Tourisme humanitaire: C’est pour les pains et les poissons, imbécile ! (From rice Christians to voluntourists and honeyteers: With the touristization of humanitarian work, both aid agencies and Christian missions rediscover the adverse effects of free lance aid work)

14 septembre, 2016

honeyteering
En vérité, en vérité, je vous le dis, vous me cherchez, non parce que vous avez vu des miracles, mais parce que vous avez mangé des pains et que vous avez été rassasiés. Jésus (Jean 6: 26)
Accordez-moi aussi ce pouvoir, afin que celui à qui j’imposerai les mains reçoive le Saint Esprit. Simon le magicien (Actes 8: 19)
Our ancestors were Roman Catholics; they were made Protestants by the laird coming round with a man having a yellow staff, which would seem to have attracted more attention than his teaching, for the new religion went long afterward, perhaps it does so still, by the name of the religion of the yellow stick. David Livingstone
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère « post-chrétienne » est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en « radicalisant » le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. René Girard
Unfortunately, the Europeans’ devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason. (…) The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. (…) Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid. (…tons of corn are shipped to Africa … [corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers] … and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program. (…) Why do we get these mountains of clothes? No one is freezing here. Instead, our tailors lose their livlihoods. They’re in the same position as our farmers. No one in the low-wage world of Africa can be cost-efficient enough to keep pace with donated products. In 1997, 137,000 workers were employed in Nigeria’s textile industry. By 2003, the figure had dropped to 57,000. The results are the same in all other areas where overwhelming helpfulness and fragile African markets collide. (…) If one were to believe all the horrorifying reports, then all Kenyans should actually be dead by now. But now, tests are being carried out everywhere, and it turns out that the figures were vastly exaggerated. It’s not three million Kenyans that are infected. All of the sudden, it’s only about one million. Malaria is just as much of a problem, but people rarely talk about that. (…) AIDS is big business, maybe Africa’s biggest business. There’s nothing else that can generate as much aid money as shocking figures on AIDS. AIDS is a political disease here, and we should be very skeptical. (…) So you end up with some African biochemist driving an aid worker around, distributing European food, and forcing local farmers out of their jobs. That’s just crazy. James Shikwati
« L’assistance est vraisemblablement la pire des catastrophes de la région, car elle rend possibles l’explosion démographique, les règlements de comptes interethniques, le financement de la guerre, la corruption et l’indifférence aux problèmes sociaux, notamment la précarité sanitaire. (…) L’Afrique a reçu pendant 45 ans plus de mille milliards de dollars, pour quel résultat! Denis-Clair Lambert
Le transfert de ressources des contribuables occidentaux est en fait beaucoup plus important, car dans le même temps les gouvernements locaux empruntent massivement, à faible taux d’intérêt, aux organisations internationales et sur les marchés financiers. Comme les pays prêteurs ont coutume d’annuler périodiquement la dette des pays les plus pauvres, ces derniers empruntent à nouveau. La partie de l’assistance sans remboursement, qualifiée d’aide publique au développement, a très rarement servi au développement de ces pays. Ce pactole nourrit 40 à 60 % des dépenses budgétaires des pays bénéficiaires et souvent la moitié du revenu national. La plus grande partie de ces fonds est destinée au soutien budgétaire, ce qui est une incitation à pérenniser ou accroître le déficit des comptes publics. (…) Il y a tant de donateurs : en moyenne 30 dans les nations d’Afrique et un nombre équivalent d’organisations non gouvernementales, que le programme des Nations Unies finit par reconnaître une véritable gabegie. En Tanzanie l’administration est supposée contrôler 650 projets, qui bien souvent ont le même objet, et pour lesquels il faut rédiger des milliers de rapports et envoyer des centaines de missions. La coordination, l’évaluation, le suivi deviennent des missions impossibles tant pour le pays donateur que pour ce pays récepteur. On ne sait pas combien ces pays reçoivent, chaque donataire expédie des dizaines de missions dans 30 ou 40 pays et ces experts payés au « per diem » finissent par coûter très cher, mais ils remplissent les avions et les hôtels ! L’Union européenne ne fait pas mieux, elle remplit les avions : les chefs de projet changent tous les six mois, comme leurs interlocuteurs, et l’on reprend la procédure à 0. À quoi sert cette assistance ? D’abord à payer les fonctionnaires et la solde des soldats, à satisfaire leur demande d’équipements militaires, puis à honorer les dépenses somptuaires des dirigeants. (…) Quel est le pays africain qui a reçu l’assistance internationale la plus massive depuis 1960 ? L’Éthiopie, suivie par le Soudan, ont reçu de l’Amérique et de l’URSS, de l’Europe et de la Banque mondiale et du Fonds Monétaire International, puis des ONG une assistance massive et stratégique, comme l’Afghanistan en Asie. Ces deux pays étaient cependant dirigés par des dictateurs sanguinaires et farouchement anti-occidentaux. Aujourd’hui le premier bénéficiaire est le Congo-Zaïre, suivi par la Tanzanie et toujours l’Éthiopie. (…) au sud du Sahel saharien la moitié des États sont confrontés à des guerres intestines, l’autre moitié étant riveraine de ces pays sert de refuge aux civils et aux mouvements insurrectionnels » … Denis-Clair Lambert
By Indianization, we are not demanding conversion of Muslims and Christians into Hindus. For the sake of unity and integrity of the country, we are demanding that Christians and Muslims should be indigenized, carrying Indian names. Acharya Giriraj Kishore (Indian Vice President)
What better way to start your married life together than to share a fulfilling, enriching voluntourism experience with your loved one whilst on honeymoon! You can bond together as a couple, enjoy luxury accommodation, and do what other honeymooners don’t get to do: interact meaningfully with the local people, and make a positive impact in their lives! Naturally there is also plenty of time to relax and explore – we can tailor-make your honeymoon volunteering to suit your exact preferences. Hands up holidays
 A 2008 study surveyed 300 organizations that market to would-be voluntourists and estimated that 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation, spending around $2 billion annually. A few are celebrities supporting their cause du jour, who drop in to meet locals and witness a project that often bears their name. Many more come to teach English during high school, college vacations or during a gap year. Others are sun-seeking vacationers who stay at beachside resorts but who also want to see “the real (name your country).” So they go into a community for an afternoon to help local women make beads, jewelry or clothes. Volunteering seems like an admirable way to spend a vacation. Many of us donate money to foreign charities with the hope of making the world a better place. Why not use our skills as well as our wallets? And yet, watching those missionaries make concrete blocks that day in Port-au-Prince, I couldn’t help wondering if their good intentions were misplaced. These people knew nothing about how to construct a building. Collectively they had spent thousands of dollars to fly here to do a job that Haitian bricklayers could have done far more quickly. Imagine how many classrooms might have been built if they had donated that money rather than spending it to fly down themselves. Perhaps those Haitian masons could have found weeks of employment with a decent wage. Instead, at least for several days, they were out of a job. (…) Sometimes, volunteering even causes real harm. Research in South Africa and elsewhere has found that “orphan tourism” — in which visitors volunteer as caregivers for children whose parents died or otherwise can’t support them — has become so popular that some orphanages operate more like opportunistic businesses than charities, intentionally subjecting children to poor conditions in order to entice unsuspecting volunteers to donate more money. Many “orphans,” it turns out, have living parents who, with a little support, could probably do a better job of raising their children than some volunteer can. And the constant arrivals and departures of volunteers have been linked to attachment disorders in children. There are some volunteers who possess specialized, sought-after skills, of course. (…) But not all volunteers come with an expertise like ophthalmology. (…) Perhaps we are fooling ourselves. Unsatisfying as it may be, we ought to acknowledge the truth that we, as amateurs, often don’t have much to offer. Perhaps we ought to abandon the assumption that we, simply by being privileged enough to travel the world, are somehow qualified to help ease the world’s ills. Because the mantra of “good intentions” becomes unworthy when its eventuality can give a South African AIDS orphan an attachment disorder or put a Haitian mason out of work. Jacob Kushner
More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sightsee abroad. Instead they’re working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English. It’s called volunteer tourism, or « voluntourism, » and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year. But some people who work in the industry are skeptical of voluntourism’s rising popularity. They question whether some trips help young adults pad their resumes or college applications more than they help those in need. (…) Most volunteer tourists are women. They’re also young adults, between the ages of 20 and 25, says the industry consulting group Tourism, Research and Marketing, based in Glasbury, Wales. But more and more high school students are also traveling and volunteering. (…) That worldview for many American teens is a lot different than it was two decades ago, says Ken Jones, who owns Maximo Nivel, a volunteer tourism company out of Antigua. He got his start in the travel business, offering only Spanish-language classes. But young people today, he says, want a richer experience. (…) The industry has exploded in the past few years, says Theresa Higgs, who runs United Planet in Boston. The nonprofit offers what she calls a cultural immersion program. But Higgs is on the fence about whether the rise in popularity of « voluntourism » is a good thing. She’s heartened by the altruism of volunteers, but she’s worried about the flood of for-profit organizations bursting onto the scene. « What I think often gets lost is the host communities, » she says. « Are they gaining? Are they winning? Are they true partners in this? Or are they simply a means to an end to a student’s learning objective, to someone’s desire to have fun on vacation and learn something? » she asks. NPR
I think there are a combination of things. Post 2000s and with the recession and that sort of thing, young people are having difficulty in the job market. So instead of opting for sitting at home, trying to get a job, they opt for this volunteer tourism. They can travel cheaply. They can engage in activities that they find fulfilling. And they can build their resume. So it’s a sort of perfect storm of all truism and resume building. And I think, for me, one of the biggest perks to this is the recognition that volunteer tourism, while on the surface looks like something that’s going to benefit host communities, at the heart I think it’s about transforming the volunteer. It’s helping them see where they fit in the global scheme of things. (…) for me, when I’m looking at the research, there’s a full spectrum in terms of volunteer tourism. Those are those kinds of activities, but there are lots of other things going on. And my concern is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater because I think the volunteer tourism itself still offers some of the greatest potential for economic opportunity if you do it right. But I would agree that it’s not necessarily that form of volunteer tourism that does that best. (…) One of the things that’s really intriguing me right now is this idea of applying fair trade concepts to volunteer travel. So are the organizations creating opportunities for disadvantaged producers? Are the organizations pointing to ways in which they’re doing community capacity building? So those are sorts of – the framework that we’re looking at for organizations that are doing it right. (…) there has been a lot of negative press these days about volunteer tourism. And I kind of draw the analogy with ecotourism in the 80s because when it initially emerged, it was, you know – it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And it was wonderful. And it was going to do great things for the environment. And then we had this sort of natural swinging of the pendulum to the other side, where all of a sudden we were pointing to bad examples. And we were saying, maybe not – this isn’t the best idea. And I’m seeing a very similar thing happening with volunteer tourism. And I guess what I hope for is that we find that happy medium and we find that place where we can, on one side, recognize the great examples of volunteer tourism that are out there but, on the other hand, take advantage of this time to really look critically at the various organizations that are there and to help them be accountable for their activities in these host communities. And that’s where I think you really need to do your homework, recognize whether the organization is transparent. Is the organization community centered? And all these things maximize the positive impacts while minimizing the negatives. Nancy McGehee (professor of hospitality and tourism, Virginia Tech)
Volunteers often have unfulfilling and disappointing experiences; volunteer placements can prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs; hard-pressed institutions waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their trauma by disappearing back home after a few weeks. We feel that there are many opportunities for people to undertake meaningful volunteering in their own community, where they will receive proper training, support and supervision – without the need to pay a tour operator for the privilege. In the majority of cases people would be far better (and have a more rewarding experience) volunteering at home and spending their money on travelling and staying in places listed in our Ethical Travel Guide. Mark Watson
Basically, we failed at the sole purpose of our being there. It would have been more cost effective, stimulative of the local economy, and efficient for the orphanage to take our money and hire locals to do the work, but there we were trying to build straight walls without a level. Philippa Biddle
Helping out at an African nursery or digging trenches in rural India might have become a fashionable – and expensive – rite of passage for thousands of young people each year, but volunteers would often do more good staying at home and assisting communities on their own doorstep, a conference on ethical tourism will hear tomorrow. The growing trend for far-flung gap years often combining an element of work in a developing country has become one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the global travel industry. However, a leading UK charity is warning that whilst often well intentioned in their motives, altruistic young travellers can end up doing more harm than good to their host communities, even potentially fuelling child abuse. Mounting concern that the desire to work in orphanages in countries such as Cambodia and Nepal is actually be leading to the abandonment or even abduction of children from their parents to fuel the boom in eager tourists has led to calls for a radical rethink on the ethics of so-called volunteerism. (…) The charity’s executive director Mark Watson said that whilst the desire to help others was commendable – too many expensive commercial volunteering opportunities ended up exploiting both those offering help whilst harming the lives of those meant to be on the receiving end. The Independent
Voluntourism almost always involves a group of idealistic and privileged travelers who have vastly different socio-economic statuses vis–à–vis those they serve. They often enter these communities with little or no understanding of the locals’ history, culture, and ways of life. All that is understood is the poverty and the presumed neediness of the community, and for the purposes of volunteering, that seems to be enough. In my own experiences (…) this has led to condescending and superficial relationships that transform the (usually western) volunteer into a benevolent giver and the community members into the ever grateful receivers of charity. It makes for an extremely uncomfortable dynamic in which one begins to wonder if these trips are designed more for the spiritual fulfillment of the volunteer rather than the alleviation of poverty. (…) I couldn’t help feeling ashamed at the excessive praise and thanks we received from locals and those on the trip alike. I cringed as we took complimentary photos with African children whose names we didn’t know. We couldn’t even take full credit for building the houses because most of the work had already been done by community members. In fact, if anything we slowed down the process with our inexperience and clumsiness. And how many schools in the west would allow amateur college students to run their English classes for a day? What had I really done besides inflate my own ego and spruce up my resume? I had stormed into the lives of people I knew nothing about, I barely engaged with them on a genuine level, and worst of all, I then claimed that I had done something invaluable for them all in a matter of five days (of which most of the time was spent at hotel rooms, restaurants, and airports). An entire industry has sprouted out of voluntourism as it increases in popularity, possibly equal to the increase in global inequality. As the gap between rich and poor widens, so too it seems does the need for those of the global north to assuage the guilt of their privilege (paradoxically, guilt only seems to deepen as many realise the illusory effect of their impact), or to simply look good. The developing world has become a playground for the redemption of privileged souls looking to atone for global injustices by escaping the vacuity of modernity and globalisation. Ossob Mohamud
The debate about « voluntourism » – that unsightly word – has reared its cynical head yet again. Every so often the spotlight is turned on western students using their free time to help those less fortunate in developing countries, and much head-scratching and soul-searching ensues. Recently the Guardian published a piece by Somalian blogger Ossob Mohamud, with the headline Beware the ‘voluntourists’ doing good. She argues that the west is turning the developing world into « a playground » for the rich to « assuage the guilt of their privilege ». Mohamud clearly had a difficult volunteering experience. She says she felt ashamed at the excessive praise and thanks of locals, cringed as she took photos with African children whose names she did not know and was left feeling that she had simply inflated her ego and spruced up her resume. There is a discussion to be had about the merits or otherwise of overseas volunteering schemes which attract crowds of well-meaning westerners to build schools and playgrounds, teach English or care for orphans. But Mohamud’s insistence on drawing a wider social message from her own unsatisfactory trip is unfair and potentially damaging. Last summer I visited Uganda to report on the work of East African Playgrounds. The charity enlists British students to build play facilities and run sporting projects for primary school children. In just a few years it has grown to be self-sufficient, employing a team of young Ugandans as builders, to the point where the charity’s British founders will soon be able to step back and let it run itself. I witnessed the volunteers – students and recent graduates from UK universities – forming genuine friendships with the locals, developing emotional attachments to the children and becoming truly invested in their future. Cynics might that say when they return to Britain they leave it all behind and life moves on. But for many, volunteering can be life changing. (…) Undergraduates face a stark choice about how to spend their time before entering employment, particularly now that money is tight and jobs are scarce. Charities that invest in the developing world need keen, energetic, ambitious people to help them along. « Voluntourists » they may be – but their work can have a huge impact on their own lives and the lives of those they help. It would be an awful shame if they were put off. Sam Blackledge
Je viens ici car les volontaires sont jolies. Réfugié de Calais
The term “Rice Christians » (…) is used among the missionary community to describe nationals who make a profession of conversion (inauthentically or without true understanding) in order to get the product (clothing, food, rice) that is being delivered by the Western worker.  It seems that if you add the strings attached to the given supplies with the “don’t cause conflict or disagree” cultural value of the Asian country where we lived,  a subtle social game can quickly develop. It could go a bit like this: uneducated villagers, a little (or a lot) in awe of the white American, are provided with goods they desperately need, entertainment that encourages their kids, and attention by the wealthy Westerner, all of which they gladly accept. And at some point over the course of the event, the Westerners share honestly about their religion and eventually ask for public professions of faith. And, seriously, what’s an impoverished person, raised in a culture of respect, supposed to do in light of  this turn of events? In many ways, isn’t agreeing with the views of the outsider the most polite and most effective response for the national– the path that both provides for their families while still showing respect for their visitors? Perhaps, perhaps they become Rice Christians for the day. And maybe we missionaries don’t really give them many other options.  (…) I am by no means saying that the gospel can’t move mightily and quickly among a people group. I’m not saying that we should all begin to doubt the faith of those that come forward in evangelistic outreaches, either. I’m also not throwing short term missions under any kind of bus because I’ve seen this in both short and long-termers. I am saying, though, that perhaps we need to consider the position we put people in when we enter their worlds with gifts and programs. And perhaps we need to re-evaluate some of our “numbers.”  Laura Parker (Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia)
We’re very conscious of making ‘rice Christians’. Jehovah’s Witness missionary in Cambodia
My own sense is that some groups have probably come here and, out of zeal, have used methodologies that we wouldn’t feel comfortable with. There has been a tendency … to inflate [conversion] numbers, or to count them differently. It’s actually something we work quite hard to try and avoid, because that would not be the kind of faith that we’re looking for. (…) I think that the use of money is an area where we have to be hugely careful, so that these kinds of patron-client relationships are not established. (…) We limit the amount of money coming from the outside in terms of direct support [to churches]. My problem with this is when they try to wean themselves off, there’s already a bit of dependency, and they’ll often just look for another patron. David Manfred (Christian & Missionary Alliance)
Not only do we not use poverty as a lure to join the church; we invite members to donate [a] 10 percent [tithe] to help the church grow. Robert Winegar (Mormon mission President) .
It became apparent to me that [Cambodians] were coming to church but not wanting to take part in building the church. That’s why I no longer want to have a big structure and have them think that ‘this is the Western money train, I want to get on board’. (…) But Freeze said these mistakes were often a result of a lack of understanding of the local context, something that could be overcome through in-country experience. Most groups have genuine heart. But a lot of the problem here is a misunderstanding of culture. Michael Freeze (Baptist missionary)
It’s good to give, but you have to be very careful how you give. You come to Cambodia with SUVs and tonnes of rice, and that’s virtually bribery. (…) I believe that churches have made a lot of mistakes in terms of their focus on finance and on getting their numbers up. That’s where the church of Mormon comes in. They know how to work the system…. But all the money in the world can’t buy God. Independent Khmer-American pastor
Quand on est sérieux, il faut regarder quel est notre impact réel, prendre du recul. Toutes les conneries, je les ai faites. Dans la rue, je donnais à manger aux enfants cambodgiens, comme tous les touristes. Du coup, les gamins stagnaient en attendant le room service… Huit repas par jour. L’enfant est devenu une attraction touristique. Imaginez un turn-over permanent de Japonais, un flux d’adultes inconnus qui viendraient dans nos écoles pour apprendre des chants aux petits Français, enseigner leur langue, leur offrir du riz et les photographier avant de repartir. (…) Les volontaires étrangers veulent tous ouvrir des orphelinats. Seulement, il faut les remplir ! Alors, croyant bien faire, ils retirent les enfants aux familles cambodgiennes pauvres, expliquant que c’est mieux, qu’ils ne savent pas s’en occuper. C’est raciste, colonialiste. Et si on retirait aux Français leurs enfants au seul motif qu’ils sont trop pauvres ? (…) Ils viennent soit se construire un CV, soit se reconstruire parce qu’ils sont dans une mauvaise passe. Charge donc aux enfants étrangers de soigner les problèmes des Occidentaux. D’un point de vue marketing, l’orphelinat c’est facile à vendre. Mais pour que l’argent continue d’affluer, il ne faut pas qu’il soit investi, ce serait casser le produit. Le bâtiment doit rester pourri et les enfants avoir l’air malheureux.  (…) Nos volontaires font des travaux administratifs, des recherches, mènent des enquêtes. Il y a beaucoup à faire et peu d’occasions de selfies avec des enfants. Ce sont des professionnels locaux et expérimentés que nous salarions qui s’en occupent. Sébastien Marot (directeur de Friends International et ancien directeur marketing chez L’Oréal)
On remplace la planche à voile par un réfugié. (…) Dire à un jeune Blanc que même s’il n’a que le bac, il aura toujours un niveau supérieur aux professeurs et médecins locaux, c’est du racisme positif. Il faut lui remettre les pieds sur terre, on ne l’attend pas pour sauver l’Afrique, même si c’est sympa, même si ça fait rêver. (…) Soit le séjour se passe bien et les jeunes reviennent avec l’idée que les pays en développement sont un grand bac à sable ; soit cela se passe mal, et là c’est tout le secteur associatif qu’ils verront comme une vaste arnaque. (…) A l’étranger, le marché du travail souffre aussi, avec toute cette main-d’œuvre qui paye pour venir travailler. Pierre de Hanscutter (président fondateur de l’association francophone Service volontaire international)
L’envie d’engagement ne fléchit pas. Faire de l’humanitaire, c’est faire quelque chose de bien pour l’autre, c’est une attitude sociale légitime qui coexiste en parallèle d’un processus continu de professionnalisation. (…) Pourquoi vouloir fixer au voyage un autre but que la découverte de personnes, de paysages, de saveurs ? Faire du tourisme en se sentant investi d’une mission, pour être gentil, pour jouer au père Noël avec des livres, des stylos et des médicaments disqualifie le voyage en lui-même. La dissymétrie du rapport rend d’emblée la rencontre impossible. Ce n’est pas de l’ouverture, mais de la condescendance. (…) C’est Tintin au Congo. [Mais] Il ne faut pas casser l’élan, le désir de s’engager. Rony Brauman (ancien président de Médecins sans frontières)
C’est un safari exotique low cost, le premier du genre. Le dépaysement à moindres frais, sans partir de chez soi, en «faisant le bien» et en attirant sur soi l’admiration de ses amis Facebook : la visite du camp de réfugiés à Calais. The jungle, pour les initiés et ceux qui souhaitent en être, avec ses déclinaisons d’humour grinçant : la librairie The Jungle Books, la cabane de Baloo, les restaurants «New Kabul» et «British Hotel», des graffitis pleins de promesses comme «London Calling» et «Welcome to the UK», l’auto-proclamée ambassade du Koweït, un drapeau français célébrant avec ironie la chaleur et l’hospitalité hexagonales, des capsules vides de gaz lacrymogène qui décorent en guirlande la devanture d’un barbier de fortune… ici pas besoin de passeport, de visa ou d’autorisation d’entrée – il suffit de se conformer aux fouilles policières des véhicules à l’entrée. À certains moments «la jungle» a tout d’un zoo. Tandis que chacun, dans la ronde des touristes, photographes, journalistes, chercheurs, bénévoles, employés d’ONG et Calaisiens charitables, s’évertue à faire valoir la légitimité de sa présence, les migrants désœuvrés regardent, amers ou méfiants, avec apathie ou un embarras poli, défiler ce petit monde étrange dont les intentions réelles leur demeurent inconnues. Certains, plus que d’autres, ont une raison d’être ici. Ce sont les employés d’ONG et bénévoles dont le rôle est clairement défini et les compétences, professionnelles. Dans les regards de ces anonymes actifs se devine un mépris à peine dissimulé pour le reste des visiteurs de passage, parmi eux des jeunes qui se disent «réfugiés du capitalisme», comme on peut le lire sur le mur d’une des écoles improvisées ; de débonnaires babas cool qui veulent croire en une communauté des pauvres, laïque et multiculturelle, unie par la solidarité et la musique ; ou encore ceux qui se voient comme d’intrépides aventuriers qui ont le cran de vivre au milieu du camp, sont les amis des réfugiés jusqu’à finir par devenir, pour les plus obstinés d’entre eux, «l’un des leurs». Une tentative – louable mais illusoire – d’abolir le gouffre qui les sépare: les bénévoles, eux, pourront toujours rentrer chez eux par le prochain bus ou ferry pour 50€ et la présentation d’une carte d’identité. Les migrants, eux, auront besoin de quelques milliers (voire dizaine de milliers) d’euros pour quitter la «jungle». On donne des cours d’anglais ou de français, on s’amuse avec les enfants, on gratte sa guitare, on chante, jusqu’au moment où nos aventuriers se découragent, l’un après l’autre, ou doivent simplement regagner leurs pénates. Il y a aussi les bénévoles dont on ne sait pas s’ils font partie d’une association, d’une ONG, ou s’ils sont là à leur propre compte. On les croise tous les jours, à discuter avec des gens qui leur ressemblent et faire de grands sourires aux migrants qui les regardent avec curiosité, ou à jouer aux assistants sociaux, vaguement infantilisants, implorant les migrants de rejoindre leur «atelier de percussions» qui se résume à taper deux bâtons ensemble pour tuer le temps. «La jungle» abrite aussi des journalistes, plus ou moins indépendants, qui y passent un jour ou deux, prennent des photos et disparaissent. Et puis il y a les touristes. Qui jouent parfois aux apprentis reporters. Comme cette femme avec son Nikon D70 débarquant dans la cour de l’école de fortune, sans un bonjour pour prendre des photos. «Vous comptez en faire quoi, de ces photos ?» Et elle de répondre, d’un ton assuré qui se veut rassurant : «Ah mais moi c’est pas pour publier sur Facebook, hein ! C’est pour moi.» Un souvenir de vacances, donc. (…) Enfin vient le groupe d’amies, 18-20 ans, qui se partagent une barquette de frites en déambulant dans les rues passantes du campement, comme elles le feraient à Marrakech ou Bangkok, tout excitées à l’idée de vivre cette aventure hors du commun. Étrange et inattendu pot pourri, qui réunit ce que le tourisme a de pire, en ce lieu qui s’appelle «jungle» parce qu’il n’y règne aucune loi. Chacun s’arroge donc le loisir de faire comme bon lui semble. D’autant plus qu’on est ici chez soi — en Europe — sans l’être vraiment. Cette zone de non-droit, sans contrôle social, sans règles, est un jardin d’expérimentations en tout genre. Une cacophonie de charitabilisme. Le soir, les bénévoles regagnent l’auberge de jeunesse, les plus anciens dorment sur place, dans une caravane équipée d’un cadenas. (…) Cautère sur une jambe de bois, les bénévoles ? Au moins font-ils un peu de bien, à une toute petite échelle. Et sans doute de leur mieux. Nous autres ne pourrons même pas justifier moralement de notre présence, puisque le projet – mal préparé, mal organisé – n’aboutira pas. Il aura fait de nous des touristes améliorés, doués d’une certaine conscience éthique et, désormais, de regrets. (…) Une chose est sûre : on ne s’improvise pas humanitaire du jour au lendemain, et les bons sentiments ne suffisent pas. Quand l’État se désengage complètement, que le grand public préfère s’impliquer directement, on en arrive vite au safari. Au zoo participatif. À la jungle. Tara Bate (Salariée du secteur humanitaire, étudiante en anthropologie du développement)
Se prélasser aux Maldives pour son voyage de noces ? Dépassé. Le top de la tendance, c’est le honeyteering (de honeymoon et volunteering), la lune de miel humanitaire. A lire les témoignages, c’est inoubliable. Ça rapproche et ça soulage. Le phénomène ne touche pas seulement les couples fraîchement épousés. De plus en plus de particuliers donnent de leur temps de vacances pour faire du volontariat : c’est le tourisme humanitaire, ou «volontourisme». Plusieurs formules sont possibles, du groupe d’amis qui s’auto-organise et part distribuer du matériel collecté, ou donner un coup de main à une association locale à l’initiative individuelle, en passant par les «séjours humanitaires» clé en main. Les tour-opérateurs proposent ainsi des «circuits humanitaires», qui promettent de l’atypique, de l’authentique, de l’alternatif. Avec des étapes «solidarité», hors des sentiers battus : don de fournitures scolaires dans un petit village, journée dans un orphelinat, etc. (…) L’intention est louable. La critique s’avère, dès lors, délicate. «Il ne faut pas casser l’élan, le désir de s’engager», prévient Brauman. Les ONG ont lancé des campagnes de dissuasion du volontouriste, à l’instar de Solidarités International. «Tout le monde ne peut pas aider sur le terrain», disent les spots. Une série de faux entretiens d’embauche croustillants, avec notamment une hippie qui a «fait grave du baby-sitting», sait ce que c’est que de vivre sans douche à force de faire des festivals, «kiffe l’Afrique» et se dit prête à partir secourir «les enfants qui meurent de faim et ont besoin d’amour». Comme si les bons sentiments à l’égard d’une misère aussi lointaine qu’abstraite dispensaient de toute réflexion intellectuelle. (…) Le Cambodge compte plus d’orphelinats aujourd’hui qu’en 1979, au sortir de la guerre. Rien que ces huit dernières années, leur nombre a triplé. Six cents structures ont été dénombrées et le recensement n’est pas terminé… En trente ans, le nombre d’orphelins est passé de 7 000 à 47 000. En fait, selon l’Unicef, 74 % d’entre eux ont des parents. (…) Le mot «orphelin» déclenche l’arrivée massive de l’aide étrangère et des volontaires. (…) Le phénomène a gagné le Laos, la Thaïlande, la Birmanie. Au Cambodge, Friends International œuvre à la réintégration des enfants dans les familles, en partenariat avec l’Unicef et le gouvernement. Depuis cette année, des orphelinats sont fermés et l’ouverture de nouveaux établissements est gelée. (…) Reste le «séjour humanitaire» afin d’accéder à l’enfant exotique, pauvre et malade. Contre 2 000 euros en moyenne les quinze jours, au titre des frais de mission (transport, hébergement, repas, le tout dans un confort rudimentaire qui participe au charme de l’aventure), Projects Abroad promet par exemple de soigner des lépreux au Ghana ou d’accueillir les primo-arrivants sur les plages italiennes. Des «missions de volontariat» en «médecine générale», «soins infirmiers», «sage-femme»,«santé publique», «soins dentaires», accessibles «même sans qualification médicale» et à partir de 16 ans, insiste le site web de Projects Abroad. Et si les photos ne suffisaient pas (des jeunes Blancs en blouse et gantés de latex qui prennent des tensions, donnent des médicaments à des nourrissons, etc.), il y a les vidéos. Deux adolescentes danoises soignent les plaies purulentes de malades au Ghana. Elles voulaient une première expérience avant de passer le concours de médecine. Se faire la main, en quelque sorte. Leur meilleur souvenir ? Un accouchement compliqué, c’était «extraordinaire», «du sang partout». Au Pérou, une fille fait des points de suture, ravie : «Ça donne confiance en soi.» En Tanzanie, un garçon anglais, stéthoscope autour du cou, briefe des infirmières noires, regarde les radios, feuillette des dossiers. Au Mexique, une Suissesse enjouée enseigne le français à l’université. Trois classes. Les élèves sont plus vieux qu’elle, pas trop dur ? «Il suffit d’être motivée, d’avoir envie d’enseigner et d’être de bonne humeur. Ça suffit pour les Mexicains !»(…) Le SVI regrette le silence de l’ordre des médecins en France. (…) Projects Abroad est le leader du tourisme humanitaire. Un ensemble de structures appartenant à une holding domiciliée en Angleterre, Beech View Holdings Limited. La multinationale, arrivée sur le marché hexagonal voilà dix ans, n’a rien d’une ONG, si ce n’est le champ lexical. Six cents salariés, près de deux cents programmes, des dizaines de milliers de volontaires-clients dont les deux tiers ont moins de 30 ans. Son bénéfice net, en constante augmentation, s’élevait à 1,7 million de livres en 2012 (2 millions d’euros). (…) Qui sont ces volontouristes ? La sociologue Alizée Delpierre a enquêté durant trois ans chez Projects Abroad. Elle souligne le «rôle déterminant des parents», professions libérales, hauts-fonctionnaires, majoritairement aisés et résidant dans les beaux quartiers parisiens. «Ils redoutent généralement le secteur associatif, considéré comme un domaine de relégation. A ce prix-là, ils ont la garantie de l’entre-soi.» L’action humanitaire répond d’abord à «stratégie éducative», que la chercheuse détaille : «Les parents veulent que leur enfant acquière des compétences internationales, teste ses affinités avec un métier avant de payer une grande école, apprenne à se débrouiller seul ou soit confronté à la misère pour qu’il mesure combien il est privilégié…» Sur place, elle a vu des volontaires «déçus de constater le faible impact de leur action. Alors ils visitent, font du shopping». Comme des touristes tout court. Libération

Attention: un chrétien du riz peut en cacher un autre !

En ces temps étranges du post-christianisme triomphant …

Comment encore s’étonner, à l’instar de la tristement fameuse aide au développement, de cette nouvelle dérive des idées chrétiennes devenues folles

Ce tourisme dit humanitaire qui du volontourisme au honeyteering (lune de miel humanitaire) …

En arrive à l’exploit de faire payer des gens pour le droit de travailler bénévolement …

Tout en détruisant le marché du travail local entre selfies pour page Facebook et stratégies éducatives ou professionnelles …

Ou même en multipliant par sept sur le modèle des « chrétiens du riz » des missions chrétiennes d’antan …

La population des orphelinats d’un Cambodge en paix depuis 30 ans ?

Tourisme humanitaire : la vraie fausse pitié

Profiter de ses vacances pour aider les populations locales, l’idée est plutôt louable. Mais l’amateurisme et le cynisme de ce secteur en vogue inquiètent les ONG sérieuses.

Noémie Rousseau
Libération

15 août 2016

Se prélasser aux Maldives pour son voyage de noces ? Dépassé. Le top de la tendance, c’est le honeyteering (de honeymoon et volunteering), la lune de miel humanitaire. A lire les témoignages, c’est inoubliable. Ça rapproche et ça soulage. Le phénomène ne touche pas seulement les couples fraîchement épousés. De plus en plus de particuliers donnent de leur temps de vacances pour faire du volontariat : c’est le tourisme humanitaire, ou «volontourisme». Plusieurs formules sont possibles, du groupe d’amis qui s’auto-organise et part distribuer du matériel collecté, ou donner un coup de main à une association locale (lire notre reportage au Liban) à l’initiative individuelle, en passant par les «séjours humanitaires» clé en main. Les tour-opérateurs proposent ainsi des «circuits humanitaires», qui promettent de l’atypique, de l’authentique, de l’alternatif. Avec des étapes «solidarité», hors des sentiers battus : don de fournitures scolaires dans un petit village, journée dans un orphelinat, etc.

«L’envie d’engagement ne fléchit pas, observe Rony Brauman, ancien président de Médecins sans frontières. Faire de l’humanitaire, c’est faire quelque chose de bien pour l’autre, c’est une attitude sociale légitime qui coexiste en parallèle d’un processus continu de professionnalisation.» Le célèbre médecin est plus critique quant à l’idée de coupler voyage et humanitaire. «Pourquoi vouloir fixer au voyage un autre but que la découverte de personnes, de paysages, de saveurs ? Faire du tourisme en se sentant investi d’une mission, pour être gentil, pour jouer au père Noël avec des livres, des stylos et des médicaments disqualifie le voyage en lui-même. La dissymétrie du rapport rend d’emblée la rencontre impossible. Ce n’est pas de l’ouverture, mais de la condescendance.»  

L’intention est louable. La critique s’avère, dès lors, délicate. «Il ne faut pas casser l’élan, le désir de s’engager», prévient Brauman. Les ONG ont lancé des campagnes de dissuasion du volontouriste, à l’instar de Solidarités International. «Tout le monde ne peut pas aider sur le terrain», disent les spots. Une série de faux entretiens d’embauche croustillants, avec notamment une hippie qui a «fait grave du baby-sitting», sait ce que c’est que de vivre sans douche à force de faire des festivals, «kiffe l’Afrique» et se dit prête à partir secourir «les enfants qui meurent de faim et ont besoin d’amour». Comme si les bons sentiments à l’égard d’une misère aussi lointaine qu’abstraite dispensaient de toute réflexion intellectuelle. «Quand on est sérieux, il faut regarder quel est notre impact réel, prendre du recul, explique Sébastien Marot, directeur de Friends International, qu’il a cofondé au Cambodge en 1994. Toutes les conneries, je les ai faites. Dans la rue, je donnais à manger aux enfants cambodgiens, comme tous les touristes. Du coup, les gamins stagnaient en attendant le room service… Huit repas par jour», se souvient cet ancien directeur marketing chez L’Oréal. Vingt-deux ans qu’il voit défiler dans les orphelinats les touristes humanitaires et autres volontaires en tout genre. «L’enfant est devenu une attraction touristique. Imaginez un turn-over permanent de Japonais, un flux d’adultes inconnus qui viendraient dans nos écoles pour apprendre des chants aux petits Français, enseigner leur langue, leur offrir du riz et les photographier avant de repartir.»

Lépreux au Ghana

Le Cambodge compte plus d’orphelinats aujourd’hui qu’en 1979, au sortir de la guerre. Rien que ces huit dernières années, leur nombre a triplé. Six cents structures ont été dénombrées et le recensement n’est pas terminé… En trente ans, le nombre d’orphelins est passé de 7 000 à 47 000. En fait, selon l’Unicef, 74 % d’entre eux ont des parents. «Les volontaires étrangers veulent tous ouvrir des orphelinats. Seulement, il faut les remplir ! Alors, croyant bien faire, ils retirent les enfants aux familles cambodgiennes pauvres, expliquant que c’est mieux, qu’ils ne savent pas s’en occuper. C’est raciste, colonialiste. Et si on retirait aux Français leurs enfants au seul motif qu’ils sont trop pauvres ?» interroge Sébastien Marot.

Le mot «orphelin» déclenche l’arrivée massive de l’aide étrangère et des volontaires. «Ils viennent soit se construire un CV, soit se reconstruire parce qu’ils sont dans une mauvaise passe. Charge donc aux enfants étrangers de soigner les problèmes des Occidentaux, tacle Marot. D’un point de vue marketing, l’orphelinat c’est facile à vendre. Mais pour que l’argent continue d’affluer, il ne faut pas qu’il soit investi, ce serait casser le produit. Le bâtiment doit rester pourri et les enfants avoir l’air malheureux.» Le phénomène a gagné le Laos, la Thaïlande, la Birmanie. Au Cambodge, Friends International œuvre à la réintégration des enfants dans les familles, en partenariat avec l’Unicef et le gouvernement. Depuis cette année, des orphelinats sont fermés et l’ouverture de nouveaux établissements est gelée. «Nos volontaires font des travaux administratifs, des recherches, mènent des enquêtes. Il y a beaucoup à faire et peu d’occasions de selfies avec des enfants. Ce sont des professionnels locaux et expérimentés que nous salarions qui s’en occupent.»

Reste le «séjour humanitaire» afin d’accéder à l’enfant exotique, pauvre et malade. Contre 2 000 euros en moyenne les quinze jours, au titre des frais de mission (transport, hébergement, repas, le tout dans un confort rudimentaire qui participe au charme de l’aventure), Projects Abroad promet par exemple de soigner des lépreux au Ghana ou d’accueillir les primo-arrivants sur les plages italiennes. «On remplace la planche à voile par un réfugié», s’indigne Pierre de Hanscutter, président et fondateur de l’association francophone Service volontaire international (SVI).

Des «missions de volontariat» en «médecine générale», «soins infirmiers», «sage-femme»,«santé publique», «soins dentaires», accessibles «même sans qualification médicale» et à partir de 16 ans, insiste le site web de Projects Abroad. Et si les photos ne suffisaient pas (des jeunes Blancs en blouse et gantés de latex qui prennent des tensions, donnent des médicaments à des nourrissons, etc.), il y a les vidéos. Deux adolescentes danoises soignent les plaies purulentes de malades au Ghana. Elles voulaient une première expérience avant de passer le concours de médecine. Se faire la main, en quelque sorte. Leur meilleur souvenir ? Un accouchement compliqué, c’était «extraordinaire», «du sang partout». Au Pérou, une fille fait des points de suture, ravie : «Ça donne confiance en soi.» En Tanzanie, un garçon anglais, stéthoscope autour du cou, briefe des infirmières noires, regarde les radios, feuillette des dossiers. Au Mexique, une Suissesse enjouée enseigne le français à l’université. Trois classes. Les élèves sont plus vieux qu’elle, pas trop dur ? «Il suffit d’être motivée, d’avoir envie d’enseigner et d’être de bonne humeur. Ça suffit pour les Mexicains !»

Holding

«C’est Tintin au Congo», résume Rony Brauman, «inquiet» et «révolté» par les dégâts sanitaires causés sur place et «l’exploitation cynique des bonnes volontés». Le SVI regrette le silence de l’ordre des médecins en France. «Dire à un jeune Blanc que même s’il n’a que le bac, il aura toujours un niveau supérieur aux professeurs et médecins locaux, c’est du racisme positif. Il faut lui remettre les pieds sur terre, on ne l’attend pas pour sauver l’Afrique, même si c’est sympa, même si ça fait rêver», soupire Pierre de Hanscutter.

Projects Abroad est le leader du tourisme humanitaire. Un ensemble de structures appartenant à une holding domiciliée en Angleterre, Beech View Holdings Limited. La multinationale, arrivée sur le marché hexagonal voilà dix ans, n’a rien d’une ONG, si ce n’est le champ lexical. Six cents salariés, près de deux cents programmes, des dizaines de milliers de volontaires-clients dont les deux tiers ont moins de 30 ans. Son bénéfice net, en constante augmentation, s’élevait à 1,7 million de livres en 2012 (2 millions d’euros). Contacté par Libération, Projects Abroad n’a pas donné suite.

Bac à sable

«Soit le séjour se passe bien et les jeunes reviennent avec l’idée que les pays en développement sont un grand bac à sable ; soit cela se passe mal, et là c’est tout le secteur associatif qu’ils verront comme une vaste arnaque», souligne Pierre de Hanscutter, inquiet des valeurs inculquées ainsi à ces citoyens en devenir. Il pointe un autre écueil : «A l’étranger, le marché du travail souffre aussi, avec toute cette main-d’œuvre qui paye pour venir travailler.»

Qui sont ces volontouristes ? La sociologue Alizée Delpierre a enquêté durant trois ans chez Projects Abroad. Elle souligne le «rôle déterminant des parents», professions libérales, hauts-fonctionnaires, majoritairement aisés et résidant dans les beaux quartiers parisiens. «Ils redoutent généralement le secteur associatif, considéré comme un domaine de relégation. A ce prix-là, ils ont la garantie de l’entre-soi.» L’action humanitaire répond d’abord à «stratégie éducative», que la chercheuse détaille : «Les parents veulent que leur enfant acquière des compétences internationales, teste ses affinités avec un métier avant de payer une grande école, apprenne à se débrouiller seul ou soit confronté à la misère pour qu’il mesure combien il est privilégié…» Sur place, elle a vu des volontaires «déçus de constater le faible impact de leur action. Alors ils visitent, font du shopping». Comme des touristes tout court.

Voir aussi:

Dans la «jungle», une faune charitable

Dans le camp de réfugiés de Calais, on croise des migrants mais aussi des touristes de plus ou moins bonne volonté.

Tara Bate , Salariée du secteur humanitaire, étudiante en anthropologie du développement
Libération
15 août 2016 

C’est un safari exotique low cost, le premier du genre. Le dépaysement à moindres frais, sans partir de chez soi, en «faisant le bien» et en attirant sur soi l’admiration de ses amis Facebook : la visite du camp de réfugiés à Calais. The jungle, pour les initiés et ceux qui souhaitent en être, avec ses déclinaisons d’humour grinçant : la librairie The Jungle Books, la cabane de Baloo, les restaurants «New Kabul» et «British Hotel», des graffitis pleins de promesses comme «London Calling» et «Welcome to the UK», l’auto-proclamée ambassade du Koweït, un drapeau français célébrant avec ironie la chaleur et l’hospitalité hexagonales, des capsules vides de gaz lacrymogène qui décorent en guirlande la devanture d’un barbier de fortune… ici pas besoin de passeport, de visa ou d’autorisation d’entrée – il suffit de se conformer aux fouilles policières des véhicules à l’entrée.

Un mépris à peine dissimulé

À certains moments «la jungle» a tout d’un zoo. Tandis que chacun, dans la ronde des touristes, photographes, journalistes, chercheurs, bénévoles, employés d’ONG et Calaisiens charitables, s’évertue à faire valoir la légitimité de sa présence, les migrants désœuvrés regardent, amers ou méfiants, avec apathie ou un embarras poli, défiler ce petit monde étrange dont les intentions réelles leur demeurent inconnues. Certains, plus que d’autres, ont une raison d’être ici. Ce sont les employés d’ONG et bénévoles dont le rôle est clairement défini et les compétences, professionnelles. Dans les regards de ces anonymes actifs se devine un mépris à peine dissimulé pour le reste des visiteurs de passage, parmi eux des jeunes qui se disent «réfugiés du capitalisme», comme on peut le lire sur le mur d’une des écoles improvisées ; de débonnaires babas cool qui veulent croire en une communauté des pauvres, laïque et multiculturelle, unie par la solidarité et la musique ; ou encore ceux qui se voient comme d’intrépides aventuriers qui ont le cran de vivre au milieu du camp, sont les amis des réfugiés jusqu’à finir par devenir, pour les plus obstinés d’entre eux, «l’un des leurs». Une tentative – louable mais illusoire – d’abolir le gouffre qui les sépare: les bénévoles, eux, pourront toujours rentrer chez eux par le prochain bus ou ferry pour 50€ et la présentation d’une carte d’identité. Les migrants, eux, auront besoin de quelques milliers (voire dizaine de milliers) d’euros pour quitter la «jungle». On donne des cours d’anglais ou de français, on s’amuse avec les enfants, on gratte sa guitare, on chante, jusqu’au moment où nos aventuriers se découragent, l’un après l’autre, ou doivent simplement regagner leurs pénates.

Un souvenir de vacances

Il y a aussi les bénévoles dont on ne sait pas s’ils font partie d’une association, d’une ONG, ou s’ils sont là à leur propre compte. On les croise tous les jours, à discuter avec des gens qui leur ressemblent et faire de grands sourires aux migrants qui les regardent avec curiosité, ou à jouer aux assistants sociaux, vaguement infantilisants, implorant les migrants de rejoindre leur «atelier de percussions» qui se résume à taper deux bâtons ensemble pour tuer le temps. «La jungle» abrite aussi des journalistes, plus ou moins indépendants, qui y passent un jour ou deux, prennent des photos et disparaissent.

Et puis il y a les touristes. Qui jouent parfois aux apprentis reporters. Comme cette femme avec son Nikon D70 débarquant dans la cour de l’école de fortune, sans un bonjour pour prendre des photos. «Vous comptez en faire quoi, de ces photos ?» Et elle de répondre, d’un ton assuré qui se veut rassurant : «Ah mais moi c’est pas pour publier sur Facebook, hein ! C’est pour moi.» Un souvenir de vacances, donc.

Mais ses modèles ne s’y soumettent pas toujours volontiers. L’un d’eux, refusant d’abord, décide finalement de tourner la séance de prise de vues en parodie. Il s’allonge de tout son long, lascivement, telle une odalisque enturbannée, et se laisse mitrailler, le visage figé, se moquant visiblement de l’avidité de sa spectatrice. Quelques minutes plus tard, elle guette un autre modèle, qui commente, malicieux : «Regarde-la celle-là ! Elle attend que je sois seul pour me demander de nouveau. Regarde comme elle est drôle !»

Enfin vient le groupe d’amies, 18-20 ans, qui se partagent une barquette de frites en déambulant dans les rues passantes du campement, comme elles le feraient à Marrakech ou Bangkok, tout excitées à l’idée de vivre cette aventure hors du commun.

Horde protéiforme

Étrange et inattendu pot pourri, qui réunit ce que le tourisme a de pire, en ce lieu qui s’appelle «jungle» parce qu’il n’y règne aucune loi. Chacun s’arroge donc le loisir de faire comme bon lui semble. D’autant plus qu’on est ici chez soi — en Europe — sans l’être vraiment. Cette zone de non-droit, sans contrôle social, sans règles, est un jardin d’expérimentations en tout genre. Une cacophonie de charitabilisme. Le soir, les bénévoles regagnent l’auberge de jeunesse, les plus anciens dorment sur place, dans une caravane équipée d’un cadenas.

«Ne dites rien à ces gens. Ils promettent des choses et partent sans jamais revenir. Ils viennent parce que c’est trop cher pour eux d’aller en Afghanistan, ici ils ont l’impression d’y être et c’est gratuit», dit un homme afghan. Il exprime le malaise de nombre d’occupants du camp. Face à lui, la horde protéiforme change de visage tous les jours. Le gouffre ne se referme pas. Et toujours les mêmes questions, rarement dans leurs langues : sur leurs origines, leur parcours, leur destination, les raisons de leur fuite, le prix du passage…

«Don’t ask me about my life, I don’t want to talk», peut-on lire, écrit au marqueur, sur une table d’extérieur, devant l’«école». «I hate journalists», nous a dit aujourd’hui un migrant somalien.

Comment se comporter et s’habiller dans ce no man’s land multiculturel, un territoire sur lequel seule la présence hostile des escadrons de CRS indique qu’on est France. Les bénévoles de longue date, dépositaires d’une forme d’autorité, conseillent aux visiteurs de porter des pantalons très larges, d’attacher leurs cheveux (voire de se couvrir la tête) et de porter des chemises amples. Est-ce pour éviter d’offenser les sensibilités culturelles supposées et sans doute surinterprétées de chacun ? Ou pour «se fondre dans le décor» ? La très grande majorité des bénévoles sont des femmes. Certaines faisant fi des recommandations, fument, cheveux lâchés, et plaisantent avec les réfugiés — tous des hommes — en leur passant parfois un bras sur l’épaule. Eux sont tantôt gênés, tantôt ravis : «je viens ici car les volontaires sont jolies», confie l’un d’eux. Les réfugiées, elles, restent dans des espaces clos, éventuellement avec leurs enfants, ou ne font que passer furtivement. On leur organise parfois des «ateliers beauté» pour qu’elles puissent se retrouver ensemble, en sécurité – car même si elles sont des réfugiées, elles demeurent des femmes et en tant que telles, on estime qu’elles doivent rester plaisantes à regarder et s’occuper de leur apparence. Tant pis si elles n’ont pas envie de l’être, attirantes, et restent cloîtrées pour éviter justement les regards souvent prédateurs. C’est le réflexe systématique des projets d’assistance dédiés aux femmes, l’atelier beauté. Et, en réalité, c’est la seule activité à laquelle elles participent, les cours de langue étant mixte – et donc, de facto, entièrement masculins.

Et nous ? Nous, nous sommes là, petite équipe de huit, qui ne savons pas trop ce que nous y faisons. Nous sommes payés pour mener des entretiens afin d’évaluer la faisabilité d’un projet de services financiers permettant d’épargner ou de transférer de l’argent. A la fin de la journée, on se raconte ce qu’on a fait et appris, on tire des conclusions sur les besoins et… on n’en fait rien. On recommence le lendemain. On récolte les mêmes histoires, peu ou prou. On note tout, bien consciencieusement, dans un carnet, et au terme de notre séjour, nous n’en ferons rien, faute de financement et d’appui institutionnel.

Des touristes améliorés

Cautère sur une jambe de bois, les bénévoles ? Au moins font-ils un peu de bien, à une toute petite échelle. Et sans doute de leur mieux. Nous autres ne pourrons même pas justifier moralement de notre présence, puisque le projet – mal préparé, mal organisé – n’aboutira pas. Il aura fait de nous des touristes améliorés, doués d’une certaine conscience éthique et, désormais, de regrets. Nous nous serons bornés à énumérer les évidences : nécessité de développer l’accès à l’éducation, à l’électricité, à Internet, et d’assurer la sécurité des occupants.

Une chose est sûre : on ne s’improvise pas humanitaire du jour au lendemain, et les bons sentiments ne suffisent pas. Quand l’État se désengage complètement, que le grand public préfère s’impliquer directement, on en arrive vite au safari. Au zoo participatif. À la jungle.

Tara Bate Salariée du secteur humanitaire, étudiante en anthropologie du développement

Voir également:

Money

NPR

July 31, 2014

As you plan — or even go — on your summer vacation, think about this: More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sightsee abroad. Instead they’re working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English.

It’s called volunteer tourism, or « voluntourism, » and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.

But some people who work in the industry are skeptical of voluntourism’s rising popularity. They question whether some trips help young adults pad their resumes or college applications more than they help those in need.

Judith Lopez Lopez, who runs a center for orphans outside Antigua, Guatemala, says she’s grateful for the help that volunteers give.

All visitors and volunteers get a big warm welcome when they walk in the doors of her facility, Prodesenh. It’s part orphanage, part after-school program and part community center.

Most of the kids at Prodesenh don’t have parents, Lopez says. They live with relatives. Some were abandoned by their mothers at birth. Others lost their fathers in accidents or to alcoholism.

There are three volunteers here now, all from the U.S. Lopez says they give the kids what they need most: love and encouragement.

One those volunteers is Kyle Winningham, who just graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in entrepreneurship. « Yeah, my real name is Kyle, but mi apodo aqui es Carlos, » he says.

Winningham didn’t have a job lined up after school, so he decided to spend his summer at Prodesenh. « When the kids have homework, I help with homework, » he says. « When they don’t, I generally help out with teaching a little bit of English. »

But today they are cooking. Lopez hands out bowls filled with bright red tomatoes, onions and mint. She’s teaching the kids to make salsa.

Haley Nordeen, an international relations major at American University in the District of Columbia, is also spending her entire summer at Prodesenh. During her first six weeks here, the 19-year-old helped build the newest addition to the center, a small library. Now she’s tutoring.

« I’ve met a lot of international relations majors here, so it seems like a trend, » Nordeen says.

Most volunteer tourists are women. They’re also young adults, between the ages of 20 and 25, says the industry consulting group Tourism, Research and Marketing, based in Glasbury, Wales. But more and more high school students are also traveling and volunteering.

Sam Daddono is a junior at Rumson-Fair Haven High School in New Jersey. His whole Spanish class is in Antigua, sharpening their Spanish skills. But they’re also hiking up the side of a volcano every morning to help tend to a coffee plantation — and learning about what life is like here in Guatemala.

« The way I view things now is a lot different than before, » Daddono says. « I’ve visited other countries, but I’ve never done hands-on work or really talked to the people about the problems that they face in their lives. »

That worldview for many American teens is a lot different than it was two decades ago, says Ken Jones, who owns Maximo Nivel, a volunteer tourism company out of Antigua. He got his start in the travel business, offering only Spanish-language classes. But young people today, he says, want a richer experience.

« It used to be beach and beer, » Jones says. « And now it’s, ‘Well, I want to come down and learn something and figure out how to help or be a part of something.’ It was more superficial 20 years ago, maybe. »

The industry has exploded in the past few years, says Theresa Higgs, who runs United Planet in Boston. The nonprofit offers what she calls a cultural immersion program.

But Higgs is on the fence about whether the rise in popularity of « voluntourism » is a good thing. She’s heartened by the altruism of volunteers, but she’s worried about the flood of for-profit organizations bursting onto the scene.

« What I think often gets lost is the host communities, » she says. « Are they gaining? Are they winning? Are they true partners in this? Or are they simply a means to an end to a student’s learning objective, to someone’s desire to have fun on vacation and learn something? » she asks.

Higgs urges travelers to do their homework and research companies, just as you would before giving to a charity or volunteering for any organization.

About a dozen youth from the United Church of Christ from Yarmouth, Maine, are learning how to count to 10 in the Mam language, from an elderly indigenous woman in Guatemala City. They are volunteering for a week at the nonprofit Safe Passage, which helps children and parents who live and work in the capital’s sprawling garbage dump.

It’s pouring rain outside, but 17-year-old Mary Coyne isn’t bummed. She’s glad she spent her summer vacation here instead of at the beach, she says. « Yeah, I’m not getting a tan and not eating ice cream, » Coyne says. « But it’s something different. It’s like your whole being is satisfied because of experiences like this. »

Voir encore:

The Voluntourist’s Dilemma

Several years ago, when I was working as a reporter based in Haiti, I came upon a group of older Christian missionaries in the mountains above Port-au-Prince, struggling with heavy shovels to stir a pile of cement and sand. They were there to build a school alongside a Methodist church. Muscular Haitian masons stood by watching, perplexed and a bit amused at the sight of men and women who had come all the way from the United States to do a mundane construction job.

Such people were a familiar sight: They were voluntourists. They would come for a week or two for a “project” — a temporary medical clinic, an orphanage visit or a school construction. A 2008 study surveyed 300 organizations that market to would-be voluntourists and estimated that 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation, spending around $2 billion annually. A few are celebrities supporting their cause du jour, who drop in to meet locals and witness a project that often bears their name. Many more come to teach English during high school, college vacations or during a gap year. Others are sun-seeking vacationers who stay at beachside resorts but who also want to see “the real (name your country).” So they go into a community for an afternoon to help local women make beads, jewelry or clothes.

Volunteering seems like an admirable way to spend a vacation. Many of us donate money to foreign charities with the hope of making the world a better place. Why not use our skills as well as our wallets? And yet, watching those missionaries make concrete blocks that day in Port-au-Prince, I couldn’t help wondering if their good intentions were misplaced. These people knew nothing about how to construct a building. Collectively they had spent thousands of dollars to fly here to do a job that Haitian bricklayers could have done far more quickly. Imagine how many classrooms might have been built if they had donated that money rather than spending it to fly down themselves. Perhaps those Haitian masons could have found weeks of employment with a decent wage. Instead, at least for several days, they were out of a job.

Besides, constructing a school is relatively easy. Improving education, especially in a place like Haiti, is not. Did the missionaries have a long-term plan to train and recruit qualified teachers to staff the school? Did they have a budget to pay those teachers indefinitely? Other school-builders I met in Haiti admitted they weren’t involved in any long-term planning, and I once visited a school built by an NGO that had no money left to pay the teachers. If these brick-laying voluntourists overlooked such things in their eagerness to get their hands dirty, they wouldn’t be the first.

Easing global poverty is an enormously complex task. To make so much as a dent requires hard, sustained work, and expertise. Even the experts sometimes get it wrong. Critics of the Red Cross’s post-earthquake work in Haiti argue that the half a billion dollars the organization raised for disaster relief was largely misspent. Multimillion-dollar projects undertaken by the U.S. government ultimately failed to help Haiti export its mangos or complete a new building for Haiti’s Parliament on time. If smart, dedicated professionals can fail to achieve lasting progress over a period of years, how then is an untrained vacationer supposed to do so in a matter of days?

Sometimes, volunteering even causes real harm. Research in South Africa and elsewhere has found that “orphan tourism” — in which visitors volunteer as caregivers for children whose parents died or otherwise can’t support them — has become so popular that some orphanages operate more like opportunistic businesses than charities, intentionally subjecting children to poor conditions in order to entice unsuspecting volunteers to donate more money. Many “orphans,” it turns out, have living parents who, with a little support, could probably do a better job of raising their children than some volunteer can. And the constant arrivals and departures of volunteers have been linked to attachment disorders in children.

There are some volunteers who possess specialized, sought-after skills, of course. In Port-au-Prince I lived across from a Catholic guesthouse where groups of mostly American volunteers would spend their first nights in Haiti. Often I’d join them for dinner to hear about their experiences. I remember meeting an ophthalmologist from Milwaukee, who had just spent a week in a remote town in Haiti performing laser eye surgery. He recounted the joy he felt at helping people who were going blind from cataracts to see.

But not all volunteers come with an expertise like ophthalmology. When I asked one of the women who ran that guesthouse why she moved to Haiti, she told me that “a long time ago I felt called to be here, and I came based on that, not knowing what I was going to do.” In many ways, this woman is typical of the sort of voluntourists I’ve encountered. Many are religious — the sort of people who cite passages from the Bible, the Torah or the Quran that encourage followers to help those in need. Surely, they say, “love thy neighbor” takes on a different meaning in a globalized world. To many of these people, simply experiencing a foreign culture is not enough. They must change that place for the better.

Perhaps we are fooling ourselves. Unsatisfying as it may be, we ought to acknowledge the truth that we, as amateurs, often don’t have much to offer. Perhaps we ought to abandon the assumption that we, simply by being privileged enough to travel the world, are somehow qualified to help ease the world’s ills. Because the mantra of “good intentions” becomes unworthy when its eventuality can give a South African AIDS orphan an attachment disorder or put a Haitian mason out of work.

I’ve come to believe that the first step toward making the world a better place is to simply experience that place. Unless you’re willing to devote your career to studying international affairs and public policy, researching the mistakes that foreign charities have made while acting upon good intentions, and identifying approaches to development that have data and hard evidence behind them — perhaps volunteering abroad is not for you.

Jacob Kushner reports on foreign aid and immigration in East and Central Africa and the Caribbean.

Voir de même:

Voluntourism is a ‘waste of time and money’ – and gappers are better off working in Britain
Campaigners hit out at gap years in developing countries
Jonathan Brown
The Independent
24 October 2014

Helping out at an African nursery or digging trenches in rural India might have become a fashionable – and expensive – rite of passage for thousands of young people each year, but volunteers would often do more good staying at home and assisting communities on their own doorstep, a conference on ethical tourism will hear tomorrow.

The growing trend for far-flung gap years often combining an element of work in a developing country has become one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the global travel industry.

However, a leading UK charity is warning that whilst often well intentioned in their motives, altruistic young travellers can end up doing more harm than good to their host communities, even potentially fuelling child abuse.

Mounting concern that the desire to work in orphanages in countries such as Cambodia and Nepal is actually be leading to the abandonment or even abduction of children from their parents to fuel the boom in eager tourists has led to calls for a radical rethink on the ethics of so-called volunteerism.

Delegates at a one-day conference at Braithwaite Hall in Croydon, south London, organised by Tourism Concern will seek to persuade prospective volunteers to think hard about their choice of destination.

The charity’s executive director Mark Watson said that whilst the desire to help others was commendable – too many expensive commercial volunteering opportunities ended up exploiting both those offering help whilst harming the lives of those meant to be on the receiving end.

“Volunteers often have unfulfilling and disappointing experiences; volunteer placements can prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs; hard-pressed institutions waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their trauma by disappearing back home after a few weeks,” Mr Watson said.

“We feel that there are many opportunities for people to undertake meaningful volunteering in their own community, where they will receive proper training, support and supervision – without the need to pay a tour operator for the privilege. In the majority of cases people would be far better (and have a more rewarding experience) volunteering at home and spending their money on travelling and staying in places listed in our Ethical Travel Guide,” he added.

Among the speakers at the event is campaigner Philippa Biddle, who described taking part in a development project building an orphanage and library in Tanzania. She said each night local men dismantled the structurally unsound work they had done – relaying bricks and resetting timbers whilst the students slept.

“Basically, we failed at the sole purpose of our being there. It would have been more cost effective, stimulative of the local economy, and efficient for the orphanage to take our money and hire locals to do the work, but there we were trying to build straight walls without a level,” she recalled.

Laura Woodward of Raleigh International, a non-profit making sustainable development charity which works with young volunteers and communities around the world living in poverty, said few commercial organisations offered high quality placements that brought benefit to their host countries.

She said the conference was right to highlight concerns over voluntourism.

“It’s true that there are many fantastic volunteering opportunities for people in their own communities and we strongly encourage volunteers to take action in their own communities upon their return; indeed, this has become a fundamental element of our programmes. Whilst there are huge benefits to volunteering at home, there are still pressing issues across the globe where young, international volunteers can make a real difference,” she said.

Voir de plus:

I recently came across an interesting article questioning voluntourism and assessing whether it does more harm than good in communities of the global south. It reminded me of my own concerns with « voluntourism » that originated in my college years in which I had participated in Alternative Spring Breaks. It was considered an alternative to what most college students did on their vacations: spending idle time by the poolside. The university-organised trips sent students to spend a week in disadvantaged and poverty-stricken communities to volunteer. This could take the form of teaching English at the local school, assisting in building and beautifying new homes for residents, or environmental cleanups. Interspersed throughout the week were also touristy getaways and souvenir shopping. Although I had memorable and rewarding moments, I could never shake off the feeling that it was all a bit too self-congratulatory and disingenuous.

Voluntourism almost always involves a group of idealistic and privileged travelers who have vastly different socio-economic statuses vis–à–vis those they serve. They often enter these communities with little or no understanding of the locals’ history, culture, and ways of life. All that is understood is the poverty and the presumed neediness of the community, and for the purposes of volunteering, that seems to be enough. In my own experiences – also highlighted by the author of the article – this has led to condescending and superficial relationships that transform the (usually western) volunteer into a benevolent giver and the community members into the ever grateful receivers of charity. It makes for an extremely uncomfortable dynamic in which one begins to wonder if these trips are designed more for the spiritual fulfillment of the volunteer rather than the alleviation of poverty.

I couldn’t help feeling ashamed at the excessive praise and thanks we received from locals and those on the trip alike. I cringed as we took complimentary photos with African children whose names we didn’t know. We couldn’t even take full credit for building the houses because most of the work had already been done by community members. In fact, if anything we slowed down the process with our inexperience and clumsiness. And how many schools in the west would allow amateur college students to run their English classes for a day? What had I really done besides inflate my own ego and spruce up my resume? I had stormed into the lives of people I knew nothing about, I barely engaged with them on a genuine level, and worst of all, I then claimed that I had done something invaluable for them all in a matter of five days (of which most of the time was spent at hotel rooms, restaurants, and airports).

An entire industry has sprouted out of voluntourism as it increases in popularity, possibly equal to the increase in global inequality. As the gap between rich and poor widens, so too it seems does the need for those of the global north to assuage the guilt of their privilege (paradoxically, guilt only seems to deepen as many realise the illusory effect of their impact), or to simply look good. The developing world has become a playground for the redemption of privileged souls looking to atone for global injustices by escaping the vacuity of modernity and globalisation.

But does this address the root institutional and structural causes of the problem? I do not mean to deny, across the board, the importance of the work voluntourists do. Volunteers in developing countries fund and deliver great programmes that would not happen otherwise, but the sustainability and the effectiveness of the approach is what I question. Time and energy would be better spent building real solidarity between disparate societies based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead of focusing on surface symptoms of poverty, volunteers and the organisations that recruit them should focus on the causes that often stem from an unjust global economic order. Why not advocate and campaign for IMF and World Bank reforms? How about having volunteers advocate for their home country to change aggressive foreign and agricultural policies (such as subsidy programmes)? This might seem unrealistic but the idea is to get volunteers to understand their own (direct or indirect) role in global poverty. The idea is to get volunteers truly invested in ending poverty, and not simply to feel better about themselves.

Voir de même:

The Guardian
14 November 2010

By 10pm, the aptly named Bar Street is pulsating with tourists drawn to Siem Reap by the famous Cambodian ruins of Angkor Wat. As hip-hop blares from clubs, children playing traditional instruments are led along by men with placards reading: « Support our orphans. » The kids offer sweet smiles to the diners and drinkers and anyone making a donation is invited to visit the nearby orphanage, one of several in the city, and perhaps spend time working there.

This is the most direct attempt to lure tourists, seducing them with wide eyes and heart-wrenching stories of abandonment. Other orphanages rely on websites filled with pictures of happy children. Some have hooked up with guest-houses, taxi drivers and, best of all, western tour companies that offer voluntary work alongside the holiday of a lifetime.

But behind those smiles can lie untold misery. For in Cambodia, as in other parts of the globe, orphanages are a booming business trading on guilt. Some are even said to be kept deliberately squalid. Westerners take pity on the children and end up creating a grotesque market that capitalises on their concerns. This is the dark side of our desire to help the developing world.

Look again at those cute children. Those « orphans » might have been bought from impoverished parents, coerced from loving families or simply rented for the night. An official study found just a quarter of children in these so-called orphanages have actually lost both parents. And these private ventures are proliferating fast: the numbers increased by 65% in just three years.

Once again, clumsy attempts to do good end up harming communities we want to help. We have seen it with foreign aid, corrosive in so many countries by propping up despots, fostering corruption and destroying local enterprises. We have seen it with the dumping of cheap food and clothes, devastating industries and encouraging a dependency culture. And now we see it with « voluntourism », the fastest-growing sector of one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet.

Insiders call them guilt trips. All those teenagers heading off on gap years, fired up with enthusiasm. Those middle-aged professionals spending a small fortune to give something back to society. And those new retirees determined to spend their downtime spreading a little happiness.

Now the flipside of these well-intentioned dreams has been laid bare in an incendiary report by South African and British academics which focuses on « Aids orphan tourism » in southern Africa, but challenges many cherished beliefs.

The study reveals that short-term volunteer projects can do more harm than good. Wealthy tourists prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs, especially when they pay to volunteer; hard-pressed institutions waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their trauma by disappearing back home. « The more I delved into it, the more disturbing I found it, » said Amy Norman, one of the researchers.

Development charities offering professionals the chance to use skills abroad have raised similar concerns; Voluntary Service Overseas even condemned this burgeoning industry as a new form of colonialism. VSO asked what right unqualified British teenagers had to impose their desire to do good at schools in developing countries. And Norman is correct: the more you look below the surface, the more these trips raise profound questions about misplaced idealism and misconceived attitudes.

In recent years, a disturbing form of slum tourism has taken off, with rich visitors sold a glimpse into the lives of the very poor. In Asia, unbelievably, tourists pay for trips to hand out food to impoverished rural families. In Africa, tour firms throw in a visit to an orphanage alongside a few days on the beach or watching wild animals. Critics argue that dropping in to take photographs of orphaned children, who may have seen parents recently waste to death, reduces them to the status of lions and zebras on the veld.

Many orphanages let tourists work with children. But what would we say if unchecked foreigners went into our children’s homes to cuddle and care for the kids? We would be shocked, so why should standards be lowered in the developing world? Yes, resources might be in short supply, but just as here, experts want children in the family environment or fostered in loving homes, not in the exploding number of substandard institutions.

As the authors of this report point out, the harsh truth is that « voluntourism » is more about the self-fulfilment of westerners than the needs of developing nations. Perhaps this is unsurprising in a world in which Madonna thinks it is fine to take children from African families.

In Ghana, just as in South Africa and Cambodia, there has been a boom in unregistered orphanages. Last year, police investigated one after the rape of an eight-month-old boy and discovered 27 of the 32 children were not orphans. A government study found up to 90% of the estimated 4,500 children in orphanages had at least one parent and only eight of the 148 orphanages were licensed. Unicef officials said children’s welfare was secondary to profits and it is thought less than one-third of income goes on child care.

Too many travellers carry a naively romantic idea of doing good alongside their luggage. « Unfortunately, they are led by their hearts and not their heads and unknowingly support environments that may be abusive to children, » said Mark Turgesen, international co-ordinator of ChildSafe Network, which protects children from abuse. Last month, the British owner of an orphanage near Siem Reap was charged with sexual assault of a teenage boy; up to 100 children were moved to a safe house by investigators.

Inevitably, the needs of impoverished communities are subverted by the demands of wealthy visitors. Alexia Nestora ran the North American arm of a major « voluntourism » group and admitted such firms loved orphanage stops. « They sell the best and are the most tearjerking projects to pitch to the media. Volunteers come away with the classic picture with an orphan and tell all their friends about their experience – as a business person I loved this. » However, she started to question their validity once she went into the field and discovered the work carried out by volunteers was often unnecessary, as admitted by organisers. « The funding they bring with them is the attractive part. »

The desire to engage with the world is laudable, as is the desire to volunteer. But we need to tread more carefully. Unless we have time and transferable skills, we might do better to travel, trade and spend money in developing countries. The rapid growth of « voluntourism » is like the rapid growth of the aid industry: salving our own consciences without fully examining the consequences for the people we seek to help. All too often, our heartfelt efforts to help only make matters worse.

Voir aussi:

The Exploitative Selfishness of Volunteering Abroad

Maya Wesby

Newsweek

8/18/15

This article first appeared on the Wilson Quarterly.

For college students, studying abroad offers the chance to travel, earn credit and gain work experience. Students may opt to take language-immersion courses or even earn grants for working on subject-based projects (for example, doing scientific research on the Great Barrier Reef or filming a documentary in Egypt).

Yet one type of study abroad involves volunteer work in developing nations, and willing participants can travel the world while gaining a sense of community alongside fellow volunteers and the native population.

While idealism and good intentions drive many of these volunteers, there exists the concept of “voluntourism,” or volunteer tourism, in which companies send volunteers abroad for the sake of profit and corporate advantage. In other words, travel is designed to benefit the sponsoring companies rather than disadvantaged communities.

It is done by selling international service experiences to young people, mostly students, and is branded as a way to enhance their résumés. While host communities benefit from the rise in tourism and labor, nongovernmental organizations (which often partner with funds-seeking volunteer organizations) benefit from their projects gaining international exposure in fields such as science, medicine and infrastructure.

The voluntourism industry, worth about $173 billion annually, originated in the fierce competition among nonprofit businesses, where a balance must be struck between money and mission—between their original philanthropic goals and the new commercialization methods organizations adopt to remain financially viable. Even as commercialization may pay for a nonprofit’s programmatic work, the strategy is something of a devil’s bargain. Commercial motives drive away focus on charitable actions and blur an organization’s reputation as an altruistic, friendly aid to developing communities. Voluntourism arose as a more palatable form of commercialization, earning income for a business while maintaining the illusion of clean-cut charity work.

The commercialization of charity gets more problematic when considering the demographics of volunteers and their hosts. Though sub-Saharan Africa is the primary destination for voluntourists, the visitors themselves—many of whom are recruited for the experience—are primarily white students from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

The gaps in culture, background and privilege are apparent on social media, where some participants post preening “selfies” with indigenous children and use hashtags like #InstagrammingAfrica to share a filtered version of their glamorous lives. It all seems to devalue the original purpose of volunteering abroad and makes one wonder if these participants’ motives were charitable at all.

Working in an underdeveloped region should result in meaningful change and an expansion of one’s worldview, not a new profile picture.

Selfishness instead of selflessness has harmed host communities. In Pacific Standard, Lauren Kascak argues that voluntourism in the medical field has brought local communities more harm than good.

A former voluntourist herself, Kascak found that Ghanaians were less likely to purchase health insurance since they knew every few months there would be a ready and willing supply of foreign volunteers to bring medication—leaving the community susceptible to disease during interims.

More troubling is the growing orphan tourism business in South Africa and Indonesia, where children are cared for and receive an education by the voluntourism organization and individuals. Some children, because their parents cannot send them to school, move into orphanages where tourists come to provide them with food and education.

A more suitable long-term solution would be to provide parents with the resources and knowledge to care for their children, or investing in a more permanent educational infrastructure, rather than focusing solely on short-term necessities.

Similarly misguided was an effort to build houses in a post-earthquake shattered Haiti. While the foreign volunteers were well-intentioned, they misplaced their focus; it was necessary to build stable homes, but the real problem was crippling, multigenerational poverty.

Lacking skills and employment to improve their condition, Haitian families continued to beg in the streets in the absence of tourists. The volunteers came and left, but nothing had really changed.

These examples reveal the core danger of voluntourism: It creates a dependency between host communities and Western societies rather than the infrastructure needed for sustainable self-reliance. Yet because the industry shows no signs of stopping, voluntourism can only be modified, and not eliminated.

To be effective, an ethical reformation of voluntourism must apply to the volunteers, the volunteer organizations and the host communities. One set of ethical standards for companies and individuals to abide by is known as Fair Trade Learning, principles that emphasize the benefits of exchange relationships, where all parties are in equal benefit.

With an equal benefit to all three parties—volunteers, nonprofits and hosts—voluntourism can continue as a mutually benefiting and rewarding experience that profits and saves the reputation of organizations, gives young Westerners a truly meaningful experience and lastingly improves the quality of life for developing communities.

Maya Wesby is a writer at the Wilson Quarterly, where this article first appeared.  

Sources: Alexandra Coghlan and Steve Noakes,“Towards an Understanding of the Drivers of Commercialisation in the Volunteer Tourism Sector,” Tourism Recreation Research 37(2) (2012): 123–131. Eric Hartman, Cody Morris Paris and Brandon Blache-Cohen,“Fair Trade Learning: Ethical Standards for Community-Engaged International Volunteer Tourism,” Tourism and Hospitality Research 14(1-2) (2014): 108–116.

Voir par ailleurs:

In defence of ‘voluntourists’


The Guardian
25 February 2013

The debate about « voluntourism » – that unsightly word – has reared its cynical head yet again. Every so often the spotlight is turned on western students using their free time to help those less fortunate in developing countries, and much head-scratching and soul-searching ensues.

Recently the Guardian published a piece by Somalian blogger Ossob Mohamud, with the headline Beware the ‘voluntourists’ doing good. She argues that the west is turning the developing world into « a playground » for the rich to « assuage the guilt of their privilege ».

Mohamud clearly had a difficult volunteering experience. She says she felt ashamed at the excessive praise and thanks of locals, cringed as she took photos with African children whose names she did not know and was left feeling that she had simply inflated her ego and spruced up her resume.

There is a discussion to be had about the merits or otherwise of overseas volunteering schemes which attract crowds of well-meaning westerners to build schools and playgrounds, teach English or care for orphans. But Mohamud’s insistence on drawing a wider social message from her own unsatisfactory trip is unfair and potentially damaging.

Last summer I visited Uganda to report on the work of East African Playgrounds. The charity enlists British students to build play facilities and run sporting projects for primary school children. In just a few years it has grown to be self-sufficient, employing a team of young Ugandans as builders, to the point where the charity’s British founders will soon be able to step back and let it run itself.

I witnessed the volunteers – students and recent graduates from UK universities – forming genuine friendships with the locals, developing emotional attachments to the children and becoming truly invested in their future. Cynics might that say when they return to Britain they leave it all behind and life moves on. But for many, volunteering can be life changing.
Mark Deeks, 28, was deeply affected by the experience, and is still shaken by the country’s poverty, healthcare and corrupt political system. When he returned to university he wrote his masters dissertation on gay rights in Uganda.

East African Playgrounds founder Tom Gill admits frustration that many quick-fix ‘gap year’ companies are « built to maximise profits and reduce costs wherever they can » without investing in communities. But, he says, many charities are working hard to counter this.

« Charity in its essence is a chance for those who have more than enough to help those who don’t have enough, » he says. « If privileged people stopped volunteering and making donations then what would happen to the work of thousands of charities worldwide?

« Volunteers play a vital role in the model of charities that are looking to become financially independent and self-sufficient. Charities that rely heavily on grants and trusts have almost all suffered reductions in donations, which has a huge impact on the ground with funding having to be pulled from grassroots projects.

« No approach is without its flaws, but it is vital that people do not group charities doing this well with companies who are putting very little into the developing world. »

Undergraduates face a stark choice about how to spend their time before entering employment, particularly now that money is tight and jobs are scarce. Charities that invest in the developing world need keen, energetic, ambitious people to help them along. « Voluntourists » they may be – but their work can have a huge impact on their own lives and the lives of those they help. It would be an awful shame if they were put off.

Voir par ailleurs:

Rice Christians and Fake Conversions

Laura Parker

A life overseas

January 28, 2013

I remember our first year on the field literally thinking, “No one is ever, ever going to come to faith in Christ, no matter how many years I spend here.” 

I thought this because for the first time in my life, I was face-to-face with the realities that the story of Jesus was so completely other to the people I was living among. Buddhism and the East had painted such a vastly different framework than the one I was used to that I was at a loss as to how to even begin to communicate the gospel effectively.

And so, the Amy-Carmichael-Wanna-Be that I was, I dug in and started learning the language. I began the long, slow process of building relationships with the nationals, and I ended up spending lots of time talking about the weather and the children in kitchens. And while over time, I became comfortable with helping cook the meal, I saw very little movement of my local friends towards faith.

But, then we started hearing about Western teams that came for short term trips or long-term missionaries who visited the villages around the city where we were living. Sometimes they would do vacation bible schools for the kids, other times they would show a film. Sometimes they would do a sermon or go door-to-door. Other times, they would help build a bathroom or a water well or a new church. (And these efforts were definitely noble, costly, and helpful on many levels.)

But the surprising thing for me was that these teams (both long and short term) seemed to come back with conversion stories. 

These Americans — many of whom didn’t know the language and hadn’t studied the culture– often came back thrilled to have witnessed several locals seemingly convert from Buddhism to Christianity.

After three days of ministry.

Here I was learning from living in the culture, that the leap from following Buddha to following Jesus was seemingly a gigantic one, yet it seemed that every time I turned around Western teams were having wild success in convincing nationals to make it.

And they would tell their stories or I would read them online, and I would immediately begin to shrink a little, or a lot.

What was I doing wrong? I obviously suck at being a missionary.  These were my logical conclusions.

About six months into our time overseas, I first heard the term “Rice Christians.”

The term is used among the missionary community to describe nationals who make a profession of conversion (inauthentically or without true understanding) in order to get the product (clothing, food, rice) that is being delivered by the Western worker.  It seems that if you add the strings attached to the given supplies with the “don’t cause conflict or disagree” cultural value of the Asian country where we lived,  a subtle social game can quickly develop.

It could go a bit like this: uneducated villagers, a little (or a lot) in awe of the white American, are provided with goods they desperately need, entertainment that encourages their kids, and attention by the wealthy Westerner, all of which they gladly accept. And at some point over the course of the event, the Westerners share honestly about their religion and eventually ask for public professions of faith.

And, seriously, what’s an impoverished person, raised in a culture of respect, supposed to do in light of  this turn of events? In many ways, isn’t agreeing with the views of the outsider the most polite and most effective response for the national– the path that both provides for their families while still showing respect for their visitors?

Perhaps, perhaps they become Rice Christians for the day.

And maybe we missionaries don’t really give them many other options. 

Note: I am by no means saying that the gospel can’t move mightily and quickly among a people group. I’m not saying that we should all begin to doubt the faith of those that come forward in evangelistic outreaches, either. I’m also not throwing short term missions under any kind of bus because I’ve seen this in both short and long-termers. I am saying, though, that perhaps we need to consider the position we put people in when we enter their worlds with gifts and programs. And perhaps we need to re-evaluate some of our “numbers.” 

*******

Thoughts on this? What is your opinion/experience with pairing the gospel with humanitarian aid? Can that become manipulative? In your area of the world, are people quick to receive the gospel?

Laura Parker, Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia

******

Proselytising amid the poverty

3 September 2008

Cambodia’s relative religious freedoms have encouraged Christian groups to set up shop in the Kingdom, but they risk creating ‘rice Christians’ when they preach to the poor

Elders Jones and Henderson cycle calmly through Phnom Penh’s rush-hour traffic, Bible bags strapped to their backs, white cotton shirts snapping in the breeze. It is becoming a familiar sight in Cambodia: clean-cut young missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – better known as the Mormon Church – taking to the streets to spread the Word of the Lord.

As missionaries, Jones and Henderson are awake at five and proselytise until eight in the evening, seven days a week. Both are nearing the end of their gruelling two-year stints in Phnom Penh, but look back on their time here with no regrets. « My purpose is to welcome others to come into the Word of Christ, » Henderson said. « I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it. »

He said their work is helped by the natural curiosity of the Cambodian people. « There’s a lot of curiosity. There’s a great number of people who are willing to hear the message that we are sharing, » Henderson said.

Elder Jones, an Idaho native, agreed Cambodians’ friendliness was an advantage for the church, which was founded in the US in 1830 and has since grown into a global religion with over 13 million adherents.

« We just go and talk to them, » he said. « The Lord is in charge, and he’s taking care of things. »

With a local membership of over 8,000, Mormonism has led a significant demographic shift towards Christianity in Cambodia. According to the US State Department’s 2007 International Religious Freedom Report, Christians make up around two percent of Cambodia’s population (approximately 282,000 people), dispersed amongst 100 organisations.

Compared to more restrictive neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Laos, Cambodia has a relatively open climate for missionary work.

The law requires all religious groups to register with the Ministry of Cults and Religions if they wish to build places of worship or conduct religious activities. But according to the Religious Freedom report, « there is no penalty for failing to register, and in practice some groups do not. » Only 900 of Cambodia’s 2,400 churches are officially registered with the government.

Dok Narin, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the constitution guaranteed freedom of religion and that there are few laws to regulating the day-to-day activities of missionaries. « We cannot control them, as we don’t have any special laws, » he said, adding that more regulation was desirable but difficult to balance with a commitment to religious freedom. « The ministry is planning laws to exercise more controls on religion, but we are afraid that it may affect the constitution, » he said.

« Rice Christians »

In February 2003, the government imposed a ban on door-to-door proselytising, but the continuing lack of firm regulations has created fresh temptations. Cambodia has long been plagued by rumours that Christians were exploiting the nation’s poverty to attract converts – a problem Christian leaders say goes to the heart of doing missionary work here.

« When a country like Cambodia opens up, you get greater freedoms to operate, » said Vernon Elvish, a missionary with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who arrived here in 1992.

« In one way that’s a good thing, but then you can also get the bad side of that freedom coming in, » he said, adding that rumours of exploitation were hard to verify, but taken seriously.

« We’re very conscious of making ‘rice Christians’, » he said, referring to those who change religions on a material incentive. « Our organisation is purely a religious organisation…. We don’t even teach English here, so if they want to become a Jehovah’s Witness, it’s because they want to become a Jehovah’s Witness, not because they’re getting any material benefit out of it. »

David Manfred, a missionary with the Christian & Missionary Alliance (CAMA), founded in Cambodia in 1923, said the country’s openness made it tempting for some missionaries and that « rice Christians » were a constant concern.

« My own sense is that some groups have probably come here and, out of zeal, have used methodologies that we wouldn’t feel comfortable with, » Manfred told the Post. « There has been a tendency … to inflate [conversion] numbers, or to count them differently. It’s actually something we work quite hard to try and avoid, because that would not be the kind of faith that we’re looking for. »

Mormon mission President Robert Winegar said the church spent between US$400,000 and $1 million per year on charity and development programs, but that such activities were tightly sealed off from its religious work.

« In all of these [projects] we never talk about the church, » he said, adding that the church asked more of its members than its members asked of the church. « Not only do we not use poverty as a lure to join the church; we invite members to donate [a] 10 percent [tithe] to help the church grow, » he said.

Freelance missionaries

Some missionaries have gone further, distancing themselves from the large churches they say have made Christians dependent on foreign church money. Michael Freeze, a Baptist missionary who has worked in Cambodia since 2000, said that after four years of running a church in Phnom Penh, he became disillusioned and now focuses on small Bible study sessions.

« It became apparent to me that [Cambodians] were coming to church but not wanting to take part in building the church, » he said. « That’s why I no longer want to have a big structure and have them think that ‘this is the Western money train, I want to get on board’. »

An independent Khmer-American pastor, who declined to be named because of his associations with several organisations in Cambodia, agreed that the massive economic gap between Westerners and most Cambodians turned proselytising into an ethical minefield.

While outright bribes were rare, he said that economic dependency was hard to avoid.

« It’s good to give, but you have to be very careful how you give. You come to Cambodia with SUVs and tonnes of rice, and that’s virtually bribery, » he said.

The pastor said the financial concerns of some large churches had compromised their aims.

« If you build your foundation on money,  religion will crumble, » he said, singling out the Mormons for criticism.

« I believe that churches have made a lot of mistakes in terms of their focus on finance and on getting their numbers up. That’s where the church of Mormon comes in. They know how to work the system…. But all the money in the world can’t buy God. »

CAMA’s Manfred said that in terms of building local capacity and avoiding the pitfalls of dependency, the principles of effective missionary activity were similar to the principles of effective aid work. « I think that the use of money is an area where we have to be hugely careful, so that these kinds of patron-client relationships are not established, » he said.

Given the lack of government oversight, Manfred added, some Christian groups imposed a regime of regulation on themselves. CAMA has associated itself with the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia, an umbrella organisation representing a large number of missions, which has a stringent code of conduct prohibiting the use of material « enticements ».

« We limit the amount of money coming from the outside in terms of direct support [to churches], » he said.

« My problem with this is when they try to wean themselves off, there’s already a bit of dependency, and they’ll often just look for another patron. »

But Freeze said these mistakes were often a result of a lack of understanding of the local context, something that could be overcome through in-country experience. « Most groups have genuine heart, » he said. « But a lot of the problem here is a misunderstanding of culture. »

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY HOR HAB

Voir également:

Baptists Tired of Being Swindled by Rice Christians

christianaggress 
April 27, 2016

Way of Life Baptist Publication

Recently a Baptist publication printed the following after being swindled by many Asian converts who they have attempted to « buy »: THE DANGER OF SUPPORTING NATIONAL PREACHERS. To channel a lot of funds to a national preacher in that part of the world is a serious mistake. Those people are incredibly poor, and an amount of money which to us is minuscule, to them can be a small fortune, and therefore a very great temptation. I have met dozens of Indian preachers who are channels for U.S. funds, and who have their hired « preacher boys » and evangelistic work. I have met very few who, in my estimation, were using the money properly for the spiritual health of the churches under their care. The tendency is for the following to happen: (1) The head preacher who is the funnel for the U.S. funds becomes wealthy in the eyes of his own people. He might seem poor to the preachers who visit from the States, but in the eyes of his own people, he has found a « gravy train. » It has perpetuated the concept in those lands that the best way to make a good living for a preacher is to get hooked into U.S. church funds. (2) The national preachers who are on the head preacher’s payroll become his hirelings. It is like welfare. They never seem to get off the dole. Year after year passes, and these evangelists and pastors remain salaried by U.S. churches via the largess of the « head preacher » rather than through the tithes and offerings of their own people. The « churches » they start never become self-supporting. They don’t pay the salary of their own workers. They don’t build their own buildings. They don’t even buy their own bicycles. I have often asked these men why the national churches are not supporting their own men. The answer invariably is that « they are too poor. » That tells me immediately that I am dealing with a man who desires to perpetuate the « welfare » system. Any church in any part of the world can support its own men at its own standard of living through the Lord’s program of tithes and offerings. Those who refuse to train the churches in this are creating welfare churches which will never be strong enough to stand on their own feet. This is NOT New Testament missions. THE DANGER OF BUILDING NATIONAL CHURCH BUILDINGS. It is a very serious mistake to fund church buildings for the nationals. On occasion, it might not be wrong to HELP another church to build its building, when it is plain that that congregation is doing all it can to build the building, and when it is plain that that congregation would eventually get its own building with or without outside help. But to channel U.S. church funds into church buildings in Asia (or elsewhere) is a very serious mistake. It will weaken those churches, at best. It is even possible that the churches which are so aided will never be true churches, being peopled only by « rice Christians. »

Missionaries Flock to China
George Wehrfritz and Lynette Clemetson
Newsweek

The children are dressed in their Sunday best when « Grandma Jane » arrives at the orphanage in rural Xinmi County. All 16 of them — girls in summer dresses, boys in pressed shirts — race out of their cramped apartments to meet her. Jane Marcum hugs and kisses each one, bantering in broken Mandarin about new haircuts and schoolwork. Together they enter the House of Hope. « When we found Wenwei, he had no smile, no joy, » the orphanage’s ebullient founder says about one of her charges. « His ears were frostbitten, and he had sores in his mouth. » Now he has a home and a future.

Until 1994 Marcum, now 58, taught high-school biology in Mound City, Kans. Then one day « God told me to move to China, » she remembers. A self-described « spiritual Christian, » she took early retirement, told her husband and two grown children she’d see them during summer holidays and journeyed to Henan province, where friends introduced her to Xinmi officials. Within three weeks, they had established the House of Hope. The whole operation costs less than $10,000 a year. Donors include Catholic nuns, a Baptist Sunday-school class from Missouri and the Wall Street Christian Church in Kansas, which gives $100 a month earned from a communal wheat field.When the United States and China established diplomatic relations in 1979, President Jimmy Carter asked Deng Xiaoping to reopen Christian churches, print Bibles and welcome back foreign missionaries. Deng granted the first two requests. China’s state-approved « patriotic » churches (both Catholic and Protestant) have since opened more than 37,000 churches and « meeting places » and have printed more than 22 million Bibles. Underground « house churches, » illegal congregations that refuse to register with the government, also thrive despite periodic crackdowns. Critics in the United States accuse China of persecuting Christians. But by some estimates, 50 million Chinese have been baptized since the late 1970s. Now it seems Beijing has quietly and unofficially granted Carter’s third wish.

Not since Mao Zedong declared American missionaries « spiritual aggressors » and expelled them 50 years ago have so many foreign Christians worked in China. Missionaries are still officially forbidden in China, and proselytizing is technically illegal. Nonetheless, more Christian activists are entering China openly. By some estimates, 10,000 foreign Christian workers now live in the country, more than half of them Americans.Behind this change is economics: Beijing’s rules no longer count for much in the cash-strapped provinces. As reformers unravel the socialist safety net, local leaders must find new ways to finance basic services like schools and health clinics. « Few local authorities will put bureaucratic hurdles in the way of… Christians who appear with bags full of money, » writes development expert Nicholas Young in the China Development Briefing, a bimonthly newsletter.It’s all a question of tactics. Hong Kong Christian Council member Philip Lam went to China in 1993 to propose Project Nehemiah, a plan to rebuild churches. At first, authorities bristled. « Nehemiah? » asked one official. « Is he a foreigner? » Lam explained that Nehemiah was an Old Testament prophet, but that didn’t help. Finally, Lam dropped the name Nehemiah. Authorities gave the OK. « You have to understand their sensitivity, » says Lam.Even after a half century of official atheism, some of the old missionary links remain. The small town of Hequ, in Shanxi province, counts a missionary as one of its local heroes. Peter Torjesen, a Norwegian evangelist, sheltered wartime refugees until the Japanese dive-bombed his mission in 1939, killing him. For that sacrifice, local communists proclaimed Torjesen a « people’s martyr. » In 1990 they invited his American offspring back to Shanxi to unveil a monument to their patriarch. Grandson Finn Torjesen, then a missionary in Indonesia, attended with 15 relatives and met Shanxi’s vice governor. « You are the picture of an old Chinese family, three generations gathered to honor an ancestor, » the official said. « We want your kind of people back in China. »The family returned in 1993, establishing an outpost for the Colorado-based Evergreen Family Friendship Service, a nonprofit humanitarian group. Volunteer physicians and teachers train « barefoot » village doctors and screen rural children for illnesses. « We’re here to live in the community, learn the language and do what the community wants us to do — but as Christians, » says Torjesen. David Vikner has a similar family story. The son and grandson of Lutheran missionaries, he fled the communist takeover as a toddler but later returned. Twice. In 1982 he taught English in Wuhan until suspicious officials asked him to leave. « They thought I was a spy, » he says, laughing. Seven years later, he became president of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, a nonprofit established in 1922 to unify missionary colleges in China. Since re-establishing links with the mainland, the board has worked with more than 100 Chinese universities, spending nearly $15 million. « We do not evangelize, » Vikner says.Why the disclaimers? Traditional stereotypes portray missionaries as opportunists who rode in on foreign gunboats and turned famine victims into « rice Christians. » Missionary health clinics and orphanages created a folklore about demons who « took blood from poor people and killed babies, » says Zhuo Xinping, a religion specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Little wonder that although today’s Christian charity work is without question a form of missionary activity, few Christians use the term. They stick to job descriptions like doctor, engineer, project director. »Teacher » is the most popular. The majority of foreign teachers working in China today are sponsored by Christian organizations. The Amity Foundation, a nonprofit Christian charity established under the state-sanctioned China Christian Council in 1985, now has more than 150 American instructors spread across the country. Amity’s guidelines admonish them to express their faith « through service rather than proselytization. » Yet many teachers bend, or defy, the ban on evangelism by sharing the gospel with curious students on a one-on-one basis or inviting them home for Bible study. « When the group got too big for my apartment we started meeting in the fields, » confides a teacher now living in China.Christian teachers are having such success that religious groups are stepping up recruitment efforts. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, for example, runs an Internet ad seeking applicants for a program called TEAM (Teaching English as Ministry). The ad says the job is « the most ‘hands on’ type of ministry that is available for foreigners. » Insists a church spokesman: « We don’t permit overt evangelism. »Beijing isn’t blind to evangelism, overt or otherwise, but its strategy is to regulate missionaries and tap them for resources. For that reason, many Christians outside the country worry that it is too easy for local authorities to skim money from donations and that cooperating solely with official religious organizations weakens the underground church. « Everyone must do what God tells them to do, » says a Hong Kong Pentecostal minister whose followers smuggle Bibles into China and evangelize in rural areas. « I don’t criticize those other efforts, but we’re giving people the word of God in the way we feel is best. »Some Christian organizations are trying to have it both ways with « two track » China strategies. They advocate both official cooperation and clandestine assistance to unregistered house-church congregations. Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention faced a mutiny when missionary directors in East Asia proposed abandoning covert programs in China. After intense debate, the Baptists decided to keep their two-pronged approach. Beijing, which had followed the debate on a Baptist Web site, promptly cut all ties with the convention.While Western Christians bicker over strategies, Chinese Christianity — official and unofficial — is growing rapidly as people search for spiritual meaning in a post-Marxist society. Down a winding dirt road on the banks of the Mekong River, the Jinghong Church in China’s southern Yunnan province is bursting at the seams. « Jesus is all the world to me, » the congregation sang at one recent service as latecomers crowded in. The church holds three services every Sunday to accommodate a flock that is fast approaching 2,000. With funding from the Hong Kong Christian Council, the congregation hopes to build a new church this year. Local authorities are happy about the plan, because the new building will double as a lay training facility and community-service center. Elder Yu Di, a spirited preacher who rebuilt the congregation from a five-member underground church that met in her home in 1987, says the church has grown by testing the limits. « Before, there was no freedom for us. [The government] said Christianity was a foreign religion, » she says. « Now we can say our God is a universal God. »Vol. 20, No. 1

Voir enfin:

New Code of Conduct for Christian Witness
Mark R. Elliott
In January 2011 the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the World Council of Churches (representing mainline Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches), and the World Evangelical Alliance agreed upon a new code of conduct for ethical, non-coercive sharing of the gospel. These church bodies, which collectively represent approximately two billion members, or 90 percent of the global Christian population, negotiated this path-breaking code of conduct in three consultations spanning a period of five years: May 2006, Lariano, Italy; August 2007, Toulouse, France; and January 2011, Bangkok, Thailand (www.internationalbulletin.org; pp. 194 and 196).In “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct,” all parties concur that “Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings” (Preamble of “Christian Witness.” All citations to “Christian Witness” are taken from the text online at http://www.oikoumente.org/eng/a/en/news/news-management/article/1634/christians-reach-broad-co.html. Hereafter, all references are from this document unless otherwise noted.)The desired practical outcome for “Christian Witness” is to see churches and mission agencies “reflect on their current practices and…prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission” (Preamble). The document notes that “In some contexts, living and proclaiming the gospel is difficult, hindered or even prohibited, yet Christians are commissioned by Christ to continue…in their witness to him.” At the same time, “If Christians engage in inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means, they betray the gospel….Such departures call for repentance” (“A Basis for Christian Witness,” Points 5 and 6).The sections of “Christian Witness” entitled “Principles” and “Recommendations” provide a valuable blueprint for sharing the gospel with integrity. Key affirmations, with accompanying commentary by the East-West Church and Ministry Report in italics, may be summarized under five headings: I. fair representation of other confessions and faiths; II. disavowal of all forms of violence and coercion; III. advocacy for government impartiality in matters of faith; IV. calls for tolerance, respect, and inter-religious dialogue; and V. the need to distinguish between acts of mercy expected of all Christians and inappropriate allurements.
I. Fair Representation of Other Confessions and Faiths
To characterize other churches and religions fairly, “Christians should avoid misrepresenting [their] beliefs and practices” (Recommendation 3). “Any comment or critical approach should be made in a spirit of mutual respect, making sure not to bear false witness concerning other religions” (Principle 10). Appendix 3 of “Christian Witness” further urges that “Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the…non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith.” The ever-present temptation in making comparisons is to commend the example of the most praiseworthy spiritual paragons of one’s own tradition while omitting to mention or minimizing the significance of the shortcomings of one’s own confession. Individuals who have managed to abstain from unfair representations and comparisons include Plymouth Brethren evangelist Lord Radstock who scrupulously avoided criticism of Russian Orthodoxy in his preaching in St. Petersburg palaces; Don Fairbairn in his exemplary, balanced critique of Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes; and Father Alexander Schmemann in his self-critical judgments as well as defense of his own tradition in The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy and The Journals of Alexander Schmemann 1973-1983.
II. Disavowal of Violence and Coercion
“Christians are called to reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness. They reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts” (Principle 6). Sad to say, the past two decades provide too many examples of violence motivated by religious intolerance in post-Soviet states: the murder of Father Alexander Men and other Orthodox priests; the murder of Korean Protestant missionaries in Siberia; Albanian destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries (following earlier Serbian destruction of Albanian mosques); an Orthodox bishop in Ekaterinburg ordering the public burning of texts written by “suspect” theologians: Alexander Men, Alexander Schmemann, and John Meyendorff; and ongoing harassment of Russian Baptists and Pentecostals and vandalism of their houses of worship. (On murdered priests: East-West Church and Ministry Report 7 [Summer 1999]: 1; and Orthodoxy in the World, 28 May 2010; http://www.pravmir.com/article _987.html; on Korean Protestant missionary murders: East- West Church and Ministry Report 3 [Spring 1995], 4; on destruction of Serbian and Albanian religious sites: East-West Church and Ministry Report 12 [Summer 2004], 1-3; and 12 [Spring 2005], 15; on Orthodox book burning: East-West Church and Ministry Report 6 [Summer 1998], 11; on harassment of Russian Baptists and Pentecostals: Felix Corley, “Fined for Meeting for Worship,” Forum 18, 28 October 2011, http://www.forum18.org. For many additional examples of harassment search the Forum 18 online archive.)
III. Advocacy for Government Impartiality
Unfortunately, much of the religiously inspired mayhem in post-Soviet states is exacerbated by government partiality toward one or another favored faith. The text of “Christian Witness” speaks at length of the necessity of state neutrality regarding freedom of conscience: Christians are encouraged to “call on their governments to ensure that freedom of religion is properly and comprehensively respected, recognizing that in many countries religious institutions and persons are inhibited from exercising their mission” (Recommendation 5). “Religious freedom including the right to publicly profess, practice, propagate and change one’s religion flows from the very dignity of the human person which is grounded in the creation of all human beings in the image and likeness of God….Where any religion is instrumentalized for political ends, or where religious persecution occurs, Christians are called to engage in a prophetic witness denouncing such actions” (Principle 7).In post-Soviet territories, especially in the Caucasus and Central Asia, changing one’s religious allegiance from a majority to a minority faith is particularly fraught with danger. On this point, “Christian Witness” holds that followers of Christ “are to acknowledge that changing one’s religion is a decisive step that must be accompanied by sufficient time for adequate reflection and preparation, through a process ensuring full personal freedom” (Principle 11). Given existing state and societal pressures to maintain one’s identification with a majority faith, it must be recognized that freedom of conscience may be violated not only through improper pressure or inducement to change one’s religion, but also by improper pressure or inducement not to change one’s religion (Mark Elliott, “Evangelism and Proselytism in Russia: Synonyms or Antonyms?,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25 [April 2001], 72). Churches enjoying numerical superiority and/or state privilege typically have exploited their advantages in ways that have undermined freedom of conscience. As a rule, in such circumstances, minority faiths have faced persecution or discrimination. It should be pointed out that a lack of government impartiality in matters of faith has been the case not only in states with established churches (for example, Catholic Spain, Orthodox tsarist Russia, Lutheran Prussia, and Anglican England), but also in circumstances of informal church-state compacts, such as Protestant privilege in nineteenth-century America and Orthodox privilege in post-Soviet Russia.
IV. Calls for Tolerance, Respect, and Dialogue
The text of “Christian Witness” repeatedly addresses the need for tolerance, respect, and inter-religious dialogue: “Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Inter-religious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment” (Principle 8). “In certain contexts, where years of tension and conflict have created deep suspicions and breaches of trust between and among communities, inter-religious dialogue can provide new opportunities for resolving conflicts, restoring justice, healing of memories, reconciliation and peace-building” (Recommendation 2).While the above commitments deserve wholehearted support, in the post-Soviet context it must be noted that respect, tolerance, and inter-religious dialogue are extremely rare commodities. In large measure, this sad circumstance is a function, at least in Russia, of a once-privileged Orthodoxy reasserting its claims to spiritual hegemony. Lord Acton’s famous aphorism, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” applies in Russia with a vengeance. The contrast between Eastern Orthodoxy in North America and in Russia is instructive. As a minority faith in the West, Orthodoxy benefits from, and seems genuinely agreeable to, the concept of full protections for freedom of conscience. In Russia, however, Orthodoxy accepts—and even lobbies the government for—ever-increasing legislative discrimination against Christians outside the fold of the Moscow Patriarchate. The only faiths Orthodoxy tolerates are those that have sworn off witness outside their historic ethnic constituency (Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism), hence their ceremonially privileged characterization, along with Russian Orthodoxy, as “traditional” religions in the preamble of Russia’s discriminatory 1997 law on religion. Generally speaking, those faiths that favor inter-religious dialogue are religious minorities that suffer legal and/or societal distrust and discrimination, for example, Muslims in post-9/11 America and Baptists, Pentecostals, and Methodists in present-day Russia. The fact is that Russian Orthodoxy has little interest in inter-religious dialogue because, in its privileged position, it sees nothing to gain from it. Traveling through Siberia in September 2011, this writer was struck repeatedly by the desire of Russian Protestants and Western missionaries (politically impotent) to dialogue with Russian Orthodox (politically privileged), but the latter will have no part in it. The existing power differential is all the more striking given the fact that Protestantism east of the Urals appears to be demographically much stronger than Orthodoxy. The author’s interviews with Professor Andrei Savin, Novosibirsk, and seven missionaries and Russian believers, 6-14 September 2011, provided the following denominational figures: 28 Protestant and 8 Orthodox churches in Khabarovsk; 19 Protestant and 4 Orthodox churches in Komsomolsk na Amure; and 65 Protestant and 27 Orthodox churches in Novosibirsk. The same Protestant majority applies in Sakhalin: Natalia Potapova, “Contemporary Religious Life on Sakhalin Island,” East-West Church and Ministry Report 13 (Summer 2005), 3. (In contrast, Irkutsk, the historic capital of Siberia, is home to 35 Orthodox churches compared to 28 Protestant: http://iemp.ru/uprav/hram/hram/php.)The text of “Christian Witness” urges that “relationships of respect and trust with people of different religions” be built “so as to facilitate deeper mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation” (Principle 12). Unfortunately, in practice, Orthodox in post-Soviet states require non-Orthodox to forswear Christian witness as a precondition for tolerance and cooperation.
V. Distinguishing Appropriate Acts of Compassion from Inappropriate Allurements
Finally, the text of “Christian Witness” commends demonstrations of Christ-like compassion, but not material enticements that could lead to conversions of convenience. “Christians are called to…serve others and in so doing to recognize Christ in the least of their sisters and brothers. Acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service” (Principle 4). Similarly, “As an integral part of their witness to the gospel, Christians exercise ministries of healing. They are called to exercise discernment as they carry out these ministries, fully respecting human dignity and ensuring that the vulnerability of people and their need for healing are not exploited” (Principle 5).As praiseworthy as Principles 4 and 5 are, they give inadequate guidance in differentiating between biblically mandated compassion and service on the one hand and unjustifiable allurements on the other. The fact is that Russian Orthodox define any Protestant or Catholic educational or medical assistance or charitable act as a means of proselytizing and sheep stealing. In the 1990s a pastor from Florida called this writer outlining his church’s plan for an evangelistic campaign in Russia. Following a short-term preaching mission, those Russians who made professions of faith and who joined a new church plant were to be given a trip to their sister church in Florida so they could experience an evangelical worship service in America firsthand. To the best of my ability I tried to explain to this well-meaning but misguided pastor that his approach to cross-cultural ministry was bound to produce “rice Christians” drawn to “faith” by the enticing prospect of a free trip to an American vacationland. Conversely, just as a paid trip to Florida is an inappropriate allurement for new Russian converts, equally inappropriate is Orthodox insistence that no Protestant or Catholic act of charity is legitimate on what Orthodox define as their exclusive canonical territory, even in cases of charity extended to those who have no affiliation with Orthodoxy. In the mid-1990s an Orthodox priest visited an orphanage near Volgograd, advising the director not to accept assistance from Protestants. The director, who was not a believer, reacted angrily, asking the priest why he had not come to help, rather than criticize Protestants who did help. No fair-minded Christian would want to endorse the example of the Florida pastor or the Volgograd priest. Nevertheless, the line between commendable and exploitative acts of mercy and service can be quite fine and quite gray. Thus, the appendix of “Christian Witness” is right to note that “Each issue” addressed in this unique, multi-confessional document “is important in its own right and deserves more attention than can be given in these recommendations” (Appendix, Point 5). It would be most beneficial to have the text of “Christian Witness” serve as the basis of discussion for the formulation of a more detailed and nuanced code of conduct for evangelical missionaries wherever they may serve.
Mark R. Elliott is editor of the East-West Church and Ministry Report, Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky.

India’s Hindu Nationalists Seek To « Indianize » Christians

Worthy Christian News

May 11, 2001

SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) — In a fresh attack on Christians and Muslims, the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in demanding the « Indianization » of Christians and Muslims in the country.

On April 20, VHP Vice President Acharya Giriraj Kishore demanded that Christians and Muslims should be « indigenized » and be given Indian names.

« By Indianization, we are not demanding conversion of Muslims and Christians into Hindus. For the sake of unity and integrity of the country, we are demanding that Christians and Muslims should be indigenized, carrying Indian names, » Kishore said.

Last October, RSS chief K.S. Sudershan called on Christians and Muslims to cut their spiritual links with « foreign sources. »

In a separate development, the VHP’s international general secretary, Pravin Togadia, claimed that about 33,000 people had been converted to Christianity in the northern state of Sikkim in the last 25 years. Togadia said there were only a few Christians 25 years ago.

Meanwhile, the VHP says it is planning to revamp its image and highlight its « social work » component in the rural areas among the backward castes and tribals.

According to VHP’s chief of social projects, Sitaram Agarwal, the aim is to counter the influence of Christian missionaries. The VHP says the program has helped in checking conversions as « awareness » was being spread in the rural areas.

For more information on the ministry of Open Doors (who released this story,) write: Open Doors with Brother Andrew, PO Box 27001, Santa Ana, CA 92799 or call: (949) 752-6600. The Open Doors USA Web site can be found at http://www.opendoorsusa.org.


Aubervilliers: A quand le racisme anti-grand-mères ? (Like their cash-laden tourist cousins from the mainland, Chinese-French find out the hard way they too have become easy targets for muggers)

19 août, 2016
ChineseYou can’t turn the ghetto into black Korea. Ice cube
Ils ont tout, c’est connu. Vous êtes passé par le centre-ville de Metz ? Toutes les bijouteries appartiennent aux juifs. On le sait, c’est tout. Vous n’avez qu’à lire les noms israéliens sur les enseignes. Vous avez regardé une ancienne carte de la Palestine et une d’aujourd’hui ? Ils ont tout colonisé. Maintenant c’est les bijouteries. Ils sont partout, sauf en Chine parce que c’est communiste. Tous les gouvernements sont juifs, même François Hollande. Le monde est dirigé par les francs-maçons et les francs-maçons sont tous juifs. Ce qui est certain c’est que l’argent injecté par les francs-maçons est donné à Israël. Sur le site des Illuminatis, le plus surveillé du monde, tout est écrit. (…) On se renseigne mais on ne trouve pas ces infos à la télévision parce qu’elle appartient aux juifs aussi. Si Patrick Poivre d’Arvor a été jeté de TF1 alors que tout le monde l’aimait bien, c’est parce qu’il a été critique envers Nicolas Sarkozy, qui est juif… (…)  Mais nous n’avons pas de potes juifs. Pourquoi ils viendraient ici ? Ils habitent tous dans des petits pavillons dans le centre, vers Queuleu. Ils ne naissent pas pauvres. Ici, pour eux, c’est un zoo, c’est pire que l’Irak. Peut-être que si j’habitais dans le centre, j’aurais des amis juifs, mais je ne crois pas, je n’ai pas envie. J’ai une haine profonde. Pour moi, c’est la pire des races. Je vous le dis du fond du cœur, mais je ne suis pas raciste, c’est un sentiment. Faut voir ce qu’ils font aux Palestiniens, les massacres et tout. Mais bon, on ne va pas dire que tous les juifs sont des monstres. Pourquoi vouloir réunir les juifs et les musulmans ? Tout ça c’est politique. Cela ne va rien changer. C’est en Palestine qu’il faut aller, pas en France. Karim
Ce sont les cerveaux du monde. Tous les tableaux qui sont exposés au centre Pompidou appartiennent à des juifs. A Metz, tous les avocats et les procureurs sont juifs. Ils sont tous hauts placés et ils ne nous laisseront jamais monter dans la société. « Ils ont aussi Coca-Cola. Regardez une bouteille de Coca-Cola, quand on met le logo à l’envers on peut lire : « Non à Allah, non au prophète ». C’est pour cela que les arabes ont inventé le « Mecca-cola ». Au McDo c’est pareil. Pour chaque menu acheté, un euro est reversé à l’armée israélienne. Les juifs, ils ont même coincé les Saoudiens. Ils ont inventé les voitures électriques pour éviter d’acheter leur pétrole. C’est connu. On se renseigne. (…) Si Mohamed Merah n’avait pas été tué par le Raid, le Mossad s’en serait chargé. Il serait venu avec des avions privés. Ali
La veuve d’un ancien grand patron séquestrée et torturée à Hem, un nonagénaire violenté à Arras, des violences à Marcq-en-Barœul… Récemment, pas moins de quatre agressions à domicile ont été recensées dans la région. Si le phénomène n’est pas nouveau, ces agressions commises par des individus à la recherche de voitures, d’argent ou d’objets de valeur se multiplient ces dernières années. Avec parfois des conséquences dramatiques. (…) Les agressions à domicile ne datent pas d’hier. À la fin du XVIIIe siècle, les « Chauffeurs du Nord » sévissaient dans toute la région ainsi qu’en Belgique. Après être entrés par effraction au domicile de leurs victimes, ils leur liaient les pieds et les chauffaient à la braise des feux de cheminée pour leur faire avouer où se trouvaient argent et objets de valeur. (…) Les personnes âgées sont régulièrement prises pour cible. Par habitude ou méfiance envers les banques, certaines d’entre elles conservent de l’argent liquide à domicile et sont naturellement vulnérables du fait de leur grand âge. Une proie facile pour de petits délinquants à la recherche de liquidités. Des équipes plus aguerries ciblent aussi les familles disposant de patrimoine, voire tous ceux qui, par leur fonction, peuvent avoir accès à des liquidités ou des objets de valeur. Les victimes sont généralement repérées dans les magasins ou lorsqu’elles circulent, notamment dans des véhicules haut de gamme. (…) Si l’on peut être tenté de croire que la multiplication des dispositifs de sécurité (coffre-fort…) incite les malfrats à aller au contact de leurs victimes et à faire usage de violence, les spécialistes sont quant à eux formels : « La violence est liée aux auteurs, pas aux victimes et à leur niveau de protection, insiste la police judiciaire de Lille. Dans la région, les home-jackings sont perpétrés en majeure partie par des délinquants de cité. Ces faits sont très violents. Les portes sont défoncées. Les enfants sont mis à terre. La majeure partie des agressions à domicile vise avant tout à voler les voitures, soit pour le trafic de véhicules, soit pour commettre d’autres méfaits. » (…) De manière générale, il convient de ne conserver à domicile qu’un minimum d’argent liquide et d’objets de valeur. Mieux vaut éviter d’afficher des « signes extérieurs de richesses » dans certains lieux publics comme les magasins. L’installation d’une alarme dans le logement ne dissuadera pas les agresseurs mais limitera en revanche leur marge de manœuvre. (…) C’était le 31 mai dernier. La nuit de la fête des Mères. Trois individus gantés et masqués pénètrent dans une vaste propriété située dans le versant nord-est de la métropole lilloise. Les parents, des notables de la région, sont absents. Leur fils âgé de 22 ans est seul. Durant quatre heures, il va vivre un véritable enfer. « Ils n’ont vu que l’appât du gain, explique une source proche de l’enquête. C’est comme de la science-fiction. Pendant plus de quatre heures, il va subir les pires des choses. Des humiliations pas possibles. » On évoque, là encore, un simulacre de noyade : « Ils lui ont posé un drap autour du visage et ils ont fait couler de l’eau. La serviette s’imbibe de liquide, ce qui procure une impression d’étouffement. » La police judiciaire évoque également des décharges électriques et d’autres sévices qualifiés d’actes de torture et de barbarie. « Il l’a échappé belle. » La Voix du nord (16.01.2016)
Récemment, un genre particulier de délits s’est répété à Thonon-les-Bains et Evian. Leur point commun ? Ils visent des personnes âgées, ou vulnérables. Au cours des 6 derniers mois, les hommes du commissariat du Léman ont recensé sept vols par ruse et trois abus de faiblesse. «  Il ne s’agit pas d’une croissance exponentielle mais de faits similaires qui se sont déroulés à des dates rapprochées », tient à préciser le commissaire Guillaume Maniglier, à la tête de la circonscription. Précisons également que le vol par ruse et l’abus de faiblesse ne tiennent évidemment pas de la même mécanique. « Nous faisons face à deux problématiques différentes mais toutes visent les personnes âgées, que ce soit à l’hôpital, dans les familles ou des personnes isolées, souligne ainsi le commissaire. Il y a d’un côté les vols par ruse avec des scénarios différents, et de l’autre les abus de faiblesse, plus insidieux ». S’agissant des vols par ruse, ils sont perpétrés par des hommes usant de fausses qualités : faux voisins mais aussi faux plombiers et faux éboueurs. «  (…) Les victimes mettent ainsi longtemps avant de s’apercevoir que leur protégé les vole. Généralement, ce sont des proches qui s’en aperçoivent (telle une auxiliaire de vie, lire ci-dessous) ou la police qui le découvre de manière incidente (suite à une agression par exemple). Et même lorsque les preuves d’abus de faiblesse sont établies, la victime refuse parfois de porter plainte, s’inquiétant du devenir de l’auteur. «  Certaines personnes vont même jusqu’à le défendre, glisse le commissaire Maniglier. Elles nous disent : « Mais c’est quelqu’un de gentil… » » Le préjudice est pourtant bien plus élevé que dans les cas de vol par ruse : des dizaines voire des centaines de milliers d’euros. Le Messager (2012)
A busload of Chinese tourists is like a van carrying gold bullion. Li Lang (marketing manager of Guangzhou-based travel agency)
Tour operators in both China and Paris said Asian tourists, particularly Chinese, had become vulnerable in recent years because of their free-spending shopping habits. More than a million Chinese visit France every year, with each one spending about €1,500 (HK$15,000) on average. « There are reports of tourists getting robbed almost every day, » said Jean-Francois Zhou, manager of Paris-based Ansel Travel, which specialises in tours to and from China. « The criminals are not just stealing, but resorting to violent means. » Ten of his Chinese clients were robbed in October in the Louvre Museum. On many occasions, tour guides, who possessed cash for emergency use, were targeted, losing up to €20,000 each time, he said. Li Lang, marketing manager of a Guangzhou-based travel agency, said Chinese tourists’ preference for buying luxury items in cash was a reason behind the attacks. « A busload of Chinese tourists is like a van carrying gold bullion, » he said. Several travel agencies had put up a blacklist of drivers and hotels suspected of being connected with criminals, Li said. (…) Liu Simin , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, urged tourists to be more alert about personal safety and to carry less cash. (…) The Hong Kong Immigration Department said the number of cases of Hong Kong people seeking assistance while travelling in France had risen from 57 in 2011 to 85 last year. Most of them had lost travel documents, been involved in traffic accidents, or been admitted to hospital. Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, said tourists should wear fewer designer brand products when travelling in Europe. South China Morning Post
One explanation is that Chinese tourists often carry large amounts of cash. Chinese and Japanese tourists are also known to spend freely, with an average of between €800-€1,200 ($1,000-$1,500), mostly in luxury Champs Elysées boutiques. With expensive brand names on their shopping bags, they are an easy prey for thieves, especially in the suburban hotels where many stay. The most audacious thefts can occur even before Chinese visitors set foot in the city, on the A1 motorway from the airport, which is notorious for traffic jams. On at least two occasions, organised gangs attacked tourist minibuses. They wait for the bus to reach a standstill, break the windows and snatch bags from terrified occupants. (…) In central Paris the pickpockets are mainly young eastern Europeans controlled by criminal networks that are hard to dismantle, especially since the thieves are teenagers and don’t carry IDs. Being under age, they are released very quickly. Furthermore, Asian tourists (…) rarely file complaints. The police station by the Eiffel Tower only gets between 60 and 80 per month. « The tourists are usually with tour operators and simply don’t have two hours to spend in a police station, » said Serge Leduc, head of security at the Louvre.In 2010, the Chinese diaspora in the Belleville district of Paris demonstrated against the attacks, especially those during weddings when people traditionally offer cash gifts. Now complaint forms are available in Chinese. (…)  The regional tourist office says that the figures show no drop in Asian visitors but the chairman, Jean-Pierre Blat, has long-term concerns: « With the growth of emerging countries, we could see between 10-15 million more tourists by 2020, and we just don’t have the capacity to deal with them. » One problem is the lack of security in suburban hotels. In central Paris, hotel capacity is at saturation point and new ones can only be built outside the ring road, in precisely the areas now avoided by the Chinese tour operators. Jean-François Zhou, the founder of Ansel Travel, says that the Chinese blacklist hotels whose clients have been the victims of theft. He now tries to get his clients into central hotels, even if it raises the cost of his services. (…) The long-term aim is to change their cash habits by promoting awareness and working with the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean embassies. The Guardian
Chaolin Zhang, un couturier de 49 ans, était hospitalisé depuis lundi dernier à la fondation Rothschild à Paris (XIXe) dans un état de santé désespéré. Selon ses proches, il aurait succombé à une hémorragie cérébrale. Dans l’agression, un coup violent au sternum l’a projeté à terre. Les premiers éléments de l’enquête montrent que cette chute serait à l’origine d’une grave blessure à la tête.La deuxième victime s’est remise de ses blessures. Selon son témoignage, trois jeunes garçons seraient les auteurs de l’agression. L’enquête, confiée à la sûreté territoriale, n’a pas encore abouti à l’arrestation de suspects. Le Parisien
Ce crime est d’autant plus odieux que son mobile crapuleux se double d’un ciblage raciste. Meriem Derkaoui (maire PCF, Aubervilliers)
La communauté chinoise n’a pas l’habitude de protester et règle ses problèmes toute seule mais, aujourd’hui, on ne peut plus se taire et il faut nous aider. Lei
Tout cela repose sur des préjugés selon lesquels les Chinois sont faibles, dociles et riches. J’ai été agressée trois fois en trois ans, mes amis vivent la même chose, plusieurs ont déménagé pour cette raison. Moi, je ne sors même plus avec un sac !  Fang (étudiante d’Aubervilliers)
Chaolin Zhang est mort de ce cliché. Il n’avait rien sur lui et il est mort pour rien. Epouse de Chaolin Zhang
Avant, quand nous nous faisions agresser, on se faisait voler notre sac. Maintenant, on nous bat et on nous déshabille pour nous faire les poches. Toutes les familles connaissent quelqu’un qui a été agressé. Rui Wang
Il y en a marre d’être agressé comme ça, il faut lancer un appel au premier ministre et au président. Il y a bien des territoires perdus de la république. Il faut agir maintenant, sinon les Chinois feront justice eux-mêmes. Denis
Ici, toutes les communautés sont touchées, mais les Chinois sont particulièrement stigmatisés. Habitante d’Aubervilliers
La situation actuelle est l’illustration de la transformation d’un racisme latent en racisme ordinaire.  Rui Wang
C’est un racisme latent qui se transforme en racisme violent car ces attaques reposent sur des préjugés : un Chinois est riche, faible et surtout silencieux. Rui Wang (président de l’association des jeunes Chinois en France)
L’opinion publique a encore en tête le tableau d’un pays romantique, pas d’un endroit où l’on meurt. Ce crime, qui fait suite à une série d’agressions de résidents et de touristes, bouleverse profondément cette image. Changhang Wu
La fréquentation internationale du pays connaît une baisse d’environ 10 %, notamment en raison de la peur générée par les attentats terroristes, mais les Chinois fuient encore plus que les autres.  Xuewu Long (secrétaire général de l’association des professionnels chinois du tourisme en France)
Selon ses chiffres, la France a perdu 700 000 visiteurs chinois depuis janvier par rapport à l’année dernière sur la même période, soit une baisse d’environ 30 %. Avec un budget moyen estimé entre 3 000 et 5 000 € pour leurs vacances dans l’hexagone, « ce phénomène fait aussi des victimes dans l’économie française. » Le Parisien
La communauté chinoise (…) est (…) de plus en plus souvent la cible d’agressions violentes et crapuleuses dont plupart sont liés à des préjugés ethniques fondées sur l’idée que les Chinois, notamment, seraient nécessairement riches et porteurs de liquidités. Un cap dans la violence et la haine semble aujourd’hui avoir été franchi. C’est ce même type de préjugé qui avait conduit à la mort d’Ilan Halimi. Dans les deux cas, ces actes appellent une condamnation implacable et la mobilisation des pouvoirs publics. (…) Le racisme anti-asiatique, au contraire des autres formes de racisme, est un racisme silencieux qui aujourd’hui a pris une ampleur inédite dans certains quartiers. Il doit être combattu avec la même force et la même détermination que doivent l’être l’antisémitisme et les autres formes de racisme. Licra
Selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, Chaolin Zhang, un couturier modeste, a été agressé alors qu’il rejoignait une soirée avec un ami. Un violent coup au sternum l’a projeté au sol et cette chute serait à l’origine de son décès. « L’objectif était de les voler, précise une source policière. Le sac de la deuxième victime a été dérobé. » Cette dernière a été blessée mais s’est remise. « Et Chaolin Zhang, qui n’avait rien sur lui, s’est fait tuer pour rien », répète son épouse dévastée. Elle attend que « justice soit rendue. » Ce dimanche soir, les trois auteurs suspectés n’ont toujours pas été arrêtés. « Cette violence gratuite nous fait peur », poursuit Maike Song. Selon le comité de soutien à la famille Zhang, « les habitants d’origine chinoise d’Aubervilliers mais aussi de Paris, la Courneuve et Pantin, sont les victimes quotidiennes de vols de plus en plus violents. L’association de l’amitié chinoise en France en a recensé au moins 100 cas, dans la seule ville d’Aubervilliers, depuis novembre. En janvier et en juin, deux bandes ont été interpellées par la police et condamnées par des séries de vols avec violence exclusivement dirigées contre des victimes d’origine asiatique. Le Parisien
Il est des dénis qui passent de plus en plus mal. Des dénis à présent difficiles à nier. Des dénis plus faciles à dénoncer. Et à démonter. Il en est ainsi de la discrétion avec laquelle l’antiracisme subventionné traite le sort funeste de la communauté chinoise de Paris et de sa banlieue. Il ne se passe plus un jour, sans que l’un de ses membres ne soit agressé par ce que l’on nomme génériquement «la racaille» lorsque la délinquance est issue de l’immigration. La presse commence, enfin et un peu, à s’y intéresser. La chaîne de télévision M6 dans son excellent magazine «66 minutes» révèle qu’on recense chaque jour une vingtaine d’agressions de chinois dans la région parisienne. Le 9 août, le Parisien consacrait un article dans lequel il était relaté qu’une bande de délinquants avait fait de ces attaques ciblées sa spécialité. L’un des courageux malfrats expliquait qu’il s’agissait «de cibles faciles» Plus dramatique encore, le Figaro révélait le 13 août qu’un ouvrier chinois d’Aubervilliers âgé de 49 ans était mort cinq jours après avoir été violemment agressé par trois hommes dans une rue de cette ville de Seine-Saint-Denis. Le maire communiste d’Aubervilliers reconnaissait un racisme ciblé. Et pourtant, les organisations prétendument antiracistes subventionnées sont demeurées aux abonnés absents. Elles n’ont pas estimé devoir organiser de bruyants rassemblements. Aucun mouvement #Yellowlivesmatter à l’horizon lointain. Et le nom du cuisinier assassiné, Zeng Chaolin , demeurera quasi anonyme. Ni Traore, ni Oussekine. La presse hexagonale n’en fait pas non plus bien grand cas. Un imam assassiné à des milliers de kilomètres aux États-Unis, pour des raisons encore inconnues l’intéresse davantage. Pourtant, dans cette affaire, pas de spéculation intellectuelle à attendre ou à redouter. Il ne s’agissait pas d’un délinquant en délicatesse avec la police, fuyant un contrôle ou à l’intérieur d’une manifestation illégale et violente. Rien de tout cela. Une agression délibérée. Ciblée et pour voler. (…) Il n’y aura pas non plus d’émeutes ou d’échauffourées. Pas le genre de notre communauté asiatique délibérément agressée. Une partie de l’explication de l’apathie médiatique habite sans doute dans cette non-violence qui passe à tort pour de la résignation. Mais les plus profondes causes sont ailleurs et commencent à émerger. Ainsi, SOS-Racisme préfère toujours traquer l’islamophobie… après les massacres islamistes. Et la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme débusquer en vain judiciairement du racisme sous le burkini. Comprenez bien: les dénis oui-oui professionnels ne peuvent s’intéresser au racisme supposé-quand il n’est pas espéré- que lorsqu’il émane de l’homme occidental détesté. Le seul racisme qu’ils peuvent même concevoir dans leur esprit littéralement borné. Raison pourquoi, le racisme anti blanc ou anti-chrétien a été longtemps nié et l’antisémitisme violent d’origine islamique pendant des années, obstinément occulté. Il en sera donc de même pour ce racisme anti-asiatique très spécifique. Dans un ordre d’idées très voisin, le même déni existe dans la manière dont le CIO-ou les médias-refuse de sévir lorsque des athlètes concourent voilées ou qu’un judoka islamique refuse de serrer la main de son adversaire judaïque à raison de sa nationalité et en violation flagrante de la lettre et de l’esprit des charte et règlement olympiques. Il en est de même lorsque nos ministres de l’intérieur et du logement, dans un communiqué du 1er août révélée par le Figarovox occultent le caractère délibérément illégal de la présence forcée d’immigrants sans-papiers sur le territoire de la république et décident de l’organiser. Certes, cela ne changera strictement rien à la triste situation existante. Mais lorsque les thuriféraires vibrionnant de l’État de droit mythique descendent encore d’un barreau, l’échelle de la résignation et de la soumission, le déni de la loi n’est pas loin du délit. C’est donc dans ce contexte de négation de la réalité, que notre France Culture, a posé le 13 du mois cette question inspirée: «la société française bascule-t-elle à l’extrême droite?» hommage à Zhang Chaolin, mort vendredi à la suite d’une agression dans la rue. Gilles-William Goldnadel
C’est donc un meurtre à caractère raciste. Ce n’est pas la première fois que cela touche des Asiatiques. Les Français d’origine chinoise sont réputés tous riches, tous bien dotés, un peu comme les juifs dans certains milieux… Et pourtant, étonnamment ou pas, l’on chercherait vainement les réactions habituelles des indignés professionnels, leurs commentaires outrés sur le racisme quotidien envers les personnes d’origines asiatiques, une communauté pourtant aussi présente que d’autres. Chaolin Zhang n’aura pas son portrait géant sur la façade de l’Hôtel de ville de Paris, il n’aura pas le droit à une « marche blanche » des associations « citoyennes », et encore moins à un déplacement de François Hollande ou Bernard Cazeneuve ou autres puces ministrables pour affirmer avec gravité : “Plus jamais ça !” Cette communauté « issue de la diversité » ne mérite pourtant pas leur sainte colère. La communauté asiatique dans Paris est un modèle d’intégration sociale, de travail constant grâce à la méritocratie républicaine, à l’école publique. Mais dans son cas, cela ne semble pas très important. Ils travaillent d’arrache-pied ? Ils n’entretiennent pas le sentiment d’insécurité bien connu par des « actes inciviques » ? Ils n’ont pas de revendications communautaristes sans cesse répétées ? Et pire encore, ô horreur, ils paient des impôts ! « Et alors ? » paraissent penser très fort les bons apôtres. Cela ne fait pas d’eux une communauté respectable, une communauté éternellement opprimée devant susciter le masochisme mémoriel à répétition des français. Ils ne peuvent avoir le droit à la culture de l’excuse, c’est dans l’ordre des choses qu’ils réussissent, rien d’extraordinaire… (…) Les Asiatiques de France ont subi et subissent encore un racisme ne paraissant pas choquer grand-monde en France puisqu’il est souvent le fait d’autres « communautés » « issues de la diversité » selon le terme hypocrite. Amaury Grandgil
« La violence, c’est un problème pour tout le quartier. Rui Wang (président de l’Association des Jeunes Chinois de France)
À Aubervilliers, les services de police ont recensé sur les sept premiers mois de l’année 105 vols avec violence sur les Chinois ou personnes d’origine chinoise sur un total de 666 vols avec violence dans la commune. L’année dernière, la préfecture en dénombrait 35 sur 466 sur la même période. Sur l’ensemble de la Seine-Saint-Denis, 3,9 % des victimes de vols avec violences sont des membres de la communauté chinoise, selon des chiffres établis sur les sept premiers mois de l’année (2,4 % sur la même période en 2015). « La ville est plus touchée en raison du grand nombre de résidents et de travailleurs ponctuels d’origine chinoise qu’elle comporte », explique-t-on à la préfecture. Le sentiment d’insécurité s’accompagne d’un changement de nature des agressions, précise Ling Lenzi, conseillère municipale Les Républicains. Auparavant dirigées contre « le secteur des commerçants », elles se concentrent désormais « sur les habitants, les petites gens ». « Depuis qu’une quarantaine de caméras de surveillance ont été installées devant les commerces, accompagnées de plus de patrouilles policières, les agresseurs se sont retournés vers là où il n’y a pas de dispositif », assure-t-elle. Le Point

Crime raciste », « crime au ciblage raciste », « ciblage raciste », « meurtre à caractère raciste », « violences racistes », « racisme anti-asiatiques », « racisme silencieux », référence à l’affaire Halimi …

Attention: un racisme peut en cacher un autre !

Au lendemain du tragique décès d’un ressortissant chinois d’Aubervilliers suite à sa chute apparemment contre un trottoir après une tentative de vol de sacoche …

Et des qualifications de crime raciste qui, des associations chinoises, de la Licra ou de la maire d’Aubervilliers elle-même, ont fusé dans la presse …

Pendant que sur fond d’attentats et de coups de force plagiers, djihadistes violents comme culturels poussent leurs pions …

Comment ne pas voir …

Non seulement le triste état de la sécurité des personnes et des relations inter-communautaires actuellement en France …

Mais aussi l’étrange confusion de certains esprits …

Face à l’apparente émergence, suite notamment à la meilleure protection des commerçants comme le reconnait elle-même une conseillère municipale de la ville, d’une nouvelle vulnérabilité d’une population …

Qui, à l’instar des personnes âgées ou des touristes voire des sans-papiers ou des travailleurs clandestins, semble posséder en fait nombre des caractéristiques de la proie idéale pour ce genre de vols …

A savoir, la  moindre familiarité avec les lieux, la moindre tendance à se défendre ou à porter plainte et surtout le port fréquent de sommes importantes d’argent liquide  ?

Violence anti-asiatique : où sont passés les antiracistes ?

  • Gilles William Goldnadel
    Le Figaro
  • 15/08/2016

FIGAROVOX/HUMEUR – Dimanche 14 août à Aubervilliers, plusieurs milliers de personnes, dénonçant une violence anti-asiatique, ont rendu hommage à Zhang Chaolin, mort vendredi à la suite d’une agression dans la rue. Gilles-William Goldnadel s’étonne du silence des associations antiracistes.

Il est des dénis qui passent de plus en plus mal. Des dénis à présent difficiles à nier. Des dénis plus faciles à dénoncer. Et à démonter.

Il en est ainsi de la discrétion avec laquelle l’antiracisme subventionné traite le sort funeste de la communauté chinoise de Paris et de sa banlieue.

Il ne se passe plus un jour, sans que l’un de ses membres ne soit agressé par ce que l’on nomme génériquement «la racaille» lorsque la délinquance est issue de l’immigration.

La presse commence, enfin et un peu, à s’y intéresser. La chaîne de télévision M6 dans son excellent magazine «66 minutes» révèle qu’on recense chaque jour une vingtaine d’agressions de chinois dans la région parisienne.

Le 9 août, le Parisien consacrait un article dans lequel il était relaté qu’une bande de délinquants avait fait de ces attaques ciblées sa spécialité. L’un des courageux malfrats expliquait qu’il s’agissait «de cibles faciles»

Plus dramatique encore, le Figaro révélait le 13 août qu’un ouvrier chinois d’Aubervilliers âgé de 49 ans était mort cinq jours après avoir été violemment agressé par trois hommes dans une rue de cette ville de Seine-Saint-Denis.

Le maire communiste d’Aubervilliers reconnaissait un racisme ciblé.

Et pourtant, les organisations prétendument antiracistes subventionnées sont demeurées aux abonnés absents. Elles n’ont pas estimé devoir organiser de bruyants rassemblements. Aucun mouvement #Yellowlivesmatter à l’horizon lointain. Et le nom du cuisinier assassiné, Zeng Chaolin , demeurera quasi anonyme. Ni Traore, ni Oussekine.

La presse hexagonale n’en fait pas non plus bien grand cas. Un imam assassiné à des milliers de kilomètres aux États-Unis, pour des raisons encore inconnues l’intéresse davantage.

Pourtant, dans cette affaire, pas de spéculation intellectuelle à attendre ou à redouter. Il ne s’agissait pas d’un délinquant en délicatesse avec la police, fuyant un contrôle ou à l’intérieur d’une manifestation illégale et violente.

Rien de tout cela. Une agression délibérée. Ciblée et pour voler.

Comme je l’écrivais la semaine dernière: trop simple et indiscutable pour intéresser un monde médiatique idéologique précisément séduit par la spéculation polémique.

Il n’y aura pas non plus d’émeutes ou d’échauffourées. Pas le genre de notre communauté asiatique délibérément agressée. Une partie de l’explication de l’apathie médiatique habite sans doute dans cette non-violence qui passe à tort pour de la résignation.

Mais les plus profondes causes sont ailleurs et commencent à émerger. Ainsi, SOS-Racisme préfère toujours traquer l’islamophobie… après les massacres islamistes. Et la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme débusquer en vain judiciairement du racisme sous le burkini.

Comprenez bien: les dénis oui-oui professionnels ne peuvent s’intéresser au racisme supposé-quand il n’est pas espéré- que lorsqu’il émane de l’homme occidental détesté. Le seul racisme qu’ils peuvent même concevoir dans leur esprit littéralement borné. Raison pourquoi, le racisme anti blanc ou anti-chrétien a été longtemps nié et l’antisémitisme violent d’origine islamique pendant des années, obstinément occulté. Il en sera donc de même pour ce racisme anti-asiatique très spécifique.

Dans un ordre d’idées très voisin, le même déni existe dans la manière dont le CIO-ou les médias-refuse de sévir lorsque des athlètes concourent voilées ou qu’un judoka islamique refuse de serrer la main de son adversaire judaïque à raison de sa nationalité et en violation flagrante de la lettre et de l’esprit des charte et règlement olympiques.

Il en est de même lorsque nos ministres de l’intérieur et du logement, dans un communiqué du 1er août révélée par le Figarovox occultent le caractère délibérément illégal de la présence forcée d’immigrants sans-papiers sur le territoire de la république et décident de l’organiser. Certes, cela ne changera strictement rien à la triste situation existante. Mais lorsque les thuriféraires vibrionnant de l’État de droit mythique descendent encore d’un barreau, l’échelle de la résignation et de la soumission, le déni de la loi n’est pas loin du délit.

C’est donc dans ce contexte de négation de la réalité, que notre France Culture, a posé le 13 du mois cette question inspirée: «la société française bascule-t-elle à l’extrême droite?» J’ai évidemment trop de respect obséquieux pour notre radio nationale de service public pour oser lui demander si elle n’avait pas par hasard obliqué de la gauche vers son extrême. Il faut dire que cette thématique orientée de notre antenne radiophonique n’a fait que reprendre l’antienne socialiste que cette semaine a entonné désespérément M. Cambadélis.

Celui-ci a en effet reproché à Nicolas Sarkozy de «tutoyer» de plus en plus le Front National. De la part d’un ancien trotskiste à tu et à toi avec les communistes, en ce compris électoralement, la grosse ficelle est usée jusqu’à la corde avec laquelle les antifascistes et antiracistes d’opérette pourront bientôt se pendre.

Car oui, le dévoilement de la réalité est aujourd’hui tel, que les dénis oui -oui peuvent à présent être démasqués sans que ceux qui les démasquent se retrouvent expédiés dans un goulag moral.

N’en déplaise à tous les antiracistes subventionnés, à la gauche morale démoralisée et à toutes les radios actives cultivées.

Voir aussi:

Pas d’indignation pour les Asiatiques de France
L’idéologie de la diversité face à ses tabous
Amaury Grandgil
Causeur
16 août 2016

Un couturier de 49 ans, Chaolin Zhang, a été assassiné sauvagement à Aubervilliers il y a quelques jours au cours d’une agression par des « jeunes » selon le terme pudique en vigueur, sans doute de jeunes dépressifs fragilisés. Il a été vraisemblablement agressé en raison de son origine chinoise. Dimanche, 500 personnes ont défilé calmement dans une atmosphère de colère sourde, scandalisés par l’indifférence des gouvernants et de la plupart des observateurs politiques assermentés.

C’est donc un meurtre à caractère raciste. Ce n’est pas la première fois que cela touche des Asiatiques. Les Français d’origine chinoise sont réputés tous riches, tous bien dotés, un peu comme les juifs dans certains milieux…

Et pourtant, étonnamment ou pas, l’on chercherait vainement les réactions habituelles des indignés professionnels, leurs commentaires outrés sur le racisme quotidien envers les personnes d’origines asiatiques, une communauté pourtant aussi présente que d’autres. Chaolin Zhang n’aura pas son portrait géant sur la façade de l’Hôtel de ville de Paris, il n’aura pas le droit à une « marche blanche » des associations « citoyennes », et encore moins à un déplacement de François Hollande ou Bernard Cazeneuve ou autres puces ministrables pour affirmer avec gravité : “Plus jamais ça !”

Cette communauté « issue de la diversité » ne mérite pourtant pas leur sainte colère. La communauté asiatique dans Paris est un modèle d’intégration sociale, de travail constant grâce à la méritocratie républicaine, à l’école publique. Mais dans son cas, cela ne semble pas très important. Ils travaillent d’arrache-pied ? Ils n’entretiennent pas le sentiment d’insécurité bien connu par des « actes inciviques » ? Ils n’ont pas de revendications communautaristes sans cesse répétées ? Et pire encore, ô horreur, ils paient des impôts !

« Et alors ? » paraissent penser très fort les bons apôtres. Cela ne fait pas d’eux une communauté respectable, une communauté éternellement opprimée devant susciter le masochisme mémoriel à répétition des français. Ils ne peuvent avoir le droit à la culture de l’excuse, c’est dans l’ordre des choses qu’ils réussissent, rien d’extraordinaire…

Je ne ferai pas d’eux non plus évidemment un portrait idéal, il existe aussi une délinquance dans les quartiers marqués par l’Extrême-Orient dans Paris comme il y en a partout là où se trouvent des être humains car « là où il y a de l’homme il y a de l’hommerie » pour reprendre la phrase de saint François de Sales.

On me rétorquera également que de nombreux humoristes et comiques douteux de gauche, à l’humour engagé et concerné, le fameux « humour de combat » de Jean-Michel Ribes, n’hésitent jamais devant une bonne blague sur les Vietnamiens, les Chinois, les Japonais. Avec un accent caricatural et une élégance dans le trait à faire rougir de confusion Michel Leeb lui qui « imitait » les Africains dans les années 80. Là par contre, dans son cas, les arbitres des élégances politiques poussaient les hauts cris, en appelaient au risque de retour des fameuses heures les plus sombres de notre histoire etc….

Dans les films des comiques de cette obédience, tels ceux d’Eric et Ramzy, on trouve toujours des bonnes blagues racistes d’une manière souvent très primaire : dans La Tour Montparnasse Infernale dans Halal police d’état. Mais ces grasses plaisanteries ne déclenchent jamais aucune manifestation, aucune indignation vertueuse alors que ce racisme est d’une abjection aussi intolérable…
À moins qu’il ne s’agisse de la fameuse dérision citoyenne…

Les Asiatiques de France ont subi et subissent encore un racisme ne paraissant pas choquer grand-monde en France puisqu’il est souvent le fait d’autres « communautés » « issues de la diversité » selon le terme hypocrite.

Voir également:

Aubervilliers : le racisme anti-asiatiques tue
Zhang Chaolin, homme de 49 ans d’origine chinoise, est décédé vendredi 12 août des suites des blessures liées à l’agression qu’il a subie en pleine rue, à Aubervilliers, le 7 août dernier.

La communauté chinoise et la maire d’Aubervilliers ont dénoncé le caractère raciste de cette agression. Cette communauté est en effet de plus en plus souvent la cible d’agressions violentes et crapuleuses dont plupart sont liés à des préjugés ethniques fondées sur l’idée que les Chinois, notamment, seraient nécessairement riches et porteurs de liquidités. Un cap dans la violence et la haine semble aujourd’hui avoir été franchi. C’est ce même type de préjugé qui avait conduit à la mort d’Ilan Halimi. Dans les deux cas, ces actes appellent une condamnation implacable et la mobilisation des pouvoirs publics.

Il est essentiel désormais que l’enquête fasse la lumière au plus vite sur les circonstances ayant conduit à la mort de Zhang Chaolin. La commission juridique de la LICRA est immédiatement saisie afin d’examiner au plus vite les conditions d’une constitution de partie civile dans cette affaire.

Le racisme anti-asiatique, au contraire des autres formes de racisme, est un racisme silencieux qui aujourd’hui a pris une ampleur inédite dans certains quartiers. Il doit être combattu avec la même force et la même détermination que doivent l’être l’antisémitisme et les autres formes de racisme. Il suffit d’entendre certains commentateurs des Jeux Olympiques devant des athlètes asiatiques pour comprendre le poids des idées reçues et de la bêtise à l’égard de nos compatriotes d’origine asiatique.

Voir encore:

Aubervilliers : le deuil et la colère après la mort de Chaolin Zhang
Floriane Louison

Le Parisien

14 août 2016

« La communauté chinoise meurt en silence », a-t-il écrit en rouge sur son t-shirt maculé de fausses taches de sang. Maike Song, un Parisien d’origine chinoise, est venu, ce dimanche, rendre hommage à Chaoling Zhang. Vendredi dernier, cet homme de 49 ans, père de deux enfants, est décédé de ses blessures après une agression cinq jours plus tôt, rue des Ecoles à Aubervilliers. Devant la mairie, ils étaient au moins 500, selon la préfecture, à se recueillir et, aussi, à dire leur colère.

« La communauté chinoise n’a pas l’habitude de protester et règle ses problèmes toute seule mais, aujourd’hui, on ne peut plus se taire et il faut nous aider », exprime une jeune fille, Lei. Devant le portrait de la victime, entouré de ses proches, elle attend son tour pour déposer une bougie et une fleur.

Dans cette foule en deuil, surveillée par un important dispositif policier, la tension est palpable, et le mot est lâché : « agression anti-asiatique ». Il est relayé par la maire (PC) d’Aubervilliers, Meriem Derkaoui. Elle n’était pas présente à l’hommage mais dans un communiqué, elle dénonce « le ciblage raciste du crime. »

Son épouse attend que « justice soit rendue »

Selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, Chaolin Zhang, un couturier modeste, a été agressé alors qu’il rejoignait une soirée avec un ami. Un violent coup au sternum l’a projeté au sol et cette chute serait à l’origine de son décès. « L’objectif était de les voler, précise une source policière. Le sac de la deuxième victime a été dérobé. » Cette dernière a été blessée mais s’est remise. « Et Chaolin Zhang, qui n’avait rien sur lui, s’est fait tuer pour rien », répète son épouse dévastée. Elle attend que « justice soit rendue. » Ce dimanche soir, les trois auteurs suspectés n’ont toujours pas été arrêtés.

100 vols depuis novembre contre les Chinois d’Aubervilliers

« Cette violence gratuite nous fait peur », poursuit Maike Song. Selon le comité de soutien à la famille Zhang, « les habitants d’origine chinoise d’Aubervilliers mais aussi de Paris, la Courneuve et Pantin, sont les victimes quotidiennes de vols de plus en plus violents. L’association de l’amitié chinoise en France en a recensé au moins 100 cas, dans la seule ville d’Aubervilliers, depuis novembre. En janvier et en juin, deux bandes ont été interpellées par la police et condamnées par des séries de vols avec violence exclusivement dirigées contre des victimes d’origine asiatique.

« Tout cela repose sur des préjugés selon lesquels les Chinois sont faibles, dociles et riches », estime Fang, une étudiante d’Aubervilliers. « J’ai été agressée trois fois en trois ans, mes amis vivent la même chose, plusieurs ont déménagé pour cette raison. Moi, je ne sors même plus avec un sac ! »

Après l’hommage, la famille et ses soutiens ont marché jusqu’à la rue des Ecoles. « Il y a déjà eu des dizaines d’agressions ici ! », interpelle le comité de soutien qui réclame des mesures concrètes, notamment l’installation de caméras supplémentaires. Ils seront reçus, ce mercredi, par la préfecture pour examiner leurs demandes. « Nous souhaitons aussi préparer un travail, ensemble, pour faire mieux connaître la communauté chinoise », précise aussi la préfecture. La Région a elle aussi réagi en proposant son aide pour sécuriser la ville d’Aubervilliers.

Voir  de même:

Agression d’Aubervilliers : les Chinois disent stop à la violence
Floriane Louison

Le Parisien

17 août 2016

Il est rare que les représentants de la communauté chinoise montent au créneau sur la place publique. « Mais, cette fois, c’est trop grave », lance Hua Qin Cao, président de l’association de l’amitié chinoise en France qui a participé ce mercredi à une réunion en préfecture de Seine-Saint-Denis, avec d’autres représentants de la communauté, après avoir été reçu mardi au conseil régional.

Vendredi dernier, Chaolin Zhang, un couturier chinois de 49 ans travaillant en France, a succombé à ses blessures après une agression, cinq jours plus tôt, à Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis). « Un drame prévisible », dénonce Hua Qin Cao. Dans cette ville, depuis janvier, il recense, au sein de sa communauté, des victimes quasi quotidiennes de vols violents.

Son association ne se contente pas de compter les blessés mais elle les accompagne aussi à l’hôpital, au commissariat et jusqu’au tribunal si les suspects sont arrêtés. Surtout, elle organise « l’auto-défense » de la communauté chinoise d’Aubervilliers. Hua Qin Cao est alerté par les victimes après toutes les agressions ou presque via le réseau social chinois WeChat. A chaque fois, il se déplace. « En Seine-Saint-Denis, différents groupes de protection se sont ainsi mis en place », décrit-il. Mais la série noire continue. « Alors, maintenant, il faut nous aider ! »

Une liste alarmante de victimes

Sur son téléphone, il fait défiler des noms et des photos. Une liste alarmante qui commence le 27 décembre. Le 3 janvier, il y a déjà onze victimes : Y. et F., les visages contusionnés après un vol de portefeuille, Mme Wu, délestée de son sac à main, S., agressée, avec ses deux filles. « Les voleurs l’ont suivi depuis le métro jusqu’à sa maison », se rappelle le représentant qui a consigné « 105 cas similaires, la plupart dans le seul quartier des Quatre-Chemins à Aubervilliers. » Un chiffre confirmé par la préfecture de Seine-Saint-Denis qui constate une augmentation du phénomène dans cette ville.

Une explosion des violences

5 %.

Aubervilliers compte 3 000 à 4 000 habitants chinois ou originaires de Chine, soit près de 5 % de sa population de 80 000 habitants.

105.

Entre janvier et août, le nombre de vols avec violence ciblant les Chinois à Aubervilliers a été multiplié par trois par rapport à l’année dernière sur la même période, passant de 35 (2015) à 105 agressions (2016).

16 %.

Depuis janvier, sur les 666 vols avec violence dénombrés à Aubervilliers — soit presque trois par jour —, environ 16 % touchent la communauté chinoise. L’an dernier, sur les 466 vols violents sur la même période, seuls 7 % concernaient des Chinois.

« Et Aubervilliers n’est pas la seule ville touchée », assure Wansheng Chi, président de l’association des Chinois résidants en France qui cite aussi, en Seine-Saint-Denis, La Courneuve et Pantin. « Plus généralement, un sentiment d’insécurité grandit au sein de la communauté chinoise en France depuis environ cinq ans. Il est également ressenti très fortement par les touristes chinois (lire ci-dessous). »

Le mot « psychose » est lâché. « Tout le monde a peur, j’ai déjà été agressée trois fois, je ne sors même plus avec un sac dans la rue », expliquait dimanche dernier, Fang, une étudiante d’Aubervilliers, lors d’un hommage à Chaolin Zhang. Après son décès, la maire (PC) d’Aubervilliers, Meriem Derkaoui, a dénoncé le « ciblage raciste » de l’agression. Rui Wang, président de l’association des jeunes Chinois en France partage cette analyse : « C’est un racisme latent qui se transforme en racisme violent car ces attaques reposent sur des préjugés : un Chinois est riche, faible et surtout silencieux. »

« Un racisme latent qui se transforme en racisme violent »

« Chaolin Zhang est mort de ce cliché. Il n’avait rien sur lui et il est mort pour rien », répète son épouse dévastée. « A Aubervilliers, la plupart des victimes sont, comme lui, des travailleurs modestes », ajoute Ling Lenzi, conseillère municipale (LR) à Aubervilliers et seule élue de la communauté. « C’est ce même type de préjugé qui avait conduit à la mort d’Ilan Halimi » (NDLR : un jeune juif enlevé et tué en 2006 par un gang qui espérait une rançon), dénonçait la Licra (Ligue contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme), mardi, s’inquiétant de la montée d’un racisme anti-asiatique.

« Cette hausse de la violence » effraie le comité de soutien à la famille de Chaolin Zhang, créé après son décès. Il réclame « justice », mais aussi des « mesures concrètes pour la sécurité avant un autre mort ». A Aubervilliers, le travail est déjà engagé depuis plusieurs mois avec, entre autres, l’embauche d’un interprète sinophone au commissariat pour aider les victimes à porter plainte. Les représentants de la communauté chinoise demandent des mesures plus fortes.

Pour tenter de rassurer cette comunauté effrayée par tant de violence, la préfecture a annoncé hier une première série de mesure à l’issue de la réunion avec les associations. Au menu : extension de la vidéoprotection à Aubervilliers, réunion sur place en septembre avec le commissariat et les asssociations, et cofinancement d’actions pour « faire connaître et impliquer la communauté ». « Cette connaissance contribuera à lutter contre les clichés, eux-mêmes souvent source des agressions », estime la préfecture, qui évaluera ce dipositif de prévention deux fois par an avec les asssociations.

« Ces agressions bouleversent l’image de la France » « Tous les médias chinois m’ont appelé ces derniers jours ! » explique Changhang Wu, journaliste à « Huarenjiebao », un journal en chinois publié en France. En Chine, l’agression de Chaolin Zhang a été suivie de près. « Toute la presse en parle, des médias plus nationalistes et pro-gouvernementaux, comme « Xinhua » ou « Global News », aux journaux en ligne très suivis par les jeunes comme « Sina » ou « NetEase », en passant par RFI », précise une journaliste d’origine chinoise travaillant en France. « Quand se termineront ces crimes racistes ? » titre par exemple, « Xinhua ».

Pour Changhang Wu, « il y aura des conséquences ». « L’opinion publique a encore en tête le tableau d’un pays romantique, pas d’un endroit où l’on meurt. Ce crime, qui fait suite à une série d’agressions de résidants et de touristes, bouleverse profondément cette image. » Xuewu Long, secrétaire général de l’association des professionnels chinois du tourisme en France souligne l’impact fort de ces agressions sur le tourisme chinois en France. « La fréquentation internationale du pays connaît une baisse d’environ 10 %, notamment en raison de la peur générée par les attentats terroristes, mais les Chinois fuient encore plus que les autres. »

Selon ses chiffres, la France a perdu 700 000 visiteurs chinois depuis janvier par rapport à l’année dernière sur la même période, soit une baisse d’environ 30 %. Avec un budget moyen estimé entre 3 000 et 5 000 € pour leurs vacances dans l’hexagone, « ce phénomène fait aussi des victimes dans l’économie française. »

Voir de plus:

A Aubervilliers, la colère sourde de la communauté chinoise
Le Monde.fr avec AFP

14.08.2016

« Mort pour rien. » Un rassemblement silencieux a été organisé par le comité de soutien à la famille de Zhang Chaolin, dimanche 14 août à 15 heures, devant la mairie d’Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis).
Ce Chinois de 49 ans est mort, vendredi en fin d’après-midi, après cinq jours de coma. Il avait été agressé le 7 août par trois individus alors qu’il marchait en compagnie d’un ami, d’origine chinoise, dans cette ville du nord-est de Paris, où vit une importante communauté asiatique, active, notamment, dans le secteur du textile.

Les agresseurs auraient voulu voler la sacoche de l’autre homme, qui s’est vu prescrire cinq jours d’interruption totale de travail, selon une source proche du dossier.

Dans les quartiers chinois, la peur s’installe
Dimanche après-midi, une file d’une centaine de mètres s’est formée devant la mairie d’Aubervilliers où les soutiens déposaient, chacun à leur tour, un cierge et une fleur. Dans ce rassemblement, pas de slogan, de simples pancartes en carton où l’on pouvait lire au feutre « Sécurité pour tous ».

Un important dispositif policier attendait le millier de personnes rassemblées sur le parvis de l’hôtel de ville. La colère s’est exprimée au sujet des agressions dont sont victimes des membres de la communauté chinoise. Dans la ville, des réseaux se sont d’ailleurs mis en place pour escorter des personnes seules jusqu’au métro. Plusieurs témoins, notamment, affirment ne plus rentrer seuls à la nuit tombée.

Elodie raconte ainsi qu’un agresseur a voulu voler le sac de sa mère : « Elle était dans une voiture avec une fenêtre entrouverte. Une main a voulu se glisser, mais on a réussi à l’empêcher de voler le sac. » Elle-même déclare adopter certains réflexes et éviter certaines rues.

Les habitants des quartiers chinois détaillent avec émotion la peur qui s’installe depuis quelques années, avec, selon eux, une violence qui augmente lors des agressions. « Avant, quand nous nous faisions agresser, on se faisait voler notre sac. Maintenant, on nous bat et on nous déshabille pour nous faire les poches, détaille Rui Wang, à l’origine d’un collectif de soutien à la famille endeuillée. Toutes les familles connaissent quelqu’un qui a été agressé. »

« Il y en a marre d’être agressé comme ça, il faut lancer un appel au premier ministre et au président. Il y a bien des territoires perdus de la république. Il faut agir maintenant, sinon les Chinois feront justice eux-mêmes », s’agace Denis, d’origine chinoise, qui habite, lui, dans le sud de Paris.

« Ciblage raciste »
« Les habitants de Seine-Saint-Denis et plus particulièrement ceux d’origine chinoise (…) sont les victimes quotidiennes d’agressions, de vols, de plus en plus violents à leur encontre », a dénoncé le comité dans un communiqué, ajoutant qu’« aujourd’hui, devant l’inefficacité des mesures prises par les autorités, la colère des habitants monte, la tension entre les communautés est palpable ».

La maire d’Aubervilliers, Meriem Derkaoui (Parti communiste), a dénoncé, samedi, un crime au « mobile crapuleux » et au « ciblage raciste », appelant à ne pas « céder à la division et à la stigmatisation », tout en réclamant des renforts policiers. A l’initiative de la municipalité, une centaine de personnes s’étaient déjà réunies, jeudi soir, devant la mairie.

Voir aussi:

Aubervilliers : la communauté chinoise s’organise face aux agressions

La recrudescence des crimes à caractère raciste oblige les quelque 4 000 Chinois ou personnes d’origine chinoise que compte la ville à se mobiliser.

Source AFP

Le Point
16/08/2016

Messages d’alerte en cas d’agression, escortes autour du métro, manifestations… La communauté chinoise d’Aubervilliers se mobilise après des actes de violence répétés qui ont coûté la vie à l’un de ses membres vendredi.

Lors d’un rassemblement organisé dimanche en mémoire de Zhang Chaolin, plusieurs personnes présentes ont ainsi témoigné leur ras-le-bol face aux violences racistes : « j’ai été agressé deux fois cette année », « je ne sors plus avec un sac à main », « aujourd’hui c’était lui, demain, ça peut être moi »…

Une hausse du « racisme anti-asiatique »

Zhang Chaolin, couturier de 49 ans et père de deux enfants, est mort le 12 août, après avoir été agressé cinq jours plus tôt en pleine rue par trois hommes qui voulaient voler le sac d’un ami, lui aussi d’origine chinoise. Un drame « prévisible », qui « aurait pu être évité », estime-t-on au parmi les 3 000 à 4 000 personnes originaires de Chine qui vivent dans cette ville de 80 000 habitants.

Ils dénoncent une « situation qui se dégrade », avec des agressions « de plus en plus violentes » motivées par des « préjugés » selon lesquels les Chinois seraient porteurs d’importantes sommes d’argent liquide. « C’est ce même type de préjugé qui avait conduit à la mort d’Ilan Halimi », a regretté la Licra mardi dans un communiqué, pointant un « racisme anti-asiatique » qui « a pris une ampleur inédite dans certains quartiers ».

Des agressions qui se concentrent sur « les petites gens »

À Aubervilliers, les services de police ont recensé sur les sept premiers mois de l’année 105 vols avec violence sur les Chinois ou personnes d’origine chinoise sur un total de 666 vols avec violence dans la commune. L’année dernière, la préfecture en dénombrait 35 sur 466 sur la même période. Sur l’ensemble de la Seine-Saint-Denis, 3,9 % des victimes de vols avec violences sont des membres de la communauté chinoise, selon des chiffres établis sur les sept premiers mois de l’année (2,4 % sur la même période en 2015). « La ville est plus touchée en raison du grand nombre de résidents et de travailleurs ponctuels d’origine chinoise qu’elle comporte », explique-t-on à la préfecture.

Le sentiment d’insécurité s’accompagne d’un changement de nature des agressions, précise Ling Lenzi, conseillère municipale Les Républicains. Auparavant dirigées contre « le secteur des commerçants », elles se concentrent désormais « sur les habitants, les petites gens ». « Depuis qu’une quarantaine de caméras de surveillance ont été installées devant les commerces, accompagnées de plus de patrouilles policières, les agresseurs se sont retournés vers là où il n’y a pas de dispositif », assure-t-elle.

Les associations se mobilisent

Depuis le début de l’année, l’Association de l’amitié chinoise en France se consacre exclusivement à la prise en charge des victimes d’agressions. Quand certains habitants s’organisent pour faire à plusieurs le chemin du métro à leur domicile, l’association a, elle, mis en place des groupes de discussions sur la messagerie instantanée chinoise WeChat. « Si quelqu’un se fait attaquer, il peut poster un appel au secours », explique le président Cao Hua Qin. « Nous nous chargeons de l’amener à l’hôpital et de prévenir la police ou d’organiser un rendez-vous au commissariat pour déposer une plainte », ajoute-t-il.

Dimanche, le comité de soutien à la famille de M. Zhang a réclamé « au moins 10 caméras supplémentaires dans les rues sensibles » et un renfort de policiers. Une demande également formulée par la maire PCF de la ville, Meriem Derkaoui, qui a écrit en ce sens en juillet au ministre de l’Intérieur Bernard Cazeneuve.

Dénonçant un « crime au ciblage raciste », elle a assuré que le fonctionnement de la police municipale serait « revu » à la rentrée. La préfecture a de son côté annoncé la tenue mercredi d’une réunion de travail « avec les associations qui le souhaitent ». Certaines associations soulignent toutefois que l’insécurité touche toutes les communautés. « La violence, c’est un problème pour tout le quartier », souligne Rui Wang, président de l’Association des Jeunes Chinois de France. Il se félicite d’ailleurs d’avoir vu dans le rassemblement en mémoire de M. Zhang « des militants noirs et arabes venus en solidarité ».

Voir également:

Agressions à domicile: des voleurs de plus en plus violents?

Depuis le début du mois, plusieurs agressions ont eu lieu, visant des personnes âgées et vulnérables. Les auteurs de ces home-jackings n’ont pas hésité à utiliser la torture pour obtenir ce qu’ils étaient venus chercher : argent liquide, objets de valeur, voitures.

Robert Lefebvre, avec nos rédactions locales

La Voix du nord

16/01/2016

La veuve d’un ancien grand patron séquestrée et torturée à Hem, un nonagénaire violenté à Arras, des violences à Marcq-en-Barœul… Récemment, pas moins de quatre agressions à domicile ont été recensées dans la région. Si le phénomène n’est pas nouveau, ces agressions commises par des individus à la recherche de voitures, d’argent ou d’objets de valeur se multiplient ces dernières années. Avec parfois des conséquences dramatiques. Décryptage.

1. Un phénomène ancien

Les agressions à domicile ne datent pas d’hier. À la fin du XVIIIe siècle, les « Chauffeurs du Nord » sévissaient dans toute la région ainsi qu’en Belgique. Après être entrés par effraction au domicile de leurs victimes, ils leur liaient les pieds et les chauffaient à la braise des feux de cheminée pour leur faire avouer où se trouvaient argent et objets de valeur.

2. Les personnes âgées ou aisées, principales cibles

Les personnes âgées sont régulièrement prises pour cible. Par habitude ou méfiance envers les banques, certaines d’entre elles conservent de l’argent liquide à domicile et sont naturellement vulnérables du fait de leur grand âge. Une proie facile pour de petits délinquants à la recherche de liquidités. Des équipes plus aguerries ciblent aussi les familles disposant de patrimoine, voire tous ceux qui, par leur fonction, peuvent avoir accès à des liquidités ou des objets de valeur. Les victimes sont généralement repérées dans les magasins ou lorsqu’elles circulent, notamment dans des véhicules haut de gamme.

3. La violence liée aux auteurs

Si l’on peut être tenté de croire que la multiplication des dispositifs de sécurité (coffre-fort…) incite les malfrats à aller au contact de leurs victimes et à faire usage de violence, les spécialistes sont quant à eux formels : « La violence est liée aux auteurs, pas aux victimes et à leur niveau de protection, insiste la police judiciaire de Lille. Dans la région, les home-jackings sont perpétrés en majeure partie par des délinquants de cité. Ces faits sont très violents. Les portes sont défoncées. Les enfants sont mis à terre. La majeure partie des agressions à domicile vise avant tout à voler les voitures, soit pour le trafic de véhicules, soit pour commettre d’autres méfaits. »

4. Se prémunir

De manière générale, il convient de ne conserver à domicile qu’un minimum d’argent liquide et d’objets de valeur. Mieux vaut éviter d’afficher des « signes extérieurs de richesses » dans certains lieux publics comme les magasins. L’installation d’une alarme dans le logement ne dissuadera pas les agresseurs mais limitera en revanche leur marge de manœuvre.

«C’est comme de la science-fiction»
C’était le 31 mai dernier. La nuit de la fête des Mères. Trois individus gantés et masqués pénètrent dans une vaste propriété située dans le versant nord-est de la métropole lilloise. Les parents, des notables de la région, sont absents. Leur fils âgé de 22 ans est seul. Durant quatre heures, il va vivre un véritable enfer.

« Ils n’ont vu que l’appât du gain, explique une source proche de l’enquête. C’est comme de la science-fiction. Pendant plus de quatre heures, il va subir les pires des choses. Des humiliations pas possibles. » On évoque, là encore, un simulacre de noyade : « Ils lui ont posé un drap autour du visage et ils ont fait couler de l’eau. La serviette s’imbibe de liquide, ce qui procure une impression d’étouffement. » La police judiciaire évoque également des décharges électriques et d’autres sévices qualifiés d’actes de torture et de barbarie. « Il l’a échappé belle. »

Ils réclamaient 30 000 euros

Le but des malfaiteurs : récupérer une rançon de 30 000 euros auprès des parents de la victime. « L’objectif était de lui mettre la pression afin qu’il leur donne une somme d’argent, lors d’un rendez-vous quelques jours plus tard », dit une source judiciaire qui évoque des « faits complexes ». Finalement, rien n’a été donné aux voyous.

L’un des suspects a été interpellé en septembre, rue Nationale à Lille. Recherché par la justice pour deux condamnations à quatre et six ans de prison, dans des affaires de trafic de drogue, dégradations et port d’arme, ce Lillois d’une trentaine d’années a été placé en détention provisoire.

Voir par ailleurs:

Chablais

Les personnes âgées, cibles privilégiées des voleurs et des escrocs
Amélie Lécoyer
Le Messager

03/05/2012

Récemment, un genre particulier de délits s’est répété à Thonon-les-Bains et Evian. Leur point commun ? Ils visent des personnes âgées, ou vulnérables.

Au cours des 6 derniers mois, les hommes du commissariat du Léman ont recensé sept vols par ruse et trois abus de faiblesse. «  Il ne s’agit pas d’une croissance exponentielle mais de faits similaires qui se sont déroulés à des dates rapprochées », tient à préciser le commissaire Guillaume Maniglier, à la tête de la circonscription. Précisons également que le vol par ruse et l’abus de faiblesse ne tiennent évidemment pas de la même mécanique. « Nous faisons face à deux problématiques différentes mais toutes visent les personnes âgées, que ce soit à l’hôpital, dans les familles ou des personnes isolées, souligne ainsi le commissaire.
Il y a d’un côté les vols par ruse avec des scénarios différents, et de l’autre les abus de faiblesse, plus insidieux ».
S’agissant des vols par ruse, ils sont perpétrés par des hommes usant de fausses qualités : faux voisins mais aussi faux plombiers et faux éboueurs. «  Entre octobre 2011 et début avril, nous avons eu trois cas de faux voisins, deux cas de faux éboueurs et deux cas de faux plombiers  », détaille l’officier.

Délinquance ou criminalité organisée
Une personne qui se présente comme étant un voisin se contente généralement, une fois entrée au domicile de sa victime, et profitant d’un moment d’inattention de cette dernière, de lui dérober son porte-monnaie, voire quelques bijoux s’ils sont à portée de main (lire ci-dessous). Dans le cas des faux plombiers ou faux éboueurs, l’organisation fait moins preuve d’amateurisme. Ces personnes bénéficient en effet du soutien d’un réseau qui lui apporte notamment une aide logistique (vêtements, véhicules…) « Contrairement aux faux voisins, il s’agit de d élinquance, voire de criminalité organisée, affirme le commissaire Maniglier. Ce sont des personnes qui présentent bien et qui parlent bien. Lorsqu’elles s’introduisent au domicile d’une victime, la valeur de ce qu’elles dérobent peut s’élever à plusieurs milliers d’euros ». « Ces personnes agissent rarement seules mais sont généralement par groupe de 2 ou 4 , poursuit l’officier de police. Elles restent sur une commune ou un groupe de communes pas plus de 5 jours. Elles peuvent, par exemple, être à Thonon, puis partir sur Annecy, puis Aix, avant de filer sur Paris… » Et de rappeller : « Il ne faut jamais laisser entrer une personne qui ne peut justifier de sa qualité. De toute façon, un plombier n’intervient jamais sans qu’on l’appelle…»
Isoler toujours plus sa victime
Itinérants, ces délinquants sont donc particulièrement difficiles à interpeller. Ces affaires exigent, pour être résolues, une coordination, a minima départementale, entre police et gendarmerie. « La dernière arrestation date de 2008 », remarque ainsi le commissaire.
S’agissant des abus de faiblesse, ils touchent plus globalement les personnes vulnérables, que ce soit en raison de leur âge ou de leur maladie. Le principe  ? Profiter de l’isolement d’une personne plutôt aisée pour gagner sa confiance et bénéficier de sa fortune. « L’individu va croiser une personne âgée dans la rue, va essayer de créer un lien de confiance, de se faire inviter chez elle, et profiter de ses largesses  », explique le commissaire Maniglier. Dans des cas plus rares, il peut aussi s’agir d’une aide à domicile qui « un jour, va franchir la ligne rouge ». « Dans le premier cas, ce sont des spécialistes, dans le second cas ce ne sont pas forcément des personnes chevronnées », précise l’officier.
Les victimes sont des personnes seules et le but de ces individus peu scrupuleux est de les isoler davantage. « Habiles à jouer sur les sentiments, ces individus gagnent la confiance de la victime en écartant petit à petit tous ses contacts et amis jusqu’à devenir indispensables, poursuit-il.  La difficulté dans ce genre d’affaires est qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un fait délinquant unique mais de petits ponctionnements d’argent sur une longue période ».
Les victimes mettent ainsi longtemps avant de s’apercevoir que leur protégé les vole. Généralement, ce sont des proches qui s’en aperçoivent (telle une auxiliaire de vie, lire ci-dessous) ou la police qui le découvre de manière incidente (suite à une agression par exemple).
Et même lorsque les preuves d’abus de faiblesse sont établies, la victime refuse parfois de porter plainte, s’inquiétant du devenir de l’auteur. «  Certaines personnes vont même jusqu’à le défendre, glisse le commissaire Maniglier. Elles nous disent : « Mais c’est quelqu’un de gentil… » » Le préjudice est pourtant bien plus élevé que dans les cas de vol par ruse : des dizaines voire des centaines de milliers d’euros.

Voir aussi:

«Ne soyons pas naïfs sur le symbole de cette étoffe» par Aalam Wassef
L’éditeur égyptien Aalam Wassef met en garde contre l’influence en France du wahhabisme, dont le burkini serait l’un des symboles.

Libération

17 août 2016

Au lendemain de l’interdiction du port du burkini à Cannes puis en Corse, le Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) a dénoncé un acte islamophobe et une atteinte à la liberté d’expression des femmes musulmanes. Cette dénonciation mérite qu’on s’y attarde et qu’on l’explique.

En adoptant cette position le CCIF s’érige en défenseur non pas «des musulmans de France», mais d’une mouvance extrémiste très singulière, le wahhabisme de France. Si le CCIF est libre de s’associer au wahhabisme par choix ou par ignorance, il est en revanche du devoir de l’État français d’en protéger l’ensemble de ses citoyens.

Pour des raisons historiques et idéologiques le mot wahhabisme est interchangeable avec celui de salafisme, plus connu des Français. Les wahhabis eux-mêmes préfèrent se décrire comme «salafistes» pour se distancier d’une appellation péjorative deux fois centenaire. Au milieu du XVIIIe siècle, quand il émerge dans les zones arides du Najd, de l’actuelle Arabie saoudite, le wahhabisme est immédiatement mis au ban de l’Islam. Puritains autoproclamés, les wahhabis promeuvent en effet un rejet total et meurtrier de toute forme d’Islam ou de pratique religieuse différente de la leur.

Le wahhabisme, le courant religieux le plus riche du monde
Dès les années 1970, l’Arabie saoudite modernisée, désormais à la tête de la plus grande fortune au monde, s’emploie à exporter son idéologie: universités, écoles, livres, cassettes, DVD, universités, bourses d’études, fondations caritatives, formation d’imams, chaînes satellites, mode de vie, mode vestimentaire, voile, niqab, burkini, lieux de rencontre et de culte, sites Internet, quotidiens et hebdomadaires… Depuis 1970, on évalue les sommes investies dans la propagation du wahhabisme à 100 milliards de dollars. C’est à ce prix que le wahhabisme donne l’illusion d’être l’Islam «le plus authentique», «le plus pur». Ni plus authentique, ni plus pur, le wahhabisme est simplement le courant religieux le plus jeune, et le plus riche au monde.

Occupés à convertir le monde entier depuis moins de quarante ans, les pétro-wahhabis ne se laissent pas pour autant divertir et se préoccupent tout particulièrement des femmes, de leur corps, de leurs devoirs, de leur pudeur et, peut-on entendre aussi, de leur honneur. En 2016 une femme saoudienne digne de ce nom ne circule qu’en compagnie d’un homme, dissimule son corps tout entier et ne conduit pas. Son apparence et son comportement public sont les unités de mesure par lesquelles s’évalue la dignité de son mari et de sa communauté tout entière. Les écarts sont sanctionnés lourdement. Derrière le niqab ou le burkini, c’est aussi cela qui s’exporte en France, mais dans des versions nécessairement édulcorées parce que la loi française protège les femmes.

Confronté à la juridiction française le wahhabisme militant doit composer avec un contexte qui lui résiste, mais dans lequel les brèches semblent nombreuses. La première d’entre elles, et la plus dangereuse, c’est la culture contemporaine des «droits individuels» ou s’est abîmée la liberté. Il est fréquent d’entendre que le niqab, le voile ou le burkini relèvent de «la liberté d’expression» ou du «droit des femmes à disposer de leur corps». S’y opposer, c’est être «islamophobe», c’est-à-dire s’attaquer à tous les musulmans. L’objectif est naturellement que toute condamnation justifiée du wahhabisme institutionnel en particulier soit rapidement perçue et narrée comme visant les musulmans français en général.

Barrer la route à l’extrémisme islamiste
Bien sûr toutes les femmes qui portent des burkinis en France ne sont pas des émissaires wahhabites mais ne soyons pas naïfs sur le symbole de cette étoffe. Il n’y a aucune honte à condamner l’extrémisme islamiste et à lui barrer la route par tous les moyens légaux possibles. Il n’y a là rien de politiquement incorrect ou de comparable au discours raciste et antimusulman du Front National. Cela ne revient pas non plus à ignorer que des actes antimusulmans sont perpétrés en France. Leur nombre de 140 en 2014 a triplé durant la triste année 2015. David Lisnard, le maire de Cannes, a fait dans sa ville ce qu’il fallait faire. Interdire les burkinis dont le nom s’amuse jusqu’à la nausée de la burqa des talibans n’est pas un acte islamophobe. C’est plutôt le signe que nous n’avons pas peur de dire qu’Islam et wahhabisme sont deux choses radicalement distinctes, et que le second menace le premier depuis plus de deux siècles.

Voir par ailleurs:

Saint-Denis : des touristes coréens s’égarent dans une cité et se font dévaliser
Quatre touristes coréens qui rejoignaient leur hôtel vendredi soir se sont apparemment égarés dans une cité de Saint-Denis, où ils ont été dévalisés.

EH

France 3
06 août 2016

Entre 21h30 et 22h00, ces vacanciers ont été délestés par « un groupe d’individus » de leurs effets personnels dans la cité Gabriel-Péri qui se situe à un kilomètre de la basilique où reposent les rois de France, principale attraction touristique
de la plus grande ville de Seine-Saint-Denis. Ils ont été ont reçu molestés mais n’ont pas souhaité se rendre aux urgences.

Mardi, « entre cinq et dix individus », selon une source policière, avaient détroussé un car de touristes chinois devant un hôtel de Gonesse (Val-d’Oise), non loin de l’aéroport de Roissy, au nord de Paris.

Voir aussi:

Robberies of cashed-up Chinese tourists rise steeply in Paris

Mainlanders’ preference for carrying large amounts of cash makes them easy targets

Teddy Ng

South China Morning Post

30 May, 2013

A sharp increase in robberies of Chinese tourists in Paris has prompted calls for the French government to step up security and for shoppers to use credit cards instead of carrying large amounts of cash.

The number of reports of such crimes is up by « more than 10 per cent » since last year, said Li Ping , head of consular affairs at the Chinese embassy in Paris.

Two cases this week grabbed headlines. On Tuesday, a crew of China Central Television reporters covering the French Open tennis tournament had their car windows smashed and their wallets, phones and passports grabbed, mainland media reported. A source familiar with the situation confirmed the incident to the South China Morning Post.

A day earlier, film producer Dong Dake , returning from the Cannes Film Festival, was robbed at his hotel in Paris. He was said to have lost equipment worth about 200,000 yuan (HK$250,000) and « countless photos » taken at private parties.

The Chinese embassy in Paris said they were not isolated cases.

« We have made representations to the French government, » Li said. « We hope the French side will take proper measures to protect the safety of tourists and curb illegal behaviour. »

France, battling with unemployment and an economic downturn, has witnessed a surge in crime. French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the number of reported thefts in January had risen 50 per cent year on year, while burglaries had jumped by nearly 60 per cent.

Tour operators in both China and Paris said Asian tourists, particularly Chinese, had become vulnerable in recent years because of their free-spending shopping habits. More than a million Chinese visit France every year, with each one spending about €1,500 (HK$15,000) on average.

A busload of Chinese tourists is like a van carrying gold bullion
Li Lang, marketing manager of Guangzhou-based travel agency

« There are reports of tourists getting robbed almost every day, » said Jean-Francois Zhou, manager of Paris-based Ansel Travel, which specialises in tours to and from China. « The criminals are not just stealing, but resorting to violent means. »

Ten of his Chinese clients were robbed in October in the Louvre Museum. On many occasions, tour guides, who possessed cash for emergency use, were targeted, losing up to €20,000 each time, he said.

Li Lang, marketing manager of a Guangzhou-based travel agency, said Chinese tourists’ preference for buying luxury items in cash was a reason behind the attacks. « A busload of Chinese tourists is like a van carrying gold bullion, » he said. Several travel agencies had put up a blacklist of drivers and hotels suspected of being connected with criminals, Li said.

A Singaporean tourist, who did not want to be named, recalled the terror as she and her sister were robbed inside a taxi taking them from the airport to a hotel in the heart of the city on May 13.

« Two men suddenly came up, smashed the car windows and snatched our bags. We were bleeding, » she said. There was further frustration when they had to spend more than three hours filing a report at a police station.

« The French police did not speak English and offered no help, » she said. « They just asked us to go to the police station in the damaged taxi, even though we were hurt and bleeding. »

Liu Simin , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, urged tourists to be more alert about personal safety and to carry less cash.

The French embassy in Beijing said the French government was determined to ensure the safety of all foreign tourists.

« The vast majority of Chinese visitors’ trips go on without trouble, » the embassy said.

The Hong Kong Immigration Department said the number of cases of Hong Kong people seeking assistance while travelling in France had risen from 57 in 2011 to 85 last year. Most of them had lost travel documents, been involved in traffic accidents, or been admitted to hospital.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, said tourists should wear fewer designer brand products when travelling in Europe.

 Voir de même:

Now it is China’s turn to face the brunt of complaints. The grievances are familiar — they gawk, they shove, they eschew local cuisine, and last year, 83 million mainland Chinese spent $102 billion abroad — overtaking Americans and Germans — making them the world’s biggest tourism spenders, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Their numbers have also placed them among the most resented tourists. Mainland Chinese tourists, often laden with cash and unfamiliar with foreign ways, are tumbling out of tour buses with apparently little appetite for hotel breakfast buffets and no concept of lining up.

The frustrations with the new tourists were summed up on a Thai online message board last spring, when users posted complaints about Chinese tourists using outdoor voices inside and spitting in public, among other transgressions.

Last year, Thierry Gillier, a French fashion designer who founded the Zadig and Voltaire label, caused a small scandal when he told Women’s Wear Daily that Chinese tourists would not be welcome at his new Parisian boutique hotel. A barrage of international criticism persuaded him to apologize.

Like their predecessors, the Chinese are newly wealthy and helpless with foreign languages, a combination complicated by their developing country’s historical isolation.

Despite these faux pas, countries are practically tripping over themselves to attract Chinese tourists. Wedding companies in South Korea are trying to lure Chinese couples with bling-heavy ceremonies inspired by the viral music video “Gangnam Style.” A coastal county outside Sydney, Australia, is building a $450 million Chinese theme park centered on a full-size replica of the gates to the Forbidden City and a nine-story Buddhist temple. France, one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists already — 1.4 million visited in 2012 — is working to further bolster its appeal.

Parisian officials recently published a manual for the service industry that offers transliterated Mandarin phrases and cultural tips for better understanding Chinese desires, including this tidbit: “They are very picky about gastronomy and wine.”

To judge from the grumbling across the globe, such guidelines may be necessary. But the greatest opprobrium seems to be coming from fellow Chinese. In May, a mainland Chinese tourist in Luxor, Egypt, discovered that a compatriot had carved his own hieroglyphics on the wall of a 3,500-year-old temple. “Ding Jinhao was here,” it declared. A photo of the offending scrawl spread rapidly on Chinese social media, and outraged citizens tracked down the 15-year-old vandal. The uproar subsided after his parents issued a public apology.

Embarrassed by the spate of bad press that month, Wang Yang, China’s vice premier, publicly railed against the poor “quality and breeding” of Chinese tourists who tarnish their homeland’s reputation. “They make loud noises in public, scratch graffiti on tourist attractions, ignore red lights when crossing the road and spit everywhere,” he said, according to People’s Daily.

Despite his admonition, articles with headlines like “Chinese Bride Brawls in French Lavender Field” continue to appear in the state media.

Ms. Hung, the blogger, blames the Communist Party’s tumultuous rule for China’s uncivilized behavior abroad. “There’s an entire generation who learned you don’t pay attention to grooming or manners because that’s considered bourgeois,” she said. While Chinese are more open to Western ideas now, that has not necessarily sunk in when actually interacting with the outside world. “They think, ‘The hell with etiquette. As long as I have money, foreigners will bow to my cash.’ ”

Most mainland Chinese vacationers have a splendid time abroad. In May, Huang Honglin, 53, and his wife paid $8,000 for a 16-day group tour of the United States, a country he last visited on a business trip 25 years ago. That was long before he joined China’s growing middle class as the owner of a trading company.

This time around, Mr. Huang had money to burn.

“We went shopping for gems in Hawaii and bought Prada bags in New York,” he recalled. Mr. Huang never made it to the chic boutiques of Manhattan. Instead, he traveled an hour north to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, where many designer stores have recently hired employees who speak Chinese.

His only complaint was that they had to race through the racks before the bus departed. “Time was so short, it felt like war,” he said.

According to a McKinsey & Company report, nearly 70 percent of Chinese luxury consumers buy their Tiffany baubles and Hermès scarves abroad to avoid higher sales tax on such goods at home, which can reach 60 percent. Take the black Louis Vuitton “Neverfull” handbag, a hefty status symbol with straps that costs 14,400 renminbi in China, or $2,335 — over $350 more than the same item in the United States.

In 2007, China granted the United States “approved destination status,” which opened the doors to Chinese group leisure travel to America beginning in 2008. Last year, 1.5 million Chinese arrived on American shores, spending nearly $8.8 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Today, around 150 travel agencies in the United States have the approval of the National Tour Association, an American trade group, to organize trips from China, many of them owned and operated by Chinese-Americans.

But the industry has experienced growing pains. Despite years of meetings in China and decades of leading motor coach tours across the United States, the travel agency AmericanTours International learned that Chinese tourists required a special touch. For one, people from Beijing and Shanghai cannot travel on the same bus.

“They clashed,” recalled Nick Hentschel, the company’s director of business development.

Last year, 1,500 Chinese took the company’s “Hollywood to Broadway” bus tour, a 20-day cross-country journey intended for mainlanders with stops that included a Las Vegas casino; the bridges of Madison County, Iowa; Niagara Falls; the White House; and the Empire State Building.

If the sights are crowd-pleasers, the overnight stays can sometimes prove challenging. “Smoking in hotel rooms is always a problem,” Mr. Hentschel said, a habit that can cost tourists hundreds of dollars in hotel cleaning bills. Then there was the episode last summer, he said, when a tour group caused a scene at a hotel in Cody, Wyo., after mistakenly thinking another busload of compatriots had been given preference at breakfast. The police were called to escort them out of town, he said.

More often, Chinese tourists find themselves victims of unscrupulous tour operators. On a weeklong guided tour through Thailand in 2009, Qi Lingfeng, 27, was one of several people in his group who refused to sign up for costly excursions like speedboat rides and concerts. As punishment, he said, the local guide locked them out of their hotel rooms. Other tourists at the same hotel, he said, were forced off their bus for the same transgression.

“It was so crazy, we even thought about calling the Chinese embassy in Bangkok,” he said.

During a group tour of the Siberian city of Vladivostok in January, Chen Xu, 47, a scientist from the coastal city of Xiamen, said the “ethnic Russian dancing” excursion, which cost $80, turned out to be a woman in a bikini twirling around a stripper pole.

“When the parents saw what was happening, they took their kids and left the room,” he said.

Surrounded by so many foreign stimuli, many yearn for a taste of home while abroad. Xie Nuoyan, 20, a college student from Beijing, felt as much during a recent visit to New York. While she appreciated the drinkable tap water, she said Chinatown was a letdown.

“I was really disappointed to see it’s not like in the movies, where there are lots of lanterns and performances everywhere,” she said.

On the upside, finding an abundance of Chinese food after days of consuming only strange Western concoctions redeemed the neighborhood.

“The sight of rice moved me to tears,” she said.

 Voir de plus:
Tear gas attack on 27 Chinese tourists in Paris, robbed by gang aboard airport bus
Two tourists injured by raiders who stole visitors’ luggage
Reuters/ South China Post
03 August, 2016Twenty-seven Chinese tourists were assaulted on Tuesday by half a dozen men as they boarded a bus that was to take them to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, a French police source said.The assailants stole some pieces of luggage and injured two of the tourists, who were taken to hospital for treatment.“They sprayed the driver with tear gas and hit two tourists,” the source said.

The value of the goods stolen could not immediately be established.

Attacks on Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists are frequent in the French capital as robbers believe they carry large sums in cash and their suitcases are stuffed with luxury goods purchased in Paris.

In May, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo travelled to Beijing to reassure Chinese authorities that the world’s most visited city had taken measures to beef up its security.

Chinese tourists shun western Europe in wake of violence as travel to France drops 15 per cent

Tourist traffic in Paris has dropped significantly since bloody attacks by Islamist militants last November, leading to sharp declines in sales for luxury goods makers but also for the capital’s retailers, hotels and restaurants.

Big luxury brands such as LVMH’s Dior and Louis Vuitton and Richemont’s Cartier have been hit hard by the drop in the number of free-spending Asian tourists in Paris as they make a significant proportion of their annual sales in the French capital.

Voir enfin:

POP VIEW; Rap After the Riot: Smoldering Rage And No Apologies

Ice Cube does some gloating on his new album, « The Predator. » « Anything you wanted to know about the riot was in the records before the riot, » he says in an interview-style interlude. « All you had to do was go to the Ice Cube library and pick a record. »

He’s right: « Death Certificate, » released on Halloween in 1991, not only articulated the rage surrounding the beating of Rodney King, but showed exactly where the flashpoint would be in the April riots in Los Angeles. The album included « Black Korea, » which revealed the deep resentment between Korean shopkeepers (whom Ice Cube, in one ignorant flourish, described as « chop-suey-eatin’ « ) and blacks, who felt they were being treated more like potential criminals than customers; when the riots came, Korean businesses became targets.

The album was vengeful and divisive, airing deep-seated prejudices and treating ethnic groups as if they were warring gangs that could never share turf. But it was also prophetic, which may be one reason « The Predator » shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart upon release at the end of November. In the wake of the riot, people had been waiting for rap’s next bulletin from the front.

Before South-Central Los Angeles went up in a billion dollars’ worth of flames, the only voices from the area that most Americans had heard were the swaggering storytellers of gangster rap. Taking violence for granted, flaunting ugly attitudes toward women and homosexuals, savoring gory details, gangster rappers weren’t documentarians or responsible spokesmen; they were pulp auteurs, exploiting America’s appetite for violent entertainment while dropping enough local details or « reality » to sound credible.

When Los Angeles burned, the reality dwarfed gangster rap’s tales of drive-by shootings and petty but deadly feuds. Yet amid the violence, the rappers suddenly seemed like experts. And as the immediacy of the riots faded, rappers are again the voices most likely to be heard outside the ghetto. They are not diplomatic or conciliatory with the outside world; they have little to say about the riot victims or about rebuilding burned-out areas. That’s for politicians and community leaders to take care of. Rappers talk about how they feel.

Hip-hop is by far the most topical zone of popular music, so it was inevitable that the riots would make their way into rap’s fall releases. For the most part, Los Angeles rappers have preferred to stay with their usual postures and material, with increasingly redundant tales of crime, sex and battling machismo. Although explicit post-riot raps are greatly outnumbered by more typical gangster material, they have been emerging on new recordings over the last month. They suggest that the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King has left enduring anger and that racial and ethnic polarization has only increased.

There are no apologies, just a few second thoughts. On recent releases, gangster rappers like Ice Cube vent rage and vow retribution, while noting with approval the post-riot truce between the two most entrenched Los Angeles gangs, the Crips and the Bloods. More politically inclined rappers, like Paris (from Oakland, Calif.), ricochet between fantasizing about terrorism and trying to draw broader lessons from the carnage.

The usually outspoken Public Enemy (from New York) plays defense. In « Tie Goes to the Runner » on the new album « Greatest Misses, » Chuck D says he’s « not suprised at all about the riots, » but his only word about the situation is to insist that raps like « Black Korea » didn’t create the problems: « This was predicted, not self-inflicted/ By the rap out of the ‘hood that kicked it good. » Sound bites from news coverage of the riots also appear as signs of authenticity on efforts like « Whut? Thee Album » by Redman, a performer from Newark who starts the album by placing himself in a « psycho » ward, talking out his sociopathic fantasies. The album includes « News Break, » in which a fictitious interviewer asks Redman about reaction to the riots. « Yeah, they still mad, » he says, and threatens the interviewer.

As with the rest of hip-hop, pluralism reigns. But the sentiment they share is that it took an all-out insurrection to get the attention of a white power structure.

Ice Cube, the best-known voice of South-Central, is involved not just on « The Predator » but on a forthcoming album by a rapper called Kam, due in February, and on an all-star post-riot single called « Get the Fist, » which Mercury Records released but made little effort to promote. Sales of the single, a sequence of snippets by Ice Cube, Yo-Yo, Cypress Hill, Kam and others, benefit the Brotherhood Movement, which was formed in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts riots and is currently working to rebuild South-Central. But it’s obvious why Mercury didn’t try to turn it into another « We Are the World »; « Get the Fist » is probably the most belligerent charity single ever made.

It starts with on-the-spot defiance — « I’m black and I’m proud to be lootin’ in your face » — and moves on to calls for black unity against the police and whites: « Not black on black/ The other color gets beat. » « Get the Fist » also includes part of Ice Cube’s riot commentary from « The Predator, » « We Had to Tear This — Up. » In the complete song, between news bulletins about the verdict and the riots, Ice Cube raps about looting (« Now I got a laptop computer ») and fantasizes about killing the policemen who beat Mr. King and the jury members who acquitted them. His conclusion is that the riots were necessary for blacks « to get some respect. »

Kam’s single « Peace Treaty, » due in January, praises the gang truce but starts out discussing the riots: « It wasn’t just the blacks, everybody was looting and had each other’s backs. . . . We all had a hand in the cookie jar and took it far enough to make a statement. »

Paris echoes that sentiment on his second album, « Sleeping With the Enemy »: « Don’t be tellin’ me to get the nonviolent spirit/ When I’m violent is the only time you devils hear it. » Those lines are part of « Bush Killa, » Paris’s vision of assassinating the President, a calculated provocation to draw attention to what he sees as genocide against American blacks (« I hope he thinks of how he done us when he’s laid to waste/ From guns given to my people for my own kind »).

Talking about the riots themselves, in a simulated telephone conversation that opens « Long Hot Summer, » Paris and a friend dismiss those who are looting sneaker stores as « tired » and worries that in the aftermath of the riots, blacks will benefit as little as they did after the Watts riots. « If we don’t think about things that we need to do for ourselves, » he says, « this is just going to happen again and again and again and again. » But in the rap that follows, he plays a gun-toting guerrilla stalking cops, with a chorus of « rat-a-tat-tat from my gat. »

In cities where pistols are used to settle schoolyard arguments, it’s pointless to wish for gun control in rap lyrics. And while no one should take such songs literally, they do reflect a pathology born of all-American myths and of smoldering frustrations. Weaned on the image of the frontier gunslinger who can single-handedly clean up a town, or the Rambo who can refight and win the Vietnam War without a shirt, rappers aren’t the only ones who long for decisive action backed by armed force.

Rappers have all sorts of motives, ethical and unethical, to remind the outside world about their frustration, and in the commercial realm of popular culture, no motives are entirely unmixed. A rapper can identify with his or her community, hoping to shock listeners into paying attention to real troubles, and simultaneously realize that contention and notoriety and sensationalism will publicize and sell recordings. For rappers who portray their characters as gunslingers and guerrillas, there’s also a large component of machismo, the determination to convince the archetypal street-level listener that the performer is as « hard » as the competition.

Post-riot raps don’t offer practical solutions to urban unemployment, declining education, drugs and crime, any more than governmental bodies have. Instead, they shout and snarl about an escalating desperation that makes all sides seek scapegoats, raising friction and shutting off the possibility of dialogue.

Amid the gunplay and vengeance fantasies, the raps make one thing clear. While April’s flames may have been quenched, the hostility that ignited them has not gone away. « I do want the white community to understand our community more, » Ice Cube says on « The Predator. » « I’ve given so many warnings on what’s gonna happen if we don’t get these things straight in our lives. » His conclusion: « Armageddon is near. »


Bac 2016: L’architecture, ça sert d’abord à faire la guerre (Medieval Manhattan redux: Look what they’ve done to my sky, ma)

18 juin, 2016

MedievalManhattandarkshadowsNYFutureskylineAccidentalSkylineRacetothetopNYSupertallNYLongShadowsnyc-shadows

Stand-Against-the-Shadow
UmbrellaDemo
terreform-smart-city-farm
Ritz the ritz towerQue ton argent périsse avec toi, puisque tu as cru que le don de Dieu s’acquérait à prix d’argent! Pierre (Actes 8: 20)
Ne vous amassez pas des trésors sur la terre, où la teigne et la rouille détruisent, et où les voleurs percent et dérobent; mais amassez-vous des trésors dans le ciel, où la teigne et la rouille ne détruisent point, et où les voleurs ne percent ni ne dérobent Car là où est ton trésor, là aussi sera ton coeur. Jésus (Matthieu 6: 19-21)
Vous entendrez parler de guerres et de bruits de guerres (….) Une nation s’élèvera contre une nation, et un royaume contre un royaume. Jésus (Matthieu 24: 6-7)
Le soir, vous dites: Il fera beau, car le ciel est rouge; et le matin: Il y aura de l’orage aujourd’hui, car le ciel est d’un rouge sombre. Vous savez discerner l’aspect du ciel, et vous ne pouvez discerner les signes des temps. Jésus (Matthieu 16: 2-3)
Dans le monde actuel, beaucoup de choses correspondent au climat des grands textes apocalyptiques du Nouveau Testament, en particulier Matthieu et Marc. Il y est fait mention du phénomène principal du mimétisme, qui est la lutte des doubles : ville contre ville, province contre province… Ce sont toujours les doubles qui se battent et leur bagarre n’a aucun sens puisque c’est la même chose des deux côtés. Aujourd’hui, il ne semble rien de plus urgent à la Chine que de rattraper les Etats-Unis sur tous les plans et en particulier sur le nombre d’autoroutes ou la production de véhicules automobiles. Vous imaginez les conséquences ? Il est bien évident que la production économique et les performances des entreprises mettent en jeu la rivalité. Clausewitz le disait déjà en 1820 : il n’y a rien qui ressemble plus à la guerre que le commerce. Souvent les chrétiens s’arrêtent à une interprétation eschatologique des textes de l’Apocalypse. Il s’agirait d’un événement supranaturel… Rien n’est plus faux ! Au chapitre 16 de Matthieu, les juifs demandent à Jésus un signe. « Mais, vous savez les lire, les signes, leur répond-t-il. Vous regardez la couleur du ciel le soir et vous savez deviner le temps qu’il fera demain. » Autrement dit, l’Apocalypse, c’est naturel. L’Apocalypse n’est pas du tout divine. Ce sont les hommes qui font l’Apocalypse. René Girard
Few tourists dining in the restaurants of San Gimignano enjoying the wines and cuisine of Tuscany know the dark history behind the many towers that loom over the town. These early Medieval skyscrapers rose above streets that were far meaner than anything we have today. Every north Italian city once bristled with these towers, hundreds of them. Bologna still has a few left. You can find the stumps of these towers in every northern Italian city if you look for them. Florence is filled with the remains of these towers. They are everywhere if you know what to look for. (…) Northern Italy was the only place in Western Europe where urban life survived the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was the most densely populated part of Europe at a time when large areas of Western Europe were becoming depopulated and reverting back to wilderness. (…) These towers were fortresses. They belonged to families that had their own private armies, and frequently waged war on each other. These military noble families made their fortunes through extortion, by shaking down merchants and shopkeepers, by blocking roads and charging tolls, through collecting protection money from the surrounding inhabitants. They constantly fought with each other over turf. When the fighting became fierce, these families and their soldiers would retreat into these towers and pull up the ladders for protection. Families kept their precious possessions in these towers, and used the towers to announce to the rest of the city who ruled in a particular neighborhood. (…) The other inhabitants of the city lived at the mercy of these feuding families. They lived in crowded tenements along very narrow winding alleys. (…) Whereas the noble families lived in towers of stone and had their own wells, everyone else lived in half-timber wattle and daub structures vulnerable to fire and flooding. For water, most of the inhabitants depended on the local river. The dark narrow streets were filthy, full of garbage, raw sewage, and animals, dangerous and crime-ridden. Disputes and criminal offenses were usually settled by vendetta, leading to generations-long pointless warfare between families and clans. Long before the first outbreak of the Plague, diseases such as typhus and cholera cut through these tenements like a scythe every summer. Due to the constant warfare between clans over turf, one day’s safe area would be another day’s no-man’s-land. To find anything similar today, we would have to travel to places like Somalia, southern Yemen, or the eastern Congo. Counterlight’s peculiars
After their initial appearance in Ireland, Scotland, Basque Country and England during the High Middle Ages, tower houses were also built in other parts of western Europe as early as the late 14th century, especially in parts of France and Italy. In Italian medieval communes, tower houses were increasingly built by the local barons as powerhouses during the inner strifes. Wikipedia
In 1199, the city made itself independent from the bishops of Volterra and established a podestà, and set about enriching the commune, with churches and public buildings. However, the peace of the town was disturbed for the next two centuries by conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines, and family rivalries.This resulted in families building tower houses of increasing height. Towards the end of the Medieval period they were 72 in number and up to 70 metres (230 feet) tall. The rivalry was finally restrained when it was ordained by the council that no tower was to be taller than that adjacent to the Palazzo Comunale. Wikipedia
Eddie avoided the Harlem River—it was overcrowded and overfished, even more so than the Hudson, littered with oystering boats. Several bridges had recently been built across the waters, disturbing the marsh birds. He knew it wouldn’t be long before the countryside disappeared, as it had in Chelsea, where there was pavement everywhere. (…) Past the area of Washington Heights was Hudson Heights, the highest altitude in Manhattan, at 265 feet above sea level. There was the pastoral village of Inwood, and although the subway ran this far, this section of north Manhattan was still dotted with small farms, including a house once owned by the Audubon family. Eddie joined the hermit in his agitation over the constant building in Manhattan. Apartment buildings were rising everywhere. Alice Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things, 2014)
By 1927, the commanding apartment buildings along Park Avenue were not just tall; they were immensely tall, true towers, the first skyscrapers built for permanent living. The tallest of them was the Ritz Tower, shooting up from the pavement at the corner 1 of Fifty-seventh Street and Park Avenue. Built for blue-bloodsand tycoons by Emery Roth, […] it opened in October 1926 and was one of the first residential buildings in 2 New York constructed in sympathy with the city’s landmark zoning law of 1916. Concerned about diminishing sunlight and fresh air in the canyonlike streets created by the closely massed skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, the city placed a limit on the maximum height and bulk of tall buildings. Height limits were based upon the width of the street a building faced; if a developer proposed to exceed the legal limit, the stories above it had to be set back, roughly one foot for each four feet of additional height. […] Forced to work within the confines of the so-called zoning envelope, architects began constructing “set-back” skyscrapers, with sections of the buildings set back further and further as they rose from their bases into the island’s sky. “Wedding cake” architecture, some New Yorkers called it […]. The Ritz Tower […] was forty-one stories high. The tallest inhabited building in the world, it dominated the skyline of Midtown Manhattan as the Woolworth Building did that of lower Manhattan. Residents of its upper stories had unobstructed views in all directions for a distance of twenty-five miles on clear days, “panorama[s] unexcelled in all New York,” Emery Roth boasted. It was a new way of living for the rich. They became sky dwellers, their “mansions in the clouds” higher than anyone had ever lived. In its architectural aspirations alone, the Ritz Tower expressed the shoot-for-the-moon spirit of the Jazz Age. Sculpted in rusticated limestone , it rose from its base “like a telescope,” up through its set-back terraces to a square tower crowned by a glistening copper roof. Donald L. Miller (Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America, 2014)
In this document, nature and the urban city are working as one. The document portrays a city that is thriving because they harness nature. The message is that making NYC greener will allow not only a more harmonious urbanization but it will also be artistic in nature. (…) In document 1, Eddie and Beck view the industrialization period to be negative progress, as New York is losing its farms and wildlife to the new bustling city life. Document 2 is founded on the roaring 20s outlook, where bigger is better. Document two shows that skyscrapers were a progressive movement. In document 3, we see a combination of both document 1 and 2. There is the value of nature and urbanization. Progress in this document is one where urbanization and nature become circular and live harmoniously. Corrigé bac anglais 2016
More than 100 years ago, New York pioneered zoning codes designed to bring light and air (if not Central Park views) to even its most disadvantaged residents. In 1879, the city introduced a “tenement law” that required small apartment buildings for the lower-classes to include airshafts; in 1901, the law was revised to call for large-scale courtyards. Around the same time, titans of industry were building skyscrapers in midtown and the Financial District. (In those days, large commercial enterprises were confined to a few neighbourhoods, a kind of segregation that no longer exists.) Some of the structures, particularly the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway, completed in 1915, with more than one million square-feet of space on a one-acre site, were so overpowering that, in 1916, the city began requiring setbacks at various heights, to make sure light and air reached the street. The setback requirements, generally ensuring large reductions in floor area above the 10th storey, and further reductions higher up, led to one of the most distinctive building types of the 20th century: the wedding-cake tower, with the striations required by law inspiring jazz-age architects to greatness. (The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings are elongated examples of the form; the setback laws allowed for towers of any height so long as they were less than a quarter of the area of the building lot below.) But in 1961 the city revised the zoning laws again, making the wedding-cake towers period pieces. Instead, entranced by Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building on Park Avenue, a masterpiece of bronze metal set back in a handsome plaza, officials switched to a zoning code that encourages standalone towers. In exchange for ceding open space to the public, developers could build straight up (the permissible height was governed by a calculation called “floor area ratio”, or FAR). The problem: not every architect is as good as Mies, or every client as generous as Seagram. The city was overtaken by banal, sheer towers set in plazas that offered very little to the public and, given the height of the new buildings, were often in shadow. But that was a time of a rising middle class, when affordable housing was being built all over the city, and residents commuted to jobs in blocky office buildings (increasingly, commercial tenants wanted large floor plates). Only the World Trade Center, 1,368 feet high, overtook the Empire State Building in height. But the 110-storey Twin Towers, anchoring their own downtown skyline and set in a giant plaza (called a “superblock”), were a special case. Otherwise, buildings of 40-60 storeys were the norm. No one, it seems, was anticipating the current wave of pencil-thin, supertall towers. The technology they depend on has been around for decades — “mass dampers”, which prevent thin towers from swaying uncomfortably, are nothing new. So has the structural know-how that allows them to rise safely even from tiny bases. One of the buildings, 432 Park Avenue, has recently topped out at 1,396 feet, from a site of just 90 feet square. The real generator of form now is the winner-take-all economy — and with it, the demand for sky-high condos at sky-high prices. Virtually all of the new buildings are condominiums with just one unit to a floor, which means they can get by with very few elevators. And that, in turns, mean they can be built even on very narrow lots. In other words, the demand for $20m to $100m condos, with views in all directions and no next-door neighbours, has given rise to a new building type – making the revised skyline the physical manifestation of New York’s income disparities. Amazingly, none of the towers required city permission (although they did require clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, given Manhattan’s proximity to three airports). The city doesn’t limit height, just floor area ratio, and developers, can buy “air rights” from adjacent buildings, letting them go supertall “as of right”. (…) Not only are these new towers casting long shadows on Central Park; they are turning the New York skyline, for most of the 20th century a kind of ziggurat with the Empire State Building as its peak, into a jumble. As for life below? The buildings are making the city less pleasant for anyone who cannot afford one of the condos in the sky. Think of it as the new Upstairs, Downstairs, but on an urban scale. The Guardian
These buildings are transforming the streetscape of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, and they are transforming the skyline even more. Two new luxury apartment towers in the super-tall category are going up in Tribeca, at least so far. But the biggest impact has been in Midtown, in the blocks between 53rd and 60th Streets, where seven of the new condominiums are either under construction or planned. Four of them are on 57th Street alone, which day by day is becoming less of a boulevard defined by elegant shopping and more like a canyon lined by high walls. (And that’s just the buildings that have been announced. There are others rumored to be in the planning stages, including one that would replace the venerable Rizzoli bookstore, also on West 57th Street.) If there is any saving grace to this tsunami of towers, it is in their very slenderness. From a distance they read as needles more than as boxes; what they take away from the street they give back to a skyline that has been robbed of much of its classic romantic form by the bulky, flat-topped office towers that have filled so much of Midtown and Lower Manhattan. These new buildings will not exactly turn Manhattan into a sleek glass version of San Gimignano—“the city of beautiful towers”—but thin buildings at least make for a striking skyline, and they cast thinner shadows as well. Those shadows are no casual matter, since all of the new buildings are relatively close to Central Park, and they are arranged in an arc that extends from the southeast to the southwest corner of the park, not so different from the arc of the daily path of the sun. (…) The even more troubling shadow these buildings cast, however, is a social and economic one. If you seek a symbol of income inequality, look no farther than 57th Street. These new buildings are so expensive, even by New York standards, because they are built mainly for the global super-rich, people who live in the Middle East or China or Latin America and travel between London and Shanghai and São Paulo and Moscow as if they were going from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There have always been some people like that, at least since the dawn of the jet age, but it’s only in the last decade that developers have put up buildings specifically with these buyers in mind. The Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle, finished in 2004, was New York’s trial run, so to speak, at targeting this new market for condominiums with spectacular views at exceptionally high prices. But it’s a global phenomenon, with buildings such as One Hyde Park, in London, and the Cullinan and the Opus, in Hong Kong. The new 57th Street may be New York’s way of playing with the big boys as far as global cities are concerned, but it comes at the price of making Midtown feel ever more like Shanghai or Hong Kong: a place not for its full-time residents but for the top 1 percent of the 1 percent to touch down in when the mood strikes. (…) Even before the new wave of super-tall buildings, the condominium market in New York had become much more design-sensitive, and putting the names of well-known architects like Richard Meier, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, or Robert A. M. Stern on buildings has become a marketing advantage. In fact, at these prices it’s now gotten to be something of a necessity, the same way some women will only spend $3,000 or $4,000 on a dress if it has a famous designer’s name on it. Unfortunately, sometimes the result seems more like the architectural equivalent of a fancy label sewn into an ordinary garment.  (…) They are places in which to park your cash as well as yourself and maintain your privacy in the bargain. Fueling the market still more is the fact that New York real estate has been seen for a while as both safer and more reasonably priced than real estate in much of the rest of the world. However irrational the prices of the new wave of super-luxury condominiums look to New Yorkers, these properties are cheaper than their counterparts in Hong Kong and London, which have sold for as much as $221 million. Not for nothing did Jonathan J. Miller of the real-estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel call the new condominiums “the equivalent of bank safe deposit boxes in the sky that buyers can put all their valuables in and rarely visit.” (…) If the size of the 432 Park Avenue tower, which replaces the old Drake Hotel, seems out of scale with its surroundings—which it is—it’s worth noting that it’s not the first residential building in the neighborhood to have that problem. Diagonally across the street is the building that might be considered the true first super-tall, super-thin residential tower, the Ritz Tower. It was built in 1925 to the designs of Emery Roth and Carrere & Hastings, and it rose 41 stories to 541 feet, a height that seemed every bit as outrageous in the 1920s as 1,396 feet does now. Ayn Rand was almost surely referring to the ornate Ritz Tower in The Fountainhead when she wrote disdainfully of “a Renaissance palace made of rubber and stretched to the height of forty stories.” These buildings have already given the 21st-century skyline the same kind of shock that the Ritz Tower gave it in the 1920s, when living 40 stories into the sky seemed brazen. Whatever impact all of this has on the cityscape, it will also have an effect on the handful of people who will live in these buildings, many of whom probably see these aeries as a chance to distract themselves from the ordinary woes that mere mortals suffer on the ground. Can height buy happiness? A few years after the Ritz Tower opened, the Waldorf Towers climbed even higher. Cole Porter maintained an apartment there for years. Could that be why he wrote a song that ended with the words “down in the depths of the ninetieth floor”? Vanity Fair
Twenty-six years ago this month, a coalition of New Yorkers led by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis won a historic victory for Central Park. At issue was a planned building on Columbus Circle by the developer Mortimer B. Zuckerman with 58- and 68-story towers that would cast long shadows on the park. After a lawsuit by opponents of the plan and a rally in Central Park at which over 800 New Yorkers with umbrellas formed a line to simulate the building’s shadow, Mr. Zuckerman relented and agreed to scale down his design, which eventually became known as the Time Warner Center. “One would hope that the city would act as protector of sun and light and clean air and space and parkland,” Mrs. Onassis said at the time. “Those elements are essential to combat the stress of urban life.” Today, as the city becomes denser and green space ever more precious, New Yorkers’ access to sunlight and blue skies above Central Park is under assault in ways that make Mr. Zuckerman’s original plans look benign. Fueled by lax zoning laws, cheap capital and the rise of a global elite with millions to spend on pieds-à-terre, seven towers — two of them nearly as tall as the Empire State Building — have recently been announced or are already under way near the south side of the park. This so-called Billionaires’ Row, with structures rising as high as 1,424 feet, will form a fence of steel and glass that will block significant swaths of the park’s southern exposure, especially in months when the sun stays low in the sky. (…) Despite the likely impact these buildings would have on the park, there has been remarkably little public discussion, let alone dissent, about the plans. Part of this is because few people seem aware of what’s coming. Many of the buildings are so-called as-of-right developments that do not require the public filing of shadow assessments, which can ignite opposition with their eye-popping renderings of the impact shadows will have on surrounding areas. (…) There are few New Yorkers around today with the gravitas and magnetism of Jacqueline Onassis to focus public attention on planning issues the way she did for Grand Central Terminal and Columbus Circle. That means New Yorkers who want to protect Central Park will have to do it on their own, by picking up their umbrellas once again and by contacting community boards, politicians, city agencies and the developers themselves, to demand immediate height restrictions south of the park. And they need to hurry, before the sun sets permanently on a space the park designer Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned as “a democratic development of the highest significance.” Warren St. John
Lorsque la Ville décidera de s’en soucier, il n’y aura déjà plus de soleil sur Central Park. Si personne ne s’est préoccupé de changer les lois concernant l’aménagement du territoire, c’est aussi parce que personne n’avait imaginé que des tours aussi hautes pourraient être bâties sur des terrains aussi petits. (…) Je ne suis pas contre l’érection de tours, et personne ne l’est à New York. Mais est-ce que quelques coffres-forts dans le ciel pour oligarques valent la peine de priver 42 millions de personnes [fréquentation annuelle de Central Park, ndlr] de soleil ? Warren St. John
Business du pénis (…) Il y a de cela. Mais c’est aussi un choix économique et marketing très rationnel. La force de New York, et son objet, est de changer et d’évoluer en permanence. La différence entre elle et les autres villes du monde, c’est que l’on n’a rien eu à demander à personne. Rafael Viñoly (architecte uruguayen du « 432 Park »)
New York est une ville de gratte-ciel. Il n’y a aucune raison qu’ils ne soient pas là. Harry Macklowe
300, 400 et même plus de 500 mètres… La folie des hauteurs sévit plus que jamais chez les milliardaires. Dans le quartier de Midtown, à Manhattan, sept nouveaux gratte-ciel sont en construction. Prouesses technologiques, ils promettent une vue imprenable sur Central Park. Quitte à lui faire de l’ombre. (…) Depuis quelque temps, le quartier de Midtown à Manhattan est le théâtre d’une nouvelle extravagance : pas moins de sept gratte-ciel résidentiels sont en construction, la plupart sur la 57e Rue, désormais surnommée « la rue des milliardaires ». C’est à qui construira le plus haut, le plus mince, le plus luxueux. (…) Personne, à New York, n’avait réalisé que sept nouveaux gratte-ciel allaient changer l’horizon de Manhattan et, du même coup, la vie des riverains. Jusqu’à cet après-midi d’octobre 2013. L’auteur et journaliste Warren St. John est au parc avec sa fille de 3 ans, lorsque, tout à coup, le soleil disparaît. Il lève les yeux à la recherche du nuage fautif, avant de réaliser qu’il s’agit de la tour One57 en construction. Contrarié, il épluche les pages « immobilier » des journaux, et découvre, ébahi, qu’elle ne sera pas la seule à voiler la partie sud du parc. Sans attendre, il écrit un éditorial dans le New York Times, qui met le feu aux poudres. Les associations s’en emparent et les riverains se fâchent. Lors de la réunion d’information organisée en février 2014 à la bibliothèque publique, 500 personnes se bousculent pour faire part de leurs inquiétudes. Trop tard. Les promoteurs n’ont jamais eu à consulter ni à demander la permission à qui que ce soit : dans cette partie de Midtown, il n’existe aucune restriction de hauteur. Ils peuvent construire aussi haut qu’ils le souhaitent, à condition toutefois d’acquérir les « droits aériens » des immeubles adjacents. A chaque parcelle est attribué un nombre maximal de mètres carrés constructibles, par conséquent, si l’on veut construire plus grand, et donc plus haut, il faut racheter les parts non utilisées des voisins. « Cela faisait plus de dix ans que, très discrètement, Gary Barnett amassait les mètres carrés en rachetant les droits aériens des parcelles limitrophes aux siennes », a fini par découvrir Margaret Newman, directrice exécutive du Municipal Art Society de New York. Cet organisme à but non lucratif, qui se bat pour préserver la « vitalité » de la ville, notamment par l’urbanisme, a produit une étude sur l’impact de ces gratte-ciel sur Central Park. Les promoteurs n’ont jamais eu à consulter ni à demander la permission à qui que ce soit : dans cette partie de Midtown, il n’existe aucune restriction de hauteur. « Lorsque la Ville décidera de s’en soucier, il n’y aura déjà plus de soleil sur Central Park, redoute Warren St. John. Avant d’ajouter : Si personne ne s’est préoccupé de changer les lois concernant l’aménagement du territoire, c’est aussi parce que personne n’avait imaginé que des tours aussi hautes pourraient être bâties sur des terrains aussi petits. » Et pour cause. « Il y a dix ans, c’était impossible », explique l’architecte Rafael Viñoly. Testée à maintes reprises dans un laboratoire du Canada (simulation des vents, d’un tremblement de terre, de tornades…), la Tour 432 est une véritable prouesse technique. Tous les 12 étages, il y a une rupture de deux étages vides, sans fenêtres, afin de laisser circuler l’air. Une nécessité. Sans cela, elle se casserait. « Même si les gens n’aiment pas en entendre parler, la vérité c’est que la tour bouge, et beaucoup », raconte Richard Wallgren, de Macklowe Properties. Quant à la tour Steinway, elle sera dotée, sur son toit, d’une boule d’acier de 800 tonnes afin de faire contrepoids. Les promoteurs ne donnent pas seulement dans la surenchère de silhouettes élancées, mais aussi de luxe. Piscine, restaurant et salle de cinéma privés, chef étoilé à disposition, terrasses haut perchées, spas pour chiens (!), salle de fitness suréquipée, espace de jeux pour les enfants, chambres aux étages inférieurs (sans la vue donc) pour loger le petit personnel… Ils redoublent d’imagination pour appâter leur richissime clientèle. Certains vont même jusqu’à installer des systèmes de trottoirs chauffants devant l’entrée afin qu’en hiver ces dames en talons aiguilles ne soient pas incommodées par la neige. Dans un petit film promotionnel kitschissime, Macklowe Properties met en scène « la vie de château dans les nuages » : de jolies femmes en décolleté sirotent leur champagne à 400 mètres de haut aux côtés de messieurs très chics, une danseuse de ballet fait ses pointes devant une baie vitrée dominant Manhattan, une femme est alanguie dans un bain de diamants, une sculpture de Giacometti profite sereinement de la vue… « Ce n’est pas une vidéo typique, convient le vice-président Richard Wallgren. C’est un pitch de vente plus subtil, qui parle d’art de vivre et d’esthétique de l’immeuble. » (…) Un salon et des fenêtres XXL, des salles de bains en marbre blanc, une hauteur sous plafond de 4 mètres… 70 % des appartements du 432 Park Avenue sont déjà vendus, alors même que la tour ne sera entièrement achevée que dans un an. « Et le reste sera vendu d’ici deux mois », Harry Macklowe n’en doute pas. « La demande pour ce type de logement est énorme. Tout le monde veut en faire un investissement. » Les très riches uniquement. Et beaucoup sont russes, chinois, brésiliens, en quête d’une résidence secondaire (qui sera vide la majeure partie de l’année) et, surtout, d’un bon placement. Certains parlent de ces appartements comme des nouveaux comptes en banque suisses. « Sauf que ça paie mieux qu’une banque suisse et c’est plus discret, se félicite Michael Stern, de JDS. Il n’existe pas d’endroit plus sûr où placer son argent. » Et pas seulement pour les riches étrangers. « Deux tiers des acheteurs sont américains », affirme Richard Wallgren, de Macklowe Properties. Côté One57, « 50 % des acheteurs sont américains », assure Jeannie Woodbray, la responsable commerciale, exemples à l’appui : un patron de mode, un vendeur de vitamines de l’Idaho, un concessionnaire automobile du Minnesota, un propriétaire d’une ferme de cochons dans le Midwest… Harvey Sandler, à la tête d’un fonds d’investissement, vient de racheter un appartement du 58e étage à 34 millions de dollars à Enterprise SSO, qui l’avait acquis en mai dernier pour 30,55 millions de dollars. Soit une culbute de plus de 3 millions de dollars en quelques mois. Selon Noble Black, de l’agence immobilière Corcoran, intermédiaire de cette juteuse transaction, « le marché du résidentiel superluxe est devenu tellement dingue, que certains attendent déjà les prochaines tours, plus neuves, plus hautes… ». Et les avantages fiscaux qui vont avec. Consentis aux promoteurs (en principe contre l’obligation de construire des logements à prix modérés) comme aux acquéreurs, ces faveurs n’ont pas été remises en cause par Bill de Blasio, le nouveau maire démocrate de New York, élu en novembre 2013. Pendant sa campagne pourtant, en partie financée par des promoteurs immobiliers comme Gary Barnett ou Michael Stern, il avait fait de la réduction des inégalités son cheval de bataille. Aujourd’hui, la frénésie est telle que même Lower Manhattan s’y met. Livrée en 2011 et s’élevant à 270 mètres, la « 8 Spruce Street », ou « tour Gehry », comme l’appellent les New-Yorkais, avait amorcé la tendance en devenant à l’époque la tour résidentielle la plus haute de New York. Bientôt, la cascade de demeures individuelles de la « Lego Tower » de TriBeCa, sur Leonard Street, atteindra 250 mètres. Quant à JDS Developpement, elle a déjà les plans d’une tour à Brooklyn. Louise Couvelaire

Quand Manhattan se prend pour San Gimignano …

Hauteurs de 300, 400 et même plus de 500 mètres, surenchère de minceur entrainant la condamnation forcée d’étages entiers pour raisons de sécurité,  appartements à près de 100 millions de dollars qui s’arrachent comme des petits pains, milliardaires russes, chinois ou brésiliens prêts à débourser des fortunes pour ces véritables « coffre-forts du ciel » à salon et fenêtres XXL, salles de bains en marbre blanc et hauteur sous plafond de 4 mètres qu’ils n’occuperont que quelques jours par an, vue imprenable sur Central Park condamnant à l’ombre des dizaines de millions de visiteurs dudit parc chaque année, associations de riverains découvrant quand il est trop tard le système d’avantages fiscaux et de revente de « droits aériens » des immeubles adjacents permettant ces nouvelles folies …

A l’heure où entre l’argent facile de Wall street et, mondialisation oblige, la continuation de la guerre par d’autres moyens qu’est devenue l’économie …

New York semble être repartie pour un tour de folie des hauteurs

Jusqu’à priver de soleil et faire disparaitre le ciel même pour toujours plus d’usagers de Central Park

Et où après la prestigieuse Oxford Union, la victime d’un crime d’honneur et les tigres bleus

C’est un nouveau sujet en or qu’assassine la cuvée du bac d’anglais 2016

Comment ne pas être frappé par l’étrange ressemblance …

Avec les fameuses tours-maisons-forteresses du petit Manhattan médiéval

Qui sur fond d’interminables vendettas entre familles rivales (les fameux guelfes papistes et les ghibellins impérialistes) …

Avaient défrayé en leur temps la chronique de la Toscane des XIII-XVe siècles ?

Guelfes et Gibelins
Jacques Heers
Ancien professeur de l’ université Paris IV-Sorbonne († 2013)

Avril 2002

L’affrontement des Guelfes et des Gibelins atteste de la puissance économique, politique et militaire de l’aristocratie italienne au Moyen Âge et de ses divisions. Nous avons demandé à Jacques Heers auteur notamment de La ville au Moyen Âge en Occident (Fayard, 1990), de Machiavel (Fayard,1985) et du Clan familial au Moyen Âge (Quadrige, 1993) de replacer son histoire dans le contexte de la lutte pour le pouvoir dans les cités du nord et du centre de l’Italie.

Familles, clans et factions

Dans les années 1100, les villes d’Italie du Nord et du Centre se sont affranchies de l’empereur et de leurs évêques. Pourtant, les mots de « communes » et de « républiques marchandes » que nous employons volontiers ne tiennent pas compte des réalités. Ces communes ne faisaient jamais appel à de larges consultations des citadins. Les grands marchands étaient, en fait, des nobles, seigneurs de quartiers entiers dans la cité et de fiefs seigneuriaux dans les campagnes, capables de réunir sous leurs bannières des troupes de clients et de vassaux armés. Tout le pouvoir fut, en tous temps, aux mains de cette aristocratie qui se réservait les plus hautes charges et plaçait ses fidèles aux postes d’exécution. Elle n’a jamais rien cédé et les cités n’ont pas connu de conflits nés d’une opposition sociale, riches contre pauvres par exemple, mais ont sans cesse souffert des affrontements entre familles, clans et factions au sein de cette noblesse. La conquête du pouvoir, la course aux offices furent responsables de guerres civiles atroces. Ni quartier, ni partage : deux seuls partis, jamais plus, l’un au gouvernement, l’autre, vaincu, qui subit ou s’enfuit, laisse la place. En plusieurs villes, à Florence et à Sienne et à Pise notamment, ces partis furent d’abord les Guelfes et les Gibelins, les mots faisant référence à deux lignages princiers d’Allemagne, les Welfs de Bavière et les Hohenstaufen de Souabe qui se disputaient l’empire. Dans Florence, les clans ennemis se sont déclarés pour l’un et pour l’autre. Par la suite, l’une des factions, les Guelfes, eut l’appui du pape, l’autre, les Gibelins, celui de l’empereur. À vrai dire, les auteurs de l’époque parlent rarement de parte ; ils disent plus volontiers brigate, ou setta, mot qui n’a ici rien de péjoratif, et insistent surtout sur le groupe parental, sur la famille. Giovanni Villani (1280-1348), le plus fin analyste de ces conflits, n’emploie jamais le mot de parte mais écrit, ne trouvant rien de mieux, quelli della casa di… : « ceux de la maison des ». À Bologne, c’étaient les Geremei et les Lambertazzi, deux clans familiaux, naturellement ennemis à mort. Tous comptes faits, Guelfes et Gibelins font plutôt figure d’exception. On prenait des noms de couleurs : ainsi les Blancs et les Noirs à Florence, lorsque les Guelfes, vainqueurs, se sont partagés en deux factions acharnées à se détruire. Ailleurs, on désignait l’ennemi par un surnom, souvent malséant, rappel d’une mésaventure, d’une déconvenue, d’une disgrâce physique des chefs même : à Orvieto, les Malcorini « les sans paroles » et les Beffati – « ceux dont on se moque » – ; à Pise, les Raspanti qui, maîtres du gouvernement, pouvaient raspare – « gratter » et les Bergolini –« trompés, privés de tout ».

Des affrontements constants

Ces villes « marchandes », merveilleux foyers de création artistique, présentées comme des havres de paix, étaient en réalité des cités guerrières, en luttes continuelles. Chaque parti comptait ses hommes de main, ses masnadieri, et ses seguaci. Opposer le château du seigneur rural à la ville de ces marchands est une erreur. Chaque grande famille se faisait construire une haute tour, refuge et base d’attaque. Aujourd’hui, Florence, Bologne et même San Gimignano ne donnent qu’une pauvre idée de ce qu’étaient ces cités hérissées de donjons dressés parfois à cent mètres de hauteur. À Bologne, de 1266 à 1299, plus de deux cents actes notariés authentiques ont permis d’identifier cent quatre-vingt-quatorze tours et de connaître exactement les mesures de cinquante-quatre d’entre elles. Florence, comptait, ces années-là, plus de deux cents tours ; cent soixante-quinze sont situées sur le plan. Pour Gênes, un registre fiscal du XVe siècle, à une époque où de nombreuses tours étaient en ruines, en cite encore soixante debout, dont douze dans l’étroit périmètre de la petite place de San Giorgio.La guerre naissait d’un rien, d’un défi lors d’un bal ou des funérailles d’un chef, lors du passage d’une cavalcade, ou pour de sordides querelles de voisinage. Plus souvent, de propos délibéré, pour prendre la place du parti nanti. Les chroniqueurs du temps ne cessent de parler des mutazioni, des rumori, des bollori di popolo, toujours du fait des partis : « des rumeurs et grandes nouveautés que connut la cité de Pise à cause des sectes des citadins », ou : « Florence étant dans une grande effervescence à cause des sectes et des inimitiés… ».Guerres inexpiables dont on ne peut imaginer la sauvagerie ! Ni héros ni sens de l’honneur ; seulement la haine, la surprise et la ruse. Les chefs entraînaient le petit peuple à piller et à brûler. À Vicence, « il y eut un grand feu qui dura six jours, si bien que le quart de la cité fut brûlé » et Villani intitule l’un de ses chapitres « Comment il y eut un nouveau feu à Florence et se brûla une bonne partie de la cité ». Massacres et tueries ; exterminer les vaincus allait de soi, ainsi à Brescia : « et il fut donné licence à la parte guelfa et, pour trois jours, ils pourraient tailler en pièces le parti des Gibelins ». Au soir des combats, la ville était livrée aux passions et aux raffinements de cruauté. À Spolète en 1319, les Gibelins vainqueurs jetèrent les Guelfes en une prison où ils mirent aussitôt le feu et les firent tous périr. À Rieti, en 1320, les Guelfes noyèrent plus de cinq cents Gibelins dans le fleuve qui fut tout teinté de sang. On parle de cadavres des chefs traînés dans les rues, livrés à des troupes d’enfants qui les dépècent, jouent pendant des heures aux boules avec les têtes ; « il y en eut de si cruels et animés d’une telle fureur bestiale qu’ils mangeaient de la chair crue ». On refusait des funérailles chrétiennes aux morts ; on les enterrait hors de l’enceinte urbaine, afin qu’ils ne risquent de rendre la cité impure.

Rien ne pouvait apaiser ces haines, cette soif de pouvoir et de vengeance. Pourtant, l’Église ne cessait de prêcher la réconciliation et de réunir les chefs pour qu’ils jurent de s’entendre et de soumettre leurs querelles à un arbitrage. À Gênes, en 1169, l’archevêque fit sonner les cloches et appeler tous les citoyens à un parlement sur la place publique ; les deux factions, Avogati et della Volta, jurèrent, sur les reliques de saint Jean-Baptiste, de respecter la paix. Le 4 août 1279, à Bologne, le légat et neveu du pape fit prêter serment sur l’Évangile aux cinquante premiers membres de chaque parti. Quelques années, quelques mois de répit, pas plus… Vaines aussi les prédications et solennelles processions des moines mendiants et des « mouvements de paix », les Flagellants, le Grand Alleluia de Spolète, les chevaliers gaudenti de Bologne qui, à Padoue, firent construire la chapelle des Scrovegni, décorée par Giotto en 1304-1305.

Des représailles terribles

Les guerres civiles ne pouvaient connaître qu’une seule fin : ni accord, ni compromis ou apaisement mais l’anéantissement complet de l’autre. Les vainqueurs célébraient leur retour au pouvoir par un grand triomphe. En 1267, les Guelfes de Florence, déjà assurés de leur succès, ont attendu le jour de Noël pour faire leur entrée dans la cité, armes et bannières déployées, et fêtèrent ensemble, de la même façon, par des processions et des actions de grâces, la victoire de leur parte et la naissance du Christ. Le Palazzo della Parte Guelfa, devint un second palais communal.

Pour les malheureux vaincus, injuriés, traités de lupi rapaci, la mort, la ruine, l’exil. En 1249, à tous les nobles guelfes de Florence, emmenés prisonniers à la suite des armées impériales, « on fit arracher les yeux puis on les assomma et on les jeta dans la mer ». Dix ans plus tard, ce fut au tour des Gibelins d’être exécutés, décapités sur la place publique. Partout, dans les bourgs modestes mêmes, des mesures de bannissement parfaitement orchestrées frappaient non seulement les nobles mais les artisans, les boutiquiers, partisans vrais ou supposés. C’étaient les banditi mis au ban de la Commune, rebelles, que l’on appelait simplement, les « gens du dehors », les usciti ou estrinsei, de la parte di fuori, évidemment parti des conjurés, que l’on opposait aux intrinse de la parte di dentro.

Les proscrits couraient d’hasardeuses fortunes. Né en 1265, d’une famille noble de Florence mais peu fortunée, Dante Alighieri, avait pris parti pour les Blancs. En 1301, chargé d’une mission à Rome, il apprend que sa ville est aux mains des Noirs et ne rentre pas. Condamné à une forte amende et à l’exil puis au bûcher, il se réfugie, poète errant, chantre de la vengeance, chez les princes, à Vérone, chez les Malaspina de Lunigiana, puis à Ravenne où il meurt en 1321. La Divine Comédie, commencée en 1304, chant de partisan, est toute imprégnée de la passion vengeresse qui animait les clans et les partis et de sa peine : « c’est l’eau de l’Arno qui m’a désaltéré dans ma tendre enfance, et j’aime Florence d’un si grand amour qu’à cause de cet amour même, je souffre d’un injuste exil » (De Vulgari Eloquentia). Les nobles, chefs de guerre déjà dans leur cité, n’ont survécu que par le métier des armes, ou condottieri ou pirates de haut bord. Les Gibelins de Gênes, en 1267, prirent la fuite à la tête d’une flotte armée en hâte, firent pendant des mois le blocus de la cité puis allèrent faire la course jusqu’en mer Noire. Les vainqueurs tenaient scrupuleusement registre des bannis et les assignaient à résidence, pour un temps déterminé, dans telle ou telle ville, où des sbires appointés donnaient régulièrement de leurs nouvelles. Dans la seule année 1382, à Florence, ce livre fait état de vingt-cinq lieux d’exil, à travers toute l’Italie, de Naples et Barletta à Gênes et Trévise.

Les palais échappés aux pillages et aux incendies furent systématiquement mis à bas pour effacer jusqu’au souvenir même de la faction dite rebelle et ces destructions prirent d’effarantes ampleurs. Revenus vainqueurs en 1267, les Guelfes de Florence firent estimer la valeur de leurs biens mobiliers perdus : au total, cent trois palais, cinq cent quatre-vingt maisons, quatre-vingt-cinq tours. À Bologne, en 1280, ce furent deux cent quatre-vingt maisons des Lambertazzi qui, encore debout au soir des batailles, sont rasées jusqu’au sol, avec interdiction d’y reconstruire quoi que ce soit. Les comptes de la Commune de Sienne, en 1322, enregistrent une somme de plus de trois cents livres payées aux « maîtres et ouvriers qui ont détruit les biens des traîtres, rasé les maisons et les palais, taillé les pieds de vigne ».

Ruinés et humiliés : les vaincus, « ennemis de la Commune, du peuple et de Dieu », étaient voués à la vindicte publique et le souvenir de leurs méfaits ne devait jamais s’effacer. Magistrats et conseillers firent de larges emplois aux figures et scènes infamantes, peintes sur les façades ou sur les murs des salles des palais publics, scènes dont le Mauvais gouvernement de Sienne offre l’un des plus beaux exemples. Ce fut, dans toute l’Italie, une véritable industrie ; une trentaine de cités en faisaient usage de façon toute ordinaire. À Bologne, l’on peut compter, entre 1274 et 1303, très exactement cent douze figures d’« ennemis du peuple » appliquées, légendes ignominieuses à l’appui, sur les murs des édifices de la Commune.

 Voir aussi:

Vertige ascensionnel

Ils se dressent à plus de 300, 400, voire 500 m sur l’île de Manhattan. Ces gratte-ciel pour milliardaires redessinent la skyline. Et plongent Central Park dans l’obscurité.

Louise Couvelaire

M le magazine du Monde

31.10.2014

300, 400 et même plus de 500 mètres… La folie des hauteurs sévit plus que jamais chez les milliardaires. Dans le quartier de Midtown, à Manhattan, sept nouveaux gratte-ciel sont en construction. Prouesses technologiques, ils promettent une vue imprenable sur Central Park. Quitte à lui faire de l’ombre.

Il est là, petit bonhomme aux cheveux gris, dans ses bureaux d’un blanc immaculé, presque aveuglant ; heureux, pressé, survolté. Entre le savon qu’il passe à son assistante (il est furieux de ne pas retrouver l’itinéraire de son voyage, le départ est prévu dans l’heure) et la pile de documents qu’il signe à toute berzingue, Harry Macklowe trouve le temps de faire quelques petits pas de danse en chantant Kansas City, de la comédie musicale Oklahoma !.

Le choix est à l’image de l’interprète du jour, aussi décalé et surprenant qu’idoine : le couplet qu’il fredonne fait l’apologie des gratte-ciel comme symboles du progrès. Quelques heures plus tôt, le patron de Macklowe Properties a grimpé au sommet de la tour 432, « sa » tour, celle dont il rêvait depuis plus de dix ans, dont le dernier étage vient tout juste d’être achevé.

UN PANORAMA À 360 DEGRÉS SUR NEW YORK

Située au numéro 432 de la très huppée Park Avenue, entre la 56e Rue et la 57e Rue, c’est désormais le plus haut gratte-ciel résidentiel des Etats-Unis, aussi fin qu’une aiguille : il tutoie les étoiles à 425 mètres. Offrant un panorama à 360 degrés sur New York, de l’Hudson à l’East River, du Bronx à Brooklyn et de Central Park à l’océan Atlantique. Une vue à 95 millions de dollars (près de 75 millions d’euros) ! C’est le prix de l’appartement de 760 mètres carrés perché au 96e et dernier étage, vendu l’an dernier. A un acheteur inconnu. A ce tarif, on partage peu son palier. Les étages sont occupés par deux propriétaires au maximum.

Du haut de ses 77 ans, Harry Macklowe contemple Manhattan, fier de l’empreinte qu’il laissera sur la ville. Ironie, de la fenêtre de son bureau, logé au 21e étage de la tour General Motors, au coin de Central Park et de la 5e Avenue, il ne peut apercevoir sa nouvelle œuvre, située de l’autre côté de l’immeuble. En revanche, il a le nez sur la tour One57 (57e Rue), celle de son concurrent, Gary Barnett, à la tête d’Extell Development. Plus petite (300 mètres), signée de l’architecte français Christian de Portzamparc, elle est le premier de ces nouveaux gratte-ciel longilignes pour ultrariches à ouvrir ses portes. Les propriétaires commencent à emménager. La « 432 » la dépasse, mais pas pour longtemps.

Non loin de là, la tour Steinway prend déjà de la hauteur : elle culminera à 426 mètres. Et elle sera vite détrônée par la suivante, à quelques encablures : momentanément baptisée « Nordstrom » (du nom du grand magasin qui s’installera au pied de l’immeuble), cet autre projet d’Extell atteindra 520 mètres de haut. Soit la tour d’habitations la plus élevée au monde, devant la tour World One de Mumbai, et juste derrière le gratte-ciel de bureaux le plus haut des Etats-Unis, la Tour One du World Trade Center.

Sur la très huppée Park Avenue, la tour 432, le plus haut gratte-ciel résidentiel des Etas-Unis, tutoie les étoiles à 425 mètres. Et offre une vue à 95 millions de dollars.
Depuis quelque temps, le quartier de Midtown à Manhattan est le théâtre d’une nouvelle extravagance : pas moins de sept gratte-ciel résidentiels sont en construction, la plupart sur la 57e Rue, désormais surnommée « la rue des milliardaires ». C’est à qui construira le plus haut, le plus mince, le plus luxueux.

Dans les couloirs de Macklowe Properties, des emblèmes de voitures en argent, Pontiac, Ford ou encore Mercury, trônent sur des petits piliers blancs le long d’une galerie de photos « d’icônes » telles que The Babe (George Herman Ruth, joueur de base-ball), Truman Capote, King Kong et le Chrysler building. « Les mascottes d’automobiles incarnent la fierté de la possession, explique Richard Wallgren, vice-président en charge des ventes et du marketing de Macklowe Properties. Quant aux clichés, ce sont ceux des hommes, des femmes et des lieux qui ont fait New York, et l’Amérique. » Voilà qui situe les ambitions du patron.

L’architecte uruguayen Rafael Viñoly, qui a signé l’immeuble du « 432 Park », compare avec humour la dernière folie des promoteurs immobiliers de la ville à « un business du pénis ». »Il y a de cela, sourit-il. Mais c’est aussi un choix économique et marketing très rationnel. La force de New York, et son objet, est de changer et d’évoluer en permanence. La différence entre elle et les autres villes du monde, c’est que l’on n’a rien eu à demander à personne. » C’est là que le bât blesse.

L’UNE DES VUE LES PLUS CONVOITÉES AU MONDE

Si la 57e Rue est si prisée, c’est qu’elle offre une vue unique sur Central Park. « L’une des plus convoitées au monde, se félicite Michael Stern, directeur associé de JDS Development Group, à l’origine du projet de la nouvelle tour Steinway (60 appartements répartis sur 77 étages, NDLR). Central Park, c’est le centre de l’univers. » Quitte à lui faire de l’ombre.

Personne, à New York, n’avait réalisé que sept nouveaux gratte-ciel allaient changer l’horizon de Manhattan et, du même coup, la vie des riverains. Jusqu’à cet après-midi d’octobre 2013.

L’auteur et journaliste Warren St. John est au parc avec sa fille de 3 ans, lorsque, tout à coup, le soleil disparaît. Il lève les yeux à la recherche du nuage fautif, avant de réaliser qu’il s’agit de la tour One57 en construction. Contrarié, il épluche les pages « immobilier » des journaux, et découvre, ébahi, qu’elle ne sera pas la seule à voiler la partie sud du parc. Sans attendre, il écrit un éditorial dans le New York Times, qui met le feu aux poudres. Les associations s’en emparent et les riverains se fâchent. Lors de la réunion d’information organisée en février 2014 à la bibliothèque publique, 500 personnes se bousculent pour faire part de leurs inquiétudes. Trop tard.

Les promoteurs n’ont jamais eu à consulter ni à demander la permission à qui que ce soit : dans cette partie de Midtown, il n’existe aucune restriction de hauteur. Ils peuvent construire aussi haut qu’ils le souhaitent, à condition toutefois d’acquérir les « droits aériens » des immeubles adjacents.

A chaque parcelle est attribué un nombre maximal de mètres carrés constructibles, par conséquent, si l’on veut construire plus grand, et donc plus haut, il faut racheter les parts non utilisées des voisins.

« Cela faisait plus de dix ans que, très discrètement, Gary Barnett amassait les mètres carrés en rachetant les droits aériens des parcelles limitrophes aux siennes », a fini par découvrir Margaret Newman, directrice exécutive du Municipal Art Society de New York. Cet organisme à but non lucratif, qui se bat pour préserver la « vitalité » de la ville, notamment par l’urbanisme, a produit une étude sur l’impact de ces gratte-ciel sur Central Park.

Les promoteurs n’ont jamais eu à consulter ni à demander la permission à qui que ce soit : dans cette partie de Midtown, il n’existe aucune restriction de hauteur.
« Lorsque la Ville décidera de s’en soucier, il n’y aura déjà plus de soleil sur Central Park, redoute Warren St. John. Avant d’ajouter : Si personne ne s’est préoccupé de changer les lois concernant l’aménagement du territoire, c’est aussi parce que personne n’avait imaginé que des tours aussi hautes pourraient être bâties sur des terrains aussi petits. » Et pour cause. « Il y a dix ans, c’était impossible », explique l’architecte Rafael Viñoly.

Testée à maintes reprises dans un laboratoire du Canada (simulation des vents, d’un tremblement de terre, de tornades…), la Tour 432 est une véritable prouesse technique. Tous les 12 étages, il y a une rupture de deux étages vides, sans fenêtres, afin de laisser circuler l’air. Une nécessité. Sans cela, elle se casserait. « Même si les gens n’aiment pas en entendre parler, la vérité c’est que la tour bouge, et beaucoup », raconte Richard Wallgren, de Macklowe Properties. Quant à la tour Steinway, elle sera dotée, sur son toit, d’une boule d’acier de 800 tonnes afin de faire contrepoids.

Les promoteurs ne donnent pas seulement dans la surenchère de silhouettes élancées, mais aussi de luxe. Piscine, restaurant et salle de cinéma privés, chef étoilé à disposition, terrasses haut perchées, spas pour chiens (!), salle de fitness suréquipée, espace de jeux pour les enfants, chambres aux étages inférieurs (sans la vue donc) pour loger le petit personnel… Ils redoublent d’imagination pour appâter leur richissime clientèle. Certains vont même jusqu’à installer des systèmes de trottoirs chauffants devant l’entrée afin qu’en hiver ces dames en talons aiguilles ne soient pas incommodées par la neige.

Dans un petit film promotionnel kitschissime, Macklowe Properties met en scène « la vie de château dans les nuages » : de jolies femmes en décolleté sirotent leur champagne à 400 mètres de haut aux côtés de messieurs très chics, une danseuse de ballet fait ses pointes devant une baie vitrée dominant Manhattan, une femme est alanguie dans un bain de diamants, une sculpture de Giacometti profite sereinement de la vue… « Ce n’est pas une vidéo typique, convient le vice-président Richard Wallgren. C’est un pitch de vente plus subtil, qui parle d’art de vivre et d’esthétique de l’immeuble. »

Si Harry Macklowe est particulièrement content du design de « sa » tour, il n’en est pas moins fier de son intérieur. C’est d’ailleurs par là que tout a commencé, lorsque, il y a plus de dix ans, il s’est mis en tête de dessiner les plans de « l’appartement parfait ».

RUSSES, CHINOIS, BRÉSILIENS, EN QUÊTE D’UNE RÉSIDENCE SECONDAIRE

Un salon et des fenêtres XXL, des salles de bains en marbre blanc, une hauteur sous plafond de 4 mètres… 70 % des appartements du 432 Park Avenue sont déjà vendus, alors même que la tour ne sera entièrement achevée que dans un an. « Et le reste sera vendu d’ici deux mois », Harry Macklowe n’en doute pas. « La demande pour ce type de logement est énorme. Tout le monde veut en faire un investissement. » Les très riches uniquement. Et beaucoup sont russes, chinois, brésiliens, en quête d’une résidence secondaire (qui sera vide la majeure partie de l’année) et, surtout, d’un bon placement.

« Je ne suis pas contre l’érection de tours, et personne ne l’est à New York, insiste Warren St. John. Mais est-ce que quelques coffres-forts dans le ciel pour oligarques valent la peine de priver 42 millions de personnes [fréquentation annuelle de Central Park, ndlr] de soleil ? »

Certains parlent de ces appartements comme des nouveaux comptes en banque suisses. « Sauf que ça paie mieux qu’une banque suisse et c’est plus discret, se félicite Michael Stern, de JDS. Il n’existe pas d’endroit plus sûr où placer son argent. » Et pas seulement pour les riches étrangers.

Je ne suis pas contre l’érection de tours. Mais est-ce que quelques coffres-forts dans le ciel pour oligarques valent la peine de priver 42 millions de personnes de soleil? Warren St. John, Journaliste, opposant aux nouvelles tours
« Deux tiers des acheteurs sont américains », affirme Richard Wallgren, de Macklowe Properties. Côté One57, « 50 % des acheteurs sont américains », assure Jeannie Woodbray, la responsable commerciale, exemples à l’appui : un patron de mode, un vendeur de vitamines de l’Idaho, un concessionnaire automobile du Minnesota, un propriétaire d’une ferme de cochons dans le Midwest… Harvey Sandler, à la tête d’un fonds d’investissement, vient de racheter un appartement du 58e étage à 34 millions de dollars à Enterprise SSO, qui l’avait acquis en mai dernier pour 30,55 millions de dollars. Soit une culbute de plus de 3 millions de dollars en quelques mois.

Selon Noble Black, de l’agence immobilière Corcoran, intermédiaire de cette juteuse transaction, « le marché du résidentiel superluxe est devenu tellement dingue, que certains attendent déjà les prochaines tours, plus neuves, plus hautes… ». Et les avantages fiscaux qui vont avec. Consentis aux promoteurs (en principe contre l’obligation de construire des logements à prix modérés) comme aux acquéreurs, ces faveurs n’ont pas été remises en cause par Bill de Blasio, le nouveau maire démocrate de New York, élu en novembre 2013. Pendant sa campagne pourtant, en partie financée par des promoteurs immobiliers comme Gary Barnett ou Michael Stern, il avait fait de la réduction des inégalités son cheval de bataille.

Aujourd’hui, la frénésie est telle que même Lower Manhattan s’y met. Livrée en 2011 et s’élevant à 270 mètres, la « 8 Spruce Street », ou « tour Gehry », comme l’appellent les New-Yorkais, avait amorcé la tendance en devenant à l’époque la tour résidentielle la plus haute de New York. Bientôt, la cascade de demeures individuelles de la « Lego Tower » de TriBeCa, sur Leonard Street, atteindra 250 mètres. Quant à JDS Developpement, elle a déjà les plans d’une tour à Brooklyn. « New York est une ville de gratte-ciel, résume Harry Macklowe. Il n’y a aucune raison qu’ils ne soient pas là. »

Voir également:

Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Tall?
Ever taller, ever thinner, the new condo towers racing skyward in Midtown Manhattan are breaking records for everything, including price. Sold for $95 million, the 96th floor of 432 Park Avenue will be the highest residence in the Western world. As shadows creep across Central Park, Paul Goldberger looks at the construction, architecture, and marketing of these super-luxury aeries, gauging their effect on the city’s future.
Paul Goldberger

Vanity Fair
April 9, 2014

These days, it is not just a woman who can never be too rich or too thin. You can say almost exactly the same thing about skyscrapers, or at least about the latest residential ones now going up in New York City, which are much taller, much thinner, and much, much more expensive than their predecessors. And almost every one of them seems built to be taller, thinner, and pricier than the one that came before. Few people are inclined to mourn the end of the age of the luxury apartment building as a boxy slab. But what is replacing it, which you might call the latest way of housing the rich, is an entirely new kind of tower, pencil-thin and super-tall—so tall, in fact, that one of the new buildings now rising in Manhattan, the 96-story concrete tower at the corner of 56th Street and Park Avenue, 432 Park Avenue, will be 150 feet higher than the Empire State Building when it is finished, and taller than the highest occupied floor of the new 1 World Trade Center. And construction on an even taller super-luxury building, 225 West 57th Street, is scheduled to begin next year, so 432 Park’s reign as the city’s tallest residence and second-tallest skyscraper will be short-lived.

These buildings are transforming the streetscape of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, and they are transforming the skyline even more. Two new luxury apartment towers in the super-tall category are going up in Tribeca, at least so far. But the biggest impact has been in Midtown, in the blocks between 53rd and 60th Streets, where seven of the new condominiums are either under construction or planned. Four of them are on 57th Street alone, which day by day is becoming less of a boulevard defined by elegant shopping and more like a canyon lined by high walls. (And that’s just the buildings that have been announced. There are others rumored to be in the planning stages, including one that would replace the venerable Rizzoli bookstore, also on West 57th Street.)

Shadowlands

If there is any saving grace to this tsunami of towers, it is in their very slenderness. From a distance they read as needles more than as boxes; what they take away from the street they give back to a skyline that has been robbed of much of its classic romantic form by the bulky, flat-topped office towers that have filled so much of Midtown and Lower Manhattan. These new buildings will not exactly turn Manhattan into a sleek glass version of San Gimignano—“the city of beautiful towers”—but thin buildings at least make for a striking skyline, and they cast thinner shadows as well.

Those shadows are no casual matter, since all of the new buildings are relatively close to Central Park, and they are arranged in an arc that extends from the southeast to the southwest corner of the park, not so different from the arc of the daily path of the sun. The impact will vary from season to season, but there is little doubt that the southern portion of the park will be in more shadow than it is today. Given the slenderness of the new towers, it might be more accurate to say that the southern end of the park is someday going to look striped.

The even more troubling shadow these buildings cast, however, is a social and economic one. If you seek a symbol of income inequality, look no farther than 57th Street. These new buildings are so expensive, even by New York standards, because they are built mainly for the global super-rich, people who live in the Middle East or China or Latin America and travel between London and Shanghai and São Paulo and Moscow as if they were going from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There have always been some people like that, at least since the dawn of the jet age, but it’s only in the last decade that developers have put up buildings specifically with these buyers in mind. The Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle, finished in 2004, was New York’s trial run, so to speak, at targeting this new market for condominiums with spectacular views at exceptionally high prices. But it’s a global phenomenon, with buildings such as One Hyde Park, in London, and the Cullinan and the Opus, in Hong Kong. The new 57th Street may be New York’s way of playing with the big boys as far as global cities are concerned, but it comes at the price of making Midtown feel ever more like Shanghai or Hong Kong: a place not for its full-time residents but for the top 1 percent of the 1 percent to touch down in when the mood strikes.

And yet, in other ways, these buildings are absolutely characteristic of New York, which has a long and honorable tradition of skinny towers: the Flatiron Building (completed in 1902), the now demolished Singer Building (1908), the Metropolitan Life tower (1909), and the Woolworth Building (1913). In those days, skyscrapers couldn’t be too bulky, because you couldn’t be that far from a window. Then fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning, sealed windows, and a preference for big, horizontal office floors took over.

Until now, that is. Today, there is more money to be made from housing people in the sky than ever before in New York City. In part, this is because a building full of apartments requires far fewer elevators than an office building with its armies of workers. Add to that the facts that people are willing to pay dearly for views, particularly of Central Park, and that they will pay an even greater premium for an apartment that occupies an entire floor—well, if you pile a lot of full-floor or half-floor apartments on top of one another and try to give all of them a park view, you pretty much end up with a very thin, very tall tower within a couple of blocks of Central Park.

“The super-tall, super-slender towers are a new form of skyscraper,” Carol Willis, the founder and director of the Skyscraper Museum, in Lower Manhattan, told me. At 432 Park Avenue, which was designed by the architect Rafael Viñoly for the developers Harry Macklowe and the CIM Group, each of the 104 apartments will occupy either a full floor or a half-floor, and the loftiest of them, a full-floor unit on the 96th floor, will be the highest residence in the Western Hemisphere, at least until the building at 225 West 57th Street goes ahead. Viñoly’s penthouse has already sold for $95 million to an unidentified buyer, which is close to $11,500 a square foot; the average asking price in the building was close to $7,000 a square foot, almost three times the average for Manhattan luxury condominiums last year. In exchange for parting with this kind of cash, the residents at 432 Park will be able to look down on the Chrysler Building and just about everything else in Midtown, including their neighbors at One57, the 90-story blue glass tower at 157 West 57th Street, which will be completed later this year (although a number of units are already occupied). One57 was the first of this new generation of super-tall, super-thin, super-expensive buildings, and it is astonishing to think that its height of 1,004 feet, just 42 feet shorter than the Chrysler Building, will make it the tallest residential building in the city for a few months only, until 432 Park is finished, probably next year.

One57 attracted a lot of attention for the sale of one of its two largest apartments for the then unheard-of price of more than $90 million (to an investor group headed by the financier Bill Ackman)—and a lot more attention for the fact that its crane assembly broke loose and dangled ominously over the street during Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, requiring the evacuation of seven square blocks around the building. Its developer, Gary Barnett, of Extell, spent about 10 years assembling the site, and in 2005 asked the French architect Christian de Portzamparc to come up with a design. Even before the new wave of super-tall buildings, the condominium market in New York had become much more design-sensitive, and putting the names of well-known architects like Richard Meier, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, or Robert A. M. Stern on buildings has become a marketing advantage. In fact, at these prices it’s now gotten to be something of a necessity, the same way some women will only spend $3,000 or $4,000 on a dress if it has a famous designer’s name on it.

Unfortunately, sometimes the result seems more like the architectural equivalent of a fancy label sewn into an ordinary garment. De Portzamparc—whose first building in New York, the sculpted glass LVMH tower, on East 57th Street, was widely acclaimed—first envisioned One57 as a slender glass structure with a few setbacks marked by curving roofs; he hoped that the overall effect of the design would resemble a cascading waterfall. Once he had been through the meat grinder of the New York City development process, not much of a sense of cascading water remained, and the final version of the building turned out to be a flattened composition in various shades of blue and silver glass, striped on some sides and speckled on others. If the tower’s slender height made it appropriate to New York, its garish glass made it look more like a tall refugee from Las Vegas.

Inside, however, the feeling is more luxurious, perhaps because, as Frank Lloyd Wright allegedly said about the Gothic-style Harkness Tower at Yale, the building’s interior is the one place from which you can’t see it. What you do see is Central Park and the city, spread out before you. Barnett, the developer, took me to the topmost penthouse on an exceptionally cold, clear day early this year, and the view of the park was nothing like what I was used to from windows 30 or 40 floors up in other buildings. From the 90th floor, you feel as connected to the sky as to the ground. The city is laid out like a map, and the enormous windows are less like frames for the view than wide-open portals to it. And inside, the high ceilings and large rooms make the place feel even less like a conventional apartment. The layout leaves an open vista through the apartment, so you can see north to the Tappan Zee Bridge and south to the new 1 World Trade Center tower.

High Rollers

De Portzamparc had completed the initial versions of his plans when the recession of 2008 began and real-estate development in New York ground to a halt. Barnett, a former diamond dealer whose quiet, understated manner masks a gambler’s instinct, was certain that the market would come back, and that when it did, most other developers would be caught with nothing to sell. If he could manage to start his building when things still looked bleak, Barnett thought, he would be ahead of the curve, the only developer ready with brand-new, super-luxury apartments when the next wave began. “We had a hole in the ground—what else could we do?” Barnett said to me as a way of justifying his decision to move forward. Still, his reasoning was counter-intuitive, since real estate usually lags economic recoveries rather than leads them. At a time when the best apartments in the city were going begging, the notion of adding a slew of new ones at higher prices than the apartments going unsold seemed nothing short of madness.

But Barnett knew he wasn’t building for conventional buyers who were subject to normal economic cycles. Like Nick and Christian Candy, the brothers in London who built the absurdly expensive One Hyde Park Tower, or Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf, another pair of siblings in the development business, who finished 15 Central Park West just before the last downturn, Barnett had no illusion that he was building homes for people to actually live in. He knew that most of the apartments at One57 would be commodities for investment, sold to limited-liability companies that had been created to shield the identities of their rich owners, people from around the world who would spend, at most, a few weeks a year there. From time to time, Barnett figured, he would sell an apartment to a couple or a family who actually cared about what the place would feel like to wake up in every morning and to commute to work and take their children to school from, but these people, the ones for whom One57 would be a primary residence, were relatively few.

Until recently, high-end residential real estate in New York meant venerable old cooperative apartment buildings on Fifth and Park Avenues and Central Park West. How could a new building without the history and solid, dignified aura of, say, 1040 Fifth Avenue sell for prices that were even higher? But co-op buildings are strange animals, since you aren’t technically buying an apartment in them but rather shares of stock in a tenant-controlled corporation that owns the building, and every buyer is required to submit to a complex process of interviews, financial disclosures, and board approvals. In a co-op, you can’t hide your identity by buying your apartment in the name of a limited-liability corporation, but L.L.C.’s are an everyday occurrence in the New York City condominium market. Everything about the city’s co-op buildings, on the other hand, is structured to make it impossible to treat them as commodities.

That, however, is precisely what the new condominiums are: tradable commodities, perfect for the speculatively inclined. They are places in which to park your cash as well as yourself and maintain your privacy in the bargain. Fueling the market still more is the fact that New York real estate has been seen for a while as both safer and more reasonably priced than real estate in much of the rest of the world. However irrational the prices of the new wave of super-luxury condominiums look to New Yorkers, these properties are cheaper than their counterparts in Hong Kong and London, which have sold for as much as $221 million. Not for nothing did Jonathan J. Miller of the real-estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel call the new condominiums “the equivalent of bank safe deposit boxes in the sky that buyers can put all their valuables in and rarely visit.”

Barnett’s financing partners accepted his rationale that, since the apartments in his building were going to be bought by people who were largely insulated from the effects of the recession, there was no reason to wait until the economy had fully revived to get the project started. Mere confidence that the world was not going to collapse altogether was enough. He started foundation work on One57 in 2010, when the rest of the real-estate industry, which was putting up buildings not as commodities but as places for people to live or work, was still in the dumps. De Portzamparc, in an unhappy concession to tighter economic circumstances, simplified his design, making the building’s façades flatter. The design compromises were not matched by price concessions, however. One57’s initial prices averaged $5,889 per square foot, and sales moved at such a fast clip that Extell raised the prices several times as the building was going up.

Barnett famously refused to negotiate with interested parties, and they were not permitted into the building as it was going up. They could see nothing except plans and full-scale mock-ups of kitchens, bathrooms, and views in a sales center that Extell constructed in an office building two blocks away, its rooms lined with the same marble that was being used in the actual building. The center was intended to set a tone of such elegance that haggling over price would feel unseemly. A visit began with a 45-second film of flowing water that gradually took the shape of the building, an allusion to de Portzamparc’s idea of cascading water. From there a potential buyer would move into a room with a six-foot-high model of the building at its center, and then, if inclined to get serious, go through another series of doors into the mock-ups of kitchens and bathrooms. The notion was to capture the imagination and to move, step by step, from mood setting to reality.

It was enough to bring in a number of early buyers, including a Chinese mother who bought a modest ($6.5 million) unit for her two-year-old daughter; two investors, one from Hong Kong and one from Montreal, who are behind the financial success of the Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger labels and who each spent around $50 million on a full-floor unit; and Ackman, who put together a consortium of investors to buy an enormous six-bedroom duplex with a glass-enclosed “winter garden” at one of the building’s highest setbacks, on the 75th and 76th floors. They are presumably counting on the possibility that in a few years the apartment will be worth several times the $90 million they paid for it.

Barnett’s success with One57 left other developers to play catch-up. He himself has been so emboldened by One57 that he decided to try to do it again only a block away, in a building at 225 West 57th Street that will have a Nordstrom department store at its base. (One57 will have a Park Hyatt hotel on its lower floors.) The Nordstrom tower, which is being designed by the Chicago architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, will also be of glass, but more angular in shape than One57. And Steven Roth, of Vornado, another of the city’s most active developers, has hired Robert A. M. Stern, the apostle of traditional architecture who designed 15 Central Park West, to do a super-tall tower at 220 Central Park South, just north of Barnett’s Nordstrom tower. The early renderings for the Vornado tower show a thinner, more elongated version of his Central Park West building, mimicking the style of the past but recasting it into a shape that is very much of the present.

The Vornado project and the new Extell project almost prevented each other from happening. In a sequence of events that makes clear how much New York real estate is part blood sport, part chess game, and part absurdist farce, Barnett had begun assembling the site for his building in 2005, the same year that Roth purchased an old rental apartment building at 220 Central Park South as a future development site. Barnett realized that if Roth put up a tall building on his Central Park South site it would block the all-important park views from his own site immediately to the south. So Barnett managed, without Roth’s knowledge, to purchase the lease for the Vornado building’s parking garage along with a small parcel in the middle of the larger development site. For more than seven years he refused to give them up, preventing Roth from redeveloping the site even after he had bought out the apartment tenants and cleared the building to prepare for its demolition. Roth sued Barnett to try to evict him from the garage, to no avail.

The deadlock lasted until last fall, when, unwilling to sacrifice the vast profits that each was preventing the other from realizing, the men made a deal under which Vornado paid Extell $194 million for its parcel and some additional development rights and agreed to shift the site of the Stern-designed tower to the western edge of the Central Park South site. In exchange, Barnett agreed to push his tower slightly to the east, giving it a more or less open view to the park. One catch: the shift meant that the Extell tower would now be cantilevered over one of the city’s most distinguished landmarks, the Art Students League. The Art Students League, which was designed in 1892 by Henry J. Hardenbergh, the architect of the Dakota and the Plaza hotel, is a city landmark, which means that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission had the right to pass judgment on the design. The commission decided that having a 1,400-foot structure looming over the League building would not negatively impact the landmark. Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic of The New York Times, likened the relationship between the two buildings to “a giant with one foot raised, poised to squash a poodle.”

Keeping Up Appearances

Because One57 is the first super-tall, super-thin building, it has become a lightning rod for criticism, and Barnett, who until now has been one of the city’s more publicity-averse developers, has assumed the role of lead public defender of the new super-tall towers. He was the only developer who appeared on the panel at a public forum about the new buildings last February, where he walked into a lion’s den of 425 people, most of whom seemed to view the towers with feelings ranging from dismay to outrage. He followed up his appearance with a piece in The New York Observer in which he claimed that One57 “will generate more than $1 billion in real estate, sales, hotel occupancy and other taxes” over the next two decades.

It is easy to think of the super-tall, ultra-luxury towers as a story more about money than about design, and to a certain degree it is. But if the first two buildings, One57 and 432 Park Avenue, are any indication, the interiors, at least, are designed to an exacting standard, with extremely high ceilings and expansive rooms to go with the awesome views, as if the developers realized that at prices upwards of $8,000 a square foot they couldn’t get away with the mean little rooms and cheap finishes that they might peddle elsewhere. As Barnett said to me, “They’re getting something for their $40 or $50 million.” (Well, yes, you’d hope.) He added, “These people don’t want to get squeezed into a small box.” Both buildings have elegant bathrooms that are more in line with what you would expect to find in a custom, one-of-a-kind interior than a developer-supplied one. And both buildings have spectacular kitchens, which will in all likelihood prove once again the maxim that in New York the better equipped an apartment kitchen is, the less cooking goes on within it.

Despite the garishness of One57’s exterior, I’m not ready to write off the entire super-thin, super-tall building type as incompatible with serious architecture. Viñoly’s 432 Park, on the outside, is as sophisticated as One57 is glitzy. Its façade is a flat, minimalist grid of smoothly finished concrete. As one looks at the building it’s hard not to think of Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect who is famous for making concrete feel more sensual and luxurious than marble. To some people, concrete is still concrete, no matter how refined its finish, so you have to give Macklowe some credit for not pandering to the lowest common denominator of moneyed taste. Macklowe’s own apartment, in the Plaza, was designed by the late Charles Gwathmey, who did a great deal to shape the developer’s taste and gave him an obsession for detail that is more characteristic of an architect than a profit-driven builder. In the case of 432 Park, Macklowe seems not to have cut any corners; his philosophy has been to spend as much as it takes and figure he’ll get it back by charging sky-high prices, like the $74.5 million he is asking for the full-floor apartment on the 87th floor, or the $30.75 million he wants for a three-bedroom apartment down on the 64th floor.

The tower is an essay in pure geometric form: it is a perfect square in plan, and rises straight up, without a single setback; all four façades are identical, made up of a grid of windows, every one of which is roughly 10 feet square. No windows are bigger, and no windows are smaller. If the windows didn’t have glass in them, the whole building would look like one of Sol LeWitt’s tower sculptures from the 1980s.

Macklowe is trying to sell restraint and opulence at the same time, which is not an easy task. To do it, he revved up a marketing campaign that is even more elaborate than the One57 effort, with a huge sales office in the General Motors Building that, like the one for One57, replicates finishes, kitchens, and bathrooms of the apartments, which were designed by Deborah Berke, not Viñoly. There is also a hardcover book, a special magazine, and a Web site (with text in English, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, French, and Italian) that allows you to see virtual images of finished apartments and photographs of the actual views from five selected heights. The climactic moment in the sales center comes when you see the mood-setting film, produced by the design agency dBox, that shows images of luxury—think British country houses, private jets—that morph into images of 432 Park, all to the background music of Mama Cass singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Never has austerity seemed so alluringly posh, not to say decadent.

If the size of the 432 Park Avenue tower, which replaces the old Drake Hotel, seems out of scale with its surroundings—which it is—it’s worth noting that it’s not the first residential building in the neighborhood to have that problem. Diagonally across the street is the building that might be considered the true first super-tall, super-thin residential tower, the Ritz Tower. It was built in 1925 to the designs of Emery Roth and Carrere & Hastings, and it rose 41 stories to 541 feet, a height that seemed every bit as outrageous in the 1920s as 1,396 feet does now. Ayn Rand was almost surely referring to the ornate Ritz Tower in The Fountainhead when she wrote disdainfully of “a Renaissance palace made of rubber and stretched to the height of forty stories.”

Two other new towers in the 57th Street area have to be considered as architectural efforts at least as serious as 432 Park. The first, 53 West 53rd Street, the tapered tower beside the Museum of Modern Art, was designed by Jean Nouvel several years ago for the Hines development firm but has been delayed since 2009. The tallest tower that is not on a wide street or avenue, it has gained some notoriety because of MoMA’s plans to expand into its lower floors and in the process demolish a small architectural gem, the former American Folk Art Museum, built in 2001.

On the Up-and-Up

And then there is 111 West 57th Street, designed by the architectural firm SHoP, which will be the thinnest tower of all, and quite possibly the most elegant: 1,397 feet, balanced on a base only 60 feet wide. The builders of 111 West 57th are Kevin Maloney of Property Markets Group and Michael Stern, the head of JDS Development Group. Stern broke into the Manhattan luxury market just recently by converting an old Art Deco telephone-exchange building on West 18th Street into the exceptionally sophisticated—and exceptionally successful—Walker Tower. Stern is a passionate enthusiast of New York architectural history (he named the 18th Street building for its original architect, Ralph Walker), and he seems genuinely eager to add to that history.

His tower, which will be sheathed mostly in glass on its north and south sides and will have supporting walls covered in bronze and terra-cotta on the east and west, will be slipped beside, and rise above, another landmark, the handsome, limestone-clad office building that houses Steinway Hall, the ornate piano showroom, at its base. SHoP’s design partners, Gregg Pasquarelli and Vishaan Chakrabarti, said that what they wanted most of all was to design a building that would feel as if it belonged in New York and no other place—that “has the DNA of New York, so you will know it wasn’t plucked off the skyline of Shanghai or Hong Kong,” as Pasquarelli said to me. The building will rise straight up on its northern side, facing the park, but on the south it will gently set back in a series of steps so that the north-south dimension of the tower gradually gets thinner and thinner until it has no depth at all at the top and becomes just a glass wall at the building’s crown. It is a subtle and graceful re-interpretation in modern form of the stepped-back, “wedding cake” towers of New York’s past, seasoned by a sprinkling of a classic New York material, terra-cotta, all put together in a way that makes deft use of today’s technology. Of all the new towers, it is the only one that gets ever more delicate as it rises, ending not with a climactic crown but by almost disappearing into the sky.

These buildings have already given the 21st-century skyline the same kind of shock that the Ritz Tower gave it in the 1920s, when living 40 stories into the sky seemed brazen. Whatever impact all of this has on the cityscape, it will also have an effect on the handful of people who will live in these buildings, many of whom probably see these aeries as a chance to distract themselves from the ordinary woes that mere mortals suffer on the ground.

Can height buy happiness? A few years after the Ritz Tower opened, the Waldorf Towers climbed even higher. Cole Porter maintained an apartment there for years. Could that be why he wrote a song that ended with the words “down in the depths of the ninetieth floor”?

The exhibit “SKY HIGH & the logic of luxury,” which examines the rise of Manhattan’s super-slim and ultra-modern towers, is open at the Skyscraper Museum through April 2014.

The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy

Bill Moyers
November 28, 2014

Some people say inequality doesn’t matter. They are wrong. All we have to do to see its effects is to realize that all across America millions of people of ordinary means can’t afford decent housing.

As wealthy investors and buyers drive up real estate values, the middle class is being squeezed further and the working poor are being shoved deeper into squalor — in places as disparate as Silicon Valley and New York City.

This week Bill points to the changing skyline of Manhattan as the physical embodiment of how money and power impact the lives and neighborhoods of every day people. Soaring towers being built at the south end of Central Park, climbing higher than ever with apartments selling from $30 million to $90 million, are beginning to block the light on the park below. Many of the apartments are being sold at those sky high prices to the international super rich, many of whom will only live in Manhattan part-time – if at all — and often pay little or no city income or property taxes, thanks to the political clout of real estate developers.

“The real estate industry here in New York City is like the oil industry in Texas,” affordable housing advocate Jaron Benjamin says, “They outspend everybody… They often have a much better relationship with elected officials than everyday New Yorkers do.” Meanwhile, fewer and fewer middle and working class people can afford to live in New York City. As Benjamin puts it, “Forget about the Statue of Liberty. Forget about Ellis Island. Forget about the idea of everybody being welcome here in New York City. This will be a city only for rich people.”

At the end of the show Bill says: “Tell us if you’ve seen some of these forces eroding the common ground where you live. Perhaps, like some of the people in our story, you’re making your own voice heard. Share these experiences at our website, BillMoyers.com.” Please use the comments section below to do so.

Voir encore:

They have 35 million reasons to be angry. Hundreds of protesters — peeved over tax breaks for luxury developers — marched outside the ultra-posh Midtown high-rise One57 Wednesday.The W. 57th St. skyscraper, where the penthouse sold for $100 million, scored a tax break for $35 million. »It’s insane, » said Skipp Roseboro, 69, a Vietnam veteran and retiree who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.“You have homeless people here. You have veterans who are homeless, who are struggling. You have all sorts of people who are in need. How do you take from folks who are struggling living day-to-day and give to it a fancy pool with underwater music?”The protest comes amid a growing push to end the 421-a tax abatement program, which is set to expire this year unless it’s renewed by Albany pols.The program, which dates back to the late 1970s, was designed to encourage construction — but it’s now assailed by critics as a giveaway to billionaire developers.

« It’s outrageous that working people pay for this,” said Leandra Requena, 60, of the nonprofit Make The Road New York.

“Instead of the benefit coming to us, they spend on rich people. They subsidize their properties. That’s an injustice that makes me angry. The people in my neighborhood, in all five boroughs, need affordable housing.”

The feds are probing how One57 scored its tax break. The ritzy residential tower was thrust back into the spotlight Tuesday after it was featured in the Daily News as a symbol of the city’s growing divide between rich and poor.

Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla called One57 an “egregious example of our taxpayer money being squandered.”

“We’re not getting bang for our buck in terms of affordable housing,” added Bonilla.

“There’s no transparency. This program is misguided. Any developer who says without the program they can’t build, they can take luxury housing to Newark, N.J.”

Voir de plus:

Finish
Darkness visible
Spring 2015: Public/Private (Volume 18 no. 1)
Renée Loth

Architects

Shadows cast by tall buildings aren’t physical; sometimes they aren’t even visible. But they can still constitute a private intrusion onto public space. This idea animated more than 800 protesters in New York City on a brilliant October day in 1987. Brandishing black umbrellas, they opposed the redevelopment plan for what was then the New York Coliseum, claiming the proposed towers would cast shadows across Central Park. On cue, the protesters opened their black umbrellas, mimicking the towers’ encroachment.

The demonstration, organized by New York’s Municipal Arts Society, was peppered with boldfaced names, including Paul Newman, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Henry Kissinger, and journalist Bill Moyers. Central Park, said Moyers, “is the people’s park, the last great preserve of democracy in the city. It does not belong to the highest bidder.” Developer Mort Zuckerman tried to renegotiate. But the Municipal Arts Society sued, and won, over improperly granted zoning rights, and the project stalled until 2000. Today it is the substantially redesigned Time Warner Center.

Advocates in the umbrella brigade had won a reprieve, but there is a sad coda to the tale. Today at least seven glitzy new towers are planned for the edge of Central Park, some of them predicted to rise 1,400 feet. Tall and thin, they will cast a series of long, straight shadows, rather like prison bars, across the people’s park.

Voir de même:

Supersizing Manhattan: New Yorkers rage against the dying of the light
‘Supertall’ buildings are sprouting like beanstalks in central New York, costing its citizens precious sunshine and air, and turning the city’s skyline into a jumble
Fred A Bernstein in New York
The Guardian

16 January 2015

On his terrace overlooking Central Park, a friend who is a wealthy tutoring entrepreneur is pointing. “The Nordstrom Tower – we think that’s going to be the one,” he says, indicating the site at 225 West 57th Street, where a condo tower is rising to a height of 1770 feet. He means the one that will finally block his view of the Empire State Building, the most famous skyscraper in the world.

It’s hard to feel sorry for a millionaire losing a bauble in a jewelled necklace of lights. But all New Yorkers are losing familiar vistas, and some are losing light and air, as supertall buildings sprout like beanstalks in midtown Manhattan. There are a dozen such “supertalls” – buildings of 1,000 feet or higher – in the construction or planning stages. And the buildings are not, as in Dubai or Shanghai’s Pudong district, being constructed where nothing else had stood. They are, instead, crowding into already dense neighbourhoods where light and air are at a premium, and quality-of-life issues are on the minds of everyone except, perhaps, the billionaires buying the cloud-hung condos as investment properties.

The construction of towers surrounding the Empire State Building is just one part of the problem. For 85 years, the Empire State has been a symbol of the city – New York’s incomparable logo – and a wayfinding device par excellence. Lost in Manhattan? Swivel until you see that famous mast, the one that King Kong clung to, and you have your bearings. Without the tallest point in a hierarchical skyline, the city will be disorienting, to residents and visitors alike.

And more of the city will be in shadow. In 2013, Warren St John, a writer who lives near Central Park, began campaigning for a moratorium on new skyscrapers immediately south of the park; his concern was that playgrounds and ballfields would increasingly be in shadow. The city’s outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, wasn’t about to block construction of condos for his plutocratic peers; more surprisingly, the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, a populist, hasn’t addressed the issue either. By all accounts, he needs developers on his side if they are going to build the subsidised housing he hopes to make a part of his legacy. Whatever the reason, De Blasio “has signalled no interest in curtailing development in any way”, says a disappointed St John.

If so, the mayor is turning his back on a history of reining in development for the sake of the many. More than 100 years ago, New York pioneered zoning codes designed to bring light and air (if not Central Park views) to even its most disadvantaged residents. In 1879, the city introduced a “tenement law” that required small apartment buildings for the lower-classes to include airshafts; in 1901, the law was revised to call for large-scale courtyards.

Around the same time, titans of industry were building skyscrapers in midtown and the Financial District. (In those days, large commercial enterprises were confined to a few neighbourhoods, a kind of segregation that no longer exists.) Some of the structures, particularly the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway, completed in 1915, with more than one million square-feet of space on a one-acre site, were so overpowering that, in 1916, the city began requiring setbacks at various heights, to make sure light and air reached the street.

The setback requirements, generally ensuring large reductions in floor area above the 10th storey, and further reductions higher up, led to one of the most distinctive building types of the 20th century: the wedding-cake tower, with the striations required by law inspiring jazz-age architects to greatness. (The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings are elongated examples of the form; the setback laws allowed for towers of any height so long as they were less than a quarter of the area of the building lot below.)

But in 1961 the city revised the zoning laws again, making the wedding-cake towers period pieces. Instead, entranced by Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building on Park Avenue, a masterpiece of bronze metal set back in a handsome plaza, officials switched to a zoning code that encourages standalone towers. In exchange for ceding open space to the public, developers could build straight up (the permissible height was governed by a calculation called “floor area ratio”, or FAR). The problem: not every architect is as good as Mies, or every client as generous as Seagram. The city was overtaken by banal, sheer towers set in plazas that offered very little to the public and, given the height of the new buildings, were often in shadow.

But that was a time of a rising middle class, when affordable housing was being built all over the city, and residents commuted to jobs in blocky office buildings (increasingly, commercial tenants wanted large floor plates). Only the World Trade Center, 1,368 feet high, overtook the Empire State Building in height. But the 110-storey Twin Towers, anchoring their own downtown skyline and set in a giant plaza (called a “superblock”), were a special case. Otherwise, buildings of 40-60 storeys were the norm.

No one, it seems, was anticipating the current wave of pencil-thin, supertall towers. The technology they depend on has been around for decades — “mass dampers”, which prevent thin towers from swaying uncomfortably, are nothing new. So has the structural know-how that allows them to rise safely even from tiny bases. One of the buildings, 432 Park Avenue, has recently topped out at 1,396 feet, from a site of just 90 feet square.

The real generator of form now is the winner-take-all economy — and with it, the demand for sky-high condos at sky-high prices. Virtually all of the new buildings are condominiums with just one unit to a floor, which means they can get by with very few elevators. And that, in turns, mean they can be built even on very narrow lots. In other words, the demand for $20m to $100m condos, with views in all directions and no next-door neighbours, has given rise to a new building type – making the revised skyline the physical manifestation of New York’s income disparities.

Site for the Nordstrom Tower, next to the Art Students League on West 57th Street. Photograph: Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis
Amazingly, none of the towers required city permission (although they did require clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, given Manhattan’s proximity to three airports). The city doesn’t limit height, just floor area ratio, and developers, can buy “air rights” from adjacent buildings, letting them go supertall “as of right”. The developer of the Nordstrom Tower, named for the department store at its base, bought air rights from the neighbouring Art Students League, paying the venerable school (which had no plans to enlarge its handsome, 1892 building) some $30m.

Things are very different in the City of London, where the size and shape of every building is negotiated with planning officials – nothing is built “as of right”. Yet neither system is perfect: Rafael Vinoly, the architect who created 432 Park Avenue – which has become the focus of New Yorkers’ enmity – also designed London’s Walkie-Talkie. Officially named 20 Fenchurch Street, the Walkie-Talkie is reviled, but at least it was intended to provide public amenities.

The same can’t be said for 432 Park Avenue, or the other condo buildings going up around it. Not only are these new towers casting long shadows on Central Park; they are turning the New York skyline, for most of the 20th century a kind of ziggurat with the Empire State Building as its peak, into a jumble.

As for life below? The buildings are making the city less pleasant for anyone who cannot afford one of the condos in the sky. Think of it as the new Upstairs, Downstairs, but on an urban scale.

Voir aussi:

New Yorkers Protest Long Shadows Cast By New Skyscrapers
Heard on All Things Considered
Margot Adler
NPR
April 23, 2014

Skyscrapers are a hallmark of large cities. Modern engineering makes it possible to erect something as tall as the Empire State Building on a very small footprint. Although developers love these buildings, in New York — the city of skyscrapers — residents have been upset at the shadows they cast over public spaces like Central Park.Journalist Warren St. John first noticed the shadows when he took his daughter to a playground near Central Park’s southern border on sunny, blue-skied fall day. All of a sudden, though, it became chilly. He remembers the parents zipped up their kids’ jackets and hurried off. He looked up, « and that’s when I realized the sun was behind this new building I’d never paid much attention to, » St. John says. « But what really got me was that about six months later, I was at a playground a mile north of here and the exact same thing happened. I looked up, and it was the same building. »

On a recent afternoon, St. John again gets caught in the chill in the shadow of another tall, thin building still under construction. It’s One57, the tallest building south of the park. And, he says, « it will soon be dwarfed by another building, 30 percent taller. » As the sun goes behind the tower, St. John notes, « it’s a little chillier. »

At a community meeting held to address the rise of supertowers and the reach of their shadows into the park, City Councilman Corey Johnson said that most of these apartments « are being sold to foreign investors, who have tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, who are not making this their primary home. »

Extell Development, the developer of One57, braved the hostile audience at the community meeting.

« The shadows cast by tall, slender buildings, which is what most of the buildings going up are, are very brief — maybe they’re 10 minutes in any one place — and cause no negative effect on the flora or fauna of the park, » said Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development. What’s more, Barnett says, the buildings are creating many permanent jobs in retail, hospitality and construction. « And these are not minimum-wage jobs, » Barnett says. « Many of the union construction jobs compensate between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. Upon salaries like this our fellow New Yorkers can build a better life. »

St. John responds that each of these buildings might have 100 apartments, but 40 million people use the park. To wit, in the shadow of One57, he points to a row of empty benches in the shade. « Nobody is sitting on these benches, but over there where the sun is, people are sitting, » he says. « They’re having a snack. »

Moving on to another area of Central Park, older buildings throw shorter shadows right next an open area filled with constant sunlight. He points to buds on the trees in the sunlit area, « but if you look just to the trees beyond them, there are no buds on those trees because that is where the shadows begin to fall from these buildings. »

If it was just that one building, St. John says, you could kind of shrug it off. But he ticks off six or seven buildings that are going up right in this area. Central Park is landmarked and protected from development, but there is nothing to protect it from shadows cast by buildings outside the park.

Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the tiny teardrop park near the World Trade Center. Surrounded by tall buildings, he wondered, would there be enough sunlight for a lawn? « Sunlight is the joy of what a park is, » he says.

Experts analyzed how much sunlight would be necessary, and one of the architects actually lowered part of a building under construction « so enough sunlight came in, » Van Valkenburgh says. « But everything was within inches of not working. »

As to whether the shadows will stress trees and plants, he says, they will probably die slowly — over five years.  » ‘Oh, why are the trees dying?’  » he predicts people will say.  » ‘It must be related to global warming.’  »

Van Valkenburgh believes there should be rules in New York about the right to sunlight in public spaces as there are in the zoning laws of some other communities.

As for St. John, he’s peeved that there was never any public debate about the supertowers. They just happened. « Maybe at the end of that public debate the public consensus might have been the economic activity generated by these buildings makes it worth it, but we just never had the debate, » St. John says.

And at least for these buildings it’s probably too late.

 Voir également:
Life above 800 feet in a city relentlessly on the rise.
The New York Times magazine
06/05/2016
A city on an island, teeming with cash and ego, has nowhere to go but up. And up. And up. Imagine the Manhattan skyline in a time-lapse filmstrip, starting around 1890 — when the New York World Building crested above the 284-foot spire of Trinity Church — and culminating in the present day: it is a series of continual skyward propulsions, each new proud round overshadowing the last.Perhaps much of this history has been driven by crude competition — the fierce battle between the Chrysler Building and the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (40 Wall Street), for instance, to be the World’s Tallest Building, a fight the Chrysler won by a stunning coup de grâce: the last-minute addition of its secretly constructed spire, which nudged New York’s altitude record up to 1,046 feet for 11 precious months until the Empire State Building topped out. But the city’s architectural history cannot be reduced to gamesmanship. Something else is going on. Manhattan builds up because it cannot build out and because it cannot sit still. Those of its inhabitants who can afford to do so will seek to climb to higher ground.We are currently in the midst of another clambering epoch. The city has 21 buildings with roof heights above 800 feet; seven of them have been completed in the past 15 years (and three of those the past 36 months). In this special New York Issue, we explore the high-altitude archipelago that spreads among the top floors of these 21 giants. It totals about 34 million square feet in all, encompassing lavish living spaces, vertiginous work environments (during construction and after), elite gathering places. Visually, the experience of this new altitude feels different in kind from its predecessors, the peak uplifts of previous booms that topped out at 400, 500 or 600 feet. At 800 and above, you feel something unusual in a city defined by the smelly bustle of its sidewalks and the jammed waiting and inching and zooming of its avenues — a kind of Alpine loneliness. Every New Yorker knows the pleasant private solitude that can be found at street level, among anonymous crowds. This is something different: an austere sense of apartness inspired by achieving a perspective seemingly not meant for human eyes.In 10 years, the views captured in the following pages might seem quaint, even inferior. But today they provide an uncommon glimpse into the city’s rarefied new neighborhood in the sky.

Jake Silverstein♦

Jake Silverstein is editor in chief of the magazine.

Voir encore:

The vertical frontier

New York has always stood above the rest. Now it’s reaching even higher — with economic, architectural and social consequences that will once again redefine the most famous skyline in the world.
Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times magazine

06/05/2016

Alysia Mattson, who works near the top of 1 World Trade, likens the experience above 800 feet to “being in a giant snow globe. Everything is calm.” We were standing at the window, looking down at a ferry inching across the Hudson. “You focus on things like boat traffic,” she said. “You don’t feel you are really in the city.” At that height, the earth-binding sounds of city life evaporate, along with close-up details. Perspective flattens. Cars and people on the street appear to crawl.

“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?” Harry Lime asked on the Ferris wheel in “The Third Man.”

Jimmy Park, whose office is also on the 85th floor and who is a mountain climber in his spare time, put it another way: “You’re looking down on something you’re not in, and you feel you’re a long way from where you need to be if you need to be safe. At the same time, there’s something therapeutic about seeing great distances. It happens on planes, on mountains, on beaches. I’ll have a meeting with a new client, and we’ll gaze out the window and have this comfortable silence.

“It’s analogous,” he went on, “to the ‘overview effect’ that astronauts feel, which created the whole environmental movement. You realize how small you are and how big the world is.”

The Old Testament declared every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low, in keeping with classical beliefs about proportion and balance. By the 18th century, awe, terror and exultation, previously reserved for God, passed over to geological phenomena like mountains and experiences like conquering peaks. Kant called it “the terrifying sublime.” In the 19th, with new technology and the growth of cities, nature was rivaled by the man-made. The sublime became reachable by climbing to the top of a tall building.

In this spirit, Richard Morris Hunt designed New York’s Tribune Building, built in 1875, with its clock tower at 260 feet, competing with the spire of Trinity Church to be the tallest structure in the city. A quarter-century later, Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building, at 285 feet, established a new ideal of tall and skinny, soon dwarfed by the 700-foot-tall Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, just across Madison Square Park, which was itself outdone, in 1913, by Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building, at 792 feet.

The New York skyline found its Platonic ideal less than two decades later with the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. The Empire State’s 204-foot mooring mast for passenger dirigibles, which never actually docked there, represented the mercantile equivalent of Trinity’s steeple. As E.B. White wrote, the city skyline was “to the nation what the white church spire is to the village — the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up.”

With its dips and peaks, New York’s skyline became a civic signature, the postcard picture and classic movie image of the American century, its contours a reflection of what was happening below. White’s notion depended on a vital street life, on how the towers met the sidewalk and the curb. In recent decades, aspirant cities have built buildings taller than New York’s without ever quite supplanting Manhattan, in part because skylines are just stage sets of urbanism if they don’t arise from real, bustling neighborhoods.

It was exclusivity of neighborhood, more than sheer height, that connoted status in Manhattan half a century ago: a 20th-floor penthouse on Park Avenue still signified the pinnacle of the social pyramid. Back then, real nosebleed altitudes, like 800 feet, belonged primarily to commercial, not residential, buildings. Skyscrapers advertised companies. Apartments alone couldn’t cover the extraordinary cost of construction at such heights.

Half a century ago, a 20th-floor penthouse on Park Avenue still signified the pinnacle of the social pyramid in Manhattan.

That changed only during the last decade or so, once apartments in luxury buildings like 15 Central Park West fetched $3,000 a square foot and more. Suddenly, a very tall, very slender project on 57th Street, with a floor plate just big enough for one apartment, or maybe two, and needing far fewer space-hogging elevators than a commercial tower, seemed profitable to aggressive developers. Big-name architects were enlisted. As Carol Willis, the founding director of the Skyscraper Museum in Lower Manhattan, likes to put it, form follows finance.

Height suddenly substituted for neighborhood as a signifier of status, partly because zoning regulations steered sky-high construction toward less restricted, mixed-use parts of the city, like 57th Street, which also offered money shots of Central Park, and partly because a target clientele of South Asian copper-mining industrialists and Russian oligarchs had little intention of living in their apartments. In any case, they didn’t actually want neighbors. They wanted views. Developers promoted these buildings as de facto country estates, where the chances of encountering someone who isn’t a paid employee of the building are vanishingly slim, and in-house restaurants serve only tenants, so that even eating out won’t require actually going out.

Many New Yorkers, infuriated by tax breaks given to these skyscraping potentates, picture themselves toiling in the long, skinny shadows the new towers will cast. But shadows aside, that’s not entirely fair to the supertalls. Some people may not like their scale, but a handful of apartments in mostly nonresidential blocks of Midtown or near Wall Street are hardly the cause of gentrification and displacement. And there may be just a little xenophobia in the anti-supertall phenomenon. It’s a good bet that more than a few wealthy Chinese, Indians and Arabs, like Jews before them, facing an impossible vetting process from co-op boards on the Upper East Side, elected instead to look down on them.

In any case, 57th Street is now dubbed Billionaire’s Row, and wealth has reached new altitudes. Advances in skyscraper technology have much to do with this. William F. Baker, who helped engineer the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 2,717 feet the world’s tallest tower, recently explained the engineering behind life above 800 feet. Engineers, he said, who long ago figured out how to make sure skyscrapers won’t topple over, are focused more and more these days on the trickier problem of making people inside feel secure. It’s a challenge because very tall, very slim buildings are designed, like airplane wings, to bend not break. An average person starts worrying about movement in a high-rise long before there’s anything approaching a threat to safety. Mild jostling that you take for granted in a car or train can provoke panic at 100 stories, even if you’re still safer in the building than in the car.

Incredible efforts now go into mitigating those effects. Today’s superslender towers are outfitted with sophisticated counterweights, or dampers, and other movement-tempering devices, as they are also outfitted with elevators that speed tenants to their aeries but not so swiftly that you will perceive any troubling G-forces. Something around 30 feet per second seems to be an ideal velocity, suggesting there may be an ultimate height for luxury towers — not because we can’t engineer a mile-high building but because rich tenants won’t abide elevators that take several minutes to reach apartments for which they paid the annual expenditures of the Republic of Palau.

Exceptional engineering requirements are said to account for a hefty portion of the cost of apartments in the supertalls, like 432 Park Avenue, presently the tallest apartment tower in Midtown Manhattan, and one of the costliest. Its exterior is a grid of concrete and glass, like an extruded Sol LeWitt, or a distended Josef Hoffmann vase (or a middle finger stuck up at the city, depending on your perspective). Giant twin dampers near the roof, the size of locomotive engines — with their own spectacular double-height views over the city — act like shock absorbers, providing ballast and discouraging chandeliers from tinkling and Champagne glasses from toppling over.

If the twin towers and the Empire State Building used to define south and north in Manhattan, the poles of the city skyline, now the compass points include 1 World Trade, 432 Park and, just a few blocks west, One57. The last, with its clunky curves and pox of tinted windows, steers Midtown Manhattan more toward Vegas or Shanghai. A mile or so away, the vast tabula rasa development called Hudson Yards threatens to become a mini-Singapore on the West Side.

But taste is tricky to legislate. Critics greeted the Chrysler Building with horror when it was finished, then held it up as a model of what skyscrapers should look like when a modern generation of glass and steel towers reshaped the postwar skyline and provoked fresh outrage. Looking back, we can see that 1950s landmarks like Lever House, by SOM’s Gordon Bunshaft, and the Seagram Building, by Mies van der Rohe, are as beautiful and refined as any architecture in America, although in the following decades they spawned a million mediocre imitations, cluttering Manhattan and obscuring the originals’ genius. This was the era of white flight and suburban sprawl, when Roland Barthes described New York as a vertical metropolis “from which man is absent by his accumulation,” and America’s so-called towers in the park — those often unjustly maligned housing projects of clustered high-rises in poor neighborhoods, many on the margins of the city — were left to ruin. The ugliest skyscraper in town, long known as the Verizon Building, at 375 Pearl Street, a seemingly windowless behemoth, still looms over the Brooklyn Bridge. It went up in 1976, just after the twin towers, by Minoru Yamasaki, which New Yorkers loved to hate — until many came to regard them differently, and not just because of what happened on Sept. 11. At dawn and dusk, the sculpted corners of the towers captured sunlight, making orange and silver ribbons float in the ether. Now, 1 World Trade has risen from their ashes. The classic modernist skyscraper is fashionable again. Taste, like the New York skyline, remains an endless work in progress.

Of the new buildings, I like 432, designed by Rafael Viñoly, and the studied jumble of 56 Leonard, downtown (Herzog & de Meuron are the architects). They’re designed with finesse, punctuating the skyline. Other buildings going up, like Jean Nouvel’s 53 West 53rd, beside the Museum of Modern Art, and 111 57th Street, by SHoP Architects, promise to help tip the scales back toward an older ideal of the sophisticated, attenuated tower, crowded out by those decades of plug-and-play boxes.

There are still those who fret about scores of tycoon palaces overrunning the city. They may take solace in the fact that the supertall-apartment phenomenon has always been a game of fiscal musical chairs. New federal rules devised to thwart shell companies and money laundering now require that cash buyers of luxury residences disclose the true names of their owners. Roughly half of real estate purchases in Manhattan, it turns out, are made in cash, with overseas buyers accounting for a third of all new Midtown condo acquisitions. Combined with sagging oil prices and a fluctuating yuan, the new rules seem to be having an effect. For the moment, the market for apartments above 800 feet continues to soften. Some supertall apartment towers on the drawing board may be postponed.

And corporate chieftains are no longer clamoring for glitzy new company towers. They’re more in tune with millennials, who prefer repurposed buildings, street life and live-work neighborhoods. The architect Bjarke Ingels has recently envisioned a couple of New York towers that feature enormous, sky-high terraces, to bring something of the pleasures of being on the street into the ether.

If the twin towers and the Empire State Building used to define the poles of the city skyline, now the compass points include 1 World Trade, 432 Park and One57.

“The tendency has been to create a hermetic experience, with floor-to-ceiling windows, so you’re incarcerated in a box,” Ingels said. “Outdoor space used to be considered a nuisance, which didn’t contribute to the building’s value, but I believe that’s changing. I am starting to hear leasing people say they want outdoor space. That’s true in residential as well as commercial properties. I think the future at 800 feet is more likely to be engaged with the outside and less an escape from it.”

Maybe. In New York, it can get pretty windy and cold up there. For ages, my aunt has rented a studio apartment, a bit lower down, on the 16th floor of a building in Greenwich Village, with a terrace looking toward Washington Square Park and Lower Manhattan, although mostly the view consists of a jumble of low-rise buildings, black-tar rooftops and fire escapes. The terrace has a sun-bleached, green-and-white canvas awning that can be rolled out for shade. Voices and car horns waft up from the street. Rain splatters on the terra-cotta floor. Spring blows in on breezes from the river. I feel like the luckiest man in New York when I’m there, above the city and in the middle of it.

Everyone’s sweet spot is different. I stood with Jimmy Park at his window in 1 World Trade, 1,000 feet up. He was extolling the view of Brooklyn and Queens. The roof of 7 World Trade, a neighboring 743-foot glass office tower, cleverly conceived by David Childs, was several hundred feet directly below us. We could just make out the mechanicals. Someone standing up there would have been one of Harry Lime’s dots.

I asked Park how tall he thought it was. He scrunched his forehead. He hadn’t really thought about it, he said. ♦

Michael Kimmelman is the architecture critic for The New York Times. He last wrote for the magazine about Manhattan’s secret pools and gardens.

Matthew Pillsbury is a photographer. His work will be shown at the Benrubi Gallery in New York in 2017.

 Voir de même:
Do We Have a Legal Right to Light?
Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
With supertall towers popping up along Central Park’s southern edge like wildly expensive luxury mushrooms, Manhattan’s largest park is about to be cast into shadow—some as long as half a mile. The real estate boom is stirring up a debate: Do we have a « right to light »?

Not in America. But there are plenty of laws in other countries that protect homeowners’ right to natural light—most of them stemming from around the time of the labor rights movement at the turn of the century, when dark, dingy tenements across Northern Europe and the US were replaced by neat, orderly public housing.

In Denmark, for example, there’s a law that determines exactly how much direct sunlight an apartment must receive—it’s even changed the way that many windows are designed. In England, a law called « ancient lights, » or « right to light, » protects any building that has received natural light for more than 20 years from future developments.

But, in the U.S., things are a bit more shady. A number of court cases here have attempted to block developments based on light, going as far back as 1959, when two Florida hotels duked it out over a bit of blocked sunshine. That case set the precedent for many others: The judge held that there is « no legal right to air and sunlight. »

In New York City, we have air rights—a concept that dates back to a law from Roman times: For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell. Modern air rights were spurred by the birth of air travel in the early 20th century, when New York City was the booming skyscraper capital of the world.

Clarification: A previous version of this post poorly explained modern air rights in NYC. The Skyscraper Museum offers up a better description in its 2013 exhibition, SKY HIGH & The Logic of Luxury, in which it explains that modern air rights in NYC emerged in the early 1960s with new zoning laws that regulated building with something called floor area ratio, or FAR—defined as square footage multiplied by a number determined by the zone to which the building belongs—that limits how much structure can be built on a particular lot and encourages developers to create public spaces on the street level. They also allow developers to buy the air rights from nearby buildings and apply them to their own lots, the Museum’s director and curator Carol Willis explains in the exhibition’s online home:

The formula for FAR and the ability to purchase and pile up additional air rights has created an invisible Monopoly game in Manhattan real estate in which developers often work for years to acquire adjacent properties that could be collected into an « as or right » tall tower.

It’s crucial to note, at the Skyscraper Museum does, that the buildings whose FAR has been purchased by a nearby tall building can never be developed higher. Still, the spate of new construction projects along Central Park (what Gothamist calls « Billionaire’s Row ») has some people arguing for a law that protects the average New Yorker’s right to light further. In an op-ed in the New York Times this week, Warren St. John sounds the alarm about the danger of letting towers rise along the park:

New Yorkers who want to protect Central Park will have to do it on their own… And they need to hurry, before the sun sets permanently on a space the park designer Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned as “a democratic development of the highest significance.”

After all, as St. John points out, people who are willing to fight for public spaces are disappearing quickly, while organizations that have traditionally critiqued developers are now run by them.But will shadows be enough to spur rage amongst New Yorkers? Or will we distract ourselves with pumpkin-flavored treats and complaining about Banksy until, one day, we wake up and realize that the single window in our terrible railroad apartment is blocked by the servant’s entrance to a $100 million palace? And besides: Isn’t it NYC’s prerogative to build higher, faster, and stronger? We’ve never been a city to turn down new development—we’re not Paris.

But I think there’s something else that irks me about these new towers. After all, New Yorkers willingly suffer for their city on a daily basis—in fact, it’s a source of civic pride. As Justin Davidson pointed out in arecent review of one massive West 57th street tower: These buildings aren’t awe-inspiring in the way the Empire State Building or Chrysler Building—or even Renzo Piano’s New York Times building—are.

And it’s important that they’re not office towers like the rest of the city’s supertalls. These new buildings will become the tallest residential architecture in the country, populated by roughly a few hundred astronomically wealthy people. Non-billionaires will be relegated to the streets below, as oligarchs shuttle to-and-fro in helicopters and armored cars. Most of these condos will probably be empty, most of the time.

So maybe it’s not that these shadows are ruining New Yorkers’ sunbathing. It’s that they’re escaping the fundamental reality of Manhattan—that regardless of income, all of us suffer the same basic indignities: The trash, the traffic, the pollution, the small kitchens.

But, like the rich in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, the owners in these super-tall, super-luxury towers will be citizens of a literal super-city, one located above us all, hovering in a part of the atmosphere inaccessible to mere earthlings, only detectable through the shadows it casts. [Studio-X NYC]

Voir de plus:

The 800 club

In a city obsessed with wealth and status, living at supertall altitude is a privilege that only a few dozen New Yorkers enjoy — at least for now.
Jon Ronson
The New York Times magazine
06/05/2016

“This is the skyline people talk about.” It was a Wednesday evening in late May, and Warren Estis, a real estate litigator, was showing me the views from his penthouse apartment at Trump World Tower, at 47th Street and First Avenue. We were on the 86th floor, which, according to the building’s management, meant we were 810 feet above the ground. “You can see water planes landing on the East River,” he said. “I love the seaplanes when they come zooming in.”He led me north into the home theater, from which you could see all the way up and across town to the George Washington Bridge and where the deep leather chairs reclined into divans at the touch of a button. Then he led me south, through a lavish open-plan living room, where his partner, Tatyana Enkin, was preparing tea. The two are collectors of glass art, and the living room was dense with it: crystal swans and obelisks and lilac-and-purple baubles of various abstract shapes. LED strip lighting in the ceiling made the room glow blue, then red. “Look at the World Trade Center,” Estis said, pointing downtown. Finally, he led me west.Trump World Tower is a sleek black slab of a building that looms over the far eastern edge of Midtown Manhattan, and the view back across the island is truly remarkable. “Here you’re sitting in a chair, and you turn and you see everything,” he said. “All the iconic buildings in the city. And it’s different at night. Everything’s lit.”But as he looked out the window his eyes flickered, a little irritated, at two new supertall condo buildings that tower above his, slightly blighting his west-facing view. To the right in the middle distance was One57, a blandly luxurious gray-blue monolith that rises to 1,004 feet and casts a significant shadow over the south side of Central Park; just to the right of that stood the even loftier 432 Park Avenue, pencil-thin and still unfinished. The design of 432 Park is more attractive than One57’s — it resembles a neat stack of pale Rubik’s Cubes — and its rapid rise has made it perhaps Manhattan’s most noticeable skyscraper. When Estis moved into Trump World Tower in 2002, his year-old home was the world’s tallest residential building. Now 432 Park dwarfs it.Tatyana Enkin in the 86th-floor Trump World Tower apartment she shares with her partner, Warren Estis. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times

Estis shot its penthouse — which is, at 1,396 feet, currently the highest condominium in the world — a derisive glance. “At a certain point, you’re too high,” he said. “You don’t want to be higher than this,” he added, meaning his own apartment. “Up there you lose the effect. You have to walk to the window to look down.”“It’s like when you go to an art gallery,” Enkin said. “The painting has to be on eye level.”“What’s the good of being above it all?” Estis said. “You’re missing out on the beauty of the city and the various structures. Here you have the flavor.”Estis is, much like the man who built Trump World Tower, thickset, restless, plain speaking and motivated by a desire to win. He grew up in Little Neck, Queens, his mother a legal secretary and his father a lawyer for the Veteran’s Administration. At school, they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “Rich,” Estis replied. He was 6. While in college, he rented an ice-cream truck and drove it around on an aggressive schedule — eight months out of the year. Soon after he graduated from law school he had enough money saved to buy his first piece of property: a two-family home in Bay Terrace, Queens. Now 57, he owns approximately 65 apartments and houses throughout Manhattan and Queens, and heads a 79-lawyer law firm.‘At a certain point, you’re too high. You don’t want to be higher than this.’Enkin, like Trump’s first and third wives, is an ex-model who grew up in the Eastern bloc. She was raised in Soviet Ukraine and worked as a hydrologist in the Siberian gulags before moving to the United States to become a model for the Elite agency and Marc Jacobs. Now 40, she works as an artist’s agent.

By living above 800 feet, Estis and Enkin are two members of an unexpectedly exclusive group in Manhattan. In my estimation, no more than 40 people currently live above that line, scattered among just three buildings (Trump World Tower, One57 and 8 Spruce Street, a Frank Gehry building downtown). But they’re just the vanguard. The city is in the midst of another building boom, one unlike any that has come before. In the past, Manhattan’s tallest buildings were filled with corporate offices; now, the most imposing skyscrapers are built as homes for some of the wealthiest people on the planet. By 2020 there are expected to be at least 14 residential skyscrapers in New York City. Many of them will block out the light for a great expanse of Central Park. A small city is being built in the sky — but for whom? I was curious to learn about them, so I set out to meet as many as I could.

Stellan Parr in his 453-square-foot studio apartment on the penthouse floor of 8 Spruce Street. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
Estis and Enkin were the first I got in touch with, and the most hospitable. I lingered around their apartment for hours, until the sun was setting over the Hudson. The spires of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building suddenly illuminated, bathing the apartment in their light.

“When you’re up there,” Estis said, meaning the 432 Park penthouse, “you’re missing this. You’ll see lights. But not at this level. You never want to be level with, or looking down on, rooftops. There’s no advantage.”

“Apparently that penthouse sold for $95 million,” I said. The buyer has been reported to be the Saudi Arabian retail and real estate giant Fawaz Alhokair (432 Park’s representatives declined to comment). He made his $1.37 billion fortune by bringing outlets of Western retail chains — Topshop, Banana Republic, Zara and Gap — to the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Estis shrugged, unimpressed. “They get bragging rights,” he said. Then he affected the smug tone of a 432 Park penthouse purchaser and added: “I paid more money than anyone else in the building. But I may not have the best view.”

The view may not matter in the end. According to Forbes, Alhokair lives primarily in Riyadh, so presumably 432 Park’s penthouse will become just a pied-à-terre for him — or perhaps simply an investment property, destined to remain pristinely and forever empty.

The precise number of people living above 800 feet is impossible to calculate because of the secrecy that now veils so many real estate transactions in New York. This is especially true at One57, where eight of nine condos above the 800-foot-mark have already sold. Buyers protect their identities fastidiously over there, purchasing their condos through shell corporations with impenetrable names that exist solely to mask their identities.

The top floor of 28 Liberty, a 60-story office tower, is home to free Tuesday yoga classes for those who work there. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
Tracking down the owners was a drawn-out process. I would make a trip to the New York City Registry to fetch the names and addresses of the limited-liability companies that made the purchases and try to contact them that way. For example, the top two floors of One57 make up a single duplex, Apartment 90, which sold for $100.5 million to an L.L.C. named, unhelpfully, P89-90 LLC. (It remains Manhattan’s most expensive single residence.) The lawyer representing the L.L.C., Andrea Riina, emailed me, “Your request was forwarded to the client and declined.”

I had slightly better luck with Apartment 90’s downstairs neighbor, the owner of Apartment 88. In April 2015, it was sold for $47.3 million to Pac Wholly Own L.L.C., which is associated with a Chinese airline, Pacific American. The airline is owned by the HNA Group, which is in turn owned by the billionaire Chen brothers, Feng and Guoqing. After correctly predicting in the early 1990s that Hainan, a balmy island south of Beijing, would become a kind of Chinese Riviera, they started an airline to take passengers there. Soon, they amassed a fortune. According to a 2014 Bloomberg profile, Chen Feng is a “rigorously private” man; apparently his brother is, too. I emailed Guoqing Chen’s assistant several times before she finally responded: “One57 is a company investment program, and Mr. Chen doesn’t live in One57 right now. So, I am afraid Mr. Chen can’t take the interview. Thank you so much for your consideration.” The rebuff knocked out Apartment 86 too. The L.L.C. that purchased it, One57 86 L.L.C., is registered to the same small downtown Manhattan office suite that houses Pacific American airlines.

Apartment 83 is unsold, and the owners of Apartments 85 and 82 — the billionaire retailers and business partners Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou, respectively — “prefer not to be included in the article,” their assistant wrote. Stroll, who made his money by investing early in Tommy Hilfiger, is Canadian but a resident of Geneva, according to Forbes. Chou — an early investor in Michael Kors — lives in Hong Kong.

I had a good feeling about Apartment 81 (which lies slightly below 800 feet, but I felt I’d earned it). For a start, there was a chance its owner actually lived there. The apartment cost $55.5 million and — according to The Times’s real estate pages from the week of the sale — boasts a “galvanizing 75-foot-long entrance gallery,” a “grand salon,” four bedrooms, a “one-ton bathtub carved from a single marble slab,” “head-on views of the park to the north” and a concierge who can organize everything from “helicopter service to the Hamptons” to use of a quartz stone bed at a spa on a lower floor that has, apparently, certain healing properties. These apartments are marketed in grandiose ways. As Michael Graves, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, told The Times in November 2015, “Living on a full floor at One57 is probably the closest thing to being a king in the 21st century.” (To be pedantic, the world’s 15 actual kings are closer to being kings than the residents of One57 are, though there might conceivably be some overlap.)

The purchaser of Apartment 81 turned out to be a Texan named Becky Moores. Unlike her neighbors, she didn’t conceal her identity. She bought it in her own name — well, in the name of the Rebecca Ann Moores Family Trust. She married her childhood sweetheart, John, in 1963. Forty-five years later she filed for divorce, hinting at infidelity. The divorce was messy and public and the payout vast enough to afford her not only Apartment 81 but a $34.3 million apartment on One57’s 54th floor too. The settlement proved less fortuitous for fans of the San Diego Padres. John Moores was the team’s owner, and to pay the settlement he had to sell his majority share. In the process, the payroll plummeted, and the star players Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez were traded off to save money. “Ultimately, the team collapsed,” says Tom Krasovic, a sports reporter at The San Diego Union-Tribune who covered the Padres for years. He seemed confident that Becky Moores would grant me an interview. “I always found her to be a very nice lady,” he told me over the telephone. “She’s very well liked and very approachable with a lot of the media.”

“Bad news,” emailed my contact for Moores. “Rebecca Moores isn’t interested in participating in your story.”

Todd Stone in his artist’s studio on the 67th floor of 4 World Trade Center. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
Sorting out who lives above 800 feet in Trump World Tower is slightly easier, thanks both to the tabloids and to the fact that it was built before this vogue for secrecy really took hold. Beyoncé and Jay-Z used to live up there. They rented an apartment a few floors above Estis and Enkin for a year, paying a reported $65,000 per month. The former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter lived there, too. He sold his 5,500-square-foot apartment on the 89th floor, identical in shape and size to Estis and Enkin’s, for $15.5 million in 2012. Nowadays, their neighbors include the widow of a Delta Air Lines pilot who made a fortune in the stock market, a human rights advocate from South Africa who specializes in health care projects for the developing world, the chairman of Assist America (a global medical-emergency service) and a mysterious Asian businessman who purchased the three remaining apartments all at once, paying in cash, according to Enkin. “He’s Japanese,” she said, “but I don’t know exactly what he does.” (According to a resident and city records, his name is Chinh Chu. Chu works in finance and he is, in fact, from Vietnam. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

8 Spruce Street stands out among these new buildings because it’s rental-only — none of the units are for sale. Only the top three floors sit above the 800-foot line. The resident of Penthouse South, on the very top floor, agreed to meet me.

Penthouse South is tiny — so tiny it looks as if there has been some mistake. Its 453 square feet are inclusive of literally everything. It’s so incongruous amid the huge penthouses it abuts that it feels almost magical, like the secret railway platform from which the wizards take the train to Hogwarts. It was designed to be a guest or nanny’s room for one of the other penthouses, but building management rented it instead to Stellan Parr — 33, tattooed, soft-spoken and studying to be a physician assistant. He pays rent “in the low thousands.” He is a unique man: perhaps the only person of (somewhat) modest means who lives at such heights in New York. We sat at his kitchen/living room/bedroom table and admired his view, which takes in the Statue of Liberty, the curve of the East River, 1 World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial pools. He opened his window a fraction, and we both suddenly experienced debilitating vertigo. He closed it, and the feeling immediately dissipated.

Sometimes, Parr told me, he leaves his room to surprised glances from his neighbors — they have included a basketball player with the Brooklyn Nets and a European who used the $45,000-a-month apartment as a crash pad for the rare occasions he was in town. They have said to Parr, “I didn’t know anyone lived there.”

On a clear day in early May, I was given permission to stand on the 95th floor of 432 Park — which is, at 1,271 feet, the building’s second-highest floor, directly below the $95 million condominium. 432 Park is still partly under construction, and it took much haggling with the building’s owners before they granted me access. The two apartments that make up this floor are currently filled with dust and construction equipment, but once completed they will go on the market at around $40 million each. (This makes them roughly four times the price of, and 25 percent smaller than, Estis and Enkin’s apartment.)

I could see Trump World Tower easily from here, and I recalled Estis’s frequent assertions that his views were better. Now I had the chance to assess his claim. Looking south I could see all the way to the Atlantic. I could see how Manhattan tapered to a point at its southernmost end. Still, from this side of the building, I had to agree with Estis: The 95th floor is too high. There’s too much sky. You do have to walk up to the windows to look down.

But then I walked to a north-facing window and gazed out upon the most expensive view in the world — the view that someone was willing to pay $95 million for. (It really is the view that sells these places. The apartments aren’t that big.) I could see, at once, the whole of Central Park. But I could also see everything happening in it: children playing baseball, picnickers lying on the grass, a sea lion jumping from a rock into the water at the zoo. I could even see the splash. It was overwhelming, awe-inspiring. I felt like Gatsby — removed and superior. And then it was time for me to leave.

Workers at the ‘‘top of the house’’ — the current pinnacle of construction — at 3 World Trade Center. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
As my elevator descended and my ears popped, it occurred to me that I would almost certainly never take in such a view again. And in fact, maybe nobody will, if these apartments wind up becoming empty investments.

A few weeks later, via email, I received an enormous surprise. For the first time ever, a purchaser of an apartment above 800 feet in one of the mysterious new supertall condo buildings had agreed to speak with a journalist about his purchase. I was to meet him in his Fifth Avenue office on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Howard Lorber is a 67-year-old New Yorker, balding, gregarious, instantly likable. He stood at his 52nd-floor office window, which looks out over — or, I suppose, under — his future home. His apartment will be on the 67th floor, he told me, 850 feet above the ground.

“I point it out to everyone who comes in here,” he said.

I mentioned my calculation that only a few dozen people currently live above 800 feet in the city. Lorber, who works in real estate, did his own calculation and said, “Once 432 Park is filled, there’ll be 40 more.”

On his mantelpiece were photographs of him with Donald, Ivanka and Melania Trump. “I think Donald is fantastic, and he’s going to beat Hillary and be the next president,” he said. There was also a photograph of him with Mitt Romney. “I should take that one down,” he said.

Lorber grew up in the Bronx. His father was an electrical engineer, and Lorber entered the work force by the time he was 13, “flipping pizzas, pumping gas.” He went to college but hated it, so he became a sociology major because someone told him it was the easiest way to graduate. Out in the world, he wasn’t satisfied with the sort of work he could find with a sociology degree, so he went back to college and learned accounting. He became a stockbroker, then moved into insurance. Eventually, he made enough money to buy Nathan’s Famous, the hot-dog company. He’s currently chairman of the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, the very same firm that is now selling the condos at 432 Park — hence, perhaps, his willingness to be interviewed. From time to time during our conversation, he lapsed into a kind of marketing autopilot: “432 Park is an unbelievably striking building, it’s like a masterpiece, it has to be the most talked-about and revered building in New York City. … ” But I didn’t mind the spiel because — given his expertise — he provided insightful answers to my lingering questions about the supertall boom.

“How come Trump World Tower is so much less expensive than 432 Park?” I asked.

A dentist’s office on the 69th floor of the Chrysler Building. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
“By New York standards it’s already an older building,” he said. “First Avenue in the 40s doesn’t command the same price as Park Avenue in the 50s. It just doesn’t. Everyone wants to live in the middle, as opposed to the ends. I guess Central Park is the equivalent of living on the water in the Hamptons. Then there are the ceiling heights, the amenities. … ” (432 Park will have a restaurant, a fitness center and several floors of studios that the owners of the larger apartments can purchase as offices or for staff accommodation. When I walked into Lorber’s office, he was complaining to one of his associates about the price of these studios. “Seven hundred feet for $3 million, to house your staff?” he was saying. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea.” Still, he has reserved one for himself.)

I recounted to him my lack of success at One57, how I was impeded in part by the impenetrable L.L.C. names. “People do it for privacy,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “it worked.”

“If you’re wealthy,” he said, “with the world as it is, with ISIS saying they want to go after billionaires, there’s really almost no reason not to buy in an L.L.C.”

I asked him about all the emptiness up there. Will those apartments purchased as investments by foreign billionaires really remain forever vacant?

‘Seven hundred feet for $3 million, to house your staff? I don’t think it’s such a good idea.’

“It depends on the people,” he replied. “Some foreigners just want to get their money out of the countries they’re in. They may or may not rent them, but it’s not about making money. It’s more a matter of wanting stability, to be in a safe haven, which they believe New York City is. Look around the world. Look at all the turmoil. Argentina’s bankrupt, Brazil’s in trouble. In China the prices probably went down 20 to 30 percent last year.” But this, he added, was more an issue for One57 than for 432 Park. “One57 is geared more to foreigners; 432 Park is mostly domestic.”

“How come?” I asked.

“It ended up that way,” he said. “One57 has a hotel in it. 432 Park doesn’t. I think the foreigners like the idea of having a hotel. The locals like the privacy and the security of not having a hotel. And also, in fairness, One57 was on the market first. So they had the first shot at those people.”

This last statement made me realize just how tiny a group this is — these foreign billionaires happy to spend tens of millions on New York City apartments they may never visit. It’s a very small community, the superrich. In fact, when Lorber asked me who else I had interviewed for the story, and I mentioned Warren Estis, he broke into a huge smile and said: “I know Warren very well! He’s a client of the company! He’s a fun guy!”

Servcorp, a work space on the 85th floor of 1 World Trade Center. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
It’s no surprise that Donald Trump seems to loom over life at 800 feet. Years before he coasted to the Republican nomination on a tide of populist anger, he was the first to give the superrich the chance to purchase these aloof Manhattan palaces in the sky, these physical embodiments of how the extremely wealthy operate at a remove from society. And now, in a way, his campaign is exploiting the rage this divergence has caused.

When I was at Estis and Enkin’s apartment we got to talking about Trump and the hostility that follows him around. Trump World Tower was itself constructed amid much acrimony and division — a chaotic and upsetting experience for some neighbors and a bonanza for others. Taking advantage of the city’s idiosyncratic “air rights” process, Trump quietly bought rights from the owners of several low-rise neighboring buildings — a church and a Japanese cultural center among them — until he had enough to build one gigantic tower. He undertook his maneuver with such stealth that none of the other neighbors, not even Walter Cronkite, knew what was unfolding in their backyards. When Trump’s plans were finally revealed, Cronkite made an emotional petition to the city appeals board, calling the design “demeaning” to the United Nations. “How can we allow an institution as important to the world and New York as the U.N. to be forever dwarfed by this outsize and illegal tower?”

A Trump executive, Abraham Wallach, responded by reminding the media that Cronkite himself lived in a 50-story high-rise at U.N. Plaza. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he said.

Before setting off for Trump World Tower, I emailed the Rev. Robert J. Robbins, formerly of the Church of the Holy Family, to ask what the church did with its unexpected $10 million air-rights windfall from Trump. He declined my interview request, citing “Mr. Trump’s present high profile” as the reason. One of Estis and Enkin’s neighbors refused to let The Times photograph their apartment because they didn’t want their name associated with Trump’s in the current climate. For that reason, I felt concerned about mentioning his name to Estis and Enkin. But I needn’t have worried. They are huge fans of his and intend to vote for him.

“He’s truly impressive,” said Estis. “He gives off an aura of presence and he usually has very positive things to say to the individual he’s talking to. He makes you feel good about yourself. He’ll praise you.”

“How has he praised you?” I asked.

Looking east from 56 Leonard Street, currently under construction. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
“One time I ran into him at the U.S. Open, and he was with a well-known name in New York real estate,” Estis said. “We shake hands, and he turns to the builder-developer and says, ‘Warren’s probably one of the best lawyers in New York City.’ ” Estis beamed. “As I said, it makes you feel good.”

Trump does like to say things that make people feel good, though the question of their veracity is often tricky. Trump World Tower’s public-relations agency repeatedly assured The Times that Estis’s apartment lay 810 feet above the ground. But then I called Marshall Gerometta, an expert in skyscraper heights at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

“Only the top residential unit is above 800 feet,” he said. That’s the 90th-floor penthouse, four floors above Estis and Enkin. His figure, he told me, came from a 3-D image of the building on Google Earth. When I raised doubts about his methods, he said that he had “checked dozens of buildings this way against the actual blueprints, and it’s usually within a couple of feet of accuracy. I’m kind of the go-to guy on this.” (This is true: The Council on Tall Buildings is a respected source.)

“Is Trump known for exaggerating his buildings’ heights?” I asked.

Gerometta replied that he didn’t know about that, but he did know this: Trump was probably one of the first builders to skip floor numbers in order to inflate the total count. “What he markets as the 90th floor is often actually the 72nd floor, just to make it sound more impressive.”

“The Donald,” Gerometta said, laughing, “likes to exaggerate.” (Trump World Tower continues to dispute Gerometta’s figures but has not produced blueprints or other evidence to the contrary.)

For Estis and Enkin, the precise altitude of their apartment is ultimately immaterial. At sunset we sat at a west-facing window. The evening light filled the room, and Enkin had opened a bottle of Champagne. I suddenly remembered recent demonstrations at various Trump-owned skyscrapers across New York City.

“Was there an anti-Trump protest outside this building a couple of weeks ago?” I asked them.

Enkin smiled. Then she shrugged and said, “You only see the top of their heads.” ♦

Jon Ronson is the author, most recently, of “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” He last wrote for the magazine about social-media public shaming.

Christopher Anderson is a Magnum photographer and a recipient of a Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.

 Voir encore:
Winging it
Manhattan’s airspace may look empty, but it teems with life.
Helen Macdonald
The New York Times magazine
06/05/2016
Dusk is falling over Midtown on a chilly evening in early May. I Google the weather forecast once again on my phone — it’s still north-northeasterly winds and clear skies — then pull on my coat and walk down Fifth Avenue toward the Empire State Building. The line for the observation deck snakes around the block, and I’m the only person in it wearing a pair of binoculars around my neck, which makes me a little self-conscious. For an hour I inch forward, up escalators, through marble halls, past walls of soft gold wallpaper, before squeezing into a crowded elevator and emerging on the 86th floor. At over a thousand feet above the city, there’s a strong breeze and a spectacular sea of lights spilling out far below. It’s so astonishing a view I almost forget to breathe.Behind the tourists pressed against the perimeter fence, there’s a man leaning back against the wall. Above him the stars and stripes flap languidly in the night air. I can’t see his face in the gloom, but I know this is the man I’ve come to meet because he’s holding a pair of binoculars that look far better than mine, and his face is upturned to sky. There’s an urgency to the way he stands that reminds me of people I’ve seen at skeet shoots waiting for the trap to fire the next target. He’s tense with anticipation.This is Andrew Farnsworth, a soft-spoken 43-year-old researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and I’m joining him here in hope of seeing a wildlife phenomenon that twice a year sweeps almost unseen above the city: the seasonal night flights of migrating birds. I can’t help thinking this is an absurdly incongruous place for a nature-viewing expedition. Apart from the familiar exceptions — pigeons, rats, mice, sparrows — we tend to think of wild creatures as living far from the city’s margins, and nature as the city’s polar opposite. It’s easy to see why. The only natural things visible from this height are a faint scatter of stars above and the livid bruise of the Hudson running through the clutter of lights below. Everything else is us: the flash of aircraft, the tilt of bright smartphones, the illuminated grids of windows and streets.Skyscrapers are at their most perfect at night, full-fledged dreams of modernity that erase nature and replace it with a new landscape wrought of artifice, a cartography of steel and glass and light. But people live in them for the same reason that they travel to wild places: to escape the city. The highest buildings raise you above the mess and chaos of life at street level; they also raise you into something else. The sky may seem like an empty place, just as we once thought the deep ocean to be a lifeless void. But like the ocean, this is a vast habitat full of life — bats and birds, flying insects, spiders, windblown seeds, microbes, drifting spores. The more I stare at the city across miles of dusty, uplit air, the more I begin to think of these supertall buildings as machines that work like deep-sea submersibles, transporting us to inaccessible realms we cannot otherwise explore. Inside them, the air is calm and clean and temperate. Outside is a tumultuous world teeming with unexpected biological abundance, and we are standing in its midst.Above us, LED bulbs around the base of the spire cast a soft halo of pale light up into the darkness. An incandescent blur of white skips across it. Through binoculars it resolves into a noctuid moth, wings flapping as it climbs vertically toward the tower. No one fully understands how moths like these orient themselves while migrating; there’s speculation that they might navigate by sensing Earth’s magnetic fields. This one is flying upward in search of the right airflow that will allow it to travel where it wants to go.Wind-borne migration is an arthropod specialty, allowing creatures like aphids, wasps, lacewings, beetles, moths and tiny spiders hoisted on strands of electrostatically charged silk to travel distances ranging from tens to hundreds of miles. These drifting creatures are colonizers, pioneers looking for new places to live, and they’ll make a home wherever they find one. Place a rose bush out on the arid environment of a top-floor balcony and soon wind-borne sap-sucking aphids will cluster on its stems, followed by the tiny wasps that parasitize them.

Insects travel above us in extraordinary numbers. In Britain, the research scientist Jason Chapman uses radar systems aimed into the atmosphere to study their high-altitude movements. Over seven and a half billion can pass over a square mile of English farmland in a single month — about 5,500 pounds of biomass. Chapman thinks the number passing over New York City may be even higher, because this is a gateway to a continent, not a small island surrounded by cold seas, and summers here are generally hotter. Once you get above 650 feet, he says, you’re lofted into a realm where the distinction between city and countryside has little or no meaning at all.

During the day, chimney swifts feast on these vast drifts of life; during the night, so do the city’s resident and migrating bats, and nighthawks with white-flagged wings. On days with northwest winds in late summer and early fall, birds, bats and migrant dragonflies all feed on rich concentrations of insects caused by powerful downdrafts and eddies around the city’s high-rise buildings, just as fish swarm to feed where currents congregate plankton in the ocean.

It’s not just insects up there. The tallest buildings, like the Empire State, 1 World Trade Center and other new supertowers, project into airspace that birds have used for millenniums. The city lies on the Atlantic flyway, the route used by hundreds of millions of birds to fly north every spring to their breeding grounds and back again in the fall. Most small songbirds tend to travel between 3,000 and 4,000 feet from the ground, but they vary their altitude depending on the weather. Larger birds fly higher, and some, like shorebirds, may well pass over the city at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. Up here we’ll be able to see only a fraction of what is moving past us: Even the tallest buildings dip into only the shallows of the sky.

Though you can see migrating raptors soaring at altitudes well over 800 feet over the city during the day, most species of diurnal birds migrate after nightfall. It’s safer. Temperatures are cooler, and there are fewer predators around. Fewer, not none. Just before I arrived, Farnsworth saw a peregrine falcon drifting ominously around the building. Peregrines frequently hunt at night here. From high-rise lookout perches, they launch flights out into the darkness to grab birds and bats. In more natural habitats, falcons cache the bodies of birds they’ve killed among crevices in cliffs. The ones here tuck their kills into ledges on high-rises, including the Empire State. For a falcon, a skyscraper is simply a cliff: It brings the same prospects, the same high winds, the same opportunities to stash a takeout meal.

We stare out into the dark, willing life into view. Minutes pass. Farnsworth points. “There!” he says. High above us is a suspicion of movement, right at the edge of vision where the sky dissolves into dusty chaos. I swing my binoculars up to my eyes. Three pale pairs of beating wings, flying north-northeast in close formation. Black-crowned night herons. I’ve seen them only ever hunched on branches or crouched low by lakes and ponds, and it’s astounding to see them wrenched so far from their familiar context. I wonder how high they are. “Those are pretty large,” Farnsworth says. “When you look up into the light, everything looks bigger than it is, and closer than it is.” He estimates that the herons are about 300 feet above us: nearly 1,500 feet in the air. We watch them vanish into darkness.

I feel less like a naturalist and more like an amateur astronomer waiting for a meteor shower, squinting expectantly into the darkness. I try a new tactic: focusing my binoculars on infinity and pointing them straight up. Through the lenses, birds invisible to the naked eye swim into view, and there are birds above them, and birds higher still. It strikes me that we are seeing a lot of birds. An awful lot of birds.

Even the tallest buildings dip into only the shallows of the sky.

For every larger bird I see, 30 or more songbirds pass over. They are very small. Watching their passage is almost too moving to bear. They resemble stars, embers, slow tracer fire. Even through binoculars those at higher altitudes are tiny, ghostly points of light. I know that they have loose-clenched toes tucked to their chests, bright eyes, thin bones and a will to fly north that pulls them onward night after night. Most of them spent yesterday in central or southern New Jersey before ascending into darkness. Larger birds keep flying until dawn. The warblers tend to come earlier to earth, dropping like stones into patches of habitat farther north to rest and feed over the following day. Some, like yellow-rumped warblers, began their long journeys in the southeastern states. Others, like rose-breasted grosbeaks, have made their way up from Central America.

Something tugs at my heart. I’ll never see any of these birds again. If I weren’t this high, and the birds weren’t briefly illuminated by this column of light cast by a building thrown up through the Depression years to celebrate earthly power and capital confidence, I’d never have seen them at all.

Farnsworth pulls out a smartphone. Unlike everyone else holding screens up here, he’s looking at radar images from Fort Dix, in New Jersey, part of a National Weather Service radar network that provides near-continuous coverage of airspace over the continental U.S.A. “It’s definitely a heavy migration night tonight,” he says. “When you see those kinds of patterns on radar, in particular, those greens,” he explains, “you’re talking about 1,000 to 2,000 birds per cubic mile potentially, which is almost as dense as it gets. So it’s a big night.” After days of bad weather for birds wanting to fly north, with low cloud and winds in the wrong direction, a bottleneck of migrants built up, and now the sky is full of them. I watch the pixellation blossom on the animated radar map, a blue-and-green dendritic flower billowing out over the whole East Coast. “This is biological stuff that’s up in the atmosphere,” Farnsworth says, pointing one finger to the screen. “It’s all biology.”

Meteorologists have long known that you can detect animal life by radar. Just after World War II, British radar scientists and Royal Air Force technicians puzzled over mysterious plots and patterns that appeared on their screens. They knew they weren’t aircraft and christened them “angels” before finally concluding that they were flocks of moving birds. “That was their contamination, right?” Farnsworth says of radar meteorologists. “They wanted to filter all that stuff out. Now the biologists want to do the reverse.” Farnsworth is one pioneer of a new multidisciplinary science, fit for an era in which weather radar has become so sensitive it can detect a single bumblebee over 30 miles away. It’s called aeroecology, and it uses sophisticated remote-sensing technologies like radar, acoustics and tracking devices to study ecological patterns and relationships in the skies. “The whole notion of the aerosphere and airspace as habitat is not something that has come into the collective psyche until recently,” Farnsworth says. And this new science is helping us understand how climate change, skyscrapers, wind turbines, light pollution and aviation affect the creatures that live and move above us.

At 10 o’clock, cirrus clouds slide overhead like oil poured on water. Ten minutes later, the sky is clear again, and the birds are still flying. We move to the east side of the observation deck. A saxophonist begins to play, and in concert with this unlikely soundtrack we begin to see birds far closer than before. One in particular. Though it is overexposed in the light, we detect a smear of black at its chest and a distinctive pattern on its tail: a male yellow-rumped warbler. It flickers past and disappears around the corner of the building. A little while later, we see another flying the same way. Then another. It dawns on us that it this is the same bird, circling. Another one joins it, both now drawn helplessly toward and around the light, reeling about the spire as if caught on invisible strings. Watching them dampens our exuberant mood. The spire is lit with pulsing rivulets of climbing color like a candle tonight to mark the building’s 85th anniversary. And these birds have been attracted to it, pulled off course, their exquisite navigational machinery overwhelmed by light, leaving them confused and in considerable danger. After being mesmerized in this way, some birds drag themselves free and continue their journey. Others don’t.

New York is among the brightest cities in the world after Las Vegas, only one node in a flood of artificial illumination that runs from Boston down to Washington. We cherish our cities for their appearance at night, but it takes a terrible toll on migrating songbirds: You can find them dead or exhausted at the foot of high-rise buildings all over America. Disoriented by light and reflections on glass, they crash into obstacles, fly into windows, spiral down to the ground. More than 100,000 die each year in New York City alone. Thomas King, of the New York pest-control company M&M Environmental, has had calls from residents of high-rise buildings asking him to deal with the birds colliding with their windows during migration season. He tells them that there’s no solution, but they can talk to their building manager about turning the lights off. It helps. Programs like the New York City Audubon’s Lights Out New York have encouraged many high-rise owners to do the same, saving both energy and avian lives.

We cherish our cities for their appearance at night, but it takes a terrible toll on migrating songbirds.

Every year the “Tribute in Light” shines twin blue beams into the Manhattan night as a memorial to the lives lost on Sept. 11. They rise four miles into the air and are visible 60 miles from the city. On peak migration nights songbirds spiral down toward them, calling, pulled from the sky, so many circling in the light they look like glittering, whirling specks of paper caught in the wind. On one night last year, so many were caught in the beams that the few pixels representing the “Tribute” site glowed superbright on the radar maps. Farnsworth was there with the Audubon team that got the lights shut off intermittently to prevent casualties. They switched off the “Tribute” eight times that night for about 20 minutes at a time, releasing the trapped birds to return to their journey. Each time the lights went back on, a new sweep of birds was drawn in — the twin towers made ghosts of light visited over and over by winged travelers intermittently freed into darkness before a crowd rushed in to take their place. Farnsworth is a lead scientist in BirdCast, a project that combines a variety of methods — weather data, flight calls, radar, observers on the ground — to predict the movements of migrating birds throughout the continental United States and forecast big nights like this that might require emergency lights-out action.

The flow of birds over the observation deck continues, but it’s getting late. I make my farewell, take the elevator back down the building and wander uphill to my apartment. Though it’s long past midnight, I’m wide-awake. Part of what high-rise buildings are designed to do is change the way we see. To bring us different views of the world, views intimately linked with prospect and power — to make the invisible visible. The birds I saw were mostly unidentifiable streaks of light, like thin retinal scratches or splashes of luminous paint on a dark ground. As I look up from street level, the blank sky above seems a very different place, deep and coursing with life.

Two days later, I decide to walk in Central Park, and find it full of newer migrants that arrived here at night and stayed to rest and feed. A black-and-white warbler tacking along a slanted tree trunk deep in the Ramble, a yellow-rumped warbler sallying forth into the bright spring air to grab flies, a black-throated blue warbler so neat and spry he looks like a folded pocket handkerchief. These songbirds are familiar creatures with familiar meanings. It’s hard to reconcile them with the remote lights I witnessed in the sky.

Living in a high-rise building bars you from certain ways of interacting with the natural world. You can’t put out feeders to watch robins and chickadees in your garden. But you are set in another part of their habitual world, a nocturne of ice crystals and cloud and wind and darkness. High-rise buildings, symbols of mastery over nature, can work as bridges toward a more complete understanding of the natural world — stitching the sky to the ground, nature to the city.

For days afterward, my dreams are full of songbirds, the familiar ones from woods and back lots, but also points of moving light, little astronauts, travelers using the stars to navigate, having fallen to earth for a little while before picking themselves up and moving on. ♦

Helen Macdonald is the author of “H Is for Hawk” and a contributing writer for the magazine.

Brian Rea is an illustrator and artist based in Los Angeles.

 Voir aussi:
Air assault
The violent physics that transpire just outside every skyscraper window.
Gareth Cook
The New York Times magazine
06/05/2016

A winter gale enjoys an easy approach to Manhattan from the north-northeast. As the wind moves over the Hudson River, the waves put up a weak fight against the air at altitude. Coming off the water, though, the wind hits the trees and buildings of Hudson Heights, and the mounting obstacles create huge vortices of air that join the increasingly turbulent flow. At West 110th Street, the wind tumbles into Central Park and then, skimming over oak and beech trees, it picks up speed while some of the great gyres it conveys spin down and vanish. Yet when the wind leaves the park at West 59th Street, it still contains tumultuous traces of its history, of the trees, the buildings and water it has traversed. The wind, it can be said, has memory.At last, the wind happens upon one of the supertall towers south of the park and reveals a far more wicked talent. It strikes the building’s face and rushes for the edges, whipping off the corners and spiraling tightly, creating a columnar vortex that sucks at the tower’s side and goes careering downwind. If air is moving quickly, these vortices form to a beat, pulling first one way, then the other. The gale is coming out of the north, but this force acts on the perpendicular, along the east-west axis, rocking the structure. Specialists call this the crosswind effect, and in certain circumstances, the rocking hits a building’s “natural frequency.” Imagine, says Derek Kelly, an engineer, that the hand of God were to reach down and gently pluck one of the skyline’s spires: The skyscraper would vibrate back and forth, like a guitar string. That is a building’s natural frequency. If it matches the crosswind tugs, the two are in resonance; the oscillations grow, like a child kicking on a swing. East then west, east then west. When a gale rolls in, a supertall will lean back, but it’s nothing compared with the potential power of the crosswind effect.Today’s engineers have conquered gravity: With enough structural steel and high-performance concrete, a tower will soar. The more dogged foe is wind. While gravity pulls down, wind can come from any compass point. It can apply pressure or suction, or alternate between the two. The wind, unlike gravity, changes from city to city, from season to season. Most harrowing of all is the wind’s dynamism. It is changed by everything it touches, and the wind even shapes itself, with every current pulling on all its neighbors. Gravity is plodding and obvious, but give wind a chance, and it will gather itself together and riot.When Citicorp Center, with its slanted top, was completed in 1977, it didn’t look as if it should be able to stand. At 915 feet, the structure was supported entirely by four nine-story columns, leaving an impressive hollow at its base. The structural engineer William LeMessurier was hailed, but the next year an engineering student pointed out that the building (now called 601 Lexington) might indeed fall — in a strong-enough wind. Welders rushed to make emergency reinforcements and, with Hurricane Ella threatening, the city contemplated evacuating the area. Ella turned out to sea, though, and Midtown was spared.In the world of tall buildings, a novel kind of specialist has come to prominence: the wind engineer. As towers grow taller, they climb into more powerful winds, and lighter construction techniques can leave them more vulnerable. Developers have begun putting up very slender skyscrapers, like 432 Park Avenue in New York, and these are particularly sensitive to the aerial environment. When a wind engineer like Kelly looks at such a building, he understands that it is airborne, with one end pinned to underlying bedrock, the rest riding the winds of Manhattan.Kelly is a principal at RWDI, one of North America’s top wind consultants. The company’s client list includes 432 Park Avenue and 111 West 57th Street, a 1,428-foot skyscraper set to be among the slimmest in the world. (Imagine a one-foot ruler, stood on end and stretched to roughly twice its height.) When testing shows too much sway in an initial design, a near certainty with slender supertalls, RWDI offers a “shaping workshop.” The architect, developer and engineer make the trek from their home metropolis to the company’s headquarters in Guelph, Ontario, with dibs for the day on a wind-test tunnel and a cadre of model makers so that ideas can be tried in the tunnel and improved upon. The goal is to find ways that the building might, as these specialists say, “confuse the wind.” Designers of airplane wings want a smooth rush of air, to generate lift; designers of buildings want to divide the wind and leave it in disarray.

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, at 2,717 feet the planet’s tallest man-made structure, is asymmetrical, winding down from the top in a series of steps, like an expanding spiral staircase. The crosswind effect depends on a building’s width, and so at each level on the Burj, the wind beats at a different frequency: confused and frustrated, like a toddler kicking wildly on a swing that won’t get going. Another favorite weapon of wind confusion, seen on many skyscrapers, is cut corners, which disrupt suction forces along the side. Pinnacles and antennas are subjected to the kind of scrutiny given America’s Cup yachts. In the case of 432 Park Avenue, the design team used five gap layers, each two floors in height, where the facade opens to allow air to pass through, sapping vortices. These horizontal bands give the tower a visual rhythm, but they are there because of the wind. In the natural world, wind sculpts sand dunes and cuts the snow, carving rings where it has whipped around a tree. It leaves its marks on buildings too.

In February 2014, the white-haired Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly delivered a lecture, sponsored by the Skyscraper Museum, on 432 Park Avenue. A tall building can be made eminently safe, capable of withstanding hurricanes and earthquakes, but no amount of beefing up its steel and concrete skeleton can force it to hold still. Which raises the question: For a penthouse in the $100 million range, how much sway is too much? Viñoly described a project-team trip, arranged by RWDI, to a facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland, that houses a marine simulator, a covered platform on six hydraulic jacks mocked up as a ship’s bridge. Now they would simulate a penthouse: Out with the ship’s controls, in with chairs, a sofa and a coffee table. Through the windows, rolling North Sea waves were replaced with a 360-degree vantage of the city from a suitably astonishing height. As Viñoly described the feel of the building behaving badly, before final engineering, he rocked the lectern. “If you’re standing here, your cup of tea moves,” he said. “And if you are tacky enough to have a chandelier, your chandelier also moves.”

If shaping and structural tweaks reach their limit, engineers can reduce motion further by installing “tuned mass dampers” near the apex. One version consists of an enormous mass on a suspension system with pistons that resist the mass’s movement. The damper acts as a pendulum, but set just off the building’s natural frequency, meaning that whenever the tower lurches, the mass drags, out of sync, steadying it. The 1,667-foot Taipei 101 is damped with a 728-ton ball that does double duty as a tourist attraction. From the observation deck, the ball appears to swing in heavy winds, though actually the tourists are also in motion.

Hidden at 432 Park Avenue, some 1,300 tons of combined mass stroke away on two dampers. The building’s engineer, Silvian Marcus, the U.S.A. director of building structures at WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, visited one of the top floors with a group and asked if anyone felt anything. No, they said. He rested a laser pointer on the floor, aimed it up and stood back. The dot wandered as the tower flexed. “They said, ‘It’s unbelievable; we feel nothing,’ ” Marcus told me. With high-end damping, most people will not sense motion in normal weather. For supertall residential skyscrapers, tuned mass dampers are the rare luxury amenities that go unseen.

Very tall buildings are a recent invention, and the public has not yet developed an intuitive sense for them. “We still have this innate understanding that a building we enter will remain stationary,” says Melissa Burton, the global head of civil structures for BMT Fluid Mechanics. “It scares us when it moves.” You can choose to make a home in the clouds, comfortably isolated from the elements, but you can never escape the wind. The walls, and everything they contain, will always be in motion. Most of the time, this will fall beneath your notice. Yet someday a storm will come, the wind will riot and you will feel its touch. ♦

Gareth Cook is a contributing writer for the magazine and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

 Voir encore:
NYT

Oct. 28, 2013

TWENTY-SIX years ago this month, a coalition of New Yorkers led by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis won a historic victory for Central Park. At issue was a planned building on Columbus Circle by the developer Mortimer B. Zuckerman with 58- and 68-story towers that would cast long shadows on the park. After a lawsuit by opponents of the plan and a rally in Central Park at which over 800 New Yorkers with umbrellas formed a line to simulate the building’s shadow, Mr. Zuckerman relented and agreed to scale down his design, which eventually became known as the Time Warner Center.

“One would hope that the city would act as protector of sun and light and clean air and space and parkland,” Mrs. Onassis said at the time. “Those elements are essential to combat the stress of urban life.” Today, as the city becomes denser and green space ever more precious, New Yorkers’ access to sunlight and blue skies above Central Park is under assault in ways that make Mr. Zuckerman’s original plans look benign.

Fueled by lax zoning laws, cheap capital and the rise of a global elite with millions to spend on pieds-à-terre, seven towers — two of them nearly as tall as the Empire State Building — have recently been announced or are already under way near the south side of the park. This so-called Billionaires’ Row, with structures rising as high as 1,424 feet, will form a fence of steel and glass that will block significant swaths of the park’s southern exposure, especially in months when the sun stays low in the sky.

At New York’s latitude, explained Michael Kwartler, the president of the Environmental Simulation Center, a New York City nonprofit that creates shadow assessments, buildings cast substantial northerly shadows throughout the day in colder months. At noon on the winter solstice, for example, those shadows reach twice a building’s height and fall due north before stretching to 4.2 times its height in a northeasterly direction, 90 minutes before sunset.

That means the shadows of the larger of these planned buildings would jut half a mile into the park at midday on the solstice and elongate to around a mile in length as they angled across the park toward the Upper East Side, darkening playgrounds and ball fields, as well as paths and green space like Sheep Meadow that are enjoyed by 38 million visitors each year.

“The cumulative effect of these shadows will be to make the park less usable and less pleasant to be in,” Mr. Kwartler said.

Some damage has already been done. In cooler months, when direct sunlight can make all the difference for children playing outside, visitors to the amazing Heckscher Playground on the south end of Central Park can find themselves cut off from the sun in midafternoon by Extell’s One57, where earlier this year a penthouse apartment reportedly sold for $90 million to a group of investors.

Despite the likely impact these buildings would have on the park, there has been remarkably little public discussion, let alone dissent, about the plans. Part of this is because few people seem aware of what’s coming. Many of the buildings are so-called as-of-right developments that do not require the public filing of shadow assessments, which can ignite opposition with their eye-popping renderings of the impact shadows will have on surrounding areas.

But New York City has also lost a kind of rabble-rousing infrastructure that once stood up to overzealous developers.

Opposition to Mr. Zuckerman’s plans, for example, was spearheaded by the Municipal Art Society, a watchdog on issues of urban design that today is a comparatively acquiescent organization — with developers on its board. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which approved plans for two of the towers this month, has also ignored the issue of shadows on the park in favor of a narrow concern with the aesthetics of the structures themselves. The Central Park Conservancy has also remained silent, contending, when asked, that its focus should remain within the park’s borders — never mind that this is exactly where the shadows in question would fall.

There are few New Yorkers around today with the gravitas and magnetism of Jacqueline Onassis to focus public attention on planning issues the way she did for Grand Central Terminal and Columbus Circle. That means New Yorkers who want to protect Central Park will have to do it on their own, by picking up their umbrellas once again and by contacting community boards, politicians, city agencies and the developers themselves, to demand immediate height restrictions south of the park. And they need to hurry, before the sun sets permanently on a space the park designer Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned as “a democratic development of the highest significance.”

Warren St. John is a former reporter for The New York Times and the author of « Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference.”

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Bookshelf

Book Review: ‘Supreme City’ by Donald L. Miller
Jazz Age Manhattan was an electric vessel into which the hopes and desires of a nation were distilled.

David Freeland
WSJ
May 9, 2014A.J. Liebling, the great 20th-century chronicler of eccentricity and misfits, once described the challenges of being a native New Yorker: « People I know in New York are incessantly on the point of going back where they came from to write a book, or of staying on and writing a book about back where they came from. . . . It is all pretty hard on me because I have no place to go back to. I was born in an apartment house at Ninety-third Street and Lexington Avenue, about three miles from where I now live. »Liebling represented something of a minority: New York, and particularly its epicenter of Manhattan, was largely invented by people who came from other places. It was where old identities were thrown off and new ones created, where a Canadian farmer’s daughter transformed herself into the cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden, where the child of a Belarusian shtetl became David Sarnoff, the media titan who pioneered television.
Supreme CityBy Donald L. Miller
Simon & Schuster, 762 pages, $37.50

Donald L. Miller’s sweeping « Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America » is filled with an epic’s worth of such figures: people born elsewhere who transformed the city that had first transformed them. Mr. Miller’s arena is the Midtown Manhattan of the 1920s, which was being torn down and redeveloped at an unprecedented pace. The author identifies the 1913 opening of Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street as the spur to Midtown’s rise as a business and entertainment district. By the late 1920s, he writes, the « new Midtown » had been transformed into a showcase for the skyscraper, « a characteristically New York creation, an expression of the city’s vaulting ambition, its taste for size and spectacle, and its passion for land grabbing. »Through the course of a long and enjoyable text, we meet such characters as Fred F. French, the real-estate king who pummeled his sales staff with feel-good directives (« stand before your bathroom mirror and practice smiling for ten minutes in the morning and at night »); Joseph Patterson, a one-time socialist who founded the Daily News and became New York’s tabloid king; and Tex Rickard, the fight promoter who built a new Madison Square Garden and drew the ermine-and-pearl crowd into the sanguinary world of boxing.

As these examples suggest, it is Mr. Miller’s emphasis on influential « lesser-knowns » that gives « Supreme City » its particular interest. Harold Ross, the founder of the New Yorker, to which Liebling and so many other talented writers would contribute, is given his due, but so is staff reporter Lois Long, who wrote the night-life column— »Tables for Two » —and became the magazine’s first fashion editor. Her sartorial style (bobbed hair, thin strands of pearls) and adventurous sexual behavior influenced 1920s conceptions of the « New Woman »: well-educated, intrepid and more than capable of holding her own in a journalistic realm dominated by men. Long, who « smoked and drank prodigiously, told racy jokes, and threw all-night parties, » would often stumble to the office « around noon on the day her column was due. » But she « never failed to meet her deadline, » and her efforts to popularize ready-to-wear fashion were instrumental in attracting the retail advertisers that made the New Yorker a success.

Mr. Miller shows how the magazine’s success built upon the popularity of Midtown Manhattan as a stylish place of residence. The « largest concentration of regular subscribers, » he writes, lived in districts such as Park Avenue and Sutton Place, within walking distance of the restaurants, nightclubs and theaters the magazine described with such panache. We are reminded, in these sections, how Manhattan’s unique character during the 20th century was informed by a « work and play » model that combined discrete spheres of home, office and recreation. Manhattan dwellers were no longer just New Yorkers; they were « Metropolitanites. » Mr. Miller quotes the editors of Fortune, who coined the term: « [Metropolitanites] cannot imagine living in any U.S. city except New York. They like its swift tempo because they are hurrying to absorb more than anyone in a lifetime could touch, let alone understand. »

Of course, this dream city did not come into existence by itself. The book’s most gripping section deals with the men who literally built the Midtown skyline. Working « a fifth of a mile above the pavement, without handholds or safety supports of any kind, » these gangs of riveters (composed in part of a « heater » who forged the rivets and partnered a « catcher ») faced the prospect of death on an hourly basis:

Using long tongs, the heater pulled a cherry-red rivet—a small steel cylinder with no threads and one round head—out of the portable oven. He then tossed it underhand, « in a glowing arc, » to the catcher, standing as far as seventy feet away, and sometimes on a floor above. . . . If the catcher missed a blazing rivet, it either hit him or fell below, a malevolent missile capable of driving a steaming hole into a person’s skull.

« In the 1920s, » Mr. Miller writes, « ironworkers suffered one violent death, on average, for every thirty-three hours on the job, with falls accounting for most fatalities and serious injuries. » Such were the costs of the glamorous skyscraper city.

Others took risks in less visibly dramatic ways, working themselves to the point of exhaustion or collapse. The aforementioned Fred French, for whom « hard, persistent labor was the secret to success, » died of a heart attack at age 53. Clifford Holland, the Massachusetts-born designer of the tunnel that bears his name, suffered a nervous breakdown and died in a sanitarium before he could see the opening of his great project, which featured a groundbreaking ventilation system still in use today.

Mr. Miller has done a fine job of piecing together his multiplicity of stories into a unified whole. There are spots where the author seems uncertain of which elements of his narrative he wishes to emphasize: a chapter on Patterson and the Daily News contains a long, gruesome and unnecessary account of the execution of convicted husband-killer Ruth Snyder, while another chapter about showman and movie-palace builder Samuel « Roxy » Rothafel ends inexplicably with a section on the historical development of Times Square as an entertainment center, consigning the denouement of Roxy’s own tale to a footnote. (The creator of the Rockettes found his shows out of date by the mid-1930s and died « heartbroken. ») But such inconsistencies are surely unavoidable in a work that deals with so many diverse facets of New York in one of its most fervid decades. It was a time of rampant enterprise marked by faith in the American system, when few were able to foresee Depression and war just around the corner.

New York is often seen as a rarefied place unreflective of the experiences and aesthetics of the rest of the country— »New York, of course, » Liebling wrote, « just isn’t America. » But in the 1920s, one of the city’s greatest periods of influence, the truth was essentially the opposite. New York was the United States intensified, an electric vessel into which the hopes and desires of a nation were distilled. As Mr. Miller’s vivid and exhaustive chronicle demonstrates, Jazz Age Manhattan was the progenitor of cultural movements—individualized fusions of art and commerce—that came to symbolize the American way of life.

—Mr. Freeland is the author of « Automats, Taxi Dances and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure. »

Voir enfin:
Books
‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’ Is Extra Ordinary
In her latest novel, Alice Hoffman renders the brutal world of Lower East Side immigrants in the romantic hues her readers expect
Adam Kirsch
Tablet
February 13, 2014

Today, the building at 23 Washington Place in Manhattan, just off Washington Square, is known as the Brown Building, and it is part of NYU’s ever-growing Greenwich Village empire. But in 1911, it was called the Asch Building, and its eighth, ninth, and 10th floors were occupied by a sweatshop called the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where some 500 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian girls, produced women’s blouses. When fire broke out there on March 25 of that year, nearly 150 workers died, in part because their bosses had locked the exit doors from the outside. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was the deadliest disaster in New York City until the collapse of the World Trade Center 90 years later.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was not the only great conflagration to shake New York City in 1911, however. Just two months later, on May 27, the Coney Island amusement park Dreamland caught fire and burned to the ground, after workmen preparing for the summer opening accidentally knocked over a pail of boiling tar. This blaze, while big enough to incinerate blocks of Coney Island and call out firemen from all over Brooklyn, claimed no human victims, which is why it is so little remembered today. Instead, it killed the dozens of wild animals who were part of Dreamland’s menagerie, including a lion and an elephant. One of the strangest exhibits at the park was a demonstration of incubators for premature babies, then a new invention; happily, all the babies were rescued.

None of the extraordinary things in The Museum of Extraordinary Things, the new novel by Alice Hoffman, beats the true stories of those two fires. Set in New York in the first half of 1911, with flashbacks to the previous decades, Hoffman’s novel is bookended by vivid set-piece descriptions of the disasters. A New Yorker herself, she describes the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire using images that invoke the iconography of Sept. 11. The parallel is doubtful in some ways—Sept. 11 was an attack, not an accident, and the casualties were worse by several orders of magnitude—but the vision of falling bodies is something both disasters had in common:

Girls had begun to leap from the windows of the ninth floor, some embracing so they might spend their last moments on earth in each other’s arms rather than face their fates alone. Some jumped with their eyes closed, others with their hair and clothes already burning. At first, the falling girls had seemed like birds. Bright cardinals, bone-white doves, swooping blackbirds in velvet-collared coats. But when they hit the cement, the terrible truth of the matter was revealed. Their bodies were broken, dashed to their deaths right before those who stood by helpless.
There is an uneasy tension in this passage between the bird image, with its soothing prettiness, and the reality of falling bodies, which Hoffman also captures—pointing out, for instance, how the jumpers broke through the life-nets stretched out for them and crashed through the sidewalk, ending up in the basements underneath. That same tension, between the desire to capture a brutal world and to render it in the hues of romance and make-believe, pervades The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Hoffman is a prolific and popular writer—her best-known novel, Practical Magic, was turned into a movie; another book was an Oprah’s Book Club choice—and she uses the formulas of popular fiction skillfully. But that skill often means giving readers what they want, even at the expense of probability and realism. Even as her story is built around murder, sexual abuse, exploitation, and misery, she fills it with reassuring coincidences and consolations. No matter how many people suffer along the way, we know from the first that the hero and heroine are guaranteed a happy ending.

Before they get there, however, Hoffman offers an impressively disillusioned account of one of the most sentimentalized parts of American Jewish history: the life of immigrants on the Lower East Side around the turn of the 20th century. Her own ancestors, Hoffman writes in an author’s note, were part of that immigrant world—“one began his working life in a pie factory at the age of twelve”—but she does not see it as the beginning of a great American adventure, or as a homey place full of tradition and community.

Instead, we see the Jewish Lower East Side through the eyes of Eddie Cohen, who barely survives a childhood of Dickensian poverty. After losing his mother in a pogrom in the Ukraine, Eddie—originally called Ezekiel—and his father make their way to America, where they are barely better off. The defining episode of Eddie’s young life comes when his father, laid off from a sweatshop, jumps into the Hudson River rather than keep on struggling. He survives, but from that moment Eddie despises him, and the boy decides that success in America requires looking out for number one, whatever it takes.

“After that I avoided people in our neighborhood,” Eddie recalls in one of the first-person chapters interspersed through the book. “I no longer considered myself Orthodox, and I left my hat under the bed whenever I went out alone. … I had become someone else, but who was that someone?” As it turns out, Eddie becomes an assistant to a neighborhood con man named Hochman, and then an apprentice to a kindly photographer, Moses Levy. It is as a news photographer that he is called to the scene of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, becoming the reader’s eyes and ears on the tragedy: “Eddie did his job, but as he photographed the fallen he had the sense that he was standing at the end of creation.”

To be an immigrant in America, Hoffman suggests, especially a Jewish immigrant fleeing persecution, means struggling to create a new identity while leaving behind a piece of one’s soul. Hardened by his experiences, Eddie becomes a kind of Humphrey Bogart hero, sullen but sensitive, clearly in need of redemption by a good woman. When the father of a girl who disappeared in the Triangle fire hires Eddie to find out her fate—did she die in the blaze, or escape, or fall victim to foul play?—the resemblance to Philip Marlowe becomes even closer.

Happily, the other narrator whose voice we hear in The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a good woman waiting for a rescuer. Coralie Sardie lives in the dark shadows of another frequently idealized part of New York, Coney Island in its heyday. She has grown up on the grounds of the titular museum, which is actually a boardwalk freakshow, featuring wolfmen, butterfly girls, and fetuses in jars. Her father, a sinister tyrant known as the Professor, even forces Coralie to perform as a mermaid, inspired by the fact that she was born with webbed fingers. As she gets older, her act in a water tank becomes something more like a sex show—an experience that humiliates Coralie and fits in with Hoffman’s portrait of 1911 New York as a giant theater of female exploitation, from the girls in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to the prostitutes on the street.

Fearing competition from Dreamland, which threatens to put his small-time attraction out of business, the Professor comes up with a new scheme. He forces Coralie to swim around Manhattan dressed as a sea creature, in order to drum up newspaper reports of a local monster. In Hoffman’s telling, these swims reveal Coralie’s spiritual affinity for the water and give her a taste of freedom: “I fell in love with the Hudson; because of the nights I swam there, I no longer was forced to perform, and so I began to think of the river as my savior.”

On one of these trips, she stumbles across the corpse of a young woman, which the Professor quickly confiscates. His plan is to turn the dead body into a half-human, half-fish through horrible surgeries, then display it as the rumored sea-monster. But Coralie, appalled by the idea, begins to rebel against her father’s iron discipline, to the point of invading his workshop and reading his secret diary. There she discovers that everything she knows about her past is a lie, and that the Professor is, if possible, even worse than he appears.

In time, the novel confirms what the reader has already figured out, that the dead girl Eddie is looking for and the dead girl Coralie finds are one and the same. In this way, their paths finally cross, and each finds in the other the freedom they seek: Coralie’s liberaton from her father and the sordid world of the freakshow, Eddie’s liberation from loneliness and alienation and resentment. But will they be able to overcome the opposition of the ruthless Professor? Will Eddie solve the mystery of the girl’s death, and get revenge on whoever caused it? Will Eddie’s loyal pitbull Mitts survive the Dreamland fire, which is the climax of the novel? The answers will not surprise the reader used to the conventions of popular fiction, or Hollywood movies. But The Museum of Extraordinary Things offers a picturesque journey, and sometimes even a disturbing one, on the way to its foreordained happy ending.

 Sunday Book Review
Girlfish
Alice Hoffman’s ‘Museum of Extraordinary Things’
Katharine Weber
The NYT

Feb. 28, 2014

Alice Hoffman has always celebrated the marvelousness of what’s real in the world, even as she creates the distinctive atmosphere of uncanniness and magical potential that looms over her fiction. Her devoted readers expect melodramatic stories imbued with the atmosphere of folk tales. Omens and portents are her stock in trade. Feminist themes and generous amounts of Renaissance Faire-style potted history make her storytelling all the more suggestive. Eerie and powerful acts of nature signify undercurrents of mood the way irregular minor chords in the background music tell us how to feel during ominous scenes at the movies. Lost in a dark forest of one kind or another, Hoffman’s characters have a heightened awareness of the hidden meanings that surround them as they struggle toward the light.

“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” will not disappoint readers longing to be swept up by a lavish tale about strange yet sympathetic people, haunted by the past and living in bizarre circumstances. But those who have admired Hoffman’s best and most gracefully literary novels (“At Risk,” “Seventh Heaven,” “Turtle Moon,” “Second Nature,” “Practical Magic,” “The River King”) will be less enchanted, unable to ignore the hackneyed and thinly sketched writing that diminishes many scenes in these pages.

The museum of the novel’s title is a Coney Island boardwalk attraction presided over by Professor Sardie, part mad scientist and part shrewd magician. Adjacent to Luna Park, the Steeplechase and the soon-to-open Dreamland, this showcase of “living wonders” has at various times over the years included the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, the Goat Boy, the Bird Woman, the Bee Woman and the Siamese Twins, along with a menagerie of frogs, vipers, lizards, hummingbirds, a 100-year-old tortoise — and Sardie’s daughter, ­Coralie, who has, from the age of 10, spent hours suspended in a tank of water playing the Human Mermaid for paying customers. (As she grows older, her sinister father compels her to perform lewd after-hours displays for a select audience of patrons willing to pay a premium.)

Coralie, who narrates parts of the story in an elegiac tone, has a freakish affinity for water. Her father has trained her from girlhood to swim extraordinary distances, even in the icy November Atlantic, most often at night. Before she reaches adolescence, she can swim five miles from Coney Island, and she’s at home in the tidal currents of the Hudson River. Her conditioning regimen is extreme: “My father believed that we took on the attributes of our diet, and he made certain I ate a meal of fish every day so my constitution might echo the abilities of these creatures. We bathed in ice water. . . . My father had a breathing tube constructed so that I could remain soaking underwater in the claw-foot tub, and soon my baths lasted an hour or more. I had only to take a puff of air in order to remain beneath the surface. I felt comfortable in this element, a sort of girlfish, and soon I didn’t feel the cold as others did, becoming more and more accustomed to temperatures that would chill others to the bone.”

Coralie has a secret shame. “My father insisted I wear white cotton gloves in the summer and a creamy kid leather pair when the chill set in.” Her bare hands are displayed only when she is the Human Mermaid, and then they’re dyed blue to match her silk-covered bamboo tail. She was born with webbed fingers.

Coralie seems to accept her oddness, and she’s even seen hopefully searching her own throat for signs of gills, although Hoffman tells us “she despised herself because of this single flaw.” Once she tried to cut through the webbing, but, as Hoffman explains, fairy-tale style, “Beads of blood began to fall onto her lap after she nicked the first bit of skin. Each drop was so brightly crimson, she had startled and quickly dropped the knife.” Accompanying her father on his rounds of whorehouses and morgues in his ceaseless search for living freaks, and for the human and animal body parts he can fashion into grotesque exhibits for his museum, Coralie often carries “the same knife she had used to draw blood when she cut through the webbing on her hands” — only now it’s to protect herself from men who might pay her unwelcome attention.

Professor Sardie’s plan for his museum’s renewal is set in motion at the start of 1911, when there are repeated sightings of a sea monster in the Hudson, a silvery, scaled creature, “a being that was dark and unfathomable, almost human in its countenance, with fleet, watery movements.” This apparition is, of course, the now-18-year-old Coralie, who swims through the night, “keeping pace alongside the striped bass that spawned upriver, certain of herself even in uncertain tides.” The newspapers are filled with stories about the so-called Hudson Mystery. “All she had done was show a glimpse of what might be possible, a waterlogged and furtive river-fiend that had drifted out of nightmares and into the waterways of the city of New York.” If the Museum of Extraordinary Things can display the captured Hudson Mystery, the crowds that have been lost to newer, gaudier entertainments will return and the professor’s faltering business will survive.

As Coralie emerges from the river one evening, she catches a glimpse of a reclusive photographer named Ezekiel Cohen, who likes to take nocturnal walks with his dog in the woods of northern Manhattan. An Orthodox Jewish immigrant who has abandoned his faith and his community, he has changed his name to Eddie. He’s a boy of the streets straight out of a Horatio Alger story, and he’s also a witness to the horror of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. The photographs he takes on that terrible day lead him to a mission — solving the mystery of a young woman’s disappearance.
Continue reading the main story

Hoffman’s depiction of the Triangle fire only vaguely conveys the pathos and urgency of that historic disaster, which took the lives of 146 garment workers in a matter of minutes. Her treatment, later in the novel, of the Dreamland conflagration, which occurred almost exactly two months later, is more authentic and vivid, perhaps because it’s less familiar, allowing Hoffman to be more imaginative as she incorporates it into her plot.

Once Coralie and Eddie discover each other, their profound, mystical attraction and mutual obsession become forces of their own, driving the story forward. Despite the novel’s heavy-handed passages about the rights of children, women and workers, and despite its lapses in historic tone and ambience (Eddie’s habit, for example, of saying things like “no problem”), a big, entertaining tale emerges.

“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” is, in a way, a museum of Alice Hoffman’s bag of plot tricks: girls with unusual talents, love at first sight, mysterious parents, addiction and alcoholism, orphans raised by unsuitable people. Does it rank with the best of her work? In the words of Professor Sardie: “Our creature will be whatever people imagine it to be. For what men believe in, they will pay to see.”

THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS

By Alice Hoffman

368 pp. Scribner. $27.99.

Katharine Weber, the author of five novels and a memoir, is the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things By Alice Hoffman – book review: ‘A tale of star-crossed lovers, freak shows, murder and mystery’

Lucy Scholes
The Independent

3 June 2014

With a cast that includes a host of impossible beings and wondrous creatures, set among the surreal wonderment of Dreamland, Coney Island’s now long since destroyed freak show-cum-amusement park, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is teetering on the edge of magical realism even before she throws in such fairytale elements as love at first sight, an abusive parent and beads of bright crimson fresh blood.

Coralie Sardie lives in the Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show in Coney Island in 1911. Her father, the proprietor, Professor Sardie, may well be « a tailor of the marvellous, a creator of dreams, » but he’s also a demanding man who treats his employees mercilessly, including his daughter. Coralie was born with webbed fingers, and with a keen eye for exploitability, the Professor quickly set about transforming the rest of her into something equally aquatic. She can hold her breath underwater for very long stretches, and, wearing a blue silk tail, she spends her days among the museum’s living exhibits as the Human Mermaid – performances that, now she’s matured into a young woman, include mortifying after-hours shows for gentlemen cherry-picked by her father for their deep pockets and lecherous appetites. She’s only at peace during her nightly swims in the Hudson River, years of exercise having left her oblivious to the bone-chilling cold and the currents that would drown most who braved them.

Emerging from the water one night she stumbles across a young photographer, and in the flare of a flash bulb falls in love with him. He goes by the name of Eddie Cohen, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who has rejected the orthodoxy of his upbringing and the father who brought him to New York. After Eddie photographs the horrific, and now infamous, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – during which 146 employees, locked in their workrooms died – he finds himself enmeshed in the mystery of a missing girl, the search for whom eventually leads to Professor Sardie’s gruesome laboratory.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a tale of star-crossed lovers set against a creepy gothic backdrop of freak shows, murder and mystery. When dealing in these elements, Hoffman excels, but the historical specificity of the period – clumsy explications of the lack of rights for women, workers and children, the rise of unions and ambitions of early feminism – are the weeds in which she becomes entangled. Look closely at this novel and, as with many of Sardie’s « freaks », the artifice becomes all too visible.

Credits: PI, Mitchell Joachim Team: Melanie Fessel, Nurhan Gokturk, Maria Aiolova, Oliver Medvedik. Research Fellows: Amanda O’Keefe, Royal Aaron, Kiril Bejoulev, Lafayette Compton, Emmanuelle Emmel, Lila Faria, Daniella Garcia, Dan Gehr, Nick Gervasi, Marcos Gonzalez-Bode, Jesslyn Guntur, Hugo Husnu, Michelle Lavin, Jorge Lopez, Estefania Maldonado, Anna Murnane, Dilan Ozka, Michelle Qu, Matt Solomon, Allie Sutherland, Eda Yetim, Peter Zhang, Jennifer Zhao, Rayne Holm, Kristopher Menos, Ivy Feibig, Swati Mamgain Consultant: Pablo Berger Photos: Micaela Rossato Carbon output from cities is embedded in everyday life, directly affecting climate change and rising sea levels everywhere in the world. New York City’s sea level rise is projected to reach a high estimate of 11 inches by the 2020s and 31 inches by the 2050s. Instead of only investing in mitigation efforts and building for resiliency, what if we let the East and Hudson River submerge parts of Manhattan and rebuild the new city in its surrounding rivers? We accept the inevitable and prepare for the aftermath by imagining the Post Carbon City- State, a future Manhattan cleansed through the physical and spatial inversion of the East and Hudson River. New bulk/use zoning envelopes maximize solar exposure, regulate population size, and optimize resources. Zoning occupies more area that extends into both the Hudson River and East River. It is a bold combination of plans for the East River redirection and drainage by T. Kennard Thomson (Really Greater New York) and the Hudson River infill strategy by William Zeckendorf (New York City’s Dream Airport). Grafting Manhattan to physically join with New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens and Governors Island is the definitive advancement structure for the whole city. This is not a unique idea, Battery Park City, for example, increased a massive portion of the city about .2 miles out into the River—using earth that was excavated from the construction of the World Trade Center’s foundation. Upcycled car tire patterns represent the embedded post carbon materials that are the building blocks of the new city. We imagine the void that was once Manhattan as an algae production plant for sequestering carbon and supplying amino acids for food production and biomass for energy generation capable of reformative growth. New York has, over the last few centuries, become one of the world’s most densely packed cities. But what if you could redraw the city’s map – and build it from scratch? If we were designing New York today, how different would it look? The new New York City would balance the relationship between the information networks that the metropolis depends on and Earth’s finite resources. All vital components of life would be monitored and attuned to the needs of every organism, not just humans. Supplies of food and water, our energy and waste and even our air would be sensibly scrutinised. Thanks to masses of miniaturised low-cost electronic components deployed across the city, communication becomes far easier. New York will grow and adapt to millions of new minds entering it everyday. The city would make sure every need is provided for within its borders. How we provide nutrients, transports, and shelter would be updated. Dilapidated buildings would be replaced with vertical agriculture and new kinds of housing would join cleaner, greener ways to get around the city. What were once streets become snaking arteries of livable spaces, embedded with renewable energy sources, low-tech, green vehicles for mobility and productive nutrient zones. The former street grid could provide the foundation for new flexible networks. By reengineering the obsolete streets, we can create robust and ecologically active pathways. While all this may sound optimistic, some of this city of tomorrow is already taking shape. The Highline is a perfect case of adaptive reuse. This former elevated railway was converted into a public promenade and restorative ecological spine for the city. The raised streetscape helps retain rainwater, over 200 plant species, recreational green space; the freight trains are gone, replaced by people walking and cycling. The Lowline, meanwhile, is a strategy to position state-of-the-art solar equipment to illuminate a discarded underground trolley station on the Lower East Side of NYC. This concept is to create an appealing underground common space, delivering an attractive ecological space within the heart of this crowded metropolitan environment. Then there is Vision 42. This enterprise re-imagines an upgraded light rail transport at Midtown Manhattan as an alternative to traffic congestion. It’s designed as a crosstown, low-floor moderate speed train line traversing river-to-river at 42nd Street. Alongside is a landscaped tree-lined pedestrian street path. Vision 42 is a prototype for an entire network of walkable streets, greenways, and smart transports throughout a future New York. Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY) is a national model for sustainable industrial parks and green development, and home to companies that aim to be socially responsible and tech-driven, such as Terreform. The BNY is a former military industrial complex, converted into a clean technology and local manufacturing site; something that will be of utmost importance in any future metropolis. This future city will still have traffic fumes as long as there are gas- guzzling vehicles plying its streets. But improving technology will enable the populace to steer clear of the most polluted zones. NYC Breathe is a wireless pollution sensor that keeps track of urban contaminants. These sensors are added to trucks, taxis, and automobiles and thus accumulate comprehensive pollution data in real- time – all of which is conveniently displayed as a detailed map. But steps are already being taken to make the city help cleans its air. Million Trees NYC has a goal of increasing its cosmopolitan woodland by planting many more trees. Street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land are highly valuable. By planting a million trees, we can increase New York’s urban forest by an overwhelming 20%, while accomplishing the numerous quality-of-life advantages that come with them. The City of New York will plant 70% of trees in parks and other public spaces. The other 30% will come from private organisations, homeowners, and community organisations. And what of food? Vertical Aquaponics can yield up to 800% more produce than traditional land farming in an equivalent space, while consuming 90-95% less water and power. Farms will be constructed in stacks, rising into the air. By assembling aquaponic farms vertically, it multiplies the power of its food-growing equipment, possibly yielding far more food than conventional farming – and all the time using a fraction of the space and energy. But revisioning Manhattan is more than just an academic exercise, and needs more than what is on the drawing board now. The climate is skewed and cities are partly responsible. We need to act now to observe action later. Many advocates of sustainability encourage operations to achieve the bare minimum or zero impact. These efforts try to do no further harm, but do not try to heal. We need to elevate subsistence-based systems to approaches that not only have a positive impact but are abundant throughout the city. Calculating an ecological footprint is suitable for endurance living. Reversing the effects of pollution is better still. If Manhattan was restructured to be proactive in resetting the climate, other cites may follow. How can we do this? This next version of New York is dependent on planning and preparation. This next version of New York is dependent on us.

Battle of Montaperti: 13th Century Violence on the Italian ‘Hill of Death’

History net

6/12/2006

The 13th century was arguably the darkest period of Italian history, marked by bloody struggles between rival political factions. The 15th century (the so-called Age of Warlords) was likewise replete with unscrupulous Italian despots who ruled with a refined cruelty, from Giangaleazzo Visconti to Cesare Borgia, but at least it was also a time of great creative achievement — the Renaissance.

In contrast, the 13th century was generally a time of unmitigated violence. Entire families were expunged in escalating blood feuds reminiscent of vendettas among the Mafia families in more recent times. The tragedy of Romeo Montecchi and Juliet Capuleti (made famous by William Shakespeare’s play in 1595) took place in that time.

The game of power made every northern Italian town a theater of civil wars. A family backing a particular political party often controlled a neighborhood adjacent to one controlled by a family belonging to a rival party. The year 1198 saw the beginning of two such political parties–the Guelphs and Ghibellines. (The Montecchis were Ghibellines; the Capuletis were Guelphs.) The names are of German origin. At that time, German emperors also reigned over Italy, through a parallel kingdom built up by the Unrochingi, which by 888 was the first dynasty of the world whose rulers wore crowns considered holy by the Church.

The Guelphs became the upholders of papal supremacy, while the Ghibellines supported the political claims of German emperors and kings of Italy. Later, the Guelphs split into two factions: the Blacks (extreme Guelphs) and the Whites (moderate Guelphs). Ghibellines came to be regarded as the party of noblemen, Black Guelphs the faction of the upper middle class, and White Guelphs the faction of the lower middle class. The truth, however, was that all of those parties and factions steadily degenerated into gangs without any ideology who fought for the hegemonic ambitions of their own bosses to control local businesses and rackets.

In the middle of the 13th century, northern Italy, the so-called kingdom of Italy, was a myriad of independent city-states–more than 60, not counting smaller villages and excluding the independent republic of Venice. Central Italy was made up of the Papal States, from which the popes vied for rule over European Christendom with the Holy Roman Empire.

Southern Italy and the island of Sicily made up the kingdom of Sicily, whose ruling Norman Altavilla dynasty was replaced in 1194 by the Swabian dynasty–officially through a joyful marriage, but also by killing all the upholders of the Altavillas who did not agree with the change. As a child, William III, the last offspring of the Altavillas, was maimed by the Swabian thugs and then disappeared (it seems he died in what is now western Austria). An unusual fiefdom within the Sicilian domain was the town of Lucera, which was an autonomous Islamic republic allied with the Swabians.

In 1258, King Manfredi I ruled over southern Italy and also in northern Italy, where he was regarded as the chief of the Ghibelline Party. In Italy, his allies included Ezzelino da Romano, the powerful tyrant of Venetia, called the ‘Son of the Devil’ because of his violent temperament. Ezzelino, who married into the Swabians, ruled over a large territory and threatened all of his neighbors. Moreover, as a Ghibelline he controlled the strategic road to Germany. Manfredi, who controlled a kingdom that was supposed to have been ruled by his nephew Conradino (Little Conrad), had stolen the crown. He then set his ambitions on becoming ruler over Germany and northern Italy. Manfredi was heavy-handed when it came to domestic politics; in southern Italy, he defended his power by sweeping away all opposition. His foreign politics were just as unscrupulous. Hoping to improve relations with the papacy (the popes hated the Swabians), he supported Pope Alexander IV when the latter decided to eliminate the tyrant Ezzelino, who was Manfredi’s brother-in-law. The Guelphs’ crusade against Ezzelino, who they represented as a tyrant who scorned God and all human beings, was made up of the Papacy, Venice, Milan, Ferrara, Padua, Mantua and Cremona. At the Battle of Cassano d’Adda, fought on September 19, 1259, Ezzelino was wounded, defeated and arrested. He died in the prison of Soncino a few days later. His entire family was subsequently killed.

After Cassano d’Adda, the relationship between the papacy and Manfredi did not permanently improve. The struggles also continued between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, especially in Tuscany, where the hatred between Florence (Guelph) and Siena (Ghibelline) escalated. Both towns wanted hegemony over Tuscany.

The Sienese, who knew that the Florentines wanted to destroy their town, asked Manfredi for help. In December 1259, Manfredi sent a force of 800 German knights and some Muslim noblemen from Lucera, led by his brother, Giordano d’Anglona.

In April 1260, Florence organized a great coalition to smash the Sienese. Jacopino Rangoni, the mayor of Florence, soon had 12 generals and nearly 35,000 soldiers at his disposal. All of the males of Florence aged 15 through 70 took up arms, and they were joined by troops from Genoa, Piacenza, Bologna, Lucca, Pistoia, Prato, Arezzo, Volterra, San Gimignano and the papal towns of Perugia and Orvieto. From smaller towns and from Germany, upholders of Conradino also came to fight. There were even Sienese fighting–exiled Guelphs who wanted to take power in their own town.

On the other side, Siena got additional support from Pisa (a traditional enemy of both Genoa and Florence), Cortona, and the Ghibellines of Florence (the most prominent of whom were Guido Novello and Farinata degli Uberti), who were trying to regain power in the town after 10 years in exile. In sum, the Sienese commander in chief, Aldobrandino di Santa Fiora, had about 20,000 soldiers.

September 4, 1260, a Saturday, would be the bloodiest day of the Italian Middle Ages. The ‘eternal peace’ signed by Florence and Siena on July 31, 1255, was only a memory, and the ongoing duel between those two towns, which had begun in 1140, was about to reach its gory climax. Near Montaperti (the ‘hill of death’), a handful of houses within sight of Siena, civilians prayed in churches for victory.

The Sienese were the first to attack. Both sides concentrated their efforts on conquering the Carroccio of the enemy–the holy wagon that always accompanied medieval Italian armies, where a priest celebrated mass during the battle.

The battle lasted from dawn until sunset. Although the Ghibellines were not as numerous as the Guelphs, they were more aggressive, and Manfredi’s German knights were selected troops. When sunset came and the last attempt of the Guelphs to conquer the Sienese Carroccio failed, some things occurred that finally decided the battle. First, the Count of Arras, a Ghibelline, launched an attack from Monselvoli. Then, a Florentine Ghibelline named Bocca degli Abati betrayed his own army. With his sword, he cut off the hand of the ensign-bearer of the Florentine cavalry, Jacopo dei Pazzi. The Guelphs were taken aback by that betrayal at the critical point of the battle, and while Abati and his allies (hundreds of whom had been waiting for the right moment) were attacking their former comrades-in-arms, the Ghibellines launched their final offensive.

For Florence and her allies, the Battle of Montaperti turned into a disaster. The Guelphs began to flee, and the Ghibellines, made crazy by their success, killed without restraint, including enemies who were ready to surrender. The Arbia Creek became red with Florentine blood. When night fell, 10,000 men lay dead in the field and 4,000 were missing. The Sienese and their allies took 15,000 prisoners and, of course, the Florentine Carroccio.

More than 700 years later, a cippus (monument) at Montaperti reminds passers-by of the tragedy that took place.

The Battle of Montaperti was a short-lived victory. In the short run, Florence became Ghibelline, and Manfredi’s influence over Tuscany grew. But the new pope, Urban IV, called for help from Charles of Anjou, brother of the king of France, a man thirsty for power. Landing in Italy, Charles became chief of the Guelphs and, after his coronation as king of Sicily, he went from Rome to southern Italy to destroy the Swabian dynasty–once and for all.

The big battle took place at Benevento on February 26, 1266. The Anjou cavalry, helped by traitors among the Swabian troops, destroyed Manfredi’s army. The Swabian regime collapsed within a few days of that defeat. The lords of manors who hitherto had always been pro-Swabian, became, as if by magic, pro-Anjou!

Manfredi was killed during the battle, and to this day the location of his tomb is still a mystery. His wife, Queen Elena, was arrested in Trani and died as a prisoner in a castle in Nocera six years later. Her children, separated from their mother, were swallowed up by the Anjou prisons. A new Pope, Clement IV, had called them ‘progeny of snakes.’

Two years later, in 1268, Conradino, the last of the Swabian family, was taken prisoner by the Anjous and was beheaded in Naples, the new capital of southern Italy. Under the Anjou dynasty, southern Italy sank into the darkest feudalism. There was no place for Swabian allies: 34 years after the Battle of Benevento, the Islamic Republic of Lucera was destroyed.

The pitiless end of the Swabian dynasty had other famous consequences. In Florence and in Siena, the Guelphs regained power and started a fierce persecution of the Ghibellines. Also in Florence, the Guelphs split into Whites and Blacks under the Cerchi and the Donati families, respectively. Supported by Pope Boniface VIII, the extreme faction, the Blacks, under Corso Donati, ultimately won out. Among the Whites who felt Donati’s wrath was the writer Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. Dante, who hated the Blacks, was condemned to death by burning at the stake on March 10, 1302, but he was later able to escape before the sentence was carried out. It is a small consolation, perhaps, that the casualties in Italy’s shameful era of civil strife did not include the ‘father of the modern Italian language.’


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

13 mars, 2014
https://i0.wp.com/static03.mediaite.com/thejanedough/uploads/gallery/flight-attendent-vintage-ads/American%20Airlines.jpg
https://i1.wp.com/stuffo.ddmcdn.com/stuffmomnevertoldyou/wp-content/uploads/sites/86/2013/12/fly-me-jo.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/www.grayflannelsuit.net/retrotisements/travel/southwest-airlines-jul-1979-ad.jpghttp://www.trbimg.com/img-51951985/turbine/chi-history-stewardesses-flight-attendants-201-010/600https://i1.wp.com/i.haymarket.net.au/News/PRESS%20AD%2012x20_CT.jpghttp://thisisnotadvertising.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/lyar-direct2.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/8b36e-lynxjet1.jpg
https://i0.wp.com/9bytz.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Vintage-Airline-Ads-2.jpghttps://www.ryanair.com/img/calendar/front.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/notaniche.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/pacific-airlines-ad.jpg https://i1.wp.com/www.panam.com/media/blog/PanAmABCBanner.jpgThe other truly transforming business invention of the first quarter of the century, besides the car, was the airplane–another industry whose plainly brilliant future would have caused investors to salivate. So I went back to check out aircraft manufacturers and found that in the 1919-39 period, there were about 300 companies, only a handful still breathing today. Among the planes made then–we must have been the Silicon Valley of that age–were both the Nebraska and the Omaha, two aircraft that even the most loyal Nebraskan no longer relies upon. Move on to failures of airlines. Here’s a list of 129 airlines that in the past 20 years filed for bankruptcy. Continental was smart enough to make that list twice. As of 1992, in fact–though the picture would have improved since then–the money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country’s airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero. Sizing all this up, I like to think that if I’d been at Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville Wright took off, I would have been farsighted enough, and public-spirited enough–I owed this to future capitalists–to shoot him down. I mean, Karl Marx couldn’t have done as much damage to capitalists as Orville did. Warren Buffett
Airlines have created value for their customers but not that much for their owners: the profit margin after 1970 has been only 0.1 per cent. Three in four airlines are privately owned but investors have more profitable alternatives. Airlines tend to put blame for poor results on external factors, such as high fuel prices, terrorist attacks or airport charges. However, the industry is in chronic disequilibrium with permanent overcapacity. Overcapacity is caused by many factors, including government policies and ease of acquiring new aircrafts (often with export credit guarantees by governments). This is reinforced by the obsession of airlines for higher market shares, often leading to falling yields. Passenger load factors have markedly risen during recent years, but at the expense of collapsing fares. ILO
Amotz Zahavi (1975), de l’Université de Tel Aviv, a trouvé que la valeur de certains ornements liés à la compétition sexuelle chez les animaux dépend de leur impact sur les chances de survie de leur porteur. L’idée est simple : une gazelle qui perd de l’énergie en faisant des bonds alors qu’elle est poursuivie par un lion n’est pas folle, elle prouve qu’elle a les moyens de le faire. Plus elle saute haut, plus ça lui coûte (de l’énergie) et plus elle prouve sa valeur. La sanction est directe : qu’elle se surestime et elle sera dévorée. C’est comme le Handicap (“Hand in Cap” = “Main au Chapeau”) de certains sports : seuls les meilleurs peuvent se permettre de gagner en s’imposant des contraintes supplémentaires et cette preuve aura d’autant plus de valeur qu’elle sera coûteuse. L’application est générale et les exemples sont innombrables : rouler en Rolls plutôt qu’en Golf prouve qu’on a les moyens de dépenser au delà de l’utilitaire (le coût ici est financier) et tout le marché du luxe bénéficie de ce besoin de “costly display” (c’est le terme). Le “costly display” a aussi été cité pour expliquer la mode de la minceur dans les pays riches, le bikini et la mode sexy, la poignée de main (prise de risque en l’éloignant de l’épée), le sourire honnête (…) et… la fortune des médecins urgentistes ! Neuromonaco
La compétition sexuelle est à l’intérieur de chaque sexe et l’habillement sert aux femmes d’abord à se positionner entre elles, le regard des hommes n’étant qu’un moyen dans cette guerre (…) Les mannequins Haute Couture ont des corps et des visages beaucoup plus masculins que les mannequins lingerie et les “pornstars” : en fait elles ressemblent à des garçons adolescents (…) La préférence des hommes pour des femmes plus ou moins “pulpeuses” est directement influencée par leur situation économique perçue : les plus riches préfèrent les plus minces (…) Les hommes ne privilégient la beauté du visage que pour des relations à long terme. Neuromonaco
De nombreuses études (…) montrent qu’il y a un lien entre la situation de séduction et l’achat de produits liés au statut : c’est l’affichage du statut (le “display”) pour montrer qu’on a suffisamment de ressources disponibles pour se permettre d’en dépenser sur des produits inutiles (encore le Handicap de Zahavi). L’effet est plus fort chez les célibataires pour les achats d’impulsion et Griskevicius et ses collègues (2011) ont même trouvé que le sex-ratio avait un impact direct : plus il y a d’hommes en concurrence, plus l’effet display sera marqué. Neuromonaco
According to one 1990 study by researchers at SUNY Binghamton and the University of the Witwatersrand (…) compliments from men were generally accepted, especially by female recipients, but « compliments from women are met with a response type other than acceptance »: as a threat. Men often see compliments as « face-threatening acts, » or acts intended to embarrass or patronize, the study authors found. What was meant as a nicety could be seen as a way to assert control. (…) Being the arbiter of someone’s attractiveness can be interpreted as an expression of masculinity that women are not traditionally expected to adopt. Further, it is possible that a good portion of men don’t want to be essentially « treated like women, » as their masculinity is dependent on being above the judgments women are often subjected to. (…) In life as well as in art, a man’s focus on his own appearance can be perceived as detracting from his perceived masculinity in the eyes of male reviewers. In her book, Extra-Ordinary Men: White Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Popular Cinema, Nicola Rehling points out that in the movie Gladiator, Maximus had a muscular build but was not sexualized on-screen. In the movie Troy, meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s Achilles was practically groomed for the enjoyment of straight female and gay male viewers. Crowe’s body was not nearly as exposed as Pitt’s was throughout the movie. Rehling writes, « In the majority of reviews of the film, Brad Pitt was compared unfavorably with Crowe, with many expressing disappointment that he failed to import the primal masculinity that was such a big box office attraction in Gladiator. The adulation of Crowe’s Maximus would seem to articulate a desire for an undiluted, corporeal, physical male presence. » The consequences for women giving men compliments are also different than those for men giving women compliments. In a 2006 study from Williamette University’s College of Liberal Arts, researchers Christopher Parisi and Peter Wogan found that college-aged men were generally given compliments on skills, while women were given compliments on their looks. Parisi and Wogan also found that women felt the need to be cautious when complimenting men on their appearance because they didn’t want to be « too forward » or attract « unwanted attention. » That fear is supported by a 2008 study, conducted in Australia by Griffith University, which hypothesized that men are more likely to interpret or misinterpret female compliments as seductive or flirtatious than women are male compliments. Who knew complimenting could be so complicated? The Atlantic
Les plus belles hôtesses de Ryanair font monter la température en cabine. Eddie Wilson (directeur des ressources humaines de Ryanair)
Ces uniformes sont vraiment très serrés et ne sont tout simplement pas pratiques du tout pour le travail physique que nous avons à faire. Hôtesse Qantas
Les hôtesses de l’air ont de 20 à 60 ans et beaucoup d’entre elles, notamment les plus âgées, ne souhaitent pas porter d’uniformes trop moulants. Nous aimions les anciens uniformes créés par Peter Morrissey. Ceux-là ils étaient vraiment confortables. Hôtesse Qantas
Nous sommes préoccupées car nous pensons que cet uniforme pourrait causer des problèmes à bord, y compris du harcèlement sexuel. La compagnie aérienne explique que cet uniforme sert à attirer plus de clients, mais cela montre qu’elle considère la femme comme une marchandise …la priorité numéro un ne devrait pas être de raccourcir les tenues mais d’augmenter la sécurité. Syndicat d’hôtesses de l’air japonaises
Je ne pourrais pas me concentrer sur mon travail parce que je serais toujours en train de me demander si on ne me regarde pas. Hôtesse japonaise

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

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

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

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

Pendant qu’une des compagnies aériennes mythiques des années 60 se voyait récemment célébrer dans une série à  son nom à la télévision américaine …

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

Retour avec les archives du magazine américain The Atlantic …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


February 1968

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


February 1959

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


May 1961

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


July 1970

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


October 1966

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


July 1971

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


August 1966

Not looking for love? Never fly Alitalia.


February 1979

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


February 1959

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


November 1970

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

Voir aussi:

Travel January/February 2014

A Brief History of the Mile High Club

Air travel hasn’t quite lost all its romance.

Mark Gerchick

The Atlantic

Dec 22 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir également:

Les hôtesses de Skymark Airlines dénoncent leurs robes trop courtes

AFP agence

Le Figaro

11/03/2014

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

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

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

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

Voir aussi:

Les uniformes « trop serrés » de Miranda Kerr

Catherine Delvaux

7 sur 7

12/12/13

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

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

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

Voir encore:

Ryanair : le calendrier qui fait jaser

Amélie Gautier

le 14 décembre 2007

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

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

« Une atteinte à la dignité des femmes travailleuses »

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

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

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

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

Valérie, hôtesse de l’air, 28 ans

Cosmopolitan

La dernière fois qu’on vous a draguée ?

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

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

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

Pourquoi votre métier fait fantasmer ?

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

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

Vous vous y attendiez ?

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

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

Tactiques des garçons ?

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

Comment vous vous défendez ?

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

Voir par ailleurs:

Le sexe ne fait pas vendre…

Jean-François Dortier

Sciences humaines

Décembre 2005

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

Voir aussi:

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

Philippe Gouillou

December 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

Et pour les femmes ?

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

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

Application pratique

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

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

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

Photomontage 20 minutes

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

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

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

H&M a choisi de garder des visages réels

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

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

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

Pour rappel :

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

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

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

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

Application pratique

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

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

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

3. Nouveau : La mesure du fauxtoshoppage

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

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

Articles cités :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallery: Sexy flight attendant uniforms of the past

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

Max Kim

CNN

18 July, 2012

Southwest Airlines flight attendants in the 1970s

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

Flying used to be so sexy.

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

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

There was another one, this time with Jo.

Business reportedly jumped 23 percent, despite accusations of sexism.

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

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

The airline industry has since gone through some major overhauls.

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

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

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

Lowe Hunt for Lynx Body Spray: The Lynx Jet Project

November 3, 2011

Author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

Why Men Can’t Take Compliments

Casey Quinlan

The Atlantic

December 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir par ailleurs:

Pan Am: When air travel was sexy
Melissa Whitworth dons her girdle to welcome a new retro-glam series from the US.
Melissa Whitworth
16 Nov 2011

Inside a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, stands a vintage Boeing 707. A bell rings, someone shouts “turbulence” and a cast of actors dressed in immaculate Sixties costumes jiggle about as if the stationary plane has encountered some rough air.

This is the set of Pan Am, the latest retro-flavoured television drama to arrive from the United States, which starts on BBC Two this week. Like Mad Men before it, the series, which follows the lives of four Pan Am stewardesses as they travel the world, is set in the Sixties: the first season takes place in 1963.

Christina Ricci plays Maggie, a stewardess who compromises her bohemian ideals to wear the Pan Am uniform – a girdle was mandatory and the women were weighed regularly and admonished for any gains – to see the world.
“I think the Sixties is a really visually beautiful period. It’s gorgeous to watch,” says Ricci, during a break between scenes.
What sets Pan Am apart from Mad Men is its romanticised view of the period it depicts. While Mad Men’s plot lines highlight racism, anti-Semitism and wanton sexual harassment, Pan Am chooses instead to airbrush the Sixties. “I was aware of how misogynistic this period was,” says Ricci, 31. “And we don’t deal as harshly with that as some other shows do.”

As one American critic wrote when the series first aired in the US, “When the present isn’t very promising, and the future seems tapered and uncertain, the past acquires an enviable lustre.”

Nancy Hult Ganis, one of the show’s producers, was a Pan Am stewardess from 1969 to 1976 and is the in-house adviser on the precise details of air travel in the Jet Age. Passengers really were served seven-course meals, including turtle soup and caviar. Stewardesses were encouraged to interact with their charges, playing chess and cards with them.

Ganis also says that many of the storylines are taken from real life, including one that sees stewardess Kate (Kelli Garner) become a low-level CIA operative.

“It became known later that many [Pan Am] station managers around the world were somehow connected to the CIA. It was the perfect cover. Pan Am flew into Russia in the Fifties even though there were no official routes there until 1968.”

Pan Am is the latest American drama to focus not only on the Sixties but what The New Yorker recently identified as “the rise of the American female and the demise of the American male”.

Ricci believes there is still some way to go to eradicate misogyny. “We have just got a lot better about not writing these things down and handing out rules. It’s less overt,” she says. “The Sixties was definitely a very misogynistic time: women were not treated as equals.

“I love watching Mad Men,” she adds, “but that doesn’t mean I want to live in it.”

Voir encore:

Stewardess chic is a flight of fantasy – with a weight limit
From the retro glamour of the Sixties to Carole Middleton, air hostesses still fascinate. So will the new BBC drama series take off?
Hannah Betts
The Telegraph

16 Nov 2011

As a teenager at my staunchly academic girls’ grammar school, the daughter in our anachronistic French textbook boasted one ambition: to be a starched, suited and scarfed airline stewardess, à la the heroines of Pan Am, the airline that is the basis of a new drama series that starts on BBC Two tonight.

Back in the mid-Eighties, how we despised young Marie-Claude for the sexist sappiness of her ambition. Miss Bertillon waxed lyrical about the glamour, the jet-setting, the familiar platitude about seeing the world. While her brother, Philippe, the chauvinist cochon, satirised her inability to fit the job’s weight requirements. Role model for a group of gymslip-feminists the wannabe Gallic trolley dolly was not.
But, then, we had so much opportunity: with book learning came expectations regarding equality, education, economic and sexual independence. If we wanted to see the world, we would InterRail as casually as today’s youth accrue bucket-shop flights.

Originating some 20 years earlier, Marie-Claude was simply following the route to success of many a small-town girl. Among them have been several prime minister’s wives: Lyudmila Putina, wife of Vladimir Putin, Sara Netanyahu, wife of Benjamin, and Annita Keating, estranged wife of Paul. Others ensnared the rich: Irina, the second Mrs Abramovich, say; Alex Best, wife of George; Daylesford Organic supremo Lady Carole Bamford, and – most notoriously and most upwardly mobile – Mrs Carole “doors-to-manual” Middleton.

Time was when airline stewardesses were the girls most likely to succeed, by merit of being the girl with whom men would most like to succeed. These geishas of the air may have theoretically catered to both genders, but business flying meant businessmen, and their attendants, were schooled in the art of being the perfect mistress/wife. Accordingly, they learned how to mix cocktails, select wine, serve food and generally make their male passengers comfortable in the subservience-with-a-smile manner of a Fifties marital manual. As actor Robert Vaughn sighed in the BBC documentary Come Fly with Me (The Story of Pan Am): “I just remember the girls. They couldn’t do enough for you.”

The frisky addition was, of course, that these hostesses encouraged not only uxoriousness, but sexual fantasy, being – by contractual obligation – slim, single, under 30 and provocatively uniform-clad. “Fly me,” cooed the sirens in the jet age’s innuendo-laden adverts, encouraging mile-high fantasies everywhere. Air Singapore still trades off the beguilements of its Singapore Girls, albeit said campaigns exploit Orientalism as much as they do sexism. Fancy dress shops are awash with “naughty” stewardess uniforms, a guise that Britney Spears made her bottom-wiggling own in the mile-high-themed video for her hit single Toxic.

Pan Am, the TV series, relishes the full fetishism implied in this particular fantasy of flight. Hair is snipped to a regulation bounce, hats jauntily angled, white gloves pristinely laundered, bottoms pertly pattable, and every girl equipped with the compulsory Revlon Persian Melon smile. In the first episode, there is a weigh-in, a tweaking-based girdle inspection and a scandal over a snagged pair of stockings. As Mary Quant confessed in Come Fly with Me, passengers felt under equal pressure to scrub up: “You kind of dressed up to get on an aeroplane… It was glamorous. It was wonderful.”

Fashion is already experiencing a retro, besuited moment, in which such niceties do not seem entirely out of place. Indeed, modish Singapore-based label Raoul has based its current collection specifically on the Pan Am uniforms of the Sixties and Seventies: brisk blouses, A-line skirts and practical, across-the-body bags. Meanwhile, retailers are leaping on the bandwagon to flog their more traditional wares as “Pan Am-inspired” (thank you, John Lewis). Doubtless, the elevation of Carole Middleton’s daughter to spick-and-span poster girl/future Queen also has something to do with this, but neat-and-nippy suits, silk scarves, sensible courts and flesh-coloured hose are suddenly feeling minxily dapper rather than no-hopedly naff.

However, a TV series cannot flourish by fashion fix alone, and, for many of us, there will be something more than a tad depressing about American television’s fixation with a time when men were martini-swigging men, and women were resolutely second-class citizens. While Mad Men may have shown the struggle of our grandmothers’ generation to be accepted on equal terms, Pan Am lies back and thinks of (flying towards) England. Nevertheless, both celebrate a culture in which a pointy brassiere was more useful to a girl than a pointy head.

Why are conservative periods the only ones that attract producers’ interest? A suffragette drama could still feature frocks (in green, white and violet to symbolise Give Women Votes), a land girl mini-series could go big on headscarves and carmine pouts. However, at least in both we would be celebrating a situation in which women were more than Valiumed, barefoot and pregnant, or mile-high hot stuff.

Or why not opt for later in the history of the hostess? Female flight attendants were at the forefront of Seventies gender campaigning. American activist group Stewardesses for Women’s Rights objected to company discrimination and sexist advertising that encouraged a culture of harassment, carrying many cases to court. Under pressure, the industry went on to drop its age, marriage and – finally – weight restrictions. Hostesses were routinely grounded without pay when their weight exceeded what the airline deemed appropriate.

“Flight attendant”, or “cabin crew” are now deemed more acceptable terms than the servile “stewardess” or “hostess”. Indeed, in the wake of September 11, 2001, society’s image of said flight attendant radically altered again. The selfless heroism of the women who battled to protect passengers and provided vital information about the hijackings is a matter of public record. Today, staff are trained to be physically robust and to take the offensive under attack rather than obeying commands. The passive and compliant trolley dolly has been forever grounded.

Yet a testosterone tang of sexism still lingers around ritzier air travel. When I have been fortunate enough to be flown business class, it frequently has the atmosphere of a gentlemen’s club. I have been asked whether I am “off to a wedding”, “a model” or a “pop star”. I regret to add that – more than once – mention has been made of the mile-high club, as if I may be travelling purely for the sexual entertainment of said male passenger. One regretted having taking a sleeping pill, because otherwise he could have had intercourse with me. That such an act might require consent did not appear to have occurred to him.

The “retro glamour” – for which read antiquated gender stereotypes – played out in Pan Am seems unlikely to improve the situation for the female flier, be she a customer, or one of the industry’s goddesses of the skies.

Voir enfin:

The high life of the air hostess? Hardly
Today’s trolley dollies face abuse – and even violence – from passengers during the summer exodus. Sally Williams investigates
Sally Williams
Teh Telegraph

30 Jul 2011

School’s out, the holidays are here, and Maria Selwick, 28, smiles with relief, thinking, thank God, that’s over. For three years, she worked as an air hostess for a budget airline company, flying to holiday destinations around Europe, and summer turned every day into a living hell.
“The kids and babies scream because their ears are hurting. People get annoyed. Kids kick the back of chairs and run up and down the cabin. It’s just a nightmare,” she says.
“People on board aircraft turn into animals. They boil into sudden shouting if you suggest the ‘hand’ luggage is too big for the locker. They get drunk, leave dirty nappies on the seat. Once we were landing and couldn’t let a woman into the lavatory so she pulled down her pants and did a wee in the galley.”
All the time, she had to recall her most important guideline: Be polite. She had no choice but to roll a trolley through this bedlam because a large portion of her pay depended on how much alcohol she sold.
How life has changed. Back in the 1960s when the jet age was just beginning, air stewardesses had an aura of glamour. It meant flying to tremendously exotic places, meeting lots of people. They wore hats and white gloves; handed out warm bread rolls from a basket.

Libbie Escolme-Schmidt, a former flight attendant who wrote Glamour in the Skies: The Golden Age of the Air Stewardess, remembers escorting passengers to their seats and folding their coats – “and this was in the economy cabin!”

Then, in 1989, the liberalisation of air routes in Europe heralded a boom in budget air travel. The democratic years began. Last year 211 million of us passed through UK airports – a 100-fold increase since 1950. But it’s often a bumpy ride. In 2008-09, the Civil Aviation Authority received 3,529 reports of “disruptive” behaviour on board aircraft. These included 796 reports of passengers arguing with crew, 983 reports of passengers disobeying crew, and 106 who turned violent.

This isn’t to say that the cabin crew don’t flip, too. Frequent-flier blogs ring with tales of “flight attendant rage”. Last year, Steven Slater, a JetBlue attendant, finally decided he’d had enough on the tarmac of Kennedy International Airport. After an argument with a passenger who stood up to fetch his luggage too soon, he launched a four-letter zinger through the public address system, grabbed a beer from the drinks trolley and slid down the emergency chute.

So what’s going on? “The passenger clientele has changed dramatically,” says Judith Osborne, 47, who recently retired after spending 25 years working for such airlines as Dan Air and British Airways. “When I first started it was the elite few and then it was families on package holidays. Now you’ve got the people who are generally 18 to 25.” By which she means drunk quite a lot of the time.

“About seven years ago, I was on a flight to Ibiza, lots of drinking on board, and this couple who’d never met just got together in the loo. There was a queue outside and a passenger said, ‘Someone’s been in there a long time.’ ”

When the couple came out, she took things in hand. “I did a passenger announcement,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Could everyone applaud the couple coming out of the toilet. They’ve just joined the Mile High Club.’ The passengers all applauded and the couple looked embarrassed. In the early days it never happened. I’ve now come across it nine times.”

“It is extremes of human nature writ large in a tiny space,” explains Imogen Edwards-Jones, author of Air Babylon, an exposé of life in the sky. In an aeroplane, she says, you are sealed off from the outside, cocooned in another world. “It’s like when you go through the revolving door of a five-star hotel – normal rules no longer apply. People think they are perfectly entitled to be rude to the air hostess, have sex with the person next to them, and drink everything going.”

She thinks bad behaviour is cabin-specific. “There’s more sexual activity in first class. You are given a bed and for some reason people think it’s more private than it actually is. And it can be quite weird if you end up sleeping next to your boss in a confined space after three glasses of wine – which is basically a bottle, because one drink in the air is worth three on the ground.”

People in economy, on the other hand, are just aggressive, says Edwards-Jones. “I think passengers behaved better when you could smoke. You’ve had a stressful journey there, you’ve had to take your shoes off, your belt off, everyone has searched you. You are more cramped because they pile more people in and you are fed with too much alcohol. Then the person in front of you decides to put their chair back and you’re eating your food under your chin.”

“We’re demeaned and demoted,” agrees Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. “So we’re already irritated, bolshie and desperate to get our full rights in regards of the ticket we’ve paid for. And we perceive the poor flight attendants as enforcing the class division. They draw that curtain to hide us from our betters.”

But we also “eroticise” air travel, he says – “we’re in a flying phallus!” – more specifically the flight attendants themselves. After all, Ralph Fiennes had sex with an Australian stewardess on flight QF123 from Darwin to Mumbai. And Ashley Cole was recently revealed to have slept with air hostess Kerry Meades.

“I heard lots of stories of businessmen hitting on the hostesses,” confirms Edwards-Jones. This is partly because advertising campaigns have always played up their sexual allure. In the 1970s, the motto of Southwest Airlines of Texas was “sex sells seats”. Hotpants were part of the uniform. At the same time, another US airline, the now-defunct National Airlines, ran a famous ad with a pouting stewardess proclaiming, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.”

To be fair, it wasn’t just companies. Coffee, Tea or Me?, the alleged memoirs of two fictitious stewardesses, published in 1967, launched three sequels, a TV film – and a million male fantasies.

“There’s a great deal of bending over, so it’s a question of cleavage and bottom, I’m afraid,” says Hodson. “But the men are also chosen for their looks, and there’s a market for that. You’ve got somebody serving you and it engenders fantasies.”

Because, of course, we now live in a different era. People have realised that those with a Y chromosome are equally able to serve drinks and stow luggage.

But still stewardesses must look a certain way. “If your hair is longer than your collar you have to wear it up,” says one. “If your ponytail is longer than six inches you have to wear it in a French pleat. You always have to wear high heels.” Even budget airlines, which make cabin crew buy their own uniforms (usually around £300), dictate the colour of tights. “Hazelnut,” says Selwick.

But the job has definitely changed. Rising oil prices, commercial pressure, heightened security and budget cuts mean the whole reason for pushing trolleys through different time zones at 35,000 feet – namely, actually seeing the world – has gone. A trip to Venice, say, is followed almost immediately by the trip home again. “We used to have two whole days in Nairobi and you were free to go off on safari,” remembers one stewardess. “Now it’s a night stop in a cheap hotel.”

“Air hostesses used to be glamorous,” agrees Edwards-Jones. “Now they wear an orange bib and people chuck rubbish at them as they walk up and down the aisle.”

*Some names have been changed

Voir enfin:

Now that was the high life: The ex-Pan Am hostesses recall life at the airline as new drama recreates golden age of flying

Barbara Mcmahon
The Daily Mail

5 October 2011

Sheila Riley will never forget the moment the jaw-droppingly handsome man flashed her a dazzling smile and politely asked: ‘You wouldn’t care to join me for dinner, would you? I hate eating alone.’

The invitation came from movie star Paul Newman and the only reason Sheila hesitated was because she was meant to be working.

It was the summer of 1963 and British-born Sheila was a Pan Am air hostess. She was accustomed to meeting famous passengers, but nothing prepared her for the meal she shared at 35,000ft with one of greatest film heart-throbs of all time.

Newman had already set hearts fluttering when he boarded the plane, quietly storing his bag in the overhead locker before settling into seat 2F in the first-class cabin.

‘I took his coat to hang it up and offered him a drink,’ says Sheila. ‘I was all of a dither, even though I tried not to show it.

‘He was devastatingly good-looking and I had him all to myself because I was the only hostess working first-class that day.’

Sheila had to seek the permission of the captain before taking a seat opposite Newman to share a meal of caviar, lobster and profiteroles, washed down with Dom Perignon champagne.

‘I wasn’t meant to drink alcohol on duty, so I swigged my champagne out of a coffee cup so no one would notice,’ says Sheila.

Despite his fame and good looks, Newman didn’t flirt with 25-year-old Sheila. Instead he spoke about his joy at being a husband and father.

‘He was the perfect gentleman. He was happily married to Joanne Woodward and it was obvious how in love he was. It was so refreshing to hear a man talk about his wife in such a loving way,’ says Sheila.

Glamorous: The stars of Pan Am, set to be screened on the BBC this autumn

‘He wanted to know all about me and the places I had travelled to. It was a couple of years after he’d made The Hustler and he was a big star. He said he envied me my freedom.

‘After 45 minutes I said I had better get back to work. He thanked me for my company and settled down for a snooze before landing.’

Sheila was a stewardess during the golden age of flying when service always came with a dazzling smile.

Pan Am, a TV series to be screened by the BBC this autumn, captures that glamorous heyday. The show takes a romanticised look at the lives and loves of the handsome pilots and beautiful air stewardesses who travelled the world seeking adventure and romance.

In their smart, sky-blue uniforms and pillbox hats, Pan Am air hostesses were the envy of women the world over.

‘It wasn’t a job, it was a lifestyle,’ says Sheila. ‘We shopped for gloves and shoes in Rome, perfume in Paris, pearls in Tokyo and had our clothes made in Hong Kong.

‘We had a knees-up on every stop-over — the first thing we would do on landing was buy bottles of gin.’

Now based in New York, 73-year-old glamorous grandmother Sheila was born in Bolton. She started working for the U.S. airline in 1960 at the age of 22 — one of only three applicants out of 2,000 to make the grade in that round of hiring.

She applied out of a spirit of adventure. ‘All my friends were getting engaged and married, but I didn’t want to do that. When I saw an advert for the job, I knew it was my escape route,’ she says.

It is a sentiment shared by Bronwen Roberts, also now in her 70s. Brought up in Porthmadog, she was heading for a staid life as a teacher when she applied to Pan Am in 1958.

The jobs were so coveted that both women became mini-celebrities in their home towns and appeared in the local press. ‘Now she’s to be an air girl!’ exclaimed a headline in Bronwen’s local newspaper.

They were flown first-class to New York on Pan Am flights to start their new lives. Training for the coveted winged badge was rigorous — it included being dumped in the ocean and having to swim to a life-raft. But mostly it was about learning the art of serving the lucky passengers who could afford to fly in that era.

Golden age: Pan Am recreates the time when air travel was the height of glamour

Meals in first-class were provided by the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris: seven-course affairs presented on fine china and table linens.

For this, they earned £80 a month — a small fortune in those days and far more than a teacher or secretary.

Such privilege came at a price: Pan Am girls were subject to a beauty inspection before each flight.

‘When you checked in for work you’d go into the office and there would be a grooming supervisor on duty all the time,’ says Bronwen.

‘She could say « Your hair’s too straggly » or « You’ve put on weight » and send you home until you fixed it.  We all tried to conform and look our best because none of us wanted to be grounded.’

All the stewardesses were given a long list of grooming requirements in the flight service manual they had to follow at all times. Everyone wore the tailored blue two-piece Pan Am uniform, designed by Don Loper of Hollywood, along with a crisp white blouse. Underwear had to be a white bra, full slip, girdle and stockings.

There was even regulation make-up: Revlon’s Persian Melon lipstick and matching nail polish. Charles Revlon was on the Pan Am board of directors.

Sky high ratings: Pan Am stars American actress Christina Ricci as a stewardess
‘If you were caught wearing, say, blue eye-shadow or scarlet lipstick you were told to wipe it off because they wanted us to look natural and wholesome,’ says Sheila.

You had to be single. Married, divorced or separated women were banned. These petty rules seem laughable today, but Pan Am cabin crew in the Sixties thought it was a small price to pay for the freedom to travel abroad, still a relatively rare experience for most people.

Pan American World Airways — as the airline was officially known — was unique among airlines in that it focused on international flights. Celebrities flocked to fly on its Clippers, as its planes were known.

Bronwen remembers The Stratocruiser, which had a spiral staircase leading down to a bar, a bridal suite up front and pull-down beds for passengers.

On one occasion in 1961, she was on board a 707, one of the early jets, when Sir Winston Churchill flew back from New York to London after cruising in the Caribbean with Aristotle Onassis.

The Greek ship-owner had bought out the entire first-class section of the aircraft for the former prime minister and his entourage, which included his private secretary, two nurses, a bodyguard — and a budgerigar.

‘We were waiting at the top of the steps to greet Sir Winston when a bodyguard came on board carrying a little bird in a cage,’ says Bronwen.

‘It turns out Onassis had bought Sir Winston the budgie as a present. It was called Byron and chirped throughout the whole flight, which was rather annoying.

‘Sir Winston ploughed his way through lobster thermidor and roast beef and drank several glasses of Chateau Lafite Rothschild. He followed that up with cognac and smoked two cigars — everyone smoked on flights in those days.’

Bronwen remembers Churchill as being ‘absolutely delightful’ and also recalls the cleaners rushing on to the plane after he disembarked in London, searching the ashtrays for his cigar butts as souvenirs.

Though nothing tops her dinner with Paul Newman, Sheila met many celebrities during her time. She looked after David Niven on a flight to the South of France.

‘He was so charming and impeccably dressed,’ she says.

‘He came to join me at the back of first-class and said: « Let’s play a game. » For about 15 minutes we had to match the faces of all the passengers to imaginary dogs. So a lady with curly hair looked like a poodle and a man who was scowling looked like a boxer. I laughed  so much I thought I might get  in trouble.’

Peter Sellers and his then wife Britt Ekland were on another flight. ‘This was just after he had appeared as an Indian doctor in The Millionairess with Sophia Loren and I complimented him on his accent. For the rest of the flight, he spoke to me in an Indian accent and kept wobbling his head. He had us all in stitches,’ says Sheila.

But not every celebrity was as entertaining. According to the former stewardesses, Bing Crosby was ‘a miserable so and so’ while Joan Crawford, whose husband was on the Pan Am board, travelled with her own coolbox containing Pepsi and vodka.

‘To be blunt, she was a complete lush,’ says Sheila. ‘She started downing the booze from the minute she boarded.’

Predictably, Warren Beatty flirted with every stewardess he laid eyes on. ‘He hung around the galley all night on one New York to London flight,’ says Bronwen.

‘He was chasing a very pretty German stewardess, asking her what she was doing when she got to London and if she wanted to go out with him.

‘When she said she had a boyfriend, he wasn’t in the least discouraged — he just went on to the next stewardess.

‘He worked his way through all of us, but we knew his reputation and weren’t going to fall for it.’

Romance, of course, played a huge part in the lives of Pan Am stewardesses.

‘We had these long trips when we would be away with the same crew for 21 or 24 days,’ says Bronwen. ‘We’d be in romantic places such as Hong Kong or Istanbul, so romance — and affairs — were inevitable. The captains were nicknamed Sky Gods and that’s how we regarded them. They were rugged, virile, attractive men so, of course, we flirted outrageously. If you caught the eye of a captain, it was a feather in your cap.’

Sheila’s love life flourished when she was a Pan Am stewardess.

‘We were the supermodels of the day and every important man wanted a Pan Am stewardess on his arm, so we didn’t go short of offers,’ she says.

American-born Anne Sweeney, who worked for Pan Am from 1964 to 1975, says: ‘I remember walking as a group through airports and crowds would part to let us through.

‘Little girls would come up to me and say: « I’m going to be like you when I grow up. »‘

However, the airline went out of business in 1991. The downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie by terrorists was a contributing factor, but bad management, rising fuel prices, the introduction of costly 747s and competition on international routes also played a part.

Today, many former Pan Am stewardesses are members of World Wings International, a philanthropic organisation that raises money for charity. They meet regularly at destinations around the world to do good deeds and remember the glory days.

‘We were a kind of sisterhood,’ says Sheila. ‘And we really did have the best job in the world.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2045365/Pan-Am-Former-hostesses-recall-life-airline-new-TV-airs-US.html#ixzz3Mngd8OPZ
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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


Religion de paix et d’amour: La diffamation continue ! (Land of smiles no more: will islamist violence finally turn the dream to nightmare?)

20 mai, 2013
https://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/b66e8-aonterror.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/901bb-thai-smiles.jpgOh I come from a land, from a faraway place where the caravan camels roam where they cut off your ear. If they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but, hey, it’s home! Paroles d’Aladdin (Disney)
These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries, are Allah’s punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims. We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant. The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah. It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion. That’s when this tragedy took place, striking them all and destroyed everything. It turned the land into wasteland, where only the cries of the ravens are heard. I say this is a great sign and punishment on which Muslims should reflect. All that’s left for us to do is to ask for forgiveness We must atone for our sins, and for the acts of the stupid people among us and improve our condition. We must fight fornication, homosexuality, usury, fight the corruption on the face of the earth, and the disregard of the lives of protected people. Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan (member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body and professor at the Al-Imam University)
En lisant le Coran et les paroles du Prophète Mahomet, on peut facilement voir que l’Islam est une religion de paix et d’amour, mais il semble qu’Hollywood n’a ni accès facile aux ressources de base sur l’Islam ni n’est capable de les interpréter correctement. Ekrem Dumanli
Les Arabes sont le groupe le plus dénigré de l’histoire d’Hollywood. Ils sont dépeints, fondamentalement, comme des untermenschen moins qu’humains, un terme employé par les Nazis pour discréditer les bohémiens et les juifs. Ces images sont avec nous depuis plus d’un siècle. Jack Shaheen
Dans tous les films qu’ils font, chaque fois qu’un Arabe prononce le mot Allah? Quelque chose explose. Eyad Zahra (jeune réalisateur)
Selon la firme britannique « Aon » spécialisée dans la gestion des risques et de l’assurance contre le terrorisme, le top 10 des pays à risque de terrorisme (comprenez islamiste) sont, dans l’ordre, l’Afghanistan, l’Inde, l’Irak, le Nigeria, le Pakistan, la Russie, la Somalie, la Syrie, la Thaïlande et Yémen. Tous ces pays sont musulmans ou ont une forte population islamique (donc potentiellement islamiste) à l’exception de la Thaïlande. Diable, mais que vient faire dans cette liste lugubre le pays de Siam, réputé pour être le pays du sourire? La Thaïlande est même classée avant le Yémen, l’un des pays les plus instables et, islamiquement parlant, l’un des plus agités au monde. Riposte laïque

Après Hollywood, la diffamation continue avec l’industrie du tourisme !

Pourquoi, après des siècles de pillages, guerres et esclavage (et sans compter plus récemment trafic de petites filles, crimes d’honneur et attaques à l’acide), l’islam garde-t-il une si mauvaise image? nous demandions-nous dans un précédent billet

A l’heure où, remplissage de nappes phréatiques oblige, nombres d’Occidentaux comencent à rêver de rivages plus souriants …

Voilà qu’en remet une couche la firme britannique Aon spécialisée dans la gestion des risques et de l’assurance contre le terrorisme …

Accusant à présent sans parler des heures de queue et de contrôle nécessitées par ses dévots les plus zélés …

La religion de paix et d’amour de nous rendre bientôt inacessible la moitié des pays du monde …

Y compris, après semble-t-il le Déluge d’Allah de Noël 2005 contre la nouvelle Sodome, le Pays du sourire lui-même …

Classé dorénavant, pour le risque terroriste grâce aux correligionnaires de feus Mahomet et Ben Laden, juste entre la Syrie et le Yemen …

Thaïlande : les barbus à l’assaut du pays du sourire

Messin Issa

Riposte laïque

19 mai 2013

Selon la firme britannique « Aon » spécialisée dans la gestion des risques et de l’assurance contre le terrorisme, le top 10 des pays à risque de terrorisme (comprenez islamiste) sont, dans l’ordre, l’Afghanistan, l’Inde, l’Irak, le Nigeria, le Pakistan, la Russie, la Somalie, la Syrie, la Thaïlande et Yémen.

Tous ces pays sont musulmans ou ont une forte population islamique (donc potentiellement islamiste) à l’exception de la Thaïlande. Diable, mais que vient faire dans cette liste lugubre le pays de Siam, réputé pour être le pays du sourire? La Thaïlande est même classée avant le Yémen, l’un des pays les plus instables et, islamiquement parlant, l’un des plus agités au monde.

La Thaïlande, qui a une communauté musulmane d’à peine 5% de la population totale, soit quelques 3,5 millions d’âmes, se retrouve ainsi dans un groupe de pays où les musulmans sont de 3 à 60 fois plus nombreux (10 millions de musulmans en Somalie et près de 180 millions en Inde et au Pakistan).

En fait, le problème n’est pas dans le nombre. Un proverbe marocain dit : « Un poisson pourri suffit à empester tout un panier ».

Aucun pays au monde ne peut se prévaloir d’être à l’abri du terrorisme islamique. La menace vient de l’existence même de l’islam. Au lieu de le mettre en quarantaine, beaucoup de pays lui ont ouvert les portes.

La Norvège, la Suède, le Danemark, l’Allemagne, l’Angleterre et bien d’autres pays qui ont voulu se montrer hospitaliers et généreux en accueillant de malheureux musulmans accablés par la misère et la guerre, s’en mordent aujourd’hui les doigts. Ces musulmans sont devenus, en de nombreux endroits, dans les cités et les villes, les maîtres des lieux et dictent leurs lois aux autorités et aux populations autochtones. Les attentats islamistes sont devenus tellement récurrents de par le monde qu’on ne dit même plus attentat islamiste, on dit juste « attentat ». L’épithète « islamiste », qui s’impose de lui-même, est éludé pour des raisons d’accommodement électoral…

Dans ce classement mondial du risque terroriste 2013, la firme britannique, qui ne cite pourtant pas les USA où les attentats et les tentatives d’attentat sont fort courants, attribue à la Thaïlande un risque de 4 sur une échelle de 5, ce qui correspond à un niveau « élevé ».

La Thaïlande fait face à des attaques quotidiennes menées par des islamistes dans le Sud du pays. Cantonnés tout particulièrement dans 3 provinces (Pattani, Narathiwat et Yala qui faisaient partie d’un sultanat malais jusqu’au début du XXe siècle, avant d’être rattachées à la Thaïlande dans le cadre d’un traité avec les Anglais en 1909), les musulmans, sunnites dans leur grande majorité, se sont lancés début 2004 dans une violente confrontation avec le pouvoir en place en s’en prenant à tout ce qui en est représentatif, y compris les enseignants et les moines bouddhistes.

Ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler « l’insurrection islamique » avait débuté le 4 janvier par des attaques contre 19 écoles et un dépôt militaire où plusieurs soldats avaient été tués. Depuis, on recense plus de 5.500 morts, dont 500 l’an dernier.

Comme partout ailleurs, les musulmans opèrent par bombes, voitures piégées et embuscades. Comme en Algérie dans les années 90, comme en France avec Merah tout récemment, ils n’épargnent ni les femmes, ni les enfants.

Ainsi, le 1er mai dernier, quatre hommes en uniforme des forces de sécurité thaïlandaises ont ouvert le feu sur un groupe de villageois devant une épicerie dans la province de Pattani faisant six morts. Deux des assaillants se sont ensuite dirigés vers les victimes et ont tiré sur chacun d’eux à bout portant dans la tête. L’une des victimes à être exécutée de cette façon était un enfant de deux ans. Plus de 100 douilles de fusils M16, HK33 et AK-47 ont été trouvées sur les lieux.

L’association Human Right Watch a d’ailleurs fermement dénoncé « la brutalité monstrueuse des insurgés quand ils ont tiré sur un jeune enfant de deux ans à bout portant avec des fusils d’assaut ».

Le lendemain de cette tuerie, des tracts islamistes, distribués dans les mosquées, les marchés et les salons de thé locaux, revendiquaient fièrement ce massacre. « Les six cadavres dans Pattani sont une leçon pour les Siamois [Thaïs] pour leur rappeler que nous allons tous les tuer, clame le texte. Les enfants et les femmes ne seront pas épargnés. Nous allons tout faire pour que les Siamois acceptent nos revendications. »

Mais la Thaïlande n’est pas menacée par ses seuls musulmans locaux. Elle semble être aussi dans le collimateur d’Al Qaeda.

En février dernier, les services de sécurité thaïlandais avaient fait avorter une opération terroriste contre le consulat américain à Chiang Mai, dans le nord du pays. La police avait alors fait circuler une liste de 15 personnes suspectées de séjourner à Chiang Mai pour mener cette opération. Parmi les 15, trois étaient des Algériens. Il y avait également deux Afghans, deux Syriens et deux Yéménites. Les six autres provenaient de l’Erythrée, de l’Ethiopie, de la Jordanie de la Palestine, de la Somalie et du Soudan.

Pauvre Thaïlande ! Les islamistes lui en veulent. Parce que c’est le pays du sourire et que le rire et le sourire ne sont très appréciés dans l’islam…

Le pays du sourire, du sexe et du soleil pourrait n’être bientôt que le pays d’un seul « S » : la Sunna !

Et que vive le tourisme dans le royaume de Siam !

Messin Issa

Ancien journaliste marocain

Voir aussi:

New terrorism, risk assessment released

UPI

May 15, 2013

LONDON, May 15 (UPI) — Forty-four percent of 200 countries and territories evaluated in a new assessment face the risk of terrorism and political violence this year, a study said.

The study conducted by Britain’s Aon Risk Solutions, the risk management business of Aon Plc., and The Risk Advisory Group Plc. The findings of the assessment are highlighted on its 10th annual Terrorism and Political Violence Map, with an online and interactive version providing a global and country level view on the ratings.

« The global economic crisis, shifting geopolitical balances and two years of unusually high levels of civil upheaval present challenges and opportunities for businesses looking to expand, » said Henry Wilkinson, head of the Intelligence and Analysis practice at Risk Advisory.

« North and West Africa and the Middle East stand out as regions of increasing risk. Civil wars in Libya and Syria in particular have contributed to violent risks in nearby countries. Egypt returns to the highest risk rating this year due to persistent civil tumult, political instability and terrorism.

« While Northern Europe has seen some improvements, evident in the U.K.’s improved rating, fiscal and economic pressures mean businesses in Southern European countries still face a higher level of risk associated with civil disruption, » he said.

A total of 11 countries — including Argentina, Egypt and Jordan — have increased risk ratings this year, while 19 countries were downgraded in risk, including Germany, Italy and Britain.

Countries with the highest risk of terrorism and political violence are Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen, the study said.

The Middle East is the most unstable region, with 64 percent of its countries attaining high or severe risk ratings.

Voir enfin:

Thailand: Land Of Smiles Or Total Tourist Trap?

Reuters

07/22/2012

BANGKOK, July 22 (Reuters) – Two Canadian sisters die mysteriously in their rented bungalow on an idyllic Thai island, believed poisoned. Less than a week later, a 60-year-old Australian woman is stabbed to death in a botched robbery outside a luxury resort in Phuket.

Their deaths are the latest in a tumult of violence and intrigue to shake tourism in postcard-perfect Thailand, raising questions over whether it is squandering a prized asset by failing to protect travellers arriving in record numbers.

Other headlines are less dramatic but equally troubling: taxi driver mafias, transvestite thieves, pollution, tourist brawls, traffic accidents, and at airports, radar glitches, flight delays and long immigration queues.

« The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) think numbers are going up so people must like it here, but the problem is the quality of their visit has gone down, » said Larry Cunningham, Australia’s Honorary Consul to Phuket, an island described by travel guide Lonely Planet as « one of the world’s most famous dream destinations ».

The government has vowed to tackle « mafias » in tourist areas, while in February, Cunningham appealed to Phuket’s government to stop jet-ski operators who hire thugs and demand compensation for equipment damage renters did not cause.

Last year, a German television show broadcast footage of sewage pumped into the sea at popular Kata and Karon beaches.

The problems have so far failed to dull Thailand’s centuries-old exotic allure. Its palm-fringed islands, gilded temples, spicy cuisine and racy nightlife helped draw 19 million visitors in 2011, generating 776 billion baht ($24.5 billion) in revenue, up 31 percent from 2010, ministry data shows.

Even so, tourism’s contribution to GDP has barely increased since 2003 and now hovers at 6 percent. And with unspoiled destinations in neighbouring Myanmar opening up, Thailand is under pressure to decide what type of tourism it wants.

Phuket, for example, is at risk of sharing the same fate as another beach destination: Pattaya.

« SIN CITY »

A two-hour drive from Bangkok, Pattaya struggles to shake off a seedy reputation as Thailand’s « Sin City » and with red-light entertainment, crime and unchecked development, it is synonymous with sleaze and spoiled beaches.

« We still think of tourism too much in a opportunistic, money-making way, » said opposition lawmaker and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij. « We are putting the future of the industry at risk. »

Tourist safety is another pressing issue.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)- a motor sport governing body – shows Thailand has the highest U.S. tourist road fatality rate in the developing world, after Honduras. Britain’s foreign office warns of robberies and « vicious unprovoked attacks by gangs » on the party island, Koh Phangan.

Some tourists say standards fell short of expectations.

« In general Thailand feels safe but tour guides and drivers are more aggressive, » says Mattias Ljungqvist, 31, a Swede who first visited the country a decade ago.

The TAT says it does not have regulations to tackle crime head on and safety and environmental preservation issues are encumbered by local bureaucracy.

But with plans to promote Thailand to new markets in South America and Central Asia, there is little evidence of its tourism ambitions slowing down.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last month said the government’s tourism policy would focus on generating 2 trillion baht in revenue within five years. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports plans to spend 2.6 billion baht on developing and promoting tourist attractions in 2013.

It hopes to attract 21 million visitors this year, among them big spenders.

« People who enjoy eco-tourism tend to spend a lot of money and we are definitely targeting that type of tourist, » said Chattan Khunjara Na Ayudhya, a public relations director at TAT. (Editing by Jason Szep, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Ed Lane)

Voir enfin:

Réseau musulman d’Oxford responsable de viol, esclavage, prostitution et traffic de petites filles

Albert Bertold

17 mai 2013

Réseau de trafic sexuel de jeunes filles blanches

The Independant a demandé à une journaliste musulmane, Binah Shah, d’exposer le réseau de musulmans pakistanais pédophiles spécialisé dans un commerce sexuel de jeunes filles à Oxford qui dura 8 ans.

Akhtar Dogar, 32 ans, Anjum Dogar, 31 ans, Mohammed Karrar, 38 ans, Bassam Karrar, 33 ans, Kamar Jamil, 27 ans, Assad Hussain, 32 ans, et Zeeshan Ahmed, 27 ans ont été condamnés pour crimes sexuels dans une affaire qui a impliqué des jeunes filles à partir de 11 ans, qui ont été droguées et violées par le plus grand réseau de prostitution d’enfants jamais découvert en Grande Bretagne.

Les circonstances sont les mêmes qu’à Rochdale : un groupe d’individus pakistanais et musulmans avait été arrêté alors qu’ils avaient organisé la prostitution de jeunes filles blanches vulnerables, confiées à des orphelinats, et les traitaient comme des esclaves sexuelles pendant que les autorités faisaient mine de regarder ailleurs.

Une journaliste, Allison Pearson, avait écrit un article violent dans The Telegraph où elle condamnait la police, les services sociaux, et la justice, qui craignaient d’être vus comme racistes, ce qui eu pour conséquence que des centaines de jeunes filles furent trahies par le système qui était supposé les protéger. Elle dénonça la culture des musulmans pakistanais où les hommes apprennent que les femmes n’ont aucune valeur, et qu’elles peuvent être utilisées comme objets pour le sexe, particulièrement les femmes blanches, parce qu’elles sont plus libres que les musulmanes pakistanaises.

En tant que musulmane pakistanaise, conclut Binah Shah, je suis très heureuse que ces hommes soient sous les verrous, et je suis désolée que cela ne soit pas arrivé plus tôt. J’applaudis le système judiciaire anglais qui ne leur a fait aucun cadeau. Ils le méritaient. Au Pakistan, nous devrions appliquer nos lois contre les crimes sexuels, et nous devons changer les attitudes sociales sur le statut de la femme. Nous avons maintenant des lois contre le harcèlement sexuel et contre les crimes « d’honneur », les attaques à l’acide et la violence domestique, et ces distorsions médiévales de la loi islamique qui terrorisent les femmes pakistanaises ont été interdites.


Métro de Londres/150e: Le premier métro du monde fête 150 ans d’affiches (On its 150th birthday, the Tube presents its greatest posters)

11 avril, 2013

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londres london metro undergroud affiche poster 05 499x700 150 ans daffiches du métro de Londres  histoire design bonus art Pour les amoureux du métro de Londres (et de ses célèbres affiches) …

Qui fête cette année son 150e anniversaire (9 janvier 1863 pour les premières stations) …

Quelques unes des véritables oeuvres d’art qu’expose actuellement le London Transport Museum (merci la boite verte) …

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https://i1.wp.com/singletrackworld.com/blogs/files/2009/11/mg-tim-jones-planner.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/a1.img.mobypicture.com/0d14c273f20c30218b1236a0a94cc1dc_view.jpg animal-plan-metro-londres-1.gifVIDEO. À Londres, le premier métro du monde fête son 150e anniversaire

Stanislas Kraland

Le HuffPost

09/01/2013

Underground

HISTOIRE – Trop étroit, trop profond, trop peu régulier, pas assez ventilé, et pourtant… Si vous posez la question aux Londoniens ils défendront becs et ongles leur métro, cet « Underground » qui fête aujourd’hui son cent-cinquantième anniversaire.

Au même titre que la « Beeb » (la BBC), les bus à impériales, les cabines téléphoniques rouges ou la famille royale, le métro londonien fait partie des meubles. Les Anglais aiment bien les surnoms et de même qu’il y a Big Ben, dans la capitale britannique on ne prend pas le « métro » mais bien le « Tube », avec l’accent s’il-vous-plaît.

270 stations, plus de 400 kilomètres de voies, 11 lignes et 3,66 millions de trajets par jour en semaine, en dépit de ce pédigrée le « Tube » n’est peut-être plus aujourd’hui le premier métro du monde, mais il fut, et les britanniques en font leur fierté, le premier métro au monde.

Du témoignage du progrès scientifique et de la puissance de l’Empire, l’Underground s’est imposé comme un symbole de la Grande-Bretagne, une marque universellement reconnue et reconnaissable. Plus qu’un système de transport en commun, pour la ville de Londres, le « Tube », c’est presque un compagnon avec lequel la capitale a traversé l’histoire, main dans la main.

9 janvier 1863

Nous sommes le 9 janvier 1863 et Londres, la victorienne, grelotte. Il fait froid et en ce début d’année, les nouvelles ne sont d’ailleurs pas très bonnes.

De l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, dans les anciennes colonies, les Américains entrent dans la troisième année d’un conflit fratricide. Huit jours plus tôt, Abraham Lincoln a fait de l’abolition de l’esclavage dans les états du sud un but de guerre.

Les londoniens ont pourtant déjà l’esprit ailleurs, plus proche des rives de la Tamise. La veille, ils ont eu vent du terrible drame qui vient de frapper le village suisse de Bedretto où 29 personnes ont péri dans une avalanche deux jours plus tôt.

(suite de l’article après le diaporama)

Vidéos et photos : l’histoire de l’Underground en images:

« Mind the Gap » : le Tube a 150 ans

Locomotive à vapeur

Mais Londres vit déjà au rythme de la presse de sorte qu’une bonne nouvelle en chasse très rapidement une autre. C’est ainsi qu’en cette matinée de janvier, un train tracté par une locomotive à vapeur quitte la gare de Paddington en direction de la station de Farringdon. Pour la première fois de l’histoire, des passagers voyagent sous terre.

Alors que le physicien Anglais John Tyndall s’apprête à publier une théorie révolutionnaire sur l’effet de serre, l’ouverture dès le lendemain du premier métro du monde, fait figure de nouvelle victoire pour la science.

Dickens a cinquante ans, Jules Verne trente-cinq, et déjà 40.000 passagers s’engouffrent dans les rames pour traverser la ville en un temps qu’on dit record. Arriveront-ils sains et sauf à destination? On imagine qu’une légère appréhension les guette. C’est que, malgré l’éclairage au gaz, il fait tout de même sombre à plusieurs mètres sous terre.

Une marque

Peu à peu l’Underground se développe. Aux huit lignes originelles s’en ajoutent trois autres, mais aussi des trams. En 1890, exit la vapeur, l’Underground se modernise et passe à l’électricité. Mais il y a encore du progrès à faire, un obstacle à contourner.

Plusieurs entreprises se partagent la gestion des lignes, et cela n’est pas sans poser certains problèmes logistiques. Du reste, des économies importantes pourraient être réalisées. Les patrons du rail sous-terrain en sont bien conscients.

Nous sommes en 1900, la Grande-Bretagne s’engage dans un nouveau siècle, les transports londoniens voient le jour. L’Underground devient une marque.

Typo, logo et plan

Point de marque sans logo. Sa première mouture, adoptée en 1908 ne comporte d’ailleurs pas le cercle rouge qui le distingue aujourd’hui.

london underground logo

Il faudra attendre 1925 avant qu’il adopte la forme qui a survécu jusqu’à aujourd’hui affublant cartes postales, t-shirts, mugs et autres souvenirs que les touristes ramènent chez eux.

london underground logoMais d’où vient la force de ce logo? Pour certains ils seraient inspiré d’une cible sur laquelle tirait à l’arme à feu l’un des patrons de l’Underground. Pour d’autres, s’il ressemble aux panneaux de signalisation, c’est tout simplement pour répondre à la nécessité d’être vu.

Il en va de même du plan, qui a subi quelques atermoiements avant d’adopter la forme que nous lui connaissons aujourd’hui. Nous sommes en 1931, les transports londoniens font face à de graves difficultés financière et Henry C. Beck, ingénieur de son état, vient de se faire licencier.

Mais l’homme connaît bien le fonctionnement et les réseaux électriques de l’Underground. Il a alors une idée, remplacer le plan du métro fondée sur la géographie, par un plan dessiné d’après le schéma électrique du métro. Deux ans plus tard, 750.000 copies du plan seront imprimées et distribuées. Le plan Beck est encore en usage aujourd’hui.

Toute une histoire

Un logo, une typo, un plan, bref une identité visuelle très forte achèvent de faire du « Tube » un symbole. Et s’il est aussi indissociable de la Grande-Bretagne et de la ville de Londres, c’est aussi parce que le « Tube » a traversé 150 ans d’histoire avec les londoniens.

En 1941, alors que les bombardiers allemands lâchent leur bombe sur la capitale, c’est dans le métro que viennent se réfugier les londoniens par familles entières. Plus proche de nous, en 2005, le « Tube » fut à nouveau le témoin malheureux d’un nouveau drame, alors que plusieurs bombes explosent dans la capitale.

« Le Tube », c’est aussi un formidable monument que cet anniversaire est l’occasion de redécouvrir. En témoigne le blog 150 Great Things About The Underground (150 trucs chouettes dans le métro) où le blogueur Ian Jones recense photo à l’appui, tous les détails architecturaux du métro londonien. Un patrimoine que la régie des transports londoniens a, elle aussi, l’intention de valoriser à l’occasion de plusieurs événements qui s’étaleront jusqu’à la fin de l’année.

L’événement le plus marquant, ce sera sans doute la remise en service d’une vieille locomotive à vapeur sur la ligne historique du premier trajet du métro. Mind the gap!

 Voir aussi:

Londres : le plus vieux métro du monde a 150 ans

Guerric Poncet

Le Point

10/01/2013

EN IMAGES. Les Londoniens s’apprêtent à fêter l’anniversaire du premier métro. Retour sur son histoire et le lien privilégié de la ville à son « tube ».

Le 10 janvier 1863, une foule se masse devant la station de Paddington. Londres dévoile sa nouvelle invention, un train à vapeur qui circule dans les entrailles de la ville. Depuis les années 1830, le projet de construire un métro dans la capitale anglaise était fréquemment évoqué pour accompagner l’extension de la ville. Depuis la révolution industrielle, Londres ne cesse en effet de s’agrandir. Avec plus de 2,8 millions d’habitants en 1861, elle devient la ville la plus peuplée au monde. Une croissance qui se fait particulièrement ressentir sur la circulation dans le centre. Face à l’immensité du projet, le premier contrat n’est signé que tardivement. C’est la compagnie privée The Metropolitan Railways qui décroche l’accord en 1855.

Les constructions débutent en février 1860. Le travail est dantesque, il faut creuser dans les sous-sols de la ville pour permettre aux trains de circuler. De plus, les ingénieurs n’ont pas de carte précise des lieux, ce qui complique la tâche des employés qui mettent véritablement leur vie en jeu. Pourtant, les nouvelles technologies et les techniques en construction ferroviaire – le Royaume-Uni est la nation la plus pourvue en ligne de chemin de fer au XIXe siècle – permettent aux travaux de se finir en un temps record en mai 1862, tout en évitant les accidents catastrophiques.

Cher ticket

Si un convoi spécial a été mis en place le 9 janvier 1863 pour les directeurs et les actionnaires du projet, c’est le lendemain que la Metropolitan Railways ouvre officiellement ses portes. Alors que de nombreux hommes politiques doutent de l’intérêt d’un tel projet, les Londoniens donnent raison à la société de transport. Les places sont chères, les gens se bousculent dans les queues interminables de la toute flambant neuve station de métro de Bishop’s Road, nommée par la suite Paddington, pour circuler dans les profondeurs de Londres.

Seuls quelques voyageurs réussiront pourtant à décrocher le fameux ticket. Le voyage n’est pas bien long. La Metropolitan Line, qui dessert les deux seules stations de Bishop’s Road à Farringdon, ne couvre qu’à peine 3,5 miles pour une durée de 18 minutes. Ce n’est qu’un début. À long terme, l’objectif de la Metropolitan Railways est en effet de desservir les trois plus grandes gares de l’époque, King’s Cross, Euston et Paddington, vers la City, le quartier financier, au centre de Londres. Il s’agit d’amener des milliers de voyageurs britanniques ou étrangers dans la plus puissante place financière au monde. Le métro se révèle alors une invention décisive au développement de la ville.

Célébration

Le succès du « tube » montre au monde entier la suprématie du Royaume-Uni dans le domaine financier, industriel et surtout technologique. Les autres villes vont par la suite copier le moyen de transport londonien. Athènes en 1869, Istanbul en 1875 et Budapest en 1896. Paris n’entreprendra la construction de sa première ligne de métro qu’en 1900. Le succès est immense : 26 000 passagers effectuent alors le voyage quotidiennement entre les deux seules stations de Londres. Un chiffre qui motive d’autant plus la compagnie à ouvrir de nouvelles lignes, comme la District Line en 1868, puis la Circle Line en 1884.

Le métro londonien profite alors de l’essor technologique pour développer les premières lignes électriques au monde en 1890. Les romantiques trains à vapeur seront alors remplacés définitivement au début des années 1960 par le système électrique bien moins polluant. Tout au long du XXe siècle, le métro londonien ne cesse d’évoluer. Les lignes de métro se profilent, les stations se multiplient, les zones s’étendent à vue d’oeil jusqu’à titiller la banlieue londonienne.

Abri

Utilisé par plus de 3,5 millions de passagers en moyenne par jour, le métro de Londres compte aujourd’hui 408 km de ligne et 275 stations, ce qui en fait l’un des plus longs au monde avec celui de New York et de Shanghai. Plus qu’un simple moyen de transport, le « tube » représente une partie de la culture londonienne. Chaque station est décorée et agencée de façon singulière. Et il est aussi entré dans l’histoire et le coeur des Londoniens en servant d’abris pendant les bombardements allemands de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

« Le métro londonien a joué un grand rôle dans le succès de notre ville, des premières lignes jusqu’au système d’aujourd’hui qui a permis une circulation fluide à des millions de personnes durant le jubilé de la reine et les Jeux olympiques de cet été, par exemple », se félicite le directeur de London Underground, Mike Brown.

Pour cette occasion, le musée du transport de Londres et l’organisme public local responsable des transports en commun de la ville, Transport for London, ont donc décidé de célébrer en grande pompe le 150e anniversaire du tube. Tout au long de l’année, le musée du transport de Londres propose de nombreuses expositions qui retraceront son évolution. Mais l’attraction principale se situe surtout autour de la remise en marche du dernier train à vapeur encore existant, le Metropolitan Railways Jubilee Carriage n° 353, qui date de 1898. Les 13 et 20 janvier prochains, les Londoniens pourront donc refaire le premier trajet du 10 janvier 1863 entre Paddington et Farrington, voyage légendaire dans l’histoire des transports.

Voir également:

Sept citations pour ne pas craquer dans le métro

Madeleine

16/07/2009

« L’enfer, c’est les autres », « Un trône n’est qu’un banc recouvert de velours » : les usagers du métro londonien peuvent désormais méditer sur quelques phrases qui leur sont soumises, entassés dans une rame ou sommeillant sur leur siège.

L’idée est née dans l’esprit de l’artiste Jeremy Deller, déprimé par les messages habituels du genre « Attention à la marche en descendant du train ». En mars dernier, le personnel du Tube a donc reçu des recueils de citations conçus par l’artiste, dont ils peuvent lire des extraits aux passagers de la Picadilly Line, une des lignes les plus fréquentées du réseau. Histoire de calmer les nerfs, et de briser la monotonie souterraine.

En ces temps de chaleur et de haute fréquentation touristique, et si la RATP suivait le mouvement ? Quelques suggestions :

A minuit et demi, l’attente du métro est estimée à 12 minutes sur le panneau lumineux. Oui, mais « Les temps sont courts à celui qui pense, et interminables à celui qui désire. » (Alain).

Le métro s’arrête en plein élan, l’arrêt se prolonge, puis les lumières s’éteignent dans la rame. Heureusement, « Il ne faut cesser de s’enfoncer dans sa nuit : c’est alors que brusquement la lumière se fait. » (Francis Ponge)

Un accordéoniste entre dans le wagon, entonne La Foule d’Edith Piaf, alors qu’on venait de choisir sa chanson préférée sur son mp3. Ne pas oublier que « Pour celui qui est très seul, le bruit est déjà une consolation. » (Nietzsche)

Escaliers, couloirs et affiches publicitaires se succèdent. Finalement, le changement se révèle deux fois plus long l’on qu’on l’avait calculé. Pas grave, puisque « En vérité, je ne voyage pas, moi, pour atteindre un endroit précis, mais pour marcher, par simple plaisir de voyager. » (R.L. Stevenson)

A 8h30 du matin un 12 août, la température atteint tranquillement les 32 degrés. La douche matinale semble déjà remonter à la semaine précédente. Mais comme selon Jean Cocteau, « l’oeuvre est une sueur », chaque goutte qui coule sous le T-shirt devient précieuse.

Lorsqu’à 10h07 vous appelez votre rendez-vous de 10 heures pour le prévenir que vous aurez du retard, car le métro n’avance plus: la phrase de Pascal, « On ne peut être en retard si on est dans l’infini » lui donnera de quoi patienter encore un bon quart d’heure.

Enfin, lors de la prochaine grève, coincé entre une femme qui râle et renifle, et un homme qui mâche son chewing-gum dans votre oreille, rappelez vous qu’ « Il n’y a, au fond, de réel que l’humanité. » (Auguste Comte)

D’autres idées ? Qu’aimeriez-vous qu’on vous murmure dans le métro?


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