pas tant la haine religieuse qu’ils puisent dans des textes anciens — souvent au prix de distorsions grossières —, mais la synthèse qu’ils font entre fanatisme religieux et idéologie moderne. Ian Buruma et Avishai Margalit
Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager. This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone). The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman. The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a « poetic truth. » Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: « America is a racist nation »; « the immigration debate is driven by racism »; « Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon. » And we say, « Yes, of course, » lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason. In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument. One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman? Shelby Steele
I think he probably is the one man who stands out as having a moral integrity and a far-sighted view. I think that′s why other politicians such as Bill Clinton or Tony Blair feel a great awe of him, because he has those qualities which I′m not sure they have themselves.′ (…) He started as a tribalist, then he became a nationalist, and then he became a multi-nationalist or a multi-culturalist, and gradually saw a wider and wider world.  (…) there were of course two sides of him. He was a practising lawyer, and he had tremendous respect for the law, and was always quoting it – as he does now – but at the same time he was very aware that it was impossible to achieve any kind of redress through non-violent means. He never really believed in the Ghandi-ist principle of ′turn the other cheek′. Long before 1960 he was inclined to go further towards the suggestion of violence. But at that point the logic became almost incontrovertible. There was no alternative. But perhaps more important was the fact that his own people were turning towards more dangerous kinds of violence. So it would have been impossible for him to maintain any leadership if he was purely pacifist.′ (…) There′s no doubt in my mind that it (Robben Island) tremendously increased his self-discipline and his understanding of people. It was a tremendously enclosed world, and for most of the time he was only with 30 of his colleagues together with the warders so it had the intensity of a boarding school, albeit with much more discipline and harshness. So for somebody who was strong enough, who had the necessary confidence in themselves, it was a tremendous school in human relations. It was the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with, actually. ′During his twenty-seven years in Robben Island, Mandela was able to extend his influence beyond the ANC to the rival groups, which was very important when he got out. But above all he acquired an increased sensitivity to other people. He sharpened his skills of debate and persuasion tremendously, and probably his greatest gift is his capacity to persuade. You can see how, for someone who had that sense of self-respect and dignity, the jail experience was almost a training ground. Anthony Simpson
Né le 18 juillet 1918 dans l’ancien Transkei, mort le 5 décembre 2013, Nelson Mandela ne ressemblait pas à la pieuse image que le politiquement correct planétaire donne aujourd’hui de lui. Par delà les émois lénifiants et les hommages hypocrites, il importe de ne jamais perdre de vue les éléments suivants :(…) Aristocrate xhosa issu de la lignée royale des Thembu, Nelson Mandela n’était pas un « pauvre noir opprimé ». Eduqué à l’européenne par des missionnaires méthodistes, il commença ses études supérieures à Fort Hare, université destinée aux enfants des élites noires, avant de les achever à Witwatersrand, au Transvaal, au cœur de ce qui était alors le « pays boer ». Il s’installa ensuite comme avocat à Johannesburg. (…) Il n’était pas non plus ce gentil réformiste que la mièvrerie médiatique se plait à dépeindre en « archange de la paix » luttant pour les droits de l’homme, tel un nouveau Gandhi ou un nouveau Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela fut en effet et avant tout un révolutionnaire, un combattant, un militant qui mit « sa peau au bout de ses idées », n’hésitant pas à faire couler le sang des autres et à risquer le sien. Il fut ainsi l’un des fondateurs de l’Umkonto We Sizwe, « le fer de lance de la nation », aile militaire de l’ANC, qu’il co-dirigea avec le communiste Joe Slovo, planifiant et coordonnant plus de 200 attentats et sabotages pour lesquels il fut condamné à la prison à vie. (…) Nelson Mandela n’a pas apaisé les rapports inter-raciaux. Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1994, en 24 ans, alors que l’ANC était « en guerre » contre le « gouvernement blanc », une soixantaine de fermiers blancs furent tués. Depuis avril 1994, date de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Nelson Mandela, plus de 2000 fermiers blancs ont été massacrés dans l’indifférence la plus totale des médias européens. Bernard Lugan (historien français controversé)
At present his legacy in some respects still exists in emergent form, has yet to express its true contours. This is to my mind the key difference between how he is viewed at home and internationally, where the lacquer of adulation laid thick upon the « human-rights legend » has long since hardened. Abroad, Mandela is the African the world loves to love, even if in a strikingly over-compensatory way. Africa the continent of famine, corruption and social abjection has produced, at least, this one fine human being, Europeans and Americans appear to breathe as they cluster around him. A hostile Sunday Times (London) magazine article, which appeared the weekend before his 18 July birthday, opined that the one task Mandela can still competently carry out is to smile his dazzling smile, only now it is on command. There is little that is meaningful in it: in his old age he has become a mask of his former charismatic self, to which the world has grown accustomed to genuflect. For the international community the paradox is that by heaping excessive adoration upon the head of this one seemingly superhuman African, we have left Africa, the continent, its people, more lacking of attention by contrast. There have been many great Africans yet their reputation has been dangerously eclipsed by this one over-hyped African hero of our times. Yet it is here, within the gap between his fully manifested yet relatively shallow international fame, and his still-latent local significance, that, it seems to me, the potential for renewed understandings of Mandela have the opportunity to emerge, which, when all is said and done, is a good thing. Within this gap, then, I would venture to place the following desiderata. Let us not allow our image of Mandela to petrify into cliché, especially yet not only while he is still alive amongst us. Let his meanings evolve and change in rhythm with his times. Let his legacy organisations perhaps relax a little in wanting to predetermine how the future will see him. His achievement on its own dwarfs the efforts of such tireless PR policing. What is not in doubt is that Mandela is a great and humane human being not in spite of his Africanness, as his western acolytes (according to the Sunday Times) believe, but because of his Africanness. Perhaps most important, let us not forget that his greatness as an African was dependent on the cooperation of hosts of other Africans, little and great, ordinary and extraordinary, as he himself has always recognised. Elleke Boehmer
Tout au long de leur vie, Yasser Arafat et Nelson Mandela, icônes respectives de la cause de leur peuple, récompensés à une année d’écart par le Prix Nobel de la Paix affichaient la solidarité et la complicité de vieux camarades de lutte. Libération
Les Israéliens voient en Mandela un leader qui prit la décision de principe de faire la paix avec ses ennemis et tint parole. Les Palestiniens voient en lui un combattant nationaliste qui refusa de compromettre ses principes, même si cela impliquait d’immenses souffrances personnelles — et comme un leader guidé par ces mêmes principes, lorsqu’il fallut faire les compromis historiques nécessaires pour minimiser les effusions de sang tout en poursuivant ses objectifs. Et dans les deux cas — comme dans d’autres — Arafat ne tient tout simplement pas la comparaison. Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A savoir l’ex-leader palestinien Yasser Arafat ?

Unfortunately, Arafat’s No Nelson Mandela

Tony Karon

Time

Jun. 05, 2001

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

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

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

Intifada as a bargaining chip

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

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

Palestinians are angry at Arafat, too

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

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

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

Pulling the keffiyeh over Palestinian eyes

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

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

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

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

Little gained, much lost

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

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

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

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

Voir aussi:

Anger at the Heart of Nelson Mandela’s Violent Struggle

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

Christopher Dickey

The Daily Beast

12.06.13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir également:

The graduates of Robben Island

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

Anthony Sampson

The Guardian

18 February 1996

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir encore:

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

Harpers Collins.ca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does he find the spotlight hard to bear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Mandela actually like as a person?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir de même:

Beyond the icon: Nelson Mandela in his 90th year

Elleke Boehmer

12 November 2008

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

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

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

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

The global imaginary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The multiple reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

Voir également:

Nelson Mandela, R.I.P

Deroy Murdock

National Review on line

December 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

WRONG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir aussi:

The concert that transformed Mandela from terrorist to icon

Jaime Velazquez, Agence France-Presse

ABS.CBnews

06/12/2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir encore:

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

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

Colin Freeman, and Jane Flanagan in Cape Town

08 Dec 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir de même:

The sacred warrior

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

Nelson Mandela

Time

December 27, 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No ordinary leader–divinely inspired

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

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

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

Awakening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir par ailleurs:

Nelson Mandela, un chrétien discret

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

Laurent Larcher

La Croix

6/12/13

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

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

« Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

« une affaire strictement personnelle »

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : un homme une voie

RFI

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

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

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

Nationalisme et pacifisme

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

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

Programme d’action unitaire

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

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

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

Désobéissance civile et clandestinité

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

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

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

Sabotages et lutte armée

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

En Afrique du Sud, les fermiers blancs ont peur

Patricia Huon, Correspondante en Afrique du Sud

La Libre Belgique

11 octobre 2013

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

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

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

Violence raciale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : l’icône et le néant

Communiqué de Bernard Lugan[1]

6 décembre 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Institut Stats SA .

Voir par ailleurs:

Arafat’s Death and the Polonium Mystery

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

Edward Jay Epstein

The Wall Street Journal

Dec. 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPLEMENT:

What Nelson Mandela can teach us all about violence

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

Natasha Lennard

Salon

Dec 8, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natasha Lennard

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


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

1 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/consumertraveler.com/wp-content/uploads/In-God-.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/edge.liveleak.com/80281E/ll_a_s/2013/Oct/23/LiveLeak-dot-com-f83_1382554898-USHasSpent37TrillionOnWelfareOverPast5Yearsprev.jpgMais, quand le Fils de l’homme viendra, trouvera-t-il la foi sur la terre? Jésus (Luc 18: 8)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Je pensais à cette vieille blague, vous savez, ce-ce-ce type va chez un psychiatre et dit : « Doc, euh, mon frère est fou. Il se prend pour un poulet. » Et, euh, le docteur dit : « Et bien, pourquoi ne le faites-vous pas enfermer ? » Et le type dit : « J’aimerais bien, mais j’ai besoin des œufs. » Et bien, je crois que c’est ce que je ressens au sujet des relations. Vous savez, elles sont totalement irrationnelles et folles et absurdes et… mais, euh, je crois qu’on continue parce que, euh, la plupart d’entre nous ont besoin des œufs…  Woody Allen
Nous venons de terminer le cinquième exercice depuis que le président Obama a pris ses fonctions. Durant ces cinq années, le gouvernement fédéral a dépensé un total de 3,7  mille milliard de dollars pour environ 80 programmes sous condition de ressources différents contre la pauvreté et de protection sociale. La caractéristique commune des programmes d’aide sous condition de ressources est qu’ils sont gradués par apport au revenu d’une personne et que, contrairement aux programmes tels que la sécurité sociale ou l’assurance-maladie, ils sont un avantage gratuit sans aucune contribution du bénéficiaire. La somme énorme dépensée pourl’assistance sous condition de ressources est près de cinq fois supérieure au montant combiné consacré à la NASA et à l’éducation et à tous les projets de transport de compétence fédérale au cours de cette époque. (3,7 mille milliards de dollars n’est pas encore la totalité du montant dépensé pour le soutien fédéral de la pauvreté, les États membres contribuant pour plus de 200 milliards de dollars chaque année à ce lien fédéral, principalement sous forme de soins de santé gratuits à faible revenu.) Parce que le budget de l’aide sociale est tellement fragmenté — les coupons alimentaires ne sont qu’un des 15 programmes fédéraux qui fournissent une aide alimentaire, cela rend le contrôle efficace presque impossible, tout en masquant l’étendue tant aux contribuables qu’aux législateurs. Par exemple, il est plus facile pour les législateurs opposés aux réformes de s’opposer à des économies de coupons alimentaires en occultant le fait qu’un ménage qui reçoit des coupons alimentaires a souvent simultanément  droit à une myriade de programmes d’aide fédéraux y compris l’assistance de trésorerie, les logements subventionnés, les soins médicaux gratuits, la garde d’enfants gratuite et l’assistance énergétique à la maison. Commission sénatoriale du Budget
« Il est temps que l’Amérique comprenne que beaucoup des plus grandes disparités de la nation, de l’éducation à la pauvreté et à l’espérance de vie sont de plus en plus liées à la position de classe économique, » a déclaré William Julius Wilson, professeur de Harvard spécialiste des questions raciales et de la pauvreté. Il note par ailleurs que, malgré la persistance des difficultés économiques, les minorités sont plus optimistes quant à l’avenir après l’élection d’Obama, ce qui n’est pas les blancs qui se débattait. « Il y a la possibilité réelle que l’aliénation blanche va augmenter si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour mettre en évidence et lutter contre l’inégalité sur un large front, » a dit Ted Wilson. Parfois appelé « les pauvres invisibles » par les démographes, les blancs à faible revenu sont généralement dispersés dans les banlieues, mais aussi les petites villes rurales, où plus de 60% des pauvres sont blancs. Concentrés dans les Appalaches à l’est, ils sont également nombreux dans le Midwest industriel et  à travers le cœur de l’Amérique, du Missouri, de l’Arkansas et de l’Oklahoma jusqu’aux grandes plaines. Plus de 19 millions de blancs sont tombésen dessous du seuil de pauvreté de 23 021 $ pour une famille de quatre, représentant plus de 41 % de la nation démunis, près du double le nombre de pauvres noirs. CS monitor
« L’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous. Sartre
Chacun se croit seul en enfer et c’est cela l’enfer. René Girard
De toutes les menaces qui pèsent sur nous, la plus redoutable, nous le savons, la seule réelle, c’est nous-mêmes. René Girard
Ce ne sont pas les différences qui provoquent les conflits mais leur effacement. René Girard
Aucun nombre de bombes atomiques ne pourra endiguer le raz de marée constitué par les millions d’êtres humains qui partiront un jour de la partie méridionale et pauvre du monde, pour faire irruption dans les espaces relativement ouverts du riche hémisphère septentrional, en quête de survie. Boumediene (mars 1974)
Un jour, des millions d’hommes quitteront le sud pour aller dans le nord. Et ils n’iront pas là-bas en tant qu’amis. Parce qu’ils iront là-bas pour le conquérir. Et ils le conquerront avec leurs fils. Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire. Houari Boumediene (ONU, 10.04.74)
Nous avons 50 millions de musulmans en Europe. Il y a des signes qui attestent qu’Allah nous accordera une grande victoire en Europe, sans épée, sans conquête. Les 50 millions de musulmans d’Europe feront de cette dernière un continent musulman. Allah mobilise la Turquie, nation musulmane, et va permettre son entrée dans l’Union Européenne. Il y aura alors 100 millions de musulmans en Europe. L’Albanie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. La Bosnie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. 50% de ses citoyens sont musulmans. L’Europe est dans une fâcheuse posture. Et il en est de même de l’Amérique. Elles [les nations occidentales] devraient accepter de devenir musulmanes avec le temps ou bien de déclarer la guerre aux musulmans. Kadhafi (10.04.06) 
Et si Raspail, avec « Le Camp des Saints », n’était ni un prophète ni un romancier visionnaire, mais simplement un implacable historien de notre futur? Jean Cau
Le 17 février 2001, un cargo vétuste s’échouait volontairement sur les rochers côtiers, non loin de Saint-Raphaël. À son bord, un millier d’immigrants kurdes, dont près de la moitié étaient des enfants. « Cette pointe rocheuse faisait partie de mon paysage. Certes, ils n’étaient pas un million, ainsi que je les avais imaginés, à bord d’une armada hors d’âge, mais ils n’en avaient pas moins débarqué chez moi, en plein décor du Camp des saints, pour y jouer l’acte I. Le rapport radio de l’hélicoptère de la gendarmerie diffusé par l’AFP semble extrait, mot pour mot, des trois premiers paragraphes du livre. La presse souligna la coïncidence, laquelle apparut, à certains, et à moi, comme ne relevant pas du seul hasard. Jean Raspail
Qu’est-ce que Big Other ? C’est le produit de la mauvaise conscience occidentale soigneusement entretenue, avec piqûres de rappel à la repentance pour nos fautes et nos crimes supposés –  et de l’humanisme de l’altérité, cette sacralisation de l’Autre, particulièrement quand il s’oppose à notre culture et à nos traditions. Perversion de la charité chrétienne, Big Other a le monopole du Vrai et du Bien et ne tolère pas de voix discordante. Jean Raspail
Ce qui m’a frappé, c’est le contraste entre les opinions exprimées à titre privé et celles tenues publiquement. Double langage et double conscience… À mes yeux, il n’y a pire lâcheté que celle devant la faiblesse, que la peur d’opposer la légitimité de la force à l’illégitimité de la violence. Jean Raspail
La véritable cible du roman, ce ne sont pas les hordes d’immigrants sauvages du tiers-monde, mais les élites, politiques, religieuses, médiatiques, intellectuelles, du pays qui, par lâcheté devant la faiblesse, trahissent leurs racines, leurs traditions et les valeurs de leur civilisation. En fourriers d’une apocalypse dont ils seront les premières victimes. Chantre des causes dé sespérées et des peuples en voie de disparition, comme son œuvre ultérieure en témoigne, Jean Raspail a, dans ce grand livre d’anticipation, incité non pas à la haine et à la discrimination, mais à la lucidité et au courage. Dans deux générations, on saura si la réalité avait imité la fiction. Bruno de Cessole
Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine. Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux. Le Figaro
Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise. A la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible. Gauthier Toulemonde
En présence de la diversité, nous nous replions sur nous-mêmes. Nous agissons comme des tortues. L’effet de la diversité est pire que ce qui avait été imaginé. Et ce n’est pas seulement que nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Dans les communautés diverses, nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui nous ressemblent. Robert Putnam
Page appelle ça le « paradoxe de diversité. » Il pense que les effets à la fois positifs et négatifs de la diversité peuvent coexister dans les communautés, mais qu’il doit y avoir une limite. » Si l’investissement civique tombe trop bas, il est facile d’imaginer que les effets positifs de la diversité puissent tout aussi bien commencer à s’affaiblir. Michael Jonas
Americans don’t trust each other anymore. We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people. (…) Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things. A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities. Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher. “It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.” (…) There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust. The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust. Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II. Connie Cass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In God we trust, maybe, but not each other

Connie Cass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s no easy fix.

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

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

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

There are still trusters around to set an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can anything bring trust back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

___

Online:

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

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

Voir aussi:

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

Isabelle de Foucaud

le Figaro

18/11/2013

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

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

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

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

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

Les limites du «tout virtuel»

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

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

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

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

Voir encore:

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

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

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

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

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

Mia De Graaf

The Daily Mail

 30 November 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The biggest challenge was lack of human contact.

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

Voir par ailleurs:

Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security

Hope Yen

Jul. 28, 2013

ECONOMIC INSECURITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the findings:

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

Voir aussi:

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

Dutch King: Say Goodbye to Welfare State

AMSTERDAM September 17, 2013 (AP)

Toby Sterling Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——–

History suggests that era of entitlements is nearly over

Michael Barone

The Examiner

January 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———-

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

James Piereson

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

L’enfer c’est les autres

1964 et 1970

L’existentialisme athée

par Jean-Paul Sartre

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

* * *

L’enfer, c’est les autres [1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’existence précède l’essence [2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ma volonté engage l’humanité entière [3]

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

L’angoisse et la mauvaise foi [4]

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

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

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

L’homme est condamné à être libre [5]

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

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

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

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

Le désespoir [6]

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ibid. pages 26 et 27.

[4] Ibid. pages 27 à 33.

[5] Ibid. pages 33 à 38.

[6] Ibid. pages 49 à 51.

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